Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Hello Dearest Family!!

I hope ya´ll had a very Merry Christmas! Mine went great! The call with Mom, Dad, Emily, and Rachel was wonderful. I got to hear the voices of some of my awesome family, and Rachel´s melodious laugh! I opened Kit, Kev, Ryn, Elle, and ???´s present -- THANK YOU!! That was an awesome little picture booklet, showing all of the Nine and clans, and well laminated to last! Elder Prince and I also had a present from Irmã Fátima - we had eaten at her and her husband´s house Christmas Eve for dinner, along with the Irmãs and their investigator Maria Augusta and her two kids, Daisey (7) and Vítor (6). Anyways, Irmã Fátima had given each of us elders a thing of shower gel / body wash. I think she works at some shampoo place, otherwise I guess she´s sending us a message, haha.

After the Christmas call we went over to the Rocha family home for a huge lunch. (Elder Rocha is an Area Seventy, Third Quorum if I haven´t mentioned that already.) So there was us four missionaries, Elder and Irmã Rocha, their oldest and youngest sons (2 out of 3 - the middle one is on his mission in Mozambique), and Elder Rocha´s sister and mother. They were very generous and the food was great. Then when we were done they brought out all this stuff for dessert, including pastries, breads, cheeses, and chocolates. They had this one kind of cheese that was marinated in a jar of azeite - olive oil - and they were ´daring´ me to try it. They thought it would be too strong our something, I´m not sure. Whenever people try to be sneaky about food I always assume it´s spicy (thanks to Rachel and that one Japanese restaurant - remember?). It wasn´t bad, but I´ve had better cheeses. Little do they know I´ve been in Texas, Brazil, and France! So after the big lunch Elder Prince and I went home to whip up some Betty Crocker mix cookies that his parents had sent him, and we went out to share them with some members and investigators that lived nearby. We only sort of caroled to an old member couple, since caroling isn´t done here much ... at all really. Then we met up with the Irmãs to visit some more people and carol to them - Mafalda who is a recent convert who has been a little sick lately, and an inactive lady named Carla. I LOVE CHRISTMAS!! and it´s GREAT TO BE A MISSIONARY!!

Other things of this week. Saturday December 27 was the double header baptismal service for Simão (9 year old of a member family) and Maria Augusta, the Irmãs´ investigator. Elder Prince and I had come to the chapel early to get the font filled, and for some reason the water wasn´t coming out hot or warm. So after some calls, Feliciano, Simão´s dad, finally was able to come and get the heater to work. The baptismal service went very well. Lots of members came and were very supportive, and I was able to be of service by playing the piano. (I´m sure Mom is happy to hear that! ;) Sunday Elder Prince and I helped with Maria Augusta´s confirmation, and then I gave a talk on the blessings of serving (a mission) at Christmas time. Bishop Durão surprised us by willingly accepting our progress record when we gave a copy to him and then invited us into his office to ask us if we needed any specific help this week and authorized us to give the sacrament to Artur and Elvíra (that old member couple we caroled to). This was a pleasant surprise because previously the bishop had not really been working with us. He´d designate stuff to the ward mission leader and try to not accept our progress record copies and stuff, but he´s really warming up to us now. I think a large part of that probably came from when Maria Augusta had asked him to baptize her. The Lord works in wonderful ways!

Sunday evening we had a great lesson with that Brasilian family, and we had brought Diogo and Carmen, a Brasilian member couple with us. It went great! And Monday was very interesting in that we had two members who aren´t in our area or ward call us up to arrange lessons with us to teach friends of theirs who lived in our area! Tina lives not too far away in Miratejo and wanted us to teach her boyfriend who ``needed to hear the word of God``. Then Telma who lives really far away came all the way over and we met up with her and her friend Elsa to teach them in a member´s house (Fernando). Great stuff! And yesterday we found out that Elder Prince is being transferred over to be a zone leader in Oeiras, and Elder Corry will come over here to be my new senior companion and district leader of Seixal. The Lord is leading His work!

Well I love you all and wish you all a Happy New Year 2009!! This year really has flown by. Thanks again for all of your love and support! I am going to pick up some package that was ``volumoso``, so thank you to whoever it is from! And as to any other presents that might still be in the mail - better late than never, right? Thanks again, and I love ya´ll!

Elder Ellis V

PS - Mom and Dad, I received the two snail mail letters of December 14 and 15 that ya´ll sent to my apartment address on Monday, December 29. The address ya´ll have is correct for the next 7 weeks at least!

PPS - Hey Em, wanna do me a favor?

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Merry Christmas one and all, beloved family!

Thanks again to everyone for all the news! Thank you very much Matt and Nat for your lovely little package of Reeses, mint Hershey kisses, Sam´s drawing (and the interpretation thereof), and pictures! The pictures are great and I´m rationing out the candy. Kit and Kevin – thank you for the present ya´ll sent! It happily awaits Christmas morning under our humble little Christmas Tree. I´m sure there are other things in the mail that I haven´t received yet, some of which I will probably get at the next zone conference. And thank you very much Mom and Dad for those letters, and the Scrooge quotes, etc. That made my day!

What a blessing to be serving as a missionary at Christmas time! The important thing is to be grateful for all of the many many gifts that God has given us, especially the gift of His Son, Jesus Christ, and His Atoning Sacrifice for us. I am so grateful for a wonderful, huge, and supportive family! In a letter Mom shared something that Bispo Leite in São Paulo said – at Christmas time we can give gifts to Christ of our faith, service, and gratitude. And I remember those wonderful Christmas stories we would read as part of the countdown for Christmas, and how they show that we can give of oursevles and serve others, even ´the least of these our brethren´, to serve God! Matthew 25:40 and Mosiah 2:17. I love you all and wish you a Merry Christmas!
Last Thursday was our Christmas zone conference, which was really great. One awesome thing was that we watched a Christmas movie that President and Irmã Terry really like called The Forgotten Carols, which I highly recommend for everyone to watch at some point. I also got three letters from Mom and Dad for the Christmas conference, and it was wonderful to hear from them. I finally got my other letters which were all sent to the office, so that was nice too!

Of course, this week before/of Christmas has been great. There is a Brasilian family from São Paulo that we taught the second lesson / the Plan of Salvation to, and it was great. They were all participating, asking questions, and were really interested. (They´re not brand new investigators, per se, but it was really cool to teach them.) And something that is great to look forward to, this Saturday is a double baptism! Simão, who is 9 years old (and as golden as it gets I have heard) – he wasn´t baptized because his parents were going through a divorce – and then Maria Augusta, a single mom of about 30 who has two kids 7 and 6 years old, who is really great too. We´ve been teaching Simão and the Irmãs have been teaching Maria Augusta. But it is wonderfully exciting! Well, I love you all and I wish you all a very Merry Christmas!

--Elder Ellis V
Ps – the FDP is also from Mom´s Christmas letter, standing for Faith Diligence and Patience

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Hello Dearest Family!!

So I tried sending you an email earlier and the computer/internet died on me. Quite sad. So I am going to try and hurry with this one before time’s out. But I am very happy to hear that Nolan is on the right track, and I will continue to pray for him. Kit, it is pretty sad that ya´ll won´t be able to make that visit, but we will still get to see each other in little less than two years. The time is already flying by! Have fun with that tea party thing for Ryn! Mick, that is awesome that you are going to Monterrey West! I wish the best for you and the people you will serve!

Well everything has gone well this week. I had my first division with the zone leaders, the Christmas Devotional was great, and tomorrow I get to look forward to the Christmas zone conference! Thanks again everyone for your love and support! By the way, that Rua de Mansabá address is my current apartment address. I don´t have a preference except that I want all the letters and stuff ya´ll send, and the office address is the ´safe´ one. One neat thought I had yesterday about trying to help our investigators get fired up and do the stuff they need to, like reading, going to church, tithing, etc, was the example of the widow of Zeraphath. She put God first, even with what little she had, and everything turned out right. 1 Kings 17:10-16 I think. Anyways, gotta go, love ya´ll!!

--Elder Ellis V

PS – Mom and Dad, that plan for the conference call sounds great to me. The number you can call me at is 351 (for Portugal) then ---101 264. Love ya!

Wednesday, December 10, 2008


Hello beloved família!

Ah, Darrell, thank you for that fun question! Personally I think all versions are correct. I choose Book of Mormons because that is the title or appelation of this book of scripture. If we pluralize the Bible, we´d say we handed out BibleS. Book of MormonS. Anyways, that´s just my take on it, and it is certainly fun to discuss. But I will follow Dad´s take and follow the examples of the leaders of the Church - copies of the Book of Mormon!

That´s cool Rachel that you know both of those Elders. I pass along yet another message from my trainer, that hopefully you may pass on to his friends, that Elder Prince requests that they write him back asap, and Elder Winegar should not get trunky.

I was shocked to hear the news about Nolan, but I am glad he is on the right track with the antibiotics. I will pray for him!

Well the work is going great in Seixal. Since last Wednesday I´ve had two days when I could definitely see the hand of God in His work. President Terry has given us a kind of goal/outline to have 20/20 vision - meaning talk to 20 people a day and teach 20 lessons a week, so roughly 3 lessons a day. Last Friday we had a 17 year old member from Brasil (Minas Gerais) go with us for a scheduled lesson and to contact and knock. Our investigator wasn´t at home at the time, so we went to the park and ended up helping a Ukrainian lady carry her groceries home. Then we came back to the apartment of the investigator and he still wasn´t home, so we decided to knock in his apartment building. Then right before we were going to leave, our investigator walked in! So we were able to give him the lesson we had prepared on the importance of the Book of Mormon. Also what was really good about that was that the Brasilian kid wasn´t sure he wanted to go on a mission, so hopefully that was a good experience enough to help persuade him to go in two years. Then our second scheduled appointment fell through, so I thought we might not be able to get our goal of 3 lessons in that day. But while we were knocking we ran into a man who we had met the previous day but had forgot to mark his address - so we were able to write down his correct address AND get all three lessons in!

Yesterday was even a greater testimony of the Lord watching over His work. A lot of our investigators have said they were busy, so we only had two scheduled lessons, and both of them fell through. But we needed to talk to a member about helping us out with our play for the ward Christmas Party this Saturday, so we ended up going to his house to explain the gist of the play and ended up giving him a lesson. Then after that we went to this one spot to knock and within one hour we were let in to two homes, taught two lessons, and found 6 new investigators! God is great, and he has blessed us with much success, and He has helped us in doing His work! I love being a missionary!!

So yeah, those were the highlights of the week. Saturday was my first zone conference, and Elder Causé of the First Quorum of the Seventy did some workshops with us on planning and finding with the Spirit. Monday was my first zone meeting, where the zone leaders reemphasized a lot of that. Great stuff!

Well I love all of you! Thanks so much for your news and support. Again, my prayers are really with Nolan. Best of luck to all of you!

--Elder Ellis V~

ps - I didn´t have time last week to explain why Elder Shenefelt wasn´t supposed to be my companion at the MTC in the first place. My originally assigned companion was Elder Reque, who didn´t come until after the first week was already done, and he left for Cabo Verde two weeks after he arrived because he already spoke Portuguese (his parents are both Brasilian). So I formed a triple with Elder Shenefelt and Elder Johnson for less than two days, because Elder Johnson had to leave the MTC because of family problems, unfortunately. So that´s why it was just me and Elder Shenefelt for most of our MTC stay. tchau!

Wednesday, December 3, 2008

Helloo from Portugal!!

Helloo everyone!

Happy belated Thanksgiving! I want to let each and every one of you know that I am thankful for yaºll beyond expression! And also for this wonderful opportunity to serve the Lord in Portugal!

I first area - post as I like to think of it - is Seixal. (sayshawl). My trainer or first companion is Elder (Matthew) Prince from South Jordan Utah. He is a great missionary also, and has been helpful and encouraging as I work up the nerve to talk to people calmly enough to talk about the gospel message. He´s also very happy that I already have a headstart on Portuguese. We have been a little slowed down from necessary errand running, but things are still going great. We´ve taught a lot of lessons and handed out plenty of Book of Mormons and pass along cards, and yesterday we even were invited inside when we were knocking doors. The young manºs name is Wallace and heºs from Minas Gerais. Elder Prince has said that we seem to have been running into a lot of Brasilians since I arrived, and about all of them have been from Minas Gerais. Interesting.

Mick! Congradz on your call! Spanish isnºt Portuguese but there are many of Godºs children there youºll be able to help! Best of luck and keep me posted on stuff! By the way, one of the people we contacted Sunday or Monday night looked amazingly like you, albeit a foot shorter, also from Minas Gerais.

Thanks again everyone for all of your news and love and support! I love you all!!

Sistser Ellis III -- do you happen to know an Elder Perry or Elder Winegar? if you have met them, please let them know that their friend Elder Prince serving in Portugal says hi.

John -- loved your email bro. triple sixes with canons are always nice indeed. And thanks for helping out with the address. here it is
Rua de Mansabá No. 8 C/v Dto
2845 Amora

If you think something might take longer to be sent, the mission office adress in Lisbon is pretty safe, itºs on my Facebook, and I would get whatever you sent there about every zone conference or so. i think...

As far as a Christmas list, Mom, I would really like the recipes of the stuff we practiced making before I left Sao Paulo. And Rob, if you could send me your favorite recipes and stuff thatºd be great too. Also Rob, do you have names or contact info for people I could stop by if I am ever in the same areas you were in? thanks

Love yaºll!!

Elder Ellis V

Friday, November 21, 2008

Goodbye MTC, Hellooo Portugal!

Hey there everybody!

Ok, so last week's warning was a false alarm. Lo and behold, my last P-day is normal, so I get to email ya'll one last time in the MTC! Aah!! I'm soo excited! I start my journey to Portugal early Tuesday morning, and Wednesday morning I'll be in Lisboa, Portugal!

This has been a great last week. Our Tuesday night devotional speaker was Elder Jeffrey R. Holland, and that was a great talk! He spoke about how we should never be discouraged for being asked to suffer but a very small amount of what Jesus Christ actually suffered for all of us. And he also talked about how we need to do the best we can, because many people look up to us as representatives of the Lord - the people we teach and baptize, our families, and the future missionaries that we are the examples to. That made me really appreciate all the great examples I have - all of my older siblings currently serving or having served honorable full time missions, Dad for all the work he has done and continues to do, and then Emily and Warren as the next missionaries - Emily if she so chooses and Warren as the next carrier of the Priesthood. Lots of great stuff.

What else... Life is just great! I'm ready to get to Portugal! I'm really grateful to have had Elder Shenefelt as such a great companion - we technically shouldn't have even been companions to begin with - and other great missionaries in my district and zone, and great returned missionary teachers!

Well, I love ya'll and am grateful for your news, love, and prayers. The next email ya'll get will be from Portugal!!! Love,

Elder Ellis V

Friday, November 14, 2008

The Last Stretch

Hey hey hey familia querida!

Life is great in the MTC! I've got 11 days to go until I finally head off to Portugal!! I got my flight plans today, so I'm vrey excited. Life really is great - practicing teaching in Portuguese, trying to improve in whatever way I can, tuesday night devotionals, picking the hymns - everything!

Normally I get to go to the Temple on Friday (pday) mornings, but today I had a different treat. Since I sent my mission papers from Brazil, the administration peoples think I'm Brazilian - on paper, at least. So there's a thing where the international missionaries get to go on a tour of Temple Square and the surrounding buildings and stuff. And following Grandpa Big Dad's great advice, I didn't pass up this watering hole! I was the Lone Ranger amidst a lot of Canadians, a few hispanics, 2 Brazilians, a Portuguese, and some others, including a sister from Wales. It was fun. We went to the Joseph Smith Memorial building, stopped by the Lion House, went to the Beehive House, Tabernacle (Rachel -- I met a Sister McKay who is a friend of yours there, she says hi), the rest of Temple Square, the Church Office building, the Conference Center, and that museum nearby the Conference Center, I can't remember it's name. Anyways, good stuff!

Well it's great to hear from all of you! Love ya'll tons!

--Elder Ellis V

PS -- I think this might be my last normal P-day, which means next week I might not have internet access to check and respond to ya'll's emails. Just to let you know. tchau!

Friday, November 7, 2008

MTC Countdown: 18 days ate Portugal!!

Hello hello!

Another great week in the MTC!! It's great to hear from ya'll! I'm so grateful for such a loving and supportive family!!

This week has been great! More studying in Portuguese, and Preach My Gospel. Elder Shenefelt (meu companheiro) and I have had a great time and have learned a lot together on how to teach effectively and in unity and with the Spirit. Our devotional speaker this week was Sister Julie B. Beck, and she gave a great talk. The point I liked most from her message was how we as missionaries really need to work with the members - and it's true! I remember the great times I had going out with the missionaries in Sao Paulo before I left to sell books, and Monday night Elder Shenefelt had a member with us while we were teaching our role-playing 'investigator', and the 'member' really did help with teaching and getting our investigator to go to church.

Anyways. As the subject says, I've only got about 18 more days to go until I fly out to Europe's Lighthouse on November 25th!! I'm very excited!! Well I love ya'll, and I hope ya'll are having the best times ever!

-- Elder Ellis V

PS - Sister Ellis III, CM signifies "Consecrated Missionary" from Elder Callister's devotional talk some weeks ago. Consecrated Missionaries have given up their disobedience, pride, romantic passions, fear, and negativity to consecrate themselves to God's work and be better-than-the-best missionaries. Tchau!

Friday, October 31, 2008

Hello from the MTC!

Hello again beloved family!

Life is great in the MTC! It's hard to believe I only have a little over 3 more weeks to go and then I'm finally off to Portugal! Can't wait. This last Tuesday night devotional speaker was Elder L. Tom Perry and his wife. This week and last week Elder Tracy and I have participated in singing in the devotional choir, and it's been a good experience.

In other news, I got my haircut today, and it's definitely short enough. I don't know if that "long enough to have a part" rule is still in force, because the lady cut my hair short enough to not really have a part, and not many missionaries have parts in their hairtyles anyways. Oh well. Now my pale forhead and scars can stand out! Yay!

This next week we will say "Deus Vos Guarde" to two districts as they head out to their respective mission fields in Portugal, Mozambique, and Boston Portuguese-speaking. Great Elders. Our awesome zone leaders are included, and will be leaving, so we'll be getting some new zone leaders soon. We're also gonna get a new incoming district of 8 missionaries - two sisters and 6 elders. Good stuff.

Happy Halloween everybody! It's not every day your P-day is on Halloween... or vice versa. and HAPPY BIRTHDAY WARREN!! I sent you a letter, I hope you got it.

Oooh, something very cool I thought I would share. Last week we were told twice in the same day by different people to study Alma chapter 17. So I did. And it was very edifying in having an in-depth study about all the missionary applicable stuff in that chapter. Ammon is one of my role models!

Well, it's great to hear from ya'll and I love you very much! Happy Halloween!

--Elder Ellis V

Sunday, May 18, 2008

Awesome Sunday!

I'll have more to say later, but I just wanted to get this in today. This Sunday was pretty awesome! Dad ordained me to the office of an Elder in the Melchizedek Priesthood this morning in church. It feels so wonderful to be progressing and doing my part in God's Eternal Plan of Happiness! In Sacrament meeting Bispo Leite had me and this other young man in the ward, Westin Wilson, bear our testimonies since we'll both be leaving soon and we've both received our mission calls. Westin will be serving in the Rochester New York Spanish speaking mission. Then after coming home for lunch Mom, Dad, Emily and I went over to the MTC here in Sao Paulo to visit cousin Zach Ellis, who's going to serve in the Salvador mission. Each of us had written him a letter, and we also gave him some lemon pound cake that Mom made last night. Zach asked Dad for a blessing, and since I was newly ordained an Elder, I could participate in the blessing. I felt very honored to exercise the priesthood so soon on my great cousin.

Sunday, May 11, 2008

Post California

Last Thursday and Friday were no school, so Mom, Dad, Emily, President Didier and I went biking Thursday morning at a park here called Iba Pueira ("eebah poo-eh ra" roll the r). Then later we met up with some friends of mine to see Iron Man, and then we came back home to play a bunch of games, including the amazing Super Smash Bros Brawl for Wii. Friday I watched I Am Legend when I got up, then played a RISK game with my family that I unfortunately lost to my parents - I swear, married couples ALWAYS play together! i hate it!! grr... anyways, after that i went to a friend's with two other guys and we practiced an acapella version of Kiss the Girl (by Rockapella), and then played Super Smash Bros. on Nintendo 64. Then Friday night the guys in my ward went over to our bishop's cabin/mini-farm ("sitio") and slept over there. It was called a campout, but I disagree, cuz we weren't really camping, even if we did sleep in tents outside the house. Plus i think it was a secret plot to exact labor from the ward's young men. I was the first youth awake Saturday morning, and then two other guys woke up, and the bishop came over to us and asked "hey, do you want to help me move some grass?" lo and behold, there's a huge truckload of carpeted grass (grass in rectangular mud carpet-sheet-thingys). I got very dirty - my hands were so dirty they were beginning to look like a different ethnicity. The only frustrating thing was that the 3 Brazilian guys that came with us didn't help at all, and only about half the American guys. but we still had fun - when I wasnt working i was playing some of the guys on my Nintendo 64 on Smash, Bond, and Mariokart.

Grandpa "Lion" Lynn Kleopfer passed away last Monday (May 5), so Mom, Emily, and I flew up Tuesday night and most of Wednesday to California for the Inaugural Grandpa Lion Memorial Backgammon Tournament, which Rachel won. I think the Tournament was a great idea, since it was Grandpa Lion's favorite game and he loved to play it all the time. I was able to see a lot of my relatives on Mom's side that I haven't seen in ages, all the more since I don't see them regularly and I'll be leaving on my mission in September. Plus I also got to see Nolan finally (he is hilarious! and he looks a ton like Warren did at his age!) and Elle, another bundle of joy. Adorable munchkins! Luckily i'll get to see them again in August/September before I leave, but then it'll be two years. ooh boy. Anyways, Em and I flew back by ourselves and we arrived back here in Sao Paulo on Saturday morning, Dad and I had to drop off Em at this theme park place called Hopi Hari which took a long time because of traffic, and then Dad and I came home so I could shower and change into Sunday clothes so we could stop by a wedding reception and then go to my Dad's exchange-student mother to wish her (early) Happy Mother's Day. whew!

Anyways, I have two tests to make up since I missed most of last week. And a big English paper to work on as the semester final... finals coming up... graduation and departure on May 31st and then off to sell books in Wisconsin! aaah! tempus fugit! (time flies!)

Sunday, April 20, 2008

Update and Mission Call!

Well it's been quite a while, but everything's going great! As Dad said in his comment on the last post, I've been able to go out with the missionaries frequently, and they've all been wonderful experiences, rain or shine! The funny thing is that it was almost raining every Sunday afternoon/evening, which was when I was going out with the missionaries! Unfortunately I've gotten caught up with different things, so the last outing I went on with the missionaries was the Sunday night of General Conference. Hopefully I'll be able to squeeze some more time in with them before I go...

A couple of weeks ago I had a bunch of friends over, and it was great! Ana Paula, Ana Carolina, Brad Newman, Debbie Fiuza, and Emily and Alex Matt. We played some Super Smash Bros. Brawl on the Matt's Wii, and then a RISK game with two boards - it was awesome! Of course, not all of these friends are RISK players at heart, so halfway through the game, half the people dropped out of the game and started watching Happy Feet, but it was all very fun. Since Brad lives so far away, he stayed the night, and we played a good amount of video games like Smash on 64 and Gamecube, and Bond and Mariokart on 64 also. Fun stuff!

The weekend of General Conference Emily and I took part in perfoming in a play entitled "It's All Greek to Me!" It had snippets of about 5 Greek tragedies, including Antigone and Medea. I got to play King Creon from the play Medea, and I was dressed as a modern dictator in an all-black suit with my red CTR tie (dictators can choose the right!), and my aviator sunglasses. Emily played extra roles, including one of the women of Corinth. When my secret service body guard and I walked on stage, the secret service guy would push Emily aside out of my way. Emily didn't like that too much... General Conference itself was amazing as always, and this one was my first time that I remember to participate in the/a Solemn Assembly. I felt very honored to be called as a (current) Aaronic Priesthood holder to stand and sustain President Monson and the new First Presidency by raising my arm to the square. It was an experience I will never forget. And last Sunday, April 13, 2008 I was honored to be a part of ordaining my friend Bradley Newman to the office of a Priest.

In other news, as of today there are approximately only 6 more weeks of school until I graduate on May 31st!! In between now and then I hope to get through my IB History Standard Level Exam successfully (enough) and to finish all of my classes strong. I'm cherishing these last weeks I have with Mom, Dad, and Em and I'm really happy to have Rob and Christa here for my graduation! So school has been keeping me plenty busy. Otherwise I'm enjoying life as I prepare for the summer selling books, and more importantly my mission!

It was really great that everybody was able to be on the conference call on Tuesday, April 15, 2008 when I opened my missionary call to serve in the Portugal Lisbon Mission! Everybody had a chance to guess. Grandma Turtle guessed Sao Paulo, Brasil; Uncle Bill guessed Argentina; Joy guessed Montana; Darrell guessed Norway; Warren guessed San Antonio, Texas (although his original guess was Cedar Park Ward, Austin, Texas); Jared guessed Madagascar; Cameron guessed Brasil; Kit guessed Manaus, Brasil; Kevin guessed France; Matt guessed Curitiba, Brasil; Natalie guessed Cuiaba, Brasil; Mark guessed France; Aup guessed the Phillipines; John guessed France; Laura guessed Brasilia, Brasil; Rob guessed Portugal; Christa guessed Rio de Janeiro, Brasil; Mom guessed Curitiba, Brasil; and Emily guessed Elina, Africa (no clue where that is). So out of all the family members, only Rob was right in guessing Portugal! But he wasn't alone - my friend Angie Elligson and our adorable Adelia also guessed Portugal. I'm super excited!!

Saturday, January 26, 2008

First 'Split' with the Missionaries!

Alrighty, this will be pretty short. Last night, Friday January 25, 2008, this other priest named Hunter Wilson and I went on splits with the missionaries in our ward. I'm not sure if "splits" is a very accurate term, since I think you need to have other Melchizedek holders to actually split with the missionaries. Anyways, it was an awesome experience, studying with the two missionaries in our ward for a bit about faith and obedience, then walking around with them, seeing into what missionary life is really like.

We visited an investigating family that's been coming to Church almost regularly, and their daughter (around 8 years old I think) is scheduled to be baptized soon. The only thing holding her back is a little fear about being drowned, which I hope won't be too big of a problem. One of the missionaries gave a lesson about keeping the Sabbath day holy, and I had the opportunity to bear my testimony on Sabbath day observance when he finished at the end. Then we went to this couple (I don't think they're married yet, but they have a daughter who is active) and read part of Alma chapter 18 with them, helping to explain things that they had questions on. The whole thing was an awesome experience, just a little taste of what my mission will (problably) hold!

Monday, January 21, 2008

Foz de Iguacu with Mom 2008!!

Seemingly back to back with my Habitat Trip, Mom and I went to Iguacu Falls (or Foz de Iguacu) and had an awesome time The natural beauty of one of God's wonderful creations was a great way to spend my Mother-Son trip with Mom.

We arrived late Thursday afternoon (January 17th, 2008) and went down the trail to see the Devil's Throat (Garganta de Diabo) that James E. Faust has spoken about in his talks. Along the way we passed this family from India that was a husband and wife with a little girl. Mom thought they were Brazilian and spoke Portuguese because when we passed them they had said beleza, beleza (which means beautiful , obviously referring to the great waterfalls). A couple minutes later this family catches up to us on the trail (because we were stopping to take pictures at least every two minutes) and the dad came up to me and asked me if the path leads up to an exit at some point. I didn't remember very well, so I asked Mom about their question. So Mom goes off and gives them 'directions' in Portuguese and the looks on their faces changed to a polite paying attention, even though they didn't have a clue what Mom was saying. Then Mom finally finishes and the couple just turn to me with a very hopeful expressions that I would provide a translation for them. I hold my laughter for later while I say Mom, English?
So we continue on and get some great pictures at the Devil's Throat, rainbows and all, and came back to our hotel room very wet from all of the mist, sweat, and humidity from our walk. We enjoyed a good dinner at one of the hotel restaurants, and Mom took a picture of my dessert, which did look pretty cool. And afterwards I beat Mom twice in Settlers.

Early Friday morning we headed down the trail again but headed back soon enough because mom's camera's battery died. So we quickly went back to the hotel room to charge it up a little, and then went to this bird place. There were a lot of cool beautiful birds there, and we were able to get some good pictures before my camera's batteries died at the end. But we bought some more batteries at the bird place gift store, and then went on this awesome 10-minute helicopter ride that took us up and over the falls. It was AMAZING And after that we went on the boat ride thing which also was fun. Mom and I were in the front end of the boat, and we got soaked. When we finally got back to the hotel, we cleaned up, played a RISK game (only because Mom loves me so much) and then 7 settlers games... with dinner in between somewhere.

And Saturday we went back down that trail thing again one last time, which was really crowded with other tourists, which made me really glad that Mom and I had gone to see the Devil's Throat by ourselves Thursday. We really made a mad dash (brisk walk) back to the hotel so we'd be able to pack up and check out of the hotel in time around 11 something. We had about two hours to kill, which we used playing even more one on one Settlers. Then we finally went to the airport, and our flight was late, so we spent the time having Mom annihilate me in that Game of the Jaguar game I got for Christmas from Mom and Dad. Mom said several times that it was good for me to be humbled after all the Settlers games we played. The plane was a bit of a fiasco - our flight was late an hour by the time we boarded, only to be told that there was some problem with the plane and that everybody needed to deboard. So about half an hour later (maybe more) we finally get back on the plane, and then wait for what felt like an eternity for our bags. At one point during our wait for the bags this little man squeezed himself between the lady in front of me and myself, trying to grab his bag that was almost his size. He doesn't get good enough footing to lift up the bag I guess, and the bag starts dragging him into me, so I felt the urge to help him get his bag and send the good sir on his way.

Reunited with Dad and Emily, we all decide to grab some McDonald's, drop off the luggage at our apartment and go see the movie I Am Legend in theatres. Mom didn't like it very much, thought it was too scary, but I liked it myself, and I thought it was funny that when things started getting scary, Emily said "okay, give me your arm", and then stopped asking after a while and she'd just grab my arm and start squeezing. A great end to a great trip!

Wednesday, January 16, 2008

Habitat for Humanity 2008

Ah, what a wonderful trip it was! Habitat was one of the greatest experiences of my life. For six days I did a lot of hard work with a shovel, hoe, pickaxe, and 'spoon' (for the life of me I can't remember the real name of those things for brick-laying). Anyways, I will try to give you a day by day discourse on what happened, and I'll attempt to keep my tangents reasonable. :D

So I spent a lot of Saturday, January 5, messing around, then packing, and playing games with Mom, Dad, Em, and Rae before Rae and I had to leave. The time came to go, and the family dropped me off at our friends the Braithwaites' apartment as they continued on to take Rachel to the airport so she could make her flight. I hung out with my friend Scott, a fellow senior who's 17, kinda helped him out with his iPod nano, and watched the end of National Treasure 1 in portuguese on TV while we waited for Br. Braithwaite to be ready to go. One funny thing happened during that wait: Katy and Samantha, Scott's younger sisters, came in and said they had a question for me, and then started giggling and arguing over which of them had really wanted to ask the question in the first place. Then little 6 year old Ben comes in and just says "They wanted to ask you if you liked Brittney!" Weird, and what's weirder is that I was almost expecting that kind of question from the way they were giggling.

Anywho, we finally leave to the school, and I chatted with a bunch of school friends who I haven't talked to since school got out. A Korean friend of mine, Pum, said he was going to shave my head since I got accepted into BYU. I figured out that I forgot my sunglasses at the Braithwaites, so Sis. Braithwaite was kind enough to get them back for me. When we got to the airport, the peoples on the intercom thing said that our flight was going to be delayed 5 hours.

Now freakishly early morning on Sunday, still at the airport, I passed most of the time playing cards (a game called President, which is similar to Scum or Great Dalmuti) with some Korean friends. Then the person on the intercom told us to move from gate 3 to gate 5, only to tell us 3 minutes later to move back to gate 3 again. Things are really funny at 3 am.

I slept for most of the flight there, and we took a big bus to the town, which we will refer to as Varjada. I then slept in our humble little hotel room for a couple hours before we had lunch at a churrascaria. Later we went to have a look at our worksite and then had dinner at a pizza place.

Daily Routine
So from Monday to Saturday, we fit ourselves into a daily routine, and this was how it went: 6:30 am - Wake up, eat, and get ready for the day. 7:30 - load up into the bus and leave for the worksite. 8:30ish - arrive at worksite, put on sunblock, get to your spot, and start working. Take water breaks at your leisure. Lunch at 12:30ish, i think. Work would start again and 1:30 or 1:45 or so. We'd end at 3:30 or so. Go back to the hotel, shower up, chill, go to dinner, come back, chill some more, go to bed. :D

Monday I spent at the "Lower House". It was designated the Lower House because it was down the road / a little hill, and the lower elevation thus merited the name of the "Lower House". First we had to haul the bricks to surround the house and put them in the 'rooms' so they'd be easier to set them in place when the time came. I also helped sift the sand piles, which included one person shoveling the sand onto the sifter, this grating-thing that two people were holding, and they'd shake it back and forth so the sand would fall through on the pile below and separate the "wheat from the chaff"... actually the sand from the rocks, sticks, grass, (even beetles!) and other debris that was there, so the sand could be used in making the cement ("maca" - I probably spelt that wrong). I found out pretty quickly that I'm not the best bricklayer, but luckily the skilled Br. Braithwaite was willing to work with me. I'd put the cement on the wall and he'd but the cement on/in the brick and set it. Such teamwork, it was awesome! But most of the day's work was enjoyed in helping dig the hole for the house's septic tank. These other guys and I would take turns weilding the pick-axes and shoveling out the rock-rubble. Pum and I kinda clicked and we'd be hacking away with the pick-axes and we were working super fast! We even gathered a crowd of the locals, but only to be put to shame when one or two of them would take a turn and do what seemed like twice of what the two of us did in less than half the time! And the bricklaying guys were amazing - they'd just slap on some cement on the bricks in like three quick moves, while we (especially myself) would struggle with keeping the cement from falling through the bricks. (Note, the bricks were not the solid clay bars that you may be thinking of; instead they had four pairs of rectangular holes in them, so that's why the cement would keep falling through!)

Tuesday I worked at the infamous cistern. For those of ya'll who might not know what a cistern is, it is a big concrete/cement water 'tank' built in the yard next to a/the house, with rain gutter-filter things set up on the sides of the roof to collect water which is drained down into the cistern, providing the homeowner with clean drinkable water. I said the 'infamous cistern' because the spot we were digging turned out to be nearly solid rock, which is very hard to dig. Monday there had been three girls and a guy there, and Mr. Hanna (the main leader of the group) decided that the cistern would be an all-male project since it was gonna be such taxing work, no discrimination meant. Anyways, there was this guy there (I believe his name was Jose) and he was at least over 50, but he was strong as an ox! He honestly did most of the work - he'd use the sledgehammer, the pick-axe, whatever - and tear up a lot of rock, while my three compadres and I spent most of the day gathering up and shoveling out the rubble he made, or making our amateur attempts at breaking up the rock. But it went well! The lady who the cistern was being built for - Dona Tata - was an amazing person. She was so kind, humble, hospitable, and especially grateful. She said several times throughout the week, to us as a whole group or smaller groups working at her house, that she was very grateful for the cistern, first to God and then to us.

I came back to the cistern again Wednesday, but Jose the Haus had finished getting the desired depth. I guess my group and I helped a lot on Tuesday. :D So Wednesday was the Mormon Squad - Br. Braithwaite, Scott Braithwaite, Westin Wilson, and myself. These other guys were working on making the cement/concrete 'shell' thing of the cistern, so all we did was sift out the sand piles they had there, and then we took the 20 minute walk back to the church area which served as our 'base of operations', and started working on other stuff. I went to dig in the 'trenches' of the school foundation for the rest of the day. Boy, do I love the pick-axe!

Thursday I worked at the school again until lunch, and then went with a bunch of guys back to the cistern to shovel up all the dirt, rocks, and rubble to kind of bury the base of the cistern. (As things were wrapping up, like the cistern, more hands were being freed up, other things were getting done faster, and there began to be increasing 'unemployment'.) Thursday night for dinner we went to this place that had two guys providing us with live forro music (Brazilian type of music that's mostly popular in the Northeast), and just about everybody did some dancing. Pum and I had to strongly persuade some Korean girls to dance, since all they were doing was playing cards.

Friday was more work on the school, and then the lower house. Pum accidentally leaned on one of the columns of the porch and knocked it over. I saw it happening and it looked like it was in slow motion. Luckily nobody was hurt, which was quite a miracle since Br. Braithwaite was working on the roof on the other end of the porch. One of the local worker guys temporarily replaced the brick column with a thick branch or a small tree. They were able to fix it up by the next day. Since Pum and I were in a semi-destructive mood we started punching (and Pum kicked) some disregarded clay tiles, which was cool. Friday night after dinner at the pizza place (for the second time in the week), we went out on the town since it was one of the first nights of Sao Sebastiao, another Brazilian holiday. Our awesome partying consisted of going around on some of the carnival rides that had been set up in the town square. The ones I went on were the bumper cars and this ride called "Surf" which was one of those rides that swings you strongly from side to side.

Saturday was the last work day, and since most everything was about done, I went on a hike with some others to this very small church that was on top of a very very steep hill, which had a cool view. Worked some more, then lunch, more work, and then a bunch of people all went to this dirt field area where there were soccer games going on, or a bunch of kids chasing some of our students who had Scott's football. I got some awesome massages from two of my Korean friends too! Then we all were back at our lunch spot (at the church) for the closing 'ceremony', where some people, including some recepients like Dona Tata, talked for a little bit, and the student leaders of our group (which included Scott) said some stuff, and we each got called up and were given certificates. That night our "last supper" was at the Hotel and they had a kind of buffet banquet ready for us, which was pretty nice. Then until curfew I played President with another group of friends for a couple hours until it was time to go to bed.

Sunday morning I had to get up earlier by myself in order to be ready to go on time. The Mormon Squad had to leave earlier than everybody else because we were breaking off from the group so we could go to church. I kept waking up at fifteen minute to half hour intervals starting aound 3:30 am. I finally got up and around a quarter to 6 to get ready. I had two week's growth of my red beard, and it took a long time to shave all of that off with the wimpy excuse for a razor that I had. We ended up having to wait for the taxi, and a bunch of people came down to breakfast seeing us in our Sunday clothes, and got to say goodbye. The taxi driver had speakers in his car that took up at least half the trunk space, so my "Joe Black" roll on got strapped to the top of the car. After we headed out it started to rain, but luckily my bag was sturdy enough and nothing got wet on the inside.
Westin accidentally bumped the light switches during Sacrament meeting twice. We were sitting in the back left corner of the chapel near the door and right next to the light switches. Needless to say we got plenty of additional looks aside from our American looks and all. Br. Braithwaite and Scott gave the opening and closing prayers in Sacrament meeting, and I gave the opening prayer in Priesthood meeting. At the end of Priesthood Westin was not called, which pleased him and let him think he was off the hook. But we spent the afternoon at the bishop's house (Br. Braithwaite had baptized him and his family when he was on his mission in Pernambuco), and the bishop asked Westin to say a prayer before we left their home. We had a lot of fun - lunch was great, and we spent the whole of the afternoon playing uno and playing with the bishop's grandsons. We arrived at our Pousada, changed up, and grabbed some McDonald's (we were low on options). That night was freezing in our room, because Westin and I underestimated the power of our air conditioner; we were used to the weaksauce ac in our hotel rooms in Varjada.

Monday we got up, had breakfast, and went out to Porto de Galinhas (Chicken Port) with Cleito, an old friend of Br. Braithwaite and the/a temple recorder at the Recife Temple. We first stopped at a resort/hotel called Muro Alto to meet with a stake president, another old associate of Br. Braithwaite. While there we messed around with some hermit crabs and sea urchins, and Westin, Scott, and myself turned the heads of these two Brazilian girls in the pool. They were tossing a volleyball back and forth, and then one was looking at us when the other tossed it and nearly got hit in the head by the volleyball.
So when we got to the beach we did a lot of snorkeling, and then later we taught Cleito how to play ultimate frisbee, which was really fun. We had a fish filet for lunch, washed off at our pousada, and then went to the Woodruff's apartment (our former residence when we lived in Recife last year), had dinner and FHE with them, and played a game of Bang/Dodge City. It was a ton of fun! President Woodruff was kind enough to give us a ride to the airport. On the flight this couple had taken Westin's and mine seats, which wasn't a problem. I read another chapter of Jesus the Christ and Westin spent the whole flight talking to the American lady he ended up sitting next to.

And lo and behold! Tuesday our flight lands in safe and sound, and I get home a little before 5 am, and I go to sleep until 10 something! I caught up on emails, and wrote this blog! yeehaw!

Ok, I forgot when exactly these happened, (probly last Tuesday and Wednesday), but I also had some missionary experiences at Habitat! Pum said he wanted to memorize a verse in the Book of Mormon to catch Scott by surprise, so I gave him a copy of the Book of Mormon which I just happened to have with me! "I was prepared!" So I pointed out Mosiah 2:17 to him which I thought was a fitting verse since we were on a really big service project. He's an atheist (or so he says, for now), and when he read aloud the "ye are only in the service of your God" he was like "hey, that wasn't in the Habitat contract!"
The other experience was this girl named Bernarda (i think, but everyone calls her Berny) asked me a ton of questions about the Church, like what are meetings are like, how standards are 'enforced', what happens if this or that happens, etc. It was pretty cool!