Woot woot, another wonderful week completed here in Alcãntara (I feel like I can´t say Rio since it´s about as far from me as Couer´d alene is from yáll. Lots of marvelous things have happened here recently, so I´ll get started right away! But before I do that, high five to Natalie for signing up for Drivers Ed! Better now than when Mom and Dad buy a new car or something, if you catch my drift.
I feel like my ability to speak and write in English is struggling now that I´ve been surrounded by Portuguese for so long. Sometimes when Elder Grow and I are speaking to each other in English, I don´t know how to say some stuff in anything other than Portuguese. I think that´s a good thing, but hopefully my letters will still be readable throughout the rest of my mission.
We had a training at the beginning of last week, so I was able to see the rest of my group that arrived in Rio the same day as me, including my former companion Elder Deiffenbach. I made a mistake and told President a while back that I could play the piano more-or-less, and he asked me to play prelude and Called to Serve for the training. I could definitely tell it´s been a while since I´ve really practiced (or let alone played) the piano, but it was good. Give Sister Reese a big thank you for me for learning those skills as a youth that were able to help me while on my mission. I haven´t been asked to play in any ward meetings since there´s a guy who knows how to play pretty well already, so I´ll have to see down the road if there are other wards that need a player.
President Lima has been doing interviews this transfer with all of the different zones (Every transfer either has zone conference or interviews; This transfer is interviews). I was a little bit nervous since last time I met with him, one-on-one, I spoke a lot of English. This time was a ton more different though. He kept saying how much I´ve improved and how proud he was to see how far I´ve progressed, which was super nice to hear from him. I´ve heard from other missionaries that he´s usually super strict about being 100% diligent, working with members more, and lots of other stuff with elders´ interviews, but he built me up a lot in mine which helped me to relax a little and recognize how much I really have improved since the plane landed in Rio, or even since I jumped on that plane headed to Provo.
As far as teaching goes this week, Elder Grow and I managed to teach a lot more new investigators, which is what we´ve been really trying to focus on. We have two couples still waiting on marriages before they can be baptized, Adriana and Leonarado plus Jaqcueline and Alexandre. Which reminds me, I can´t decide If I want to stay in Alcãntara (to be here for the baptisms of these couples when they get married) or if I´d like to be moved to a different area (You know, so I can see more of Brazil. Alcãntara is kindof an armpit of this mission). We also have been teaching a few other people who have been progressing a lot, too. We taught a man named Carlos who knows the Bible Front to Back. Genesis to Revelation. ALL OF IT. He believes that there can only be one true church and has spent a lot of his life looking for it. Strangly though, he hadn´t ever had a visit from the elders in our church, so It has been fun teaching him and lots of responses from him about how he knows what we´re teaching to be true. It´s really nice to have investigators like that who have a genuine desire and passion to really learn what we´re teaching them. He has been reading the Book of Mormon like crazy, too. Finally, people who can actually read!
Some sad news... The family of Lú and Valdiné (they have three sons who were marked for baptism: Mateus, Luau, and Miguel) has cut us from teaching them. Well, kind of. Lú started showing a lack of enthusiasm after we taught the Word of Wisdom. She smokes, drinks, and has no desire to stop, even when we promised her that our Father in HEaven would bless her with better health after keeping this law. Their kids still wanted to be baptized, but she wouldn´t approve of it. And now, she has asked that we don´t visit anymore. All we can do for now is put them in our Area Book and hope that later down the road, other Elders will be invited when she is more willing and God has prepared her to accept our message.
I love you all so much !!!!!!!!
Keep on being great and remaining faithful. Our Father in Heaven really does love his children. Don´t forget to pray to recognize all that he has blessed you with. Prayer is what gets me out of bed every day, and what keeps to working hard every day.
PS I´m putting together a Christmas package and will probs send it next week. I have no idea what to send though since there are no souvenirs or anything. Let me know next e-mail is there´s anything in particular that yáll back at home would like.
Today is Tuesday, and not my P-day. I know, I´m breaking rules, but President Lima allowed it because yesterday, there was some goofy holiday where EVERYTHING is closed. Grocery Stores? CLOSED. Drug/Convenience Stores? CLOSED. Internet Cafe? FECHADO. So, that is why I am writing my loved ones on this wonderful day.
Anyway, this week was truly incredible and I certainly had a chance to grow a lot as a missionary, and overall as a person. (For some reason, I feel like those two aren´t considered the same thing right now). Speaking of growing as a person, I´m only talking quite figuratively. As far as literally growing, like size/weight sort of stuff, the exact opposite has been happening. I thing I´m the same height as I was when I left, but I´ve already lost 15 pounds since I left the MTC, and none of my shirts fit me anymore. I can easily fit two of me in each shirt. So that´s cool. Maybe I´ll try and so something, like work out more in the morning, to try and gain weight, but with all the walking we do and blazing summer heat around the corner, it´ll be tough.
WHICH REMINDS ME. It´s hot here. Like so hot, my deoderant melted. It started to sweat a bit (ironinc, huh?) and it melted. There´s no AC in our house, and all we have to keep us from, well, dying is a fan that Elser Grow and I share between us. It was 45 degrees celsius yesterday. Go ahead and check for yallselfs how hot it is here. Plus humidity. I wake up sweating, walk out of the shower sweating, and pretty much breath hot water vapor all day. AND YET I hear that there are areas in our mission that are far worse than Alcãntara. Fun stuff happening in the life of Elder Braun. But really though, I´m loving it here. Taking a shower is probably my favorite time of the day.
So I was able to have a couple of divisions this week. One with my zone leader, Elder Fontes. He´s from Uraguai, but he did an exchange in the States for a few months when he was in high school, so he speaks pretty good english. I think I could understand his portuguese better though, since he had a pretty strong accent on English. It was the first time in my mission that I had to plan for myself what proselyring and teaching we´d do for the day since Elder Grow was in the Zone Leader´s area, Itaboraí. I was so nervous and stressed about it, but we used our time pretty well and were able to visit a family that was baptized about two years ago and quickly stopped attending church after baptism. We´ve been teaching them a bit this past week and have been working with them to return. One of their sons, named Patrique, is 8 years old and wants to get baptised! That should take place pretty soon, so I´ll keep you posted on that.
Also, Friday, Elder Grow and the other District Leader in our zone had a training in Rio, so I had another division with his companion. I did the division with Elder Kunzler, and he´s from Utah (Somewhere close to Nevada, I don´t remember). Elder Kunzler arrived in Rio the same day as me, but he had been reassigned and served in Richmond, Virginia for 5 months (WOOHOO Elder Jensen! I´ve been keeping in touch with him, beeteedubs). Again, I was sooooo stressed and nervous since again, it was in Alcãntara and I mostly planned who we´d teach and what we´d do. Somehow (Seriously, this is seriously a miracle) in the 4 hours we had, we managed to contact 2 people we received eference from, teach 3 lessons, and have 4 new investigators as a result. It´s funny too, since combined, we onle had 16 weeks combined of experience in Brazil. I feel like I can speak the language pretty wellm especially with the Spirit during lessons, but I still can´t understand everything being saidby natives here. And Elder Kunzler can understand almost everything, but he has a really strong accent and Brazilians had trouble understanding him. Together, we made a great team :)
Elder Grow and I have ´´grow´´n a lot this past week. Starting about 2-3 weeks ago, I was starting to get a little frustrated with him. I felt like he was being a little bit rough on me during practices and teaching, and overall expected a lot of me. He started to notice this in me this past week, and we sat down and had a real companionship inventory to resolve any problems we had. Being with Elder Kunzler and Elder Fontes this past week helped me to truly recognize how much I´ve been able to learn from having Elder Grow as a companion. I´ve finally been able to see that although at times he pushes me a bit and tests my patience with learning the language or how to teach, I´ve really learned a lot and have already become a powerful missionary in only 10 weeks in Brazil. Truly a blessing that I had been looking for since I jumped on that plane about 3 and a half months ago.
Sad news... I feel like I have to say this a lot. The wedding that we had planned for Leonardo and Adriana for this Saturdayfell through. The guy that we marked with to do the ceremony... well, dissapeared. So, it´s back to the waiting game for them. It should be about 2-3 months before they can be married and baptized. PATIENCE IS A VIRTUE... That´s what I keep telling myself. Paciência, muito paciência.
Way to go Ryan!!! I´m so proud for him for getting the internship he was looking for. He asked me to pray for him, and I managed to make room for him in my daily prayers to do that. Weird, our loving Father in Heaven really blesses those who have faith to sek for his help. If Ryan´s still working for them 4-5 years from now, I wouldn´t mind a good word or two to help a brotha(in-law) out.
I love you all and I promise, I don´t think of Taylor Swift that much while I´m hete. Only enough to keep me to push myself even harder. Like she says in one of her songs, ´´Baptize me, Juliet, you never have to be alone´´... at least I think that´s how it goes.
It´s been a great week for Elder Grow and I. Truly for sure. I guess all of the banks in Brazil (or maybe just Rio) were on Strike against the Government. It didn´t really affect us too much, and although I´m not really sure why it happened, there was some small riots in downtown Rio. I think it finished today though, whatever the problem was. HEY, I received the package you sent to São Paulo!! I was so surprised it arrived. I considered it a lost cause, but the ties and calender you sent arrived to son safe and sound, even if it took a little over 2 months to get here.
So I was studying in the New Testament a little bit this week, and was reading in Acts. I came across a really cool scripture, so cool that I think I want to make it my lema, or motto for my mission. If yáll want to look it up, it´s in Acts 6:8. Voçês vão gostar. You´ll see why I like it so much. One of the churchs next to where we live writes their own newspaper, usually with a bunch of articles attacking other churchs and celebrities and people who aren´t members of their church and what not. There was an article about Taylor Swift titled , ´´This is for the weak´´, Obviously in portuguese. It was talking about how she has ruined the definition of strong relationships because of the songs she writes and how she uses men to have a career. Needless to say, I didn´t like it... like at all.
As far as portuguese goes, I feel like I get more and more comfortable with speaking each and every day. Understanding people is still something I need to work on more, since so many people here have different accents and dialects, but my testimony of prayer and patience has difinitely been tested and grown as a result of it. Missions are tough, but I know through the help of my Father in heaven and the atoning sacrifice of his beloved son, Jesus Christ, I can withstand any trials that are placed in my life.
Elder Grow and I have had a tough time finding new investigators this past week. We have lots of references from contacts that missionaries in other areas did, as long as our own contacts, but people are almost never at home when we visit, even when they say they´ll be available. It makes it tough for us since we walk everywhere that we visit, so we have to plan really well to visit every house that is close to each other each day.
HOWEVER, we had a nice little miracle happen this week. Thursday night, Elder Grow and I decided to visit a couple (Leonardo and Adriana) that we had been teaching. They were attending church every week when I first arrived in Alcântara, but because Leonardo got another job, he wasn´t able to go to church anymore. Adriana didn´t want to go to church without him, and since he was never home because of his two jobs except to sleep, they became disanimated to get married, even though they still wanted to be baptized. Anyway, we visited them after not having stopped by for a few weeks, and Leonardo was back to only having one job. We taught a great lesson about commandments and they expressed how willing they are to get married and baptized! We´ll be working with the Bishop and Ward mission leader to have them married and baptized the 26th this month and have them confirmed on the 27th. Elder Grow and I are super excited for them and love seeing their faith.
I love you all so much! Mom, you are seriously a blessing in my life. I couldn´t be more happy to have you as my loving mother, supporting me all thoughout my mission and sending me lovely packages with a wonderful calender and goofy ties (One has a letter to bryan written on the inside, i found out). Keep me in your prayers as I strive to spread the Lords work to everyone here in Alcântara!
Here´s a photo with one of the priests in our world. His name is Feynner and he´s always willing to acompany us with our teaching and visits.
Another great week for Elder Grow and I... and Elder Rogesson. Huh? Confused? I´ll get there. Grab the popcorn. This letter gets pretty exciting. But like I said, I´ll get there. Thank you Ryan for the great letter this week! I love being informed about the happenings going on in everyne´s family back at home, so it was very much appreciated. It´s kind of funny... I don´t even remember sending you guys a letter, so it must of been a long time ago and I can´t even think about what I would have wrote about. Thanks for updating me on the happenings with some of my friends, Mom! I really appreciated it, even if there were some that I might not have been too happy to hear about, but I digress. Also, what´s up with the US Government? Stuff being shut down and what not? I hope that doesn´t affect the missionaries waiting on visas. I´ve still got some buddies from my district at Provo who are waiting, and it´d be cool to see them soon. Elder Hamilton just arrived last week, and he´s in the zone next to me! I haven´t seen him yet, but It shoud happen at zone conference or our next training. Also, Sister Colvin, the sister from Spokane, arrived last week too. WOOHOO!
Conference was so awesome!!! We attended it with all the missionaries and members in the stake at the church building next to where we live. Everyone (except the misssionaries) showed up late for the first session, including the stake president, so there wasn´t time to set up a tv in another room for Elder Grow, me, and another American missionary to watch it in english. So the saturday morning session was all in Portuguese for the people here. It was fine, but I had to focus reeeeeeeeeeally hard to be able to understand. The rest of the sessions we were able to watch in English. Great to hear the actual voices of our prphet and apostles in the native tongue. I noticed a lot lot lot about members helping the missionaries out. We could certainly use more help from the members here in Alcântara, so we´re making it a goal to involve them more with us and invite them to invite others to share the Gospel!!!!! Fun stuff. It makes me wish I could have helped the missionaries in the home ward more. I tried too whenever they asked me, but I could have done a much better job seeking out to help them out with whatever they needed. I´m hoping that yáll can try to follow the counsel of our church leaders and ask how you all can help the missionaries. Once I get home, I´ll certainly try my best to do that. Overall, wonderful conference, I was pretty devastated for it to end, and it sounds like following twitter was fun too.
So this week was super different and exciting than expected. It was the first week of tranfers, so one of the elders from the area that shares the apartment with us left and was replaced by another brazillian. It´s kinda weird though, because the new elder in our apartment, Elder D. Silva (Deangeles Silva) and I are already friends on facebook... Before my mission, I joined a facebook group with other missionaries serving in Rio, and I remember a random Brazillian who added me as a friend who I accepted. It turns out it was him!
Now for the exciting part... one elder in our zone (Elder McGregor) had appendecitus (Spelling fail) and had to go to the hospital on monday. While he was there, his companion, Elder Rogesson, slept in the hospital over night. It turned out that Elder McGregor had something way worse than just Appendicytus (here we go again...), and had to stay there for some other emergency surgeries. SO, Elder Rogesson joined Elder Grow and I this past week (Tuesday through Friday) in Alcântara. We had a tripla, and because Elder Rogesson is Brazillian, I was able to learn mmuch much more Português.On friday, Elder Grow stayed with Elder McGregor in the Hospital (I´m still not sure why) all day, and I joined Elder Rogesson in his area, Apolo, to teach his investigators. I learned that Elder Rogesson was a professional soccer player in Europe and played for a team in Milan, Italy. He played against teams like Manchester, Barcelona, Chelsea, and other teams over there. He only played for abot 8 months, though, and decided serving a mission was more important than playing professional soccer. Pretty dang inspiring for me that his faith was so strong to give up a career so noteworthy to serve the Lord as a missionary. He had an emergency transfer and will be with a newcompanion now. Elder Mcgregor only has a little under two transfers left, so he´ll finish up his mission in the secretary´s office.
As far as teaching goes, Elder Grow and I decided we need to find more new people to teach. Many of our investigators were either to hard to get a hold of, not keeping commitments, or are just waiting on getting married. Sadly, we cut ones, and left them in the area book for missionaries of the future of Alcântara to try and visit and finish up their teaching when they are ready. We were able to teach lots of new people from contacts we´ve been doing the past few weeks, and even have the date September 20th marked for baptism for a man named Edilson and his sister Solange. They loved our first lesson and the Spirit really testified the truthfullness of the Book of Mormon. Plus, neither of them live with someone out of wedlock. Two birds, one stone. Lots of teaching and opportunities to develop more confidence in the language. I couldn´t be more blessed!
I hope everyone back at home has the opportunity to reflect on the wonderful messages that were delivered at General Conference. I, myself, received a personal witness that our prophet, Thomas S. Monson, truly is a prophet of God, and has the divine keys of our Heavely Father to teach unto his children the needs to return to his presence again. I truly can´t wait until our next General Conference in 6 months. Maybe next time there´ll be an exciting new temple somewhere :) I love you all, love this work, and couldn´t be happier for all my Lord has blessed me with!
Sorry folks for not getting a picture with Elder Rogesson this week :( Next time I see him, I won´t hesitate to get it.