A Lovely, Lovely Letter

Dear Brother and Sister Schenewark:

It has truly been a pleasure to feel the presence and spirit of Elder Schenewark in our mission. He has become an influence for good, and our Heavenly Father has molded him into a powerful missionary. I am very grateful that he chose to serve a mission, and is here sharing the Gospel of Jesus Christ with the people in the Brazil Vitória Mission.

Not only have the lives of many people here in Brazil been blessed as a result of his efforts, but the Lord has also blessed Elder Schenewark’s life. He is prospering – physically, mentally, emotionally, and spiritually. His testimony of Jesus Christ is strong, and he shares it daily to the benefit of his fellowman. Because of his testimony and the desire he has to serve the Lord, he has truly become an instrument in His hands.

Elder Schenewark has proven to be a skilled motivator of others. He works hard, and sets a good example for those around him. He is becoming more Christ-like. Because of the leadership capacity and exemplary obedience that he has shown, the Lord has called him to serve in our mission as a Trainer. Without a doubt, he will fulfill this calling with honor and dignity. He has been, and will continue to be, a blessing for our mission.

Once again, I congratulate you for his success. Certainly, the influence that you and the church have had and currently have in helping him to become an exemplary missionary. I thank you for helping him to dedicate this period of his life to the Lord’s service, and for your prayers on his behalf.


President David E. Young
Missão Brasil Vitória

Letter #36

Dear Family and Friends,

Transfer calls generally come at 9:00 a.m., but this morning was a little delayed. So I impatiently waited. But it was worth it. I´m going to Rio de Janeiro!!!! Not the city, but the state. City of Quissamâ. Its closer to Rio de Janeiro than to Vitoria, the area farthest south of the mission. And I´ll be training!!!! That´s the best news.

President Young called today, and said that this area has been having lots of problems with missionaries, and it’s too far to visit regularly, so he needed someone he could trust to be obedient and work. Obedience, and diligence. I love it.

I don´t know much yet, but I am super excited. Being junior companion, was well, really hard. Really, really hard. But it appears those days are past.

I don´t know the name of my companion, but he´s obviously new here, and a Brasilian. And we´re going south. It will be just the two of us for the branch there, so we´ll be completely free of distractions. Lots of baptisms coming.

Quissamâ has a branch, is just a little south of Campos, and is a small town, about 20,000 people.

This week was bland. Honestly, it was a fight just to keep things working on some level here. I figured I´d be transferred, and said goodbye to the ward members yesterday. And they love me. I´m ready for a new area, but it was still tough to see. I spent almost five months here.  Five months!

I don´t really have anything else to write about…..just excited for this next transfer.

I love you all!!!!!!!

Elder Schenewark

Letter #35

Dear Family and Friends,

Well, as everyone knows, Dilma, the President of Brazil, was voted to be impeached. The fireworks last night, all night, let us know what happened.

In other government news, last week, the 15th, I kept thinking I knew it’s a special day or holiday in the United States, but couldn’t remember why. After a couple days it hit me, Tax Day! Won´t complain for missing that one. (And today is Patriots day.)

Food experience of the week: Yesterday after a normal and delicious lunch, they served us homemade avocado ice cream. And it was green. My mind was a little distracted, but after I got past thinking ‘frozen guacamole’ it was actually pretty good. Nevertheless, if I never eat it again, it’s okay with me.

We use the bus system so often and receive lots of change, so I started a collection of the coins of Brasil. And lo and behold, it’s actually led to increased companionship unity and some more investigators. My last couple companions always search their change for any missing coins for my collection, and Willian, who was baptized at the end of February made us Cuzeiro necklaces. I gave him some American coins I had, and he introduced me this week to a shop owner who collects. He has a bunch!! I´m almost done collecting with all the reais, but the shop owner gave me a one- centavo piece. They stopped making and using them some time ago, and I had never seen one until this day.

Saturday, we had a division, and I stayed in our area with Elder W. Santos, one of the zone leaders. We ended up trying to find a referral in a new area. Where we live, the city pays for someone to come spray the streets with pesticide. But, in this area, poorer and in an area where water collects, there´s nothing. Nothing except mosquitoes. So, the neighborhood is circled by fire. The residents light fires around the perimeter hoping that the smoke will keep the mosquitoes out. And some people walk around holding torches or flaming pieces of cardboard, waving them around. And other people don´t do anything, getting lots of bites. Elder W. Santos ended up asking one person we were talking with, `”How do you live with all these mosquitoes?” And the answer struck me. We´re used to it My thought being, what kind of things are we used to? Often we stick to the traditions of our fathers or in other words do things because  they’ve been done before. And this attitude keeps us from living up to our potential.

Wednesday, Isabela, was baptized! It was something she´s worked really hard for and it was wonderful to see. She was a friend of Dayani´s and they’ve really been helping each other.

The City of Vitoria celebrated LDS day on Thursday. Being close by, we were invited to participate in the formal event that night. This is the 6th annual LDS day, but this one was special, as it celebrated 50 years that the church has been in Espirito Santo and Vitoria. It was held at their version of City Hall, where the councilmen, or here, Vereadors meet. Most of the missionaries and members there to watch got herded into the spectators balconies, but because we got there early we had prime seats on the floor, and a perfect spot for the tv cameras to pick us up. So yes, I got on  Brasilian television. But it was during the Brasilian national anthem. Which I confess I don´t know. The whole world is standing up and singing and the camera panned over me, and I´m there standing, hand on the heart, and a big grin on the face, but definitely not singing. Pres. Young got stuck on the same predicament as well. Except, he was in the front of everybody, trying to mouth the words.

The vereador who ran the show this night, was 55ish, pepper colored hair, and a roman face. I actually felt like I was in Rome a little bit with all the pomp and circumstance. He was always respectfully addressed as `His excellency or most excellent Vereador.` The presenters, talked about what the program Helping Hands has done here, and shared the history of the church here in the last 50 years. It was very well done. Pres. Young talked as well, about who we are as missionaries(134 missionaries representing 11 countries) and what we do here. Couple statistical highlights: 40+ wards and branches. 26,000+ members.

Elder Joseph B. Wirthlin founded the Vitoria Stake in 1987, and it was followed by the Vila Velha Stake in 2002, and the Cariocica in 2005. (In the mission, there´s one district here in E.S., one stake in Rio de Janeiro, and one district in Minas Gerais, that we pick up). And, they announced, that Serra would become a stake shortly. It´s something that we already knew, and are working towards, but it was cool to hear it announced officially. The first members moved from Rio de Janeiro to Vitoria in Dec. 1965, and missionaries arrived in Jan. 1966, to start the church here. They baptized a family shortly thereafter, and one of the children baptized that day, was here on this night. He was baptized in the ocean, and 50 years later, lives here still and is active. He talked about how amazing it´s been to see the growth of the church here move from his house, to a rented garage, into 26,000 members. Very touching night.

Congrats on the Prom, Porter, and the job Mom! Exciting things happening! I could have told you you would score the highest. They give us the Ensign here, so I´ll pass. I think trail mix and peanut butter are on the top of my list here. Oh, and some coins. Half-dollars and quarters if possible.
This transfer is only five weeks, so this is the last week of the transfer. Next Monday will be exciting!

Love, Love, and more love,

Elder Schenewark

Make yourself at home.

Brighten Your Day

Letter #34

Dear Family and Friends,

Whirlwind week. Perhaps the hardest of my mission. But, the hardest had to happen sometime right? And, I love my mission, and still feel like I have the best weeks ahead of me.

My teeth are feeling great, it´s been a miracle to feel so good, and I think I´ll stop updating on the status of my eater.

And now, I thank everybody who waited months for official confirmation, and now after using countless toilets here, I would like to certify, that the flush is counterclockwise here. Yes, counterclockwise. And undeniably so.

Other news of international importance, the crisis here economically is spreading. Like the United States, there is an order of succession if something happens to the President. But, a bunch of the people have already been implicated, so in short, if Pres. Dilma is impeached, Tiririca, will become President most likely. Yes, Tiririca. He´s a comedian from Forteleza, who is very popular, but nevertheless was elected as a joke. He can´t read, and doesn’t know anything about the government. But, he is clean from all the scandals.

Rafaela was sick, so she couldn’t come to the church. She stopped and had talked with some other missionaries, because when she saw some them with tags that said Jesus Christ, in her words, she thought they´re secretaries for Him. Which I thought was pretty cool. So that´s how we started teaching her.

Isabela, is excited to be baptized, this Wednesday. She smoked Tuesday, and when we told her, the date for baptism would change from Sunday to Wednesday, she left the room crying. She´s truly amazing. She leaves to help us teach sometimes, and is reading the Book of Mormon every morning and night. When we talked about family history, she started immediately. When I showed her the picture of our family, she took a picture to put on facebook, because it’s her goal. To have a happy family. She wants to become `uma irmã` or a sister of the ward, who has a family, attends all the events, and just helps people. Her dad is German, and lives in Germany, and she hopes to serve a mission there.

We had interviews with Pres. Young this week. Always wonderful to talk with him. The emphasis lately has been to teach repentance. I love it, as it’s what brings joy. People we talk to think of repentance as painful or hard, but it’s not! Jesus Christ suffered for our sins, so we don´t have to. He lives, and we can too! We can change! This is our message of hope and happiness. Lately I’ve begun to understand the doctrine of Christ, and it’s changing me, and how I teach to others. Faith in Christ, Repentance, Baptism, Gift of the Holy Ghost, enduring to the end.

While we were waiting, we talked with Sister Young. She challenged us to memorize Article of Faith 8+13 in Portuguese. I was the first to do it, so our companionship gained 10 reais for ice cream later. And more importantly, I recognized how useful these succinct phrases are, so I memorized all 13 to use in contacts and lessons. Learn them!

And that brings to me to the next matter. Ice cream. I’ve taken an extended, undetermined leave of absence from açai, due to the acidity. Just to let everything heal completely. So, ice cream. People said the summer heat would end in March, but we´re still waiting. Holy cow it’s hot. So we enjoy an ice cream. We found this one place, Tres Estrellas, where the ice cream and the prices are delicious. Its only 2 Reais for 200 mL, but its 5.75 Reais for 400mL, so I have a propensity to buy 2- 200 mL´s. I´m waiting to see if she´ll change the prices. I´ve been trying out all the flavors, and graviola might take the top prize. Or Romeu and Julieta. Romeu and Julieta is caju with guava. I’ve never read the play by William Shakespeare, but don´t feel the need to anymore. The flavor is so rich, tasting like lost love. It’s the most effective advertising I’ve seen in my life.

Last Monday, we went to Vitoria, had a great lunch with the secretaries of the mission, but found out the camera store was closed. Our town, Serra was open, but Vitoria, more Catholic, had declared a holiday for some saint, Senhora da penha. We´re still not sure who she is. But we´ll return today to finally get it fixed.

I love this mission. I love this opportunity to serve. I love spreading this message of joy. I love President Young. I love this gospel, this everlasting gospel in its fullness. I love my Savior and Redeemer Jesus Christ. I love my Father in Heaven. And I love you all.

Elder Schenewark

Brighten your day.

Can’t Beat That Smile

Letter #33

Dear Family and Friends,

Dad asked if I’ve gotten his letter. I haven´t yet, but I don´t know when he mailed it. We were invited to lunch with the secretaries, the only senior couple of the mission today, so perhaps I´ll get it today. Are my letters arriving? No one´s said anything about them, and I´m wondering if I addressed them wrong or something.

Thank you for the family history pictures. They are wonderful.

We visited the dentist again, as he had asked for a follow up. He said everything looks a lot better. And my mouth feels a lot better. So, I shouldn´t have any more problems, I hope.

One thing I think is interesting, many of the doctors here are Cuban. It’s super expensive to go to medical school here, and Basil really doesn’t have the sort of programs that are needed, so the government of Brasil pays the government of Cuba money to send doctors. The Cuban government takes a bunch of money off the top, and then pays a pittance, really just living expenses, and sends doctors here as an assignment. And many native doctors of Brasil study there, and then return here.

And I don´t live with communists, but almost every single missionary I know, when we go to the store, wants to split the purchase. As in, let’s buy some food together, and split the price. I don´t understand it (and don´t do it). If I could think of just one reason, I´d do it.

Last Monday, after lunch, we went and played basketball. It was weird being the best player. We played for three hours and the next day, I was awfully sore.

We had a division with the Zone Leaders Thursday. My companion for this, Elder W. Santos, and I made lots of new contacts and knocked lots of doors. The first one we knocked on, was amazingly prepared. She couldn´t move her left arm, as she had crashed on a motorcycle 4 months earlier. We asked what happened, and she shared that she crashed, and woke up in the hospital three days later. During this time, the only thing she remembers is a dream of being in water and then coming out feeling new. She said she feels like she needs to be born again, i.e. through baptism. She attended conference both days.

Another person we met, became super excited when she saw our name tags, and said she had dreamed about them. Before seeing us, she had never heard of our church, but said she had a dream about our name tags. But, it’s interesting the different responses between her and Angela.  She thinks the church is too far away, and didn’t visit this weekend.

We met a young woman, Rafaela age 19, and she came to conference and loved it. We will be going back Tuesday to teach her whole family. And Dayani, who we baptized a couple weeks ago shared the gospel with some new friends, and they too attended conference with us yesterday. One, Isabela, is 17. A week ago, she smoked 60 cigarettes per day. I think she was waiting for someone to invite her to stop. The day after teaching the Word of Wisdom, she went down to 3. Then one, and hasn´t smoked for a couple days now. Lots of miracles.

General Conference was wonderful. We didn´t get to see all of it, and I´m anxiously waiting for the talks to come in the Ensign. I don´t personally know the apostles, and yet, I love them and aspire to have that sort of character. When President Monsen announced the new temples, even though Belem, Brasil, is really far away, everyone in the chapel gasped and was really excited.


Elder Schenewark

Letter #32

Dear Family and Friends,

My new companion is Elder Thyslom Santos. He´s from Aracaju, Sergipe, which puts three out of four companions here, from the northeast. He´s 23, been out for a little more than a year, and left a fiance. He joined the church when he was 13, and is still the only member in his family. Judging by this first week, he´s the hardest working companion I’ve had, and I´m happy for that.

Something I’ve been learning to do, and something Uncle Zach wrote a while back, that it’s important to recognize the sacrifices people make to go on a mission. This attitude has been helping me learn to love despite imperfections. He´s made a lot. And is serving diligently. His motto is `Continui a Nadar` or in English, ‘Keep on Swimming.’

And on the subject of the sea, I’ve eaten lots of fish here, but this week, we ate torta de capixaba. It’s the most famous dish of the entire state of Espirito Santo. Basically like a baked fish casserole, it has a bunch of different types of seafood mixed together, also including shrimp, with onions and olives. It’s super-duper expensive, but really delicious.

This week for Easter, the members have been way generous, giving chocolate eggs, acai, and even fried chicken.

This week, I thought I´d share three `portraits’ of the week.

(1) With my new companion, we visited a dentist on Wednesday. You know I hate, I hate, I hate visiting the dentist. But my companion had a problem with his teeth (completely different than mine for the record) so we decided to go. It was not anything like `civil war medicine,’ nevertheless, it was different. Think dimly lit room, no assistants just a receptionist and a lone dentist. We asked a couple people about which dentist is the best, but there was no clear analysis. When in doubt, (and the real is 1/4 of the dollar) choose the most expensive. So we did.

I’ve never really had a problem with the teeth before, and yet the dentist always brings pain. So I went in showing my teeth, but it wasn’t because I was smiling. But, this anonymous angel performed a quick examination and gave me some instructions. Basically, as often happens, three months ago I noticed a little problem. And I go into DEFCON 4. He told me I´m brushing way to hard, and shouldn’t use Listerine with alcohol. I have gingivitis, and have been exacerbating it exceedingly pushing the disease up with my brushing. So, he gave me a couple things to do, and I´ll be checking back up with him on Wednesday. Already, it feels so much better. Lesson: It’s important to talk with the doctor, not just have a herb garden.

(2)  A while back, I mentioned that a person in the street, Ricardo, stopped us and asked for a Book of Mormon. We delivered it, and taught one of the most interesting lessons of my mission. He´s about 40, and if there is a `Brazilian hippie,’ he´s it. Man bun. Fashionable there, unheard of here. He´s currently unemployed and living off his parents inheritance. His mother was Catholic, his father atheist. He was baptized Catholic but followed his father´s example for many years until a couple things happened, and he became Christian, without associating with any denomination.

There´s a mountain near us, Mestre Alvaro, so beautiful. Luscious green grass and trees mingled with stunning rock faces. It really is the prettiest mountain I’ve ever seen. The green in Brasil, is different, more alive and vibrant than the green in the States. Well, this new convert to Christianity hiked up Mestre Alvaro one day, alone, crazy considering all the robbers who hide there. But he made it to the top, next to a small pond, and as he described it, “I felt a strange sensation, something calling me, so I stripped naked, shouted my name and jumped into the pond. Yes, I was baptized as an infant, but this was my real baptism.” Really friendly person, and he´s faithfully reading the Book of Mormon, and believes it, but just can´t get him to visit the church. And he´s the first person I’ve met who´s baptized himself.

(3) Saturday morning, a hummingbird flew into our apartment. Its called a `beija-flor` in Portuguese. Or a flower kisser. It flew around the house moving like a melody looking for spiders to eat. Truly beautiful. A lustrous green and blue, outlined with a black beak. It was one of those moments where time seemed to stand still, me, being captivated, the wings humming. The colors of the bird being in stark contrast to the staid concrete. Jesus Christ taught, “Be a light to the world.” And like the hummingbird, we should be different, bringing joy. Having color in our lives. Eventually it left, but the flower kisser will forever flit and flutter in my memory. Fly free forever.

I´m excited for General Conference this week. For a chance to hear inspired words from living prophets. Make sure to mark it as a priority.


Elder Schenewark

Nice and tidy.

Letter #31

Letter #31

Dear Family and Friends,

Today we found out about transfers. Elder Soares is leaving to go to Colatina to be a zone leader and I´ll be staying here. My new companion is Elder T. Santos and he´ll be district leader here.

This week, we prepared Adinto to be baptized, the soy bean broker, and he was interviewed and ready but then on Friday he had to go out of town for work, and we´re still waiting for him to return.

It looks like you all are having lots of fun out there, minus the sickness bug. Congrats to Aunt Tina for the wedding! Cool that all the siblings made it there.

It´s finally been raining here a little this week. It’s hot all day, and then at about 7 pm each night the heavens open.

Dayani who was baptized last week, works selling Capixabi cap, a state lottery, on the streets. She makes practically no money, but doesn’t complain. Some days, she spends more money on the bus fares to get there then she makes. Between the actual work, and the travel, she´s gone about 16 hours. It’s crazy. And Magno, who was baptized two weeks ago, lost his job for the government as a stonemason, and now sells honey on the street. It´s really opened my eyes. They both work hard, make practically no money, and yet don´t complain.

There have been a couple of government protests this week, and people have been trying to impeach the President. They´re both loving the gospel, and you can really tell it brings them hope.

Sorry I haven´t written much today. I keep writing, and then erasing and then writing and erasing. I have some thoughts, but they aren’t quite developed, so I´ll hold onto them for a little longer.

I finished my first journal, am working on the second, so in about 4-6 months, just thinking ahead, it would be nice if you could send one. I ended with these words:

“Texas to Utah to Arizona to Espirito Santo. Immeasurable growth. Innumerable experiences.”

I really have learned lots. And it’s interesting that oftentimes, the lessons we need to learn are the ones we don´t want to. I´m grateful that I’ve had this opportunity to be here, and to learn to say `thy will, not mine.’

I´m excited to be able to stay here in Serra; I feel like there really is a lot of work left to do here.


Elder Schenewark

P.S. I still need to mail the glasses, and the only place that fixes cameras is in Vitoria, but I´ll be going there to get it fixed, and will have lots more pictures

Enjoy the view.

“This is why I’m on a mission”

Dear Family and Friends,

I knew that there would be miracles on the mission. I knew it. But still, I’ve been blown away by how many. Everyday here, miracles are finding us.

Dayani, who stopped us on the street last week, is wonderful. She has had a tough life, but has absolutely embraced the gospel, and is looking forward to a new life. She´s made new friends here, and has really seen a vision of what the gospel can do. The Bishop talked with her for 40 minutes, as she will need help from the ward and after he said,”Yes, she has a lot of hardships in her life right now, but she is prepared for, wants, and needs baptism.” We held a wonderful service yesterday and after the baptism, she just covered her eyes, overcome with emotion and said she feels like a giant weight was lifted off her back. This is why I´m on a mission. It´s amazing to see the happiness and peace people have with the gospel. And it’s amazing to have this opportunity to bring that message to them, to people the Lord has prepared.  Dayani has so much potential. She understands the lessons, the essence of the gospel and in spite of her own trials and needs, has a desire to help others.

Sister missionaries in Serra, but in a different ward, were stopped at a bus terminal by a someone who said she had been a member of an evangelical church for 26 years (her entire life), but had had a dream about the Mormon church and wanted to know more. In the dream, everyone was dressed in white, she felt peace and comfort and she just heard one word `Mormon.’ She lives in our area, it’s honestly about at the end of the world, the farthest you can be, so we went to visit her on Saturday. It took two hours to get there, as the bus struggled, but we finally arrived, went to her house and knocked. She answers, and says she thought the sister missionaries would visit her, not us, and says she can´t let us in as her husband wasn’t there. Which we completely understand and agree with, so we just invited her to church. Then we took the bus back, much quicker but still about an hour. So three hours of traveling for literally a 2 minute conversation. It was disappointing, but then the Sister missionaries called us, and said that Kuaune called them, and really wants to come to church, but doesn’t know exactly where it is. So we arranged a ride, she came to church, and loved it! She stayed for the baptism and she cried, and wants to be baptized. So, yeah, just lots of miracles happening here.

And, Adinto, who is about 45-50, reads the Bible everyday on his tablet, and always sees an ad for our church at the bottom, so he clicked on it and asked for a Book of Mormon. We visited him Saturday, and he is so prepared. He talked about how he lived in Sao Paulo years and years ago, and knew Mormons there and always wondered about why they were different. And, in his apartment building there are two active families right by him that already know his children. So we shared our message, he was super excited to read the Book of Mormon, read some Saturday, visited the church on Sunday, and knows it’s true. So far we’ve only taught him, but he asked that we visit his entire family, so we are excited to help with that. There are a lot of people out of work here, that are struggling right now, but he is doing good. He is actually looking for someone  who knows English to work for him. The bishop here has been looking for a new job, and we´re hoping that this might work out. Adinto has a cool job; he´s a soy bean broker, and right now, everything’s exploding. There are a couple of Chinese groups that are trying to buy millions of tons from him. Not unusual for big firms, but he´s used to selling just to Brasil, and now needs someone to help because international contracts are in English. Cool stuff.

Thursday we went to Vitoria to fill out some paperwork to get more Brazilian documents. Some rule changed, I think in our favor, giving foreigners here more freedom, but I don´t really understand everything. Regardless, it was cool, as the Americans in two zones went to do this paperwork together in Vitoria, and then were treated to McDonalds. Big Mac and McFlurry in Brasil. It felt a little like a field trip.

Friday, we had another trip, going an hour away to Cariocica to participate in a mission tour with the Zwicks. It was wonderful, a true spiritual banquet. There have been a small number of people in my life who I’ve met, and really inspired to become like. And Elder Zwick is one of them. Just awesome. Plus, he started a construction company, which is cool beans.

Well, that about sums up all the news.  I love and pray for you all!!

Elder Schenewark

Take a look around.

Discover Something New

Dear Family and Friends,

Well, it’s been an amazing week. I wrote just a little bit last week about someone who stopped us on the street, and then visited the church. We visited him after, and he has been prepared incredibly. Missionaries in another town taught him almost everything, and when we started teaching him, he showed an incredible desire to follow Christ.

When we were about to invite him to be baptized, he stated, “We´re holding a baptism Sunday,” he interrupted and asked if he could be baptized. He did lots of studying everyday and it was just amazing. He´s one of the happiest people I’ve ever met in my life. He doesn’t have things easy, but is still always smiling and so incredibly grateful for what he does have. He shared a couple stories from his life, and I´ll share two.

The first, as a 17 year old, he was working shining shoes in Vitoria, and became friends with one of his customers, who owns a chain of grocery stores, and is one of the very rich in Brazil. The guy asked him one day what he wanted to do more than anything else, and he said snowboard. So, he acted as the guy’s son, flew with the family to Florida and then to Ohio to snowboard. And he loved it.

The second story was hilarious. We asked where he was born, and he says, “My card says Vitoria, but really I was born in a car on the way to the hospital. Here, look, my dad cut my cord and tied it.” He then showed us his navel. Good times.

But in all seriousness, it’s been special as he´s worked towards baptism. Sunday was stake conference, and the zone had planned to do a baptism with all the wards, but eventually, our ward was the only one who supported it. So, with some members of the ward, and Pres. and Sister Young, I baptized Magno, and he was just filled with happiness.

We visited one family this week, and they had some pictures on the wall, with the kids riding a zebra. It was funny, as it was 100% so obviously a painted horse, but hey, if you’ve never actually seen a zebra, but knew they have black and white stripes, I guess it passes.

Wednesday, we received mail, and a wonderful package from the Merritts arrived.

Elder Soares is district leader so we spent some time interviewing candidates for baptism of other missionaries in our district, and I was very surprised when a couple of days later, the sister missionaries here called. Caike, the 11 year old son of a less active asked that I baptize him. So I had the privilege to do that Saturday, as well as José, a 60 year old who has been looking for the right church for years. It was cool to attend the service and hear from José as he testified how finally he knows he´s on the right path.

And, like last week with Magno, we were walking in a neighborhood, when someone sitting outside her house, called us over, said she, Dayani, had been taught  a little bit by missionaries when she lived in Rio de Janeiro, and said at this point in her life, she wants the gospel. We visited her later with a member, and they’ve since become great friends. Last night Dayani called us, and asked what she had to do to be baptized. She is reading the book of Mormon, felt the Spirit very strongly at Stake Conference and wants to be baptized.

And, finally, walking in the street last night, a middle-aged man, Ricardo stopped us and talked about how missionaries had visited his father 30 some years earlier, and had given him the Book of Mormon. His father wasn’t interested, and as a teenager he wasn’t either. But, now, after all these years, he stopped us, asked if we are Mormons, and wants to learn more. The Lord has truly been blessing us with people who are prepared and want the gospel.

Elder Zwick, of the Seventy, and his wife, will be doing a tour of the mission, and I’m excited. We’ll be having a conference with him and three other zones this week.

On July 4th, if I remember right, in 1939, the great baseball player Lou Gehrig was honored at Lou Gehrig Day at Yankee Stadium. Not only could he play like few others could, but he also lived honorably like few others could. He had traits that are rare in the world, and perhaps even rarer in professional sports with its fame and fortune. On this day, mortally ill with ALS, he called himself the Luckiest Man in the world. At this time, he had been forced into an early retirement due to ALS, or as it’s commonly known, Lou Gehrig´s disease, and less than two years later would die. He had every right to complain, and yet he only offered gratitude.

For me, I have absolutely nothing to complain about. And like him, I truly feel like the Luckiest Man in the World. I’ve been so blessed by the Lord in my life. There have been so many miracles here on the mission, and I am blessed to witness them. This week my testimony was strengthened that this truly is the Lord´s work. We are only his servants here.  And I am so blessed to have family and friends that support me, and lift me up constantly. Love you all,

Elder Schenewark

Discover something new.

Letter #28

Dear Family and Friends,

Again, I have seen the Lord´s hand in our lives. But to start from the beginning.

Last Monday, we went and visited the beach. As a rule, we can´t touch the sand, so I can´t really tell you much about the beach, if it’s really all it’s hyped up to be or not, but I can say it was beautiful. We stayed there for a while, taking pictures, reflecting, etc. Towards the end, a guy came up to us and asked if he could do a sketch of us. So we pooled 15 reias together and posed. Cool remembrance.

My love of açai continues. Originally we just bought a bowl of açai, at a set price but this week we decided to go with the self serve pay by the kilo. We tend to buy a little bit almost every day. It’s so refreshing in the afternoon sun (and healthy). I also ate my first Brazilian hot dog, which was different, and delicious.

We received a referral from a bishop of another ward for an elderly lady, 86 years old, (not unusual in the States, but here, almost unheard of) so we try calling her, but she doesn’t answer her phone; the only other information we have is the address of her store (she still works!!!! as a seamstress). We finally found her getting a manicure and pedicure at a store close by, and we learned about the referral.

She was Catholic for much of her life, but became convinced that baptism needs to be by immersion, so she currently affiliates with Assembly of God church, but has wondered about all the Catholic family members she´s outlived, and the Bishop said he´d send the missionaries over to talk about vicarious baptism. So we taught the restoration and vicarious baptisms. She loved the message, and the Book of Mormon, but her 88 year old sister was having a birthday out of town, so she couldn’t come to church this week. Hopefully more news to come.

Willian, 17 years old who visited last week, and has 5 siblings, was interviewed, and asked that I baptize him. So, this Sunday, after many miracles, we both descended into the water. Definitely a special moment. During the service, it was a little chaotic, but as soon as we started singing the opening hymn, everything went perfect, and the Spirit filled the room. We talked with Willian´s mom, and she talked about how he has already changed, and is now spending more time with the family, helps her more, and is much more obedient. She called it a miracle, and hopes we can help some of her other children. She thanked and thanked us for helping Willian.

I’ve learned it’s not us, as missionaries. We are messengers, bringing a message of hope and of peace. It’s the Savior’s message, and it’s through Him and His atonement that people change. We try to teach people individually, as the Spirit guides, but our underlying message is the same. And it’s amazing to see how the Lord has prepared people to hear the message. It’s sad to see them reject it, usually just out of apathy, but it’s even more amazing to see someone who has been prepared, accept and love the gospel. Willian has changed, and watching his life change with the gospel, as he has embraced it, has changed mine as well.

We went with a member to visit another referral, and unfortunately the referral didn’t really work out, but as we were wondering around lost, trying to find the house, a guy called out Elders! and we talked with him quickly, wrote down his number and continued on. Sunday, we called him, re-invited him to church, and he came and loved it. He´s already visited the church when he lived in a different town, and had wanted to know more.

Like always, there´s been lots of special moments that I won´t recount at this moment.
And I´ll close with this thought. D&C 59;4 “And they shall also be crowned with blessings from above, yea, and with commandments not a few, and with revelations in their time—they that are faithful and diligent before me.”

Commandments are a blessing. As we keep them, honor our covenants, and serve God, he will BLESS us with additional commandments. Commandments are here to bless us. They are not something to grudgingly attempt, but honestly to glory in. As Alma said (Alma 29;9), “I know that which the Lord hath commanded me, and I glory in it. I do not glory of myself, but I glory in that which the Lord hath commanded me; yea, and this is my glory, that perhaps I may be an instrument in the hands of God to bring some soul to repentance; and this is my joy.”

And especially in this wonderful time of my life, this is my glory and work as well.


Elder Schenewark