Tuesday, July 31, 2012

July 31st

Service project

Hey Dad,
All I know about the Olympics is that the United States is kicking Brasil's trash haha. Everyone down here is watching the Olympics, and from what I hear China has quite the competitors this time around. Sounds like fun, too bad I'm missing out :P. That would be quite a sweet job, interpret at the Olympics in 2016. I would love to return to Brasil for the Olympics.
That's super sad about E and S's parents :(. I'll keep them in my prayers.
Tablets are running for as low as 87$ now? Man that's super cheap. Here in Brasil everything technology is SUPER expensive. Brasil maintains high tariffs to protect Brasilian jobs, but it suffers in the world of technology because of it. Also Pirating is a HUGE problem here. Just about everyone buys all their movies and games from pirates off the streets. It's absolutely insane.
Anyways I have to get going, still need to get a haircut and finish up p-day. I love you, thanks for writing.
Elder Henry

Hey Mom,
That's great news that Kelsey finally got a teaching job! I'm SUPER excited for her, what a great opportunity :). I know she was really worried about the job search, and super relieved that she found one, especially close to Provo where her friends are (and BYU for future planning...).
My hip hadn't been bugging me until yesterday. Its funny you mention it, because the whole time I've been in Brasil I haven't had any problems but yesterday I started having a lot of pain once again. So I'll rest up today, took some Ibuprofen yesterday to keep inflammation down, and hopefully be back up and running tomorrow.
No I didn't burn a tie on my year mark. I think its silly to burn something I'm going to need for the next year :P. But I did end up getting a dinner of sweets on the night of. Other than that it was just any other day. Oh, but I did finish the Book of Mormon for the first time in Portuguese on my year mark, so that was pretty cool :).
I'm going to come back and finish here in a bit, probably 3 hours or so. We have a lunch appointment, and we are already running late. The stupid LAN House made me wait for like an hour before using the computer. Love you!
Elder Henry
OK I am back. So this past week was pretty normal as far as missionary work goes. We've been running into a lot of brick walls recently, which has been pretty frustrating. We are doing everything we are supposed to be doing, but not having a whole lot of success. We are working a lot with members and contacting references, but nobody wants to listen to the missionaries. Fortunately after every trial, there are blessings.
Right now we are teaching two really awesome investigator families. The first is I, L, L, and R. They are an amazing family and love the missionaries. Every time we go over there they have dinner waiting for us, and pay close attention to the lessons. Really a special family that finally after a long time, found the gospel. Its awesome to see how the gospel really changes and builds family relationships like no other tool on this earth. When people are trying to live as Christ lived, people still fall short, but they are able to get back on their feet and try again.
We are also teaching a Mom and Grandma (actually Grandma and Great Grandma, but you could never tell unless you asked!).  We taught them again yesterday, and the younger accepted baptism for August 18th.the older still has some doubts, but she has already read 17 chapters from the Book of Mormon, which is AWESOME! I wish all my investigators would read that much from the Book of Mormon. They weren't at church this weekend though, because their house flooded over the weekend.
Saturday night we had some amazing storms all night long. Boy am I glad to have a roof over my head after that storm. Nothing unusual, just lots of rain and thunder and lightning all night long. I slept very well that night ^^.
Saturday day L invited us to go to her 21st birthday party. It was really fun to go to a Brazilian Birthday party, quite the experience. In essence its exactly what we would have for a birthday party, just different food. We ate Popcorn, pinhão, candy covered peanuts, Mini-pastel, and other fried finger foods (they call them saldavels in Portuguese which literally means salty, so I don't really know how to translate...). I'll attach a couple pictures of the adventure.
Other than that, life has been pretty normal. Good news though, we are going to have a brand new chapel dedicated for us on August 11th! It's been under construction for about a year now, and just about ready to open. It's absolutely gorgeous, much better than the rundown school we've been using to meet in.
Thanks for always writing me. My companions parents only have written 2 or 3 times his whole mission, its really sad. I'm glad that you and dad write me faithfully.
Elder Henry

Foggy morning from our apartment

Birthday Party with lots of delicious food

Birthday Party

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Halfway mark week for Elder Henry

Thank you Eddie Costa for posting this photo from a couple weeks ago in Rio Pardo.  Eddie was a missionary in PAN and returned to visit, these missionaries made him feel a little short ;-)

Dear Mom,

Our week was okay.  We had some disappointments and some upsides as well.  Pretty much right now we are just putting along trying our hardest and hoping something will come of it.  Gravataí is a ward, and really its a great ward, but has some things that we have to change up.  Its funny as a missionary I think of the ward moving SOOOO Slowly because they don't change things in one or two weeks.  Usually to get some callings moved around and change the attitude of the ward takes months, and I'm not looking forward to the long haul.  The good news is there isn't anything bad about the ward, our problems are really just that the ward members are so busy, as apposed to Rio Pardo where there was always someone sitting around to help us out.  Our ward mission leader has good intentions.  But with the move, he now lives an hour and a half away from us by foot, or an expensive 6 reais bus ride there and back to meet at his house.

Man I do miss American pizza.  They don't use tomato sauce on their pizza down here, just meat and cheese, which took some getting used to at first, but now I enjoy the stuff.  Still its expensive to order Pizza here, and its not like the members feed us pizza for lunch like they did in the states either.

Its funny that you mention election coverage, because almost EVERYONE here asks me about American Politics.  One thing I kind of knew about the world before I came to Brasil, is the whole WORLD watches American Politics.  How strange is that, I mean to us watching Mexican, Canadian, European, Brasilian, even Chinese politics would be unusual for the average day joe.  Also everyone here has an opinion, mostly that they HATE Bush, and are luke-warm for Obama.

So far as mosquito nets go, there aren't any real problems with Mosquitoes down here, its only in the North that they use them, and then only rarely.  If you want you can send down another thing of Off (liquid style not propellant) but I have a ton still and don't really need to use it during the Winter.

I've been collecting recipes of Brasillian Desserts and Foods while I'm here.  So far I've successfully made Torta de Bolacha, Docê de Arroz (rice pudding), and today I made something called Danonhinho.  Also I'll probably make Pudding (Flan) here someday soon.  The stuff is actually really good ^^.  Almost all of the desserts here are based off of Cream and Condensed Milk, so they are all rather easy.  Hopefully I'll be able to find all the ingredients in the States and will be able to make them for you all when I get home.  I know we don't have Docê de Leite in America, but I found a recipe (its actually pretty easy, just milk and sugar and then heat and stir) and will perfect it!

I actually don't believe I've been a missionary for a whole year (well this coming Friday will make a year) already.  I really feel like its been about 6 months, and that things are finally clicking for me as a missionary.  Especially last transfer with Elder Black, we just did the things we knew, learned, were taught and everything worked out perfectly.  Right now I'm doing the same thing with Elder Roman.  The process takes time, but everything will work out great in the end.  I'm really enjoying this time of my mission because I really am right in the middle and know what I need to do, and have plenty of time to do it.

Speaking of our area we've been shifting a lot of our teaching pool around recently.  Pretty much everyone that was in our teaching pool to begin with have been moved aside, and we are working to help our new investigators to progress.  E and M weren't baptised last week because E ended up drinking once again.  They also didn't go to church this week, and I'm not sure there is much more we can do for them.  At some point they have to choose which is more important to them, following God or succumbing to their natural desires.

Anyways my time is just about up for this week.  Sorry that this E-mail is a little smaller than normal.  Hopefully next week I'll have some amazing stories to tell :)

Elder Henry

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

July 17th letter--from Gravataí Brasil

Elder Henry (grey sweater in left of choir director) singing with the choir in Gravataí, Rio Grande do Sul, Brasil
Dear Mom,
I'm glad that you are getting pictures from other sources, because I'll have just that many more when I come home. Cameras are a LOT harder to find in Rio Pardo. When I took out my camera during the Baptismal service, all of the kids from the branch came up and wanted to take a picture with it. I don't know if they've ever seen or used a digital camera before, probably only the ones that the American missionaries bring with them.
It's been a crazy transfer, I really wasn't happy the first couple days here in Gravataí. My companion Elder Roman is Brasilian, from Curitiba and I really missed Rio Pardo. My other areas that I've really loved I've had two transfers in, and I was super sad that I didn't get more time in Rio Pardo. The other part that threw me for a loop is the change in wealth. Rio pardo is out in the interior, and pretty much dirt poor, and here in Gravataí people are much better off. We have very very few shacks in our area, and most of the people here have cars, which is incredible for Brasil.
So far as Portuguese goes, I'm one transfer better than I was last transfer. What I mean by that is I've improved a lot from where I was, but I'm still far from fluent. I don't know that I'll ever get to a level in Portuguese where I think, "Now I speak fluently". It can be pretty hard some days, and especially with a native companion that doesn't speak any English, but its the challenge that I need right now to really better my Portuguese and get up and running.
That's super cool that you have bats in the wetlands now, all the better to kill all the mosquitoes! That's one thing I love about winter is I don't have to worry about freaking mosquitoes. Let me tell you I'm very grateful to have brought some "Off" with me, because I haven't seen any anywhere here in Brasil. I guess people here just live with it.
In the picture of the choir, my companion is on my left just so you know. We haven't taken any pictures yet this transfer, but I will repent of that soon enough!
So Gravataí is has about 20x as many problems as Rio Pardo, of course Rio Pardo was practically a walk in the park so I figured I'd be in for some tougher times in the mission. It always works out that way, pass through trials, receive blessings, pass through trials again. One of the biggest problems on our plate right now is where we live. We live with an older couple in the ward in their back house, which is pretty sweet. The only problem is it takes us about an hour to walk from our house to our area which cuts our proselyting time down by two hours. So the Assistants, Elder Allred and Persinger ;), gave us a call last week and said, "We have good news! You are moving!"
The LAN House is closing on us an hour early today for some reason. I'll come back later to finish up.
After a short intermission I'm back. Trust me, I keep my eye out for boys for Sherry. I already told Elder Black that I'd be more than happy to have him as a brother in law. He loves basketball, tall, handsome, a lot like dad, oh, and I forgot to mention, he has a Tesla ;), how's that for perfect match in families?
Anyways, other than the problems with our Dona, we have a lot of investigators progressing, VERY slowly which can be hard as a missionary. We also have been doing a lot of walking, and more knocking doors than I've ever done on my mission. The good news is, the whole ward is behind us in missionary work. The Sunday before I arrived, the whole Elder's Quorum each gave us at least one reference per person, and we've been working our way through the list. I figure things will pick back up after I have the area running the way I like it. I had the same struggles when I arrived in Rio Pardo, and its just a matter of time before everything is put back together.
I'm kind of excited to move this Friday to our new apartment. We will be living in a 4 man pad with our District leader and companion. Here in Brasil the only way you can get together with other missionaries for P-day is if you live together, unlike the states. So P-days are going to be a lot more crowded with activities to do.
The other really nice thing about Gravataí is there are no hills. It's very flat, which makes walking for an hour and a half not nearly as bad. We also have a lot of buses here because its a bigger city. In all, life is pretty good. We are hoping to have 3 baptisms next weekend.
One thing I wanted to put in my E-mail is why when you read Missionary E-mails we are always so excited for Baptisms. Baptisms are the physical manifestation of Faith in Jesus Christ and Repentance. What we do every day, what we work so hard to do, what we sacrifice our lives for is to help people to come to Christ, and receive the happiness that comes from his gospel. When we have baptisms on the mission, we know that our sacrifice of our lives really brought a change in people's lives. In order to be baptised in the Church of Jesus Christ, you have to be following the commandments of God, and so when someone is baptised into the church, we know as missionaries that that person is living the commandments, and thus receiving the blessings that comes from living the commandments of God. It is the most rewarding work I have ever participated in.
Anyways I need to E-mail President Wright,
I love you, and thanks for the support,
Elder Henry
P.S. Since packages can sometimes take months to get here, I have a couple of things that I'll be running out of in about November that I can't find here. Gillete Fusion Razor blades, Mapleine (artificial maple flavoring), actually that's about all I can think of at the moment. There's no rush on getting a package down here for me, but one thing that the office staff told me about packages is don't mail them in USPS boxes. Those are checked/taxed the most and sometimes they take 3 weeks to get here, other times 3-4 months. Just depends on your luck. You can try putting pass along cards taped to the box, especially those with Maria and Jesus at the tomb after the resurrection.

Monday, July 9, 2012

Goodbye Rio Pardo

The Baptism on Friday with L and G :)
Dear Mom,
I just got the news that I'll be being transferred from this area.  I'm pretty sad to leave here, but we finished off the week strong.  Last week was a miracle week, and I'll get to all that in a few minutes.  I will really miss Rio Pardo, and Isaac puppy for that matter!  I just got your e-mail informing me of the bad news.  The worst is since he died on 4th of July we will always remember the day!  To be completely honest I figured he would die while I was on the mission anyways, I was just waiting to hear about how he got run over or something like that.  I'm glad he just died of old age.  Although, kind of sucks that you just bought that invisible fence thing, and now you have no dog!
     Rio Pardo has by far been the best area of my mission.  I've been with the best companion of my mission, and I've grown a lot here.  This is exactly where I wanted to be this transfer, and we finished up with 3 baptisms, and I got to hop in the water as well this time :).
     I remember how fast you got me down to get my Driver's license, you couldn't wait, and now you are all, "We'll wait just a few more months"  Poor Spencer :P.  Sometimes being first born works to your advantage it appears.
     The Davis family in our stake('s son) married my mission president's Daughter (Hence Davis instead of Wright for the last name).
     So last week was a week of miracles like I said before, obviously finishing up with 3 convert baptisms :).  Last Wednesday L told us that she did not want to get baptised anymore, the day before her interview.  We tried our hardest to change her mind, but nothing worked.  We then went over to our ward mission leader's wife Nara and asked her to talk with L. At 9:30pm, L gave us a call and told us that she still wanted to be baptised.  Holy Macaroni!  What a relief that was.  The Baptismal services went really well, and we actually had a ton of investigators there as well.
    Probably the best part of last week was Sunday Morning though.  A family that we've been working with, M and J, came to church with their 4 adorable little girls.  Seeing them happy at church will forever be a treasured memory of mine.  When we arrived there for the first time, they were losing their house, wanted to split up after 10 years together and 4 children, and were absolutely miserable.  Now they have a new better house, they are still together, and they are happy.  The change that the gospel makes in peoples lives is absolutely outstanding.  There is nothing that could bring me more happiness than knowing that I saved a family from the pains of Divorce.  What greater blessing exists than this?
     There are a ton of amazing things up and coming in Rio Pardo, but the sad news is I'm being transferred, so it really has little to no importance anymore...  Elder Black is training next transfer, and I'm excited that his greenie will have an amazing first Transfer in the mission.  I just wish I'd be here too.  But what comes around goes around, so maybe I'll inherit another area just as amazing as Rio Pardo.  I have no idea if I'll have a Brasilian or American companion.  All I know is it's time to go pack my bags.

Elder Henry

We found a gecko!  How cool is that?

 Baptism on Saturday with W

The Baptism on Saturday, all looks normal, but something in this picture doesn't belong...
(Look under the chairs)

Tuesday, July 3, 2012

Elder Henry loves his companion, area, and new Mission President

(note from Mom--I decided to start using just initials in publishing Mike's letters, just to make sure people feel they have privacy)

Elder Black, Myself, and E a 12 year old deacon in our ward

 Elder Black, Myself (complete with Chimarrão), and G in his new Sunday Clothes

So we met our new mission president yesterday, President Wright.  Turns out that Elder Black knows one of his 13 children from his visa waiter time in Chicago!  How crazy is that?  Also one of their Daughters is married into our stake, the Davis family's son.  (I totally forgot if I knew the Davis's or not...).  Sister Wright was talking to me in the hall at the zone conference yesterday and I told her I'm from Vancouver, and she's like, "Oh I know about you!  My daughter told me that there was a missionary from Vancouver that had waited for his visa for 9 months."  What a small Mormon world.  They are from Draper, Utah and we already love them.  President Wright's Portuguese is really rusty though.  What's really cool though, is President Wright served in this same mission 42 years ago as a Full time missionary.  Back then there wasn't a single stake here in Rio Grande do Sul or Santa Catarina, and most of the branches were just a couple families big.  How awesome is that, to come back to your mission 42 years later and be the Mission President.
     It's so funny that you always are asking about my daily routine in Rio Pardo, because to me its soooo normal and unexciting.  It really hasn't changed at all from Porto Alegre, we have studies until 11, then walk/catch a bus to lunch, arrive around noon, and begin proselyting at about 1 o'clock.  During the 1-3 o'clock hour, we usually visit Adriana or Laura because they are available during the afternoon.  Between 3-5 is our hardest time to find anyone to teach, and so we usually end up going by potential investigators/references we've received from members/ or former investigators.  5-9 we usually spend teaching a ton of lessons.  This area is so blessed by the lord, I can't believe all the success we are seeing here.  I honestly have never been this busy for so long as a missionary, and its AWESOME!  Most people get home from work sometime around 5 and 6, and so we end up teaching a lot during this time.
     So Elder Ethan Black is a stud.  We are about the same mission age, and have about the same amount of experience.  It's weird that he's my senior companion, but I've actually been out for a month and a half longer then him.  That's what visa waiter time will do to you!  He's from Palo Alto, California.  He lived in Switzerland for a year and a half, and has traveled most of the USA and Europe.  He speaks English, Spanish and Portuguese, and went to BYU before the mission.  He played Basketball and Football in high school and wants to make the football team at BYU when he goes home.
     He's also a very spiritual missionary, we are always having fun, but never distracting from the spirit.  In all this whole transfer has been one of, if not the best transfer of my mission.  When you and your companion work in unison as we do, everything just works out perfect.  Of course we've had ups and downs this transfer, but we are looking forward to our baptisms this weekend.
     Our Branch has about 50 people who are active, and 400 on the records, but the whole branch is working to bring those less actives back.  President Alex is a return missionary of 5 or 6 years, which helps a ton.  We only have 2 or 3 return missionaries in our Branch, and we are sending off another return missionary this coming week.  The problem isn't that we aren't sending out missionaries, its that they come back and don't have work in Rio Pardo, so they move to a different city, (I.E. Gramado, Passo Fundo, Santa Cruz do Sul, Porto Alegre, etc.) where they can make something of themselves.  Everyone here is a convert, the Branch opened back in the mid 80's and this was the first branch in the current district (stake), so it covered as far as Santa Cruz do Sul and Vera Cruz, as well as other surrounding towns.  In April 1991 they finished building the chapel, and had more or less 120 active members.  It has since divided several times and we now have 4 branches where there used to be only one.  Most of our members are converts from the early days of the branch in the late 80's early 90's, 2001-2003, or more recently 2009-2010.  But despite the rather short heritage of the branch and lack of returned missionaries, this Branch is fully functioning.  We don't have any problems with the leadership, there are no apostasies in the lessons or sacrament talks, or any of the other problems I've heard people complain of.  I could go on and on about the people in the branch, but that will probably have to wait for another day as time is starting to run short on our Internet time.
     Honestly, I loved California, I'm going to visit Granada and the Samoan wards, and all of my recent converts there.  There isn't a week that goes by that I don't reflect on my experience there, or the people I met there.
     I LOVE BRASIL!  Honestly I couldn't be happier, I love (almost) everything about Brasil.  A mission is a mission no matter where you serve, but the food here, the culture here, the language are all parts of the experience I'm just loving.  Of course there are downsides too, I.E. Cockroaches the size of your palm, the poverty, PVC plumbing (terrible idea, I much prefer our Copper or Galvanized Piping in the states), Cobblestone roads.  Something Kelsey reminded me about in her letter is that everyone plays their music SUPER loud.  Everyone has speaker towers in their house, no matter how much in poverty they are.  There are actually people who drive up and down the streets, with Speakers strapped to the hood of their car, or the back of their motorcycle and just play radio stations SUPER loud for their job.  It's a totally different way of living then our relatively quiet subdivisions and neighborhood association laws and regulations.  Heh, the United States and Brasil are like two completely different countries.  ;-)
     Before I have to go I want to give you a little update on the work here.  Last week we had a ton of breakthroughs with our investigators.  G's Mom signed the baptismal record and agreed to his being baptised, L finally decided its time for baptism, and we are going to the Cartório (kind of like a DOL, but they do licensing and Birth, Death, Marriage certificates) today to begin their marriage papers so they can be baptized next month.  We had a total of 6 investigators at church this past week and we are SUPER excited to have 4 Baptisms this weekend!  It's been a while since I've seen a baptism, but the day has finally come once more.
     I love you all a ton, thank you for your support :)
Elder Henry

Sunday, July 1, 2012

Photoshoot with Kym & Tori (with special guest, Isaac)

Before we went to the Portland Ensign Choir concert, I had Tori and Kymberlee come out to the backyard for a photoshoot.  They love each other so much!  What a blessing to have cousins right around the block from us.

Snuck this one in--Tori took it the next day ;o)