Monday, January 26, 2015

Loving Those You Serve

Elder H. Silva in skater hat we gave him

Artur's new puppy

Banana splits at last meeting before transfers

Elder H. Silva (Brazil) and companion Elder Campbell (Oregon)

Elder Buhler (Texas) and his companion Elder Gorham (California)

Elder Gorham (California) and Elder H. Silva (Brazil)

Elder LaTorre (Peru), Sister Costa (Brazil) and Elder Freeman (Missouri)

Flowers along the trail

Gelson & Rosi's daughter Fran (almost 2 years old now!)

Elder Campbell (Oregon) - good to the last drop!

Chips and guacamole on the veranda

Leaving a note for Gilmar and Luana

"Night of the Marrieds" - sharing some chimarrao

More "Night of the Marrieds" with chimarrao being passed around

Sister Harrick (California) and Elder H. Silva

Sister Harrick (California), Elder H. Silva (Brazil), Elder Buhler (Texas), Sister Foutz (Colorado) with camera

Sunrise from our apartment

January 26, 2015

It’s been another busy, but good, week.  We have spent a bit of time pondering how you come to love those that you serve and those that you serve with.  We care about them.  We worry about them.  As we look back a year, we realize how things have changed.  We now know people more personally and are more aware of some of the difficulties in their lives.  We have seen some of their struggles throughout the year.  We seem to worry more if they aren’t at church or if they miss an appointment.  We worry if we are helping and supporting them as much as we should be and in the way that they need.  Time is getting short for us to make a difference. 

We love the young Elders and Sisters serving here in Cachoeira too.  Once again, we are reluctant to see another transfer day come.  Transfer day is next Tuesday.  This week, we celebrated our last District Meeting together with a good lesson, practice, goodies and gifts.   We took the “fixins” for banana splits and others brought cookies.  We made some strawberry topping from fresh strawberries which resembled strawberry freezer jam and seemed to bring back memories of home for several of the U.S. missionaries.  We also made hot fudge sauce.   We had drawn names for a “secret friend” and had brought gifts to exchange.  We took lots of pictures too.  They will get the news about transfers sometime Monday morning.  Most of them have talked to us about stopping by on Monday for a visit and a possible goodbye. They are all good missionaries!  We love them all!

 The Uniaõ branch held a “Noite dos Casais” (Night of Marrieds).  So we spent a bit of time early in the week issuing invitations.  And there was a good turnout which included a couple of non-members.  They had each couple recall memories of what we considered our greatest treasure or blessing at the time of our marriage.  So it was a bit of a trip down memory lane for everyone.  It was fun to hear of everyone’s hopes and wishes and experiences in their marriages.  It was followed up by hot dogs.  It turned out to be a late night though.  They didn’t get around to the hot dogs until almost 10 pm.  We left before the hot dogs were served.  Also, we had been to visit Renato, the hot dog man, in the park earlier in the evening and had one of his hot dogs.  On the way home, we came across some other friends who sell hot dogs out of their van.  We had to turn them down too.  Elder Shirley said it was a “Three-Dog Night”! (or “could have been”).

The visit with Julio and Roseangela and family was especially good this week.  Julio’s attitude seemed to have softened.  He hasn’t had a Doctrine and Covenants and has been requesting one.  So we took it this week and had a nice discussion about it with them.  Julio told us that he would like to see his 10-year old son, Julian, be baptized soon and not wait for Julio, himself, to be prepared to do it. And his daughter will be 8 in May.   He was also in hopes that Elder Buhler and Elder Gorham won’t be transferred. We think he would like them to be here for Julian’s baptism.  In fact, he asked us for President Castro’s email so he could write him and request that these Elders be left in Cachoeira for one more transfer.  Funny!  Guess we will see what kind of influence Julio has as we are afraid that Elder Buhler is due for a transfer.   Although Julian has been to church, he needs to start coming again.  Julio told us that the family would be to church on Sunday.  The Elders, as well as us, were disappointed when they didn’t show.

We caught up to Elisa again and gave her a lesson about the Articles of Faith (Regras de Fé).  We do worry about that girl as she didn’t come to church again this Sunday.  Artur got a lesson about the Articles of Faith also.  Happily, he did come to church!  We also gave the same lesson to José.  He hardly ever makes it to church as his health isn’t too good (unless the branch sends a bus around).    But he enjoys discussing the gospel and his reading of the Book of Mormon.  He sits out in front of his home, scriptures in hand, waiting for us.  So we continue to visit him.  He is an inactive member and regular, young missionaries probably wouldn’t continue to visit.  But we feel that it is a good thing for us to do.  As a married couple, our calling is a little different. We feel good about continuing our visits with him.

Claudia and her daughter, Juliana, were home when we stopped by to tell them we had waited for them at church and had missed them. It was a short, but sweet visit.  We also talked briefly with them about the Articles of Faith.  Juliana told us that she had once had them memorized.  They are such a nice family!  They told us again how much they had enjoyed the Family Home Evening with us last week and that they had all really meant it when they had told us that they would be to church.  They said, “But then Sunday came and nobody went!”  We recognize that the first time back has to be hard.  They invited us for another FHE this next week and requested that we talk about forgiveness with the family.  Claudia told us that her daughters worry about coming back to church with their extensive tattoos.  They worry what people will think about them.  The daughters are beautiful and so sweet.  Our hearts went out to them!  We really love this family and hope we can present a message that will help them.  We found a good Mormon Message called “New Years:  Look Not Behind Thee” based on the scripture in Genesis 19:17 about Lot’s wife. We also saw an article about a Mormon girl with tattoos.  It looked good too.  We know the “Prodigal Son” video is so good too.  We want to remind them that not a one of us is perfect.  We all make mistakes.  We are pondering!  Hopefully, we can come up with something that will help them feel better about themselves.  That’s our big challenge for the week.  We spent a bit of time researching scriptures, lessons, etc. 

The rest of the week was filled up with Branch meetings, more visits, helping the Elders with English class, studying, etc.  There is always plenty to do.  And we pray that we are doing it right!
Our thoughts and prayers are also with you at home!  Hope you are all healthy and happy!  We love you!

Eu te amo!

Tuesday, January 20, 2015

Treasure These Things Up in Your Hearts

Artur in his white shirt and tie at church

Alair, Lisi and family

Elder Campbell (Oregon) and a happy Vera

Elder Campbell (Oregon) and Elder H. Silva (Brazil) with Vera and her husband

The end of a hot day

English class with Elders Gorham and Buhler

FHE with Claudia and three of her daughters

Good food with Alair and Lisi

Julio and young son Fernando

Lesson with Eliza

P-day milkshakes with Elders Gorham and Buhler at our place

Renato, the hot dog guy is back!

Vera ready to be baptized

View from our apartment late on a hot day

January 19, 2015

It’s been a busy week.  Sometimes we have literally had to run to catch a bus to get to an appointment on time.  Sometimes we have had to miss a meeting (like the branch council) because we have been double- booked.  We went to bed every night feeling like we didn’t get to everyone that we wanted to get to.  That is the way it seems to be every day, every week, and we suppose that it will be that same way at the end of our mission.  But we have had some very good experiences too.  We are reminded of a scripture that we read in one of our recent missionary meetings in D & C 43:34:  “Treasure these things up in your hearts, and let the solemnities of eternity rest upon your minds.”  That is kind of the way we have felt this week.  We are having great experiences, but it is a serious business that we are about. 

We have had some really hot days this week.  January is typically one of the hottest months of the year.  It also rains a lot in January.  We have had both rain and sun this past week.  We had days in the 90’s.  The weather report said that with the humidity, it felt like 107 F.  We believed it!  It was so hot that we left sweat prints on the benches at the bus stops (and we don’t mean fingerprints).  We also have had some really heavy downpours of rain along with thunder and lightning.  We rarely left the apartment without our umbrellas.  But leave the apartment, we did!  A sister from one of the branches, was complaining about the heat and said “You don’t leave the apartment when it is that hot do you?”  Yes we do!  A motto we hear from a lot of the missionaries is “There is no excuse!”  One advantage of it being so hot is that we now have hot water in our kitchen sink.  Normally we don’t.  We have a holding tank for water on top of our apartment building.  When the weather is hot, the water in that holding tank is pre-heated.  It comes out of the kitchen faucet pretty warm now.  Nice for doing dishes!  And our shower water hardly needs to be heated at all.
Elder Buhler and Elder Gorham stopped by on P-day to use computers to send pictures home.  They brought ice cream with them.  So we made milk shakes.  We thought that was very thoughtful of them! 

Iná is an older member of the Marina branch.  She and her married daughter, Karla, are very active members.  Karla is married to Elpídio who is a counselor in the branch presidency.  But Iná has a daughter, Claudia, who is inactive and has gone through a tough divorce.  This week we had a wonderful family home evening with Claudia.   She also invited her daughters.  By the end of the evening, all four daughters (Juliana, Gabriela, Natalía, and Debra) showed up, along with a couple of grandkids.  It was a full-blown family home evening with songs, lesson, games, and treats.  It was really fun.  For an opening song, we sang “I am a Child of God”.  Most of them knew the words and sang along with tears in their eyes.   They had requested a lesson on the family.  We had a short lesson and also showed a few short videos from the Mormon channel about the importance of the family and the Plan of Salvation.   We finished by playing our favorite Brazilian game, Escravos de Jó, with the new twist we learned.  Some of them knew the game.  Some didn’t.  But everyone participated, even Iná, who showed up just after the lesson.   It was a small house, with the bed in the center of the room.  We all gathered around the bed, or on it, to play the game.  It really was fun! We had told them that we would bring treats.  (We brought fudge jumbles.)  As a surprise for us, they had prepared sandwiches and drinks.  It was such a fun.  They welcomed us so nicely.  We left with good feelings and promises to come to church.  They really did seem to be touched by the Spirit.  But Sunday rolled around and they didn’t come to church.  We were disappointed.  We know they had good intentions.  Guess we just keep trying.

Elivelton and Bruna are now in their own home since their marriage.  They invited us to come visit them in their new home and resume the follow-up lessons for baptism.  They told us they had missed us.  So we prepared a big bag of “kettle corn” to take and a lesson on the priesthood.  It had been a rainy day.  But the rain quit just as it was time for us to leave for their place.  When we got there, they were gone!  They had forgotten and decided to run to the grocery store as there was a break in the rain.  We were disappointed, but we will try again. 

We have also had trouble catching up with Eliza, the 15 year old girl who was recently baptized.  Elder Buhler and Elder Gorham had asked us to do the follow-up lessons.  We stopped by on a whim one day and caught her home.  We only stayed a minute.  (Her step-mom was there and obviously not thrilled to see us.) But we made an appointment for the next day.  The next day, we came well with scripture book marks for her, visual aids, etc.  We even had framed the photo of her baptism by Elder Buhler.  We wrote her baptism date and a brief message on the back of the picture.  That is a special day we don’t want her to forget.  (She doesn’t have any support at home.)  The lesson went well.  And the step mom didn’t seem to mind too much.  Eliza also promised to come to church on Sunday.  But the difficulty for her is that she doesn’t have a way.  We don’t think they have much money for the bus.  Before baptism, President Glauber would pick her up for church.  But since baptism, she is kind of on her own to find a way.  Most people in that neighborhood ride the bus.  So it is a problem.  Also, Eliza is out of school for summer vacation.  Lots of people take vacation time during January and go to the beach or somewhere.  Eliza told us that she had plans to visit a sister who lived out of town sometime during the month.   We hope we can catch up with her again soon.  We will keep trying.  We feel the importance of doing that! 

It was a good visit with Artur.  He now has a puppy, thanks to Elders Buhler and Gorham.  They found a stray puppy and gave it to Artur.  It is a really cute, nice puppy.  Artur seems really taken with it too.  We had a good lesson with Artur on the priesthood.  He is a real family guy.  He often breaks down and cries when talking about family.  At church on Sunday, he wore a tie for the first time. We had given him the tie and the shirt.  He also told President Glauber that he was “coming along”.  We were happy to hear that.

We had a really nice evening at the home of Alair and Lisi and their two kids and the mother of Alair.  They are an active family.  We just want to give them some support.  We like this family a lot.  Alair is one of the first branch members we met when we arrived in Cachoeira.  He sought us out on the street.  We had prepared a lesson about setting goals and about the priesthood.  Even though we had told them that we wanted to come after their evening meal and just do a lesson, they insisted on feeding us too.  They were just starting preparations when we arrived at 7:30 pm.  Alair cornered Elder Shirley to talk “music”.  Alair performs in a band.  Sister Shirley helped Lisi in the kitchen.  Afterwards, we had a nice lesson, but it was a late night.  (It usually is when we visit them.  Don’t know how to get around that.)  They live far out in Promorar.  We had to wait a long time for a bus. 

It was busy all week.  We had other nice visits with people like José, Julio and Roseangela and family.  We had district meetings, helped with English class again (which included two non-members), and attended a baptism in the Cachoeira branch.  We also were happy to see that Renato, the hot-dog vendor, had returned to the park after a several month absence.  He had his leg broken after his motorbike fell on him.  We have missed this nice guy.  He acted happy to see us too.  We think the whole city has missed him as well as his hot dogs.  He seems to be very well respected by everyone in the city.  (He only sets up his hot dog stand in the evenings.)  His wife also has a restaurant.  We have talked to him a couple of times this week as we have been walking through the park on our way to appointments.   He told us that while he has been laid up with his foot, he had read all of the Liahonas that we had given him and that he would like more.  He also lost his mother during this time.  He said he couldn’t find our phone number, but had wished we could have been there to speak at the funeral.  He told us that we looked like angels.  When Elder told him that he possibly needed to clean his glasses, Renato said that he was not seeing us with his eyes, but with his heart.  (He is a member, but has been inactive for about 30 years).  We had a good visit with him and plan to get back soon with more Liahonas and church videos.  And a hot dog might be nice too.  They are probably the best in the city.  People here like hot dogs! 

So it has been a good week.  We have worked hard, but we feel good.  It feels good to do good!  It feels good to be good!  We continue to have great experiences.  We try to “treasure these things up in our hearts”, but we also feel the responsibility that rests upon us as missionaries.  We hope it has been a good week for each of you!  We miss you bunches!  We love you lots!

Eu te amo! 

Monday, January 12, 2015

A Sloppy Sweaty Week: Summer Missionary Work in a Tropical Climate

A week of drenching rains

Artur and "Elder" the cat

Elders at the hospital to give a blessing

Elders H. Silva and Campbell at the wedding reception

Pimentas - finished product.  Hot!!

Is this the right trail?

With Juliana, the new bride

Karina and Maximilliano

The newlyweds, Roger and Juliana

Nobody has keys to the church

Photo op with the newlyweds

President Torres and his wife, Carolina

Visiting Olibio de Souza and his wife at the hospital

Waiting at the church for a zone meeting

January 12, 2015

Oi!  Elder Shirley describes our week as a “sloppy, sweaty” week!  It has been hot and humid with thunderstorms every day.  Most days the temps have been in the 90’s.  But even on days like Monday, when the temperature was 88F, the weather report said that with the humidity it felt like 99F.  One day the sky was pretty scary looking.  We ran into Maximiliano and Karina on the street and they told us that a funnel cloud had been spotted.  People all around were stopping to take pictures of the sky.  We have also had some real downpours and have been caught in some of those gulley washers.  We have had to carry umbrellas every day. Although with the winds, it has been a challenge to keep them from turning inside out.   The forecast for the upcoming week is for more of the same.  Although we still walk a lot, we are glad that we have our bus cards and can ride as often as we do.  One of the storms caused a power outage in some areas of the city when the wind blew a tree down on a power line.  We were lucky.  Our power stayed on.  But the four Sisters and Elder Buhler and Gorham lost power.  The Elders lost water for a time too and had to come to our apartment to take their Saturday showers! 

We have had some good visits this week.  We hadn’t seen José for a couple of weeks.  So it was good to see him again.  And Artur still hasn’t found his dog, Bola.   But we got to meet his new friend, a cat he has named, Elder.  We discovered that “Elder” should really be named “Sister”.  She is a friendly kitty and has a good “motor” when she finds a lap to sit in.  So she joins our discussions now.  Artur has been tired this week.  He says it is because of so much work.  He is always repairing something for someone.  But we had a good discussion with him.  We told him about President Monson’s message about “The Bismark” from the priesthood session of General Conference and tied it into setting goals as well as the power of the priesthood.  This has turned out to be a good message that we have shared in several homes this past week.  Our goal for this next while is just to visit and support the leaders of the branches and to visit those who have been missing Sunday meetings and seem to need an extra help.  We also enjoy being able to teach some lessons to follow up new- member baptisms. 

One day Elder Buhler and Elder Gorham called.  Olíbio, a relative of a member from Santa Cruz, was visiting and had a tree fall on him.  He had some head injuries and was in the hospital about to have surgery.  He was requesting a blessing.  So we met the Elders at the hospital and they were able to give a blessing.  Elder Shirley and I returned the next day to see how the surgery went.  Olíbio was in good spirits and doing better.  His wife was there with him.  They seemed happy to see us and we had a nice visit.  They seem like very good people.  They live in a town some distance away that doesn’t have the church in it yet.  But we hope there will be a way to get the gospel message to them.  They seem very receptive.

President Castro, Sister Castro and their son, Lucas, came to town this week.  A couple of assistants came with them for a Zone meeting.  All 12 missionaries from our Zone met with them for instruction and interviews and a blessing for some.  We always love to meet with President and Sister Castro.  He will be released as mission president in June of this year.  President Swensen was mission president when our mission call was first issued.  We had the opportunity to visit with him and his wife several times on the phone as well as at our home after his release as mission president.  President Swensen was instrumental in us getting called to Brazil.  We feel grateful to him.  And we have really loved President Castro.  He is a spiritually powerful leader.  You can really feel it in his presence.  He is also kind and caring.  He will be missed in the mission.  So we will be on our third president!  Except that we will go home before the new mission president actually arrives.  President Castro told us that he will make the announcement as to who his replacement will be in March.  Since our zone meeting, however, we have seen the announcement on the internet about the new mission presidents.  It is hard to keep a secret now days!   (But we aren’t telling anyone!)

It was another wedding week!  We love attending weddings!  This was the marriage of a couple in the Cachoiera branch, Roger and Juliana.  The ceremony was held in the chapel and the reception at another nearby location.  Fortunately, the rain held off for this event!  There were a lot of people in attendance, music and a nice meal including a churrasco!  President Torres and his wife, Carolina, gave us a ride to the reception and then home afterwards. He has been President of the District for 10 years.   We really love this couple.  It was fun to sit at the table with them.  President Torres has a business, the Wizard, teaching English.  So when we visit with them, we speak a mix of English, Portuguese and Spanish (as they are from Peru).  Carolina is learning English as I am learning Portuguese.  It was a fun time!

Sunday was a marathon day for Elder Shirley.  Since it is summer, a lot of people go out of town to the praia (the beach).  It is vacation time here in Brazil!  Several leaders in the branch are out of town.  That means that leaders fall back on the missionaries a little more.  Elder Shirley had the opportunity of speaking on Sunday in two different branches, Marina and União, on two different subjects. It was tricky to keep track of which talk was for which branch.  He did a great job!  Sister Foutz also got recruited to speak in the União branch.  Elder Buhler was recruited to lead the music the last minute.  Good for missionary minute men (and women)! 

A few Christmas cards just caught up with us.  It was a real treat to receive them.  We like to think of Christ every day of the year too, not just on Christmas!  We are so appreciative of those who took time to send cards.  They are a boost to us!  It is so nice to hear from friends!

So we are just spending our time seeking out those who need a visit.  Before our mission, Elder Shirley dreamed of a trail in Brazil that led to someone that really needed a visit.  So every trail that we come across that looks like the one in Elder Shirley’s dream, we take.  We always ask ourselves if this is the same trail, the right trail.  And actually, any trail that leads to someone wanting to hear the gospel message is the right trail!  Right?   But we keep looking and wondering! 

Happy trails to all!  We miss you!  We love you! 
Eu te amo!

Monday, January 5, 2015

Celebrating the Beginning of Another Great Year

New Year's Day in the grass shack at the farm

Alves, his son and his mother

Another delicious churrasco with lamb, chicken and salsicha. Yum!

Another gorgeous sunset as seen from the apartment

Baptism of Sister Gomez

Beautiful trees in the city

Elder Shirley checking out the dessert bar at Per Tutti Grill

Checking out the recipe drawer with Meni

Checking out the tractor with Paulinho

Don't do it sisters!  

Sisters Costa and Oliveira enjoying farm life

Having fun at the farm on New Year's Day

Helping with the dishes

Lots of help in the kitchen

New Year's Day lunch in the home of Paulinho and Meni

New Year's Eve lunch at Per Tutti Grill

Elder Shirley out and about

P-day with Sisters Foutz (Colorado), Harrick (California), Costa (Brazil), Oliveira (Brazil)

Pimentas from Alves before pickling

Getting ready to lay paralelepipedos

Sister Olivia Gomez with Elders H. Silva (Brazil) and Campbell (Oregon)

Sister Harrick enjoys the farm life

Sister Gomez just before her baptism

Sister missionaries "bringing them into the fold"

Ahhh!  This is the life!

Sisters Foutz and Harrick having fun

What a great way to start off the new year!

January 4, 2015

Feliz Ano Novo!  Happy New Year!  It’s been a great week for us.  It is hard to believe that we have just finished 2014!  We have heard that time goes faster when you are older.  We must be really old because time is flying!  We love the holidays.  It is a great opportunity to take a wonderful message into homes.  But we also have to be selective where we visit as we don’t want to “crash” anyone’s holiday dinner and family time without being invited.  But we have had some good visits this past week.

It is always fun to have the Sisters come over to our place.  They came on P-day to send pictures and have left-over mashed potatoes and turkey gravy.  Mashed potatoes seem to be a real treat for missionaries, especially missionaries from the U.S.  It was nice of them to help us finish up our turkey leftovers.  We enjoy these Sisters! 

Ledí, a faithful Sister in the Uniaõ branch, has been requesting that we visit in her home with her and her non-member husband.  We visited there several months ago.  It was past time to visit again.  We had a nice visit this week and they invited us back to do a Family Home Evening next week.  Their son, Edson and his wife, Luciane (Nelson’s daughter) and family (which include Kevin, the guitar player and his sisters) are going to be invited too.  So this is an extended family that we know and love.  Ledí has requested a lesson about eternal families.  We have tried to catch Edson and Luciane home to extend the invitation, but have been unsuccessful so far.  Ledí is going to try also.  We would really like to have everyone there next week.
We have met a lot of friendly people this week on the street and on the bus.  One day, as we boarded the bus, the driver greeted us by saying that he wanted to visit our country.  The cobrador, money taker, joined in the conversation, as did several others.  We had a nice visit (loud enough for most everyone on the bus to hear) and were able to give our cards with our meeting schedule on to several.  In turn, one of them gave us a printed message from his church.  It was fun. 

On New Year’s Eve, we baked a couple of loaves of French bread to deliver.  We always like to give appreciation and support to leaders in the branches which is actually part of our calling.  President Castro also encourages us to do that.  So we decided to visit Alves, Lucimar and their family early in the afternoon on New Year’s Eve.  Alves is a counselor in the branch presidency of the Marina branch.  Lucimar is in the District Young Women Presidency.   Also living in the “fundos” (out back) at the home of Alves is their son, Josué and his wife and 1 year old daughter. This young couple was active a year ago.  We don’t know what happened, but they quit coming.  But recently they have started coming to church again.  So we felt like this would be a great visit to make.   Lucimar was out grocery shopping with their teenage daughter.  But we were welcomed warmly by Josué and his wife.  We delivered one of the loaves of bread and had a nice visit in their home.  Alves was very happy to see us also.  His mother lives next to them and had requested a blessing of health.  Alves told us that he was just wondering how he would do it and who he would get to help when we showed up! He was pretty grateful and felt like his prayers had been answered!  So it worked out well.  Elder was able to help with the blessing and we had a really nice visit.  Alves thanked us for the bread.  But he protested that he did not have a gift for us.  Then he remembered the little red peppers growing in his yard.  He insisted on sending some home with us and told us how to make “Conserva de Pimenta (Brazilian pickled chiles).  It seems easy enough to do and not too time-consuming.  So we are giving it a try.  It is in process now.  It has to sit in a vinegar- type solution for a week.  Although Elder is not thrilled, Sister is excited to try!  It was a fun and gratifying visit. 

For lunch on New Year’s Eve, we went to Per Tutti Grill to celebrate.  We knew they would be decorated and festive.  They always have a nice selection of food too.  Then it was a noisy New Year’s Eve.  We heard firecrackers going off all day.  And there were lots of fireworks in the evening.  At midnight, we thought we were being attacked!  Fireworks must have been going off right beside us.  They like fireworks here!  There was no sleeping through that!  So we welcomed the new year in whether we wanted to or not!

New Year’s Day we, along with the Sisters, were invited to the “chacara” or little farmstead of Mení and Paulinho.  They are friendly, good, faithful, very active members of the Uniaõ branch.  We thought it was pretty cool that we could spend Christmas with all of the young Elders and now New Year’s with the Sisters.  We took a little treat.  It was another wonderful churrasco with lamb, chicken and salsicha and all of the trimmings. Mení and Paulinho have a business and also a little home close to our apartment here in the city.  So the party was held at their country home a little ways out of town.  We hoped to catch a bus out.  We sat and sat at the bus stop, without seeing a bus.  Since it was a holiday, we knew that buses would be few and far between.  But while we were sitting there, Nilson and Karla, non-members from our English classes drove by and waved.  They circled the block and came back to pick us up. It’s nice to have friends!  We were grateful for the ride as it had begun to rain.  We are always so amazed at the blessings that come to us and that are so obvious.  Even at that, we had to walk up a little lane to get to their home. The Sisters had quite a ways to walk and arrived pretty wet, even with their umbrellas! We felt bad for that.  But by the time lunch was over, the rain had quit and the sun was out.  It was a beautiful afternoon.  All of us enjoyed the little farm.  They had cows, sheep, chickens, tractors, a lake and all kinds of fun stuff.  They were lovely hosts!  It was a lovely day!

We had a good visit with Artur.  However, we are sad that his dog, Bola (Ball), has come up missing.  He has been gone for a week.  We have become really fond of Bola and take a dog treat for him each week.  We just heard from the Elder Buhler and Elder Gorham that Artur’s daughter brought him a cat to keep him company.  He has named the cat “Elder”!  We gave Artur a lesson on free agency and goals.  He maintains that his goal is to be baptized before Casal Shirley leaves.  As we look at the calendar, we hope he hurries.  Time is really flying!  Our release date appears to be April 21.  We don’t want him to leave it to the last minute.  We also hope that he doesn’t get cold feet.  He told the Elders that a guy really needs to think about this!  But he comes to all three hours of church each week.  We all agree that he has made a lot of progress recently.  We still have high hopes!

It was also a good visit with Júlio, Rosángela and family.  The baby still has a bad case of colic, but is growing fast and doing well.   We talked with them about free agency and goals also.  Julio told us that he doesn’t believe in setting goals.  We have hoped that his goal would be to get married and to have Rosángela and two of the kids baptized this next year.  Rosángela seems ready for both marriage and baptism.  He told us how expensive it is to get married as you have to have a reception, etc.   You have to include all of the relatives.  And they have a lot of them.  But he also taught us a new word which we really like.  Although he doesn’t want to have a specific goal, he does like to have “guides”.  The word he used was “Nortear” (Norte as in north).  That is like aligning yourself with the North Star and keeping on the correct path. It means to have guides.  We like that!  What a great word!  That will work!   And it is a verb which indicates action.  So we still have high hopes for them also! 

Elder H. Silva and Elder Campbell had a baptism this week, Olivia Gomez.  They invited us to attend.  We really enjoy baptisms!  She is a really nice lady and will be a great addition to the Cachoeira branch. 

We spent some time this week notifying branch members of the change in church meeting times.  In January, Uniaõ and Marina branches flip-flop meeting times.  Marina now starts at 8:30 am with Priesthood and Relief Society and Uniaõ starts at 9 am with Sacrament meeting.  Although there were quite a few visitors on Sunday, numbers were down a bit in both branches. It was testimony meeting.  Usually there is a line of people wanting to bear their testimony.  This Sunday was slower than usual.  We attended sacrament meeting in both Uniaõ and Marina.  Elder Shirley bore his testimony in each of the two branches.  Sister Shirley summoned up courage (and it takes a lot of courage, especially to do it in Portuguese) and did it in the Marina branch and was the very last testimony.  Marcio Medeiros was conducting.  At the close of meeting he told us that he had been hoping for 38 testimonies.  Part-way through the meeting, he said that it had come to him while he was sitting there that there would be 20 testimonies and that Sister Shirley would be the last testimony.  He was actually teary-eyed in telling us from the pulpit that he knew it would work out just that way.  So glad that Sister Shirley didn’t ignore those promptings. 

 Hope your New Year is off to a great start!  Hope you are all surviving the cold and snow!  It is really hard for us to imagine.  Although after looking at pics on fb, we half-way expect to look outside our window and see snow.  But we have had a lot of rain again this week, some of it really heavy.  Some days, it rains really hard and then the sun comes out strong.  It feels like a sauna!  Rain or shine, we have lots of work to do! 

Be safe!  Be healthy!  Be happy!  Be good!   Vai nortear! 
Eu te amo!