Sunday, October 18, 2015

Week of October 11-18, 2015

  Good food, good company and small miracles. This would be a good description of our week. On Sunday we had dinner at a members house. Marziete and Julia (Kayo was with his Dad) treated us to one of our favorites here in Brazil, Chicken Stroganoff. It was excellent as was the dessert. They are such a good family and we appreciate their friendship. It was a very warm day and most homes here do not have air conditioning, but they live at the top of a hill, have an amazing view of the city and a great breeze. Definitely good food and good company.

Julia, Irmã Marizete, Sister Burkinshaw, Elder Burkinshaw and guaraná!
Irmã Marizete's doce de leite - It was very deliciosa!
On Monday, October 12, President Young invited us to have a special lunch with Irmão Cypriano and his wife.  Irmão Cypriano does maintenance on the missionary apartments throughout the mission so this was a "Thank you" and a "Please continue to work with us" lunch because we'd be in dire straits without him.  He chose a special restaurant in Vila Velha that serves a very delicious and traditional specialty of moqueca which is a fish stew with shrimp.  Irmão Cypriano told us it was originally poor people food but this version was outstanding - and even better with fresh brasilian juice.  Sister Burkinshaw had succo de laranja (orange juice), Irmã Cypriano and I had acerola (a small red, tart berry which provides more vitamin C than orange juice) and President Young had mango juice.  For dessert, President Young, Sister Burkinshaw and I had baked fudge with sorvete (ice cream) and the Cypriano's had banana flambé.  A very special treat! The restaurant was in Vila Velha across the street from the beach.
Almoço (lunch) with Irmã and Irmão Cypriano, President Young and Elder and Sister Burkinshaw at a very nice restaurant in Vila Velha.

Moqueca is a fish stew prepared with fish, shrimp, tomatoe, onion, garlic, coriander and palm oil. served with baked bananas.

Our lunch was on the Dia das Crianças (Childrens Day) holiday so the beaches were particularly crowded.
Treating Brother and Sister Cypriano was also a reminder of what a good person President Young is. He is a man who walks the walk. One of the four areas of focus the Young's have for the mission is gratitude. President Young is very good at expressing appreciation and the missionaries are continually practicing it also. Our children received a nice note this week from President Young expressing appreciation to them for supporting us in our service here in Brazil. The missionaries express often appreciation for the things we do for them through word, notes left on our desk and chocolates. We have noticed what a difference that living this one simple principle makes in the mission.

We took a picture of one of the notes the sisters left on our desk this week. We read again President Eyring's "O Remember, Remember" conference talk given in October 2007. He said, "I would ponder this questions: 'Have I seen the hand of God reaching out to touch us or our children or our family today?' As I kept at it, something began to happen. As I would cast my mind over the day, I would see evidence of what God had done for one of us that I had not recognized in the busy moments of the day. As that happened, and it happened often, I realized that trying to remember had allowed God to show me what He had done. More than gratitude began to grow in my heart. Testimony grew."  For us seeing this principles lived in the lives of these young missionaries is inspiring.

A kind note to Sister Burkinshaw "Thank you for your disposition in serving and helping all of us missionaries.  We are grateful for your efforts in learning Portuguese.  You are speaking very well.  Thank you for your example of inspiration and determination.  We love you.  - Sister Constilho and Sister Barra, 15 October 2015"

On Wednesday we were thrilled to walk into the office first thing in the morning and see one of the young men from Teófilo Otoni in President Young's office for his final interview before being set apart to serve in the Brazil Brasilia Mission. Elder Franklin Fernandez arrived after that wonderful all-night bus ride, was interviewed, and then set apart by President Young with Elder Burkinshaw assisting. Sister Burkinshaw was also invited in to listen. There was an amazing spirit and the promises made to this good Elder were wonderful. Teófilo Otoni is in the Nanuque District so as the Mission President, President Young presides over the district. Elder Fernandes looked great. Elder Burkinshaw took him for a little breakfast after the setting apart and since he had several hours before needing to be at the airport for his flight to the CTM in São Paulo he rested for an hour on the couch in the office, we took him out for lunch, took a few pictures and he was on his way. We love his family and know his service will be a great blessing to them as well as a wonderful example to the young men in the branch in Teófilo Otoni. It made us miss the members there, but we are able to visit with them often and look forward to an opportunity to return for a few days at the end of our mission. It was truly a sweet experience. We hope we will have at least a couple more of this same experience in the coming months with others from Teófilo Otoni preparing for missions.

Elder Franklin Macedo Fernandes from Teófilo Otoni with Elder and Sister Burkinshaw shortly after being set apart to serve a full-time mission in the Brasil Brasilia mission.

Good food, good company and small miracles. For Sister Burkinshaw the small miracles came, as they often do, while inputting Baptism and Confirmation information from forms (fichas) filled out by the missionaries into the CDE (Convert Data Entry database).  This is the way membership records are created for new converts and is always done in the mission office as opposed to the wards and branches.  The challenge is that form is filled out in the missionary's own handwriting and since scanners are not available, a photo is taken and e-mailed to the office.  Reading and digitizing the record is a lot like doing records indexing.  There is certain information that must be included to create a valid membership record including full name, birthday, birth place, unit (ward/branch) where they are baptized, home address (a valid address which isn't always easy in Brazil), and the baptismal and confirmation dates.  Additional information is also requested which will be helpful for family history and other reasons, but not mandatory to create a membership record. This week we had 21 confirmations, so 21 new membership records were created on Wednesday. There are many little miracles in this whole process as there is a lot of potential for human error. For example, the following address was written by the missionaries on one of the fichas: R. Ruy Marques Facine. Sister Burkinshaw uses both GoogleMaps and the Correio (Brasilian post office) site to verify that the address is a valid address that can be used in the membership record to find the new member. When the address, as written, was checked in the two websites, both responded that this was not a valid address.  However, with some divine guidance, experience and multiple trial and error  scenarios the address was properly identified as R. Rui Marcos Novaes Fascine. You can see the similarity, but it is nothing less than miraculous to figure out how to get from the first address to the second.  We regularly remind the missionaries as they are filling out their fichas that in a couple of years they will be on the other side of this very important information as a home teacher, youth leader or Bishop trying to find these members.

Below is an example of a ficha sent in by a missionary who was fthe former mission executive secretary (which is Sister Burkinshaw's current position) which he correctly identified as a terrible photo because unfortunately his phone camera was not working. The picture was basically unreadable.  Sister Burkinshaw decided to try sending out her new writeable-pdf ficha to this Elder.  President Young authorized the missionary to access the computer on Wednesday (normally they only access the computer on P-Days).  As you can see, it worked great and the former executive secretary (and now Zone Leader) was able to give us some constructive feedback. We aren't sure if the missionaries are going to like this method, but President Young thinks it is a great idea because it is readable even if it will still require additional work to verify information such as the address. Here is a picture of the first ficha that was sent and the writeable-pdf ficha - a discernible difference. 

This week President Young had interviews with the missionaries in the Vitória area zones so it made for a lot of activity in the office with comings and goings (and lots of visiting). While in the office, the missionaries always take advantage of the opportunity to make copies, pick up proselyting materials, purchase bags and scripture covers with the mission logo, etc.  As a result, our productivity suffers but we love the missionaries and are happy to serve them. 
Elder Burkinshaw trying to work in spite of all the noise around him.
Missionaries intuitively sense when you pull out the camera and are ready with a smile!

The next few pictures were taken this week as we saw things that reminded us of home and days gone by. We are so grateful for the blessings we have enjoyed growing up and raising our family with the blessings of the Gospel of Jesus Christ. It is for that reason that we are here in Brazil serving, helping to "take the Gospel to all the world". What a great adventure this is. We continue to learn much and see the blessing of the Atonement of Jesus Christ in the lives of those we serve. 

"Oh what do you do in the Summer time"  This is our view of the early morning sky from the exercise room on the top floor of our apartment building while doing sit-ups.

If you look closely you can see a small tug boat on the water between the buildings.  As we watched it go by one morning during breakfast, it reminded us of the Little Golden Book we used to read to the kids "Scuffy the Tugboat". 

During our morning walk, we watch waves crashing on the beach during a particularly windy day, which reminded Sister Burkinshaw of an experience with her sister Kary in San Diego.
It has been quite windy this week and as we walked the praia (beach) Sister Burkinshaw couldn't help but reflect on her starfish story with Aunt Kary. They were on a family trip to California and had stopped by a pier, similar to the one in this picture, to walk. Seeing a starfish stuck to a rock near the sea, Aunt Kary promised that she would watch periodic crashing waves and warn Sister Burkinshaw if she would go out on the rocks, fully clothed, and get the starfish.  After a few minutes a large wave drenched Sister Burkinshaw and when she asked what happened to the warning, Aunt Kary explained she had been watching the process of getting the starfish and when she saw the wave, it was too late. 

We are glad the prophets don't get distracted with the things around them and continually sound the warning call. With the recent change in Church leadership, Elder Burkinshaw has updated his Succession in thePresiden document and added a picture of the new Quorum of the Twelve Apostles so we thought we'd include that also. Since we aren't able to listen to conference talks on our walks anymore, we have adopted the Mike and Jessica Richards Family idea of listening to a conference talk during breakfast.

One final thought.  Often times it is difficult for missionaries to get out everyday to do their work.  It is not easy and and it requires discipline and they don't always feel very well. Elder Vaughn J. Featherstone shared the following story.

A student once walked into the office of Harvard Dean LeBaron Russell Briggs and said he hadn’t done his assignment because he hadn’t felt well. Looking the student piercingly in the eye, Dean Briggs said, “Mr. Smith, I think in time you may perhaps find that most of the work in the world is done by people who aren’t feeling very well” (quoted by Vaughn J. Featherstone, “Self-Denial,” New Era,November 1977, p. 9).

President Thomas S. Monson heroically completing his message on Sunday morning, October 4, 2015 despite physical weariness and weakness after serving over 50 years in full-time service as an apostle.
As we consider the heroic effort of President Thomas S. Monson on Sunday morning, October 4 as he delivered his prophetic message to the world despite physical weakness, having served over 50 years, more than half of his life, in full-time service to the Lord as an apostle and president of the Church, it gives Elder Featherstone's story added emphasis. We may not feel good every day, but as we fulfil our duty, we are blessed beyond our natural ability.

Avante Vitória!

Elder and Sister Burkinshaw

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