Letter #95

Dear Family and Friends,

We ran out of the gates to start this transfer, especially me, being determined to finish whatever work I have left. We had invited the zone to join us for a special fast on Saturday and Sunday and as we were united with a special purpose, we saw lots of miracles. On Saturday, we met a family that has been hearing the messages and preparing for baptism. Angela, is a single mother and has three kids.

We also received a referral from the sisters of a young man they had met, Richard, who is 17. The sisters met him Saturday, and we had never met him before picking him up for church on Sunday. Definitely a blessing! He was waiting for us, already to go, and loved church, and the Branch president told us that he likes him and wants to give special attention to that future missionary.

We also were stopped by a churro vendor on Friday. He had actually stopped us in the street about a month ago on a bicycle, but we had never ever found him in house when we stopped by. Well,  he started conversing with us and urged us to also try his wares. A regular ploy by street sellers but we each coughed up 2 reais to eat the worst churros I’ve had in my life. Awful. Yet, the spirit had been strong as we talked and he showed up in church at 8:40, even before we did! He loved it, and promised to bring his wife and son next time.

And, we’ve continued working with a member referral, a couple who are trying to marry, and also have been appreciating the missionary lessons preparing for baptism. I am thankful for the doors that have been opened, the people we’ve taught, and the chance to help them find true happiness. I think I’ve worked with more families in this last week than in the rest of my mission combined and that has made me so happy. Families are forever.

Often I’ve reflected on significant dates, such as D-day or even Veteran´s day, that have no real meaning here in Brasil. And one more of these dates is Father´s day. I reminded my house companions of this fact on Saturday, and they both had forgotten as this holiday is not commemorated here. In fact, it doesn’t even exist. Mother´s day would seem to be universal, as everyone has a mother. Yet, it is difficult to find a family in Brasil where the dad stays with his wife long enough to see the kids grow.

I am so thankful for you dad and for what you did and do for me. I can´t ask for a better example. Father´s truly are essential for a working and thriving society. The Book of Mormon talks a lot about the influence of  ‘traditions of their fathers’ and we are molded by traditions that we are taught. I am thankful for the traditions that I’ve been taught and have been created in our home and hope to always follow them.

Love

Elder Schenewark

Letter #94

Dear Family and Friends,
For my last 6 weeks, I´ll be staying here in Terra Vermelha. I was happy to hear that, and its a bonus that the other two Americans will be staying here as well. It´s been a fantastic transfer, and we´re all excited for this one.
We did a service project this week helping staff a garage sale Brasilian style, in a mall to raise money for a baby who was born with some complications, and needing to go to the USA to have surgery. It was what I needed, to forget about whatever problems the zone is having, and help someone who is in a lot bigger fight.
 Afterwards, I went to the post office and as we were waiting in line Elder Lighten´s nose started to bleed, so we left looking for a bathroom to clean the blood, and all of a sudden security was on to us, and we were quickly escorted into an elevator and into the medical center. It seemed like a movie. We spent the next twenty minutes there, receiving perhaps the best treatment I’ve ever seen. Note to all world travelers, if you are feeling bad, just go to the mall. It beats the doctor any day. This nosebleed put the standby doctors into defcon5 mode, and I was thoroughly impressed by their seriousness and care in treating Elder Lighten. It was honestly hilarious.
The other pair of missionaries, Elders Lighten and Dias baptized two people yesterday. One Vitor, whom we found in a park playing soccer. While I wasn’t the one teaching him everyday, its been incredible to see the change he has undergone. In Ezekiel 18:31, it reads “Cast away from you all your transgressions, whereby ye have transgressed; and make you a new heart and a new spirit.”
Vitor did just that, cleaning up his life, and changing his heart. Yet it is not just for him. This is something we all need to do. We need to clean up our lives, take out the impurities, and have a new heart. Its not a one week process or even a one year process, but its a lifetime of work to become perfect.
Love,
Elder Schenewark

Letter #93

Dear Family and Friends,

Last week, our branch president here talked with President Young and said we, the four current elders here, are the best he´s seen in his seven years as branch president. I don´t know what we did to merit that exactly, but hey, I´ll take it.

And for whatever reason, or perhaps because of that comment, Pres. Young decided to come to our branch for a church project. They are making some new church video in Salt lake, I don´t know exactly what for, but they asked for footage of recent converts and chose our mission, and Pres. Young chose our branch. So we spent a couple hours with him Sunday helping him get the film made. Yes, it’s brief. yes, perhaps it never will make the final cut. yet, I enjoyed the opportunity as did the new members. And we heard some ´´behind the scenes´´ stories of Pres. Young from his post-mission era.

On Thursday we headed to Vitória and participated in the Young´s last leadership council. Their closing testimonies were touching, especially Sis. Young´s as she talked about how ´´everything good in [her] life came because of the gospel and family.´´ And, how after 42 years of marriage, she is more in love than ever, and certain that ´´only eternity will do.´´

On the work front, we had a zone wide fast and saw the miracles immediately, with everyone scheduled for baptism and confirmation actually happening, and a mission record number of people scheduled to be baptized this week. 17. That number may drop, but this week is still shaping up to be great by all standards, as I prepare to start my last transfer.

Love,

Elder Schenewark

Letter #92

Dear Family and Friends,

This letter´s coming in late, as today we went to the world famous chocolate factory Garoto. I think the tour was even better than Hershey´s and my mind was admittedly impressed by the equipment and machinery. Cost 20Reais, but after just smelling chocolate for an hour, at the end, they put us in a room, with all the types of chocolate they make and let us go at it. A chocolate buffet. I´m not wanting to eat any chocolate today, but I´d recommend making the trip. It is, or is one of the biggest employers in the state of Espirito Santo.

This weekend we had stake conference. Notable as it was the last of the stake president before he is released, the last for Pres. and Sis. Young, and we were visited by Moroni Torgam, an Area Seventy who will also be released this fall. This Moroni is not quite the Mitt Romney of Brasil, but close to it. He´s a famous politician (senator) from Fortaleza, Ceará. And in the church he´s famous as a scriptorian. He had someone writing down all the scriptures he quoted on the blackboard for people to study later. And without notes, or scriptures must have rattled off fifty during his Sunday talk.

 

Sis. Young talked about tithing and how it has blessed her life. Its a subject that she often teaches and I never get tired hearing about it. Just one story, shortly after marrying, Pres. Young and Sis. Young unexpectedly received family visitors into their house, and were only able to feed them rice and lettuce, as they had nothing else. Nevertheless, they paid tithing and were abundantly blessed. And, one blessing that Sis. Young has seen in her life as she pays tithing, is her wants diminish. She doesn’t have to have a new car, but instead is happy with what she has.

During the morning while getting ready for the day, I like to listen to discourses. I listened to one by Pres. Hinckley called  “Seven pillars of wisdom. While not explaining here in detail anything, I would like to share his seven pillars:

1. God lives and the door of heaven is open to you
2. Life is forever
3. The kingdom is here
4. The family is divine
5. Obedience is better than sacrifice
6.  God is bound when you do what He says
7. He that loseth his life, shall find it.

I know that these are eternal truths. I need to do better to live by them. I am so grateful for prophets, seers, and revelators who reveal the mysteries of divinity and teach is how to live. They are men of God, and I can´t deny it. Let´s always follow them!

Love,

Elder Schenewark

Letter #91

Dear Family and Friends,

The photos were from an activity we put together on Saturday. There are 4 returned missionaries in the branch, and 4 full time missionaries, us, so we divided up into 8 groups, and then separated the rest of the members into one of the groups. Our focus was on the area around the chapel, so we handed each group a couple less actives to visit nearby, to see if they could help, but also to see if the address was even right (usually they´re way outdated).

And in our ninety minutes we were able to visit twenty less actives, and talking with people in the street and neighbors of the members, 44 referrals. My group even ended up bringing a less-active to the second half of the activity. We all returned, talked about what we did, a couple people bore their testimonies, and then it was off to lunch, which was stroganoff, followed by açai and cupuaçu. Delicious.

Finally, the members went at it with soccer and some other games while the three Americans handled all others at the ping-pong table. Aunt Janel beware,  #undefeated. It turned out to be a fantastic activity where perhaps the most lasting effect to be felt will be the members themselves as the morale went way up in regards to member missionary work, including several youth with a new or increased desire to serve full time.

On Wednesday we had our zone conference, where literally everything went off with out a hitch. That’s not rare, it’s impossible, but somehow it happened. Even lunch turned out to be fantastic. It was the last zone conference for Pres. and Sis. Young so we planned a surprise: God Be With You ´til We Meet Again song and then presented them with shirts and a poster.

And after trying to think about how to give a new twist on an old subject, i.e. following up and accountability, we turned to the story of the creation in Genesis and Abraham 4 and brought the house down.

 

Thursday was our interview with Pres. Young. My temple recommend would be expiring at the end of the month, so I was able to renew that, and was touched thinking about answering the same questions to return to our Heavenly Father. Just a thought, but it made my smile bigger and bigger thinking about returning to His presence, or the temple. And one of our district leaders was sent packing, opening up space for a new one, and now I am so grateful for the missionaries we have in our zone, I couldn´t have picked them better.

Love,

Elder Schenewark

Letter #90

Dear Family and Friends,

It was wonderful to talk to everyone yesterday. Priceless. I love you guys so much. As mentioned, yesterday was the baptism of Juliana. She moved from Rio de Janeiro a couple of weeks ago, and we knocked on her door, our first day here. She lives right next to the chapel, thirty seconds away walking. It´s been amazing to see her resolution, and while young, has a couple of kids that are loving Primary, which is nice to see.

This morning we woke up early, and headed to a giant hill, called Morro do Moreno. It sits right on the bay and we enjoyed some wonderful views of Vitória and Vila Velha and Serra. We could see basically 70% of the population of Espirito Santo.

And Saturday, we were blessed with a miracle. Romildo, 49, stopped us on the street and asked us some questions. I thought initially he was drunk, but it turns out he wasn´t, it was just the long term effect of some of his choices. Why do I say that? Because he has a great desire to change. And it’s never too late.

He went to church yesterday, and invited a bunch of his friends, and really does have a desire to come to Christ. I´ve thought a lot lately about Alma the Younger. Reading the Book of Mormon, I noticed something interesting. If you look at Mosiah 29:45, and Mosiah 27, you will see that Alma, the Elder was about 80 when his son repented and turned to the Lord. This changed my perception of Alma the Younger, because when he changed he wasn´t young! Maybe 40-50, or even older. Yet, it really is never too late. I am so grateful for the gift of repentance in my life, the chance to change, and for the grace of our Savior which makes it all possible.

Love,

Elder Schenewark

Letter #89

Dear Family and Friends,

I´m loving Terra Vermelha. The members are great here, and very excited. Until a couple months ago, everyone was meeting in an old apartment building, but the newly constructed chapel was dedicated 2 months ago. The members even like to clean it, thankful for what they now have. And, the branch is just about ready to send some papers off, in preparation to turn a ward!

Although right next to the beach, this is I think the poorest area I´ve been in. none of the roads are even paved, and as the name says, the soil is red. Yesterday, we had one couple, Carlos+Luciana, and a young women, Juliana, visit the church. They all loved it. Everybody is very humble and receptive. One caveat, is no one, no one is legally married. But, its normal, so the branch is used to hosting marriages. We enjoyed one on Saturday, and its the plan for Carlos and Luciana. E. kimball Hatch is from Gilbert, arizona, good pioneer stock and so far its been truly wonderful to have E. Hatch and E. Lighten here. They both will go to BYU after the mission. E. Lighten´s companion is E. Dias from Cape Verde, or in other words, there isn´t any brasilians here, which is unusual.

I actually picked up Aunt Janel´s package last week, and have been enjoying all the goodies. Whatever Porter wants, I´ll bring back. Except for socks, and white shirts. We´re planning on using google hangout about 4 or 5 pm here, which is 2 or 3 in Texas.

We´re continuing our study about repentance, and my testimony of that principal continues to grow,.Reading in Alma 19:36, “And thus the work of the Lord did commence among the Lamanites; thus the Lord did begin to pour out his Spirit upon them; and we see that his arm is extended to all people who will repent and believe on his name.”

And I’ve definitely seen that promise fulfilled. All of our investigators, as they start to repent, have been magnificently blessed, both temporally and spiritually. I know that as we repent, making the small changes necessary in our lives to become like our Savior, we are blessed in all aspects of our lives, and the mercy and grace of Jesus Christ are around us.

Love,

Elder Schenewark

Letter #88

Dear Family and Friends,

This week was without doubt the craziest on my mission. Monday night, President Young called and said that we needed to go to Vitória that same night, ASAP, so we threw everything in our suitcases and headed out. We arrived late at night, and spent the next day in Vitória, before heading to Serra, my old stomping ground.

We finished the week there, and I was informed today, that I will now be going to Vila Velha, Terra Vermelho Branch. It´s one place I’ve wanted to serve basically since my mission started, so I´m very excited and happy. My companion, again, will be an American, Elder Hatch.

I´m looking forward to our Skype on Mother’s Day, but since I´ll be in a new area, I don’t know anything right now. If you could get a time, and send it next Monday that would help.

During our week in Serra, we baptized Magleisse and Ana Paula, sisters. It was cool, as I had actually taught them the first lesson about two weeks ago on a split with the assistants, and then was able to come back and see the end. We traded places with the AP´s, they went to Colatina for the week.
I know that this isn´t much information, but we´ll talk in a little bit and I´ll let you know more. It’s nice to know, that wherever I go, be it Colatina, Serra, or Vila Velha, the church is the same. And it´s true. I am so glad to be able to share that message with everyone I meet.
Love,

Elder Schenewark

Letter #87

Dear Family and Friends,
The highlight this week was visiting the city of Baixo Guandu. We did splits there with the elders on Thursday. We witnessed miracles; had a meeting with people and helped prepare them in regards to opening up a new part of the town. The new area will require going across a river to Aimores, Minas Gerais, which as part of another state, was recently annexed to our mission and has never seen missionaries.
In Baixo Guandu, the church has been there for only two years, and has a total of five families who go to church- so it was a huge miracle to stumble across a family of members who recently moved to this city, and did not know about the church.
And beyond seeing the work progress, we also enjoyed one of the best burgers I’ve ever eaten, as well as seeing the worlds largest coconut.

This weekend Pres. Young visited and conducted our interviews- I learned priceless lessons watching him deal patiently and lovingly with all of the missionaries.

 

 

The barbecue streak continued when Uncle Zach´s old mission friend again treated us to restaurant fare- the most famous restaurant of the city- Agua Viva. 10/10. And barbecue yesterday after church. I´m going vegetarian today.
Therezinha, baptized two weeks ago, full of health problems, entered into the hospital last weekend, and was therefore not confirmed, receiving instead the news that she also has diabetes. Nevertheless, she was present yesterday to receive the Holy Ghost and bore a tearful testimony full of joy that touched everyone.
And as I heard, I knew again why the mission is so important. I´m so glad to be able to see lives change, hearts soften, and souls saved.
Love,
Elder Schenewark

Letter #86

Dear Family and Friends,

Last Monday, we had two missionaries over, before we all headed for Vitória the next day. And one of them, Elder Lighten, from Utah had found and purchased “Colonizadores de Catan” aka, Settlers of Catan. So our preparation day was spent in a classic duel to colonize Catan.

Tuesday morning early, we all headed for another bus ride to Vitória for our zone conference. Elder Dial and I gave training on “Relationships with the opposite sex.” We stayed the day, and split with the assistants to the Presidents. After briefly setting foot in Colatina, it was off again, this time to Linhares to conduct a baptismal interview.

Easter here is a lot different here in Colatina. I don´t remember anything special about last year, but with a larger Catholic population, it is a holiday very important in Colatina. One tradition that is interesting deals with Saint Lucia. All the kids leave out a bowl filled with grass for her horse, and Saturday at night she stops by and in return for the grass fills the bowl with candy. I don´t think I’ve ever eaten so much chocolate as this week. And barbecue. Not sure how they fit together, but about every single day we’ve had barbecue and chocolate.

On Thursday, as we walked down the street, a construction shop owner called out to us, and we went over. Wilson, received a  bunch of dress pants in payment for a sink or something, and has not had any success in selling them in a neighboring store, so he told us to go over and pick some out, and he would give each of us two pairs. Of course we accepted readily, and I am very thankful for them. And interestingly, the very next day, he sold some for the first time, Thirteen pairs to be exact. #BlessingsforHelpingMissionaries.

In terms of investigators, the progress is slow. That being said, there is progress. Later tonight we´ll have a Family Home Evening with some of them at a member’s house. And more likely than not, it will include barbecue and chocolate.

One of our recent converts has been reading the Book of Mormon consistently and when we visited she said she had not understood 1 Nephi 20, the beginning of the chapters of Isaiah. So we read together, and trying to help her, my understanding was enlarged. In verse 18-19, “O that thou hadst hearkened to my commandments- then had thy peace been as a river, and thy righteousness as the waves of the sea. Thy seed also had been as the sand; the offspring of thy bowels like the gravel thereof; his name should not have been cut off nor destroyed from before me.” And it should be noted, all the blessings come from, keeping the commandments. We have to follow them, as they truly have been given to bless us and help us have joy.

And in verse 10, in a verse that pierces my mind when I am inclined to complain about some hardship: “For, behold, I have refined thee, I have chosen thee in the furnace of affliction.”  We have trials to turn us into the people God would have us be. They are not easy, but they are necessary.

Love,

Elder Schenewark