Tuesday, May 8, 2012

May 8th letter from Porto Alegre

Dear Mom,
We are allowed to use Skype, and our call is limited to 40 minutes. I will probably call home sometime around 6 or 7 o'clock my time, which translates into 2 or 3 your time. I don't know the members skype address, but I'll probably try to log onto my skype if I remember correctly...
My weeks have gone from normal time to really really long. I forgot how time just drags on and on when you are a new missionary. I still haven't gotten into the groove of the schedule and its especially difficult when your ability to communicate is very limited. I often feel like I'm walking around for hours and hours trying to find people at home, and no one is EVER home. I try my best not to get frustrated by my inability to communicate or even understand what's going on at any given time. My fluency is improving very rapidly though, and I'm starting to understand more and more of common words and phrases. I am improving, its just a slow and often grueling process.
Right now we have one investigator, her name is Carmem (the M at the end makes a kind of ng sound so it sounds a lot like Carmen). She is absolutely rock solid, the most golden investigator I've ever had on my mission. We met her last two Fridays ago while we were searching for a member's house and had a wrong address. Elder Oba asked her if we could come back a different time and she asked us to come by on Monday. Now this happens a lot as a missionary, people telling you, "Yeah come back a different day" and so we took it as a don't really come back. Lo and behold on Monday afternoon we were walking down Protásio Alves and all of the sudden I turn to Elder Oba and ask him, wasn't there someone who wanted us to come back on Monday. We thought and remembered Carmem, and so we went.
At first she told us to come back that evening because she was busy, which we did. That evening we taught her about the Restoration of the Gospel, and she was very interested in the message. We gave her a copy of the Book of Mormon and set up a return appointment for Wednesday. We came back with a member named Santa Emília on Wednesday to discover that Carmem had read and prayed about the passage we had left her in the Book of Mormon (Moroni 10:3-5) and even up until verse 20. She told us that she felt really good while reading and afterwards when she prayed about it. Santa Emília then jumped in and bore testimony that that was the Holy Spirit answering her question. We set up another appointment for Friday.
Friday we read a little more with her out of the Book of Mormon and she continued to feel really good about the message we shared with her. She committed to coming to church for Sunday. Saturday though we went to teach our English Class and found that Santa Emília had brought Carmem and her 9 year old son Lua to the Chá do Dia das Mães (Mother's Day Tea Party) Relief Society activity. She loved it, and the whole ward just embraced her with open arms. Sunday as our ward's bus passed by she with her friend Santa Emília hopped on and came to all three hours of church. Both Carmem and Lua loved Primary/Relief Society/Sacrament Meeting/Sunday School. When we met with her again yesterday she had read yet another chapter out of the Book of Mormon. Its awesome to meet someone who is just ready and willing to accept the gospel into her life.
I wish you could see Carmem's home. She lives in the humblest little moldy/concrete basement of an abandoned home, without running water in her house, she and Lua carry bottles of water back to their house so they can cook/bathe/wash. They have a single light dangling from the ceiling to light their little abode. Its such a different atmosphere from the privileged living quarters of California or Washington. You don't really realize what you have until its gone.
(Answers to Mom's questions) My companion Elder Oba does not speak Japanese, but he does speak German. He went to Germany on a foreign exchange program the year before he went on his mission.
The weather flipped upside down and is now burning hot. My first week here it was so cold I pulled out my sleeping bag, and now I go to sleep with only my sheets. So much more fun than the boring California 70-80 degrees every day all day. ;)
I was SOOO excited to hear the news about Paul Seymore! That's probably the best thing he could be doing with his life.
We have a lot of return missionaries in our ward and a couple of them served State-side, so they speak English. I'd give an estimate of about 4 or 5 people in the ward that speak English. Mostly its Portuguese.
Missionary work is pretty much the same as in California. We are working about 85% through member referrals and don't ever go knocking doors (its almost forbidden by our mission president).
Sorry I didn't say anything about Sherry, I was telling all the other missionaries and members about how Sherry got a BYU scholarship, I can't believe I forgot to mention it. WOOOOOOOOOOO!!!! That's way AWESOME GO SHERRY!!!
Here's hoping to another week full of awesomeness. Talk to you on Sunday :)
Dear Dad,
Its weird to think I just came out of Winter, to go back in. It's still not in my head that things are cooling down and they days are getting shorter.
Its funny you should mention hiking because I feel like I do that every day here. I get up study, eat and then hike for 8 hours :P. Everywhere down here is hilly but the sights are amazing, especially when we go up the higher hills and can see the whole city lit up at night. I love it here in Porto Alegre.
This is way more like the city than Long Beach was. I feel like this is a lot of what you experienced in New York. Lots of high rises slammed together with tons of people everywhere, and lots of street vendors. Buses and Taxis are more numerous than the cars, and most people just walk. Its a lot of fun :).
My time is just about out for the week, but thank you for writing me. I can't wait to talk on Sunday!
Elder Henry

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