Tuesday, May 12, 2015

Week of April 27-May 3, 2015
This has been our first complete week in the mission field and we’re getting into an established routine.  In discussions with our mission president, President Young, he has asked us to do the following:
1.  Work with the less-active members of the two branches here in Teófilo Otoni to remind them of why they joined the Church and help them come back (or as President Monson has called it “The Recue”). There are about 800 members but their combined Sacrament Meeting attendance is only around 140.  Thus we have lots of opportunities!
2.  Support the local leaders of the Church by providing training and by assisting them in their duties. 
a.     Jeff has been called as the District Clerk so he has access to the MLS membership records (which makes them available on the LDS Tools App on our phones).  We have begun the process of updating out-of-date or incorrect information and also adding photos of the members to this system.  Hopefully the photodirectories will help leaders, members and missionaries get to know one another more quickly.
b.    The branch presidencies have requested training in their duties, so we will translate the training materials Jeff prepared for new Bishoprics in the Tulsa Stake as a way to train the branch presidencies here.
3.  Obtain referrals for the young missionaries as we work with the new and returning members, who often have family members who are interested in the Gospel after seeing it’s influence on their loved-ones who are members.
We moved out of the hotel we were living in last Monday and began living in the rental home.  The home is very nice by Brazilian standards but as you might imagine, it’s also a little different than the US. 
1.  We have a locked gate to get in and out of the front of the home and then another locked door to get into the house proper.  There is no running hot water so we use a “chuveiro” (literally a “rainer”) which is an electrical box at the end of a pipe to heat water for our shower in the mornings.  It isn’t work really well right now so tomorrow we will see if we can fix it.
2.  The toilet is another interesting difference.  You don’t throw toilet paper in the toilet.  However, next to the toilet, we have a little hose with a squirt head like we have at the sink in the US, which is a mini bidet to clean yourself after using the bathroom (sorry if that’s TMI) which minimizes toilet paper, which is discarded in a little trash can (with lid) adjacent to the toilet.
3.  Tap water is not safe to drink so we use bottled water for drinking, cooking, brushing teeth, etc. 
4.  We have one small air-conditioning unit in our bedroom and we turn it on at night to sleep.
5.   We use LPG for cooking similar to the bottle of propane that is often used for barbeques in the US.
6.  We have 127 volt power but the plugs are different.  Some of the plugs are similar to European plugs with two round prongs.  The unique Brazilian plugs have the two round prongs with a middle round prong for a ground.  We’ve purchased a variety of plug converts to assist with this.  We bought Mom a new Brazilian blow dryer because we kept having problems with the converts for her US blow dryer but her curling iron seems to be working fine.
7.  Grocery shopping is quite different so we are starting to learn what foods we can find here and how to use them.  Bananas and mixiricas (a tangerine/orange fruit that is easily peeled) are quite common and very good.  Other fruits such as apples are good but definitely different.  Hamburger is always fresh ground while you wait.  And they have wonderful breads and sweet rolls at the bakery shops (padarias) and there’s guaraná, Jeff's favorite soft drink!  Eggs are not refrigerated and neither is milk so we haven’t yet tried the milk but the eggs were good.
8.  Restaurants are not as common as in the states so we’ve found one “Sabor da Terra” (Taste of the Earth) that has become our favorite.  It’s a buffet where they charge you by the weight of your plate so don’t be surprised if we start going to Golden Corral or Chuck-A-Rama when we get home (ar arr arrr).
9.  The downtown area (Centro) has a large park-like square (Praça) where they have newspaper and magazine stands and bus and taxi stops.  It took us a week of living downtown in the hotel to finally discover when we moved into the house that there are taxi’s parked in the Praça all the time.  All the commercial businesses surround the square.  We saw a monkey climbing one of the trees yesterday there so it’s quite unique.
We’ve started visiting the members, per our assignment, and we met with about 20 families this past week.  The Brazilian people are some of the kindest, warmest and most sincere people you would ever hope to meet.  They are very humble and teachable and in every case, we felt a great spirit as we shared a message of encouragement and love with them.  And almost all of them were at Church on Sunday, so we hope that’s a good sign.  It is inspiring to see people of such humble circumstances who have learned that there is much more to life than pursuing material “things”.  They serve faithfully and are generally very family oriented.  That makes the message of the Gospel all the more interesting to them. 
As Stacey said in a previous letter, Teofilo Otoni is quite hilly.  This past week, we’ve averaged about 7.5 miles of walking with about 50 flights of stairs each day per the Fitbit.  Since whatever doesn’t kill you makes you stronger, we should be in excellent physical condition by the end of our mission!
We’ve put a few pictures on the end.

Panoramic view from our bedroom window

The mission had transfers this week.  The Sister missionaries are the same.  We lost a set of Elders as the mission numbers dropped a little.  One of the Elders here in Teofilo completed his mission and went home. Two of the missionaries were transferred to other areas so we have three new elders.  All of the missionaries are Brazilian except Elder McKay 3rd from the right who is from Logan, Utah.  Elder Moreira the short elder, 2nd from the right, is the new district leader.  He is an impressive missionary.  We had lunch at the Ipranga Branch president’s house on Thursday after District meeting.  The branch president was teasing Elder Moreira about having a thought prepared.  Elder Moreira handed him the New Testament seminary bookmark and told the branch president to choose a scripture for him.  President Costa did and Elder Moreira quoted it perfectly, so President Costa picked another one and he quoted that one.  As a former seminary teacher it was fun to see a missionary prepared to use the scripture mastery scriptures.  These are great missionaries and we are humbled to work with them on a daily basis.  They are eager to work and fun to be around.

This picture is for the grandkids.  Grandpa was waiting for the Elder’s at the Praça (town square) on Saturday to make some visits (I was stuck at home waiting for the bebedouro, water cooler/filter, to be delivered) when he saw a monkey swinging across the electric wire.  It’s our first sighting of a somewhat unusual animal here.  He was pretty scraggly looking, but thought you would enjoy it.
Avante para a Vitória
Elder and Sister Burkinshaw

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