Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Heading for the Campo (Field) This Friday!

Self Portrait

Goodbye Sao Paulo!

I leave for the campo (field) this week, on Friday the 30th. I have been here at the MTC (Mission Training Center) for 9.5 weeks. We leave at 4 AM for an hour and a half long flight directly west to Londrina. There are 17 of us going down; 6 Brazilians and 11 Americans.

This week the MTC had the opportunity to hear Elder Richard G. Scott, from the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles. He is fluent in Portuguese. He had many great things to say, primiarily about being a good example, and working hard. He said that a good indicator of whether you're working hard enough is if you go home exhausted each and every day for the next 97 weeks.

We also got to pick up some trash, too. WooHoo! At first, it sounded dumb and pointless, but as I started out, I really got into it and felt like it was a worthy cause. The streets here are insanely filthy. People wonder why the streets flood so easy. Well, it's because the sewers are full of trash. Anyway, it was a good thing to do.

Next week the real updates start coming as I start being an actual missionary. We're entering the rainy season, and I hear Londrina gets a LOT of rain, and the thunderstorms are unreal.

Fun fact for you: Londrina means "Little London" in Portuguese!

I will compile more of these in the future, but here are some words in Portuguese that are similar to other words in Portuguese that are easy to mix up. For this week, I could only think of one. There are many, many more that I've slipped up on already, but I'm having some serious brain farting going on right now with my time constraints. More next week.

religiao = religion
relogio = watch

People look at you like you're really stupid when you ask, "Voce tem um relogio?" or, "Do you have a watch?"

"Ate proxima semana" or "Until next week."

Elder Titus

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Proselytizing in Downtown Sao Paulo!

My district in front of the beautiful Sao Paulo Temple

Leaning out our window to check out the world around us...

such as this beautiful sunset...

or this gentleman pulling his cart full of treasures to the market.

Okay, I finally got some action!!

Last friday was “Proselytizing, Round 2.” This time in the middle of downtown Sao Paulo. It was nuts! We were dropped off near a “carnival” or a big parade in the streets, with crazy drunk college kids, complete with hundreds of riot police. Great...

Elder Burt and I decided to go into a little plaza/park area to try and give away our 2 Books of Mormon, away from all the commotion. It took us awhile to get a good conversation going. We approached a guy sitting down, but he wasn’t interested. While talking to him, 2 drunken bums came up to us. One was not coherent at all and I didn’t understand a word he said. The other talked about American basketball the whole time. We would ask him questions about it and he would think for a few seconds and talk about something else. That lasted for 30 minutes. While walking we were stopped by a young lady with a guy. Earlier her boyfriend had been given a Book of Mormon by Elders Castellanos and Ingram, and she came to us and was interested and wanted her own copy. We taught her about it, and she took one of our books with a smile. Elder Burt did most of the talking.

Then we just walked around for a while. I was searching for a family to teach. Finally I spotted one. A dad, a mom and a 2-year-old, sitting down. We approached, and things started flowing nicely. They were very interested. Brazilians love to hear about the Book of Mormon, because it’s a record of their ancestors and they have an immediate natural tie to it. I didn’t really understand a question they asked; something to do with sagrada, which means sacred. They talked of a Biblia sagrada, and even Elder Burt didn’t understand. It was awkward for a second, but then I just went on talking for another 10 minutes or so. At the end, we gave them a card with the chapel address on it and Elder Burt finalized our conversation with his testimony about eternal families and we said tchau.

Later, we were approached by a big, really dark-skinned guy. He was from England. He had just been released from prison the day before, for smuggling a kilo of cocaine from Brazil to Holland. He had been in prison for four years. His English wasn’t the best. He wanted Elder Burt’s bible so he could read and pray in peace, even though he was of Islamic faith. It was weird, he talked for a while too, about how we could make $500,000 in 4 days trafficking cocaine. Hmmm... most definitely not!

We were also stopped by a really excited lady, who just joined the church 5 years ago and recently went through the temple. That was a fantastic conversation!

At 3 15 PM, we started the head back. At the intersection before we were at the car, Elder Burt was stopped by a really drunken bum. He wanted to know God’s phone number. Elder Burt responded, “Prayer.” But the guy wasn’t content. Elder Burt then proceeded to write down some random numbers and the guy was thrilled and couldn’t stop hugging Elder Burt. It was hilarious.

Many more things happened, but those are the highlights. A quick preview of what I get to do everyday, starting October 30th, which is the new departure date. All the other districts are leaving this Friday, 10/23, but those of us headed to Londrina have been delayed a week. WooHoo! An extra week to study and become more familiar with the language. I’m lovin’ it!

And, because we aren’t leaving, we will still be here when Elder Richard G. Scott arrives. He is one of the General Authorities of the Church, and is coming to speak to the missionaries who are still here at the MTC. I’m really excited to hear him speak, and consider it a great blessing to be allowed to stay for another week.

Until next week, take care everyone!
--Elder Derek Titus

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

A Sneak Peek into a Typical Sunday at the MTC

Elder Santos shows off his amazing flexi-fingers!

From left to right: Elders Ellis, Ghormley, Yuma, Burt, Webb, Fujimoto, Parrott, Ingram, Castellanos, Jensen, Titus, Gibbons, Tomocene (from Mozambique). These are the guys that make up my "District"

It has been exceedingly boring this past week. Nothing exciting to tell you. Basically, it’s study, study, study. And since we will be headed to the outside world in less than two weeks, studying is a good thing!

So, let me tell you about Sundays. Our church starts at 9 AM and goes until noon. On most normal Sundays, we prepare a 10 minute talk on differing Christ-like attributes, such as faith, hope, charity, humility, etc. Then during Sacrament Meeting, one person is randomly selected from each district (there are 5 districts in my branch; and there are about 60 of us in the branch) to give their talk. Every new incoming district starts with the topic of faith, so every talk is on a different Christ-like attribute. Most talks are done in English. Maybe one in twelve is done in Portuguese.

I have yet to be selected. Whew! However, since you never know when you might be selected to speak, you don’t dare NOT to prepare! Several weeks ago, I prepared a really awesome talk on humility, and was actually hoping I would get called on to speak…no luck. I was actually bummed at not being able to stand up there and give my talk!

After Sacrament Meeting, we have Priesthood Meeting, where one of the members of the Branch Presidency talks. After this, we have a District Meeting in our classroom, where one companionship gives a lesson, usually only about 30 minutes long. Elder Burt and I had the opportunity to give a lesson on “The Role of the Book of Mormon” last week on the 11th. It went very well, although it’s rather intimidating to teach your peers.

At noon, we have some free time. We can watch a church video in Portuguese w/English sub-titles, go to choir practice, or sleep/write/study (guess which one I choose to do?). At 7 PM there is a Fireside, usually a Brazilian Area Seventy (to my cycling peeps: no, a “Fireside” isn’t done sitting around a campfire, it’s basically a spiffy name for another meeting. And an “Area Seventy” is a man who is pretty high up in church authority.) Afterwards we have companion study time; then planning; then snack time at 9:30 PM and then it’s off to bed.

Next week in Sacrament Meeting (10/18), my district will be singing “Come Thou Font,” 2 verses in English and two verses in Portuguese. It’s a tradition for the leaving districts to sing a hymn on their last Sunday at the MTC. And I’ll bet you thought I took a nap instead of going to choir practice! Shame on you.

This coming Friday, we get to go out proselytizing again! This time they’re dropping us off in the middle of downtown Sao Paulo. Stay tuned…

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

Street Contacting!

Sao Paulo Sunset

Massive rainstorm! Notice the water spewing from the spout across the street.

Elders Rodriquez, Santos, Titus and Burt. Elder Burt is my companion.

Week six has come and gone! I’ve been told that I’ll be transferred out into the field (somewhere in Londrina) about October 23rd. I’m excited, and also a little nervous. I wish I knew the language better, but I guess that’s what everybody says. I’m one of the top in my class, so I hope I’ll manage okay.

Last Friday we went “street contacting,” with a goal to hand out two Books of Mormon. I think I’ve mentioned this before, but in case you forgot, people here don’t speak English. Anyway, it went really well. Elder Burt and I met a man sitting outside his house. We asked if he believed in God and Jesus Christ, and he said, “Certo (s-air-too),” which is the English equivalent of “word,” but actually means “correct.” We asked him if he believed in the Old Testament prophets, like Noah and Moses, and he replied again, “Certo.” We told him of the authority they had to direct the church at that time, and to receive revelation for the people. And we explained that without the proper authority on the earth, the church could not function, and that when Jesus Christ and the Apostles were killed, that authority was gone, too. But with the formation of America came freedom of religion and we went on to tell him about Joseph Smith and how he noticed there were many churches and they taught so many different things. In Ephesians 4:5 it says, “…one Lord, one faith, one baptism.” Joseph was confused, so he went to the Lord in prayer. God answered his prayer. And when Joseph had matured enough, the Lord led him to the Book of Mormon, a record of scripture about the people of the ancient Americas. We explained how the Book of Mormon testifies of Christ and like the Old and New Testaments of the Bible, it is another testament of Jesus Christ. We gave him a Book of Mormon with our testimony that if he read it and prayed to know if it was true, that he would receive his answer. He took it from us with a smile on his face. It felt really awesome.

We then talked to a few younger guys, one was in a hurry and the other was not religious. We found another man sitting down and talked with him, and had another successful lesson. He asked, “Quanto costa?” which means “how much?” We told him, “De graca,” which means “It’s free,” and he had a smile on his face as he took the Book of Mormon from us. Before we left him, I pointed out a few of my favorite scriptures that he should read first; such as 2 Nephi 29:7-8 which explains that there is more scripture beyond the Bible, because there are many nations in the world, and God knows of them and loves them enough to talk to them, just like He did with the Jewish people. Also, Moroni 10:3-5 which talks about praying to know whether or not the Book of Mormon is true, through the power of the Holy Ghost. I mean, really, how many books give a promise that you can discover whether their content is true or not?

Overall, it has been a fun time and I’m really excited to get out into the real world. But, for now, there are still 2-1/2 more weeks of class.

Elder Rodriguez and Elder Santos left today and are both headed to Recife, Brazil. It won’t be the same without them. Elder Santos was really getting good at Uno!