Letter #14

Dear Family and Friends,

I love Brazil!

My first week here has been wonderful. Of course, there have been a few adjustments, but honestly, I feel more at home here than in Arizona.

I arrived on Tuesday, and was so tired. When I went to Arizona, we stayed at the mission home for two days for training/rest, and I thought the same would happen here, but boy was I wrong. The mission secretary, a senior couple, Elder Burkinshaw, picked me up at the airport because transfer meeting was happening right then. so we went to that. Oh, and this whole time, I can’t remember a word of Portuguese and can’t understand anything. Literally anything. At the transfer meeting, it was great to be able to catch up with Elder Oviatt. He was my first companion, and I didn’t appreciate how fantastic he was until having had so many others.

I met my trainer, Elder Rodrigues, from Fortaleza Brazil. He’s only been serving six months, but is a fantastic missionary. Fortunately/Unfortunately, he doesn’t understand any English. This has really helped me learn Portuguese quickly, sort of sink or swim. But obviously I’m no where near fluent and there are times when I just want to be able to understand him, and to be able to communicate with him better. Our first week together though, has been great.

My first day here was honestly really, really hard. But since then I’ve enjoyed every minute. I didn’t come here with any expectations, and really only knew a couple of facts I had read off of Wikipedia, so basically I didn’t know anything, but it’s been so much better than what I could have imagined.

The city is giant! The mission has been growing, so we’ve been opening up new areas. There are two wards in the city, and sister missionaries cover one of the wards, which has a small area, and previously there had been one set of elders covering the other. As it was such a giant area, Elder Rodrigues and I were brought in, and it’s still a giant area!! And I didn’t expect so many hills! But my shoes seem to be holding up fine, and there’s nothing like playing golf before my mission for mission prep, so I’ve been fine as well.

The other two elders in my apartment are E. Andrade, from Cape Verde, and Elder Anderson from the states. He’s lived all over, but mostly in Indiana. His family is in Georgia right now. E. Andrade has been out about 8 months, and Elder Anderson entered the MTC the same day as me, but was in the Sao Paulo MTC and then here in the mission, so it seems like he’s been here longer. And it’s always nice, when we can’t figure something out between me and Elder Rodrigues while we are at the house, Elder Anderson will translate for us.

I love the food here. It’s blooming delicious. Everything. One of the highlights this week was going to a guy who runs a coconut stand. I can’t remember where I read it, but I remember reading some thing that said agua de coco is Brasil’s unofficial national drink, and is a natural isotonic. He had asked us to come back to teach him, so we did. And we bought a coconut a piece. He keeps them cooled, then you pay the equivalent of basically $0.70 and he takes his machete, cuts part of the top off, throws a straw in, and heaven. It was really good. And he wasn’t very interested, but someone who was sitting there drinking coconut paid for ours and asked us to come to his house and teach him more.

I wanted to start an English class, and brought it up with my companion here, and he thought it was a really good idea. Like super excited. I feel fairly comfortable in speaking Portuguese, but can’t really understand anything still. But that’s what happened in Arizona too, it’s like my ears have to adjust, and it takes a couple weeks, so I’m not worried about it. I was thinking we would start the class in a couple weeks, but my companion was super excited and talked to the Bishop about it. And it’s a good thing as the Bishop has to clear it with the Stake President, otherwise we would be starting that this week. So it probably will start next week. And I’m really excited for that too. I am able to understand usually when it’s in a lesson, and we are inside, and it’s quieter and I am more focused, but outside on the street, trying to talk to people, I just do my best and usually end up mimicking my companion, either nodding  yes or shaking no.

Everyone loves America here. For instance, I’ve heard more American music here in a couple days then I did in 6 weeks in Arizona. But no one can understand it. They just like it. My companion can’t understand it at all, but every now and then he will say some lyric that makes absolutely no sense, but he says it in a big Brazilian accent and I laugh every time. We will be turned down by an investigator and be walking down the street and he will say, “Let’s party. Or something like,  it’s totally out of place, but hilarious.

Even though the missionaries have been here, because the area is so large, we are basically starting totally new. There was one person they’ve been teaching in our area, that we have picked up, and the rest we have been trying to find. And we will keep doing that this week. I know that there are people here who are looking for the truth, who know not where to find it, and I don’t want to miss helping any of them. Every single night, we both return home exhausted. So far it’s been a struggle to find people who really want the gospel, but I am looking forward to this week and the people we will meet.

Love,

Elder Hunter Schenewark

P.S. Here’s my Christmas wish list:

razors!! cartridges for gillette mach3
wood to put in my shoes to suck out the moisture
pictures of the family, and I cant print them here, so just mail them
pop rock candy
granola bars or something of that sort, maybe just a jar of peanut butter
a small backpack or like a cheap string bag just for traveling, would be helpful
ziplock baggies in the spaces if possible!!

I know it’s a lot, but it would be appreciated. Especially the razors. And the food I was able to bring here, the granola, and trail mix and fruit snacks from y-all and the Bachs have been of inestimable worth here, so thank you!

HEADED TO BRASIL!

Letter #12

Dear Family and Friends,

We had a haboob, a dust storm, hit two weeks ago, and another one last week. It’s crazy. You can’t see anything. The picture I’m sending, it’s hard to tell how big it is, but the sand is blocking out the
mountains. They move through pretty quickly, but while they are going on, we are supposed to stay inside. The dust carries some type of spore, that if it goes in your lungs, you cough for the rest of your life. It’s called valley fever. And it’s impossible to bike in it anyways.

I got my visa today!!! I was informed just a few hours ago! I am going to miss Arizona, especially wonderful San Luis, but I can’t wait for Brazil!! Thank you for the many prayers that have been offered on my behalf. I don’t know the full itinerary yet, so here’s what I do know: I leave San Luis tomorrow, to go to the mission home. I get to go to the Gilbert Arizona temple one day, and the rest I’ll spend with some Spanish missionaries up there working. Next Monday, I leave for Brazil, but right before that, I will call home from the mission home. And that’s about it right now! I just barely found out, and it’s a little crazy. I feel bad for Elder Bradley. We were looking at a fantastic week, and now I have no idea what’s going to happen. I think until transfers next Thursday he’ll probably be with the other two missionaries here in San Luis.

Everything still feels unreal. I had expected at this point to be here for another six weeks, and because mine has been having problems and taking so long, I wondered if the VISA would ever come. But it has! I have to pack and clean everything today and then we are going to try and teach as many people as we can on my last night. We were making really good progress and close to baptisms, and I wish I could stick around and see the end, but it’s okay. Here I come Victoria!!!

So this week, I participated in my first exchanges. I was with Elder Guymon who is one of the other San Luis elders. We stayed in my area, and had a great day, and it’s always nice to change things up. See what can be done better, and to appreciate the good.

We’ve met some awesome people this week. The Lord has definitely prepared people here. We met another white guy, who lives in Gadsden Arizona close to San Luis, and he is actually from Utah. Amazing, crazy story. It took up pages in my journal. Which by the way, I’ve been writing lots in. From 9:30-10:30 pm is personal time / get ready for bed, but in this mission you are not allowed to write people, you can only do that on Monday.  So I haven’t really sent out anything, but my journal is reaping the benefits.  But I will be sending a little box home with some stuff in it before I leave.

On Saturday, we were working, and my companion and I saw a firework or something. It launched up, and then white light spread all around and kept expanding. And then that faded and for about 1/2 an hour, there was a glowing green circle in the sky. I have no idea what it is. But my comp totally freaked out and thought it was a nuke.

I have been so blessed to be here! I love San Luis. I can say with no hyperbole, My life has changed here. My testimony of the gospel has grown stronger, and I’ve loved sharing it here. I’ve learned so much from the people. They are so humble, and want to come closer to God. Even the people who reject us, the vast majority of them, say thank you to us for sharing the word of God.  Today I read this verse:

But now mine own eyes have beheld God; but not my natural, but my spiritual eyes, for my natural eyes could not have beheld; for I should have withered and died in his presence; but his glory was upon me; and I beheld his face, for I was transfigured before him.

I haven’t seen God, but I know with all my heart that He is real. That Christ lives. And this gospel is true. And that’s transfigured me as well. Not in the same way.  But transfigured nonetheless. Because of my knowledge, my life is different. I am so thankful to have the chance to preach the gospel. In Arizona, in Brazil, in Calgary, wherever I am, the truth doesn’t change.

Love, Elder Schenewark

And, a portion of his companion’s letter that we found interesting:

“I’ll miss him. Elder Schenewark is a hard worker and tons of fun. We’ll be keeping in touch. Last Monday as well as today, the Yuma Zone went to the sand dunes in the bit of California that our Zone covers. It is so sweet! Someone told me that they filmed parts of Star Wars out there. But in any
case, we found a big bowl and went to the bottom and played dodge ball.”

“Today, a border patrol guy on an ATV came up to us and we talked with him for the longest time. He is a pretty cool guy! He was telling us all about the stuff that he sees and hears about. My particular favorite is what they call “Bonzai Runs.” He told us that a few years back people on the south side of the border would line up by the hundreds where the border guys couldn’t see them, then all of a sudden one of them would shout for everyone to run. Hundreds of people flew over the fence and booked it. There were only 3 or so border patrol guys there so they could only grab a few of them and the rest would get away. Then he went on to tell us that the majority of the people they are getting now aren’t Mexicans. They are Guatemalans or Hondurans or even Gypsies from Armenia. They go through all of Mexico to get to the border, hop it, then chase down the border patrol guys. There is different protocol for other foreigners as compared to Mexicans for some reason, so usually Hondurans and Guatemalans get off pretty easily when they get caught, so they hunt down the border patrol guys instead of the other way around. It was super interesting. Apparently the Yuma sector of the border patrol catches just about 100% of the people that come illegally.”

“In other news though, we had the cool opportunity on Sunday to Skype in to see the Mission President’s devotional! Vernon Smith, whose baptism was recently featured on LDS.org spoke in Yuma and it was Skyped into the live meeting which was held in Mesa. It was a super cool experience. Brother Smith is a tribal leader of a prominent Native American tribe down here and the truthfulness of the Book of Mormon touched his heart profoundly. He asked himself how his
ancestors know about a God and His Son if they never had any writings about it in their language. When he received the Book of Mormon he received his answer, he said. It is so amazing to see how the work is going among the Native peoples down here. Fulfillment of prophecy.”

Letter #11

Dear Family and Friends,

Seems like everything is changing over there! Congrats to Elder Orton, It was nice reading his letter, and to hear he is doing well. And it’s weird to think Porter”s about to graduate! It seems like my senior year happened last week. And, he is pulling off that football uniform quite nicely. If I was there, that grid iron girl of his would be having some competition.

Lots of cool experiences, and I feel settled in now. There’s missionary information they give us, or rather is on our IPads,  and one thing it says is it takes about six weeks of living at a place to feel at home. And I laughed because I don’t think I’ve spent more than six weeks in one place since I left college.

Saturday we drove to the San Diego Temple. It was awesome! The four of us in San Luis bought sandwich making stuff, and made them that morning. And each had four on the way. Classic road trip. Wonder bread ham sandwiches. There was the zone in Yuma who went, so the four of us and twelve others, including the assistants to the president, President and Sister Toone, and a senior couple who finish their ten month mission on Thursday. They’ve been serving on an Indian reservation.

I had a couple things on my mind going in, and everything was answered. And the temple itself was simply gorgeous. Then Pres. Toone bought us dinner from the cafeteria, and it was really good.  The drive was about three hours and pleasant. My companion time lapsed the entire drive on his IPad, but it went by in like ten seconds, so we are trying to slow it down to a minute so it actually can be seen. All in all, a fantastic day. And we missed Halloween entirely. They don’t really celebrate the day of the dead here, only Halloween, and it was nice to miss all that.

A new initiative that they are testing down here, (this mission is known as the testing mission) is Skype-ing all the new missionaries who get called to the mission. So, on Wednesday, we Skyped with a missionary in Brazil who arrives in February.

 

We answered his questions about the mission here, talked about what he can practice on concerning his English, which was already very good, and then he and I, Victor, vocally read scriptures in Portuguese, so I could practice a little, and talked about how I can improve. First time doing Portuguese since I left the MTC. I thought I read well, but when I went to say a closing prayer in Portuguese, I had no idea what was Spanish and what was Portuguese. There is another missionary from Brazil coming here in December that we will hopefully talk to, so I will be brushing up before that happens.

There is a family that feeds the missionaries every fast Sunday, so we went over on Sunday. And it was the first American food I’ve been served here. And it was delicious. First was chicken soup. I had heard of the ridiculous amount of food this family serves, so I ate the food, but didn’t drink the broth trying to conserve room. But they didn’t take away my bowl, so I drank it. Then a wonderful salad. And then they brought a giant plate with asparagus, corn on the cob, mashed potatoes, rice, and a 16 ounce steak. Halfway through I wanted to fly the white flag, but I kept going. And I finished. I haven’t known full like that dinner. And then for dessert, we had pie and ice cream. But the end was in sight and I finished strong. Holy cow. The family likes you the more you eat, and my companion asked for a second helping of pie and ice cream and they definitely liked that. One interesting thing about eating down here, to reiterate it has always been delicious, but the people never eat with you. I think it’s happened once. They always just watch. I haven’t gotten used to that yet.

We had a member of the branch go out with us every day this week, and had lots of lessons. It’s been really busy, and I’ve enjoyed getting to know the members here better. Elder Bradley said he wrote about Hmo. Sacarios. He was very interesting. “In the night we were trying hard to find a member to go out with us to a couple of visits. No solid appointments, but we had faith that someone was going to listen to us. No one could come so we called up Hermano Sacairos. His last name is very similar to the word sacarios which is a name for murderers in Mexico, and he is like 80 years old. We went to
find his house and couldn’t figure it out. The directions he gave us were super weird. “Turn on the road that has a lot of letters then go right….” We got lost. By the time we found his house, he’s reading theLiahona out loud. We listen to him read us a whole article then he looks up at us, smiles, and laughingly exclaims, “This is awesome!”

Most members are converts so they tend to like to come out with us. They are so strong. Two quick lesson highlights:

We went and taught a man named Victor. He is part of that extended family that we interrupted a couple weeks ago who had been praying at that instant for help. We’ve taught other members of the
family a lot, and they’ve come to church, but he works in fields in California so he isn’t home much. But this time he was. We taught our lesson, and talked about fast Sunday, and he wanted to fast! He told us how if we ever need anything, a place to stay, a car to borrow, food, or anything, come to his house, because “What you’ve brought is worth more than anything I can give you.” It was really cool, the only bad part was he didn’t show up to church, and we don’t know why yet. Other people did get called in to work, so we’re hoping that’s what it was. But an absolutely wonderful family who have been prepared.

The other cool lesson, we took an investigator on a chapel tour. He asked great questions, the Spirit was so strong, especially near the baptismal font and in the chapel. And the 2nd counselor in the branch presidency who was there was perfect and plenty enthusiastic. Just had to be there I guess. His sister is younger, and her parents don’t want her to go to our church alone, but now they both want to. But on Sunday he got called in to the fields as well, as he helps with the irrigation.

Sunday was tough though, as all the commitments we had to come to church fell through. No one came. It was disappointing. It was tough. But I have a feeling this week is going to be fantastic! We’ve been working hard, setting lofty goals, and have seen miracles!

Every week, I mean to say a couple of interesting facts but always forget. The border fence ends a couple miles outside town. I don’t know why. We tried to take a picture, but it doesn’t show that clearly. It just ends.

Our phone often doesn’t work, because it thinks we are in Mexico, and requires roaming charges. Half the town works well, the other half is unpredictable. But it’s the other missionaries half who are in San Luis, so the only time it affects us, is when we are in the church building.

There are three different lanes to go to Mexico. The first one is the fastest and is for those who have passports. The second one is for drivers license, some sort of i.d., etc. and I’ve been told the third one doesn’t require anything, and is also what trucks have to use. The first lane takes a few minutes. The second usually takes an 1/2 hour except on weekends when it can be hours, and the third lane can take hours as well, but depends more on the people checking rather than the length of the line.

A lot of kids from Mexico go to school here. They walk across the border to school every morning, and back in the afternoon. And this town has the best crosswalk guards in America. They have every single path, and there’s a lot staffed every single day.

Love,

Elder Schenewark