Friday, December 30, 2011

Trip to Cruz Alta

Hello family! It was wonderful to speak to you all on Christmas.
This week was a good week, but incredibly tiring.
Tuesday I got up at 4 something in the morning, and went to the bus station to go to Cruz Alta to go do a 2 day division there with the Elder Smart, one of the Zone leaders there, and then Elder Valdivia, the other one, came back here to stick with Elder Menk. The zone leaders in Cruz Alta are now in the 4th ward, when I was there, they were in the 1st ward, where I served, but then right when I left, they got switched to the other ward. It was pretty cool. Elder Smart is a good guy. We almost taught a lesson with Rafael who I baptized there, but he was travelling. He had given a reference to the Elders in the 4th ward that we were going to visit. But Patricia and the rest of the family were in town, and so we ended up eating lunch there on Wednesday because our lunch appointment fell through! That was pretty cool. It was cool to go back to Cruz Alta after having been gone from there for 7 months. It was really cool. But it ended, and then I had to wake up at 3am yesterday morning to get the bus to come back.
So yea. It was a tiring week. For that reason, and also that we spent a lot of time walking during the days. Wow, verying tiring. But it was good.
I hope you all have a good week!

Saturday, December 24, 2011

Building Up Zion

1- Some of the Christmas decorations in Downtown Santa Maria. All made of painted and cut up soda bottles. Cool huh?
2- All of the baptisms of last Saturday. Elder Black is up in the corner on the left.
3- Us and Alexandre and Luciana, and Bishop Safuan
4- This is my shirt from Thursday

5-Here's the map I have of my area in the back of my planner. We work from that big street Venancio Aires to the south, and Elder Carlos works to the north. We live at the intersection of Venancio Aires and Borges de Medeiros. The chapel is in the bottom right hand corner on Appel and Tuiti. If you look at the bottom, you can see Patronato.

So on friday night was Alexandre and Luciana´s wedding. It was really good. We just had a little ceremony in the church. It was really good. I don't have pictures right now, but´i´ll get some.

Saturday was a marvelous day.
During the afternoon there was a ward activity. It was a blood drive, so I donated my golden blood. Also, there was this cotton candy machine there, but the guy making the cotton candy disapeared, so I learned how to make cotton candy and made it for everyone.
Then after was the baptismal meeting. It was really good. We got our Zone together for the baptism. Ten of the five baptisms of the Zone were men. So that is really good. Quite awesome. We need more men baptisms. The church needs Priesthood.
I baptized Alexandre and Elder Menk baptized Luciana.
Afterward, in the baptismal meeting, Alexandre got up and bore his testimony. It was so good.
It was cool having the baptismal meeting with Elder Black there too. It was cool to see how we started the mission together, and now we are making a difference in the church together here in Santa Maria.

Our bishop, Bishop Safuan has been really happy with the converts in the ward latelly. He has said on many ocasions lately how the recent baptisms of the ward have all been really good people.
One really cool thing-
One of the neighborhoods (note on neighborhood, here a neighborhood (bairro) is not really what we call it there, like an area built by the same company, here neighborhood just means a certain area) of our area is called Patronato, and it has been very very little worked by missionaries in the past, because it is kind of a tough area. It is in the southern part of our area. Anyway, a few months ago, when we were having a really hard time, Elder Albrechtesn and I decided that perhaps we were having such a tough time where we were working because the Lord wanted us to work in Patronato. So we started working there from scratch. Literally from scratch. There is only one active member in the neighborhood. So yea, Alexandre and Luciana are from that neighborhood, which is awesome. And Bishop really wants us to work there too. Because we want to be able to create another ward, splitting our ward with the ward to the north of us, Salgado Filho, which is where Elder Black is. So we need to baptize people in that area. There is a lot of potential there.

On monday we had 2 really good visits.
First we visited Peterson, Jefferson, and Leda. They are a really cool family (they also live in Patronato) Leda´s brother just moved into our ward a few months ago, and he is now in the bishopric. Jefferson and Leda are interesting because they are both Deaf. Peterson, their son, is not. So we have been teaching the family, and Peterson translates for his parents, and meanwhile, we have also been learning lots of sign language from the visits, and both of us can teach a bit in Sign language. It's amazing. Peterson has been reading the Book of Mormon, and has already decided to be baptized. His dad Jefferson is really smart, Director of the School for deaf people, and we believe they will be baptized too.

Then after that, last week President Ribeiro invited Laura and Isabel to family night with his family, so we went too. It was really good. Laura already has plans to go visit salt lake next summer!
This morning (12:30am) I just got back from doing a division with the Zone Leaders in Santo Angelo. A city up in the north of the mission by Cruz Alta and Ijui. I told you a lot about this city in my last email, about how it needs to become a stake there and stuff. It was a cool division. It is a big city (80,000 people) and only has 2 branches. that is pretty weak compared to Cruz Alta (60,000 people) which has 4 wards. The area of those guys there is huge. There is tons of room to grow there. I did the division there with Elder Nunes. He arrived on the mission with me. It was cool. Though on Thursday, it was some crazy weather. In the afternoon there was this crazy wind and dust storm, and then at night it absolutely POURED. So yea, we got soaked. You can look at the picture of my shirt from that day. Good stuff.
Anyway. It has been a good week of building up Zion.

Friday, December 16, 2011

Conference after Conference after Conference

This week has been quite a crazy week for me. This week was Zone Conferences so I travelled around the whole mission with President doing trainings, it was pretty cool.

So to start out: On Sunday, Victor gave a talk in sacrament meeting! It was really good, and lots of members also commented on how good it was - pretty awesome.
Then on Sunday, Elder Hollandsworth came to Santa Maria (he was in a trio) to work with Elder Menk for the week while I travelled.
Monday, we had the Zone Conference for the 2 zones here in Santa Maria. The Zone Conference was basically this:
President gave a training and taught about (I´m not sure how you are supposed to say it in English) Eternal Life,
then I did a training about teaching The Restoration, and we all did lots of practices. Then I did an evaluation of the mission using graphs and stuff with the key indicators, and then afterward talked about a new way we are going to work on the mission, using a 4 week vision plan, looking for people to baptize 4 weeks from now always. Then lunch.

Then President gave a training about chapters 11, 12, and 13 from Preach my Gospel, finding and teaching committed investigators, truly preparing them to be baptized, and involving them well with the ward. In all the Zone conferences, President talked about Laura, and how she was like the perfect example of this, and he had me get up and talk about our experience teaching her. It was really cool. Then we did so more practices, and then President talked about the missionary manual and some mission rules, and then we ended.

Then at the end, I did a little meeting with the Zone Leaders and District leaders about how they were going to follow up with their Zones on all the stuff we learned and all that. And that is basically what we did for all the 4 Zone Conferences.

Giving the trainings was pretty cool, but a lot of responsibility. Then we got in the car, and me and Presidente went to Alegrete, that was like 2 hours, (and boy does Presidente Ribeiro drive fast, haha).

I stayed the night with the Zone leaders in Alegrete. I was like totally eaten by mosquitos and could not sleep the whole night until at 2am, I picked up my mattress, brought it to another room, and shut all the windows and door. Then it was all good.
Alegrete reminded my a lot of Quarai, a very simple town, but a lot bigger than Quarai, but still no buildings or anything like that, just a bunch of Gauchos.
In Alegrete it was Zone Alegrete, which also includes the cities of Sao Gabriel and Rosario do Sul and Zone Livramento, which also includes Quarai. Then we hit the road again to go to Uruguaiana. It was pretty cool to do this long car ride with President. I learned a lot of good stuff from him. Then we got to Uruguaiana pretty early, so I worked the evening with the Zone leaders there in Uruguaiana, in Vila Julia, the area that I passed in there. It was kinda weird going back there, but it was cool. I saw Gabriela there, who me and Elder Belnap baptized, that was cool.

The Zone Conference in Uruguaiana was just Uruguaiana. We did that, and then hit the road for Santo Angelo, way up in the North of the mission, that was a long car ride. I liked Santo Angelo a lot. I really hope that it is my next area. It is a really nice city. The Zone Conference there had Zone Missões, which is Santo Angelo, Santa Rosa, Itaqui, Sao Borja, and Sao Luiz Gonzaga and it had Zone Cruz Alta, which also has Ijui, Panambi, and Palmeidas in it. That was the biggest conference because both zones have a lot of people in it. There were like 55 missionaries there. But it was a good conference.
So here's why I really want to go to Santo Angelo. There are only 5 stakes in my mission. The last stake was created like over 15 years ago (that is really slow growth). And so The Cruz Alta stake consists of Cruz Alta (4 wards) and Ijui (3 wards) then there is District Missoes, which is Santa Rosa (2 branches) Santo Angelo (2 branches) and Sao Luiz Gonzaga (1 branch), and they are really strong branches, and so we are working really hard as a mission in these two zones to make the new stake happen. What needs to happen is to make one more ward in Cruz Alta (they are pretty close) and the Cruz Alta becomes a stake by itself, and Ijui can go with Santo Angelo and them and become a new stake! That would be awesome. So I really want to go to Santa Angelo to help make that happen. Also Santo Angelo was a really pretty city, so that was cool.
Anyway, that about sums up my week.
Tonight is the Wedding of Alexandre and Luciana, tomorrow is their baptism!

Friday, December 9, 2011

The Comings and the Goings

Arriving group

The Group going home. Elder Albrechtsen, Gillett, Tafoya, and Foster. One my comp, and the other 3 were district leaders in my zones

Elder Albrechtsen, I, and our converts, Victor, Alexandre, Luciana, Isabel, and Laura
Laura´s baptism

So on Saturday we had Laura´s baptism. It was really good! She bore her testimony about how we had brought peace and light into her home, and how happy she was. It was awesome.

Sunday morning in the Ward Executive Committee meeting, Bishop Safuan remarked that the people who have been baptized recently have been really good people.
So then on Sunday we visited Victor and then Laura and Isabel. Victor got called on to give a talk next week! Its going to be sweet.
Interesting story- I don't think I told you this, but a year ago, Elder Albrechtsen passed in this same area for just a transfer. And he said that last year, he knocked on Victor´s door, but they said no. Interesting isn´t it? His time had just not arrived yet.

On Monday we had a crazy busy day because of the transfer, so we had to send the tranfer out to everyone, take a bajilion phone calls, and other such things, and then prepare for all the trainings we would give this week.

Tuesday we spent picking up the newbies in Porto Alegre, then coming back and spending the evening at President's house with them.
Fun thing - The van driver was from Serbia, he even played on the National Serbian Rugby team, but married a Brazilian and came here.

Wednesday was trainings with the newbies and the trainers.
Yesterday, we had the leadership council. It was really good.

Thursday, December 1, 2011

Hello family! Comequetemo!?

So this week was kind of a tough week so far as work goes, we have spent a lot of time looking for new investigators, but it has been tough. But the good news is that our progressing investigators are doing really well!

The other night Alexandre and Luciana held a Churrasco at their house to announce their marriage to their family and stuff, and we went for part of it, it was cool. But then we had to go home before any of the food was ready because it was 9:30, then Alexandre offered to bring us some of the food after it was done, he did, it was really good.

On Saturday, Antonio was baptized!! He is so awesome. I don´t know how much of him you all remember from what I´ve sent, but he is from Peru, but now lives in Chile, then he studied in Argentina for a bit, and then came here to Santa Maria. He has been investigating the church for about 8 years. His story is a long one. But he is awesome, I love that guy. It was really good.

Then on Saturday, afterward, there was this Elders Quorum activity to visit a bunch of inactive people, so we went. Unfortunately, it didn't go so well. We got two names to visit, both on the same street. Unfortunately, streets in Brazil aren´t always as organized as the streets in the States. Numbers often go like this: 69, 119, 34, 50, and so forth. They don´t always have order. So we walked up and down the entire road for like an hour looking for these people. We found one, the person had moved like 8 years ago, and then the other we didn't even find. But hey, whatever.

Church was good this week. I taught the Gospel Principles class on 1 minute of notice, as is often the case for us missionaries, when the teacher doesn't show up or stuff like that. It was good though. Isabel and Laura´s baptism was marked for this week, but only Laura´s will be able to happen. Both of them want to be baptized a lot, but Isabel´s husband apparently isn´t too thrilled about her going to church every Sunday morning, as he is accustomed to going on walks with her on Sundays. So she wants to get that worked out before getting baptized. But they are doing really great. They are way awesome.
This next week we are going to go to Laura´s English class and talk to them about the United States and stuff. It will be cool, and a good oportunity to perhaps get new investigators.
Monday was a super busy day in the office - way busy. I am showing Elder Menk how to do all the stuff we do here in the office, but it's going good. Elder Menk is a good guy. He is Brazilian, but the funny thing is that he is more American than Brazilian. He has lived more time there than here. He feels more comfortable speaking/reading English than Portugues - pretty funny. And he even makes Portugues mistakes that many Americans make, haha.
These last few days have been SO HOT.
We just walk around during the afternoon dripping with sweat. Summer is starting indeed.
Have an excellent week everyone!