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

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