Monday, February 24, 2014

Ward Mission Leader to the Rescue

And I thought Mom's haircuts were short!
Day 228 February 23, 2014

The week in review:


P-day was pretty uneventful.  We cleaned the house (more like, I cleaned the house…).  We bought a bunch of groceries including a lot of fruit at the fair.  We watched The Croods (?), and I got a haircut.  Our Ward Mission Leader, Erivan cut our hair for us and after that he did some visits with us.  We were visiting with L. and Erivan ended up explaining why it is so important to stick around for all of the three hours of church.  He did this by sharing his first experience in church and how it affected him.  It was a horrible story about walking into gospel essentials for the first time and having a kid throw yogurt all over him. But, he decided to stick around and he had a great experience in sacrament meeting.  That lesson turned out to be very effective because L. stayed for the entire three hours of church on Sunday!

This cute puppy's name is Mel(honey).  She belongs to the members who own the internet cafe where we email on P-days. 
Mel is a great part of my p-day!


We had our weekly planning session and it went well until companionship inventory.  We ended up arguing when we gave each other “advice” on what the other could do better.  We were both pretty rude to each other. Elder F. was upset with me for emailing three minutes longer than the allotted time. Anyway, it ended up not being the best scenario.  But he is right and I will do better next week.  A cool thing happened at the end of the day.  We only had 10 minutes to do some contacting and we decided to walk down a specific road.  I thought it would be a good idea to say a prayer to help us find someone quickly and it worked!  We only had one contact, but that was E.  He is often away with his business, so it was unusual to catch him at home.  He was just getting ready to leave on a business trip.  He accepted a Book of Mormon, said that he would read it, and wanted us to return!

Elder C. and I, he is a great missionary!
My Brazilian trainer.

Today was Zone Conference, and it was pretty far away. I have never been so claustrophobic in my life as I was in that bus ride to the conference.  We has our entire zone in the bus AND other people.  Anyways, we got there and conference was good.  It was also very long.  We learned a lot about obedience, but all-in-all President Souza was pretty happy with the condition of the mission.  We didn’t get back until 7:40, so we ended up only teaching one lesson to our ward mission leader’s nephews. They have baptismal date set for March 9th.


We had our weekly meeting with our ward mission leader.  I am so glad to have an awesome WML.  He is the best leader you could basically ask for.  I can’t think of any improvements that he could make to be any better.  We’re working with him a lot on how we can get members involved in the work.  Our lunch appointment fell through, so we ate with him.  He offered us some kind of pepper. He was all like, “be careful! This pepper is a destroyer!”  (It doesn’t make sense in English).  Do you know what it was?  REGULAR black pepper!  Haha.  I guess that they just don’t have too much of that around here.


We taught 15-year-old D. again and she has read everything that we asked her too. She even reread Alma 32 three times.  She is really a great investigator.  We held a family night that night and I. came.  She made a lot of friends and she actually leaned over and whispered during the message, “All of this is for me?”  Our WML is really inspired because it was perfect.


The only day of the week when we didn’t bother our WML.  Nothing super interesting happened but we did a lot of contacting and found 11 new investigators.  They seem a little flakey, but I think that some of them have potential.


Church was really good!  One of our investigators that we stopped teaching came back to church!  Also, L. brought her cousin with her to visit, and he is pretty interested.  We left to visit people after lunch with Erivan.  I am definitely a lot happier this week than last week.  Erivan is helping both Elder F. and I grow a ton.  We’re going to keep on working hard this next week.  I am starting to get the hang of things.  What a difference a good leader makes!

So this is the 3-week mark that I'm here in Bom Jardim, and I have to say that it's not nearly as bad as I thought it would be. Everyone always talked about Bom Jardim in a bad way, but I still haven't gotten mugged.... yet..... Haha, I guess that the missionary schedule is the exact opposite from the 'dangerous' times here. Anyways, one of the things that I think is protecting us here is our obedience. We are making sure to take extra precaution to follow ALL of the rules, no matter how small they are. We can really see the blessings come from being EXACTLY obedient. A lot of times people think of commandments as 'rules' or things that are there just to drag us down, but I can testify that that is not the case with God. Every single commandment is here to bless us. In the Doctrine and Covenants, we can learn:

D&C 120:20-21
20 There is a law, irrevocably decreed in heaven before the foundations of this world, upon which all blessings are predicated.
21 And when we obtain any blessing from God, it is by obedience to that law upon which it is predicated.

I know that these things are true. I have seen it time and time again in my life and I'm just now starting to realize the real importance of it.   I don't remember exactly how to explain it, but it is like we are soldiers in a war. If a soldier receives orders from his general, he should follow them. If he follows them, he is faithful to his general. If he doesn't, he is labeled as a traitor. When we receive orders from God, the same principle applies. If follow God's orders, we show that we are faithful to Him. If we really want to follow Christ's example, we have to follow His commandments. The problem is that we have pride. We think that we are better than the rules. We begin to think that we don't need to do something because we know better. This manner of thinking is prevalent in The Book of Mormon and The Bible. Every time that God's people followed his orders, they prospered. When they prospered, they began to become prideful and trust in themselves rather than God. Then they fall because of their own weakness as mortal men. They only begin to prosper again when they come to rely on the Lord once again. I can say that I am guilty of falling into this vicious cycle on more than one occasion. This is my goal for this week, month, year, mission, life.... Who knows, maybe I'll never leave this cycle. However it is all that we can do to rely on God and trust in the direction that we receive from Him. Anyways, this week was a huge improvement BECAUSE we started to change something in ourselves to trust more in the Lord than in our own strength. We should all strive to do the same to continue being blessed by God. I hope that everyone has a great week and that we can all learn something new with every coming day! 

~Elder Colvin

Monday, February 17, 2014

Growing up FAST ???

 Day 221
            Well this week was….frustrating.  A lot of good things happened, but not a whole lot actually happened in the way of results.  I feel like this area is in this patch of stagnant water that isn’t going anywhere.  This is frustrating because there were tons of baptisms before I arrived, and when I arrived and our numbers plummeted.  I really like this area, but I feel like I’m more of a burden than anything else.  I’ve never had an actual “experienced” senior companion before and now I’ve had two transfers in a row where I’m senior.  I still have no idea how to be even a JUNIOR missionary.  This week I found out what will be my challenge for at least this transfer (if not the entire mission) and that is my own maturity.  I am not going to say this to be prideful, but I have been blessed in a lot of ways.  I can teach well, I listen to people well, I am good at helping them, I am basically fluent in the language, and many other things that I have been blessed with.  But as good as I am at helping people with their problems, I can’t even help myself to fix the one big problem of maturity.  I recognize that it is a problem, but I have no idea how to grow up faster. I don't like it when my only option is to 'wait and gain experience.' Aghhhh! I guess that is going to be my problem to conquer and one of the main disadvantages of coming out on a mission early.
            Elder Freeman and I are definitely struggling against our own inexperience.  Anyways, I’m going to learn a lot here, even if I don’t have anyone to teach me.  Elder F. is still working on his Portuguese, but it is coming along. With any luck we’ll improve in our teaching style this week with some help from our zone leaders. 
            So some of the good things that happened this week:  We visited with a lot of people, but in particular with our recent converts.  We visited with 2 of the sweetest old ladies that I have ever met.  J. always makes food for us and has the sweetest testimony ever. She and M.C. used to be DEVOUT Catholics, but they felt that this was the true church and converted.  I think that is super cool because J. doesn’t know how to read, so she has to be taught all the lessons verbally and because of her disability she has learned to rely on the spirit.  She is very in tune with the spirit and was basically converted based on how she felt when she went to church and took the lessons.  It is really a touching story.  Now she is going to bring the rest of her family to church. 
My beautiful sweaty boy.
            This week was a LOT better as far as the snakes go. This time no one tried to flash me…Instead they just called me “beautiful” in English!  Haha. Now that we and our ward mission leaders know who the problem sisters in our ward are, we don't have anything to do with them. They actually used to be WARD MISSIONARIES. My companion said that they were super useful and helped them a ton.... oh well! It's definitely not worth the risk.
            Other than that we have our usual drunk people yelling at us in the middle of the street. I am actually starting to understand them, which I don’t know if it’s a good or a bad thing.  Seriously, I have had at least 3 members of our ward ask me “ta Americano mesmo?” Are you really an American?  Yeah, so that helps me to feel a little better about my language skills. 
            Anyway, this next week will be better.  We are fasting today to learn how to gain more experience and be more effective missionaries.  Also we are both sick with the cold that Elder Cet. passed on to us and it sucks! I am going to give it my all this week!
So the first picture is a picture of when we made crepes and we used Nutella and peanut butter!!!! It was super good!!!
This picture is a picture from the wedding of the 2nd counselor in the bishopric. He helps us out a lot as missionaries, so we were invited. They asked me to play a piece with the young women of the ward. They said that the wedding starts at 6. We show up at 5:30 to practice a little bit. Do you know what time the wedding started? 7:30. We wasted TWO hours of our time and guess what? The young women bailed on the song because they hadn't practiced and they didn't want to embarass themselves. And we were sick with this darn cold. I was more than a little bit frustrated this weekend.
I got my Valentine’s package before Valentine’s Day! Thanks! I loved it! I'm going to be making a bunch of those cookies tonight! I still have some of my old cookie mixes so my American companions are going to love me!

Monday, February 10, 2014

Snakes in the Garden

Day 214, February 9, 2014

     A LOT happened this past 2 weeks.  I got transferred to Bom Jardim, which is an area that’s more dangerous than the last.  You can sort of grade the dangerous areas of a mission based on how many sister’s serve in that area.  I have yet to serve in an area in Brazil where there are any sister missionaries.  Fortunately, I love my new area, and I have made it 2 weeks without getting mugged, so that is pretty good!
     One of the things that I miss about my old area is the apartment buildings, specifically the shade of the apartment buildings.  I haven’t seen anything taller than 3 stories here, which is definitely a lot different.  It is funny how even though it is more dangerous, the people are much more open to being taught here.  I have already had my first baptism, which was a great experience.  I will explain a little more about that later. 
     Unfortunately, the danger here does not stop with thieves.  There are a lot of ‘snakes’ here. A. LOT.  Snakes are girls or women who REALLY like the missionaries.  Specifically, we have two women in our ward (who are active members) who chase after missionaries.  One of them has already had 2 missionaries sent home…you can guess why.  She literally places a target on an Elder and tells all of the girls in the ward that she is going to have sex with that particular Elder.  It is really sick, and wrong that she is even in church with that kind of mentality.  She has even created a facebook page for other snakes who want to hook up with missionaries.  I am told that our zone leaders (who share our apartment) have made it clear to her that they are not interested.  But my companion’s trainer got targeted and so he was transferred before there could be a problem.  I replaced him…  So that is one thing that is kind of worrying me, but I know that if I follow the rules, nothing will happen.  Another ‘fun’ experience that I had recently happened when we were walking home and this girl starts catcalling at us.  At first I just ignored it, but then she shouted “Ei!” So I just turned around ANNNND then turned back around as fast as I could because she lifted her skirt up to flash me!  Then she shouted, “Come here”.  Man, I was out of there as fast as possible!  So it is a weird place to serve a mission!
     I am really fortunate to have great housemates and a great companion.  It is interesting and fun to have American’s for companions.  I think that I appreciate them much more now after having to work within a different culture.  Here is a summary of what they are like (there are a lot of Elder C’s in our house):

After it is all cleaned up, we send pictures to our mission president's wife as proof of cleaning!
     Elder F (my comp) He has been out for 2 transfers. He is from Missouri and he is pretty chill, goofy, and easy to get along with.  He already speaks Portugues pretty well, but he just needs to talk more to build up his reaction time until he doesn’t have to translate anymore. He likes to work out, so FINALLY I have someone who will exercise with me!! He wants to study and train to be a bodyguard when he finishes his mission.  He played a lot of basketball before his got here, and he farts, A LOT.  Actually to be fair, all of us North Americans fart a lot….it’s the beans, they just kill us. 
     Elder C.  is an interesting guy.  He is super funny, hard-working, was an Eagle Scout, and is in the official Bananagrams Club (didn’t know that existed.)  He is a good example to me.  He and Elder Cet. are my zone leaders.  Elder C. is on his last transfer of the mission, but he still is working super hard because he doesn’t want to have any wasted time on his mission.  A lot of the Elders in his position just mess around in the end.  So I am lucky to have him as an example.  He is from Dallas, Texas.
     Elder Cet. is a person that I have had the most in common with during my entire mission.  He wants to study biomedical engineering.  He did dual enrollment and got his associates before serving his mission, he knows a lot of karate (his dad is his teacher), he plays a little bit of piano, and he was a lifeguard.  It is pretty cool to have him here.  He is from Logan, Utah and has curly hair like Jimmy’s.  He is really funny, and he also loves to work out so that is more great news for me.  Here’s hoping that I can get in shape on this transfer!
     The first week of the transfer was great.  I got to know my area and the other missionaries in my zone.  My leaders are really good here, which is a great blessing to me so that I can learn from them how to be a better leader myself.  Elder Whatcott is in my zone!  It’s pretty great to see him again.  He hasn’t changed a bit, but I think that I have really grown because all of his kidding doesn’t bother me anymore.  He is his usual goofy self, all-smiles and whatnot.  Another thing, our new ward mission leader is AWESOME!  Erivan has already served in the bishopric, served a mission, and he works!!!  It is really nice to have someone actually help us.  Also, he is super funny and intelligent with the gospel, and he gets along great with people.  In other words, he is the perfect ward mission leader. 
     To wrap up the second week, I had my first baptism here.  L. is 16 years old and very reserved but smart and willing to learn.  It was super easy to teach her because she was willing to listen to us and then apply what she learned.  I am really glad hat I got to help her to prepare for baptism.  I just love helping people learn about the gospel and how they can really change their lives.  It makes me super happy. 
I had one more exciting thing happen to me, a random street contact gave me a Bleach T-shirt!!  Yeah baby!


Elder Colvin

Monday, February 3, 2014

Transfer to BOM-JARDIM

Zone Conference with some snazzy T-shirts, just prior to transfers.
So this past week was relatively uneventful, just the usual appointments falling through and bible bashing people who can't ever open their ears and actually learn something. We worked really hard to invite as many people that we could to come to church, but NO ONE that we invited showed up. However, our recent convert V. showed up and she brought one of her friends! Her friend said that she wanted to learn more about the church and so we're going to pass by and talk with them sometime this week! 

Oh, well...... Not exactly.  

Sorry, I didn't have the time to finish the letter I started this week because I got transferred!!! My new area is Bom-Jardim! I guess that I wasn't working hard enough or the right way with my trainee, so Presidente Souza replaced me with someone else to finish the training for Elder N. I'm a little bit bummed... But I'm going to start this transfer from a fresh slate, and work even harder.  I'm planning on doing absolutely everything that I can to redeem myself for whatever reason that I had for not being able to train a missionary. My new companion's name is Elder Freeman. He's from Missouri, he's been out 4 months, and he seems pretty cool.  He actually likes to do exercises, so I think that I'll actually get more fit here! I will be senior companion, but in terms of numbers, he's already got a lot more experience than I do. I just got transferred a couple of hours ago, so I don't know a whole lot about our area. Unfortunately I do know that this area is even more dangerous than the last, so I won't be able to take very many pictures....

I'm not sure exactly how I feel about my whole transfer situation, but one thing is for sure, it's a new start for me. I am going to make sure that I start this transfer right, and that I am going to work harder than ever before. I don't know the area, I don't know the people, and I don't know my companion.  The only thing that I do know is that I am going to grow a lot in this area, and that I'm glad that my president sent me here so now I have yet another opportunity to grow even more. Really we should never be afraid of change in our lives, because through change, we can adapt, we can learn, we can continue to search for ourselves in all sorts of circumstances. Until next week!

~Elder Colvin

PS. Notes from research - "Bom Jardim (Good Garden) is a district of Fortaleza, capital of CearĂ¡ state. It is situated in the southwest of Fortaleza. It is the most populus district of Fortaleza with about 250,000 residents in five burroughs.  The Bom Jardim neighborhood has 37,758 residents over an area of ​​2.53 km ² .The area was originally settled in 1961 with rapid growth in the 70-80's. The name of the city arose because "the ladies of leisure" who provided all kinds of services on site, were treated by customers as flowers and roses, and that was a "good garden".  With unbridled growth, the slums emerged. Few schools, no hospitals, lack of sanitation and poor security led to violence throughout the district. Most neighborhood streets are dirty and there are many points of garbage disposal in the open. Streams are also used for disposal of sewage. From the late 90's the neighborhood appears in the newspapers as one of the most violent of capital.  Undoubtedly, the greatest challenge of Bom Jardim neighborhood is defeating the epidemic of violence.  The high incidence of crime is directly related to the trafficking of drugs existing in the region.   Government actions are promised but no concrete results are seen, leading to high mortality rates among young people."

HMMMMM, maybe ignorance is bliss....! (Brenda)