Monday, September 8, 2014

Offering Our Best for the Lord

With Sisters Fiorella and Oliveira

All of the Elders in the zone

Sister Shirley showing off the badge

Julio and family

Lunch at the apartment with Sisters Picula and Souze

Almost dusk in the Valley of the Sun neighborhood

Another rainy day in the streets

Sister Shirley with Sisters Fiorella and Oliveira

All of the sister missionaries in the zone

A storm's a brewing!

Another storm picture

Lots of wild weather this week

A beautiful sunset over Noemia

Elder Shirley hanging onto his hat in the Valley of the Sun neighborhood

Newspaper article about the big hailstorm

September 8, 2014

It’s been another week of unsettled spring weather.  Early in the week there was a little hail during the night which is unusual for here.  It made the papers.  After quite a rainy week, the end of the week finished off with a strong thunderstorm on Saturday.  Saturday morning as we were preparing to leave our apartment, the sky became very dark.  Then we got a call from Sister Rosado and Sister Mendoza.  As they were leaving their apartment, they spotted a funnel cloud.  They changed their minds about going out just then and called to see if we had seen it.  We didn’t see the funnel cloud, but the sky was sure dark and foreboding.   We have had to carry umbrellas with us most of the week. 

Sunday was Brazil’s Independence Day:  Sete de Setembro (7th of September).  Too bad that it fell on Sunday.  Just as we were leaving for church Sunday morning, the crowds were gathering, setting up chairs all up and down the street, bleachers, sound systems, etc.    As we rode the bus to the church, we could see lots of horses, marching bands, and lots of military units.  There were lots of kids dressed up too.  They were all preparing for the big parade right down the road in front of our apartment.  By the time we returned, all was quiet.  But we hear that there will be another big parade later this month for the gaucho celebration.  So we will, hopefully, get to see a parade then.

We started out the week with a fun P-day.  Sister Picula (Australia) and Sister Souza (Brazil) came for lunch at our place.  And they wanted to send pictures home on our computer.  Sister Munoz and Sister Costa were supposed to be coming too.  But Sister Munoz wasn't feeling well and they were unable to come.    We enjoyed the afternoon.  We made French bread for sandwiches and had crackers, chips and dips and some good ol Texas Sheet Cake.  These girls love bread.  When we know they are coming, we just have to bake bread for them!

We met Jose’ this week.  He came out into the street to stop Sister Rosado and Sister Mendoza one day.  They called and told us that he would like a visit from us.  Jose’ was baptized a member about six years ago, but has not been active since.  He is about 40 years old and lives with his Mom.  He had a bad drug problem years ago when he was young and before he knew anything about the church.  His mom literally saved his life by picking him up from the streets many times and seeking medical help for him.  She never gave up on him.  He does pretty well now, but has been left with a few mental as well as physical problems.  But he is intelligent.  He has taken some English classes from time to time and speaks a little English.  He has very good pronunciation.  He likes to throw out a few phrases here and there.  More importantly, he has such a desire to come to church and read the scriptures.  He greeted us eagerly with an open Book of Mormon and a list of questions.  He wanted to know what would help him the most to read in the scriptures. He thanked us many times for coming and he plead for us to come back again.  We visited him twice this week.  When we visited again on Saturday evening, his mom was there along with an aunt.  Both of them are non-members.  His mom was pretty cool with us at first and wouldn't even come in the room.  But Jose was delighted and greeted us so warmly.  After the Aunt kept encouraging, Jose’s mom finally came into the room.  As we visited with her, she warmed up and told us their story.  We asked if she thought Jose could handle a 3 hour long meeting on Sunday.  She said, “Oh sure!”  They live a long ways from the church.  So attendance is hard. 

But there was good news!  This was the Sunday that started the trial run of a bus to go around the neighborhoods and pick up anyone wanting a ride.  Presidente Glauber Fortes had rented a school bus and would pick up people free of charge.  He plans to have it run the first Sunday of each month.  Although it will also run next Sunday as well as it is the Marina Branch Conference.  So, between us and the Sisters, we spent some time this week notifying anyone who might be interested, actives and less actives, and non-members.  On Sunday morning, there was a lot of excitement as many of us gathered outside the church, awaiting the arrival of the bus.  We were all anxious to see who and how many would be on the bus.  Jose was there!  He knew some of the members and was received warmly.  After the meetings, we asked him (in Portuguese) what he thought and in English he said, “It was good!”  Hopefully, he will want to return next week too.  Overall, the bus was a success.  And quite a few members came on the bus, many of whom walk or ride bikes a long distance, regardless of the weather.  And they do it faithfully each Sunday.  We had some tell us that they couldn't come this week, but that they would come next week.  We wondered if the holiday had anything to do with it. 

One less active member we visited this week was Julio, his wife, Rosangela and their three kids.  She is expecting their fourth in November.  What a nice family they are!  We actually met him a few weeks ago when he called out to us as we were crossing the railroad tracks.  He always cautions us about being careful, especially carrying a big purse like Sister Shirley does.  (Although any robbers would be disappointed as it only has scriptures, notebooks, maps, ward registers, etc.)  Julio used to be a counselor in the branch presidency.  But he said that it became hard to attend with 3 little kids.  He told us that he guessed that he just got lazy.  But he would like for the family to become active again.  He would like to be able to bless their new baby.  They actually feed the Sisters regularly.    He was one of those that told us they couldn't ride the bus to church this week, but would next week.  We hope so as they really are a great family.  We loved the kids!  

Speaking of great families, Rosi and Gelson's  little daughter, Fran, is struggling with her health again.  She spent 4-5 days in the hospital with bronchitis this past week.  We took soup and bread and ice cream into them one day.  Rosi was feeling down and out too.  Hopefully, as the weather improves, their health will too and they will start coming to church. 

Nelson (the pan maker) came to church today.  He is in the Uniao branch.  Sister Picula and Sister Souza have been working with him and his wife and also with his daughter and her husband and family.  We were delighted to see him!  (We attended sacrament meeting in both Marina and Uniao).  Again, we noticed how warmly he was greeted by branch members.  Members can make all the difference!  Missionaries come and go, but ward or branch members remain and make up the branch family.

Elivelton made our day today in Fast and Testimony meeting in the Marina branch.  He bore his testimony for the first time in a meeting!  He bore his testimony about prayer.  It was so great!  We helped teach him a few months ago and then he was baptized!   He was all smiles today!  He made his girlfriend, Bruna, and her family pretty proud too.  They had tears in their eyes!  We told him that he was a man of courage to stand and bear his testimony for the first time!  We were so happy for him!

Artur has been to church the last few weeks, but missed this last Sunday.  Again, we suspect it was because of the holiday and family activities.  He called during the week and asked to postpone our lesson as he wasn't feeling well and had a doctor visit.  But we were able to visit him on Friday.  Again he greeted us with a little treat.  He had a drink for us, “Fruki, Zero”.  As he poured up our drinks, he washed the nicest glass for Sister Shirley.  He must have washed it for 5 min, scraping off a black spot (so he said).  Elder offered to just share, but he specifically said it was for Sister Shirley.  Elder’s glass got a couple of rinses.  And Artur didn't even wash his own glass.  Funny!  We talked about the Priesthood with him.  Again he ask how much longer we would be here.  He thinks he may be ready for baptism by the end of the year. 

We had a fun call from Sister Fiorella.  She was a companion to Sister Biddulph when we first arrived in Cachoeira.  They so graciously gave up their apartment for us until our new place was ready.  She is from Peru.  She is a little bundle of joy.  So full of enthusiasm!  She wanted us to know that she would be coming to Cachoeira again for a few days as a trainer.  She arrived this past week.  We got to see her at District Meetings.  We were so glad.  She hasn't changed.  She is still smiling.  We love her!

We also got a call from Sister Techmeier (Brazil) who also formerly served in Cachoeira. She called from the mission office.   She wanted to know how some of those she taught were doing and asked about how we did English classes.  The missionaries in her district are starting classes.  It was good to visit with her too.  We also had a little note on Skype from Sister Morales who returned home recently.  It is amazing the bond we form with these good missionaries.  We sure miss them when they go. 

The next transfer date for young missionaries is coming up in a couple of weeks.  They had us all draw names for a remembrance gift of some sort.  So we have also been giving thought to that.  We don’t know how it is in other areas, but we think everyone gets attached to Cachoeira and to those who serve here! 
Those are some of the highlights of our week.  We have managed to keep busy.  We have plans to do an FHE for a family tomorrow night and have some visits planned for this next week.  President Castro is coming to town the end of the week.  There is a baptism scheduled. So it looks to be a busy week ahead.
Our reminder for the week from President Castro comes from Alma 34:32-33.  John Greenleaf Whittier said, “Of all the things that have been said and written, the saddest is:  It could have been!” President Castro says, without doubt, remorse is one of the worst sentiments.  His wish for everyone is that no one will have remorse when we arrive at home at the end of our missions.  “Now is the time for men to perform their labors!”  This is the hour and now is the time for us to offer our best for the Lord.  May we all offer our best for the Lord!

Have a good week!  Be safe!  We love you!

Eu te amo!

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