Monday, November 29, 2010

Week 1 in Jardim Jandaia

Howdy everyone!

It磗 been a fantastic week here in Jardim Jandaia. I absolutely love my companion. He is amazing. We are already great friends. He absolutely loves helping me and explaining everything to me. He has explained things I never really quite understood the first transfer and he is amazing at helping me with Portuguese. I have improved so much in the first week here with him. He is a lot more knowledgable of grammar concepts and has helped me a lot to understand why things are said in a certain way. my first companion knew all this stuff because he has spoken it his whole life but he didn磘 know the why or how to explain. I got a lot of ``just because创 kind of answers. But I have improved a ton, and he is good at complementing me on my Portuguese too. He is surprised at how well I already speak for how little time I have been here. He also is determined to have a basic understanding of English before he goes home in the beginning of January. We do a lot of reading in English so he can practice pronunciation. I always knew that English was ridiculous with spelling and pronunciation but after watching him have to labor through  verses in the Book of Mormon, holy cow English is difficult. Why is there a ``gh创 in daughters? sheesh. It磗 been really good though to work with Elder J. Santos. This is going to be an amazing transfer.

The only thing I don磘 like about here is the heat. It was quite a blessing there in Po鏾s, relativley cool and temperate there. Everyday is just super hot and its only going to get worse. And our tiny house is just a little hot box. Our house is just one little tile box on top of a members house. It磗 tiny. The room is a little bit bigger than the computer room there at home with a bathroom attached. Our ``kitchen创 is outside on the front porch on our brand new washing machine that is amazing. It actually rinses the clothes! The one in Po鏾s basically just swirled your clothes around in soapy water and that was about it. you had to rinse it all by hand and squeeze all the water our. This one here rinses and drains most of the water. A blessing of the heat is that clothes dry in about an hour instead of the 2-3 days there in Po鏾s.

Our ward here is amazing. Bishop William is awesome. He is only 32 years old but leads this ward like any other veteran bishop in the church, if not better. We live above Wellington, the first counselor to the Bishop. He gives us rides all the time and does so much for the missionaries. The whole ward loves to do stuff for the missionaries. We also have some amazing investigator families we are working with. We have four families all ready to be baptized but are waiting to get legally married. Marriage is a huge problem here in Brazil. Many people live together for many years and never get married. It磗 not uncommon to meet a couple that has lived together 30-40 years and never got married. Once the paperwork process is over these four families will get baptized. They all attend Church very regularly waiting to be baptized. I absolutely love this area. Though I am really sad that all the people we were teaching in Po鏾s now have no one to teach them, I am glad to be here in Jardim Jandaia.

It was sad to now celebrate Thanksgiving this year. But I want to share what I am thankful for...everything. Most particularly, this Gospel. Every day here I have some amazing experience feeling the Spirit. The Holy Ghost is the most amazing gift we have. It leads me every day in this work and I have seen it touch the lives of the people we teach. I am thankful for my family that supports me. Without all of you I don磘 think I could be here doing this work. And some new things I have learned to be greatful for: pineapple (abacaxi), mango (manga), rice and beans (arroz e feij鉶), and air conditioning (I don磘 get to feel air conditioning, except right now in this LAN-house).

Well, until next week everyone. I love you all so much. Tchau!
Elder McLelland

Monday, November 22, 2010

Letter #14- Transferred

Greetings from Ribeirão Preto,

This has been a sad past couple of days, while also exciting and good. I have been transferred from Poços de Caldas 1 to Jardim Jandaia. I´m had a pretty tough time saying goodbye to my area. Every missionary I talked to was so sure that I would stay because it is very rare that a new missionary stays in his first area for just one transfer. This last week was so amazing too. We had been working with a family with inactive parents and 4 un-baptized kids. They are such an amazing family. I don´t know why the Spirit helped me so much more in the lessons, but every time we were there it was so easy to break from my usual lesson plan and follow the Spirit and say things that specifically pertained to them. It was so amazing that one week we had to teach them. Literally, if we had never met them I would have had no major problem leaving the area and going somewhere new. But, that family was just amazing. We made a visit to them on last Saturday to say goodbye and tell them the news that I was leaving too. They already knew that Azevedo would be leaving. We all had a good cry together. Renata, the mother, cried really hard to know that I was leaving. It was amazing the relationship we built with them in only one week. I learned a really valuable lesson from that really helped me realize my true purpose as a missionary. Many would think that it was a failure there because we didn´t baptize the kids and the parents hadn´t been back to church yet. But I know that we brought the Spirit into their home and because of the things Renata said to me, I know we had a big influence on their lives. She told me that I have been forever engraven in her heart, right next to the elders that baptized her and her husband 20 years ago.

Now for the really sad news. not only was I transferred from the area, Poços de Caldas 1 closed. Not enough missionaries are arriving every transfer to compensate for those leaving. Many areas have to close because there are no missionaries to fill them. I can´t beleive there won´t be any missionaries there for at least one transfer to continue the work we started there. I hope the ward will be able to keep working with the families we were teaching. 

My new area is Jardim Jandaia, a neighborhood in the actual city Ribeirão Preto. My new companion is Elder J. Santos from Goiana(city), Pernambuca(state). He is an awesome guy and I can already tell we are going to get along great. He is a friend to everyone. And he is an amazing artist. I saw a painting he did while I was in Poços. It was absolutely amazing. So that´s gonna be cool to see more of the stuff he can do. As sad as I am to leave the Poços, I know that the Lord is directing this work. Also in my district is Elder Antone(the former Elder Christensen from my CTM group). I´m excited to be close to him and it sounds like we will get to go on splits together so that sheould be really fun.  I´m excited to get to know this new area and teach new people. I can´t wait to have great experiences here too.

Last week we had a Zone conference that was amazing. It was awesome to meet up with two of the other elders that were in my CTM group. We all have had struggles with our first transfers. We all notice that there are things in the mission we would like to see done differently and we also promised each other to never give in to being mediocre missionaries but that we would lead the mission by example in the direction it needs to go.  We also learned a lot of great things from the Assistants and the President. It was a very nice spiritual boost.

Well it´s been a lot of bitter sweet experiences this last week. truly what missionary work is. I´m so glad to be hear doing the Lord´s work. And I cant believe how fast the time is already going. One transfer in the field already done. Much love to everyone and thanks for all the support.

Elder McLelland

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Letter #13 with a Picture!

Como Vai?

It has rained so much here this past week. Last night was especially bad. I´ve never been so soaked in my life. I still love the rain, but it sure makes missionary work tough sometimes. Putting all s]your scriptures in plastic bags inside your back pack and lugging around an umbrella. Adn then the clouds go away and it get hot and super humid. Last night we left the house around 5:00 after passing through real quick to pick up more copies of the book of Mormon to deliver. It was nice and sunny so I left my umbrella at home. Big mistake. I´ve never seen it rain so hard. And of course the hour or so it rained was when we were outside walking home. Elder Azevedo said it was inevitable to have an experience like this because it was his last working Sunday (next Sunday he will be traveling to the Mission Home before he heads home).

I have a picture attached from the baptism a couple of weeks ago. Hope you guys enjoy it. The lady on the left is Irmã Cida and she loves to work with missionaries. She goes out with us on visits at least once a week. She was a big help with the baptism of Nicolas. The other little boy is Nicolas´s half-brother Adré. I absolutely love that little kid. He usually sits on my lap during Sacrament meeting. And yesterday he came with Irmã Cida to the new convert class and he was really upset. I was proud to be the one he ran to calm him down.

We have started teaching several new people this week. One family I am particularly excited about. We were trying to find the home of a street contact and a 15 year old girl came out of the neihbor house and recofnized us as mormon missionaries. We found out her grandma is a firm member in another town and later foudn out her parents were also baptized. They were active for about four years and then moved to Poços de Caldas and stopped going to church. I think it´s going to be quite easy to get them re-activated. The father, Gilson has some health problems though. He has one very weak kidney and is waiting for a transplant. They have four kids Amanda, Aline, Bruno, and Ana Julia. Their neighbors next door were in the house when we were teaching and one of the girls from that family came to church yesterday with us. The girls made some really good friends in Young Women´s already. i´m really excitd about this family, right now I feel pretty sure we will have sucess with them.

We are also teaching a college aged guy, Domingos. We walked past his apartment as he was leaving and he wa talking to a friend and he saw me, an American, and said in English, ´´did you understand what I said?´´ I said yes and we started talking as we walked down the street. He was curious to know why he saw Americans dressed like me walking past his apartment so often. So I told him we are missionaries and that we wanted to come by and share a message with him. He is one of the friendliest guys I have met. He has never joined any church, not even baptzied as a baby in the Catholic church but loves to study religions. He has entirely read the Bible, Quran, Torah, and a bunch of other religious texts. So it wasn´t too hard to give him a Book of Mormon. Another blessing for being an American, I have had so many oppurtunities these past two weeks to talk in English and people that want to know what an American is doing all the way out here. It´s so awesome.

I recieved a nice bundle of letters Saturday. Thanks for all the letters everyone. And I´m repenting and will get a bunch of letters sent out tomorrow to all of you. I have written/am writing a bunch of letters today.  

Dad has some questions for me that I think everyone would benefit to hear the answers:

  1. Can you print our letters?    Yes. But I´m not sure how much it costs, probably not much
  2. Does including a full talk to much for you to print? I would love to have church talks sent. I´m running out of church magazines to read (surprisingly).
  3. Can you give out treats, pictures or trinkets to the children there? if so would you like us to send you some?  It would be niceto have stuff to pass out. Kids here love to get $1 bills or other little stuff.
  4. Are there any pictures  church or otherwise that you would like for your apartment? We already have quite a bit of this stuff around so no need to send this kind of stuff
  5. Are there any personal products that you cannot get there, toothbrushes, deodorant...? I haven´t encountered really anything I can´t get here. Maybe some Gold Bond foot powder. The stuff they have here isn´t quite the same
  6. Can you chew gum? How is your supply holding out?  I can´t chew gum unfortunately. I gave most if it away =(
  7. Is there any clothing needs that you have  shirts, socks...? Maybe a few pairs of thinner socks. The ones I have are nice but a little warm and take forever to dry. But I can buy them here too if necessary.
  8. And I can send pictures but, I´ll still send the majority through mail on the SD cards.

Well I love all of you guys. This past week has been quite good. It´s improving and I´m excited to see what comes next week. Who is going to be my new companion? Will I be transferred (I definitely hope not)? Things are forever good here as a missionary.

-Elder McLelland

Monday, November 8, 2010

Letter #12

Minha Familia e meus amigos!

    We confirmed Nicolas, the boy be we baptized last week. Unfortunately he ended up not wanting to do it in front of the whole ward. But it was kind of a blessing for me, I didn't have to worry about saying things wrong in front of the whole congregation. That was really cool. Irm Will, in the bishopric, coached me through the part of the confirmation that has to be exact. Then it was amazing to let the Spirit take over during the blessing part. The gift of the Holy Ghost is such an amazing thing. I see it work with me everyday and it's so exciting to be helping others receive it too.

Interestingly, this past week I have encountered a bunch of English speakers this week. They are really excited to have a native speaker to talk with. A lady that works in the juice shop across the street from us stopped us and started talking perfect english asking me to stop by some time so I can talk with her in english. I think she just wants to speak in English, but who knows it might be a great oppurtunity to share the Gospel too. I met a man who goes back and forth from here and New York every 6 months for work. He spoke very broken English but was really excited to talk to me and invite me to his home. A couple of weeks ago we were walking to our lunch appointment and a lady stopped her car and asked if we were ``mormons创. We said yes and she then told us she had friends in USA that are mormons and while she lived there starting reading the Book of Mormon but doesnt have a copy here. We went and delivered it this week and she also spoke very broken English but wants us to keep coming to teach her the Gospel and wants my help with English. I hadn磘 really thought that my ability to speak english was going to bring teaching oppurtunities. I had been focusing so much on forgetting about English so I could connect to the people in Portuguese.

Unfortunately this last week also had a lot of struggles. Many of our investigators haven't been progressing much. The family we took to church last week has kind of gone cold. After we extended an invitation for baptism the mother was pretty firm that she has already been baptized. Kind of strange, I've encountered this a lot too, she doesn't seem to realize the contradiction she made. She had just said and agreed that her baptism was invalid because of the lack of authority and lack of choosing to be baptized (she was only an infant) but still is firm that she has already been baptized and doesn't need to be baptized again. The children seem interested still but mimic the responses of their mother.

This coming Saturday I have a commitment to attend a Seventh-day Adventist church service. A young man pulled over and offered us a ride so he could talk with us. He was really eager to learn about us and also share his religion. We are going to one of his services on saturday and he will come with us on Sunday. He also has a book for us just like we gave him a copy of the Book of Mormon. I'm kind of excited to see what it's going to be like. Apparently it's more or less common to visit other churches as missionaries to show respect to other churches too. I had never really thought of doing that.

Well, the work is still plugging along despite some disappointments. And despite the struggles I'm still happier than ever to be here. I hope all is well there too. Glad to hear weather is cooling down there. It's getting wetter and hotter here. I love you all.

Elder McLelland

Monday, November 1, 2010

Letter #11

Greetings from Poços de Caldas!

     Well, there I was yesterday cold, surprised and a bit nervous standing in a baptismal font baptising Nicolas Alexandre da Costa. I was pretty sure that the baptism wasn´t going to happen yesterday. The night before we were in Nicolas´ gome asking his mother for permission (he is only 8 years old almost 9) and she was pretty firm that she wanted to wait a while. But Sunday morning when the lady from the ward that has been helping us went to pick him up the mother decided it was alright for him to be baptised. It was quite an experience. I was really nervous. I hadn´t prepared at all because I didn´t think it would happen and I assumed Elder Azevedo would perform the baptism. But he handed me the white jump suit and told me to do it. There was another little girl from the ward that was baptised too. The Spirit was so strong as I spoke the simple words of the baptismal prayer. It was nice to have that good end to a rough week.

Friday/Saturday we did splits because our district leader had to go around doing baptismal interviews. So, Elder Walker and I were companions for a day in his area. That was pretty cool. The Spirit definitely helped us a lot to understand what people were saying and we knew how to teach pretty well too. Unfortunately on Saturday our appointments together fell through and it rained a ton which made it nearly impossible to contact people on the street. But it was nice to have some time with Elder Walker and speak some English. We both are unfortunately struggling with our trainers. We both have a feeling that our work could be much more efficient and that many of the small rules are being bent or broken. It was nice to at least talk about it and share some ideas to help improve. 

Sunday was also amazing because we finally had success getting investigators to Church with us. We had a family for four that came with us and they were all ready to go when we stopped by to pick them up. (Quite a relief after the past four houses we went to no one came through with their commitment to come with us). The family was Maria de Lurdes and her three kids William, Wesley and Isaura.  It was really nice to have them there and it made our week feel a bit more sucessful. 

We also have several individuals we are working with now that I have high hopes for. We are working with a couple of men that want our help to break their drinking habit. We are also teaching a lady that lost her father a little over a month ago. She was taught by the previous elders here but had to stop to give more time caring for her father. She was very greatful to hear about the Plan of Salvation because she is bery worried about the condition her father is in right now. Isn´t it wonderful to know that we can live as families forever and that those that have passed away are in a safe place and still have a chance to accept Christ and His Gospel?

Today we are going out to play some soccer with the youth in the ward. We are taking the two boys that came to church with us. William and Wesley, to help them get to know other youth better. I´m kinda nervous to play soccer with people that have been playing all of their lives. I´ve also been fighting a cold for the past two weeks, and its actually getting worse so I plan on sleeping a lot today to hopefully help. We get so exhausted from working all day everyday that its hard to recover from something as simple as a cold.

We work quite a bit with a family here in the ward that is absolutely amazing. I´m not even sure what the last name of the family is. Names are different here in Brazil and no one goes by their last name at church. It´s always brother/sister and then their first name. But they are absolutely amazing. They have a 17 year old son, Erick, that comes to work with us often. And their oldest, Nathali, leaves in about 3 weeks to serve a mission in the Provo Mission. They are always happy to feed us and help us out with the work. The father, I´m not sure what he does but he often travels to work in the Sacramento Area. It´s always cool to meet someone that has heard of Galt, especially here in Brazil.

Well everything is going pretty well here. I´m starting to get the hang of things better. I´m getting more and more excited to keep going with the work. I love being here.

Elder McLelland