Monday, February 2, 2015

Vila Sônia - Week 1

Well, I'm in Santos now. My area is Vila Sônia, which is a bit southwest of the city. My trainer is Elder Richards from Virginia, and he's been out for a year and almost five months. He served the first six months of his mission in Texas, because he was waiting for his visa. And we came to Vila Sônia together, so we're opening up the area. Even though there's another companionship that was already here that goes to the same branch. I guess that makes sense.

So on the 27th, I woke up at 3:30 to see my district off, and then finished packing until I had to leave at 6:00. You know me, always procrastinating :) So the 4 other elders going to Santos and I (one Argentinian, three Brazilians) got on a bus that took us to Santos. It was really cool, when we were almost there, we came out of a tunnel up in the mountains and we were just overlooking this sea of jungle, with two separate cities visible from where we were. I can't really describe it that well, sorry. But they drove us to the mission office, where we dropped our luggage off, and then we went to the house of President and Sister Cabral. They welcomed us, gave us some directions, and we had lunch while we waited for our new companions to arrive. After we met our new companions, we all went back the mission office and then went our separate ways.

The mission office is in this building. 

We were lucky enough to get approved for a taxi. So on the way there, Elder Richards talked to the driver a bit, and then asked me to explain a little bit about what we do as missionaries. So that was fun. We got the contact information of the driver, since he was interested in learning more. But then we got to our house, and there were the 2 other elders waiting there. Elder Zenger from Colorado, and Elder S. Reis from Manaus. So we dropped our suitcases/suits off, and looked through the area book a little. There was also Elder Cano there, who was waiting to get transferred until the mission conference that happened on Thursday. So he was able to show us around a bit, so that we could get to know where everything was. And of course, we did some street contacting, but that's not really news.

Then on Wednesday, we had a normal day. We taught a lesson, walked ages to the bank to take some money out, and tried to go find some of the people in the area book. Unfortunately, the area book wasn't taken care of super well. But that's alright.

On Thursday, we had the mission conference pretty much the whole day. There were trainings and talks from President/Sister Cabral, and then we watched Meet the Mormons! In Portuguese, naturally, so I didn't understand a lot. But it was cool nonetheless. Everybody was crying when the mom said goodbye to her missionary, some elders included :) Also, someone from the mission conference told me that their branch president (I think that's what it was) was baptized by Dad. So that's pretty cool :) And we did some more contacting after we got back.

On Friday, we had a zone meeting that went until 3 maybe. Oh, and for both the zone meeting and the mission conference, we had to get up an hour earlier. Which was fun. And we taught some more lessons to recent converts and less-actives. And we always have lunch set up with somebody, which is really good. The members are great here, especially the Sister that lives right next to us, Irmã Barbara. She always makes sure we have something to eat, so she's our mom here.

Then on Saturday, it was finally a normal day. We taught more lessons and made more contacts. One guy, António, accepted to get baptized on the 14th. So that's really exciting :) He was a reference from the ward mission leader, so that just goes to show you how big a difference having the help of the members makes. They've been focusing on that a lot here, and I think that's going to be our main purpose here. We have to build up member confidence in the missionaries, because member references really make a difference.

Our first Sunday here was the 1st of the month obviously, so me and Elder Richards bore our testimonies. Lots of people here compliment me on speaking, but it's a lot harder for me to understand people when they're talking. And when I don't know what they said, I can't really reply all that well. So I'm working on that. Also, we were waiting for lunch (Sunday, I think) and they had the Simpsons on. Or should I say, Os Simpsons :) So that was kinda funny to try to understand. Me and Elder Richards talk mostly in Portuguese, so that we don't seem rude or something on the roads. But occasionally English.

 The Vila Sônia church building 

And then today's our first P-day! I think it will mostly be spent cleaning the house, because it needs it. Our house is kinda dirty and in disrepair. It's nothing like the CTM. It makes me miss America a lot. And according to Elder Richards, this is one of the less poor areas he's been in. I guess Santos proper is nice too. But it was a bit of a shock, for sure. And yeah, I'm really missing technology. But it seems alien to just think about holding a phone now, it's bizarre.

Some interesting experiences we had this week were that a guy came up to us and asked us if he could get some money to buy milk for his daughter, since he was unemployed and she had just recently had an operation with her intestines or something, so she couldn't eat a lot of stuff. So we went with him to the grocery store, and Elder Richards got him 2 boxes of milk. He was really grateful and is really interested in the church. We met him later in the week, and he said that he was going to move somewhere else, but we gave him the contact information of the missionaries there and he said that he was definitely going to find the chapel and get in contact with the church. So that was kinda a neat experience.

Also, we've been doing a lot of walking in the rain, and walking through puddles that cover the road. The dirt roads are especially fun after it's rained. But I guess that will get old pretty quickly.

In general, I'm having a lot of fun out here. It's crazy to think that I'm in Brazil, communicating with people (ish) and teaching lessons and talking to people on the street and doing missionary work. It's just weird. But it's lots of fun just walking around and thinking about that. And people are calling me Batman. So I'm doing great! Thanks to everyone for their support. Love you all!

Elder Bratsman

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