Sunday, August 31, 2014

August 31, 2014

August 31, 2014

I don't know if you noticed, but this weekend there was a fifth Friday, Saturday and Sunday.  It is my understanding that will never happen again in our lifetime.  I haven't checked that out.

It was bound to happen, I got one of my nasty cold/coughs.  I was not very useful for a few days.  Elder Dixon went with the Elders to complete the lessons with one of the new members and I stayed home.  I am mostly used to it.  Ever since I had my spleen removed, I struggle more with anything related to pneumococcal germs.  Love the advice from Bala "Google nature remedies" and don't drink water with ice in it.  He is great!

Our sweet training sisters happened to stop by while Bala was visiting.  I just love these young missionaries.  They took the time to explain our beliefs regarding the resurrection, the body and the spirit.  It is a little difficult for Bala to wrap his head around, because he believes in reincarnation.  We are learning from Bala, and he is learning from us.  Tomorrow, we will take him to get furniture so that he will have furniture when his wife arrives.

We were able to meet with a member of the Stake Presidency and get a better idea about what things were happening in the Stake and what things might be done to increase the presence of the church.  There are so many voices clamoring about religion here. People are drawn to the powerful preaching in their respective churches.  It makes it easy to understand the confusion that was felt by Joseph Smith.  There are many great people here and they each believe that they have the correct way to return to live with God.  That is what was going on when Joseph Smith was only 14.  His family was not united in a determination of which church had the truth.  He decided to find out for himself.  I am quite certain that he had not expected the answer he received!

We are so privileged to be able to attend so many baptisms.  This week the two were young men.  I was so excited to see that each young man's family came in full support.  I don't believe many for one of the young men (if any) were members of the church, but they were there for him.  I hope that they were able to feel the peace and happiness that he felt.  In one baptism, the Primary gave the young man a soft blanket, in the other a nice towel.  Each was given to remind them of the comforter, the Holy Ghost.  I hope that they always feel that spirit.

 Today, Elder Dixon decided to take a different route to church.  As we were turning the corner at a major intersection, there was a car stopped with the flashers on.  Drivers were passing by her and no one was stopping to help.  We decided to pull into a parking lot and Elder Dixon would see how he could help.  By the time we were able to do so, another man had begun to push the car, and the lady driver was trying to steer and push.  Elder Dixon helped him push her into the parking lot and out of danger.  We offered to drive her to her home.  Her name is Susan, and she works in diving therapy at the Aquarium in Atlanta.  She started telling us about what she does.  She clearly has a love and passion for her job.  Here is some information about what they do:

Georgia Aquarium Diving programs

In a few short minutes, she taught me two amazing statements.  First, she said something about getting rid of the white coats in disabilities.  I didn't understand and asked that she explain.  She explained that we look at disabilities as limitations, but we should, instead, view them as just differences in the way people do things.  She also quoted Rachel Remen, and I was really impressed.  Here is a quote from Dr. Remen:

“Helping, fixing, and serving represent three different ways of seeing life. When you help, you see life as weak. when you fix, you see life as broken. When you serve, you see life as whole. Fixing and helping may be the work of the ego, and service the work of the soul.” 
― Rachel Naomi Remen

She really made me think about those who are in professions where they help others- including missionaries.  She said that burnout comes from trying to help instead of trying to serve.

We wanted to give her contact information and so we grabbed a card with Family History information on it.  She told us that her grandfather had done a lot of family history and that it was all hand-written.  We encouraged her to put it into the site.  Elder Dixon told her that we never go that way to church.  She said that it was a blessing.  Couldn't agree more.  Thanks to Elder Dixon, we had another great experience (and still made it to Church on time).

Here is another interesting picture from Atlanta:

This is a federal signal modulator used to warn of tornadoes.  This is a better picture, but not one that I took.

The Mission had an incentive for the missionaries this month.  If they had a baptism, they will be able to go to the temple this week.  The Mission had over 40, so those missionaries will get to go to the temple.  That is a rare privilege for them.  I am happy for those who get to go and sad for those who do not.

We are losing another great couple from the Branch.  This time it is the Relief Society President and the High Priest's Group Leader.  The Branch has lost 25% of the membership in the past two months.  I pray, literally, that we are able to find good people to come to the Branch.  We need them so badly.  If you know of any Portuguese speaking members/non-members/families in Atlanta, send them our way!

Sunday, August 24, 2014

August 24, 2014

Yesterday, I finally did the presentation on Food Storage for the Relief Society.  There were only a handful in attendance.  Thanks to Nita Millard, I didn't have to be very creative, but it still took some time to put it together.  Presidente Tedjamulia was happy and said that it motivated the people who came.  Who knows?  It is a start, though.

After my presentation, one of the members taught how to make Brazilian tapioca.  It is not pudding.  It is more like a crepe or a tortilla.  Very interesting process.  You can look it up on youtube.

We had some neat experiences this week.  We stopped at one of those smokehouse trailers to get some barbecue.  The guy looked at us and said "Oh, you are missionaries for that Church of Jesus Christ of Mormon Saints.  You guys are all so happy.  My best friend is a Mormon.  Man, you guys are always so happy.  If I ever joined a church it would be yours."  Love members who emulate the joy we should have!  I think we should go back and give Moe some pass along cards to give out to people!

Had a funny experience with one of the office missionaries on Tuesday.  It was a Zone meeting, and Sister Residori was the one sent to get things set up for lunch for the missionaries.  She decided to participate in the choir practice held before the meeting.  When practice was over, she came down to get things set up.  I told her that the tables were set up, the tablecloths were on the tables and the chairs were set up.  She got a funny look on her face and said "There I go again, being Mary instead of Martha!"  Love that woman!

We attended the Portuguese session of the temple endowment on Thursday.  It was a lot more difficult with earphones!  It made me appreciate those who have to use them to understand English.

So, on Saturday, I was bustling about to get there for the presentation.  I was a little concerned that we were not leaving as soon as I thought we should.  As we were driving out of the parking lot, Elder Dixon noticed a man struggling with grocery bags, and one had obviously ripped.  Elder Dixon stopped (after 31 years, I am used to it) and pulled one of those reusable grocery bags from our trunk.  I then find that the man is getting in the car with the grocery bags!  Turned out to be a sweet experience.  Bala is from India and had just been here a few days.  He had no license and no car, so he had walked probably a mile and a half to a grocery store.  He was close to home when the bag split.  He was very grateful for our help.  He indicated to Elder Dixon that he was Hindu, but that his mother and mother-in-law had become Christian.  He said that he would attend our Church when his wife arrived from India.  I thought to myself "There I go again, being Martha instead of Mary!"

Saturday we also attended a baptism for a man who had read the Book of Mormon in the 70's but did not join at that time.  He took over three years this time to decide to change his life.  He had a wonderful, sweet peace about joining the church.  He was very happy and so were those people who had helped him find the Church.

To end the day on Saturday, we attended the birthday party for one of the sweet 12 year olds in our Branch.  Her mother and grandmother are the ones who have done the amazing parties I have shown in past posts.  This party was just as amazing.  She had a Cheetah print theme that extended to tiny little cups on the table, the runner on the table, plates, napkins. . . . even Jullie's dress!  
The thing that impressed me most, though, was that the adults in the Branch were there.  The family invited them and they came.  Not just a few, a lot of them.  That is one of the neatest qualities of this Branch.  I can't imagine that happening in a Ward.

We had a sad Sunday.  One of the strong families in the Branch is moving to Seattle.  Out of our Young Men's program, we are losing 3 delightful young men.  In addition, we lost a member of the Branch Presidency and the Young Women's President.  That is really hard on the Branch.  Pray for us that we can find several families to help this Branch grow!

President Bennion (the Mission President) came to the Branch today.  He asked Elder Dixon what they had us doing in the Branch.  After attending the service, he told Elder Dixon that he could see that we were needed there.  I am glad to hear that.  This is where I hope to spend our entire mission, but I will go where I am asked.

I am still struggling to learn Portuguese.  I am progressing, but it is slow.  I try to read the scriptures in Portuguese and have begun singing in Portuguese.

Atlanta picture for the day:  What is different in this picture?

The pine tree is a cell phone tower.  Don't know why they bothered since there are power lines everywhere!

Monday, August 18, 2014

August 18, 2014

Wow!  I forgot some great news!  Raf got the paperwork in Canada for his new job.  He is really happy about it.  It is further from his in-laws, but it sounds like a great job.

Kaitlyn graduated from BYU!  She even went through the graduation ceremony.  She has a degree in English and Spanish.  Now, on to graduate school to be a counselor!

Sunday, August 17, 2014

August 17, 2014

President Tedjamulia posted the pictures he took of the Festa.  Thought you might enjoy a few of them.  You just have to love his wife.  She couldn't find a straw hat, so she wore the chicken!

The "Padre" is the first counselor in the Branch Presidency.

We had our first District Meeting with our new District Leader.  He was a real trooper the night of the Festa and stayed to help clean up.

On Monday, we went with two of our Brazilian Elders to the Emporium Elder Dixon and I like to go to.  We don't usually go during the early afternoon, and so there were people we had not met before.  A man who was behind the counter looked at Elder Dixon and my name tags and quietly said, "I belong to your church."  We sent the Elders over to give him information about when and where we have Church.  It was so interesting that the younger missionaries had been there before during those hours, but he had not said anything.

It has made me think a lot about Senior Missionaries.  I wish that the members understood how important Senior Missionaries are, and how needed they are.

For those who are members, this story will be familiar, but I am guessing that my focus will be different than you have previously pondered.  For those who are not members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, this is an account of a people in the Book of Mormon.  There were people in the Book of Mormon who had engaged in war and fighting until a Prophet came and taught them about Jesus Christ and the gospel.  Those people had great sorrow for the things they had done, and repented.  As part of their repentance, they made a covenant with God that they would bury their weapons of war and would not fight any more.  When their enemies came against them, they were willing to lay down their lives rather than break their vow.  Their children had not made the covenant, and those young men came forward to serve in their place.  They are known as the stripling warriors.

That is the part of the story most people focus on, but I want to turn to another part of the story.  The Nephites had been protecting the people and were concerned about the young men having to go to battle.  The Nephites developed a battle plan that used the youth as decoys so that the Nephite adult men could have the advantage in the battles, and that the young men would never have to fight.  It was the Nephite adult men who were there to back up the young stripling warriors.  They didn't leave the stripling warriors to fight alone.  At one point, when the stripling warriors realize that their enemies were not following them, the stripling warriors turned back to help the adults in the battle.  None of the stripling warriors were killed, but that was not true of the adults.

As adults in the gospel, we need to realize that the youth need us.  We need to help them in the battle to save spiritual lives.  We need to provide our experience to help them.  We need to join them in the mission field.  We need to help those missionaries who serve in our Wards and Branches.  We need to love our neighbors and friends enough to share the gospel with them.  Pray for the missionaries by name, and pray for those you would like to share the gospel with.

One of my sweet non-LDS friends taught me a good lesson.  Her daughter (also not a member of the LDS Church at the time) had dated a young man who went on a mission.  While he was on his mission, he had missionaries sent to her.  She was angry and sent them away.  She said that if the gospel was important enough to him that he would go away on a mission to tell people, but he hadn't felt like sharing it with her, she was not interested.  After he returned from his mission, he made up for his omission and she eventually joined the LDS Church.

My friends and family are as important to me as the people here.  I hope I have let them know that they are important and that the gospel that I love is something I would love to give to them.

Sunday, August 10, 2014

August 10, 2014

Well, we found something we REALLY do not like about missions:  Transfers.  We have experienced our first since arriving here.  I didn't really know I could grow so fond of these young missionaries so quickly, and then hate losing them so much.  One of our Zone Leaders went home this transfer as well as did one of the Portuguese-speaking missionaries who had been serving in the Branch.  Our beautiful Sister Adorable was given a new responsibility to be a Sister Training Leader.  All of them are progressing and moving on in their lives, but it was still hard to lose them.

I learned a new appreciation of a tradition that missionaries have.  Each of my missionaries, including my daughter, collected ties.  My understanding was always that it was simply a fun time of finding the ugliest ties you could find.  Some missionaries collect a hundred ties.  Before Elder Hales left, he invited Elder Dixon to participate in the tie trading.  Elder Dixon had not brought any ties to trade (so if you are inclined to send a package with a few ugly ties, we will put them to use) but the Elders included him and donated to him.  I watched as the Elders looked at the ties and shared memories of the people who wore those ties and the number of doors that particular tie had seen.  It was a touching time.

We had a conference of the leadership in the Mission on Friday and Saturday.  To look around that room and see the future of those young people is amazing.  They are powerful examples of faith and commitment.  There were great messages of testimony regarding missionary work.  At the end of the day on Friday, they had arranged for the missionaries to work with missionaries and members in that area.  When our training ended, the skies had opened up in a downpour.  It came down so hard and quickly that when Elder Dixon went to the car to get the umbrella, he came back totally soaked (including his suit).  Despite the torrential weather, those young missionaries went out to carry out their assignment.  They experienced miracles.

On Saturday, we held the much anticipated Festa Junina.  It was another outstanding event.  There are some awfully special people in the Branch, and they work hard to make things work well.  They did not disappoint.  Unfortunately, the non-members we invited did not come.  It was a well-attended event, however.  Our missionaries came in force to support and clean up.

I hope that the Branch President will soon post his pictures because my battery died.  The food was wonderful.  We tried to make pasteis, but failed miserably!  We took other things instead.  The people in the picture below are two stalwarts in the Branch.  They feed the missionaries and do everything they can to support the Branch activities.  They always come dressed up and make it fun.

The event is like Sadie Hawkins Day.  Here, the Branch members translate it into "redneck" day.  Even little Noah had a mustache!

A big part of the festivities is a "shotgun" wedding in which the father of the bride and the father of the groom make the groom marry the bride even though he does not want to marry her.  It is done with great comedy and fun.

They also do a sort of "square dance".

It made me regret the many activities at home that our Ward held but I did not support.  I have learned here that those activities are really important ways to share the gospel with our neighbors.  They are ways to strengthen each other and fellowship the saints.

I am learning so many things here. . . .

Sunday, August 3, 2014

August 3, 2014

I remember several years ago when we lived in Ohio, I had the opportunity to spend quite a bit of time with the full-time missionaries because there were four of them assigned to our Ward.  On one outing, I remember asking the Elders what they would share in their homecoming talks.  One of the really humble missionaries looked at me and quietly replied "I will tell them about my conversion."  He was speaking specifically about the changes he had undergone while on his mission.

I understand that on a completely new level.  I find that things I took for granted are not so clear.  For example, I have always been one who needs organization and notice.  I like scheduled meetings with agendas and clear direction.  That does not always happen in the manner I have considered to be normal.  Here, the distance and culture create a much more relaxed perspective about meetings.  Yet, I watch the organizations function here.  Perhaps, though, it works because the Branch President is a master at understanding his flock and working within their culture, but still striving to help them improve.  He has made me feel like Elder Dixon and I are an important part of the Branch.  But he doesn't just do that with active members.  He seeks out the inactive members and spends time with them.  He spent four hours with one who has been inactive for some time.  He is a great example of the principles he teaches.

I have really begun to question whether I have given adequate value to the baptisms of our young children.  We had a baptism for a sweet little girl named Karynie.  She was the only child being baptized and the program was her family members.  Her family had created an amazing celebration in her honor.  Here are a few of the pictures:

 Her favorite color is yellow and she loves chocolate.  Both were present in abundance.

There was an entire Brazilian buffet with lots of delicious food.  The watermelon below is actually that color!

I don't know that I would recommend a "wedding reception" level of celebration, but there is no doubt for Karynie that this was a VERY special event and day.  In her little eight year old mind, though, she saw the celebration as being about her birthday more than her baptism.

I don't know that I did a very good job in creating that sort of "celebration" for my children's baptisms.  Karynie even recited the poem about three white dresses and her sister sang "What Heaven Sees in You".

I think about the people here who are lost and do not have the guidance of the gospel.  When we find them and they accept the gospel, it should be a tremendous cause of celebration.  Without baptism, there are no other ordinances available to them.  Elder Dixon and I also attended the baptism of a mother whose daughter was baptized 5 weeks ago.  While the celebration was not as large, the Ward did a great job of welcoming their new member, and a sweet spirit was there.  Every person who is baptized should never have any doubt that the day they were baptized was special.

The Elders had an investigator who met them for a discussion at the building where Karynie's baptism took place.  We all had a laugh and let him know that it would not be like that if he gets baptized!

This week is transfers- the first we have experienced since our arrival.  We are feeling sadness because the Zone Leader is going home and one of the Branch Portuguese Elders is also going home.  I expect we will see even more change than that.

Atlanta novelty for the day:  Cicadas.  Every evening we have a serenade from the Cicadas.  They are not shy about their music!  I will try to get some video of their sound, but until then, Google them!

Love you all!

What Heaven Sees In You Official Video

I couldn't figure out how to attach this to my post for today, but this is the song that Karynie's sister sang at the baptism.  I hope you enjoy it.