Letter #78

Dear Family and Friends,

As you know, Vitória has been a war zone this week. Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid 2.0 visited. But, I’ve been safely isolated in Campos. Where nothing happened. Interestingly, after the first couple days of bloody warfare, it did settle down a lot. I think the robbers and looters got tired. Or died. People even have been returning stolen fridges and cars, according to the news.

(Saying goodbye to the Bishop and his family)

And today, I was transferred! My time in Rio de Janeiro (10 months) has ended! I´ll be going to Colatina, Espirito Santo, and staying as a zone leader, and I´ll be serving with an American for the first time! My new companion is Elder Dial from Utah. Colatina is my first area in the northern part of the mission. Unlike Vitória, the city is relatively new.

Jose Fernando is on fire. He brought some friends to church yesterday, and is wearing a white shirt and tie now. He brings a lot of energy and excitement to the ward. We taught him about the priesthood once before baptism, and once after. After the second time, we went out to visit some of his friends, and without warning, he put his hand on the forehead of his friend and started to bless him! Don´t worry, the new missionaries here will go over this lesson again. And the prayer of faith works miracles too!

(Saying good bye to my companion and the ward mission leader)

As a mission, we’ve started reading the Book of Mormon, learning about repentance. In Nephi´s vision of the tree of life, he says, that the love of God  “which sheddeth itself abroad in the hearts of the children of men; wherefore it is the most desirable above all things…yea, and the mot joyous to the soul. ”

Through repentance, we can feel that love of God. Repentance isn’t something awful, rather it’s a gift from above, that allows us to become better, and become closer to our Heavenly Father, So, Repent!

Love,

Elder Schenewark

Letter #77

Dear Family and Friends,

Let’s start with a Portuguese lesson. You know the phrase, “It’s raining cats and dogs.” In Portuguese, it’s connotation translates more to “It’s raining pocketknives.”  Interesting, and I think it makes a whole lot more sense. We´re still waiting for the rain, and pocketknives, but this week, the spirit rained.

The highlight was definitely yesterday, when Jose Fernando was first confirmed, with Elder A. Pereira in likely his last confirmation on the mission booming, “Receive the Holy Ghost,” and then Jose getting up and bearing his testimony. And it was powerful. Many cried, I personally just smiled the whole time, so happy to see his newfound happiness. He talked about his conversion story, how he knows the gospel is true, of his love for his new family in the church and how he is trying to help others come into the fold. And he is. He is inviting everyone he knows to come and know of the fullness of truth.

Other news, again a week of traveling. I again visited Itaperuna, although this time most likely will be the last time. And returned to Vitória, or rather Cariacica, with the other 21 missionaries here in Zona Campos. We had a big conference with two other zones. E. A. Pereira and I gave a training on tithing and offerings.

I also bore my testimony and talked about the power of the ordinances in the gospel of Jesus Christ. As Doctrine and Covenants 84:20 says, “Therefore, in the ordinances thereof, the power of godliness is manifest.´” Always, there is a special power present as we make covenants with our Heavenly Father. I felt this very strongly with both the baptism and confirmation of Jose. And as we partook of the sacrament yesterday. The ordinances bless our lives. They bring us closer to deity and change us. We take on the semblance of Christ.

The exciting news was released that the groundbreaking for the Rio de Janeiro temple will be on March 4th. Yet, this isn’t just a beautiful building. The temple is so important because of the ordinances therein. We should take every chance to participate in the ordinances of the priesthood. That´s my testimony and my invitation.

Love,

Elder Schenewark

Letter #76

Dear Family and Friends,

On Wednesday we had our long anticipated worldwide training. It was fantastic. We received great training, and also the exciting news that the missionary schedule can be changed. To  better adapt to the different cultures around the world, mission presidents have the ability to change the schedule. During the broadcast, they showed an example of a schedule, titled `´Mission in Latin America´´ and had the wake up time at 7:30 and going to sleep time at 11:30.

The next day the zone leaders´s met in Vitoria to talk about what we´d do, and for about 30 seconds silence reigned, waiting to see who would promote sleeping in longer. I ended up talking first and said that we should stick with the current 6;30 wake up and 10;30 time to sleep, to which President concurred and that was that. Yet, we now have greater flexibility during the day, and it will help us to be more productive and effective.

Saturday was awful. We had a baptism scheduled and we were happy and excited for her. We stopped by her house in the afternoon and said we´d be waiting for her at the church later. At 7, she showed up, chose her baptismal clothing, and then asked to talk with the bishop. So, together with a room full of members, we waited anxiously for one hour wondering what had happened and what was happening. Finally they came out, the bishop explained a couple things, said we had the keys to decide, but we decided to wait. I won´t say anything else, other than neither my companion or I have ever seen anything like this. It was sad to have everything ready and apparently right, only to not happen.

And then the miracle on Sunday. Jose, who I wrote about last week, came to church hoping to be baptized and after a tense couple of hours, was! He had to be interviewed by a counselor to Pres. Young, which happened during church, but then we had to wait to hear if Pres. Young approved or not. The font leaks, so was almost empty from the day before. And, the water tank for the font was empty for some reason so didn´t fill up, so we decided to act on faith and fill up the font laboriously with buckets. Our church ends at 11;30, but Pres. Young never calls until the meetings end, which for him is at 12. So, with the members, we again waited. But everything went right. And at the end, Jose bore a powerful testimony about how he prayed to be led to the truth. How the next day we showed up, going where missionaries have never gone before, and then, in response to our invitation to pray, had a dream where he saw lots of people in white shirts and suits hugging him and welcoming him into a large church with benches. When he came to the church for the first time, he said, This is what I dreamed.” It was an awesome end to the week.

Love,

Elder Schenewark

Letter #75

Dear Family and Friends,

Letter #74

Dear Family and Friends,

I haven´t received my box still, but will be going to Vitoria tomorrow and most likely will then.

As you saw, I made a return trip to Itaperuna. We headed up there Friday morning to do an interview, and as we had time, made a division with the other elders. Lunch was with the branch president and he asked me to visit some people who haven´t been going to church since I left. It was pretty cool. I surprised everyone by my visit, ate lots of cake, took some photos, but most importantly I had the chance to bear my testimony to many about the importance of returning to the church, and about doing the small things- reading the scriptures, praying- that make such a big difference in our lives.

Remember that man, Jose, who cleaned out his house last week? It has been a testimony builder to see how he has changed and thriving now. And, in another miracle in his life, after looking and looking for work, someone came up to him, and offered him a job on Friday- just two days before his baptism.

This is the Lord´s work and its wonderful to play a part. This coming week we will have another worldwide broadcast for all the missionaries. Certainly, with the purpose of accelerating the work. I know that there is a prophet and 12 apostles here on the earth. I am so grateful for this. They are truly prophets, seers, and revelators. By following their example, we can come closer to Christ, who is our Savior and our Redeemer. He died to give us life eternal, and if we follow His example, we will gain that gift and live with our families forever. I love you all!

Elder Schenewark

Letter #73

Dear Family and Friends,

While I was waiting for my new companion to arrive, I left with some other missionaries to work for a couple hours. We knocked on one door and a guy came down, happy to see us and wanting to hear our message. We talked about the gospel of Jesus Christ with him, and how opened up and shared how he wanted to change.

Well, I said, the first thing we have to do is clean the house so the spirit can be here, so use this plastic bag and we´ll throw out everything unclean. So, he went at it, and put in drugs, pornographic magazines, etc. The reason I write this, is because while it was clear that he was sincere in wanting to change, it was also clear that he had led quite the life. And while I would only be visiting one time, the other missionaries would be returning.

And sure enough, the next day the missionaries got there, and José brought out a gun to give to them, that he didn’t want to have in his house anymore. While they didn’t accept it, just told him to get rid of it, that´s what we´re doing here. We´re cleaning up and preparing everything and everyone for when Christ returns or they return to Him.

Mission leadership council held this week in Vitoria.
My new companion is the little guy on the left, in front

Reading 2 Nephi 2 this week I was struck powerfully by the 13th verse which includes this phrase:

And if there be no righteousness, there is no happiness.”

That´s the secret! Our happiness depends on our righteousness! After, I re-read the General Conference talk Elder Russell M. Nelson gave in October about how saints can be happy under any circumstance. And it’s true. Want more happiness? Be more righteous. Want complete happiness? Be completely righteous. I understand now more than ever before, that Heavenly Father gave us the commandments so that we can be happy.

Interestingly enough, the scripture for our mission is found in DC 128:24: “Brethren, shall we not go on in so great a cause? Go forward and not backward. Courage, brethren; and on, on to the victory!”

Yet, instructively is the next line that says, “Let your hearts rejoice and be exceedingly glad.”

Let’s be righteous and let’s be happy! We are so blessed to be living in the fullness of times. We are so blessed to have the chance to participate in this great work, the work of salvation.

Love,

Elder Schenewark

Letter #72

Dear Family and Friends,

Transfers arrived! I was surprised with the news that I´ll be staying! My new companion is Elder A. Pereira, from São Paulo. This will be his last transfer as a missionary. He actually already served here as zone leader in Campos, and is now coming back.

This week the streets were completely empty. Completely. Everyone went to the beach. If the people aren´t coming to us, we decided to go after them. Its an area a little bit distant, but we spent this week visiting the people who live near the beach, and therefore are in their houses. And, it worked! we had quite a few people come to church this Sunday, without us even going after them. No one there has heard of the gospel, so it was a good opportunity to share it with everyone.

This week I again finished the Book of Mormon. I know its true. Its true. I can´t deny that and never will. It’s blessed my life immeasurably. I am so grateful for its teachings, clear and simple, that show the path to our Heavenly Father and eternal life. It strengthens my testimony of Jesus Christ. He is our Savior and Redeemer. The Only Begotten of the Father. I love Him and am so grateful for his atonement that strengthens me and allows me to repent. Please read the Book of Mormon this year. It will bless and change your life.

Love,

Elder Schenewark

Letter #71

Dear Family and Friends,

Tuesday we had our zone conference. It was wonderful and brought the Christmas spirit. Sis. Young taught about gratitude and used the powerful example of the Savior. Before feeding the four thousand, He asked for the bread and fish, and gave thanks. Thanks for the little that they had. And, as we know, a miracle then happened. As we have gratitude, we will see miracles happen. She also taught that gratitude is so important, it should be one of the first things we teach to people. As we teach them to pray, they should learn to give thanks. Elder Brito and I were privileged to teach about the plan of salvation. Everything went very well, even lunch.

We had another early, early morning bus ride to Vitória this week, having a division with the assistants to the president. We went poorly prepared thinking it would be another normal hot day, but instead in the afternoon it became really cold, with wind gusting 40 mph and a cold rain beating down on us. But we made it. It´s already reached 118 degrees here in Campos this month so it was a welcome change.

Always, but especially as a zone leader, missionaries call asking for permission to do this, and to do that, and sometimes it can be a little hard. I´ll share just one minor example that changed how I think. The mission made a recent change saying that all the interviews for baptism have to happen in the chapel. This week we had someone asking for an interview to be done in the house, and not the chapel. It seems like such a small thing, but the situation was made clear thinking about Pres. Young. Our zone conference had just finished and I thought, I´d like to develop the spirituality that he has. And then the thought, to do that, I need to do what he would do. Would he hold this interview in the house, or the more difficult place to meet up, at the chapel? Of course, the chapel. I am grateful to have a mission president who values obedience and who sets the example. And, I am eternally grateful for your examples!

Looking forward to seeing y´´all Sunday! We should be calling at about 1 pm your time.

Elder Schenewark

Letter #70

Dear Family and Friends,

Tuesday we had our zone conference. It was wonderful and brought the Christmas spirit. Sis. Young taught about gratitude and used the powerful example of the Savior. Before feeding the four thousand, He asked for the bread and fish, and gave thanks. Thanks for the little that they had. And, as we know, a miracle then happened. As we have gratitude, we will see miracles happen. She also taught that gratitude is so important, it should be one of the first things we teach to people. As we teach them to pray, they should learn to give thanks. Elder Brito and I were privileged to teach about the plan of salvation. Everything went very well, even lunch.

We had another early, early morning bus ride to Vitória this week, having a division with the assistants to the president. We went poorly prepared thinking it would be another normal hot day, but instead in the afternoon it became really cold, with wind gusting 40 mph and a cold rain beating down on us. But we made it. It´s already reached 118 degrees here in Campos this month so it was a welcome change.

Always, but especially as a zone leader, missionaries call asking for permission to do this, and to do that, and sometimes it can be a little hard. I´ll share just one minor example that changed how I think. The mission made a recent change saying that all the interviews for baptism have to happen in the chapel. This week we had someone asking for an interview to be done in the house, and not the chapel. It seems like such a small thing, but the situation was made clear thinking about Pres. Young. Our zone conference had just finished and I thought, I´d like to develop the spirituality that he has. And then the thought, to do that, I need to do what he would do. Would he hold this interview in the house, or the more difficult place to meet up, at the chapel? Of course, the chapel. I am grateful to have a mission president who values obedience and who sets the example. And, I am eternally grateful for your examples!

Looking forward to seeing y´´all Sunday! We should be calling at about 1 pm your time.

Elder Schenewark

Letter #69

Dear Family and Friends,

This week is a week I´ll never forget. Tuesday and Wednesday were normal. Thursday was a day unforgettable for all the wrong reasons. It was I believe, my first, but undoubtedly the worst case of food poisoning I’ve had in my life. We would try to walk down the stairs to leave the apartment, and then we would just walk back up. And I´ll leave it at that. Not fun.

Friday was hectic, as not much had been achieved and we were scrambling to make something happen. Yet, it was a day filled with just rejections.

And then came Saturday. It too started off very slowly. A service project where we worked, moving some rocks and shoveling sand, and then the person changed their mind and we moved everything back. Oh well. Lunch was delayed almost an hour. Then we went to contact a referral from the Bishop in a neighborhood way off in the country. We had tried to do this Friday, but no one was there. No one was there again, so we went to knock on doors. The first, was a mother, daughter, and son. We had a wonderful lesson, and in the prayer to close, the mother said that she knew we were sent from heaven, an answer to prayers, etc.

The second door we knocked, was the same thing, but this time with lots of tears involved as well. At this point we were both feeling good knowing that we had been guided to these houses. Deciding to try the referral one more time, we returned. This time, Neide, the aunt of the bishop was there. We had a wonderful, wonderful lesson. She was very open with us. and testified and testified that just by looking at our countenance she knew that we are the servants of Jesus. And in our prayer to close the visit, overcome with emotion, she said that this was the best day of her life, the day that she encountered the truth. It was simply amazing to feel the spirit so powerfully, and to know that we were being led to people prepared to hear.

The day before, we had briefly visited a young mother and decided to return. She was waiting for us. Had read the pamphlet about the restoration, prayed, and received her answer. Her only question, `´Where can I get a Book of Mormon?´´ We left this neighborhood and went to go back to the center of the city. Two kids, ages 17+15 stopped us and wanted to know more. At this point, we´re completely overcome how everything is happening – how our prayers are being answered and how we are truly being tools in the hands of the Lord. We continue on, and while still walking, receive a text message with a referral from Church headquarters. My first referral received that way in eight months. And all the others were busts. Same history with E. Brito.

But this day with only miracles happening, we have a good feeling and want to try and visit. It´s almost 8 pm. The legs start to really pump as we go after it. When, again, someone stops us in the street. Again, they have a question for us and after commit to go to church on Sunday. Why wouldn’t it happen? Generally only drunks and beggars stop us on the streets. But this is THE day. We end up a little lost, looking for the address. We ask someone if they know where its located, and wouldn’t you know it, he stops his work, offers a ride and drops us off where we needed to go.

Ring the doorbell. Marianna is amazed that we are there. Turns out she´s been having some health problems, difficulties, etc. Basically just looking for something more. Became friends with an LDS blogger and they talked a lot about the gospel, shared church videos, etc. And now, Marianna wants, with all her heart a chance to read the Book of Mormon and visit the church. What a lesson. What a day.  It feels unreal. Truly a wonderful, wonderful day. All we could do was offer prayers of gratitude. We had read Elder Uchtdorf´s talk earlier in the walk, ´´Fourth floor, last door.´´ It´s important to just keep going. For three weeks here, we have not had success, Yet, on a Saturday, everything changed. This is the Lord´s work. We have to do our part, and He will help us.

And yesterday, while I can´t say everything perfectly again, we know that those investigators who did show up were blessed. It was a special conference broadcast to all 272 stakes and 38 districts of Brasil. We heard Elder Holland try to speak in Portuguese, the courting story of Elder Claudio Costa, and above all, how important it is to keep the Sabbath day holy.

As Mormon 9:19 says, “And if there were miracles wrought then, why has God ceased to be a God of miracles and yet be an unchangeable Being? And behold, I say unto you he changeth not; if so he would cease to be God; and he ceaseth not to be God, and is a God of miracles.”

Amen.

Love,

Elder Schenewark