Monday, October 27, 2014

Election Day October 26, 2014

Today was the day for the final elections for the Brazilians.  We had volunteered to help, and the Consulate took us up on the offer.  So, we had to drive to the Consulate and be there by 6:30 a.m.  I found myself a bit confused on the roads to get there (Garmin apparently decided that I had arrived and quit giving me directions) so I was a few minutes late.  It was okay, though.

Elder Dixon and I were in charge of keeping people from leaving the dining area with food and we were in charge of checking credentials so only the volunteers and staff were eating.  We thought helping with the elections would be a great way to serve the Brazilian community here.  The Brazilians are required to vote in their elections or pay a fine.  Several states have to vote at the Atlanta Consulate.

It was a great experience.  We had some very interesting and wonderful conversations with people there.  I was able talk to a young man from Alabama who indicated that his mother had been given a copy of the Book of Mormon.  After we spoke, he indicated he would read it.  Another young man indicated that he was an atheist and we had a very interesting conversation about my experience with that.  I feel that I left there with new friends.

Elder Dixon remained there until the voting was over.  Our missionaries indicated that people who worked with them commented on the enjoyable conversations they had with the older couple from the Church.  At the end of the day, all of us were tired.  Here is a picture of our young missionaries, and one with Elder Sousa demonstrating how he felt after being there for about 11 hours.  As you can see, he is the comic of the group!

I had to leave early because we had the Primary Program at the Branch and were expecting a number of people to come who were not members of the Church.  On the way, I had to pick up the primary program materials from the Primary President who may have gone into labor, I haven't called her yet to confirm.  I then picked up Sister Barros and we went to the Branch.

Our wonderful member missionaries brought 42 people to church!  It was amazing!  We were a little short on missionaries, but we managed.  I taught Relief Society.  I loved the fact that my assigned message was about following in Christ's footsteps.  What a powerful message to be able to share!

It was a sad week.  One of our sweet sister missionaries had to leave the mission field for medical treatment.  I hate losing missionaries for any reason, but medical is the worst.  This week is transfer week.  We anticipate that we will see some changes.  I see the wisdom, but it is still hard.  I especially hate letting go of missionaries I have grown to love.  Elder Hopkins is leaving to go to Brazil, we are excited for him, but hate to lose a missionary.  Sister Lindsey has completed her mission.  She has been such a wonderful Sister Training Leader and I will really miss her.

This week one of the Sister Missionaries needed to go to the Mission Office to get a car.  I took her and her companion down to Lilburn.  They forgot to bring their Garmin.  I have explained before that there is a monitor in the car to monitor the driving habits.  That gave me a special challenge.  I had to drive ahead to guide, stay close enough that they could see me, but not cause them to get any violation on the monitor.  It was much harder than it sounds, and when I missed a freeway entrance, so did they. I felt a lot of pressure to get them home safely and without violations.   I guess it is a little like leadership or missionary work in the Church.  We have to know the way ourselves or be able to follow the spirit (in my case, the Garmin).  We have to remain close to those we lead, to be able to know if they are having any issues that might cause them to lose the way.  And we have to follow the commandments so that those who follow will not get any violations because they followed us.  It is sobering to think about.

Happy Halloween this week!  All missionaries are ordered to be in their apartments by 5:00 p.m., 6:00 p.m. if they are teaching a lesson.

Sunday, October 19, 2014

October 19, 2014 Still more changes

Our mission has been an experience in being flexible and dealing with change.  One of our sweet sisters needs to go home for medical treatment.  As a result, Sister Barros will be assigned as her companion's companion for a while.  Sister Barros is a little worried because the assignment requires that she ride a bike and she has not ridden one before.  She is great, and I am certain she will learn.  Who knows, perhaps that will lead her to Brazilian families!

Next Sunday, we will be serving at the Brazilian consulate during their election.  They need us to help with the food for the volunteers.  It should be a great experience.

Elder Dixon and I have been assigned to serve on the Stake's Public Affairs committee.  The first meeting for us will be on Thursday.  It will be interesting to learn what is currently being done.  I hope that we can be helpful.

Of one thing I am certain, we need to make the LDS Church visible here.  Our meetinghouses are so modest, they do not stand out in comparison to the spacious structures of other churches.  We need to find ways to let people know that our message is amazing and will change their lives.

We have had a little issue with the driving for one of the sets of Brazilian missionaries, so Elder Dixon is providing their transportation.  He drives their car with the monitor, and really doesn't like it.  He has been working closely with the Elders.  He jokes about how he didn't expect to be transferred and have different companions.  I just work on our other assignments here while he is away, work with the Sister missionaries (or sometimes go shopping for things we need for assignments).  He has done everything from contacting to teaching a member how to barbecue.

I went with one of the Spanish Sisters to give a lesson because her companion was ill.  It was a little challenging since I don't speak Spanish.  I loved being able to answer the questions from the teenagers because they spoke English.  That is quite common.  The children and youth interact in English at school, so they speak English.

We had another Temple session with incredible attendance.  Every month, a large percentage
of the endowed members attend.  It is amazing.  President Tedjamulia took the picture, so he is not in this one.

This week, I thought you might find Kudzu of interest.  It is a plant that originated in the Orient.  It was brought in from Japan in the 1800s to control erosion.  People in the South brought it in as a vine for porches.  It has overtaken 7,400,000 acres and continues to consume at the rate of 150,000 acres a year.  It has been nicknamed "The vine that ate the South."

As you travel, you see huge mounds where it grows, and places where the trees have been totally overwhelmed by it.

It has made me think about our world.  Sins may seem small and innocuous.  They can initially be very appealing.  But, if we do not control them, they can take over.  One of my favorite books is "The Little Prince".  In the book, the Little Prince lives on a very small planet.  A plant called a baobab grows on his planet, but he has to remove them every day.  If he does not, the roots of the plant could destroy his little planet.  We need to beware the baobab and kudzu in our lives and in our world.

Monday, October 13, 2014

Happy Columbus Day celebration!  Ever tried to explain that to someone from another country?

The picture above is our Stake Center at 7:00 a.m. on a Sunday morning.  Pretty beautiful.

Our week was very busy again.  By the time I sit down to write the blog, I find that I have to check back on the calendar to see what happened.

We do a LOT of driving.  From Friday until Tuesday one week we drove over 500 miles.  President Bennion has asked that we assist the young missionaries to budget their mileage.  Perhaps we need to do that with our own!

This week was Zone Conference.  Their was a real emphasis on exact obedience and the blessings that come from that.  One of the young sisters organized the sister missionaries (and included me) to sing for Sister Bennion.  The song was written by Callie Reed and is a tribute to her mother.  It uses concepts from Primary songs to tell how Callie's mother taught her concepts of the gospel through music.  It is a touching song and took me back to times when I taught those songs.  The young missionaries have really nice voices and sound beautiful.

We spent a lot of time this week trying to find ways to get less-actives back to church and get people who are interested in the gospel to come to church.  The Brazilian community is a hard-working group, putting in long hours and often working on Sundays.  Many of them would like to come to church, but they cannot get off of work.

Some of our time in the evenings has been spent helping Bala prepare for the written exam for a driver's license.  Imagine how hard that would be if you had not been raised with terms like "right of way" and "yield".  He struggled with how far to stay away from a fire hydrant because he did not know what one was.  I am happy to report that his studying paid off and he passed the test.  He begins driver's school this week.

Elder Dixon has been spending time with the young Elders helping them in their planning.  We are excited to see them grow and develop.  We are beginning to see referrals to them, and that is far more effective than just knocking on doors.  We are hoping to soon see the first baptisms in the Branch since we arrived 4 months ago.

This is known as "The Big Chicken.  It is reportedly made from an airplane wing.  The beak and eyes move.  It is a landmark in the area.  The GPS will even instruct us to turn after "The Big Chicken".

We have received a report that "Meet the Mormons" nearly came in at Number 10 over the weekend in box office proceeds.  Apparently several theaters had to reassign it to their larger theaters because of the response.  In some theaters, it was sold out.  I hope that our non-LDS friends and those who want to know about us will continue the interest so that it will remain available to people.  It gives me hope that there are many people who just want to understand us, not simply to mock us.

If I challenged each of you like the ice bucket challenge, would you take a friend and go see it?

In addition to our other assignments, we have been assigned to be part of the Stake Public Affairs committee.  That will be a great learning experience.  I look forward to learning from them and providing whatever insights we may have from our assignments in our home wards and stakes.

Monday, October 6, 2014

October 5, 2014 General Conference

Today marked the end of a great General Conference.  We were able to watch conference at the Stake Center with the young missionaries.  It is so wonderful to have the ability to watch conference live and this time, to hear the speakers in their native languages.  Communication is not such a barrier any longer.  It is really different to have the priesthood session at 8:00 p.m., though!

I will have to read and reread the conference talks when they come out, but Elder Bednar's talk is one that really made an impact.  He articulated the feelings that I have about sharing the gospel in a way that I have never been able to do.  As soon as I can, I will attach his talk to this blog so that my family and friends who do not belong to the Church can understand why we have such a passion for missionary work.

Some of our Brazilian missionaries assisted for the national voting that took place at the Consulate Sunday.  They were not allowed to wear their name tags, but hopefully it was a great way to let the Brazilians here in Atlanta that there is something special about them.

On Friday, we attended a training for the missionary leadership.  My favorite session was one held for the sisters only.  Sister Chapman (the Sister in pink) had us divide a paper into four sections.  Along the left side, we wrote "Dominant", along the right side "Easy going", along the top "Formal" and along the bottom "Informal".  She then had all of us determine which quadrant fit our personality.  We then got into a group with those who were in the same quadrant and answered questions about our strengths, weaknesses, and pet peeves.  We then talked about the challenges in working with people who were in the opposite corner from ours.  My quadrant was labeled "controller", the upper right corner "analytical", the bottom right corner "supporter" and the bottom left "promoter".  The supported group indicated that they can't make decisions and tend to sometimes be "too chill" resulting in them going along with the wrong things.  We laughed.  When asked how they would deal with working with someone in the opposite quadrant, the analytical group got really quiet.  Someone from the Controller group piped up "They have to think about it."  When asked how to deal with a companion who is in the supporter group, one of the Controller group said "I will just have to schedule fun."  We all laughed and enjoyed the task. Love these missionaries.

Before we left on our mission, two great friends sent us with some money to use on the mission.  For the past three months, I have considered various options to use the money.  On Saturday, we gathered props to be able to create Bethlehem for the Branch at Christmas.  The money for that was from those treasured donations.

We had a neat experience at the Emory Eye Center this week.  Elder Dixon has to have Botox around his eyes every three to four months.  We struggled to find the place and were about 10 minutes late, but they still took him in.  After the Doctor completed the examination, we were taken to a small office where a young woman would complete the paperwork.  She had a beautiful African name, and told us that her mother was a pastor and she came from a long line of pastors.  We realized that her family was very special to her as she spoke fondly of her grandmother.  I gave her one of the cards with family history information on it.  She told us that was amazing to  her because her little 5 year old had been asking how his great-great-great-great grandfather died.  In addition to that, the function she was performing was not her regular job and she would not usually have been in that office.  We all recognized God's hand in our meeting.  I hope she is able to find those answers!

Sravanthi and Bala invited us to a special celebration/blessing for Varnika.  Before she would attend school, they wanted to have the blessing.  It was very nice of them to include us.  Varnika looked darling and Sravanthi looked very nice.

Bala explained that the little dot in the middle of their forehead is to show that they believe in reincarnation.

"Hot-Lanta" is no longer hot.  The temperature is dropping and the leaves are changing color.

As we travel along "The 400" we pass these buildings a lot.  My pictures did not turn out, so these are from the internet.  The buildings look like giant chess pieces and are referred to by locals as "The King and Queen".  They are a great landmark.