Monday, May 25, 2015

Week of May 18-25, 2015
   I'm having a hard time falling asleep this evening so I figured I'd use my time and write our weekly post so tomorrow, Monday, it will give us a little extra time to do some other things. The list just seems to get longer as time goes on.  Elder Burkinshaw commented this morning after a leadership meeting that a meeting usually means more to do which we are grateful for and happy to help where we can.
   In ending our post last week I didn't mention my first experience going to the Teofilo Otoni Branch Relief Society.  The Relief Society in this branch was smaller and I hadn't had an opportunity to meet the Relief Society president before and I'm pretty sure she didn't know my Portuguese language level.  She asked if I would offer the opening prayer which I did and I must have done okay because during the lesson she asked if I would read a paragraph which again I did.  I must have done okay with that because she then asked if I would comment on what I had read (which is pretty typical here-they have obviously picked up on a seminary teaching skill), it was at this point I had to try and explain that I wasn't even sure what I had just read. One of the other sisters graciously picked up on the discussion for me. The good part of this story is the language is sounding more familiar and I'm understanding more all the time--talking, not much yet!
   We had a typical preparation day, which basically means it goes way to fast and we don't get as much done as we hope to.  We also had to catch a bus to Nanuque at 3:00 in the afternoon so that made the day extra short.  We have been assigned to do apartment inspections in the district so that means a trip to Nanuque and a small city 20 minutes outside Nanuque to check apartments for eight Elders we have serving in that part of the district along with the missionary apartment here in Teofilo Otoni.  Elder Burkinshaw had a meeting with the district presidency early tuesday morning, 7:00am, so we scheduled the apartment checks to coincide with that this month.  The blessing with that scheduling was that the first counselor in the district presidency offered to drive us around to the missionaries apartments.  Obviously we still have a lot to learn, although the Lord seems to know that, because we would not have been able to do what we needed to without the help.  It was nice because we  were able to take President Nasimento, his wife and son out to lunch and get to know them a little better.  We finished our inspections around 4:00pm on Tuesday and took the three hour bus ride back to Teófilo Ontoni. 
View from our hotel in Nanuque of the river and city.

One of the volcanic mountains between Teófilo Otoni and Nanuque. 

The sink and fan are the type of safety concerns that we are trying to identify and repair.

   Wednesday we did the apartment inspections in Teofilo Otoni.  We arrived at the Elders apartment to find their electricity had been shut off.  After a few phone calls and e-mails the Elders had their electricity back before the day was over thanks to Elder Carvalo in the Mission office in Vitoria.  We spent time at the church on MLS preparing branch lists for upcoming meetings with the branch leadership and missionaries.  After which Elder Burkinshaw stayed to attend a branch correlation meeting and I took a taxi home to make some cookies for District meeting Thursday morning.  I have been gathering the ingredients for the past two weeks so I was excited to give it a try and they turned out pretty good. Learning to use the propane oven was a little complicated, but by the last couple of pans I was doing great.  They make lots of great bread (pão) and cake (bolo) here, but you don't see a lot of cookies so I figure I'll introduce a couple of good recipes to the members, plus who can turn down a missionary when they are delivery cookies?
   On Thursday we set out to make visits to four sisters in one of the branches. After three hours and 10+miles we finally gave up and went back to meet the sister missionaries for a 6:00pm visit.  It was not an easy afternoon, not because the walking was hard, because it was actually a beautiful afternoon, but because we had no idea where we were.  Standing on the sidewalk with phone in hand and holding a large paper map, can you say foreigner. The streets are not marked here and although we are using the GPS it is still extremely difficult to figure out where people are.  As we sat in the park waiting for the sister's I have to admit we had a little discussion about how to do this part of our call better or at least more efficiently.  The problem with a senior couple is you have put two missionaries together who are both new to the area, that's a problem.  It was nice to finish our visits with the sisters who did know where they were going and our visit was to a very sweet single mom with two boys.  Although the 16 year old didn't admit to knowing English he obviously was pretty proficient as I threw out some random questions which he had no problem responding back to.  This visit was definitely a  "tender mercy" from the Lord as it softened the frustration of the afternoon and was a reminder of how great this work is. We still had a meeting at the church and English class before the day was over; some days are really long.
   Friday we arranged for one of the young men to make some visits with us.  We continue to learn principles from PMG of "Using Time Wisely" so we had a backup plan. Our back up plan was to meet our helper at the church and if that worked we were good to go if not we were where we needed to be for our backup plan which involved correcting membership records for Elder Burkinshaw and making a fix up and shopping list for the missionary apartments.  It was interesting I had just read Elder Vaclaw's (Austin) weekly e-mail where he and his companion were using the same principle of having a backup plan. We took an hour break around 5:30pm to walk to a near by supermarket to pick up light bulbs and cleaning supplies for the missionary apartments returning as the youth were finishing seminary and starting a game of slaughter ball.  Elder Burkinshaw played slaughter ball and I helped the sisters prepare hot dogs for after the game. By the way these were loaded hot dogs: bun, hot dogs cut up and cooked in ketchup and cream, potato straws, mayonnaise and more ketchup.  I actually didn't try one mostly because I'm pretty sure the 10 miles wouldn't even help with the problems that would cause (arr, arr), but they looked good.  
   This has turned out to be a day by day rendition, sorry about that, but I'm on a role so I'll just keep it going.  Saturday was another use the back up plan as a schedule as a visit with a member didn't work out so we set out on our own.  This time we took a taxi to the top of the hill, the branch presidents home being our first stop to drop off cookies, and worked our way down from there.  It worked great!!  We had some great visits and it was a beautiful afternoon and evening.  
   Church was great.  Elder Burkinshaw is teaching a Missionary Preparation class.  I am working on understanding the lesson.  I have to say we have some amazing women teachers here in these branches. They have a great spirit about them, know their scriptures and are very impressive!  Our Relief Society lesson was Elder Christofferson's October 2014 GC talk "Free Forever, to Act for Themselves".  He taught: "It is God's will that we be free men and women enabled to rise to our full potential both temporally and spiritually....God intends that His children should act according to the moral agency He has given them....He neither compels nor abandons us...Rather He helps and guides us. As a consequence of being perfectly just...He cannot be arbitrary in savings some and banishing others....hence it is the requirement of and the opportunity for repentance that permits mercy to perform it's labor without trampling justice...Repentance respects and sustains our moral agency....A God who makes no demands is the functional equivalent of a God who does not exist."  Powerful teachings taught well here in Teofilo Otoni.
   We enjoyed a great Sunday afternoon visit with a little family on the far end of town and on top of a very steep hill.  This time the member meeting us there suggested we take a taxi so we did, wise counsel!  We did however walk home as the worst hill was downhill this time, it was a 45 minute walk.  One of the challenges of this branch is many of the members live a long walk from the church.  I couldn't help but be impressed with the faithfulness of this family of five (children 9, 6 and 2) as their walk on Sunday is at least 45 mins. By the way I'll be able to remember their sons name because it's Dallas, they have never heard of Dallas, Texas though.  The picture below is this faithful family and the view they have from their home, it was beautiful. 
A faithful little family (above) who have a beautiful view of the city from their home (below)!
   Sunday evening we enjoyed having a FHE with three young couples, and parents of one of the couples who are visiting from Campinas.  They actually work in the temple there and he shared his testimony of the blessings of the temple.  I actually understood most of what he said, maybe temple lingo or something. It was a very enjoyable evening and we continue to feel like we are getting to know more and more of the members.  We are also tasting some wonderful desserts.
   As I'm writing I realize once again how inspired President Eyring was when he counseled us, in his "O Remember, Remember" GC talk October 2007, to take a few minutes at the end of each day and answer the question,  "Have I seen the hand of God reaching out to touch us or our children or our family today?"  Writing the blog is providing this experience for us.  Writing in the journal lets me just talk about the day, but writing the blog gives me a few days perspective and some times that is very helpful.
   Although our request for a mission car has not been approved, we are now exploring the option of purchasing our own car.  It's winter here so the weather is quite nice now, but we keep hearing about the 110°F summer temperatures - yikes!

Avante para a Vitória
Elder and Sister Burkinshaw


Monday, May 18, 2015

Week of May 11-17, 2015
We had a good planning day on Monday.  Jeff and I both read Chapter 8 of Preach My Gospel, How Do I Use Time Wisely.  During our training at the MTC we learned that this was the first chapter written for PMG and the primary purpose for which they wrote PMG. One of the scriptural references seemed particularly applicable to our situation, it is in Jacob 5:11-13, 61-64, 74-75.  Although I won’t include all of the verses I’d like to include the phrases that particularly caught our attention and are applicable to our situation here in Teófilo Ontoni.  In verses 12 The Lord of the vineyard said, “watch the tree, and nourish it, according to my words.”  And in verse 13 “…it grieveth me that I should lose this tree and the fruit thereof.”  In verse 61 is says, “…call servants, that we may labor diligently with our might in the vineyard, that we may prepare the way,….vs. 62 “…let us go to and labor with our might…”.  And in vs. 74 “And thus they labored, with all diligence…” and vs. 75 “….And blessed art thou; for because ye have been diligent in laboring with me in my vineyard, and have kept my commandments, and have brought unto me again the natural fruit, that my vineyard is no more corrupted, and the bad is cast away, behold ye shall have joy with me because of the fruit of my vineyard.”  We continue to see and feel the Lord’s love for these people and continually see many “Tender Mercies” in the work here, these are such good people. There is work to do in Teofilo Ontoni and there are some amazing people to work with.  We are excited to work with them and to see the tree in this part of the vineyard be nourished that the saints may have a Stake of Zion in which to draw strength from. 
 Jeff and I came up with a good daily schedule that will work for us, adapted the key indicators to align with what President Young wants us to do as Senior missionaries in this area and wrote some goal setting options for our weekly planning meeting.  So hopefully we have captured the training in Chapter 8 of PMG and by doing so will be effective with our time.
Tuesday we prepared for our trip to Vitoria and spent time studying.  We boarded the bus at 8:20pm in Teofilo Otoni and arrived at the bus station in Vitoria at 7:20am the next morning.  The bus ride wasn't as bad as the last time mostly because we knew what to expect.  We didn’t really get much sleep. Needless to say we were happy to arrive at the hotel in Vitoria around 8:00am, get some breakfast and stretch out for an hour or so before starting on the things we needed to get done.
We went to both Wal-mart and Sams Club Wednesday to pick up things we have not yet been able to find for the house in Teófilo Otoni.  Some of our best finds were: a spray mop with washable pads, Hersheys chocolate syrup, peanut butter (it’s Peter Pan brand so we will see how it tastes), a crock pot, a duvet cover for our bed and a can opener.  We are excited to put a few of these things to good use like the mop, crock pot and duvet cover.  We looked all over both Wal-mart and Sams for chocolate chips to make cookies for district meeting next week, but no luck.  We did find a large Hershey's candy bar which we will chop up in pieces, it will be interesting to see how the cookies turn out because the ingredients are all just a little different and we will be cooking them in a propane oven.
I've got my Hershey's syrup, I'll be fine!!
We stayed in a hotel right on the beach here in Vitória which has been great for me especially.  I love the beach and they have a long lighted walkway, it probably stretches 10 miles.  There are a ton of people out walking, skating, and riding bikes.  The breeze coming off the water is nice.  There is a lot of traffic noise so there are only a few spots where you can hear the waves, but it’s still nice.  
Beach front in Vitória.
We spent Friday with the office Elders, Elder Olsen and Elder Carvalho taking care of administrative things that needed to be done in Vitória.  We picked up several items from the mission office that we needed: missionary English manuals, Portuguese bible, My Family Tree booklets etc.  We were hoping to get our Brasil Vitoria mission backpacks, but the order they had placed was delayed so hopefully we will get one of those at or before the next transfers in June.  We were able to get registered, receive our Brazilian identity cards and  get a permanent cellphone plan rather than the pre-pay plan we have been using (which has been very expensive and inconvenient).  We also got a CPF (Cadastro Pessoal Física) number which is the equivalent of a social security number required to make purchases (anything over a certain amount) in Brazil and to purchase things online and have them sent.  As Jeff was applying for the CPF number we found out that  still has one from when he served his mission here the first time in 1974 and it is still good she was still in the system (41 year ago that's a pretty impressive system) so we just had the lady helping us give us a copy of it and we were good to go.  In trying to figure out why he had a CPF number as a young missionary the only thing that we could come up with was that he had served as the branch president for six months in Lins.
We were able to get to know the office elders better and take them out for lunch which they seemed to enjoy.  They did tell us that being in the office they had watch what they ate and we're starting to do that more earnestly this week, although after seeing the available food choices they said they weren't going to worry about it until tomorrow.  I was impressed because they both still made good healthy choices.  They were great and a huge help.
Elder Carvalo and Elder Olsen
Teófilo Otoni is starting to feel more like home and we definitely love the people here.  As I was visiting with Elder Olsen, who served in Teofilo at one time, I asked him what he thought we could do to make a difference here.  He commented that just be excited about the work and being excited about church.  Having loved President Eyring’s October 2013 conference talk “To My Grandchildren” we will use that message to share with the members. Pres. Eyring said: "I urge those I love to accept and to magnify every calling offered them in the Church. That choice is one of the great keys to family happiness.
The pressures at every stage of life can tempt us to reject or neglect calls to serve the Savior. That can put us in spiritual peril for ourselves, our spouse, and our families. Some of those calls may seem unimportant, but my life, and my family, was changed for the better by my accepting a call to teach a deacons quorum. I felt the love of those deacons for the Savior and His love for them."  Great talk to review for all of us serving in the church.  Also a great story of our serving and putting covenants first in our lives is taught in a new video just released by the Church History department about the temple caravan from Manaus to São Paulo in 1992.  The link to the English version is here:  Jeff had put it on the Ipad for the sisters to watch this morning while they were using our computer to write home.  I didn't know that, but came into the kitchen to find them with tears flowing and had to look to see what was causing them.  It really is an amazing story.
At the Vitória Rodoviária (bus station) ready for the all night 11-hour ride back to Teófilo Otoni.
We arrived back in Teófilo Otoni Saturday morning at about 8:00am, unpacked, took a nap and then prepared for the day.  The Ipiranga Branch held a special activity where members shared original poems and prose.  It was actually quite impressive with many youth as well as adults participating.
Youth and Missionaries at Branch Activity
Sister Eva getting her award, a hug from one of the branch presidency, and a kiss 
from daughter-in-law, Sister Costa (the branch president's wife).
The grand prize winner was Irmã Eva, the mother of Presidente Marcio.  She gave a wonderful poem about how the Savior's love is at the center of all love, reminiscent of 1 John 4:19 "We love him, because he first loved us."  She's not only an excellent poet but she also is an excellent cook.  She made an outstanding cake which she shared with us last week and on Sunday she made a potato salad (maionese) that was exceptional and of course sent some extra home with us.  Interesting note: the chapel turns into the cultural hall by drawing a curtain which puts the podium and sacrament table out of view and the pews as you can see from the picture can be moved around as needed. 
We went to the Teofilo Ontoni branch on Sunday.  Jeff had the opportunity to speak and I got to play the organ so that was fun at least for me and I'm happy to play the organ because it will be a little while before I'm ready to speak in church, at least in Portuguese. 
Avante para a Vitória! (D&C 128:22)
Elder and Sister Burkinshaw

Tuesday, May 12, 2015

Week of May 4-11, 2015
We continue to get a better feel for the Teófilo Ontoni and what is here.  Getting to the members homes still is quite challenging as the roads are not well marked and often the houses do not have house numbers etc.  But we are starting to get things figured out and we don't get lost too often. :-)   
Our home is looking more complete after a productive P-Day.  We purchased a ream of paper and have printed out a branch directory for each branch by families.  This is important because of the surname protocol practiced in Brazil.  Each person here generally has two surnames, generally one from their mother and one from their father but not necessarily in that order.  And since they can pick either of their surnames to give to their child, it becomes complicated to identify families.  Thus the directory by families is helping a lot.  
Presidente Juliano from the Teofilo Ontoni Branch picked us up Tuesday evening and took us first to the church to get Jeff set up on their branch computer and then to his home to meet his wife, who is from Teófilo Otoni, and their two little boys, Cauã age six and Caio age two.  Presidente Juliano has lived in Teófilo Otoni for less than two years and is a returned missionary running two successful businesses which take a lot of his time. He was called as branch president soon after arriving so he is still fairly new to the members.  The Teófilo Otoni branch is located a bit further from the meetinghouse and transportation is often a challenge for the members.  Still the branch has grown under his leadership and he expressed gratitude to have our help and will prepare a Rescue list for us.  We will be alternating attendance at each of the branches since the Ipiranga Branch begins at 8:30am with Priesthood/Relief Society and the Teófilo Otoni branch begins with Sacrament meeting at 9:00am. 
We had a wonderful lunch with Irmã Joana, the Relief Society president in the Ipranga Branch.  Sister Joana had been a nun before she joined the Church.  She is a very small women and her spine is malformed which creates some physical limitations, but she is as faithful as can be as she serves in Relief Society.  She, along with her sister and niece, prepared a wonderful lunch for us and the Sister Missionaries.  It was delicious and we so appreciate her sacrifice and generosity.  We discussed our assignment to visit and rescue less active members and she was very supportive.  In fact, on Sunday, she gave us a list of the members she thought would be receptive.  Sunday afternoon we went to find one of those sisters.  It was a very enlightening experience.  We used the GPS for directions and it led us up a steep path and a long concrete stairway with homes built into a very high hill.  You would walk up 40-50 cement stairs to get to each level of homes and rather than a street separating the humble homes, it was a fairly narrow cement sidewalk.  It was like walking on house tops to get to the next level of homes.  After three levels of homes we finally reached a single lane road, where the home we were looking for was located.  Needless to say we took the roadway rather than the steps for the return trip.  The Branch President told Jeff it really wasn’t safe to go there alone and requested we call him to go with us next time.  We still have some things to learn about the city. 
On Thursday evening we rode the bus to Nanuque with the other missionaries for a Zone Conference.  We arrived around midnight and Jeff and I checked into the Panorama hotel while the other missionaries stayed with other missionaries.  The hotel was very nice and the bus ride is only 3 hours so the trip was quite nice.  Nanuque is a smaller city and less hilly than Teófilo Otoni.  The theme of the meeting was about the power of fasting and prayer in conversion and the Assistants along with Sister and President Young were very well prepared and inspiring.  I am reminded that the Lord wants and people need to have their own personal witness and fasting and prayer is required to receive it.  "The District" video was very effective in showing real life examples of how to teach and help people to pray for themselves. 
The training was from 9:00am to 1:00pm in the Nanuque Carangola meetinghouse, a very nice two story building.  There are eight elders in Nanuque including the Zone leaders.  One of the Zone leaders is Elder Bean from Oklahoma City.  His father was the Oklahoma City South Stake President during the time of the Moore tornado, which was a part of that stake. Thus, Jeff knew him well from the Coordinating Council and Tornado Relief efforts.  We took a picture with Elder Bean and e-mailed it to his father, who almost immediately replied telling us how much he appreciated the picture and sharing that he had just been released that past Sunday after 10½ years as stake president.  
Elder Bean from Oklahoma City

Jeff and I returned Friday evening on the bus.  We spent most of Saturday at the church working to get the videoconference equipment working for Sunday's District Conference broadcast.  After hours of work, we had everything ready for a test and then we lost power in the meetinghouse and the surrounding neighborhood. 
Jeff returned at 7:00am Sunday morning to complete the test run, which was successful.  We used our laptop with a projector and our portable Bose bluetooth sound box for the audio and we were very blessed that it proceeded without any major problem.  At the conference, the Nanuque and Teófilo Otoni Districts were combined so it was important that the members here were able to see and hear the proceedings.  The members here feel that the combined District will help to strengthen the area and prepare it to become a Stake.  The District president and his counselors provided an articulate vision for the future.  Jeff was called as the District clerk so we will be traveling to Nanuque periodically for presidency meetings and to do inspections of the missionary apartments.  
Sunday evening we visited President Dener, who had been released as the District President here in Teófilo Otoni.  We shared our appreciation for his years of service to build the Church in this area.  We also had a nice visit with him and his sweet wife.  Though his wife and three children are less active, she is a very kind and thoughtful person.  We hope to continue to build a lasting friendship with them after our very nice visit. She is especially  articulate and I could understand most of the conversation which was nice. 
 We ended Mother’s Day with some calls to our children and granchildren.  They all seem to be doing well and are happy.  Jessica and Kathleen’s kids sang mother’s day songs for us and the Richards grandchildren had prepared a skit of The Three Bears for us.  They added a nice ending in which Goldlilocks returns we a fresh bowl of porridge and a new chair and has dinner for the bear family - such wisdom!!  We love them dearly and know our service will bless their lives.  I’m grateful to be a mother and grandmother.  It is a work I have loved and continue to love!!
Avante para a Vitória! (D&C 128:22)
Elder and Sister Burkinshaw
Week of April 27-May 3, 2015
This has been our first complete week in the mission field and we’re getting into an established routine.  In discussions with our mission president, President Young, he has asked us to do the following:
1.  Work with the less-active members of the two branches here in Teófilo Otoni to remind them of why they joined the Church and help them come back (or as President Monson has called it “The Recue”). There are about 800 members but their combined Sacrament Meeting attendance is only around 140.  Thus we have lots of opportunities!
2.  Support the local leaders of the Church by providing training and by assisting them in their duties. 
a.     Jeff has been called as the District Clerk so he has access to the MLS membership records (which makes them available on the LDS Tools App on our phones).  We have begun the process of updating out-of-date or incorrect information and also adding photos of the members to this system.  Hopefully the photodirectories will help leaders, members and missionaries get to know one another more quickly.
b.    The branch presidencies have requested training in their duties, so we will translate the training materials Jeff prepared for new Bishoprics in the Tulsa Stake as a way to train the branch presidencies here.
3.  Obtain referrals for the young missionaries as we work with the new and returning members, who often have family members who are interested in the Gospel after seeing it’s influence on their loved-ones who are members.
We moved out of the hotel we were living in last Monday and began living in the rental home.  The home is very nice by Brazilian standards but as you might imagine, it’s also a little different than the US. 
1.  We have a locked gate to get in and out of the front of the home and then another locked door to get into the house proper.  There is no running hot water so we use a “chuveiro” (literally a “rainer”) which is an electrical box at the end of a pipe to heat water for our shower in the mornings.  It isn’t work really well right now so tomorrow we will see if we can fix it.
2.  The toilet is another interesting difference.  You don’t throw toilet paper in the toilet.  However, next to the toilet, we have a little hose with a squirt head like we have at the sink in the US, which is a mini bidet to clean yourself after using the bathroom (sorry if that’s TMI) which minimizes toilet paper, which is discarded in a little trash can (with lid) adjacent to the toilet.
3.  Tap water is not safe to drink so we use bottled water for drinking, cooking, brushing teeth, etc. 
4.  We have one small air-conditioning unit in our bedroom and we turn it on at night to sleep.
5.   We use LPG for cooking similar to the bottle of propane that is often used for barbeques in the US.
6.  We have 127 volt power but the plugs are different.  Some of the plugs are similar to European plugs with two round prongs.  The unique Brazilian plugs have the two round prongs with a middle round prong for a ground.  We’ve purchased a variety of plug converts to assist with this.  We bought Mom a new Brazilian blow dryer because we kept having problems with the converts for her US blow dryer but her curling iron seems to be working fine.
7.  Grocery shopping is quite different so we are starting to learn what foods we can find here and how to use them.  Bananas and mixiricas (a tangerine/orange fruit that is easily peeled) are quite common and very good.  Other fruits such as apples are good but definitely different.  Hamburger is always fresh ground while you wait.  And they have wonderful breads and sweet rolls at the bakery shops (padarias) and there’s guaraná, Jeff's favorite soft drink!  Eggs are not refrigerated and neither is milk so we haven’t yet tried the milk but the eggs were good.
8.  Restaurants are not as common as in the states so we’ve found one “Sabor da Terra” (Taste of the Earth) that has become our favorite.  It’s a buffet where they charge you by the weight of your plate so don’t be surprised if we start going to Golden Corral or Chuck-A-Rama when we get home (ar arr arrr).
9.  The downtown area (Centro) has a large park-like square (Praça) where they have newspaper and magazine stands and bus and taxi stops.  It took us a week of living downtown in the hotel to finally discover when we moved into the house that there are taxi’s parked in the Praça all the time.  All the commercial businesses surround the square.  We saw a monkey climbing one of the trees yesterday there so it’s quite unique.
We’ve started visiting the members, per our assignment, and we met with about 20 families this past week.  The Brazilian people are some of the kindest, warmest and most sincere people you would ever hope to meet.  They are very humble and teachable and in every case, we felt a great spirit as we shared a message of encouragement and love with them.  And almost all of them were at Church on Sunday, so we hope that’s a good sign.  It is inspiring to see people of such humble circumstances who have learned that there is much more to life than pursuing material “things”.  They serve faithfully and are generally very family oriented.  That makes the message of the Gospel all the more interesting to them. 
As Stacey said in a previous letter, Teofilo Otoni is quite hilly.  This past week, we’ve averaged about 7.5 miles of walking with about 50 flights of stairs each day per the Fitbit.  Since whatever doesn’t kill you makes you stronger, we should be in excellent physical condition by the end of our mission!
We’ve put a few pictures on the end.

Panoramic view from our bedroom window

The mission had transfers this week.  The Sister missionaries are the same.  We lost a set of Elders as the mission numbers dropped a little.  One of the Elders here in Teofilo completed his mission and went home. Two of the missionaries were transferred to other areas so we have three new elders.  All of the missionaries are Brazilian except Elder McKay 3rd from the right who is from Logan, Utah.  Elder Moreira the short elder, 2nd from the right, is the new district leader.  He is an impressive missionary.  We had lunch at the Ipranga Branch president’s house on Thursday after District meeting.  The branch president was teasing Elder Moreira about having a thought prepared.  Elder Moreira handed him the New Testament seminary bookmark and told the branch president to choose a scripture for him.  President Costa did and Elder Moreira quoted it perfectly, so President Costa picked another one and he quoted that one.  As a former seminary teacher it was fun to see a missionary prepared to use the scripture mastery scriptures.  These are great missionaries and we are humbled to work with them on a daily basis.  They are eager to work and fun to be around.

This picture is for the grandkids.  Grandpa was waiting for the Elder’s at the Praça (town square) on Saturday to make some visits (I was stuck at home waiting for the bebedouro, water cooler/filter, to be delivered) when he saw a monkey swinging across the electric wire.  It’s our first sighting of a somewhat unusual animal here.  He was pretty scraggly looking, but thought you would enjoy it.
Avante para a Vitória
Elder and Sister Burkinshaw

Week of April 19-26, 2015

On Monday, President and Sister Young took us out to a Shopping Mall in Vitória to find appliances for our rental home in Teófilo Otoni, which actually went quite smoothly. President Young commented multiple times that we must have been living right because his experience buying appliances had always been difficult.  The salesperson was always quick to offer significant discounts and it looked like President Young, who is a self-labeled “wheeler-dealer”, was disappointed that he didn’t have an opportunity to dicker more on price.  We had lunch at the Subway in the mall, which has become our “go to” place here in Brasil since they are even more ubiquitous than McDonald’s.  We spent some time at the mission office that afternoon and Tuesday morning we made a map of key reference points in Teófilo Otoni so we could find our way around.
We have not gotten permission from the Area Presidency and the missionary department yet for a car.  The Brasil Area Presidency has approved it, but it also requires Missionary Department approval and President Young said that outside the US, senior missionaries don’t have cars.  Unfortunately, that meant that we had to ride the bus to Teófilo Otoni.  I have been telling everyone that it was about three hours from Vitória –WRONG!!   By bus, which only travels during the night, it was almost an 11 hour ride.  We left at 9:00pm on Tuesday night and arrived in Teófilo Otoni at about 8:00am.   Jeff’s fitbit indicated he had not slept all night if that tells you anything.  Since we had 4 large and 2 small suitcases, we had to take two taxis to our rental home.
The Sister Missionaries live in an apartment connected to the home we will be renting.  According to President Young, it is the nicest apartment in the mission.  The home sits at the top of a large hill.  All the floors are white tile and the countertops are all granite since Brazil is a major source for granite.  When we told the Sister Missionaries (both Brazilians) that granite countertops were “high end” in the US, they just laughed as it is standard here. 
Just after we arrived, President Marcio Costa, our branch president, and his 14-year-old son, João, appeared at our doorstep.  We visited with them for a little bit and it was decided that President and Sister Costa would take us around to look for the furniture and other things we need for the house.  We took a little time to wash our faces, brush our teeth, unpacked a few things from the suitcases and the sisters helped us prepare a list (in Portuguese) of the things we would need. The Costa arrived an hour later and we spent the next five hours, with a short lunch break (we bought since they took their whole day to help us), going from store to store to find couches, bed, nightstand, fans, water filter/cooler, bedding and kitchen things.  Two members showed up at the last store on a motorcycle.  I figured they were just in town and we had run into them, but Pres. Costa must have called them as we handed over our two fans to them and they met us at the house.  The Costa car is small and putting the fans in were not an option, which I obviously hadn’t even thought about.  I continue to get teary everytime I think about the service that they provided yesterday and how long it would have taken us to accomplish it on our own.  Jeff is doing great with the language, but knowing where to find things would have been difficult and time consuming.  The Costa's are angel’s.
  Presidente Costa, Sister Costa and son João
After checking into our hotel room on Wednesday evening, we got a good nights sleep and a hot shower Thursday morning.  We spent Thursday also with the Costas finishing the furniture arrangements and waiting for deliveries at the house. 
A TM “tender mercy” story today.  While sister Costas and I were at the house waiting for the deliveries we decided to finish trying to get the floor fan going so we would have some circulating air.  Jeff had tried multiple times, but there was a very tight screw that he could not get loose so he had to just leave it.  Three of the young men from the branch came up to help when the delivery truck came and they decided to give it a try.  After playing around with it for 20 minutes, they decided they weren’t going to be able to get it off either.  Sister Costas (ever the faithful seminary teacher) suggested they should pray, so with a shrug of their shoulders, they did.  One of them offered a simple, but beautiful prayer for the Lord’s help.  After trying a couple of new approaches, they were able to get the screw loose and had the fan up and running within five minutes of offering that prayer.  We all sat down on the floor, since the couches had not been delivered yet, and enjoyed the fan.  I did show them how to hook their phones up to the Bluetooth on our Bose speaker box, which they loved, and we listened to several popular Brazilian songs.  Sister Costa gave them a mini-lesson on GOOD music and then we listened to some.  They are such good young men and Sister Costa is an amazing influence on them.
We went to the church in the evening for seminary and for a baptism after seminary.  Yes, they have seminary in the evening at 6:30pm.  Jeff spoke at the baptism on baptism and did a great job, at least what I could understand.  Elder Willett, who will be returning home to Mesa, Arizona on Saturday, performed the baptism.  Wilson is the young man who was baptized and he was there without family but with most of the youth from seminary. He is in the Teófilo Otoni branch and we live in the Ipiranga Branch boundaries.  However, we will be working with both branches and with the district which extends to the city of Nanuque, about two hours east of here.  There are five branches in Nanuque. 
 Missionaries serving in the Teofilo Ontoni area.
We will have our challenges here, but these are good people trying to do the right thing.  I just can’t say enough about the help the branch has given us in trying to get settled into a home for the next two years.  We are so very grateful.  We will spend the two years just trying to pay back the help they have given in two days.  We plan to serve them faithfully and lovingly.
We spent Friday evening with the Branch president reviewing a list of less-active and other needs of branch members that we can begin visiting.  On Sunday afternoon we began making visits to some of them with President Costa.  They live in very humble homes, at least by American standards but most seem receptive.  Next week we’ll begin using Aaronic Priesthood holders to guide us to their homes since there aren’t addresses for some and those with addresses are difficult to find.  I have said it before, but the streets are narrow, windy, very rough and very, very hilly.
We have not been exercising in the mornings, but we put in about 20,000 steps per day and about 80 flights of stairs per the fitbit.  The street up to our house is a formidable climb, not only because it is steep, but also because it is made of sharp rocks embedded in sand and the sidewalks are often broken up or non-existent.  I did not really come prepared with the right kind of shoes for walking on these type of streets so I’ll have to shop for some more appropriate shoes.
Top picture is looking down our street and bottom picture is a close-up of the road.
Definitely need a good pair of shoes for this adventure.
 On Saturday, there was a cleaning activity at the building for the branch.  Afterwards they had a lunch (going away party for Elder Willett) of rice, beans and guaraná. Jeff keeps saying he is going to have to quit drinking guaraná because of the sugar, but he hasn’t committed to a time frame yet.  We met several more of the branch members and we remember how difficult it is to arrive in a new location and have to learn the names of everyone from scratch, augmented by the fact that the names are so unfamiliar.  Jeff and I have discussed doing a branch picture directory.  All too often I feel like I’m in another country as I can’t understand much of what is being said. Go figure! After lunch, we took some pictures, the one below is of the missionaries serving in Teófilo Otoni (we are missing one set of elders).
At 4:00pm we met back at the Church with the youth and other full-time missionaries for a tracting activity, so I got a real taste of what Jeff did 41 years ago.  Jeff said the area looked quite similar to what Brazil looked like 41 years ago.  We of course were companions while the missionaries paired off with the youth.  We had some “Because He Lives” pass along cards and the youth had “For the Strength of Youth” cards.  Jeff and I made 12 contacts and we were invited into a home where we gave a short message and had a prayer.  Because we stopped and had not met up with everyone yet the elders were concerned they’d lost us and called several times to make sure we were okay.  We actually ended up in front of them and had to wait for a few minutes for them to catch up, so glad the GPS was working.
Starting point for tracting activity with the youth.
  Did I mention we are doing a lot of walking!!  It was good, we shared a few experiences at the church and had the Brazilian’s version of ice cream, which was cold and delicious.  Not sure what’s in it, but it tasted great.  
It’s been a good week.  I have experienced pretty much every aspect of missionary work this week and, as we found with temple work, it is work, but it is rewarding work.
Avante para a Vitória,
Elder and Sister Burkinshaw

Monday, May 11, 2015

Week of April 12-19, 2015
     We arrived in Vitoria yesterday, Saturday, April 17th, around noon Brasil time.  The city of Vitória is beautiful.  The view flying in from the airport was amazing as you can see from the picture below.  The weather feels very much like Houston.  President Young and Sister Young met us at the airport and drove us to our hotel where we will stay while we are prepared for our assignment.  Since we flew through Friday night, we were glad to have Saturday afternoon and evening to stretch out a little and walk.  We have a beautiful view of the coast and we can see the mission home from our window.  We stretched out for an hour or so and then put on our work out clothes (with our missionary name tags) and walked down to the beach.  It is beautiful and it is lighted which was good since sunset is around 5:30pm (it’s Fall here).  We had lunch/dinner at a Subway across from the hotel and found “Magnum” ice cream bars (something we were introduced to in Israel) for our after-dinner/walk treat.   Since Winter is around the corner, the beach area was not very crowded at 5:30pm but it appeared things were just getting started for the night.  They had numerous sand volleyball courts as well as sand soccer fields along the beach.  With the sun going down and a nice breeze it really was beautiful.  People here keep telling us that Vitória is one of the prettiest cities in Brasil.  We did note from the airplane that it looks newer than Rio and is very clean.  I would have to say our first day here was great!
Vitória from the air.
     Today (Sunday) President and Sister Young took us to the Cariacica Stake (six wards) conference, which is within greater Vitória metropolitan area.  Elder Marcos A. Aidukaitis, a native Brazilian, of the First Quorum of the Seventy and Second Counselor in the Brazil Area Presidency was presiding.  The members of the Stake Presidency, President Young and Elder Aidukaitis all spoke.  I could understand President Young the best, probably because he still speaks a little slower Portuguese with an American accent.  However, with Jeff doing a little translation in my ear, I was able to understand most of Elder Aidukaitis’ talk.  His major themes were:  
     1.   Every young man should serve a mission.  He shared his personal experience of sacrifice to serve as a full-time missionary as he lost his girlfriend and his scholarship.  However, he ultimately met and married a very special girl and received an even better opportunity to study Mechanical Engineering because of his missionary service;
     2.   It is important that we judge others as we would like to be judged.  Unity comes from being charitable and generous in our assessments of others.
     3.   Obedience to the law of tithing brings material blessings, but even more important are the spiritual blessings that come from sacrifice.
It was an excellent meeting and we enjoyed the enthusiastic singing of the hymns by the Brazilian members.  
     After Stake conference, President Young had a couple of missionary interviews so we visited with the members and the missionaries serving in the Stake.  It was interesting to sit on the stand with President and Sister Young and one of the things that caught my eye was that the families are smaller.  President Young had mentioned this to us before the meeting and I could see that to be true as we looked out over the congregation.  Elder Aidukaitis has five children which is a large family here.  The members and missionaries were kind and solicitous of us.  

Vitória Bay during the day from our hotel.

     Vitória bay at night from our hotel. The lights in back are the sidewalk along the beach.    
          After Stake conference were went to the mission home for lunch and visited with President and Sister Young about the mission, our families, our assignment, and their experiences since they arrived last July.  Since we are the first senior couple in this mission, they seem genuinely grateful that we are here.  We have been assigned to support the Nanuque zone which is in the northern-most part of the mission, about a 6½ hour (300 mile) drive from Vitória.  There are currently two mission Districts with 8 branches there, which means the mission president not only has responsibility for the missionaries, but ecclesiastical responsibility for the members and therefore does temple recommend interviews, calls District and Branch leaders, etc. which is quite a time consuming responsibility.  President Young had an interview with one of his missionaries that was going home recently who had served in Teófilo Ontoni and when told we would be serving in this area, the Elder openly wept.  We hope to help increase the activity, unity and strength of the Church in the area.  It sounds a little intimidating, but we will do what we can to love and support both the leaders, members and missionaries to move the work forward.  
     By the way the mission home/President’s apartment is beautiful and sits right on the coast with an amazing view of the bay.  You can see the beachfront and the ships heading into the Port of Vitória.  President and Sister Young say they feel a little spoiled with the view, but in reality, they are so busy, they don’t have much time there.  Thus, they enjoy showing it to the missionaries when they arrive in the mission and when they leave to go home. 
     We have included a copy of the mission goals intended to help establish a culture of Christ-like attributes in the mission.  The poster was drawn by one of the artistically talented Sister missionaries and is posted in each missionary apartment.  The goals are Amor (love), Obediéncia (obedience), Gratidão (gratitude) and Unidade (Unity).

Poster of the Vitória Mission Goals

     One of the topics presented at the MTC was the miraculous growth taking place in Africa with new member retention as high as 86%.  They attribute that to a specific focus on teaching near the meetinghouses since transportation to attend church meetings is a significant challenge for many new members.  By first building up centers of strength near the existing chapels, they are later able to extend proselyting in further out areas without creating financial problems for the members.  We saw this firsthand today when one of the wards had to rent a bus to bring members who wanted to attend Stake conference.  Without that assistance, the transportation expense would result make it impossible for many to attend the meeting.  The Brazil Area Presidency is emphasizing financial self-sufficiency for the Church here in Brazil and this has redirected missionary efforts to focus on building centers of strength near existing meetinghouses.  We are grateful for that vision and guidance. 
      We have been told that the drive from Vitoria to Teófilo Otoni is very beautiful as it winds through the hills that rise to 1100 feet above sea level.  We’ve been advised that it is likely we’ll have a car since our area is so large and so far from the mission office.  The mission only has two cars right now, so adding another vehicle is significant.   We may initially take the second vehicle until they get a third one.  It is a nice 2012 GMC Zafira (van), but Sister Young seems happy for us to take it so she doesn’t have to drive it.  We will keep you posted on that.  After our training in the MTC on housing, which we shared with President Young, the mission is going to order the list of furniture and other items that the church specifies for senior housing and then we’ll pay a monthly rental fee (which over the two years should cover the cost of furnishing the apartment) along with a monthly fee for home rental and utilities.  That will simplify things both now and when we go home.  We feel very blessed and it just keeps getting better!
      President Young introduced the missionaries to “Minha Familia” (My Family) in January nd they are starting to see some great things from the missionaries as they spend an extra hour on preparation day to search for and connect with their own families.   Probably a good idea for all of us.

Avante para a Vitória,  
Elder and Sister Burkinshaw