Sunday, December 28, 2014

Celebrating Christmas and a Wedding

Six missionaries, President Glauber, Luci and Dione all ready to feast on Christmas day

The wedding of Bruna and Elivelton

A Catholic youth group on Christmas Eve
Pausing to take a picture before a baptism at the Marina chapel

Christmas at the Fortes home with two of the Elders and a dog (Cookie)

Christmas decorations on our kitchen table

Cute kids doing their jobs at the wedding

Elders Buhler and Gorham at the wedding

Elder H. Silva (Brazil), Elder Campbell (Oregon) arriving to Skype at our place

Elders out walking on Christmas Eve

The happy couple - Elivelton and Bruna

Elivelton calmly waiting for the bride to show

Filling the baptismal font

President Glauber carving up the churrasco meat

Hungry missionaries

Iolanda baptized by branch member Paulo da Silva

Baptism of Iolanda with Sisters Foutz (Colorado) and Oliveira (Brazil)

President Glauber and Luci. He performed the wedding

The Christmas feast

The wedding ceremony

View of our apartment from the bus stop (under the Colortec sign)

Christmas feast watermelon and poinsettias

The Christmas turkey

Wedding cake

A photo op with Elivelton and Bruna

December 28, 2014

It’s been a “Feliz Natal”!  We have enjoyed our tropical Christmas!  (We like to say Natal tropical!)  We see pictures of all of the snow being dumped on you at home.  The pictures have been beautiful!  So perfect for Christmas!  It makes us miss home and each of you!  But we have also enjoyed one more Christmas in Brazil, our last Christmas here!  We have had some really hot days and quite a few cloudy, rainy days.  The humidity has been high every day!  It has felt like a tropical Christmas.
It has been a busy week.  On P-day, we fit in a little of everything; a little cleaning, a little cooking, a short visit from the Sisters who wanted to send pictures home, and even a little shopping.  The streets and stores were crowded with shoppers.  Music was playing everywhere. Santa and Santa’s helpers were everywhere.  It was fun!  We even found a turkey and cooked it on Christmas Eve, just so we would have something festive to snack on.  Out on the street on Christmas Eve, we encountered a Catholic youth group with guitars in hand.  They were full of enthusiasm.  We stopped them and asked them to sing something for us.  They did!  They were friendly and full of Christmas spirit.  We exchanged cards and church information.  Elder called it the “Christmas Eve truce”! 

Christmas is a great time to be a missionary.  Our message is so wonderful to share anytime, but especially at Christmas.  We spent the week making visits and taking little treats.  It was a fun week.
We also tried to hit all of our regular stops like Julio and Rosangela and family, Artur, José, Gelson and Rosi and Fran, Idalia, and others.  We also got a surprise call on Christmas from our old non-member friends, Roberto and Marcia and family.  Roberto, who has spent a lot of time in the last months out of town for schooling, was home for a Christmas break.  We were really pleased that they thought of us and called.  It was a great Christmas Eve surprise.
For Christmas dinner, we were invited to the home of Presidente Glauber, Luci, and Dione.  They also invited Elder Buhler (Texas), Elder Gorham (California), Elder H. Silva (Brazil), and Elder Campbell (Colorado).  Elder H. Silva and Elder Campbell work in the Cachoeira branch area, but didn’t have a dinner invitation.  So Luci invited them.  It was fun to gather in such a large group. There was a churrasco with beef, pork, lamb, salsicha.  There were all kinds of salads and fruits (watermelon too).  It was a like a summer feast!    We took an appetizer (layered dip and chips) and a cake.  We all stuffed ourselves. And there was a pool filled with water in the back yard. (But we didn’t swim!) Truly a Christmas to remember!  The four Sister missionaries went to the home of Presidente Samuel and had a great time too.  It was Sister Oliveira’s birthday on Christmas and there was a big cake for her there too.  We were glad to see everyone have a good Christmas!  Everyone was also able to skype with their families at home on Christmas day as well.  We have had the opportunity to do that from both sides, both as parents of a missionary and now as the missionaries.  That is always the best Christmas gift of all!  Elder H. Silva and Elder Campbell came to our apartment to skype.  Presidente Glauber took Elder Buhler and Elder Gorham to the chapel so they could skype without waiting at our place.  It worked well.   We are always glad when it works out well for everyone and it did.  The Sisters got to skype from Presidente Samuel’s.  Everyone was happy!  It was a lovely day!

The whole week has been wonderful.  The day after Christmas was the wedding of Elivelton and Bruna.  Since Elivelton was just baptized in June, it was a civil wedding for now.  But they are anxious for the day when they will be able to go to the temple and make it forever.   They are a gorgeous couple and so nice.  We took a taxi and picked up Elder Buhler and Elder Gorham as they are also in the Marina branch and this was a convert’s wedding.  The wedding was held at an “event center” quite a ways out of town, too far to walk, especially in the rain.  We also all needed to be home before it got too late.  Gotta keep those mission rules!  It was fun to see a Brazilian style wedding.  It had been a rainy day, but the rain stopped just before the wedding.  There was a churrasco there too.  We have eaten well this week.  Elivelton kept coming over and asking if we were getting enough to eat and wanting to send food home with the Elders.  It was amazing that he even had time to think of us missionaries.  He and Bruna also asked Elder and me to come and have pictures taken with them.  They are just nice kids.  We certainly hope for the best for them!

It was the perfect ending for a wonderful week.  Another baptism!  Sister Foutz and Sister Oliveira (Uniaõ branch) had taught and prepared Iolanda for baptism.  Her husband will probably be baptized next week.  The Sisters set things up early at the church.  We went to the chapel to help them fill the font.  It seems like every time there is a baptism, we have some kind of a problem at the chapel.  This day was no exception.  But with the early start, all of the problems got solved and everything was perfect for the baptism later that day.  We also had a problem at home.  An electrical storm took out the power in our apartment at 8 am.  Elder had to go without a shower for the first half of the day.  And there was no power for Sister Shirley to blow dry hair.  We were a sad looking pair!  But power was restored when we returned home at noon.  We were grateful!   We tried to talk Artur into coming to witness the baptism as he has never been to one.  We thought it might help take away some of the fear he may be having.  At first he agreed, and then he told us on the phone that his daughter had just arrived.  So he didn’t come, but he did make it to church on Sunday!
Benches were filled in both the Marina and the Uniaõ branches on Sunday. Both meetings were especially good.   We had a very enjoyable time visiting with everyone before and after the meetings.  We always just feel bad that we don’t have time to visit at church with as many or for as long as we would like with everyone.  We received many invitations to visit in homes.  It looks like the week ahead will be a busy one too.  We truly love these people! (and the missionaries too!)
We look forward to this next week and especially to the new year ahead.  We wish everyone a Feliz Ano Novo!  (Happy New Year!)  We miss and love each of you!

Eu te amo!  

Monday, December 22, 2014

Merry Christmas!

Enjoying chocolate cake with Glimar, Luana & Kaleb

Aerton and Gorette dancing at the Christmas party

Another visit to the medical post

Baby Fernando, growing so fast!

Cachoeira friends

Elder Fairchild from Blackfoot, ID; going home in 2 weeks

Elder H. Silva at another baptism (no faces per request)

Elder Campbell (Oregon) & Elder H. Silva at baptism (no faces per request)

Headed back to Cachoeira from Christmas missionary conference

Missionaries at Uniao Christmas party

Nativity at the Christmas party

Nativity at the Uniao party

Nelson and Lucia

Nelson's flower called "Tears of Christ"

Pizza again at Paulista - yum!

President and Sister Castro at lunch

A rainy Sunday morning at the bus stop

Santas everywhere!

Santa's sleigh (Brazilian style)

Seminary/Institute graduation

Senior missionaries at mission conference

Serious rain storm at the Cachoeira chapel

Statue of Christ on a nearby building

Wheelchairs at the hospital (btw - not needed)

December 22, 2014

Merry Christmas!  This is one more Christmas in Brazil, away from family and friends.  But we are doing well.  Although we miss everyone, it is hard not to be happy when we are a part of such a great work!  Working hard as a missionary is a sure way to cure homesickness and probably most every other problem as well.  And it has been a busy week!  It seems like we have had to juggle our schedule every day in order to fit in all of the appointments and meetings.  Christmas is always a busy time, but it is a unique experience to be so busy doing missionary work!  When we are missing home and family, we remind ourselves that this is our last Christmas in Brazil.  We know that we need to make the most of it.  It is a great opportunity and blessing to be a missionary.  We remember the promise made to us that more happiness awaits us than we have ever experienced as we perform our missionary labors.  It is an especially joyful season to be a missionary. 

It is amazing how perspective can change the way you view things.  It used to be if it was getting close to Christmas and it wasn’t snowing and cold, it didn’t “feel like Christmas”.  At the beginning of this week we commented that it just wasn’t hot enough to be Christmas time.  One day we got caught in a rain storm without an umbrella.  We had a few cooler, but really pleasant days.  We remembered it being hotter last year here in Brazil.  But then towards the end of the week, things heated up.  And we said to ourselves, “Now it “feels like Christmas”!  But then Saturday night, thunderstorms moved in.  We had some pretty severe thunderstorms that lasted through the night and for most of the day Sunday.  It caused some flooding in some areas.  We walked home from church on Sunday with water ankle deep in some places and with the wind turning our umbrellas inside out more than once.  (We had been fortunate in that President Glauber stopped and picked us up at the bus stop on our way to church.)  We arrived home after church and found that our phone and internet were out.  It was probably caused by the storm.

Church attendance was down on Sunday probably due to the heavy downpour.  But both meetings had nice Christmas messages and music.  Elder Shirley got recruited spur of the minute to sing bass in a quartet.  He wasn’t even sure what songs they would be singing when he got up.  They sang three Christmas hymns out of the hymnbook.  It was beautiful, especially the bass part!  (But we hear “it’s all about that bass”!) 

It was transfer week this past week.  We lost Elder Hoopes and Elder Lopes.  We were happy that everyone else was staying.  The new missionaries, at least new to Cachoeira, are Elder Campbell from Oregon and Elder Latorre from Chile. 

The branches held their Christmas parties this week.  So we spent a bit of time spreading the word and issuing invitations in both the Marina and the Uniao branches. We enjoyed that.  We hadn’t seen Nelson (the pan maker) and Lucia for a while.  We also hadn’t seen Gilmar and Luanna and Kaleb either.  Both families are in the Uniao branch.   We had really good visits at both places and others as well.  Uniao held their party on Tuesday and had some touching music, videos, talents, as well as a nativity.  They involved both the youth as well as the adults.  It was a nice, but late evening.   

We were sad to miss the Christmas party of the Marina branch.  It was held the same day as our Christmas Missionary Conference in Porto Alegre.  We didn’t get back in time to attend.  But we hear it was a nice evening.  For refreshments, President Glauber wanted to serve the cupcakes like we had for Elivelton’s baptism.  We had ordered those cupcakes from Nilson’s sister, Marcia.  Nilson is not a member and was in our English class.  We have maintained a good friendship with Nilson.  He works at Delta Sul, just down the street from us.  Marcia makes really wonderful cupcakes.  So President Glauber got her phone number from us and not only ordered cupcakes, but salgados too.  We didn’t even know that she made salgados.  We hear refreshments were great.  Although we weren’t able to attend, we made visits inviting others.

We were happy to see how well Fernando, the new baby, is doing when we visited with Julio and Roseangela.  We just really enjoy their kids.  Julian, the 11 year old boy, is a pretty good artist and wanted to draw a picture for us of whatever we wanted.  So we requested he draw us a picture of the bat in our garbage can (story from a few months ago).  It gave us the opportunity to re-tell the story and of how our prayers were answered when we needed help getting a bat out of the house.  He is going to finish up the picture for the next time we visit.  We encouraged him to tell his sister and his dad the story too.  It turned into a missionary opportunity! 

We visited Artur again this week.  With a new year coming, Elder Buhler and Elder Gorham asked us to throw out the date of January 3 to Artur when we discussed his baptism date again.  He always says I will after my teeth are fixed, after I see the doctor and always adds “but before you guys go home”.  With a new year coming, it would be a great time for a new start and to get those blessings coming.  Artur didn’t say no to January 3.  He also didn’t say yes.  But he did say that he would think about it.  It was a good visit. 

Christmas week is wedding week for Elivelton and Bruna.  We are excited to go to their wedding.  We had another good lesson with them as well. 

The Christmas missionary conference in Porto Alegre was, of course, a highlight of the week.  The van picked us up in front of our apartment at 4:30 am.  All of the missionaries from Cachoeira rode in the van.  It was a nice day with good messages, good food, and the opportunity to renew friendships.  We got back home about 9:30 pm, tired but happy. 

Elder Buhler was experiencing a few health issues this week.  We accompanied him and Elder Gorham to the health post.  He got called back to see the doctor about the same time that the doctor decided he was sick himself.  So Elder Buhler got sent up for a consultation at the hospital.  We went with them as we were familiar with where to go.  We have been there visiting members as well as with other missionaries.  Just to be safe, Sister Castro suggested Elder Buhler stay overnight in Porto Alegre after the conference and get a consultation there.  They returned the next day.  Hopefully, with a couple days rest, Elder Buhler will be back to his hard-working self. 

Missionaries are still working on that “white Christmas”.  Elder H. Silva and Elder Campbell had two more baptisms on Saturday.  Yay!!  They were a couple of really nice kids.  (The kids requested that we don’t post their faces on social network.)  Following the baptism, there was a seminary/institute graduation.  A really severe thunderstorm moved in and delayed the start of the ceremony by an hour.  The lights threatened to go out a few times.  The ceiling was leaking, there was thunder and lightning.  It was exciting.  It also affected attendance.  Not too many were there.  It was followed by a baile (dance).  We stayed for the ceremony and a dance or two.  But we were tired.  So we started out for home.  It was still raining lightly and we didn’t have an umbrella.  We were about half way home when a member stopped and gave us a ride.  We were grateful.  The bus schedule is pretty poor on the weekends.  During the week, we can count on buses regularly. But on Saturday and Sunday, there are a lot fewer buses which is ok when the weather is good, but a bit more of a challenge in the rain, especially when we are walking long distances.  We love the rain, but we look a lot better when we don’t arrive at an event soaking wet.  We don’t mind so much if we are just going home. 

We are looking forward to Christmas!  We have had some fun preparing and thinking about it.  We went toy shopping as we were asked to contribute to a branch toy drive.  That was fun.  We have missionaries making plans to Skype with their families from our place.  We have been invited to the home of President Glauber, Luci, and Dione.  Elder Buhler and Elder Gorham will be there too.  We are planning what food to prepare to take.  

For sure, we miss home and all of you!  But we will be ok.  We hope each of you has a wonderful Christmas!  May Jesus Christ be the center of all of our Christmas celebrations!  We love you!
Eu te amo!

Monday, December 15, 2014

Keeping Our Hook in the Water

We found Mrs. Claus!

Elder Lopes, tired from a long bus ride

Baptism of Felipe and Eliza

CD that we made for Eric's birthday

Some of the Christmas lights in the park

Elder Buhler and Eliza (15 yrs old)

Felipe and his Dad, Joao

Jose and his aunt

Kevin performing in the park

Last meeting before transfers for these missionaries

Lighted bus that drives around town with Santa Claus

Us with Felipe and Eliza before their baptism

Musical number by the missionaries

Park across the street from our place

P-day with Elders Buhler & Gorham

Wonderful sisters: Sisters Foutz, Oliveira, Costa, Harrick

Sunset from our apartment

Another view of the beautiful sunset

December 15, 2014

Well we were thinking that this week would be a little more “low key”.  Elder Shirley caught a cold and has been coughing.  We thought this might slow us down a little this week.  And it did, for a day or so.  But it seems like we made up for it as the week progressed. 

Monday was looking like a quiet P-day for us.  It was a holiday and most businesses were either closed all day or closed at noon.  So the whole city was more quiet than usual.  The Elders had not anticipated the LAN house (the place they go to send their weekly emails) closing at noon.  We were happy to have them come to our place for a bite of lunch and computer time.  We had not had Elder Gorham and Elder Buhler over on a P-day before.  So it was their turn.  These two Elders are assigned to the Marina branch, as are we.  So we have had the opportunity to rub shoulders with these two on a regular basis.  We enjoy them a lot!  

This week we had the last zone meeting before transfers.  Transfer day is this next Tuesday.  Notices will come on Monday.  We all brought treats for our meeting and took pictures.  We knew what we had to bring for a treat.  Ever since the birthday of Sister Shirley, Elder Lopes (Cape Verde Islands), has been asking for “bolo” (cake).  He asks for cake every time we see him.  He asked again as soon as arrived at the meeting.  Happily, this time we could answer in the affirmative.  He replied, “Finalmente!” (Finally!)   He and Elder Freeman work in Caçapava which is a couple of hours away.  We usually only see them at our weekly district/zone meetings.  They have to get up early to catch the bus to Cachoiera in time for our morning meeting.  We just have some good missionaries.  We really enjoy all of them.   Once again, we hate to see transfers come. 

On Wednesday, the coughing seemed to hit Elder Shirley pretty hard.  But he refused to go to the Doctor yet.  We had some visits scheduled and a birthday party to attend for Eric, who was turning 13.  His mother told us that Eric likes us.  He seems to have a good connection with Brother Shirley, especially.  We really hated to miss the party, but felt like it was best.  So, we cancelled most of our plans for the day and made a bunch of phone calls.  We also cancelled our visit to Artur.  We know he is kind of paranoid about his health and being around sick people.  So we thought it best not to visit him this week.  We just stayed home mostly, made chicken soup and rested.  It seemed to pay off.  Elder Shirley seemed to improve a lot that day and throughout the week.  We gave Eric his birthday present on Sunday.  We made another CD like we made a few months back for Christopher Reinbrecht with the music on it that was recommended by some of our grandkids.  It seems to be a popular gift.  Eric seemed genuinely pleased.   

We also thought it best not to visit Julio, Roseangela and kids and the new baby this week.  We would hate to take a cold into them. We did call to check up on them though.   Fortunately, Elder Buhler and Gorham visit there too.  They encouraged Julio to come to church on Sunday.  Sure enough, Julio and Emanuele and Julian showed up at church.  We were tickled to death!  Julio likes these Elders also.  We are really hoping they don’t get transferred yet.  They are good for Julio and family. 

A temple trip to the Porto Alegre temple was planned for Saturday.  They were leaving at 4 am and wouldn’t return until that evening.  We also didn’t dare schedule to do that.  It is not good to be in the temple and have a coughing fit!  We were sad about that.  But hope that we can go on the next trip. 

Although we cancelled a few of our appointments, we felt like we made up for it through phone calls and lots of visiting later in the week.  We felt like we kept “our hook in the water” which was President Castro’s message for the week.  The message this week really got Elder’s attention as it was about hunting and fishing!  (Jeremiah 16:16).  However, President Castro cautioned us not to spend all of our time preparing to “fish and hunt”, but to keep our hook in the water as much as possible, spending most of our time on the actual fishing and hunting rather than on the preparation.  So this week we tried to “keep our hook wet” even though we were slowed down a bit. 

We were able to keep our appointment with Elivelton and Bruna.  We had another great discussion with them.  They are two weeks away from their marriage and are busy making preparations.  They got their future home painted this past week.  Knowing how busy they are, we suggested that we not visit for the next couple of weeks until after their wedding and until after they get moved in and settled in their new home.  But as we were leaving, they told us that they would like us to come again next week.  They told us that they liked our visits and since we didn’t stay too long, they still had time to do what they needed to do.  That was nice to hear.  So we will visit again next week.  They also invited us to their wedding on the 26th of December.  We look forward to that.  We are excited for them. 

José and his Aunt were waiting outside for our weekly visit.  His Aunt is Catholic.  So our discussion this week was interesting.  José was sounding like a missionary as he joined in the discussion about the Book of Mormon. We gave José a Book of Mormon in English since he likes to practice his English.  He was really pleased.  His Aunt seemed pretty proud of him too. 

Our Christmas is looking whiter all of the time as there were three baptisms this week.  Sister Costa and Sister Harrick had one, Filipe.  Elder Buhler and Elder Gorham baptized Eliza.  Elder Hoopes and Elder H. Silva had a baptism in the Cachoeira branch.  And they all took place on the same night.  We were able to attend the baptism of Filipe and Eliza, but missed the baptism in the Cachoeira branch as it was at the same time.  Elder Shirley was asked to speak at the baptism of Filipe and Eliza.  He loaded up on cough drops and really did a nice job.  They had some problems filling the font in the Marina/Uniaõ chapel.  There must have been some kind of blockage as the water was slow to come in.  The Sister missionaries joined the Elders in a bucket brigade to fill the font.  It was a lot of work and a bit stressful.  But they made it in time.  It turned out to be a really nice baptism.  Filipe was baptized by his father, Joaõ, who was baptized almost one year ago.  Pretty neat to see!   

The streets here on Saturday were filled with people and all the sights and sounds of Christmas.  It hasn’t been quite as warm, but it has been really humid.  It was fun just to walk down the streets here in front of our apartment.  The city is decorated.  Trucks with huge speakers drive up and down the streets, blasting Christmas music.  There are concerts in the park.  People are out shopping.  Despite the temperatures, it felt like Christmas!  Our calendar is filling up with branch parties, a bus trip this week to Porto Alegre for a mission conference for Christmas, dinner invitations, special programs, etc. We wonder how we will fit it all in. 

Best of all, the benches were filled at church on Sunday with members, less active members, and investigators.  It was great.  We really enjoyed visiting with so many after church.  Rogerio, a member of the Uniaõ branch, always asks us for “pipoca” (popcorn).  We haven’t made it for a long time.  But he remembers it.  He is the “taxi of choice” for the Sister missionaries.  He is always ready and willing to help. His wife is not a member.   Last week, he told us how much he missed our pipoca and how good it would taste after lunch on a Sunday.  So we made up a batch and took it to him this week.   We double bagged it so it wouldn’t be so obvious that we were taking popcorn to church.  But he got into it during sacrament meeting and proudly announced to us after meeting that he had already tried it!  We reminded him that he had to share with his wife,  Ilsa. 

Sunday evening the three branches joined for the re-broadcast of the First Presidency Christmas Fireside, which we loved!  We saw it previously in English on line in our apartment.  When we walked home afterwards, we stopped by Honorato Park where the city was holding a talent show celebrating the 155th year anniversary of Cachoeira along with Christmas. Edson and Luciane’s son, Kevin, was a participant.  They are a less active/part member family and had told us about his upcoming performance a week ago.  He played the guitar and sang.  He did a great job.  He is 16 years old and his family is really proud of him.  They all seemed really pleased that we came.  We walked home afterwards and enjoyed more sights and sounds of Christmas. Once again, the streets were full of people, lighted buses with Santa Claus, etc.   It made for a fun walk. 
The people here are good!  We love them! They make us feel loved too.   We really enjoyed visiting with them all.  We see so many that need visits and support.  We wish we had more time.  We also wish that when we leave, there would be another couple to replace us.  It would make leaving easier!  But for now, we will just do the best we can! 

Hope life is good for each of you!  We love you!
Eu te amo!