Dear Family, So, I had this idea. One hour isn’t enough time for me to write all that I want to tell you guys about. So, I started writing, along with my journal, in a notebook what I thought was cool about that day. Every Day. I tried to do one spiritual experience and one that was funny or made me happy. Then I took a picture of all the pages (There are 15 this week) and I’m sending them to you guys. I hope it works! Then I thought, Hey, I’m like Nephi! I have my large plates. The ones I write everything that happens. That’s what I share with you guys. Then in my actual journal I write the more personal stuff that I don’t want the world to know. ;) It’s pretty great and it gives me more time and I don’t feel near as rushed. Which is super nice!
SO…Here is his letter this week. He split it up by days and it’s long, but sooo good and gives us a detailed look at his missionary life.
Terca: (Thursday) Splits! I went with Elder Pompeu for the day and Elder Santos Melo went with Elder Hull. Elder Pompeu has 2 months in the mission and speaks very little English, which he would not speak with me. Which was awesome. I like struggling through Portuguese because it makes me better. We got 20 addresses to contact latter, which is good and bad. Good because it’s a ton of addresses. The weekly goal was 30. It’s bad because it means that we aren’t in houses teaching. One thing I had a love-hate relationship with was the fact that Elder Pompeu would say, before we clapped at the door, “This one is you”. Then he would clap and I would do the door contact. Beginning of the day, I struggled hard. But by the end of the day I felt very comfortable with it, until they talked back. One time I did a contact. I said, “I’m Elder McKee. This is my comp Elder Pompeu. We are representatives of the church of Jesus Christ, and we have a message of the restored gospel of Jesus Christ and how it can bless you and your family. Could we please enter and share this message with you?” The common reply of “No, come back”. Then Elder Pompeu, a native Brazilian said almost the same thing I say…almost because when he said it, it made sense. The person then replied, “Could you come tomorrow?” haha. Being American is awesome. Everyone thinks I’m a Brazilian until they hear me talk. Then it is pretty obvious.
Quarta: (Wednesday) Today in a lesson with a guy we met on the street, legit he pulled out marijuana, the paper stuff they use to roll joints, and with the help of his wife because he is missing half of his right hand he rolled the joint and started smoking, while he was listening to and talking about the restoration of the gospel. But him and his wife were very religious. They had two very used bibles on the TV and were very excited when we gave them a Book of Mormon. I’ve learned today that sometimes people just need to talk. One lady, when we started talking to her, just started going off about all of her problems. Complaints about kids, handicap daughter, work, all sorts of stuff to two missionaries she didn’t even know. We’re called to serve. Any form of showing Christ-like love fits that job description.
Saw another spider during lunch at a member’s house. It was eyeballing me from the wall. But I was chill about it. I smashed that thing with a broom. Also, I’ve lost weight, and I eat lots of tomatoes now. So good! I’ll tell you what, nothing in my life felt so good as going to a house, and 4 kids come running out, ranging from 3 to 12, yelling, “Elder, Elder!” And they start telling me about their day and I ask them about school and they sometime try their English out on me. We have secret handshakes. They are honestly so excited to see us every time. I love it more then anything. One thing about here is everyone shakes hands when greeting, leaving, talking, and whenever you make eye contact it seems. The girls usually just stick their hand out and you grab it and let go. No grip or shake. The men sometimes don’t let go. There’s many different ways they do it. Legit, I shook hands with someone I hadn’t even said anything yet, and he said, “Oh, you’re American.” Haha. I’ve learned the ways now. Also, everyone here is pretty much short. 30 years old men and a head shorter then me. And it’s getting to where we’re tight enough that they hug me. When they hug, they like nuzzle their heads into my chest, which is strange. Another thing worth mentioning is that EVERYONE listens to American music. English lyrics that they don’t understand. But I swear they know the music better then I do. They all always sing along, and they totally know all of the words. And I think they’ve all just grown so used to having background noise that now they have to have it. At the Bishops house we were talking to the Bishops wife and she randomly picked up the remote while she was talking and without stopping her talking or breaking eye contact she turned up the TV. Everyone is like that. Music, TV, video games. And, all the video games are in English so they don’t understand the words. Let me tell you, I’ve taught lessons with some pretty profane backgrounds. We try to get them to turn it off, but they don’t always do it. I’ve taught lessons to people smoking, with dogs on my lap, on couches I wouldn’t even consider sitting on normally, twice during a lesson I’ve had mothers start breast feeding right in the middle of a testimony, and once more in Gospel Doctrine class in church. But I’ve also taught people who were more prepared for this message than I think I’ve ever been. A 14 year old boy, who looked like Christmas had come early when we gave him a Book of Mormon. And he was so excited to talk about anything religious we could give him. People who have straight out said, “I don’t know why there are so many churches, but I don’t think they could all be true. There’s only one God.” It’s amazing and humbling to me to actually see people who don’t know where they came from, why they are here, and where they are going. People who don’t know they have a Heavenly Father who loves them. Basic things that I’ve known my whole life and have taken for granted.
Quinta (Fifth): I knew today was going to be a great day as soon as I put on my newly shined shoes and saw how fresh they looked on my feet. Legit I was smiling as I walked down the streets, watching my prime shoes walk. It didn’t last long, though, because they soon became dusty and non-fresh but it set the mood for the day. Today was a very good day for understanding. It’s finally starting to begin to almost click. (You may have to read that last line again for it to make sense). We have 3 people marked for baptism on the 19th. (All for the 12th fell though). But these three are prime. Thomirdes, who has 12 years, but looks like she is 15. Edi who is old. Granddaughter of Edi, who loves the lessons. I think they will all be ready for the 19th. Funny story about Edi, today we were teaching her the law of chastity and she loved it! She said “No other religion has this!” Then we said, after going over the whole no relationships, outside of marriage, we said, “will you live this law of chastity?” and she replied, “Yes, of course. I already have been for four years.” SHE IS 75 YEARS OLD! Hahahaha. I died on the inside a little bit. I thought it was hilarious. So, Elder Hull just came in and told me something very cool. Remember how I mentioned the 14-year-old boy who looked like Christmas had come early when we gave him the Book of Mormon? We gave it to him at about 6:30 last night and committed him to read a little bit. Elder Hull showed me where that boy (Kevin) read to. He literally did not put the book down until 3:00 am, then picked it right back up when he woke up, and when they stopped by about 24 hours after giving him the book he was in 4th Nephi!! AHHHHHH! They talked for a little bit, and Kevin said it doesn’t all make sense, but this book is incredible. He said every time he closed it and went to put it down, he would just be dying to pick it up again and read more. They had a member with them in the lesson, and they told him about the seminary class at the church, and he hurried and got dressed and him and the member left for the class right then. I’m flipping out. Amazing how God prepares people. Another cool story from today was we were knocking at the door of a contact, and she wasn’t home. And by knocking I mean clapping. And by clapping I mean making every dog on the block have a barking contest. Constant dogs. Anyways, a neighbor came over and told us that she wasn’t’ home. We asked if we could share the message with him, and he invited us into his house. We taught and talked with him and his wife. I literally could not understand a single word that they said, but the old man started crying when I was explaining the plan of salvation and bore testimony that I know we can be with our families forever, and live with God again. Then he said, “You two are always welcome here. I want you to know and say hi every time you pass this house.” I understood when he said that just fine. So cool. So I saw the coolest job today. I’ve actually seen a lot of it, but today I decided to write about it. This guy drives around randomly through the streets on a motorcycle and with a speaker about the size of my blanket chest in the living room strapped to the back and this speaker plays the same advertisement over and over and over again. So loud literally you can hear it from a mile away. The people driving around on the bikes never look too happy, but I always wave at them to try and brighten their day. Dinner today was a real treat. 6 reais, about 2 US dollars, for a ‘complete’ hotdog. I ordered the complete from the ghetto hotdog stand our neighbor owns because when she listed off the 50 ingredients they could put on it, I just looked at the first thing written on the menu and read it. Complete. All-inclusive. Nothing left behind. Let me tell you about this hot dog. They grill the hotdog, cut in half longs ways. Then, they put in in a huge bun along with other ingredients, and Panini grills it. SOOO good! But they weren’t kidding about the complete. Tomatoes, rice, corn, lettuce, ketchup, mustard, mayo, beans, and a ton of other stuff I didn’t even know the name of. Hot dogs and tomatoes. I welcome them both now and ask for more. The Lord really does turn our weaknesses into strengths.
Sexta (Friday): Well, President and Sister Parrela randomly showed up at our house today and called us and told us to come to the house. After a very thorough cleaning check, Sister Parrela saw my bed and that I wasn’t using sheets because I just lay on top and wrap up in that soft blanket mom gave me. She did not approve. She is a very funny lady, who speaks the fastest Portuguese I’ve heard yet. She stripped my bed down to the mattress and had me get out my sheets and then she remade my bed, the whole time saying, “Esta e sua coma” (This is your bed). Then she went walking around the house, and had me follow with a notebook as she told me stuff we need to buy for the house. I could hardly keep up. President Parrela is an awesome guy. He speaks English to me, but makes me speak Portuguese with him. He interviewed me and started by asking what I thought of the area and the people. I got through my first sentence about the area and he stopped me and said, “Did you speak any Portuguese before the mission?” I replied no and he said, “You have truly been blessed with the gift of tongues, Elder McKee.” Then we continued talking. He served in this mission, too. Though I didn’t know what years Uncle Roy served so he had me write down his name because I guess there is some sort of a conference coming up and he will see him. He already knew who he was. Also, We went to a member baptism/birthday. Haha. It was interesting. Trampolines and a ball pit in the big room of the church, (they don’t have a gym, just a big room) and EVERYTHING decked out in ‘Frozen’. The father of the girl owns a bike shop and is on the city council of Santa Maria. Big deal. Very wealthy, especially by the standards here. Anyways, they had this dessert thing. I can’t remember the name of it, but it was SOO good. And an investigator I’m pretty good friends with said that she would teach me how to make it on Monday P-day. They are like balls of fudge, but so much better. Entao, (Then) with President and Sister Parrela coming and this big grande fiesta of a baptism we didn’t get much teaching today. But there were a lot of people at the baptism and we talked to all of them. We set up a table with pamphlets, Books of Mormon, and pass a long cards that they could take, but one guy took our restoration movie that was set out cause it’s cool and it was our only one. No big deal though. Oh!! I totally forgot, but yesterday I think I saw a baby get revived back to life. Scariest thing in my life. We were at the house of Sondra and her 10 year old daughter was holding the baby. We were talking to Sondra about stuff (she is less active) and the 10 year old girl screamed and ran with the baby over to Sondra. Sondra grabbed the baby and tried to hear it breathe. But it wasn’t. She screamed for the mother, because the baby is her granddaughter, and the mom came running out. Sondra was holding the baby belly down, hitting its back, like the hymlick for babies. The mom yelled and grabbed the baby and started doing it harder. Then felt for breathing, then went back to hitting its back. Elder Santos Melo and I were going over to where they were, to see what we could do, and the 10 year old aunt of this baby was freaking out. Then I sat back down on the couch and said a prayer, something like, “Dear Heavenly Father, please bless this baby to be ok. In the name of Jesus Christ, Amen.” Then I started to get back up and the baby coughed and started crying. This all took about 90 seconds. Super Scary moment.
And now for a funny moment. At the baptism when we were talking to everyone I was chilling with Elder Pompeu and then he said, “Alright, now you pick someone to talk to.” I was looking around for someone who looked like I would be able to understand them and I made eye contact with a lady and she smiled at me. So I went over with Elder Pompeu and said, “Hi, I’m Elder Mckee. This is Elder Pompeu. Is this your first time to come to this church?” haha not the best opening line, I know. She replied, “No, but I think it might be yours.” Then Elder Pompeu put his arm around me and said, “ She’s been baptized and very active for 16 years.” Yes, I tried contacting a member. I don’t know if that counts as a baptism or not.
Sabado (Saturday): So I will start off with my funny story for the day. Lunch at a members house and the other companionship is there with us. Coconuts come up and they start talking about the price, sizes, and how they like to eat it. I was very confused and grossed out. And let me explain why. I thought they were saying Coco’ when they were actually saying coco. Coco means coconut and coco’ means poop. Haha. When I made this connection I couldn’t stop laughing. But I kept it quiet so nobody would notice. I got my laughing under control but then someone would say “I usually pay about 6 reais for my cocos” and I would start laughing again.
We had a lesson today that was AMAZING. A man and his wife (they’re actually married!!) who are evangelical. But we taught them the restoration, and it took an hour and a half. You aren’t supposed to go that long usually, but they had so many questions and comments. So good! And we had a member with us who is their neighbor who bore awesome testimony and when they asked one question that was tricky to answer, he turned right to a scripture and read almost a whole chapter while they followed along and it was perfect. The investigator is missing all of his left leg and he goes around on crutches. At the end of the lesson he said, “don’t you guys have church tomorrow? What time? I think we want to go.” YES YES YES! He asked before we could even bring it up. SO COOL! He listened so intently to every word and so did his wife. They told us that they had been having 2 missionaries from another church teaching them, but that they were going to ask them to stop coming. So yesterday, before the baptism/birthday party we stopped by Daiana’s house, an investigator whose whole family is just prime. They were cutting wood for their fireplace with a hand saw. Just little pieces, but they had a lot to cut. So Elder Santos Melo and I took off our jackets and took the saw from them. Elder Santos Melo started cutting, and I was scared for my life a little. Haha. So I took the saw from him and went to town, like I do. Behind me Raphael (the member guy who is really good family friends next door) whistled and said, “McKee isn’t American. He’s a worker.” Haha What is that implying? I don’t know. I think it embarrassed Santos Melo a little, because he tried again. So we timed how long it took to cut all the way through for him, then for me. Let me establish my section was a good half-inch thicker than his. He cut his in 7 seconds. I cut mine in 4 seconds. That’s right, amigos. Then I just kept cutting while Santos Melo talked with them until we left. J It felt good to do something besides talking and walking.
Funny story I remembered today from the MTC. At the devotional where Elder Nelson of the 12 spoke, an Elder sitting next to Sister Doyle (a sister in my district) asked if he could borrow a piece of paper to take notes. She gave him one. Then as President Nelson started talking, he passed the paper back to her and he had written, “Want to trade emails? Yes or No? “ or something like that. Sister Doyle wrote back, “Please pay attention to the apostle.” Haha. Como Se Diz (How do you say) “roasted”. Score for Sister Doyle. Haha. I just remembered it today and it was so funny.
I dedicated an investigator to an amazing commitment today. He’s going to teach me how to make Churrasco! WOOT! WOOT! When I speak better Portuguese though. Then we scheduled dinner at his house next Domingo (Sunday), and he is going to make us Churrasco. And guess what else. Our lunch for next Sunday I also committed to making us Churrasco! TWO Churrasco in one day!! Isso Ai Amigos (That’s it Friends). Also, remember that green earth drink Joci and everyone that goes to Brazil talks about, Chimarrao (pronounced she-ma-how)? Well, I’m not allowed to drink it. And seriously everyone is always drinking it. Sister Parrela is way into health and know a lot and she said it has a lot of caffeine, so none of the missionaries can drink. Same with caffeinated sodas. But Guarana is 4 reais for 3 liters!
DOMINGO (Sunday): Everton, the guy with one leg that we met yesterday, came to church; carrying his Book of Mormon we had given him. And he loved church! I was watching him and he was hanging onto every word. And he went around with a smile the whole three hours on his crutches saying hello and talking to literally EVERYONE. So awesome. He is an amazing man. We stopped by his house later in the evening, and after I explain what we talked about you’ll probably respect him even more. He told us about his accident with a motorcycle, which was how he lost his leg. Then he lifted his pant leg and the leg he still has was all deformed and messed up with scars and he showed us all the locations of the plates and pins in that leg. Then, his left arm, which he has full use of his hand, some with his elbow, but at the shoulder he can’t move his arm at all. So, the part of the arm from the shoulder to the elbow has no movement at all. He grabs his left arm with his right, and pulls it to what he wants to grab. He showed us the police report and everything. I understood very little of what he said, but it was very serious. When he got to the hospital he was basically paralyzed, with his jaw messed up and his arms and hands numb and unable to move. While he was telling the story he kept saying how grateful for the grace of God he was. How much his faith was strengthened. Then he stopped, and asked us if we wanted water. I said, No thanks, but Santos Melo said yes. So he got up and limped to the kitchen. He is the most prepared, happy, humblest person I have ever met. Then we talked some more about baptism. He’s been baptized twice already in other churches, but he believes that it wasn’t by the right authority, and he needs to be baptized again. Como se diz (How do you say) ‘Prime Investigator?” Oh, he is awesome. When he was explaining how he was saved by God, I started crying. This man is absolutely amazing. Then all the sudden he said, “I need to make a call” and he called a woman for a few seconds, hung up, apologized because he needed to take some meds. Then he showed us some of his meds, and he had a lot. He took these aspirins that were about the size of a quarter, then apologized again and said we needed to leave. A blood vein in his head is messed up, and sometimes it doesn’t let enough blood to his brain. Which is problematic. I think he just needed to lay down and take some meds for it. He’s amazing.
So we stopped by Renan’s house for our last stop today. He’s a 15 year old member who is less-active with his family. He is AWESOME! We got there and they had a lot of family over. Renan, who is a good friend of ours, let us in and then left to the other room, for about 15 minutes. When he came back he had made us dinner. Haha. It’s a dinner I’ve had a few times, they hollow out a roll and put diced hot dogs with some salsa thing, and it is so good. He kept making them, and I ate like 6 of them. Then his family finished making their dinner. And they asked me if I was hungry and wanted any. When I said “No, thank you." They must have heard “yes, please, give me a pile of rice, and meat the size of my head, because I am starving,” because that’s what I got. Then Renan asked if I wanted any coke, which I can’t drink. When I told him this, he said, “Oh! But you like Guarana right?” I said, “yes” and then he said to Elder Santos Melo “And you like Saco.” Then he left the room. 15 minutes later, he came in with a grocery sack. He had walked to the store to buy us drinks! I felt so bad, but honestly everyone down here is so giving. It’s like a whole country of Uncle Jr’s and Aunt Han’s. J haha. One of them asked me where I was from, and I replied “Rio de Janeiro” but I said it like an American. And they all thought that was so funny. Have you every tried singing the battle hymn of the Republic in Portuguese with the fastest speakers in Brazil? It’s not easy. I gave up on trying, and I would just join in on the chorus. This was during a sort of Naite Familiar (like FHE) with a member family and family of investigators that are very close and we are good friends with. I was the only one signing during the chorus because they were all laughing so hard. It’s crazy, I’ve already hit 2 months total on the mission. I’m 1/3 of the way to being ¼ of the way done with my mission. (that’s ½ total). Honestly, I feel like it is going too fast!! It’s going to be over before I know it and that scares me. But I’m loving every moment of this mission while I can.
If you’re wondering what I do on p-days after shopping and emails, while everyone else takes a nap or does something similarly productive, I watch the district with Portuguese subtitles, and read em voz alto (in a deep voice) the subtitles while listening to the English to try and help me learn to read fast. Because I need it. haha.
I love you all,