Monday, January 27, 2014

The dog days of summer

Branch President Medeiros

Dione's house with Sister Gurrieri, Sister Almeida

English class with Arielle & Lucas

FHE with Joao

Luisa's baptism

Another picture from Luisa's baptism

Who knew there were polar bears in Brazil?

Looks a bit wet out there today!

January 27, 2014

Monday went well for our a noite familiar (Family Home Evening).  We met with Valdomiro and Ivone Moraes.  They are a strong family in the church.  Their daughter is married to President Samuel, president of the Uniao branch.  They had invited an investigator that Sister Biddulph and Sister Rodrigues have been teaching, Joao.  The sisters went with us, but could only stay a few minutes.  We presented the lesson and bore testimony.  It went well.  His main problem is that he is trying to quit smoking.  We took our laptop and played  a mormon message by President Uchtdorf called “Our True Identity”.  Ivone prepared popcorn and juice (suco) for refreshments.  It was a nice evening. 

But is has been a hot week!  No breeze and very hot.  It is the topic of conversation with everyone.  Some of the sisters complained that they thought they would suffocate at night.  We have an air conditioner in our bedroom, but we still suffered from the heat, especially when we were out walking.  We take a small towel with us  to mop up and notice that lots of Brazilians do that too.  We see that on the bus a lot.  And we thought it was just our own idea!   But Friday afternoon things changed.  Clouds, rain, wind, and cooler temperatures moved in.  It was wonderful!  We have had a whole weekend of cooler temperatures.  It was great to pull out a cardigan! 

Dione wanted to hold another meeting with us and Sister Gurreri and Sister Almeida at his home which is quite a distance away.  However, it is closer to us than it is the sisters.  We walked.  The sisters took a bus, but ended up getting lost.  It was a good meeting, but it ended up being another late night.  We waited at the bus stop with the sisters as it was late.  45 minutes later, the bus still hadn’t come.  So we all caught a taxi.  Everyone was tired and it was one of those really hot days that didn’t cool off at night.

It was Sister Biddulph’s birthday this week.  Her Dad served a mission in Brasil with our branch president’s father,  who is a strong, strong member of the Uniao branch.  So it is a great experience for her to serve here and get to know him and his family.  Sister Biddulph’s brother also served a mission to Brazil as did her boyfriend.  In fact, her boyfriend got home just before Christmas.  Before her mission, she has left a “message in a bottle” for him in Idaho Falls close to where they do fireworks, on the river bank.  He actually found it.  It’s been fun to hear her stories.

We had an early morning meeting with the District on Wednesday.  It is always fun to mingle with the Elders and Sisters.  Elder Staples from South Jordan, Utah, was transferred.  Elder Ritz, also from Utah, has just been transferred here.  Everyone else stayed, at least for another six weeks.  We always hate to see them go.  We really liked Elder Staples.  We get attached.  But we always love the new ones too.  So there are still 4 of us “americanos” serving here in Cachoeira.
Arielle was back to our English class this week, as was Lucas.  We had 4.  Usually we have a few of the non-English speaking missionaries.  But there were all involved in the watermelon party the branches were holding.  Class went well.  We always have lots of handouts, crossword puzzles, stories, etc.  This week we also worked on a song…..”I Can See Clearly Now”  It was fun.  Arielle and Lucas already know a lot and are anxious to learn.  So it makes it fun!  Since we begin and end class with prayer, Elder Shirley decided to go over the steps of prayer with everyone.  It seemed to go over just fine. 

Another highlight of the week was the baptism on Saturday of Luisa, a young girl that Sister Biddulph and 
Sister Rodrigues have been teaching.  It was pretty sweet. We fit in lots of visits too.  We were anxious to visit Gelson, Rosi and Francine.  We had heard that Francine had been suffering again from the heat and had been a little dehydrated again.  But this time, she didn’t have to go to the hospital.  When we arrived at their home, Rosi’s friend was there helping her make some salgados.  They were rolling out the dough, called rissole.  It is a little croquette filled with shredded meat or sweets of some sort and deep fried.  They were filling theirs with shredded chicken for Francine’s birthday party.  We wrote down the recipe.  It was fun to watch.  They warned us they would not be to church if it rained.  Sure enough, it rained and they weren’t there.  But they are a great family.  We enjoy them.  One night, when we were walking home after dark, a bike rider stopped out in the street and called to us.  It was Gelson.  He is always so friendly.  Guess we will do a family home evening with them in a couple of weeks. 

It was exciting to catch Gilmar, Luanna, and Kaleb home one evening.  They greeted us warmly.  They insisted we sit up to the table with them for cake and cold chocolate milk.  Their son, Kaleb, is nearly 4 years old….about the same age as Tanner.  We showed them pics of our family.  They seemed interested and asked lots of questions about the family.  Kaleb was anxious to show us all of his pre-school papers and toys.  We had a fun time laughing with him.  They all piled in the car and insisted they take us home.  Saved us from a walk home in the dark.  Gilmar said no church this Sunday, but would try to get his act together for the next Sunday.  He is with the military police in Porto Alegre and works on a lot of Sundays and they only have one car.  We scheduled a FHE with them on Feb. 3.  Another great family!

We spent a lot of time trying to find homes of inactive members.  Dione, the Marina branch mission leader, doesn’t even know where some of these people live.  We feel a little like detectives.  We are also just trying to visit members and find out where they live and what their needs are.  It takes time and lots of walking.  But we keep at it. 

It continually happens that I get called on to pray everywhere  we go.  Yesterday just as sacrament meeting was starting, someone came up and asked if I would give the closing prayer.  Elder Shirley was still snickering about that, when someone else came up and asked if he would be a fill-in speaker.   Hahaha!  Usually he has a talk prepared just in case on his tablet.  But he had left it home.  He thought he would have a few minutes to think about it, but he was the first speaker.  Anyway, he did great and I survived!  But we were both a bit stressed.  Portuguese is coming a bit more all of the time, but I still have a long ways to go.  We like to speak English at home too well.  The young missionaries only speak Portuguese.  I know that slows the learning down for me.  But I study every day and am improving little by little.  Elder Shirley continues to speak like a native.

Hope all is well at home!  Eu te amo!

Tuesday, January 21, 2014

A change of heart about owning a Brazilian car

Who needs a car when you have a horse and a cart?

The Garcia's heading out of town

Elder Shirley hanging out with "the professor"and the hot dog man

Arielle at work at the bed store "Ortobom"

Elder & Sister Shirley with President & Sister Castro
January 20, 2014

Here in Cachoeira, the heat has returned.  The thunderstorms of the previous week are gone.  The forecast is for heat and sun all week.  So we are back to trying to do our visits on foot in the morning or evenings.  But that is ok.  We like to walk!

Still no car!  Frustrating!  We paid a visit to the bank ourselves.  Banco do Brasil received our money on December 30, the same day it was sent.  But they did not notify anyone and the car dealer didn't know he had to actually go in and accept the money to get it in his account.  But it seems there are more hoops to jump through.  We had to take our passports and ID to be certified again.  Then they car dealer had to provide info on the car.  Now documents for the car had to be sent off by the bank for clearance.  We don't understand and neither does the car dealer.  So we are still waiting.  They keep saying "tomorrow".  Today was supposed to be the day.  But this morning they said "TOMORROW"!  We are ready to be done with this so we can focus on missionary work.  President Castro, Pres. Torres and others agree with us that it looks like the bank wants to hang on to our money as long as possible to make a profit on the currency exchange.  Hopefully we made the right decision in doing this.  We will see "tomorrow"! 
(As I’m posting this, “tomorrow” is now today – see below for a car update)

We were out walking to a visit one day and came upon a ward member in her horse-drawn wagon.  We ate at their home on Christmas and New Years day.  Christina was in the wagon worried about parking in a no parking spot.  Her mom, Jussara, was in the farmacia (pharmacy).  They live far out and a bus goes out there only a couple of times a day.  They bring their wagon in for feed for animals, etc about once a week.  We couldn't resist taking pics.

We made a lot of visits this week.  We met with Dione (Johnny) and Sister Gurreri and Sister Almeida.  Dione is the new branch mission leader for Marina.  It is always good to get more names of people to visit.  We also went out with Dione one evening to make some visits.  We walked and walked and arrived back home about 11-11:30pm.  But enjoyed it.

English class went well.  We had 9 people this past week.  There is a wide range of ability.  Our challenge is to make class beneficial for all.  Ariele missed class.  But she had told us that she wouldn't be able to attend this week.  We stopped by her place of employment.  She is always so cheerful and happy to see us.  We hope she will be back this week.  We stop by on a regular basis to see the hot dog man as we go by.  We are including pics.

The highlight of the week was a visit from our mission president, President and Sister Castro.  They took us to lunch at the "nicest place in town", Tutti Grill.  It is a buffet.  Most restaurants are buffets.  You pay according to weight of your plate.  Our problem is that we can't always identify what we are eating.  But it was good.  We enjoyed our visit with the Castros very much.  That evening we met in the Cachoeira branch and were paired up with branch members to go out and visit less-actives.  Elder Shirley and I protested at being separated.....we aren't accustomed to that!  But they just laughed and sent us off in different directions.  It was an interesting evening.

Sunday morning, President and Sister Castro spoke in sacrament meeting in both Marina and Uniao.  Afterwards, we went with them to visit some of the people we have been visiting.  Unfortunately, Gelson, Rosi, and Francine were not to church.  We took the president to their home.  But there were gone.  Baaa!!!!  We usually check up on them on Saturdays and encourage them to come to church.  We weren't able to do that with our meetings this week.  We were disappointed.  But we had another good visit.  We took President and Sister Castro to the home of Moises and Ivete.  President Castro had performed the marriage about a year ago for their daughter to the branch president of Cachoeira.  So they were acquainted.  It was a great visit.  Ivete comes to church.  But Moises is a trucker and not always home on Sundays.  President Castro encouraged Moises to come to church and told him how much he would strengthen the branch.  He needs the church and the church needs him!  Moises always insists on giving us a ride home when we visit him.  Sometimes we aren't ready to go home yet, but we always take him up on his offer!

It was great having the President & Sister Castro here.  They are very personable!  They will be released about the same time as us and are planning on a trip to the United States the January after their release.  They want to visit Salt Lake City and then come to Idaho.  We tried to tell them that January is not the best time to visit Idaho.  But he says that is the only time they can come.  (Summer vacation for their kids is in January!)   With the help of family, we may have to introduce them to sleigh rides and snowmobiling, etc.

Today is "P-day".  We have been busy doing laundry, cleaning, preparing a lesson for a FHE tonight with a member (Noite Familiar).  The sisters ended up being double scheduled and asked us to do the family home evening tonight.  Looks like we a have a busy week ahead of us.  President and Sister Castro brought our mail from Porto Alegre.  It was fun to see more Christmas cards.  We loved it!  We so appreciate your letters, love and support. Thanks a bunch!  It has also been fun to do some Skyping this past week.  We love you all!

Eu te amo!

**Car Update:

Just an update on the car.  It has been "muito complicado ate demais!"  Too complicated.  Vamos desiistir!  We give up!  Every day the bank keeps saying they are still trying to get a clear title on the car.  It seems Ceasar (the car dealer) was trying to sell it for someone else which further complicates things.  They have been warning us that it will be just as complicated to sell it when we leave.

 So we have decided to send the money back.

 The car dealer and the bank all agree.  We are tired of it taking so much time away from missionary work. We are also now hearing that there is quite an expense in insuring, taxes, licensing, etc.  (Now they tell us!) The Ortizs (car dealers: Ceaser and Paulo) are doing the paperwork now to take back to Banco do Brasil this afternoon.  Hopefully, the money will be back in our account tomorrow sometime.  

We are not too disappointed.  We like walking.  It is good for us and we meet lots of people.  There are places we can't get to easily on foot or by bus.  But we will do the best we can.  We will let President Castro know.  That may affect where he might send us if we get a transfer.  Did we tell you that they have submitted paperwork to SLC to change and divide and/or combine branches to make wards and stakes down here?  If it is approved, President Castro says Cachoeira will not be in the Porto Alegre South mission any more.  That means we will be moved somewhere else.  We will see what happens.  At any rate, our lives will be a little less complicated without a car.  We will look on the bright side!

Tuesday, January 14, 2014

The "hot dog man" and "the professor"

A plaza in Cachoeira

Elder Shirley on the street in Cachoeira

Sister Shirley considering a "new ride"

Horse-drawn cart in the streets of Cachoeira
January 13, 2014

It's been another good week.  We have kept busy again.  Here are a few highlights.

We still are trying to visit members who are less active.  We surely meet some good people.  We went with the Sisters (Sister Biddulph and Sister Rodrigues) one day to visit an older couple.  It was pouring rain.  We each had an umbrella.  The sisters told us it wasn't too far away.  Guess that is a matter of opinion.  Haha!  But we did ok.  It was fun to walk with them.  The couple was glad to see us.   Neither one is a member.  The sisters have been teaching them and asked us to accompany them on this visit.  Sueli has been attending church every Sunday and wants to be baptized.  Valdir is not a member either.  He hasn't been to church yet, but was very welcoming.  Also, they have never been married.  So the sisters have been working on helping that to happen so baptisms can take place.  Sueli was sooo welcoming and glad to see us.  She really made us feel wanted.  She fixed us homemade bread and an herbal tea (Carqueja).  We have never been much into herbal tea, but the sisters reassured us that President Castro said it was ok to drink this kind.  So we gave it a try.  We still are not much into herbal tea.  But we drank it and were grateful for their hospitality. Her bread was beautiful!  The sisters gave a little lesson.  We sang a song and each of us bore our testimony about the importance of eternal families.  It was sweet!   Also, I guess we will go fishing with Valdir this Saturday.  It is an activity for the young men.  That puts a smile on Elder Shirley's face.  The sisters can't go.  But Sueli says that she will be there.  We hope it doesn't rain!

English class went well.  We had a few more there this time.  The Elders and the Sisters came too.  That always makes for a fun class.  We have visited with a few others who committed to come.  One has been on vacation and says he will be coming next week with his girlfriend.  He works at a guitar store.   A few others keep promising to come.  We hope.  We enjoy Ariele and Lucas a lot.  And Ariele, especially, seems interested in the gospel.  The sisters are thinking they will set up some visits with her in her home.

Late Saturday afternoon, we hopped the bus and made some visits.  One of the visits was to Gelson, and Rosi and Francine (the 11 month old who had the blessing in the hospital).  They had a house full of company, but were still welcoming.  We put a bit of pressure on them to come to church the next day.  They are pretty protective of their baby, and said they would come only if it wasn't raining or too windy.  It would be a long walk for them.  We checked out weather forecasts and crossed our fingers and said our prayers.  Sunday morning was a little overcast, but things looked promising.  Starting time for church found us still out in the parking lot looking the Gelson and his family.  Then clear up the hill we saw them coming.  We were so excited!  They arrived with smiles.  They sat by us in church.  But the best part was that after church, branch members crowded around to visit with them, making a fuss over Francine.    It was so wonderful to see.  They had to have felt welcome.  Branch members are so important in this work!  We are grateful for these good, faithful members.  Hopefully, this little family felt the spirit too.  They left with smiles.

We continue to visit others....the hot dog man included.  We videoed him making his hot dogs and gave him a copy.  We attached a little Mormon Message video on the end of it.   There we also met a man who they call "the professor".  He likes to spit out English words he knows.  Now when we pass him on the street, he says in broken English, loud enough for all to hear, "These people are my friends!"  Usually he has had a little to drink.  But we enjoy him.

We continue to meet lots of good people and have lots of good visits.   We continue to say that these people are "a gente boa" (a people good)!  Hope all is well with each of you.  May you continue to "endure the cold" as we "endure the heat"!

Eu te amo!

Saturday, January 4, 2014

Happy New Year from Brazil!

"Mulheres on the balcony"

Kids acting like moneys in the tree

Elder & Sister Shirley on New Year's Day

New Years Eve fireworks as viewed from the apartment

Outside view of the apartment - named "Pitt" (pronounced "peach")

January 4, 2013

Happy 2014!  For us, this will be a year like no other.  It still seems surreal to be here in Brazil!

There were fireworks galore bringing in the new year.  The streets here in Cachoeira were eerily quiet on New Years Eve in the afternoon and early evening.  Then the fireworks started and continued way past midnight into the wee hours of the morning.  There was no way we could avoid being awake to see in 2014!

On New Years Day, we were invited to dinner with the Garcia family, the same family we joined for Christmas dinner.  However, the sisters did not join us this time as they had another commitment.  That meant another long bus ride and lots of walking again.  We had another good churrasco with all the trimmings.  We took another bolo for dessert.  They are a great family, with kids and grandkids living nearby.  We had a fun time.  They had a son-in-law who was not feeling well.  He had been to the doctor the day before.  He was dehydrated and the doctor had given him an IV.  So Elder Shirley helped in administering a blessing.

It seems things come in bunches.  That is the way it has been this week with blessings.  There seems to be a lot of people sick with something like the stomach flu.  And with this heat, they get dehydrated and end up in the hospital.  This was the case with Francine, the 11 month old baby girl of Gelson and Roselaine.  They are the good family we have been visiting, the ones who want to get back to church and start preparing to go to the temple.  Francine ended up in the hospital because of dehydration.  So we made our first hospital visit.  They would only allow one person at a time into the room, so Elder Shirley went in to help Gelson give Francine a blessing.  Later Gelson would tell us that they had been having a struggle getting an IV in.  But as soon as the blessing was given and Elder Shirley had left, they had success on the first try.  Francine responded well and was released the next day.  We visited them at home and they were all smiles, including Francine.  It was good to see and a testimony builder for us all.

Another interesting visit was with the hot dog vender in the park down the street from our apartment.  We had been told how good his hot dogs were.  He only sets up in the evenings.  So we made it a point to go down one evening.  It was an interesting conversation.   He had been baptized a member of the church at the age of 15.  But he said that he "got lazy" and quit going.  His wife was Catholic and his kids live in Porto Alegre and know nothing about the church.  He said that he had been thinking a lot about the church lately though.  In fact, just the day before he was getting out a magazine when the pamphlet "The Plan of Salvation" fell out.  And he said, "Now you appear".  Elder Shirley asked him if he was ready to let the missionaries talk to his wife and kids about the church.  He told us that he thought he was really close to being ready.  He gave Elder Shirley a big pat on the back as we left.  We stopped by again a couple of nights later with the Sister missionaries and the Elders were planning on doing a follow-up visit as well.   And we had a good hot dog too!

English classes started this week.  We had made some fun preparations with games too.  We had invited a few people.  We had been quite selective in whom we invited.  We wanted a smaller class of people who were serious about learning English and who might possibly be ready to receive the gospel.  We were disappointed because we only had two of those people turn out plus Sister Biddulph and Sister Rodrigues.  But we had a really fun time.  The sisters were great help too.  And both Lucas and Ariele were great.  Ariele wanted a tour of the building while we were waiting for Lucas to arrive.  She told the sisters that she was Catholic, but did not feel good when she went to church.  That got the sister missionaries excited.  Class went well.  They both already know some basics.  Elder Shirley told them that our purpose for being in Brazil was to teach the gospel and be missionaries.  He also told them that we would not be preaching to them in our English classes, but we would be starting with prayer as we think we can all use the Lord's help to learn.  We hope we didn't scare them off and that they will come back next week.  We also hope others will decide to join us.  We are teaching our classes in the chapel here in Cachoeira, not in the chapel for Marina and Uniao, where we attend church.  It is a nice building with air conditioning.  A very nice place for our classes.

We still don't have our car.  We are waiting for the wire transfer of the money to go through.  We were told it might take 5-7 days.  Brian has been such good help to us.   Holidays have slowed the process down. Hopefully, things will go through ok.  It makes us a little nervous!  Good news though, the building we live in is just finishing up a little parking lot in back where the car can be locked up at night.

Don't tell old James T, but the name of the building we live in is "Pitt", but pronounced "peach".  So, no, we don't live in a spud pit!  We wonder if James T owns the place though.  We are including a pic of it, plus a picture of some "mulheres" (women) on the veranda of a near-by building.  They are cute statues.  We have enjoyed walking by them every day.

The weather cooled down yesterday.  It was probably the coolest day we have seen since our arrival in Brazil.  Along with it came some rain.  It rained on and off most of the day yesterday.  But we see things heating up again today.  We sure enjoyed the cooler temps while we had them though.

Hope the new year is off to a great start for all of you!

Eu te amo!