Brasil CTM

For everyone who may have been wondering, yes I am in Brasil and yes I am alive. This past week has been crazy! The Brasil CTM is so much better for learning Portuguese than the Provo MTC. As much as I loved the MTC, it was really easy not to FSL (speak your language) because almost everyone there spoke English. Here, definitely not. I would say about 10% of the CTM are Americanos, 60% are Hispanicos, and 30% are from Brasil. The only way we can communicate with each other is in Portuguese. We have two native Portuguese speakers in our room, one from Brasil and one from Cabo Verde (I actually think his first language is Creole, but he is fluent in Portuguese tambem).

Sao Paulo is HUGE! We went to the temple today (a 1.5 hour drive, but not really very far). The skyscrapers go on forever and ever and ever. The other night when Brasil was playing in The World Cup, every time they made a goal the entire city went crazy with fireworks and yelling and cheering and horns and sirens and anything loud. And the freeway is just one big accident waiting to happen. Compared to Sao Paulo, the 405 and 605 and the 5 in Long Beach are pretty darn empty. It takes forever to get anywhere and there are always motorcycles flying like crazy between the semis and buses.

It is amazing how quickly I remembered the Portuguese I learned almost a year ago in the MTC in Provo. This is said by missionaries a lot, but the gift of tongues is real. However, it is also based on our effort. The mission president of the CTM told us that if we were exactly obedient, the Lord would be bound to bless us. It’s definitely true. The devotional on Sunday was a broadcast of Elder Ballard. That’s the second time I’ve seen him speak in two weeks. Although one time I was sitting four feet from him playing the organ and this time I was thousands of miles away. Also, our devotional on Tuesday was a live brodcast of Elder Christofferson. He spoke about The Worth of Souls. It was fantastic. I really like Elder Christofferson.

On Saturday we went into dowtown Sao Paulo (I actually don’t know if it was downtown. I just know we were surrounded by 40 and 50 story buildings and there were tons of people in the street) and contacted for 2 hours. It was awesome. The first person we talked to was actually a return missionary! And two of the people we talked were from Nigeria and didn’t speak any Portuguese. People are so friendly and open to learn here. It is weird how you can literally jump in front of people in the street, hand them a free book and they will listen to you for twenty minutes and want to learn more.

Next time you get an email from me I will be in the Sao Paulo Interlagos mission. I can already tell that this year of my mission is going to be completely different than the last year. Essentially a completely different mission. I loved Long Beach, and I think I will love Sao Paulo Interlagos for entirely different reasons.

The past couple of days have been a little rough. I have a cough and sore throat and am super congested. The medico (doctor) here at the CTM said it is because of all the pollution in the air here in Sao Paulo (and there is a lot. Everything is covered in grime and there is a nice layer of brown in the skyline). On the bright side, my stuffy nose makes my pronunciation in Portuguese almost perfect.

I’m glad that Grandpa’s funeral went well. It is bittersweet. I’ve been praying for Grandma every day. It sounds like everyone is going to be pretty busy. I hope Kimmie’s delivery goes well.

I love you all!

Brasil!!!

I am in Brasil!!! Woohoo!!! After 25 hours of travel I made it. Elder Starr and I are in the same district, were on the same flight, and are in the same room at the CTM. Sao Paulo is HUGE. I was lucky enough to have a window seat and all of a sudden the mountains disappeared and all you could see was city and skyscrapers forever. I have taken pictures, but I have no idea how to get them on this computer. Everything here is gray and concrete. That is about all I know about Brasil now. It is sure a lot different than California. Most of the missionaries in the CTM are native Brazilians, so we have already had a lot of awkward conversations where we realize how much portuguese we don’t remember. 😦

In some ways I guess I am surprised at how much the same it is even though it is completely and totally different.

It is crazy how even with the few people I have talked to today, there are so many different accents. Some people are pretty easy to understand. Other people sound like they are speaking German.

It is also really strange to be in the CTM again, especially when people that left on their missions three weeks ago are the “veterans” here even though I have been on my mission 11 months. There is one missionary that has waited longer for his visa, just one transfer longer. About 5 people in our group (there were about 20 on the flight) came out at the same time as me. There were a few that are just starting at the CTM as well, but they will be in a different district.

This email probably represents how tired I am right. About all I can say is Ola! Tuto Bem! Bom Dia! My bed is going to feel great tonight.

I love everyone! I’m praying for Grandma. I hope Grandpa’s funeral goes well.

Visa… wait, what?!

The biggest news of the week is probably that I got my visa to Brasil. I actually just got a text from the mission office during dinner that said, “Elder Madsen Visa to Brazil. Leaves June 17”. I don’t really remember what else happened during that dinner appointment. I was pretty distracted. Pretty much the entire time I have been in Long Beach I have had the feeling that I was going to be here to stay. Visa waiters have a bad rap for not caring about the mission they are waiting in. Maybe God knew he could solve that problem if he made me think I was never leaving Long Beach. I am so grateful for the opportunity I have had to serve in California. Everyone is telling me, “We are so excited you are finally going to be going to your real mission,” which is kind of frustrating to me because Long Beach is part of my real mission. Just because it wasn’t stated on my call letter doesn’t mean the Lord didn’t call me to serve here. If I for some reason had to come home and never go to Brazil, my mission would still be where the Lord called me to go.

I am excited to go. I will be leaving a lot that I love behind, but that is a central experience we have in life. The only thing I am worried about when I get to Brazil is the language. Other than that, it is the same work in a different culture. I take comfort in the blessing President Larson gave me when he set me apart. He said, “After a short struggle, the language will come quickly.” And I have complete faith in that. It is going to come as I put my trust in the Lord and faithfully put in the work that will allow me to communicate.

I think God knows I can only handle the heat for so long. I will only have one summer on my mission. I’m going straight from the end of spring to the beginning of winter.

Aside from my visa, a lot of other great things happened this week as well.

We taught a referral named Joanna, who became a new investigator. She told us that she met missionaries on the street and took it as a sign from God that he is present and loves her.
As we taught the Restoration, she told us that she felt the spirit very strongly and believed the things we taught because her heart told her it was true. She read 10 pages in The Book of Mormon before we returned. The first person we called to invite to a lesson went to the same middle school and high school and college as Joanna, was friends with her on Facebook, and already knew her. As we taught her the second time, she said she felt like coming to church on Sunday would “change her life”. And as she came to church, she was surrounded by women her age who loved her and immediately became a positive force for good in her life. She has a lot of trust issues and is very shy, and the Gospel of Jesus Christ and the church is a direct answer to her questions and unspoken prayers.

We taught another referral from the spanish Elders named Eddie. His brother, Tony, was baptized in the Spanish ward two months ago and we invited both Eddie and Tony to the singles ward. We taught Eddie again and taught him The Gospel of Jesus Christ (Faith, Repentance, Baptism, The Gift of the Holy Ghost, and Enduring to the End). We focused on the importance of the sacrament and he became very excited to come to church. At the end, he told us, “I can’t wait for Sunday. It will be my first sacrament.” The lesson taught me how the Lord can use us when we are prepared. We practice taught a semi-active member of the singles ward the night before. We had planned on teaching her the Restoration but realized as we taught that the Gospel of Jesus Christ was what she needed. The very same thing happened in our lesson with Eddie and we were able to adapt perfectly because we had practiced it the day before, without knowing why. The subject of my email last week was “Do what you are supposed to do.” It really is a simple as that. When we do the right things, the Lord can use us a his tools in the ways he sees fit. Even if we aren’t seeing it.

Both of them came to church and loved it, and we have many lessons set up this week with many investigators missionaries would describe as “golden”.

I’m not sure why we are being so blessed right now, but I sure know the Lord trusts us more when we do his small and simple things than when we let them slip.

And then at the end of the week the Lord threw a curveball and the assistant’s informed us we were getting another companion, Elder Pecht, who had to go home a year ago but is able to return now and finish the last 6 months of his mission. There is truly never a boring day. Boring moments, maybe. Boring hours. But never a boring day.

Oh, I almost forgot.
Elder Ballard came on Saturday. Yes, Mom, I did play for that. I played prelude and the organ and played for the choir. It was a great experience to be with such a humble yet powerful servant of the Lord.
Everyone kind of learned something different from the mission conference. I took from it that it doesn’t matter who we are or what position we are in… If we learn and apply the Gospel of Jesus Christ to our lives, we will be able to teach it anywhere at anytime. It doesn’t matter which or how many talents the Lord has blessed us with… he will be able to use it.
The gospel is so simple. If we live it, we will have joy as we bless those around us.
I love Elder Ballard. He is a simple man who sees the gospel in simple ways. Because it is simple. He doesn’t complicate it because that is when the spirit leaves. And he doesn’t get caught up in the administration of it because as we focus on simply serving the Lord, everything else will take care of itself.

I learned a lot this week. A lot happened this week. A lot I haven’t even mentioned.

Thank you, Mom, for the pictures and the address and the CD (yes, I did get it). I really appreciate it. I don’t think there is anything I need you to send me. In fact, I will probably send a box of things home that I don’t need or won’t fit in my luggage. I’m really excited to hear that Elder Starr will be leaving on the same day. It’s funny how that has worked out. It will be really great to be able to walk off the plane together as well. I love you, Mom. Thank you.

I pray for Grandma and Grandpa every single day. And I love them. And I hope they can be happy together.

Dad: I just read that Ensign. It is incredible to see how everything works together to Hasten The Lord’s Work now. Whether that is missionary work for the living or the dead. And all the technology and modern transportation and everything else mean nothing unless we thrust our sickle in and do our part.