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


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!

~Elder Colvin