Monday, July 29, 2013

More Férias & Festas

On Saturday, July 20th we served lunch to President & Sister Fernandes and their 5 children. They came out to meet the people in our branch before our Festa Julhino. He was also able to sign recommends while he was here. He is looking for worthy priesthood holders in the branch since he does not want Elders serving in leadership positions. He has more of a sink or swim attitude toward branches than our previous mission president.

We also had a baptismal service for four investigators that afternoon just before our festa. It was a really busy day getting the baptismal program filled out and printed, talks assigned, and music taken care of. The Irati branch members had arrived even before the baptism and I feel bad that they were a little neglected while I was still gathering information.  
Terezinha, Luan, Rogerio, and Patrick will make great additions to the branch.
 Leandro was able to baptize his brother. This was the day before transfers for
Elders Santos Silva & Ferierra.

The young people had worked hard during the week to make our festa nice for little expense. The other two branches in Guarapuava have their festas in their nice LDS built buildings and the activities are held in doors. Not having that kind of room indoors in our branch building [which is a family home - turned school - turned branch building,] the members worked hard to make the covered patio nice.

Thyago, our 1st assistant to the priest quorum, came and pressure washed the mildew off the roof of the patio and then the cement floor while we held our first primary activity for the children on the 16th. Large tarps were tied to the patio roof to keep the storm (and it was a good one!) from getting everyone wet. The dancing and warm fruit drink ended up keeping everyone warm the night of the festa.

On the 17th the youth got together and made decorations using crepe paper that they cut into strips and wove in a clever way that I couldn’t figure out later. (I was inside scrubbing walls and preparing activities for the children).

The Mehl family was responsible for the food. They served pasteis (like a tiny hand held meat pie---really yummy!) & cachorro quente (tiny Brazillian hot dogs) and two different warm fruit drinks that Elder McKinney thinks they were calling quentão. Later, there was chocolate cake and white cake with raspberries. These were served thru the windows of the Young Women’s room that open onto the patio. There were long lines at both windows as everything was really delicious. 

We had a DJ who played continual dance music for hours as people dance or sat around the edges of the patio visiting with each other. We had a pretty popular activity for the children who choose to gather in the Primary room and make popsicle stick handcarts. We had several youth have a brief dance lesson and then got thunderous applause when one of the new members asked me to dance. 

We had a really good turnout of our members, their non-member family members, the friends of the youth, the Bonsucesso Branch members who came on the bus, and the Irati branch members who drove in cars. Two non-member nieces of Maria’s family were here for several weeks and participated in many activities. They are from Imbituva which is a town not included in any of the branch boundaries and they want to be taught the missionary lessons. We have sent them home with scriptures and other church materials for them to study.
Rogerio is freezing! Behind him you can see a couple standing by
one of the windows where people later stood in line to get food.

One of the new members came to perform service as an investigator on the 19th and he helped clean the room that we use for baptisms. The tile floor needed cleaning as did the chairs left in the room and the swimming pool we use for the font. I felt really bad after all his hard work when the water heater did not work and he had to step into some really chilly (freezing is probably a better word) water to be baptized. It turns out the electrical work fried when the water turned on and is another repair added to our rather long list.

The 22nd was transfer day and the young missionaries went into Curitiba to make a trade. Our newest Elder – Elder Pereira is from northern Brasil and was not at all prepared for the weather when they returned Tuesday evening but by Thursday he had some warmer apparel and a snug hat and was enjoying life much more.  

How many times have I mentioned that it is winter here? It is really different because there are times of day when it is as warm as summer and then at night it can be 30-40 degrees different. What makes it all the more curious for us is the lack of indoor heating, like we are so used to at home, so the indoor temperature can be constantly chilly and make layers of clothing needed indoors when it is warmer out. I am grateful to the women that were here serving as senior missionaries at our arrival last fall.  When they found out we were coming they promptly e-mailed many good tips about the need to dress for the cold. The mission list did not include this advice. While I did not really understand until this past 6 weeks what they meant (and John was kind of incredulous), they did get me to bring several layers of warm clothes that have really helped.  
The Machados - a great part-member family the Elders have been teaching.
They had a death in the family this week. The 3 daughters are being taught the lessons.

Our young missionaries are really gungho to get the investigators in the water but they don’t do so well with their records.  It was really apparent when we wanted to work with the Rogerio and Patrick to receive the Aaronic Priesthood and prepare to attend the temple to do baptisms. Until church headquarters records their membership information you cannot add information about priesthood or recommend status. We did not have the baptisms recorded by the mission office (which is where things are recorded and sent into the church when there is a convert baptism) until Elder McKinney called and had the secretary track down the senior elder who was in Curitiba to get a new companion. Then they recorded the records. We still haven’t got all of the Elder’s information—having to look up their first names on line to fill out the records the branch needed to print certificates. We have to remember to promptly ask them for their member number to be able to record the ordinances or ordinations that they perform before they are transferred out of our area as well as the yellow copies of the baptisms that are supposed to be turned into the branch for their records. Does it sound like I want an angel or two to help out with making a well-rounded experience for the youth here? Often Elder McKinney is that person.

Leandro is one of the strong active youth. He just baptized Luan and
the missionaries have been teaching the rest of the family.
We need at least 16 active Melchezidek priesthood holders to someday make the branch a ward and it looks like they will have to wait for the youth to grow older for that to happen. They are accumulating an army of active Aaronic priesthood holders who are working and praying that their families will be touched and join too. Currently there is only one member Elder in town during the week because so many work out of town. It made it hard to give a priesthood blessing when the sisters were assigned here because he works such long hours and is not often available. Those who have served in branches probably recognize the growing pains here. Most of this is new to me having grown up in very large family ward.

This week we cleaned up after the festa taking down decorations, drying out the huge tarps used to cover the open patio area, using the water from the baptismal font to clean the floor of that room and the patio area outside while the font was draining. Again we had help from Rogerio, one of the new members.

These are primary age children we have worked with this last few weeks. Some are members - some not!

We also held our 2nd Primary activity. We were able to paste the pictures of the children we had taken the previous week in their Faith in God booklets. The first week we talked about pioneers and played the stick and wheel game, sang Pioneer Children while we walked and walked, read scriptures and talked about the way the pioneers traveled as the kids selected what supplies to take in their wagons or handcarts. We introduced the Faith in God program. The second week we used the telephone game in the form of a race where the children were supposed to whisper to each other about the Holy Ghost having a quiet voice. We then circled the patio singing about The Holy Ghost in an effort to get them to guess the topic of the day. We talked about receiving the gift of the Holy Ghost, ways we can feel the Holy Ghost, and marked scriptures in an effort to help them pass off activities in their booklets. We had 12 children the first week and more the next. Both times we had investigators present who wanted to participate. We were able to do this during the week because the youth had several weeks of férias or holidays during July.

The kids all return to school today. We will resume seminary lessons this afternoon. The break was good for piano lessons as several of the young men have come to our apartment for lessons twice a week. {Gabriel wanted to stay for lunch one Saturday and did. We have also worked with three of the young men after lessons and helped them log in to FamilySearch and begin recording their family history.} We get to teach multiple members of Eva’s family when we go to her home for lessons. We will continue with these lessons during the school year.  We find more members interested in music every week. We also had another youth activity movie night that was well attended on the 27th. We showed Hercules and served Snicker Doodles this time. Maria has asked for a youth activity where the kids learn to make cookies.

These youth gathered to say goodbye to Elder Fereirra the night before he was transferred. I am not sure why
everyone always has to have finger motion during the pictures.

We are preparing for a temple trip for the branch members on August 3rd. Elder McKinney had youth recommend interviews yesterday in the afternoon and we showed the 55 minute version of the Joseph Smith movie while they were waiting. [Beto, our branch repairman from Londrina, came with a projector for the branch yesterday and stayed to our branch meetings. He is not ready for baptism yet and we will keep working with him.] We were trying out the projector since it was second hand. It seems to work well with its only drawback being a really noisy fan which we can gladly put up with to be able to see the church broadcasts here at the branch and save the expense of a bus ride to Guarapuava.

President Fernandes has sent out new mission rules. We are to fill out several questionnaires about our apartment as they were pretty shocked at the condition of many of the homes the Elders were living in when they made visits to them. We will be filling them out today along with doing our laundry and shopping.

We hope everyone will have a great week!!!

Monday, July 8, 2013

June and a Little More

Last week of June:
Today I was preparing for my Primary Lesson on the Construction of the Kirtland Temple and I was having a hard time finding anything to show the children in Portuguese when I came upon the YouTube link to “Dentro de um Templo Môrmon - Curitiba Brasil” or Inside a Mormon Temple - Curitiba Brazil with the background music If You Could Hie to Kolob. I wanted to share this with those who want to take time to watch this YouTube video for two reasons: (1) It will touch your heart because it is a beautiful house of God and (2) We have been blessed to be there several time since our arrival in Brazil. 

We walk by this tree on our way to church
& I love the combination of pink/white blossoms

These blossom during the winter here.

On July 14th we will be having our branch conference. The themes will be “Turn the Hearts.” Last Sunday (the 5th week in June)  we had a joint meeting with our Young Men, Priesthood and Relief Society members where Elder McKinney presented information about Family History Work.  We gave each individual a packet with pedigree charts, family group records, places to find records, and questions to ask relatives as they try to gather information to do the work of their families on earth and in the temple for their ancestors. 
Not many wall flowers for this dance!

29 June 2013 - Festa popcorn man is popular!

Members & friends on Onibus to Guarapuava for Festa Junina 

Bonsucesso Branch has the newest chapel. Prudentópolis members enjoy it!
Many of our young men are the only members in their family and they come faithfully on their own each week. We hope that through seminary class, piano lessons, service at the branch, English lessons, and games where they can bring their friends that we are helping them to prepare as future missionaries and life-long members of the church.

We have spent many hours over the last few weeks preparing to teach the leaders of the branch to lead. Our greatest concern here is that even the leaders only consider it necessary to attend church for the three hour block on Sunday and don’t know how to minister to other members of the branch. Fellow-shipping, home teaching, and visiting teaching are about nil. We can’t share with you how hard it is when members of the branch fall away because they make a mistake and do not understand the Atonement – how they can repent and be forgiven because of our Savior.

On a rainy Sunday afternoon Elders Fereira & Santos Silva were the only ones at choir practice - We had fun!
This set of Elders replaced the Sisters who were transferred. We have them to lunch every Tuesday.

We have had a lot of changes in the last 6 weeks. We finally received a new set of Elders to replace the Sisters who were transferred out and into the north mission. We had two different zone conferences in Guarapuava and since we had many transferred they were really very different zones. The last conference was the last for the Cordons here in Brazil as we got a new mission president on July 1st.  Then we were bused for another zone conference into Curitiba with the new president and his family for our first meeting as part of the new Brasil Curitiba Sul mission. 

Do you think this photo was a little unorganized?
After this group photo everyone wanted individual photos with the Cordons. 

Elder & Sister Fernandes - our new mission president - 1 July 2013
They had us on a bus to Curitiba for a Zone Conference on the 4th of July.

We have found the Auxiliary Training by the Brazilian Area Presidency that is available to us online to be inspired.  Along with sharing a packet containing their talks we are also trying to inform the leaders by showing films of the General Auxiliary trainings and World Wide Leadership Training. The topics of our sacrament meeting are from the talks giving in General Conference since most of the members only watched one session of conference. For many in the area even that was a first. They are not feasting on the words of the modern day prophets. We were fortunate to have good attendance at the latest missionary broadcast because of the efforts of Elder McKinney to obtain the equipment necessary to show these broadcasts.

Elders McKinney, Fereira, & Santos Silva with Beto. They have been working on the leaking roof of our courtyard and
baptismal font. When Elder befriended Beto he challenged him to be baptized and he has invited us to Londrina on
27 July for Elder McKinney to baptize him so that we can go to the temple next year with him before we leave.

Elder McKinney is at this moment on the roof of our chapel with Beto, who is the assigned repairman for the whole area, fixing the many leaks that we get when it rains (a daily event). He has been instrumental in helping to branch to get a new working piano for the chapel.  They will be coming to take away our old organ that frequently shorted out while I was playing in sacrament meeting. They have also promised us an old projector so we can quit borrowing one from a non-member for our broadcasts. In a separate batlle we have also have to fight to get our materials for the youth program delivered to us – here – and on time to be used-- instead of to Guarapuava or Irati where we have been routed to before.

We have a break from seminary for the month of July – scheduled by the area here since many of the schools have holidays. (Remember that it is winter here!) We are making plans to use the time to start up Primary Activity days for the children; they have not had them for years.  We are also hoping to do one-on-one genealogy work and enter data on the computers and in the Family Search Family Tree.  I have spent a bit of time researching the tree and getting up to speed on its use in Portuguese. I am learning a lot.

Elder McKinney took down the
drapes for me to wash mildew out of.

The mildew fight is constant.

This is a good drying day. My court yard
had lots of sun. The tenants upstairs hang
clothes from their windows. 
I am often frustrated by the amount of time it takes me to do laundry and cooking here because of the poor equipment made available to us as missionaries. With no dryer in this humidity, I spend a lot of time working on a batch of clothes that would dry in less than an hour in a clothes dryer.  Often, if the weather is good on our preparation day, I will spend the whole day washing and hanging out clothes.  In the summer it is easier because the intense sunshine dries them in an hour or so. Now, it is colder, rainier, and there are fewer hours of sun -- so everything takes much longer and the frustration comes when I want to be studying Portuguese and I am out hanging up clothes then moving them off the line since it starts to rain at which point they often take three days to dry.  (I can hear Phillip with his tiny violin as he thinks of his clothes in Ukraine drying inside with icicles.)  It does explain why so many of the members come to church in really varied dress, especially those with many children in their family. Sometimes when the boys (from non-member families) come without their white shirts they say things are difficult at home --- this is also another consequence of the weather and lack of modern equipment.

Our oven is so small that it only cooks one pan or tray of something at a time – thus extending the time of meal preparation. Our 4 burner stove won’t hold four pans unless they are very small. Since we are members of a small branch, we take our rotation feeding the younger missionaries weekly.  It takes almost a whole day for me to prepare food that I would make in less than an hour or two at home because of all the juggling I do with lack of counter space, a small sink, no hot water, and the need to clean all the vegetables and fruits with chlorox before their use.  I am grateful for this experience because it helps me to empathize with the sisters here and with my ancestors who dealt with similar juggling acts.

July 8th
On a lighter note I was the chorister instead of the organist in church yesterday since we had no power for our meetings and the chorister didn’t show up. I did really great (I can lead on beat – which is not true of many people here) until the closing song when I was so lost that I went to stop on the second verse and everyone wanted to keep singing and did!  Oh well, I was brave enough to bear my testimony and hope I was understood.  The primary kids were great even though I was the only one with them --- I was presidency, teacher, and music leader. Do you think they still depend on the missionaries to much?

Love to you all!