Letter #28

Dear Family and Friends,

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Love,

Elder Schenewark

So Fresh, So Clean

Dear Family and Friends,

Another wonderful week. There was disappointment as the number of people committed to attend church dwindled and dwindled until it was just one. And some of the people had legitimate reasons, others simply unwilling or not wanting to change their lives. It’s sad when people I feel the spirit with, and want to help, revert back to old ways. I think disappointments are good, and an essential part of life.

When that one person, Clayson walked into church, my joy felt full. because we had worked so hard for one person, and he is wonderful. Saturday, he threw away his coffee, and we whooped and hollered a little bit, and he already loves the church. He´s only 17, but has his own little house and lives alone. We were looking for someone else, when we started talking to him, and he invited us right in. He had been living with his brother, but he married, so on Tuesday when we met Clayson, it was only the third day he had lived there. And I feel like the church has already become somewhat like a family for him. We barely talked with him Sunday, as he spent it all with members, Today he has family home evening with a family,  I´m excited. Carnival starts Friday, so the stake has a four day activity, and he´ll be going to that.

So fresh and so clean.

And about disappointment, it´s impossible to feel that way for long. Not only are there lots of people we´re working on finding who want the gospel in their lives, but I wake up in Brasil everyday. Speaking Portuguese. Serving the Lord. #blessedbeyondmeasure And for good measure, I´ll add that you haven’t seen beaches, until you’ve seen these beaches.  And wonderful food always.

We had interviews with Pres. Young this past Saturday. Awesome. He is the man (he looks like Pres. Packer). While Elder Costa was talking with Pres. Young, I talked with Sis Young (mother of 10!). She served a mission in Germany and some of their kids have German names, so we talked about family history, and it turns out that Pres. Young, is a direct descendant of William Bradford, like us. So that’s awesome. He didn’t have time then, but wants to see our family tree, #cousins, but it really was a great interview, He has the spirit so strong, and afterward I felt like I was walking on air. We talked about John 15, which Elder Holland called a guide for missionaries (and I think for life) and which we were asked to read before coming. I´ll recommend it again to everyone.

And short but important thought of the day. 2nd Nephi 32:3. The scriptures really do tell us everything we need to do. Many times they are our way to know the will of heavenly Father.

Love,

Elder Schenewark

Letter #23

Dear Family and Friends,

The miracles have been continuing. Remember that blessing we gave last week, my first one in Portuguese? We found out that for the first time in forever the woman is now able to converse, and even walk. Miracle! Yesterday, we received a referral from some other missionaries, they had two youth show up in their ward, but they live in our area, so I´m excited to start teaching them this week. Miracle! We met a missionary who served in Joao Pessoa with Uncle Zach! and he pulled out lots of photos; Uncle Zach, sunglasses, and peace signs flashing. Miracle!

 

And, last p-day we had someone to visit in an area really far away, but it’s also the neighborhood with the golf course. So we decided to leave early and check it out. I had known about it since day one, but hadn’t had a great desire to see it until now. There´s only one other golf course in the entire state, so it was cool getting assigned to this area. We are close by but not really sure how to get there, and we asked one person. And it turns out after talking with him, this person is married to an inactive member, and was taught all the lessons, but on his baptismal day, after changing into the baptismal clothes, literally fled. He continued attending church, for a year, but was never baptized. So we’ve been able to teach them and some of their kids this week. And we were asked by the mother specifically to help the oldest son who is 23.

So when we met him, just trying to get to know him, I asked an inspired question, “Do you like to play soccer? Gustavo said, “No, but I like golf.”` And he invited us to play with him the next p-day, (today!!!) So we went and played a wonderful nine holes, and it was honestly one of the coolest rounds of golf ever.

Gustavo has worked as a caddie for eight years. Now, the course has golf carts so he doesn’t do much there, but he´s still on the list of caddies, so every Monday morning he can play for free….and bring one guest! So this morning (early, early) Elder Costa and I went with three Brazilian caddies and played. We all used the same golf bag, just some old clubs the course has, and played nine holes. Golf- fantastic. Scenery-fantastic.

Culinary tastings-can´t be beaten. It’s more of a garden of Eden than an orchard. While walking, we intermittently stopped to eat fruits: -pitanga -manga (two types) -araca -pinha -laranjinha. The laranjinha is a little orange, about the size of a cherry, and you eat it all, even the peel, which tastes really sweet. And while we were watching some monkeys fight in the trees, as the golf course borders a nature preserve, our host holed out from 70 yards, for a birdie.

The Brazilians don´t know any English, but most golf terms are in English which is interesting. Can I have the “sanchie” (sand wedge)? They use yards in golf here too, not meters like the rest of the country. So perfect p-day.

In other news, we will officially be starting an English class this Wednesday. I´m honestly excited, but nervous, as it’s going to be tough. But I do feel confident now in being able to handle a class of Portuguese speakers. Mostly, but it helps that Elder Costa will be able to help a lot.

And, we´re losing a lot of members in our ward. Our bishop’s leaving this week to pursue a job opportunity in another state, one family is going to Italy. He said it’s ironic that his great grandfather left Italy after World War 1, and now he´s returning. And there are a couple of families looking to move to the US in the next year. They´ll be missed here.

Because it’s not as hot here, the mangoes have only started falling the last week and this week, and will continue for a while. So I´m back up to my quart of mango juice per day. Holy cow. I´m drinking enough for everyone back there too. At the store, they technically cost six cents per pound, but I think every person who doesn’t live in an apartment has a tree, and members are constantly feeding us mangoes, and giving us some to take home. And jaca. too. We even ate homemade jaca ice cream this past week, which was surprisingly delicious.

We had a worldwide devotional for all the missionaries this past Wednesday which was fantastic. Elder Anderson, Bednar, and Oaks all spoke. I don´t know if it’s open to the public yet, but if it is, I highly recommend watching it. And it was awesome, with over 400 missions in the world, only one was mentioned by name….Vitoria! Apparently Elder Scott visited here three times, and Elder Andersen accompanied one visit, that he spoke about. But, as a mission, we all gathered with our respective zones, so we were in the actual city of Vitoria as they talked about it.

President Monson, said to paraphrase, “I don´t know a sweeter experience than to hearken to the whisperings of the Spirit, and then learning that God has used us to answer someone else´s prayer.”

So, have the Spirit, listen to the Spirit, and watch miracles happen!!

Love,

Elder Schenewark

P.S. My glasses are bad. The front gloss is rubbing off for some reason. I meant to take a picture but forgot. Right now, I’´m using my old glasses and am seeing fine. But if you could check on a warranty or something, I´d appreciate it!. If there is a warranty, I’d much rather get contacts here or something than more glasses if possible.

P.P.S. And, I´m definitely the only missionary here, American or Brasilian w/o a credit card! What was I thinking! I don´t need money right now, totally fine, but could we think of some way, in which I could eventually get a  little?

Carry On

Dear Family and Friends,

Elder Costa and I have definitely seen the Lord´s hand in our lives this week. Some special experiences: We received a referral and went with the member to give a member of the family a blessing. There, we met the family, mom, stepdad, 15 y.o. twins, a 10 y.o., and a 6 y.o., just a nice family. And we learned that one of the twins was just diagnosed with cancer in her leg. If it isn’t healed by the radiation and chemo, which usually it isn’t, they will be cutting off her leg. So when we went there, you could tell how hard this had been for the family (and the stepfather has been unable to find work), and the atmosphere was truly humble. The Spirit was strong as we left a blessing, and we’ve taught the family a couple times since. It’s hard for them right now, as the daughter can´t leave the house with her weakened immune system, and they will be leaving to stay in the hospital for awhile, so I don´t know what we´ll be able to do for them, but it was special, and I knew we are acting as representatives of Jesus Christ.

On Thursday, we went with a member to visit a less-active who hadn’t been to church since her records were transferred here, so no one knows her. We went, and it turns out that she is bed ridden and has been for a couple years. She moved here so her daughters can take care of her. We gave her a blessing as well, I actually did in Portuguese for the first time, instead of just anointing, and I´ll honestly never forget it, as I felt prompted and knew the exact words to speak. She won´t be able to come to church, but we arranged to have some members visit here again.

Sunday morning, we visited another referral, and taught two kids and their mother. The daughter is 9 or 10 and has come to church now for a couple weeks and loves it, and the mom wanted to learn more. And she loves it as well. They both want to be baptized, and were truly an answer to our prayers. The mom drinks coffee and smokes a lot. We taught the word of wisdom after church, and the Spirit again was so strong. I really liked what Elder Costa said. He related how quitting will be hard (we challenged her to quit immediately) but asked her to remember the Savior´s sacrifice for us, and how nothing we do can do will ever repay him for that gift of the Atonement. But he asks that we keep the commandments. She said she wants to quit, and we´re excited to keep working with the family this week.

On Saturday, our lunch was changed from  noon to 1. We were working when the member called, and because we had some time we hadn´t planned for, we decided to visit a recent convert of a year, Murilo, who is 19 y.o. We went and when he saw us, he was elated. He told us how he had prayed on Thursday that the missionaries or someone from the church would come visit him before Sunday. And here we were. How many times has lunch for us been pushed back? I can´t recall one time. But that day, we needed to visit him. He has been having a rough time, and his parents aren’t interested in church, but we were able to help him, and it strengthened my testimony as well, that God knows us and loves us. And he works through his servants.

Wednesday, there will be a worldwide broadcast for all missionaries, which we are excited for.

Dad mentioned the recession, and I am 99% certain it’s not the worst since 1901, but it is bad. Inflation was over 10% last year, and right now I think it’s about 15%. And Serra is fairly affluent (compared to Cacheiro or Vitoria) and there are some members here who are struggling. They have really good jobs with the oil/gas industry (some work offshore) but that whole industry is struggling right now, and some of them won´t receive pay for two months. And for us, last week, the cost of the bus went us from 2.45 to 2.75 a ride, so that hurts.

I haven´t heard much about the Olympics. People here  generally watch the games, but at least here, there´s not much excitement. They paint the streets every four years with soccer pictures/murals, whether the games are being held in Russia or like last time in Brasil, but I haven´t seen anything like that here.

Love you all!

Elder Schenewark

Working Hard. Praying Fervently.

Dear Family and Friends,

Well, another week, and not much to report on the baptism front. The font´s been dry here.

I love Ether 12:6,12: “Faith is things which are hoped for and not seen; wherefore dispute not because ye see not, for ye receive no witness until after the trial of your faith….for if there be no faith among the children of men, God can do no miracle among them.”
We´re working hard. We´re praying fervently. And maybe this is our test. I don´t know. But we´ll keep moving forward. We´ve decided to switch neighborhoods we´ve been working in, and go to some much farther away. But other than that, there´s not much to change. I think we´re working great together, and I feel the Spirit when we teach; but the people have to make the choice for themselves.

Once this week, we went to an appointment, and spoke with one of the little kids to ask if the mom was there. The child says, “Yes,” then comes running back and says, “Mommy says to tell you she is sleeping.” That made us smile.
The laugh of the week goes to Elder Costa hands down. He´s been a great companion, and he loves to sing. And he sings good, so I like it too. During lunch at a member´s house, he left to go to the bathroom. Sitting at the table, I hear, “High on a mountaintop, a banner is unfurled, ye nations now look up (flush) it waves to all the world!” I almost died. He knows lots of hymns in English, and finished the Book of Mormon in English today. He started in July, and testifies to everybody trying to learn English, how much it’s helped him.

On Wednesday, we were a little disappointed, and we decided to eat some Acai. And holy cow, that is so good. Amazingly good. I’ve wanted more every day since.

I went on a division with the Zone Leaders on Saturday in Vitoria. One of them, Elder McDown is from Flower Mound, Texas which I think is only like thirty minutes away from ya’ll but I can´t remember.

I received mail again this week, and Aunt Jenny asked what I do for exercise, which I´ll respond to. Mostly just body weight exercises, but I have a big rubber exercise band that helps a lot as well. Some mornings, I do a set of sit-ups, read a little in the Liahona, then more sit-ups repeating until 7:00 a.m. But usually there´s more exercise and more variety. No running.

Yesterday in Gospel Principles class, we read a quote which I love, and this is only a translation: God chose a time and a place for your birth, where you would be able to learn the specific lessons that you need to do the best possible work with your talents and personality.

Just another reminder that God knows us personally, and that we are on earth to succeed in all things.

Love you all!

Elder Schenewark

Basking in Brazil

Dear Family and Friends,

Hello 2016! On Thursday, mail came, and that was a fantastic present. The zone leaders delivered it to our Thursday district meeting, and when we walked in, everybody said, “You are definitely loved Elder Schenewark! You have three packages!” I also had a lot of letters, including some mailed from November.
I had no idea who sent the third package, and it was the Pace´s! That was a nice surprise. They individually wrapped 12 presents for the 12 days of Christmas, and I’ve been pretty patient, trying to follow it, only one a day. (I did cheat with the gingersnaps, sometimes you just need some right then.) And I received your box, and the Bach´s box, and I am basking in luxury. Cedar in my shoes, peanut butter in my belly.
The temperature dropped 15 degrees as it’s been raining –But I still need a baptism– I’ve shared my packages with the three Brazilians in the house, and its cool to watch as they try new stuff. They loved the pop rocks (saved the wrappers, and were almost jumping up and down as they popped in their mouths) and the gingersnaps. They don´t like peanut butter, but that´s okay, because I´ll get to eat it all. And I´ll be opening up more of the stuff this week. And for the record, I´m the exact same weight as when I left in August. I definitely feel loved. Every single day. And, it’s always wonderful to hear how and what everybody’s doing in the letters. (Like, rock on with the expansion Uncle Aaron!)

So yeah, no baptism. We spent a lot of time working with the person this week, but everybody has agency. The problem is, we can´t figure out the problem. He comes to church every week, likes it, is keeping the commandments, but doesn´t want to move forward.

On the language front, kids often ask if I am speaking Japanese (which always makes me laugh, and they think its hilarious too) but lately they think I´m a native Spanish speaker i.e. Argentina, Paraguay,etc. So, that´s a good sign. And this week, i had a conversation with a Pomerian(?) (I don´t know if it’s called the same thing in English, because I don´t remember hearing of this area, so any help is appreciated.) I am told that it used to be a country but was swallowed up by Germany, or was a region unified when Germany became Germany. Whatever the case, there are still Pomerian colonies here in E.S., and this man recognized my name as German and after talking for a couple minutes, he asked how many years I had spent in Germany, as he thought I was a native Brasilian who had lived in Germany for a little, and this explained my accent. So it’s improving. And the only asterisk to that story is that it was really loud next to a road and hard to hear, so basically no asterisk (:

On Thursday, when we went to drop off the packages at our apt, the other set of missionaries accidentally took our keys and we were locked in for twenty minutes until they came back. Sort of funny, but it illustrates how many bars we have around our house. We literally couldn´t climb over or out anything to leave.

And as that day was New Year´s eve, we had to return at 7 pm. So I tried making pizza, which didn´t quite work, as I killed the yeast. I decided to throw the dough away as it was nasty, but because trash isn’t collected for a couple days, we keep the trash in our house. And two days later it starts to rain, and we come home at night, and the entire house smells awful. Just reeks. We had no idea, but it turns out its the bread dough. I don´t know if its because of the age or the rain, but I never want to find out. It might be the worst smell I’ve smelled in my life.

I think my favorite moment this week happened on Friday. We felt inspired to go visit a member, 70+ years, active, and lives with her daughter and family. All members. Not someone you normally think about as a missionary. But it turns out was having some problems and wanted a blessing of health. So we were able to do that, and the two other blessings I’ve given in Brasil were in English, but this time I did it in Portuguese, and words that I’ve only read before I remembered and everything was really clear.

Other news this week, we´ve taken so many buses. Usually only two a day, but these last couple days we´ve been taking four or more. And yesterday, our church started at 2:30 as we switched times with another ward, so we went to a members house before for lunch. And it was in the most obscure part of the city. So we waited almost 2 hours for a bus. (because on sundays not many buses run, the other days are easy) and then after, had to wait again, as the bus we found out was having problems. So we finally get picked up, make it about a mile, and the bus is jerking back and forth like a see-saw or a washing machine, and then just stopped. So we all got out, and had to wait for the next bus. Which was a while. We had planned to visit other people before church, but instead were 40 minutes late. Crazy times.

The thought I want to leave this week is from Mormon 7. And its simple. Nothing new, yet it has changed my life and its the reason why I´m in Brasil as a missionary. “Come to the knowledge….and believe in Jesus Christ, that he is the Son of God, and that he was slain by the Jews, and by the power of the Father he hath risen again, whereby he hath gained the victory over the grave; and also in him is the sting of death swallowed up…And he hath brought to pass the redemption of the world, whereby he that is found guiltless before him at the judgement day hath it given unto him to dwell in the presence of god in his kingdom, to sing ceaseless praises with the choirs above, unto the Father, and unto the Son, and unto the Holy Ghost, which are one god, in a state of happiness which hath no end.”

So, believe. I know that Christ died for us, and he lives today. And if we follow him, we will live in a state of happiness which hath no end.

Love you all!

Elder Schenewark

Nice and tidy.

Letter #17: Movin’ On

Dear Family and Friends,

Well, the news of this week is definitely……..EMERGENCY TRANSFER!!!!!

On Thursday I had to make the three hour trip into Vitoria, to register at the Federal Police Station there. On Wednesday night, I talked with Pres. Young for about an hour, and he prayed, called back, and said he had a strong impression that a transfer needed to happen. So we packed that night, and were gone at 6 a.m. the next morning to conduct business in Vitoria, and after I was picked up by my new companion, Elder Costa.  So my companion, and one of the other missionaries in our house were transferred, and I´m in Serra!!

The last couple weeks have been really hard, and I didn´t realize how hard until I left. Elder Costa is fantastic, he´s from Recife. Our first day, we were talking, and as he kept talking, his words were exactly what I and the President had talked about, basically what I had been praying my companion would believe. So I asked him if Pres. Young had told him everything, and he said no. He just asked how obedient I was on a scale of 1-10. So, everything’s so much better. Like I said, I didnt realize how tough it was on me. I feel like I´ve died and gone to heaven. We get along great, and I´m learning everyday. I just feel peace. And the Spirit is with us, so expect miracles. He´s been out 11 months, and this is his second area, and this is already my fourth. I´d love to stay here a while.

Serra has about 1/2 million people, and is close to Vitoria. And it’s totally different than Cacheiro. No hills. A strong, almost constant wind, and much lower temperatures, maybe 10 degrees. We are living with two other missionaries, Elder Garcia from the northeast of Brazil, and Elder Carvalho from Sao Paulo. Their area is right on the beach, and we´re usually about 2-3 miles away. It’s so great here!

We had our ward Christmas dinner on Saturday which was fun. The ward is really strong. I´ve been asked what was the best food I ate this week, and I have to say it was on Saturday. We had vaca atolada (basically a roast) and aipim (which is a root, and my first time having it, it was really good) with the customary rice and beans. Afterwards we had ice cream. I also had the best hamburger ever. It had banana, meat, bacon, and potatoes, I can´t even explain, but it was really good. and the equivalent of $2.

Have you heard of the Zika virus? [It’s a mosquito-borne disease which causes in general a mild febrile illness with a rash. Aedes mosquitoes are considered as the main vectors. Before 2007, viral circulation and a few outbreaks were documented in tropical Africa and in some areas in Southeast Asia. Since 2007, several islands of the Pacific region have experienced outbreaks. In 2015, ZIKV disease outbreaks were reported in South America for the first time, and is now considered as an emerging infectious disease.An unusual increase of congenital microcephaly was observed in some regions in north eastern Brazil in 2015. Causal relationships are currently under investigation.] In Caheiro there were a couple mosquitoes, here there aren’t any.

The ward mission leader served in Londrina. He said he recognized my name, but was coming home right when Tanner got there. His name is Elder Lima.

The three Brazilians in the house are trying to learn English, so it’s been nice being able to help others with the language. My companion actually knows it really well, and I can´help him much. He taught himself. He´s smart, and wants to be a lawyer. I´m very lucky to be companions with him.

Tomorrow we have a special missionary Christmas conference with our zone that I´m excited for. Right now, we dont have many people too teach, so we´re working on finding more.

On Sunday, I taught the young men/young women about missionary work and challenged them to invite two friends this week to learn more about the church. But I did it all by myself, probably a 10-15 speech, and they understood, so I was super happy. Portuguese is coming along. I make sure to speak Portuguese to my companion still, even though sometimes he could understand my English better.

Quote of the week goes to Pres. Uchtdorf. “Now is part of eternity. It doesn’t only begin after we die.”

I´m looking forward to a great week.

Love,

Elder Schenewark

Letter #15 First P-Day in Brazil!

Dear Family and Friends,

This week has definitely had a lot of ups and downs. We did have three investigators and their respective six children attend church, and they all enjoyed it which was exciting. They are all close to baptism, just working on the word of wisdom, people here might love coffee more than Americans!

Last Monday, after p-day ended, we taught a couple. The lesson went okay, but they didn’t commit to church. I felt inspired to ask them a couple questions and then launched into teaching why it’s important to come to church and how God answer their prayers. It was really awesome, as I felt the Spirit so strong, and felt like it wasn’t even me speaking. The day before my Portuguese comprehension was probably 10%, but that night it jumped to 90% and I was able to understand clearly almost everything. It was a really cool experience, that honestly had nothing to do with me, but showed me again, that when the Lord has a message, we need to be doing our part so we can act as a mouthpiece and share it.

And my understanding is probably 40%, so not great, but its improving every day.

The ward here is awesome. They give referrals all the time without asking. We contacted one of them, and have been teaching them, and she came to church with her kids. She drinks coffee like no one ive ever met or heard of. Like measured in water bottles. So we taught the Plan of Salvation on Saturday and committed her to cut back on the coffee a little every day. Well, she shows up for church, and in the second hour her hands started shaking and she felt really bad, because she had tried quitting apparently right after we had taught her the day before, and was suffering withdrawal symptoms. A member of the bishopric gave her a blessing, and she stayed for the rest of church. We went and taught her again that night, and she told us she had drank coffee, but we were able to answer some really good questions of hers about church, and she is committed to cutting the coffee out, but we are going to do it slower.

Thursday was zone conference. Here all six zones have zone conference on the same day, so President and Sister Young werent there. It was good to see E. Oviatt again. I didnt know he was in the same zone. He´s serving right on the beach, and was telling me how beautiful it is there. And its a fairly wealthy area. He had told me how his first couple weeks in brazil were really hard, and my first day in Brazil he told me, just to try and make it to Sunday. Which was my goal too because it was really hard not having an english speaking companion. Well, when I show up to zone conference, he started telling me how basically my area is difficult. Not people wise. Just physically. At that point, and him talking about beaches I just laughed. I am glad he didnt tell my first day though. Because I did sort of expect an ocean breeze and not so many hills. i think ive adjusted, or as much as I will adjust by now, and I enjoy it. Here in Cacheiro, we´re in a valley, so there is just about no breeze, and its quite a bit hotter.  And some of the roads we walk up must by 70 degrees. Ridiculously steep, and almost all are more than 45. The roads usually have staircases on the side that we just climb.

 

Zone conference was 3 hours away, by bus. Our bus left at 5 that morning and we got back at about 6:30. At 7 we had been invited by a member to come speak to his English class about Thanksgiving, so we went there. There are quite a few English schools here. We introduced ourselves and talked about why we are here in Brazil and what we do. The class had all sorts of ages, ranging from 15-70, but most were middle age adults. We broke up into two sections, and E. Anderson and his companion went to one, and E. Rodrigues and I went to the other. Some people in the class had researched to present to the class what various foods symbolized. So the first one gets up and is ready to start talking about what the grapes and carrots in salad mean on Thanksgiving, when the teacher, stopped him and said, “Let’s see if he knows what it means.” And I´m almost laughing at this point, because I am positive there is no symbolism involved here, and I have never had a salad that I can remember with grapes and carrots in it. So I tell them I have no idea, and that I don’t really eat salad on Thanksgiving because it’s about the turkey, casseroles and pies. So that ended the whole symbolism part.

Next they asked me about the origins of Black Friday. I was just getting grilled! Thankfully, I did remember Mom telling me once about how many stores are in accounting terms in the red, or losing money for the year, but with all the transactions that happen on this day, they go to the black. Whew.

And then she asked about the other theory, and I had to admit, I have absolutely no idea. As a quick note, Thanksgiving is not celebrated here (except in some English schools apparently) but Black Friday is. The days of the week are weird, not like Spanish or French. Saturday and Sunday are the same as Spanish, but Monday to Friday translate literally as second day, third day, etc. So Friday to them, Sexta-Feira, or sixth day, is totally different than Friday, but they still call it Black Friday. And all the stores have promotions going on, but its not nearly as crazy as the US. Although, walking down past the stores that night, all the mannequins just had paper covering certain parts because I guess they sold the clothes on them and didn’t put any more on, which I thought was funny.

Anyway, back to our Thanksgiving party. Then they asked me questions about America. Think for a second, what you think of, when picturing Brazil. Because I feel Americans immediately think about the Amazon. And maybe Sao Paulo or Carnival or something, while there is so much more here. Well, the Brazilians basically think we live like glorified, modern day cowboys. Someone even asked if we had lions in the United States, because an American shot Cecil. But the class did answer that one. They mostly asked about guns, and if everybody carried one, and about crime, and about road conditions. All interesting. When I told them I usually didn’t lock the door at our house ever, they gasped because the fence gate, the house gate, and the door are all locked at all times. And no one has a gun.

After answering questions, we all gathered back together and the four missionaries talked about what they are thankful for, bore our testimonies, and then we ate a Thanksgiving meal. Even though it was different, it was really cool and I´m glad I could  celebrate Thanksgiving. And they tried making the food American, but no one, even the teachers has been to America. One question, was what does pumpkin pie taste like, as no one had ever had it before. There was probably 50 people there, and a lot of them want to know more about the church, and the school was very grateful that we came, that they could talk to natives, real Americans as they called us, and told us to come back anytime. It was really cool. Half of the time, I would speak in Portuguese, and half in English there, and the English teacher said our Portuguese accents are beautiful, and I think their English accents are as well.

I’ve been reading Jesus the Christ lately along with the New Testament, and one thing I love is all the invitations from Christ. He asked a couple times to diseased or suffering people, Wilt thou be made whole?Because we can, from any problems we have. And all we have to do, is have faith, and go to Christ. Go to Christ as much as you can. In the scriptures, attending church, the temple, through prayer, go to Christ and become whole.

Love,

Elder Schenewark

Letter #14

Dear Family and Friends,

I love Brazil!

My first week here has been wonderful. Of course, there have been a few adjustments, but honestly, I feel more at home here than in Arizona.

I arrived on Tuesday, and was so tired. When I went to Arizona, we stayed at the mission home for two days for training/rest, and I thought the same would happen here, but boy was I wrong. The mission secretary, a senior couple, Elder Burkinshaw, picked me up at the airport because transfer meeting was happening right then. so we went to that. Oh, and this whole time, I can’t remember a word of Portuguese and can’t understand anything. Literally anything. At the transfer meeting, it was great to be able to catch up with Elder Oviatt. He was my first companion, and I didn’t appreciate how fantastic he was until having had so many others.

I met my trainer, Elder Rodrigues, from Fortaleza Brazil. He’s only been serving six months, but is a fantastic missionary. Fortunately/Unfortunately, he doesn’t understand any English. This has really helped me learn Portuguese quickly, sort of sink or swim. But obviously I’m no where near fluent and there are times when I just want to be able to understand him, and to be able to communicate with him better. Our first week together though, has been great.

My first day here was honestly really, really hard. But since then I’ve enjoyed every minute. I didn’t come here with any expectations, and really only knew a couple of facts I had read off of Wikipedia, so basically I didn’t know anything, but it’s been so much better than what I could have imagined.

The city is giant! The mission has been growing, so we’ve been opening up new areas. There are two wards in the city, and sister missionaries cover one of the wards, which has a small area, and previously there had been one set of elders covering the other. As it was such a giant area, Elder Rodrigues and I were brought in, and it’s still a giant area!! And I didn’t expect so many hills! But my shoes seem to be holding up fine, and there’s nothing like playing golf before my mission for mission prep, so I’ve been fine as well.

The other two elders in my apartment are E. Andrade, from Cape Verde, and Elder Anderson from the states. He’s lived all over, but mostly in Indiana. His family is in Georgia right now. E. Andrade has been out about 8 months, and Elder Anderson entered the MTC the same day as me, but was in the Sao Paulo MTC and then here in the mission, so it seems like he’s been here longer. And it’s always nice, when we can’t figure something out between me and Elder Rodrigues while we are at the house, Elder Anderson will translate for us.

I love the food here. It’s blooming delicious. Everything. One of the highlights this week was going to a guy who runs a coconut stand. I can’t remember where I read it, but I remember reading some thing that said agua de coco is Brasil’s unofficial national drink, and is a natural isotonic. He had asked us to come back to teach him, so we did. And we bought a coconut a piece. He keeps them cooled, then you pay the equivalent of basically $0.70 and he takes his machete, cuts part of the top off, throws a straw in, and heaven. It was really good. And he wasn’t very interested, but someone who was sitting there drinking coconut paid for ours and asked us to come to his house and teach him more.

I wanted to start an English class, and brought it up with my companion here, and he thought it was a really good idea. Like super excited. I feel fairly comfortable in speaking Portuguese, but can’t really understand anything still. But that’s what happened in Arizona too, it’s like my ears have to adjust, and it takes a couple weeks, so I’m not worried about it. I was thinking we would start the class in a couple weeks, but my companion was super excited and talked to the Bishop about it. And it’s a good thing as the Bishop has to clear it with the Stake President, otherwise we would be starting that this week. So it probably will start next week. And I’m really excited for that too. I am able to understand usually when it’s in a lesson, and we are inside, and it’s quieter and I am more focused, but outside on the street, trying to talk to people, I just do my best and usually end up mimicking my companion, either nodding  yes or shaking no.

Everyone loves America here. For instance, I’ve heard more American music here in a couple days then I did in 6 weeks in Arizona. But no one can understand it. They just like it. My companion can’t understand it at all, but every now and then he will say some lyric that makes absolutely no sense, but he says it in a big Brazilian accent and I laugh every time. We will be turned down by an investigator and be walking down the street and he will say, “Let’s party. Or something like,  it’s totally out of place, but hilarious.

Even though the missionaries have been here, because the area is so large, we are basically starting totally new. There was one person they’ve been teaching in our area, that we have picked up, and the rest we have been trying to find. And we will keep doing that this week. I know that there are people here who are looking for the truth, who know not where to find it, and I don’t want to miss helping any of them. Every single night, we both return home exhausted. So far it’s been a struggle to find people who really want the gospel, but I am looking forward to this week and the people we will meet.

Love,

Elder Hunter Schenewark

P.S. Here’s my Christmas wish list:

razors!! cartridges for gillette mach3
wood to put in my shoes to suck out the moisture
pictures of the family, and I cant print them here, so just mail them
pop rock candy
granola bars or something of that sort, maybe just a jar of peanut butter
a small backpack or like a cheap string bag just for traveling, would be helpful
ziplock baggies in the spaces if possible!!

I know it’s a lot, but it would be appreciated. Especially the razors. And the food I was able to bring here, the granola, and trail mix and fruit snacks from y-all and the Bachs have been of inestimable worth here, so thank you!

HEADED TO BRASIL!

Letter #12

Dear Family and Friends,

We had a haboob, a dust storm, hit two weeks ago, and another one last week. It’s crazy. You can’t see anything. The picture I’m sending, it’s hard to tell how big it is, but the sand is blocking out the
mountains. They move through pretty quickly, but while they are going on, we are supposed to stay inside. The dust carries some type of spore, that if it goes in your lungs, you cough for the rest of your life. It’s called valley fever. And it’s impossible to bike in it anyways.

I got my visa today!!! I was informed just a few hours ago! I am going to miss Arizona, especially wonderful San Luis, but I can’t wait for Brazil!! Thank you for the many prayers that have been offered on my behalf. I don’t know the full itinerary yet, so here’s what I do know: I leave San Luis tomorrow, to go to the mission home. I get to go to the Gilbert Arizona temple one day, and the rest I’ll spend with some Spanish missionaries up there working. Next Monday, I leave for Brazil, but right before that, I will call home from the mission home. And that’s about it right now! I just barely found out, and it’s a little crazy. I feel bad for Elder Bradley. We were looking at a fantastic week, and now I have no idea what’s going to happen. I think until transfers next Thursday he’ll probably be with the other two missionaries here in San Luis.

Everything still feels unreal. I had expected at this point to be here for another six weeks, and because mine has been having problems and taking so long, I wondered if the VISA would ever come. But it has! I have to pack and clean everything today and then we are going to try and teach as many people as we can on my last night. We were making really good progress and close to baptisms, and I wish I could stick around and see the end, but it’s okay. Here I come Victoria!!!

So this week, I participated in my first exchanges. I was with Elder Guymon who is one of the other San Luis elders. We stayed in my area, and had a great day, and it’s always nice to change things up. See what can be done better, and to appreciate the good.

We’ve met some awesome people this week. The Lord has definitely prepared people here. We met another white guy, who lives in Gadsden Arizona close to San Luis, and he is actually from Utah. Amazing, crazy story. It took up pages in my journal. Which by the way, I’ve been writing lots in. From 9:30-10:30 pm is personal time / get ready for bed, but in this mission you are not allowed to write people, you can only do that on Monday.  So I haven’t really sent out anything, but my journal is reaping the benefits.  But I will be sending a little box home with some stuff in it before I leave.

On Saturday, we were working, and my companion and I saw a firework or something. It launched up, and then white light spread all around and kept expanding. And then that faded and for about 1/2 an hour, there was a glowing green circle in the sky. I have no idea what it is. But my comp totally freaked out and thought it was a nuke.

I have been so blessed to be here! I love San Luis. I can say with no hyperbole, My life has changed here. My testimony of the gospel has grown stronger, and I’ve loved sharing it here. I’ve learned so much from the people. They are so humble, and want to come closer to God. Even the people who reject us, the vast majority of them, say thank you to us for sharing the word of God.  Today I read this verse:

But now mine own eyes have beheld God; but not my natural, but my spiritual eyes, for my natural eyes could not have beheld; for I should have withered and died in his presence; but his glory was upon me; and I beheld his face, for I was transfigured before him.

I haven’t seen God, but I know with all my heart that He is real. That Christ lives. And this gospel is true. And that’s transfigured me as well. Not in the same way.  But transfigured nonetheless. Because of my knowledge, my life is different. I am so thankful to have the chance to preach the gospel. In Arizona, in Brazil, in Calgary, wherever I am, the truth doesn’t change.

Love, Elder Schenewark

And, a portion of his companion’s letter that we found interesting:

“I’ll miss him. Elder Schenewark is a hard worker and tons of fun. We’ll be keeping in touch. Last Monday as well as today, the Yuma Zone went to the sand dunes in the bit of California that our Zone covers. It is so sweet! Someone told me that they filmed parts of Star Wars out there. But in any
case, we found a big bowl and went to the bottom and played dodge ball.”

“Today, a border patrol guy on an ATV came up to us and we talked with him for the longest time. He is a pretty cool guy! He was telling us all about the stuff that he sees and hears about. My particular favorite is what they call “Bonzai Runs.” He told us that a few years back people on the south side of the border would line up by the hundreds where the border guys couldn’t see them, then all of a sudden one of them would shout for everyone to run. Hundreds of people flew over the fence and booked it. There were only 3 or so border patrol guys there so they could only grab a few of them and the rest would get away. Then he went on to tell us that the majority of the people they are getting now aren’t Mexicans. They are Guatemalans or Hondurans or even Gypsies from Armenia. They go through all of Mexico to get to the border, hop it, then chase down the border patrol guys. There is different protocol for other foreigners as compared to Mexicans for some reason, so usually Hondurans and Guatemalans get off pretty easily when they get caught, so they hunt down the border patrol guys instead of the other way around. It was super interesting. Apparently the Yuma sector of the border patrol catches just about 100% of the people that come illegally.”

“In other news though, we had the cool opportunity on Sunday to Skype in to see the Mission President’s devotional! Vernon Smith, whose baptism was recently featured on LDS.org spoke in Yuma and it was Skyped into the live meeting which was held in Mesa. It was a super cool experience. Brother Smith is a tribal leader of a prominent Native American tribe down here and the truthfulness of the Book of Mormon touched his heart profoundly. He asked himself how his
ancestors know about a God and His Son if they never had any writings about it in their language. When he received the Book of Mormon he received his answer, he said. It is so amazing to see how the work is going among the Native peoples down here. Fulfillment of prophecy.”