Monday, September 30, 2013

Not Every Week Can Be Perfect...

Oí família!

Tubo bem here in Alcântara. I never would have thought that Spokane would head in that sort of direction like you said in your email to me. Especially closeby in the valley, I always thought we lived in a city that was pretty well based on a strong moral foundation with a respectful and conservative mindset on moral standards, so it´s very sad to hear about the events taking place there. I´m proud to hear that members of the church are taking a stand for what is good and right for all men! Now if only they could do the same down here too... But that´s more of a problem in cities near the coast, I hear. Alcântara doesn´t have too big of a problem with scandalous advertisements or overly immodest dress here.
Anyway, you said you would like a breakdown of a typical day for Elder Grow and I? Here we go...
6:30 - Wake up, pray, do excercises (Pretty much just stretch a little and some push-ups... we can´t go running here :(  )
7:00 - prepare Breakfast and iron clothes
8:00 - Personal Study
9:00 - Companionship Study (During training, this lasts 2 hours long, but after my 2nd transfer, it will only be 1 hour)
11: 00 - Language study
12:00 - Leave the apartment and head to our lunch appointment with a member in the ward. Generally, we´ll get there by 12:30 (1 at the latest) and br there for maybe an hour to an hour and a half, share a short message, and begin prosalyting (how do you spell that?)
2ish-9:00 - From now until about 9, We do all of our teaching, contacting, visiting, and everything we do as missionaries. This includes lots of street contacts, contacting less active members, recent converts, and our currently progressing investigators. One problem we have pretty often is that people we contact give us addresses that don´t exist, or they aren´t home when they say they will be, so we try to have back-up plans and other people closeby to visit too. We don´t have dinner with members, but sometimes Elder Grow and I will take a short break around 6ish to get some açai, lanche (like a snack), or a short break if we have nothing planned. We try to have an appointment every night at around 7:30 with a progressing family that is investigating.
9:00-9:30 - Return home and plan for the next day... This is when we figure out where we´ll spend most of our day, which investigators we want to visit, and if there´s any referencs from members or other missionaries that we want to visit.
9:30-10:30 Shower, head to bed
I hope that explains my day pretty well. Obviously it´s different for P days... Proselyting starts at 6, and Sundays are a bit different too. I´m so excited for General Conference! Elder Grow says sometimes, a chapel will have a room where you can watch it in English. I´m hoping that´s the case since I really want to be sure and understand everything being said. At times, I feel kindof dissapointed that my Portuguese still isn´t 100%. I have so much more to learn and feel comfortable with, both speaking and understanding, but I´ve only been in the field for 6 weeks already, and I´ve been soooo blessed to have learned as much as I already have. Transfers are this week, which doesn´t change much for Elder Grow and I. We´ll both stay in Alcântara as he finishes up my training, but there´s supposed to be 22 new missionaries arriving this week! I don´t know how many are visa waiters in the States and how many are from São Paulo, but either way, it´s exciting to have so many new people.
Atanagildo was confirmed a member of the church yesterday!! He was able to bring his wife (who is not a member) to church and we taught her a bit. Atanagildo asked that I confirm him, which was a HUGE shock for me. I hadn´t witnessed a confirmation in Brazil yet, so I didn´t have any experience or anything. It still went very well, and the Spirit helped me so much to feel comfortable and bless the lives of Atanagildo and his family with the gift of The Holy Ghost.
Unfortunately, like the title of this email says, everything doesn´t end up perfecly like hope it would. We were anticipating that the children of Lú and Valdiné (Mateus, Luau, and Miguel) would be baptized yesterday like they said they wanted to. However, Lú seemed to not accept us teaching the Word of Wisdom. She smokes and drinks, and although she knows that they are bad for her health, she doesn´t want to give them up. She decided that she didn´t want her kids to be baptized because of it, which was really sad for us to hear. Her husband seems to love the church, and was really quiet when we were speaking with here about this. They also didn´t attend church yesterday, so hopefully they don´t continue to stop keeping commitments and fall away even more. Lots of prayer for Elder Grow and I.
We noticed that most of our progressing investigators are unmarried couples who live together. For whatever reason, marriage is old-fashioned here in Brazil, and it´s tough to find people who are legally wedded. WHY??? I have no clue, but whenever we teach people that being lawfully married will bless and strengthe their family and will set a great example for their kids, they think we´re crazy and don´t understand why.
As far as other news goes, My shoes are already pretty destroyed. One transfer in, and one of my pairs has holes in the sole, the leather is torn a bit, and it lots chewed up. I might have to buy a new, sturdier pair if they all end up that way. Money here is always pretty tight since we only get about 100 dollars a month which pays for all of our bus rides, food for breakfast or dinnerish, and anyother cleaning/hygiene stuff I need. For Christmas, I might just ask for money instead of receiving any sort of package. I usually have to use personal money before we get every paycheck from the church.
The church is so true I can taste it! I love being here and I know the Lord has a purpose for me as a missionary, and a purpose for all of his children on this Earth. I wish everyone the best as they make wonderful memories at home while I´m making memories here!!
Elder Braun

Elder Grow and I with a member´s pet tartartuga. Enjoy.

P.S. Have you updated my mailing address for my friends on facebook? I´ve only gotten a letter from Natalie and am curious if other people know where I live.

Monday, September 23, 2013

Atanagildo plus Crianças!

Oi Mae e família!
Another great week for me here, certainly far different than ever before! I have not gotten your package yet that you sent to me in the MTC. Elder Grow was telling me that the same thing happened to him when he was there. His family sent him a package after he had left. I guess it sat there for a month, until they sent it back the his family. So if the same thing happens, it´ll probably end up going back home soon. Which is so tough for me to accept because I could really use a package or something like that, but it´s totally up to you if you want to recreate it. I did, however get a letter from Natalie!!! It said that she wrote it on August 22nd, but I didn´t receive it until September 17th. Goodness! Mail is lame sometimes, but I still love hearing from people. It was a really nice letter and I loved hearing from her. I´ll plan on writting her one today during my free time, so let her know to expect that from me. Although it might be a while until she receives it :/
As I said last week, I was able to baptize Atanagildo yesterday! (that´s his full name). It was a super spiritual experience for me and helped me realize my purpose here as a missionary. I love seeing the joy that this gospel brings into the lives of our investigators and their families. Atanagildo has many family members who are members of the church, so they were all able to attend the baptism too, which was truly marvelous.
One family that we´ve been teaching has been progressing tons. Their names are Lú and Valdiné (the parents) with three sons named Mateus, Luau, and Miguel (15, 12, 9). We met Lú about 4 weeks ago when we were trying to find a certain street. She was at a bar drinking, smoking, and watching a brazillian soap opera. We gave her a brief description about the plan of salvation, and she invited us to visit her and her family. We´ve taught them three times now and invited them to be baptized. Since the parents aren´t legally married yet, they can´t do so until that happens, but everyone (including their children) accepted! They´ve already been able to attend church 2 times and they love it! They were also able to attend the baptism we had for Atanagildo, which I think was a great spiritual experience for them,. Their children are planning on being baptized this sunday, the 29th!!! It has truly been a miracle and blessing for Elder Grow and I.
As far as other goofy news goes. We ran into a drunk guy the other day who knows English.... The first native Ive met here, and he could speak ENGLISH. It was both cool and kind of scary. He laughed tons and said he loved me and wanted to give Elder Grow and I money. Super weird, but kinda cool too.
I love you all! Keep me in your prayers, the language is still pretty tough and I have much more room for improvement. God loves each and everyone of his children. Obra missionária é o melhor! (Missionary Work is the best!)
Elder Braun
 Elder Braun at Alcatara, Rio de Janeiro, Brazil
Elder Grow and Elder Braun with Atanagildo at his baptism

Monday, September 16, 2013

Ken and Noticias Boas! (Good News)

Hey fam-bam!
was a great week for me and I can´t wait to tell everything that happened. First off though, I´m using a ghetto keyboard where the keys don´t have the letters printed on them. It´s annoying, but I´ll do my best not to get frustrated. It´s been way cool to keep in touch with my old college buddies and hear about how they´ve been doing. We´ve been talking to eachother through emails, and it sounds like everyone has been having cool experiences. Missionary work is a blast and I´ve grown so much these past few months.
First off, I was told by a young woman in our ward that I look like Ken (you know, Barbie´s girlfriend). I thought it was pretty funny, so if there´s any girls back home looking for someone to write, let them know that Ken is having a blast here in Rio and wouldn´t mind :) Also, I haven´t heard at all about anyone back at home who has received a mission call since I left to the MTC. Is there anyone from our home ward or stake that I would know who´s  received one? I would love to hear about it. I love news like that.
Então.... I started off last week doing my first division with another elder in our district. His name is Elder Leite (which is portuguese for milk), and he was the other elder who my current companion, Elder Grow, trained about 2 transfers before me. I was super nervous about the division since he doesn´t speak English and I didn´t think we´d be able to acomplish much in 24 hours with two juniors, one who´s still learning Portuguese, but it went reallly well! We went to his area, called Arsenal, and taught a couple of their investigators and a less-active member. Overall, it was a great opportunity to practice my Portuguese and I loved hearing Elder Leites experiences with Elder grow as his trainer.
I have some good news and bad news regarding some of our teaching. I´l start with the bad. I think I´ve said a bit about one of our investigators, Isolda, in my past letters. We returned to her house to ask her if she received an answer to her prayers about whether or not she shoud be baptized. She said the same stuff as before. She believes that the doctrine we teach is true, but she isn´t willing to leave her other church because she loves the people there and doesn´t want to leave them. So she says she´s not ready, but will try to keep attending our meetings whenever possible.
Good news... I have my first baptism this sunday!!!! It´ll end up being nearly exactly one month after having entered Alcântara, which I think is pretty cool. There was a guy who has been attending our ward for over 2 months now beecause his brother is a member. but we had just heard he was an investigator last week. His name is Dinho, he´s 50 years old, and we asked if we could meet with him and rach him a short lesson after church yesterday. He has learned a lot from the Gospel Principles class this ward teaches, and after teaching him the Gospel of Jesus Christ, he accepted our invitation for him to be baptized on the 22nd! I´m so excited and having this happen has only made me more anxious to find people to teach and to invite to follow the teachings that Jesus Christ has placed in our life.
In other news, we are still waiting on two couples to get married before we can baptize them. I never would have expected that to be the biggest problem here! We´ve been teaching another family for the past two weeks. The parents are named Lú and Valdir, and they have three boys who are 16, 12, and 9. They were able to attend church yesterday and they really enjoyed it! The parents have never been legally married, but we´re hoping the boys will be able to reaceive a testimony through attending church, reading the scriptures, and receiving an answer through prayer to be baptized, maybe as soon as the 29th. There has been lots of success fopr Elder Grow and I, and I can feel my ability to teach and understand the language improve every day!
This week will be pretty busy, but it should be fun, too. I have a training with all of the other elders and Sisters that entered Rio the same week as me, which should take up a big portion of the day. most of our time will be spend on the bus though -__- Haha. Then on Wednesday we have Zone Conference which should also take up a big portion of our day. Lots of meetings, but It will be nice to finally meet other missionaries serving here!
That just about sums up my week, I think. It has been super hot all week, and I´m sweating like crazy just writing this letter. I always feel gross, but I´m getting used to it. I´m also like super tan now. I´ll try to get some pictures to send home next week. I still love Açai, too. The church is true, and the Atonement of Jesus Christ has the capacity to bring so much joy and Slavation to the souls of everyone. Not only a few people, but EVERYONE has the opportunity to reap the rewards. Always remember that. I love you all and I am so grateful for the prayers have have been coming my way!
Muito muito amor,
Elder Steven Braun

Monday, September 9, 2013


Minha querida família!
Another boring week here in Alcântara.... NOT. Haha there´s always so much to do here with missionary work, so don´t expect to ever hear something like that from me. I´m glad to here that BYU is doing well! Also, sorry about all of the package troubles. It sounds like you all back at home have done a lot to try to send me stuff, so I´m very grateful for your love. Also, if it´s not too much to ask, Mom. Could you forward my emails to my old roommates from BYU? I got an email from a few of them and I guess for some strange reason they want to hear from me. If you could add them to the email group, I´d love that!

I feel like I´m finally starting to get the hang of our routine here on the mission. I´m pretty good about being able to get up and be ready every morning by personal study at 8. Elder Grow speaks a lot more portuguese with me now that way I can learn to understand and speak more. We try to do all of our planning and companionship study time in Portuguese, which I think is beginning to build up my confidence in understanding. Now if only I could do a little bit better understanding the accents that some people have here... Apparently Rio has tons of different accents since there´s people from all over Brazil. One way I tried to help myself with Portuguese was by talking to a priest who joined us in proselyting for the day. His name is Feynner and he likes to accompany the elders here. At times, I´ll just try to talk with him since it´s tougher with older people. Plus we spend a lot of time walking from appointment to appointment. So my patience, I think, is improving with the language. I know that through prayer and dilligent study, our loving Father in Heaven has greatly supported me through my trials as a missionary.

I taught Elder Grow what YOLO means (Since he started his mission in January of 2012) and he thinks it´s the funniest thing. We still eat lots of açai since it´s so yummy and cheap. I´m thinking about starting an açai business, maybe, once I return to Provo. I think it could really take off.

So our teaching has been going really well, especially this week! President Lime places really strict standards for our minimum goals that we should have for our key indicators. Stuff like how we should teach at least 20 new investigators each week, 12 lessons with a member present, 15 other lessons, 15 lessons with families, 6 investigators at church each sunday and so on. It has been hard to do these each week, but we managed to teach two new families this week with many other investigators. We taught 15 news, which Elder Grow says is really good, especially with two Americans and only one speaking fluently.

The week before I arrived, Elder Grow and his old companion baptized a married couple named Rogerio and Agnalda. We´ve been visiting them a lt the past few weeks and sharing spiritual thoughts to help them out. Rogerio received the Aaronic Priesthood this week and they´ve really progressed a lot! They study their scriptures every day, and have even shared the Gospel with one of their daughters. We were able to teach their daughter, Jacqueline, and her husband, Alexandro. They aren´t married, and weren´t planning o being married for a while, but after we taught them, and they attended church, they already showed their desire to be baptized! It´s awesome, and Jaqueline totally looks like a Brazilian version of one of Natalie´s friends, Hannah Jensen. If I can get a picture with them, I´ll totally send it. Hopefully a baptism photo :)

We have many investigators who are ready to be baptized, but are just waiting to be married. It´s so tough! There´s a free way for couples to get married, but it takes a long time to get approved and processed through the government. Not just for visas, people. I think I´ve alread said a lot about Isolda in my past emails, but she has still been struggling to understand the importance of being baptized by someone with the authority given from our father in Heaven. She believes our church and has certainly received a witness from the Holy Ghost that the Book of Mormon is a testament of Jesus Christ, but she also was really likes her other church, even though she knows there are problems with it. We gave her the 15th of September as a goal date for baptism and challenged her to fervently seek an answer from her father in heaven if she should be baptized.

That about sums up the important stuff for the week. If I said everything, I´d have to write a book and I´d be breaking mission rules. I love and miss you all! Never forget to study the words of our profets in the Scriptures and try to recognize all of the wonderful blessings that our Father in Heaven has placed in your life. I´m so grateful to have a wonderful family supporting me while I´m here. I wish everyone the best!

Elder Braun
Sunset on Alcantara, Brazil

Elder Braun and Elder Grow

Monday, September 2, 2013

In Alcantara with Elder Grow

Bom Dia family and friends!

Once again, another crazy week here in Alcântara. I´m happy to hear all about your adventures going on at home! Thumbs up to Michael for still being creative in his visits home. Maybe I´ll be able to do something cool like that, but I´ve got about 22 months to whip up something creative. I got a letter from Jeff this week which was really cool! I love being able to hear about everyone´s life at home and hearing from him was really great, except the part where BYU stunk in their season opener. I´ll have to keep them in my prayers, I guess.

I NEED PICTURES. Like, seriously. If you could send me a letter with a bunch of pictures of family, friends, whatever, that would be fantastic. The only way I can show anyone who my family looks like is the two photos I have on my camera that I took the day you dropped me off at the airport. Dig in my Facebook a bit, maybe, and send me some of my close friends and family? I would LOVE LOVE LOVE that. Pretty much every member and investigator and hobo I run into asks about my friends and family and I feel stupid for not having any way to show them what you all look like. I´ll make my Christmas package extra awesome, pinky swear.

So this week was pretty difficult compared to the first one, but still good. Somehow, during my first few days here last week, we were able to have success in meeting with people who we had contacted in order to teach them lessons and challenge them to make committments. Unfortunately, infelizmente, this week was not quite the same. Elder Grow and I do a pretty good job at making our goal of doing 30 street contacts every day, with usually close to 10-15 giving us addresses to visit. However, during this week, many houses we went to were either not where people said they were or people weren´t home. We have a few investigators who are really close to or have agreed to be baptized, but now we´re struggling to find new people to teach. We try our best to encourage ward members to talk with people about the gospel of Jesus Christ, but not much has resulted, unfortunately. My portuguese is.... well, I think it´s improving. There´s so many different accents here that at times it feels like people are speaking different languages, especially the older population here. Be sure to keep me in your prayers to help me learn this language, because it hasn´t been too easy so far. 

This week, we followed up with Isolda after asking her if she´d pray to be baptized. She has been devotely Catholic her whole life, but has really accepted our messages and believes them to be true. The only things we are stuggling to help her understand is the importance of baptism by the Authority that our Heavely Father has bestowed upon Joseph SMith and those who have followed him. She believes that there are ´´inspired people people´´ who can feel closer with God than others, but hasn´t understood yet that God calls phophets to lead us in these latter-days. Hopefully she´ll be able to have her prayers answered this week and know of the love that our Father in Heaven has for her. 

Some goofy stuff I can think of.... I saw a giant pig eating a pile of trash yesterday. Twas kinda comical. Also, at least in this area, there´s a lot of places that sell stuff called Açai. It´s a kind of berry, and they sell in in what they call a sorvete, which is like ice cream but it´s not really milk. Elder Grow and I like to grab a cup whenevr we do contacts for a long time or we bring a priest with us for a few hours. It´s only around 2.5 to 3 reais for a cup the size of a small blizzard, which is only a little more than a dollar! They have lots of toppings like a froyo place in the states. Sooooo good!! Elder Grow and I also ate at a subway that was only a few miles from our place closer to the more developed part of Alcântara. It was nice to eat something american. We eat rice and beans with meat for seriously every meal, but I haven´t gotten very sick of it... yet :) The subway, I think, almost tasted better than one in the states, and I even think it maight have been cheaper. But they didn´t have free refills. No place here does. 

So that about sums up my week. I love you all, and am thoughtfully trying to come up with a delightful Christmas package already. We´ll see what I can whip up. Good luck to all those returning back to School and have a great week!

Elder Braun

I posted a few pictures. I think it´s the first time I´ve been able to since I was in Provo. You´re welcome!
 Alcantara, Brazil - Elder Brauns' first area
 The Elder Holland quote in Elder Braun's apartment
 Elder Braun enjoying Acai
Elder Braun's trainer, Elder Grow