Monday, June 30, 2014

Everything is Damp But Our Spirits!

Brazilian soccer spirit is alive and well

A rainy day at the Porto Alegre temple

Last district meeting before June transfers

The double-decker bus used to travel to the temple

Elivelton and Bruna at the temple

A "lancheria" across the street from the temple

Sister Shirley enjoying the rain at the Porto Alegre temple

On the bus, ready to go to the temple

2014 Ping Pong World Championships

Elder Shirley posing with a gaucho

Visiting the Reinbrecht family

Setting up cameras for pictures at the district meeting

Youth and some adults at the Porto Alegre temple

The Torres family (Gabriel, Renata and baby) with Sisters Johnson and Holden

Visiting at the Tischler family home

June 30, 2014

And the rains continue to come.  A large part of Brazil is receiving lots of rain and that includes rain in Cachoeira.  A member told us today that Cachoeira has had 5 inches of rain in the last 3 days.  Rain runs down the roads like a river.  There is mud everywhere.  Even riding the bus is more of an adventure.  On some of the little red dirt/clay roads, the bus driver revs the motor and charges up the hills and through the puddles (or ponds in the road) with tires spinning. Rides are really bouncy.  We usually try to sit in the front as we fly off the seats in the back of the bus.  We walked to church on Sunday in the rain as buses were slow in coming.  We had our umbrellas (guarda chuvas), but were still pretty wet when we arrived.  Many members are complaining of leaky roofs.  Clothes are harder than ever to get dry. Hair is impossible!  Even the paper in our tablets is limp and damp.   We like to say that “Everything is damp but our spirits!”

Early Saturday morning, we walked in the rain to the chapel to catch the bus that the 3 branches had jointly rented to take members, old and young alike, to the temple in Porto Alegre.  There were a lot of youth. It’s about a three-hour trip to Porto Alegre. The youth did baptisms for the dead while the adults did sealings and sessions.

We had to be at the chapel at 5:30 a.m.  We didn’t see any city buses running that early.  We thought about calling a taxi.  But not many of them were out and about that early either.  So we just ended up walking.  There were a total of about 55 members from the Uniao, Marina, and Cachoeira branches.  We were very happy to see Elivelton (who was just baptized a week ago) and Bruna join the caravana.  It was a big double-decker bus and was lots of fun.  The last time we went to the temple was almost 4 months ago. Back then, it was hot.  This time we got to see the temple in the rain.  It was still beautiful and still a great experience for both of us to do the session in Portuguese.  Scary, but a great experience!  On the temple grounds, they also have a little store where you can buy scriptures, church magazines, church videos, manuals, garments, etc.  It’s a mini, mini, Deseret Book.  We like to visit there too.  It was also good to re-connect with President and Sister Warthen (who presides over the Porto Alegre temple), George and Annette Leavitt and the Denneys, who are all stateside friends, also serving at the temple.  The Leavitts and the Denneys were part of the “Brazil Nuts”, who were all waiting and waiting for visas to come through.  Elder Shirley also met some families that knew people he knew in his first mission about 46 years ago.  Cool!  

We always especially enjoy the youth and their exuberance!  In the late afternoon, just before the bus was to leave, we were walking down the sidewalk in the rain with our umbrellas when some of the young women came on the run, grabbing our umbrella as they passed.  They were on their way to a nearby little store.  It was pouring rain and they left their “mini” umbrella in exchange for our big one.  They only got a few steps away when the wind caught our umbrella that they stole from us and turned it inside out.  So much for them getting a bigger, better umbrella.  They continued down the sidewalk, laughing and screaming.  They were soaking wet when they got back!   We all had a good laugh!

Across the street from the temple, a little “lancheria” was set up, with tarps to shield them and customers from the rain.  We went to check out the food after we were finished with the session.  They even had a little TV set up inside with the Brazil/Mexico game playing and an enthusiastic crowd standing around. They pulled out two little stools and put us right in front of the tv, in middle of the crowd, to eat our toasted sandwiches.   They were all happy to see that we were rooting for Brazil.  We also picked up some of their salgados and some of their doces (sweets) and took them back for the youth, many of whom hadn’t brought any food and didn’t have the money to buy any. It was a long, but really good day.  We left home at 5:10 am and arrived back home at 9:30 pm.  And it rained all day! 

Earlier in the week, we had the last District meeting before transfers take place.  It is a sad, but exciting time.  They are a great bunch of dedicated, fun missionaries.  Sister Johnson, from New Mexico will be going home and a few of the others will be transferred. 

We hopped a city bus and did some visiting in some of the outlying neighborhoods of Cachoeira in the Marina branch.  We were trying to find some of the less active members again.  This particular neighborhood is called “Habitar Brazil”.  We visited the Tischler family.  We met the dad and some of the kids last week and had set up an appointment to meet the whole family this week.  Since we had a conflict arise, we took a bus out a day early.  The dad greeted us with “you came today”!  But they were all at home and invited us in.  They live in a pretty humble home, but were very welcoming.  We loved the kids.  No one in the family reads except for the mom and the 10 year old boy, Bruno.  By the way, his sister’s name is Bruna.  The mom remembers the missionary who baptized her and she requested a Book of Mormon from us.  We ended up surprising them the very next day when we returned with a Book of Mormon.  This time we met a married daughter and her 18 month old baby.  They were so talkative and kept asking questions about our kids and grandkids.  People are always amazed that we have 10 grandkids!  We know many our age who have so many more than that, but 10 seems to amaze people down here!  And we are always being asked if all of our kids are “firme” in the gospel.  We feel so blessed to be able to say “They are firme!”

On the bus to Habitar, we also met our shoe shine, less-active member, Alexandre.  He was on his way to visit his mother who happens to live just a few houses from the Tischlers.  He invited us to go with him to meet his mother.  Once again, we were warmly welcomed.  In fact, his mom and sister gave Sister Shirley 3-kisses on the cheeks.  We are used to the one kiss on the cheek.  That is a normal way to greet a sister.  But they kept saying, “mais um” (one more).  They seemed happy to see us and sad to see us go.  We didn’t stay long as we had other visits and needed to catch the bus back soon as it was getting dark.  Buses don’t run too late at night out that way.  And it wasn’t the best of neighborhoods.   But it continues to amaze us how the timing works out for us.  So many times things work out so that we can meet people like we did Alexandre on the bus. He seemed pleased. 

One evening we decided to watch the Ping Pong match at the Uniao/Marina branch.  Our non-member friend, Nilson, who works at Delta Sul told us about it (surprise!)  He said he might go.  Although Nilson wasn’t there after all, several active as well as less active young men were.  So we stayed to watch a bit.  Elder Shirley got talked into giving it a try. Although he was rusty, he enjoyed it and the youth got a real kick out of it!  We were able to visit with Mosiah, the in-active son of President Martins (who owns our favorite store, Pedal de Ouro).  He had come to church last Sunday to support Elivelton in his confirmation and sat behind us.  We noticed that he was a good singer.  We visited with him about the possibility of joining with 2 or 3 others (all inactives) for a quartet at church.  He actually seemed interested and even made some suggestions as to who might sing with them.   So something good may come of the Ping Pong match! 

We finally connected again with the Reinbrecht family on Friday.  We had set up an appointment with Roberto when we saw him in the grocery store.  But he hadn’t mentioned it to the family as they had his brother visiting and he forgot.  But they were home and seemed happy to see us.  As usual, they insisted on feeding us.  Marcia had made a great vegetable soup, probably the best soup we have had here.  We took some of our pipoca.  We gave them a lesson and showed a short video of what temples are about.  Once again, they had lots of questions.  We actually talked to them about getting baptized.  Roberto wasn’t as shocked about it as we thought he might be.  But we don’t know what it will take to get them out to church.  He always says that he wouldn’t be comfortable there and that he prefers to just talk religion with us. We are thinking that we will invite the Elders to come with us on a visit sometime soon.  They are anxious to take over on this family anyway.  We are beginning to think this good family just likes our friendship and lively discussions.  The 10 year old daughter, Melissa, has developed a degenerative cartilage disease that is evidently genetic.  They have had her to specialists in Porto Alegre.  We are going to teach them about priesthood blessings next Friday.  We will see how that goes.    

There doesn't seem to be enough time to go around.  The Sisters had a baptism Friday.  It was Manuel, a young man who danced with our little group of youth at the Baile.  Because of our appointment with the Reinbrechts, we were unable to attend the baptism.  We felt like we couldn’t cancel on the Reinbrechts.  But we at least were able to attend his confirmation on Sunday.  Also, Elder Shirley got a call while on the return bus trip from Porto Alegre on Saturday night to speak in Sacrament meeting on Sunday.  He had to talk on how to recognize personal revelation.  He gave a very good, touching talk.  In fact, it may be one of the best he has given!  Here everyone always closes their talk by saying, and this is my “pequeno discurso” (little talk).  Absolutely everyone says this.  Today, so did Elder Shirley!

We have done lots of visiting and had lots of fun.  Can’t believe it will soon be the 4th of July, one of the favorite holidays for our family!  We will be thinking of you!  Here, soccer spirit is alive and well!  (We hear it is pretty strong in the USA as well.)  Rain hasn’t dampened that nor does the rain dampen our enthusiasm for spreading the Gospel.  We are feeling so blessed by the Gospel!  We are feeling grateful for good family and friends!
Eu te amo!

Monday, June 23, 2014

Enjoying the Fruits of Their Labors

Barefoot soccer in the neighborhood

All creatures great and small are interested in these American missionaries out in the street

Elder Shirley gets mistaken for a sweepstakes representative:  "Did my mom win something?"

A wonderful day:  Elivelton's baptism

Elivelton with Vilson and the missionaries

Elivelton in the baptismal font

Fixing the sister's shower

A freight delivery in the center of town - check out the one horsepower motor on the delivery truck

More one horsepower vehicles

Luciano - a member known for powerful handshakes and great hair

A boy in the supermarket showing some Brazilian World Cup pride

P-day with the Elders

Sister Shirley with Sisters Techmeier and Rosado

Downtown Cachoeira - another Brazilian World Cup supporter

"The old Ford wouldn't have any troubles with this washed out road"
June 23, 2014

We know we told you last week was a great week.  But this week was even better!  We will tell you about the end of the week first as we can’t wait.  Elivelton was baptized yesterday!!  It actually happened!  We were thrilled for him and for the whole Morales family.  We felt blessed to be able to help the Sisters in teaching him.  He is a nice young man and we think that he will be a blessing to the church in this area.  We visited with him several times during the week to finish up the lessons.  One afternoon, after we had finished reviewing everything, we asked him if he had any questions.  He said that he only had one question, “When can I go to the temple?”  He already knew that he couldn’t be married there until he had been a member for a year.  But he wondered when he could go to do baptisms for the dead.  Our hearts were touched by his question.  The nearest temple is Porto Alegre.  The branches here join in a caravan once every few months and they take members in a big bus to the temple.  It happens that they will be going to the temple next Saturday.  Elivelton was confirmed on Sunday and was able to receive the Priesthood.  He and Bruna have had their interviews and will be joining us for the temple trip next Saturday.  The timing has worked out great 
for this!  We were excited to call President Castro and report all of this to him! 

It has really touched our hearts to see the reaction of Bruna and her family. Bruna Morales is Elivelton’s girlfriend.  Her father, Vilson, and her mother, Vera, are strong, good members of the church and have been for years.  Vilson has served as a branch president here in Cachoeira and also in nearby Caçapava.  Vilson did the baptizing and also bore his testimony.  Vera was one of the speakers at the service.  They were very emotional trying to get through their talks.  The Sister missionaries, Sister Techmeier and Sister Rosado, both from Brazil were thrilled too.  Transfers take place in one week and they may be transferred.  So it is good to see this happen before they go.

We spent a few days worrying about and calling about the water in the baptismal font.  It has been cold in both chapels for the last few baptisms.  We were sure hoping for warm water this time.  On Friday we got a call to meet a couple of guys who had come to check things out.  It appears that we now have hot water in both chapels.  Good news!  It was good news to Elivelton too.  He is tall.  So we ran the water deep.  It only took one try.  Vilson did a slow, easy baptism.  It was beautiful! 

We always have refreshments at these baptisms.  We decided to use this as an excuse to make contact again with Nilson, a student in our English classes.  For Valentine’s Day, he and his girlfriend had brought us cupcakes that his sister had made.  They had a filling in them and were really good.  We found Nilson at work at Delta Sul and he put in a call to his sister.  Saturday morning, he waited with us outside our apartment building for his sister to make delivery.  We had a good visit with him again.  He is a really nice guy.  In fact, he is joining a group on Wednesday to play ping pong in our Marina/Uniao chapel.  He invited us to come watch!  We hadn’t known that was happening.  And the cupcakes were wonderful!  They were a hit at the baptism!

We have had some cool days again with fog and mist, but not much rain.  Sounds like the rain will be coming tomorrow and throughout the week.   Lots of people have stuffy noses and coughs.  But we are staying pretty healthy.  We continue to wear our long johns, gloves, etc.   We have done quite a lot of walking again this week.  We are still looking for the homes of members as well as less active members, just trying to get better acquainted.  We have been in Quinta, Promorar, and Habitar Brasil (a government housing development).  We take a bus and then walk the neighborhoods.  Many times, we get warned to be careful and not to let people see we have a camera.  But we just can’t resist taking pictures.  We are amazed at the many sites we see.  And we have never had any problems.  But we always see lots of faces peering out their windows at us.  One day we had a lady offer to just walk with us and help us find the places we were looking for.  She was almost more help than we needed as we have to do a lot of studying of the map and the branch register to even know where we want to go.  But she was nice!  She even comes out and waves to us on the bus as we go by.  We were way out there one day when we ran into the Sisters.  We surprised each other.  It was fun.    We also found where our shoeshine guys live.  One of them is an inactive member.  He assured us that he would be to church today.  Unfortunately, he wasn’t.  Guess we will have to keep after him.  He has a good customer in us anyway.  He comes often to the downtown area and finds us and gives Elder a shoeshine!  His shoes always look good as a result! He seemed pleased that we would seek him out at home. 

We had another one of those days out walking again when we came across so many good contacts.  At every turn, we encountered someone that we needed to visit.  Roberto Reinbrecht was one of those.  We saw him and a visiting brother in the supermercado.  We had a good visit with him.  He says that they have missed our visits.  We have missed him.  But they have been out of town a lot.  So we were able to schedule a visit with them for Friday!  We also saw Ariele, another former student of our English classes.  She always greets us warmly.  She will be graduating from her night school and has invited us to come to her graduation in August. Out walking, we also met Emilyn, a 14 year old girl that we met back in December.  Her Dad had indicated to us that they wouldn’t be wanting any more visits.  Emilyn asked us why we hadn’t been by to visit.  Guess we should try again.  Good things happen when we are out and about.  Walking is good!  Also bus drivers and corbradores (those who take the money on the bus) are getting to know us well.  They are also friendly and often visit with us.

But it feels like there is never enough time to get to visit everyone that we want to.  We still haven’t managed to visit recently with Gelson and Rosi and Francine in their home.  We also want to visit in the Garcia and Rodriquez home.  Christiane Rodriquez is really hoping her husband, Daniel, will join the church someday.  We have given some FHE lessons there, but need to visit again. 

Thursday was a national holiday, Corpus Christi Day, a Catholic holiday.  All stores were closed, but we found quite a few people home.  We visited at the home of a good member, Maria.  She gave a talk in church last Sunday.  Members get that opportunity really often here.  Her cell phone kept ringing in her purse while she was trying to speak.  She would leave the pulpit to go silence it and it would go off again.  She was so embarrassed that she almost passed out later on in Relief Society.  We paid her a visit and she helped us find the homes of some members.  A really good lady!

Everyone, everywhere is still hyped up about soccer.  More than ever, kids are out in the streets playing soccer.  Everyone is wearing Brazil’s colors.  Even the statue of Christ on top on one of the buildings is sporting Brazilian colors.  We are still following the rules about staying in before and for a bit after the games involving Brazil.  They have another game tomorrow!  But it is interesting to hear everyone talking about it and seeing their enthusiasm. 

We enjoyed our visit with the Elder Hiatt and Elder Julca last P-day (Monday).  They came for lunch and then stayed to visit and send off their emails. So it was a day of it.   We made homemade bread for the turkey/avocado sandwiches and Texas Sheet Cake.  That was the first attempt at making it down here.  It turned out fair.  But I missed my nice pans from home!  We were reminded that Elders can eat a lot!! 

The Sisters’ shower burned up or shorted out.  President Castro asked Elder Shirley to personally see to it that things got fixed for them.  It is in the house where four sisters live.  But Marcio (President Samuel’s dad) beat us to it.  He is such a good, funny guy!  But we gave him moral support and the shower is working now!  It seems like we all have our shower problems!  Lots of variety in the things we do!  We enjoy it!
All is well here!  Hope it is there!  You are always in our thoughts and prayers!  Stay safe, healthy and happy!

Eu te amo!

Monday, June 16, 2014

Experiencing Miracles

86 year old at bus stop in Quinta

Crepes in the park

Foggy day - the seasons have definitely changed!

Posing before Stefani's baptism

Supermarket display of limes and bergamotas (mandarin oranges)

Wood-fired pizza oven at Pizzaria Paulista

Anticipating a Dia Dos Namorados (Valentines Day in June) meal at a restaurant named "Love at First Bite"

Standing room only on the bus

Stefani's baptism

Storefront decorated for the World Cup

It’s been a gratifying week….a week of miracles! It’s the kind of week that makes a person glad to be a missionary.  But then, we always feel that way!

We keep forgetting to mention that we had a nice surprise.  One afternoon just before we had an appointment, a call came in through Skype.  It was our former tutor, Douglas Destro!  We were thrilled!  Douglas, a native Brazilian, was our Skype tutor through the MTC for months!  He helped Elder Shirley fine tune his Portuguese and tried to teach some basics to Sister Shirley. We were probably his biggest challenge!  But we felt very fortunate to have Douglas for a tutor.  He is a super intelligent, fun, all-around good guy!  We enjoyed him a lot and were able to be taught by him in person a few times.  And for anyone interested…..he is single and attending BYU Provo.   It was so fun to visit with him again.  It made our day!

We have had some chilly days as well as a couple of unexpected warmer ones.  There has been lots of fog, rain and mist.  Not much sun for most of the week.  The chapel in the Marina/Unioa Branch is not heated.  In fact they open windows for ventilation and the breeze blows through.  We all wear long johns, coats, scarves, hats, etc.  For District Meeting, the building was especially chilly.  We came away from it with cold feet and cold hands.  But it was another good meeting.  We all had the opportunity to bear testimony to each other.  We are always impressed at the lessons the Zone and District leaders prepare for us.  Great missionaries!

This was a week of celebration in Brasil.  On June 12, they celebrated the Dia dos Namorados (Valentine’s Day!)  We celebrated the same way we celebrated the day on February 14 –- by having lunch at Amor á Primeira Mordida (Love at First Bite).  It is one of the nicer restaurants in town.  They have a really nice buffet with everything labeled, which was nice for us. Many times we aren't sure what we are eating.  A little scary!  Lunch is usually the big meal of the day here.  We also discovered a good pizza place just down the street from us.  It was fun to visit with the employees there.  They seemed happy that we wanted to take pictures of their oven and thanked us a lot for leaving them one of our pass-along cards with a picture of the Savior on it.  We enjoy visiting with people we meet.  Fun! 

The 12th was also the beginning of Copa do Mundo (World Cup).  Brazil had a game.  People around town wore the traditional colors of yellow, blue, green and white.  Stores and many homes were decorated.  President Castro sent out a message reminding all missionaries to be in their homes one hour before the start of the game until one hour after it ended. This rule applies for any game in which Brasil plays.  It applies for the entire month until the World Cup ends.  We are to use this time to study.  Porto Alegre is the closest city in which a game is played.  But the rule still applies to us here in Cachoeira.  The game was being broadcast everywhere.  During the game, we could hear the fireworks and celebration going on, especially when there was a goal for Brasil!  Although we were so curious to see what was happening in the parks and in the streets, we obeyed the rules and stayed inside!  President says this is for the safety and well-being of the missionaries.  There have been protests and threats of more protests during the games.  However we had to tune in briefly through the internet to see that Brazil won!!  Yay!

We took a lot of long bus rides again, checking out areas of Marina branch where members live, doing our detective work again in order to find less active members.  Many times the buses were crowded and we had to stand.  But it is so good to have free bus passes.  We don’t complain.  We had success in finding some people and had some good visits.  We have bought maps of the area and along with that we use the ward registers and Google Earth on the internet.  It is a challenge we actually enjoy, especially when we get to meet more members!  And many times these visits lead to interested non-members too. 

However, the most gratifying part of the week was having the opportunity to teach an 18-year-old investigator by the name of Elivelton Hanilton Cunde de Oliveira.  His girlfriend is Bruna, the 20-year-old daughter of Vilson and Vera Morales.  This family is very strong in the church.  Vilson has been branch president at least a couple of times.  President Castro asked us to personally teach Elivelton.  This is an opportunity we don’t usually have as we work with less-active members and refer the young missionaries to any investigators we meet.  It has been a marvelous experience to teach Elivelton.  He already knows a lot and has been very receptive.  We met with him several times during the week and were able to teach all 4 of the lessons.  When we met with him on Tuesday, he was down in bed with a bad back from working with cement all day.  But he still wanted the lesson. So we gave the lesson at his bedside.  Afterwards, Elder Shirley and Vilson gave him a blessing for improved health.  Shortly after, that very night, he felt better!  Blessings are wonderful!  It was a good lesson for him in how the priesthood works.  If all goes well this week, Elivelton will be baptized on Saturday, June 21!  We are beyond excited!  And he smiles a lot too!  We will meet with him again this week and then he will have his interview for baptism.  The Sisters in the Marina branch will meet with him to fill out all the paperwork.  It will count as a baptism for them.  We are happy that we could be the support.  It will be a blessing for us all!!   This has been a marvelous experience for us.  We feel as if we have witnessed a miracle!  We think that member/leader support missions are the best!!  We never know what we will be called upon to do.  We love actually working with the people!

We haven’t forgotten the Reinbrecht family either.  They have been out of town and we have been pretty busy with Elivelton this week.  But we had a nice visit on the phone with them.  They still want us to visit and teach more lessons.  Hopefully, that can happen again soon.  Christopher and Melissa are loving the CD that we made for him for his birthday with music grandkids suggested.  Marcia tells us that it plays non-stop in their home.  Thanks grandkids! 

Another nice thing that took place this week was the baptism of Stefani, a little 9 year old girl. With the help of Dionne, we had met her grandma, an inactive member.  Grandma told us about Stefani, who lived with her. It was grandma’s desire that Stefanie be taught about the church and be baptized.  We told the Elders about her.  They taught her and she was baptized on Saturday with Grandma watching.  It looks like a neighbor will also be baptized in a couple of weeks as she also took a real interest in what was being taught.  We also wonder if a little girl that comes to church with her will end up being baptized too.  But once again though, there was a problem with the water.  This time, the gas was out.  So it was another cold-water baptism.  Stefani came straight up out of the water like a shot and wasn't shy about telling us all how cold it was!  This baptism was another gratifying experience for us.  It also shows again how important members are in missionary work.  Because Dionne led us to that house, several may end up being baptized!  And this little girl has been befriended so well by branch members.  We see some sit in church with an arm around her.   It just makes our hearts feel good!

It’s been a wonderful week here!  That’s what we wish for you too!
Eu te amo!

Tuesday, June 10, 2014

Doing What Matters Most

Cute 8 year old at his baptism

Walking the Fatima neighborhood

Anther pic from the Fatima neighborhood

Walking through the Santo Antonio neighborhood

Dog bite - a missionary tradition

Sister Shirley with Eva Aida

Fall leaves

Park cleanup day

Hot dog vendor Renato

June 9, 2014

It’s been a busy week…muddy shoes, lost hats, forgotten umbrellas, power outages, etc.  But it’s been a week filled with lots of good missionary work.  We began the week with our interviews with President Castro.  It looks like we will be able to continue serving in the city of Cachoeira, probably for our entire mission, which makes us happy. That means we can continue to live in our same apartment and not have to move.  We love Cachoeira and the people here!  So far we have spent time in each of the three branches in the city, Marina, Uniao, and Cachoeira.  President Castro asked us to once again focus our efforts on Marina, the branch where we started out.   They are working on activating more priesthood holders.  So we hope we can help.  President Glauber, his wife, Luci Mara, and Dionne are in this branch.  We enjoy this family and many others there. 

We focused our efforts this week on finishing up our assignment from the Cachoeira branch to verify a bunch of member addresses.  We took lots of bus rides and did a lot of walking.  Many of the days were rainy and chilly.  But we enjoyed it.  Most trees here don’t lose their leaves, but there are a few that do.  When we see them, it really makes it feel like fall.  We saw a variety of homes, from the very humble to very nice.    

I guess we are full-fledged missionaries now as Elder Shirley got bitten by a dog for the first time.  Doesn’t that happen to most missionaries?  The dog was actually in a fenced-in yard.  But Elder Shirley was visiting with the man in the yard and had his hand up on the top of the fence when the dog jumped up and bit.  The bite wasn’t too bad and is almost healed now.  But was enough to draw a little blood.  We have had tetanus shots so we think everything is ok.  Elder Shirley didn’t even let on.  He just kept right on talking.  What a tough missionary!

We always have interesting experiences when walking in the streets.  This was a week for them again.  Elder Shirley was stopped several times by different people and told that he resembles the former President of Brazil!  (Guess he fits right in down here!)  One person told him he looked like Kevin Costner, but “mais gordo”!  (Haha!)  And some old guy that we keep running in to tells Sister Shirley that she looks like the most famous person in the world….Jackie Kennedy.  Interesting that a couple of the people we are compared to are dead!  For Sister Shirley, this was a week for kisses from strangers, at bus stops, or even just walking down the street.  In front of one farmacia, a fellow surprised us as he stepped out and gave 3 kisses, alternating between cheeks!  People are always friendly, but Sister Shirley has had more than her usual number of kisses this week. 

It’s always interesting out on the street. We have been able to visit with both Nilson and his girlfriend at their places of employment.  They are both so friendly.  In fact, Karla (the girlfriend) actually came out to the street to stop us when we were walking by.  We hadn’t known where she worked.  We had a good visit.  Nilson has been in our English class, which by the way we have suspended indefinitely.  With only two non-members in the group now (Lucas and Nilson), we thought that maybe we should focus more on our visits in the Marina branch.  Both Nilson and Lucas have been presented with the Book of Mormon.  We plan to keep up with visits to them.  We really enjoyed teaching English though and associating with the non-members and members we met there. It was fun.  Maybe we can resume classes again at a later time.  President Castro just lets us decide what we should do. 

Another good visit out on the street was with our “hot-dog” vendor again.  Renato is the “famous” hot dog vendor here in Cachoeira.  We have talked about him before.  He joined the church when he was a teenager but hasn’t been active since.  He is always friendly and talkative with us.  He is retired but keeps very busy….too busy (he says) for church.  He asks us if we ever sleep as he sees us out and about so much.  This day he told us that someday he would see us in the after-life,  “up there on the highest point and he would holler to us”.  Elder Shirley told him that we didn’t want him to ask us up there why we hadn’t told him more about how things would be!  So he needed to make time now for us (or other missionaries) to visit with him!  A good reminder…”.Now is the time to prepare to meet God.  Tomorrow may be too late!”  We hear that a lot…  “I’m too busy”.  We have said it ourselves.  Sometimes, we show a short video with President Uchtdorf called “Moments that Matter Most”.  It is a good reminder for all of us to focus on what matters most!  Don’t be too busy for what matters most!

All across Brazil, Saturday was a “Maos que Ajudam” day.  (Hands that Help)  The branches here volunteered to help with the effort by cleaning up Honorato Park in the city center here in Cachoeira.  It involved members, young and old, as well as missionaries. There was lots of raking, weeding, picking up trash, digging up old bushes and tree stumps, painting of the playground equipment, etc.  The weather was good for the event and there was a good turnout.  I think missionaries, especially, enjoyed the physical labor!  With so many of us in our yellow vests in a small park, right in the center of the city, by the busy bus stop, we drew a lot of attention.  We had several of the less active members we had visited previously just happen to walk by or get off the bus and stop to talk to us.  Gelson was one of them.  He and Rosi and Francine have been on our minds a lot lately.  So it was good to see him.  Also Eva Aida, who we had just met the day before when we were out verifying addreses, got off the bus and saw us and came over to visit.  She was all smiles and told us that she would probably be to church the next day.  (Sadly, that didn’t happen though.)  But it was great to visit with them all.  A good activity!

Sunday was a marathon day!  We got up to no power.  The power trucks were lined up out in the street.  We knew we were in trouble.  No showers, no hair dryers or curling irons.  The weather was kind of wet and drizzly.  Humidity just runs off the windows inside our apartment.  Pillows, papers, etc feel wet all of the time.  It was a challenge to get ready for church.  But we attended meetings in both Marina and Cachoeira and visited briefly with Uniao members.  After church, we still had no power.  But they told us it was close to coming on.  We ate cold sandwiches.  But that was great as we had turkey and wonderful avocados.  The avocados here are huge and wonderful!  Shortly after lunch, the power came on.  It gave us time to turn on the heaters and warm up a little and get ready before we had to return to the Marina branch “Multirao”, the missionary activity they had planned for 3 pm. 

The Multirao actually turned out great.  They divided us up to go out and make visits to less actives.  We got to go out with Cristiane Garcia and a couple of her kids.  We walked with them over to visit Ivete and Moises.  Ivete is active, but her husband, Moises, drives truck on weekends.  Their children are grown and active in the church.  In fact, one daughter is married to the President of the Cachoeira branch.  Moises was sleeping, but got up to visit.  He is always really nice to us and has given us rides on occasion.  We had a nice visit, but he insists he is too busy for the church. (Another one of those…too busy!) 

After the Multirao, Vilson and Vera took us to their home to give a missionary discussion to their daughter’s boyfriend, Elibelton.  This is the one President Castro asked us to teach.  No pressure here!  What a nice young man.  We had a great visit with him and scheduled the next discussion for Tuesday! We have high hopes for him!  From there we hurried to the Cachoeira branch for a Marina branch baptism of a cute 8 year old boy.  They are still having trouble with the water heater for baptisms in Marina.  So it was moved up to Cachoeira.  The Sister missionaries were there and wanted the four of us to sing for the special number.  We hurriedly picked a song. (no piano for accompaniment)  Good or bad, we did it!  Whew!  What a day! 

So things are busy here!  We know things are busy there too.  It makes us tired just hearing what everyone is doing up there.  Hopefully, we are all doing what matters most! 

Eu te amo!

Monday, June 2, 2014

Who says missionaries can't dance?

Christopher and his CD

Dancing at the Baile

Dionne and Elder Shirley making a plan

Elder Hiatt (Mesa, AZ) and Marcello

Elder Julca (Argentina) and Ana Paula

Elder Julca and Elli


Getting ready to enter dance performance

Luciano making encrencas

Patrique after his baptism

Patrique and Tiago at his baptism

Paulinho and President Samuel at the 70's Baile

Practicing the entrance to the dance

Preparations before the dance

Sisters Morales & Holden - California girls

June 2, 2014

Life is good!  For some unknown reason we have had hot water for our showers again every day this week. No more cold showers! And the drip that was getting worse and worse has stopped.  Miracles happen!  And we are sure glad.   We really appreciate a hot shower now!  Maybe it was the prayers!

It’s been a fun and busy week.  Of course the highlight was dancing.  The youth have been great to dance with. There have been six couples dancing and others that just come to learn and watch.   We have had a couple of non-members in the group.  In fact, one young man, Patrique, got baptized on Saturday.  We are anticipating the baptism of another soon. Sister Morales and Sister Holden have been working with them.   We think that this has been a good experience for all of us.  The youth arrived for practice on Tuesday very hyped up.  One of them warned us that they were “electric” (full of energia!)  And were they ever!  Besides the regular group, we had some who had not been to practices.  It was fun to see their excitement and enthusiasm, but a challenge to teach them.  We had another practice on Thursday.  It went really well! 
Friday was performance day.  They arrived early and began preparations with new skirts, ribbons, makeup, etc.  This was a big deal!  They had all gathered in the afternoon to help Presidente Samuel with the decorations.  The 70’s was the theme of the Baile.  Adults came dressed in bell-bottoms, topetes (wigs), etc.  Pretty fun!  We took lots of pics.  The youth did such a great job!  They danced well and seemed to really enjoy it.  Presidente Samuel had some music from the 70’s and asked us to bring some music from that era as well as some more modern stuff that we had on a jump drive from grandkids.  We had a great time.  Now we are hearing that they want to teach us some Brazilian quadrilha dancing.  We think it must be like square dancing.  It is tentatively scheduled for June 14.  President Samuel called us dancarinos. (President and Sister Castro are encouraging us too.)  Fun missionary work!

We went visiting one day with Dionne.  We used to go with him often in the beginning of our mission when we were working more in the Marina Branch.  He volunteered to go with us again to visit some people he knew in the Cachoeira branch.  We had some very interesting visits.  We met a non-member (Dionne had thought he was an inactive member), Luciano.  He makes and sells “encrencas”, a thin, cone-shaped treat. He makes them in his home and was in the process of making them when we arrived and was happy to show us how he made them and give us samples.  We had a nice visit with him.

Dionne also took us to meet Alice Gomes de Varga, a 62 year old grandma.  She is an inactive member who had even been to the temple.  She had managed to quit smoking at one time, but had started up again.  She was very welcoming and nice and still seems to have a testimony.  She has a 9 year old granddaughter, Estefani, living with her.  She wants Estefani to hear the lessons and get baptized.  We had a really good visit with her.  Then we notified Elder Julca and Elder Hiatt.  They met with Estefani and her grandma the next day and were able to mark Estefani up for baptism on June 14!  On a first visit! They will continue to meet with her and give her the lessons in preparation for her baptism.  She came to church yesterday.  She is a really cute girl.  Exciting!  We are grateful Dionne was inspired to take us to meet her.  We continue to say that members can do so much to help in this missionary effort!

We made a short visit to the Reinbrechts.  Christopher just had his 13th birthday.  Some of the grandkids sent us a playlist of songs to put on a CD for him.   We added a pic of all of our grandkids on the label. He has his own computer and likes music.   He was really pleased with it.  The Reinbrechts continue to be great friends with us.  Although we see them for brief visits, we have had difficulty finding a time they can receive us to teach a discussion.  Friday is the only day they have available.  Last Friday, we had the Baille and this Friday they have a doctor’s appointment in Porto Alegre for Melissa. Marcia apologized and explained that it was with a knee specialist that is very difficult to get into.  They continue to show interest in hearing more discussions though.  They are always concerned with our safety and express concern at how much walking we do.  We think walking has been good for us and we always feel safe.  But appreciate that they are concerned about us. 

We have had some good visits with others too.  We visited with Karla, the fiancée of Nilson from our English class.  We had met her previously but found her at the store where she works in the daytime.  In fact, she called out to us as we were passing by.  We had a nice visit.  They are a nice couple.  She can’t come to English classes with Nilson as she has college classes at night learning to be a physical therapist. 
Saturday was a big baptism day.  The Elders had a family of 3 siblings to baptize.  And Sister Morales and Sister Holden had prepared Patrique (from our dance group) for baptism. He will be the only member in his family.  But his family was all there to support him.  Tiago, a member friend from the Uniao branch did the baptizing.  We think it was the first baptism that Tiago had ever done.  The water in the font was a little low and Patrique is quite tall.  It took three tries to get it done.  His knees kept coming up out of the water.  But the water was at least warm this time.  It was a pretty special day!

President and Sister Castro came to town on Sunday.  President Castro did some missionary interviews and then met with the Priesthood.  Sister Castro met with a few Sisters in attendance.  They brought us a heater.  Yay!!   We always enjoy visiting with them. They are really great!   We have our interview with them this afternoon.  Even though it is P-day, he wants to finish up the interviews.  He will be interviewing the sisters this morning.  His visit was unexpected and the Sisters had planned to go with a member on a bus to a park for Sister Picula’s birthday.  She is a new missionary from Australia.  This is her first time away from home.  She has been a little homesick and has had a cold too.  She is a really fun girl.  We had been invited to go too.  In fact, the sisters have put quite a bit of pressure on us to go.  But President Castro wants to push our interviews back to this afternoon.  He has been doing his best to accommodate the sisters.  So we will plan a visit to the park for some other time. 

We received word from President and Sister Castro that a member of the Marina branch has requested that we teach the boyfriend of his daughter, Bruna.  Normally, we let the missionaries do the teaching of non-members.  But this has come as a special request.  We met Bruna’s namorado (boyfriend) at the Baile.  It will be a great opportunity for us to teach him. 

World Cup in Brazil is coming up. It goes from June 12 – July 13.  Of course, it is a big deal in Brazil.  Some of the games will be in Porto Alegre.  We had a taxi driver ask us if we would help him out.  He wanted us to act as interpreters for him.  He offered to put us up in a “nice” hotel.  However, President Castro has met with other mission presidents at a conference in Sao Paulo.  They are concerned for the well-being and safety of all missionaries and have asked us all to be in our apartments one hour before a game involving Brazil until 1 hour after the game ends.  Besides celebrations, there may be protests.  So we won’t even be in the streets during the games! 

Anyway we are enjoying missionary work here!  Life is good!  Hope you all can say the same!

Eu te amo!