Letter #79 – Capixaba

Dear Family and Friends,

Wow. Can I just say I love the people in Capixaba? It´s been a great first week, and it’s wonderful, absolutely wonderful to be back in Espirito Santo. It’s like I went from Louisiana to Texas. A short distance, but a huge difference.

I’ve said goodbye to black beans. After eating them everyday for 10 months, I’ve been glad to be eating red and brown beans here.

My companion, Elder Braden Lawrence Dial is from the factory, Salt Lake City. So far it´s been good, and we´ve managed to only talk in Portuguese.

One thing that´s cool, and tiring about the Colatina zone, is its by far the largest geographically in the mission. There is lots of traveling. This week I went to Nova Venecia, three hours on a bus going through the hills. Espirito Santo is the Granite State of Brasil, its a huge industry and I love seing the beautifully stunning rock formations here. Colatina is in itself, a city set on a hill. Or hills. My legs are quite sore, and I think my thighs are growing daily. We basically just walk up and down staircases here. It reminds me of mowing with Bro. Overby in Huntington.

And, the people capixaba are so, so much more recepptive. We´ve met and taught some great people this week, and had 7 who visited the church for the first time this Sunday! It was truly wonderful. After honestly struggling in Campos, I´ll have the opportunity to use everything I´ve learned. I know that some great things will be happening here. We met one young man, Leandro, who has truly been prepared by the Lord. He is reading the Book of Mormon daily and Sunday left his house early to bring some of his friends to church! He´ll be a great missionary.

The branch helps a lot. We´ve already received a lot of food, a lot of referalls, and have members who want to teach with us every single day. Oh yeah! Even though technically we belong to a district, the frequency here was 110 yesterday, and the district has more people than the Campos stake. What do we lack? Priesthood. So we´ve set some goals for the zone and we´re focusing on bringing the power of the priesthood here.

Love,

Elder Schenewark

Letter #78

Dear Family and Friends,

As you know, Vitória has been a war zone this week. Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid 2.0 visited. But, I’ve been safely isolated in Campos. Where nothing happened. Interestingly, after the first couple days of bloody warfare, it did settle down a lot. I think the robbers and looters got tired. Or died. People even have been returning stolen fridges and cars, according to the news.

(Saying goodbye to the Bishop and his family)

And today, I was transferred! My time in Rio de Janeiro (10 months) has ended! I´ll be going to Colatina, Espirito Santo, and staying as a zone leader, and I´ll be serving with an American for the first time! My new companion is Elder Dial from Utah. Colatina is my first area in the northern part of the mission. Unlike Vitória, the city is relatively new.

Jose Fernando is on fire. He brought some friends to church yesterday, and is wearing a white shirt and tie now. He brings a lot of energy and excitement to the ward. We taught him about the priesthood once before baptism, and once after. After the second time, we went out to visit some of his friends, and without warning, he put his hand on the forehead of his friend and started to bless him! Don´t worry, the new missionaries here will go over this lesson again. And the prayer of faith works miracles too!

(Saying good bye to my companion and the ward mission leader)

As a mission, we’ve started reading the Book of Mormon, learning about repentance. In Nephi´s vision of the tree of life, he says, that the love of God  “which sheddeth itself abroad in the hearts of the children of men; wherefore it is the most desirable above all things…yea, and the mot joyous to the soul. ”

Through repentance, we can feel that love of God. Repentance isn’t something awful, rather it’s a gift from above, that allows us to become better, and become closer to our Heavenly Father, So, Repent!

Love,

Elder Schenewark

Letter #77

Dear Family and Friends,

Let’s start with a Portuguese lesson. You know the phrase, “It’s raining cats and dogs.” In Portuguese, it’s connotation translates more to “It’s raining pocketknives.”  Interesting, and I think it makes a whole lot more sense. We´re still waiting for the rain, and pocketknives, but this week, the spirit rained.

The highlight was definitely yesterday, when Jose Fernando was first confirmed, with Elder A. Pereira in likely his last confirmation on the mission booming, “Receive the Holy Ghost,” and then Jose getting up and bearing his testimony. And it was powerful. Many cried, I personally just smiled the whole time, so happy to see his newfound happiness. He talked about his conversion story, how he knows the gospel is true, of his love for his new family in the church and how he is trying to help others come into the fold. And he is. He is inviting everyone he knows to come and know of the fullness of truth.

Other news, again a week of traveling. I again visited Itaperuna, although this time most likely will be the last time. And returned to Vitória, or rather Cariacica, with the other 21 missionaries here in Zona Campos. We had a big conference with two other zones. E. A. Pereira and I gave a training on tithing and offerings.

I also bore my testimony and talked about the power of the ordinances in the gospel of Jesus Christ. As Doctrine and Covenants 84:20 says, “Therefore, in the ordinances thereof, the power of godliness is manifest.´” Always, there is a special power present as we make covenants with our Heavenly Father. I felt this very strongly with both the baptism and confirmation of Jose. And as we partook of the sacrament yesterday. The ordinances bless our lives. They bring us closer to deity and change us. We take on the semblance of Christ.

The exciting news was released that the groundbreaking for the Rio de Janeiro temple will be on March 4th. Yet, this isn’t just a beautiful building. The temple is so important because of the ordinances therein. We should take every chance to participate in the ordinances of the priesthood. That´s my testimony and my invitation.

Love,

Elder Schenewark

Letter #76

Dear Family and Friends,

On Wednesday we had our long anticipated worldwide training. It was fantastic. We received great training, and also the exciting news that the missionary schedule can be changed. To  better adapt to the different cultures around the world, mission presidents have the ability to change the schedule. During the broadcast, they showed an example of a schedule, titled `´Mission in Latin America´´ and had the wake up time at 7:30 and going to sleep time at 11:30.

The next day the zone leaders´s met in Vitoria to talk about what we´d do, and for about 30 seconds silence reigned, waiting to see who would promote sleeping in longer. I ended up talking first and said that we should stick with the current 6;30 wake up and 10;30 time to sleep, to which President concurred and that was that. Yet, we now have greater flexibility during the day, and it will help us to be more productive and effective.

Saturday was awful. We had a baptism scheduled and we were happy and excited for her. We stopped by her house in the afternoon and said we´d be waiting for her at the church later. At 7, she showed up, chose her baptismal clothing, and then asked to talk with the bishop. So, together with a room full of members, we waited anxiously for one hour wondering what had happened and what was happening. Finally they came out, the bishop explained a couple things, said we had the keys to decide, but we decided to wait. I won´t say anything else, other than neither my companion or I have ever seen anything like this. It was sad to have everything ready and apparently right, only to not happen.

And then the miracle on Sunday. Jose, who I wrote about last week, came to church hoping to be baptized and after a tense couple of hours, was! He had to be interviewed by a counselor to Pres. Young, which happened during church, but then we had to wait to hear if Pres. Young approved or not. The font leaks, so was almost empty from the day before. And, the water tank for the font was empty for some reason so didn´t fill up, so we decided to act on faith and fill up the font laboriously with buckets. Our church ends at 11;30, but Pres. Young never calls until the meetings end, which for him is at 12. So, with the members, we again waited. But everything went right. And at the end, Jose bore a powerful testimony about how he prayed to be led to the truth. How the next day we showed up, going where missionaries have never gone before, and then, in response to our invitation to pray, had a dream where he saw lots of people in white shirts and suits hugging him and welcoming him into a large church with benches. When he came to the church for the first time, he said, This is what I dreamed.” It was an awesome end to the week.

Love,

Elder Schenewark

Letter #75

Dear Family and Friends,

Letter #74

Dear Family and Friends,

I haven´t received my box still, but will be going to Vitoria tomorrow and most likely will then.

As you saw, I made a return trip to Itaperuna. We headed up there Friday morning to do an interview, and as we had time, made a division with the other elders. Lunch was with the branch president and he asked me to visit some people who haven´t been going to church since I left. It was pretty cool. I surprised everyone by my visit, ate lots of cake, took some photos, but most importantly I had the chance to bear my testimony to many about the importance of returning to the church, and about doing the small things- reading the scriptures, praying- that make such a big difference in our lives.

Remember that man, Jose, who cleaned out his house last week? It has been a testimony builder to see how he has changed and thriving now. And, in another miracle in his life, after looking and looking for work, someone came up to him, and offered him a job on Friday- just two days before his baptism.

This is the Lord´s work and its wonderful to play a part. This coming week we will have another worldwide broadcast for all the missionaries. Certainly, with the purpose of accelerating the work. I know that there is a prophet and 12 apostles here on the earth. I am so grateful for this. They are truly prophets, seers, and revelators. By following their example, we can come closer to Christ, who is our Savior and our Redeemer. He died to give us life eternal, and if we follow His example, we will gain that gift and live with our families forever. I love you all!

Elder Schenewark

Letter #73

Dear Family and Friends,

While I was waiting for my new companion to arrive, I left with some other missionaries to work for a couple hours. We knocked on one door and a guy came down, happy to see us and wanting to hear our message. We talked about the gospel of Jesus Christ with him, and how opened up and shared how he wanted to change.

Well, I said, the first thing we have to do is clean the house so the spirit can be here, so use this plastic bag and we´ll throw out everything unclean. So, he went at it, and put in drugs, pornographic magazines, etc. The reason I write this, is because while it was clear that he was sincere in wanting to change, it was also clear that he had led quite the life. And while I would only be visiting one time, the other missionaries would be returning.

And sure enough, the next day the missionaries got there, and José brought out a gun to give to them, that he didn’t want to have in his house anymore. While they didn’t accept it, just told him to get rid of it, that´s what we´re doing here. We´re cleaning up and preparing everything and everyone for when Christ returns or they return to Him.

Mission leadership council held this week in Vitoria.
My new companion is the little guy on the left, in front

Reading 2 Nephi 2 this week I was struck powerfully by the 13th verse which includes this phrase:

And if there be no righteousness, there is no happiness.”

That´s the secret! Our happiness depends on our righteousness! After, I re-read the General Conference talk Elder Russell M. Nelson gave in October about how saints can be happy under any circumstance. And it’s true. Want more happiness? Be more righteous. Want complete happiness? Be completely righteous. I understand now more than ever before, that Heavenly Father gave us the commandments so that we can be happy.

Interestingly enough, the scripture for our mission is found in DC 128:24: “Brethren, shall we not go on in so great a cause? Go forward and not backward. Courage, brethren; and on, on to the victory!”

Yet, instructively is the next line that says, “Let your hearts rejoice and be exceedingly glad.”

Let’s be righteous and let’s be happy! We are so blessed to be living in the fullness of times. We are so blessed to have the chance to participate in this great work, the work of salvation.

Love,

Elder Schenewark

Letter #72

Dear Family and Friends,

Transfers arrived! I was surprised with the news that I´ll be staying! My new companion is Elder A. Pereira, from São Paulo. This will be his last transfer as a missionary. He actually already served here as zone leader in Campos, and is now coming back.

This week the streets were completely empty. Completely. Everyone went to the beach. If the people aren´t coming to us, we decided to go after them. Its an area a little bit distant, but we spent this week visiting the people who live near the beach, and therefore are in their houses. And, it worked! we had quite a few people come to church this Sunday, without us even going after them. No one there has heard of the gospel, so it was a good opportunity to share it with everyone.

This week I again finished the Book of Mormon. I know its true. Its true. I can´t deny that and never will. It’s blessed my life immeasurably. I am so grateful for its teachings, clear and simple, that show the path to our Heavenly Father and eternal life. It strengthens my testimony of Jesus Christ. He is our Savior and Redeemer. The Only Begotten of the Father. I love Him and am so grateful for his atonement that strengthens me and allows me to repent. Please read the Book of Mormon this year. It will bless and change your life.

Love,

Elder Schenewark