Sunday, September 20, 2015

Week of September 14 - September 20, 2015

      Working backward this week as sometimes it is easier to start with today's happenings and then reflect over the week. It is Sunday morning and as we had breakfast this morning about 7:30am, we noticed runners on the bridge outside our balcony.  They apparently ran from the Vitória side to the Vila Velha side and back continuing to the finish line at the Bomberios (Fire Station) just down the street from our apartment building.  What we didn't think about, until we went down to meet our taxi to go to church, is that they had closed our road.  We use a phone app called Easy Taxi which uses the GPS to call a taxi and then follows them on GoogleMaps.  After about ten minutes of watching the taxi try to work it's way around the road to our apartment, we finally called him and determined a location close by that we could meet without interference from the run. Surprisingly we still made it to church with ten minutes to spare. 

Vitória to Vila Velha 3° Ponte (Third Bridge) Fun Run just below our Apartment Building.
   Saturday was preparation day and we enjoyed a break from the office, but unfortunately not away from the phones.  Because of a problem with my Outlook e-mail this week, we discovered that we could log into our e-mail from the internet at the apartment.  That was particularly good because we were able to take care of a missionary apartment rental contract without having to go into the office.  However, there are always "emergency" calls from the missionaries on our secretary phones.  We are trying to train the missionaries as to what really constitutes an emergency and what is a convenience.  We stop answering the phone after we go to bed, and so the missionaries have been learning to plan better. President Young has our personal cellphone numbers which we do answer. 

   We read about a Mexican restaurant here in Vitória, so we decided to give it a try on our P-Day.  We got our laundry and cleaning done early and took a taxi across town to "Jalapeños" restaurant.  Sister Burkinshaw had a burrito, and Elder Burkinshaw had a combo plate with rice, guacamole and chicken stuffed with cream cheese and jalapenos. Because they don't have monterrey jack or cheddar cheese, it wasn't quite what we expected.  But the peppers were hot, which was nice (for Elder Burkinshaw).  So we will stick with Brasilian food with a little American/Mexican at home, tacos and fajitas (Sam's club kits) with homemade salsa, but for the next 18 months, no cheese!

P-Day lunch at Jalapeños Restaurant - an outdoor setting but fortunately we had a cool breeze.
   The other part of our P-Day lunch excursion was a trip to Wal-mart on our way home.  Per the GPS, it was only a 20 minute walk but, as we have sometimes discovered, the GPS is not 100% accurate, so after 20 minutes of walking in a circle trying to find the pedestrian trail across one of the bridges, we just used EasyTaxi to call a taxi for a relatively short ride.  WalMart is a well-known landmark for the taxis, so we arrived there without any problem.

Walmart in Vitória (courtesy of Google Maps streetview)
   The end of the week was much quieter than the first of the week. It was quiet enough that we felt like we were actually able to catch up on a few things so we actually left the office early, about 7:00pm and had dinner at Shopping Vitória (the Mall) and did some shopping. The week began with our making arrangements for an unusually large number of what are called "emergency" transfers or transfers in between the normal transfers which occur every six weeks, occasioned by the arrival of new missionaries and departure of missionaries who have completed their mission service and return home.  With an emergency transfer, some missionaries returned home for health reasons and it creates a domino effect of other transfers.  We are responsible to arrange all the transportation for these missionaries, whether by plane, which we're able to arrange on-line or bus, which requires a 20 minute taxi trip to the rodoviária (bus station).  Because it has to be done quickly and before the transfers are announced to the missionaries, it becomes quite hectic.  President Young interviews those who must return home early and advises them of the change and then we call and advise the other missionaries in the chain of transfers.  It is actually nice that all the missionary companionships have cell phones because when Elder Burkinshaw was a missionary in Brasil 41 years ago, the process was literally a chain that began with the first missionary to be transferred carrying the transfer notes to each successive missionary.  Sometimes it would take a week to complete.  Now it only takes a day to complete all the transfers.  We are sensitive to the challenges of those who must return home without completing the full-term of their calling, particularly those who don't have parents who are members or are active.  Sister Burkinshaw prepares the same missionary certificate and a nice book for each of those going home, whether early or at full term.  There are several sites with help for early returning missionaries.
   We love our association with these young missionaries, who are truly an inspiration. Several months ago in Teófilo Otoni, we had planned to take Elder Nascimento out for pizza for his birthday but unfortunately, the week before, he was transferred.  This week, Elder Nascimento, from São Paulo, had to come into the office on Tuesday for supplies and we were able to take him and his companion, Elder Aguayo, from Ecuador, to Dominos for a belated birthday celebration.  We told Elder Aguayo that Uncle Tony served in Ecuador back when there was one mission that was made into two.  We had a nice visit and learned there are now five missions in Ecuador and a temple.  It was a great blessing to spend time with these two dedicated missionaries.

A belated birthday celebration for Elder Nascimento who served with us in Teófilo Otoni (right) and his companion Elder Aguayo, who is from Ecuador.  Dominos is a missionary favorite!
   These young missionaries are also very kind to us. After talking to one of the Brazilian missionaries on the phone the other day about teaching supplies that he needed, he told Sister Burkinshaw that her Portuguese was coming along great!  It was a very generous assessment but much appreciated.  And Elder Carvalho, who had been the mission financial secretary, came by on Friday and gave us each a special chocolate candy, a Mãca de Amor (apple of love) which was delicious. It was at the end of a very long day and such a sweet gesture, literally!!

Elder Carvalho's sweet chocolate gift to us, a Maçã do Amor (Apple of Love).
   Because our days can be quite hectic, we really look forward to our 5:30am walk along the beach each morning.  This will likely be the only time in our lives that we will live so close to the beach and it is beautiful and quiet at that early hour.  Here are a few pictures we took this past week, including the small and the large birds eating the seeds left by another early walker.  We thought the grandkids would especially enjoy the pictures.

The coastline from our walking path with the bridge from Vitória to Vila Velha in the background.
Our small winged friends along the path of our morning walk.
Our larger bird friends that accompany us on our morning stroll along the beach.
   We are grateful for the opportunity to serve in such a beautiful place.  We see great progress each week and are reminded that the harvest is great but the laborers are few. It is an honor to be a part of this great work along with our nephews Yuri Burkinshaw (Atlanta, GA), Austin Vaclaw (Milan, Italy) and niece Lisa Burkinshaw (Bakersfield, CA).

Avante Vitória, 
Elder and Sister Burkinshaw

Sunday, September 13, 2015

Weeks of August 30 - September 13, 2015

      We enjoy being close to the ocean and have started walking each morning at 5:30am since most of our day is spent in the office.  There is a beautiful path adjacent to the beach and the water's edge and one end passes beneath the bridge going from Vitória to Vila Velha.  And because we are in the southern hemisphere, there are no extreme weather patterns such as tropical storms or hurricanes.

The Terçeiro Ponte (Third Bridge) crossing from Vitória (island) to Vila Velha (mainland)

Our 5:30am walk along the beach in Vitória
  Mission life is never dull even (or especially) in the Mission office. The hours are long, but the work is an important part of moving the work along.  Historically, the office has been staffed by young Elders who stay from 4 to 8 months who bring their own unique experience in keeping a mission of 150 missionaries across three of the 26 Brazilian states in over 50 different homes and apartments plus the associated church records and of course the finances.  It is a daunting task for two people working full-time even with the excellent tools the Church provides, principally IMOS (Internet Mission Office System). With the change, the new mission secretaries have to organize things in a way that makes it intuitive for them to manage the task.  Elder Burkinshaw continues to work diligently on an area of utility payments for the various rental homes and apartments for the missionaries.  An unfortunate but frequent occurrence since we arrived has been calls from missionaries who have had their utilities turned off because they have not been paid. After a couple of frustrating days trying to prepare a complete list of what has and has not been paid (some bills were 6 months in arrears) we arrived home at about 8:00pm on Wednesday evening to find that our electricity had been turned off.  Thus, can truly empathize with our missionaries.  The silver lining to our story is, out of embarrassment for not having paid the bill prior to our moving in, our dona (landlady) arranged for the air conditioner she had promised us three weeks ago to be installed Saturday. While the air conditioner is just in the bedroom, our apartment is small enough that we can enjoy it in the living area by using strategically positioned fans.a fan to pull the air from the bedroom to the living room.  P.S. Only senior missionaries get air conditioning in their apartment.

Our dark apartment at 8:00pm after the power had been cut-off earlier in the day.

The newly installed air conditioner on our bedroom wall above the ironing table.
The gray lining to our electricity problem was that Sister Burkinshaw lost a good skirt. Without  power, our dona (landlady) paid for us to stay in a nearby hotel.  Since the hotels here do not have irons, Sister Burkinshaw included our iron in our bag.  But  Elder Burkinshaw plugged it in without thinking and the 220V power with a 110V iron and in an attempted act of service (ironing Sister Burkinshaw's skirt) he instead burned a nice hole in the skirt.  

Sister Burkinshaw's skirt after Elder Burkinshaw used 220V power with a 110V iron.
   Our power-outage event had been preceded by a long weekend and week of work.  Our mission was blessed to have a Mission Tour presided by Elder Geraldo S. Lima, an Area Seventy.  Part of the preparation was to arrange transportation for all the missionaries to the two locations for the conference.  So our preparation-day was cut short as we created a schedule to get 150 missionaries from 40 cities on the Aguia Branca (White Eagle) bus line.  Even with our detailed plan, when we went to the ticket counter to purchase the tickets at about 7:00pm that evening, it took over 4 hours.  We finally took a cab back to the office at 11:00pm on Saturday night to then address arranging airline tickets for an emergency missionary transfer home which was made more difficult by the Brazilian Independence Day holiday (Sete de Setembro) on Monday.  We finally got home about 2:00am Sunday morning.  The next morning, during our Church meetings, Elder Burkinshaw received a call from his sister Robyn, advising that their mother was failing fast and she passed away later that afternoon.
   Senior missionaries have the option to return home for 7-10 days during their mission for significant events.  However, given that Elder Burkinshaw's sister Robyn and brother Mark had things well organized and given our recent move to the mission office, we prayerfully concluded that we should stay in Brazil.  We were grateful for the support of Robyn and Mark as well as our children.  It made for a reflective and somber week. 
    After that very long weekend and week it was nice to be able to attend at least half of the Mission Conference. We had two session; one north in Colatina for the three northern zones of the mission and one here in Vitoria for the three zones here and the southern zone of Campos.  Elder Lima and his wife toured the mission and most importantly trained and encouraged the missionaries.  Elder Lima was released a year ago as the mission president for the Rio de Janeiro mission.  (Eight years ago, headquarters of the Rio de Janeiro North mission was moved from Rio to Vitória and the name was changed to the Vitória mission so we have a close connection with the Rio de Janeiro mission.)  Elder Lima has since been called as an area seventy and continues his work with missionaries. He and his wife both did a great job and the missionaries enjoyed the conference.  He taught the missionaries, using the following paragraph from Preach My Gospel:

"Strive to find and teach families--a father, mother, and children--who can support one another in living the gospel and eventually be sealed as a family unit by restored priesthood authority."

   The phrase "who can support one another in living the gospel" emphasizes the blessing of families to strengthen and help.  Many of our young missionaries do not enjoy the blessing of having a family that are members of the Church.  Our nephew, the recently released Elder Sawyer Vaclaw said that after baptizing a young man whose mother was a member, but whose father was not (yet), that he was "piecing an eternal family together one person at a time".  That vision of eternal families is so important in the work we do.  As we receive baptisms in the office, we look to see if others in their family are already members and were they there to support  the individual being baptized.  Today in the Vitoria ward we attended a baptism of a 14 year old boy. His mother, father and little brother were all there to support him even though they are not members (yet). The missionaries will continue to work that the family may be complete.  Elder Lima's teaching was a good reminder to our young missionaries that the ultimate purpose of the work they do is about "FAMILIES".

A young man baptized Sunday, supported by his family even though not members.
   Yesterday, we finally did get a whole preparation day and we were blessed by the miracles of technology to watch the funeral service for Elder Burkinshaw's mother, Grandma Joyce Bateman Burkinshaw.  All seven of our children and some of their families were able to be in Utah for the service.  The family did a wonderful job with the service and it was a fitting tribute to Grandma. Elder Burkinshaw's remarks, which were prepared in the wee hours of the morning this past week, were delivered masterfully by Chelsea at the funeral service. 

Chelsea, Jenny, Kathleen, Jessica, John, Sarah and Paul
So Grateful for these seven Wonderful People--Thank you for being there!!

Funeral Talk for Joyce Bateman Burkinshaw
Saturday, September 12, 2015 – Midvale East 5th Ward – Vitória, Brasil
A light has gone out in our lives – a light that lit the fire of the Gospel in the hearts of her children.  Though her light is now stilled, it will continue in the lives of her children, grandchildren, and great-grandchildren.  Nothing is more powerful than truth lived under the close observation of children in the home.  President Boyd K. Packer has said, “True doctrine, understood, changes attitudes of behavior.” (“Little Children,” General Conference, October 1986)  “We might extend that to “True doctrine, understood and lived, changes attitudes and behavior.”  For 60 years, I have observed my Mother.  Had her comportment been contrived, it would have been obvious particularly in her later years.  But she was who she was, even when she couldn’t remember who she was – always kind and gracious and gentle, slow to anger and quick to forgive.  And she loved and cared for her children exposing them to true doctrine in the laboratory of the home and among the population of her family.
I love the story in Victor Hugo’s last novel Ninety-Three, where he describes a young soldier and his sergeant walking across a battle-devastated field. In the suffering of the French Revolution, people everywhere were dying of hunger. They saw a stirring in the bushes and discovered a starving mother with her two children. One of the soldiers took out a loaf of bread and handed it to the mother.
“She broke the bread into two fragments and gave them to her children, who ate with avidity (eagerness). ‘She hath kept none for herself,’ grumbled the sergeant.
“‘Because she is not hungry?’ said a soldier.
“‘No,’ said the sergeant, ‘because she is a mother.’” (Victor Hugo, Ninety-Three, pg. 9)
While in graduate school, Stacey and I will always remember that every time we saw my mother, we went away twenty dollars richer, which at times more than doubled our then present net-worth.
But the real sacrifice for her children was manifest in the personal application of true but difficult-to-live Gospel principles. 
Change is hard.  It requires humility, a trait not highly prized in today’s “consumption and gratification”-crazed society.  It requires us to admit we can and should do better.  And then we must diligently and doggedly overcome our own habits.  Elder David A Bednar identified the conversion of the Lamanites as an example of this true change, true conversion.
“For they became a righteous people; they did lay down the weapons of their rebellion, that they did not fight against God any more. …
“Now, these are they who were converted unto the Lord” (Alma 23:6–8).
Elaborating further, Elder Bednar says, “They never did fall away and surrendered ‘the weapons of their rebellion, that they did not fight against God any more.’ To set aside cherished “weapons of rebellion” such as selfishness, pride, and disobedience requires more than merely believing and knowing. Conviction, humility, repentance, and submissiveness precede the abandonment of our weapons of rebellion.” (“Converted Unto the Lord”, General Conference, October 2012)
In late 2010, Mother had a stroke and in early 2011 after some time at the beautiful Aspen Ridge West rehab facility, she and my Dad came to Oklahoma to live with us.  But Oklahoma was not home to Mother – her home was in Midvale, so after a few months, we agreed to take them home where Walter and Connie Carmona lovingly assisted them daily so they could live in their home.  During the trip back Mother and Dad expressed a desire to change, to be a forever family, to battle their once beloved habits, “the weapons of their rebellion,” and to go to the temple.
I still cannot help but smile when I picture in my mind Mother, holding Father’s arm there in front of the Salt Lake Temple following their sealing.  It is for me the ultimate example of a principle taught by Elder Jeffrey R. Holland:
“Everything in the gospel teaches us that we can change if we really want to, that we can be helped if we truly ask for it, that we can be made whole, whatever the problems of the past. (Jeffrey R. Holland, “Teaching, Preaching, Healing,” Ensign, Jan. 2003, 33).
Mother was not perfect and perfection in this life will elude all of us, but humility, diligence and abandoning the weapons of our rebellion invoke the blessings of Christ’s atonement.  “There is never a time,” the Prophet Joseph Smith taught, “when the spirit is too old to approach God. All are within the reach of pardoning mercy…” (Boyd K. Packer, “The Brilliant Morning of Forgiveness,” Ensign, November 1985, 18)
Years ago in a Mother’s Day talk, I wrote the following: “My own mother instilled in me a sense of worth.  She told me I was smart when early report cards and the comments of my teachers indicated otherwise.  She filled my heart with hope as she expressed her confidence in my abilities even while I would verbally minimize her comments as obviously biased.  I oft times marvel at the great and wonderful experiences I have had in this life, when looking back at the inconsequential skinny little boy from the most mundane circumstances.  I honor my mother who gave me the courage to rise beyond my own abilities because she thought I was something of significance.” (Mother’s Day 2008)
One last thought.  We may be tempted to look around and make judgements about who is or isn’t here today.  Ever will I remember the kind and gentle voice of President Howard W. Hunter in April Conference 1992 when he said:
“The world in which we live ... needs the gospel of Jesus Christ. It provides the only way the world will ever know peace. We need to be kinder with one another, more gentle and forgiving. We need to be slower to anger and more prompt to help. We need to extend the hand of friendship and resist the hand of retribution. In short, we need to love one another with the pure love of Christ, with genuine charity and compassion and, if necessary, shared suffering, for that is the way God loves us.
“In our worship services, we often sing a lovely hymn with text written by Susan Evans McCloud. May I recall a few lines of that hymn for you?
“Who am I to judge another, when I walk imperfectly?
“In the quiet heart is hidden sorrow that the eye can’t see.
“Who am I to judge another, Lord, I would follow thee.”
(“A More Excellent Way” Ensign, May 1992, 56)
So may we follow the example of our Mother, sister, aunt and friend in following the Savior.  While Stacey and I would love to be there with you, we continue in our sacred mission, teaching the simple but beautiful truths of the Gospel because we can testify from personal experience of the blessings it can bring.  “We believe that through the atonement of Christ, all mankind may be saved by obedience to the laws and ordinances of the gospel.” (Article of Faith 3).
We so testify, in the name of Jesus Christ, Amen.

Joyce Bateman Burkinshaw and Robert Beck Burkinshaw after their sealing n the Salt Lake Temple on June 1, 2011.
The grandchildren sang a Sally Deford song, "An Angel to Watch Over Me" with words very appropriate for Grandma Burkinshaw's great love for her children:

She watched by my cradle
through long, sleepless nights
She taught me to pray as she knelt by my side
She guarded my childhood,
and all through the years
She echoed my laughter, she counted my tears
In the arms of my mother, I came to believe
That God sent an angel to watch over me
She taught me the meaning of courage and faith
She taught me to live with the Lord as my strength
She taught me to follow the pathway he marked
She guided my steps when the journey grew dark
And I know there were dangers that I could not see
But God sent an angel to watch over me
She taught me to serve with a spirit that sings
She taught me to seek after heavenly things
And because of her love and her kindness and care
Because of the place that I hold in her prayers
And because of her goodness, I still believe
That God sent an angel to watch over me
Robert and Joyce Burkinshaw Family in 1984.

As Aunt Robyn, Elder Burkinshaw's sister, reflected on her own recent experiences it was evident that many years before, Grandma's recording of her own tender experiences would provide the spark that would bless the life of this youngest child. The bringing together of each event over a period of 30+ years is in itself miraculous. Why would we expect anything less when we worship "a God of Miracles". We are thankful this week to know and understand His eternal plan and to be able to help in taking His message to all the world, particularly our corner of the world here in the Brazil Vitória Mission.
Avante Vitória,
Elder and Sister Burkinshaw