Tuesday, August 20, 2013

Temple Trip – Testimonies - Trials

August 3rd was our assigned day to attend the Curitiba temple. For us that meant gathering information from every one that wanted to attend, recommend interviews for the youth and the new converts as well as lining up the bus to take us there. Elder McKinney extended an invitation to the members of the Irati Branch to attend with us. Only one young man chose to go but it was a special day for him as he had never been to the temple before -- he is the only member in his family. After the pre-work was done the actual day was a long one. We met at the church at 3:30 a.m. and waited for the bus – meaning an early a.m. shower, breakfast and gathering of temple clothes and pre-packed lunch, and walk to the church.

We have been really impressed with the youth here as they tend to arrive on time and prepared. We have to be on our toes to arrive ahead of them.  Our bus was late on the 3rd which left a large group of us waiting on the sidewalk outside our building.  WE loaded and made a stop in Irati to pick up our young man and found that since the bus station was under construction there was a mis-communication about where the bus station was – thus we were even later. When we finally arrived in Curitiba we were late for the 1st session and they did not have room for our kids in the baptismal font. 

President McKinney was met as we came off the bus by President Fernandez who wanted to see who the twenty participants from our branch were. He was prepared to sign temple recommends if need be. It isn’t as easy to get recommend signed here as it is at home since the mission president is also the leader of our district and since he is new and did not yet have counselors – he was the only one who could sign the second recommend signature. President Fernandes is very interested in the members here and is looking for the priesthood leadership to replace Elder McKinney as the branch president so he spoke to all those who came with us.

We had 11 youth and 2 adult women (who are new converts) that wanted to do baptisms for the dead. Terezinha had spent time with me at the church entering data about her parents, siblings, and children. She was prepared several days before our trip with the printout needed to get baptisms done for her parents. Curitiba is a small temple and requires us to supply as many of our own workers as we can. So our little branch +1 filled the next baptism session and with the help of the branch presidency doing baptisms and recording information we were able to have 3 of our newly baptized members actively participating in the temple that day. I was used to help the young women and to keep the font area free of water as participants returned to the dressing area. 

By skipping lunch, we were able to participate in doing initatory work for the names we had taken, and endowment session, and a sealing session after we helped with the baptisms. Elder McKinney and I were the witness couple. It is a challenge for me to do a complete session in Portuguese but with God all things are possible and so it was. By the time we returned to Prudentópolis it was late in the evening but a wonderful day. One of our missionaries says for his family in northern Brasil it takes 2 days and a boat ride for their temple trips. We are relaly blessed that there are temples here to attend. 
I have not taken pictures like I should have recently so there were no accompanying pictures for our trip. We also had an impressive testimony meeting the following day as members related their temple experience. We are not allowed to take another group to the temple until November 9th. It would be such a blessing to fill up the bus next time.
That is a pretty colorful group of cameras.

We also had another zone meeting and were again surprised to find out how much our zone had changed. The Elders were moved out of Irati and both groups of sisters are in a three-some. I get a laugh out of the elaborate zone photo preparations after the meeting and decided to include some of my impressions.

Are the timers set right?

Do we need another try?
Our results - did you notice how many other cameras might have a better more focused picture?

Our weekly routine is pretty much set. Monday is supposed to be preparation day but is often taken in working on the building with Beto or solving other branch problems so we have to fit in preparation when it is possible. I do always try to get our wash done on Monday but our shopping is often put off until we are passing the store on other errands (I prepare and carry a shopping list). 

Seminary is Monday through Thursday in the afternoons between the afternoon and evening school sessions. 
Do you think the da Silva Sisters have seen Charlies Angels?  This is a group varies from day to day.

The attendance has been between 5-8 youth for the last couple of weeks out of the 10 that have signed up. They are currently studying Acts in the New Testament. On Tuesdays we feed the Elders lunch from 12-1 and discuss investigators. Wednesday mornings we have an English lesson scheduled with one of the members. Saturdays we work at the church on cleaning and weeding etc. and have had afternoon youth activities in the past. Each Wednesday and Saturday morning we have three piano students. 
Leandro drew us this picture and hung it on the wall.

Our Friday piano lessons have pretty much stopped for lack of practice and preparation by the students and we are in the process of lining up some new students. I have challenged three of the young men to each learn one of the songs for our Primary program so that I can lead while they play. Only time will tell how that works out. Sundays are full of training and our regularly scheduled three hour block. Elder has all the regular branch president business as well as other mission chores. I have been working on preparations for the primary sacrament meeting presentation and ways to get the music and talks prepared - still a challenge for me in Portuguese. 
Mobile on baptism

The lessons for the older kids in Primary are from the D&C while the younger class is from the Book of Mormon. By time we study from the New Testament for seminary I feel like I am pretty well read in the scriptures each week.  I am having a challenge teaching church history to the primary kids and I do a lot of translating of materials to make handouts and appropriate visual aids -- often a power point with the pictures to help them understand the stories. 
Study & think, make a descision, pray, & listen for an
answer - prayer steps for primary sharing time

We are currently studying interaction with mobs in Missouri and the Haun’s Mill Massacre was last Sunday’s lesson in class while the Sharing Time was about prayer and how many different ways our prayers are answered. Meanwhile I have asked the branch presidency to sing the second part of A Child’s Prayer with the children – what a challenge to get the kids to sing out. All of the other branch needs fit in around the set lessons and appointments. Our goal would be to have a ward formed here and so we carefully monitor sacrament meeting attendance. We were excited to be back up over 50 one week but sad to be just over 40 the next. We are anxiously working with new investigators and trying to reactivate the less active.

We have several health problems among the branch members. Elder McKinney spent a lot of time helping to schedule tests for one member who is trying to get a Kidney transplant. The system requires payment before the required tests can even be scheduled. It is a challenge to get money in an account in Curitiba when the majority of members don’t even have a checking account. The phone calls required for the deposit of money and then the scheduling of the appointment etc. are also challenging since many members don’t have the capability of making the long distance calls with their phone plans. Thus as the branch president, Elder McKinney is involved in helping with many of the health problems. We also have challenges with the church system of payments here. Just transferring the money to pay the bus driver has required many calls to the church to find out why it has been over 2 weeks and the money has still not been transferred even though it was sent out right away on our end. First the payment was rejected. When the bus driver hadn’t received it and called we found out about that rejections. Then, unable to see the balance in the branch account there has to be a call to get that account balance e-mailed, then a call to find out why the last quarter’s money hasn’t been released (because one of the branches in the district hasn’t turned in their quarterly report – our money is held hostage) but we still had enough funds in our account …… and yet after being told the expense was approved, the money there, and sent to the bank…. The bus driver still hasn’t been paid. It is a bit frustrating and time consuming for us and we may lose our transportation as it is hard for him to pay his bills and we surely aren’t showing a very honorable way to deal with others as church members. So, our time is not always spent teaching the Gospel in ways that you would expect.
Clede's kitchen

My view of the wall to wall people that were out the
door of the small house - birthday girl in the middle.

Patrick in new suit. GQ?

On the lighter side, the sister of one of our newly baptized members had a birthday and they included us in the birthday party invitation. His mother, not a member, had never seen him in his new Sunday clothing—provided by the Elders-- so he modeled his suit, white shirt and tie for everyone. As an observer I was able to get some pictures there.  

John later took pictures of Rogerio to document his new LDS look. Tie tying is still a challenge. 

Rogerio - this is a Brasilian set of scriptures.

One evening as we were completing our dinner I noticed a problem with one of my molars. I found that the whole side had broken away and was faced with obtaining dental care. We learned that one of the members of the district presidency in Guarapuava was a dentist and called to make an appointment. The soonest he could be fit us in was several weeks away. We felt impressed to ask Daniel Oishi about dentists since his mother was having a bit of dental work done. He called her dentist and we were allowed to have me checked the next day. The dentist didn’t have room for the fix needed for several weeks but when we asked about cancellations it miraculously turned out that there was one for the following afternoon. I was very impressed with the modern equipment and the knowledge of Dr. Salente who did a great job of fixing me up for a very good price.

Elder McKinney has had some health challenges of his own. He had some severe pain in his heel which the area medical doctor decided was a type of bursitis after looking at photo that was e-mailed to him. 
That is one ugly looking heel!

Naproxen or Ibuprophen was prescribed to help reduce the swelling and a heel cup (supposedly available in any mall -- ?mall in Prudentópolis? - não é!) was to be worn or alternately he was to cut away the back of his shoe so nothing would rub the bursa. Well in the catch 22 situation of walking around trying to find the heel cup and/or find something to wear without a heel the situation worsened. {For anyone who doesn’t remember or didn’t know – Elder wears a size 14 shoe – pretty hard to come by in the states and impossible here so we really did not want to cut up one of his hard to find shoes.} When he began to have stomach cramps, ringing in the ears and passed out twice we found that he probably shouldn’t ever take anti-inflammatory medication since he had most likely developed a stomach ulcer from the medication for the foot.  Now we have been told he has to take it easy to recover from the results of the medication and we are to schedule test for his heart. It has all gotten pretty convoluted. Thus, we are not walking the long distances we used to when we need to see members. We have to take a cab to go much farther than the church which is about ½ mile from our apartment and they are fairly pricey as there is a minimal charge no matter how far you go or how long it takes. In talking with Sister Fernandes who is supposed to know about all health problems we found she thought we could run to Guara puava for a check the morning after we called her. However she called us at 7:30 a.m. the next morning to tell us about a 10:00 am appointment not realizing we would have had to be on a 6 a.m. bus to get there.  The member of the church and doctor then suggested that we might need to go to Curitiba for our health plan to cover expenses. Sister Fernandes then spent a day investigating our plan and replied that we would have to pay up front for anything done and try to get reimbursed later but that we could go anywhere since nothing in Brasil is covered by a plan.  So a week later we are still trying to get someone to schedule tests and haven’t been able to do so yet. It has put a cramp in some of our plans.

We are very grateful to have so many blessings and our family is our greatest blessing. We are glad when we get a chance to receive e-mail from home and especially glad when we hear that things are going well. Love to you all, Elder and Sister McKinney