Week of June 22-28, 2015
We had a week of winter here in Teófilo Otoni and it was great, especially during the day. The temperatures (in Fahrenheit) got down to the high 50’s at night and stayed in the low 70’s during the day. The native Brazilian’s were all wearing coats and when we shook their hands they were cold. We are just hoping that by the time summer comes we are more Brazilian than American.
President and Sister Young (the mission president and his wife) were in Teófilo Otoni on Tuesday this week for missionary interviews. Knowing they were coming several weeks ago, I had asked Sister Young to pick up some Peter Pan peanut butter from Sam's Club (as they shop there) in Vitória, as it is not available in Teófilo Otoni. They were kind enough to bring 6 jars so we now have at least a half years supply of peanut butter. Elder Burkinshaw does not like peanut butter as much as I do, so I will use his half to make cookies for the missionaries and members. We had a nice visit with President Young but were a little envious when they drove up in a new car since every three years they change out missionary cars (and theirs are the only two cars in the whole mission). Since Sister Young is not interested in driving in Brazil, one of the cars remains at the mission office in Vitória. As President Young has explored options for us to have a car (using the extra car one of them), he said he received a note from someone in the Area Office in Sao Paulo specifically instructing that they were the only ones approved to use the cars, so obviously letting us use the other car isn’t an option either - darn! I have to admit when President Young asked if there was anything we needed, I said, “a car”. I know I'm a little rebellious, but President Young always tells us he has a little of that in him also, so I figured I wouldn’t be sent home (maybe I was secretly hoping I would be - ar, arr, arr). We did have a nice visit with the Youngs, and Sister Young gave me her perspective on missionary work, which I found to be quite accurate; “The days seem long, but the weeks are short”; and how very true that is. Just a little side note on this experience and to show you how thoughtful our younger missionaries are: Elder Moreira (the district leader) called us on Monday evening about 9:00pm, as we were walking home from an appointment, to let us know about our interviews the next morning. At first he said it would be at 8:00am. A few minutes later he called back and told us we needed to be there at 10:00am. It turned out we had the last interviews and Elder Moreira, ever the great leader, took the 8:00am appointment, which means he had to leave his house about 7:00am to be there a few minutes early. These young Elders are impressive!!
|The first batch of cookies with peanut butter from Sam's Club.|
As we visit the homes of members to have a family home evening with them to get to know them better, one of the themes that has emerged is a common desire for these families to go to the temple. We have ordered materials so we can begin teaching a monthly or bi-monthly Temple Preparation class. As we talk about the blessings of the temple and the sacrifices required to be worthy to go to the temple, Elder Burkinshaw and I are reminded of how much we miss our monthly work weekend at the temple. We miss the peace, the people and the reminder of the promises made with a loving Heavenly Father. As we observe the challenges in these two branches, we see how focusing on the temple can become an overarching source of strength and unity for the members as it was to the early Saints preparing to cross the plains. Temple covenants not only bind us to our Heavenly Father, but provide peace and strength in times of trial. Sarah Rich, the wife of Charles C. Rich, wrote in her journal how important the temple endowment in Nauvoo was in helping them endure the hardships on the pioneer trek. “If it had not been for the faith and knowledge that was bestowed upon us in that temple . . . , our journey would have been like . . . taking a leap in the dark” (Sarah DeArmon Pea Rich, “Autobiography, 1885–1893,” Family and Church History Department Archives, The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, 66).
For the Saints here in Teófilo Otoni, the trip to the temple in Campinas is like going from Oklahoma to the temple in Salt Lake. For the most recent temple trip (they call it a "caravana"), they left Nanuque in a bus at about 4:00am on Monday morning, stopped to pick up members in Teófilo Otoni at about 8:00am and arrived in São Paulo about 2:00am the next morning. It's not possible to do that often so they schedule a caravana at the end of June and the end of January, but the blessings that result are tremendous. The process of providing strength to the church is simple, but is not easy for many. We are thankful for the opportunity we had to work in the temple and to hold a current recommend even though we cannot use it right now. We recognize that the key to growth here in Teófilo Otoni is the TEMPLE. We had such a sweet visit with a young couple (below) on Monday night who have not been to the temple yet and left knowing of their desire to prepare to have those blessings. I cannot express strongly enough how much we need the temple and how much the work that is done there is needed—it is definitely a win, win experience.
|Rayssa, Diego and Kaleb Fraga family. Diego served in the Brasil Cuiabá Mission.|
We had another great birthday (anniversário) celebration this week. We celebrated with dinner and cake at a member’s home. The YM President in the Teófilo Otoni branch and Elder Morreira, our District Leader, both had a birthday so of course a celebration was in order. We had several new members there to fellowship and it was a beautiful cool evening out on the patio. We also learned the mother of the family, Rosimeire, is a twin and her twin (who is not a member of the church) and her family were there. It was a fun evening and we were reminded again of what good people these are and how very welcoming they are.
|Aniversário (birthday) celebration for Elder Morreira and YM President Marcelo Barbosa.|
Our English class continues to go well. We have several non-members attending and they seem to be enjoying the association with the members as well as the opportunity to learn English. We aren’t able to do a lot of contacting on the streets except when a Brazilian who wants to practice their English recognizes we are American and is brave enough to stop us and visit. We always invite them to church and to our English class. Several of the class members are very dedicated and some actually are picking it up pretty quickly. This week, in one of my classes, the lesson was on “Talking About Your Health” and we learned how to tell someone when you’re sick. For example “I have a fever", or "I have a headache”, and "I need to go home" or "I need to see a doctor." On Sunday the branch president’s wife, Andrea, who is in the class, came up to me and told me (in English) that her son, João Pedro, had a fever and was at home. She was so excited that she had actually remembered how to pronounce “fever”. We are making good progress and hopefully those who aren’t members are having a good experience with the members.
These next pictures are for the grandkids. I looked out the front window of our house one morning this week and saw horses just slowly making their way down the road looking for something to eat. We have come across their tracks (poop tracks) while walking and always wondered where it came from. Now we know, somebody must be letting them loose to find food and then gathering them up at the end of the day. Grandpa (Elder Burkinshaw) isn’t very happy when he finds their "tracks" while walking home at night in the dark!! Also we are including a better picture of the three-toed sloth we took in the Praca a few weeks ago. One of the members of the branch here had also taken a picture with a telephoto lense.
|Horses across the street from our house.|
|Teófilo Otoni's resident three-toed sloth in the praça (downtown park).|
After English class on Saturday night we took the Elder’s out for Pizza where a member of the Teófilo Otoni branch ward works, Irmã Claudia. We have visited her several times and she has been coming to church the past few weeks. She normally works in the back taking telephone orders, but she came out to visit with us and her boss took pictures for us. On Sunday, we recognized another person we met at the Pizzaria at Church, which turned out to be a blessing for us both. So although we thought we were going for pizza for Claudia, perhaps the Lord was guiding us with an additional plan in mind.
|We treated the Elders to pizza Saturday night after our English Class.|
We received the Father's day gift in the mail this week. As you can see from the picture we hung the framed pictures in the Living room. The frames matched perfectly and everyone who walks in the door goes right to the family picture. By Brazilian standards we have a "familia grande" meaning big family, although we think they are pretty grand also. The package was at the nearby post office so we were excited that the walk was relatively short to pick it up. However, we weren't so excited about what it cost us to pick up the package. My mother's day package didn't cost us anything so we were caught by surprise when we had to pay a tax based on both the declared value of the contents and the US postage to ship the package. So in the end, we paid another 100% of the cost to purchase and send the package. Thus, we suggest not sending anymore packages to us unless it is something we absolutely need and cannot get here (such as hard contact lense solution). Priority shipping only reduces the time by a few days but greatly increases the odds that the package will be taxed so just use a plain brown box with the lowest postage available. And assume anything you purchase was bought on clearance from Walmart for the customs declaration and be general in the description. Even though they were expensive for both you and for us, we do love the pictures, the candy and the new tie.
Elder Burkinshaw studying with the framed pictures on the wall. They really do add a nice touch to our home here in Teófilo Otoni!!
We continue to be amazed at the hospitality of the Brazilian people and the work ethic and devotion of our young missionaries. The Teófilo Otoni economy has shifted in recent years from the "precious gem" (pedras preciosas) trade to a greater dependence on higher education, with several large universities being established here. The Brazilian economy didn't suffer the same decline as much of the rest of the world in 2008-10 but unfortunately it is experiencing recession and significant inflation along with political turmoil which you may read about in the news. This creates challenges for the community in general and many of our members. But having the perspective of living prophets helps us remember that even in the midst of problems, life can be and should be good. At another time of challenge for the world President Hinckley made the following statement:
"Are these perilous times? They are. But there is no need to fear. We can have peace in our hearts and peace in our homes. We can be an influence for good in this world, every one of us.... Our safety lies in repentance. Our strength comes of obedience to the commandments of God." (Gordon B. Hinckley, "The Times in Which We Live", Ensign, November 2001, 55).
Following the prophet, despite the challenges to religious freedom and economic hard times is the only path to peace in both our hearts and homes. We love you all and appreciate the many prayers offered on our behalf.
Avanté VitóriaElder and Sister Burkinshaw