Monday, April 20, 2015

Well Done, Thou Good and Faithful Servants!

April 20, 2015

Today marks the end of a wonderful 18 months!  It has been a great privilege and responsibility to serve a mission together.  This time has been wonderful and challenging all at the same time.  We have been blessed; our marriage has been blessed; and our family has been blessed.  We have come to know and love the beautiful, gracious people in Cachoeira do sul, Brazil!  We leave with many mixed feelings!  Mostly we have a renewed conviction that the Gospel of Jesus Christ is true and that we always receive blessing when we live the gospel.  We are so excited to reunite with family and friends. But we will leave a piece of our hearts in Cachoeira!

Richardt and Loria at church

A surprise ride - with an old friend Roberto

At the home of Valdomira and Ivone

Caught in the rain again

Dinner with the Moraes family

Elder Purificacao, Elder Costa, Gabriele and Dione

FHE with Gabriele, Thais and family

FHE with Pres. Samuel, Vivi, Camila and Lucas

Good bye to Luciano

Surprise party for us - good food, good people!

Good bye to baby Fernando

A great goodbye party!

Great food at the Torres' home

Guitar lesson with Pres. Samuel

He sold us shoes last month; gave us a ride in the rain this week.

Julio proposed to Rosangela!  Hooray!

Last district meeting!

Last lesson with Artur

We love these people!

We love and will miss these sisters!

Luci and Dione

Our last P-Day lunch at our place with the sisters

Lunch at Per Tutti with Alceu and Marcia, friends from Elder Shirley's first mission

Lunch with President Torres and Carolina

Another picture from the surprise party

Noele, Sister Carvalho and Sister Oliveira

Old friends, Alceu and Marcia came to Sunday meetings all the way from Porto Alegre

One last churrasco

One last Sunday sunrise

President and Sister Torres at the party.  The banner says "sentiremos saudades" (We will miss you!)

President Samuel is a natural with the guitar

The sisters entertaining us

The last P-day at our place with the sisters

Some of the wonderful sisters at the surprise party

More great folks at the surprise party

Temple lesson with Erli

We will miss these good people!

We will miss these missionary name tags!

We will NOT miss this roommate!

Monday, April 13, 2015

Special Guests at the Honorato School

With the director and kids from Honorato School

Baptism gift that we gave to Thais to help her remember her baptism

Beautiful fern-like tree

"Love notes" from some of the kids at Honorato school

Nice home next to the school

Sabbath sunrise from our bedroom window

School zone

We had a great day with the kids from Honorato school

Honorato School - the country school where we got to teach an English class

April 13, 2015

In keeping with our week, a lady at the bus stop said to us “You are always running” as she snapped her fingers, Brazil style.  It seems that we are living our own version of “fast and furious”.  We spent our time this week doing a variety of things. 

Our thought has been that we don’t want to tell everyone how soon we are leaving.  We don’t want it to become about us.  We just want to do what has to be done and do our regular missionary work right up to the end.  But everyone seems to know or at least they are asking about our departure date.

We were walking up the street when Renato, the hot-dog man, drove up the street.  He saw us and pulled over.  He was leaving town on vacation for a couple of weeks.  He wanted to give us one last good-bye as we will be gone by the time he gets back.  That has been typical for us this week. We have tried to visit as many as we could, some on the street, in the stores where they work or in their homes.  We will miss these good people!  We will worry about them.  Some have promised us pictures when they finally make it to the temple or when they get baptized.  We hope those blessings will be realized. 

Gabriele requested another follow-up lesson for Thais.  She invited her mom, Claudia, and grandma, Iná.  We presented the first lesson again, using figures on the white board.  We left the white board with Thais as she has enjoyed helping with each lesson and placing the figures on the board.  They want us to come back next week for one more lesson. 

As some may have seen on FB, we were invited to teach an English class at the Honorato school.  It is a little country school a bit out of town.  The director of the school picked us up at the church and gave us a ride.  The kids were really great!  They were interested, paid attention, participated and seemed to enjoy it.  They seemed to like the games we incorporated into the English lessons.  Even the teacher got up front to challenge a student in one of the games.  It was fun.  The director told us that these country kids were sweet and simple, not like the school kids in the center of town.  We really enjoyed them.  Afterwards, two or three of them gave us little pictures they had made in school or hurriedly wrote little “love notes”.  We told the director that we wouldn’t bring up religion, but asked (and received) permission to answer any question asked of us as to what we were doing here in Brazil.  At the end of the lesson, the teacher asked us that very question.  So we had a brief opportunity to do our “missionary thing”.  Mika, the director has been to church once this month with a family in the branch that lives close to the school.  She invited us for coffee afterwards, or at least tea.  She was amazed when we declined and it gave us a brief opportunity to explain the word of wisdom.  She wanted to be “friends” on fb.  By the time we got home, we had received her “friend request”.  Pics were posted on fb shortly afterwards and one of our daughters is now also friends with her.  Amazing! 

Our apartment also is in disarray as we have begun the process of cleaning and packing.  It is amazing how much even missionaries can accumulate in a year and a half.  We had some good news though.  It appears that the Cachoeira branch Elders will be moving into our apartment when we leave.  It will be much nicer for them than the one they are living in now.  These are the only two Elders in the District who haven’t been to our apartment yet.  Sister Castro asked them to come over and check it out.  So they came one morning so we could show them around.  We also made a little breakfast cake for them.  Had to make the place look and smell good!  We are excited too as we can leave a lot of things here for them.  It will make the move easier for us.

We were supposed to visit at the home of Julio and Rosangela on Saturday.  We saw Julio downtown on Saturday morning.  He wanted to postpone the visit until Sunday afternoon.  He accompanied us on our little shopping trip, helping us find a couple of non-missionary type items for our tour, like sunglasses, a hat and mascara.  He knew the best places to find these items at the best prices.  To buy mascara, you have to go to the “farmácia” (pharmacy). (They keep it behind the counter).  It was pretty funny seeing Julio describe to the clerk what kind of mascara we were looking for.  Sunday was the day Julio had promised that we could take a photo of him down on his knee, proposing to Rosangela (since we won’t be here for their wedding).  But when we arrived he wanted to do the photo next Saturday.  We tried to explain that we had a dinner appointment with President Torres on Saturday at noon and a baptism to attend later in the day.  But he insisted that we could make time for the “important people”.  They wanted one more visit.  He promised that if we would come on Saturday, four of them in the family would come to church next Sunday. Reluctantly, we agreed. We would love to visit them again next week, but were worried about time restraints.  Now we just hope the baptism is late enough in the day that we can squeeze in a visit to Julio and Rosangela and family in between lunch and the baptism.

Anyway, we have just been trying to really see and appreciate the sights and sounds here in Brazil and, especially the people we have come to love.  It is a full week ahead.  On Sunday we had the opportunity to bear our testimonies one last time.  Afterwards, we received many hugs, warm wishes and dinner invitations for this next week.  We want to be missionaries up to the very end!  So we have a couple of Family Home Evenings scheduled, and several lessons to teach.  Every day and every evening is booked.  We also have lots of packing to do! We aren’t quite sure when that will happen.  This is our last week.  We have one more Sunday!  In order for us to tour Brazil a little after our mission, we will be released by our Stake President sometime in the afternoon next Sunday via the internet! We really can’t believe it!  We are both sad and happy at the same time.  We love the people here.  But we have missed family a lot.  This week we missed a couple of graduations.  But we look forward to being home soon for many upcoming happy occasions!  

We know this week will fly by! The week ahead looks like it will be “fast and furious”!  Hope all is well with each of you!  We love you!!
Eu te amo!

Monday, April 6, 2015

A Long Way to Go and a Short Time to Get There

Lunch with President Samuel and Viviane

All of these senior missionaries are going home soon: Shirley's, Burnett's and Sister Ataidas

Easter bunny at our favorite chocolate shop

Elders Latorre and Purificacao:  no water in apartment, looking for some at ours

Helping tie a member's tie at conference broadcast

Lunch at the mission conference

Sisters Saavedra, Caballero, Foutz

Sisters Oliveira, Costa, Carvalho

Renato with a fat lip

Van ride home after conference - nobody was tired!

Lunch with President and Sister Castro

Van ride home after the conference

Van ride to lunch at a nice restaurant

April 6, 2015

This week the words to a song kind of express how we are feeling:  “We’ve got a long way to go and a short time to get there!” It kind of expresses the feelings that we have.  We have a lot that we have hoped to accomplish before we go home and not much time left to do it.  Two weeks from today, we will be released as missionaries! 

We spent time this week visiting and delivering the little cards “Because He Lives” (#PorqueEleVive) and talking about the message of Easter.  We had some nice visits.  Easter is celebrated in a big way here.  Friday was a holiday.  Everything was closed.  We hadn’t anticipated that.  But we didn't starve either.  Stores opened again on Saturday, which surprised us.  We thought they might be closed all weekend.  And, of course, we loved General Conference.  We met in the Cachoeira chapel to view the broadcast on Saturday and Sunday.  Sunday evening, halfway through the afternoon session of conference (which began at 5 pm for us), there was a deluge of rain and also wind.  We lost power.  They ended up just saying a closing prayer and sending us all home.  We have to catch the end of conference later.  It was a dramatic ending for the last time that we will have the opportunity to view conference in Brazil!
It was a nice visit with Thais and her mom, Gabriele, this week.  They seemed happy to see us.  Gabriele never did explain why she missed Thais’ confirmation.  And we didn't push it.  Her main concern was that we would be going home soon.  She really wants to be sure that they will continue to have missionaries come!  She says that they need to be strengthened!  She said that all missionaries seem to have a special spirit about them.  We felt glad that she recognizes and wants that.  Our concern, also, is that missionaries will continue to visit.  We also had a nice visit with Claudia and Natália.  Claudia is making progress in her struggle to quit smoking!  This entire family has a lot of potential and is making such good progress.  We know that we will continue to worry about them!

We had an interesting visit with Artur.  In our efforts try to strengthen him in all areas, we decided to give the lesson on chastity.   When Elder told Artur he wanted to discuss this “delicate” topic, Artur told us to go ahead because it didn't bother him!  We had a good and frank discussion with him.  In closing, we prayed for him to have courage to do what was right.  We pray for that pretty much every week. He seems to take note of that and sometimes prays for courage himself when it’s his turn to pray. It evidently reminded him of a poem that he had learned in his youth called “A Coragem” by Olavo Bilac (Olavo Bilac is also the name of a street here in Cachoeira).    During the week he had taken the time to write the poem out as well as he could remember it.  He wasn't completely sure about it and asked us to look it up on the internet if we could.  It was a nice poem, but not one that we were familiar with.  However, we found it on the internet.  It will be fun to compare it with him on our next visit.  He also wanted to discuss guns with Elder Shirley.  We covered quite a variety of topics with him this week.  He wasn't feeling too well when we arrived.  But had perked up by the time we left.

We finally caught Julio home with Rosangela and family this week.  The kids were out of school for Easter break. We were glad.  We love these kids! Paperwork is still not completed for them to get married before we go home.  But Julio agreed to the next best thing.  We have an actual appointment with Julie and Rosangela next Saturday to take a picture of Julio down on one knee, proposing to Rosangela.  He told us that we can take a picture, but we can’t leave a picture with Rosangela because she might use it against him in the future.  Actually, we think he might be afraid that she will say no!  She says, “We will see!”  It should be fun.   

Mission conference was held this week.  They divided the mission up into four areas and it was our turn this week. We, along with the young Elders and Sisters who serve here in Cachoeira took an early morning van ride to Porto Alegre.  They picked us up at 5:15 am.   It was a good conference, as usual.  They always give missionaries who are going home the opportunity to bear their testimony to the group.  It was hard to believe that our turn to do that had arrived! It is something that kind of looms over you the entire mission.  They gave each of us 3 minutes.  It was also hard to believe that both Elder and Sister Shirley got flagged that time was up!  Every one of the senior missionaries serving here in POA do sul mission will be going home before the next conference.  There were also quite a number of young missionaries going home.  It was a pretty emotional meeting.  We are glad to have that over though. It was another thing checked off of our list of “to dos” before we leave. Although they didn't give their farewell testimonies yet, President and Sister Castro will be released the end of June.  So there will be lots of changes.  It was a nice, but long day.  We didn't get home until 11 pm.
We reached one of our goals this week.  It was a challenge from President Castro to read the Book of Mormon before the end of June.  It was our personal goal to complete our reading of it before we go home. We were thrilled to reach that goal this week!   We have already read it once since we have been here in Brazil.  In fact, we started to read it before we left home for Brazil.  A good nephew suggested that doing that might help with the language!  He was right! The reading went much faster this time through.  It has become a very enjoyable habit each evening to take turns reading out loud in Portuguese. We have looked forward to that each day.  We hated to come to the end.  It is a habit we want to continue!    

Although we are nearing the end of this “época”, we realize it also signifies the beginning of another for us.  Life is full of beginnings and endings.  We are thrilled with a couple of grandkids who will be experiencing “beginnings” in their lives.  Marissa will be getting married in the Ogden, Utah, temple two days after we get home.  She will be our first grandchild to be married.  And we were fortunate enough to be able to witness (thanks to modern technology) Josh opening his mission call.  He will soon begin serving in the Czech/Slovak mission, speaking Czech.  Josh will be our first grandchild to serve a mission.  We look forward to being a part of these wonderful experiences.  Wonderful beginnings for a couple of good grandkids!  We are grateful for all of our wonderful family and look forward to reuniting with them!  However, we still have a couple of weeks left in our mission.  We hope to be able to put it to good use.  We really do have a “long ways to go and a short time to get there”! 

Love you all!  Be safe and happy wherever you may be this week!
Eu te amo!