Wednesday, September 25, 2013

President Fernandes teaches us at Guarapuava Zone Conference

Elder McKinney waiting outisde
Bonsucesso Chapel in Guarapuava
More Spring blossoms
- the wind is starting to blow them away

This truck is carrying the gas canisters that we use to cook with - one of these sits by the side of our stove.
We watched them unload the truck while we waited for the zone leaders to come unlock the gate & let us in. 

Friday, the 20th of September, was the first Zone Conference held in Guarapuava since President Fernandes arrived.  Elder McKinney and I boarded the bus in Prudentópolis along with Elders Long and Pereira from here and Elders Souza & Bestenlehner from Irati.  After our arrival at 7:45, we were able to get in an hour of study before the conference started at 9 a.m. 

President Fernandes’ presentation started with this quote:

“Yes, men and women who turn their lives over to God will find out that he can make a lot more out of their lives than they can. He will deepen their joys, expand their vision, quicken their minds, strengthen their muscles, lift their spirits, multiply their blessings, increase their opportunities, comfort their souls, raise up friends, and pour out peace. Whoever will lose his life to God will find he has eternal life.” – Ezra Taft Benson

Beautiful Bonsucesso Chapel

Christ knocking - waiting for us to let him in!
One of the beautiful pictures in the church & a favorite of mine.

Parquet flooring is used here and in our building.

He continued speaking on Faith with some incredible references to scriptures and the words of the prophets. At 12:30 we all walked down the street and had lunch at a local launchenette where they had a meal prepared for the 20 of us with our choice of meats, salads, feijoada, etc. Then they also served a jelato and a fruit cup. It was a group of happy campers that left that meal and returned to training by the mission assistants.  Their presentations and practice ended at 4:30 then we caught our bus for home after a long day.

This letter began in Brasil July 19, 2013 and was delivered to us on September 20th in Guarapuava

The Fernandes Family with McKinneys

Letter to our family!
    We have to note that we were so excited to receive a letter – a first for us at zone conference! Then we noted it was addressed to Shaliese in A.F. then forwarded to Texas, after which it returned to us via the mission office and then from the assistants to Guarapuava. It turned out to be the letter the Fernandes family sent out to all missionary families in July. I guess they didn’t know what to do with us since we are the only couple here at the time.

Elders & investigators clean up roof hole pieces! Notice the light
shining through the holes in the roof.
Friday evening at about 11:00 p.m. we were awakened with another hail storm and this one was so severe that many people here lost their roofs. The repair projects depleted all of the roofing material in the city. On Saturday morning as we walked to the church to meet with some investigators that came to play soccer, we found that the whole covered area between our chapel and the other rooms was sprinkled with holes.  The group was kind enough to sweep up the leaves, branches and hail size holes from the roof. We took pictures and e-mailed them to the facilities management group. Beto was here Monday morning but unable to fix things for lack of materials in the city. He will return next week with materials at ½ the cost from Guarapuava.

This is what are protected area looked like the next morning.

Meanwhile when we returned to church the next morning amid a nasty rain storm, we first found the whole chapel was dripping water inside. We moved everything away from the drips and made a place to hold sacrament meeting in the salon. Our attendance was sparse but it was our day to have district leaders. Most of them did not come but Helaman (one of the counselors in the district presidency) and his wife did. We shortened our Sunday School time since none of the teachers were there and broadened the combined RS-Priesthood Meeting and had a slightly longer sacrament meeting. 

Daniel Oishi mopping up chairs in the RS room
 - if you look close on the wallyou can see it dripping.
The Primary was small. One teacher & K were there with 2 of the children for the 1st hour. The primary president arrived the second hour only to find it was almost time for the sacrament meeting to begin. We had already practiced some songs for the primary program and were playing a matching game with Articles of Faith keywords for our lesson time. I again had the opportunity to lead the hymns acapella. No one knew one of them (They are picked ahead of time by Dario Santos and written in the meeting record book that is kept in the chapel) and Elder Pereira had to start us off with the first few measures of the song.

Elder McKinney’s surgery is scheduled for October 2nd in Garapuava. We had to go get one more blood test to see if it would coagulate properly. Then, he is to stay off his foot as much as possible this week to minimize the swelling in the area that will be operated on. We are holding seminary and all piano lessons in our home, studying a lot, and taking a taxi wherever we need to go.

We had an unusual day when Jill let us know that Vegas, a friend of Rachel’s, had contacted Jill via Facebook and found out from her that Rachel had passed away. It reminded us of the weeks while we traveled to Colorado for the memorial service and the returned home to have a funeral. It is hard to be without Rachel for these last two years and we think of her often. We are so glad for the Plan of Salvation. Hopefully, she and dad are working together.

We had had a week of really warm weather previous to our hail storm and it has been followed by some pretty cool days. We have been here a year today and are starting to recognize the same pattern of days that we had when we arrived.

We are in a beautiful place. As I hung the wash on Monday it was like being in the Bird House at the Zoo—there were so many various different foreign sounding chirps and warbles. As the various insects become active again, we are so grateful for the screens on our windows. Thanks to Jeremy & his boys for helping me find screen while I was home in April and to Andrew for cutting them to size, we are in a lot better shape this spring than last. 

It is hard for the finite mind to imagine God creating the world but we know he did.  May we all recognize our great blessings every day.  We are looking forward to General Conference. Hopefully, we will all take to heart what we are taught by living prophets – especially for us – in our day.

Love, Casal McKinney

CTR room sign - Bonsucesso

Valiant sign - Bonsucesso
Another favorite picture in the hallway of Bonsucesso

Friday, September 20, 2013

Banks and buses

Elder Long, Lucas, Elder McKinney
A lot has happened since our blog post two weeks ago.  I was thinking of our grandson, Myles, and his 10th birthday and I realized how glad I am that I can work with some young men close to his age in primary.  One special young man has attended our branch for about the last 6 weeks as well as coming to primary activity days and our futeball activities on Saturday afternoon.  On Saturday, September 7, 2013 Lucas was baptized. He is like a shining light at 11 years old. He celebrated his birthday on Thursday, the 5th of September.  I was going to lighten up the photo of him with the others but decided it was a fair representation of the belief and light he is sharing at his young age. Not many kids I know would come to church without their parents.
Elder Pereirra, Marcelo, Lucas, Elder Long
Elder Pereira got a cold from the cold water in the font!

The following day, Sunday September 8th, 2013, was district general priesthood meeting -– Elder McKinney took a full van of 15 members with him. While there and as part of the meeting, they met together as if they were a ward council and discussed how they would implement 6 goals of the church that have been sent to stake and mission presidents. How could we increase the number of missionaries in the field? Our branch had 6 that would be gone in the next 2 years. On the way home the van was stuck for 2 hours behind an accident on a two lane highway. Elder McKinney said Thyago Mehl kept it from being a bad experience by entertaining the group.

Meanwhile I had planned to work on genealogy at our apartment only to hear a really interesting storm roll in.  This is the closest thing to snow I have seen for a while and it was gone before the men returned.
Hail on the front lawn - a first for us here.

Terezinha, one of our newer members, has had a hard life but she took her baptismal covenants literally and knows she has been washed clean.  One Sunday morning we arrived early at the church to unlock the gate and found her there with her daughter, Dionisia,  and a gentleman she introduced to us as her brother.  She said she had prayed him there. She and Dionisia are planning to move to live with he and his wife and family in Matto Grosso. They had not seen each other for years. She checked with Elder McKinney to find out if there was a branch of the church there and was excited to find out there was one.  It will be nice to know that she can continue to be an active member.

Tuesday, September 10th, we had a great Zone Meeting in Guarapuava. Elders House and Silva are the current Zone Leaders. They gave the clearest, most organized instructions of any Zone Meeting or Conference since I have been here. They also had the leadership and presence of mind to know the bus schedule and get the Elders from Prudentópolis and Irati back in their area the same day with time to continue work in their area. It is a first!  One of the points that was made was to use the church to give tours so that people could feel the spirit of the building and we participated in practicing by walking around the beautiful meeting house in Bonsucesso.  We talked about not being able to do much about our rented building but we could get some of the beautiful framed pictures of the Savior that the church produces. Now we have to find out if it is possible.

We left the meeting and caught a cab to pick up some of the paperwork we need to submit to our Health Insurance on all the tests Elder McKinney has had. When we entered Centro Medico we were able to also make an immediate appointment with the podiatrist and as he viewed the bursa on John’s heel he said it was passed anything but surgery. Elder is exercising and stretching his Achilles tendon for three weeks and then will have the needed surgery. Afterward he is to stay off it for three weeks.
He has proceeded to stretch hourly while awake and we are spending a lot on taxis to get us where we need to be. The good part is that he has seen some improvement and reduction of pain. 

As I started to download pictures for this blog I realized I had forgotten to tell about yet another trip to Guarapuava for Young Women's Standards night.  It was a great presentation on chastity. What was different was that the whole branch was invited--parents and young men as well because afterward there was a dance. We have just spent the last of this quarter's money on yet another bus ride. 
The Young Women leaders passed out crazy glasses.  Our Young Men don't seem to know how to ask the Young
Women to dance. I think we were invited because we have so many youth in our branch.

We spent one afternoon visiting with Sonia who is herself recovering from surgery on her shoulder.  She is a lot of fun and never lets us go without serving some kind of treat. We were happy to find that she had a woman working for her and helping with the cleaning.

We missed yet again another P-day as we got a call late Sunday evening that the district needed some accounting things done pronto. We spent time trying to round up receipts from bus drivers, and for bank deposits as well as signing off – even on Sundays when no contributions are made so the system knows that at least 2 people acknowledge that there were no contributions made.  Since the branch doesn’t get any of the bank statements on deposits because they go directly to the church—we spent a number of hours waiting for a teller in the bank to tell us that she would have to order/get a release for the receipts. When we went back the second day we were told to come back yet another. I don’t know how anyone could do these things as a branch president unless they were independently wealthy since it takes so many hours of the day, when they would normally be working, to run these errands. We had a comedy of errors on my part the first time we went to the bank. I had no idea it was like going through airport security in the states. Elder, ever the gentleman , sent me through the revolving doors first. The guard said something to me that I could not hear through the doors that he trapped me in. I took my keys and camera from my purse and put in the little container on the door, then I realized he was also pointing at my umbrella – now I know it was because of the metal parts. I was asked to back out of the turnstile and Elder McKinney entered and was let in.  Then by hand signal I realized there were other things in my purse that he wanted removed. I again back out and stood under what I now realize was radar at the entrance put my purse down and entered and was asked to back out again and retrieve my purse.   It went on and on and I let the people behind me who were beginning to back up through ahead of me.  Needless to say I was embarrassed but now know the very kind guard pretty well by sight. I did not take my metal loaded purse back with me the next two times we had to go. We also made a friend of one of the cleaning ladies in our three day try to retrieve the bank receipts. We spent over $30 on taxis to get them. I think the experience will mean Elder never leaves without a receipt from the ATM again.

It has been interesting to find out where the bus driver’s wives work since we were sent to downtown stores to pick up receipts for the bus trips.  

We were saddened when we looked at the branch baptism book because over the last six years since the branch was established many have become inactivie. We have found records for one young man that we noted had performed a baptism and was said to be preparing for a mission when he died in an accident and we noted it has been just over a year. It is possible for his temple work to be done.  Now we need to find a member of his family to activate so the work can be done. We are working to document each of the active members & help them with some pictures and certificates on so that their information will not be lost.   Pray for our success.

Well we are still learning something new every day and are not bored—for sure. We are again off on the 6 a.m. bus today to Guarapuava for a Zone Conference.  The Elders from our district came by last evening to borrow vanilla to make no bake cookies for the bus trip.

Love to you all! Casal McKinney 

Friday, September 6, 2013

Signs of Spring

26 August 2013 
These beautiful lilies just emerged.
There are signs of spring here. One day last week I carried the camera as we walked on our errands and took these pictures of spring.
Blades of grass
- a different shape here!

These look
 suspisciously like
morning glory

This moth was on the steps
to the church

John is recovering – from the ulcer caused by the anti-inflamatory medication he took for his foot. Since part of the symptoms indicated that he might have heart trouble and we were assigned to meet with the cardiologist. We did!  He has us checking Elder McKinney’s blood pressure in the morning and at night on alternate days at a local pharmacy. Since that involves about a mile round trip walk we are caught in a Catch 22 situation because that aggravates the pain in his heal that caused the initial problem for which he was prescribed the anti-inflammatory medication. The good that has come from it is that he has had to delegate and think about allowing others to perform more of the branch duties --- which is why we are here in the first place.

two-tone blossoms - this is next to the church
All homes are behind some kind of fence.

We walk by this evergreen tree daily. One day
I looked closer and saw the purple flowering vine
wrapped around the trunk.  This fence has the
typical post office box attached at the right.

This yard is quite extensive. I loved the purple blossoms on this leafless
tree. The scroll work on the fence is also beautiful. Most of the older
homes have this open type of fencing. Newer ones seem to be behind walls.

6 September 2013
Monday is supposed to be preparation day. Last week we had no internet access and thus did not post the blog. This week on Monday the 2nd we had an unusual day. We were up just after 4 a.m. to prepare for our follow up visit at the cardiologist’s office in Guarapuava. We walked to the rodivaria and were seated on the bus around 6 a.m.  We had been notified of a surprise transfer on Sunday afternoon and the Zone leaders had told us to meet the new elder and send off the old via Elder Santos Silva who was leaving. Since it wasn’t possible because of our appointment we ended up escorting Elder Pereira to meet the Elders in Guarapuava.  We met the elders at 8 a.m. and then took a cab to Santa Teresa Hospital to pick up the xrays taken on our last visit, then went for more test by the cardiologist. We were carrying results of multiple blood tests. 

All in all Elder McKinney had a pretty thorough set of exams. The Good News---his heart, cholesterol, triglycerides, etc. are all wonderful. All we can figure is that he had such extensive blood loss from the stomach ulcer created by the ant-inflammatory meds prescribed via the phone by the area medical doctor for his bursiti on his heal that he was extremely weakened. Again the Catch 22 – we were told it would be good for him to walk for an hour a day [which of course is no problem because it is the only way we can get around but it hurts for Elder McKinney to do so].

Bush by our front gate.
This is the most unusual
of the shrubs in our
front yard.

This shrub in our yard
might be more common
at home.
The palm tree, white & pink blossoms and variety of
sidewalks are different.

The flowers are on the ends of bare branches with
no leaves whatsoever.

Beautiful yellow trumpets
- all over town!
Upon our return we learned that our new district leader had missed the bus to Guarapuava  and would now be arriving at 7 p.m. and we would need to meet Elder Pereira coming off the bus just after 6 p.m and wait with him until Elder Long arrived. So we fixed a meal, met our youth at the church for seminary and spent several hours at the bus station visiting with Elder Pereira until Elder Long finally arrived at 8 p.m. As we walked with the Elders toward their apartment we found out that Elder Long is from Idaho and related to the Merkley family in American Fork.  It is a very small world. We learned more as they had lunch with us the following day. Then we met as a District on Wednesday morning. Elder Long will be a good leader here. We are glad to have Elders back in Irati and in our district.

Lone araucaria
As we left seminary on Wednesday evening, Ivete called to invite us to dinner with them at the opening of a new restaurant. Since we were just going home to make dinner, hadn't ever eaten out in Prudentópolis, and hadn't visited with them for several weeks, we accepted.  It turns out that it was the grand opening of the new Mr. Gordon’s pizza. We had heard about Mr. Gordon’s wonderful pizza from several different sets of Elders. The new building was huge and beautiful.  It was painted a soft butter yellow inside, and had an upper level were a guitarist played music the whole evening. The unusual part was the rodizio type of serving.  We are used to Rodizios being a place where servers walk around offering you different types of meat. What the word literally means is rotation – thus we were served many different slices of a vast variety of pizzas for several hours and finally concluded with desert pizza. This doesn't sound a lot like missionary work does it.  Well, we ate with the Faccios who are still investigators and met and sat with one of Ivete’s fellow employees. It turned out that Daniel Oishi showed up with friends and thus we were finally able to meet the city councilman we had wanted to set up a service project with.  So all in all it was a meal that will hopefully result not only in friendship but will open up some new doors.  It turned out the owners of the store are people we had previously met with and we were also able to strengthen that relationship. It turns out that there hasn't really been a Mr. Gordon for a long time but the name has stuck with the restaurant over the last couple of ownership changes. (Do any of you remember the "dread pirate, Robert"?) A very unusual and unplanned way to end the day.

Poppies & roses also at museum next
to the hospital.
Thursday we also had to adapt after receiving a call from Michalina that Otavio was in the hospital. We walked down for a visit. We have also becoming quite well acquainted with some of the hospital personnel who are always very friendly and courteous as well as helpful.  Otavio will be fine and probably was dehydrated from his long bout with the “gripe” that so many have had here lately. We were able to complete our spring picture folio as we walked and have here shared with you Sinais de Primavera – or Signs of Spring. 

Bird of paradise - flowers at the museum
that is next to the hospital we visited.

New construction can be seen every where
we walk.

I have challenged 4 of my piano students to each prepare a simplified version of the primary songs we will sing in the sacrament meeting program next month – since it would be difficult for me to both lead and play.  It has turned out to be an interesting and hopefully motivating assignment for them. We haven’t found the habit of daily practice to be one of the gifts most members have here. However, three of the youth come twice a week for lessons so we know that they spend at least several hours a week working on music. We have started 3 new students this week. One young man just showed up with his cousin for lessons. We hope to see him back.

We have also spent time ordering supplies. The distribution center has a hard time with us wanting things shipped to our address here in Brasil and paying with money from the U.S.  Since we have been asked not to open bank accounts here – that is all we can do. We have also straightened out membership records and made calls to FamilySearch on behalf of members.  It seems that the engineers really messed up a lot of Brazilian last names when they transferred information over to the new genealogy program and they all have to be fixed by the engineers since they are listed as entered by the membership department. I also take a little personal genealogy time while we are waiting at the church for the seminary students to arrive.  Since the two high schools let out at different time they tend to arrive over a twenty minute period of time. I have found that I can do quite a bit in that amount of time in merging and connecting sources to our family tree. I really enjoy the new system and am glad for the ability to add photos and stories.  I hope you will all take a look at and the family tree posted there.  I have even found two new people while connecting these sources and I know that this is missionary work for the dead.

Lysenko is Ukranian - we got to see
a business with that name when we were
in Guarapuava on Monday.
Sister Lysenko has returned home and is back at BYU. I hope some of the family will get to meet her since she is one of our favorite people.

We are very aware of all the family birthdays, anniversaries etc. coming up. Myles, Jennie, Mom, Jeremy, and Deborah -- 

Love to you all!  Casal McKinney

Standing on the porch of the church as we locked up after seminary we turned to see the moon rising.
This motivated me to start taking the spring shots we have in the blog this week.