Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Yikes! Those are some huge spiders!

Elder Hair and I as we cross a bridge

Aren't they just sweet? NOT!

My time is short now, but that’s okay, since this week was extremely uneventful.

Last Thursday, on the borders of our area while trying to find a house, we found another family to teach. And along the way, there was a tree, full of monstrous, venomous spiders. They were bigger than my hand. We fed one an ant, and it ate the thing whole, not cool.

Will, who is part of the family of Rosi and Cida (who just got baptized), is progressing very well, and might get baptized this Saturday. We’ll see. As of now, our teaching pool is getting emptier and emptier. We are teaching people, but I can’t get too excited yet, until they go to church. I don’t know why that is so hard.

Sorry this is so short, I’m out of time. I spent part of my hour writing to my “church family” back in Covington. I’ll have mom attach the letter so you can read it, too.

Elder Titus

To My Dearest Crestwood Ward,

I’ve been on my mission for 6 months now. Crazy! Time flies when you’re getting sunburned.

Things are going swell here in Brazil. I’m currently in a city called Bauru. It is the northern most city of our mission, 5-1/2 hours from our mission home in Londrina, and 14 hours from the southern most city of Iguaçu Falls. So yeah, our mission isn’t small, more of less the size of Oregon. And even though its one of the southern most missions in Brazil, it’s not cold, in fact you could say its quite boiling hot, but every curse has a blessing, in this case, a sweet neck collar tan line.

My companion is Elder Villela from Belo Horizonte, Brazil. He’s cool, his only downside is that he likes to iron his bed sheets, which is extremely weird to me, but me not ironing MY bed sheets is extremely weird to him, so who am I to talk?

There are 6 areas in Bauru, of which we’re in the downtown region, where all the rich people live. Nearly everyone has those stupid intercom doorbell things, where they don’t even have to get off their couch to tell us to go away. In our area the work is a little slower. We teach 20 lessons per week, whereas my last area in Londrina, we taught 30-35. Nonetheless, we’re teaching a guy named Will, who is progressing very well, and has just about stopped smoking. He should get baptized here pretty quick. The rest of his family already left him behind, and were baptized earlier this month.

I have successfully gained 2 lbs even while walking 12 miles a day. I used to think the white rice and beans thing was a big joke before the mission, but I have in reality, eaten with little variety, the same lunch for the last 6 months. The grocery stores here are very similar to the ones there, but they have a special aisle, where one side is rice and the other side is beans. And while it doesn’t sound too tasty, it's actually quite good.

So, anyway the mission is going good, an awesome experience. It has recently gotten better since I’m getting closer and closer to fluency in Portuguese. It’s so good to be understood, and to be able to understand. I had one special experience where the Lord blessed me with the gift of tongues; one day I talked fluently with a bum. We actually had a real conversation for like 2 minutes, and I have no idea what I said, but he seemed to understand. It’s real, the Lord has blessed me immensely with the language, something that confounds the wise on the streets, when they ask how long I’ve been here.

One thing that is most valuable on a mission, is the testimony that a missionary gains. During the last 6 months I’ve come to realize how perfect the gospel is. The only question I haven’t been able to answer is why we celebrate Christmas on December 25th, but everything else we can answer. We like to milk the phrase, “Fullness of the Gospel” and people don’t really like that phrase, but we can back it up.

Brothers and sisters, the church is true. If you don’t know that for sure, figure it out. We have been immensely blessed to have a knowledge of this gospel, and I thank the Lord everyday that it was so easy for me to find it. Missionary work is inspired, and as hard as it is, it's more than worth it.

Until the next letter, I bid thee farewell.

With love, from the depths of my sun burnt heart,

Elder Titus.

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Survived Carnaval...

Can you say "exhausted?"

So, Monday the 15th at district meeting, Elder Hair asked me if I had a special day yesterday (14th). It took me a while to realize it was Valentines Day. Wow, didn’t have a clue. That’s right ladies, I got that many letters. haha. He also told me the Olympics are going on right now. I had no idea about that, either!

We all survived “Carnival” otherwise known as “Brazilian Sin Week” (see notes below). All of the partying is in the big cites, so it was tranquilo here. Four days of partying -- for everyone but us. In some areas of Brazil, the elders are asked to stay inside their apartments and not go out. I don’t know the purpose of the celebration, but it happens every year. All of the church youth go on a campout every year, to get out of the city. That’s cool. Consequently we had like no one in church on Sunday. All of our investigators were drunk.

We taught a lady who has been inactive for more than 30 years, and she came back to church! Her husband did not want to go to church, but he passed away. She has a daughter, Luana, (19) that will probably get baptized on the 6th.

On Thursday, we taught 8 lessons. That’s good. The next 4 days (Carnaval), we taught 8 lessons combined. That sucks. Everyone was traveling.

I think we might have found the breakthrough for less active members. Usually we teach the 1st lesson for them to re-ignite their testimony, but it never works. So this time, we tried teaching lesson 3, instead (the gospel of Jesus Christ), which teaches faith, repentance, baptism, the Holy Ghost, and enduring to the end. This lesson helps them feel some responsibility for their choices, emphasizing repentance and enduring to the end. Quite often there is a sense of guilt, too, which is good. Guilt leads to action.

A Brazilian burger, good -- but definitely not from McDonalds!

On Monday, I went on a division with Elder Hair, our district leader, and at night we ate this burger. It was good, but lacked traditional patties. Interesting food down here.

No one scheduled for baptism this week, but ya just never know.

My companion ironing his sheets. Not kidding!

Photo is of my companion, Elder Villela, ironing his sheets. Yes, that is correct. He ironed his bed sheets. First, he attempted to iron them while still on the bed. That wasn’t too successful, so he hauled them over to the ironing board and proceeded to iron the sheets one section at a time. Insane! (Gotta love ‘im though!)

Until next week!
Elder Titus

(From mom: Curious about what Carnival is, I looked it up. Oh, my gosh. Read on: The origins of carnival (or Carnaval in Portuguese) dates back to the ancient Greek spring festival in honor of Dionysus, the god of wine. The Romans adopted the celebration with Bacchanalia (feasts in honor of Bacchus, the Roman equivalent to Dionysus), and Saturnalia, where slaves and their masters would exchange clothes in a day of drunken revelry. Saturnalia was later modified by the Roman Catholic Church into a festival leading up to Ash Wednesday. It quickly evolved into a massive celebration of indulgences - one last gasp of music, food, alcohol, and sex before Lent - before the 40 days of personal reflection, abstinence, and fasting, which lead up to Easter (not exactly what the Catholic Church probably had in mind). 40 days of purging sins, preceded by a week filled with virtually every known sin. The word itself comes from Latin, "Carne Vale" or "Farewell to the Flesh". Carnival is the most famous holiday in Brazil and has become an event of massive proportions. The country stops completely as businesses shut down for almost a week and festivities are intense, day and night. The consumption of beer accounts for 80% of annual consumption and tourism receives 70% of annual visitors.

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Companion Gets Bit by Ferocious Wiener Dog!

The view from our apartment

Aparecida and Rosangela

The end of p-day last week was going well, haha. As we were walking past a lady with two leashed wiener dogs, one of them randomly jumped out while we passed by and bit Elder Villela on the leg. Elder Villela yelped. We´re hoping that he doesn’t die, but it’s in the hands of the Lord. Just kidding, he is fine.

Rosangela and Aparecida were finally able to fulfill the Word of Wisdom and they got baptized last Saturday. I baptized Aparecida, the one on the left. That was a bit difficult, because, well, she’s a big lady. But I did it.

We had an interesting experience this past Sunday. During church, some crazy lady yelled in through the window, “Can I come in?” One of the bishopric members then escorted her in. She walked up to the front row, and took a piece of bread from a deacon, and asked loudly if they had water. Then she turned around to leave, telling the deacon not to touch her foot, of which he replied quietly that he wasn’t. She then left screaming like a demon. I thought it was funny, but some members didn’t see the humor.

Just when I thought I had seen everything, I saw a guy riding a bike with horse reins attached to the handle bars. He was sitting upright, holding the reins and steering the bike with them. Very strange.

This weekend is looking empty for baptisms unfortunately. We had a nice spiritual lesson with Adão and his family with the Stake President there, too. We talked about eternal families and actually marked the baptismal date for everyone for the 20th. The next time we returned, everything completely changed and only Natalia wants to be baptized, but her parents won't let her. I don’t know what happened. It’s frustrating.

We need to find new people to teach this week.

Portuguese lesson for the week:

jamais - never (nunca is more formal)
demais - too much

Eu jamais como demais. (I never eat too much.)

Funny verb I learned in the dictionary: ziguezaguear, means to zigzag (pronounced: ziggy-zaggy-ar)

Elder Titus

Wednesday, February 3, 2010

Learning Patience Among Other Things...

The view from our apartment in the city of Bauru

Warning! Flash Flood Alert

I think I forgot to say “Happy 5 Months!” last week. I celebrated by taking a shower – outside! The weather that day went from hot to tempest-of-the-year in under 20 minutes, literally. Brazil knows how it’s done. We were actually trapped on a street corner as a raging river went rocketing down the street. Umbrellas are useless too, when the rain is coming sideways.

This week had more downs than ups unfortunately. I had a guy this week tell me to go back to America. That was kind of depressing for like 20 seconds. Then I got over it. Also, we taught a guy that had read anti-Mormon publications about Joseph Smith, saying that he was a drunk, beat women, and was imprisoned for crimes. The man was furious. I swear, when he spoke he was holding a bucket of tar in one hand and a bucket of feathers in the other. We finally calmed him down and were able to leave in peace, but it was difficult. And there were times when I nearly lost patience with him. Unfortunately, we were in his house, and he had the right to speak.

As missionaries, we all have our downtimes. You can have an amazing week all week long and then have one lesson like that one, and it ruins everything. But we learn and grow from the experiences we are faced with. Imagine the patience involved. In the end, we all come out better missionaries with stronger testimonies. The trick is learning to truly love those that hate you. It’s a process, and as a man, I’m not a fan of that guy, but as a missionary and brother, I care for him and wish him the best.

Rosi and Cida didn’t keep the word of wisdom last week, but they are doing perfectly this week, so far. They are conquering the hardest things to overcome: addictions to cigarettes and coffee. We should have 3 baptisms this Saturday. Natalia will be baptized, too. Hopefully her family will follow soon.

I made french toast this week. Oh, mercy! And take note, mom: The first place we are going to when I get back is DENNY’s!

Elder Titus