Tuesday, May 12, 2015

Week of April 19-26, 2015

On Monday, President and Sister Young took us out to a Shopping Mall in Vitória to find appliances for our rental home in Teófilo Otoni, which actually went quite smoothly. President Young commented multiple times that we must have been living right because his experience buying appliances had always been difficult.  The salesperson was always quick to offer significant discounts and it looked like President Young, who is a self-labeled “wheeler-dealer”, was disappointed that he didn’t have an opportunity to dicker more on price.  We had lunch at the Subway in the mall, which has become our “go to” place here in Brasil since they are even more ubiquitous than McDonald’s.  We spent some time at the mission office that afternoon and Tuesday morning we made a map of key reference points in Teófilo Otoni so we could find our way around.
We have not gotten permission from the Area Presidency and the missionary department yet for a car.  The Brasil Area Presidency has approved it, but it also requires Missionary Department approval and President Young said that outside the US, senior missionaries don’t have cars.  Unfortunately, that meant that we had to ride the bus to Teófilo Otoni.  I have been telling everyone that it was about three hours from Vitória –WRONG!!   By bus, which only travels during the night, it was almost an 11 hour ride.  We left at 9:00pm on Tuesday night and arrived in Teófilo Otoni at about 8:00am.   Jeff’s fitbit indicated he had not slept all night if that tells you anything.  Since we had 4 large and 2 small suitcases, we had to take two taxis to our rental home.
The Sister Missionaries live in an apartment connected to the home we will be renting.  According to President Young, it is the nicest apartment in the mission.  The home sits at the top of a large hill.  All the floors are white tile and the countertops are all granite since Brazil is a major source for granite.  When we told the Sister Missionaries (both Brazilians) that granite countertops were “high end” in the US, they just laughed as it is standard here. 
Just after we arrived, President Marcio Costa, our branch president, and his 14-year-old son, João, appeared at our doorstep.  We visited with them for a little bit and it was decided that President and Sister Costa would take us around to look for the furniture and other things we need for the house.  We took a little time to wash our faces, brush our teeth, unpacked a few things from the suitcases and the sisters helped us prepare a list (in Portuguese) of the things we would need. The Costa arrived an hour later and we spent the next five hours, with a short lunch break (we bought since they took their whole day to help us), going from store to store to find couches, bed, nightstand, fans, water filter/cooler, bedding and kitchen things.  Two members showed up at the last store on a motorcycle.  I figured they were just in town and we had run into them, but Pres. Costa must have called them as we handed over our two fans to them and they met us at the house.  The Costa car is small and putting the fans in were not an option, which I obviously hadn’t even thought about.  I continue to get teary everytime I think about the service that they provided yesterday and how long it would have taken us to accomplish it on our own.  Jeff is doing great with the language, but knowing where to find things would have been difficult and time consuming.  The Costa's are angel’s.
  Presidente Costa, Sister Costa and son João
After checking into our hotel room on Wednesday evening, we got a good nights sleep and a hot shower Thursday morning.  We spent Thursday also with the Costas finishing the furniture arrangements and waiting for deliveries at the house. 
A TM “tender mercy” story today.  While sister Costas and I were at the house waiting for the deliveries we decided to finish trying to get the floor fan going so we would have some circulating air.  Jeff had tried multiple times, but there was a very tight screw that he could not get loose so he had to just leave it.  Three of the young men from the branch came up to help when the delivery truck came and they decided to give it a try.  After playing around with it for 20 minutes, they decided they weren’t going to be able to get it off either.  Sister Costas (ever the faithful seminary teacher) suggested they should pray, so with a shrug of their shoulders, they did.  One of them offered a simple, but beautiful prayer for the Lord’s help.  After trying a couple of new approaches, they were able to get the screw loose and had the fan up and running within five minutes of offering that prayer.  We all sat down on the floor, since the couches had not been delivered yet, and enjoyed the fan.  I did show them how to hook their phones up to the Bluetooth on our Bose speaker box, which they loved, and we listened to several popular Brazilian songs.  Sister Costa gave them a mini-lesson on GOOD music and then we listened to some.  They are such good young men and Sister Costa is an amazing influence on them.
We went to the church in the evening for seminary and for a baptism after seminary.  Yes, they have seminary in the evening at 6:30pm.  Jeff spoke at the baptism on baptism and did a great job, at least what I could understand.  Elder Willett, who will be returning home to Mesa, Arizona on Saturday, performed the baptism.  Wilson is the young man who was baptized and he was there without family but with most of the youth from seminary. He is in the Teófilo Otoni branch and we live in the Ipiranga Branch boundaries.  However, we will be working with both branches and with the district which extends to the city of Nanuque, about two hours east of here.  There are five branches in Nanuque. 
 Missionaries serving in the Teofilo Ontoni area.
We will have our challenges here, but these are good people trying to do the right thing.  I just can’t say enough about the help the branch has given us in trying to get settled into a home for the next two years.  We are so very grateful.  We will spend the two years just trying to pay back the help they have given in two days.  We plan to serve them faithfully and lovingly.
We spent Friday evening with the Branch president reviewing a list of less-active and other needs of branch members that we can begin visiting.  On Sunday afternoon we began making visits to some of them with President Costa.  They live in very humble homes, at least by American standards but most seem receptive.  Next week we’ll begin using Aaronic Priesthood holders to guide us to their homes since there aren’t addresses for some and those with addresses are difficult to find.  I have said it before, but the streets are narrow, windy, very rough and very, very hilly.
We have not been exercising in the mornings, but we put in about 20,000 steps per day and about 80 flights of stairs per the fitbit.  The street up to our house is a formidable climb, not only because it is steep, but also because it is made of sharp rocks embedded in sand and the sidewalks are often broken up or non-existent.  I did not really come prepared with the right kind of shoes for walking on these type of streets so I’ll have to shop for some more appropriate shoes.
Top picture is looking down our street and bottom picture is a close-up of the road.
Definitely need a good pair of shoes for this adventure.
 On Saturday, there was a cleaning activity at the building for the branch.  Afterwards they had a lunch (going away party for Elder Willett) of rice, beans and guaraná. Jeff keeps saying he is going to have to quit drinking guaraná because of the sugar, but he hasn’t committed to a time frame yet.  We met several more of the branch members and we remember how difficult it is to arrive in a new location and have to learn the names of everyone from scratch, augmented by the fact that the names are so unfamiliar.  Jeff and I have discussed doing a branch picture directory.  All too often I feel like I’m in another country as I can’t understand much of what is being said. Go figure! After lunch, we took some pictures, the one below is of the missionaries serving in Teófilo Otoni (we are missing one set of elders).
At 4:00pm we met back at the Church with the youth and other full-time missionaries for a tracting activity, so I got a real taste of what Jeff did 41 years ago.  Jeff said the area looked quite similar to what Brazil looked like 41 years ago.  We of course were companions while the missionaries paired off with the youth.  We had some “Because He Lives” pass along cards and the youth had “For the Strength of Youth” cards.  Jeff and I made 12 contacts and we were invited into a home where we gave a short message and had a prayer.  Because we stopped and had not met up with everyone yet the elders were concerned they’d lost us and called several times to make sure we were okay.  We actually ended up in front of them and had to wait for a few minutes for them to catch up, so glad the GPS was working.
Starting point for tracting activity with the youth.
  Did I mention we are doing a lot of walking!!  It was good, we shared a few experiences at the church and had the Brazilian’s version of ice cream, which was cold and delicious.  Not sure what’s in it, but it tasted great.  
It’s been a good week.  I have experienced pretty much every aspect of missionary work this week and, as we found with temple work, it is work, but it is rewarding work.
Avante para a Vitória,
Elder and Sister Burkinshaw

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