Monday, May 25, 2015

Week of May 18-25, 2015
   I'm having a hard time falling asleep this evening so I figured I'd use my time and write our weekly post so tomorrow, Monday, it will give us a little extra time to do some other things. The list just seems to get longer as time goes on.  Elder Burkinshaw commented this morning after a leadership meeting that a meeting usually means more to do which we are grateful for and happy to help where we can.
   In ending our post last week I didn't mention my first experience going to the Teofilo Otoni Branch Relief Society.  The Relief Society in this branch was smaller and I hadn't had an opportunity to meet the Relief Society president before and I'm pretty sure she didn't know my Portuguese language level.  She asked if I would offer the opening prayer which I did and I must have done okay because during the lesson she asked if I would read a paragraph which again I did.  I must have done okay with that because she then asked if I would comment on what I had read (which is pretty typical here-they have obviously picked up on a seminary teaching skill), it was at this point I had to try and explain that I wasn't even sure what I had just read. One of the other sisters graciously picked up on the discussion for me. The good part of this story is the language is sounding more familiar and I'm understanding more all the time--talking, not much yet!
   We had a typical preparation day, which basically means it goes way to fast and we don't get as much done as we hope to.  We also had to catch a bus to Nanuque at 3:00 in the afternoon so that made the day extra short.  We have been assigned to do apartment inspections in the district so that means a trip to Nanuque and a small city 20 minutes outside Nanuque to check apartments for eight Elders we have serving in that part of the district along with the missionary apartment here in Teofilo Otoni.  Elder Burkinshaw had a meeting with the district presidency early tuesday morning, 7:00am, so we scheduled the apartment checks to coincide with that this month.  The blessing with that scheduling was that the first counselor in the district presidency offered to drive us around to the missionaries apartments.  Obviously we still have a lot to learn, although the Lord seems to know that, because we would not have been able to do what we needed to without the help.  It was nice because we  were able to take President Nasimento, his wife and son out to lunch and get to know them a little better.  We finished our inspections around 4:00pm on Tuesday and took the three hour bus ride back to Teófilo Ontoni. 
View from our hotel in Nanuque of the river and city.

One of the volcanic mountains between Teófilo Otoni and Nanuque. 

The sink and fan are the type of safety concerns that we are trying to identify and repair.

   Wednesday we did the apartment inspections in Teofilo Otoni.  We arrived at the Elders apartment to find their electricity had been shut off.  After a few phone calls and e-mails the Elders had their electricity back before the day was over thanks to Elder Carvalo in the Mission office in Vitoria.  We spent time at the church on MLS preparing branch lists for upcoming meetings with the branch leadership and missionaries.  After which Elder Burkinshaw stayed to attend a branch correlation meeting and I took a taxi home to make some cookies for District meeting Thursday morning.  I have been gathering the ingredients for the past two weeks so I was excited to give it a try and they turned out pretty good. Learning to use the propane oven was a little complicated, but by the last couple of pans I was doing great.  They make lots of great bread (pão) and cake (bolo) here, but you don't see a lot of cookies so I figure I'll introduce a couple of good recipes to the members, plus who can turn down a missionary when they are delivery cookies?
   On Thursday we set out to make visits to four sisters in one of the branches. After three hours and 10+miles we finally gave up and went back to meet the sister missionaries for a 6:00pm visit.  It was not an easy afternoon, not because the walking was hard, because it was actually a beautiful afternoon, but because we had no idea where we were.  Standing on the sidewalk with phone in hand and holding a large paper map, can you say foreigner. The streets are not marked here and although we are using the GPS it is still extremely difficult to figure out where people are.  As we sat in the park waiting for the sister's I have to admit we had a little discussion about how to do this part of our call better or at least more efficiently.  The problem with a senior couple is you have put two missionaries together who are both new to the area, that's a problem.  It was nice to finish our visits with the sisters who did know where they were going and our visit was to a very sweet single mom with two boys.  Although the 16 year old didn't admit to knowing English he obviously was pretty proficient as I threw out some random questions which he had no problem responding back to.  This visit was definitely a  "tender mercy" from the Lord as it softened the frustration of the afternoon and was a reminder of how great this work is. We still had a meeting at the church and English class before the day was over; some days are really long.
   Friday we arranged for one of the young men to make some visits with us.  We continue to learn principles from PMG of "Using Time Wisely" so we had a backup plan. Our back up plan was to meet our helper at the church and if that worked we were good to go if not we were where we needed to be for our backup plan which involved correcting membership records for Elder Burkinshaw and making a fix up and shopping list for the missionary apartments.  It was interesting I had just read Elder Vaclaw's (Austin) weekly e-mail where he and his companion were using the same principle of having a backup plan. We took an hour break around 5:30pm to walk to a near by supermarket to pick up light bulbs and cleaning supplies for the missionary apartments returning as the youth were finishing seminary and starting a game of slaughter ball.  Elder Burkinshaw played slaughter ball and I helped the sisters prepare hot dogs for after the game. By the way these were loaded hot dogs: bun, hot dogs cut up and cooked in ketchup and cream, potato straws, mayonnaise and more ketchup.  I actually didn't try one mostly because I'm pretty sure the 10 miles wouldn't even help with the problems that would cause (arr, arr), but they looked good.  
   This has turned out to be a day by day rendition, sorry about that, but I'm on a role so I'll just keep it going.  Saturday was another use the back up plan as a schedule as a visit with a member didn't work out so we set out on our own.  This time we took a taxi to the top of the hill, the branch presidents home being our first stop to drop off cookies, and worked our way down from there.  It worked great!!  We had some great visits and it was a beautiful afternoon and evening.  
   Church was great.  Elder Burkinshaw is teaching a Missionary Preparation class.  I am working on understanding the lesson.  I have to say we have some amazing women teachers here in these branches. They have a great spirit about them, know their scriptures and are very impressive!  Our Relief Society lesson was Elder Christofferson's October 2014 GC talk "Free Forever, to Act for Themselves".  He taught: "It is God's will that we be free men and women enabled to rise to our full potential both temporally and spiritually....God intends that His children should act according to the moral agency He has given them....He neither compels nor abandons us...Rather He helps and guides us. As a consequence of being perfectly just...He cannot be arbitrary in savings some and banishing others....hence it is the requirement of and the opportunity for repentance that permits mercy to perform it's labor without trampling justice...Repentance respects and sustains our moral agency....A God who makes no demands is the functional equivalent of a God who does not exist."  Powerful teachings taught well here in Teofilo Otoni.
   We enjoyed a great Sunday afternoon visit with a little family on the far end of town and on top of a very steep hill.  This time the member meeting us there suggested we take a taxi so we did, wise counsel!  We did however walk home as the worst hill was downhill this time, it was a 45 minute walk.  One of the challenges of this branch is many of the members live a long walk from the church.  I couldn't help but be impressed with the faithfulness of this family of five (children 9, 6 and 2) as their walk on Sunday is at least 45 mins. By the way I'll be able to remember their sons name because it's Dallas, they have never heard of Dallas, Texas though.  The picture below is this faithful family and the view they have from their home, it was beautiful. 
A faithful little family (above) who have a beautiful view of the city from their home (below)!
   Sunday evening we enjoyed having a FHE with three young couples, and parents of one of the couples who are visiting from Campinas.  They actually work in the temple there and he shared his testimony of the blessings of the temple.  I actually understood most of what he said, maybe temple lingo or something. It was a very enjoyable evening and we continue to feel like we are getting to know more and more of the members.  We are also tasting some wonderful desserts.
   As I'm writing I realize once again how inspired President Eyring was when he counseled us, in his "O Remember, Remember" GC talk October 2007, to take a few minutes at the end of each day and answer the question,  "Have I seen the hand of God reaching out to touch us or our children or our family today?"  Writing the blog is providing this experience for us.  Writing in the journal lets me just talk about the day, but writing the blog gives me a few days perspective and some times that is very helpful.
   Although our request for a mission car has not been approved, we are now exploring the option of purchasing our own car.  It's winter here so the weather is quite nice now, but we keep hearing about the 110°F summer temperatures - yikes!

Avante para a Vitória
Elder and Sister Burkinshaw


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