Well today was our last Sunday in Brazil. It seems really weird! The time all of a sudden just zoomed by. When we got to church, well after R.S. for me, I found out that we were to bear our testimonies in Sacrament meeting! I had a feeling that we would be asked but I was hoping we wouldn't. :) I said something really wrong but I was able to correct it. I said, "Eu sei que Jesus Cristo livre." Which means "I know that Jesus Christ is free!" I caught myself and changed it to "vive" which means "lives." It is so hard trying to speak in another language. I thought that I would have been speaking fluently halfway through our mission but, and I know that this will sound strange, I haven't had that much opportunity to speak Portuguese with other people. I have been sitting at a computer almost every working day of our mission with not much interaction with other people. There are many people working at the Area Office who speak English. Quite often when I say something to someone in Portuguese, they respond in English so I haven't had much practice. I have still tried to say something to someone in Portuguese everyday.
I had a neat experience last week. I have helped prepare the monthly fast offering meeting where the committee, which includes the Area President Elder Costa, discusses the problems that Brazil has with being self-reliant. Last week Elder Costa wasn't there and so Elder Aidukaitis came in his stead. He is really funny and the atmosphere was very relaxed. Half of the time everyone was smiling or laughing. Of course, I didn't know exactly what was going on so when they smile, I smile and when they laugh, I laugh!
Last year I helped write letters to many of the stake presidents and bishops that had problems with very low donations and where the ratio of active adults/active adults donating was very low. This year I decided to write to all 305 stake and district presidents each month with words of encouragement and with personal experiences. Last month I received 115 replies, which was unheard of! This month I had heard from about 90 by the time of our meeting.
Last month I wrote about the time when we had lots of medical bills from when Lynn was sick and at the same time Pres. Benson asked the members of the church to increase their fast offering donation. We decided that we could increase our donation by $5 a month even though we didn't have an extra $5 a month. We had a bill from Primary Children's Hospital for around $766 and we didn't know how we were going to pay it. About two weeks after we paid our increased fast offering, we received a two checks from our insurance for a travel reimbursement totalling about $775. That was a testimony to us of the "windows of heaven" being opened.
This month I wrote about how I always paid our tithing first but for a long time I would wait to pay our fast offering until the deacons came to collect (which they don't do here because it is dangerous and the people live too far away from each other) and how many times on Fast Sunday I didn't have enough money to pay our fast offering and would have to have the deacons come back the next week. Finally, I learned that if I wrote out the fast offering check at the same time I wrote out the tithing check we would have enough money to pay it. The interesting part is that I found that I always had enough money to pay the Lord AND enough to pay all of our bills and other expenses. Before we always came up short. I wrote that the Lord's law of finance is very different from the world's law of finance.
I also encouraged the stake and district presidents to offer a challenge to their members to pay the Lord first and then experience the "windows of heaven" open up to them. I have had many very special replies to my letter (I have saved them) and many of the presidents said that they are going to give that challenge to their members. They thanked me for my letters of encouragement and inspiration. So getting back to my meeting, Fernando mentioned my letter to Elder Aidukaitis and I was able to share more of the details with him and he got the most pleasant, reverent expression on his face that I got a little teary eyed. He looked like he was getting a little teary as well. He thanked Dad and I for our service here. It was a very special experience for me.
In case you didn't know it, the church operates on the tithes and offerings that come mostly from the people who live in Utah, Idaho, Arizona, California, and Alberta. It is because of the generous donations of people who have strong roots in the church that people in Brazil and other areas are blessed. One time at the beginning of our mission, Fernando asked me if I had anything to add to the meeting. The DTA (Director of Temporal Affairs) was presiding and I asked him, "If the donations in Brazil are here (I made a line with my hand) and the expenses for the members (housing, food, medical, utilities, etc.) are here (the line was much higher), where does the extra money come from?" I already knew the answer. He squirmed in his seat as he said, "From the members of the church in the United States." We have been working very hard to change this in Brazil. It will take a lot of time though. If the members of the church in the US, mainly the intermountain US, stop paying their tithes and offerings there would be many, many people throughout the world who would have even more suffering than what they are already experiencing. I have a strong testimony of paying tithes and offerings.
I have been blessed by teaching English classes and mainly to non-members. Once in awhile I have been able to sneak something into my lesson about a principle of the gospel. Brazilians don't get offended if you talk about religion. We always started our class with prayer and everyone took turns. I told them that the Lord hears all the sincere prayers of all people. They were not offended at all to pray or to listen to a prayer that was different from the way that they pray.
We had our last Sat. activity yesterday. We went to a nice park that had some trails through the forest and it also has a section of food trucks. Pres. and Sister (Ellen Mathias) Thomas have been wanting to take us there for a long time so we went yesterday and then they couldn't go with us. Several of the other missionaries came along and it was fun. We had a new couple arrive yesterday morning from the US and then even came! We had a nice time together. Dad and two of the other missionaries and Julio, from our department, went to a soccer game last night. I guess that the game was quite the experience, one that Dad wishes he hadn't had! Apparently, there was tons of swearing and other things so I was glad that I didn't go even though I wouldn't have understood the swear words! :)
Well our mission has been an adventure that's for sure! Am I glad that we came? YES! Will we serve again? I think that we will serve from home in the future. There is plenty of the Lord's work for us to do right there. With both of our bad backs, and in particular Dad's entire body, it has been a trial! We have both had lots of pain and have had a hard time finding any relief from it. That gets old real fast! At home we have better access to get the relief we need. We have very fond memories of our time here. I wish that more of you could have come down to see us. We are so glad that Shelley was able to come down. We have done lots of fun things, as you well know, things that I never dreamed we would ever be able to do. Wherever we went or whatever we did Dad always took literature to give away. He gave out two pass along cards yesterday. We will never know if anyone who was a recipient of those items will ever investigate the church or not but I really think that someone will.
It was sad to say goodbye to everyone at church today. We got lots of hugs and had lots of pictures taken. On a side note, Sister Neill F. Marriott and her husband were at our ward today. She was here for some training meetings. They served here several years ago as mission presidents. She was so swarmed with people getting their pictures taken with her that I didn't get a chance to meet her.
I have attached some pictures and I will send a few more emails with more. I love you all very much and glad that we have had your love and support while we have been gone. Thanks for all of you who have written to us. It helps getting a word from home. See you in a few days!!!
1. My Relief Society
2. The chapel next to the temple
3. Walking home from church-we live in the apartments with the slanted box things on the roof.
4. This is an empty car dealership across from the church. Notice the blanket on the left side of the steps. A man lives under there. :(
5. The Temple from across Avenida Francisco Morato
1 and 2. Monkeys at the park
3. A cool looking butterfly
4. A private school kitty corner from us. I think this is like a Jr. High. Schools are very different here. Most grade schools don't have playgrounds or anything extra.
5. (I don't know why it won't rotate) One of our garden projects sits in between these two high rise apartments. Sister Manetta doesn't get much sunshine but she works hard on her plants.
6. These two cars have been sitting on the road for as long as we've been here and haven't been moved. The van has had the side mirror broken off. They don't have the same kind of laws down here as what we do, or if they have them, they don't enforce them!
1. It is very common to see these big water tanks on top of homes and buildings.
2. Our bus stop from our corner looking to the right.
3. The temple from our corner looking to the left.
4, Looking up to our gate from the corner. I've seen people sleeping in the dirt down on the right before.
5. Looking at our courtyard from the parking garage. Notice the two ladies sweeping. You see people sweeping sidewalks, parking lots, gutters, etc. everyday-by hand!
6. Another view of our courtyard
1. Our bus stop from our apartment
2. wall mural along a street-This kind of graffiti (art) is fun to look at. Most of the graffiti, and there is TONS of it, is terrible and makes everything look dirty!
3. There were lots of turtles in the lake at the park
4. An interesting piece of artwork in the park.
5. On our day at the park.
6. A little key making shop across from us. There are lots of little shops like this all around where we live. We can find just about everything we need very close by.