Letter #47

Dear Family and Friends,

This has been a roller coaster week. First, I returned to the dentist, and will be going back later today. He will clean my gums. Basically, all that I’ve been doing is delaying the spread of gingivitis. I don´t know why the other dentists didn’t do the cleaning immediately, but it will be done today. I am humbly asking for your prayers that everything will go well without complications and that I can continue to serve with all my heart, might, mind, and force. This is been a recurring, trying challenge. Obviously, it doesn’t compare with what others are going through, nevertheless, I hope that this can be put behind me once and for all this afternoon.

This week, we were blessed to meet some awesome families. They have been prepared, and love what we’ve been teaching. One family, has been married for 21 years, literally unheard of in Brasil, and have 5 children, also unheard of. As we’ve taught them, I’ve felt the Spirit confirming to me, that I’ve been in Quissamã to bring the gospel to them. Most likely, this will be my last week as transfers are next Tuesday. One never knows, but I feel like I’ve done my job here.

(A dry sea horse)

This week really been an opportunity to put challenges behind, and just keep pressing ever onward. I hope everything is well there, and Grampy will recover.

Love,

Elder Schenewark

ps. just a reminder, to put ave maria photos on packages. I got a call from the mission office that a package came in, I don´t know who sent it,  but unfortunately it came in with 200 reais worth of taxes. The post office workers here apparently select some packages to put taxes on. Other missionaries, as Tanner has attested to, cover the package with ave marias and never have any problems.

Letter #46

Dear Family and Friends,

It´s been a special week here. The work continues to be hard and difficult, yet I have a great love and gratitude fills my heart for the people here. The members, few, yet faithful, have really made us feel loved.

Yesterday, the branch had a giant family home evening type activity, and at the end celebrated my birthday as well as Pres. Luis with lots of cake.

And today, we went and toured some old plantation houses (as last week rained) and then had a delicious and special lunch. So, in short, it felt good to celebrate. There´s no fireworks, no town celebrations, so it was nice to keep something the same as at home, with cake, etc.

Touring the houses was wonderful. We visited some old slave houses from 150 years ago, and where the descendants still live. And the old sugar cane plantation houses. Almost all of them have fallen into disrepair and are abandoned (yet protected by the city) and yet emanate beauty. I really like the style they were built in.

 

This week was also the day to celebrate Nossa Senhora Aparecida. The town, traditionally Catholic, closed down for the day and held a parade. We heard the pólice sirens blazing and I was expecting something big, but it was just  a long line of cars with one float put together by the catholic church with a statue on it.

Also, Friday was a festival celebrating the people who live in the country, i.e. farmer, and we visited the festival briefly. Filled with lots of incredible homemade treats to purchase.

Sunday, for faith and testimony meeting, everyone bore their testimony. Usually, at least one or two people stay on the stand talking about their lives for a while, but yesterday it was one person after another bearing a quick and powerful testimony, like we are counseled to do. It was perfect. Except, being a small branch I realized everyone had already bore their testimony except for me and the 2nd counselor in the branch presidency, and we still had about 20 minutes left in the meeting. I didn’t want to discourse, so I got up next, bore my testimony, and couldn’t help but feel a little sorry for the counselor. But he did great, shared some scriptures, bore his powerful testimony before letting the branch president get up again and close the meeting, right on time.

A member gave us some fresh from the farm milk, and we’ve been enjoying avocado smoothies, or papaya, orange, and banana smoothies every day for a while now. Its gets you going in the morning.

As I mentioned recently, we’ve had opportunities to leave prayers with people in their houses. We returned to one on Thursday, and the man was waiting for us. He had felt the spirit strongly, and asked us if we had the time to go to the house of his mother. Of course we agreed, and headed over with him. When we get there, the mother explains that she´s been separated from her husband for some time, and a couple months ago, he came over to visit, and during the visit, fell, was hurt badly and ended up dying in the hospital after an 11 day stay. And, recently, a lot of weird things have been happening where he fell, i.e. stuff falls off the table for no reason, chairs topple over, etc. So she asked us to pray. I´ll admit that I had some goosebumps, but we shared a message, talked about the peace we could have in our lives. It was definitely a memorable lesson.

Yesterday was the first time we had investigators in the church this transfer! And it was definitely a miracle, as we had two and weren’t counting on having anyone. And, after church, as we went knocking doors, and were rejected and rejected and rejected, we were feeling challenged to keep going, when we tried again and it was the best reception we’ve had since I’ve got here. A married (legally!) couple answered, definitely prepared with a desire to hear or message. After not entering in houses for a long time, they asked us if we could enter and share a message with them. I think we just stood there wondering what was going on. Honestly, talking with Elder Cavalcante afterwards, it turns out we both thought they were less actives. But no, just people with a desire to find the truth. Had a great lesson, and they are both excited to read the Book of |Mormon.

That’s it! It´s been a good week, and we are excited for more here in Quissamã!

Love,

Elder Schenewark

 

Enjoy the view  – a spider in our house!

Letter #45

Letter #45

Dear Family and Friends,

Well, you commented that my letters have been getting a little shorter, and I think that´s going to continue this week. There just really isn’t much happening.

This week has been really, really tough in terms of work. We keep plugging along, but don´t seem to be making progress. We literally did not get into any houses this week. If we ask for water, they bring it out. If we offer to leave a message, they come out to hear. We have been unable to teach a second lesson for about two weeks. The only place we actually entered, were the tents of a different gypsy camp.

We are now reporting attendance of Sacrament meeting, and this week, only 26 made it to church. Yesterday, I was the final speaker in sacrament, and talked 20 minutes on how to increase power in the priesthood.

Also this week, we were able to have a zone conference and interviews with Pres. Young. Like always, it was wonderful to have, and the time passed so, so quickly.

Later today, we will be going to visit some old sugar cane plantation houses, which I´m excited for. Like I said, that´s really it. We´re putting in a full day of work and making sure we do our part and I’m really enjoying having Elder Cavalcante as a companion, so life here is good. To leave a challenge, it would be to do as Elder Russell M. Nelson said in April conference. “Pray to know how to pray to have more power in the priesthood. And, remember he said, if you really want more power, it’s important to embrace both your spouse and her counsel.

Love you all!!!

Elder Schenewark

Letter #44

Letter #44

Dear Family and Friends,

The mission is rocking right now. The work is tough here, no one went to church yesterday. Yet, I finally feel like we are doing everything right, guided by the spirit and I am loving every minute.

Nothing big to report, just little moments each day I never want to forget. Quissamã is home to the Tender Mercies. I love Elder Cavalcante, He’s a great missionary. Tuesday, he thought we should fast, so we did, and immediately we saw some blessings, meeting new people and receiving some guidance on what we could do better.

Lately, we’ve been praying a lot in people´s houses. When they say yes, we would like a prayer here, we ask what they would ask Jesus Christ for, if he were here in our place. And then kneel and pray. It’s been amazing. The Spirit is always there, filling the house. And, together with our English class initiative, we´re starting to gain more and more traction here in Quissamã. What we had been doing, just wasn’t effective here, and I really like our new route.

OBEDIENCE+HARD WORK=HAPPINESS+MIRACLES

And, yesterday, we saw a big one. We were sitting at a park bench after lunch yesterday, teaching an old man, and a person on a bike stopped and asked to talk with me. He said that he´d been visiting a doctor, getting treated in Campos (other city) for some time, and the doctor, who is a member of the church said he should talk to missionaries. So, he stopped us, and we´re returning to his house today!

protest against the gov’t

Elder Cavalcante has been helping me learn how to cook like a Brasilian. It’s been fun, and brought a lot odd variety into my cookbook. But, this week, we opened up the Rudy´s sauce and that was fantastic.  You just can´t beat the best.

That´s about it. Like I said, nothing big to report. This week we´ll head up to Campos for a meeting and pick up the mail there. Share the gospel with someone this week!

Love,

Elder Schenewark

Letter #42

Dear Family and Friends,

On Wednesday, we went up to Campos and spent a little bit of time that night working with other missionaries. We spent the night there, and early in the morning, we went to an orthopedic doctor. The news wasn’t encouraging, but they couldn’t make any diagnostics without an MRI or ultrasound, and the earliest we could get one of the tests is in one week,

We tried going to another doctor, but to no avail. The same thing happened there. We ended up spending hours in the city talking with doctors and eventually Pres. Young. We returned back to our house Thursday night.

 

Friday, Pres. Young asked us to return to try another doctor because we need the tests, but unfortunately they had no way to make the exams happen. Elder Cardoso decided to return to Curitibia and have everything done there. We waited for hours for each doctor, then they do a quick five minute exam, tell us he has something wrong, but don´t know exactly what.

So it’s been a crazy week. We haven´t really been able to do anything. This week is transfers, so he will leave for Vitoria tomorrow, and my new companion will be Elder Cavalcante, who will be coming tomorrow. I think I’ve already met him, but I can´t quite put a face to the name. I´ll find out tomorrow.

This week, we had two English classes. 11 children showed up on Tuesday, 10 not being members of the church. And on Saturday, we had a class of 20 show up. They both went really well, but with Elder Cardoso leaving, we are moving back to Saturday only class.

When we went to Campos, we were able to pick up the newly arrived mail, and A PACKAGE! thank you mom. It was filled with some wonderful food and letters. I’ve already read the journal you sent and that was definitely a great surprise.

And I will mail my glasses this week. I have a box, I’ve already talked to the post office here about the price and its not bad at all. So it will be on its way soon. I´m just looking for something good to put in it. And the credit card arrived here safely. I´ll probably buy some new shoes here some time in the next month.

Campos is a pretty ugly city overall, I like Vitoria and Serra a lot better, yet we visited this one city square that is beautiful. It looks like European. I remembered today is D-day, and it was pretty cool to see a world war II monument here in Brasil.

Love,

Elder Schenewark

 

Letter #41

Dear Family and Friends,

This week, Priscilla was baptized. It was wonderful. She´s been carefully studying the church for 2.5 years, since December 2013, and hasn’t missed a Sunday for eight months. And, last week, she decided she was ready. The service was wonderful. Packed house, people drove two hours from the stake, who knew her, to be here. We ended up having five brief testimonies, turned the rest down, and two special musical numbers. Including one by Elder Cardoso and I. We sang The Spirit of God in English for her, as she speaks it okay and it’s one of her favorite songs. And lots of cake at the end. A day I´ll never forget. She said she has this day engraved forever on her heart too. I felt the spirit strong Sunday, when she was receiving the Holy Ghost.

We bought some cheap batteries to try out on the piano, and it turns out really cheap. Sunday, the batteries died before i even played the intro to the first song. So we were without music. But the branch will invest in some better ones.

Elder Cardoso has been having pains in his legs since his first day here but has tried to get though it. Well, it’s been getting worse. We´re traveling Wednesday to visit an orthopedic doctor and we´ll see what will happen. he thinks he will have to go home. So keep him in your prayers.

Like I’ve already mentioned, Quissamã is a small country town. Lots of people have farms and gardens. Which means lots of fresh food. I’ve never been a fan of avocado, but that’s beginning to change. Members here blend avocado with milk and just a little sugar, and it is deeeelicious. A recipe I´ll be bringing back.

This week at English class, it unfortunately overlapped with a Relief Society activity, and our number of members dwindled, but, we had our best showing yet with twenty investigators, almost entirely kids between 12-16 who showed up alone, and it went really well. We’ve decided to open up a second class on Tuesdays as there have been a lot of people asking. A couple are starting to get interested in the church as well.

Love,

Elder Schenewark

Letter #40

Dear Family and Friends,

Yes, I heard about the new clothing rules today! For now, lets just wait. Pres. young and some of the leaders of the mission will be meeting to decide what will be done. I can get a good hat here really inexpensive, and will probably not use sunglasses at all.

This week, we continued visiting all the less actives. We’ve been working on helping a family return to the church, and this week, the oldest child, Antonio was baptized!!! He´s 8, and had already been taught by other missionaries, but then they were transferred. We´re glad to have been able to help. And one investigator, Priscilla, who is one of the coolest investigators ever, is talking about getting baptized Saturday! She´s been attending church 8 months now, every single Sunday (stake conference, general conference, everything) and finally feels ready. We´re excited!

This week we received permission from the middle school here to visit and invite everybody to our English class. We visited every single classroom, over 500 kids in total, and talked about what we do. It was really fun, and they loved our presentation. And, Saturday, we ended up having 28 people for our English class! The new record, but I think we´ll break it Saturday again. It was really challenging to teach everyone, but we prepared and it went off well. And it was a really good mix of members/non-members. Quite a few kids from the school came, but no parents. Many invited us to their house though, so we´ll be able to visit more this week.

When we went to church here the first time, we discovered that there was not a piano here. We talked to the branch president, President Luis, and he said a  member had taken it to their house a couple years ago, to learn how to play. Well, turns out it changed hands quite a bit, and wasn´t working, but after tracking it down, and putting in new batteries its playing! This Sunday was the first time in a long time they´ve had music here, and it was good. I played with the simplified hymn book. After a couple years without any piano  the branch members have an affinity to sing really slow, and I have a tendency to play fast, so at some parts it got interesting, but we made it through in relative harmony.

Last night, my companion got upset over something, so I heard him out, but it was really difficult. Then, I prayed. This year, I’ve studied about charity A LOT but last night I followed the counsel of Moroni to `pray unto the Father with all the energy of thy heart, that ye may be filled with this love` And as I did, I had a very distinct impression say, when you are done praying, get up, give him a hug, and tell him you love him. So I did. And all the resentment left. the Spirit returned. the unity returned. The promises contained in the Book of Mormon are real.

Love,

Elder Schenewark

A Lovely, Lovely Letter

Dear Brother and Sister Schenewark:

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

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

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

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

Sincerely,

President David E. Young
Missão Brasil Vitória

Letter #36

Dear Family and Friends,

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

I love you all!!!!!!!

Elder Schenewark

Letter #35

Dear Family and Friends,

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Love, Love, and more love,

Elder Schenewark

Make yourself at home.