Letter #15 First P-Day in Brazil!

Dear Family and Friends,

This week has definitely had a lot of ups and downs. We did have three investigators and their respective six children attend church, and they all enjoyed it which was exciting. They are all close to baptism, just working on the word of wisdom, people here might love coffee more than Americans!

Last Monday, after p-day ended, we taught a couple. The lesson went okay, but they didn’t commit to church. I felt inspired to ask them a couple questions and then launched into teaching why it’s important to come to church and how God answer their prayers. It was really awesome, as I felt the Spirit so strong, and felt like it wasn’t even me speaking. The day before my Portuguese comprehension was probably 10%, but that night it jumped to 90% and I was able to understand clearly almost everything. It was a really cool experience, that honestly had nothing to do with me, but showed me again, that when the Lord has a message, we need to be doing our part so we can act as a mouthpiece and share it.

And my understanding is probably 40%, so not great, but its improving every day.

The ward here is awesome. They give referrals all the time without asking. We contacted one of them, and have been teaching them, and she came to church with her kids. She drinks coffee like no one ive ever met or heard of. Like measured in water bottles. So we taught the Plan of Salvation on Saturday and committed her to cut back on the coffee a little every day. Well, she shows up for church, and in the second hour her hands started shaking and she felt really bad, because she had tried quitting apparently right after we had taught her the day before, and was suffering withdrawal symptoms. A member of the bishopric gave her a blessing, and she stayed for the rest of church. We went and taught her again that night, and she told us she had drank coffee, but we were able to answer some really good questions of hers about church, and she is committed to cutting the coffee out, but we are going to do it slower.

Thursday was zone conference. Here all six zones have zone conference on the same day, so President and Sister Young werent there. It was good to see E. Oviatt again. I didnt know he was in the same zone. He´s serving right on the beach, and was telling me how beautiful it is there. And its a fairly wealthy area. He had told me how his first couple weeks in brazil were really hard, and my first day in Brazil he told me, just to try and make it to Sunday. Which was my goal too because it was really hard not having an english speaking companion. Well, when I show up to zone conference, he started telling me how basically my area is difficult. Not people wise. Just physically. At that point, and him talking about beaches I just laughed. I am glad he didnt tell my first day though. Because I did sort of expect an ocean breeze and not so many hills. i think ive adjusted, or as much as I will adjust by now, and I enjoy it. Here in Cacheiro, we´re in a valley, so there is just about no breeze, and its quite a bit hotter.  And some of the roads we walk up must by 70 degrees. Ridiculously steep, and almost all are more than 45. The roads usually have staircases on the side that we just climb.

 

Zone conference was 3 hours away, by bus. Our bus left at 5 that morning and we got back at about 6:30. At 7 we had been invited by a member to come speak to his English class about Thanksgiving, so we went there. There are quite a few English schools here. We introduced ourselves and talked about why we are here in Brazil and what we do. The class had all sorts of ages, ranging from 15-70, but most were middle age adults. We broke up into two sections, and E. Anderson and his companion went to one, and E. Rodrigues and I went to the other. Some people in the class had researched to present to the class what various foods symbolized. So the first one gets up and is ready to start talking about what the grapes and carrots in salad mean on Thanksgiving, when the teacher, stopped him and said, “Let’s see if he knows what it means.” And I´m almost laughing at this point, because I am positive there is no symbolism involved here, and I have never had a salad that I can remember with grapes and carrots in it. So I tell them I have no idea, and that I don’t really eat salad on Thanksgiving because it’s about the turkey, casseroles and pies. So that ended the whole symbolism part.

Next they asked me about the origins of Black Friday. I was just getting grilled! Thankfully, I did remember Mom telling me once about how many stores are in accounting terms in the red, or losing money for the year, but with all the transactions that happen on this day, they go to the black. Whew.

And then she asked about the other theory, and I had to admit, I have absolutely no idea. As a quick note, Thanksgiving is not celebrated here (except in some English schools apparently) but Black Friday is. The days of the week are weird, not like Spanish or French. Saturday and Sunday are the same as Spanish, but Monday to Friday translate literally as second day, third day, etc. So Friday to them, Sexta-Feira, or sixth day, is totally different than Friday, but they still call it Black Friday. And all the stores have promotions going on, but its not nearly as crazy as the US. Although, walking down past the stores that night, all the mannequins just had paper covering certain parts because I guess they sold the clothes on them and didn’t put any more on, which I thought was funny.

Anyway, back to our Thanksgiving party. Then they asked me questions about America. Think for a second, what you think of, when picturing Brazil. Because I feel Americans immediately think about the Amazon. And maybe Sao Paulo or Carnival or something, while there is so much more here. Well, the Brazilians basically think we live like glorified, modern day cowboys. Someone even asked if we had lions in the United States, because an American shot Cecil. But the class did answer that one. They mostly asked about guns, and if everybody carried one, and about crime, and about road conditions. All interesting. When I told them I usually didn’t lock the door at our house ever, they gasped because the fence gate, the house gate, and the door are all locked at all times. And no one has a gun.

After answering questions, we all gathered back together and the four missionaries talked about what they are thankful for, bore our testimonies, and then we ate a Thanksgiving meal. Even though it was different, it was really cool and I´m glad I could  celebrate Thanksgiving. And they tried making the food American, but no one, even the teachers has been to America. One question, was what does pumpkin pie taste like, as no one had ever had it before. There was probably 50 people there, and a lot of them want to know more about the church, and the school was very grateful that we came, that they could talk to natives, real Americans as they called us, and told us to come back anytime. It was really cool. Half of the time, I would speak in Portuguese, and half in English there, and the English teacher said our Portuguese accents are beautiful, and I think their English accents are as well.

I’ve been reading Jesus the Christ lately along with the New Testament, and one thing I love is all the invitations from Christ. He asked a couple times to diseased or suffering people, Wilt thou be made whole?Because we can, from any problems we have. And all we have to do, is have faith, and go to Christ. Go to Christ as much as you can. In the scriptures, attending church, the temple, through prayer, go to Christ and become whole.

Love,

Elder Schenewark

Letter #14

Dear Family and Friends,

I love Brazil!

My first week here has been wonderful. Of course, there have been a few adjustments, but honestly, I feel more at home here than in Arizona.

I arrived on Tuesday, and was so tired. When I went to Arizona, we stayed at the mission home for two days for training/rest, and I thought the same would happen here, but boy was I wrong. The mission secretary, a senior couple, Elder Burkinshaw, picked me up at the airport because transfer meeting was happening right then. so we went to that. Oh, and this whole time, I can’t remember a word of Portuguese and can’t understand anything. Literally anything. At the transfer meeting, it was great to be able to catch up with Elder Oviatt. He was my first companion, and I didn’t appreciate how fantastic he was until having had so many others.

I met my trainer, Elder Rodrigues, from Fortaleza Brazil. He’s only been serving six months, but is a fantastic missionary. Fortunately/Unfortunately, he doesn’t understand any English. This has really helped me learn Portuguese quickly, sort of sink or swim. But obviously I’m no where near fluent and there are times when I just want to be able to understand him, and to be able to communicate with him better. Our first week together though, has been great.

My first day here was honestly really, really hard. But since then I’ve enjoyed every minute. I didn’t come here with any expectations, and really only knew a couple of facts I had read off of Wikipedia, so basically I didn’t know anything, but it’s been so much better than what I could have imagined.

The city is giant! The mission has been growing, so we’ve been opening up new areas. There are two wards in the city, and sister missionaries cover one of the wards, which has a small area, and previously there had been one set of elders covering the other. As it was such a giant area, Elder Rodrigues and I were brought in, and it’s still a giant area!! And I didn’t expect so many hills! But my shoes seem to be holding up fine, and there’s nothing like playing golf before my mission for mission prep, so I’ve been fine as well.

The other two elders in my apartment are E. Andrade, from Cape Verde, and Elder Anderson from the states. He’s lived all over, but mostly in Indiana. His family is in Georgia right now. E. Andrade has been out about 8 months, and Elder Anderson entered the MTC the same day as me, but was in the Sao Paulo MTC and then here in the mission, so it seems like he’s been here longer. And it’s always nice, when we can’t figure something out between me and Elder Rodrigues while we are at the house, Elder Anderson will translate for us.

I love the food here. It’s blooming delicious. Everything. One of the highlights this week was going to a guy who runs a coconut stand. I can’t remember where I read it, but I remember reading some thing that said agua de coco is Brasil’s unofficial national drink, and is a natural isotonic. He had asked us to come back to teach him, so we did. And we bought a coconut a piece. He keeps them cooled, then you pay the equivalent of basically $0.70 and he takes his machete, cuts part of the top off, throws a straw in, and heaven. It was really good. And he wasn’t very interested, but someone who was sitting there drinking coconut paid for ours and asked us to come to his house and teach him more.

I wanted to start an English class, and brought it up with my companion here, and he thought it was a really good idea. Like super excited. I feel fairly comfortable in speaking Portuguese, but can’t really understand anything still. But that’s what happened in Arizona too, it’s like my ears have to adjust, and it takes a couple weeks, so I’m not worried about it. I was thinking we would start the class in a couple weeks, but my companion was super excited and talked to the Bishop about it. And it’s a good thing as the Bishop has to clear it with the Stake President, otherwise we would be starting that this week. So it probably will start next week. And I’m really excited for that too. I am able to understand usually when it’s in a lesson, and we are inside, and it’s quieter and I am more focused, but outside on the street, trying to talk to people, I just do my best and usually end up mimicking my companion, either nodding  yes or shaking no.

Everyone loves America here. For instance, I’ve heard more American music here in a couple days then I did in 6 weeks in Arizona. But no one can understand it. They just like it. My companion can’t understand it at all, but every now and then he will say some lyric that makes absolutely no sense, but he says it in a big Brazilian accent and I laugh every time. We will be turned down by an investigator and be walking down the street and he will say, “Let’s party. Or something like,  it’s totally out of place, but hilarious.

Even though the missionaries have been here, because the area is so large, we are basically starting totally new. There was one person they’ve been teaching in our area, that we have picked up, and the rest we have been trying to find. And we will keep doing that this week. I know that there are people here who are looking for the truth, who know not where to find it, and I don’t want to miss helping any of them. Every single night, we both return home exhausted. So far it’s been a struggle to find people who really want the gospel, but I am looking forward to this week and the people we will meet.

Love,

Elder Hunter Schenewark

P.S. Here’s my Christmas wish list:

razors!! cartridges for gillette mach3
wood to put in my shoes to suck out the moisture
pictures of the family, and I cant print them here, so just mail them
pop rock candy
granola bars or something of that sort, maybe just a jar of peanut butter
a small backpack or like a cheap string bag just for traveling, would be helpful
ziplock baggies in the spaces if possible!!

I know it’s a lot, but it would be appreciated. Especially the razors. And the food I was able to bring here, the granola, and trail mix and fruit snacks from y-all and the Bachs have been of inestimable worth here, so thank you!

HEADED TO BRASIL!

Letter #12

Dear Family and Friends,

We had a haboob, a dust storm, hit two weeks ago, and another one last week. It’s crazy. You can’t see anything. The picture I’m sending, it’s hard to tell how big it is, but the sand is blocking out the
mountains. They move through pretty quickly, but while they are going on, we are supposed to stay inside. The dust carries some type of spore, that if it goes in your lungs, you cough for the rest of your life. It’s called valley fever. And it’s impossible to bike in it anyways.

I got my visa today!!! I was informed just a few hours ago! I am going to miss Arizona, especially wonderful San Luis, but I can’t wait for Brazil!! Thank you for the many prayers that have been offered on my behalf. I don’t know the full itinerary yet, so here’s what I do know: I leave San Luis tomorrow, to go to the mission home. I get to go to the Gilbert Arizona temple one day, and the rest I’ll spend with some Spanish missionaries up there working. Next Monday, I leave for Brazil, but right before that, I will call home from the mission home. And that’s about it right now! I just barely found out, and it’s a little crazy. I feel bad for Elder Bradley. We were looking at a fantastic week, and now I have no idea what’s going to happen. I think until transfers next Thursday he’ll probably be with the other two missionaries here in San Luis.

Everything still feels unreal. I had expected at this point to be here for another six weeks, and because mine has been having problems and taking so long, I wondered if the VISA would ever come. But it has! I have to pack and clean everything today and then we are going to try and teach as many people as we can on my last night. We were making really good progress and close to baptisms, and I wish I could stick around and see the end, but it’s okay. Here I come Victoria!!!

So this week, I participated in my first exchanges. I was with Elder Guymon who is one of the other San Luis elders. We stayed in my area, and had a great day, and it’s always nice to change things up. See what can be done better, and to appreciate the good.

We’ve met some awesome people this week. The Lord has definitely prepared people here. We met another white guy, who lives in Gadsden Arizona close to San Luis, and he is actually from Utah. Amazing, crazy story. It took up pages in my journal. Which by the way, I’ve been writing lots in. From 9:30-10:30 pm is personal time / get ready for bed, but in this mission you are not allowed to write people, you can only do that on Monday.  So I haven’t really sent out anything, but my journal is reaping the benefits.  But I will be sending a little box home with some stuff in it before I leave.

On Saturday, we were working, and my companion and I saw a firework or something. It launched up, and then white light spread all around and kept expanding. And then that faded and for about 1/2 an hour, there was a glowing green circle in the sky. I have no idea what it is. But my comp totally freaked out and thought it was a nuke.

I have been so blessed to be here! I love San Luis. I can say with no hyperbole, My life has changed here. My testimony of the gospel has grown stronger, and I’ve loved sharing it here. I’ve learned so much from the people. They are so humble, and want to come closer to God. Even the people who reject us, the vast majority of them, say thank you to us for sharing the word of God.  Today I read this verse:

But now mine own eyes have beheld God; but not my natural, but my spiritual eyes, for my natural eyes could not have beheld; for I should have withered and died in his presence; but his glory was upon me; and I beheld his face, for I was transfigured before him.

I haven’t seen God, but I know with all my heart that He is real. That Christ lives. And this gospel is true. And that’s transfigured me as well. Not in the same way.  But transfigured nonetheless. Because of my knowledge, my life is different. I am so thankful to have the chance to preach the gospel. In Arizona, in Brazil, in Calgary, wherever I am, the truth doesn’t change.

Love, Elder Schenewark

And, a portion of his companion’s letter that we found interesting:

“I’ll miss him. Elder Schenewark is a hard worker and tons of fun. We’ll be keeping in touch. Last Monday as well as today, the Yuma Zone went to the sand dunes in the bit of California that our Zone covers. It is so sweet! Someone told me that they filmed parts of Star Wars out there. But in any
case, we found a big bowl and went to the bottom and played dodge ball.”

“Today, a border patrol guy on an ATV came up to us and we talked with him for the longest time. He is a pretty cool guy! He was telling us all about the stuff that he sees and hears about. My particular favorite is what they call “Bonzai Runs.” He told us that a few years back people on the south side of the border would line up by the hundreds where the border guys couldn’t see them, then all of a sudden one of them would shout for everyone to run. Hundreds of people flew over the fence and booked it. There were only 3 or so border patrol guys there so they could only grab a few of them and the rest would get away. Then he went on to tell us that the majority of the people they are getting now aren’t Mexicans. They are Guatemalans or Hondurans or even Gypsies from Armenia. They go through all of Mexico to get to the border, hop it, then chase down the border patrol guys. There is different protocol for other foreigners as compared to Mexicans for some reason, so usually Hondurans and Guatemalans get off pretty easily when they get caught, so they hunt down the border patrol guys instead of the other way around. It was super interesting. Apparently the Yuma sector of the border patrol catches just about 100% of the people that come illegally.”

“In other news though, we had the cool opportunity on Sunday to Skype in to see the Mission President’s devotional! Vernon Smith, whose baptism was recently featured on LDS.org spoke in Yuma and it was Skyped into the live meeting which was held in Mesa. It was a super cool experience. Brother Smith is a tribal leader of a prominent Native American tribe down here and the truthfulness of the Book of Mormon touched his heart profoundly. He asked himself how his
ancestors know about a God and His Son if they never had any writings about it in their language. When he received the Book of Mormon he received his answer, he said. It is so amazing to see how the work is going among the Native peoples down here. Fulfillment of prophecy.”

Letter #11

Dear Family and Friends,

Seems like everything is changing over there! Congrats to Elder Orton, It was nice reading his letter, and to hear he is doing well. And it’s weird to think Porter”s about to graduate! It seems like my senior year happened last week. And, he is pulling off that football uniform quite nicely. If I was there, that grid iron girl of his would be having some competition.

Lots of cool experiences, and I feel settled in now. There’s missionary information they give us, or rather is on our IPads,  and one thing it says is it takes about six weeks of living at a place to feel at home. And I laughed because I don’t think I’ve spent more than six weeks in one place since I left college.

Saturday we drove to the San Diego Temple. It was awesome! The four of us in San Luis bought sandwich making stuff, and made them that morning. And each had four on the way. Classic road trip. Wonder bread ham sandwiches. There was the zone in Yuma who went, so the four of us and twelve others, including the assistants to the president, President and Sister Toone, and a senior couple who finish their ten month mission on Thursday. They’ve been serving on an Indian reservation.

I had a couple things on my mind going in, and everything was answered. And the temple itself was simply gorgeous. Then Pres. Toone bought us dinner from the cafeteria, and it was really good.  The drive was about three hours and pleasant. My companion time lapsed the entire drive on his IPad, but it went by in like ten seconds, so we are trying to slow it down to a minute so it actually can be seen. All in all, a fantastic day. And we missed Halloween entirely. They don’t really celebrate the day of the dead here, only Halloween, and it was nice to miss all that.

A new initiative that they are testing down here, (this mission is known as the testing mission) is Skype-ing all the new missionaries who get called to the mission. So, on Wednesday, we Skyped with a missionary in Brazil who arrives in February.

 

We answered his questions about the mission here, talked about what he can practice on concerning his English, which was already very good, and then he and I, Victor, vocally read scriptures in Portuguese, so I could practice a little, and talked about how I can improve. First time doing Portuguese since I left the MTC. I thought I read well, but when I went to say a closing prayer in Portuguese, I had no idea what was Spanish and what was Portuguese. There is another missionary from Brazil coming here in December that we will hopefully talk to, so I will be brushing up before that happens.

There is a family that feeds the missionaries every fast Sunday, so we went over on Sunday. And it was the first American food I’ve been served here. And it was delicious. First was chicken soup. I had heard of the ridiculous amount of food this family serves, so I ate the food, but didn’t drink the broth trying to conserve room. But they didn’t take away my bowl, so I drank it. Then a wonderful salad. And then they brought a giant plate with asparagus, corn on the cob, mashed potatoes, rice, and a 16 ounce steak. Halfway through I wanted to fly the white flag, but I kept going. And I finished. I haven’t known full like that dinner. And then for dessert, we had pie and ice cream. But the end was in sight and I finished strong. Holy cow. The family likes you the more you eat, and my companion asked for a second helping of pie and ice cream and they definitely liked that. One interesting thing about eating down here, to reiterate it has always been delicious, but the people never eat with you. I think it’s happened once. They always just watch. I haven’t gotten used to that yet.

We had a member of the branch go out with us every day this week, and had lots of lessons. It’s been really busy, and I’ve enjoyed getting to know the members here better. Elder Bradley said he wrote about Hmo. Sacarios. He was very interesting. “In the night we were trying hard to find a member to go out with us to a couple of visits. No solid appointments, but we had faith that someone was going to listen to us. No one could come so we called up Hermano Sacairos. His last name is very similar to the word sacarios which is a name for murderers in Mexico, and he is like 80 years old. We went to
find his house and couldn’t figure it out. The directions he gave us were super weird. “Turn on the road that has a lot of letters then go right….” We got lost. By the time we found his house, he’s reading theLiahona out loud. We listen to him read us a whole article then he looks up at us, smiles, and laughingly exclaims, “This is awesome!”

Most members are converts so they tend to like to come out with us. They are so strong. Two quick lesson highlights:

We went and taught a man named Victor. He is part of that extended family that we interrupted a couple weeks ago who had been praying at that instant for help. We’ve taught other members of the
family a lot, and they’ve come to church, but he works in fields in California so he isn’t home much. But this time he was. We taught our lesson, and talked about fast Sunday, and he wanted to fast! He told us how if we ever need anything, a place to stay, a car to borrow, food, or anything, come to his house, because “What you’ve brought is worth more than anything I can give you.” It was really cool, the only bad part was he didn’t show up to church, and we don’t know why yet. Other people did get called in to work, so we’re hoping that’s what it was. But an absolutely wonderful family who have been prepared.

The other cool lesson, we took an investigator on a chapel tour. He asked great questions, the Spirit was so strong, especially near the baptismal font and in the chapel. And the 2nd counselor in the branch presidency who was there was perfect and plenty enthusiastic. Just had to be there I guess. His sister is younger, and her parents don’t want her to go to our church alone, but now they both want to. But on Sunday he got called in to the fields as well, as he helps with the irrigation.

Sunday was tough though, as all the commitments we had to come to church fell through. No one came. It was disappointing. It was tough. But I have a feeling this week is going to be fantastic! We’ve been working hard, setting lofty goals, and have seen miracles!

Every week, I mean to say a couple of interesting facts but always forget. The border fence ends a couple miles outside town. I don’t know why. We tried to take a picture, but it doesn’t show that clearly. It just ends.

Our phone often doesn’t work, because it thinks we are in Mexico, and requires roaming charges. Half the town works well, the other half is unpredictable. But it’s the other missionaries half who are in San Luis, so the only time it affects us, is when we are in the church building.

There are three different lanes to go to Mexico. The first one is the fastest and is for those who have passports. The second one is for drivers license, some sort of i.d., etc. and I’ve been told the third one doesn’t require anything, and is also what trucks have to use. The first lane takes a few minutes. The second usually takes an 1/2 hour except on weekends when it can be hours, and the third lane can take hours as well, but depends more on the people checking rather than the length of the line.

A lot of kids from Mexico go to school here. They walk across the border to school every morning, and back in the afternoon. And this town has the best crosswalk guards in America. They have every single path, and there’s a lot staffed every single day.

Love,

Elder Schenewark

 

Letter #10

(It’s always fun to glean other tidbits from companions…this week’s contribution!)

“Then we got started on the fence. It wasn’t too hard. Elder Schenewark ended up doing most of the work digging the post holes because he liked it and didn’t want us to switch out with him,

Today for preparation day we tried to get Nacho Libre approved, but it wasn’t. So instead we bought four  habaneros and we each ate one. It was nuts. Those things are so hot! Now we are going to go carve pumpkins for Halloween this Saturday.

Speaking of Saturday, guess where the whole Yuma Zone, us included, gets to go this Saturday? THE SAN DIEGO TEMPLE!!! Our stake is in the San Diego temple district so we got permission from Salt Lake to go do a session on Saturday instead of trying to do missionary work when everyone is out trick or treating. It is going to be awesome. Expect a ton of pictures!

Still no word on Elder Schenewark’s visa. I hope he gets to stay here for a while. He is a super hard worker. He is awesome. I love Elder Schenewark. He came pre trained. He’s learning Spanish super fast too!”

Dear Family and Friends,

Yeah, I was going to write about Waldo, but I ran out of time last week. The only thing I’ll add is he told us he was interested in our message but not right now because he was living with a married person, and he knew that was wrong and God didn’t like it, so he was trying to stay as far away as possible from God, but he wants to be with her, and as soon as her divorce is finalized and he is married, he said he would give us a call.

So yeah, definitely a character. And no one can hide from God. We appreciated the ride, the drinks, and we feel like we did our part. But we aren’t going to worry about finding him.

This week we continued to improve. The first few days were killer, and then the last couple have been difficult. But on Sunday, it was amazing to see some of our investigators come to church. I’ve been sad when people haven’t after committing to, but I was surprised at how happy I was to see them come. It was fantastic. We are teaching quite a few people who hopefully will get baptized before the end of this transfer. Work remains.

On Wednesday, we taught a super fantastic(scout camp anyone?) lesson, with the relief society president, to our miracle family, the one we interrupted as they were praying for people to come, that ended up going over an hour. When we went outside, Elder Bradley’s bike was gone! Honestly, I’m not going to lie, my first thought was just relief that it wasn’t mine, because I did not want to fork over a couple hundred for a bike I had used for two weeks. But I felt really bad too. Our bikes were right next to each other, so it was just a 50-50 thing. We called the police to report it. The family we had been teaching had a son who had left the house 15-20 minutes before we went outside, so the family called him and asked if he saw two bikes, and he said he did. He came driving back, and said he would drive around the neighborhood and look for it. Five minutes later he comes flying back to say there’s a teenager riding Elder Bradley’s bike back. And then we asked were the helmet was, so they drive back down to a dumpster, and they climbed in it to get it back. They asked that we not say
anything, so Elder Bradley called the police back and explained that he did in fact have his bike. So, all in all, a terrible situation ended up being a good story and pretty funny as it ended up all right.
Except, Elder Bradley had to buy a new lock. He had put his u-lock just hanging on the handlebars. We put our bikes right behind some cars, and San Luis is actually pretty safe and quiet, so we hadn’t
locked our bikes up, but now we do every time. And we had already called the other missionaries for a ride, so we got a ride back to the house which was nice. Moral of the story, and my mission motto,
#MiraclesEveryday

Saturday, we are going to the San Diego Temple!!!! I am really excited! It’s the sixteen missionaries in the Yuma Zone, and a senior couple assigned to this area as well who are going. I’m not sure what
the times are, but because it’s Halloween, we won’t be doing anything anyways.

In answer to the Halloween question, there’s decorations, but not an insane amount. One thing you have to understand is, most if not all decorations stay here. Most of the houses have Christmas lights up all year round. Not on, but they are always up. And there’s some Halloween decorations, but not a huge amount. One thing a lot of houses have as well, are Virgin de Guadalupe shrines/altars. Which is interesting. And, I included a picture of a lawnmower I saw, because it might be the only lawn mower in town. Everything is sand so there’s no need for one. The city has a couple green areas they maintain, but not 99% of yards.

Lots of people sweep  the sand with a broom getting the rocks and maybe leaves out of the way.
The sunsets and sunrises are always beautiful here, but usually there are no clouds. I did think we might get something from that giant hurricane, but nothing. It doesn’t rain here. A lot of the ward had members they were worried about in Mexico,but I think everyone is all right.

And in answer to the seventy percent unemployment dad mentioned, everyone here has a job, so I would guess they might be counted as unemployed because of legal status? I don’t know for sure. Only that everyone works. We are teaching one lady, she has worked in the field for 45 years, from the age of 14, to 59. Hoeing lettuce, or lechuga in Spanish for a lifetime. We did meet one person who is physically unable to, who collects bottles and takes them to Mexico to recycle. Also, most of the women work here too. Some of the field workers are on a bus at two a.m. And ride to California to work, but yeah, their is no unemployment, just underemployment. The top,jobs are for the schools here, either as teacher or maintenance and it’s like you have it made. It’s helped open my eyes to how blessed we all are.

For food, we usually make lunch at our house. And I go 100% American, as dinner is always Mexican. Authentic too. I thought I had had it before but not really. Tortillas, always corn and dripping with oil, frijoles, and avocado, are guaranteed at every meal. And then some variation is added. Sometimes chicken, maybe beef, rice, etc. Also, always soda. That’s the one thing that’s rough, the foods been fantastic here, but not a fan of drinking soda every meal. The water here isn’t very good, and everyone buys and refills the big blue bottles, whatever they are called at stores, and have them in their kitchen. But no one uses them. It’s always soda. They definitely know how to cook. We have done service twice recently and one of the places, the member is way awesome. He cooked us carneacada, which is made often, but his was so good. And he made us huevos rancheros the next morning, which is tortillas, beans, salsa, and eggs. He actually made cactus salsa, which I really liked. Not spicy at all. And I love prickly pear! Even though it doesn’t taste like much. I eat it as a snack a lot. We dug fence holes for him, which is actually really easy because it’s all sand.

Today, all four of us ate a habanero pepper. Won’t do that one again. Elder Goodrich bought a gallon of ice cream for us, and we ate almost all of it. But I know I can do it now. Everyone makes their own salsa, and I don’t want to have to decline anything. So I know I can do it. But it was smoking hot. Also, their is a McDonald’s and a Jack in the Box here, and everyone loves Jack in the Box more. And they all call it Jack, which is funny. Just Jack. “Do you want to eat at Jack?” “I had Jack for lunch.” Etc.

I don’t go down the hills fast. I’m very careful, and catch up with my companion by pedaling harder on the flat. You know me, very cautious.

Apparently there used to be a giant narc tunnel here, that was found out and shut down a couple years ago. The druggies shot the cop and then just moved towns. Just an interesting story I heard.

My Spanish has only been bad, because I was totally unprepared, but it’s definitely improving, and one investigator said something which made my day, she said that when I talk about the gospel she can always understand me, but when I talk about other stuff she can’t, and she knows that I am a servant of Christ. So that was very nice of her. And my comprehension is going up as well. Still work to be done though! Elder Bradley has really good Spanish, probably the best of any missionary here, so he helps me out when I need it, which is a lot. I’m understood, it just comes out broken.

This house had twenty one cats here! And there was lots more on the rest of the street. The whole street smelled like cats! I don’t know why so many cats lived on this street, but I am glad I don’t!

It’s also finally cooling down, which is nice, and some temps will be in the 80s this week!

I know this gospel is true. My testimony grows everyday. As does my love for each one of you! Families are the best and the most important! Be thou an example of the believers! I love you all!!!

Elder Schenewark

Letter #9

Dear Family and Friends,

This has been an incredibly interesting week. We’ve met some crazy people. I’ve been out for a while, and wanted to share the two most important things I’ve learned on my mission.

1. The Holy Ghost. You have to have the Holy Ghost with you always! I didn’t realize how important, and how wonderful it was to have that with you at all times! In your letter you mentioned that story about the missionary who served in Brazil and was stabbed. One of my teachers at the MTC served as assistant to the president in that mission and knew her and told me about it in class.

Yesterday, we were biking in a part of town, and the Spirit told me to get out of there now. It didn’t look more dangerous than other parts of town. But that has probably been the loudest I’ve ever heard the Spirit. Usually it’s just whispers and feelings, and often strong whispers and feelings. But this was like a voice. So we hightailed it out of there, and as soon as we went a block away, I felt a lot better. It’s not just for safety though. It’s been something I’ve been thinking about this entire week. Everything we do as missionaries relies on the Holy Ghost. Without it, our message does not get across.

Also, in the Bible, I don’t understand everything, but it mentions how before Christ left, he promised to give them a comforter, the Spirit to be with them. Now the apostles could have the gift of the
Holy Ghost, it could be with them always, instead of merely having the power of it. And that made such a difference in their life and abilities. Their faith didn’t waver as it had before and they served until death. They wouldn’t deny like they had done previously.

2. Our Heavenly Father knows us personally. He has a plan for each of us. My testimony of this was definitely strengthened in this whole visa waiting process, and there’s been time after time here that I’ve known that I need to be here at this time. But he knows each one of us. On Friday, in the evening, we had had three straight lessons fall through, and we were disappointed as they were solid appointments and we were really excited for the people, and were planning to commit one to a baptismal date. We had over an hour, and we had nothing planned, because we thought we’d be teaching. So we left the house of the last person who wasn’t home at that time, and previously they had been there every scheduled time, and we started riding down the road, and went less than a block before seeing someone.

We say our usual “Buenas noches,” and then go to talk to them. It turns out, right when we said that, they had been praying to God for help. Their children had been asking religious questions to her that she couldn’t answer and she was looking for the right church, as she didn’t like the others. And then we show up. We taught her, and she testified to us that she knew we were messengers from God. It was a really cool experience. I know that Heavenly Father does love each one of us. And when we’re going through hard times, have faith. If we do what we are supposed to, help is on the way. I am thankful that our appointments fell through and we could be there at that time that night.

We have a Skype call with the President of the mission in a couple of hours, and we should find out if we are going to the San Diego temple! For out 31st, Halloween, we can’t really be going around dressed as missionaries while everyone else is in costume, so everyone is going to the temple, with Phoenix, Mesa or Gilbert, but because we are hours away from everyone else, and our area is actually in the temple area for San Diego, we’re hoping to go there. Apparently they did this 1.5 years ago for something. He just needs permission from Salt Lake.

(Nov. 14 is going to be a huge Mexican Independence Day celebration! With the stake!)

Love,

Elder Schenewark

P.S. Sorry no pictures this week.

Letter #8

Dear Family and Friends,

Matt Stone, I am awfully appreciative of the Tempe food offer, but….. I’m in San Luis!!!! San Luis is literally right on the border with Mexico. Our mission house is less than a mile from the fence and the town’s Main Street runs right to Mexico. It is so awesome.
But to start from the beginning, I traveled Tuesday to Tempe, met the other missionaries going to the Tempe mission and the met my mission president and his wife and went to the mission home. My president is 7 feet tall, and just gigantic. Like Andre the giant big. And he and his wife are fantastically kind and wise. So, I woke up that morning unable to talk at all. I really wish I could have called and talked. When I talked to you on the phone, with whatever sounds I made, that was the most I had talked up until that point, so that was a blessing. My ears hurt so bad, so I decided to get some medicine for them but I didn’t have a fever or anything, just no voice and lots of pain. I did have a fever Sunday so I thought the sickness had traveled to my ears like usual.

I stayed in Tempe at the mission home with the 17 other missionaries who arrived Tuesday and Wednesday receiving training for a bike, iPad, etc. Wednesday we went to the Mesa temple. It was beautiful! And totally different than the others I’ve been to. I loved it! It’s almost 100 years old now. Unfortunately I don’t have any pictures from that right now.

Thursday, was transfer meeting and we were there to learn who our companion would be and where we would be going. I have heard that our mission boundaries our a little weird. It covers Tempe, a little bit of Phoenix, some of the Chandler, Gilbert areas, and then there is one zone in the Yuma area, which is what I’m part of. There are four missionaries in San Luis, and that’s where I was hoping to go, to get outside the entire metro area, although it is prettier than I thought. And I did! My trainer is Elder Bradley, who hails from just outside Detroit. His dad helps design parts for Ford. It was something like a 4 hour trip down there. Yuma is about 30 minutes north of us. Elder Bradley and I are both new to this area, and he hadn’t served in the Yuma zone so he was really excited as well. He has been serving as a zone leader in the south of Phoenix. He is great, and we’ve been working hard together. It can be difficult really struggling with the language, but he pushes me, which I’m grateful for and it helps a lot talking to people.

On our way to San Luis we stopped in Dateland which grows and sells dates. Definitely worth a return visit. We tried date shakes and they were actually impressively good. Their other flavor is cactus juice.

The terrain looks like a beach without the ocean. It is just sand with lots of wind blowing. In my five days here, I have met hundreds of people, and only one white person, and he actually lives in Mexico,
but was here for the day. So if you happen to be in San Luis and see a white person, wave because it’s probably me. It’s so crazy. I am speaking Spanish here. Or trying. It was tough at first, and still is but it’s quickly getting better. Some of the kids know English, but most don’t and none of the adults do, except for the government workers, i.e. Police officers. We’re still trying to get adjusted here. The last missionaries who we replaced weren’t really teaching anybody or keeping good records so that’s been a struggle, trying to build off of what they left. The other set of missionaries here live with us and cover the other half of town. We all bike everywhere. We have a van but are only supposed to use it for transfers, meetings with missionaries outside town or to take members to lessons.

Every day this week is supposed to be over 100 degrees. And I genuinely love it. It’s the coolest small town ever. Everybody is so so so nice. They are very understanding with my broken Spanish. And we get fed all the time. Last night we were going around meeting new members and just about every single family offered us food. The first house we had cerviche which is like pico de gallo, except with shrimp. That’s the first shrimp I’ve had in ten years, and I actually did like it. This is probably the closest thing to Mexico, that’s in the USA. All the houses have four foot cinder block walls around them, and the houses have Christmas lights strung all over. And the animals. Everybody has a couple small dogs. And there’s thousands of cats roaming the streets. Usually weekends are good for teaching, but here it’s really tough. Every off day, the population who can, goes to Mexico. It becomes almost deserted. I don’t know the history of the town unfortunately. There is a San Luis Mexico which is 5 times bigger than the USA one right across the border where everyone goes as they have family there.

As for the town, it’s relatively small, the houses are all close to each other and then outside the town there are fields and fields of lettuce. If you’ve eaten lettuce before, chances are you’ve had some
from this area. Elder Bradley and I go running, usually three miles every morning, and we see hundreds of workers out in the fields, or at least the organic ones manually hoeing each row. There are old school busses, that tow porta potties on the back and bring the workers to the fields every day. They are there by 6:30am. And they stay for most of the day. Everything is sandy. I feel like I’m on a movie set. Somewhere between Nacho Libre and some John Wayne movie. Except I ride a bike, not a horse.

Our first day here we had been challenged to commit someone to baptism, and we did! We had the faith, and when we do God will work miracles for us! That’s been the highlight so far. We teach him again tonight. We just started talking with him on the street, and went from there.

Saturday and Sunday were stake conference, and we stayed the night up in Yuma for that and most of the day Sunday so we haven’t done as much as we would have liked. It’s actually only a branch in San Luis. But it’s the strongest branch I’ve ever seen. They have about 140 people every Sunday, we were told, and have sent 7 missionaries in the last couple years, with 4 more leaving before the end of this year. But, there are not a lot of Melchizedek priesthood holders here. The youth and women of the branch are incredibly strong though. They have their own institute program in San Luis. We have met all the leaders of the branch. The branch president is fantastic, and has a vision for this area. He wants to see a Spanish stake created here. When we were visiting him, he kept telling us, “cuidado con las girls” over and over. It was funny.

Okay, That’s it. I love it here. The people are so wonderful and open. There is a special energy and excitement in this town. Congratulations to Annemarie and Tanner! Everything I saw looked wonderful and beautiful. And, my P.O. Box is 14474 San Luis, AZ 85349. There are no mailboxes in the town, I don’t know why, so everybody has a box at the mail office. And, with the iPad I can read emails after 9:30 each night, I just can’t send them, so if it’s easier for my uncles, they can do that. I love hearing the latest!

Love,

Elder Schenewark

Letter #7

Dear Family and Friends,

I think this entire summer I have made it very clear that I did not want to stay in the United States longer than I had to. I have felt ready and excited to go to Brazil since I received my call in April. Well, no more. There is no place I would rather be going to tomorrow than Tempe, Arizona. It has been a cool experience as my testimony that Jesus Christ knows and cares about each of us has grown exponentially. Frankly, there is not much of a reason for my not getting my visa. Except that Christ has a reason. I know that there is a reason I am heading down there.

One of my questions was who gave me my call to Tempe, and I received an email saying that it came from one of the 12 apostles. Also, I found out that I will stay at least 6 weeks, as they keep you there for a full transfer. I can’t wait to get there tomorrow and go to work. I feel prepared and am ready to go! Also, I know I mentioned this a little last week, but I have loved every single day in the MTC. I have grown so much, and have really been able to help others as well. Someone told me yesterday that they were so thankful I didn’t get my visa, and that I had been the answer to their prayers. And they haven’t been the first, so it’s been a truly unforgettable experience.

Last Tuesday, Elder Claudio R.M. Costa came to speak at the Devotional. He is the head of the Brazil area. It was my favorite devotional by far. Absolutely fantastic. He talked about his conversion at age 28, and some wonderful experiences as a mission president in Brazil. Also, fun fact, I haven’t confirmed this, but my teacher said that Elder Costa and Elder Soares a.k.a. The Dynamic Duo of Brazil married two sisters.

After the devotional, the branch president President Dansie held my exit interview. He is a great man. One of the first things he told me, was that he knew I must have a great mother. You know it.

I loved Conference!! My favorite talk was Elder Russell M. Nelsons. If you don’t remember it, go back and watch it again. Besides the heart wrenching story about the failed heart surgeries on the 3 siblings, I think his talk will be the benchmark for future decisions in my life if you know what I’m talking about. But, no worries or thoughts about that now. I do wish that someone would give a talk like that about men. They probably have, so if anybody knows any similarly incredible ones, let me know. There is always room for improvement. That was also my favorite session.

It was so sad to see President Monson struggle, and I wish I could have been there like Aaron, who held up Moses’ arms. And of course, hearing the testimonies of the three new apostles. I had hoped that someone from Brazil would be named, but during the press conference after they were named, I received an undeniable witness that they have been called of God, not man, They are His apostles. I am so grateful to have a prophet and apostles to help us today.

(Elder Leon, “Thank you for been friend of my son all the blessings be upon you and your family.”)

After the last session on Sunday, I went immediately to another devotional for the missionaries leaving this week. I’ll just say I’m ready to go!!! And then dinner, and then our Sunday night devotional. The a Capella group Vocal Point, came and sang lots of songs, and in between shared their testimonies. That was the first time I’d heard any of their songs, and I love live music so it was good.

Well, I think that’s about it. I am looking forward to calling tomorrow!!! Unfortunately, after holding out for 5.5 weeks, I succumbed yesterday. I had a bit of a fever, chills, aches, and I am feeling better today, just have a bit of a cough. I do hate traveling sick. Hopefully I can kick it pretty quick.

And now I have to go pack, shouldn’t take long at all, but I do need to do it. We (there are four other elders and four other sisters going) leave tomorrow at 3:35 am from the MTC, so it’s going to be a short sleep and a long day. Side note, Tempe missionaries get Ipads and cars so I’m excited for that. The Ipad has enough material, such as everything you could think of in Portuguese in the gospel library app so it will help me keep up my language. Which is superb. I can’t take credit. Both my teachers have been fantastic and two weeks of one on one personalized teaching does do amazing things. Tchau!!!!

(One of my teachers Irmao (Brother) Barlow. He served in Mozambique.
My other teacher was Irmao Crestani. He served in southern Brazil.)

And have fun in Vegas!!! That’s super exciting!!

Love,

Elder Schenewark

Tempe-rary Vineyards

Dear Elder Schenewark,

We hope the first few weeks of your study and training at the MTC have gone well. We want you to know we are eagerly awaiting your arrival here in the Arizona Tempe Mission while you await your Visa. We are praying for you and your preparation. This is a wonderful opportunity for you to set aside the world and absorb all the information and inspiration you can. Enjoy every minute of it!

By the time you arrive in the Mission, I anticipate that you will have made good progress on your study of the fundamentals of “Preach My Gospel.” This is an important first step in being able to teach with the Spirit. Your first companion, your Trainer, will be prepared to help you continue this process.

We pray for the Lord’s blessings to be with you as you complete your training at the MTC. In just a short time, Sister Toone and I will be greeting you at the airport and welcoming you to the “Best Mission in the World.” Look for us at the bottom of the escalator that takes you to the Baggage Claim area.

We send our love, and know the Lord will bless you as you continue to do your best to prepare.

 Sincerely,

President Toone

LA-Phx-slider3

Well, these last couple days its been like waiting for another mission call. Usually people get their assignments on Thursday, but………I got an email right when I was getting on today, and I will be going to the Tempe Arizona Mission!!!!! I have to say, I am really excited to go serve!!

And Then There Was One

Aconteceu, havia um. And it came to pass, there was but one. Yes, Elder Knudson and Sister Gage boarded the plane this morning for Brazil. Out of the starting ten, it’s just me left.

Last Tuesday I was told to report to the travel office, and I was literally jumping up and down. Everybody I know who goes to the travel office gets their visas. So I went, and they told me that I needed to fill out another form. Of fingerprints. So I had fingerprints taken for the fourth time, this time for the city of Provo. That was a huge letdown. Then Thursday the other two got their visas. And I’m glad for them. As much as I really want to get to Brazil, I have complete faith in the Lord and his plan. Even if I don’t know what it is yet. It would be exciting to get called to Boston for a little.

The upside is, the teachers are hired, and are getting paid, so I’ll be having one on one tutoring for the next two weeks, and they are amazing. For companions, I’ll be with the Zone Leaders based out of Cape Verde, and they will be moving into my room. Elder Goodwin and Elder Leon are totally awesome. Elder Goodwin is from Layton, Utah, and Elder Leon is from Las Vegas.

Elder Knudson and I have been keeping our room insanely fresh this past week. It’s been clean, but since we both enjoy cleanliness, it’s been really great, especially since there has been only two people in the room. People come up sometimes just to see and smell it. Everything is clean, and we put dryer sheets in the vents, and the clean smell goes all over. So Elders Leon and Goodwin were actually pretty happy to move in. Our zone is down to nine people. It’s me, and then the eight elders in zone c. Four are going to Cape Verde, and four are going to Mozambique. We’re supposed to be getting new missionaries for our zone this week going to Mozambique, so that will be exciting. And two apparently are from Zambia. They have to fly here because the South African MTC doesn’t teach Portuguese, and then fly back. So I’ll never complain about flight lengths again. Also, there is two types of Portuguese. There is Continental, and Brazilian. Brazil speaks Brazilian, and everywhere else speaks Continental. I think Brazilian is easier and sounds better.

Elder Knudson’s older brother went to Vitoria and got back two months ago, so Elder Knudson shared some info about the place. Apparently it floods really bad, and the mosquitoes are awful. Like cover your feet at night awful.

So whenever I do get married, I’m having live music at the reception, and Elder Oviatt, Johnson, Pyne, and Knudson said they’d provide it. They all sing super good, and Elder Johnson and Oviatt play the piano really well. And now that they are all in Brazil, unless some of the new missionaries play the piano really good, I’ll be playing sacrament meeting Sunday. About 1/2 of the missionaries here play the piano, but everyone in our zone who does has now left.

Rosemary Wixom and her husband Jackson spoke to us last Tuesday. Both talks were great, and for the closing song we sang the Primary song, “We’ll Bring the World the Truth” which was wonderful.

Sunday, Lloyd Newell came and spoke. He is the host of Music and The Spoken Word. Apparently that is a calling which I didn’t know. He said Pres. Hinckley set him apart in 1990, and told him it was ‘until further notice.’ Which apparently hasn’t happened yet. We imitated Music and the Spoken Word. The MTC choir (roughly half the missionaries here, over 1000) sang a couple songs, and everybody sang a couple songs, in between parts of his talk. It actually turned out really good.

After that, we watched “Meet the Mormons.” It was really good! And it’s on Netflix and Amazon and everywhere else, so y’all should watch it for a movie night. I don’t want to give everything away, but one of the people highlighted was saying goodbye to her son who was leaving to serve a mission. And the missionaries watching it, probably a couple hundred, were all thinking or saying, “too soon.” And then at the end, people started breaking out into a spontaneous sing-a-long of David Archuleta’s “Glorious.” I really enjoyed it.

We had TRC this Friday again. From now on, it will be with people in Brazil via Skype. It was really cool. We read 3rd Nephi 17:5-10. It talks of Christ blessing the sick. We preface it by saying, the Lord isn’t here tonight, but if he was, what would you ask of him? What do you need help with? What could be better in your life? The idea with TRC, is to have a spiritual experience with the volunteers, and find something in their lives to help them with. That’s why we decided to use those verses, as it usually draws out their needs. This first person said he wanted to know how to better serve others, to serve them like Christ did. We anticipated that, but as we kept talking, he blew us away. He was doing home teaching, and had connected with the people he visited, he attended the temple regularly, etc. Honestly, I was stumped. So I gestured for my companions to take the lead, so I could think of some scripture or something to share. And after a minute or two, an idea hit me, which I shared with him. We kept talking, and it turns out he had been off his mission for only one month. I bore testimony, that a mission is fantastic, but he still has a responsibility to share the gospel. He committed to pray to think of one of his friends he could share it with. I really felt the Holy Ghost guiding my thoughts and speech that entire lesson. It was the best Portuguese I’ve ever spoken. And then, I saw him at the temple today so that was pretty cool.

I received a package from the Lozada’s, which was much appreciated! The only other thing I need right now is a hug. So give a couple out for me, and I’d appreciate it!

For my mission scripture, I’ll go with Isaiah 61:1. “The Spirit of the Lord God is upon me: because the Lord hath anointed me to preach good tidings unto the meek; he hath sent me to bind up the brokenhearted, to proclaim liberty to the captives, and the opening of the prison to them that are bound.”

I took some pictures this week, but Elder Goodwin’s card reader isn’t letting me send them, so I’ll send them next week. I’ll just buy one here. I know Elder Knudson sent home a couple of us, if you want to try and get those.

I bring my journal to write my email, but I always forget my study journal!!!!! So, this will have to suffice. In Alma 4:19, it talks about Alma going and preaching “that he might pull down, by the word of God, all the pride and craftiness and all the contentions which were among his people seeing no way save it were in bearing down in pure testimony against them.” And then Alma 5 is his preaching. I won’t give everything away, but read Alma 5 for yourself and learn what pure testimony consists of. It was an eye opener for me.

And one more thought, I’ve been reading Exodus, and I love how in Chapter 1 verse 17 it says, ‘the midwives feared God and did not as the King of Egypt commanded them” as he had commanded them to kill the Hebrew’s children, and then they received blessings for their faithfulness, in verse 20 “Therefore God dealt well with the midwives” and in 21 it says they were blessed with descendants. I love how one person can influence the world’s history. And how we are blessed for our faithfulness. And it doesn’t matter our position. We can all play a part.

Love,

Elder Schenewark