Week 2

Dear Family and Friends,
Week two in the books. The big news is four visas came for our district, so Sister Doge, Elder Broyles, Elder Jones and my companion Elder Oviatt left for the Brazilian MTC this morning. So it’s me, Elder Johnson, and Elder Knudson in a trio. Four gone, six left. I really feel like I’m supposed to be here though for now. Elder Johnson had been having a tough time, but got Uncle Aaron’s letter, (thank you so much Uncle Aaron) and as a district we tried to help out a lot, and he’s doing so much better now.

 

On Sunday, we had a mission conference, and the President of the MTC, President Burgess was speaking, and asked that a couple missionaries come up and talk about how they know their Heavenly Father loves them, and Elder Johnson jumped up and bore powerful testimony in front of 2500 people, that was very spiritual to watch. I really do feel like I’m supposed to be here with him for a little longer.

 

On the flip side, I am definitely going to miss Elder Oviatt. We always had great study sessions, and liked a lot of the same things. Plu,s going to high school relatively close to each other. I’ll also miss Elder Broyles. We’ve come really close this last week and were always laughing and smiling. Some people have big hearts, but Elder Broyles is all heart. He’s awesome, and I’m definitely going to look him up after the mission. Just a great spirit. He’s going to BYU-I.
For now, there’s only three people in our room, and we have so much space. I technically have three closets, but can’t fill them so I just spread out all my stuff over them super spaced out and organized. Not that everybody wants to know that. I also made my bed six out of seven days.

Last Tuesday, Elder Dallin H. Oaks came and spoke to us, which was fantastic. He spoke mostly about Preach my Gospel. His wife also spoke, and I really enjoyed her remarks as well.

But the speech of the week, goes to Elder David Bednar, for two straight weeks now. After Sunday devotional, we watch Sunday appropriate movies around the MTC campus. Week one I and Elder Oviatt watched him give a talk titled Character of Christ. I really can’t do it justice. You just have to watch it. One little tidbit, and there was plenty, when bad things happen, the natural man turns in, and it becomes all about them, but Christ, always turned out to serve others. I’ve been working on making sure I turn out, not in.

Then this week, we were going to watch an Elder Jefferey R. Holland talk, and went to the room it was in, but I really had to got to the bathroom so we left, and when we came back, the seats were all filled, and there wasn’t even room for standing. So we went and watched Elder Bednar’s Recognizing the Spirit, which was another absolutely fantastic talk. They were both given at the MTC a few years ago so they are more informal than General Conference, but are insanely great. They have become landmark noteworthy talks in my life for sure. When it was over, Elder Oviatt looked over and was just like, “I’m so glad we didn’t get seats in the other one.” And I felt the same way. It was something I needed to hear.

Funny story time. So all these missionaries have memento type things that they give away right before they leave. Most of them are lame and get thrown away pretty quickly. So the older it is, the more famous it becomes, and those who are in possession of one such momento are accorded some degree of status. So the four people in my room, Elders Oviatt, Jones Johnson and I have received lots of stuff most of which we don’t care about and get rid of. But The Milk is different. The Milk is a 3/4 filled bottle of milk which expired December 2014. The bottle is in a cardboard box which is taped shut. The people who have had possession of the milk write down their emails and when/if it explodes, the person who currently has it is supposed to send a mass email to let everybody know. So its been roughly nine months in existence now. There’s also papers the holders are given which explain how to take care of it. You are supposed/ have to go outside, open the box up, and the milk and let out the gasses just to make sure it doesn’t smell too bad. We opened the box to see if there was milk a couple nights after we got it. And there was. But we couldn’t open up the actual bottle just because it smelled so bad. Even though I and Elder Johnson are still here we didn’t want it any more. The box keeps the smells in, but for how long/ Plus if no one lets the gasses out, will it explode/ Basically it’s the coolest game of hot potato I’ve heard of, but I’m happy to watch from the sidelines now.

Our branch presidency is super awesome. President Dansie and first counselor Platt both were mission presidents in Brazil. The second counselor Williams was a Delta pilot, but is now a life coach/motivational speaker. His son made it through the first stage American Ninja warrior finals in Las Vegas, and will be on again this week for stage two. Williams picks one thing every year he doesn’t think he can do, and then does it. He’s accomplished some pretty cool things, whether it’s spiritual, physical or a mental goal for the year. He told us how he trained for climbing Mount Kilimanjaro by climbing Mount Timpanogos three times a week, Kilimanjaro was a totally different beast being like 8000 feet higher, but he made it to the top.

I received Aunt Jenny’s letter, the Bach’s package, and a package from Laura Lewis, So thank you all!!!! It was all wonderful and very useful. In terms of anything I need, right now there is nothing. The socks were a lifesaver. The missionaries going to Mozambique get rid of all their personal supplies before leaving due toweight limits, so I have plenty of shampoo, etc. For instance, I have four unopened bottles of aftershave. Crazy here.

The language is coming along, and I really feel pretty confident in talking and understanding native speakers of Portuguese, but I know my verb conjugation needs some work.

 

Well, time’s up, and I think that covers this week pretty well. Thank you for the prayers. I have never felt this before coming here, but I literally feel buoyed up by prayers. And I’ll be praying for you all.
Love,

Elder Schenewark

Oi!!!

Hello Family!

Its good to hear from you and finally get to be able to write. So I did obviously finally make it to the MTC, although traveling there was seriously awful. But oh well. It was great to see Tanner, AnneMarie and the cousins especially Greg, whom I haven’t seen in forever. He joked that we switched places, me to a mission, him to freshman year of BYU.
So there are 10 people in my district, we all came in on Wednesday speaking Portugueuse. Elder Knudson is from Marysville, California and is the District Leader. His companion is Elder Broyles from Colorado. They are going to the Sao Paulo north mission. There is Elder Pyne from Richardson, Texas, so pretty close to us, and his companion is Elder Smith from some little town in Texas, i think he said Poth. Not sure about that last detail though. They are going to the Salvador Sul mission, north of me in Bahia. There is Sister Doge from Nashville, and Sister Gage from Washington State. Sister Doge is going to Vitoria as well, and Sister Gage is going to Florinapolus, way south. Sharing our room, is Elder Jones from North Carolina. He’s actually from the Duncan’s stake, and the girl he left behind is in their ward. His companion is Elder Johnson from Houston. They are going to Salvador Sul as well. Elder Johnson’s a great guy. He’s African-American, and the only member of the church in his family, and I don’t know how much his family is supporting him, but so far he hasn’t gotten a letter. So….For those who feel inclined, I think it would be absolutely fantastic if you could send a short note to him. While we are at the MTC, if you go to Dearelder.com, you can write a note there, and they will print it out and send it to the MTC for free. He went to BYU last year as well, I think on a music scholarship, and plays the organ and piano insanely well. Its his favorite thing to do, and he is definitely talented. He’s mentioned how the mission has been a lot harder than he thought, and yesterday was also his birthday, so if he could get a couple notes I think it would be awesome. To my uncles and aunts, if you feel so inspired, send him your letters while he’s here. I think he would love to get anything. Share your testimony, maybe favorite hymn, whatever. I know it would be very appreciated. I got Uncle Aaron’s letter yesterday, and that was exciting. I’ve always loved reading the weekly family letters, but I had no idea how much more it would mean now, getting some outside news. His name is Andra (or maybe Andrae) Dwayne Johnson. Brazil Salvador Sul mission. Mailbox 184.
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Elders Pyne, Smith and both sisters went to BYU-Idaho, and me and Elder Johnson went to BYU. Everyone else, so 4 others are straight out of high school.
Ok, now to me and my companion. Its crazy how quickly you can get to know someone when you’re spending literally 24 hours a day with someone. My companion is Elder Matthew Oviatt. He actually lived in Athens Ohio, so about two hours away from us, all four years of high school. His Dad was working as a VP at Rocky Mountain Boots, which we went to the big store there when we were in Athens. In July, his family moved to Sheyboygone Wisconsin for Wigwam sock company..
We’ve been getting along great. He was fluent in Spanish and served a mini-mission Spanish speaking in Columbus, Ohio for a week, and also studied Portuguese quite a bit after getting his call, so he’s really good at it. Its been a challenge trying to keep up with him. In four days of classroom instruction, we’ve literally gone through the equivalent of three years of high school Spanish. The pace is crazy, and Elder Oviatt and me spend time everyday studying by ourselves. He’s unbelievable in the language, and I’m starting to catch up. Now, I can understand about anything said, but respond in pathetically broken Portuguese. Our lessons where we prepare in advance and teach in Portuguese have been going really well though. Our last feedback was “Elder Oviatt and Elder Schenewark did everything you’d want in a lesson. The only thing they could improve on, would be to leave a specific part of the BoM for me to read. (its a fake investigator.) We’ve taught three lessons so far, and committed him to baptism, to which he said possibly.
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Its been a really good experience helping others in our district, whether they have been suffering from homesickness, companionship troubles, whatever. I know that Elder Knudson is supposed to be the district leader, but I also know that it’s my job to try and help him as much as possible. We’ve had every single person in our district say thank you to me and Elder Oviatt for everything we do, and for always helping them. These last two nights, we’ve ended with a testimony meeting and almost everyone leaves in tears. The spirit’s so strong at the MTC, it is truly hallowed ground. Its wonderful to be with 2000+ other missionaries who want to share the gospel. And I’ve been making my bad, 6/7 days so far.
Our zone is all Portuguese speaking, but about half the missionaries are going to Mozambique, and a fair amount to Portugal, Cape Verde Islands, and Angola. The rest is Brazil, and everyone here is visa waiters as well, although the majority seem to get theirs before leaving, so that’s good news.
Funny story, Elder Johnson, from Houston, the organist in his home ward has narcolepsy so she is always falling asleep in the middle of playing. He says the ward is used to it, so they keep singing and when she wakes up, she just picks up where they are singing. He says she is the nicest old lady ever, and the ward is used to it, but visitors there get freaked out sometimes when she nods off in the middle of a song.
Last Saturday, we had service as a district, and we had to clean some toilets. One was clogged, and instead of just reporting it like is usually done, Elder Smith was like, stand back, I got it. And these toilets don’t clog easy. i didn’t look, but they said it was absolutely awful. He starts trying to unclog, really knows what he’s doing but it just isn’t helping. He’s been going at it for twenty minutes and I’ve been just cracking up the entire time. He takes a break, saying and I quote, “this is killing my arms. Now I wish I had bought that shake weight.” Hilarious. Then he’s back at it, and he’s like, my hands are killing me, to which someone says the smells got to be killing you, to which he replies, the smells awful. But its not the worse. The worse part is the splashes.” Absolutely hilarious! He wouldn’t give up, but we finished cleaning the bathroom, and were like, lets just report this one. So he left the plunger in the toilet and we left. He is a character.
Elder Johnson, aka Whitneys son is in my branch, waiting for his visa. He’s been here about a month. I’ve seen Elder Lewis, Mckay Lewis all the time. At the sunday devotional, his companion i believe was the grandson of the speaker, Charles W Dahlquist, former young mens general president, and on scouting executive committee but Bro. Dahlquist called up his grandson to come onto the stage, and then was like, I am sure your companion has been trained well and will come up with you, so Elder Lewis went too, and they sang I am a child of god in front of eveyone.
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This morning we got to got to the temple, which was wonderful. I know this is the place I’m supposed to be, at the time I’m supposed to here. I’ve loved it hear so far. Elder Holland said at one byu devotional years ago, “I loved my mission like no one has ever loved their mission, and I’m sure ever will” or something close to it. Well, in fairness I can’t say it yet because its only been a week. But watch out. Because i’m loving it so far. And I’m always loving you all back home. I think and pray about y’all every day.
Love,
Elder Schenewark

 

An ode to my 10.5 Adidas

I bought these shoes in 9th grade. I remember that transaction distinctly; $55 at Dick’s Sporting Good’s at the Huntington West Virginia Mall. Since then, I’ve walked over 1000 miles wearing them or the equivalent of Seattle to San Diego; from the top of the west coast to the bottom, and I did most of that walking carrying a 20-30 pound golf bag. I’ve spent countless hours wearing these. Lately, I’ve had reglued part of the sole on. I’ve shined them countless times. They’ve conspired with my socks to give me a tan line that should never be shown in public. They were on my feet for my first birdie, my first eagle, and many near hole-in-ones. Basically, they’ve been with me through thick and thin.

So, you can now ask, what is important about his old, probably smelly shoes, shoes that I seem to be overly sentimental about? Absolutely nothing. But it does lead to a question.

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Why am I willing to forgo playing a sport I dearly love, and have high aspirations for? More importantly, why am I leaving my family whom I love infinitely more than golf? or putting my college education on hold, and leaving great friends to go to a place I’ve never been before, speaking a language I don’t even know yet, to dedicate myself completely to people I’ve never met before?

It all comes down to my testimony in Jesus Christ. I am leaving to share his Gospel, and the joy that comes from it. I’ve felt his love so strongly in my life, and am so happy. I want to share that goodness with others. To me, its worth spending a million years. But two’s a start. I know that the Bible is the word of God, along with the Book of Mormon. I’ve prayed about both, and the Holy Ghost has let me know that they are true. Our lives will be blessed as we implement their teachings into our lives. I know that there is a Prophet on the Earth today, who can help us know what to do, and how to prepare for the times ahead. I am so glad that there are temples on the Earth today, and through the ordinances therein, I know that families can be together through time and all eternity.

I am so glad to have this opportunity to go on a mission.