Letter #71

Dear Family and Friends,

Tuesday we had our zone conference. It was wonderful and brought the Christmas spirit. Sis. Young taught about gratitude and used the powerful example of the Savior. Before feeding the four thousand, He asked for the bread and fish, and gave thanks. Thanks for the little that they had. And, as we know, a miracle then happened. As we have gratitude, we will see miracles happen. She also taught that gratitude is so important, it should be one of the first things we teach to people. As we teach them to pray, they should learn to give thanks. Elder Brito and I were privileged to teach about the plan of salvation. Everything went very well, even lunch.

We had another early, early morning bus ride to Vitória this week, having a division with the assistants to the president. We went poorly prepared thinking it would be another normal hot day, but instead in the afternoon it became really cold, with wind gusting 40 mph and a cold rain beating down on us. But we made it. It´s already reached 118 degrees here in Campos this month so it was a welcome change.

Always, but especially as a zone leader, missionaries call asking for permission to do this, and to do that, and sometimes it can be a little hard. I´ll share just one minor example that changed how I think. The mission made a recent change saying that all the interviews for baptism have to happen in the chapel. This week we had someone asking for an interview to be done in the house, and not the chapel. It seems like such a small thing, but the situation was made clear thinking about Pres. Young. Our zone conference had just finished and I thought, I´d like to develop the spirituality that he has. And then the thought, to do that, I need to do what he would do. Would he hold this interview in the house, or the more difficult place to meet up, at the chapel? Of course, the chapel. I am grateful to have a mission president who values obedience and who sets the example. And, I am eternally grateful for your examples!

Looking forward to seeing y´´all Sunday! We should be calling at about 1 pm your time.

Elder Schenewark

Letter #70

Dear Family and Friends,

Tuesday we had our zone conference. It was wonderful and brought the Christmas spirit. Sis. Young taught about gratitude and used the powerful example of the Savior. Before feeding the four thousand, He asked for the bread and fish, and gave thanks. Thanks for the little that they had. And, as we know, a miracle then happened. As we have gratitude, we will see miracles happen. She also taught that gratitude is so important, it should be one of the first things we teach to people. As we teach them to pray, they should learn to give thanks. Elder Brito and I were privileged to teach about the plan of salvation. Everything went very well, even lunch.

We had another early, early morning bus ride to Vitória this week, having a division with the assistants to the president. We went poorly prepared thinking it would be another normal hot day, but instead in the afternoon it became really cold, with wind gusting 40 mph and a cold rain beating down on us. But we made it. It´s already reached 118 degrees here in Campos this month so it was a welcome change.

Always, but especially as a zone leader, missionaries call asking for permission to do this, and to do that, and sometimes it can be a little hard. I´ll share just one minor example that changed how I think. The mission made a recent change saying that all the interviews for baptism have to happen in the chapel. This week we had someone asking for an interview to be done in the house, and not the chapel. It seems like such a small thing, but the situation was made clear thinking about Pres. Young. Our zone conference had just finished and I thought, I´d like to develop the spirituality that he has. And then the thought, to do that, I need to do what he would do. Would he hold this interview in the house, or the more difficult place to meet up, at the chapel? Of course, the chapel. I am grateful to have a mission president who values obedience and who sets the example. And, I am eternally grateful for your examples!

Looking forward to seeing y´´all Sunday! We should be calling at about 1 pm your time.

Elder Schenewark

Letter #69

Dear Family and Friends,

This week is a week I´ll never forget. Tuesday and Wednesday were normal. Thursday was a day unforgettable for all the wrong reasons. It was I believe, my first, but undoubtedly the worst case of food poisoning I’ve had in my life. We would try to walk down the stairs to leave the apartment, and then we would just walk back up. And I´ll leave it at that. Not fun.

Friday was hectic, as not much had been achieved and we were scrambling to make something happen. Yet, it was a day filled with just rejections.

And then came Saturday. It too started off very slowly. A service project where we worked, moving some rocks and shoveling sand, and then the person changed their mind and we moved everything back. Oh well. Lunch was delayed almost an hour. Then we went to contact a referral from the Bishop in a neighborhood way off in the country. We had tried to do this Friday, but no one was there. No one was there again, so we went to knock on doors. The first, was a mother, daughter, and son. We had a wonderful lesson, and in the prayer to close, the mother said that she knew we were sent from heaven, an answer to prayers, etc.

The second door we knocked, was the same thing, but this time with lots of tears involved as well. At this point we were both feeling good knowing that we had been guided to these houses. Deciding to try the referral one more time, we returned. This time, Neide, the aunt of the bishop was there. We had a wonderful, wonderful lesson. She was very open with us. and testified and testified that just by looking at our countenance she knew that we are the servants of Jesus. And in our prayer to close the visit, overcome with emotion, she said that this was the best day of her life, the day that she encountered the truth. It was simply amazing to feel the spirit so powerfully, and to know that we were being led to people prepared to hear.

The day before, we had briefly visited a young mother and decided to return. She was waiting for us. Had read the pamphlet about the restoration, prayed, and received her answer. Her only question, `´Where can I get a Book of Mormon?´´ We left this neighborhood and went to go back to the center of the city. Two kids, ages 17+15 stopped us and wanted to know more. At this point, we´re completely overcome how everything is happening – how our prayers are being answered and how we are truly being tools in the hands of the Lord. We continue on, and while still walking, receive a text message with a referral from Church headquarters. My first referral received that way in eight months. And all the others were busts. Same history with E. Brito.

But this day with only miracles happening, we have a good feeling and want to try and visit. It´s almost 8 pm. The legs start to really pump as we go after it. When, again, someone stops us in the street. Again, they have a question for us and after commit to go to church on Sunday. Why wouldn’t it happen? Generally only drunks and beggars stop us on the streets. But this is THE day. We end up a little lost, looking for the address. We ask someone if they know where its located, and wouldn’t you know it, he stops his work, offers a ride and drops us off where we needed to go.

Ring the doorbell. Marianna is amazed that we are there. Turns out she´s been having some health problems, difficulties, etc. Basically just looking for something more. Became friends with an LDS blogger and they talked a lot about the gospel, shared church videos, etc. And now, Marianna wants, with all her heart a chance to read the Book of Mormon and visit the church. What a lesson. What a day.  It feels unreal. Truly a wonderful, wonderful day. All we could do was offer prayers of gratitude. We had read Elder Uchtdorf´s talk earlier in the walk, ´´Fourth floor, last door.´´ It´s important to just keep going. For three weeks here, we have not had success, Yet, on a Saturday, everything changed. This is the Lord´s work. We have to do our part, and He will help us.

And yesterday, while I can´t say everything perfectly again, we know that those investigators who did show up were blessed. It was a special conference broadcast to all 272 stakes and 38 districts of Brasil. We heard Elder Holland try to speak in Portuguese, the courting story of Elder Claudio Costa, and above all, how important it is to keep the Sabbath day holy.

As Mormon 9:19 says, “And if there were miracles wrought then, why has God ceased to be a God of miracles and yet be an unchangeable Being? And behold, I say unto you he changeth not; if so he would cease to be God; and he ceaseth not to be God, and is a God of miracles.”

Amen.

Love,

Elder Schenewark

Letter #68

Dear Family and Friends,

How is being a zone leader? So far it is fantastic. I´m working with a lot more numbers to crunch and look at what makes me feel more comfortable. There has been a lot more traveling. We journeyed to Vitoria last week for a meeting, and we´ll be going again this week, this time to work for a day with the AP´s. It makes us work harder the other days to make up for it, which is good. Our zone conference was moved to next Tuesday, and we´ll have a Christmas Party, as individual districts Dec. 22.

I can´t believe Sarah finished!

Our zone conference was moved, as Elder Campos, an area authority came to visit for stake conference this weekend. A meeting for the recent converts and investigators was organized and went off wonderfully. Lives truly were changed there. It was interesting as both the adult session Saturday night, and the normal session Sunday morning, a couple of speakers fell through, and Elder Campos spoke for the last hour in each one. And it was wonderful. He´s from the Northeast and has a huge accent. He spoke mostly about keeping the Sabbath day holy. And he spoke powerfully, not worried about offending anyone or being politically correct. It was strong, yet I think it was perfect and what we needed to hear here. At one point, he even asked, “Who left the room at the last supper with Jesus? Well, Judas Iscariot.” Then, he said, “If you leave during the sacrament, you are being like who?”

We exceeded our attendance goal, and have another meeting marked with the Stake President to look at how we can still improve.

The plane crash has definitely been the news of the week. Everyone´s talked about it, and it even led to one person in the zone deciding to be baptized rather than wait longer as she could see that there are no guarantees for tomorrow. The customs here are different, so I honestly haven´t seen any flags at half staff (or any flags at all for that matter) but three days of mourning and remembrance was declared by the president. One of the players, Bruno, is as fate would have it from this city here, Campos, and yesterday his funeral entourage went throughout the city and lots and lots of people paid their respects from the sidewalk.

I love the new Christmas initiative and we are trying to do something here everyday as well. It’s a great and easy way to help others and bring them to Christ. Be the light of the world!

Love,

Elder Schenewark

Letter #67

Dear Family and Friends,

It took about two days to settle in here, but since then its been great. First, our area is fantastic. Its nice to  be back in a ward. And this ward is missionary minded! I think we’ve already received more referrals in this one week than in the rest of my mission combined. And we´re working on marrying three couples. We were with one couple yesterday, talking about marriage and the conversation went something like this: E. Brito ´´Would you marry her?´´ Husband; ´nods head.´ E. Brito ´´Wow!!! That sounds like a proposal! Do you accept?´´ Wife; ´nods head´

My companion Elder Brito is from São Paulo. He left Quissamã when I arrived, and has been zone leader here for two transfers so I’ve gotten to know him a bit. He was baptized at age 12, with his two older brothers. All three stayed active, and served missions. His mother was baptized just a couple months ago. She gained a testimony in part because Elder Brito finished the Duty to God program and for every section reported to his mom about what he did. While resisting for years, she now is an active member of the Church with a calling and everything. I really like him and he has helped me a lot already. Very spiritual. This will be a wonderful transfer.

Being essentially isolated for the last five transfers, I’ve been a little out of the loop about what´s been happening here. We met with the stake president on Saturday and it was definitely a needed meeting. He teaches fighting, and you don´t want to be on his wrong side! Already this week, we’ve had two relatively major problems that have had to be resolved and this hasgiven me a look at how hard it can be to be a leader. When Pres. Young called me last week, he said, teach about obedience every opportunity you have. So we have, and I feel like the ambiance of the zone is already changing.

Thursday, we´re heading to Vitoria, Saturday is our zone conference, and this weekend is Stake conference. It´s going to be busy here!

Always be obedient! Love,

Elder Schenewark

Letter #66

Dear Family and Friends,

This was quite the week. Sometimes as missionaries we are looking for the immediate harvest. This week I was able to see the guiding hand of the Lord in my life. On Tuesday, as we were returning from Vitória, we had about three hours until the next bus. I was dead tired, and just wanting some alone time to think and read the scriptures while waiting, but thought, no, this isn’t my time to use, it is the Lord´s time. Thankfully, the bus company has an air-conditioned waiting room, and it was there that I struck up a conversation with the chap to my side.
We actually ended up conversing with him in English for two hours. It was a miracle. He had studied in the United States, is very smart and currently works for Petrobras offshore here. Turns out he is looking for answers, has already studied the Bible extensively and was certified to be something akin to associate pastor in the Baptist church. But, in his study of the Bible, including a comprehensive geneaology tree of everyone in the Bible, he was confused with many of the contradictory facts. Seeking more, he had already downloaded the church library app, but hadn’t yet read the Book of Mormon. We had a wonderful, wonderful conversation. It was one of the best and coolest lessons I’ve taken part in. He had lots of questions, wants to know more, and I´m very excited to see what happens. Then, shortly after  my return here to Itaperuna, we were stopped by a woman in the street who asked us to visit her brother in the hospital. We dutifully took down the information necessary and went the next day. Turns out this patient, Pedro, had been in a coma for four days and wasn’t looking like he´d be coming out. The rules were very strict, and I had to enter alone, dressing with a frock, washing hands, etc. So alone, I had the solemn yet very touching experience of first praying for help, and then giving a blessing to him. And with words that weren’t my own, I blessed him to recover. All in all, just a wonderful week filled with many spiritual experiences.

And, I learned that Priscilla, who was baptized a couple months ago in Quissama, will be making the 12 hour trip to go to the temple to do baptisms! She only earns minimum wage here, but has a great desire to go even before completing one year as a member! I was very happy to hear this!

Going to Vitoria was of course wonderful. Recognizing that I had never taken a picture with Pres. and Sis. Young, I took advantage of the opportunity and snapped a photo. The mission is definitely starting to take some steps moving more towards obedience. And to finish the training, we had a zone meeting Thursday to talk about everything that we learned. My training I will humbly admit, brought down the house.
Also, yesterday I had one more opportunity to talk in sacrament meeting and chose to speak about the wonderful gift of the Holy Ghost. And, channeling my inner Russell M. Nelson (see April 2003 conference), after finishing my talk, the other three missionaries and I sang ´´Let the Holy Spirit Guide.´´ Even though none of us can sing very well, it turned out really good. It was the first musical number I’ve heard in one year here, and we showed up with matching ties. Long story short, we had decided to make ties for the district six weeks ago. Bought the material, and coordinated with a seamstress to make them. But, after waiting six weeks, she hadn’t even started so we took the material back, and I decided to just do it myself. And it was a lot easier than I thought.
And finally today, I received the expected news that I will be transferred. However, it was quite a shock as Pres. Young called to say I will be a zone leader. I will stay in this same zone, going to Campos. And in another shock, I will be the senior companion of the pair. I was honestly surprised, and might be the first zone leader to have never conducted an interview for baptism. And in other news, I will have the honor of reaching nine months in the same zone, and attending both stake conferences for the year here. Well, that’s it. I admit, I am feeling a little overwhelmed with this, but I’ve learned and I know that this is the Lord´s work and He is at the helm. We just have to do our best and he´ll take care of the rest.
#Grace
Elder Schenewark

Letter #65

Dear Family and Friends,

This week, the last of the transfer, is gearing up to be crazy. Tonight, I´m leaving to go to Campos, then to Vitoria for a leadership meeting. I´ll return, before again going to Campos for a zone meeting. The reason; after a long time seeking revelation, it looks like things will be changing here with regard to how we work. I’ve heard some whispers, but will wait to hear officially.

Yesterday, lunch was feijoada. I think I´ve already noted how it´s traditionally made with pork. Like the entire pork, feet, snout, ears, etc. This, being the third time I´ve eaten it, almost took me down. I think I had too much half inch thick pork skin, and I couldn’t even finish my plate. I was relegated to drinking a traditional herb drink to soothe the stomach.

Other than that noteworthy lunch, this week as a whole has been disappointing. Especially with the members here. Yesterday at church, there were 17 members, 4 missionaries, and 4 investigators. And that´s counting the Primary. I tried all week to get a member to visit an investigator with us. I felt so strongly that we needed to have someone visit with us. For three days we tried calling everyone to no avail. And, on our visit Saturday, when we visited this investigator, we learned that someone had spoken some things to her about our church, and she didn’t want anything to do with us. I was so, so sad. I know we needed to have a member instead of just missionaries.

And our other investigators, who went to church yesterday, our having problems to say the least being able to stop smoking. I´m reminded of Alma 12:17: “Then is the time when their torments shall be as a lake of fire and brimstone, whose flame ascendeth up forever and ever; and then is the time that they shall be chained down to an everlasting destruction, according to the power and captivity of Satan, he having subjected them according to his will.” We witness people in chains each day because of what they did in the past, being unable to break free from Satan.

In the midst of this, I felt inspired to talk about happiness and how we can be happy for the subject of our district meeting. I learned a lot from an Elder Russell M. Nelson talk on that subject.  Happiness essentially depends on three things.

1. Our relationship with those with whom we live and pass the day
2. Our relationship with ourselves
3. Our relationship with God

And how do we improve these relationships? Service. Selfless service. So, when we serve, we are happy. I´ve always understood that we choose whether or not to be happy. In the past this belief was founded solely on the power of the mind; just decide to be happy.

 

Now, I understand that it is in choosing how to act that we decide whether to be happy or not. When we choose to serve, we are choosing happiness. As the Savior taught so long ago,  “For whosever will save his life shall lose it; and whosoever will lose his life for my sake shall find it.”  So be happy and serve!

Love,

Elder Schenewark

Letter #64

Dear Family and Friends,

We went to develop some photos and were told that a virus had attacked my memory card and all my photos were gone. They’ve been working on it, and it looks like they´ll be back, but it was a good reminder to be prepared and have  a back-up. But, I only have one photo from this week, yesterday, as Daniel was confirmed a member.

I love the story in 2 Samuel 24 in which David goes to offer a sacrifice to the Lord. The owner of the field, offers to give everything to David for free. To which comes the classic reply;

´´Neither will I offer burnt offerings unto the Lord my God of that which doth cost me nothing.´´

Sacrifice brings power, and opens the windows of heaven for us. And the key to sacrifice? Exactly that. Sacrifice. As Christ taught, the widow who gave of her need will be blessed much more than he who gave of his surplus to be seen by others. I am continually amazed and astounded by the faith and willingness of members to sacrifice here. As I’ve learned, we have to lose ourselves to find ourselves.

The hills here are blooming with some recent rain. I love the rolling green meadows.

This week was hard. Yesterday, we changed our approach and started talking a lot more about family history. It was amazing to see how the Spirit changed, people conversed with us, and we have appointments to return. We´re looking to go with that same mojo this week.

Love,

Elder Schenewark

Letter #63

Dear Family and Friends,

This week we made the trek a couple times to the country, to visit Michely. After coming to church 10 times, she didn´t go last week, or yesterday and everythings been thrown into doubt. At least, we enjoyed the nice walk. Lots of vultures, cows, dogs, angry dogs, and the occasional horse.

We´ve been teaching a family recently and yesterday, Daniel was baptized. He´s 16, and the first thing you notice about him his handicap. He can´t move his legs very well. I don´t remember the exact term, but its hard for him to walk, as they seize up without any notice. You notice that first, but after knowing him, you realize what really sets him apart is his heart. He´s completely humble and full of love. Loves to laugh and is always smiling. He´s been reading the Book of Mormon every day, and his dream is to go on a mission.

Yesterday, we took the customary photos, and then on our way to the font, climbing up the stairs to the second story, he fell. We helped him finish the trip, and then I had the absolute privilege to jump into a jump suit and help with the baptism. Elder Cordeiro performed the ordinance and I helped a little with the lifting. It took three times, but everyone left edified and happy. He´s setting a great example not just for his mother and brothers, but also, his cousins.

 

Saturday night, we held an activity at the church. Christmas themed to get into the spirit. We had made sugar cookies earlier and all the kids decorated them. Had 10 kids, and everyone loved it. Unbeknownst to me, sugar cookies are decidely american, and it was cool to do somehting new here. The Pace´s had sent christmas tree and snowman cookie cutters, and the recipe.

Yesterday, we also had a missionary activity where the members left to help in the work, talking with people in the street, knocking on doors, etc. for an hour. I left with senhor Pedro, an elderly man, and the first counselor in the branch presidency. We had a great time, taught some wonderful lessons, testified a lot about families and the importance of them and the Spirit was felt throughout. However, at the risk of saying a little too much, I´ll just say, the funniest part of the week was with him. I rang a doorbell, and he said ´´I´ll be back´´ before dashing across the street and behind a tree. Thankfully no one opened the door, because they would have seen someone attempting to hide behind an awfully thin tree giving nutrients to the ground, and a missionary on their doorstep doubled over in laughter.

I have no idea what really is going on over there, but knowing that tomorrow is the first Tuesday of November, here´s a scripture I read earlier this week. Alma 10;23
´´But it is by the prayers of the righteous that ye are spared;´´

Love,

Elder Schenewark

Letter #62

Dear Family and Friends,

The big day this week was Thursday, when we all traveled down to Campos for a zone meeting. I had been asked to give a training about using our time with effectiveness, and had duly prepared. The meeting started at 9, and I think everyone was floored (except the ZL´s) when Pres. and Sister Young walked in at 9:05. It was an unexpected visit. The good news, my presentation went well and Pres. Young brought the mail and a box from Vitoria. I had 1/2 hour to talk about using time wisely, and had pondered and pondered how to do this and in the end ended up just showing a bunch of numbers and making calculations to illustrate what we are doing as a mission, and what we can and should be doing. Pres. Young, also being a fan of numbers, loved it.

Afterwards, I was interviewed along with the other pair of missionaries. They’ve been having some challenges, and it was a good chance to help them. I’ve learned and always been very impressed with Pres. Young that he always shows love. Simply loves everyone. And for this, everyone likes him. This end of the week, the spirit in our house has increased substantially. It made me remember that our houses should be like the temple. And of course, the letters and box were wonderful. I’ve enjoyed once again using contacts.

We’ve continued teaching a family, Marta, and her three sons. We held an activity at the church this weekend with the youth to help them get to know some more people. It was disappointing, as this, our 4th activity here, we have not had any leaders of the branch show up. Each time it has just been us, the missionaries, and sometimes the secretary of the branch. There is no mutual here, no seminary, nothing- just the Sunday meetings. Nevertheless, it went well, and we´ll keep holding these activities as they have been quite effective. This time, the big hit was playing UNO.

In the time I’ve been here, we’ve been invited to countless churches, and never went for various reasons. Yesterday, we decided to accept an invite to visit the `´Comunidade Evangelical de Sião´´ just a local church here. We had knocked on the Pastor´s door earlier in the week, and his brother in law is an active LDS member with sons who have likewise served missions. So we went. It was an interesting experience, and we´ll be waiting for him now to visit the church this coming Sunday.

Just one thought this week. I was able to converse quite a bit with Sister Young, Thursday, and I really liked one thing she shared with me. Dctorine and Covenants 121;46

´´The Holy Ghost shall be thy constant companion and thy scepter an unchanging scepter of righteousness and truth; and thy dominion shall be an everlasting dominion, and without compulsory means it shall flow unto thee forever and ever.´´

This verse, she explained, is really a  vision of the Celestial Kingdom. I hope that you have the Holy Ghost at all times this week,

Love,

Elder Schenewark