A lot´s happened these past 2 weeks. Hopefully you got the pictures I sent out on Christmas of the Castelo crew in the Christmas spirit. It seriously has been one of the most rewarding, Christ-centered Christmases of my life. About 2 weeks ago I was reading through 25 missionary Christmas stories that my mom sent to me and got to thinking I needed to be more creative and service-minded this Christmas than I was last year. So I called in Elder Chagas, Marshall, and Elswick and we came up with our Santa scheme for the ward. We´ve spent some of these past 2 weeks baking loads of cookies, designing and printing out Christmas cards, putting together missionary Christmas kits for ward members to give to their friends, and showing up at all the members house with me playing the escaleta (google it!) and the other 3 singing "Mundo Feliz" and "Anjos Descem a Cantar." The ward loved it. I think it´s been a while since someone´s done something like that for Christmas. Jorge, one of the firmer but somehow somewhat forgotten members of the ward, stood up during Priesthood and said our coming to his house Saturday night made this season one of the best Christmases he and his family have had in a while. It just drives home for me the fact that there is no better way to make yourself happy than making someone else happy. I sent pictures last week, but just to recap the zone went to the central bus station on Christmas Eve to give a mini Christmas concert. I got to play a baby grand (slightly broken and off key but still, a baby grand) and was reminded why I love piano so much. The crowd that gathered to listen really enjoyed it. We handed out pass-along cards with ease afterwards. When they ran out one of the men there who hadn´t gotten one got on my tail for it until I found him one laying around. Really, really good way to spend Christmas Eve. Christmas in and of itself was simple, but everything I wanted it to be. We had lunch with Marcos and Isabel, came back home to play some board games with everyone, and got to skype our families :) That was a super special 40 minutes for me. Thank you Dad, Mom, Joseph, Abigail, Spencer (and Jimmer)! I was able to read in Luke 2 and reflect a lot on the Christmas story from a missionary angle.
Not entirely leaving the subject, we did get 2 Christmas presents from mother nature. During the morning we all noticed a strange, dank smell coming from somewhere in the hallway but didn´t find out what it was until that night, when we opened up a storage cabinet and found a dead rat lying there. The next morning Elder Toebe went to brush his teeth when another one crawled up his leg! I was upstairs but the reports are he did a pretty impressive little dance. Elder Elswick came in completely nonchalant and hit it a few times with a broomstick before it died. All this on video of course. Compeletely hilarious :) Don´t worry mom and motherly figures out there, we did a huge deep clean and called in the exterminators. Everything´s under control. It was a good way to officially end the holiday with a bang (and a few squeals). Ha HA!
As far as the teaching and proselyting goes...we´ve got a good teaching pool but they´re all being stubborn about progressing. I´m having to be patient. Sunday was the first time in months that nobody showed up for Church. The bright note was that half of the ward there was recent converts, who are all coming along really well. Daniel went out on splits with us Saturday night to teach Igor and Daniela and bore a powerful testimony of the restoration. It was perfect because Igor has lots of crazy bible doubts that I won´t know how to answer until the millenium, all of which of course Daniel knew in a heartbeat. Andreia, a woman we found knocking doors towards the beginning of December, told us that since going to Church 2 weeks ago she´s been able to stop smoking significantly. She said that she´s not physically able to finish a cigarette completely without throwing up. She accepted baptism, but is another person that needs to get married first. Matheus is progressing REALLY well. He was out of town Sunday but we were able to teach him the coolest, most natural law of chastity lesson I´ve ever been a part of, and he accepted. We called him yesterday to see how the conversation with his girlfriend went and she´s on board too :) Last week when we were talking with him about going to church, he was being a stinker about it so Elder Elswick looked at him and said in English (Matheus speaks pretty much fluently), "you ever heard of Nike before?" "yeah." "Do you know what their slogan is?" "No." "Just do it. Just go to church Matheus, you´re being difficult. Just do it!" **laughter** So after that lesson I said to Elder Elswick we were going to buy him a Nike shirt for Christmas. We found one, but it didn´t have the slogan on it so we had to get creative (pictures to follow). He liked it a lot.
So, summing a lot of things up, that was the week! I hope Christmas was special for everybody and that 2014 gets off to a perfect start. 2013 has been a really, really good year for me, especially considering it was and will be the only complete year of my life that I spend 100 percent of my time in God´s service.
Um grande abraço!