Sunday, January 3, 2016

Transfers, Christmas, Rain

SEGUNDA (Monday, December 14, 2015):  Woot Woot FOR P-DAY!  And it’s my last p-day with email for a while. But today was very great.  I didn’t get any packages, so they are going to hang out in the office for awhile.  All is well.
            So, with the holidays and me sending stuff home I’ve been using some of my personal money.  Like maybe $100.00 for a week.  But this transfer I am going to try and not use any personal money, live off the mission fund, which mine is cut short because of the blasted door.  But I don’t know what it is like in Sau Luiz Gonzaga.  So we’ll see.
            Also, I don’t have any idea what day or what time I will call my family.  I don’t know how to call them on Skype nor do I know if my account I made needs to buy credit.  It’ll be an adventure.
            Today we had a Noite Familiar which went awesome.  A family with a mixture of members, less actives, and non-members.  But they all love the missionaries and they gave me a Christmas Present, a cup with their family picture.  Very cool.
            My stuff is all packed and ready to go for tomorrow.  I’m excited to go, but sad to leave.  Today was day 160 of my mission.
TERCA (Tuesday):  Today was the longest day of my life.  So, Elder Donoso and I have the same bus, he just gets off before I do.  It’s to leave at 12:00.  We get to the bus stop at 11:20.  All is well.  I ask Donoso what time we need to get on the bus.  He mixes up the hours and says all is well.  Bus doesn’t leave until 12:30.  So, I think the 12:00 on my ticket is the boarding time.  10ish minutes to 12:00 I show him the ticket, he freaks, we run.  Long story short, we watch our bus drive away.  The specific booth for this brand closed until 1:00, so we are waiting to talk to them.  Here comes President out of the blue.  And he LAID INTO US!  With reason.  He asks us what we are doing now we say waiting for this place to open to get a bus for 2:00.  He says ok, that the mission will pay for nothing of our passage.  He leaves, BUT come to find out, the 2:00 bus only goes to Santiago, where Elder Donoso needs to be.  The next bus to Sao Luiz Gonzaga is at 7:00, which means I’d get there at 12:30 at night.  I go to information and ask the lady to help me out.  Throw me a bone.  She looks into EVERYTHING!, finds one for 1jui She says it is a 2 hour trip.  I’ll get there at 4:00, they have a bus at 4:15 for Sao Luiz Gonzaga, and this bus for 1jui leaves in 10 minutes.  I RUN, buy the ticket, RUN to grab the bus and go.  BUT, the trip was not 2 hours, it was 3.  I got there 45 minutes after the bus for Sao Luiz Gonzaga left.  The next one is a 9:00.  But even waiting for 4 hours for this one, I’d get there earlier then if I had waited in Santa Maria.  So, I’m in 1jui, nobody knows where I am, and I’m asking ALL the people there for any help.  One lady, a normal citizen, noticed my plight and asked if she could help.  I explained what happened and then she told me about how she recognized my name tag.  She had had the sisters in her house about 6 months back.  I used her phone, and called for my old area and told them to somehow pass it to Elder Pompeu.  About 30 minutes after this, the 2 elders in the area in 1jui show up.  They had received the call to come and stay with me. T he senior comp is on the phone nonstop with zone leaders and the assistants to President.  He LAYS INTO ME, and I can here President in the background.  Then he tells me to buy the trip at 9:00, which I had already done.  Elder Pompeu was in the house of the quorum President all day, until 11:15 when I got there in a taxi.  I honestly felt like garbage.  So much flippen confusion because of me.  I’ve NEVER EVEN USED THE BUS IN MY LIFE!  But all worked out well.  Today was day 161 of my mission.
QUARTA (Wednesday):  So this area is AWESOME!  The people here are much more open. Elder Pompeu is AWESOME.  Most of the people here, when we knock their door, the first thing they say is “come in, I’ll grab some chairs.”  They are so much more open then Salgado Filho.  But our area is NOT small like people had told me.  It’s the city of Sao Luiz Gonzaga completely!  And with us two the only missionaries in our district, we’re basically alone. 

Jake and Elder Pompeu

            We met a really cool new investigator today, I don’t remember her name, but she had SO many questions.  The principal one was why does she need to be baptized again?  Elder Pompeu is a great teacher.  We taught the restoration with a big emphasis on priesthood.  Very cool.
            I’m going to wait a little to tell you all about the investigators, because I don’t even know them all myself.  But I like this area and I am very excited to be here.  Tomorrow we have the zone conference of Christmas.  Today was day 162 of my mission.
QUINTA (Thursday):  Christmas Zone Conference!  Today was awesome.  At the start of every conference we all shake President’s hand and talk a little.  The first thing he said to me was “Elder McKee, Elder McKee, I want your head.”  Ha-ha-ha  So funny.  I said, “I know President, Forgive me.”  Then he said, “but, I do like your hair.  Did you finally buy a comb?”  Me: “Yes, and look at my shoes.”  Ha-ha.  Along with my hair he also always pointed out my shoes not being perfectly shined.  I shined them twice this morning.  He said, “Ahhh, You are forgiven!”  Then gave me a hug. Ha-ha.
            Also, I got the thanksgiving letter from mom, and the big Christmas box from Fran.  Ha-ha.  They got to my old area, and President brought them to me.  I didn’t know about the box until near the end.  Everyone is sitting in the chapel visiting.  4 elders who are very musically talented are signing and messing around with the guitar.  President comes walking in, “Elder Mckee, Elder Mckee, Elder McKee!”  With the box above his head.  Everyone goes quiet and is looking at the box and then at me.  The elders singing stop, one of them whispers something, then they start singing, “Because I have been giving much I too must give.”  Ha-ha.  It was so funny.  Man, that box was perfect.  In the talent show I was part of a trio.  We sang Silent Night in 3 languages:
English, Portuguese, and Spanish.  

Everyone that I talked to thought that I had over a year in the mission because of how I talk.  When I said I only have 6 months in truth, they said, “Oh, so you spoke Portuguese before?”  One American, who’s a very good friend of mine, said that if I stay at the level I’m at right now for the rest of my mission, I’ll leave the mission speaking Portuguese better then most American missionaries.  The gift of tongues is so real.  And it’s fulfilling the blessing in my patriarchal blessing. I'm very proud of the work I’ve put into and the results I’ve seen, in learning Portuguese.  But I still have a ways to go, of course.  I was talking to this American friend, Elder Hawk, telling him about the buses.  I was talking in English because there was a new guy right there who understood nothing.  A Brazilian listening cut me off and said, “Do you even realize that you are using just as much Portuguese as you are English?”  I said, “No, but when you’re learning Portuguese and speaking English Nao ten como Se fila um”.  Ha-ha, I returned to Portuguese on accident just talking to him.
            Today was a good day.  I learned a lot and had a good time.  And all is well with President and the assistants, too.  Today was day 163 of my mission.
SEXTA (Friday):  Today was SO good!  We had so many good lessons, and through references met 2 big families that are bursting with potential!!  And all of them were very receptive and accepted the invite to be baptized.  SO COOL!!  I love this area and I love working with Elder Pompeu.  I am so happy with today.  I, myself,  am learning during our lessons and always thanking of new ways to explain some principle.
            Our baptism for tomorrow fell through.  This 12-year-old girl, Dosne, doesn’t want to be baptized.  Her mom was baptized last Saturday and Dosne wasn’t because of coffee.  But now she’s good, but she’s scared or ashamed of some sort of something.  We are going to continue to work with her and figure out what is bothering her. 
            But today was very good.  I am super happy.  And excited for tomorrow.  WOOT WOOT!  I’ll tell you more about the families when they start progressing.  Today was day 164 of my mission.
SABADO (Saturday):  I never want to leave my mission.  And I never want to stop speaking Portuguese.  Many times today different people were surprised when I said I was American.  They said my accent just sounds like I’m from a different state.  AHHH!!  Do you have ANY idea how good that makes me feel?  I’m still working really hard to perfect my accent and learn new words, and perfect my grammar. 
            And tomorrow is Sunday.  I have a talk tomorrow about the missionary work.  That should be good.  I’m actually really excited.
            Today’s lessons were very good.  It’s amazing how many times it was my turn to talk and I didn’t even think.  Just opened my mouth and the words flowed, about any topic.  Many, that is awesome.  Finally, we are getting to where we can teach about the priesthood in a way that they UNDERSTAND!  Always teach for understanding.  Today was day 165 of my mission.
DOMINGO (Sunday):  Today was very good.  My talk went great, I feel.  Only one investigator came for sacrament, all the others bailed.  But we are going to visit them all this week and next Sunday it will be a set deal.
            So, we have one less active named Cintia.  She’s 19 years old, and she is AWESOME!  Pompeu and Smith visited her only a few times before I came, and she came to church today for the first time in 4 years!  Today we had a good lesson with her, a very good lesson.  We talked about the plan of salvation, with a lot more depth.  She had very good questions, and a real desire to understand.  She said that everything she has done in her life has been more for other people, to impress or to please.  But returning to church is something she is doing for herself.  So we set goals with her to stay in the church this time.
            Just to give you an idea of who she is, the last 3 times we’ve gone there, she’s been sitting on the couch, with some sort of food and watching ‘Supernatural’ or ‘Walking Dead’, or ‘Breaking Bad’, or ‘House’.  Ha-ha.  She has the first 6 seasons of ‘Supernatural’ in Portuguese, which I downloaded to my pen drive for after the mission.  Woot Woot!
            Today, in the Quorum of Elders, it hit me a little more how blessed we are.  They were talking about food storage, preparedness, and helping others.  The teacher said this, “Go to the store to buy this weeks food and IF YOU HAVE any money left over, buy a little extra rice to put away for the times family shows up and you have no food to give them, or you don’t have enough for your own family.”  One man talked about how he and his wife put away the equivalent of about 6 dollars per week to be ready.  Just think about that.  Today was day 166 of my mission.
SEGUNDA (Monday, December 21, 2015):  Today was a good day of rain!  Holy cow.  It was insane! One cool thing was in the street a random old guy stopped us and said, “Hey, you guys are the Mormons!  And one of you is American?”  I said I was.  Then he started talking to me a lot about random stuff that as nothing to do with anything.  Then, after a few minutes, I realized he was speaking English!  Ha-ha.  It was funny.  He’d speak English when he was looking at me, and then switch to Portuguese when he was looking at Elder Pompeu.  Then we tried to knock a door in the rain. Usually that’s the best time because they feel bad for you and let you in.  We knocked at one house, and this lady looked at us in the rain and shut the door.  The next lady told us to pass another day.  I made myself a promise.  If it’s ever raining, and I see a salesman or a missionary of any religion in the street, I’ll invite them in. Then bible bash with them. The salesman will think its weird.  Ha-ha.
  We passed the worst of the rain in the house of Cintia, the less active that’s returning strong.  We had a good message; we had her give it, choosing a scripture marked from years ago. Then, we ate cake. 
            One thing about my shoes that is awesome is water DOES NOT ENTER!  Except through the top.  One bad thing about my shoes is once water enters the top, it DOES NOT EXIT.  Ha-ha.  In the middle of the street I took off my shoes to dump out the water.  Today was day 167 of my mission.
TERCA (Tuesday):  So, because the district of Elder Pompeu and I is just us two, every other Terca we go to Santiago by bus to go to their district meeting. It’s about a 3 hour ride both ways.  I got quite a bit of extra sleep and read a considerable amount of Genesis.  We left at 7 am and returned home at 6 pm. 
Valeira, Pompeu’s recent convert, is great.  She was baptized 2 Sundays ago.  Her daughter, Dosne, was supposed to be baptized the same day, but she drank coffee.  Now she’s having 2nd thoughts about baptism.  She’s 12 years old.  She understands very well the importance of baptism.  She just doesn’t want it right now.  It’s frustrating.  We also passed by one of the families we found that one-day.  Samira, the mom, is in the hospital.  She’ pregnant and is feeling sick.  So, we didn’t go in the house.  We passed by another house with a family with LOTS of potential.  They just need to get married, and the grandma needs to stop smoking.  It was my first time meeting them all.  During the lesson about charity, I stated to talk and the man who has a strange name I don’t remember, when I was done said I scared him when I started talking.  He said he thought the terminator had snuck into the room.  My deep manly voice. ha-ha.  Well, there’s my day for today.  Today was day 168 of my mission.  24 weeks!  6 MONTHS!!!  WHAT THE HECK!!?
QUARTA (Wednesday):  This week is slow and it’s driving me crazy.  Christmas, so that makes it a little harder to get into people houses.  And it’s been raining, A LOT, NON STOP!  My feet look like zombie feet because they are wet ALL DAY and the color of my socks bleed onto my feet a little.
            Today at lunch they asked me how I am American AND dark.  I told them I’m part Indian, and then I showed them the family picture from Thanksgiving, which I made into the cover of my planner. He said, “AH, these people look Indian” and he pointed to Emily, Josiah, RJ, Uncle John, and Becky.  Ha-ha, that was cool.
            Today was a regular day for work. Elder Pompeu was feeling sick and it was raining.  But it was still a good day and I am proud of our lessons, the ones we did have.  Tomorrow we will be more in the side of the city where we have investigators.  And then have dinner with the family of Cintia!  Woot Woot!  Today was day 169 of my mission.
QUINTA (Thursday):  Today was SO GOOD!  Ha-ha, Elder Pompeu and I wore Santa hats for part of the day. Let me tell you, that is the secret to the work.  EVERYONE was talking to us!  Kids cheering, people telling us to pass by their house.  Awesome we had a lot of good lessons.  We tried to visit everyone and leave a short message about Christmas then leave them with their families.  I liked today.
            Then, we went to Cintia’s house for later in the day until we went home.  They invited us to have ‘cein’ with them.  A family of inactives and one who is returning and they are the only people who invited us.  No big deal.  We went and our curfew had been extended until 10:00.  Only, the tradition here is everyone waits until 12:00 to have ‘Cein’, which is a big dinner.  So, we got no food and we watched Mormon messages and the best 2 years (not all of it) while helping clean their house.  We had no other plans, nobody would have received us who didn’t know us, and we had committed with them.  But it was awesome.  We gave Cintia a Santa hat full of American candy and peanut butter.  She FLIPPED over the gummy bears and the peanut butter.  Then we also gave her one of my Christ drawings with our testimonies on the back.  We left them with a good message of Christmas with that Mormon message of the kids practicing the play with the presents, and at the end their shadow is a nativity scene.  Very good and we left them with a good spirit.  Then Cintia gave us both big hugs, which was weird.  But Merry Christmas!
            I’m putting together a box.  It has my journal I finished, PMG in English that I never use, a book of Mormon, presents for mom and Malena, and the travel papers I got in the MTC with my plane tickets.  Kind of cool.  Today was day 170 of my mission.
SEXTA (Friday):  MERRY CHRISTMAS!!  So today was the day I realized just how much I love y family.  It was so good to get to talk to them!  Even f it was with terrible English.  I asked my companion if he could understand, and he said he couldn’t’ understand my family, but me he could understand when my grammar was wrong.  Ha-ha.  And then after the call it was almost a relief to go back to Portuguese. 
            Today was p-day the entire day.  So, we didn’t have any lessons.  We watched the best 2 years, ate cake, drank juice, stayed up 30 minutes past curfew.  Ha-ha, and played with mom’s presents.  It was a good day.  Today was day 171 of my mission.
 Elder Pompeu Skyping his family.
 Jake sent us these Soccer Jerseys from Santa Maria.  He said there are two teams that are huge rivals and sometimes people ask what team he likes before they let him in the door.  haha.

MOM NOTE:  We got to talk to Jake for an hour and 20 minutes.  It was wonderful to see him and hear his accent.  He couldn’t speak English very well.  It was fun to listen to him.  When he would start telling a story he would start in English then switch over to Portuguese without even knowing.  We were able to ask him extra questions about certain people in his last area since we knew them each by name.  He loves his new companion and area.  He is excited to get to work there.  The box he got from Fran had chocolate muffins from Costco in there.  He loves those.  He said they were a little moldy but he ate them anyways.  He shares everything he gets.  He thanked us again for the prayers and support he gets.  The missionaries from his old area called him on Christmas morning because they had opened their presents we had sent.  They didn’t even get anything from their parents.  Jake also told us a funny story about how when he shows people the picture of his dad and him on his baptism day they think it’s Elder Jeffery R. Holland.  Ha-ha.  They tell him that that must be why he is such a good missionary because an apostle of God baptized him.  Marte thought that was great.  We loved our time talking to him.  We held it together until it was time to say good-bye, then mom couldn’t say it and dad had to finish the conversation.  I did get another ‘I love you’ in there, but that was HARD!  We love Jake, we miss him.  Our Christmas was different this year. But we wouldn’t have him anywhere else.  He is happy and thriving and that is the best thing we could ask for.
SABADO (Saturday):  Today I saw a child with her new roller blades trying to ride on the cobblestone road….
            But today was great.  This weeks been harder for lessons because of rain and people and our lower energy on our part, but today we turned it around.  We had a sort of companion inventory on a bench with Fanta sodas, and made a plan to change.  We still have a lot to do. 
            Really good lessons today.  One of them was with a woman who moved from Porta Alegre to here to live with her 17-year-old boyfriend who she met online.  She is 22-23, I’d say.  Not sure.  But, he’s a member already, and even though he’s inactive she’s very interested in religion.  She has LOTS of good questions, and actually has a desire to know the truth.  WOOT WOOT!  I just don’t know how I’ll feel about telling them they have to get married.  YUCK!
            Also, we have a list of less/inactives.  We went to hunt down the house of one of them and met her grandmother, who is also a member.  They were very strong, until she got very old and now she can barely walk.  Her granddaughter randomly packed up her stuff and left home about 2 months ago, but still works at the market.  She showed us a picture, and we recognized her, so we’ll be talking to her too, one day.  BUT!  About half way through the message, I looked at the wall and inside the book there was a HUGE spider.  Half black, half white, staring at me!  AHHH!  I couldn’t concentrate; I kept an eye on him the whole time, trying to be chill.  But, at the end, the old lady laughed and said, “I think Elder is scared of spiders.”
            Then we left and while we were walking I told Pompeu about my spider fear.  We walked a little more and as he went to knock on a door I said, “I swear when I think about them I can feel them crawling on me.”  And I passed my hand on my neck, and A SPIDER FELL ON MY SHIRT!  I flipped, jumping and spinning, not screaming TOO loud, and hitting myself.  When I calmed down, the guy at the door we had knocked said, “no thanks.  I have another religion.”  Elder Pompeu didn’t even try and explain, just wished him a good day and then died laughing at me.  Yea, my bad.  Today was day 172 of my mission.
DOMINGO (Sunday):  So, I’ll tell you about one lesson we had today that was awesome.  So, we have 2 investigators that really want to be baptized, but they need to get married.  He drinks a little, she smokes a lot, and she doesn’t want the marriage at all right now.  So, today we showed them the Mormon message expressions of love, and talked about marriage.  I said at one point that it’s much easier to feel someone’s love for you when they show it rather then just say it.  The ‘wife’ who I can’t remember the name of, looked at Eder, and said, “All you do is tell me you love me everyday.”  Eder is super funny and he then made it seem like I have ruined him.  He kept giving me grief, saying I had said that when he tells her he loves her it isn’t worth anything.  But then we talked about the law of chastity. At the end, Eder said that he really liked the lesson. T hen she asked what are the steps to quitting smoking?  And he said, “Lets mark our marriage right now.  I want to be baptized.”  But she still isn’t ready to get married to him.  We’re going to return on Wednesday to talk about the commandments and set up a plan for her to quit smoking and for him to stop drinking.  Woot Woot!!
            Also, Luciele came to church today!  She’s the girl that lived in Porto Alegre, and moved here to live with the 17 year old she met online.  She really has an interest.  This week was slower then normal, holidays, rain, and lower energy on our part.  But today we made a plan and fasted to change, and made a goal of baptisms for this transfer together.  This week is going to be a lot better.  Today was day 173 of my mission.
SEGUNDA (Monday):  Today was Great!  We over stepped all of our goals, even with an hour or so lost to buy food for the week, because today wasn’t a real p-day  Luciele is really progressing, and is understanding the lessons and asking more questions.  I am super excited to continue working with her.
            Today marked a very important day in my life.  I used sunscreen. Just to see what difference it would make.  NOTHING!  Just made my sweat stickier.
            We stopped by a family that was on a list of inactives we got.  Only the mom was home.  We talked with her and here’s her story more or less.  She was baptized.  Was very strong in the church.  Relief society president, she went on splits with the missionaries.  She told us about he joy she had with paying tithing.  But, one day the branch president, in an interview with her 13 year old daughter, said she should wear longer shirts and a longer skirt.  She had a list of little things like this.  She said she still has her testimony but she will never again go to church in Sao Luiz Gonzaga.  She said she’d wait for the Lord to show her that he wants her to return.  Pompeu showed her the commandment in the Bible, showing her the answer.  I told her 2 representatives of His church is answer enough that he wants her to go to church.  But she wasn’t having it.  It’s so sad to see people, who were so strong, but their testimonies had a weak spot, and they let Satan exploit it.  Another family was the same way.  But, one of the sons, who is 22 now, doesn’t believe in God at all. That was sad.  He said that God is nothing and Jesus was no more than another Jew. He used to be strong in the gospel, too!  This is why we need to ALWAYS be strengthening our testimony, because if it isn’t getting stronger it’s getting weaker.  There is no staying idle.  But during that lesson, I bore testimony of the light of Christ we all have and why I chose to serve a mission.  While I was speaking, I received proof to my heart that God exists.  Think about the times that you do something nice for someone.  We all get that good feeling inside.  Now think about sometime you wronged someone, and the guilty sinking feeling we get.   Whey do we fell these good and bad feelings.  I believe it’s because of the light of Christ that we all love.  These feelings, this connection we feel with other people is proof that we are all spirit children of God.  If not, we’d be like other animals, just caring for ourselves.  A dog doesn’t feel guilty when it steals another dog’s food, but how many of us have lost sleep over some harsh words we said to another.  It’s hard to explain in words but what I felt as I was explaining these things to him left me with no doubt that we have a Heavenly Father who loves us more than we can understand.  It seriously makes no sense to me why or how people can deny the existence of God, or why they would leave His church.  The only explanation is they don’t fully understand. Today was a very good day for me because I learned this lesson.  And my testimony was reaffirmed.  God and His son, Jesus Christ, live.  They love us.  They care for us.  They want us to be happy, and they have given us exactly what we need to be happy, just follow their instructions, given through the prophets.  Today was day 174 of my mission.
TERCA (Tuesday):  I just found a spider in my sheets…. But today was good until that point.  I’ll just talk about one lesson we had today that I really liked.  There’s one recent convert here called Luis Gonzaga.  Yes, His name is the same as the city.  He was baptized about 6 months ago, and fell away from the church.  He struggles with depression and a lack of desire to do anything.  We had a good talk with him today.  I asked him to think about the day of his baptism, and then I asked him if he was happy that day, with his daughter there. (She’s already a member, very firm, but live sin Porto Alegre with her mom).  That was the first time I saw him smile and he told me all about that good day.  Then I asked him about the next Sunday at church.  He told me about how receptive and nice everyone is and how happy he was.  Then we set goals to get him out of the house and doing stuff, because he just works and sits in his house.  He’s going to start going to church again (we hope) and we’re going to help him.  But this lesson was really good, because it made me remember that the gospel is about HAPPINESS!  We need to be happy!  2 Nephi 2:25!  Our purpose is to be happy!  If we are sad or upset, it’s our own choice.  Woot Woot, let’s all stop being sad.  We have the church, the gospel, our families, scriptures, friends, and a Heavenly Father who loves us and knows us personally. Man, life is good.  Today is day 175 of my mission.   
QUARTA (Wednesday):  Today we left the house with blue skies, then after lunch got DUMPED ON, then by time we got to the house to get our raincoats, it was blue skies again.  But that’s cool.  Today was good. 
            Our lunch was with a family who has a son who got back from his mission in Rio, just over a year ago.  He pulled out all of his planners and showed them to us and talked a lot about his mission.  It was cool to see the differences in our missions.  It’s crazy that this year is already over.  It seems like it flew past.  My mission, in general, is going too fast.  Today was day 176 of my mission.

I love you all, Elder McKee

Some of Fran's package and some of his 'welcome to the new area' package.
 The abominable snowman and rodolph suckers.
 Jake and Elder Pompeu
 New apartment

 Something he is studying

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