Monday, March 30, 2015

Vila Sônia - Week 9

Hey everyone! This week went really well, and really fast! 

A few awesome things that happened this week...we found a really cool family, Valéria, Analise, and João. The first time, we just taught Valéria and one of her friends, and she said we could come back. When we came back, only Analise and João were there (her two kids, 15 and 14) and so we talked to them about the Atonement and repentance, and they agreed to get baptized this coming Sunday! They are really receptive and really interested in the church. They said that they have never let other churches into their house, not because they are against religion, but because we were the first ones they actually believed! So that's always awesome to hear. Valéria even got her work schedule changed to be able to go to church on Sundays, but she still didn't go yesterday, I think because she got in a minor moto accident and got kinda scraped up. I'm not super sure though. So we're hoping right now that they'll be able to make it to at least one of the sessions of Conference, and we can baptize the family this Sunday! There's also a grandma that has been there two times when we've visited them, and she's...interesting to say the least. She has the fullest facial hair I've ever seen on any female, and she is in how she talks about church. Hands in the air, hallelujah and everything. It's funny though. We've been applying a lot of the stuff that we learned from the General Authority this week, and it should be pretty cool!

This Sunday we actually found someone who was willing to go to church! It was an older lady, who was sitting in front of her house kinda crying, and I'm still not really sure why, but I guess we helped her out in some way and she agreed to go to church. And she said she enjoyed it, so I guess we'll be visiting her again sometime this week. 

I'm doing pretty well with no sunglasses, I'm just used to it now. This last week was a lot sunnier than last, which was lame, but it was okay. It's usually cloudy, so I can pretty much look straight forward without squinting too badly :)  

I bought a soap dispenser and soap this week too haha. Laranja[orange]-smelling dish soap, which pretty much works the same. It was for our bathroom, if you can believe that we actually haven't had a soap dispenser in our bathroom until just this week haha. Don't freak out too much :)  

One interesting thing, is that the first counselor here in the branch presidency told me one night as we were leaving a ward activity that he thinks I'm going to be a prophet, because I remind him of President Kimball. I don't really know what exactly that means, but I guess it's a good thing? So if I'm ever a General Authority, he wants me to remember him in Vila Sonia :)  

President Kimball: obviously similar to Elder Bratsman :)

Another interesting, random thing is that I had my first ramen noodles here. Bacon flavored, because why not? It didn't taste a whole lot like bacon, or regular ramen, but it was still not bad, considering. 

Also, we had a family night with Gilson and Josefa (Gilson is actually his name, we were just wrong this whole time, oops) and we made an American dessert to take over there! And, because it sounded like a pretty good idea, we made those cups of dirt or whatever they're called. So we had chocolate pudding (and chocolate flan mix added in, because we didn't quite have enough pudding), crushed up Oreos, chocolate sprinkles, and gummy bears (because they don't really have gummy worms here, the non-sour ones anyways) in a big pan, and all the Brazilians really liked it! Little bit sugary and chocolatey, but I think that's the point. 

Oh, for our ward activity (the ward integration night, which is another time when not very many people showed up) we were talking about missionary work. So we split the people into two groups, gave one half candy, and gave the other half instructions. The instructions were to talk to the people with candy, and to try to get them to share their candy without talking at all about sharing, or candy, or anything like that. They just had to have a normal conversation in an attempt to get the person to feel like sharing their candy. And the people with candy didn't have any other instructions, just that they could do whatever they wanted with the candy. So when they talked for a few minutes, only 2 people shared the candy. The rest ate their candy by themselves or put it in a purse or something like that. So we used that to show how we aren't naturally used to sharing the gospel with the people we come in contact with. Most people just tend to keep the candy to themselves. I think it went pretty well, people seemed to like it. 

Anyways, not much else happened that I can think of right now. We'll definitely have some baptisms in our branch for Easter. Thanks to all of you guys for your prayers and support!

Elder Bratsman

Here's a picture of what I get to watch Jacob's videos on, it might make you guys laugh, I don't know.
It's the best thing in the world to me, though :)

Monday, March 23, 2015

Vila Sônia - Week 8

I got the package last Tuesday, the day of our zone meeting. It was AMAZING. It was so perfect. So so so perfect. It was the best feeling in the world. Dr. Pepper Twizzlers? Pickle chips? Extreme Sour Patch Kids? Perfect! :D And let's not forget the peanut butter. I think we're going to buy some sliced bread and Nutella to take advantage of that :) It's really the best thing. And gummy bears too! The Starbursts were awesome as well, probably the best I've ever had. They don't have Starbursts at all here, so those are a welcome addition to any future package :) It was incredible to have some American stuff again, even after only 3 months, haha :)

So, Eduarda got baptized! She is the daughter of Vicente, and Vicente got to do the baptism. He was a little nervous, but he got it on the second try! After holding her under the water a little longer than is probably necessary :) But it's all good. Not many people at all came to the baptism, even though I guess all the leadership knew. So that was kinda lame, but it can only get better.

Also this last week we found out that it is a mission rule to learn English. President Cabral will do the last interview for every missionary in English, so the non-Americans have some learning to do. Which means, we're encouraged to speak English at home to help them! So that's super cool, it's always fun teaching English.

The rain has been a welcome addition to our weather, it pretty much always rains in the afternoon, so the days are only sunny for a little bit.

I haven't really had anything crazy as far as food. Some interesting new fruits, which are always sorta an acquired taste. Kaki (persimmon), and Jaca (jackfruit). Pretty interesting fruits, I can't even begin to describe them.


So on Wednesday, something neat that happened was that we had a lesson with Juiz and Josefa (I think that's how you spell their names) where we watched the video of the Restoration. We've actually done 3 Restoration lessons with them, because they don't understand our accents I guess. But we finally got it! And they said that they were very impressed by the video, and that they felt peaceful during it. Also, that he wished the video would never end because he was so drawn into it :) So that's awesome! 

On Thursday, we had the training with Elder Aidukaitis of the Seventy! He taught us a ton of cool stuff, and lots of practical ways that we can improve. I think it could really change the missions of a lot of people. I hope it will, anyways. It definitely changed mine.

On Friday, something funny was that we had another attack from our little gang of children that lives on this one street. Every time they see us, they just come running down and crowd around us, trying to take stuff out of our pockets, asking us how to say English words, trying to get us to give them pass-along cards, and stuff like that. It really feels like I'm in a foreign country when there's a ton of little Brazilian children crowded around us.

Sunday morning, we passed by Alfonso's house to pick him up and walk with him to church, and he said that he didn't feel like he could go to church, and that he'd be lying to God or something like that. And he just didn't get it that church ISN'T for perfect people. 

None of our investigators that said they'd come to church actually came to church. So that's a depressing "0" to report :/ And, because our zone leaders said the night before that every companionship HAD to have an investigator at church, we walked around for the first two hours of church, inviting people to come to church. And nobody did, unsurprisingly. It got better though, after we had tacos for lunch, haha :) so Sunday at least didn't end badly. And Barbara made coxinhas again, plus arroz doce. Which is just rice and milk and sugar, stuff like that. Sweet rice.

Anyways, that's all the news from here. Thanks to everyone for the prayers, e-mails, and support! All three are greatly appreciated :) Until next week!

Elder Bratsman

Monday, March 16, 2015

Vila Sônia - Week 7

Hey everyone! It was another great week in Brazil, and my first great week with Elder Lindsey!

No baptisms, because Vicente wasn't in town to baptize his daughter Eduarda, and so she's waiting until this coming Saturday. We also have a date marked for Alfonso, a really great guy we've been teaching, and for Edivaldo and Patricia, a family that we've been teaching. They're marked for the 28th, because they still haven't been to church. Alfonso has already had some really awesome spiritual experiences/confirmations, so he's just working on some Word of Wisdom stuff.

And at our last lesson with Edivaldo and Patricia, Edivaldo started off by saying that he didn't really believe that the Book of Mormon was true, because it didn't say anything about Joseph Smith in the Bible, and stuff like that. I just asked, "Well, can I ask if you read and prayed about the part of the Book of Mormon that we left you?" And of course, he said he hadn't :) So it's just kinda interesting, I was thinking later that night that it's so awesome that we don't have to have the Bible memorized and quote scriptures to support our point of view. We can, but it's so much easier to just invite the investigator to get a spiritual confirmation for themselves. It's easier than debating scripture, and the effects will last you longer anyways. So that was kinda neat.

Other than that, Sunday we were stuck in the house all day, since there were some pretty big protests. Nothing happened in our area, obviously, but we got some good studying/organizing in nonetheless.
  • The feeling about not knowing what to write, is something I had the first couple of weeks in the CTM. But then I started writing in my planner, in the notes for P-days, the things I wanted to write home about. And then I never forgot! :) So there's an idea, write it down! With your fancy digital electronic devices! :)  
  • I've only had allergies in houses with cats, I don't think I've had any seasonal type stuff. 
  • It's starting to cool down here a little bit, so just thought I'd make you jealous for a second :)  
  • We cleaned the kitchen pretty good today, so hopefully it'll be better. Still going to try to not dirty dishes though. 
  • And, just so you know, I bought ANOTHER two tubes of the toothpaste. Because I feel like the cheap price won't last for long. So...I should be stocked for most, if not all of my mission. Haha :) (It's LESS than 1 single dollar for a 140g tube of toothpaste! How awesome is that? :) also, I found a liter of chocolate milk for less than a dollar, too. Like 2,75 reais or something) 
  • I am using my water bottle, we don't usually have filtered water so I just keep it stocked up, in the fridge at home. It's too much of a pain to carry around with me, and we can get water wherever we want anyways. That's a good door-knocking technique, actually. 
  • And yeah, McDonald's was kinda a weird experience. Tasted very familiar, which was nice. I think we might go again this week, because somebody left us money again for lunch. Fingers crossed! :)

The haircut I got today

Not too much else happened this week, we're just teaching more first lessons to people and trying to find more people that sincerely want to change! Which is a little tough here, everyone is okay with hearing about Christ and the word of God and stuff, but as soon as you ask them to do something about it they're not quite as willing. That's what we're here for, though! :) Thanks to everyone for your support and prayers. Until next week!

Elder Bratsman

Monday, March 9, 2015

Vila Sônia - Week 6

This week's update is nowhere near as organized as the last ones, so I apologize for that. But something cool that happened this last week was that one of our investigators, Alfonso, told us in a visit that the other day he had seen us walking along the street and he was about to say hi to us, but he thought to himself "no, if they're really from the Lord, they'll stop by tomorrow". And guess what? We did! So that was cool :) Even though it wasn't like we just felt that day that we needed to visit him, it was something that we planned to do the night before.

On Thursday, the Irmã that was going to do lunch for us had to cancel, so she gave the four of us 70 reais(!) instead. Which was a lot. And so, the other elders decided that they would take advantage of that blessing and go to McDonald's. So that's what we did, and we all got Big Mac meals (even though Elder Zenger and I wanted Quarterão meals - quarter-pounder - that's what the Brazilian elder ordered for everyone. And we got mango/pineapple juice, which might be something that I'll miss at American McDonald's, and also McFlurry's, because...we're irresponsible, I don't know. But they were awesome, and it was a pretty awesome lunch in general.

The next day, we did divisions with the other elders in our district, since Elder Richards needed to do a baptismal interview, and for lunch that day, with 6 elders at Irmã Barbara's house, it got a little crazier than usual. So we ended up doing Verdade/Desafio [Truth/Dare] after lunch for a little bit, and the challenge I got was to suck on part of a lime without making a face -.- But I just ate the whole thing instead, since that's a sissy challenge. The same day, we had a family night with a member family, and they had little mini pizzas and chocolate cake for after! Brazilian-style pizzas, but pizzas nonetheless.

And an even more random thing, we found super nice Oral-B-3D-whitening-whatever-it's-called toothpaste at the supermarket for 2,80ish (reais, so basically less than a dollar) for a normal sized tube, 140g. Which is super cheap! So I stocked up on that.

On Saturday, we did some necessary repair work on the branch's piano (with super glue, of course), so a couple of the notes sound a lot better now. Just the felt part of the hammer was coming off on them, so we just glued it back down, and it seems to be working much better now. I'm not sure if that's how you're supposed to fix pianos, but that's what we did.

The red spots went away, so don't worry about it :)
The weather here is starting to cool off a little bit too, it was only 80 in our room last night, so I was pretty cold.
Irmã Barbara said that she wouldn't accept money, she said that it just makes her happy to be able to help, and that she doesn't see another purpose to life other than to serve others, and that she thanks you (Mom) for sending the greatest fortune of all (or something like that, I'm not super sure :) ).

Oh, and Irmã Barbara has been making some super awesome juices lately, with...carrots! It's usually like a lime and carrot thing, which is better than it sounds (to me, I know it probably sounds awesome to you). So I hope you're proud of me for being healthy :) Although not too healthy, there's a lanchonete (I don't really know the translation, it's like a small sorta restaurant/snack thing) that sells milkshakes for pretty cheap! So I had a white chocolate shake and a brigadeiro shake this past week :) They also do burgers and stuff, but it's only a sad representation of what it should be. They are still very good, though, all things considered. Also, another interesting thing I ate the other day was sweet potatoes, except they are yellow here! Same exact thing, just not orange. And I ate them, even though you know sweet potatoes aren't my favorite thing in the world :)
Also, I'm about a third of the way through my first journal, so it looks like I'll have to buy another journal while I'm here :)

We also found a family that was in our Area Book, where the wife had the missionaries over all the time, but didn't want to change churches. Also, her husband was always travelling, and so he wasn't learning about it with her. Now, though, he is, and so they can get baptized together! :) She was super excited that we stopped by; it had been a while since the last pair of missionaries had been over there, and she was even trying to tell her husband about parts of the gospel while we were visiting (even though she really didn't remember all that well), so it was super good to see that she's excited about being taught again. So they'll definitely (hopefully) get baptized this transfer.

And speaking of transfers...we're in a new one now! The transfer came in last night (Sunday, 8th) and it was pretty surprising. Elder Richards got moved to Rio Branco, to work as a Zone Leader, which is interesting because that's the same exact situation he was in just the transfer before he trained me. So that was pretty sad, because he wanted to stay here to work with the members and investigators and everything. I think he's come to terms with it now, though. Which also means that I'm getting a new companion! I haven't met him yet, but his name is Elder Lindsey (not sure how you actually spell it), but he's another American, with about 6-7 months on the mission, and apparently his Portuguese isn't that much better than mine. Which is...a little scary :) So I'm sad to see Elder Richards go, he was an amazing first companion, and he taught me a lot. It's a weird feeling to be staying in the same area, but getting a new companion who won't know anything about anything here (apparently he's also been pretty much exclusively in Santos, so he's only had the nicer areas and so Vila Sônia should be a pretty good surprise for him :) ). So I'll have to show him around and all that good stuff. It is weird to think of how fast the transfer went by, which I guess is a feeling I should get used to. I am very glad that I don't have to pack up and leave, because I'm just getting comfortable here :) So it's more that I feel bad that Elder Richards has to leave and go back to being a leader. But that's the life of a missionary. And I know that President Cabral said that missionaries will stay in their areas for 6 months, but I think that that rule will probably be starting now, this transfer. So I'm pretty sure I'll stay in Vila Sônia for a good time, still.

Anyways, that's the big news around here. More news next week, I'm sure! Everything is going great over here. As usual, thanks to everyone for the prayers and support!

Elder Bratsman

Monday, March 2, 2015

Vila Sônia - Week 5

Hey everyone! Big news this week...Vicente got baptized! His friend baptized him, and then the Branch President confirmed him. It was really awesome to see my first baptism, and it happened really quickly too! That just goes to show how much easier our jobs can be when the members find the people for us to teach. Yeah, I'm looking at all of you! :)

On Tuesday, we had a zone conference with President and Sister Cabral. Out of all the stuff they talked about, one thing that kinda surprised everyone was their announcement that as of now, our mission is following the example of the rest of the world and us missionaries will now stay in our areas for at least 6 months! So that's a pretty big change. But it's designed to help us work with the members better and make more lasting changes, or at least that's what I think it will help us to do. So I'll have a lot of time here with Irmã Barbara and Vila Sônia, which I'm happy about :) I wonder if that will make the time feel like it's going faster or slower, to have fewer areas? My only concern is that if I get an area without a piano, I will cry :)

Zone Conference

The rest of the week, lots of stuff fell through and just in general didn't really work out, because we were focusing a lot on getting Vicente baptized. But at least that happened! He has two kids, so hopefully they'll be able to learn about the gospel too.

Just kind of an interesting development this week, I've got little red dots all over my arms. Not like super tiny, really red pin-sized dots, but kinda like...I don't know. Not chicken pox or anything haha :) A bit like super early zits I guess? But it's not that. Just kinda faint red spots. I don't know, I don't want to alarm you :)

This last Sunday they gave me 7ish minutes to practice for the hymns we sang in sacrament. Which is pretty much no practice :) So I'm getting lots of sight-reading practice...which would be a good tip for Jake. Hymns, hymns, hymns, if nothing else.

Our weather has been pretty hot (although a little bit cooler than recently, only hovering around 85ish) except for the days when it rains. So we've had some awesome breezes and such.

[About air conditioning] There's AC in the office in Santos (we went there today to deliver the baptismal form) and in that one house, I guess. Not really anywhere else that I've noticed. But fans work nicely, when they have them. Except it makes it really hard to do paperwork and stuff, haha :)

I will tell Irmã Barbara thank you, for sure :)  [With the coxinha] it was...pineapple juice I'm pretty sure. She does really natural juices, so they're really good. And she made a lime tea thing for us when we got a little sick a few weeks ago, I don't know if I told you about that.

I talked to Elder Richards about [the book] Quiet the other day, because a few people had called me "tímido" (shy) and they thought it was the language, which I felt was incorrect. I pretty much know how to say everything I want to say, it's just that I don't talk that much. But I'm not shy! Haha :) But I think I will use that to my advantage here.

On Friday we walked into a McDonald's to see how expensive it was (I was naturally curious), and a quarter-pounder was like 22 reais [about $10]. Which is ridiculous.

Some interesting things that happened this week:
  • We got a super natural sugar cane drink from this guy driving around in a van, he just ground up a load of sugar cane with this machine and it went into a cup, and he filtered the non-liquid bits out and we drank it! So that was pretty good.
  • We've ordered pizza a few times (I haven't, but the other elders have) and it's pretty good, for not being much like American pizza.  
  • I got a bag of yogurt this week, and the brand is called...Very Gurt :) which is pretty funny. But yeah, those are good to just drink for breakfast. It's a 1 kilo bag, so I obviously don't drink all of it.  
  • We've been having some cool lightning storms.  
  • Also, I finished going through the Book of Mormon (Portuguese and English) and marking it, which I hadn't done before. It was really cool, it helps to remember important stuff by doing that. 
  • The son of Irmã Barbara was dancing and singing to All About that Bass the other day, which was adorable :)  
  • Also, we went to the padaria one day this week and they had chocolate sonhos! Which was basically just brigadeiro mix inside of the bread thing, like normal, with chocolate sprinkles. It was amazing.
  • We were on the Onibus the other day and I saw a V-Strom [motorcycle] parked in somebody's garage! It was pretty neat :)  
Not a lot of other news, we're going to work a lot more this week on working with the members to find new people to teach! More work as usual, which is good. Thanks to everyone for their support and prayers. Until next week!

Elder Bratsman

A super sketchy apartment building