Tuesday, June 28, 2011

June 27th letter

Dear Família,

My oh my, has this been a crazy week! Super nuts. We have been having some crazy weather here in Maracaju. Last week, every day was getting hotter and hotter, and by Friday, I thought that I had been transferred back to Cuiabá for a second. On Saturday, it suddenly started getting windy and the temperature got down. But Sunday was FREEZING!! Oh my goodness.The entire day was super cold, and this morning was just as cold. It apparently got down to 1 degree Celsius today, but it´ll just keep getting colder for us. Everyone says that it´ll drop down a lot more. I´m wearing 2 sweaters right now! Nuts. I might buy a scarf, just to make the best of it, because I know that I´ll never use one in Mesa. Thankfully, the members here are awesome and gave me some jackets to use. When we go to Ponta Porã, which is on the border with Paraguay, I´ll buy a fancy jacket for cheap cheap.

Things are going well though. Every morning I eat cream cheese grilled sandwiches and tangerines. It´s the life. I´m trying to eat more healthy. WOMP. This Sunday, we had Anathayla´s baptism! Anathayla is an awesome girl. We taught her all of last week, and she didn´t have a single problem: no coffee, boyfriend, nada. She´s friends with Brenda and Ellen, who are 2 great young women in the branch. They talk to people about the Church and make cake for us! Every day they went to teach Anathayla and helped her out. On Sunday, it was freezing cold, but the baptismal font water was lukewarm somehow. We also found a dress type thing- baptismal macacão (I don´t remember the name in English). Sweet! Elder Furtado and I sang "I Am a Child of God" with Brenda and Ellen at the baptism. We switched verses in English and Portuguese to mix things up, and it turned out cool.

Yesterday night, we went to Anathayla´s to make a cake and watch "The Restoration" movie. Anathayla lives with her mom and little 4 year old sister. Her mom, Eva, came to Church and REALLY liked it. Elder Furtado and I weren´t sure how she could have liked it so much, because there were only 30 people there, but she did. (We´re always laughing because we teach and tell people that everything in the Church is really organized and there is a place for children, young men, adults, etc. Then they come to Church and find that there is no Primary teacher or Young Men´s President, etc.) After the movie, they were saying how cool it was and how they believed that Joseph Smith really was a prophet. We invited her to be baptized next Sunday and she ACCEPTED! YES! She is such a cool lady. I´m super excited this week.

We also had Marcus (who got baptized 3 weeks ago) ordained to be a deacon. Our goal is to have him distribue the sacrament next Sunday. During the week, we were looking for people to teach and we found this girl was is a member but hasn´t gone in 2 years. We taught her cousins, who weren´t too interested, and then invited her to come to Church. She said, "Yes, I wanna go." Then, she came with us to Church! It was really neat. So, we´re helping her on her journey back. She has the same birthday as me too! Score!

Elder Furtado is super funny. He´s been one of my favorite comps for the entire mission. He comes from a firm family and came with PURPOSE to the mission. We work really well together. His dad served a mission in Porto Alegre (which is the most southern freezing part of Brazil), but they live in Terezina (which is really hot up in the north of Brazil). Furtado did a year of study to be a doctor and is really smart. We were talking about the old University days (I was talking about my labs back at ASU with the lab partners that didn´t do much, and he has had similar experiences). Furtado speaks English really well, so we practice in the street in between contacts. I try to imitate his accent, but it´s kind of difficult. We have fun talking about how everyone here is a hick and talks really ugly. He´s an awesome guy. I wouldn´t mind staying another transfer with him. He tends to space out sometimes, which makes me laugh a lot. And he´s not afraid to tell members when he doesn´t like food, which has made for some funny situations. I always eat whatever they´ve got.

Wonderful week to all! I love you. Look for the small opportunities for missionary experiences.

-Elder Carpenter

Brazilian Fact: Here in Mato Grosso do Sul, they love making this dish called Sopa Paraguai (Paraguay Soup), except it´s actually this salty weird pie thing. It looks like corn bread and has corn in it. The members love it, but don´t be deceived because it´s gross!

Pics: Making cake, Maracaju chapel, Anathayla´s baptism (her 2 friends are on the right side)

Thursday, June 23, 2011

June 20th letter

Happy Father´s Day to all of the dad´s reading! Hope it was a good one. A In response to mom´s question: The waffle iron thing is like a toaster grill. In the morning we put cream cheese on sliced bread, toast it, and it tastes great. This is the first house that I´ve been in that´s had one. It´s a blessing.
Our last week was very tiresome! We were challenged by President Oliveira to find someone that had already gone to Church and invite them to be baptized on Sunday, because the mission wasn´t doing so hot with baptisms. So, we worked like crazy last week, asking member´s for references, visiting people from the area book, and just trying our best. We had a little kid that had been to church many times that the missionaries could never find at home to teach, and we went and taught him with his little member friend. He accepted to be baptized on Sunday, but sadly, his dad didn´t let him. It wasn´t very fun that he had to do that, but we still pressed forward! The branch had an activity on Saturday night for Festa Junina. It´s like a big party about Saint John that the Catholics celebrate. Except, that every Brazilian celebrates the holiday, indepent of religion. They just make lots of food and have a big dance and whatnot. Lots of members brought friends (even Felipe and the other 2 non-member boyfriends came that don´t want to be baptized yet) or less-actives and it was sweet. References! So, now we need to teach these people. One of the girls that came with her friends came on Sunday, too. So, we´re trying to teach her and get her ready to be baptized on Sunday. The family that brought her is really cool. They live really far away from the Church, but are there every Sunday! And they even made a chocolate strawberry cake, that we got to try. On Sunday, I got called to give a last minute talk, and I chose to speak about the gospel of Jesus Christ. The 5 basic principles that´ll lead us to salvation. The talk was geared towards Ana Taila (the investigator) but it still applies to everyone. The gospel of Christ is simple and pure doctrine. It´s just us that tend to complicate things! I love the Church and that we know how to return to the presence of our Heavenly Father and Jesus Christ! It´s all in our hands. We need to be ready to serve, work, do visits, and help build the kingdom of God. It is essential. I love you all and wish you an awesome week!

Love, Elder Carpenter

Fotos: Pictures of gigantic trees in Maracaju, with President Mazzagardi, and the giant Charlie Chaplin painting downtown.

Thursday, June 16, 2011

June 13th letter

Good day to all! Happy 10th Aniversary Diana and Mike!!! Congratulations and keep the marriage strong! Wow, has it really been 10 years? That means that you two have been married for half of my lifetime. Huh! Neat thought. Bishop Kyle Jones! Woot. I´m excited for the singles ward when I get home. It´ll be the best!

This last week was one of those downers. It started out awesome when we went to Campo Grande for the Mission Tour with Pres. Mazzagardi (you can see his picture in the 2nd Quorum of the Seventy in the new Ensign). Wow! He is an amazing man. He had lots of good advice and counsel for us as missionaries. One thing that he said which we all thought was interesting is that we need to go and find people to teach close to the chapel and to go and teach the rich people in the city, because they will be the future leaders of the Church who know how to get things done and have the time to do it and have the Lord´s kingdom grow faster! Neat. He also talked about the importance of opening our mouths and talking with everyone. He spoke of one missionary that he met before he left for his mission in Japan. Pres. Mazzagardi gave him the advice to open his mouth and talk to everyone. He had a ridiculous goal to do 100 contacts during the day! And in the end, he had talked with, started teaching, or actually baptized HALF of the entire mission´s baptisms for the entire year. I´m being better about opening my mouth now and talking to everyone.

The sad part was that our baptism, Felipe, fell through. He is a member´s boyfriend and his baptism was marked for Sunday. We visited him or called him (while in Campo Grande) every day to help him out, but he was kind of lacking. We talked with him and he decided that he was good to be baptized. Then, Elder Santana came all the way here on Saturday to do his interview (a 2 hour bus ride) and Felipe was just running away from us for the whole time. He lied and said that he wouldn´t be able to come because he had to work (Saturday was a holiday by the way: Maracaju´s 87th Birthday) and then we went and talked to him at night and he said that he didn´t want to get baptized but he would go to Church. On Sunday, his girlfriend said that he didn´t come with her, so we called him and he said that they had fought (not true), so he stayed at home. Whatever Felipe. It must makes me sad that we spent so much time focused on him this week, when we could have been looking for other people to bring to Church. If people don´t want the blessings of the gospel, they normally let us know. But when people play these types of games, it just frustrates me. But that´s the mission. Patience is definately a virtue! This week will definately be better.

We did an activity night on Saturday, but it wasn´t the best idea because it was the 2nd to last day of the fair (ExpoMara!) and the city´s birthday. We had a total of 7 people there! But the cake was still good, and the members saw that we want to help out the branch and are starting to do visits and get things going.

Have a wonderful June week! Let me know what your plans are for the summer, fam! Get some sun.

Brazilian Fact: #1) Pancakes are still fun to eat even without syrup. (Not really a Brazilian fact, but whatever).
#2) Apparently when the city has it´s 87th birthday, it´s alright for a parade of honking cars and horses and fireworks to go through the town to wake everyone up at 6 in the morning.

-Elder Carpenter

Fotos: Elder Furtado and I with Presidente e Sister Mazzagardi. Our kitchen/front room/study. French fries! These are the burnt ones that I did. Elder Furtado made some more delicious ones after. Editor's note: Zach didn't send picture of Pres. Mazzagardi so maybe next week.

Monday, June 6, 2011

June 6th letter Happy Birthday to Seth

How are we doing folks? Summer is getting started! Parabéns to Seth for yet another birthday. You are officially getting old! But it´s a good thing. You´re birthday dinners looked amazing. The Brazilian one was spot on. Lots of cilantro and meat and lemonade. It´s even better when you get to eat it everyday! It made me glad to hear that Clayton and Co. have safely gotten in to Mesa.

Yep, I finally got here in Maracaju! I had a bus ride all night and then I got to Campo Grande and took another bus to Dourados (where my comp was waiting with 2 other missionaries). We stayed in Dourados for a day and had our District Meeting the next day, then got in Maracaju. The biggest difference that Mato Grosso do Sul (the southern state of the mission) has from Mato Grosso (where Cuiabá is the capital) is that it´s COLD here. While on the bus, I could literally see the landscape changing. The trees are more foresty like northern AZ here. Apparently it´s winter, but hasn´t gotten to the coldest part. I´m excited. I sleep with a big blanket and I don´t wake up sweaty in the morning! I´m using a borrowed jacket in our apartment, but I´m gonna buy my own soon.

Maracaju is a sweet little city. It´s a lot bigger than I thought it was and it´s actually really clean here. The houses are nicer and every street has asphalt! It´s definately the richest area that I´ve been in. At about 6 at night, it gets dark and cold. It´s like Mesa in December winter, but maybe a little colder. There are no mosquitos here and the water is safe to drink from the faucet. YES! I love this place. I don´t have to carry a hankerchief around to wipe sweat off of my face. I usually don´t even sweat very much during the day.

The branch is pretty small, but is getting back on it´s feet. Last transfer, the frequency started off at 30 and got up to 50ish. Yesterday, there were 51 people at church. The branch is waking itself up though. They are starting to have meetings and we´re going to do an activity this Saturday to help out. But the members that go to Church all seem really cool. Everyone seems to have testimonies and is more involved as members than I´ve seen in some places. They´ve got a chapel here, too with 2 stories! I need to take a picture and send it to you.

When we got here on Wednesday, our baptism for Sunday fell through. But, the Lord is definately preparing his children to accept our message! There is 12 year old young man called Marcus that went to Church 2 weeks ago, but the missionaries were having a hard time finding him at home. We found out that he stays at his grandma´s house during the weekdays, so we went there on Thursday and he accepted to get baptized on Sunday! Talk about prepared! This kid is awesome. His dad and majority of the family (it´s a BIG family) are members but are almost all less-active. His great grandma is super strong in the church though and is always there. So, she and Marcus´ dad, Gilson, came to the baptism on Sunday. I´m hoping that Gilson will come back to Church because now he has an "excuse" to accompany his son. He´s a really cool guy, too, that supports and helps Marcus 100%!

Then, we had lots of people at Church, too. Irison and Fabiane came to Church (member´s friends) but it´s a complicated situation. They live together, because Fabiane´s mom is crazy and drinks. But... Irison is 16 and Fabiane is 13! They can´t even get married legally!! Crazy situation. But, 2 girls from the branch brought their boyfriends to Church. Felipe has a date for next Sunday, and Johnn is more complicated. His parents are leaders of some strange New Jerusalem church and he plans on getting married with Lidiane (member). He just turned 18, so now he can get baptized, but his girlfriend´s grandma (which is like her mom) said that they can´t married unless he´s baptized. He´s a really shy guy and she´s kind of freaked him out, so we went and taught him yesterday while the grandma stayed inside, hahaha. I´m not sure when, but I know that he´ll get baptized.

Wow, this is getting long. My comp is Elder Furtado! He´s super smart and talks really delicate and formal. Imagine a Brazilian speaking Portuguese with a British accent. I love him! He´s really obedient and dedicated and we work well together. Plus, he says lots of nerdy things all of the time, which makes my day. More on him next week! Happy June to everyone! Have some fun in the sun!

Brazilian Fact: Brazilians think that all Americans are fat and eat hamburgers everyday!
Pics: Our District (except that 2 other elders weren´t there) and Marcus´ Baptism

Thursday, June 2, 2011

May 31 letter

Wow! School´s out folks! Yes baby.
This last week, my comp had to stay at home for a few days and rest, so we did divisions during the afternoon, and then switched back to work at night. And Celso got baptized last Saturday and confirmed on Sunday. I love that kid!  We were teaching him once, and then afterwards he wanted to show off his pyrotecnics for us. He put alcohol on his bike wheel and then lit it and fire and spun it. What the... He´s a really funny kid. He´s Lucas´ cousin along with some other recent converts so they´re all helping each other to stay firm in the Church. It´s turning out really cool. Oh, and I gave a talk on Sunday and they announced my name as Elder Carpinteiro. It gave everyone a good laugh.
Today is moving day and also............ TRANSFERS! Sadly, I´m gonna be leaving Pedra 90 to go to Maracajú, some obscure little city in Mato Grosso do Sul. I´m excited to finally go down south though! It´s gonna be an adventure, and a long bus ride. There they´ve got a branch, so there´ll be lots of room to grow. And from what I´ve heard that they have really cheap pizza there. I´m pumped. And I´ll be close to Ponta Porã which is on the Paraguay border, where they sell lots of cheap stuff. Finally! My goal is to finish up my mission there. We´ll see how it goes. I´m excited to baptize lots of people in Maracajú!
My new companion is Elder Furtado. He´s from my old comp´s group, Elder D. Souza. Apparently he speaks English really well and is gonna be a doctor. It should be good. It´ll just be us 2 in the house, which isn´t my favorite, but at least we´ll have a clean house. The other funny thing is that I´m switching places with Elder B. Carpenter. We´re from the same group, and I´m sure that lots of people will have plenty of jokes for me when I get to the new area about our names.
Well, gotta go. See ya´ll later! Have a great start of summer! Swim and soak in the sun.
Brazilian Fact: You have to be creative when the water runs out.

Pics: Celso´s Baptism, The awesome family that is gonna get married soon, and Pizza Night with the youth.