Wednesday, February 17, 2016

Weeks of February 1 - February 14, 2016

We still love our early morning walk along the beach. We find that even if the day gets warm, and it is definitely summer here, our 5:30 am walk with no sun and a light breeze makes it quite pleasant and we see some amazing sunrises. This is part of our pathway looking back toward our apartment. It gives a nice view of the lighted walkway reflecting off the water and the sun just beginning to come up. It is a beautiful area.

Looking out on the ocean at dawn during our morning walk along the Praia do Canto.
Our dawn walk taken from the Ilha do Fato looking along thebeach with the Terçeira Ponte (Bridge) in the distance.

We experienced the first "Carnaval" of our mission.  Carnaval literally means "adeus à carne" or "goodbye to meat" as catholic adherents celebrate before the 40 days of lenten fasting.  From our small vantage point in Vitória, the only difference was that it was very quiet the entire week. We were able to walk the short path across the entrance to the Terçeira Ponte bridge to the office as there was very little traffic. Until Thursday, most people were not working so we pretty much had our office building to ourselves except for the guard at the front desk. 

The weekend before transfers is always a busy for us.  The Friday before, we had six of the ten missionaries going home come into the office for their final exit interview with President Young and five of them took the English test and all did quite well.  The Church encourages the non-English speaking missionaries to take advantage of having English-speaking companions and learn to speak English and then provides the resources to take a computer administered exam to judge their speaking proficiency. Sister Melo impressed us with her recitation of all 13 Articles of Faith in English. Here is a short video of the tenth Article of Faith with Sister Young giving an occasional prompt - very impressive.

Elder Burkinshaw spends a very long Sunday afternoon preparing a spreadsheet that organizes ~70 individual transfers between 60+ areas coordinated with bus schedules and keeping the missionaries in pairs or threesomes. The zone leaders still have to work out additional logistics of the transfer and we are finding that they probably need a little training on using the information provided which really means they need to read the instructions before they start doing things.  As the Brethren sometime say about church policy, if you want to keep something secret from the members, put it in the handbook!  In this case it is  if you want to keep a secret from the zone leader, put it in their e-mail!

Elder Burkinshaw on Sunday afternoon putting together the transfer logistics spreadsheet.
On Monday, the departing missionaries have Autosufficiência (Self Reliance) training so we arrange the lunch for the class. We order esfiras (mini-pizzas), guaraná and Sister Burkinshaw makes cookies for their desert.  We have been looking for a roll of paper to cover the typically very worn tables at the Church without success.  But a couple of weeks ago, Sister Burkinshaw saw a large roll of gift-wrap paper so we purchased it to cover the tables which added a nice touch.

The "gift-wrap-paper" covered tables for the self-reliance class lunch for departing missionaries with Elders Machado, Martins and Garcia with Elder Burkinshaw.
Sending the missionaries home is accompanied by lots of emotions like: They have been such a good group so we will miss them; Excitement for their next step in life; And a little wistfulness that they get to go home and see family. We thought it interesting when we first arrived that the missionaries keep track of their time in the mission field by how many transfers they have left. We now understand that reference, so in case you are wondering we have nine transfers left.

Elder Martins, one of the assistants, who is returning home to São Paulo.
Late on Monday afternoon, one of the sister missionaries who was with us in Teófilo Otoni came into the office with her companion to pick up a package and a mission bolso (bag). She is a very sweet, good missionary and we always enjoy her visits. When she left, there was a pretty pink flower post-it note on my computer expressing her love and appreciation. 

Sister Viana, one of our favorite sister missionaries when we were in Teófilo Otoni visited us in the office.

Elder Verçoza (staying), Elder Machado (returning to Rio Grande do Sul), Elder Portillo (staying), President Young, Elder Martins (returning to São Paulo), Elder Garcia (returning to Rio Grande do Sul) and Elder Burkinshaw at Vitória airport.
Our transfer took place on Tuesday, February 9th, which was one of days of Carnaval. The airport and bus station were unusually quiet so that worked out well. We are following the new format of direct transfers (no transfer meeting).  We still have a training meeting for the newly arrived missionaries and Sister Burkinshaw prepared a PowerPoint presentation on understanding the administrative and health issues in the mission. This is a list of just a few of them:
  • Passports and RGs (Registros Gerais - Brazilian identify cards):  These are kept in the mission safe and we give the missionaries cópias autenticadas (notarized copies) to use in their day-to-day activities (i.e. the originals won't go through the washing machine or be lost or stolen).
  • Finances:  We explain how their debit card works, their mesada (semi-monthly living allowance), what expenses can be reimbursed and counsel on keeping a "reserva" (savings) for a rainy day. 
  • Fichas (batismal forms for converts): How to fill them out (i.e. preferably legible), what information is needed to create a membership record and most importantly if you can't read what has been written on the form, Sister Burkinshaw will not be able to either. President Young often comments that in their training, they were reminded everything they would teach new principles at least seven times before they took root. 
  • Instructions on staying healthy and what to do if you have to see a doctor.
  • Reminders on the importance of keeping a clean apartment. We actually receive calls from Landlords who are concerned with how the missionaries are maintaining their living quarters. We would prefer not having to call the missionaries and chasten them, but we are "ambassadors of Jesus Christ". We enjoyed Elder Larry R. Lawrence's General conference talk , "What Lack I Yet?" when he spoke of reading a "....story in a church magazine years ago about a girl who was living away from home and going to college. She was behind in her classes, her social life was not what she had hoped for, and she was generally unhappy. Finally one day she fell to her knees and cred out, "What can I do to improve my life?' The Holy Ghost whispered 'Get up and clean your room.' This prompting came as a complete surprise, but it was just the start she needed. After taking time to organize and put things in order, she felt the Spirit fill her room and lift her heart."  Vivid is our memory fo the picture Elder John Burkinshaw sent us while serving in the Brazil Porto Alegre South Mission. The picture showed his bedroom and one side of the room was in perfect order with bed made, clothes hung up, etc. and the other side looked like a tornado had hit. We need to get a copy of that and use it in our presentation (of course Elder Burkinshaw's side was the clean side).
  • And of course some great cookie recipes. I think we have mentioned before, but Brazilian do not make a lot of cookies. They do however make some awesome "bolo "(cake), but cookies are a novelty and so we try to make them and share when we get the chance.
We enjoy the Maruipe Ward. Bishop Jocimar made a very kind offer on Sunday that he and his wife would like to take us for a drive to see some of the state of Espirito Santo. Since we don't have a car and we haven't really had the opportunity to see a lot of the greater Vitória area, we were happy to accept their invitation and look forward to spending an afternoon with them in the near future. Sacrament meeting was great Sunday and we came away with an Ensign article worth reading from September 2015 by Lori Cluff Schade (Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist) titled "Blessing Our Children by Improving Our Marriages". We remember how easy it is to fall into the routine of raising a family forgetting that time is also needed to nourish our marriage. Sister Schade said, "Many couples devote their attention to causes that are worthwhile but that do little to strengthen their marriages. Some diligently adjust their schedules to attend children's performances but can't seem to find time for a date with a spouse. In the whirlwind of children rearing, career building, and fulfilling Church callings, marriages are easily neglected....As couples become more aware of the powerful influence their marriages have on their children, it becomes clear just how far-reaching the benefits can be when couples actively seek to nourish and strengthen their marriages." It has been a great blessing for us to serve together as missionaries. We spend pretty much 24/7 together. We continue to learn new things about each and grow in our appreciation not only of the talents that we each have, but the blessing it is to share those with each other in an effort to do the work the Lord needs done here in Vitória. Truly we continue to see the fulfillment of Sister Burkinshaw's Patriarchal blessing which says, "Labor together in the kingdom united in so doing, and you will have a joy that nothing can take away nor replace."

Avante Vitória!

Elder and Sister Burkinshaw

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