Letter #17: Movin’ On

Dear Family and Friends,

Well, the news of this week is definitely……..EMERGENCY TRANSFER!!!!!

On Thursday I had to make the three hour trip into Vitoria, to register at the Federal Police Station there. On Wednesday night, I talked with Pres. Young for about an hour, and he prayed, called back, and said he had a strong impression that a transfer needed to happen. So we packed that night, and were gone at 6 a.m. the next morning to conduct business in Vitoria, and after I was picked up by my new companion, Elder Costa.  So my companion, and one of the other missionaries in our house were transferred, and I´m in Serra!!

The last couple weeks have been really hard, and I didn´t realize how hard until I left. Elder Costa is fantastic, he´s from Recife. Our first day, we were talking, and as he kept talking, his words were exactly what I and the President had talked about, basically what I had been praying my companion would believe. So I asked him if Pres. Young had told him everything, and he said no. He just asked how obedient I was on a scale of 1-10. So, everything’s so much better. Like I said, I didnt realize how tough it was on me. I feel like I´ve died and gone to heaven. We get along great, and I´m learning everyday. I just feel peace. And the Spirit is with us, so expect miracles. He´s been out 11 months, and this is his second area, and this is already my fourth. I´d love to stay here a while.

Serra has about 1/2 million people, and is close to Vitoria. And it’s totally different than Cacheiro. No hills. A strong, almost constant wind, and much lower temperatures, maybe 10 degrees. We are living with two other missionaries, Elder Garcia from the northeast of Brazil, and Elder Carvalho from Sao Paulo. Their area is right on the beach, and we´re usually about 2-3 miles away. It’s so great here!

We had our ward Christmas dinner on Saturday which was fun. The ward is really strong. I´ve been asked what was the best food I ate this week, and I have to say it was on Saturday. We had vaca atolada (basically a roast) and aipim (which is a root, and my first time having it, it was really good) with the customary rice and beans. Afterwards we had ice cream. I also had the best hamburger ever. It had banana, meat, bacon, and potatoes, I can´t even explain, but it was really good. and the equivalent of $2.

Have you heard of the Zika virus? [It’s a mosquito-borne disease which causes in general a mild febrile illness with a rash. Aedes mosquitoes are considered as the main vectors. Before 2007, viral circulation and a few outbreaks were documented in tropical Africa and in some areas in Southeast Asia. Since 2007, several islands of the Pacific region have experienced outbreaks. In 2015, ZIKV disease outbreaks were reported in South America for the first time, and is now considered as an emerging infectious disease.An unusual increase of congenital microcephaly was observed in some regions in north eastern Brazil in 2015. Causal relationships are currently under investigation.] In Caheiro there were a couple mosquitoes, here there aren’t any.

The ward mission leader served in Londrina. He said he recognized my name, but was coming home right when Tanner got there. His name is Elder Lima.

The three Brazilians in the house are trying to learn English, so it’s been nice being able to help others with the language. My companion actually knows it really well, and I can´help him much. He taught himself. He´s smart, and wants to be a lawyer. I´m very lucky to be companions with him.

Tomorrow we have a special missionary Christmas conference with our zone that I´m excited for. Right now, we dont have many people too teach, so we´re working on finding more.

On Sunday, I taught the young men/young women about missionary work and challenged them to invite two friends this week to learn more about the church. But I did it all by myself, probably a 10-15 speech, and they understood, so I was super happy. Portuguese is coming along. I make sure to speak Portuguese to my companion still, even though sometimes he could understand my English better.

Quote of the week goes to Pres. Uchtdorf. “Now is part of eternity. It doesn’t only begin after we die.”

I´m looking forward to a great week.

Love,

Elder Schenewark

Letter #15 First P-Day in Brazil!

Dear Family and Friends,

This week has definitely had a lot of ups and downs. We did have three investigators and their respective six children attend church, and they all enjoyed it which was exciting. They are all close to baptism, just working on the word of wisdom, people here might love coffee more than Americans!

Last Monday, after p-day ended, we taught a couple. The lesson went okay, but they didn’t commit to church. I felt inspired to ask them a couple questions and then launched into teaching why it’s important to come to church and how God answer their prayers. It was really awesome, as I felt the Spirit so strong, and felt like it wasn’t even me speaking. The day before my Portuguese comprehension was probably 10%, but that night it jumped to 90% and I was able to understand clearly almost everything. It was a really cool experience, that honestly had nothing to do with me, but showed me again, that when the Lord has a message, we need to be doing our part so we can act as a mouthpiece and share it.

And my understanding is probably 40%, so not great, but its improving every day.

The ward here is awesome. They give referrals all the time without asking. We contacted one of them, and have been teaching them, and she came to church with her kids. She drinks coffee like no one ive ever met or heard of. Like measured in water bottles. So we taught the Plan of Salvation on Saturday and committed her to cut back on the coffee a little every day. Well, she shows up for church, and in the second hour her hands started shaking and she felt really bad, because she had tried quitting apparently right after we had taught her the day before, and was suffering withdrawal symptoms. A member of the bishopric gave her a blessing, and she stayed for the rest of church. We went and taught her again that night, and she told us she had drank coffee, but we were able to answer some really good questions of hers about church, and she is committed to cutting the coffee out, but we are going to do it slower.

Thursday was zone conference. Here all six zones have zone conference on the same day, so President and Sister Young werent there. It was good to see E. Oviatt again. I didnt know he was in the same zone. He´s serving right on the beach, and was telling me how beautiful it is there. And its a fairly wealthy area. He had told me how his first couple weeks in brazil were really hard, and my first day in Brazil he told me, just to try and make it to Sunday. Which was my goal too because it was really hard not having an english speaking companion. Well, when I show up to zone conference, he started telling me how basically my area is difficult. Not people wise. Just physically. At that point, and him talking about beaches I just laughed. I am glad he didnt tell my first day though. Because I did sort of expect an ocean breeze and not so many hills. i think ive adjusted, or as much as I will adjust by now, and I enjoy it. Here in Cacheiro, we´re in a valley, so there is just about no breeze, and its quite a bit hotter.  And some of the roads we walk up must by 70 degrees. Ridiculously steep, and almost all are more than 45. The roads usually have staircases on the side that we just climb.

 

Zone conference was 3 hours away, by bus. Our bus left at 5 that morning and we got back at about 6:30. At 7 we had been invited by a member to come speak to his English class about Thanksgiving, so we went there. There are quite a few English schools here. We introduced ourselves and talked about why we are here in Brazil and what we do. The class had all sorts of ages, ranging from 15-70, but most were middle age adults. We broke up into two sections, and E. Anderson and his companion went to one, and E. Rodrigues and I went to the other. Some people in the class had researched to present to the class what various foods symbolized. So the first one gets up and is ready to start talking about what the grapes and carrots in salad mean on Thanksgiving, when the teacher, stopped him and said, “Let’s see if he knows what it means.” And I´m almost laughing at this point, because I am positive there is no symbolism involved here, and I have never had a salad that I can remember with grapes and carrots in it. So I tell them I have no idea, and that I don’t really eat salad on Thanksgiving because it’s about the turkey, casseroles and pies. So that ended the whole symbolism part.

Next they asked me about the origins of Black Friday. I was just getting grilled! Thankfully, I did remember Mom telling me once about how many stores are in accounting terms in the red, or losing money for the year, but with all the transactions that happen on this day, they go to the black. Whew.

And then she asked about the other theory, and I had to admit, I have absolutely no idea. As a quick note, Thanksgiving is not celebrated here (except in some English schools apparently) but Black Friday is. The days of the week are weird, not like Spanish or French. Saturday and Sunday are the same as Spanish, but Monday to Friday translate literally as second day, third day, etc. So Friday to them, Sexta-Feira, or sixth day, is totally different than Friday, but they still call it Black Friday. And all the stores have promotions going on, but its not nearly as crazy as the US. Although, walking down past the stores that night, all the mannequins just had paper covering certain parts because I guess they sold the clothes on them and didn’t put any more on, which I thought was funny.

Anyway, back to our Thanksgiving party. Then they asked me questions about America. Think for a second, what you think of, when picturing Brazil. Because I feel Americans immediately think about the Amazon. And maybe Sao Paulo or Carnival or something, while there is so much more here. Well, the Brazilians basically think we live like glorified, modern day cowboys. Someone even asked if we had lions in the United States, because an American shot Cecil. But the class did answer that one. They mostly asked about guns, and if everybody carried one, and about crime, and about road conditions. All interesting. When I told them I usually didn’t lock the door at our house ever, they gasped because the fence gate, the house gate, and the door are all locked at all times. And no one has a gun.

After answering questions, we all gathered back together and the four missionaries talked about what they are thankful for, bore our testimonies, and then we ate a Thanksgiving meal. Even though it was different, it was really cool and I´m glad I could  celebrate Thanksgiving. And they tried making the food American, but no one, even the teachers has been to America. One question, was what does pumpkin pie taste like, as no one had ever had it before. There was probably 50 people there, and a lot of them want to know more about the church, and the school was very grateful that we came, that they could talk to natives, real Americans as they called us, and told us to come back anytime. It was really cool. Half of the time, I would speak in Portuguese, and half in English there, and the English teacher said our Portuguese accents are beautiful, and I think their English accents are as well.

I’ve been reading Jesus the Christ lately along with the New Testament, and one thing I love is all the invitations from Christ. He asked a couple times to diseased or suffering people, Wilt thou be made whole?Because we can, from any problems we have. And all we have to do, is have faith, and go to Christ. Go to Christ as much as you can. In the scriptures, attending church, the temple, through prayer, go to Christ and become whole.

Love,

Elder Schenewark