Letter #54: Transfers…..Looks like he’s gonna train!!!

Dear Family and Friends,

I´m anxiously awaiting transfer news. I have a feeling I´ll be training a new missionary again. The call should be coming any second.

Our activity Monday was a blast. Great turnout, members and friends, lots of games (water balloons on a cold day here had everybody dying), and delicious churros and juice. Everyone wants to do it again.

Friday, I celebrated my one year mark by drinking water from the states, making pancakes, and filming a short video at night. I´ll try to send it. (its big, 2 gb, so I don´t think its going to work. It was a memorable night, and fun to do this ´´interview´´.

Among countless others, one thing that has changed on my mission is fasting. I have gained a strong testimony of its power, and it has changed from being a drudgery, into a privilege. If you haven´t fasted recently, I encourage you to do so. The power of Heaven is felt as we sacrifice.

Update: I will be training, and therefore will be making the long trip to Vitoria, leaving later this night, before returning to Itaperuna. A nice two days of traveling in the near future. So, we´ll leave this as a weak letter, and I´ll start getting ready. I am super excited!!!! Its been about five months since I´ve been in Espirito Santo (and Vitoria) so it will be great to visit. Bus rides aren´t the best, but can´t complain. Ok, até mais. I don´t know anything about my new companion, Elder Cordeiro, but I know one of the others who will be coming here, Elder T. Santos, my old companion. Love you all!!!

Elder Schenewark

Letter #53

Dear Family and Friends,

Well, the Olympics are over. Each day people here started enjoying them more and more. On Saturday, we knew that Brasil was playing for the gold, and would hear some shouts, and then, when we were walking home, the streets, the bars just erupted. Brasil got the gold!

On Monday, it was 2 in the afternoon, and we were just resting and then Sister Young calls and says, we´re on our way to your apartment. We of course did a quick clean up, and it turned out to be a great visit. They came mainly to install a carbon dioxide alarm. Because we don´t have a heater, its not a big concern, but is a new rule for missionary houses all over the world. And they brought 3 boxes!! and lots of letters.

The Lozada´s, Merritt´s, and Bach´s each sent a box that was wonderful. I think I have enough food to last until the next year, new razors, and am just basking in the love from them and the other letters. Thank you very much!! Also, as our house was clean (relatively) Sister Young gave us 40 reais to buy ice cream.

The next morning we left early to go to zone conference and the Spirit there was of course wonderfully edifying. This time, the theme was the Book of Mormon. I gave a talk, and we watched the old film ‘The Book of Mormon, How Rare a Possession.’ Pres. Young said it was a challenge to hunt it down in Portuguese, but definitely worth the trouble.

I think this week I may have walked more than in any week in my mission. We’ve been teaching some people in the countryside, where there is no bus service and its a long walk there and back. We’ve been trailing the dusty roads this week.

For the second week in a row, I taught the youth Sunday School class. What amazes me, is that there is 10 kids, and all 10 have been members less than 2 years. And they are strong. We’ve been planning an activity for a while that will happen this afternoon. We´ll be shutting down the street, playing volleyball, making churros, and popcorn with all the youth members and our investigators.

This week, as we walked to a recent convert, I had the distinct impression that I needed to offer to help teach her about geneaology, using familysearch.org. As soon as we got to here house, she asked for help with her family tree,  and I knew that we both were following the holy ghost. We’ve spent some time this past week helping and she has caught the bug. It´s been very cool to watch.

Tanner and Annemarie are leaving the states, Porter´s going to college. Cooper´s now the man of the house. My, how things change. By the way, I totally visited dateland!! First day in the mission field, we had a date shake there and stopped for gas. Good times…  Next week is transfers, I can´t believe they´re here all ready. Its gone by quick. I´m expecting to stay (95% certain) but I think at least 2 or possible all three of the other missionaries here will be leaving.

Life´s short and full of changes. What amazes me and fills my heart is that the gospel doesn´t change. We have the same challenge to `be holy`as did the ancients. Heavenly Father loved us yesterday, loves today, and will love us tomorrow. Christ suffered for our sins. Our old sins, our current faults, and what we will do in the future. If we come to him, we will receive forgiveness and peace.

Love you all!!!

Elder Schenewark

P.S. Did you know that they’ve already come out with a Gordon B Hinckley manual for next year?   And about contacts, I meant just to mail them to the mission office directly, or if they had to go to Granbury first. Also, remember to keep my gums and teeth in your prayers!

Letter #52

Dear Family and Friends,

No, I did not go to Rio for the Olympics. Itaperuna has a similar statue and we made the loooong climb up to visit it. I´ve seen the statue every single day here, and have wanted to visit it since coming here.

This week, I´ve been thinking about how we can come to Christ, and about taking everything that would prevent us from doing so out of our lives. Elder Maxwell taught that if we want to live in the Celestial Kingdom after this life, we have to take everything that is not celestial, out of lives.

 

This week has been pretty crazy but definitely a good one. And nothing epitomizes crazy like Manoel. I wrote a little bit about him last week, how he is so happy despite suffering countless accidents. He´s still beaming smiles, and I´m starting to understand why he has so many accidents. We were walking and he passed us on his motorcycle, and waved at us emphatically in his sincere pleasure in seeing us. But remember, he only has one arm! I couldn’t help but laugh as he raced past us without any hands steering the motorcycle. Despite many physical hardships, Manoel is coming to Christ. He´s shed many a tear testifying of the love he´s felt from our Redeemer.

Igor is 20 years old and has attended church now 4 times. We’ve been teaching him, and it´s been amazing to see him change. His sister was baptized about a year ago but he never had a desire to visit the church. Just before I arrived here, he woke up wanting to visit the church and since then he´s completely changed. He works at night and sleeps during the day which makes it hard at times to visit him, and so were surprised when he called us this week asking what he needed to do to be baptized and prepare for a mission! It was definitely a great surprise. He struggles with same sex attraction, but has a great desire to come unto Christ, and knows there is no other name whereby salvation cometh, as well as in the gospel is found true happiness and peace.

 

And, we also met a young women, Michelle that has also completely embraced the gospel. We met her talking with people in the street. She went to a church activity about 3 hours later and has impressed me with her sacrifice to come to the church the last two Sundays. She lives way out in the country yet has made it to church before us both times. Her whole family just drinks on the weekends, yet she is setting the example for them and I am sure will help bring them to Christ.

This week, I read a talk by Pres. Hinckley, and while the talk in general was fantastic, there was one line that struck me. To paraphrase he said that the world in which we live in is incredibly wicked, and he did not know if Sodom and Gomorrah were more wicked than today. And that talk is from 2004, Twelve years ago.

 

When we hiked up to the Christ statue I was taken aback by what we found. Besides the Christ statue, the only thing there is a bar. A giant bar, with 100-200 people drinking and partying at the feet of our Savior. Yet, like President Hinckley I feel optimistic. Because while there is plenty of evil in the world, there is also light. Christ is the light, and we, as followers of Him, have to share it with others, and not hide it under a bushel. It wasn’t easy to walk up the mountain to Christ. It´s the highest mountain in the city. And its not always easy to follow Him in our lives. But it’s the only way if we want true happiness. When we´re tired of hiking up the mountains in our lives, we can always remember that Christ is at the top, with open arms inviting us to come to Him.

Love,

Elder Schenewark
Enjoy the view

Letter #51

Dear Family and Friends,

Piano class had five students. It was harder to teach than I thought, yet I enjoyed it and already have lessons prepared for the next three weeks.

We were in the street when a man named Manoel invited us to come to his house. He´s 58 years and has suffered about every accident you could imagine, including losing his arm in a work accident. It was definitely one of the coolest lessons I’ve been part of on the mission as we taught him the Plan of Happiness, including how one day he will have a resurrected body.

IMG_1444[1]

I’ve included some pictures of a burger called the “When you´re hungry.” It includes five types of meat: slice of ham, burger patty, lots of bacon, loin chop patty, and shredded grilled chicken. It was deeelicious. We were celebrating Elder Santana´s ´´Almost there´´ 20 month mark. Good times.

The Olympics have been surprisingly quiet here. I think many people are more interested in the Pokemon Go! which launched this week. I don´t know how it is there, but we have seen many people on bikes, in cars, and walking glued to their screens oblivious to the real world. I really like Elder Bednar´s talk on this subject, on living in the world. And as Jacob says in Jacob 4:13, the spirit will teach about things as they really are.

Love,

Elder Schenewark

Letter #49

Dear Family and Friends,
Yes, I have been called to be District Leader here. We are pretty isolated, so the district consists of the four missionaries here in the town, serving the branch of Itaperuna. My new companion is Elder Nascimento, again, from Fortaleza. I arrived Tuesday and we got right to work. We’ve already met a lot of great people and Sunday had a contingency show up to visit the church.

A little about Itaperuna: The city is crisscrossed by two rivers and its name comes from some Indian natives who lived in the area, meaning `trail of the black rocks,` as the the rivers are framed with these rocks. Historically, its been a coffee producing powerhouse, but now has evolved more adding a milk factory and relying less on coffee. It reminds me a lot of Cachoeiro, with the river and lots of hills and mountains to climb. This was an interesting cemetery:

The branch averages about 40 people on Sundays, but is growing. Missionaries arrived here only seven years ago. The church being new here, there are great opportunities to grow. And, this is definitely the most youthful area. There are a bunch of active youth who really make this branch dynamic and exciting. I neglected to take pictures of the church building but will the next time. It´s beautiful and I think the coolest meetinghouse I’ve seen. It’s in an old house, a mansion. The classrooms are on the first floor, punctuated by floor to ceiling wooden bookshelves and decorative pillars. And upstairs, is the chapel, seating about 100, with almost entirely glass walls. Add to that a giant veranda overlooking the river. #IwantToLiveHere. There was a pool on the second story balcony but after an accident, they closed it up, and now have a portable pool for baptisms.

Thursday was our first district meeting together. I decided to talk about vision as I wanted to know the missionaries better and create our vision for this transfer. And, even better than the meeting was what I prefer to think of as a team building exercise. Saturday we went to the church to help take out the old benches from the church and set up new chairs. We got there early, and brought all the chairs (100+) up to the second floor, and in the hardest part, brought all the benches down from the second floor before cleaning and setting up. And, we worked together very well, finishing everything before the branch president arrived with a couple others to help. They were amazed we had already finished. The arms were sore, but the hearts happy.

Recently I read a scripture in 1 Nephi 11:17 I want to share. It says ´”I know that he loveth his children; nevertheless, I do not know the meaning of all things.” For me, the faith of Nephi is definitely inspiring. We don´t need to know everything. We know that God loves us, and that can be enough sometimes. Simply trust in the plan He has for us, even if we don´t understand 100% of the why.

Love,

Elder Schenewark

Letter #47

Dear Family and Friends,

This has been a roller coaster week. First, I returned to the dentist, and will be going back later today. He will clean my gums. Basically, all that I’ve been doing is delaying the spread of gingivitis. I don´t know why the other dentists didn’t do the cleaning immediately, but it will be done today. I am humbly asking for your prayers that everything will go well without complications and that I can continue to serve with all my heart, might, mind, and force. This is been a recurring, trying challenge. Obviously, it doesn’t compare with what others are going through, nevertheless, I hope that this can be put behind me once and for all this afternoon.

This week, we were blessed to meet some awesome families. They have been prepared, and love what we’ve been teaching. One family, has been married for 21 years, literally unheard of in Brasil, and have 5 children, also unheard of. As we’ve taught them, I’ve felt the Spirit confirming to me, that I’ve been in Quissamã to bring the gospel to them. Most likely, this will be my last week as transfers are next Tuesday. One never knows, but I feel like I’ve done my job here.

(A dry sea horse)

This week really been an opportunity to put challenges behind, and just keep pressing ever onward. I hope everything is well there, and Grampy will recover.

Love,

Elder Schenewark

ps. just a reminder, to put ave maria photos on packages. I got a call from the mission office that a package came in, I don´t know who sent it,  but unfortunately it came in with 200 reais worth of taxes. The post office workers here apparently select some packages to put taxes on. Other missionaries, as Tanner has attested to, cover the package with ave marias and never have any problems.

Letter #46

Dear Family and Friends,

It´s been a special week here. The work continues to be hard and difficult, yet I have a great love and gratitude fills my heart for the people here. The members, few, yet faithful, have really made us feel loved.

Yesterday, the branch had a giant family home evening type activity, and at the end celebrated my birthday as well as Pres. Luis with lots of cake.

And today, we went and toured some old plantation houses (as last week rained) and then had a delicious and special lunch. So, in short, it felt good to celebrate. There´s no fireworks, no town celebrations, so it was nice to keep something the same as at home, with cake, etc.

Touring the houses was wonderful. We visited some old slave houses from 150 years ago, and where the descendants still live. And the old sugar cane plantation houses. Almost all of them have fallen into disrepair and are abandoned (yet protected by the city) and yet emanate beauty. I really like the style they were built in.

 

This week was also the day to celebrate Nossa Senhora Aparecida. The town, traditionally Catholic, closed down for the day and held a parade. We heard the pólice sirens blazing and I was expecting something big, but it was just  a long line of cars with one float put together by the catholic church with a statue on it.

Also, Friday was a festival celebrating the people who live in the country, i.e. farmer, and we visited the festival briefly. Filled with lots of incredible homemade treats to purchase.

Sunday, for faith and testimony meeting, everyone bore their testimony. Usually, at least one or two people stay on the stand talking about their lives for a while, but yesterday it was one person after another bearing a quick and powerful testimony, like we are counseled to do. It was perfect. Except, being a small branch I realized everyone had already bore their testimony except for me and the 2nd counselor in the branch presidency, and we still had about 20 minutes left in the meeting. I didn’t want to discourse, so I got up next, bore my testimony, and couldn’t help but feel a little sorry for the counselor. But he did great, shared some scriptures, bore his powerful testimony before letting the branch president get up again and close the meeting, right on time.

A member gave us some fresh from the farm milk, and we’ve been enjoying avocado smoothies, or papaya, orange, and banana smoothies every day for a while now. Its gets you going in the morning.

As I mentioned recently, we’ve had opportunities to leave prayers with people in their houses. We returned to one on Thursday, and the man was waiting for us. He had felt the spirit strongly, and asked us if we had the time to go to the house of his mother. Of course we agreed, and headed over with him. When we get there, the mother explains that she´s been separated from her husband for some time, and a couple months ago, he came over to visit, and during the visit, fell, was hurt badly and ended up dying in the hospital after an 11 day stay. And, recently, a lot of weird things have been happening where he fell, i.e. stuff falls off the table for no reason, chairs topple over, etc. So she asked us to pray. I´ll admit that I had some goosebumps, but we shared a message, talked about the peace we could have in our lives. It was definitely a memorable lesson.

Yesterday was the first time we had investigators in the church this transfer! And it was definitely a miracle, as we had two and weren’t counting on having anyone. And, after church, as we went knocking doors, and were rejected and rejected and rejected, we were feeling challenged to keep going, when we tried again and it was the best reception we’ve had since I’ve got here. A married (legally!) couple answered, definitely prepared with a desire to hear or message. After not entering in houses for a long time, they asked us if we could enter and share a message with them. I think we just stood there wondering what was going on. Honestly, talking with Elder Cavalcante afterwards, it turns out we both thought they were less actives. But no, just people with a desire to find the truth. Had a great lesson, and they are both excited to read the Book of |Mormon.

That’s it! It´s been a good week, and we are excited for more here in Quissamã!

Love,

Elder Schenewark

 

Enjoy the view  – a spider in our house!

Letter #45

Letter #45

Dear Family and Friends,

Well, you commented that my letters have been getting a little shorter, and I think that´s going to continue this week. There just really isn’t much happening.

This week has been really, really tough in terms of work. We keep plugging along, but don´t seem to be making progress. We literally did not get into any houses this week. If we ask for water, they bring it out. If we offer to leave a message, they come out to hear. We have been unable to teach a second lesson for about two weeks. The only place we actually entered, were the tents of a different gypsy camp.

We are now reporting attendance of Sacrament meeting, and this week, only 26 made it to church. Yesterday, I was the final speaker in sacrament, and talked 20 minutes on how to increase power in the priesthood.

Also this week, we were able to have a zone conference and interviews with Pres. Young. Like always, it was wonderful to have, and the time passed so, so quickly.

Later today, we will be going to visit some old sugar cane plantation houses, which I´m excited for. Like I said, that´s really it. We´re putting in a full day of work and making sure we do our part and I’m really enjoying having Elder Cavalcante as a companion, so life here is good. To leave a challenge, it would be to do as Elder Russell M. Nelson said in April conference. “Pray to know how to pray to have more power in the priesthood. And, remember he said, if you really want more power, it’s important to embrace both your spouse and her counsel.

Love you all!!!

Elder Schenewark

Letter #44

Letter #44

Dear Family and Friends,

The mission is rocking right now. The work is tough here, no one went to church yesterday. Yet, I finally feel like we are doing everything right, guided by the spirit and I am loving every minute.

Nothing big to report, just little moments each day I never want to forget. Quissamã is home to the Tender Mercies. I love Elder Cavalcante, He’s a great missionary. Tuesday, he thought we should fast, so we did, and immediately we saw some blessings, meeting new people and receiving some guidance on what we could do better.

Lately, we’ve been praying a lot in people´s houses. When they say yes, we would like a prayer here, we ask what they would ask Jesus Christ for, if he were here in our place. And then kneel and pray. It’s been amazing. The Spirit is always there, filling the house. And, together with our English class initiative, we´re starting to gain more and more traction here in Quissamã. What we had been doing, just wasn’t effective here, and I really like our new route.

OBEDIENCE+HARD WORK=HAPPINESS+MIRACLES

And, yesterday, we saw a big one. We were sitting at a park bench after lunch yesterday, teaching an old man, and a person on a bike stopped and asked to talk with me. He said that he´d been visiting a doctor, getting treated in Campos (other city) for some time, and the doctor, who is a member of the church said he should talk to missionaries. So, he stopped us, and we´re returning to his house today!

protest against the gov’t

Elder Cavalcante has been helping me learn how to cook like a Brasilian. It’s been fun, and brought a lot odd variety into my cookbook. But, this week, we opened up the Rudy´s sauce and that was fantastic.  You just can´t beat the best.

That´s about it. Like I said, nothing big to report. This week we´ll head up to Campos for a meeting and pick up the mail there. Share the gospel with someone this week!

Love,

Elder Schenewark

Letter #42

Dear Family and Friends,

On Wednesday, we went up to Campos and spent a little bit of time that night working with other missionaries. We spent the night there, and early in the morning, we went to an orthopedic doctor. The news wasn’t encouraging, but they couldn’t make any diagnostics without an MRI or ultrasound, and the earliest we could get one of the tests is in one week,

We tried going to another doctor, but to no avail. The same thing happened there. We ended up spending hours in the city talking with doctors and eventually Pres. Young. We returned back to our house Thursday night.

 

Friday, Pres. Young asked us to return to try another doctor because we need the tests, but unfortunately they had no way to make the exams happen. Elder Cardoso decided to return to Curitibia and have everything done there. We waited for hours for each doctor, then they do a quick five minute exam, tell us he has something wrong, but don´t know exactly what.

So it’s been a crazy week. We haven´t really been able to do anything. This week is transfers, so he will leave for Vitoria tomorrow, and my new companion will be Elder Cavalcante, who will be coming tomorrow. I think I’ve already met him, but I can´t quite put a face to the name. I´ll find out tomorrow.

This week, we had two English classes. 11 children showed up on Tuesday, 10 not being members of the church. And on Saturday, we had a class of 20 show up. They both went really well, but with Elder Cardoso leaving, we are moving back to Saturday only class.

When we went to Campos, we were able to pick up the newly arrived mail, and A PACKAGE! thank you mom. It was filled with some wonderful food and letters. I’ve already read the journal you sent and that was definitely a great surprise.

And I will mail my glasses this week. I have a box, I’ve already talked to the post office here about the price and its not bad at all. So it will be on its way soon. I´m just looking for something good to put in it. And the credit card arrived here safely. I´ll probably buy some new shoes here some time in the next month.

Campos is a pretty ugly city overall, I like Vitoria and Serra a lot better, yet we visited this one city square that is beautiful. It looks like European. I remembered today is D-day, and it was pretty cool to see a world war II monument here in Brasil.

Love,

Elder Schenewark