Friday, December 20, 2013

December 2013 - more celebration

The week after our branch Christmas party, the missionaries instigated an activity were everyone was to bring their favorite dessert and come have dance instruction.  Fortunately for us, one beautiful, young woman, investigator is engaged to a member of the church from Guarapuava.  They are both teachers and he has taught dance for 11 years. They gladly demonstrated and helped out for several hours before we all stopped to enjoy dessert. 


The dessert table is next to the Elders and other non-dancers

These two couples moved down the line practicing.

Lines on both sides watch the instruction

 An exciting development is that President McKinney got to help one sister in our branch fill out mission papers.  They have been submitted and the on-line status is that she has been assigned. So, we are all waiting to find out where and when.

Meanwhile, our branch members have been rehearsing Christmas Songs each Sunday for several weeks in preparation for our Christmas Sacrament Meeting Choir. Since the Church does not have Bible rights here in Brasil, I could not copy and paste the Christmas story from Luke and Matthew.  So, I spent some time typing up a script from the scriptures and we have passed it out to Readers to site the scripture story of the nativity between songs.  There are far fewer Christmas songs in both the Hymnal and the Children’s Songbook here but the members are not acquainted with most of the ones that they do have in the books.  Last year they only sang Christmas songs on the Sunday before Christmas. So President McKinney had to explain over the pulpit why we were singing Christmas songs the whole month for Sacrament Meetings. One gentleman said, we don’t know all the American Christmas songs like Silent Night.  I had to explain to him that it was a very famous German hymn.  I have also had one of the piano students working on Christmas hymns. 

We had a week were we kept commenting on the warm milk we were drinking for our meals.  It finally dawned on us as the food began to spoil faster than normal that there was something wrong with our really antiquated refrigerator.  When we had the repairmen out he described it as a dinosaur and recommended it would cost less and we would have better results if we were to just buy a new one -- so we did.  (the process was a little bit longer than that since we needed permission from the mission president) Now we not only have cold food in a much smaller refrigerator but we can sleep at night because we no long have the constant noise of the old motor kicking on and off every few minutes.  We are curious to see if it pays for itself with the more energy-efficient use of electricity.

Missionary photos on bells & stars
decorate this tree.
 We also had two special trips into Curitiba. First, on December 12th we met with the ½ of our mission that had to travel quite a ways by bus to attend. We had lunch in a restaurant near the mission office and then in the afternoon President and Sister Mazzagardi spoke to us as part of the mission tour. We had been instructed to clean our apartments, make sure we were well-groomed, and read the story of Abraham preparing for his 3 visitors in the scriptures before attending. Upon their arrival they asked each missionary to walk by and tell their name and the state they came from as they shook hands.  When I said, Sister McKinney, Utah…. He stopped me and said, “What city?”  I replied American Fork and started to explain where it was and he stopped me and said he knew American Fork.  He later spoke to us during a break.  He had lived in the States for about 6 ½ years as part of his work and spoke fluent English.  They both gave great talks. Our busload slept as much as we could through our late night drive home.

The following Tuesday, Elder McKinney and I returned to 
Elder McKinney made this
for his left-handed wife.
Curitiba to stay at the mission home and help prepare for the Mission Christmas conference the next day. It was so fun to visit with the Fernandes Family and work alongside of them in preparation.  They had worked so hard and made many special preparations to make the missionaries happy. The ornaments for the tree were bells with the Elder’s pictures and the stars were the Sister missionaries.  The special booklet of recipes, traditions and memories submitted by the missionaries was printed and bound at their home.  Our copy is the first one Elder McKinney made – especially for me because I’m left handed. Right!  I was able to spend the day baking cookies.  Two of the recipes were totally new to me and will now be in my family cook book: soft ginger snaps and pumpkin cookies with cream cheese frosting.  Of course, we made oatmeal chocolate chip cookies. I had help, from the daughters and the empregada of the house, off and on until we finally went to be about midnight.

Just one of many "groups" that gathered for pictures.
Our zone, like all the others, was assigned to sing a hymn. We had Lá na Judéia, Onde Cristo Nasceu. Elder Long, one of our zone leaders, is a gifted pianist and was able to improvise on the tune and play some gorgeous accompaniment as we sang a verse together to the original tune, then the Sisters the second verse and Elders the third to his accompaniment. On the fourth verse we finished resoundingly together and felt very good about the outcome of our practices.  One really great thing was that Elder McKinney encourage some of the Elders to sing bass with him and we had sisters singing alto as well as soprano so there was harmony.  It does not happen often here.

We had talks, training, music, good food, passing out of gifts, and a long bus ride home. We are getting to know the bus driver well.

The sister from Guarapuava Zone wanted a picture with us.
Can you see me smiling at the 8 year old who is using my camera to take this picture? 

Thanksgiving 2013 & more Holiday Stuff

Elder McKinney - Thanksgiving Dinner  served on the traditional Thanksgiving
Table Cloth. The rolls and mashed potatoes are about the only traditional items.
We were the only Americans in the area on November 28th. So, even though I tried to teach the children about gratitude during primary, we were the only ones celebrating and giving thanks on that day.  Elder McKinney purchased and barbecued our first real steak and even made the broccoli-cauliflower salad he really likes.  With some mashed potatoes, corn, and rolls, we really enjoyed our dinner and hoped that all our you enjoyed your families and remembering the things you are thankful for.

We have so many blessings. We are grateful to be here and serving in the Prudentópolis Branch.

We used the 1st Sunday in a joint second hour meeting of RS, Mutual, and Priesthood to present the new "Minha Família" genealogy booklets out to the members. Elder McKinney had received a letter from the area presidency asking for them to be presented on the last week in November but we didn't receive them until 2 days before.  He made the presentation using his own booklet with his family line and the pictures we printed of each of his ancestors.  I was able to keep all of the primary children.  We had an introduction to the Christmas season by viewing the children's films of the Angel Gabriel speaking to Mary & Joseph, then speaking to the shepherds, the nativity, the Wisemen meeting with Herod and later the Christ child, presenting the child at the temple, then finally the warning to Joseph to flee with the family to Egypt.  The children were fascinated. We also talked about the prophecies of Christ's birth and colored a picture page of five of the ancient prophets and their scripture reference about the coming of Christ.
The presidency signed the booklets - Merry Christmas 2013

The Elders helped ups pass out the invitations.

At ward council meeting we also planned to have our Christmas Party.  Renato suggested we give the families "3 Simple Ways to Become a Happier Family" pamphlets. So, the presidency signed them and give them instead of Christmas cards. Our celebration was attended by 60 people on the upper level of Mr. Gordon's pizza which he graciously let us decorate and use solely for us.  We sang Christmas songs, ate, watched Mundo Feliz  on the big screen TV, and visited for several hours.  Mr. Gordon's serves about 160 different types of pizza that you have never even heard of in the states.  Everyone could order what they wanted and we all finished with the three different types of chocolate-dessert pizza.
Most of the kids sat on this table. The folder is the menu.

The adults are on this end while the youth gathered
down the line.

Those kids are soooo cute! 
Visiting after it is all over.

The following week we had to catch the 6:00 a.m. bus to Guarapuava for our Zone Meeting. This is what we saw on the street as we walked our mile to the bus stop.

The tree is recycled pop bottles.

We love the new sidewalk--it was all torn
up last year when we arrived.

The São João Catholic Church is on the rua named after it. Note the palms

Araucaria trees and palms in the darkness of the church square - Why do they decorate for cold climates when theirs
is much more authentic to the real day of Christ's birth?
More about our holiday preparation in the next blog!