Monday, November 24, 2014

Baptism in Abolição!


My first week in Abolição was certainly a great one. Full of work and sweat, and happiness, and singing, and more work. Before I forget, I sent home about two months ago an sd card with ALL of my photos since the beginning of my mission until september of this year. Did you guys every get that sd card. If not, at least I have a backup. Just let me know if it still hasn´t gotten there.

My first week in Abolição with Elder Gonzales was full of cool little milagres. Just to explain the area a bit, It´s not the safest area in the mission. You don´t have to worry too much, Mom. We´re smart and we don´t do anything dumb that would encourage men bigger than me to steal my pants and whatnot. BUT There´s a big favela called O Complexo do Alemão (The German Complex), which is a pretty big and dangerous area. It´s also a good portion of of area. One half of this favela is in Abolição, and the other half is in one of my past areas, Ramos. So now I can say, I´ve served in the entire Complexo do Alemão! I think they made a movie about this favela, too, called Alemão. Anyway, as you can see in the picture I included in the email, there´s lots of morros (hills) with communities and stuff. We also have to walk for an hour just to arrive in our area. We´re living with missionaries from a different ward, and even though we have a house all settled for us in this area, we´re just waiting on the secretaries from the mission office to buy some furniture for the house. and this has been the case for over a transfer #frustration #walkmyfaceoff

BUT We had a baptism! A lady named Maria da Luz, who Elder Gonzales started teaching last transfer, accepted our invite to be baptized last saturday. She is a very humble lady, who has a big heart. It was a beautiful and simple baptismal meeting and we´re as excited as ever to continue finding people to get to know the Lord´s true church. 

We had a SICK service project on saturday morning. We helped build a house! Funny how mom asked me about that last week, and a member asked us for some help putting in concrete on the roof of this guys house he was building. Normally, our president wouldn't let us do labor like that, but since there were men who aren´t members of the church there, we were able to help out! We did some serious MANual labor, including filling buckets with rocks, carrying them up the stairs, mixing sand with cement mix with the rocks and water, refilling the buckets with this new mix, carrying it up to the roof, and putting it in the mold-things. All in the hot sun. I loved it! It was my first experience in building a house, and we got some good referrals of people to teach.

We also had the Christmas/Book of Mormon mission choir performance yesterday. We´ll be passing each of the stake centers this transfer to sing. The spirit was way strong, and many people´s hearts were touched by the Christmas message that the Book of Mormon offers us. This Saturday, we´ll pass the stake that I passed over a year serving in, the Arsenal Stake!

I love you all so much and am so happy to be where I am serving the Lord in Abolição, Save a slice of pie for me, okay? 

Elder Braun

Monday, November 17, 2014

Transferred! Again! Abolicao!

Bangu has no view of Cristo Redentor, so I made one of Brauno Redentor


Well, I had another crazy week, and some crazy newsas well. We had transfers today, and as the titleof the email says, I got transferred! I have left Bangu and was transferred to an area a little bit closer to the center of Rio in the same stake as another ward I served in (Ramos). Now, I´m in the Abolição ward! Abolição means abolition in portuguese, so I´ve decided that I´ll devote my time strive to free those who are imprissioned, or "enslavened", by sin and temptations from Satan. I´m excited . My companion is Elder Gonzalez, a swell and light-hearted Bolivian, with an ever so swell hispanic accent (He´s from Santa Cruz, Bolivia). Although my time was short in Bangu, I learned a lot there, and gained lots of experience through both the ups and downs that I hope I can bring with me through the rest of my mission and life.

Let´s answer those questions!
My shoes aren´t a huge worry for now. I´m pretty sure I can make it to the end of my mission without having to buy a new pair. I have one pair that I use for normal proselyting, one on Sundays, and one for Zone Conferences. The Proselyting pair has been trucking along since I bought them last January here, and although the sole is starting to get thin, I´ve got my other Sunday pair that should last until the end

How are the pants holding up?
They´re big. Especially around the waist, the length is fine. None of them have torn (Except for a pocket in one of them, so pants aren´t a big worry for me. Although, all of my black pants have gotten a little faded from washing them which makes them not match perfectly. To me is really doesn´t seem like a problem, but I can see why a mom would worry about that.

How often do I wear my suit coat?
Just on Sundays at church and special events (Zone Conference, Mission Tour, The Mission Choir that we´ll have starting this week.)

What kinds of Service projects have I done?
Hmmm I´ve painted a member´s wall once, helped put tiles on a members wall, rearrange furniture, help people move, and the every now and then carrying someheavy object for an elderly lady. We have lots of rules about what kinds of service projects we can and can´t do. We can´t serve for more than an hour, and we need to avoid projects that would require us to work for various days. For that reason, I haven´t been able to participate in quite as many as I would have liked.

Do I play the organ or piano in the ward?
Well, for two weeks in Bangu, I was playing a normal piano, like the one in our house. Now that I got transferred,  I´m back to subtly singing during sacrament meeting. We´ll see if this ward needs someone to help out.

Any advice for young men/young women getting prepared to serve a mission?
As far as prep goes before the mission, one of the biggest regrets I have is not having left with the missionaries at home as I could have. I still remember those few times I left with Elders at home, and they helped me understand what kind of work I´d do in the field, but I definitley could have done more visits with them. I wish I could go back in time and gain more experience by helping them. I hope I can make up for it by helping the missionaries in the home ward much more after returning home.

This reminds me, the bishop in Bangu showed me a book written by a former area seventy and professor at Harvard, Clayton Christensen. The book was called "The Power of the Everyday Missionary". from the parts that I read, I want to EXHORT everyone at home who feels scared or nervous to do missionary work (Which I think is everyone) to buy a copy. Online. I don´t know how, just do it. 

I hope this week will be full of wonderful news about my new area and companion. I´m super dooper excited to be here, fulfilling my dream in serving the Lord in this wonderful army of representatives of our Savior, Jesus Christ. I love you all, and let Grandma Pannone know that one of her packages got to me! (It had peanut butter, post-it notes, peanut brittle, and much more! Thank you Grandma!)

Elder Braun

Monday, November 10, 2014

Yay for Tough Weeks

Hey Family!
Well, as always. thanks a ton for the great email and for not forgetting about me. This week, we had tons of cool events for me to share with you all. I think I´ve got the package set to send home to y'all. I´m not finding anything distinctly from Rio since I´m not super close to the downtown, but I hope you like what I´ve put together in the package.  
Since the pianist in the ward here left on his mission, The Bangu ward was left without a pianist, so they asked if one of us (Elders) knew how to play the piano, and they picked me to play. So I´m back to playing the hymns in Sacrament meeting! Dang ever since I was a kid, practicing the piano, I never realized how much what I was studying would be needed in my mission, but I´m super grateful for having used that time growing up to help out those here in Rio hear the beautiful hymns in the true church of Jesus Christ.
Speaking of music, 4 Zones in this mission (The four closest to Rio) put together a speacial musical performance for the Helping hands convention last saturday. We sang a beautiful arrangement of ´´Sou um Filho de Deus" and "Chamados a Servir" (I´m a Child of God and Called to Serve). We also sang an arrangement of Praise to the MAn that was way bomb-diggity. I saw some members who I had served with in Ramos. And we passed the Maracanã as we came back to our areas. Yes, I took pictures.
We were walking down the street one day this week, and we heard a guy singing O Elders de Isreal (To be quite honest, I don´t remember what this hymn is called in English. I think is Elders from Isreal? Maybe? #brainfart), and we went and talked to the guy. He was in a small pizza shop, and he told us that he´s an inactive member from the church, that he served a mission in São Paulo 20 years ago (His wife as well), and that he recently moved here in Bangu. SOOOO we talked to him some more, and he and his wife are excited to come back to church again! Their names are Cesar and Duce. And the best part? You won´t even believe, so I got photo evidence: Cesar looks just like Pat Finley. Yes, the Pat Finley from the Movie Heavyweights. Just a little more tan and with a goofy moustache. 
We had found some people from the men we reactivated last week, some really interested in learning more, but they weren´t able to come to church yesterday and we´ll continue to work with them so that they can be blessed with this great gospel. The Ward had a family baptized (by the other missionaries serving here) and the only members there were the bishop (who showed up 30 minutes late) and a young married couple that had taught them once. Can you imagine how these new members must of felt to have such few people supporting them on their special day to be baptized? I made a goal to attend EVERY convert baptism that happens for the rest of my life in every ward that I happen to be living in. For the REST OF MY LIFE. Why? Because these people deserve our love and support for the decision they´ve made to be baptized in the church of Jesus Christ of LAtter-Day Saints. I hope all of you at home can do the same, and even better, help the missionaries find those who can be blessed by the message they share.
I love you all and am so magnificently grateful for your love and support.
Elder Braun

  Maracanã (With the Christ Statue in the upper corner)
Me and Pat Fin... I mean Cesar

Monday, November 3, 2014

Answers and Reativocao

45 degree celcius hast day

Hey Family!

No one has said anything that they want me to buy to send home for christmas... Sooooo this is the last week I´m giving you all one last chance to let me know if there´s anything you´d like me to send home. 

What does your apartment look like?
It´s kind of a house and an apartment mix, since it´s in a yardish thing called a vila with about 2-3 other houses. There´s an old guy who sells pizzas underneath us for 6 reais (a little less than 3 bucks). and they´re quite fantastic. Our house has a cool balcony on top where we dry our clothes and excercise in the morning. Since there´s 6 missionaries in the same house, it´s a litttle crammed. Elder Silva and I don´t actually have a bed. We just have a mattress that we put on the ground at night to sleep, and suring the day we put up against the wall. Here´s a google street view of our house (Above the gate... We live on the second floor)

What can you hear from your window?
It´s a relatively calm neighborhood where we live, so there´s isn´t much sound. But at night, especially on the weekends we have some nieghbors who have no shame to play their music until late at night. Last saturday, they were playing just Justin Beiber Songs for over an hour straight. Not okay. 

How does it smell?
....Normal. I guess. Bangu is pretty normal. No weird smells like some of my past areas (cough* Alcântara)

Tell me about the streets where you walk.... Or do you tak public transport?
The streets here are also normal. Just a little bit skinnier than in the states. Take a look at the street view to see what they´re like We only take buses/vans when we have to go to a conference or we have an appointment with someone that lives far away. Usually we just walk though. There´s also the train closeby that we use when we have to go to Rio.

Have you put your hand on your companions shoulder and thanked him for being your companion?
I actually have :)

So this next Saturday, four zones (including mine) will we singing at a Helping Hands service activity for the church. I hear it will be broadcasted on the local news and that the area president of Brazil will be there. So I guess that´s cool. We´re also putting together a Book of Mormon Christmas choral that will be performed in many public locations and stake centers throughout the Rio area. I´m excited to be a part of that and help others feel the spirit of Christmas through the wonderful means of music.

This week, we were able to help 3 MEN return back to church, along with a young man and a lady in the relief society. We focused a lot on reactivation, and by that, we´re hoping to help strengthen this Ward with more priesthood holders and future missionaries.

Osair is one of the first members here in Bangu! He was baptized when Bangu was a branch, over 30 years ago. He helped many of the current members meet the church, and having been inactive for over 10 years, many of those members were very happy to hear we had been helping him. Even more happy to see him back at church yesterday.

Benton is a 26 year old guy who was baptized in a city called João Pessoa in the north of Brazil, but he left the church after 3 months. We found him doing street contacts. Kindof. There´s a house next to the chapel that we had always wanted to visit, and this week (Friday, the day we were fasting) we decided to knock the door. Benton answered, and said he was a Mormon. We instantly were surprised (since he literally lives 1 minute walking distance from the chapel) and talked to him about the Book of Mormon and his baptism. He changed a lot and improved his life when he first was baptized (Stopped smoking, stopped drinking afelt more love for Chrost in his life) And when he left the church and everything went back to the way it was, his life instantly got worse. He couldn´t figure out why until he saw us and accepted the invite to come back to church. He says he´s surely gonna stay now. 

We also visited with the Young Mens president a young man who had been less active for several months, João Vitor. We talked to him a bit about commandments and how they bless us if we´re obedient. He said he´s always wanted to serve a mission, but he got less excited when his parents split up. His dad was grateful for our visit, and even though we didn´t know he is also a member of the church with much time not participating, he wanted to be a better example for his son and he returned to church too! YEAH

We´re hoping to make use of these lost sheep who have returned to the Shepards fold so that we can help find many others to come unto Christ to receive the saving ordinances required to live in his presence forever, as well as their family´s.

I love this gospel so much. I felt many of my prayers were ansered this week, and I felt the strength of those sent from y'all at home. Thank you so much. I love you all and wish the very best for you!

Elder Braun

We had a service project helping an elderly lady in the ward rearrange her furniture and clean up a bit. She gave me this wonderful necklace as a token of thanks. I LOVE IT SO MUCH.

The black guy in front is our ward mission leader. Yesterday was his farewell Sunday, since he leaves to serve in London this week, so he took a picture with a bunch of us in the ward.