Monday, June 1, 2015

Week of May 24th to May 31st 

  Sister B:  Once again, preparation day went to quickly and we spent way too much of it walking - something I’ll remember to avoid on future Monday’s. We walked to the grocery store, we walked downtown, and we walked to the post office to pick up the package my “wonderful children” sent me for Mother’s Day.  It took 19 days to get here, cost $52 to mail and we had to walk 40 minutes one-way to pick it up, BUT it was great to get the things they sent.  The package had peanut butter, 2 brownie mixes, a pancake turner, spatulas, light weight dish towels (that will dry quickly), ground black pepper and some spices.  On our trip to Israel, several of the women who had served foreign missions suggested bringing measuring cups, measuring spoons and spices.  I listened and brought the cups and spoons, but did not bring the spices.  You can find some of the spices here, but they are in “little” plastic bags and expensive.  I appreciate their effort and we have definitely already put the things to good use.  I actually did find a large jar of Peter Pan peanut butter in Vitória.  I am a little sad that I only bought one jar as Vitória is an eleven-hour bus ride, one way, through the night.  The missionaries would love peanut butter cookies, but I am not willing to use my limited supply for that.  I did share a spoon full with the Sister Missionaries one day this week.  It is still kind of amazing to me that in the states I could drive to Wal-Mart, walk in and walk out 20 minutes later with all those items--one easy stop and a car.  Life is very different here in Brazil.
   We also received in the mail (delivered to our door this time) the daily dose learning materials for our English classes.  We went to the copy store and had the first 12 lessons made into colored posters and had them laminated.  They look great and are very effective. Printing and laminating in Teófilo Otoni is very reasonably priced.  We are doing English lessons on Tuesday and Thursday evenings in 30 minutes sessions.  We will see if people stick with it and progress through the first 12 lessons before we print the other 36 lessons available.  The lessons are taught in small groups, standing up, with a lot of repetition since language learning is a very social activity.  You can see an example posters on their website
   Elder B:  As a follow-up from our missionary apartment inspections, we were asked to purchase the furniture, appliances and materials necessary for the apartments.  We went out Wednesday afternoon to complete this task.  We found several options for guarda-roupas (wardrobe with hangers and drawers to store clothes), kitchen table with chairs, a set of shelves for the water-cooler, microwave and food, a new fan, light bulbs, batteries for the CO detectors, etc.  Since we now have a CPF (Cadastro Pessoal Física – Social Security Number equivalent) we were able to purchase these items for delivery on Saturday to the Elders.  We then scan and send in receipts to be reimbursed. 
However, to be reimbursed by the Church, we need to have a Brazilian bank account.  We went to a branch of the Bradesco Bank, which is the bank used by the Church, to open an account on Friday afternoon.  We had what we thought were the required documents, but after waiting for several hours, they informed us that they didn’t like our “temporary” identification cards (the permanent ones won’t be available for 3-6 months) and they wanted some kind of evidence that we “had an income” like a pension check, but they want it from a Brazilian entity.  Thus, we are kind of stuck for at least 3-6 months and perhaps longer.  We have a growing amount of reimbursements awaiting so we hope to resolve this soon, but as always, we are learning to enhance personal virtues and this week’s virtue is patience! ;-) (What ever happened to hiding your money in foreign accounts??)
Sister B:  I made another batch of cookies this week for district meeting.  This time sugar cookies using favorite sugar cookie recipe.  They turned out great and the missionaries ate them quickly.  Also for English lesson this week with the Sisters I taught them how to make chocolate chip cookies.  We used English words for all the cooking items as well as the ingredients.  The cookies turned out great and they graciously took some to the elders who they were meeting at a members house for lunch that day for one of the Elder’s 19th birthday.  He is a convert of 18 months and is a very fun, enthusiastic missionary.  We love having him here in Teófilo Otoni.
Sister Viana, Sister Burkinshaw and Sister Barth enjoying the fruits of our labors! 
Thursday was a very frustrating day for me especially as we spent most of it at the church.  We had tried to schedule visits, but were unsuccessful and Jeff had a lot of computer work to do so I had a lot of study time, which was nice, but doing it at home is much more comfortable.  Trying to arrange visits is difficult as so many of the records are not updated and although people have phones they are seldom in the directory (although we're changing that now).  We planned visits we needed to make through Saturday, hoping that if we planned far enough ahead it would work out.  Often in the mission field you have those “tender mercy” experiences where you are reminded the Lord needs you where you are and will provide.  On Friday morning as we were running (walking) a couple of errands downtown someone called out “sister – elder” when we turned around the man calling was the father of the family we planned on visiting the next day, but did not have a phone number for--miracle #1.  A little later we ran into the other member whose home we had scheduled to visit.--by accident??  We were able to set up in advance both visits, which is definitely a miracle in and of itself.  It’s always nice to know we are on the same page as the Lord.
We had a wedding Friday evening at the church.  A young couple in the branch.  It was outside at the church building which is actually a very nice setting.  The church is a rectangle and the parking lot and lawn area is the same shape and size.  The parking lot is about 2/3 of the space (they don’t need a lot of parking for cars here) and the rest is lawn.  They set chairs up on the grass for the ceremony and tables and chairs on the parking lot of the reception.  We moved the organ outside, which is easy to do.  They had asked me to play the organ.  I found a website to download a free pdf of Cannon in D which turned out perfect.  It was a beautiful evening and all seemed to enjoy the festivities.  All very simply done, but very nice.  Hopefully in a year they will be on their way to the temple. 
Me at the organ which with the chapel window behind me and the happy couple
(she did wear heels which made her taller--a beautiful couple).  They were back at the church Saturday after when we went for the youth activity cleaning up outside.
Elder B:  On Saturday, we had an activity with the youth to make contacts with people in the Praça (Park) about the Church.  We divided the youth up with missionaries and gave each group some “Para a Vigor da Juventude” (“For the Strength of Youth”) pamphlets, which highlight 18 standards that help protect youth from the challenges of the world.  The standards are focused around areas such as dating, dress and appearance, education, entertainment and media, etc. (see  I was with a 17-year-old named Willian who has helped us navigate out way around Teófilo Otoni and is a great young man.  We sat down on a bench with a man who was there watching his 10-year-old boy ride his bike and I asked about his family.  He is a systems analyst from one of the larger businesses here and besides the 10-year-old, he has an 18-year-old son who has just started his university studies in law.  He described some of the challenges for his sons so we shared some of the “For the Strength of Youth” standards.  He was genuinely interested, so we told him a little more about the programs the Church has for youth, including the opportunity to serve as missionaries.  He wanted to hear more so, we took his contact information so the Elders in the area could visit his family and teach him more.
On Sunday, it was our week to attend the Teófilo Otoni Branch and before Sacrament Meeting began, they asked if we could teach the 5th Sunday combined lesson for Priesthood and Relief Society.  We still had a few FtSoY pamphlets with us, so we shared the experience we had in the park Saturday evening and asked if any of the parents had concerns about their children.  This led to a great discussion about three of the standards (Music, Dating and Sexual Purity) and how the FtSoY standards could be a resource for families.
Sister B:  Our last great adventure for the week was meeting up with the primary president Sunday afternoon to make visits to two sisters who live right behind her home.  That meant there is one of those hills right behind her home where the houses are building into the hill on levels.  Sister Carmen told us she had counted the stairs before and there are 500 cement steps going straight up.  One sister lives up 200 steps and on a narrow pathway to the right and the other sister lives on the left.  We walked the second 300 steps up to take what is the short cut back to the church.  We should have taken a picture, but didn’t, we will have to do that next time.  The visits were great so that made the steps worth it.  We did take a picture of a hill we climbed in the same area.  Coming down is probably worse than going up.  Both of the sisters were very receptive and during our visits with these sweet and very humble people, we were reminded that the Lord loves all of his Children and is kind in providing his Spirit to encourage and strengthen in times of need.  Despite the physical rigors, we are so very blessed to have this opportunity to be His hands in a small way here in Teófilo Otoni.
Over the hill is always shorter, which is why people direct us that way,
but going around the hill has to be easier.  Sorry I forgot to smile at the bottom :) 
Avanté Vitória
Elder and Sister Burkinshaw

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