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.