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,

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!)


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!


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!!


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.


President Toone


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.


Elder Schenewark

Letter #4

Dear Family and Friends,

And then there was three. Elder Pyne, Smith, and Johnson all got their visas, so they left this morning for Brazil. Those three are all from Texas. All went through the Houston Consulate, and all put their papers in just a few days before coming out. So out of the original ten, there’s only three left; Elder Knudson, Sister Gage, and myself. As of now, we’ll be a three person district, but if anybody else leaves, we’ll probably join another district.

Before they left, the branch president asked me to be district leader, so I’m that for now. When we got here, our branch, which is also our zone had seventy something missionaries, but now we are down to 15, and will be down to 11 next Monday. Apparently all the missionaries are getting their visas in time and going to the MTC in Brazil. We haven’t had any new missionaries going to Brazil since we got here, and aren’t expecting any this week either.

Last Wednesday, we were able to act as hosts for the new missionaries, and welcome them to the MTC and show them around. It was actually pretty fun getting to do that. And, as I showed up too late to be hosted myself, I kind of felt like I was getting the official welcome to the MTC. We’re doing it again tomorrow, and probably will from now until we leave.

Our schedule has been pretty much the same as last week. Lots of Portuguese learning and teaching lessons. This last Friday evening we did do TRC for the first time, which is where we teach volunteers in Portuguese. I think it’s harder than our regular teaching, because the volunteers are lay themselves. Basically, most of them are students at BYU, served a mission to Brazil and enjoy coming back to the MTC. The challenge is trying to help them as they are essentially doing everything right to begin with and it can be tough in rudimentary Portuguese to find a need and help them.

The letters and packages received this week were as always fantastic. I got the Merritt’s package, and letters from Uncle Aaron, Uncle Rich, Mimi, and Tanner and Annemarie’s wedding announcement. Which I don’t think I’ll make. It’s been super busy, but I’m hoping this week I’ll be able to have some time and write some handwritten letters to send out. I definitely appreciate all the support.

Cool story of the week: Our district takes a temple walk every Sunday, and as Elder Pyne and I were walking, we passed a blonde guy in a polo shirt and jeans sitting on a bench and looking at the temple. As soon as I saw him I had the impression to go over and talk to him and tell him the answer is “yes,” but I thought it would be weird so I kept going. When I passed by him, the impression was so strong that I stopped for a moment before deciding to keep going. Then, as soon as we walked past him, Elder Pyne said out loud, “I had a strong impression to tell him the answer is yes.” Holy cow! I told Elder Pyne I had the exact same impression, and we definitely needed to tell the person. So we went back over, said “Excuse me, we know this is weird, but we both had a very strong impression right when we saw you, that the answer is yes.” He about jumped up, shook our hands, said thanks and left. I wish I knew what he had been pondering, but quite honestly, I decided it doesn’t matter. Both Elder Pyne and I really wanted to know, but the important thing is that he received his answer. Because this is Provo, I would guess he’s wondering whether or not to marry somebody. It was an awesome experience as it was totally unexpected, the impression was very strong, and the answer was very clear, the answer is Yes, not whether or not he needed anything.

On Tuesday, Elder Gerald Causse and his wife Valerie, came and spoke to us. It was fantastic!! What struck me most was our need as missionaries to be humble and teachable, and how Bishop Causse is amazed at the apostles humility. But then, at the end, he told us to be bold. And he said that he was working on being bold himself, and to illustrate his commitment, he bore his testimony, and said that he would play the closing song on the piano. So he came down off the podium and totally rocked a rendition of Come, Come, Ye Saints. He started off slow and quiet, but by the end his hands were absolutely flying. It might be the best piano playing I’ve ever seen.

Elder Johnson, was supposed to perform a musical number at one of these devotionals, but because he unexpectedly got his visa, he performed yesterday for all the new senior missionaries. He sang Cast your Burdens on the Lord. It was amazingly good! As his companions, me and Elder Knudson got to see it.

Well, I think that about wraps it up. I never remember to take my camera to anywhere but the temple, so that’s what the pictures are again. I’ll try and remember to take it to the classroom or somewhere new.

I’m almost out of time, so I’ll wait until next week to share some lessons I’ve learned here studying the scriptures. But I think, these last couple weeks can in many ways be summed up by this sentence I wrote in my journal last night:

When I left for my mission, I was going to be the absolute best missionary I could be. Now, I am working hard to be the missionary the Lord wants me to be.


Elder Schenewark

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.

Elder Schenewark


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.
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.
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.
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.
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.


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.