Tuesday, August 4, 2015

Week of July 27 - August 2, 2015

   We had family home evening this week with the missionaries and a family and some members and investigators in the Teófilo Otoni branch. One of the Elder's gave a great lesson on enduring to the end and Sister Burkinshaw's cookies are always a hit for the treat (which is perhaps why we are always invited). The invitation is always "Elder and Sister Burkinshaw can you come for FHE tonight and bring cookies?" We are happy to serve and making cookies is an easy service. We always carry the cookies in a plastic container that is easy to carry in a plastic bags as the walk is usually 30 to 40 minutes one-way. When we get there, they always take the cookies from the plastic container and put them on a plate. We figured this was to make them easier for people to grab, but when we went to get the plastic container to take home the mother of the family grabbed it off the top of the refrigerator and removed the two or three cookies she had stashed before handing us the container. We wished we had taken a picture of her smile, definitely a look of getting "caught with your hand in the cookie jar!" - she is the best!

FHE - Missionaries (who love having their pictures taken), members, and investigators, a PERFECT combination!!
Elder Machado teaching the FHE lesson.
Sister Burkinshaw enjoying Grandma time with adorable, big brown-eyed baby Rebeca dos Anjos - her last name means "of the angels" which is very appropriate!.
 The weather in Teófilo Otoni continues to be pleasant and the work moves forward.  We have been training the branch leaders, first the branch presidency and clerks (see the library of outlines and agendas in Portuguese and English versions) and more recently the Elders Quorum and Relief Society Presidencies.  Since the Church has recently made home and visiting teaching set up available to leaders through their LDS account on lds.org, this has created some new enthusiasm for reorganizing and encouraging home and visiting teaching.  And with the ability to see each members home as a dot-point on Google Maps through the "Maps" app in lds.org, it helps leaders create better assignments that require less travel.  Since we spend much of our time visiting members, we now have home and visiting teaching assignments in both branches. 

Elder Burkinshaw training the Relief Society president and her counselor in using the lds.org visiting teaching tools.  Sister Joana, at the computer, is an amazing lady--we should have taken a picture of her hopping on the back of a moto taxi (motorcycle) after 9:00pm for a ride home (besides walking it's the cheapest way to get around here). 
   We had an interesting experience this week with an interaction between the young missionaries in one of the branches and the leadership.  At times, the missionaries dedicated focus on baptisms can create concern for leaders who are responsible to work with the new converts.  After such a concern was manifest recently, Elder Burkinshaw prepared some training materials from Handbook 2 to give to both the young missionaries and the leadership in an effort to clarify roles and responsibilities.  When we arrived at our Thursday evening missionary correlation meeting, we found a very faithful and humble branch president who, himself, had gone to the Handbook and reviewed prophetic direction. As a result, a greater spirit of unity was felt by all and the work moves forward with greater enthusiasm.  I wish we had a copy of the DVD One Good Man about an LDS bishop to show this humble, good branch president--I'm sure he would appreciate the common challenges and feel validated in knowing he isn't alone. The blessings of following the prophet are real! 
   In our scripture study we are in the Helaman and 3 Nephi chapters of the Book of Mormon just before the coming of the Savior to the Nephites. A recurring theme is the rebellion against governing principles and the criticism of (to the point of stoning) the prophets for their teaching the need to change (repentance).  The parallel to our day is uncomfortably real, underscoring both the dangers in ignoring prophetic warnings and the blessings that are ours in responding to the prophetic priorities.  The Lord blesses his humble and faithful children who heed "....whether by mine own voice or by the voice of my servants, it is the same." (D&C 1:38)
Language study selfie, notice Elder Burkinshaw is missing. It seems like every time we sit down to do language study someone calls and needs Elder Burkinshaw. We are going to have to resort to "live your language" for Sister Burkinshaw to progress.
   Here are a few pictures for the grand kids. The first is a picture of our unintentional formiga (ant) trap. If Grandpa has guaraná before bed and forgets to rinse out the plastic cup, it is full of ants the next morning. Grandma gets out the ant spray and zaps them but don't worry -  there are plenty more to take their place. Don't worry this is a throw away cup so we aren't drinking ant spray on a regular basis.
The formiga (ant) communication network - once they find food, the word travels fast.
A bug Grandma let live even after it tried to climb up her arm.
A mother hen with her chicks along the roadside.

  Here are a few pictures from this week's Friday evening youth activity.  As is usual, Elder Burkinshaw was busy in the office - this time preparing recommends getting the needed signatures for several youth to receive their Patriarchal Blessings since the Vitória Stake Patriarch will be here on Monday.  He also works with the mission to assist with problems in the missionary apartments and we've engaged two different plumbers without success. Sister Burkinshaw was once again the photographer and wished she'd remembered her good camera instead of her iPhone. The activities continue to be held outside as the weather right now is beautiful in the evenings. This is the third week in a row for relay games, but everyone enjoys them and there is always a new twist. The best one this week was a pile of blown-up balloons with play money inside.  Each team sent someone to get a balloon, bring it back, pop it by hugging each other, retrieving the money and sending the next person to get another one.  We are reminded that the Church helps the youth stay strong despite the challenging times in which we live.  It is fun to watch them interact together and draw strength from each other. The Elders had three youth investigators participating as well. The two young men hugging each other, trying to pop the balloon are brothers, one of whom is a member and the other one is taking the discussions. Both are amazing soccer players and very competitive.  The other is a game where a circle of youth that must pass a hula-hoop without breaking their grip.

Sunday was a good day for us. Sister Burkinshaw continues to improve her Portuguese and even got brave enough to share her testimony in Portuguese during Fast and Testimony meeting. She has also been able to have some simple conversations with the members which is encouraging. She was excited to report that after the Gospel Principles lesson, which was on Missionary Work, she shared some interesting things she had learned about when and how the missionary work in Brazil began. Here are a few of those facts:
  • Two missionaries from Argentina came to Brazil looking for a group of German saints who had settled in Brazil.
  • The first mission in Brazil was organized in February of 1935 in an old house in Joinville that still serves as the meeting place for the Joinville Ward of the Curitiba Brazil Stake.
  • There were seven deacons, four teachers, four priests, 29 male members with no priesthood, 64 female members of 21, and 35 children--a total of 143 members and nine missionaries scattered through the mission.
  • The language which the gospel was first taught in Brazil was German which remained true for about the first 10 years.
  • First chapel constructed in Brazil was dedicated in 1959.
  • The first Stake was organized in São Paulo in 1966.
  • Today Brazil has over a million members, 239 stakes, 49 districts, 1,925 congregations, 34 missions and seven temples.
  • Portuguese is the 3rd language of church members with English first and Spanish second.
   As you can see Brazil has grown. In district meeting this week we asked the elders here in Teófilo Otoni if any of them, there are six (5 Brazilian and 1 American) came into the mission field from a branch, all six belonged to wards. We reminded them that branches are not required to have the full programs of the church and that the members are doing their best to meet the needs of the members here. It is easy to forget sometimes that it "...is not requisite that a man should run faster than he has strength..." 
   We feel so blessed to be serving here in Brazil as we continue to help the work of "gathering the elect" and bring them to a knowledge of a loving Heavenly Father and the blessings of the gift of His Son through the Atonement. Where the world is heading is always concerning, but brought into proper perspective as we serve in The Kingdom of God. We miss the comings and going of our ever growing changing family and being there to help and assist, but know this is where they Lord needs us now.

Avante Vitória

Elder and Sister Burkinshaw    

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