Thursday, December 27, 2012

The first of the waterfalls

Salto Manduri. Much more impressive when there is water.
We are told there are over 100 waterfalls in the municipality of Prudentopolis and we have now see 2 of them. We were taken by a good friend and part time investigator, Armando. Armando is one of those people that you just know you have been friends with before coming to earth, at least in my case. I knew we would be good friends as soon as we met. He and his wife come to church almost every Sunday for at least Sacrament Meeting and they would do anything for you. They are not members but their son, Anderson has joined the church and is serving a mission in Sao Paulo.
Salto Barao looking down from the lookout point

Armando and Sister McKinney at Salto Barao lookout point

Salto Barao. See if you can find the birds
nesting on the face of the rock behind the water.

Rickli resort at the Salto Manduri. Built mostly for day
use by the Rickli family as a way to give back to the community.
The word salto can mean jump, bounce, waterfall or shoe heel. I noticed a sign at the swimming pool that prohibited a "salto mortal" which is a somersault. The Rickli family immigrated from Switzerland and both of the falls shown here are on their very large holdings, which include farming of soy and corn among other things and a large conservation area where the falls are located.

Monday, December 24, 2012

Mission Christmas Conference

     Our Christmas Conference began at about 4:15 AM when the bus picked us up at our apartment. The bus began at 3:00 at the Davis' apartment in Guarapuava, picked us and the Elders from Prudentopolis and Irati, went on the Ponta Grossa to gather the Elder and Sisters there and dropped us at the door to the mission office at about 8:30 AM. Missionaries had some time before the conference began at 9:30 to visit with previous companions and catch up a bit.
     The morning of the conference was spent being instructed by President and Sister Cordon, meeting their family and meeting the family of one of the counselors in the mission presidency. This counselor has a pretty amazing story. He was orphaned at the age of 17 when both of his parents died within days of each other and the family was split up with he and a younger brother being left to take care of each other. They were found by missionaries, taught, and baptized in 1976. They were barely getting by and as he turned 18 less than a year later his bishop asked him if he would serve a mission for the church. He didn't know what that was but when the Bishop explained he told the bishop he was barely getting by as it was and didn't see how it would be possible. His Bishop told him to think about it and pray and a way would be opened to allow him to serve. He said he would think and pray about it. A while later after he had pretty much forgotten about the call from the Bishop he received some money from an uncle who had sold some property. While he was thinking of all the things he could do with the money he separated out 10% and paid his tithing. The Bishop called him in and asked where he had come by such a substantial amount and he explained. The Bishop handed back his tithing and said, "The Lord doesn't want 10%, he wants it all". Not understanding he asked what he meant and the Bishop explained that this was the money he would require for his mission. He put in his papers and served. He learned the gospel while serving his mission and one experience that stood out for him was when he attempted to bear his testimony about the Book of Mormon and the man asked if he had read the entire book, he had to tell him no, he hadn't read it all the way through. His testimony was rejected and he and his companion determined that he had to read it as soon as possible. He spent every free minute reading until he was finished and had received his own witness of it's truth. He returned to the man, bore testimony and the man was baptized.
     Lunch was a blur. Jan spent the time trying to get pictures of baptisms that the Elders had not sent early, and pictures that Sister Cordon wanted added at the last minute, into a power point presentation for the afternoon. I, of course left her to go eat, and dish up a plate for her before the food was completely gone.
     After lunch we had a Christmas Play with Cordon's son and daughter-in law portraying Joseph and Mary and each zone in the mission singing Christmas hymns.

President and Sister Cordon announcing the program

Zones provide the music for the Nativity

Joseph asking to stay in an inn for the night ( he asked President Cordon and was refused)

The Sisters are called upon to provide music

The Guarapuava and Paranagua zones join forces, Sister McKinney
is on the piano.

      The day ended in reverse order of how it began as the bus left the mission office around 5 PM and dropped us off at our apartment.


Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Christmas in Brasil

We have had to scramble to prepare for a branch Christmas celebration since Elder McKinney was only sustained this month.  There are no kitchen facilities at the building that we rent and since the majority of members walk a mile or more it is inconvenient to ask them to bring food with them to share in a pot luck type way-- the new first counselor suggested that we eat at a restaurant.  Those of you who know me well, know what a penny-pincher I am.  This was a very hard concept for me to accept.  The cost of the meal also includes transportation to the restaurant from the branch building.  Of course for some who live closer to the restaurant, this makes no sense so hopefully the bus can make a few stops on the way to pick them up.

I pilfered some e-card from the to use as invites. After changing the scriptures included to Portuguese, we printed the information about the dinner on the back, then we walked & walked to deliver them to each of the members and get a count of who could attend so we could reserve space for this Thursday evening.  I hope by next year to be far more knowledgeable about local customs and possibilities.  I want to share this beautiful video/music presentation with them but so far we have not figured out how to do so. The best I can do is offer it to each of you and hope that you will each share it because it is so beautiful.

We also attended our zone conference in Guarapuava on Dezembro 10th.  We were served by the zone leaders as they went around and polished each set of shoes.  We also learned about following instructions by folding Christmas trees from a square of paper.  John went to receive the instructions by ear and then came to teach me how to make the tree without using his hands to show me how to do it.  He was very good at relaying the instructions from his memory and we were able to make our tree.  However, when they gave us the written instructions with pictures included, it was much easier to complete the task.   In true missionary fashion I believe that they want  us to teach others to read the instructions to life via the Book of Mormon.  It makes things so much easier.  We have been very fortunate to get to know this much of Elders for two transfers now.  I think we will probably get to meet some new ones when transfers happen the week after Christmas.  

Tree floating in the pond
in a local neighborhood
President Cordon assigned me to prepare a slide show for the Mission Christmas program.  For the last three P-days I have received e-mails from the mission elders. Each of them sending one of their baptisms for the year. This will be the only "White Christmas" that we will have this year as it is getting warmer everyday here.  

We have about 2 mm of rainfall a day on average.  The clouds roll in and drop a significant amount of rain for a girl from the deserts of Utah. I really have to time my wash so I can hang it out to dry between the daily storms.  Then the clouds roll on and the sun comes out and the sky is blue and hot like nothing happened.  

Anyway, I currently have a 114 slide PowerPoint Presentation that I am putting The Piano Guys Christmas hymns to. (I have had fun purchasing and downloading this music from their website.) We will show it as part of the Christmas Party that we will all attend in Curitiba on Friday.  

This park is downtown in Prudentópolis.
The white of the candy canes is the spray painted ends of pop bottles. 
One last fun thing to report about is our part in three humanitarian projects that came to light in the last couple of weeks.  The previous mission couple - The Carters from Pleasant Grove - had proposed three separate projects here in town to the powers that be in São Paulo.  Elder McKinney received an e-mail saying that the projects had to be initiated before the end of the year.  Santa Casa is a hospital for mostly indigent people that come in for medical care from the interior of the country.  Hermes Sanchez is the director there.  We met with him last week and introduced ourselves, laid out the paperwork that we had received, proposed that we would like to donate $R5,000 from the Church of Jesus Christ to his facility, and then promptly bought 27 mattresses and covers for his facility.  Hermes was a pharmacist who opened a pharmacology school in Guarapuava before becoming the administrator of this charitable hospital.  He was very professional and gave us a tour of the facility.  Having worked my college years in Utah Valley Hospital, there was a very familiar look to his hospital.  I was impressed with his pharmacy, operating rooms, patient rooms, emergency facilities etc.  We had called ahead to explain our errand.  John explained the limits of the contract with the church, he had done his homework previous to our arrival and chose the money for much needed new mattresses and covers.  We hopped in his car, drove to a local loja (store), picked out the cover materials, contracted to have them made and made a new friend. He has invited us to a dinner with his board next week to tell about the church humanitarian projects.

The second project was for Padre Albino whose project allows the families of the indigent patients served by the hospital to stay while they await the care of their loved ones.  Many come with only the shirts on their back and have no other resources.  This project would provide hygiene kits and possible newborn type kits to these people.  When we met with the Padre we also met the head of his board of directors and they decided that they could decide how to spend their alloted money with out a board meeting that will not happen until after the holidays.

The third project is for Visilio Sao Vincente which is a asylum for elderly patients (an old folks home of sorts).  We met with them last week to present the proposal and then again yesterday to order materials.  They choose to spend their money on pillows and sheets for the patients.  These will be made locally at two different stores. Margolí is the woman in charge of the facility.  Again, she and her assistant prepared their priority list and were ready for us when we came to go shopping. she was very professional and caring.

The remarkable thing about the two projects that have moved along is that as we explain the sacredness of the donations and the responsibility of spending the money carefully, they agree.  The merchants have given discounts and even thrown in free labor on both projects.  There will be publicity for the church as well as for their facilities because they are grateful and because they hope it will motivate others to contribute.

We have had more investigators at church.  On Sunday we finally had our children's Sacrament Meeting program. All 12 children (including 3 investigators) sang their hearts out.  I expected to see parents in the audience but we also had the local post master and his wife-to-be last Sunday.  He has been very friendly with us and is investigating the church.

One less welcome visitor arrived at our home last week. I was grateful this one was caught in a trap.

More soon.....

Saturday, December 8, 2012

Presidents, Peddlers, & Preparations

Saturdays are Seminary – John has taught for 3 weeks now because Alana is studying for finals at school – the course is Old Testament.  He got a call from the area coordinator saying they should be finished by the end of the year and the kids are only in Exodus because they do one lesson a week on Saturday.  The stories do not seem familiar to the kids, so Elder McKinney gave each of the youth the assignment to study one of the stories and come back and report to the others in the next few weeks before the end of the year.  Hopefully the preparation will make at least one story stick in each of their minds.
John’s Sunset shot from the front of our apartment
– note the sky line.  

Meanwhile, during seminary time, I have been teaching music lessons to one of the younger brothers using the organ in the chapel since he did not have access to a keyboard at his home.  I have two youth and one adult who seem to be taking lessons seriously and two other people who like the idea of playing but have not yet caught the concept of practicing (repetition to help embed the learning and make it natural). John has even started practicing since he listens in on the majority of lessons while I am teaching.

Sunday, December 2nd, 2012, was noteworthy because we had so many area authorities arrive at our small building for our branch meetings.  District Presidente Guilherme Lustoza Araujo and his wife and two beautiful children; district primary and young woman’s presidents; Presidente Lustoza, a counselor in the mission presidency and father of Presidente Araujo; a driver named Brother Helãman all arrive before the 9 a.m. meetings.  They greeted many of the members by name and were great representatives of the igreja (church). So they attended the block meetings ending with sacrament meeting – when we found that Presidente Cordon, Sister Cordon, and their son Dallin had arrived to participate in the release of the branch presidency who have been serving since 2007.  

Cordons – Elders – Presidente McKinney
Elder John Leslie McKinney was sustained as the new branch president with Renato Mehl and Paul Bonfim as counselors. Daniel Oishi was retained as the Elder’s Quorum President but released as the 2nd Counselor in the branch presidency. Needless to say it was a busy and an exciting day for us.  Presidente Cordon gave John a blessing and explained that as a missionary he already had the keys necessary for a branch president.  He then alternated with Presidente Lustoza in setting apart the others.  The most noteworthy part of the blessings was that having patience with Elder McKinney was mentioned. Virginia Mehl, Michalina Bonfim and myself as well as newly released Presidente Elias Jair Stadler and his wife, Ivadette, were at the setting apart.

The Cordons and Elders Brooksby and Affonso ate lunch at our home. There was a period of time while the new Branch Presidency counted offerings and the Elders helped some of the young investigators return to their homes that I was able to visit with the Cordons in our apartment.  Dallin is 15 and in international school in Curitiba. We talked about the advantages of having a broader education – knowing people from all over the world – and I think he is probably already a great missionary in his own right.

Christmas tree
from the Biehns.  
The Cordons brought some great packages from Casal Biehn for us.  When the Biehns returned to Bountiful in November they left us their Christmas decorations and two more teclados so I could teach more students here in Prudentópolis.  Monday, I promptly got on line and made my first Portuguese internet purchase since there were no printed materials or music books included with the keyboards.  I hope the distribution center here in Brasil will be able to get things here to me quickly.  I found that not only was the material cheaper from this distribution center when I converted the Reais to dollars but I did not have to pay the $135 international shipping.  My CPF number finally came in handy and the time and money it cost to get it have almost been paid for by saving me the shipping.

The week that followed involved a lot of study and preparation.  We did spend a little time at the branch going through materials in the president’s and clerk’s offices and the library.  There is a lot to be recycled in old leadership manuals.  The Elders would like to make up Christmas baskets of the extra copies of old lesson manuals that are stacked in the library.  I will report back later on how that works out.  

I was also given the assignment of collecting baptism pictures from the missionaries and putting a Power Point together with the pictures and Christmas music to be shown at the mission Christmas Party December 21st.  I am now trying to figure out how to attach the music to the program since, of course, the Power Point is a newer version than I have previously used.  Wish me luck!  I have found some beautiful music.  Remember, I am trying to prepare Portuguese lyrics.  I am learning from these translations that interpretations of language are broader than I would have imagined before.

Adela & Kris at Oishis' with Elder McKinney
Friday, Dezembro 7th, we met Adela and Kris from Poland.  They are biking around the world and information about them can be found at:  We were able to visit with them for the evening.  They have a small tent and all their equipment with them on their bikes.  They do not know where they will stay from one day to the next – kind of like without purse or script.  If you are interested, access their website and hit translate.  They are learning the language of the countries as they bike through.  Though they are both Polish, they met in London, England where they worked at the same restaurant while they were in England with the intent to learn English. Adela observed to me that they have found good people everywhere they have been and none of the bad that is so publicized on the news. They have relatives in Texas so they will try to cross into the U.S. at the border there then ride up through California to Alaska and the across the Behring Strait.  This process will take years (already 2 years and 10+ months).  We may be home before they are in the U.S.

Nativity souvenir to add to my collection!
Our 1st  Christmas decoration here.

One purchase that we have still been unable to make is that of a good fan.  It is getting warmer here every day. With the humidity, 90 degrees gets pretty warm.  It is warm enough that I have acquired some blisters on my heat rash.  I am working on overcoming that!  Elder McKinney just roams around trying to get cool enough to sleep at night. 

Christmas tablecloth becomes our wall decoration!

We are off to finish sorting through materials at the branch and decorate for Christmas. 

Saturday, December 1, 2012

Skype, Sidewalks and Semínimas

We are new grandparents again!  

Abigail Jolien McKinney was born early in the morning on Tuesday, November 27th, 2012, which is three days earlier than Chelsea planned to be induced.  We got a call, during the early hours in Utah, as James and Chelsea were checking in at Timpanogos Regional Hospital-- her contractions were coming pretty close together.  Later, James called with the good news that mom and baby (7 lbs. 8 ozs., 20 inches long, born 7:27 a.m.) were well. We were home having lunch the next day--5 hours’ time difference between us and Utah right now—when James, Evelyn, and Amelia [in pjs]--Skyped us to show us dark-haired Abigail.  It seems that she does not sleep all that well at night yet but she is strong and beautiful.  We are soooooo blessed. 

Many designs are found in
the sidewalk 
This is actually the road
- not the sidewalk!

This is the sidewalk - (aka "calçado")
Cement  sidewalk with typical cracks &
the little yellow birds I love.

paralelepípedo - the term for
the beautiful  stonework

In less exciting happenings this week, I have made observations about the local sidewalks since we are always walking.  There do not seem to be any covenants about how the property owner provides the material in front of the home.  Thus, there is a definite variety of material and degree of craftsmanship (or lack thereof) involved in construction.  The main business street in Prudentópolis was under construction when we arrived.  I despaired for a while because it took quite a toll on my knee especially when we carried luggage with us to the rodoviária (bus station).  I have gradually regained muscle strength in my operated knee and can walk farther with only some slight swelling as a consequence.  It turns out that they were remodeling many places and adding handicapped corners to the sidewalks.  John's favorite is the dip for handicapped access that feeds directly into the 7 inch raised sidewalk at one point.  The photo will follow when we can download it. 

We have another young investigator, André, who participated in our Sunday Primary program practice.  We walked to his home with the Elders yesterday to meet his mother and brother.  She is also investigating the church but was unable to attend with André because she owns a bar/store that is open on Sunday.  You can see this might be a slight problem in the future.  The family is very friendly and very intelligent.  André is reading the Book of Mormon and has his own testimony of the book.  Because of his age, 8, Elder Brooksby wanted to make sure he understood what he was reading and asked him to draw a picture of what he read in the back of the book.  Lehi’s dream was very clearly depicted in the back of his Ó Livro de Mormon and he can explain it too.  John and I talked with his mother and invited the family to sacrament meeting to hear the Primary Program on December 9th.  They have agreed to come.  Meanwhile the Elders made an appointment with one of her customers, who lives another 5 kilometers out from her store.  He said he had seen the missionaries before and had a copy of the Book of Mormon. We will see!

We stopped on our way home, from this rather long walk, to visit Evette at the Agricultural store where she works for her sister-in-law.  We arranged to visit with her and Armando at their home last evening.  This non-member couple -- our friends – is not legally married. This is one very common hurdle for prospective members here in Brazil.  It is very expensive for people to marry, so it seems that the majority skip what many call “just a piece of paper.” We would like to help Armando overcome his smoking habit so they can eventually become members of the church and because it is a detriment to his health.  They attend all of our meetings regularly on Sundays.  Their son, Anderson, is a member and a missionary serving in São Paulo.  We visited with them about our children and the awaited “Skype” session that will happen when missionaries can talk with their families on Christmas. Please pray for this very good couple. 

One of my unique experiences is teaching the piano course -- Curso de Teclado.  The singing in reunião sacramental (sacrament meeting) is very beautiful and the members sing with great enthusiasm.  However, they have had no one able to accompany the singing.  The goal is to leave members here that are able to play hymns for the meetings.  Since there is also a conducting course that should be taught prior to the piano course, I am trying to work both into the time I have.  Elder Biehn had been teaching lessons in Curitiba.  They returned home to Bountiful several weeks ago so he made the materials he had available to me.  I have started teaching three young people and a member of the branch presidency lessons.  I don’t have that many keyboards and not enough course materials so I spend time preparing handouts and creative ways to teach.  Otavio is willing to come and learn in the chapel on the organ on Saturdays while his older brother takes Seminary.  I have printed and laminated some materials that we can use repeatedly with many people and hope this works until we can place a keyboard and course materials in the homes that don’t have any.  Since musical is fairly universal and normally noted with Italian directions I was confident I could contribute in this area.  I have included a page from the course for those of you who are musically inclined.  I am again learning new terms. 

It is a good thing I have seen the Sound of Music!  They really teach Dó, Ré, Me in school here.