Sunday, December 28, 2014

Christmastime in Brazil (and Bolivia!) 2014-12-25...26...27 Part 2

On the day after we drove to Cáceres and then on to Bolívia.  Bolívia wasn't really what we expected, pretty small and it didn't give us a real safe feeling so we didn't stay there for long.  Crossing the border was interesting as the border guards were nice to us because they recognized us as missionaries.  Here are some pictures:
This is the Paraguay river - close to the border of Bolivia

Mom and I by the sign directing to Bolivia

Typical Bolivian street, a lot of red dirt

In San Matias by the border, there were a ton of these little shops

This was in the middle of town - Cristo Redentor

Crossing back over from Bolivia (the women stayed in the car)

Back in Cáceres Brazil, their beautiful marina

We saw this old abandoned church on the way home and stopped to take pictures
 These last ones are just to show what beautiful clouds we had on the whole trip:

On Saturday (our P-day) we drove up to the Chapadas to hike to the bottom of the big waterfall (Bridal Veil) that we posted before, but the trail was closed so we went into town and did some shopping - I'll have to post some pictures later since I don't have them downloaded yet.

All in all, Christmas was not anything like what we would have done at home, but very fun anyway.

Love to all!
The church is true.
Dad and Mom

Christmastime in Brazil (and Bolivia!) 2014-12-25...26...27 Part 1

Some have been asking about Christmastime in Brazil and what it's like, so I'll give you some insights.  We, of course, had our mission Christmas conference, with training and skits, etc. which Mom wrote about and it was great.  We also went to the mission home for a Christmas dinner with the President and his wife, as well as the Davises.  We went downtown to see some Christmas lights (per Mom's request :)) and got our picture taken with Santa:

Manger Scene
This Govt Building changed colors - green, blue, red, pink

One of the Angles in the Park
Here we are with Santa - Feliz Natal!

On Christmas Eve we went to a less active member's "lancheria", which is like a big hamburger stand.  We showed up at 8:00pm because he said he was making a big dinner for his friends and people generally eat later here.  He said to come back about 9:30 or 10:00pm because the food wouldn't be ready until later.  So we went to our house and played 5-crowns with the Davises (Sister Davis won).  We went back over for dinner about 10:30 and things were still far from being done so we waited and waited.  About 11:45 we started dinner!  We didn't have any idea that it was like a Christmas Eve tradition and at midnight everyone came over to great us and wish us a Merry Christmas - kind of like our New Years celebrations.  The food was amazing (kind of like a David and Jessica event!):

Fruit table

Meat Table

Dessert Table
On Christmas Day (mission P-Day) we drove out to a marina by a big dam that provides electricity to many communities.  We got home in time (a little late) to google hangout with the kids and that was the highlight of the day for us:

This river was totally brown, probably from all the rain...

A little Pond at a Posada by Nobres (Bom Jardim)

Real Banana Trees, with lots of Bananas!

One of the few places we actually saw thatched roofs.

And this is the Marina we went to see!

To be continued...

Tina and her blessing 2014-12-21

While visiting one of our Groups in Campo Verde we have become acquainted with a Sister who lives there.  She speaks a little bit of English so between both the languages, we can communicate.  Her name is Tina (pronounced Cheena).  She is 33 years old.  Her husband and 2 children recently moved to Campo Grande.  She and her kids were baptized 10+ years ago.  Her husband was not.  When she joined the Church he kicked her and the kids out of the house.  She struggled getting work to take care of herself and the kids.  After a year, her husband came back to her and said he could not live without her and the kids and asked them to come back.  They got back together as a family and he has since supported her.  He brings her to church and picks her and the kids up every week.  Sometimes he will attend with her.   During their married life they lived for 10 years in a little city where the Church is not.  For 10 years she read from the Book of Mormon everyday with her children and taught them of the restored Gospel.    For 10 years she longed to take the Sacrament.  When they were thinking of moving to Campo Verde they drove through the town.  She saw 2 missionaries walking down the street.  She asked her husband to stop the car and ran to the missionaries to find out if the Church was in CV.   In CV we only have a Group of about 15-20 that meet each week.  They don't meet in a Church Building but rather a rented building much like a storage unit, still it is a place where the members can worship and renew their covenants.  Someday as the church grows there may be a Church there but this is how the Church gets started.  This is how the Church grows as it is taken to all people, in all lands and nations.  It is such a beautiful thing.
This weekend she had to come into Cuiaba to go to the hospital to have surgery.  She was having many problems and they had to do a hysterectomy.  A couple of weeks ago, she emailed me about the days she was coming into the hospital.  I told her we would come to see her.  I asked her if she would like a blessing and she said she would.  So today President and Sister Reber and Dad and I went to see her.  We found the hospital that she was at (not easy to do).  Visiting hours are only from 4-6pm.  Those are the only hours we could visit, we did not have any time to waste.   Her daughter was waiting outside the hospital to look for us. She is 15 years old.   It's a good thing because we could have never found her on our own. We went thru the halls of a hospital, which is more like an army hospital.  It is nothing like hospitals in the US.  We wind thru hallways, as her daughter guides us.   We make it to the room that Tina is in.  We enter the room.  Tina is resting in her hospital bed which is more like a gurney rather than a bed.  She is laying flat on a bed that has no pillow.  She has a t-shirt on, no hospital gown, with a light blanket over her.  Hospital beds here are just flat.  They do not recline for comfort, like we see at home.  An IV hangs from like an hanger type stand.  Her family, husband, mother, daughter are all with her.  She is so happy to see us and we were happy to see her.  Her surgery went well and they expect her to have a good recovery.  We explained to her family that we were going to give her a priesthood blessing.  Elder Harris and President Reber, in this little hospital, gave this sweet sister a blessing.  This sister has so much faith.  There is no doubt that she was a Valiant Spirit in the pre-earth life!  This was such a special experience.  We are totally blessed to be here seeing miracles and meeting beautiful faithful people. 

Christmas Conference 2014-12-16

Dear Family
The purpose of life is to be happy and we hope you are all fulfilling your purpose in this wonderful Holiday Season.  We had a Maravilhosa Christmas Conference here this week.  Sister Davis and I created an altar using suitcases and sheets and wrapped boxes with the words: Disobedience, Fear,
Pride, Passions, Negativism, and (every ounce of energy, every hour of everyday) and one box with no words at all but it was wrapped beautifully.  And the theme was the power of a Consecrated Missionary.  The presentations were great and in the end president asked them to write on a card what they would put on the altar. After they wrote their gift they put it in the last box. It was a powerful presentation.  The final talk was once again reminding them to drink daily from the living water of the scriptures.  In Cuiabá the analogy of water is always good because it is very hot. so President began by asking them if they went without water for a few days what would happen to their bodies and then related it to the damage our spirits suffer when we do not drink from the living water of the scriptures. This is a true principle and I know there is great power in daily scripture study. We did so much work for the conference it was all worth it. Everything went so well.  Dad helped the office elders do that "little people" skit for the talent show and everyone one loved it.  

Little people missionaries - shave and put on ties for work...

We played Christmas carols on pipes, ate great food, and had gifts of oil vials, temple recommend holders, and laundry baskets.  We made spaghetti and meatballs for the sisters staying with us and of course a few elders came to eat as well. The missionaries love the USA spices so thanks for the flavoring packets.  We have yummy bread rolls here so we had lots of garlic bread.  We really love the remarkable , good missionaries we work with.  They make us smile.  Last night we went to an amazing stake cantata I felt the Christmas spirit so very much.  I hope dad can attach a clip from the canata for you it was amazing. We thank you all for your support and we pray for you in every prayer. Thanks for being such awesome people.  The Church is true.  Com Amor, Dad & Mom

Monday, December 8, 2014

Dec 7, 2014

A week into December, How Did That Happen?

I hope you are all still praying that I can learn Portuguese, every week I go to church and have a renewed determination to learn the language so I can understand the talks and testimonies and communicate with people and most importantly feel more of the spirit.  This determination lasts about a day and then the office work gets overwhelming and I flake out yet again on my language study.  I do not seem to be able to pay the price required for the miracle.  I am totally open for ideas, suggestions, reprimands, commands, etc.  Now except for the fact that I can't understand anyone or anything we are having a blast.  Missionary work is awesome.  Last week we had transfers and because the mission is so large it is always an adventure but this time it was the perfect storm.  Some Elders needed paper work done for the government before they left,(when you use the word government in a sentence just insert the word nightmare), Over sixty tickets had to be marked and the transportation system was down off and on,  Some were needing to take English tests, Some flights were overbooked, One of the elders missed the plane, the office elders were transferring and the new elders (although very excellent were new to their responsibilities and their were gaps in the training) add in that nothing in Brazil is ever a one step process, and you get the idea.  Going on at this same time was preparation for the leadership training conference for the north and south.  In addition to preparing presentations, handouts,outlines etc. Because this conference was longer more meals needed to be scheduled and transportation arranged.  Then it is Christmas Conference where we replace all water filters and Co detectors batteries, update and check all area books and help with all packages from home and the mission. It is a party, and of course dad continues to do his magic with the finances, (which of course seems to require daily miracles).  It would be impossible to do what he does if this wasn't the Lords work.  There is always some house with a crazy landlord or without water, lights or a contract, plus the normal problems of putting money here and taking it from there. The man is amazing and sometimes I get tired just watching what happens.  It will be difficult to describe the money miracles required in a mission this large but one of these miracles needs to be recorded.
Several weeks before this event, the mission key fob battery went dead and the account that was attached to it was in the name of someone who no longer worked for the church.  The account - used for paying most of the mission bills became unusable.  The nightmare that transpired was an ongoing battle and lasted about 3 weeks. Bills were paid by withdrawing money off the presidents card whenever money was available, and trying each day to get a new mission account set up.  I wish I could even remember all the crazy miracles that happened as Dad daily tried to pay the right bills and juggle money around.  I remember thinking, "Why can't they resolve this problem, this is the Lord's work?" When all was finally worked out, Dad retrieved the four thousand reais he had "borrowed" from the president's account (a little each day for a week due to restrictions), so he was ready to put the money back into president Reber's account.  This was on Saturday when he made the last withdrawl and that afternoon he received a phone call from President.  "Elder Harris, I don't know how or even if this is possible but we need three thousand five hundred reais to help the Aquidauana group pay for the bus to get to the temple for the first time.  We will be reimbursed when they get back but we need the money up front, and we have to send it to President Oliveira in the south by Monday in order for them to pay the bus company in time!"  If you understood the bank regulations here you would know that request would really be impossible.  But Elder Harris was able to reply, "President you are not going to believe this, but right now I have four thousand reais in our safe waiting to deposit it back into your account on Monday."  President said, "That is unbelievable, and what adds to the miracle is that Sister Reber and I offered to put five hundred reais out of our own account towards their trip - so just take the full $4,000R and send it!"  The exact amount of money needed for their trip to the temple -- that is not just some lucky moment.  Weeks before, the Lord was preparing a way for the young families to get to the temple to be sealed.  And although it seemed like a huge problem for us in the interim, we were so grateful to be a part of the miracle.  This really was a testimony that this is His work and no unhallowed hand will stop it.
We have traveled with the president to Primavera and Campo Verde.  And with the Davises to other places.  Dad has some pictures.

Our first stop is Diamantino, where we went last weekend with the Davises.  I'm showing the bread store because everything we got there was very good.  One of the loaves of bread was laced with "doce de leite", which is like carmel - very good!

Just wanted to show the "cobblestone" streets in Diamantino... awesome.

This river is usually crystal clear - all the rain has it completely brown with dirt.

Sunset as we came back into town.

Departing Missionary dinner at our place

The 3 on the left and 1 on the right are office workers, the other 5 were leaving.

These two are from our trip out to a dam on the Cuiabá river.  Yes, we did indulge in some dam jokes. :)

Yes, we're getting older and older (just no other place to sit!)

We have had missionaries stay with us and the father of a departing missionary stay also.  And great activities in the area so enjoy whatever dad puts up in the way of pictures.  I hope the pictures will give you a feeling of this lovely area and some of the things we do.  Most importantly thank you for your support and prayers they are felt and so appreciated.  We are so blessed to be here in this place, with these wonderful people, at this time.  This I have found to be a true principle -- we are all unqualified to do the Lord's work but he can use us if we let him.  The Church is True.  Com Amor, Mom and Dad      

Tuesday, November 25, 2014

25 November 2014

Well, another couple weeks have passed and we have a few more pictures and updates:

"Valentines Dance" (actually couples activity for one of the wards:
A bunch of fun, we even did some dancing...
The local fresh meat store - you don't see this in the USA:
Lots of meat hanging for purchase.  I bought a slab of bacon - it was excellent!
The next was our "Torta na Cara" (Pie in the Face) activity:
We have to credit the Elders with this socializing activity at the Cuiabá ward.
This was a fun activity, with people getting pie in the face if they didn't answer church questions right.  The bishop was hesitant to go up and compete, but I went up with him - then accidentally gave him the wrong answer for how many plagues there were with Moses in Egypt!  Luckily they didn't make him take a pie, they just redid another question... whew!

This is the Windmill Padaria (bakery), where we shop once in awhile - we would go more but it's quite expensive.  They do have the best little french bread rolls:
Pretty sweet sunset, não é?
Then there's the always pleasant, but too filling, churrascaria:
This was grilled pineapple with cinnamon, to die for!
We'll call this one "Journey to the center of the Earth", only it's just the center of South America (the other one, we already showed you one).
We went late one night, so no one was here.  It's all about timing.
This was a huge religious expo here in Cuiabá and the church was invited to host a booth.  We went over and helped feed the missionaries working there and watched the entertainment:
There were literally thousands of people and probably forty or so religions.
The sad part about this one was that the stake youth choir didn't have time to sing because they took so long raffling off a motorcycle and a car.  The good part is that is was great exposure for the church and the missionaries got about 75 referrals from it.  And, I know food keeps coming up, we got to try a new food - Palito.  It's kind of like a pastel (deep fried with cheese or hamburger inside) on a stick.

One of the members brought us a Jaca fruit (Jack fruit in the US).  It was huge at about 25-30 lbs:
It's got little spikes all around it, but you can pry it open with your hands easily.
This is the inside - those are seeds, not bugs.
You kind of cut the fruit off the center and pull out "bulbs" of fruit that have a seed in the middle of them.  We saw on the internet that you could roast the seeds like chestnuts, but one of the blew up in our oven so we stopped trying that.  The fruit itself doesn't taste bad, but the smell is something awful.  We took the fruit and froze it and now we put it in shakes and it's really good.

This is the Paraguay river that separates Brazil from Boliva (and Paraguay at times):
If you look closely, in the distance you can see people playing volleyball.
I got to go with President Reber to Cáceres to visit with some Elders.  It was a long drive, but very pretty and the roads weren't too bad.  It was also fun to visit with the Elders - all from Brazil and all from the Northeast.  Cities that Brett and Becky would remember from our cruise, Fortaleza, Maceio, and Recife.

An open-air market called a feira, in Tijucal not too far out of town:
The Elders were choosing a watermelon to cut in half with rubber bands... I know...
We go to this place for the french fries (they are awesome and sold by a returned missionary), but I also had a crepe (pronounced crappy), and a pastel with ham and cheese in it.

A beautiful picture of downtown Cuiabá from a distance:
Yes, I did take this with my iPhone... :)

Next is Mom and I by a lovely waterfall, where we stopped on another trip with the Mission President:
We might not have been as close to the water as we appear.
The water in the river was quite dirty because it had rained hard for the last couple days.  Amazingly, it didn't rain on us at all when we walked down and back.  The rainy season is just beginning.  The other day we walked over to the office in a heavy rain and we were soaked - yes, we did have an umbrella!

One more cool thing, and then on to the main event:
This was a huge roach that we saw on the same trip.  That's a dum-dum sucker by it.

OK, now the fun stuff, these are pictures from a "Fazenda" (Farm) that we went out to on Monday to celebrate Thanksgiving.  Mom made a pumpkin and apple pie (they don't really have pumpkins here, so it was squash, but you couldn't really tell) that were awesome.  She also made the dressing, which tasted just like the US version.  Other people brought mashed potatoes and deviled eggs, etc.  But the main dish was chicken (turkey was too tough and too hard to kill) - the three Elders all picked out a chicken, caught it, then killed it and gutted it and cooked it.  OK, to be honest, none of them would cut the heads off so one of the employees at the farm did it.  Then they took off the feathers and mom showed them how to gut the chickens.  Pictures are following:

This was the group of guys at the farm.  President, me, Richards, Phipps, Bonaro, Edson (not missionary), Davis

This was behind the farm, right on the Cuiabá river.  Very cool.

Them plucking the feathers off one of the chickens

A tuacahn bird that was in one of the trees at the fazenda.  It was hard to get the picture.

This was inside one of the fazenda buildings, not too shabby.  Yes, my partner and I won at pool.

I got this picture of a parrot of some kind in the trees.
Unfortunately, I didn't get any good shots of the monkeys that came by the fazenda jumping from tree to tree - it was pretty cool.  The whole day was very nice.

The church is true, love to all