First of all, I apologize that this email is coming on Tuesday instead of Monday like it normally will in the future. My companion, Elder Alcântara, is the district leader and President Perrotti called a meeting for all district leaders Monday morning; that meant we didn´t have time to send an email yesterday and I had no way of letting anybody know! I am still alive and doing considerably well, so please don´t worry :) I´ll try to answer all (or most) of your questions here about my first week. We get an hour or so (no specific time limit but an hour is recommended) to write emails on P-day to Presidente Perrotti and to family.
First question: to what address do we send MissionTies letters?
Use the Mission Office address in Campinas (you have that right?). If you use the CTM address (I´m assuming that´s the one you´ve been using in the past right?) then my mail will go to the CTM and will take much longer to be forwarded on to the mission office. I am able to pick up my mail every time that President Perrotti comes to meet with us and everytime we travel to the mission office for meetings (approximately once a month--I know, that´s not nearly enough!). But, President Perrotti is coming this Thursday for a meeting so I´m hoping he´ll be bringing some mail with him :) It´s definitely going to be hard to get used to mail only once a month instead of once a week, but I will manage! Feel free to send as many letters as you like during that time; I will have a feast everytime they arrive. As for hand-written letters, the overwhelming advice around here is to use the mission office address as well. I don´t think the house we´re living in has ever received a single letter...but just in case you´d like my residential address, it´s Rua Madre Eduarda Shafers, 147, Campinas, Brasil. Once again though, use the mission office address!! I can send letters on P-day, the only problem is we don´t have a post office. So what I´ll do is have the sisters in our district (whose area does have a post office) take the letters I´ve written and send them for me. They´ve kindly agreed to do that. I´ll predominantly be using mission ties because that´s going to be so much faster. I´ll have the sisters send the letters I´ve written this coming Thursday; hopefully they´ll make it to your inbox by the weekend, or at least by the middle of next week. I have to send the letters to the São Paulo missionties address, where the member who operates it will email my letters to you. Please, please, please let me know when my letters get there!
I´ll have to try to figure out what is a good balance between letters and emails. Emails are great because I can read them and respond to them weekly as opposed to monthly. I can only receive emails from my family, but my mom can include notes/letters from anyone else in the email that she sends. Please feel free to do so :) I love, love hearing from all of you. The only disadvantage is that I have to pay to use the internet here (we go to a supermarket about a 20 minute´s walk away that has a computer lab-ish thing). The price isn´t bad though and is covered by our monthly allowance. Letters are so fun to receive, so please send them as well! Just keep in mind I only get to pick them up once a month or so. On my end of things, I´m going to try to be as detailed as possible in my emails so that I can make sure all of you are fully updated! I´ll definitely do letters too but probably not as much as during the CTM: 1) my time to write them is limited to a few hours one day of the week and 2) I feel bad asking the Sisters to send them for me time and time again. It is definitely a bummer I don´t have a post office in my area.
On to the fun stuff...my first week in Campinas!!
We left the CTM by van at about 7:30 Tuesday morning (there were 10 of us going to Campinas) and got to the mission home by 8:30. Not a long drive at all. I met Presidente and Sister Perrotti and as a group we had lunch with them. They´re awesome and I look forward to getting to know them more. Presidente Perrotti said he´d send home a photo he took with each of us to all of our families...did he? After lunch and orientation we went to the mission office to meet our new companions. Mine is Elder Alcântara. He´s from Belém, Brasil, his favorite hobby is eating, and he refers to me as his "son" (filho in Portuguese). I´m the first missionary he´s trained because he´s only been in the field since April. He speaks absolutely zero English which is a good thing and a bad thing. He is, however, very patient with my Portuguese. He seemed excited to meet me and we are getting along just fine. It is, though, undeniably different to be living with just one other person all the time. It can be lonely at times, which is why I love it when we´re teaching a lesson to an investigator or eating with a member because their company is always uplifting. That first Tuesday night we rode the "onibus" back to our house from the mission office (about a 40 minute drive with traffic) and spent the rest of the day organizing, packing, and eating. I´m not sure what exactly I was expecting when we got to our house, but I was taken back by what seemed to me the poverty of it. We have it so good in the States. For Thanksgiving I wrote in my journal some of the things I´m grateful for--things I had there that I don´t here and things I have here that I didn´t necessarily have there. Here´s a taste of what I wrote:
Things I Miss But Am Grateful for Anyway: Hot(ish) water during my showers, Carpet, AC/fan (our fan broke Thursday night), 3 guaranteed meals a day, a mirror bigger than 6 square inches, thick toilet paper, flushable toilet paper (haha--l´ll let your imagination do the work there...), English (and the ability to speak it without an accent), my piano, getting mail more than once a month, sports (they´re no longer alowed on P-day or any other day here--that policy went into effect the week before I got here), friends, and family.
Things I Have That I´m Grateful For (And in some cases, things I didn´t have before my mission A bed and pillow, electronic equipment that actually works w/ 220V without an adapter, a study desk, drinkable water, food market 30 seconds from our house, 4 hours of study time every day, Elder Alcântara, his patience, and his ability to teach, my tolerance for cold water while showering, the fact that God still hears me and lets me know He loves me, Preach My Gospel and The Book of Mormon, the letters and pictures of home that I do have, a stove and refrigerator, the Atonement, my testimony, my family, friends, and the power of their love and prayers, personal revelation, the gift of tongues, the patience and openness of the Brazilian people, my camera (and the fact that in the field I can email pictures!!), my mission call from a prophet of God, and yes, I am absolutely thrilled to say, 2 BAPTISMS (one that took place this past Sunday and one scheduled for the Saturday to come) IN MY FIRST 2 WEEKS!
So yes, that´s a very round-about way to describe my house and a little taste of my first week here. After tracting in some of the areas we´ve tracted, I realize how good we as missionaries have it just to have a roof that keeps out the rain and a bed. The people here are so humble and so incredible, even when they want nothing to do with the missionaries. God bless them!
My first meal in the field was a celebratory pizza that Elder Alcântara bought. Here lunch is the main (and sometimes only) meal of the day. The members provide lunch and dinner and breakfast is up to us. Lots of times Brazilians do away with breakfast and dinner, including my companion at times. When I got to the house there was nothing in the refrigerator or the cabinet that we have. My companion wasn´t planning on eating dinner but he could tell I was starving so he mercifully got me the pizza. Since then I´ve purchased some bread and some fruit for breakfast and dinner in the event that he doesn´t want to go to the market and buy something. So don´t worry, I´m eating well :) I´m learning to pack as much in as I can during lunch, offered by the members. They can take offense if I don´t. We have rice and beans every meal with some sort of meat and juice/soda on the side. I´ve never enjoyed rice and beans so much. It´s delicious. Our ward definitely has some talented cooks.
Wednesday, my first full day, was overwhelming and frustrating, I´m not going to lie. People in the CTM are used to Portuguese in an American accent but not here. Some people can understand me just fine and others not a word. Wednesday I seemed to find all the people that couldn´t understand a word. We didn´t have any lessons scheduled, Elder Alcântara wasn´t in the mood to do contacts, and I felt like I had so much to learn about being a missionary, i.e. the patience of it all, the paperwork, the iron will to press on, the right things to say during a contact, how to know who to talk to and who to avoid, how to teach fearlessly and with the spirit, etc. I was exhausted and ready for bed. Mom, I remember how you described the first few months of your mission: at the CTM, you were bursting with a desire to get out into the field; once in the field for the first few days, you longed for the comfort of the CTM again. That´s exactly how I felt. But, I kept going because that´s all I know how to do. I don´t know how to give up. I´d fasted that Monday that I´d be able to find someone that would accept the invitation to be baptized in my first week, and I said a pleading prayer Wedensday night that I´d be able to keep pressing on. Elder Alcântara decided we would stop by Victor´s house, an investigator who´s received all the lessons and who´s wife is a member, but who has in the past had zero interest in getting baptized. He and his wife invited us in for some dinner (for which I was very grateful). After about 30 minutes of eating and talking with them (nothing too doctrinal related, just getting to know him), Victor out of the blue told us that he wanted to be baptized. I looked at my companion to make sure I heard write and he raised his arms in the air and pumped his fists. I grinned and congratulated him. We set his baptism date for this Saturday, December 1. So far everything is going according to schedule. He´s already been interviewed and is still excited about his decision. On my way home to the house that night, I couldn´t help crying a little bit with joy (even the memory of it brings back some tears) as I thanked Heavenly Father for His mercy and His answer to my fast and my prayers. God is so, so good. It´s a good thing this is His work or I´d have no hope of succeeding.
The rest of the week flew by. We spent a lot of time with Cristiane and her family, an investigator whose 13 and 11 year-old sons were baptized last month and whose baptism was already scheduled for this past Sunday before I even got to the field. She is such an amazing lady and firm as a rock. Her baptismal service was after church on Sunday (church gets over at 6 p.m.) here and it was quite an amazing experience. The Spirit testified to all of us there of the validity and importance of it. Elder Alcântara performed the baptism and claims there weren´t any tears in his eyes before it (he´s not super fond of displaying emotion) but I saw them. I was tearing up a little bit too because I was so happy. I´ll be sure to send some photos of that day. Her confirmation will be next Sunday in Sacrament Meeting and she asked me to do it. I am so excited and a little nervous, but mostly grateful to God for putting her in my path so soon. We´ve stopped by her house every day since I arrived in the field and I love getting to know her and feeling like I´m making at least a little bit of a difference in her life. We had family home evening in her house last night which was an absolute blast.
Right now we´re working with 4 great-grandkids of a lady named Flora that have accepted (tentatively--we´re working on building their confidence and desire) to be baptized on December 9. They came to Sacrament Meeting with us on Sunday, along with 7 other investigators we´ve found (many of whom are friends or family of Cristiane who wanted to attend her baptism). Elder Alcântara told me it was the first time in his mission that he´s had that many attend all at once. I really feel like I´ve walked into an area of miracles, and I´ve only been in the field 6 days!
Our chapel is gorgeous and has a decent piano, although I didn´t have an opportunity to play it because I was busy getting things ready with my companion for the baptismal service! I look forward to sneaking in a few minutes on the piano this coming Sunday. The ward, Vila União, has 60-70 members that attend regularly, all of whom are very friendly and patient with me and my Portuguese. Now we just need to work with them to get some more references!
I think I got all the details from the week...if not I´ll add them to the MissionTies letters I´ll be sending through the Sisters this Thursday. Mom, thank you so much for the Thanksgiving update and for emailing. I sincerely apologize I was not able to send my first email from the field off sooner!
If any of you have questions or advice or updates about your lives or would like to write, please send them to my wonderful mother so that she can forward them to me for next week´s email. I love you all muitíssimo. Don´t forget: use the MISSION OFFICE address for hand-written letters and Mission Ties. I can´t wait (really, can´t wait) to hear from all of you. I´m going to try to send some pictures now in some separate emails...