Letter #61

Dear Family and Friends,

This week I welcomed back the ´´you don´t stop sweating´´ weather. It doesn´t matter if you are walking, running, sitting, or looking at a fan- you´re dripping. I´ve upped my water intake; it´s got to be running at about 2 gallons per day, so I´m feeling good. Elder Cordeiro´s dad works offshore in the gas industry, so he sent some high quality water resistant powerful sunscreen. And a lot of it. I still have a lot of mine, but for now we´re both using this. We might look like ghosts, but you don´t mess with the sun.

And now to explain something I call the `´barata phenomenon.´´ Barata means cockroach. I remember, I think my second week here in Brasil, sitting on the floor eating lunch with a family. And a bunch of cockroaches went scurrying by, startling me, to the point of spilling my drink on the floor. It was hard to eat thinking about these armored pests.And now, I feed them by hand.

Okay, overstatement. Yet, I have become accustomed to their presence. Only the ones the size of tanks make me weary. That too will pass. As the new becomes the norm, our reactions change. The cockroach didn´t change and become cuter, I changed. I think it´s an important lesson about sin. Sin stays the same, but as we stay around it, we change. We hate it, then accept it, and then love it. The challenge, is to always hate it. Not to yield. I´ve heard that you are the average of the five people closest to you. That might be a simplification, but contains a lot of truth. We have to constantly surround ourselves with people who can help us improve, and not decline.

Yesterday, at about 8 pm as we were working in the center of town, the lights went out on Broadway here. It was very strange seeing the city go from living to almost dead. The only thing moving were cars. The city had become a ghost town. And I thought how important it is that we are getting light from the right source. Maybe it seems like our work, or sports, or money is providing light. Nevertheless, the power will be cut. This light doesn’t last. The honeymoon doesn’t last forever. As Christ taught, He is the light and the life. As we build our foundation upon him, we will never be in darkness. We will be tried and tested but the King of kings will forever be our lighthouse steering us clear of the deadly shoals, until we make it to the safe harbor of Everlasting Life.

This week I talked about diligence in both sacrament meeting and our weekly district meeting. I really like this scripture from Moroni 9:6

´´And now my beloved son, notwithstanding their hardness, let us labor diligently; for if we should cease to labor, we should be brought under condemnation; for we have a labor to perform whilst in this tabernacle of clay, that we may conquer the enemy of all righteousness, and rest our souls in the kingdom of God.´´

We all have a labor to perform. A work waiting for us. I am thankful for these opportunity to be a missionary, and work in the field of salvation. As any farmer worth his weight in beans knows, you have to be diligent in planting, cultivating, and in harvesting if you want a good payoff. And, of course, to trust in the Grand Master above, and in his timing with rain and everything else. And we´re trying to do that here, and I hope that you too are being diligent in your life´s work.


Elder Schenewark

Letter #60

Dear Family and Friends,

First the transfer news: I´m staying! Not much of a surprise since I´ll continue training Elder Cordeiro. Everyone in the district stayed here, so we´ll continue our work together.

This week has been a good one. We received a referral from a member and have been teaching a woman named Marta, who is simply looking for more in life. She went to church yesterday and loved it. And, we’ve continued working with Manoel, who went to church again, but continues to have problems with smoking. But, now his mom is helping a lot. She went to church as well and loved it. In her words, a couple of doubts and questions she´s had for years were answered. She loved how we talk about the family.

And yesterday, Igor, after being confirmed, bore a powerful testimony in the fast and testimony meeting. it was very special. This past week, I read Mosiah 5:2, and when Igor was speaking I remembered it.

´´And they all cried with one voice, saying; Yea, we believe all the words which thou hast spoken unto us; and also, we know of their surety and truth, because of the Spirit of the Lord Omnipotent, which has wrought a mighty change in us, or in our hearts, that we have no more disposition to do evil, but to do good continually.´´

I’ve really seen a change in Igor, through the spirit. And I’ve seen it in my life as well. When we have the Spirit, it changes our hearts. Who we are. It´s interesting that in this same address, King Benjamim teaches that it is through listening to the spirit that we conquer the natural man. Just because we can´t physically see the Spirit doesn’t mean it isn’t powerful. It really is through the Spirit, that we are sanctified, change, and work toward perfection.


Elder Schenewark

Letter #59

Dear Family and Friends,

It would appear that all my brothers are in the words of Tanner ´´Ridiculously cool.´´ Congrats to Porter for the intramural success and stud moments. The letters have been humorous. Sometimes I simply don´t understand the Brasilian humor so it’s nice to have a return to the good old stuff. You are taking what classes? Are you going on dates? I need more information! And Tanner and AnneMarie are just living the life. And, to quote the counsel of an inspired man, ´´Life is short. Eat the black pudding.´´

The highlight of the week was yesterday with a spirit-filled conference and the long awaited for baptism of Igor. I think it was Elder Ballard who commented once how as a church in general, sometimes we focus more on having the knowledge, and we don´t have enough experiences. The baptism was a wonderful spiritual experience. I won´t share everything here, but it left me reflecting and meditating and filled with joy to be a part of this wonderful work of the Lord.

Saturday, I woke up for the first time on the mission not feeling well. My stomach was hurting. I knew I wasn´t sick, but that it was caused from food the day before as several of us were hurting. And it was the day we had lunch with an investigator. The family of Manoel  had invited us over for lunch and I really had no appetite, but with a lot of prayer, we managed to work our way through. That day made it on to my list of toughest lunches. The food was honestly wonderful, and they put a lot of effort to make everything perfect, but my insides weren´t cooperating.

Yesterday, elections were held here. Let´s just sum it up by saying our electoral system is way better than here. Here, everyone has to vote. Elder Cordeiro lost a document permitting him to vote so we scrambled over to some government offices but to no avail. I think he´ll have to pay a fee. And, the day before, no one is arrested because everyone has to vote. The streets were filled with hooligans committing minor crimes, i.e. riding in the back of pick-ups, graffiti, obscene music rocking the houses, etc. And yesterday was just a party, with all the winning politicians holding street parties and everyone just looking for an excuse to go crazy. After conference, we ended up escorting some people to their houses for safety and went back to our apartment a little early. And finally, to vote, you have to be in your city. The missionaries here had to fill out some forms explaining why they don’t have to vote, which wasn’t a problem, but we had various investigators leaving to go to other towns for the day to vote. All in all, I´m glad that the elections here are over.

Thursday, we made our own trip down to Campos for interviews with Pres. Young. Like always, it was a wonderful time, and another spiritual experience.

I bought a quad in Portuguese. Yes, it is wonderful. The scriptures are literally manna from heaven. I love reading them. The Bible was translated into Portuguese by João Ferreira Almeida in about 1650. And the general authorities  have commented how it was inspired. The church put out their first edition earlier this year, with the footnotes and correlation, and it’s been a delight to study it. Old passages have new meanings. And amazingly, the Portuguese edition has some 2500 less footnotes than the King James version in English because Almeida was inspired and translated many passages and words more correctly than in the KJV.

That´s the news here. Transfers are next week and while I think I´ll be staying there´s a chance this will be it for me in Itaperuna. I´ll wait and see.


Elder Schenewark

Letter #58

Dear Family and Friends,

Well, as for fishing, I think I need a couple more tips from Sawyer. It was nice to get out and try, but no one caught anything. Elder Cordeiro was trying to cast or something (I don´t know) and threw his pole into the river. River 1, Missionaries 0. I ended up practicing the piano and taking a nap on the veranda, so all in all a very enjoyable p-day.

Arnold Palmer. He was a legend. Seems like everybody liked him. For those who don´t keep up on the golfing exploits of the general authorities, the previous presiding bishop of the church, David Burton, played with Arnold Palmer while serving as a missionary in Australia. They were paired together, and Arnold Palmer had a caddy, who trying to be helpful told him about some hazards, something like a lake on one side and a bunker on the other. Palmer looked at the caddy and told him all he needed to know was the number of yards to the flagstick. He was focused on his goal. Fearless. We too don´t need to fret, but just stay focused on what we want. Live with blinders.

Jabuticaba- a delicious fruit with quite the name. I have had the juice, but ate for the first time this week. It´s a little larger than a blueberry with a similar taste but the peel is more like a grape´s and is used to make wine. In short, something between a grape and a blueberry.

This Sunday we had five people who visited the church. That´s been the most so far on my mission. Igor will be baptized this weekend. Its been a date we’ve all looked forward to for some time. It really is amazing to see the change he´s made. We visited him this morning, and he said how crazy that three-four months ago, he didn´t want anything to do with religion, and now is eagerly waiting to be baptized, reading the Book of Mormon every day and honestly just setting an example. Lately, as we visit with him, he´s been sharing messages for us. We´re also teaching Manoel who, is struggling to quit smoking, but if everything goes right, he will as well.



Thursday was the birthday of Elder Cordeiro. He reached the big 2-0. Enjoyed a couple cakes and made sure to sing to him at every opportunity. Brasil has so many versions of `happy birthday´´. I know the most popular but just end up clapping my hands to the others.

When I got online today, I saw a nice message warning: “Be careful when you are fishing. Stay out of the water.´´ Fishing, we managed to stay dry quite well. But this week, it has rained almost every day. Last night we got caught in a downpour. Arrived home soaked. We don´t always know when its going to rain, like yesterday when we were caught unprepared. But we do know it will rain. And we have to be prepared.

We need to be like the wise man who prepared and built his house on the rock, and not be like the foolish man who built on the sand. The scriptures are very explicit warning about the challenges of the latter-days. We have to build our foundation on Christ, as it says in Helaman:
`´ And now, my sons, remember, remember that it is upon the rock of our Redeemer, who is Christ, the Son of God, that ye must build your foundation; that when the devil shall send forth his mighty winds, yea, his shafts in the whirlwind, yea, when all his hail and his mighty storm shall beat upon you, it shall have no power over you to drag you down to the gulf of misery and endless wo, because of the rock upon which ye are built, which is a sure foundation, a foundation whereon if men build they cannot fall.´´ And of course, remember to watch conference. They have the forecast.


Elder Schenewark

Letter #57

Dear Family and Friends,

This week, think hills, and sun. Hills and sun. Saturday we held another youth activity. This one didn’t go quite as well. We gave the water balloons to some kids to fill up, but they were smart, completely monopolized the supply and picked us off one by one.

This week we didn’t have anybody new visiting the church. But, Igor and Michely who I’ve already mentioned continue to come every single week. We visit Igor every day at 7 in the morning. He´s just getting off work at this time, yet is always happy and helps us start the day off well. Michely continues to make sacrifices and comes to church alone. Hopefully one day her parents will be interested. This week or the next, she will be performing a musical number, and I´ll be on the piano. I’ve been playing every single week here, and it’s honestly been a delight. And Mauricio. He´s been trying to divorce in order to marry here for some time now. A salt of the earth type of person.

This week, we switched off companions a couple times and I worked with my old companion Elder T. Santos again. I enjoyed the opportunity, and we returned to our old rhythm like time hadn’t passed. Friday was one of those divisions and quite an interesting day. At the end of the night we had a meeting with some politician about giving the church land, and it looks like it will happen. The neighborhood is pretty poor and without a park or anything, so if he is elected, he will pass a parcel of land to a member of the church, who is forming a community group to govern it and bless the lives of all the kids and youth of the neighborhood.

We’ve worked hard this week, being fishers of men, and for our p-day activity we will be fishing for real. The church has a bunch of bamboo poles and we´ll be going with some members to fish from the second story veranda there.

General conference is again coming up. Remember to watch! Bring questions of your soul to have answered. “Wherefore, brethren, seek not to counsel the Lord, but to take counsel from his hand. For behold, ye yourselves know that he counseleth in wisdom, and in justice, and in great mercy over all his works.`´ Jacob 4:10


Elder Schenewark

Letter #56

Dear Family and Friends,

This weekend, we had the sweet experience of baptizing Rulyan. He´s a young man we’ve been working with, (came to church with white shirt and tie!) and Elder Cordeiro had his first baptism on the mission. The work is definitely going well here in Itaperuna, and we’ve set some tough goals to reach, that will push us. Elder Cordeiro continues to be an example of humility and teach-ability, and is teaching me many things.

The hot winter has ended and we have started the even hotter summer. Yesterday, in a moment of inspiration I made ´´waffles´´ in a sandwich cooker. Turned out pretty good.

Looks like Tanner and Anne Marie are having the time of their lives. Tell him to play 18 for me. (It is Scotland after all.)

I don´t know how things are going with the elections there, but I remember in 2012 every time the tv was on all the commercials were for candidates. Well, here is worst in that respect. No one earns more than politicians here so the races can get heated. And, the commercials come to you. Just typing this letter I think 5 cars or motorcycles have passed by blasting some jingle for the candidates for mayor. They´re catchy, awfully repetitive, and just give headaches. But, after hearing them 5000 times you do remember. One candidate promised to give a bunch of land to the church if he won, which is interesting.



Elder Holland said that maybe one of the commandments we break most often is the Savior´s admonition to be of good cheer. In John 16:33, Christ said, ´´In the world ye shall have tribulation: but be of good cheer; I have overcome the world.´´

This is a commandment. To be happy. Yes, the world, this life can bring many challenges and trying times, yet we can be at peace and know what the future holds. D+C 19:23 says ´´Learn of me, and listen to my words; walk in the meekness of my Spirit, and you shall have peace in me.“ As we study the scriptures, seek to come to Christ, and have his Spirit (the Great Comforter) we will have peace and we will be of good cheer, of good countenance, and of good spirit. We will be happy.


Elder Schenewark

Letter #55

Dear Family and Friends,

What a week! We left our apartment last Monday at 8 pm, got to our first stop at 11, and stayed in the terminal until 3 am when our next bus arrived. Following a nice 4 hour nap, I arrived back in Vitoria. It really is a beautiful city.

Met my new companion, Elder Cordeiro, and then we both went with the secretaries of the mission, a senior couple, to a mall to renew my visa and have lunch. I had some spare time, and was able to sneak in a conversation with Pres. Young which was awesome of course, and then it was back to the buses. We went on an errand, with permission of Pres Young, and then had a nice car chase through the city, by taxi arriving just in time to catch our bus. Tipped him 13 reais, and was happy to sleep again on the bus. Another 4 hours, then another wait, before arriving back at our apartment at 2 am. If you didn´t catch all that, thats ok. Readers digest: Bus, wait, bus, wait, “oi presidente!!!´´ bus, wait, bus and then running on fumes the rest of the  week, but definitely felt force beyond my own to work hard, start the mission off right for my companion and share the gospel with everyone.

My companion, Elder Cordeiro, is from the South of Brasil. I honestly prayed for a companion from the south, and it worked out. He´s from Tubarão, Santa Catarina. Tubarão means shark. I don´t know a lot yet, but he has an amazing story that really has inspired me. He was adopted at 16, baptized at 17, and here with 19. He arrived here not with low confidence, but with no confidence. There have been lots of opportunities to help him, and he´s already improved to the point of talking with people in the street. He´s totally different from any other companion, yet is humble, teachable, has a testimony and carries a sweet spirit with him. There have been a couple times this week where I stopped in the middle of our studying together in the morning, just to bask in the spirit present. I´m excited to see what will happen during our time together.

Tanner´s story of escargot reminds me of a time a while back when I told someone we were mercenaries (not missionaries) and asked where he lived. He looked like he had seen a ghost. Fortunately, I think those days are past. I’ve had a chance to see a couple past companions recently, and they’ve all commented on my progress in Portuguese. Sometimes, we´re moving and progressing so slow we can´t notice it day by day, yet others can. So, remember to do the little things. Become a little better, a little more Christlike each day, and we´ll reach our full potential, we´ll become fluent, in the language of love. And I love you all,

Elder Schenewark

The great escape.