Letter #36

Dear Family and Friends,

Transfer calls generally come at 9:00 a.m., but this morning was a little delayed. So I impatiently waited. But it was worth it. I´m going to Rio de Janeiro!!!! Not the city, but the state. City of Quissamâ. Its closer to Rio de Janeiro than to Vitoria, the area farthest south of the mission. And I´ll be training!!!! That´s the best news.

President Young called today, and said that this area has been having lots of problems with missionaries, and it’s too far to visit regularly, so he needed someone he could trust to be obedient and work. Obedience, and diligence. I love it.

I don´t know much yet, but I am super excited. Being junior companion, was well, really hard. Really, really hard. But it appears those days are past.

I don´t know the name of my companion, but he´s obviously new here, and a Brasilian. And we´re going south. It will be just the two of us for the branch there, so we´ll be completely free of distractions. Lots of baptisms coming.

Quissamâ has a branch, is just a little south of Campos, and is a small town, about 20,000 people.

This week was bland. Honestly, it was a fight just to keep things working on some level here. I figured I´d be transferred, and said goodbye to the ward members yesterday. And they love me. I´m ready for a new area, but it was still tough to see. I spent almost five months here.  Five months!

I don´t really have anything else to write about…..just excited for this next transfer.

I love you all!!!!!!!

Elder Schenewark

Letter #35

Dear Family and Friends,

Well, as everyone knows, Dilma, the President of Brazil, was voted to be impeached. The fireworks last night, all night, let us know what happened.

In other government news, last week, the 15th, I kept thinking I knew it’s a special day or holiday in the United States, but couldn’t remember why. After a couple days it hit me, Tax Day! Won´t complain for missing that one. (And today is Patriots day.)

Food experience of the week: Yesterday after a normal and delicious lunch, they served us homemade avocado ice cream. And it was green. My mind was a little distracted, but after I got past thinking ‘frozen guacamole’ it was actually pretty good. Nevertheless, if I never eat it again, it’s okay with me.

We use the bus system so often and receive lots of change, so I started a collection of the coins of Brasil. And lo and behold, it’s actually led to increased companionship unity and some more investigators. My last couple companions always search their change for any missing coins for my collection, and Willian, who was baptized at the end of February made us Cuzeiro necklaces. I gave him some American coins I had, and he introduced me this week to a shop owner who collects. He has a bunch!! I´m almost done collecting with all the reais, but the shop owner gave me a one- centavo piece. They stopped making and using them some time ago, and I had never seen one until this day.

Saturday, we had a division, and I stayed in our area with Elder W. Santos, one of the zone leaders. We ended up trying to find a referral in a new area. Where we live, the city pays for someone to come spray the streets with pesticide. But, in this area, poorer and in an area where water collects, there´s nothing. Nothing except mosquitoes. So, the neighborhood is circled by fire. The residents light fires around the perimeter hoping that the smoke will keep the mosquitoes out. And some people walk around holding torches or flaming pieces of cardboard, waving them around. And other people don´t do anything, getting lots of bites. Elder W. Santos ended up asking one person we were talking with, `”How do you live with all these mosquitoes?” And the answer struck me. We´re used to it My thought being, what kind of things are we used to? Often we stick to the traditions of our fathers or in other words do things because  they’ve been done before. And this attitude keeps us from living up to our potential.

Wednesday, Isabela, was baptized! It was something she´s worked really hard for and it was wonderful to see. She was a friend of Dayani´s and they’ve really been helping each other.

The City of Vitoria celebrated LDS day on Thursday. Being close by, we were invited to participate in the formal event that night. This is the 6th annual LDS day, but this one was special, as it celebrated 50 years that the church has been in Espirito Santo and Vitoria. It was held at their version of City Hall, where the councilmen, or here, Vereadors meet. Most of the missionaries and members there to watch got herded into the spectators balconies, but because we got there early we had prime seats on the floor, and a perfect spot for the tv cameras to pick us up. So yes, I got on  Brasilian television. But it was during the Brasilian national anthem. Which I confess I don´t know. The whole world is standing up and singing and the camera panned over me, and I´m there standing, hand on the heart, and a big grin on the face, but definitely not singing. Pres. Young got stuck on the same predicament as well. Except, he was in the front of everybody, trying to mouth the words.

The vereador who ran the show this night, was 55ish, pepper colored hair, and a roman face. I actually felt like I was in Rome a little bit with all the pomp and circumstance. He was always respectfully addressed as `His excellency or most excellent Vereador.` The presenters, talked about what the program Helping Hands has done here, and shared the history of the church here in the last 50 years. It was very well done. Pres. Young talked as well, about who we are as missionaries(134 missionaries representing 11 countries) and what we do here. Couple statistical highlights: 40+ wards and branches. 26,000+ members.

Elder Joseph B. Wirthlin founded the Vitoria Stake in 1987, and it was followed by the Vila Velha Stake in 2002, and the Cariocica in 2005. (In the mission, there´s one district here in E.S., one stake in Rio de Janeiro, and one district in Minas Gerais, that we pick up). And, they announced, that Serra would become a stake shortly. It´s something that we already knew, and are working towards, but it was cool to hear it announced officially. The first members moved from Rio de Janeiro to Vitoria in Dec. 1965, and missionaries arrived in Jan. 1966, to start the church here. They baptized a family shortly thereafter, and one of the children baptized that day, was here on this night. He was baptized in the ocean, and 50 years later, lives here still and is active. He talked about how amazing it´s been to see the growth of the church here move from his house, to a rented garage, into 26,000 members. Very touching night.

Congrats on the Prom, Porter, and the job Mom! Exciting things happening! I could have told you you would score the highest. They give us the Ensign here, so I´ll pass. I think trail mix and peanut butter are on the top of my list here. Oh, and some coins. Half-dollars and quarters if possible.
This transfer is only five weeks, so this is the last week of the transfer. Next Monday will be exciting!

Love, Love, and more love,

Elder Schenewark

Make yourself at home.

Brighten Your Day

Letter #34

Dear Family and Friends,

Whirlwind week. Perhaps the hardest of my mission. But, the hardest had to happen sometime right? And, I love my mission, and still feel like I have the best weeks ahead of me.

My teeth are feeling great, it´s been a miracle to feel so good, and I think I´ll stop updating on the status of my eater.

And now, I thank everybody who waited months for official confirmation, and now after using countless toilets here, I would like to certify, that the flush is counterclockwise here. Yes, counterclockwise. And undeniably so.

Other news of international importance, the crisis here economically is spreading. Like the United States, there is an order of succession if something happens to the President. But, a bunch of the people have already been implicated, so in short, if Pres. Dilma is impeached, Tiririca, will become President most likely. Yes, Tiririca. He´s a comedian from Forteleza, who is very popular, but nevertheless was elected as a joke. He can´t read, and doesn’t know anything about the government. But, he is clean from all the scandals.

Rafaela was sick, so she couldn’t come to the church. She stopped and had talked with some other missionaries, because when she saw some them with tags that said Jesus Christ, in her words, she thought they´re secretaries for Him. Which I thought was pretty cool. So that´s how we started teaching her.

Isabela, is excited to be baptized, this Wednesday. She smoked Tuesday, and when we told her, the date for baptism would change from Sunday to Wednesday, she left the room crying. She´s truly amazing. She leaves to help us teach sometimes, and is reading the Book of Mormon every morning and night. When we talked about family history, she started immediately. When I showed her the picture of our family, she took a picture to put on facebook, because it’s her goal. To have a happy family. She wants to become `uma irmã` or a sister of the ward, who has a family, attends all the events, and just helps people. Her dad is German, and lives in Germany, and she hopes to serve a mission there.

We had interviews with Pres. Young this week. Always wonderful to talk with him. The emphasis lately has been to teach repentance. I love it, as it’s what brings joy. People we talk to think of repentance as painful or hard, but it’s not! Jesus Christ suffered for our sins, so we don´t have to. He lives, and we can too! We can change! This is our message of hope and happiness. Lately I’ve begun to understand the doctrine of Christ, and it’s changing me, and how I teach to others. Faith in Christ, Repentance, Baptism, Gift of the Holy Ghost, enduring to the end.

While we were waiting, we talked with Sister Young. She challenged us to memorize Article of Faith 8+13 in Portuguese. I was the first to do it, so our companionship gained 10 reais for ice cream later. And more importantly, I recognized how useful these succinct phrases are, so I memorized all 13 to use in contacts and lessons. Learn them!

And that brings to me to the next matter. Ice cream. I’ve taken an extended, undetermined leave of absence from açai, due to the acidity. Just to let everything heal completely. So, ice cream. People said the summer heat would end in March, but we´re still waiting. Holy cow it’s hot. So we enjoy an ice cream. We found this one place, Tres Estrellas, where the ice cream and the prices are delicious. Its only 2 Reais for 200 mL, but its 5.75 Reais for 400mL, so I have a propensity to buy 2- 200 mL´s. I´m waiting to see if she´ll change the prices. I´ve been trying out all the flavors, and graviola might take the top prize. Or Romeu and Julieta. Romeu and Julieta is caju with guava. I’ve never read the play by William Shakespeare, but don´t feel the need to anymore. The flavor is so rich, tasting like lost love. It’s the most effective advertising I’ve seen in my life.

Last Monday, we went to Vitoria, had a great lunch with the secretaries of the mission, but found out the camera store was closed. Our town, Serra was open, but Vitoria, more Catholic, had declared a holiday for some saint, Senhora da penha. We´re still not sure who she is. But we´ll return today to finally get it fixed.

I love this mission. I love this opportunity to serve. I love spreading this message of joy. I love President Young. I love this gospel, this everlasting gospel in its fullness. I love my Savior and Redeemer Jesus Christ. I love my Father in Heaven. And I love you all.

Elder Schenewark

Brighten your day.

Can’t Beat That Smile

Letter #33

Dear Family and Friends,

Dad asked if I’ve gotten his letter. I haven´t yet, but I don´t know when he mailed it. We were invited to lunch with the secretaries, the only senior couple of the mission today, so perhaps I´ll get it today. Are my letters arriving? No one´s said anything about them, and I´m wondering if I addressed them wrong or something.

Thank you for the family history pictures. They are wonderful.

We visited the dentist again, as he had asked for a follow up. He said everything looks a lot better. And my mouth feels a lot better. So, I shouldn´t have any more problems, I hope.

One thing I think is interesting, many of the doctors here are Cuban. It’s super expensive to go to medical school here, and Basil really doesn’t have the sort of programs that are needed, so the government of Brasil pays the government of Cuba money to send doctors. The Cuban government takes a bunch of money off the top, and then pays a pittance, really just living expenses, and sends doctors here as an assignment. And many native doctors of Brasil study there, and then return here.

And I don´t live with communists, but almost every single missionary I know, when we go to the store, wants to split the purchase. As in, let’s buy some food together, and split the price. I don´t understand it (and don´t do it). If I could think of just one reason, I´d do it.

Last Monday, after lunch, we went and played basketball. It was weird being the best player. We played for three hours and the next day, I was awfully sore.

We had a division with the Zone Leaders Thursday. My companion for this, Elder W. Santos, and I made lots of new contacts and knocked lots of doors. The first one we knocked on, was amazingly prepared. She couldn´t move her left arm, as she had crashed on a motorcycle 4 months earlier. We asked what happened, and she shared that she crashed, and woke up in the hospital three days later. During this time, the only thing she remembers is a dream of being in water and then coming out feeling new. She said she feels like she needs to be born again, i.e. through baptism. She attended conference both days.

Another person we met, became super excited when she saw our name tags, and said she had dreamed about them. Before seeing us, she had never heard of our church, but said she had a dream about our name tags. But, it’s interesting the different responses between her and Angela.  She thinks the church is too far away, and didn’t visit this weekend.

We met a young woman, Rafaela age 19, and she came to conference and loved it. We will be going back Tuesday to teach her whole family. And Dayani, who we baptized a couple weeks ago shared the gospel with some new friends, and they too attended conference with us yesterday. One, Isabela, is 17. A week ago, she smoked 60 cigarettes per day. I think she was waiting for someone to invite her to stop. The day after teaching the Word of Wisdom, she went down to 3. Then one, and hasn´t smoked for a couple days now. Lots of miracles.

General Conference was wonderful. We didn´t get to see all of it, and I´m anxiously waiting for the talks to come in the Ensign. I don´t personally know the apostles, and yet, I love them and aspire to have that sort of character. When President Monsen announced the new temples, even though Belem, Brasil, is really far away, everyone in the chapel gasped and was really excited.

Love,

Elder Schenewark