Surpresa…. Transferido!

(Surprise…. Transferred!)

I am always so content every week when I read emails from home every week. It is like having a breath of fresh air. And the emails from our family are always so uplifting.

I hope everyone is still alive and breathing after all the storms it sounds like you are having. Wildfires, floods, Crazy wind.

We knew last week that Elder Hoffmann was going to be transferred, and here, on Tuesday morning, all the people being transferred (and their companions) meet at the mission office to discover who will be their new companion and where there new area is. So, Elder Hoffmann packed up his bags and we went to the mission office. Elder Duncan, one of the assistants, came up to us and said. “Oi Elder Madsen! Vocé esta animado para ser transferido?!” or, “Elder Madsen… are you excited to be transferred?” After a short laugh and a few awkward moments of silence, I realized he wasn´t kidding and he realized I had no idea I was being transferred. So, the rest of the day was spent returning to my old area, hastily packing up my stuff in 10 minutes (and conveniently forgetting all my clean underwear, socks, and my journal), and travelling by crowded onibus with my bags to our new area on the opposite side of the mission.

However, Eu adoro (I adore) my new companion, Elder Mesquita. I don´t have time to send pictures this week, but perhaps next week I can send you a picture of him. He is so loving and energetic and diligent. His personality reminds me a lot of a Brazilian version of Michael (which is a good thing, Lacey and Michael). Our ward, Castro Alves, is um pouco mais rico than my last area, or in reality, a little less poor. The ward is large and growing, and will divide sometime this year. We live in an apartment behind the house of the Bishop. His house seems so nice. They make a simple café da manha (breakfast) for us every day, with cevada, the replacement in Brazil for those of us who don´t drink coffee (in The United States, the closest equivalent is Postum) and bread. Also, every Sunday they make churrasco, or Brazilian Barbecue, that is bom de mais (the best).

Our zone (The Interlagos Zone) kicked off this week with a jejum (a fast) for 40 Days of Miracles. The zone leaders gave each of us a small notepad in which we will write miracles every day this transfer. The fast was a small price to pay for the miracles we are seeing. The day we ended our fast, our first to contacts of the day were a woman who already had a copy of The Book of Mormon and was looking for missionaries to tell her more about it and our second contact of the day was a young adult who doesn´t live in our area but met with missionaries for 6 months, attending church weekly until he got a job on Sundays. However, he wants us to teach his girlfriend, who lives in our area. The third miracle I want to talk about happened Saturday night.

We contacted a really cool guy named Nataniel who is very familiar with the church and missionaries but not very open to being taught. However, he eagerly gave us a referral for a friend of his wife that lived somewhere down the street with a small door but a really big building behind it (most of our referrals are like this… Good luck finding that).

However, Elder Mesquita and I stopped in front of a door that didn´t match the description at all. We both had a feeling we should try the door anyway. We did and commenced a contact with a girl named Shirley. She had 16 years and told us about how she frequented another church in Brasil her whole life, but stopped not long ago because she felt spiritually distanced from that church. She told us she was having a lot of difficulties in her life and felt like she needed to look for something more (at this point I was probably smiling like an idiot because I was so excited to talk to her). We bore testimony of the Restoration of the Gospel of Jesus Christ and in duration of our discussion, she began weeping. I was able to speak without any difficulties (and with all the correct verb conjugations, a miracle in itself) in portuguese, but the spirit was so strong that I could barely speak. I felt like my heart would burst out of my throat and the Christlike love Elder Mesquita and I felt for her. Literally probably the most spiritual experience I have had on my mission, among many many others. It is one of the experiences that I will write here and probably not share very many other times in my life because words cannot describe the experience adequately.

Mom, in my mission we joke about us receiving ipads here because the day that happens in Brasil every missionary will be mugged. I am content to remain technology-free for another year.
I have only two minutes left, but I love everyone! Fique firme!

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UM ANO! (One Year.)

Some day in this past week was my year mark. Some missions have traditions of burning a shirt for the year mark. The tradition here is much better. Pizza. With a chocolate-filled crust. In our area we have the privilege of having the best pizza in São Paulo (according to missionaries): Donatello´s. I´m not sure I can ever eat pizza without a chocolate crust again. It is just so good. We order pizza at least once a week. It is bom de mais (the best). So to answer your question, Mom, I´m eating pizza once a week. And rice and beans every single day for lunch. The food here, while repetitive, really is delicious. I need to learn the names of the foods here so I can (hopefully) find them in the United States later. The juice is fantastic. I have not yet had food here that I don´t like. As for fruit, I haven´t really had any fruit other than oranges. Perhaps if I get transferred to a wealthier area (which we don´t have many in our mission) I will eat more fruit. For dessert, we often have one of two things: something kind of like a really fluffy pudding or jello. At home, we only drink bottled water that is delivered to our house every week. Outside of our house, I only drink filtered water. Thankfully the churches here all have filtered water. We have a washer for our clothes, but we hang dry them, so we have had a few awkward moments when someone realizes they are wearing someone else´s underwear.

Our transfer ends today, and we found out this morning that Elder Hoffmann is being transferred. It also means I am going to be starting my 10th transfer of my mission. I realized this when I was creating a new planner and I couldn´t believe it…. but I went back and checked in my journal… and sure enough, this will be transfer number 10. Crazy. That means I´m going to be taking over our area after three weeks. I have been focusing on learning the language more in the past few weeks than learning the area, so it will be interesting with my new companion to see how much of our area I can remember. I haven´t even been to several parts of our area, and the streets here go crazy every. If I can remember how to get to the church from our house and back I will be in good shape.

Also, Elder Da Cruz (the one with glasses in the picture with the bag of cheetos from last week) finished his mission and is returning home to the interior of São Paulo. I will miss him. He is super sincere and humble and loving and funny and bold… the perfect mold for Christlike Leadership.

Marcia and Fernando STILL haven´t marked a date for marriage. We will visit them tonight with the Bishop. Marcia has some concern that she is keeping concealed that is preventing her from progressing, but I think having the Bishop with us tonight will help us resolve her concern. We also had a lesson with their son, Michael, who already missed his first baptismal date. The lesson was really powerful, but he said he just doesn´t have the desire to be baptized or help his family. Really sad, but hopefully someday he will figure out what he needs to do.

The family of 8 (The Silva Family) moved to the Northeast in Brasil (oh no!!!) but we will send a referral to whatever mission they live in and hopefully the missionaries there will baptize them. They are super prepared.

We contacted a girl this week (Elem) that is super prepared for the gospel. Her and her Mom (Maria, of course) love meeting with us, already received answers to their prayers that what we are teaching is true, read The Book of Mormon every night (and actually remember what it teaches) and were super excited for church all week. Unfortunately, Satan threw a curveball (not really a curveball, he always tries to mess things up) and Maria woke up Sunday morning with a seriously upset stomach and Elem stayed home to help her. Sigh. Next week for sure.

Elder Hoffmann and I have been working incredibly hard these past three weeks, but somehow everything seems to be falling apart. I think it has been hard for Elder Hoffmann because we haven´t baptized in three weeks. For me, I am more accustomed to a different mission with a different pace, so it hasn´t affected me in the same way. Our mission has a goal that every companionship baptizes every week, and it can be hard when that doesn´t happen. But we have in all sincerity been giving our all in the past three weeks, finding many people, teaching a lot, contacting like crazy… but we can only invite and teach by the spirit. The people we teach have to make the decisions to come unto Christ on their own. We have sifted through a lot of wheat these past few weeks and eliminated a LOT of tares. But, we will continue working. The Lord is going to bless us because we are working diligently and doing what he asks. I did the same thing in Long Beach and went a lot longer than three weeks without baptizing. I think sometimes God wants us to recognize the real blessings of our work.

I say this pretty much every week, but I can´t believe how much happens every week in our family. Lacey, good luck with the terrible twos. I´m sure these past few months have taught a lot about the validity of The Family: A Proclamation to the World. Dad, I think I have seen that movie. It is always interesting to see Hollywood´s interpretation of Gospel Principles. I have learned a lot on my mission about recognizing and acting on promptings of the spirit.

I love everyone! It sounds like the northwest is having some apocalyptic weather. Stay safe!

Also, Mom, if you ever send a package (which might not be until Christmas), could you send:
~Peanut Butter
~Crayola Twistables Colored Pencils (18 Pack)
Before I left California, I sent home a package with some things I didn´t need to take with me. Did you ever get it? Most importantly it has my old set of scriptures, which I really want to save.

Uma Outra Semana em o Maravilhoso São Paulo Interlagos Missão

(Another Week in the Marvelous São Paulo Mission)

This week was a a lot different than last week. We had to stay in three days because of the World Cup. Tuesday, Saturday, and Sunday (The Final). After we went to church on Sunday, we had almoço (lunch) and went straight home. I definitely had a lot of time to study!

Last week I talked about the family Marcia and Fernando. They are progressing super well…. kind of. They gave their giant bag of coffee to us (a la The John Tanner story, if you have seen that) and set goals to stop smoking, which they are keeping. However, on Saturday we were supposed to fill out their documents for marriage, mas por causa do jogo (because of the World Cup) we couldn´t fill them out. Also, they had some sort of water leak in their house and missed church on Sunday. At least I think that is what happened. I couldn´t exactly understand everything Marcia said on the phone.

The family of 8 whose last name ends with Silva (I will call them the Alciele family, because the person we met first is named Alciele) was going to come to church as well but Satan put up some other roadblock that caused them to miss church. We actually discovered that the mother in the family is uma membra menos-ativos (a less-active member) of the church. She was baptized when she was 12 with her Mom, but when she grew up she stopped going to church. However, when she realized we were members of the same church, all of her duvidas (doubts) melted away and we were instantly welcome in her home.

Hmm.. what else?

Oh, we contacted a girl named Calime (I think. I never know how to spell names here) who we then taught, set a baptismal date with, and came to church with her children. The biggest roadblock aqui em Brasil (here in Brazil) is MARRIAGE. No one is married, except perhaps members of the church. The church actually formed a contract with the church where investigators can be married de graça (for free) if they are planning on being baptized. It is definitely a miracle, because few people in our area can afford the $R 400 (200 dollar) needed to be married by the state.

Also, we went to do a baptismal interview at the church (Elder Hoffmann is the district leader) and while we were there, algumas rapaz (some teenage boys) were messing around in the parking lot. One of them tripped, fell on his head, went into a seizure and passed out. We quickly called an ambulance and gave him a blessing. Elder Hoffmann and I went to wait for the ambulance (in the pouring rain, of course)… but it never came. Eventually, a member of the bishopric (who miraculously had a car) drove the kid (Rosevaldo) to the hospital. I learned not to get hurt here in Brasil, because the emergency response system is pretty basic. And not efficient. Thankfully Rosevaldo recovered in the hospital and was able to pass the sacrament on Sunday.

Mom: It is awesome that you are going out with the sister missionaries so much (and it sounds like Grandma Mooney has gone out with them as well). As a missionary, I know how much of a blessing you are to those sisters. This week we had a training on how miracles always happen in the scriptures outside of someone´s “comfort zone”. I remember when I first started my mission I was constantly outside of my comfort zone. And every day I am placed in positions that are new and unfamiliar (especially in Brasil). But our mission president, President Dalton said something really profound, and I will try to recreate what he said from memory. He said that we are only able to grow when we stretch outside of our current position. He also said we should make it a goal to always stay outside of our comfort zone.

Tyler: What have you found is the most effective way to study and learn Japanese? Also, what have you done during language study that you have found to be effective. Lacey, Ryan, David, feel free to answer this question to if you want, since you have all been in the same position.

Grandma: Our Misson President´s wife lost her phone this week as well. It sounds like all of your travels were great!

It sounds like everyone is staying busy in The United States. It´s good to hear that Mom and Dad are both finally home and together for what seems like the first time in my entire mission. 😉

I will send some pictures as well. I love you all! Fique Firme!

Pictures from the plane and out the window of our bedroom at the MTC in Brasil.
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Another photo out the window of the MTC.
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A picture of some members of my district in the MTC, and a picture with my MTC companion and two of our teachers, Irma Ferreira (the shorter one) and Irma Mendes (The taller one).
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A picture of Elder Starr and me in the MTC.
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A (not very good) picture of part of our area. You can barely seen one of the three lakes in the background. I expect I won´t ever see much more of it than that. I can´t take very many pictures outside of the apartment because I don´t want to get mugged for a cheap camera.
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A picture of a GIANT bag of a cheeto-like snack we bought and have already finished in one week (disgusting, but delicious).
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AMO MINHA FAMÍLIA

Oi, família e amigos! Tudo bem?

If I didn`t feel like I was in Brasil before, I certainly do now. Brasil is incredibly incredibly different than anything I experienced on my mission in Long Beach, but in many ways it is exactly the same.

I arrived in the Brasil São Paulo Missão four days after our new Presidente da Missão, Presidente Dalton. I love him. He actually is from the Anaheim mission and lived literally less than ten minutes from my last area. The mission home (or condo, em verdade) looks like the temple. It is probably a casa melhor in our entire mission. Presidente Dalton served in the Sao Paulo South mission about thirty years ago. He was the zone leader over a zone which contained the entire Sao Paulo Interlagos. At our first zone conference with him, he had a family he baptized come and bear their testimonies. As a result of that family being baptized (which now includes many children and grandchildren who have served missions) more than 2000 other people have now joined the church. It really opened my eyes to the effect our simple invitations as members of the church make.

I feel very blessed to come to this mission. From my perspective, The Long Beach Mission was very obedient while I was there. The Sao Paulo Interlagos mission is even more consecrated, even more obedient. I really like it because the culture is that we follow every rule given to us by the apostles as perfectly as we can and we don`t create any other rules.

Our apartment here is actually pretty nice compared to the area we live in. We actually have a shower seperated from the rest of the bathroom, rather than the showerhead sticking out above the toilet typical of other houses here. Our mission is about 75% favela, is one of the smallest missions in the world (About the same size as the Long Beach Mission) and has 6 million people. Our mission has almost half of the population of the actual city of Sao Paulo, but less than 20% of the geographical city.

The milk here is pretty gross. And you have to use it within 2 days of opening it. And com certeza we have beans and rice every single day for almoço. Oh, that is something that is different. We have one meal every day. Lunch. After lunch we work until 9:00 pm. We have almoço every day without fail with a member.

Brasil is about what I expected it to be. It is the perfect place to be a missionary, because: the church has a strong presence, most people live in what we would consider poverty, they are willing to change, they are friendly, and they are believe in Jesus Christ.

It is incredible to see the conditions in which many people live. All the houses are built out of the same red brick, which really reminds me of a lego. It is like a much weaker, cheaper version of a cinderblock. Houses are literally piled and pasted on top of each other. Many houses are not even fully enclosed, with walls missing and huge gaps between the roof and the walls. It is easy to see why Brasilians are always washing their hands…. because EVERYTHING is dirty. There are dogs everywhere. And often families of 8 or 9 live in shacks of less than 400 square feet.

The one thing that has surprised me is that despite these conditions, the people are still normal. In California, the ghetto is ripe with sex, drugs, gangs, and outright wickedness. While that definitely exists here, favelas are the suburbs of Sao Paulo.

Então… when it comes down to the actual missionary work, this is what I have learned so far. Brasil is mentally and physically harder than the past year of my mission, but easier spiritually. If you want to contact 100 people every day, you can contact 100 people every day. If you want to set 30 baptismal dates every day, you can. The standard of excellence here is to baptize every week. It simply is different. And in truth, my testimony has been built even more that our purpose as missionaries truly is to invite others to Come unto Christ. In one area of the world, 100 people might accept the invitation and change their lives. In another part of the world, maybe 1 will. Either way, if we invite everyone, our purpose as a missionary has been fulfilled.

I feel like I have been very blessed with the portuguese language. By no degree can I speak it easily, but everyone keeps telling me that I speak portuguese extremely well for someone who has been here for so short a time. I truly believe without a doubt that the gift of tongues is real (the gift of tongues being when God gives us the ability to learn and speak a language to accomplish His purposes). The two weeks I spent in the CTM in Brasil were literally a God-given gift. I am immensely grateful for the time I spent there.

We are teaching a family (I don`t know their last name right now) with the names of Marcia and Fernando, plus three children. At first, our lessons with them were difficult because Marcia talked about the most random stuff. In our first lesson, I think she talked about chastity, prayer, the trinity, tithing, and the Lords prayer. We talked about The Restoration. However, as she applies the principles we teach, it is incredible to see how she is changing. We invited them to be married, and in our second lesson she said she had a dream that Fernando was not the man for her. However, after she attended church Sunday and had been reading every day, her countenance changed. The spirit touched her. Now Fernando and Marcia have a date to be married and they will be baptized that night.

We are teaching another family we met on the street. I cannot pronounce their last name, let alone spell it. I know it ends with Silva, just like every other Brazilian last name. When we met the Silva family, we thought they were a family of three. When we invited them to church, we discovered they were a family of 8. That is one big difference between Brasil and The United States. In the United States, when you teach someone, even if you invite their family to sit in, you often just teach them and they alone progress. In Brasil, if one person in the family is talking to the missionaries, everyone in talking to the missionaries. They are completely united as families, and very passionate. If I could describe the Brazilian people in one word, it would probably be passionate. They do not do anything halfway.

I was so excited to see all the pictures of family. Seeing Isaiah makes me realize just how much Hyrum and Adelaide have grown up. Holy cow. Just think how much bigger they will be another year from now. Every time I read an email from our family… every time I look at a picture of our family, I become even more grateful that families are eternal. And I also realize just how lucky I am.

Até mais!!!

Small Shout Out

Hello Mom! I love you! I am in the mission home right now. I made it here safe.
–Elder Madsen

Brother and Sister Madsen:
We are so excited to let you know that your son Elder Madsen arrived safely in our mission from the Brazil MTC this morning. We arrived to this mission only a few days before your son. We just finished breakfast with our new missionaries and at the moment my husband is interviewing your son. We can already tell that Elder Madsen will be a great help to our missionary force here in São Paulo Interlagos! Thank you so much.
–Sister Dalton

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