Monday, December 30, 2013

First Christmas away from home.

 December 29, 2013

I can’t believe that it’s almost 2014! It’s a little bit weird to think that all of next year will be spent as a missionary!  It’s already been almost 6 months, but I am not sure if time is passing quickly or not?  Sometimes it’s dragging, but then I look back and wonder where the time has gone.

Christmas was really weird.  It was my first Christmas away from home, and in Brazil.  I was feeling a little homesick, but I did get some letters which helped me feel better.  Whenever I am feeling down or frustrated or tired, I just read them again and I get kind of energized.  I think that I’ve read one of them at least a dozen times already!  It’s a little bit strange that this Christmas is one of the happiest Christmas’s of my life.  We had a meeting for our zone that was more like a party, and the sisters (all Americans) made pancakes for everyone!  Afterwards we had this “Secret Santa” exchange with very cheap gifts.  It was really a lot of fun and helped everyone in the zone.  Then we got our letters/packages/etc. and let’s just say that my companion said that I was “sweating joy” after I read my letters!  After that, we had lunch with S. (our Mom here in the ward) and watched a bunch of movies and relaxed until we had our other meetings later that night. 
Sooooo I know how Dad feels now when he wants to take the kids out to eat and we all vote on some lame place that he reluctantly takes us to just to please us…. I asked Elder N. where he'd like to go out to eat for a Christmas present from me, and he said Burger King! Haha.  At least it was fun! Funny thing is that I actually liked the break from rice and beans! For my birthday, I think that we'll stop by this pizzeria I saw the other day; It looks super nice and has this Hawaiian theme, so we'll see!

Anyways, I had a lot of luck with the companion that I got! Elder N. and I work well together and we actually get along.  Elder Z’s new companion that he is training, Elder L., is a challenge.  He is a good missionary, but he is very prideful so it is hard to get along with him.  Also, he thinks that he is always right, even though he is a brand new missionary and doesn’t really know what is going on yet.  I am trying my best to get along with him and be a good leader.  I always feel like I am failing, but I guess the only thing that I can do is keep on trucking and try my best to love all the missionaries that I am suppose to be leading. 
We passed in front of a huge cathedral here, and I thought that it was pretty cool. There is not much in the way of cool architecture here so this building stands out a bit.  Cathedrals always seem pretty sad, and but I think that they are pretty awe inspiring. 

Nothing all that exciting happened this week besides Christmas.  We worked and walked, and worked and walked some more.  We had a special fast for this sister-in-law of the bishop’s wife.  The bishop’s wife is one of the people in the ward that helps the missionaries the most.  That was on Saturday, and so we woke up early on Sunday, already in a bad mood (my family understands how I can get when I am hungry).  We got up extra early so that we would have time to bring one of our investigator families to church.  We live a 20 minute walk to the chapel, but they lived another 30 minutes beyond that.  So we walked all the way there but there was only one person in the family awake when we got there.  They tried to wake the rest of the family up, but everyone complained about being too tired.  Uhhhh?  Oh well, I just dragged my tired body 30 minutes back to church. 

At least we were able to teach G. today and he is 100% ready for baptism.  We’ll have to see if he will follow through. I am hopeful for him and his future.

First week of the new transfer

December 22/23,

This is so weird to think that Christmas is almost here! All of the things that I usually associate with Christmas (hot chocolate, snow, our fireplace, etc.) are so far away that it seems like I've almost forgotten that Christmas is just around the corner! I'm still trying to figure out what exactly to do for Christmas, but I think that for the most part we're going to keep on working! We get the opportunity to spend Christmas Eve and Christmas with a member family (until 9:30), but we're also planning on dropping by each of our investigators and less active members houses to share a message with them. Thankfully we're going to spend the rest of our time with our M. in Nova Aldeota. She is the sweetest lady and takes care of the missionaries every single P-day!!! The entire family is always is there, so we always have a great time and it'll be great to have some kind of 'family' to spend Christmas with! Christmas here is something else though! They're shooting of a TON of fireworks the closer we get to Christmas! Also, they don't have any ban (or I don't know about any kind of ban) on fireworks here, soooooo..... Let's just say that the people here don't think twice before they shoot some off. We almost had a couple hit our apartment building!!!

So there were 2 great things that happened this week. First, I got my new companion!!!! I'm lucky that I only have to train a Brasileiro! I don't know what I would do if I had to be a district leader, teach a missionary how to be a missionary, AND teach that missionary how to speak Português! Also, Elder N. is already a better missionary than I am! The only thing he needs to do better with is starting the lessons. As soon as we start the lesson, he just jumps right in and works like a missionary who's already been out for more than a year!!! Okay, so can you tell how happy I am to have my new companion!  He is exactly the change that I needed!  Elder N. is ready to work hard and is being a blessing in our area with our all of our investigators. Funny thing, my companion will just say anything random that comes to his mind….(which is exactly the opposite from Elder Gino).  Sometimes it is annoying, but I now understand what my family would find annoying about my random blurts! He is also basically on the same nerd level as me, or maybe even a little bit nerdier.  Hard to believe! If any of you watch Big Bang Theory, he's a lot like Shelton, but not as annoying or prideful, but every bit as nerdy! It's awesome! We can play together, work together, and really I am just feeling like this is how a companionship should be! Elder N. has already helped me grow spiritually, give lessons easier, and speak Portuguese better than what I learned in the past couple of months here.

Also, I got a new haircut and I realized just how bald I am! :(
 
This week has been a little bit slow, but we’re trying to expand our teaching pool into Cidade 2000. It's basically like opening a brand new area. Everything is going pretty smoothly….a heck of a lot smoother than my first week in the mission. 

Things that happened this week:

Y. was baptized last Sunday and confirmed this Sunday.  It's really been incredible working with him! I have seen a huge change come over him in just a manner of weeks. When we first taught him, he was detached, reserved, and I NEVER saw him smile. At first it seemed like he was just coming because his friends were dragging him to church. He would show up in jeans and a t-shirt and kind of zone out, but now he showed up in a FULL suit and tie! He's only 15, but he's already looking to prepare himself for a mission. I am super excited for him and I hope that he turns into one of the strongest youth we have in the ward!  It just feels so good when you can visibly see happiness coming into the lives of people. To know that you are line of the people who helped open that door is even better! My invitation for everyone out there is this: try and bring a little bit of happiness into someone else's life this Christmas. Try to do something more than just giving presents. Try to do something that will last a lot longer than toys or trinkets. Give the gift of happiness!

We taught G. on Sunday and he just needs to make the commitment to be baptized.  He has such a good understanding about the gospel and he knows more about the church than a lot of missionaries do.  He has a lot of religious background and he likes to learn, and he is good at learning!  He will ask very specific questions that require specific doctrinal answers, which he just understands.  We’ve already told him that he does not have to know everything before he acts, because everything in this gospel is a learning process that never ends.  For example, I am only 18, I’ve been a member all of my life and I still have a lot of things that I need to learn.  But, everything that I am learning as I walk on this path is helping me to grow and change for the better.  We invited him to pray with a specific question about the Book of Mormon to see if it is true.  We explained that if the Book of Mormon is true, then Joseph Smith was a true prophet, and this is the restored church of our Savior, Jesus Christ, on the earth today.  It isn’t any profound doctrine, just a simple invitation for him to make the effort and do that humble prayer to ask God for the truth.  That is our invitation to the world, because God is the only one who can give us the answer that we need.  Sometimes it will come in a different way than we expect, but I testify that God does answer prayers.  He listens to every one of his children and will help them if they ask Him. 

Also, we have a newly returned missionary, Marcus Paulo, who just got back this week.  It turns out that he is the cousin of our investigator, M.  He will definitely be a HUGE asset to the ward.  

Something completely off topic that has been happening a lot more frequently is that there are a lot of gunshots in the past week.  It’s probably because everyone is drinking more for he holidays and they lose their sense of rationality.  For example, two drunks got in a fight over a bird one night and one of them died! Over a stupid bird!  I can definitely see the blessings of safety that come from being a missionary though.  We haven’t had a single person react aggressively towards us.  I think that that’s something that President Souza always prays specifically about for us. 

Elder Colvin


Monday, December 16, 2013

FELIZ NATAL!

First off.... FELIZ NATAL!!!!!

Everyone here is getting super excited about Christmas! Right now, I don't have too much too look forward to as far as presents or things that would be nice to get at Christmas because I already got to talk to my family (or rather - listen to my family), and I naturally tore open my Christmas package as soon as I got it two weeks ago!  haha 


However, I have a LOT more to look forward to this year than any other Christmas that I've already had. As a missionary, it is a lot easier to focus on a the spiritual side of Christmas rather than the commercial emphasis that's all over the world today. Christmas is a time when we can really focus on our Savior. Everyone knows the story behind the nativity, and this time I've decided to focus more on the life of Jesus Christ, what he taught, what he did, and really the fact that he gave everything that he had for the world. He literally gave up his life to save the world. It's kind of dissappointing that many people in the world forget this and become focused on 'how many presents I'll get' or 'how expensive they'll be'. Jesus Christ gave up his own life. That's is greater than any amount of gifts or money in the entire world. My goal for Christmas and my wish for everyone: Focus on loving one another by serving them. Don't just love the people who you like, but love EVERYONE. That's what Jesus did!

Here is a great link to a Christmas message that helps us to understand the true meaning of Christmas and what we can give to others.
 
I have been thinking a lot about something that my parents told me a few weeks ago about when Elder Oaks visited my home stake for a special stake conference. Elder Oaks gave his suit coat to a 12 year old boy and had the boy try it on in front of the entire stake. He told them that that suit is like a calling in the church. Whenever we're given a calling, we're not ready for that calling, we are not big enough to fit into the calling. Period. It is our responsibility to grow into that calling. We have to work hard and develop our own capabilities, and with the Lord's help, we will eventually grow and develop the ability to fit our callings. I started to think about this because I just received news from President Souza (my mission president) that I will be training a new missionary AND becoming a district leader. This is a huge responsability for me, because I still don't speak português!!! How am I supposed to train a brand new missionary and be responsible for 7 more when I can't even speak the language??? I'm really nervous about how the next 12 weeks will go, but I know that President Souza, or the Lord,  wouldn't put me into a situation if I couldn't handle it. For everyone out there today, the same thing goes for you! God wouldn't put anything in your life if you couldn't overcome it. (1 Nephi 3:7 "I will go and do the things which the Lord hath commanded, for I know that the Lord giveth no commandmenst unto the children of men, save he shall prepare a way for them that they may accomplish the thing which he commanded them.") We only grow stonger when we work, and we only work when we have something to do. One thing is for sure, I have my work cut out for me, but I'm willing to give it my all!

In fact, our entire mission has its work cut out for them because we are getting 43 NEW MISSIONARIES tomorrow!  Visa's are happening!
Christmas Mission Conference - before the new missionaries arrived.
 

Tuesday, December 10, 2013

Papaya's and hammocks???

You know that there is a little boredom when you get pictures of large papayas as a "highlight" of the week!

Soooo what exactly happened this week….We worked our butts off, that’s for sure!  We taught a lot of people, invited all of them to come to church, and only 2 people showed up.  Elder G said that this is really strange and that he’s never been in an area this difficult to work in.  To me, it feels like my stateside mini-mission. I’m tired, but I have been tired since day 1 of the mission because I am putting my all into this.  However, the fatigue definitely got worse this week because the other Elders have decided to hang out in our room talking for ….a VERY LONG time at night.  Sometime until midnight.  It’s getting super annoying!  I NEED my sleep.  It is not a matter of being lazy, or a sleepyhead as they like to call me, it’s that I literally NEED to sleep and they are not letting me get to bed. Then I get up when we are supposed to ….tired!

Working hard with no actual results can really get to you sometimes, but we're STARTING to start to see the fruits of our efforts. The only problem is that we're going to be transferred before the fruits actually ripen. Still, if you think about the role that you play as though you would be in a symphony, it makes a lot more sense. Everyone plays a part, but like in a symphony, there are melodies and there are harmonies. Right now, I'm definitely playing a harmony, but if any of you have ever played in a symphony you would know that just because you play a harmony doesn't mean that it's going to be easy. In fact, sometimes it's even harder than the melody! We can learn something from each one of our trials if we have the right kind of attitude. I won't pretend to say that I have that kind of attitude all of the time, but I'm working on it. I know that when we fall, we can choose to lie down, or to get up. I guess I'm in the process of getting up (you know, that kind of person who ALMOST gets up, and then falls right back down again? That's me! Haha).

With the upcoming transfer I'm a little bit worried about if I'll leave, if I'll stay, if I'll train, or... I don't even know, I just know that whatever will happen is going to be hard! That's the mission! However, when we do hard things we learn the most.

A couple of exciting things happened this week.  We got stopped by this very drunk or drugged (or both) lady, and of course Elder G loves to talk to drunk people and try to teach them.  Well she wasn’t making any sense and it got to be pretty crazy…so I was like, let’s wrap this up Elder and get out of here!  Run away, run away…. haha

Our lesson with G was awesome! (He was the guy who walked in to church last week with a Book of Mormon under his arm.) It was a 3 hour lesson.  He is easily our best investigator that we’ve found here in Fortaleza.  He showed a lot of interest and asks questions that we have had to give very basic answers for.  But, he wanted the profound answers!  I ended up talking to him about how in the gospel we first need to “drink the milk before we eat the meat” just like we learn to walk before we can run.  We ended up teaching him lessons 1-3, the law of tithing, and keeping the Sabbath day holy.  Seriously, he was just so hungry for more and more information. It was a great lesson! 

Another fun experience was yesterday when we were trying to contact some referrals.  So we were walking down this street that the reference was on and we see 2 SQUADRONS of policia especi (special police force) at the end of the street right where the street turned and continued into a favela (slum neighborhood). We ended up turning around because Elder G thought that the address didn’t exist (because he could not see the entrance to the favela). I told him, nah – it’s back there behind the police.  When I finally convinced him to go back, most of the police had left, so we entered the favela and looked for the address.  Unfortunately, there was a birthday party at that address…AND the police force!  We couldn’t really crash the party with heavily armed policemen present! Haha… I guess we will have to go back for that referral!



I bought a hammock this week which I am loving!

I'm running out of time to email, and every week seems to get shorter and shorter. Keep the faith everyone out there! Have a great week! 

Elder Colvin

Tuesday, December 3, 2013

A wee bit homesick

Holiday Skype call
 November 25th

Dear family,

Coming into this month of December I'm feeling just a little bit homesick as it is going to be my first Christmas away from my family AND my first Christmas in the mission! It's been fun watching everyone prepare for Christmas here in Brasil because they start in the beginning of NOVEMBER. Haha I think that it's kind of funny, but it just started to hit me that Christmas is just around the corner!

Thank you so much for your last package it's been super useful and fun! I have to admit that I opened it early.... There was no way that I was going to wait an entire month until Christmas! I've already used everything! The only problem I have is that I don't remember how to play pass the pigs! I forgot all the scoring ha ha.  (Elder Colvin is a very positive person in case you can’t tell.  In reality, the peppermints that I sent in the Christmas box melted all over the entire contents of his package..ruining most of the things in it.  The only thing that bothered him about that was that he couldn’t eat the peppermints!)  My Mom also sent me the game Bananagrams, and if any of you don't know how to play that game, it's like a scrabble free-for-all, and we ended up playing with both english and português... So it was a little hectic and had a lot of... interesting words in both languages! Lots of fun! 

I'm doing well for the most part. Uncle Mark was definitely right about Brazilians though! His letter was super helpful to me in understanding them, and realizing that it isn’t just me or my perceptions. When they think that something is cool from the USA that we really don’t think is cool, there is no way to talk them out of their opinion.  They think that it's still cool and I just must be a very uncool American’s if I don’t like whatever random American thing that they are infatuated with. For example they were talking about the TV show called “Big Brother” and they told me that I have no social life because I didn't think that “Big Brother” was that big of a deal! They can definitely be rude when they don't think about what they are saying, which is often.  Although it is kind of true that I don't have much of a social life, I don't remember any of my friends watching that show who did have social lives. If fact, I am pretty sure that the only Americans who watch that show really don’t have social lives.  But there is no convincing a Brazilian that they are wrong about American culture.  What is interesting about this is that the missionaries are the rude ones, while the rest of the Brazilians are generally very kind and nice to me. For the most part I love the people here and I'm I know that it will only get better from now on.

Still, I am looking forward to some kind of change in the next transfer, just because our house is getting really… Crappy. I don't know how to explain it, but this past p-day I worked for two hours to clean up the house ALONE, again. I hope that will change in the coming week. It's hard being in completely different culture. I still haven't adjusted. If you do anything contrary to the culture (like clean), they totally condemn you for it!


No microphone...intensely typing...
November 28

I was given permission to call my family on Thanksgiving because they are not going to be home for Christmas.  They will have a house sitter, but I really don’t want to spend my holiday call talking to the house sitter.  Anyway, it was good for about 10 minutes and then my mic went out and my family couldn’t hear me.  They could see me, and I could see them and hear them.  We couldn’t fix the problem, so I just ended up typing responses to their questions.  It all worked out fine, and I think that we had a nice time despite complications.

December 2

I haven't had very many problems this week with the missionary work just the usual investigators not showing up for church, and people not inviting anyone to church, and ward members not helping with any of the teaching. However, we're working out some ways that we can try to work with the members. One good bit of news is that we're teaching the brother of one of the members of our ward, and he's coming to church and everything, but when we're teaching the lessons he has a total lack of interest... Still, it's something, right? Also, the cleaning went better this week, but Elder D STILL didn't clean even with all of the other elders in the house cleaning!
 
Biggest highlight of the week: We had some random person walk into sacrament meeting with a Book of Mormon under his arm and said that he'd like to be a Mormon! His name is G, and he's one of the tallest guys that I have ever met! We haven't had the chance to meet with him yet, but he accepted visits from the missionaries and we're going to teach him next Saturday! 

Things are starting to look up, but this is the end of the transfer, so it's likely that I'll get transferred out and some other missionary will move in and have everything prepared for him.... Oh well! I'm happy to know that I am helping to plant the seeds for missionaries to come because my purpose is to help others to come unto Christ and if the only way I can do that is by preparing the way, then I'm happy.

In my treasured Christmas package, my mom sent me English copies of conference (the scratch and sniff peppermint version, haha) and that is made such a difference in my attitude and my life. I am just starving for things written in my language and this was like a lifeline to me.  I know that these talks are inspired of God. We must study their teachings like the scriptures because there are scriptures as well! The only difference is that they're directed to our time exactly. You'll be able to overcome any obstacle in your life if you heed their counsel. I'm reading this most recent session of conference, and now that I'm studying it, I'm getting a lot more advice, wisdom, and specific spiritual food just for me than ever before. I know that our leaders have the authority to lead and direct Christ’s church today. You can have the same topic taught by another member of the church, but when General Authorities talk, it makes a difference. I have 100% trust in our prophet and apostles today. I know that they will only direct us for good. Through them I can strengthen my own testimony that this Church is true, that Christ lives and directs His Church even today, that Joseph Smith restored the only true gospel to the Earth. I love this church, I love the principles it teaches. I love the direction we have been given in life because of it, and I love you guys!

Tchau!
~Elder Colvin

Monday, November 25, 2013

HOT!

 Holy cow it is hot here! 

(Commentary here from the missionary mom, I don’t ever remember using the phrase “Holy Cow” in my kid’s younger years….where did they BOTH get that phrase from?)
 Holy cow it is hot here!
It's definitely the worst right around 2 in the afternoon, because we're walking, and walking, and walking with NO ONE in the streets! Seriously! Everyone is sleeping at that time, but we're out melting like popsicles! We haven't had too much success as far as baptisms go, but we have seriously worked like crazy this past week! I really know what people say when they say that numbers don't matter. It's seeing a change come about in people’s lives that really makes the difference. It's helping them and watching them grow in their faith that is really the best feeling in the world! It's hard work, but it's definitely worth it.

So one of the things that my companion said to me this past week was something that kind of opened my eyes. He was talking about how we see other people who have been 'saved' from drugs, alcohol, etc. in other churches.  He explained that the devil is super crafty, seriously, the devil is one of the smartest guys around. My companion explained that the devil will encourage us to settle for something that may be good in order to keep us from finding and doing what is best. We must always remember our worth in the sight of God, and ALWAYS remember to make the BEST choice. This life is a series of making good, better, and best choices. Always choose the BEST.


Anyways, I have to go, Tchau!!

PS. I am having a craving for pizza. Good old American pizza. The pizza here sucks. A lot. I'd seriously go crazy if you could find some way to send some pizza to me! Haha!


PPS Sorry my letter is so short this week.  I will get to talk to you in a few short days.  (Thanksgiving call was approved for Elder Colvin since his family will be out of the country for Christmas.)

Monday, November 18, 2013

My first package!

Hello Family and Friends,

I got the first package and have already made one of the packets of cookies! Sort of. Haha we added a bunch of other things into them and they turned our AWESOME! Thanks a ton! We are already decorating for Christmas.


Some advice for Fortaleza bound missionaries:  
     1) One thing that I would not advise (in Fortaleza at least) is bug spray. Seriously, it will torment you more than if you don´t use it because the only time you need it is at night, but it doesn't last all night, so you wake up with a bunch of bug bites. However, Elder G shared a little secret with me. You know those electronic mosquito repellers? Well if you buy one of those the canisters last for 3 months if you only turn it on during the night (the only time that you need it for). All in all it only cost about $15. About 30 reais.  
     2) I figured out that it is less expensive to pull money off of the debit card than to actually use the card itself to pay. 
     3) There is no real way to prepare for a mission emotionally....  Seriously, the only thing like it would be marriage, but I have heard that the mission helps prepare you FOR marriage! 
     4) Backpacks verses side-bag issues:  I figured out that it's better that I don't use my backpack because the other Elder's took one look at it and said that I'd get robbed in a heartbeat! My sidebag isn't all that bad, especially since I'm doing some stretches and exercises to help loosen up and strengthen my back.


I have no clue how to manage my time on the computer! It certainly doesn't help that this time we had to use Internet Explorer (slowest thing around) for emailing. Talk about frustrating! This week was pretty rough, but fortunately ended on a very good note. My companion and I had been having some difficulties working together, and it was definitely affecting how we treated each other. We kind of had a breaking point on Saturday and ended up talking for about an hour. It was interesting because it was the first time that I felt like we actually opened up to each other and expressed our thoughts. I found out that I often don't speak my mind because I'm afraid of some of the things that I would say and that they might offend someone. Elder G encouraged me to speak my mind and that I shouldn't hold things in (because of the type of person that I am. Everything shows on my face. EVERYTHING!). I don't cope well with harboring hard feelings. Also, we reached the conclusion that we simply need to talk more. Elder G didn't realize (now he does) that I don't understand everything or I don't read people as well as he does. Shocker. I'm too focused on trying to speak another language!!! Anyways, during the past 2 days we've decided to talk more about the needs of our investigators, what problems we saw when we were talking with them, how we can help them, thoughts, feelings, promptings, impressions, etc. So far the tension has gone way down and we're working a lot better. I think that that would be my advice for anyone out there. If you have a problem, talk it out! It'll help for sure! Having good communication is vital when you're working with others, and I hope that it's something that I will learn by the end of my mission. We're still working our butts of and sweating and walking and all that jazz. 'Tis the life of the missionary! I definitely have a love-hate relationship with that! 

I don't have too much contact with my mission president, so I'm just kind of stumbling through things on my own. I think I'm starting to get the hang of it, but we'll see in the week to come! Also, I'm not sure how I feel about this, but our mission is basically trying to compete with the other mission in the city. I'm grateful that my companion is focused on our area, and the needs of our investigators and not numbers in the mission. 
We have a piano in our hous now! Haha I'm trying to learn a Christmas piece for the ward talent show coming up, and I found a way to practice. Sort of. Haha, it's better than nothing!
~Elder Colvin

Monday, November 11, 2013

Bucket Brigade

So do you all remember the analogy that I used last time about the bird? Well this week I found a solution for that. Run faster than the bird! Nossa! We had a super busy week this week, with hardly any time to rest. Still, the busier we are, the less problems bother us. We've been working hard, with little results, but if you remember ' by small and simple things are great things brought to pass'. Seriously, all of the little victories, like an investigator keeping a commitment, or finding someone that MIGHT be interested, are what keep me going. Right now we are working with a lot of people, but at the same time we are stopping our work with some of the people who aren't committed to working with us. If someone is not committed to something, not only is it a waste of our time, it's a waste of their time as well. The only way that something can progress or become better, is through change, and if someone is not willing to change, we can't force them. Change is essential to our work as a missionaries, and this is what we've been trying to help people do: change for the better.

My first Zone
My first district.
One thing that I really like about what we do as missionaries, is exactly that: change. Let me explain. As missionaries, our purpose is to help others to come unto Christ by helping to receive the restored gospel. This will be a change in the lives of people, but it should be only that. We aren't here to destroy beliefs, we're not here to tell people that they're wrong. We are here to point people in the right direction. We are guides for the path that leads back to God. Just like a guide, we can only tell you information and show you the way. It's all up to the person whether or not the choose to follow. Whether or not they will make that change in their lives. Watching some of these people take the first steps (the first little changes in their lives) is something that is really exciting. It's kind of funny because it's frustrating at the same time. I know it's the right thing to do, I know that you should do this for your happiness, so why don't you just do it! Haha it's all about that person willingly making that change and as much as we want someone to change, it's completely up to them if they want to change or not.

Anyways, our best investigator right now is definitely P. She was using drugs and alcohol to the point that the doctors said that she was going to die by December if she didn't find some other way to live. she decided that she would have God in her life and decided to start reading the Bible for the first time. She is super awesome, and we met here about 18 days after she quit using drugs, smoking, drinking, etc. As of today, she has 1 month without anything! She justt quit cold turkey! I think that that's something that really shows her dedication to find something better in her life. She still hasn't come to church, but she loves the missionaries and is searching for God super diligently in her life. She is by far the most involved person that we're teaching. During our lessons she asks questions, listens and understands our explanations. (Which is really saying something because of my broken portuguese!) Haha it's definitely worth the time that you put in as missionaries when you can see the difference that God brings into peoples lives.

Sometimes its not a big difference. Sometimes all we have to do is point the way out to people and they say things like 'oh, this makes sense'. We have another investigator I. who came to church and said that he really liked our church because it seemed more like a unification rather than the division that is so apparent in other religions. I just about cried because we have been searching and searching for an investigator like him who is completely ready and willing to learn.


Anyways, one of the funny stories of the week, we had NO water in the chapel this weekend. Seriously, the water had been shut off to the church and we had 2 baptisms that day! One in Mucuripe and the other in Nova Aldeota. Both of them were old investigators of the other elders when they had been working in the area, but we were able to help them make that first step of baptism. However, that is really really hard when you don't have any WATER. So we found out that there was one tap on the outside of the building that was working. Let's just say that I´m really glad that we had four elders there. (and prior training hauling water buckets at horse camps)  We spent our Saturday and the afternoon of Sunday filling the font with BUCKETS. Not to mention that the font was leaking a little bit (this is why we had to keep filling the font on Sunday). Anyways, I was definitely a little bit tired, but it was definitely worth it when we were able to see them get baptized. I'm glad that I'm staying in this area for at least another transfer so that I can help them continue doing the right things. Sorry I don't have pictures of all of our baptism, but my camera kind of ran out of battery right before the baptism. 
This week is transfer week.  Elder C. (my good friend) is leaving the house to become a district leader.  We have another brazilian coming into the house. I am staying with my companion for another 6 weeks!
Anyways, that's it for this week. Everyone stay safe, and always know that God is with you if you so choose! 

~Elder Colvin

Monday, November 4, 2013

Pinky and the Brain

I am starting the last week of the 12- week new missionary training program. The second half as been harder than the first half because we had to jump in and do it in Portuguese!  And this past week has been the worst. Week five is always a hard week because you are coming up on the end of the transfer and you're starting to get annoyed with your companion if you haven't already. This past transfer has been especially difficult for me. I think that it was definitely a breaking point in my mission. I´m not having so much of a hard time with the language, but more with my companion. He's never been through the 12 weeks program (the 12 weeks of hell) with an American before. He expects me to do everything without talking to me about it, and he does not even begin to understand the language barrier. The other elders in our house said that I've progressed faster than any other American elder that they know, so Elder G shouldn't be as frustrated with me as he is. The one thing that he says is "com você" (with you) meaning that whatever I choose is what we're going to do. And then, when I say that we should do something that he doesn't like, he just completely shuts it down because he's right and I'm wrong and bla bla bla.  I'm lucky that I've had a little bit of experience with this, because I always just end up going with whatever he says. I figure that he knows more than what I do since he´s been in the mission longer and is my district leader. Elder C. gave me a cartoon that he says reminds him of me and Elder G....guess who is Pinky and who is the Brain? Well the only difference is that I´m smarter then Pinky and wonder why I have to be stuck with the Brain. But it is true that I try to just figure out ways to make the Brain happier so that things will go better as he plots to take-over  convert the world.  Maybe if I were dumber, then I would be happy like Pinky.

A pet bird in one of the houses we taught in.
However, I am truly blessed to have Elder C here to help me. He has already helped me more than any other person on my mission. Com Certeza. 
One of the things that he said to me really helped me and still helps me. Imagine that all of your problems are a bird. You can´t stop that bird from landing on your head, but you can decide whether or not you will let him make a nest there. You can decide if your problems truly are problems, or only a way for you to get stronger. It´s all about you mindset. I know that if we keep pressing forward with a positive attitude, we will see a change in our lives. We will have more happiness, more stability, and a better outlook on life. Of this I can testify, because it´s already helped me get through this past week. I hope that this will help anyone out there who is having difficulties or trials in their life right now, because it has already helped me. That is basically my purpose as a missionary, to help others know of the greatness of what I already have because I truly want them to have it too. I hope that everyone will have a great week and find ways to overcome all of the trials that life dishes out!
Elder C, Elder Colvin, Elder Z, Elder G
Graças a Deus for Elder C. Seriously, he has done more for me during my mission as far as supporting me than any other person. We´re already super close friends. I don´t know how I would have survived without him. I would love to visit him again in Rio after I finish my mission! It sounds like his family is helping Taylor out a TON in the ward that she´s serving in. Like, more than I ever would've imagined a ward would help missionaries!

You'd be proud of me today mother, I woke up on time and cleaned our apartment (minus doing the dishes, cleaning the other elder's bedrooms, and bathroom). All of the other elders were just laying in bed. 

Elder Z injured his foot really badly this week. It wasn't a blister, he literally tore the bottom of his foot! ouch! I think that he was walking/running really fast and he landed wrong or something. He's already doing a lot better, and I think that he's going to be fine.  

~Elder Colvin

Monday, October 28, 2013

A Brazilian Pace is faster than you think!

Hello Family and Friends, 

I don't have much time this week to write, so I will just send a quick note to let you know that I am fine. While it´s been getting colder there, it´s been getting hotter and hotter here. Seriously, I've never sweat so much in my life! Not even biking in Kansas! I´m loving it though.

Brazilians walk on a completely different level than us! Especially missionaries! I think that we are currently averaging a minimum of 5 miles per hour at ALL times. More than that if we´re late (which is often). I think that I´m definitely getting skinnier, but I´m still a little fat from all of that southern food/MTC, and the other elders in the apartment always play with me and say that I´m gordinho (little fatty), but I think that they only play with me like that because I´m not and because my companion is quite a bit heftier than me, but they don´t say anything to him. One day we walked for about 6 hours at a Brazilian pace so think between 25-30 miles. Most of the time I think that it´s just 10 or 12 miles... maybe more. Who knows? I have no way of knowing the distance other than by pace and time.  I also have no idea how hot it is here, because people just say HOT. Because once it gets this hot that's all you can basically say!  My shoes are awesome - no blisters or anything, and my toe is completely healed!
Fortaleza
Anyways, things are definitely starting to pick up now that I´m starting to get the hang of Portuguese. It´s actually surprising because the missionaries in my apartment said that I´m speaking better than most of the American missionaries they know that have already been out for months! My weakness is understanding what people are saying, because even the brasileiros say that the people in Ceará, or Fortaleza, all speak super fast! It´s been fun, but very different. They also speak in a local dialect which means that they can understand me, but I can't understand them.

I´m a little scared for this Thursday because I will be on a companion exchange with another American who only has 6 more weeks here than me!!! I think that it´s be a disaster, but we just need to plan things out carefully the night before and be prepared for the day to come. Anyways, we have ridiculously high goals here, but as I´m starting to learn the language I can see us starting to hit them. My advice for everyone is to press onward. There´s nothing else we can do in life than just to push on through. If we are continually striving for something better, we will see improvements in every aspect of our lives.

That´s awesome for Abbey!!! (a friend who was called to serve in the Mexico City Mexico Mission.) I can´t believe that all these people are leaving on missions!!! Caleb is leaving next month, right? I´m super excited for all this!

Here are some of the interesting things that happened this week:
  • The police here pull people over by pointing an AK-47 at them and shouting ´PARA´ (STOP) .... I was more than a little nervous when I saw three policemen on two motorcycles pull over someone ... Kind of scary. 
  • I got to see the beach (sort of, where we were was mostly rocks) for the first time. 
  • I almost bought groceries at this supermarket called 'super chicken land'.  
  • Our washing machine broke, creating what I call the sea of the bathroom. We´re still waiting to fix that... 
  • More drunk people. 
  • We kind of made a barbecue...in our apartment... Totally safe! Haha we had a lot of fans so no smoke stains or anything.... I know, probably a stupid idea...
~Elder Colvin

Monday, October 21, 2013

A Happy Missionary

Opa, time is so weird on a mission! For example, one week seems like it takes forever, and then I look back and I've almost been out on a mission for 4 months. Or, just look at the weird time paradox that happens on P-days! They always fly right on by!

I had a bunch of really interesting and weird experiences that happened this week.

1st: I got frisked by a drunk guy. We were walking to an appointment, and we heard this guy yelling at us to stop. He was about 100 feet away and was full on sprinting at us. Needless to say we stopped. He claimed to be the deputy chief of police, and proceeded to feel me up and down for a weapon. It was VERY awkward!

2nd: I met an American lady on the bus! It was really weird because she looked very brazilian, but we were only able to talk for a short amount of time and I wasn´t able to get any information so we could stop by and try to teach her some lessons. She said that she´s in Fortaleza teaching English and is originally from LA (little shout out to Sister T, so keep an ear open for any Portuguese you might hear!). We ended up seeing her AGAIN (which was very weird) in the store when we were shopping for groceries. Very weird coincidence!

3rd: I was on a split with Elder C, and we went up to this lady to ask her for directions. She ended up saying something to this effect: ´Oh my heavens, I never thought that angels walked on the earth. I will do anything that you want me to!´ I´m not even kidding. I did´t understand all of what she said at the time, but I caught the gist of it when my companion explained it to me a bit slower afterwards.

4th: So I´m a happy missionary. I say hi to just about everyone on the street. Just like a ´good afternoon´ or ´goodnight´ or other various noises that brazilians use to say hi to each other. I said hi to this group of girls, and heard one of them say after we had passed ´opa, nunca na minha vida!´ Which means: Wow, never in my life! My companion thought it was hilarious, but that´s not all! Not even 5 minutes after, I said `oi, boa noite´ to this group of people, and one of the guys who wasn't wearing a shirt replies: `boa noite, você é lindo!´ Along with this very very creepy look. That means, good night, you are beautiful! AHHHHH SO CREEPY!

5th: This lady asked us if Mormons have sex. It was weird because she didn´t use a word that I understand, and I only understood afterward when my companion explained it to me because the word that she used was kind of like the ´stronger version´ of a word. Kind of like the difference between bonita and linda. Typically that word is usually only used with prostitutes. My companion was very very awkward, and I didn´t understand why, but it made a lot of sense once he explained thing to me!

6th: I learned that there are at least 40 different curse words in Portuguese!!! I've already said 2 of them on accident because just about all of them are only 1 syllable different than a normal word! For example: I was practicing with the secretaries of the mission on how to teach people, and at the end I was trying to say that I was like a deer in the headlights when other people are speaking Portuguese. The word for deer is ´veado´. The curse word is ´viado´. It´s a really offensive word that means a gay person. So I ended up calling myself that in front of the secretaries. I totally had no idea I had said something bad, sooooo I ended up finding out that there a lot more words tha you shouldn´t say in Portuguese than there are in English!



Fortaleza
Anyways, that and the fact that we walked and walked and walked and walked and walked some more basically sums up my week. I´m learning Portuguese a lot faster than I thought I would (apparently I talk in my sleep - note: this is a known fact to every member of our family except Garrison who has never believed any of us, and I was talking in both Portuguese and English!). I´m blessed to be in this area, and I´m looking forward to working some more. I never thought I´d say that, but sometimes it can actually be fun. You definitely learn a lot as a missionary! I´m learning a lot of things that I never would have learned anywhere else! I´m loving it, and still trying to adjust to the culture, so I guess that only time will tell! 

I´m reading a ton of the scriptures and I´m about halfway through Jesus the Christ. I like it a lot, but sometimes it gets a little difficult to read. I´m just about finished with the Book of Mormon again, and I will start reading D&C after this. Also, about the baptism thing, I think that they rush it a LOT in the US (because it says to do that in PMG) but in Brazil we work a lot slower with inviting people to be baptized. I still haven´t had any baptisms yet, but we have a lot of people that are close. That´s one problem with opening an area is that I think that we will have like 4 or 5 baptisms or more set for 1 day!

One passage of scripture that I've been thinking a lot about this past week is the whole chapter of Alma 32. It talks about relating the faith to a seed. If you plant that seed and take care of it and if it is a good seed, it will grow. This next part is what I've been focusing on. After the seed starts to grow, and we know that it is a good seed, we have to take care of it. If we don´t take care of our faith the plant), it won´t take root, and then when the scorching sun comes (trials and problems in our life) the plant (our faith) will wither and die. Not because the seed wan´t good, not because the plant wasn´t good, or not because the fruit that it would´ve produced wouldn´t be good, but because of a lack of nourishment on our part. Our duty in this life is to strengthen our faith, to help our plant to take root, so that we will be able to stand firm in the face of the trials that we have and not wither when the sun comes out. Sometimes we face difficult situations, and sometimes things are easy. We must always be seeking to strengthen our testimonies at ALL times. I know that this is my duty right now, to help others to become more firm in their faith, so that they can remain strong in their faith today. I love being a missionary and seeing the change that you can see in a person´s life as they develop. It´s definitely one of my favorite things about being a missionary! I love you all lots!

~Elder Colvin

Monday, October 14, 2013

My THIRD Mission...oops!

We´ve walked a LOT this past week. My companion is a district leader (For those of you who do not know, A mission is divided up into zones, and each zone is divided into districts, and then each district is divided into areas. Keep this in mind, it will be important later), so we had to look for housing for a new set of missionaries that will be coming in. We walked for 6 HOURS STRAIGHT! The only time that we ever stopped was to write down the occasional address for a house for rent. I was about ready to die. Not to mention I also had/still have an ingrown toenail. I was wiped the next day, but (shocker) we walked some more. I´m definitely going to stay in shape here, that´s for sure! One thing that has really helped me over the past week is the time that I spent with our Zone leader on a companion exchange. One of the things that I realized, is that there is absolutely NO way that I could do something like this if it was not true. I would have given up a long time ago if I did not know the importance of the message that we share. Funny story time!
So, remember how I said how each mission has zones, and then districts, and then areas? Well one of the rules is that you are not supposed to leave your area unless you are doing something like interviewing if you are one of the leaders. So on Saturday my companion had to interview someone who was getting ready to be baptized. Since he´s the district leader, we got permission to leave our area to go interview this lady. After the interview it was about 8:45. It´s a long distance between our two areas, so we decided to take a bus back. We waited, and waited, and waited for the right bus that would take us back to the terminal  until about 9:15. At that point my companion decided that we should take a bus to the terminal in their area and then take a bus from there to our terminal. First off: I have notoriously bad luck with buses, and it´s even worse in another country in a language that I don´t really understand. So we got on a bus going the OPPOSITE direction of the terminal in the area that we were in! We ended up leaving that area (unauthorized), which is kind of a problem.

Ok, then we left the zone.... Annnnnnnd then the mission. OH MY GOSH. That was terrifying! We got in the terminal and were waiting for a bus back home when a member came up to us and started chatting with us. At this point in time it was about 10:30. Missionaries have a curfew of 9:30. Yeah, we were in trouble. Anyways, this member was talking to us, and we told him about our situation (he was worried about our curfew). He asked us if we had talked with President Fusco yet. ......Fusco???? Our mission president is President SOUZA! 

WE WERE IN A DIFFERENT MISSION!!!!! 
THE end of the LONGEST DAY

I was definitely wigging out! It´s my first transfer in this mission and I´ve already left the mission boundaries! I was very stressed, worried, and just plain old tired, so I was about ready to snap! Also, we couldn´t get in contact with the anyone to let them know that we were delayed because the other elders didn´t have the phone!!!! Anyways, we get in line for the RIGHT bus, and Elder G decided that he needed to buy some food and suco (juice) while we were waiting. Our bus pulls up annnnnnnd leaves as he´s paying for his food.... I was a little bit ticked, but I got over it surprisingly quickly. I remember thinking to myself; there´s really nothing I can do at this point, so why should I worry any more about it? Anyways, we got on our right bus, got home, and finally get everything sorted out around 11:45 (WAAAAAAAY past curfew!). Everyone was worried about us and was searching the streets of our area (we were miles away) and it made me feel good to know how much people care about the missionaries. Anyways, these pictures are us right after we got back, so that´s why I look a little frazzled. It was a crazy experience (that I don´t think I ever want to repeat)  and I´m glad that it´s over. 

Sunday was really really difficult to stay awake especially being in a different language and all. I ended up getting up in sacrament meeting and bearing my testimony in Portuguese though! I was super nervous, and still a little wigged out from the night before. Needless to say, I´ve been sleeping really well these past couple nights!

QUESTIONS FROM MOM ANSWERED:
1. What are your mission rules? Yep, our mission can watch DISNEY MOVIES EVERY P-DAY! I found that out this week and that we also can listen to any song from a disney movie. So yeah, if you could send me discs with some disney music and some EFY music, that would be super awesome! Also, I need better speakers!!! I seriously can barely hear anything with these! As far as backpacks go... Nope, we just had zone training this week, and they said that you have to have sidebags. They´re giving the missionaries who are already out a little bit of time for the transition, but I actually like my sidebag. My shoulders are totally fine as long as I switch shoulders (which I do a lot). 

2. Are you having any health problems? I kind of haven´t used sun screen... at all... I´m in the city (like apartment buildings every single block) and I haven´t even gotten sunburned, though I am getting almost as tan as my companion.  I think it´s kind of strange, but I´m not finding Fortaleza as hot or as miserable as I thought it would be. Probably because I got a warm up in Kansas ;) Anyways, I´m doing great, I don´t know if I told you that I had an ingrown toenail (which was TORTURE with the amount that we walk) but it is a lot better now that I went to the podiatrist. Tune in to my weekly update because I will be writing all of my stories on that!!! I´ve got a great one!!!

3. How are you getting along with the lanquage?  My language is coming along well (especially since I have 3 Brasileiros) and I think that I use more English in my emails home than I do during the entire rest of the week. I only got to listen to 1 session of General Conference in English, but I really really liked it. I thought it was funny how they had to address the whole women/priesthood deal. I think that some people are kind of crazy sometimes. 

4. Is there anything you need?  I would definitely appreciate if you sent me food, or candy, or cookies, or really just something to eat. We don´t get much of a budget (about 90 reais every 2 weeks, but 2 reais=1 dollar...) So yeah. 

I learned last week that one of the missionaries, Elder C, in my apartment is from the very same place in Rio where Taylor is serving. Elder C was talking about how he thinks that she is probably serving in his ward. Funny! We´re already pretty close friends. Like, he invited me to come to Rio after I´m done with my mission. I think that that´d be super fun.

I´ve felt a little bit homesick over the past week. Here are the things that I miss:

  • Clean water (we have to buy clean water whenever we want something to drink)
  • Hot showers (cold showers aren´t very nice in the morning)
  • ENGLISH
  • Eating something other than rice, beans and spaghetti every single day.
  • And I guess that I miss my family just a little bit... Estou brincando! 
Arroz, frijoles, macaron
I guess that´s just about it, so it´s really not that bad. That´s all the time I have, but I hope that everything´s going well for everyone! Vá com Deus!
~Elder Colvin
 
P.S.Man, we do NOT get enough time for emailing!!!