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.

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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