It has been amazing these past two weeks! I really do feel like I´ve felt like I was missing a part of my week without hearing from you all. Let´s see, where to start... Well, my last week at the CTM was pretty special. I was flipping back and forth from thinking that I was prepared enough and then thinking that I needed a little more time to learn Portuguese, but by Monday, the day before I left, I was just fine and extremely excited!
I met my mission president and his wife in our arrival meeting. They are so nice and Sister Moreira really helped me feel more comfortable about being here. The arrival meeting was my first real meeting that was all in Portuguese without any translation, so it was a little difficult to follow everything, but I handled all right I think. We learned about all the things that we need to watch out for and how to stay healthy and how to take care of our allowance for the month. We also met the Assitants to the President. The Americans were speaking in all Portugues as well and they were speaking exactly like a Brazilian! I was so impressed and a little bit envious that they could speak so well. It made me want to speak fluently already!
I met my trainer at the mission home a little bit later. His name is Elder Austin Stott from Idaho Falls! Elder Stott is really good at his Portuguese as well. He has been such a good boost of confidence with my Portuguese. He keeps helping me with my pronunciation and especially with learning five new words every day. He is extremely smart too! He went to a year of college before his mission in Daytona, FL, to study Aerospace Engineering! He knows that Utah State has a fantastic program for that too, so he and I have been talking a lot about USU and it sounds like he will be coming to Logan with me when we are both returned from our missions! He teaches so well and he allows me to participate in the lessons as much as I am capable. I am so amazed at how well he can relate the principles to the people and he is just an all around nice guy. Every one of our investigators and members loves him!
We are in Limoeiro, São Paulo, right now... my first area in the mission! We live in a... I guess you can call it a house... with two other missionaries. They are both Americans named Elder Chad and Elder Meilke. Elder Chad and Elder Stott both knew Chad Marvin from the CTM by the way! Elder Chad is our District Leader and he is a way nice person too! I really got lucky with my first area. I really found out that I´m in a foreign country when they told me about what we have to do for the bathroom. So, our bathroom consists of a toilet and right next to it is a drain with a small fosset above that is our shower, but wait! there´s more! São Paulo drains aren´t very big, so when nature calls and you need to do your business, you can´t put the toilet paper down the drain! Every bathroom in this city, even in the chapels at church, have a waste basket where you can dispose of your... stuff. Gross, I know, but you know what this means... I really am a missionary in Brazil!!! But anyway, about the city. If you thought that L.A. or New York City had dirty streets, I think that this place would win out of both of them combined. It´s very dirty on the streets and the houses are not much better. But the amazing thing about Limoeiro is that I absolutely love everything about it!
I went to church this week and met all of the members. Everyone was so kind and they really made me feel like I was at home. I even had my first "uh-oh" missionary moment this week. So the bishop intivited me to bare my testimony because I was new and it happened to be fast Sunday this week. So I got up there and bore my testimony in Portuguese and I felt so good. Not only did I feel the Spirit as I was speaking, but I was doing it in a different language! But when I returned to my seat, my companion told me that I completely butted in front of a whole row of people who were waiting to bare their testimonies... whoops!!! Haha, it was a little embarrassing, but I played the "I´m new" card and everything was fine. It made for a great story with the other elders when we got home for the day.
I have been having a hard time with a few things since I arrived last week. I really realized that I am not as good at Portuguese as I thought I was. I have a really hard time with understanding everything the people are saying and they speak so quickly that I need them to repeat a lot of things a little slower and I feel really embarrassed sometimes. It´s been a goal of mine to be able to understand as quickly as I can so I will be able to start being able to help people with their problems. But I know the Lord has been watching over me and after church this Sunday, I had nearly all of the members come up to me and ask me how long I´ve been in Brazil. Nearly all of them were shocked when I said that I had been in the field for only four days. They told me that I was speaking like I had been in for six months. I still don´t feel secure in my Portuguese, therefore, I will continue to work at it, but those compliments definitely helped me out at a time that I really needed it.
Oh, and I have one amazing story to tell you... On my first day, Elder Stott and I were knocking on doors and trying to make some contacts with the people. He was doing all of the talking and finally got a little tired of all the people saying no all the time, so he told me to do the next one. I clapped my hands and out came this really happy 18 year-old kid named Mardeson. I started to talk to him about our message and asked if we could come in and teach him more. He said yes and we walked in. I taught the first part of the message of the Restoration to him Elder Stott taught the rest. He was very receptive to the things that we taught and he understood that he needed to pray and ask God if these things were true. We returned the next day to see how things went for him. Mardeson told us that after he prayed, he felt like he was lighter and that he had received an answer from God. We continued to teach him about the Word of Wisdom and then the Law of Chastity. He understood everything and said that he already obeyed them. Well, to tell you the really amazing thing... He will be baptized this Sunday, August 8th! I cannot believe how prepared these people are. We truly found one of the elects of Heavenly Father´s children.
I love this work... I love being a missionary... I love my family... I love my Savior. This is definately the hardest thing I´ve ever done in my entire life, but it´s also the most rewarding thing I´ve ever done. I see how the Lord has blessed the people here in Limoeiro when they obey His word. The ward members´ homes are so clean and happy, even when they don´t necessarily have a whole lot of things or a big house (no one has a house much bigger than our garage). I see other places here where they are using a broken treadmil as a bed for their child, and even families who don´t have a lot of money for food, and yet they still offer to give us something to drink and eat each time we go there. I feel so guilty because I know how much I took for granted the things that I had growing up. These are the happiest people in the world, even when they don´t have much... just their families. That really shows me that they know what is important... the things that we can take with us to the next life.
Thanks for all of your love and support. I love my family so much! Have a great week! Fique forte!