Sunday, October 25, 2015

Week of October 19-25, 2015

  We mentioned last week that daylight savings time started last week in Brasil so now, when we first begin our walk in the morning, it is still somewhat dark as shown below:

Our "morning" walk has gotten darker with the transition to daylight savings time.
   By the time we are at the end of our walk, the sun has appeared and it becomes warm very quickly.

Sunrise during our morning walk - a beautiful physical analogy of our life

We regularly pass these small boats along the beach on our early-morning walk.

Circuit training is a popular beach activity - unfortunately it is just starting as we are finishing out morning walk.
   We regularly include pictures of our morning walk because it provides the most variety and most tranquility of our days.  Our work in the mission office is obviously important but it is also routine.  We support the physical needs (President Young gets the spiritual and emotional needs) for 120+ young adult missionaries, some quite mature and experienced in living on their own and some for whom this is a new experience.  The mission is spread over three Brazilian states (Espirito Santo, Rio de Janeiro and Minas Gerais) and includes two mission districts and four stakes.
   As the executive secretary for the mission, Sister Burkinshaw prepares the weekly roll-up statistics for the mission, preparing membership records for all new converts, visa renewals with the Federal Police, international travel arrangements for missionaries who have completed their missions, preparing letters to family and church leaders of the missionaries, scheduling interviews, managing referrals received for our mission and sending referrals from our mission to other missions and preparing the orientation materials for new missionaries and answering the office phone.
   Elder Burkinshaw serves as the financial secretary of the mission which includes the semi-monthly disbursements to missionaries including one-time reimbursements and charges, monthly rent payments for about 50 missionary homes and apartments, utility payments for the homes and apartments, tracking and monthly reporting for all mission credit card charges including a petty cash fund, ordering necessary new appliances for missionary apartments, working with landlords to close old home and apartment contracts including repairs and painting, preparing contracts for new apartments and homes and a variety of other projects.  And, like Sister Burkinshaw, there are phone calls all day long.
   While many missions have an office staff of 4 or 5 people, there are just the two of us.  We arrive in the office about 8:00am and leave at about 8:00pm and often, there are just not enough hours in the day to complete everything we need to do.  We go home tired but after a good night´s sleep and an early morning walk along the beautiful Vitória beach, we return renewed and ready for another day!

A panoramic shot of Praia do Camburi with Sister Burkinshaw on either side!
   Saturday morning (our preparation day) we finally took time to find the bike rental shop. We rented bikes for an hour and enjoyed a nice ride along the Praia do Camburi, about 3½ miles up and 3½ miles back.  It was a little later in the morning and by the time we rode for an hour and stopped to pick up a few groceries on our walk home we had had more sun than we realized.  We are used to early morning walks so we didn't think about what a couple of hours might do later in the day, so we both got a little burnt, but nothing too serious. With the bikes we were easily able to cover the 7+ mile path. The breeze off the ocean was very cool and comfortable even providing a little extra resistance at times. It provided some nice variety to our exercise routine.

Introducing William Jeffrey Wright born on October 20, 2015.  This handsome little boy has more hair than his Grandpa Jeff and the difference will only increase in Will's favor.
   The highlight of our week was the safe arrival of our grandson, William Jeffrey Wright.  Will (as he will be called) and Kathleen are doing great.  We miss not being there for the birth of Will and his cousin Adelaide.  They will both be in nursery by the time we get home from Brazil but as W.W.Phelps penned, "Sacrifice brings forth the blessings of Heaven" and we know that we are where we are most needed at this time.  As we work to bring a bit more organization to the mission office, we have confidence our family will be well-cared-for and all will be well.  
   We attended a funeral service today for a good member of the Church here in Vitória who had been active and healthy but passed away within 3 months of being diagnosed with Acute Myeloid Leukemia, the same illness that claimed Grandpa Robert Beck Burkinshaw. Adelaide is our 9th granddaughter and Will is our 13th grandson and hopefully they will look back at our absence as an example of our family's commitment to help change the world by sharing the most important thing we have - the gospel of Jesus Christ - the Great Plan of Happiness.    We are reminded that we should serve while we can and it will all work out for our good in the end.  Of this we have confidence.

Avante Vitória!

Elder and Sister Burkinshaw 

Sunday, October 18, 2015

Week of October 11-18, 2015

  Good food, good company and small miracles. This would be a good description of our week. On Sunday we had dinner at a members house. Marziete and Julia (Kayo was with his Dad) treated us to one of our favorites here in Brazil, Chicken Stroganoff. It was excellent as was the dessert. They are such a good family and we appreciate their friendship. It was a very warm day and most homes here do not have air conditioning, but they live at the top of a hill, have an amazing view of the city and a great breeze. Definitely good food and good company.

Julia, Irmã Marizete, Sister Burkinshaw, Elder Burkinshaw and guaraná!
Irmã Marizete's doce de leite - It was very deliciosa!
On Monday, October 12, President Young invited us to have a special lunch with Irmão Cypriano and his wife.  Irmão Cypriano does maintenance on the missionary apartments throughout the mission so this was a "Thank you" and a "Please continue to work with us" lunch because we'd be in dire straits without him.  He chose a special restaurant in Vila Velha that serves a very delicious and traditional specialty of moqueca which is a fish stew with shrimp.  Irmão Cypriano told us it was originally poor people food but this version was outstanding - and even better with fresh brasilian juice.  Sister Burkinshaw had succo de laranja (orange juice), Irmã Cypriano and I had acerola (a small red, tart berry which provides more vitamin C than orange juice) and President Young had mango juice.  For dessert, President Young, Sister Burkinshaw and I had baked fudge with sorvete (ice cream) and the Cypriano's had banana flambé.  A very special treat! The restaurant was in Vila Velha across the street from the beach.
Almoço (lunch) with Irmã and Irmão Cypriano, President Young and Elder and Sister Burkinshaw at a very nice restaurant in Vila Velha.

Moqueca is a fish stew prepared with fish, shrimp, tomatoe, onion, garlic, coriander and palm oil. served with baked bananas.

Our lunch was on the Dia das Crianças (Childrens Day) holiday so the beaches were particularly crowded.
Treating Brother and Sister Cypriano was also a reminder of what a good person President Young is. He is a man who walks the walk. One of the four areas of focus the Young's have for the mission is gratitude. President Young is very good at expressing appreciation and the missionaries are continually practicing it also. Our children received a nice note this week from President Young expressing appreciation to them for supporting us in our service here in Brazil. The missionaries express often appreciation for the things we do for them through word, notes left on our desk and chocolates. We have noticed what a difference that living this one simple principle makes in the mission.

We took a picture of one of the notes the sisters left on our desk this week. We read again President Eyring's "O Remember, Remember" conference talk given in October 2007. He said, "I would ponder this questions: 'Have I seen the hand of God reaching out to touch us or our children or our family today?' As I kept at it, something began to happen. As I would cast my mind over the day, I would see evidence of what God had done for one of us that I had not recognized in the busy moments of the day. As that happened, and it happened often, I realized that trying to remember had allowed God to show me what He had done. More than gratitude began to grow in my heart. Testimony grew."  For us seeing this principles lived in the lives of these young missionaries is inspiring.

A kind note to Sister Burkinshaw "Thank you for your disposition in serving and helping all of us missionaries.  We are grateful for your efforts in learning Portuguese.  You are speaking very well.  Thank you for your example of inspiration and determination.  We love you.  - Sister Constilho and Sister Barra, 15 October 2015"

On Wednesday we were thrilled to walk into the office first thing in the morning and see one of the young men from Teófilo Otoni in President Young's office for his final interview before being set apart to serve in the Brazil Brasilia Mission. Elder Franklin Fernandez arrived after that wonderful all-night bus ride, was interviewed, and then set apart by President Young with Elder Burkinshaw assisting. Sister Burkinshaw was also invited in to listen. There was an amazing spirit and the promises made to this good Elder were wonderful. Teófilo Otoni is in the Nanuque District so as the Mission President, President Young presides over the district. Elder Fernandes looked great. Elder Burkinshaw took him for a little breakfast after the setting apart and since he had several hours before needing to be at the airport for his flight to the CTM in São Paulo he rested for an hour on the couch in the office, we took him out for lunch, took a few pictures and he was on his way. We love his family and know his service will be a great blessing to them as well as a wonderful example to the young men in the branch in Teófilo Otoni. It made us miss the members there, but we are able to visit with them often and look forward to an opportunity to return for a few days at the end of our mission. It was truly a sweet experience. We hope we will have at least a couple more of this same experience in the coming months with others from Teófilo Otoni preparing for missions.

Elder Franklin Macedo Fernandes from Teófilo Otoni with Elder and Sister Burkinshaw shortly after being set apart to serve a full-time mission in the Brasil Brasilia mission.

Good food, good company and small miracles. For Sister Burkinshaw the small miracles came, as they often do, while inputting Baptism and Confirmation information from forms (fichas) filled out by the missionaries into the CDE (Convert Data Entry database).  This is the way membership records are created for new converts and is always done in the mission office as opposed to the wards and branches.  The challenge is that form is filled out in the missionary's own handwriting and since scanners are not available, a photo is taken and e-mailed to the office.  Reading and digitizing the record is a lot like doing records indexing.  There is certain information that must be included to create a valid membership record including full name, birthday, birth place, unit (ward/branch) where they are baptized, home address (a valid address which isn't always easy in Brazil), and the baptismal and confirmation dates.  Additional information is also requested which will be helpful for family history and other reasons, but not mandatory to create a membership record. This week we had 21 confirmations, so 21 new membership records were created on Wednesday. There are many little miracles in this whole process as there is a lot of potential for human error. For example, the following address was written by the missionaries on one of the fichas: R. Ruy Marques Facine. Sister Burkinshaw uses both GoogleMaps and the Correio (Brasilian post office) site to verify that the address is a valid address that can be used in the membership record to find the new member. When the address, as written, was checked in the two websites, both responded that this was not a valid address.  However, with some divine guidance, experience and multiple trial and error  scenarios the address was properly identified as R. Rui Marcos Novaes Fascine. You can see the similarity, but it is nothing less than miraculous to figure out how to get from the first address to the second.  We regularly remind the missionaries as they are filling out their fichas that in a couple of years they will be on the other side of this very important information as a home teacher, youth leader or Bishop trying to find these members.

Below is an example of a ficha sent in by a missionary who was fthe former mission executive secretary (which is Sister Burkinshaw's current position) which he correctly identified as a terrible photo because unfortunately his phone camera was not working. The picture was basically unreadable.  Sister Burkinshaw decided to try sending out her new writeable-pdf ficha to this Elder.  President Young authorized the missionary to access the computer on Wednesday (normally they only access the computer on P-Days).  As you can see, it worked great and the former executive secretary (and now Zone Leader) was able to give us some constructive feedback. We aren't sure if the missionaries are going to like this method, but President Young thinks it is a great idea because it is readable even if it will still require additional work to verify information such as the address. Here is a picture of the first ficha that was sent and the writeable-pdf ficha - a discernible difference. 

This week President Young had interviews with the missionaries in the Vitória area zones so it made for a lot of activity in the office with comings and goings (and lots of visiting). While in the office, the missionaries always take advantage of the opportunity to make copies, pick up proselyting materials, purchase bags and scripture covers with the mission logo, etc.  As a result, our productivity suffers but we love the missionaries and are happy to serve them. 
Elder Burkinshaw trying to work in spite of all the noise around him.
Missionaries intuitively sense when you pull out the camera and are ready with a smile!

The next few pictures were taken this week as we saw things that reminded us of home and days gone by. We are so grateful for the blessings we have enjoyed growing up and raising our family with the blessings of the Gospel of Jesus Christ. It is for that reason that we are here in Brazil serving, helping to "take the Gospel to all the world". What a great adventure this is. We continue to learn much and see the blessing of the Atonement of Jesus Christ in the lives of those we serve. 

"Oh what do you do in the Summer time"  This is our view of the early morning sky from the exercise room on the top floor of our apartment building while doing sit-ups.

If you look closely you can see a small tug boat on the water between the buildings.  As we watched it go by one morning during breakfast, it reminded us of the Little Golden Book we used to read to the kids "Scuffy the Tugboat". 

During our morning walk, we watch waves crashing on the beach during a particularly windy day, which reminded Sister Burkinshaw of an experience with her sister Kary in San Diego.
It has been quite windy this week and as we walked the praia (beach) Sister Burkinshaw couldn't help but reflect on her starfish story with Aunt Kary. They were on a family trip to California and had stopped by a pier, similar to the one in this picture, to walk. Seeing a starfish stuck to a rock near the sea, Aunt Kary promised that she would watch periodic crashing waves and warn Sister Burkinshaw if she would go out on the rocks, fully clothed, and get the starfish.  After a few minutes a large wave drenched Sister Burkinshaw and when she asked what happened to the warning, Aunt Kary explained she had been watching the process of getting the starfish and when she saw the wave, it was too late. 

We are glad the prophets don't get distracted with the things around them and continually sound the warning call. With the recent change in Church leadership, Elder Burkinshaw has updated his Succession in thePresiden document and added a picture of the new Quorum of the Twelve Apostles so we thought we'd include that also. Since we aren't able to listen to conference talks on our walks anymore, we have adopted the Mike and Jessica Richards Family idea of listening to a conference talk during breakfast.

One final thought.  Often times it is difficult for missionaries to get out everyday to do their work.  It is not easy and and it requires discipline and they don't always feel very well. Elder Vaughn J. Featherstone shared the following story.

A student once walked into the office of Harvard Dean LeBaron Russell Briggs and said he hadn’t done his assignment because he hadn’t felt well. Looking the student piercingly in the eye, Dean Briggs said, “Mr. Smith, I think in time you may perhaps find that most of the work in the world is done by people who aren’t feeling very well” (quoted by Vaughn J. Featherstone, “Self-Denial,” New Era,November 1977, p. 9).

President Thomas S. Monson heroically completing his message on Sunday morning, October 4, 2015 despite physical weariness and weakness after serving over 50 years in full-time service as an apostle.
As we consider the heroic effort of President Thomas S. Monson on Sunday morning, October 4 as he delivered his prophetic message to the world despite physical weakness, having served over 50 years, more than half of his life, in full-time service to the Lord as an apostle and president of the Church, it gives Elder Featherstone's story added emphasis. We may not feel good every day, but as we fulfil our duty, we are blessed beyond our natural ability.

Avante Vitória!

Elder and Sister Burkinshaw

Saturday, October 10, 2015

Weeks of September 21-October 11, 2015

  Vitória and the entire state of Espirito Santo is "tropical" which means it is between the equator and the tropic of capricorn and on about November 15 around 12:30, the sun reach it's zenith or in other words, it will be exactly 180° above the city both north-south and east-west.  Until that time, the sun shines from the north.  After that date, the sun will shine from the south until about January 29 when the sun hits it zenith again and afterward will shine from the north.  For those who are interested, here's a site that provides date and location adjustable maps.  The bottom line is that Vitória is warm with lush vegetation.  And although the season is spring, for us raised in cooler climates, it is what we would call hot!  For that reason, we arise at 5:30am each morning to walk.  Currently, the sun rises at 5:15am but next Sunday (two weeks before the United States) the clock springs forward in daylight savings time and then we'll be getting up in the dark.

During our early morning walk along the beach, we watch rowing crews with the Vitória city  and the Terçeiro Ponte (bridge) in the background.
Another early morning rowing crew with Ilha do Boi in the background.  

   Gradually we are getting to know all of our ±130 young missionaries.  They live a very austere life as they dedicate their whole time and energies to sharing the most important message in the world with the people here.  While senior missionaries also live a more spartan life, we have access to our personal resources.  We enjoy treating missionaries to pizza or Sister Burkinshaw's delicious cookies or brownies.  The only English-speaking elder who served with us in Teófilo Otoni, Elder Cody McKay (he uses his middle name as his surname because it's familiar to Brazilians, and we already had an Elder Hendrickson, but his surname is Hendrickson)  had a birthday last week.  Unfortunately he was still in Teófilo Otoni and we were an 11-hour bus ride away in Vitória.  So, like we have for other missionaries, we took a picture and sent a vicarious treat with the promise of a pizza dinner in the future.  Here is the picture. the brownies were from and they are delicious! A side note, as mentioned our missionaries often have to use a different name as we can only have one missionary in the mission with any given name. Sometimes we will do W. Santos or T. Santos to distinguish. In Brazil this is quite difficult as they have long names that are very similar. It has taken a while to sort them all out especially the Silva's and Santos. In looking at our upcoming transfer we have four more Silva's coming which adds to the five or six we have now who have had to adjust their name. We have heard that it makes doing family history also quite difficult. Our daughter's should thank us for not giving them middle names so they only have Burkinshaw to deal with.
Sister Burkinshaw eating one of her delicious brownies as a vicarious treat for Elder McKay who was celebrating his 20th birthday.  This vicarious treat can be redeemed for a future pizza dinner.
   We also continue to enjoy getting to know the members of the ward we are assigned to. Many have been kind and invited us for almoço (lunch) on Sunday as that is only day we really have an opportunity to do so. We had almoço at the Bishop's home the sunday before conference weekend. They are a great family. Their daughter has recently returned from serving a mission on temple square. She was actually heading back to Utah for a week to attend a mission reunion and enjoy conference. The Bishop and his wife are great cooks and great company. We thought we'd share a picture of the dessert it was delicious as well as artistic. The members are great and we are slowly getting to know them. It was easier in Teófilo Otoni as we were interacting during the week as well, and we do miss our friends in Teófilo.

   Last Friday night, October 2, we left the office about 7:00pm and went to the Horto Supermercado to buy groceries and ordered a chicken Parmesan dinner to go.  We had so many things, we took a taxi back to our apartment and unfortunately, we left our small bag, which contained among other things, Sister Burkinshaw's iPhone.  When we realized we had left it in the taxi, we turned on the Find My Phone app and Elder Burkinshaw began to try to find the taxi by running to where it was on the app.  He eventually engaged another taxi and put the iPhone in "Lost" mode and had it make noise to alert the taxi driver.  Unfortunately, the taxi driver must have decided that he didn't want it to be found and he turned it off.  He would periodically turn it on but then turn it off quickly thereafter so we couldn't find it.  After searching late into the night, we gave up trying to find it and erased the contents using the app.  We then had the cell phone company cancel the chip. It was a disappointing lesson to learn - most people are honest but there are a few who are not. There were several other things in the MIssâo Brazil Vitória bag which we spent a good part of the day on saturday replacing so we would have them available for transfers. Such a hard lesson to learn! Silver lining to this sad story, while at the mall to replace a cord to be able to use the sound system at the chapel we also found the chocolate store. One of the Elder's had given us one and now we know where to find them. We drowned our sorrows with a few varieties of chocolates--so, so good.
   Since it was Sister Burkinshaw who left the bolso (bag) on the back seat of the taxi Elder Burkinshaw words of comfort all evening were "it will all work out". Sister Marriott's conference talk Saturday morning was comforting and also humbling as she spoke of their experience while serving in Brazil. She said, "In 1970, when the missionaries taught me about the Father’s plan of salvation and of the Savior’s Atonement, my waiting ended. I embraced these truths and was baptized. Based on this knowledge of the Lord’s mercy and power, my husband, children, and I chose this family motto: “It will all work out.” Yet how can we say those words to one another when deep troubles come and answers aren’t readily available? When our delightful, worthy, 21-year-old daughter, Georgia, was hospitalized in critical condition following a bike accident, our family said, “It will all work out.” As I flew immediately from our mission in Brazil to Indianapolis, Indiana, USA, to be with her, I clung to our family motto. However, our lovely daughter passed into the spirit world just hours before my plane landed. With grief and shock running through our family like a current, how could we look at one another and still say, “It will all work out”?" Their family of course continues faithfully as will we and the bag of worldly things seemed very insignificant in comparison to the loss they experienced while serving in Brazil. I did appreciate the words she shared from President Hinckley “If you do your best, it will all work out. Put your trust in God. … The Lord will not forsake us.” Hopefully it won't take too long for them to replace the mission credit card that was in the bag as we use that often to keep things running in the mission.
   We spent the rest of the weekend preparing for transfers which took place on Tuesday, October 6.  There is significant coordination required because first, you have training and final interviews for the missionaries who go home, training and initial interviews for the new missionaries who are arriving and then a transfer meeting in Vitória where all the missionaries who will be transferred meet to learn who their new companions and areas will be.  At the end of the Transfer Meeting, we sing the Mission song with a slide show of recent activities and baptisms.  For this transfer, we had slides of the missionaries marching in the Cariacica 7 de Setembro (Brazilian Independence Day) parade.  Here are the lyrics to the mission song (sung to the tune of the hymn #263 "Go Forth with Faith"  and a link to the slide show.

Hino da Missão Brasil Vitória

Pros-se-guir-e-mos em tão gran-de cau-sa do Sen-hor
A-van-te pra'a Vitória com fpe no Sal-va-dor.
Pro-cla-mai com de-di-ca-ção e a-le-gri--a.
Co-ra-gem, ir-mãos, e a-van-te pra'a Vitória.

Com ca-ri-da-de e a-mor lu-ta-mos com vi-gor.

E-fei-tu-ar a re-un-ião dos elei-tos do sen-hor.
Tra-zer al-mas ao Re-den-tor é nos-sa glór-i-a.
Re-go-zi-ja-mos e a-van-te pra'a Vitória.

Ao en-to-ar o rei dos reis com can-tos de lou-vour.
Hor-ra-dos va-mos ba-ti-zar os fi-lhos do Sen-hor.
Se-lan-do com po-der do ceu a nos-sa histo-ri-a.
Este é o lega-do da Mis-são Bra-sil Vi-tór-i-a.

We hope your are all doing well and enjoying the fall season. We loved conference and can't believe that last conference we were in Salt Lake, the six months have gone fast and we have found that missionary work is work, but we see the miracle of the gospel daily--mostly in the lives of the missionaries we serve. 

Avante Vitória!

Elder and Sister Burkinshaw