I haven’t written for a while and I had a little time. Just a little while ago (Tuesday, March 15th), Elder Sitati of the Seventy stepped off the elevator right by us. So, I went out and said hi to him. I have wanted to ask him a question ever since he became a member of the Seventy, but knew that chance wouldn’t happen. Well, I asked him, “Do you have a brother named Joseph.” He replied, “I am Joseph, you mean Robert.” I was a little embarrassed, but I said that”Yes”, I wanted to know if Robert Sitati was his brother. He said that he was. I explained that I had wondered for a long time because I tried to recruit Robert Sitati, the national shot put champion of Kenya to come to Ricks College. As we visited, I had not realized that Elder Sitati who was then a stake president was working on the other end to help his brother get a visa. To make a long story short, we could never get his visa approved. He was a very good shot putter, around 60 feet. Elder Sitati related to me that President Faust took a real liking to Robert and became very good friends. Robert still has not joined the Church, but maybe in the future he will. Elder Sitati took out his I-phone and said, “I want a picture of the man who tried to recruit my brother so I can send it to him.” So we got a picture with he and mom and I. It was a very unexpected experience. We just continue to have these kind of experiences.
Took mom back to the dr. to see how shoulder was doing. She is a lot better but may get an injection when we come home. The doctor was a real nice fellow, very friendly and helpful. He told us about two really modern physical therapy places in São Paulo. One is just up the street at Morumbí Stadium where the São Paulo Futebol Clube plays. We may give them a try. It is set up for the athletes, but the general population can go there too. That’s the thing, Paul Dye in Rexburg was so good with me on the last surgery and got my shoulder in great shape. Paul has patented some ‘torture toys’ that he uses. I have kidded him that he has every kind of torture equipment imaginable. It sure does work though. I want to get started with him and then we will see. We are not excited to come home because it is too early and we are not done here. Now having said that, we are excited to see all of you, but we hope you understand what we are saying. We will not be released and I can tell you that after our weekly meeting this morning, we will have plenty to keep us busy at home. I have had about a 1000 people tell me all the reasons that I hurt my shoulder again and if I do everything I have heard, I will soon weigh 400 lbs. and be ready to die. I understand what I can and can’t do better than anyone. So your question is, “Then why did you do it again.” A single pushup isn’t really a cause for alarm as something that tears a rotator cuff (manguito rotador in Portuguese). A rotator cuff is such a fragile tendon as you get older that it can tear for no reason, in other words it tears just because. The older you get, the more chance you have to tear it. It is a common injury for anyone. But I will dial things down again and be more careful. I have to be able to golf still. Dr. Liljenquist told me over the phone that the tear is not where he fixed it before, so that is good, really good. This will only be surgery #8 since fall of 2009. It isn’t very fun for me either and the PT is really hard, very painful. But I have taught myself how to remove my mind away from pain, and it works. It makes the PT sessions a lot less painful and a lot more productive. The natural instinct of the body is to fight back, but the therapists tell me they can tell when they are manipulating my shoulder when I relax, because they immediately get 10 degrees more of ROM. Anyhow, we intend to enjoy our family when we get home, keep busy with the missionary work, and then go back.
Last Friday after we learned that we needed to go home, the very first thing I did was to go see Elder Costa, the Area President. I told him how concerned I was that the Missionary Dept. would make us stay home. He told me not to worry as we were needed in Brazil. A ton of people have expressed their hope that we will return. Some have said they already miss us. We have many friends here. The bishopric has some plans for when we return and they really want mom to keep leading the choir. She does so well and in Portuguese. The sisters are missing her especially.
I have had some very spiritual experiences in translating the missionary recommendations. If I pray to have the spirit, it makes a big difference. I can keep typing many times without stopping and often, definitions of words I have never seen come into my mind. That is the absolute truth. These recommendations go to Salt Lake and to the Council of the Twelve who make the calls. I want the translation to be correct and readable. I rarely type a sentence word for word. I see that meaning of the sentence in Portuguese and then type what we would say in English. I remember one of my track athletes, Nixon Kasue from Kenya who was asked to translate the Book of Mormon into the Swahili language. He told me how difficult it was and that if he wasn’t very close to the spirit, he didn’t get much accomplished. Nixon told me how much more he admired the prophet Joseph Smith and the very short time it took him to translate the Book of Mormon from the plates. I get feeling the same when I translate. Some days are better than others.
It is amazing to me how many of these missionaries have no support from home, even parents upset with them. Many have little or no money. Some have been able to save quite a bit but that is rare. Many come from single parent families and many some do not know the name of their father. But, they go to their bishops and they request the opportunity to serve the Lord. They have unbelievable talents and testimonies and I have read many. They have unbelievable things that have happened in their lives, many types of illness, injury, abuse and tragedy. But, they go on a mission anyway and they succeed in most cases. Some get so excited that they send in their papers too early and we have to remind them that they must be 18 or 19. Many sisters are serving in Brasil. Brasil has more native missionaries than Americans, something I never believed could happen here. There are 7-8,000 missionaries in Brasil alone.
We went to Praia Grande out at the Litoral one last time. We went to the chapel and met with some who are going to begin growing their own food, to eat and to sell. They seemed excited. We bought good gardening tools here in SP as well as seeds of every kind. They are buying the topsoil and cement blocks down there. They had brought a sack of topsoil and six cement blocks. They lined them up and then opened the sack and poured it inside the blocks so we could see how much one sack fills up (44 lb. sacks). My calculations were way off, so I added several hundred more sacks. They can buy a sack of really nice topsoil for about $.40 cents a bag. You may wonder why in the world they need topsoil. They live in home built on what was once a giant bog (brejo). The government brought debris from where it had been dumped and filled in all the bog so homes could be built. That was good for the homes but bad for planting gardens. So the topsoil will be about a foot or more deep in the raised garden beds. We talked about Lynn and when we raised our fast offering because Pres. Benson asked the membership of the Church to do so. We had a ton of medical bills and couldn’t afford it really. But we did anyway and the blessings came. The members listened carefully and were grateful we shared the story with them. I told them if they raised their fast offering by 1 REAL (25 cents) a month, that the Lord would bless them in many ways. Sometimes it is in ways we cannot see, such as better health, protection, opportunity, etc. It was a good meeting and they promised to send pictures when their gardens are done and plants are growing. We are excited for them. Irmão Ivan told me that he plans on saving 50-70 Reais a week off his food bill and that he plans on expanding his gardens and selling his produce to local businesses. So what Ivan has learned is simply “The Way of the Lord”, which is to work to become self-sufficient.
Stake Conference on Sunday, March 12-13 was wonderful. Elder Aidukaitus of the Seventy and the Area Presidency spoke. His talk was about self-sufficiency. He told a story of a place where the shrimp fisherman would throw away the broken and damaged shrimp and the seagulls came by the hundreds to get a free meal. After many years, the shrimpers moved to a different place. The seagulls began dying by the hundreds because they could not get shrimp for themselves even though they were right in front of them in the sea. They didn’t know how to take care of themselves. That story came from a talk by Pres. Marion G. Romney. Elder Aidukaitus laughs at his own jokes and he has an awesome laugh. I really got a kick out of seeing his human side. I was going through a door to sit down and all of a sudden there he was and he stuck out his hand and said, “How are you elder.” It was really neat. His father immigrated to Brazil from Scotland. He was a coal miner and worked very hard to make a living. Elder Aidukaitus said that his father never asked for or took any money from anyone or any organization. He believed you work for what you get. It made a great impression on Elder Aidukaitus. He said something really funny on Sat. night. He indicated that he was there on assignment from the First Presidency. He then said, “ I wonder if they are ever sitting at their desk and say, I wonder if he went to his assignment.” He laughed hard as did all the members. You probably had to be there.
One last thing. Since we have been on our mission, mom and I have grown closer than ever before. We have to rely on each other a lot more. We help each other out in many ways. We love each other more than ever in our lives. We have no doubt that the Lord watches over us. Coming back to SP from the coast, I was driving and we ran into a massive rain storm. We got in a 10 mile or more long traffic jam. What made it bad was that there were hundreds of trucks coming from the port of Santos to bring their cargo to SP. It was awful driving. An ambulance came up behind me honking and lights flashing to get out of the way. My choice was to go to the left into a deep bog or to try and fit between two large trucks. I finally squeezed over in a tiny space between trucks but as soon as the ambulance went by, I moved back over. The rain came in sheets all night long. Many places were flooded to the top of their cars. About twenty people died by drowning or by landslides. We were blessed. I love your mother very much. I could not have ever married anyone her equal. She is patient, beautiful, talented, has a strong testimony, is a great copilot, she loves the Lord, and she is a tough cookie. I owe her a lot. I hope I can treat her always the way she deserves to be treated. We are loving our mission. Things are so much better and very busy. Too bad we have to come home, but we have a lot to do while we are there. We love you all very much. We fly out on the 21st from SP to Atlanta, then to Salt Lake and then into Idaho Falls. You are all in our prayers and we love you all unconditionally. We have a great family and we feel your love and support.
Love You All,