Sunday, December 29, 2013

First Christmas in Brazil

Christmas Eve dinner party

The U.S.missionaries
Christmas party antics

Christmas churrasco

Dinner table at the churrasco

New car that Elder & Sister Shirley just purchased

Sister Shirley with Sister Gurrieri from Argentina, and Sister Almeida from Bahia, Brasil. 

December 26, 2013

We really enjoyed the Zone Mission Christmas Conference.  We boarded the bus to Porto Alegre with 8 other young missionaries.  It is a 3 hour trip.  We listened to talks by President and Sister Castro, saw videos, ate good, participated in skits.  Even Elder Shirley and I were a part of the skits.  It was kind of an ad-lib thing....a challenge for me.  But we did it and it was fun!  We got back after 10 pm that night.

We have had some good visits in the homes of less-active members.  One young couple had an adorable 11 month old baby girl.  They won our hearts!  They had very fond memories of the Elder who baptized them with pics and all.  This sister is a seamstress and had made 20 ties for Elder Cutler!  They hope to get back to church as they really want to be sealed as a family in the temple.  We surely hope that will happen.  We would love to go with them.  As usual, transportation is a problem and they live quite a distance from the church.  A challenge!

We have had more good visits on the street.  We had one day when we had several people stop us and ask for cards or Book of Mormons.  It is amazing to me.

Also, we have been preparing to start teaching English classes next week.  Several people we have met have indicated an interest in learning English.  We hope it will also spark an interest in the gospel.  We have quite a variety of people we have invited to join us.  Elder Shirley has tried to be selective in his invitations.    We will see if they will all show up.

It was a great Christmas Eve.  The Elders and Sisters joined us at our place for food, scripture, songs, and a gift exchange.  We had lots of good food.  Everyone brought something.  There were only two missionaries plus us from the US:  Elder Staples from South Jordan, UT and Sister Biddulph from Idaho Falls, ID.  The rest are Brazilian or Argentinean.  We continue to be so impressed by all of these young missionaries.  They are so dedicated and capable.  Everyone bore their testimony....a challenge for me.  But I managed to do it.  At the end, all the missionaries, instead of clapping, click their fingers.  It is funny to see!  Fireworks went off outside all evening and into the wee hours. We played the Brazilian cup game, "Escravos de Jo" so I felt like I was home.   It felt like a combination of 4th of July and Christmas, especially with the hot weather.  It has been very hot and humid!  Wish we could pipe in some of that cold Idaho air!

On Christmas day, we made the bus trip to a member's home for a churrasco, along with two of the from Argentina and one from northern Brasil.  They served something like potato salad with it and some home-grown veggies and beans today!  We took a store-bought cake which they seemed to really like.  It was a challenge getting it there on the bus and in the heat.    They had cooked pork, beef and chicken.  It was good!  We played the Brazilian cup game again!  They seem to like that. The Sister from Argentina can't quit singing it!

Last night, Sister Biddulph and Sister Rodriges came to Skype their families.  Sister Biddulph was able to reach her family and had a good visit.  Sister Rodriges was able to talk on the phone with family, but the computer of her family was not working.  We surely enjoyed our visits with our family!  Technology is great!

We have missed you all, especially during this season.  But we have enjoyed a different kind of Christmas here and feel so very fortunate to be here.  We hear that visas are still a problem for both old and young.  We hear that they won't be calling any couples to Brazil until visa problems get worked out.  So we are counting our blessings and feel a responsibility to be good missionaries!

This week, we also had an opportunity to help the branch deliver food and sing Christmas carols.  It was another late night.  Things just seem to get started late.  Everybody in the branch donated food for Christmas dinner for families.  We all piled into a few cars.  At one point, there were five of us in the back seat of a little car.  It was fun!

We saved some of our visits that require a lot of walking for tonight (December 26th) when it cooled down a little.  We could hear the frogs.  They sound like a cat almost and are really loud.  Had  some really good visits and some not as good.  We visited at the home of the cute kids ...Emilyn, Whendel and Kuanna.  Their dad was there and told us his pastor would not allow him to be taught by the missionaries.  The kids looked sad.  But we left them some candy and gave hugs and Elder Shirley got in a brief message about the importance of families.

After some other good visits, it was dark.  We waited on a bench for the bus and were joined by a Brazilian couple.  We had a good visit with them.  They asked a lot about if there was discrimination and about the value of the dollar.  They have a son studying English so he can get his education in the US some day.

We are feeling thankful for our many blessings tonight!

Our thoughts and prayers are with you!

Nos te amamos!

Monday, December 23, 2013

Christmas Pictures

December 23, 2013

Cooking a turkey and rolls for 8 missionaries

Street display of Frosty the Snowman

Old gaucho Santa

Santa at the mission Christmas conference

Sunday, December 22, 2013

Meeting lots of great people!

Three Siblings Emilyn, 14, Kauana, 13, and Whendel, 11


December 16, 2013

It´s been a busy week.  We have done lots of walking the heat.  Temperature yesterday was about 95 F.  Someone told us it would probably get to 40 C or around 104 F this next week.  With the humidity, even the natives are complaining.  We try to time our walking so most is done in the morning or the afternoon.  It is great to encounter people on the street. We are still looking at cars.  We have decided that we will probably get one if we find the right deal.  They are expensive down here and so is gas; it is about $4/gallon. But President Castro says, we could visit more inactive members with a car.  We are still taking the bus a lot.  But it still leaves us walking neighborhoods a lot looking for people.

We had some interesting encounters this week.  One lady stopped us on the street this past week.  She had overheard our conversation in a store with an employee about the church.  She told us that she was Catholic and that her daughter was 13.  She wanted her daughter to make up her own mind about religion, but that she herself really liked the `Mormons` and would like her daughter to hear about our church.  We gave her name to the Sister missionaries.  They have an appointment set up for this week and are really enthused.

On Friday, we were walking around a neighborhood, trying to find less active members and let them know about the Branch Christmas party that night.  We stopped at a house where a member used to live and found a family or at least part of one that consisted of 10 kids.  They told us the member we were looking for was their brother and that he and other siblings lived in a house a little distance away.  There had been a divorce in the family and they lived in separate homes.  Three of the kids offered to walk us there after getting permission to do so.  They were so friendly and inquisitive.  There were two girls, Emilyn, 14, Kauana, 13, and Whendel, 11.  They had not been baptized.  They had lots of questions, especially the 14 year old.  We told her we had a granddaughter named Emilee...almost like her.  That made her smile! She asked if women were different in the US.  We told her all women were alike in many ways.  She said that she thought Brazilian women wore shorter skirts!  We had to laugh.  We talked with them about movies, soccer, school, etc.  We even sang some songs with them.  They were a joy!  And we had a nice visit at the other home even though the older brother was not there.  We invited them all to the Branch Christmas party that night never thinking that they would actually come as it was a long ways from the chapel and they didn´t have a car.  But 4 of the kids showed up that night.  They seemed to enjoy the cake & soda and seeing Papai Noel (Santa Claus).  They were quite happy with the little gifts he passed out.  They were in no hurry to leave and said that their mom would meet them half way.  But we felt that we should walk with them.  We ended up walking them all the way home and had another good visit with them.  Emilyn had made a Christmas card for us that was really nice!  Sweet kids!  Sister Biddulph and her new companion will visit them this week.  It made me think about granddaughters that are about that age!  I surely miss them.  Maybe that is why I felt so close to these kids!  They reminded me of grandkids!

We have had lots of other great encounters.  We always seem to find someone who is interested in the Church as we are walking.  It is amazing to me.  Just when we are about to give up on finding someone, someone who is interested shows up.  We were walking back home when it began to rain.  We did not have our umbrella with us.  A car stopped and someone called out to us.  It was a less active member that we had visited.  He offered to take us home.  He was really friendly.  We visited with his wife later. She was very friendly as well.  Hopefully, we can get them back to church soon.  Lack of vehicles and the distance they have to walk is always a problem.

Tomorrow we are supposed to go to Porto Alegre for a Christmas mission conference.  It takes about 3 hours on the bus.  The Elders and Sisters will be going too.  We leave at 6 am.  So it´s an early morning. The Elders & Sisters have requested a get-together on Christmas Eve at our place.  Everyone will bring food.  Guess we will be shopping for more chairs!  We will have 4 Elders and 4 Sisters plus ourselves. Guess I need to experiment with some more recipes too. It should be fun. Then on Christmas day, we have been invited to a member´s home for dinner along with two other Sister missionaries.  We are supposed to take dessert (sobremesa).  If we don´t have a car by then, we will try to catch the onibus!  We are a little worried about the bus schedule on Christmas day and these members live a long ways away.  The sisters are especially worried, but we hate to turn this good sister down.  So we will hope for the best!  A car would be a blessing.

We have taken some crazy bus rides.  The bus is usually packed.  Often we are standing body to body and can hardly maneuver to the exit.  It is so ridiculous that it makes us laugh.  But, especially at nights, I have worried about walking around some of these neighborhoods.  We try to be home before dark, but sometimes it doesn´t work out that way and we find ourselves out after 10 pm.  Elder Shirley doesn´t worry, but I do.  I am always grateful to see a bus coming that will take us home.

We went to the First Presidency Christmas Devotional broadcast last night.  The music, especially, brought unexpected tears!  We enjoyed that a lot!

We experimented with a couple of our recipes.  We made the Bran Muffin mix that we usually make at Christmas.  It turned out pretty good.  Also made slush.  The pineapple here is so sweet...hardly any tang to it.  Lemons are the same way.  So we added lime juice to the slush.  We also made the rice bowls with sweet and sour pork.  It turned out well.  The challenge is finding the ingredients in the store.  It´s a challenge to figure out the names.  And some things they just don´t have.  The sisters have been a great help in figuring out the names of things.  We stop at little Lancherias for rice and beans quite often too when we don´t feel like cooking.  It´s too hot to cook much.  We live on the 3rd floor and the heat sure stacks up.  Our bedroom is air conditioned, fortunately.  Also we get a cool breeze on most nights.  We have windows on all sides so we get good cross ventilation.  We also get a lot of mosquitoes.

Last night they had fireworks in the park that is just down the road from us.  They broadcast Christmas carols from big trucks with speakers that drive around the neighborhoods.  I think we heard Christmas carols til at least 11 pm last night.  So weird to hear Jingle Bells, Frosty the Snowman, etc. when it is so warm outside and fireworks are going off.  Once in a while we hear a song in English too.  Also, on the Friday after Thanksgiving, we saw a sign in a store window in English that said, `Black Friday`.  Funny!

We are thinking of you all and missing you, especially as Christmas approaches!  May the Savior be a part of all of our celebrations!

Love you lots,

Monday, December 9, 2013

New apartment and a baptism

December 9, 2013


 The view from the new apartment

Things are going well....better all of the time.  We surely keep busy.  We have been with the sisters again to hold FHE in a couple of homes.  The good people here always feed us so well.  A family who does not have much money at all fed us pizzas they bought, including dessert pizzas.  I feel bad that they spend so much on us.  Dione (Johnny), the son of the Branch President of Marina went with us last week to visit some less active members and help us get acquainted.  He was great help.  We enjoyed him a lot.  He has recently returned from serving a mission here in Brazil and is still so enthused.  It was soooooo hot and we walked a lot as we were without a car.  We thought we walked a lot before our mission, but this is a lot more.  We had some really good visits and plan to go with him again this week.  We also plan to make more visits to invite inactives to the branch Christmas party.

We finally got moved about 3 days ago!   Everything but internet is connected and we hope to have that sometime this week.  Some of the missionaries want to Skype families on Christmas so we hope it is up and working.  Things are working out quite well although we are now further away from the Uniao and Marina branches, but we are closer to another.  Our shower is a better one, but still has the little heater attached.  But we actually get almost hot water from it.  There is still no hot water anywhere else...not even in the kitchen sink.  We heat water to do the dishes.  But that is very common here.

Last night, 4 of the elders came to visit.  One of them is finished with his mission and going home today.  We had purchased a little pizza and made little sandwiches.  I also got brave and baked my first cake in our new little gas oven.  It actually turned out pretty well.  I tried Grandma Shirley´s chocolate chip cookies a little earlier, but they didn´t turn out too well.  So it´s a matter of experimenting I guess. We also had Guarana....of course.  They drink a lot of soda here.  The 3 main kinds I see are Coke, Fanta Orange and Guarana.  We usually try to avoid drinking water out of the tap.  We have to call to have a big container of it delivered about once a week.  Once in a while at someone´s home we end up drinking water out of the tap when it is offered.  We don´t want to offend.  So far, we´ve been ok.

Neal had to speak again in church yesterday. This time it was in sacrament meeting in the Uniao branch.  They wanted him to talk about accepting callings and tell about our experience and challenges in getting here.  He did a great job.  We were a little worried about it as we had been in on a branch council meeting that was "semi-heated".  They had a RS president who evidently was feeling discouraged and burdened down.  She was not happy about taking on the refreshment assignment for the branch Christmas party and complained about never having any help.  Sounds like I have felt sometimes.  Guess some things are the same no matter where you serve.  The branch president evidently wanted the issue addressed by Neal in sacrament meeting.  He did a good job, mostly just telling about our difficulties and challenges in serving a mission,

Interesting thing, we met the grandson of Ron & Nina Moss.  He is serving a mission here in Brazil and his last name is Wilmore (sounds like no relation to Troy).  Ron was my first boss when I went back to work at Rick´s College after Amber started school.  It was fun to make that connection.  He took pics to send to his Grandpa.

We have the Christmas party of both branches coming up in the next week or so.  Neal may end up playing Santa Claus.  We will see.  We got an invitation yesterday to join two of the sister missionaries at the home of a member for Christmas dinner.  I have an assignment to bring sobremesa (dessert).  It will be a challenge to find a recipe that I have all of the ingredients for.  With the help of the sisters, we have found a lot of things at the grocery store.....baking powder, cocoa, baking soda, flour, sugar, etc.  But there are a lot of things that they don´t have that I am used to.  Guess we will do some experimenting.  We had a good dessert the other day that a member made.  They had taken chocolate cookies and soaked them in Guarana and put layers of them in a kind of torte pan and then frosted it on top.  It actually was very good and required no cooking which surprised me.  I got the recipe for that.  It surely is a learning process!

Thanks to all for your letters and support.  We are so grateful for you all.  It is kind of hard to find Christmas cards here, so we didn´t send out many.  But we hope you are all enjoying your preparations and enjoying the season.  It seems we hardly are able to give it a thought.  It is so strange to see Christmas decorations and hear Christmas music when it is so hot!  We have attached two pics. The first is of a baptism that we went to on Saturday.  I found something similiar to Smarties and took them for a couple of the kids getting baptized.  So we were pretty popular. The second is the view from our new apartment.

We are thinking of you all!

Lots of Love!

Wednesday, December 4, 2013

Thanksgiving in Brazil

December 4, 2013

It was so fun to talk with everyone on Thanksgiving Day.  No one celebrates here.  But that was ok.  Just being able to see family via Skype made me feel so good.  It´s so good to see that all is well and you are all taking care of and loving each other!  It made my birthday!  Thanks for all the good wishes and cards. And the letters sent to the mtc caught up to us.  Thanks so much!  What fun to read them!  I wondered if it would make me feel more homesick, but it just made me feel so good to see you carrying out all of the old traditions!  Love you all for that!

We aren´t moved into our new apartment yet, but getting closer.  They have delivered and are putting things together and setting up.  It takes a while when you are starting from scratch.  We are anxious to get moved in and let the sisters have their place back.  Most of our contact is with the sister missionaries.  They are really amazing.  I think we have said that before.  I think we told you before that one set of them fasted on Thanksgiving Day for an investigator.  They actually shed tears when things didn´t go as they had hoped.  They care a lot.  They like to stop by our place for sandwiches and treats and a drink of water.  We have a good time with them.  We go with them quite often for FHE and visits at investigator homes.  We are scheduled again to go tonight.  We spent the afternoon with a member who is a former missionary.  He took us around to several of the homes of inactive members.  It was a good afternoon.  It was really hot and our feet hurt because we walked and walked and walked!  But it was good.  We had some good visits.  We stopped afterwards for sorvette.  (ice cream).  There are little shops in almost every block.  They make a vanilla/chocolate twist cone that is really good, especially on such a hot day.

We made the 2 1/2 hour bus trip to Porto Alegre yesterday to get police clearance per Pres. Castro´s request.  The Elders met us at the bus station with big smiles and treated us like royalty.  They are so funny.  They took us everywhere and did everything for us.  All we had to do was provide the face for the photo and the fingers for fingerprints.  They whipped out their umbrellas to hold over us when it started to rain.  We walked a lot there too.  It really poured.  There was even hail.  They took us to a restaurant where all the other Elders joined us.  Since there was a zone leader conference going on, there was around 40 elders.....a big festa! The rain caused the power to go out in the restaurant, but everyone just kept on eating.  I can´t identify most of what we eat anyway...except rice and beans.  They even had ice in the glass for water.  It´s the first ice that we have had here in Brazil.   I have missed that.  Neal got to see Alceu, his friend from 45 years ago.  That was a fun reunion for him.  We returned to Cachoeira about 8 pm last night.

We have been doing so much walking that we have about decided that we need to buy a car, used, but dependable  There are lots of places that we should visit that are just too far to walk and buses can´t always be depended on, especially on Sundays.  Rain has also made it hard.  When it rains, it is usually such a downpour that an umbrella is not much use.  They usually get turned inside out.   So we have been doing some car shopping by ourselves and some with Pres. Torres.  We will see how that goes.

We have a branch meeting for the Uniao Ramo in a bit, so I guess we had better go.  We are so thankful for all of you.  We love to show pictures of all of you to everyone!  Thanks for the letters!  Love you all!