Saturday, April 30, 2016

Weeks of April 3-30, 2016

General Conference Weekend

We enjoyed Conference weekend from our apartment, in English, which Sister Burkinshaw appreciated. Our conference experience included a delicious American Easter dinner with ham, scalloped potatoes and no-bake cookies for dessert. We put coconut in Elder Burkinshaw´s half and we didn't have to heat the oven, such a good cookie for Brasil. We enjoyed the messages of conference and thought we would share some thoughts we had will viewing the sessions.

Sister Burkinshaw: I was very touched by Elder Neil A. Andersen's talk, "Who Receiveth Them, Receiveth Me" on Saturday afternoon. Since arriving in the Mission office, one of the things I do each week is create new memberships for those who have been baptized and confirmed by our missionaries.  Of the 202 new members baptized in our mission during the first quarter of 2016, 62 of them (30%) were between the ages of 9 and 20, and most were baptized on their own without parental membership. I have felt concern for these new young members of the church and wondered if the missionaries were careful to make sure they prepared these young converts to understand the covenants that they were making.  I was so grateful for Elder Andersen's words and his witness that these young people are choice individuals. Through our associations with the Maruipe and Vitoria wards, we have observed many young converts here in Brasil and marvel at their faithfulness.  My concern was allayed by the counsel of an Apostle which reminded me of my own experiences that the age and circumstances of those who the Lord prepares is not as important as our commitment to help and support them. Elder Andersen´s gentle reminder touched my heart and helped me see clearly the miracles that are happening here in Brasil. 

Elder Andersen shared:
     God loves children. He loves all children. The Savior said, “Suffer [the] little children ... To come unto me: for of such is the kingdom of heaven.” plea today is for the hundreds of thousands of children, youth, and young adults who do not come from....’picture-perfect’ families. I speak not only of the youth who have experienced the death, divorce, or diminishing faith of their parents but also of the tens of thousands of young men and young women from all around the world who embrace the gospel without a mother or father to come into the Church with them.
     These young Latter-day Saints enter the Church with great faith.  They hope to create the family ideal in their own lives at a future day. In time, they become an important part of our missionary force, our righteous young adults, and those who kneel at an altar to begin their own families.
     We will continue to teach the Lord’s pattern for families, but now with millions of members and the diversity we have in the children of the Church, we need to be even more thoughtful and sensitive.
     President Thomas S. Monson has said: “Help God’s children understand what is genuine and important in this life. Help them develop the strength to choose paths that will keep them safely on the way to eternal life.” Let´s open our arms and our hearts a little wider. These youth need our time and our testimonies....
      Let us think about them, welcome them , embrace them, and do everything we can to strengthen their love for the Savior. Jesus said, “Whoso shall receive on such ... Child in my name receiveth me.”

Elder Andersen´s story about Elder Joseph Ssengooba from Uganda was very touching as was the invitation to the children beyond the fence to join the meeting,  "To my surprise, with President Kalonji´s invitation, the children not only came, but came running--more than 50, perhaps 100-some with tattered clothes and bare feet but all with beautiful smiles and excited face. I was deeply moved by this experience and saw it as symbolic of our need to reach out to the youth who feel alone, left behind, or outside the fence. Let us think about them, welcome them, embrace them and do everything we can to strengthen their love for the Savior.  Jesus said, "Whoso shall receive one such ... child in my name receiveth me."

When President Bell set us apart as missionaries, he told us we would develop many life-long friendships and we have certainly had that experience.  So many of our missionaries are the only member in their families and despite these challenges, serve faithfully, having come to understand that just as Heavenly Father loves them, He loves all his children and desires their happiness through gospel covenants.  Here are a few of these choice converts.

Sister Burkinshaw with our dear friend Dayane Gomes, who recently returned from a full-time mission.  Dayne is the only member in her family. After serving a year in the Young Women Presidency (note her wonderful YW in Excellence display) she now serves as the Stake Relief Society Secretary.

Elder Chaves from Fortaleza.  Although a member of the Church for only two years, he has already spent one of those years as a full-time missionary, sacrificing to bless the lives of others.  He has been a district leader for nearly half of his mission.

Elder Moreira from Belém (where a new temple was announced) and Elder T Santos from Sergipe.  Elder T. Santos has spent half of his time as a member in the mission field and has plans to marry in the Recife Temple a few months after he returns home in February.  We enjoy treating many of the missionaries to 12" Subways sandwiches for P-Day lunch.

Elder A. Pereira gives a message for the young men in his home São Paulo stake about the blessing of missionary service.  Though he was disowned by his parents and his only support comes from his home ward, he serves faithfully as an Assistant to the President.

Sister Burkinshaw with Sister Castilho, who recently returned home to São Paulo. 
Sister Castilho lives near the city of Lins, which Elder Burkinshaw opened to the teaching of the Gospel 41 years ago.

The Beauty of Vitória

Vitória is always a very beautiful place.  Every morning except Sunday we walk 5-6 km and Elder Burkinshaw is fond of saying, as we begin our walk, "Just another day in paradise!".

Sunrise (about 5:30am) with the Ilha do Boi on the left and 3 groups of rowers in the distance.  We never tire of the beautiful clouds and colors on the horizon each morning.

Even on an inclement day, Vitória has awe-inpiring shades of gray.  When we can't walk because of rain, we workout in the 20th floor exercise room, where we took this picture. 
Beautiful rain-clouds loom over the city.  Note the colorful homes that have been built all the way up the steep granite hill/mountain in the center of the photo.

Here is one of the many lizards that live here in Vitória.  We often see the little critters running up and down the walls in the homes that we visit.
Some kind person drops bird seed on the sidewalks, seemingly every morning, along the beach which attracts pretty little yellow birds.
Since only the chapel is air conditioned in our meetinghouse, the classrooms have very efficient ceiling fans and open windows and sometimes open doors to keep things cool.  Last week, we lost a small bird who flew in and was hit by the fan during Sunday School--we decided not to post the picture of the poor little dead bird.
Our dear friends, the Cordeiro family, at McDonalds following Zootopia on a Saturday for our home teaching visit.  (L-R) Gustavo (11), Guilherme (13), Elder and Sister Burkinshaw, Eric (a returned missionary with a scholarship in mechanical engineering), Kristhiane and Edoriedson.  Not pictured is their son Henrique who is serving a mission in Argentina.

Easter almoço (lunch) with the Souza family.  (Clockwise from left) Bispo (Bishop) Jocimar (mission in São Paulo), Lais (mission on Temple Square), Sister Albrecht (from Cleveland, OH) Sister and Elder Burkinshaw, Souza family friends from São Paulo and their two children, Felipe (mission in Brazil), their cousin, Sister Franco (from São Paulo), Nilsa (mission in Brazil) and Lucas (recently returned from a mission).

Each of our foreign missionaries has to obtain a CPF (Cadastro de Pessoa Física) and so when we bring them into downtown Vitória to do that, we treat them to a special lunch at McDonalds.  (L-R) Elder Arraya (Chile), Sister Guillen (Peru), Sister Jube (Provo), Sister Albrecht (Cleveland, OH), Sister Woodard (Boise, ID) and Elder Griffin (Pleasant Grove).

Each year around April 6, the City of Vitória holds a solemn council session to recognize the contributions of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints to the city.  Church Leaders were invited to speak and presentations were made about families and service.

The Costa Family from Teófilo Otoni

Last week (April 21, 2016) our dear friends from Teófilo Otoni, Presidente Marcio Costa (branch president of the Ipiranga Branch where we served at the beginning of our mission) and his wife Andreya and their 16 year-old son João Pedro came to Vitória to pick up their son Elder Monteiro (Lucas) who was returning from a full-time mission in Salvador, Brasil. We were able to spend some time with them during their two day visit.

The Costa Family following  Lucas' release interview with President Young. (L-R) Andreya, Lucas, President Young, President Costa (Marcio) and João Pedro.

Lunch at Outback following Lucas' release interview.  (L-R) João Pedro, Elder and Sister Burkinshaw, Presidente Marcio, Andreya and Lucas.

The Costa family following our celebration lunch at Outback.  (L-R) Lucas, Andrey, Presidente Marcio and João Pedro.
Following our late lunch, the Costa's rested up at the Sheraton Vitória and then came to our apartment for a special FHE.  Lucas shared a very special lesson about our Heavenly Father's love for his children and some of his missionary experiences.  

Family Home Evening with the Costa Family.  (L-R) João Pedro, Presidente Marcio, Elder Burkinshaw, Lucas, Sister Burkinshaw and Andreya.

After a rousing game of slammers and creepers, we played the balance game which was entertaining for all.  This was one of the more docile rounds ;-)! 

Sister Burkinshaw introduced the Costa's to tacos for lunch on Friday, which they loved. Elder Burkinshaw received a bottle of Dave's Scorpion Pepper Hot Sauce from President Young and shared some with Presidente Marcio, who also enjoyed it!

Breakfast on Saturday morning at the Vitória Sheraton before the Costa´s returned home to Teófilo Otoni.  (L-R) Presidente Marcio, João Pedro, Andreya, Lucas and Sister Burkinshaw.
We were grateful to spend time with our "Amigos Eternos" the Costa Family and we are sure this will not be the last time we see them before our mission ends.  Their family is an anchor for the Church in Teófilo Otoni and they are and haved blessed many lives there. They are also a huge support to our missionaries, all who have enjoyed dinner at their home many times while serving there.

Our most recent transfer took place on Tuesday, April 26th of this week. Ten missionaries returned home and eleven arrived which allowed one new area to be opened.  After their training meeting, the new missionaries and their companions are settled into their new areas. Elder Burkinshaw generally receives multiple missionary phone calls as they arrive in their new apartments and find appliances or furniture missing that they had in their previous areas. Some missionaries just make do with what is there, but others, knowing what is available, request items missing or not working. He received one call from some Elders, who suggested that since the weather has gotten a little cooler (low 70's at night), they needed to replace their chuveiro (shower water heater)--we totally understood that request.

New missionaries arrive about 7:30am in the morning, which means they get up about 2:30am to pack and leave the CTM (MTC) in São Paulo. They are excited, but it makes for a very long day.  Following a morning of training and a lunch with their new companions (trainers), they depart for their newly assigned areas, sometimes arriving many hours later.

We end this blog as we began, with impressions from the recent General Conference.

Elder Burkinshaw:  Building on what Sister Burkinshaw related, I found Elder Bednar's discourse citing King Benjamin's admonition " always retain a remission of our sins" very relevant to our service as missionaries.

Elder Bednar taught:
     Sometimes Latter-day Saints express the wish that they could be baptized again—and thereby become as clean and worthy as the day on which they received their first saving gospel ordinance. ...Heavenly Father and His Beloved Son do not intend for us to experience such a feeling of spiritual renewal, refreshment, and restoration just once in our lives. ...
     The ordinances of baptism by immersion, the laying on of hands for the gift of the Holy Ghostand the sacrament are not isolated and discrete events; rather, they are elements in an interrelated and additive pattern of redemptive progress

Thus, our responsibility is to teach those who come into the Church that the great peace that comes from obtaining a remission of our sins through baptism is not a one-time experience, but an element in a life-long pattern of continual improvement.  Conscientiously preparing for what is sometimes viewed as a very common experience - the ordinance of the sacrament - is the key to renewing our optimism, filling us with hope and a feeling of forgiveness which gives us courage to go on when we might otherwise feel discouraged.

We are grateful to be a part of the missionary work of the Church. We have been very blessed to have this opportunity in Brazil. Most especially we are blessed to know the members, new and seasoned.

Avante Vitória!

Elder and Sister Burkinshaw

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