Tuesday, June 23, 2015

Week of June 15-21, 2015

The week has gone quickly.  We spent Sunday evening with the family of Ronaldo and Paulinha for two-year-old Pérola’s (Pearl’s) birthday party.  There were a dozen members of the branch there as well and as you can see, she had a great Minnie Mouse birthday cake.
Pérola’s with her mother and Minnie Mouse Birthday Cake.

We enjoyed a nice P-day with cleaning, writing the blog and ended with a family home evening at the home of Marcelo and Rosimeire and their three teenage children. They had invited a non-member friend and two newly baptized members to participate as well as the four missionaries assigned to the Teófilo Otoni Branch.  Sister Rosimeire gave a message from the Liahona and Sister Burkinshaw brought chocolate chip cookies, which, as always, were a big hit.  Everyone seemed to enjoy the evening and it was a great way for this faithful family, who serve as the Young Men President and Relief Society President, to teach and encourage the new members.  Following the FHE, we went to the Elder’s apartment to install their carbon monoxide monitor.  It made for a late night but it saved us from having to walk another 5 km (3 miles) the next day. Even so, we still walked an average of 8.03 miles with 40 vertical floors per day last week.

FHE at the home of Marcelo and Rosemeire with friends, new members and missionaries.
Tuesday we rode the bus over to Nanuque in the late afternoon and stayed at the Panorama hotel which overlooks the Rio Murcuri (Mercury River).  The hotel is clean, the breakfast is good and the best part is a warm shower with good water pressure, so I always feel like my hair gets washed and rinsed well.  As we have previously mentioned, the traditional Brazilian chuveiro (electrically heated shower head) uses gravity flow so you can perhaps appreciate why the Panorama Hotel’s shower experience is special.  The gravity flow comes from the caixa de agua (literally water box) which is a small plastic tank on the top of the roof that provides gravity water pressure for the house. On hot days outside, we actually have hot water in the kitchen sink for the first few minutes.

Chuveiro (shower head which heats gravity-fed water) for showers.
Blue water tank (caixa de agua) on the roof which provides water pressure for the house.
 We had zone meeting on Wednesday morning in Nanuque directed by Elder dos Santos and Elder W. Santos, who are the zone leaders.  They had called us on Tuesday afternoon to request that we present a 30 minute discussion on getting referrals from members and non-members.  We used ideas from Elder Clayton Christensen’s book “Everyday Missionaries” and Elder Russell M. Nelson’s conference talk “Ask the Missionaries”.  Sister Burkinshaw introduced our topic and showed a short video clip of the First Vision.  The Brazilian Elders afterwards told her she did a great job, but she interpreted it as kind encouragement, which she appreciated.  The rest of the discussion focused on making inquiries to understand what peoples questions really are.  Following our presentation, the balance of the time was spent on why it was important to ask for references and creative ways to encourage people to provide references.  Every week in district meeting we read through the list of “Remember This….” items on the last page of Preach My Gospel.  One of those items is…. “Pedir referências a todas as pessoas!” (Ask for referrals from everyone!)   At one point during the training, we played a variation of the game “murder” using a hand shake.  Everyone was to walk around and greet each other with a handshake.  The “murderer” was to use his pointer finger and place it on the wrist of the person he wanted to murder.  It was fun and actually worked well.  The point of the game, besides helping everyone remain alert, was to teach that we do not know who may have a “golden contact” and we therefore need to ask everyone, even investigators and non-members if they know someone who may be interested in the message of the restored gospel.  After Zone meeting, we took four of the Teófilo Otoni Elders out for lunch, which they loved. 
Zone Meeting Activity to illustrate the importance of working in unity.

Missionaries in the Nanuque Zone
 12 Brazilians, 1 Peruvian and 3 Americans.
On Wednesday afternoon and Thursday morning we inspected the apartments, made repairs and purchased replacement parts and furniture for the missionary apartments with help from President Nascimento, who is the first counselor in the Nanuque District presidency and has a car.  We repaired or replaced many leaking faucets and drains, restored electricity to one of the apartments (it had been intermittent for more than a week) and installed the carbon monoxide monitors in all of the apartments.  Since President Nascimento seems to know almost everyone in Nanuque, he helped us find the right people to help with these repairs and the best price for new fans, ironing boards, microwaves, etc.  We were running the whole time, trying to finish before our bus departed for Teófilo Otoni.
Even Superman duct tape can't keep this drain from leaking! - one of may repairs made.
Time for a new ironing board (tabua de passar roupa)
On Wednesday evening, while Elder Burkinshaw and President Nascimento were meeting a repair man at one of the apartments, Sister Burkinshaw got a Brazilian cooking lesson from Bruna, wife of President Nascimento.  I finally know what is in the food we have been eating in people’s homes as well as at the Brazilian restaurants.  The Brazilian’s are amazing cooks and everything is made from scratch.  It was delicious and I enjoyed the lesson and practicing my Portuguese.  (we forgot to take pictures – darn!)
When we got back to Teófilo Otoni, we had time to drop off a package for President Nascimento, drop off our suitcases at the apartment, grab a quick bite to eat and walk to the Centro (downtown).  The owner of an English school, whose brother is a member, asked us to help his advanced English students with their accent and with interpreting unique phrases.  It is fun and gives us another way to meet and help people understand who we are and what we do as missionaries.  After the English class we went to the church to do the sign-ups for our English classes which begin next week.  We also delivered some invitations for interviews with the District Presidency this weekend and returned in time for Sister Burkinshaw to assist with the last of our current English classes.  It was a long two days.
We had a particularly special experience as we accompanied two of the Elders to teach a man, Irmão (Brother) Franklin who was baptized recently in Belo Horizonte but lives part-time in Teófilo Otoni where his consulting business is located.  He spends most of the week traveling, assisting smaller cities apply for government health care grants.  He is preparing to receive the Aaronic Priesthood and wanted to understand more about the Sacrament.  The Elders reviewed the mechanics from a sheet we had prepared from the Gospel Principles manual.  Sister Burkinshaw then shared a quote from Sister Esplin (October 2014 General Conference) in Portuguese “Os portadores do Sacerdócio Aarônico representam o Salvador ao preparar, abençoar e distribuir o sacramento. Quando um portador do sacerdócio nos estende a bandeja com os emblemas sagrados, é como se o Próprio Salvador estendesse Seu braço de misericórdia e convidasse cada um a partilhar dos dons preciosos de amor liberados por Seu Sacrifício Expiatório — dons de arrependimento, perdão, consolo e esperança.” (English: “Aaronic Priesthood holders represent the Savior when they prepare, bless, and pass the sacrament.  As a priesthood holder extends his arm to offer us the sacred emblems, it is as if the Savior Himself were extending His arm of mercy, inviting each one of us to partake of the precious gifts of love made available through His atoning sacrifice—gifts of repentance, forgiveness, comfort, and hope.”  We then shared a short video on the Sacrament entitled "Always Remember Him". Sister Burkinshaw closed by sharing another quote from Sister Esplin’s talk:  “The more we ponder the significance of the sacrament, the more sacred and meaningful it becomes to us. This was what a 96-year-old father expressed when his son asked, “Dad, why do you go to church? You can’t see, you can’t hear, it’s hard for you to get around. Why do you go to church?” The father replied, “It’s the sacrament. I go to partake of the sacrament.”  It was a great discussion as Irmão Franklin had many questions and is an honest seeker of truth. 
He also had some questions about the order of the creation, which is an interesting topic.  We identified the four stories of the creation, three from scripture (Genesis 1-2, Moses 2-4 and Abraham 3-5) and one in the temple.  We have been studying from the new Institute manual “Jesus Christ and the Everlasting Gospel” the lesson on Jehovah as the creator and one of the readings was Elder Russell M. Nelson's “The Creation” (April 2000 General Conference) which outlines the creation day by day connecting the teachings from the four revealed accounts of the creation accounts (Genesis, Moses, Abraham and the Temple Endowment).  We formatted it in our "talk library" format and will share a copy with him at our next lesson.
Saturday and Sunday were busy days with a visit from the District Presidency.  We cleaned the building Saturday morning, picked up groceries for the meals and spent the evening at the church reviewing individual ordinance summaries and taking photos of the members who came for interviews.  President Nascimento’s wife Bruna came with him and they spent the night at our home.  They had forgotten their air mattress so we borrowed the two extra single mattresses from the Elders who live just behind us.  We got home about 10:30pm had a bite to eat and visited so it was midnight before we got to bed.  The men had a 7:00am meeting at the church on Sunday morning.  They presidency spoke in both of the branches and then did some more interviews finishing up about 4:30pm making it a long weekend.  We pray the interviews provided the needed love, appreciation and enthusiasm for the leadership, the brethren preparing to receive the Melchizedec Priesthood and the members working to prepare for their temple endowment or renewing their recommends.  
Bruna, President Nasimento’s wife, came over planning to teach me how to make Brazilian chicken stroganoff, but because of the language barrier we didn’t quite figure that out until I was already making spaghetti with her for our dinner.  We borrowed the district presidents car to drive to and from the apartment on Saturday evening while the brethren were doing the interviews.  I definitely felt like a teenager again as the car and area were new to her and because we usually walk, and a lot of the streets in Teofilo Otoni are one-way, it turned out to be quite the adventure.  When we got to our apartment she pulled in and then decided to back out and park the car by the side of the house.  The problem was she couldn’t figure out how to get the car into reverse - good thing I was raised on a farm and had lots of experience with a manual transmission.  We drove the wrong way on a  one-way road, but luckily there was no traffic at the time.  When we got back to the church she almost hit a tree while backing into the parking spot and we exited the car laughing like a couple of teenage girls.  I was definitely grateful to be back safe and sound.  We enjoyed the weekend and hope it was a positive experience for the members who were able to participate.  It was Father’s Day in the States yesterday so we received several calls from the kids wishing Elder Burkinshaw a Happy Father’s Day, which was nice.  Although Mother's Day is the same day as in the states, Brazilian Father's Day is  in October.
On Saturday evening while the interviews were going on, the Ipiranga Branch Primary had an activity to make bread and then eat the bread with hot chocolate while watching a video. It was a little cooler Saturday evening so the hot chocolate was very timely.  In Brazil, milk is sold in containers which don't require refrigeration.  Elder Burkinshaw and I enjoyed both the Pão (bread) and the chocolate quente (hot chocolate).
Primary children making pão (bread) with the Primary Presidency
Pão enchido com goiabada (bread filled with guava jelly) from the Primary Activity.
Leite Integral (whole milk) which does not require refrigeration until it is opened.

One final experience from Sunday was the Sunday School lesson taught be Elder Moreira, our district leader.  This week's lesson was on the blessings of work and he used a particularly inspiring YouTube video entitled Missionary Work and the Atonement which uses clips from talks by President Eyring and Elder Holland along with video clips of the Savior’s life.  The principle taught was that gaining salvation is work for missionaries, investigators and I might add members.  Although Elder Holland’s words were directed to mission presidents, it was a powerful message of the “work” the Savior did for our Salvation and that it should require our best work as well even though our part cannot really be compared to His.  Our Elders are great and we appreciate the work they do!
Our cleaning is done for the day.  As Jeff was finishing the bathroom, which he cleans each week, I decided next week we will video him doing it and share the video at our next zone conference to show the Elders how it’s done.  We will title the video “A solução para a poluição é dilucição" (The Solution to Polution is Dilution).  The weather is supposed to be in the 70’s this week, which for us will be great.  I noticed on Saturday and Sunday that the Brazilian’s had coats on—I wonder how long it takes to get acclimatized?

Avanté Vitória
Elder and Sister Burkinshaw

Monday, June 15, 2015

Week of June 8-14, 2015

Our week started out a little rough as we received word Monday that cars would not be available for senior missionaries in Brasil.  While we understand the need to manage scarce resources, we were still disappointed.  The premise in sending us to Teófilo Otoni, in the most elevated and distant part of the mission, was that we would have a car so now we’ll have to reassess and prioritize what we are doing because it isn’t physically possible to maintain our current schedule without a car.  “Do not run faster or labor more than you have strength and means provided…” (D&C 10:4)  When we were set apart as missionaries by President Bell, he said that our assignment would not be easy and his words have proved to be prophetic.  
   As we were sitting in one of the branch correlation council meetings one of the sisters asked what our responsibilities here in the branch were.  The branch president responded they are here to “provide peace and wisdom”, I guess you don’t need a car for peace and wisdom.  We are getting to know several of the taxi drivers pretty well.  Elder Burkinshaw tips well so they are happy to pick us up and transport us to random mountains in town.  On Tuesday night as we were walking home a driver going by rolled down their window and started calling to us.  It was one of our favorite taxi driver’s, on his way home for the day, asking if we wanted a ride home.  We were planning to walk, but decided he was there, why not.  When Jeff went to pay him he declined saying he was happy to give us a lift—he is a great guy and we enjoy our association with him.  
   Wednesday Jeff received a special birthday present for his 60th birthday – 60 letters from our children and friends from around the world.  Chelsea put the letters together and e-mailed them in the wee hours of the morning.  When Jeff got up early and checked his e-mail about 3:00am, there was the compilation.  He spent the next three hours reading them – it was quite special and we feel very grateful for the blessings that have come in our lives.  That evening, Sister Andreia, who teaches seminary from 6:30-7:30pm every weekday evening except Monday (FHE), had made a cake and all the Seminary students and others at the building surprised Elder Burkinshaw.  It was greatly appreciated and made for a fun end to the day.  In thinking back on his decade birthday’s Jeff realized he was in Brazil for his 20th; Casper WY for his 30th; Houston TX for his 40th; Ponca City OK for his 50th and here in Brazil again for his 60th.  He has spent many birthdays in Bartlesville, but never a decade birthday.
60th Birthday:  Cake and Guaraná with the Costa Family at the Church.  Andreia teaches seminary, their son João Pedro is 15, and the father, Marcio, is the Branch President.
Seminary students and missionaries at Elder Burkinshaw's 60th Birthday and Presidente Marcio's 46th Birthday.
   We had some nice visits this week.  One was to stop back by a family’s home that Sister Burkinshaw, the Sister missionaries, and a couple of the young women tracted out and taught a lesson to during one of the youth missionary activities.   The sisters had left the “Plan of Salvation” booklet and so I felt we should check back with them and I wanted Elder Burkinshaw to meet them since they are just a little older than we are.  Since my Portuguese is still somewhat limited and the sisters had not left there contact information for the new Elders I wanted to make sure they were interested before turning them over to the younger missionaries. They remembered our visit and agreed to have the Elder’s come teach a lesson. They have a great spirit in their home. We turned the “reference” over to the Elder’s and let them know we would be happy to tag along on their first appointment.  The missionary discussions are taught by the younger missionaries and we are there to help support when they need us.
   It was our turn this month to feed the Elder’s and since the Zone leaders were here for the day, which makes eight Elders, we decided to take them out for lunch since we don’t have 10 plates in our apartment on which to eat.  We have bought the basics for the kitchen, but since there is only two of us we bought a four piece place setting of dishes and our pots and pans are designed for a small group at best.  Lunch was good and the Elder’s seemed to enjoy it.  They pile their plates up with the typical Brazilian food and although I wonder how sometimes, they always finish it off!! Next month hopefully we can have them to the apartment for a little more American cuisine. Of course American or Brazilian for Elder Burkinshaw we still provide Guaraná, which looks a lot like cerveja (beer), but it's not!
Lunch with the missionaries in Teófilo Otoni and the Zone Leaders from Nanuque.
   Friday was Brazil’s Valentine’s Day (Dia dos Namorados).  The Elder’s quorum president planned a nice activity at the church—dinner and a dance.  It was fun.  Although Jeff is reminded in these settings that his “slang” Portuguese isn’t there yet.  When they get joking around and telling stories it is pretty hard to know exactly what is going on.  It is also good we are “Senior” missionaries because the activity didn’t get started until 9:00pm and we definitely didn’t make it back to our apartment before 10:00pm.  We did have the Brazilian version of Stroganoff, Chicken (Frango) Stroganoff, which was delicious.  I need to have somebody write down some of the recipes for me so we can make them at home.
Dia dos Namorados dinner and dance at the Church with Julianna (YW Pres) and João.
Sunday we made a couple of visits with the Relief Society president in one of the branches.  As I associate with and watch this faithful sister I am amazed.  She was born with a curved spine and only stands about 4½ ft.  We were to meet her at the church at 5:00pm as Jeff had a meeting from 3-5pm via Skype.  She arrived about 4:00pm and had already been out making visits since about 1:00pm. She uses the buses as much as she can and does the rest on foot.  She washed up a little, stretched out on one of the cushioned pews in the chapel for 30 minutes and was ready to go again at 5:00pm.  We caught a ride up to the top of one of the hills and made our way down making a couple of stops at member’s homes.  After we finished we called a taxi to take her home as it was dark and she had had a long day.  I have to admit I reflected on how easy it is to jump in a car and drive around to make visiting teaching visits in the States. As always the important thing with visiting teaching is to do it!  For others to feel loved they need to know we are interested in them and what is going on in their life, visiting and home teaching provide that opportunity.

Avanté Vitória
Elder and Sister Burkinshaw

Monday, June 8, 2015

Week of June 1-7, 2015

On Monday we took the missionaries out for almoço (lunch) because transfers were this week.
Lunch with the Teófilo Otoni Missionaries.

The Sister missionaries living next to us were both transferred and now we have two elders in their place.  
Transfer night at the Rodoviária (Bus Station).  Members from both branches come to say goodbye to the Sisters who are being transfered.

  The Sisters left for Vitória on Monday evening and the new elders arrived on Wednesday morning.  Sister Burkinshaw couldn’t resist doing a little cleaning in their apartment before they arrived. Before the week was out, she had purchased an ironing board, some bowls and few other odds and ends for them.  Elder Nascimento is from São Paulo and Elder McKay is from Logan.  We fed them several times until they were able to get food at the grocery store.  We’ll miss the sisters but they have been replaced by some equally great young men.

 We made a number of visits to members in the Teófilo Otoni Branch this week including many of the leadership.  The Relief Society President and her husband, the Young Men President, are great people with a wonderful family.  They recently moved here from Nanuque, which is the other city included in our District.
On Friday afternoon, we were able to watch the funeral service for Elder L. Tom Perry via the internet on lds.org.  We particularly enjoyed Elder Oaks story about Elder Perry wanting to pass through "the veil of death" at least one day before President Packer.
On Friday evening, we met with Presidente Marcio of the Ipiranga Branch to discuss the plans for Sister Burkinshaw's English class for both members and non-members.  Following the meeting, the youth were playing volleyball so we joined in for a few minutes.  Sister Burkinshaw twisted her right wrist, which is still tender at this writing, but hopefully it will improve soon.  We have a great group of youth that faithfully attend seminary every evening at the Church from 6:30-7:30pm.
Youth Volleyball following seminary on Friday evening.  Elder Burkinshaw is serving.

 Saturday is always a busy day because most people are at home that day.  We went out with Elder Daniel (from São Paulo) and his new companion, who just arrived here on Wednesday, Elder Oliveira.  They guided us to the homes of a number of church members in the Bairro (neighborhood) of Alta Bela Vista.  As you can see from the pictures, the Bairro is well-named (Alta means High).  Since this area is so hilly or mountainous (depending on your perspective) many of the homes are built into hills with concrete steps climbing to the homes.  Per the iPhone Health app (which seems to be more accurate than the FitBit), we walked about 13 miles, climbed 137 stories vertically taking about 30,000 steps.  And most of that was in the rain, but fortunately we had one umbrella for Sister Burkinshaw! ;-)
Sister Burkinshaw with Elders Oliveira and Daniel, as the clouds roll in.

Elder Burkinshaw with Elders Oliveira and Daniel, after the rain (note they are wet).  The steps in the background are just one set of many we walked that day.

   While the walking was rigorous and the weather a bit problematic, the blessing came in being able to visit some of the very sweet families of members that are rarely visited because their homes are so difficult to reach.  Here is one of them.  It is always very enjoyable to be with these young elders.  As the rain came and it got a little slick and probably a little dangerous, particularly for us old people, Elder Oliveira would break into song with a hymn or We'll Bring The World His Truth.  They have such a good attitude and are so diligent it is inspiring!

Edivaldo da Silva Family
As we work to update the membership records of the two branches here, we find that at least 50% of all families have the surnames of Barbosa, Costa, Ferreira, Gonçalves, Oliveira, Santos, Silva or Souza.  And since the convention is to have two surnames which can come from either the father or the mother and in no specific order, family history becomes more challenging.  Sunday, we were pleased to see that a number of families that we have visited in the past two weeks were there for our meetings.  
President Uchtdorf said in this past conference, "many of the things you can count, do not count.  Many of the things you cannot count, really do count."  That definitely describes missionary work.  Although ultimately we want to bring the people of the world to Christ through the gate of baptism, which is something you can count, there are many events that bring a person to the point they are ready for that step.  In our district meeting the district leader did they training from PMG on Finding People to Teach.  One of the stories included was a good reminder that most people have many contact experiences with both members and missionaries before they are ready to accept baptism.  We've included the story for you to enjoy:
"Much to my surprise, I was called to labor in the same mission where my older sister had served a year earlier. After a few months in the mission field, I was transferred to one of the areas where my sister had served. Upon learning of my transfer, my sister wrote and asked me to visit a family that she and her companion had taught. She expressed the love and closeness she had with the Norman family and how disappointed she was when they discontinued investigating the Church.

My companion and I located the Normans and were warmly received by them. They accepted our invitation to again hear the restored gospel. I’m not sure what the difference was this time, but they were fully ready to accept our message. The entire family was baptized and confirmed.
After this experience, I wondered about other former investigators my sister had worked with. I thought, “If it worked for the Normans, maybe it will work for other people she taught as well.” I decided to write my sister about the idea of contacting other people she had taught. She went through her journal and sent me the names of other former investigators in the area.
My companion and I spent the next week contacting these people. To our delight, almost half of them accepted an invitation to hear the restored gospel again. Several of this group were baptized and confirmed."
Avánte Vitória!
Elder and Sister Burkinshaw

Monday, June 1, 2015

Week of May 24th to May 31st 

  Sister B:  Once again, preparation day went to quickly and we spent way too much of it walking - something I’ll remember to avoid on future Monday’s. We walked to the grocery store, we walked downtown, and we walked to the post office to pick up the package my “wonderful children” sent me for Mother’s Day.  It took 19 days to get here, cost $52 to mail and we had to walk 40 minutes one-way to pick it up, BUT it was great to get the things they sent.  The package had peanut butter, 2 brownie mixes, a pancake turner, spatulas, light weight dish towels (that will dry quickly), ground black pepper and some spices.  On our trip to Israel, several of the women who had served foreign missions suggested bringing measuring cups, measuring spoons and spices.  I listened and brought the cups and spoons, but did not bring the spices.  You can find some of the spices here, but they are in “little” plastic bags and expensive.  I appreciate their effort and we have definitely already put the things to good use.  I actually did find a large jar of Peter Pan peanut butter in Vitória.  I am a little sad that I only bought one jar as Vitória is an eleven-hour bus ride, one way, through the night.  The missionaries would love peanut butter cookies, but I am not willing to use my limited supply for that.  I did share a spoon full with the Sister Missionaries one day this week.  It is still kind of amazing to me that in the states I could drive to Wal-Mart, walk in and walk out 20 minutes later with all those items--one easy stop and a car.  Life is very different here in Brazil.
   We also received in the mail (delivered to our door this time) the daily dose learning materials for our English classes.  We went to the copy store and had the first 12 lessons made into colored posters and had them laminated.  They look great and are very effective. Printing and laminating in Teófilo Otoni is very reasonably priced.  We are doing English lessons on Tuesday and Thursday evenings in 30 minutes sessions.  We will see if people stick with it and progress through the first 12 lessons before we print the other 36 lessons available.  The lessons are taught in small groups, standing up, with a lot of repetition since language learning is a very social activity.  You can see an example posters on their website http://dailydoselearning.com/LDS_Files/poster_4.pdf.
   Elder B:  As a follow-up from our missionary apartment inspections, we were asked to purchase the furniture, appliances and materials necessary for the apartments.  We went out Wednesday afternoon to complete this task.  We found several options for guarda-roupas (wardrobe with hangers and drawers to store clothes), kitchen table with chairs, a set of shelves for the water-cooler, microwave and food, a new fan, light bulbs, batteries for the CO detectors, etc.  Since we now have a CPF (Cadastro Pessoal Física – Social Security Number equivalent) we were able to purchase these items for delivery on Saturday to the Elders.  We then scan and send in receipts to be reimbursed. 
However, to be reimbursed by the Church, we need to have a Brazilian bank account.  We went to a branch of the Bradesco Bank, which is the bank used by the Church, to open an account on Friday afternoon.  We had what we thought were the required documents, but after waiting for several hours, they informed us that they didn’t like our “temporary” identification cards (the permanent ones won’t be available for 3-6 months) and they wanted some kind of evidence that we “had an income” like a pension check, but they want it from a Brazilian entity.  Thus, we are kind of stuck for at least 3-6 months and perhaps longer.  We have a growing amount of reimbursements awaiting so we hope to resolve this soon, but as always, we are learning to enhance personal virtues and this week’s virtue is patience! ;-) (What ever happened to hiding your money in foreign accounts??)
Sister B:  I made another batch of cookies this week for district meeting.  This time sugar cookies using melskitchencafe.com favorite sugar cookie recipe.  They turned out great and the missionaries ate them quickly.  Also for English lesson this week with the Sisters I taught them how to make chocolate chip cookies.  We used English words for all the cooking items as well as the ingredients.  The cookies turned out great and they graciously took some to the elders who they were meeting at a members house for lunch that day for one of the Elder’s 19th birthday.  He is a convert of 18 months and is a very fun, enthusiastic missionary.  We love having him here in Teófilo Otoni.
Sister Viana, Sister Burkinshaw and Sister Barth enjoying the fruits of our labors! 
Thursday was a very frustrating day for me especially as we spent most of it at the church.  We had tried to schedule visits, but were unsuccessful and Jeff had a lot of computer work to do so I had a lot of study time, which was nice, but doing it at home is much more comfortable.  Trying to arrange visits is difficult as so many of the records are not updated and although people have phones they are seldom in the directory (although we're changing that now).  We planned visits we needed to make through Saturday, hoping that if we planned far enough ahead it would work out.  Often in the mission field you have those “tender mercy” experiences where you are reminded the Lord needs you where you are and will provide.  On Friday morning as we were running (walking) a couple of errands downtown someone called out “sister – elder” when we turned around the man calling was the father of the family we planned on visiting the next day, but did not have a phone number for--miracle #1.  A little later we ran into the other member whose home we had scheduled to visit.--by accident??  We were able to set up in advance both visits, which is definitely a miracle in and of itself.  It’s always nice to know we are on the same page as the Lord.
We had a wedding Friday evening at the church.  A young couple in the branch.  It was outside at the church building which is actually a very nice setting.  The church is a rectangle and the parking lot and lawn area is the same shape and size.  The parking lot is about 2/3 of the space (they don’t need a lot of parking for cars here) and the rest is lawn.  They set chairs up on the grass for the ceremony and tables and chairs on the parking lot of the reception.  We moved the organ outside, which is easy to do.  They had asked me to play the organ.  I found a website to download a free pdf of Cannon in D which turned out perfect.  It was a beautiful evening and all seemed to enjoy the festivities.  All very simply done, but very nice.  Hopefully in a year they will be on their way to the temple. 
Me at the organ which with the chapel window behind me and the happy couple
(she did wear heels which made her taller--a beautiful couple).  They were back at the church Saturday after when we went for the youth activity cleaning up outside.
Elder B:  On Saturday, we had an activity with the youth to make contacts with people in the Praça (Park) about the Church.  We divided the youth up with missionaries and gave each group some “Para a Vigor da Juventude” (“For the Strength of Youth”) pamphlets, which highlight 18 standards that help protect youth from the challenges of the world.  The standards are focused around areas such as dating, dress and appearance, education, entertainment and media, etc. (see  https://www.lds.org/youth/for-the-strength-of-youth?lang=eng).  I was with a 17-year-old named Willian who has helped us navigate out way around Teófilo Otoni and is a great young man.  We sat down on a bench with a man who was there watching his 10-year-old boy ride his bike and I asked about his family.  He is a systems analyst from one of the larger businesses here and besides the 10-year-old, he has an 18-year-old son who has just started his university studies in law.  He described some of the challenges for his sons so we shared some of the “For the Strength of Youth” standards.  He was genuinely interested, so we told him a little more about the programs the Church has for youth, including the opportunity to serve as missionaries.  He wanted to hear more so, we took his contact information so the Elders in the area could visit his family and teach him more.
On Sunday, it was our week to attend the Teófilo Otoni Branch and before Sacrament Meeting began, they asked if we could teach the 5th Sunday combined lesson for Priesthood and Relief Society.  We still had a few FtSoY pamphlets with us, so we shared the experience we had in the park Saturday evening and asked if any of the parents had concerns about their children.  This led to a great discussion about three of the standards (Music, Dating and Sexual Purity) and how the FtSoY standards could be a resource for families.
Sister B:  Our last great adventure for the week was meeting up with the primary president Sunday afternoon to make visits to two sisters who live right behind her home.  That meant there is one of those hills right behind her home where the houses are building into the hill on levels.  Sister Carmen told us she had counted the stairs before and there are 500 cement steps going straight up.  One sister lives up 200 steps and on a narrow pathway to the right and the other sister lives on the left.  We walked the second 300 steps up to take what is the short cut back to the church.  We should have taken a picture, but didn’t, we will have to do that next time.  The visits were great so that made the steps worth it.  We did take a picture of a hill we climbed in the same area.  Coming down is probably worse than going up.  Both of the sisters were very receptive and during our visits with these sweet and very humble people, we were reminded that the Lord loves all of his Children and is kind in providing his Spirit to encourage and strengthen in times of need.  Despite the physical rigors, we are so very blessed to have this opportunity to be His hands in a small way here in Teófilo Otoni.
Over the hill is always shorter, which is why people direct us that way,
but going around the hill has to be easier.  Sorry I forgot to smile at the bottom :) 
Avanté Vitória
Elder and Sister Burkinshaw