Tuesday, February 24, 2015

Rewards and Frustrations

Admiring huge leaves on a plant at the bus stop

Beautiful evening as seen from our apartment

Claudinei and Marcia - good friends

Discussion with Jose

Late afternoon in Fatima

Rainstorm during the week

Nice day in Fatima

Messy roads after a big rainstorm

Marina branch council

Major work to restore our power

Visit at the home of Claudinei and Marcia

February 23, 2015
This has been a week of frustrations as well as rewards.  Carnaval, at least here in Cachoeira, ended.  We had three noisy nights, with little sleep since all the action went up the street in front of our apartment.  But it was interesting to be in the midst of things for sure.  Tuesday ended up being a holiday.  Most every business was closed.   Many of our appointments cancelled too.  We felt a little frustrated on Tuesday, especially.  This is also the last week of vacation for school kids and school teachers.  Most will go back to school next week. 

We did have a good District meeting Tuesday morning.  But in the afternoon, Gabriele cancelled our lesson with Thais as she was gone with her Dad.  But they rescheduled for Wednesday.  So we were happy about that.   Claudia, who teaches at a couple of schools, had a lot to do getting ready to go back to school.  So our Family Home Evening with her and her family and Glauber which was supposed to follow the lesson with Thais, was postponed until next week.  Hopefully, that will happen.  We worry with school and work complicating things for families. 

The Wednesday lesson with Thais went really well.  We took our white board with figures as well as the markers and gave the lesson on The Gospel of Jesus Christ.  (We don’t think the younger missionaries use these figures.  But Elder Shirley taught this way on his first mission.  It seems to work well for us.  We have made up our own word strips and pictures). Thais enjoys putting the figures on the board and writing on it.  We felt good about how things went.  We had asked her to pray about March 14 as the date for her baptism.  She hadn’t done that yet, but said she would.  Her mom, Gabriele, apologized about missing church the last few weeks.  She said, “Every week we tell you that we are coming and then we don’t.  This week we are!”   Sure enough, on Sunday, Thais came with her Great Grandma and Aunt.  But her mom didn’t come and neither did her grandma and some other family members.  We were so excited to have Thais come, but frustrated that the others weren’t there.  (Some frustrations!  Some rewards!) However, Thais seemed excited to be there.  She loved Primary and asked us to show her the baptismal font.  We let her step down into the dry font.  She looked all around.  Elder Shirley showed her how they would stand to do the baptism.  She told us that she had prayed about the March 14 date for her baptism and was ready to do it!  She is a darling, intelligent, little 8 year- old.  She adores her mom.  Her mom tells us that Thais is her little  “Chiclet”, (the gum).  We guess that is because she “sticks” as close as she can to her mom.  So we were thrilled that Thais had enough courage to come to church without her mom.  We will give the last lesson about “The Commandments” to Thais on Tuesday.  Although she will be in school, they are out early on the first couple of days.  So it should work out to have a lesson.  Her mom also gave permission for her to show us how she swims in the pool on that day.   Fun!  We are also supposed to be setting up the FHE with Claudia and the whole family and Glauber sometime this week.  We hope it works out!

We had more frustrations when we went to teach Elivelton and Bruna.  Bruna’s Dad met us out front, saying that Bruna wasn’t feeling well and not up to a lesson. We were disappointed.  We were just leaving when Elivelton came out and said, “No, no, please come in”.  So, we went in.  Elivelton was ready for a lesson even if Bruna didn’t feel like it.  We decided to wait to give the lesson on tithing until Bruna could be there too.  Elder Shirley just talked to Elivelton about some of his priesthood opportunities, like blessing the sacrament.  They went over the prayers and the procedure.  The nice thing is that Elivelton showed up to church on Sunday all dressed up in white shirt and tie.  But they had already made the assignments for blessing the sacrament.  But they asked him to do the closing prayer in sacrament meeting.  Hopefully, he will get a turn at blessing the sacrament soon.   After the prayer, he headed straight to us with a big smile.  We loved it.  Bruna was at church and feeling better.  They invited us to their home again this week.   

Artur continues to frustrate us.  We had a nice visit on the priesthood line of authority.  We challenged him to be baptized on March 14, along with Thais.  He really hesitates to commit.  He says he will think about it.  You may be familiar with the picture of “A Leap of Faith”.  We made a copy of it and tried to convince Artur that he just needed the courage to make the leap.  He even gave a nice prayer, asking the Lord to give us all courage.  He thinks that he has had missionaries for about 8 years.  He has made a lot of progress recently and attends church most every Sunday now. In the beginning of our visits, he wouldn’t pray.  But he gives beautiful prayers now.  But he continues to tell us that most of his family is Catholic.  Yet he also tells us that he has always tried to be a good example for his kids, especially since he raised them alone after his wife died.  We hope he will be a good example and lead the way into the waters of baptism.  But we are beginning to have our doubts.  He is now saying that if he isn’t baptized before we leave, he will send us an email later when it happens.  Agh!!!!!

We had a nice surprise at Julio’s.  The mission office had sent us the paperwork and instructions for helping couples get married.  (That is a real hindrance to baptisms here).  We took the paperwork showing how you could do it with little to no expense.  Julio, who is very intelligent, and knows all of the angles, was actually interested in it!  He shocked us by saying that he thought they could maybe get married in April before we left.  We were in shock!  We asked Rosangela what she thought about that.  She told us that this was the first that she had heard of it!  (What?!  What is wrong with you, Julio?!)   In his defense, Julio told us that the thought had just been going around in his head.  He says that he has a lot of thoughts.  We told him that we would like a picture of him on his knee asking Rosangela to marry him.  Although Rosangela says “We will see”, she says it with a smile.  We think that she would be happy to get married.  Julio seems to have been the one holding them back.  Then she could be baptized!  They have paperwork to find or apply for.  It may take some time.  So we will see how this plays out.  The young Elders are visiting there and encouraging as well. 

As always, José greeted us so nicely.  He said, in English, “It is wonderful to see you!”   He had his usual list of questions from what he was reading.  He wanted to share a scripture with us that he found in II Nephi 2:11 about the necessity of having opposition in all things.  Amazingly, Elder Shirley was prepared with a scripture in II Nephi 29:6-8 to share with José about how the Book of Mormon helps clear up any questions about gospel doctrine.  José likes to have a scripture to underline in red in his Book of Mormon.  So it was a nice exchange.  It felt like a bit of inspiration going on!  José likes to call Elder Shirley “Mister”, even though he has been corrected numerous times.  So, to him, we are “Mister” and “Sister”.  It was an especially rewarding visit.  

We visited some old friends, Claudinei and Marcia, from the Cachoeira branch. They have a nine year old son.  They were also former students in our English class back a year ago when we were teaching English.  Claudinei is working out of the city now.  He is gone 15 days at a time and then home for two.  It has made church attendance difficult.  It was good to see them again!  He has a really good job.  But it is a difficult situation.  No easy answers for them. It was a good visit though.
Sunday was a good day.  But it is always a little frustrating trying to catch and visit with all the people that we feel need to be visited with.  We are also still working on Renato, our hot dog man, and his helper, Mateus.  Mateus has indicated that he is interested in coming to church.  The bad thing is that whenever we visit them, they want us to have a hot dog!  I think that we have over-dosed on hot dogs!

We had another little frustration.  On Sunday, just as we were stepping into our apartment building, the power went off.  When it was still off in the late afternoon, we took a walk around the neighborhood to see if we could discover the reason.  A block away, at a busy intersection, a car had hit the power pole.  It was a concrete power pole and it was broken off.  They were in the process of replacing the pole.  Our power ended up being off for about 12 hours.  It came back on about 12:30 am. 

This weekend Brazil went off of daylight savings time.  So we got to “fall back” and gained an extra hour.  For a little while now, we are four hours ahead of you.  In a few weeks when you “spring ahead” and go on daylight savings time, we will only be three hours ahead.  

Overall, the rewards outweigh the frustrations!   Guess we will spend the week trying to catch up with those that we missed on Sunday or other days.  Our calendar for our remaining time here seems to be filling up fast.  We have a lot of people wanting us to come to their churrasco, a birthday party, a baby shower, etc.  We are booking appointments into April now, which is our end-of-mission month.   Amazingly good people here!  Guess that is our reward!  President Castro is also coming to town this week.  We think that we will keep busy this upcoming week too. 
Hope you are all keeping busy and out of trouble!  We miss you! You are always in our thoughts and prayers!  We love you! 

Eu te amo!

Monday, February 16, 2015

Living the "Abundant Life"

Our street closed to traffic in preparation for Carnaval

A glimpse of Carnaval

Another hot dog vendor on our street = more friends!

Bleachers set up for Carnaval

Brazilians like to party!

Elders in our district:  Campbell (Oregon), da Silva (Brazil), Latorre (Peru), Freeman (Missouri), Costa (Brazil), Gorham (California)

Helping Artur with his new phone camera

Lidia, Idalia and Artur

Sisters in our district: Harrick (California), Oliveira (Brazil), Carvalho (Brazil), Saavedra (Peru)

Stacked vaults at the cemetery

Portion of street painted white for Carnaval main performance area 

View of the crowd at Carnaval behind the gates in the alley to our apartment

Visit to a local cemetery

February 16, 2015

The scripture for the week from President Castro was from John 10:10 and speaks about the abundant life.  We certainly feel like we are living the “abundant life”.  We continue to be blessed!

On P-day we decided to take in a few sights that we hadn’t seen yet.  We keep hearing about a missionary that served here in his youth by the name of Elder Dexter. Elder Dexter loved Brazil and returned to Brazil later in his life and made Cachoeira his home. He was active in the church and many members remember him. He died here about 4 or 5 years ago and was buried in a cemetery in Cachoeira.  So we decided to check out some local cemeteries.  We didn’t find Dexter yet, but we had fun checking out one of the cemeteries. We started with the cemetery that is right beside the hospital.  (Handy, but a little unnerving for hospital patients we think.)  They are very different from the cemeteries we know.  There is not a blade of grass, just cement.  There are walls of stacked burial vaults.  The more well-to-do have their own sepulcher.  We didn’t find Dexter, but we had an interesting afternoon.  There are a few other cemeteries that we may check out later.  

It was a very warm week with only a little rain.  Guess we are in the “dog days” of summer.  We should be used to summer weather.  We have been thinking that we have had a lot of summer.  We had a hot summer in Salt Lake City before leaving for our mission, and came to Brazil just at the beginning of their summer.  That hot summer was followed by a mild “winter” here in Brazil.  We are now finishing up another hot, Brazilian summer.  Then we go home to spring and an Idaho summer.  We figure that will make 4 summers with one mild Brazilian winter!   We will probably freeze in Idaho! 

Claudia and her family are still keeping us busy and we are so glad.  We met with her and some of her family early in the week and gave a lesson on testimony and how to help testimonies grow.  We included an activity from the Liahona about the fire of testimony for Thais, the eight year old grand-daughter of Claudia.  We also had a little video.  On the same day, just before this lesson, we met with Claudia’s daughter, Gabriele, and her daughter, Thais, in their home for a lesson on the restoration.  We took our “board” and figures, hoping it would help Thais to understand better.  After this lesson, Thais walked with us over to her Grandma Claudia’s home for the lesson on testimony.  That is a lot of lessons for a little girl.  But she seemed ok with it all.  She is a really nice little girl.  Gabriele wanted us to come back again on Thursday for the third lesson on the gospel of Jesus Christ.  She wanted us to come back while everything was still fresh on Thais’ mind.  So we prepared the lesson and returned on Thursday.  However, they forgot that we were coming and we found Thais and her aunt, Natália, in a swimming pool in the backyard.  It was such a hot day and rather than interrupt their swimming party, we scheduled another day for the lesson.  They all told us that they planned to come to church on Sunday.  Claudia and Juliana made it to church on Sunday.  But once again, Gabriele, Thais, Natalia and the rest of the family did not make it.  Claudia told us that morning came too soon for them.  It surprises us as they seem so determined to come when we talk to them during the week. We will keep encouraging.

 Gabriele still wants Thais to be baptized the middle of March.  She is enthused about her daughter learning about the gospel.  She is actively involved in helping us teach the lessons to Thais.  But they need to get to church!  We aren’t sure if it is a matter of liking to sleep or a lack of courage.  We will try for next week.  In the meantime, school will start up at the end of week.  Thais will go back to school.  Claudia teaches at two schools and will go back as well.  Hopefully, this won’t complicate things too much for them.  Presidente Glauber and Luci want to come with us to do a family home evening with Claudia and family this next week and asked us to schedule an appointment.  We have made tentative plans for it with Claudia.  We will see how it goes.  She seems a little worried.  That is a big crowd for her little house.  We would like to offer to have it at our apartment.  But that will mean they will need a ride here.  Glauber would have to make several trips to get them here.  We want to do what is best and easiest for them.  But Claudia has been at church for the past three weeks and seems happy.  They are a really good family. 

We had our regular district meetings with the young missionaries, branch council, etc.  We visited with several of our regulars again this week too.  We had another nice visit with Elivelton and Bruna about testimony as well and about fasting.  Bruna was supposed to give a talk on Sunday about eternal marriage.  But she didn’t make it.  We don’t know why.  Her Dad filled in on another topic.  Hopefully, Bruna will have the opportunity yet to give her talk.  Artur had a new phone and wanted us to help him figure out a few things on it. Rosi (Gelson and Fran) had a new phone as well.  She was enjoying showing us all of the things she could do on it.  It was a fun visit with them too.
 José was home and anxious for a visit this week.  His mother sat in on the discussion.  She is always pretty defensive and makes sure we know that she goes to church with the Seventh Day Adventists.  It is always a little uncomfortable with her.  But José makes up for it.  He is always so cheery and happy to visit with us and anxious for our next visit. 

We had another good visit with Julio and Rosangela although someone was mowing (weed whipping) the grass around the house and made it difficult to pray and discuss anything.  We walked down to the Praça Honorato and visited with Renato, the hot-dog man and his helper, Mateus.  Mateus wants to come to church too.  But they didn’t make it this week. 

It is Carnaval, mais uma vez! (one more time).  This is our second experience with Carnaval, Cachoeira style.  Once again, our apartment is right in the middle of the action.  Mid-week, they closed off the street in front of our apartment and began to paint the road white in the main performance area, set up bleachers, put up speakers, extra lights, etc.  Saturday was the first night of the parade of Carnaval.  It started about 9:30 or 10 pm.  (Just when we like to go to bed!)  The streets and sidewalks were packed with people.  There was not even standing room.  We got home early.  The gates at the entrance of the alley at our apartment were locked to keep the crowd out.  We were glad for that.  We managed to get just a glimpse at the first of the parade. We only saw a little of it right at the start.   But we got a good dose of the sounds of Carnaval.  There is no escaping that!  There were lots of drums and singing, all over loud speakers.  Our apartment was rockin’!  It lasted until the wee hours.  However, Sister Shirley can sleep through anything.  Elder has more trouble.  Carnaval lasts until Tuesday here in Cachoeira.  It is our last time for this unique experience though! 
The youth in each of the three branches, ages 12 and up, left town early Saturday morning for the encampment to get them out of town during Carnaval time.  It is a yearly tradition.  The LDS church does this, but so do some of the other churches.  It sounds like a lot of fun for the youth.  They have great activities planned and good food.  When we visited at the home of Cleomar and Idalia, their son Artur had decided to go.  He was so excited.  He brought out his list and went through it with us, showing us what he needed to bring.  Claudia wanted her son, Samuel, to go too.  We visited with Samuel about it and called Glauber.  But in the end, Samuel felt like he didn’t know anyone and didn’t want to go.  Can’t blame him for that.  Glauber plans to try and get him signed up for seminary and help him get acquainted with the youth of the branch.  Maybe he will feel better about going next year. 

Lots of leaders went with the youth, including all of the branch presidents and their wives, along with other youth leaders.  With so many gone, they combined the União and Marina branches on Sunday.  It was actually nice to be combined.  Everyone seemed to enjoy it.  And we didn’t have to split our time to attend the sacrament meeting of each branch.  It was nice to be able to go to Relief Society and Priesthood meetings.  Combined, we had a pretty good attendance.  We had an interesting experience in our Gospel Essentials class.  A new member in the branch, who was a former pastor in an evangelical church, decided to get up and preach to us!  It was an extremely lively testimony from him.  He went on and on too.  Everyone kept looking to Elder Shirley to do something, including the young missionary who was teaching the lesson.  Elder Shirley interrupted him and made a brief comment about needing to let the teacher summarize the lesson.  It worked and, hopefully, no one was offended!  Interesting! 

We continue to meet and visit with so many friendly people.  We can never walk down the street without encountering so many friendly, good people, who want to visit and wish us well.   It truly is a “gente boa aqui”!!  (people good here).

Hope everyone enjoyed a “Happy Valentine’s Day”!  It isn’t really celebrated here.  They do have a “Lover’s Day” on June 12.    We intended to go out to eat, but didn’t make it yet.  However, we celebrate every day the love we have for family and friends.  We feel so thankful for each of you!   You are always in our thoughts and prayers!  We miss you!  We love you!

Eu te amo!  

Monday, February 9, 2015

Stand Back and Watch the Miracles Happen

Hot day at the bus stop in Quinta

Calendar for Artur

Elivelton and Bruna

Fernando and Renato

Happy Valentine's Day!

Ina, Thais and Gabriele

Sunshiny shower at the church

Typical "Cachorro Quente" (hot dog)

February 9, 2015

Even though we have fewer pictures to share, it has been another busy, but rewarding week.  The weather has been hot with less rain.  And we have, once again, done lots of walking.
For a change we had a quiet, relaxing P-day and were able to catch up a bit on cleaning and laundry.  We also did a lot of preparing for Family Home Evenings and lessons for the week.
We finally caught up with Elivelton and Bruna.  Our luck hasn’t been too good with them lately.  They always invite us to come, set up the appointment and then they forget.  I guess newlyweds have other things to think about and do besides visit with a couple of old missionaries. We are in about the eighth month of follow-up lessons for the baptism of Elivelton.  President Castro has encouraged missionaries to continue to teach for a full year after baptism.  We found them at home this week. It was actually our first official visit to their new home.  They live next door to Bruna’s parents who are very active in the branch.  We know they join together for regular family home evenings with them.  So we haven’t been too concerned if we don’t get in our regular visits.   We had a good discussion about the priesthood, complete with some short, but nice videos.   They were enthused and welcoming.  They insisted that they would like to have more lessons and told us that they enjoyed the lessons.  So we will continue to teach them.  We were pleased on Sunday to see Elivelton pass the sacrament for the first time.  It was obvious from the big smile on his face that he was pleased too.
It has been a week full of family home evenings on most every night of the week.  We met for another FHE with Claudia and her family.  We had even more of their family present this week; three of the four daughters were there, plus the boyfriend of one and the daughter of another.  Grandma, Iná was there too.  Counting us, we had nine people there.  It was a full house and we had a great lesson and discussion.  We talked about hope, prayer and the importance of reading the scriptures.  We love singing church hymns with them.  They know the songs and sing well.  We say it is like singing with a “choir of angels”.  At the conclusion of the lesson, Gabriele surprised us by saying that she wanted her 8 year-old daughter, Thais, to be baptized.  But she wanted us to teach her all of the discussions and Gabriele wanted to hear all of them as well.  She said that she, also, was ready to turn her life around.  She wanted the lessons for Thais to be taught in her own home, not in the home of her mother.  So we set up an appointment for the next day.  That shocked us.  We were surprised, but so pleased!  We went away feeling like “stand back and watch the miracles happen”!! 

The next day, we went to the home of Gabriele and Thais to teach the Plan of Salvation.  We decided to start with that one as family is so important to them.  Iná, (who is great grandma to Thais) joined us too.  When we arrived, we noticed how clean the house looked and commented on it.  Gabriele and Iná had been cleaning all day to make the house look good.  This was in spite of the fact that the entire city of Cachoeira had been without water for the entire day or day and a half.  There had been a problem at the city water plant.  (Fortunately, for us at our apartment, we still had water because there is a water holding tank on top of our building).  Anyway, Gabriele was really pleased that we had noticed how clean things were.    We tried to present the Plan of Salvation lesson on Thais’ level with figures, etc on the white board.  She is a really nice little girl and is anxious to please her mom too.  We also presented her with a Book of Mormon with our testimonies written in it along with a red pencil to underline scriptures that were important to her.  One of the scriptures that we had her read was the one in I Nephi 3:7:  “….I will go and do the things which the Lord hath commanded…..”.  

Interestingly, her mother, Gabriele, was reading that very scripture with her the night before.  Gabriele remembered it from her Primary days as being one of her favorites.  So we had to sing the Primary song about that too.  It was a really nice lesson.  They both had questions and Gabriele helped explain some things to Thais.  Gabriele told us that she would like to wait for Thais to be baptized when she, herself, had returned to full activity.  We suggested a tentative baptism date of March 7.  They agreed!!!  They planned to come to church on Sunday.  For some reason, however, they didn’t come on Sunday.  Don’t know if they lost their courage or what.  But Claudia and another daughter, Juliana, came to church!  It was the first time back for Juliana.  As Claudia says, they are taking small steps, one at a time (one daughter at a time, evidently)!  We have another appointment on Tuesday with Thais and Gabriele for a lesson about the Restoration and Joseph Smith.  Claudia asked if we would come as soon as we are finished with Thais and do another FHE in her home with the rest of her family.  We are feeling pretty happy! 

We met with Artur and presented him with a little fridge calendar with a picture of him and us outside of the church.  We circled April 20 in red!  That is the day our mission officially ends. (We think!).   We hope it will encourage him to find the courage to set a baptism date for himself.  He comes to church every Sunday and is a good participator.  He seems to have a testimony.  He seems ready to us.  He has had several missionaries before us.  We feel some concern that he will actually be able to find the courage to follow through.  We will keep trying. 

It was a good visit with Rosangela and the kids this week.  Julio wasn’t home.  But we met up with him on the bus as we were going home and had a good visit with him too.  Fernando is growing so fast. He is a heavy baby.  He still has colic too, but is a great eater!   He had just had his vaccinations and was feeling pretty miserable.  They had planned on coming to church.  Rosangela told us that she wanted to come to church just as soon as the baby was ready.  They want to have him blessed. But come Sunday, the baby still wasn’t feeling too well.  Julio sent us a text message apologizing and letting us know that they wouldn’t be to church.  We were glad he had felt committed anyway.
It was another wonderful surprise yet this week.  Renato, the hot-dog man, decided it was time that he came to church!  He has been an inactive member for many, many years, probably over 35 years.  We have had many really nice discussions with him over the past year. (And many hot dogs as well!) We nearly fell over when he said that he wanted to come to church this week.  He lives within the boundaries of the União branch.  That worked out well as we would in the same building attending sacrament meeting with Claudia and family in the Marina branch. Renato had a busy Saturday night selling hot dogs and didn’t get home until about 4 am.  But he came to church!  We were out front waiting for him.  We went to sacrament meeting with him.  It was an especially good meeting.  Our branch president, Presidente Samuel, spoke about procrastination and how we don’t always have time to put off something until “one day”.  (A talk by President Eyring).  Renato thought meeting was great.  But he was tired and so he planned to go home after sacrament meeting.  We attended sacrament meeting with Claudia and Juliana and Artur.  Afterwards, we found Renato had been befriended by several branch members and decided to stay for the entire block of meetings.  He even gave the prayer in Sunday School and we were told that he prayed just like an active member!  He seemed really pleased about everything. He kept telling members that there was a light about us.  We think that he will find that there is a light about every member who has a testimony!  It was another rewarding Sunday! 

This week we also dug out branch records and decided to go out and meet inactive members that we haven’t had the opportunity to meet yet.  We did a lot of walking in the hot sun.  We met some really nice people and met some others who weren’t so pleased to meet us. But we were out there trying to do what we were supposed to do.  One fellow that we met at a bus stop who is a member and recently moved to Cachoeira, asked for directions to the chapel.  He actually showed up at church on Sunday as well! 

This should be a busy, interesting week too.  Carnaval starts this week.  Leaders are taking the youth out of town for their encampment beginning next Saturday.  They will be gone for most of the week.  It should be a wonderful experience for the youth!  With so many youth and leaders gone, União and Marina will meet together for Sunday meetings next week.  As for us, will be experiencing a second year of Carnaval.  In Cachoeira, the main route is up the street in front of our apartment building.  We anticipate a lot of noise and sleepless nights.

We like President Castro’s scripture of the week, Mosiah 2:41:  “….consider on the blessed and happy state of those that keep the commandments of God, For behold, they are blessed in all things, both temporal and spiritual…..”    May we all be blessed!  Fique firme!  (Stay strong!)  We love and miss you all! 

Eu te amo!  

Monday, February 2, 2015

Look Not Behind Thee

FHE with Claudia and family

"Capoeira": combination of martial arts and dance at the park

Dione went visiting with us

Elder H. Silva and Elder Buhler leaving Cachoeira

Fran:  2 years old!

Goodbyes at the bus depot with Sisters Foutz and Costa

Helping Jose translate from Portuguese to English

Members and missionaries at Honorato Park

More goodbyes with the Elders

P-day at our place with the missionaries

Sabbath sunrise

Selling watermelons in the neighborhoods

Silly games with the missionaries

Sister Harrick cleaned up the kitchen

Street repairs at a busy intersection near us

The new group following the latest transers

Visit with Cleomar, Idalia and family

February 2, 2015
It’s been quite a week!  It started out with a bang.  On Monday morning, P-day, the missionaries started calling to tell us the news of their transfers.  (We really dread hearing too.)   Sister Foutz, Sister Costa, Elder Buhler, and Elder H. Silva were being transferred out of Cachoeira.  They all wanted to come by our place and say good-bye.  So we just decided to invite everyone for lunch.  We cooked up good ole American-style hamburgers and had ice cream sundaes.  We had a total of 10 missionaries in our little apartment, which included all of the missionaries serving in Cachoeira. We were only missing the two Caçapava missionaries.  (They are too far away to be able to come.)  And missionaries can really eat!  We cooked up a lot of hamburgers.  But it was a really good time.  We have grown attached to all of these missionaries! It is amazingly hard to see them go.   And we were invited to see them off at the bus depot the next morning.  The Sisters were to leave on the 7 am bus (but it ended up being the 8 am bus) and the Elders at 11 am.  Rogerio, a member of the União branch, brought the Sisters and their luggage to the bus depot.  He has been the “taxi” for lots of missionaries going to and fro.  He is a real good guy!  We made up a little bag of our pipoca (kettle corn) for each missionary for a snack on the bus and for Rogerio, who really loves it.  We were sad to see them go.  But you can really sense their excitement and enthusiasm for what lies ahead!  You could say that they “don’t look back”. 

Later in the day, we met with Julio and Rosangela and their family.  It was a nice meeting with them again.  Julio had been hoping Elder Buhler would stay, along with Elder Gorham, for a while longer.  He actually sent an email to President Castro requesting that.  And he got a response from President Castro, which surprised and pleased him a lot.  President Castro told Julio that he would like to meet with him when he comes to Cachoeira next month.  That really pleased Julio and seemed to take his mind off of his disappointment in Elder Buhler’s transfer.

We met with Claudia and two of her daughters for another family home evening.  Her mother, Iná, who is a strong, active member, was also there.  They had prepared food for us again and we brought a dessert.  We had a very frank, honest discussion with them.  We had planned to show them a couple of videos about the Prodigal Son and another one about “Não olhes para traz de Ti” (Look not behind thee).  We also took the information about the “Tattooed Mormon”.  Claudia had requested a lesson on forgiveness, repentance, and a discussion about tattoos.  We prepared the best we could and went with a prayer in our hearts.  We were pretty nervous!  As soon as we got there, our plans changed as they didn’t have the DVD player this week and that is what we needed.  But it seemed to turn out for the best anyway as Elder Shirley told the Prodigal Son story so beautifully as well as the story in Genesis about Lot’s wife.  He even managed to tell the story of Lot’s wife in the kind of “Seinfeld” manner that the video had.  It was pretty entertaining, yet powerful.  We really liked the message of “Look not behind thee”.  We encouraged all of them to not spend their lives regretting past mistakes, but to look forward.  And they were really interested in hearing about tattoes and that a person could still get married in the temple, serve in the temple, etc.   We are grateful to family who helped us out with ideas about tattoos.  It was interesting to hear of so many who serve in Stake callings, etc. in spite of tattoos.  We had a very frank discussion about why they weren’t coming to church.  They were obviously all very active at one time.  They all sing the songs of the church by heart.  They had brushed up on the Articles of Faith that we had talked about last week and repeated the first four from memory to begin our lesson.  Claudia talked about being divorced and taking up smoking.  She talked about the shame they all feel for past mistakes.  The story of Lot’s wife and “look not behind thee” seemed to stick with her. They also talked about how Sunday was the only day to sleep in.  At least the daughters indicated that they liked to sleep in on Sunday.   They have jobs.  Claudia teaches at two different schools.   We suggested that they just start with sacrament meeting which is the last meeting of the block on Sunday morning.  Claudia informed us that her favorite meeting was always Sunday School as she used to learn a lot there.   We offered to come out on the bus on Sunday morning and ride with them to church just for support.  We knew that the first time back must be hard.  Claudia requested that we call her at 7:30 am on Sunday morning and see how she was feeling about things then.  We went away very encouraged.  This is really a wonderful family!

Sunday morning came and we were nervous.  We called Claudia at 7:30 am.  She told us that we didn’t need to come out and that they would be coming.  They also requested more copies of the Articles of Faith and a recipe for the Fudge Jumbles that we had brought to one of the FHEs.  So we planned to meet at church for sacrament meeting.  Just before Sacrament Meeting started, Claudia arrived, but by herself.  We were overjoyed to see her.  So were a lot of branch members.  She could hardly get up the hall to the chapel because of all the hugs.  Sister Shirley stuck right with her.  When we entered the chapel, Claudia’s mother saw us and came towards us with a huge smile and open arms.  She wrapped her arms around all of us for a group hug.  It was enough to make a person cry!  But that wasn’t all; Claudia got up to bear her testimony!  She bore a beautiful testimony.  She said she had a lot of things that she wanted to change in her life and that she wanted to get active in the church again and that she had been away too long.   She mentioned the FHE the past week and how she had thought about the lesson about Lot’s wife and the advice to “look not behind thee”.    She had decided that she didn’t want to become a “pillar of salt”.  She wanted to look forward, not backward.  She said that by the time Sunday morning had come, she had already decided to come to church and to turn her life around.  It was a beautiful testimony.  It made us all want to cry again!  Afterwards, she told us that she would like to have another Family Home Evening this week with her and her daughters.  She said that she thought that they were all taking little steps forward and that she wanted to be an example for her daughters. We think that we can expect those daughters at church too at some point.  Anyway, it was one of those rewarding moments that sometimes come to missionaries!  We know that she was already prepared for the message we presented, and was ready to receive it.  We just felt so happy for her and can’t wait to see the progress that we know this family will make. 

It was a full week.  We had District Meeting and met the new missionaries.  It looks like another great bunch!  We went visiting with Dionne which is always fun.  We went to see José.  We tried to catch Elisa, but, unfortunately, Elisa was not at home.  We did have a good visit with her mom.   The Elders are going to try with Elisa too.  We also visited with Cleomar and Idalia and family.  We are trying to help spread the word about the encampment for the youth coming up this month during Carnaval time.  Just like last year, they plan to take the youth out of town for a special encampment with uplifting activities, good food, etc.  And it doesn’t cost the youth anything.

Idalia and her kids, Artur and Lidia, were to church on Sunday too, which also thrilled us.  Idalia and Lidia also bore their testimonies.  It was a great day! 

We helped Elder Gorham out with English class.  We participated, along with other members and missionaries in all of Cachoeira in a missionary activity in Honorato Park.  We all had pass-along cards and spent 2-3 hours there visiting with people and finding more contacts for the missionaries.  It is amazing the luck we have with members helping! 

We also attended a birthday party for Fran, the 2 year old daughter of Rosi and Gelson.  They had a lot of family there too.  We remember going to the first birthday party for Fran.  Time flies!  She is a darling little girl!   

We are busy trying to read the Book of Mormon in Portuguese one more time.  In January, President Castro challenged the entire mission to read it by June 7.  But we will be gone by mid-April or so.  So we are trying really hard to get it completed before we leave.  We really enjoy taking turns reading out loud together each night.  (It helps the Portuguese too!)  We always say it is one of the most enjoyable times of the day. 

Thrown into the midst of such a busy week, we managed to have a bout of what we think was food poisoning.  We felt pretty terrible for all of one night and most of the next day.  We didn’t have time for that!  That’s a first for us too!  Hope it’s the last! 

We are forging ahead!  Hope the week ahead is good for all!  We love you and miss you!
Eu te amo!