Wednesday, April 29, 2009

April -- ´It´s Gone?!?!´

Hello beloved family!

Oh man, life is great! Thank you everybody for your updates, love and support. Mom and Dad I got your letters written around April 15 (I think) on Monday, and last week I got that Salt Lake Temple post card too. Thanks! It is so sustaining to know that I have a huge, awesome, and eternal family that loves me!

Haha, so last week on Wednesday we had gone to Santarém to enjoy our P-day and then start our division with the zone leaders. Good news is I finally got to play ultimate frisbee!! Two bits of sad news. The first being that that awesome ´holy´ frisbee that Jessica Mendin (Emily´s friend) gave me broke. I can still try and use it if I want, but a little chunk got chipped off, and I don´t know if I want to try and do surgury with duct tape or not. Luckily we had another frisbee to use. The second unfortunate part was that while playing ultimate at one point one of the zone leaders bumped into me and I took a fall. Nothing broken, but I will have another lovely scar on my elbow. Nothing to worry about!


Anyways, life is great here in Caldas! God is really helping us overcome the challenges that come our way. Franc and Sandra were going through some bumpy ways, since Satan doesn´t want them to get married so that Sandra and her daughter Neusa can get baptized, and that they can have an eternal family. Satan may be pro at what he does, but God is always better and best! We were prompted to help them and show them how to talk out and resolve their problems instead of getting angry and letting things get worse and unresolved, kind of companionship inventory style. Last night they were back to being the lovely happy couple and they were holding hands on the way home from the family night we had at the chapel! AND three of Amadeu´s sisters (he´s an inactive and these three sisters haven´t been baptized yet) came to family night and had a fun time!

Well the Church is true! I am inexplicably grateful for this joyous time in my life to tinker out my many weaknesses and imperfections so that I can be a more useful instrument in God´s mighty hands! I love you all and wish you the best of luck, and I´m still praying for all ya´ll! Love,

--Elder Ellis V

PS - thanks Natalie and Kit for those adorable pictures! Tchau!

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Life is Wonderful!!

Hey howdie hey beloved family!

Life is great! Some fun things have happened this week. Saturday there was a baptismal service in Tomar, an area of some other Elders in our zone, and we were able to take Fábio, one of our (very progressing) investigators to go see it! Talk about a highway adventure! The Parkers lent us their GPS (called TomTom!) which was working out very well, because Christophe, our amazing branch mission leader who was driving us, didn´t know how to get to Tomar. Quite an adventure, and despite a slight detour, as well as taking a while to find the chapel after we reached the city, we made it! Hey Dad, quick question. Is having someone say `We call _____ to enter the waters of baptism` one of those things that people can do if they want, or is it just not supposed to happen at all? The presiding church member at the baptism was a Brasilian and he did it, and I think Brasilians really get a kick out of doing it, because the ward mission leader in Seixal liked to do it too. (He is also Brasilian.) Anyways, the baptism went well, and we made the trek there and back all in one piece, and in time to have a lesson in Fábio and Andrea´s home about eternal families and temple marriages with our branch president Vicente and his wife Edna. They accepted the invitation to get legally married, so they can be baptized and have an eternal family! I LOVE THE GOSPEL!

Sunday was a missionary-work-focused sacrament meeting: Elder Flint, Christophe, and I all spoke about missionary related topics. How members can be key finders and share the gospel with their friends family and neighbors (I based it off of Elder Perry´s wonderful talk in General Conference), trying to bring back inactives, and continually preparing ourselves/themselves by studying the gospel, praying for missionary opportunities and following the spirit! Later on Sunday Elder Flint and I were able to meet with Rui, a great man who is a member but has had a fallback into drugs and other problems. The Atonement helps all people as they have the desire and motivation to exert their own best efforts to change their lives for the best!

Monday morning we picked up Elders Daley and Hibler at the bus station and went to the Parker´s for our district meeting, and met Sister Parker´s sister and brother-in-law, Br. and Sis. Mekem from Layton, Utah (or atleast somewhere nearby), who are visiting and are very nice people! Afterwards we started our division with said Elders and had a great day! Elder Daley and I were able to find some young men - Yannick and his cousin Mauro - who we hadn´t been able to meet with in a long time. We weren´t sure which floor they lived on of their building, and suddenly Yannick just came down and opened the door for us, even though we hadn´t rung his doorbell! The Lord is watching over His work and getting it done all the time!

Well, those are some of the interesting things of late. Sadly, Sebastião will be gone for work down in the Algarve (part of southern end of Portugal) for two weeks, and what´s super sad is that he´ll be missing Sandra and Neusa´s baptisms on May 2nd! The devil is sneaky... but we´re still gonna win! I love all of you and am praying for all ya´ll! Hey Rachel/Sister Ellis III - you can tell your new companion in training that I say she´s the luckiest sister missionary in the world to be trained by you! Obviously, Elders can´t be trained by you, so they are denied such opportune blessings. Have a great week everybody!

--Elder Ellis V

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Life is great!!!

Hello Happy Family!!

Wow, that was a lot of news! Joy, good joke, you had me fooled big time. And thanks everyone for the wonderful news and pictures! Sounds like Conference Weekend was a blast! Haha, Sam is hilarious -- more pout less pose in the bathtub, and he´s already got a little blond girlfriend! And Natalie´s gonna have a girl!! At this rate the nephew-niece ratio will be even (7-7), so let´s see what Laura´s beautiful twins are gonna turn out to be! Best of luck Laura with the hypothyroidism. Thank heavens for modern medicine! And Righteous Rae -- congradz on being called as a trainer! I know the new sister missionary will be blessed being able to learn from your wonderful, fired up, hardworking example!

Well this week has been great! Two more of the Parkers´ kids came by with their spouses, and it was fun to meet them. Great people all around. Sunday was very nice - Sebastião brought his friends Célio and Valdimar again, and Joaquim, and Maria Olímpia came to Church by themselves! Joaquim is the saintly man who owns/rents the soup kitchen we give service at every Friday. He is a cousin of two active members and had already been taught the lessons before, but it was great to see him at Church and hopefully we can start anew! Maria Olímpia is a less active lady we´ve passed by a few times, but she had been busy and wasn´t able to talk with us. But she came to church on Sunday, and she came to the Family Home Evening last night! Cool!

Monday we did a division with Elders Daley and Hibler, and I was pleasantly surprised with 6 letters that had been sent to the office or to my old address in Seixal. 2 of those letters included one from Mom, Dad, and Em (complete with awesome picture from Emily! ... and waterslide!;) and from Sister Ellis III in Cuiabá Brasil!! Mail is good stuff. Anyways, the division went well, and we were able to help out the Elders get the ball rolling a little more. And todaywe had another fun zone p-day activity. We met with the assistants and the other elders of the zone and went to Montejunto to hike up to the top of the small mountain and had a nice mini lesson from Elder Parker (great retired seminary teacher that he is) about the pioneers´ sacrificing so much, paying the price to ´become acquainted with God´. Despite rain, and two of my clutzy slips, we had fun! We´ll be staying here in Santarém to work a bit and we´re having a zone meeting (mini zone conference sorta thing) tomorrow. I love all of you and thank you for your love, prayers, and support! I´m praying for all ya´ll! Tchau!
--Elder Ellis V

Wednesday, April 8, 2009

I like life, life likes me...

Hello Beloved Family!

Haha, it was pretty funny last week having much fewer emails, but I´m sure General Conference is a valid cause for the delay of emails. And better late than never, right? Thanks everyone for the news and updates!

Mark - I can´t promise you that sling shot, but we´ll see. What was all that delegation stuff?

Rob - infelizmente, a área de Peniche foi fechado e agora está incluido na minha área Caldas da Rainha. But press forward!

Joy - thanks for the update. D-day was indeed a day of great sacrifice... I´m glad I don´t have to worry about the death of the body! That´s good news about Darrell being called as a bishop and you being the seminary supervisor. Best of luck, I know ya´ll will serve well!

Kit - adorable story about Ryn and Elle. Quite the insight into the Atonement, ´out of the mouth of babes´ about saving the repentent.

Em - nice drawing. ´FOFINHA!!` ;)

Rachel - wonderful update as usual! Keep it up Righteous Rae!

Alrighty. Well, General Conference was great. Our branch chapel was designated as the spot to watch Conference for the district, and the Parkers brought their laptop and we watched off of it in English in the classroom where we have gospel principles and English class. Unfortunately though, I didn´t get to see the Priesthood session. But it was great! I loved the strong emphasis throughout the Conference on Temples, eternal marriage, the blessings of being guided by living and modern prophets and apostles, and living the gospel despite adversity. Our superstar investigators - Sebastião, and his nephew Fábio, and Andrea (Fábio´s girlfriend) were there for most if not all of the sessions. Incredible!! Like Mom, one of my favorite talks was Elder Holland´s on Christ fulfilling the Atonement for us, so we don´t have to be alone, but instead can have everlasting joy with our Father in Heaven and our eternal families!! Great stuff.

In between sessions on Sunday Elder Flint, Christophe (our amazing branch mission leader) and I went to the home of former branch president João Carlos Nunes and is wife Elizabete. We invited them to come to even just 15 minutes of Conference but they declined, and Elizabete said it isn´t worth it for us to keep trying to help them come back. But it IS!! I felt to some degree a part of the sadness that Heavenly Father must feel when His children turn away from Him. Elizabete pretty much is the cause for their having gone inactive and basically is holding back Pres. Nunes from coming back, since he really wants to. But we won´t give up! And I am so grateful to learn from these experiences - I know for certain my future wife will be a stalwart saint who knows her divine potential and will never turn away from her Father in Heaven!

Well I love all of you. Keep up the good work all of you! Tchau!
--Elder Ellis V
ps - the above letters stand for Consecrated Missionary, Servo Bom e Fiel (Good and Faithful servant), Faith Diligence Patience (wonderful Mom came up with that one!) and Strength and Honor!! (Go Rob!)

Wednesday, April 1, 2009

Meanwhile in the Hot Springs...

Hello everybody!!

Thanks Kit and Nat for those great pictures of your adorable children! Glad to hear everything is well with all ya´ll! Life is great here in Caldas! Transfers are coming and going, and I will be blessed with another six weeks serving here in Caldas with Elder Flint. Life is great! I just need to keep staying fired up and really utilize the wonderful opportunities and time that God has given me here. Holy cow, Abby Hogan is home already?! Yikes! Time is always flying by!!

Well yesterday I had the pleasant surprise of receiving a little Easter package from Mom and Dad and Em - my beloved Charge bars and Brazilian Easter egg! I was elated, to say the least, and shared the chocolate manna goodness with Elder Flint. Not all of it, just two of the 4 charge bars. THANK YOU MOM DAD AND EM!!

In other news, Saturday morning we went to a branch picnic activity, and that was pretty fun. One of Elder and Sister Parker´s daughters and sons-in-law came to visit and were here in Caldas from about Thursday to Monday, and I´m sure they had a fun time. So at the picnic we played a bit of the Parker´s coub set, and tossed the frisbee around and kicked the soccer ball around too, particularly with Alexandre (7), Neusa (9) and Diogo (~4), the kids that showed up. Then we had a big lunch, cleaned up and headed back to Caldas and work!

It´s funny that you mentioned SW Rachel, cuz for about two weeks or more now Elder Flint and I have been enjoying cold showers! The water heater stopped working, and the man we called up to fix it has taken his time. But Elder Flint and I have grown in our appreciation of hot water while we get fired up for the day with steaming hot ... cold... showers to get our blood pumping and heart rate going like no other! And ´that which does not kill me only makes me stronger,´ right? Amen Rachel, SW is the best mission prep!

Elder Flint and I have really been enoying working with Sebastião, Marcos, and Fábio & Andrea, the elect of our ´Brasilian bunch´. Sebastião and Marcos have separately expressed their desires to be baptized when they´re ready (they don´t have a set date yet), and Fábio and Andrea have enjoyed the two visits we´ve specifically had with them, teaching them the Restoration and watching the Restoration DVD. We are excited to talk to them about how families can be together for eternity, including theirs!

Well today was a fun Preparation day. We met with the other Elders of our district again and had lunch at the Parkers´, and then went to the town/castle of Óbidos, where the old castle wall envelopes most of the town. I saw a lot of souvenir stuff, aprons, wooden swords, tile drawings, even sling shots, that made me think of my wonderful family. Sadly, I make no promises of souvenir gifts due to lack of and limited mulah and space/weight.

Well I love all of you, and am so happy to hear good news from ya´ll when it comes! Stay strong!