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!              

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