Monday, May 11, 2015

Week of April 12-19, 2015
     We arrived in Vitoria yesterday, Saturday, April 17th, around noon Brasil time.  The city of Vitória is beautiful.  The view flying in from the airport was amazing as you can see from the picture below.  The weather feels very much like Houston.  President Young and Sister Young met us at the airport and drove us to our hotel where we will stay while we are prepared for our assignment.  Since we flew through Friday night, we were glad to have Saturday afternoon and evening to stretch out a little and walk.  We have a beautiful view of the coast and we can see the mission home from our window.  We stretched out for an hour or so and then put on our work out clothes (with our missionary name tags) and walked down to the beach.  It is beautiful and it is lighted which was good since sunset is around 5:30pm (it’s Fall here).  We had lunch/dinner at a Subway across from the hotel and found “Magnum” ice cream bars (something we were introduced to in Israel) for our after-dinner/walk treat.   Since Winter is around the corner, the beach area was not very crowded at 5:30pm but it appeared things were just getting started for the night.  They had numerous sand volleyball courts as well as sand soccer fields along the beach.  With the sun going down and a nice breeze it really was beautiful.  People here keep telling us that Vitória is one of the prettiest cities in Brasil.  We did note from the airplane that it looks newer than Rio and is very clean.  I would have to say our first day here was great!
Vitória from the air.
     Today (Sunday) President and Sister Young took us to the Cariacica Stake (six wards) conference, which is within greater Vitória metropolitan area.  Elder Marcos A. Aidukaitis, a native Brazilian, of the First Quorum of the Seventy and Second Counselor in the Brazil Area Presidency was presiding.  The members of the Stake Presidency, President Young and Elder Aidukaitis all spoke.  I could understand President Young the best, probably because he still speaks a little slower Portuguese with an American accent.  However, with Jeff doing a little translation in my ear, I was able to understand most of Elder Aidukaitis’ talk.  His major themes were:  
     1.   Every young man should serve a mission.  He shared his personal experience of sacrifice to serve as a full-time missionary as he lost his girlfriend and his scholarship.  However, he ultimately met and married a very special girl and received an even better opportunity to study Mechanical Engineering because of his missionary service;
     2.   It is important that we judge others as we would like to be judged.  Unity comes from being charitable and generous in our assessments of others.
     3.   Obedience to the law of tithing brings material blessings, but even more important are the spiritual blessings that come from sacrifice.
It was an excellent meeting and we enjoyed the enthusiastic singing of the hymns by the Brazilian members.  
     After Stake conference, President Young had a couple of missionary interviews so we visited with the members and the missionaries serving in the Stake.  It was interesting to sit on the stand with President and Sister Young and one of the things that caught my eye was that the families are smaller.  President Young had mentioned this to us before the meeting and I could see that to be true as we looked out over the congregation.  Elder Aidukaitis has five children which is a large family here.  The members and missionaries were kind and solicitous of us.  

Vitória Bay during the day from our hotel.

     Vitória bay at night from our hotel. The lights in back are the sidewalk along the beach.    
          After Stake conference were went to the mission home for lunch and visited with President and Sister Young about the mission, our families, our assignment, and their experiences since they arrived last July.  Since we are the first senior couple in this mission, they seem genuinely grateful that we are here.  We have been assigned to support the Nanuque zone which is in the northern-most part of the mission, about a 6½ hour (300 mile) drive from Vitória.  There are currently two mission Districts with 8 branches there, which means the mission president not only has responsibility for the missionaries, but ecclesiastical responsibility for the members and therefore does temple recommend interviews, calls District and Branch leaders, etc. which is quite a time consuming responsibility.  President Young had an interview with one of his missionaries that was going home recently who had served in Teófilo Ontoni and when told we would be serving in this area, the Elder openly wept.  We hope to help increase the activity, unity and strength of the Church in the area.  It sounds a little intimidating, but we will do what we can to love and support both the leaders, members and missionaries to move the work forward.  
     By the way the mission home/President’s apartment is beautiful and sits right on the coast with an amazing view of the bay.  You can see the beachfront and the ships heading into the Port of Vitória.  President and Sister Young say they feel a little spoiled with the view, but in reality, they are so busy, they don’t have much time there.  Thus, they enjoy showing it to the missionaries when they arrive in the mission and when they leave to go home. 
     We have included a copy of the mission goals intended to help establish a culture of Christ-like attributes in the mission.  The poster was drawn by one of the artistically talented Sister missionaries and is posted in each missionary apartment.  The goals are Amor (love), Obediéncia (obedience), Gratidão (gratitude) and Unidade (Unity).

Poster of the Vitória Mission Goals

     One of the topics presented at the MTC was the miraculous growth taking place in Africa with new member retention as high as 86%.  They attribute that to a specific focus on teaching near the meetinghouses since transportation to attend church meetings is a significant challenge for many new members.  By first building up centers of strength near the existing chapels, they are later able to extend proselyting in further out areas without creating financial problems for the members.  We saw this firsthand today when one of the wards had to rent a bus to bring members who wanted to attend Stake conference.  Without that assistance, the transportation expense would result make it impossible for many to attend the meeting.  The Brazil Area Presidency is emphasizing financial self-sufficiency for the Church here in Brazil and this has redirected missionary efforts to focus on building centers of strength near existing meetinghouses.  We are grateful for that vision and guidance. 
      We have been told that the drive from Vitoria to Teófilo Otoni is very beautiful as it winds through the hills that rise to 1100 feet above sea level.  We’ve been advised that it is likely we’ll have a car since our area is so large and so far from the mission office.  The mission only has two cars right now, so adding another vehicle is significant.   We may initially take the second vehicle until they get a third one.  It is a nice 2012 GMC Zafira (van), but Sister Young seems happy for us to take it so she doesn’t have to drive it.  We will keep you posted on that.  After our training in the MTC on housing, which we shared with President Young, the mission is going to order the list of furniture and other items that the church specifies for senior housing and then we’ll pay a monthly rental fee (which over the two years should cover the cost of furnishing the apartment) along with a monthly fee for home rental and utilities.  That will simplify things both now and when we go home.  We feel very blessed and it just keeps getting better!
      President Young introduced the missionaries to “Minha Familia” (My Family) in January nd they are starting to see some great things from the missionaries as they spend an extra hour on preparation day to search for and connect with their own families.   Probably a good idea for all of us.

Avante para a Vitória,  
Elder and Sister Burkinshaw

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