Tuesday, November 24, 2009

big decisions

Welcome back,

Over these last 2 weeks, a number of things have happened; some good, some not so good, but all have been learning experiences for us. That is one idea that has been reinforced to us, like it says in D&C 122, all things are for our good, we just need to learn from these experiences.

As we have told you in previous posts, Janet has experienced difficulties since we have been here. Some of it is because of the language, some of it because it is a completely new culture, some of it because she feels isolated, some because she misses the family and there probably other reasons. We have been working with the church psychologist in Sao Paulo, with the M.D. there, they have been in contact with Drs in Salt Lake and we even went to a psychologist here in Itabuna. After about a month and a half of this and some new medications that seemed to help temporarily, we (Janet, me and the Drs involved) decided that it would be best if we came home and got some treatment for Janet. So, we will be returning sometime early in December. We still don't know exactly when. We will let you know. While this is disappointing to us, we have learned many things. We have become closer to each other and closer to the Lord. We have become more dedicated to the Gospel and what that means. In many ways, this has been a blessing. We are grateful for the opportunity we have had to serve a mission here. It truly has been a blessing in our lives.

On Monday, the 16th, we drove to Salvador for some training and meetings with Elder Fernando Araujo. He is not the father of the former BYU basketball player. In fact, when I asked him about that, he didn't know that BYU had a Brasileiro on their team. Elder Araujo is the #1 assistant to Brother Grahl in the Church Education System here in Brasil. He is also a Seventy.

Salvador is the capital of the state of Bahia and is the 4th or 5th largest city in Brasil. It probably has 4 - 5 million people in the metro area. It sits on a large pennisula and is one of the oldest cities in Brasil. It was also the major port for bringing in slaves from Africa. As we drove up, we had 2 choices as to how to get there; 1 was driving all the way (about 100 - 120 km longer ) or 2 take the ferry boat (about 30 - 40 minutes ) across the bay. We decided to take the ferry boat. (ferryboat is the brasilian word for ferryboat) We arrived at the dock at about 3:30. We had to wait almost 2 hours. We finally arrived in Salvador at 6:00. We filled up with gas (alcohol, really) and took off to find our hotel. We had an idea where it was and we had google maps. The hotel was in a wealthy suburb north of Salvador. We made some lucky quesses and some unlucky guesses and ended up getting lost. We thought we knew where we were, but we didn't. We finally called the mission president, Elder Vecchi, and he came and rescued us. We were 15 km or more from our hotel. He knew were it was, but he had a hard time finding it, also. We got there at about 9:00. It was an 11:00 hour trip. By bus it is only 6 - 7 hours.

The next morning, we drove into the city to the meetings. We drove around and, guess what, we got lost again. We called the institute and somebody came and rescued us. We found out we were only 1 - 2 km from the institute building as we were looking for it. The map was accurate, but most streets do not have signs on them so we never knew where we were. That afternoon, we had an interview with Brother Araujo. He was very kind and very grateful for the time we had spent and for the example we had been to the members. We also met the brother who will be doing most of the work we have been doing. He will not be moving to Itabuna, but he will be the coordinator of the 2 stakes we have, Itabuna and Vitoria da Conquista. He will have to do most of the work by telephone. He has 5 other stakes in Salvador that he works with, but only with the seminaries.

The next morning, we left to go back to Itabuna. We decided to drive the whole way. We didn't get lost and we had a rather enjoyable trip home. Because the trip back was so pleasant, we decided to travel again on the weekend.

Saturday morning, we left Itabuna for Vitoria da Conquista. It's a 3 hour drive, most of which is on very good roads. The last 35 km, however, is really bad in places. But we survived and arrived there at 10:30. We went to President Denio's home. We had preciously made arrangements to meet him and his wife. They wanted to take us to dinner. We have become good friends with them. They were our rescuers the first time we went to Conquista. While we were at dinner, we explained to them that we were going home. They were both saddened by this news and were very concerned about Janet. That afternoon, we had our training meeting with the teachers and explained to them what was happening. They were also very touched and concerned, it was an emotional meeting. That night we went to an open house for a new chapel in the city. Many of the city's important people had been invited as were any others who were interested. It was very well planned and the turn out seemed to be very good. The next morning, we went to church and then returned to Itabuna. It was good to get back. We had a relaxing and enjoyable evening. On our next blog we will have all the information about our return.

Monday, November 9, 2009


Greetings from Brasil, we are back on schedule.

Some interesting experiences and reflections on our calling have made us think more these last few days than at almost any time since we have been here.

First, we met with the member of the stake presidency over seminaries and institutes and with the high councilman who has that same responsibility. The 1st counselor in the stake presidency is man named Davi dos Santos. Everybody calls him Brother Davi. We have been to his house for dinner before; we talked about it in another blog. As we met, we talked about what needed to be done for this next year. I explained that, as I had learned from our training in Recife, we needed to have more activities for the Institute students. One of the problems here is that many of the young people, including returned missionaries, do not have many opportunities to meet a lot of other active members. Because of this, many of them do not marry or they marry outside of the church. The church views the institute program as one way for these young adults to meet other active members of the church. As such, these men were very supportive of increasing the number of activities and the size of these activities. We are planning 2 regional activities that will involve all of the institute aged members of the 22 units for which we have jursidiction. Besides this, there will be an activity once a month for the institute members here in Itabuna and Ilheus. Janet and I are also planning on teaching 3 or 4 classes here at the stake center next year. It will be interesting to see how this goes.

On Thursday, we went to a family night activity for a number of members in the Itabuna ward. The stake secretary, who lives in that ward, invited a number of ward members to his home for a lesson, games and food. Although we are not members of his ward, we were invited. We had a very enjoyable time.

Friday night, the Itabuna ward had a ward dinner. There was a short program, then dinner and then some entertainment. Once again we were invited, even though we are not members of that ward. We were also invited to give the prayers. One of the dishes thay had was chicken breasts in a cream sauce. It was really good. Once again, we enjoyed ourselves. Janet does get a little frustrated at these events because she cannot understand what is happening.

On Saturday, we traveled to a city called Eunapolis. We don't know the origen of its name, but we decided it has to be Greek. The city is about 200 km away. it takes about 2 1/2 hours to get there. This is the same road we took to go to Porto Seguro, but this city is closer. We got there and couldn't get a hold of the branch president. We had a google map, but it was wrong and we we couldn't find the chapel. The bp was going to help us find a nice hotel, but since we couldn't get him, we found one ourselves, the Hotel Portal. It was really very nice; spacious room and a very nice bathroom. We finally got in touch with the bp and arranged to meet him. He took us to the chapel. It is a rented house, but it is very nice. The lady's bathroom was the nicest we have seen here in Brasil, in any house or hotel. It had a jacuzzi bathtub in it. That night they were having a class that is preparatory for PEF.

We had our training the next morning before church, then we had church. We were the speakers in sacrament meeting. There was a good crowd, about 70 - 75 people. We are quite an attraction. The church has been in Eunapolis for only 7 tears. It has been an independent branch for 3 years. The missionaries are working very hard - there were 6 - 8 investigagors there. One of the missionaries was a Sister from Orem who had been there for only 2 months. Janet talked with her a lot. They both talked about how hard it is and how much crying they have been doing. This trip was hard for Janet. It brought back all of the negatives that happened last month when we went to Porto Seguro. It is interesting that Janet now does not like traveling. Just a suggestion, buy stock in Kleenex.

Some thoughts as to what it all means. As I mentioned, it is interesting the reception we get when we do our visits, or even here in our own ward of Sao Caetano. There is a obvious curiosity because we are from the United States, but the members also seem genuinely appreciative of our willingness to serve a mission for the church. They are also very concerned that things go well for us. They are especially concerned when they see Janet having difficulties. It is very gratifying and humbling to be the recepient of this attention. It also makes us want to do a better job. All you old folks, makes some plans, it really is a great experience.

Thursday, November 5, 2009

For all our loyal followers(6), sorry we're late. We have a good excuse, we were lazy.
This past week was the week of rain. The Cachoeira river that runs through Itabuna is not much of a river. It is about 80 meters (we are in Brasil) wide and about 2 meters deep. It moves very slowly and from here to the ocean (about 25 km) it only drops about 100 meters. It flows over what appears to be lava, which means there is not much of a river bottom as far as dirt and mud goes. It moves so slowly, there are a lot of water lily like plants that grow in it. At times it looks like the river is filling up with these plants. Last week, things changed. It rained.

It had rained a number of times since we have arrived here, but last week, the number of times and the intensity increased a lot. It rained every day, at times very hard and usually it rained during most of the day. The water level in the river went up about 2 meters. As this occured, all the water lilies plants came floating down the river and there was a lot of it. Much of it got caught on the concrete posts supporting the main bridge. It kept piling higher and higher. Normally there is about a 5 meter clearance from the underside of the bridge to the water, but as the water lilies continued to pile up, they acted like a damn and the water level on the up river side of the bridge kept rising. The clearance of the underside of the bridge to the water lilies was reduced to about 1 1/2 meters. The city closed the bridge and brought in a big back hoe type machine with a claw like thing on the end. It would pick up the water lilies and lift them across the bridge or put them on the banks of the river. After 4 - 5 hours of this, most of the problems were taken care of and the bridge was reopened. It was quite interesting and created a lot of national attention down here. This happened on Wednesday but the rain continued throughout the week. there just weren't any more problems.
On Saturday, we went to our twin city, Ilheus. We just wandered around the downtown area. It really is a pretty city. There is a large cathedral right on the edge of downtown. It is very well maintained and very beautiful. We will post some pictures latter. that is Janet's job, so if you don't see them soon, talk to her.
Monday night, the missionaries came over. Janet taught them the animal game. The one where candy is hidden and there are teams, with each team being an animal. When candy is found, the person has to make the sound of there animal until the captain comes and picks up the candy. I'm not sure who enjoyed it more, Janet or the missionaries.

Monday, October 26, 2009


Bom dia, (that means "good day)

Some more interesting experiences this week. Monday was a different kind of day; we had the missionaries over for family home evening. Of the 10 missionaries in the city, 4 were transferred today, with one of them leaving for home. They seemed to really enjoy this last opportunity to visit with each other. We drove 2 of them to the rodoviaria, aka bus station, that night and one other the next morning at 6:30. It is interesting to see the growth of some of these young men and women and to remember what happened on my mission. The next day was Janet's usual English class at night. She really seems to like this class and she does a good job. Janet started on some new medication today that is supposed to help her relax.
On Wednesday, we had to leave the house by 6:30 because we were going to Recife for some CES training. The airport is in the city of Ilheus, right on the coast, about 20 miles away. The runway ends about 100 - 200 yards from the ocean. The airport is not very big, they only have about 6 incoming and 6 outgoing flights each day. As we were checking in, we needed to provide ID. Our Utah drivers licences didn't count. They asked for our passport, which we didn't have, but we did have a national ID card from Brasil. I think the ticket agent had never had this situation, so he wasn't sure how to deal with it, but we convinced him that we had used them before for travel, so he let us check in and take the flight. We flew from Ilheus to Salvador, about a 45 minute flight. Then we waited for 31/2 hours for our flight from Salvador to Recife. We got in there at about 1:30. We were picked up by one of the Institute director in Recife and taken to lunch (the restaurant was very good) where the other directors were. There were about 18 directors and coordinators from the northeast area of Brasil at this training. After lunch, we checked in to the hotel, The Blue Tree, that was about 150 yards from the beach. We then went to the Institute building and had an interview with Elder Grahl. He is the director of all CES programs in Brasil. He is a former Seventy and former member of the Brasil Area presidency. We had a good long talk with him about how things are going and some of the problems that Janet is facing. He is very kind and very concerned.
On Thursday we had our training. There were a lot of good ideas and problem solving. I had to work hard to understand what was going on. I did learn that there is a lot expected from these directors and coordinators. I can understand why they are some of the best leaders in Brasil. I don't know if I can learn to do all the things that are expected of me. Janet did not attend some of the meetings; the new medication makes her very drowsy, so she feels tired a lot.
Friday morning we got up at 4:15 to catch our 6:10 flight to Salvador. We were tired, but we had a chance to rest in the airport at Salvador because our flight to Ilheus wasn't until 1:50. We had about 5 hours of "rest".
I need to tell you a little about Recife, not that we know to much. It is right on the point of South America, pointing to Africa. It has some beautiful beaches that go on for miles, but not many swimmers. There are a lot of sharks in the water here. Recife is the second largest city in Brasil and is growing fast. Many people are trying to get out of Sao Paulo and this is one place they come. Along the beach, ther are mile after mile of 15 - 20 -25 story apartment buildings and more being built all the time. It seems to be a very dynamic place.
Saturday was a busy day. In the morning, we meet the president of the Institute student council at the store to buy things for the institute dance tonight. We spent about $200 on the dance and a number of the students did a lot of work. That afternoon, we helped with the final preparations, and then the dance was from 7:00 until 10:00. There was a good turn out, probably 150 -200 people that showed up. It seemed to be a big success. We got home at about 11:30.
Sunday, Janet was feeling wiped out from all the things that had been going on and also from the new medication, so she stayed home from the first 2 meetings. After Sacrament meeting, we rested and then we went back to the stake center to give a Fireside on the Perpetual Education Fund. That went from 7:30 until 9:15 or so. there are a lot of people who are interested in this inspired program. It has made, and is making, a huge difference in the lives of many of the members here. On our next blog, I will explain how it works. Remember us, and especially Janet, in your prayers. We love this opportunity to serve the Lord.

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Pretty routine

This week has been fairly routine, nothing special to note. Monday night we had Family Home Evening with the missionaries. They really enjoy meeting with us and having home made cookies. We had a short lesson on the Apostles to see if they could name them in order. They had fun with that and learned a little more about the church. Tuesday was Janet's English class. She does a good job with it and the students really enjoy it. There are between 15 - 20 who come each week. It is interesting; on 2 - 3 different occasions, we have been stopped on the street by complete strangers and asked about the class. It seems that people in the city know that there are two americans here that are giving classes in English. Learning English is a big deal down hear. There are a lot of language schools, but pronunciation is a problem, so we, as americans are very popular.
On Wednesday, I went over to play basketball, but none of the missionaries were there. There were some members and non-members, so we started to play. We found out later that the mission president doesn't want the missionaries playing with the members and non-members. There probably have been incidents in the past that have occured, so this is a preventative measure.
As I mentioned in one of the earlier blogs, we work with the Perpetual Education Fund. One of the more complicated things for me to do is getting all the information together to foward to the Church for approval. There is a lot of one on one communication that has to take place. That is sometimes hard for me because of the language. But it is also quite rewarding. The individual requesting a loan has a lot of work to do before he can even submit. Then to see his efforts rewarded is very gratifying.
On Saturday, we helped the Sister Missionaries with a baptismal service. Afterwards, we went to a party for a member sister who will be leaving for her mission this next week. She will go down to Sao Paulo to the MTC there and from there to her mission in the state of Sao Paulo.
On both occasions, I was asked to speak extemporaneously. At the baptismal service, I wasn't to good. I still have problems with conjugation of verbs to meet tense and who. At the farewell party, I was surprised at how easily things came to me and how well I spoke. Maybe I am getting better.
Sunday after church, we went to a member's home for lunch. It was really quite good. She had a really good dessert; much like flan. That evening, the young returned missionary came over and we had an english lesson. All in all, it was a good week. We are grateful for the support all of you give us and we appreciate your prayers.

Monday, October 12, 2009

Brasilian pizza!!

I need to catch you up on something from last week. We go out walking ever morning at about 6:00. On Saturday last week, we left the apartment and I had the keys in my pocket. When we got to the door of the building to leave, it was locked. I reached into my pocket for the keys to unlock it and pulled out the car keys. We were locked in our building and locked out of our apartment. There was a window in the foyer, so we climbed out. We tried to figure out what to do. Fortunely, the cell phone was in the car, but we didn't have any phone numbers to call. Finally, I drove over to the city and got the phone number of the key shop we had used earlier when we locked ourselves out of the car. They had a 24 hour service. We called and when the guy came, it was the same man who helped with the car. He smiled and in about 30 seconds he had the door opened. We didn't go walking that morning.
Have you ever had pizza on a pancake? Then you haven't had brazilian pizza. On Monday at our family home evening with the Missionaries, the Sister missionaries fixed pizza for everone. They are both Brasilian and so it was brasilian pizza. We were both curious when they wanted to use the blender to make the dough. It turns out that they make a batter, much like pancake batter, and cook it. Then they put on the ingredients and cook the whole thing. The toppings were really quite good, very much like we would have in the states; but the crust seemed odd to us, much like eating a pancake with pizza toppings.
Wednesday is P-day for the missionaries and they like to play basketball and futebol de salao (court soccer). The new stake center has one of the best courts in the city for this. I went and played with them. It was good to have that kind of trenuous exercise, it seems to help with the arthirtis. I had a good time and got really sweaty. Some of the brazilians are pretty good while others have no clue. After the playing, we all had lunch, (sandwiches) prepared by the Sisters. It was quite enjoyable.
Friday, we drove to a city called Porto Seguro, about 150 - 170 miles south of Itabuna. It took a little over 3 hours to get there. One thing that struck me as we were driving was the huge tree farms that we saw as we got close to Porto Seguro. There had to be thousands of acres of tree farms. The trees were similar to lodge pole pines only smaller in diameter. At times about the only thing you could see were these tree farms. Porto Seguro (secure or safe port) is a medium sized tourist city. It is very well known in Brasil and a very popular destination. It is only about 15 miles from were Cabral first landed and discovered Brasil. There are some beautiful hotels there and even a Best Western. Somebody told us that during the tourist season, many of these hotels charge as much as $500 per night; american dollars. The beaches are really pretty with beautiful white sand. On Friday night, we met up with another senior missionary couple from Sandy, the Calls. They are doing the same thing we are, but in an adjacent state. They were there with a group of young people from one of the branches they work with. We had an enjoyable visit. Saturday morning we went down to the place were Cabral landed. It is a big tourist attraction. Supposedly the cross he raised is still there; I have my doubts after 500 years. Also, there is a monument with a large stainless cross that was erected there by the Brasilian government to celebrate the 500 year anniversary of the discovery.
That evening we had our training meeting in the chapel. It is the prettiest chapel we have seen in Brasil; the setting is beautiful, the grounds are large and spacious and the building is different than most of the other chapels we have seen. We had an enjoyable time at the meeting. There are some very dedicated teachers there with strong testamonies.
We do need to tell about were we stayed. It is called "A Ilha dos Corsaires" The Island of the Corsairs (pirates). It is called a posada which means inn. From the outside it is very quaint, the room was not so quaint. It was small but crowded because it had 2 beds; a small double and a small single bed. It did have airconditioning, but all the doors and the window had sensors; the airconditioning would not work unless they were all closed. The room was clean, but we got a lot of insect bites that we think were bed bugs; they didn't itch to much after a while, but remained red. Next time we go there, we will stay someplace else.
We returned home on Sunday in time for testimony meeting. The travel was uneventful for the most part. We do ask for your prayers, especially for Janet. She sometimes gets a little down because she feels isolated, not being able to talk to anyone but me. But she is a trooper and is learning some phrases. It is good to serve the Lord and we are grateful for this opportunity.

Monday, October 5, 2009

Welcome back all you readers; another week has come and gone. Before I forget, an update of last week, perhaps the most exciting happening. As we were returning from Vitoria, going about 55 mph or, to the rest of the world about 90 kph, (do you know what this is?) a flock of buzzards flew across the road. These birds are a little bigger than large crows. One of them was to slow. It hit our windshield near the roof. No damage to the car or windshield. Can't say the same for the bird. As we kept going, I looked in the rearview mirror and saw a big, black clump of bird fall to the ground. Am sure his flock mates will enjoy him.
There some interesting things that occured this week. Last Tuesday, a pair of Elders was held up at gun point. This happened just a few blocks from where we live. It was 9:00 at night and they were going home. One of the Elders is from Manaus and he had just convinced the gunman
they didn't have anything worthwhile, when the Sister missionaries called. They had to give up the phone.
On Thursday, Janet and I met the 1st counselor in the stake presidency and he took us on a short tour of his work. Just outside of Itabuna, there is a agricultural research farm and labs. Its primary purpose is to find ways to overcome the parasite which destroyed about 90% of the caucau (that's choclate for those who don't know) industry in Brasil. But it is also studying different plants and production methods in an attempt to improve agricultural in Brasil. They also study snakes and snake venom and different insects. It was very interesting. Afterwards, we went to his house for lunch (almoso), which is the biggest meal of the day. He lives in Ilheus, the port city, about 25 kilometers from Itabuna. We had a very good meal. Davi, the counselor, is a funny guy and he makes Janet feel good about being here, although he can't speak any English.
On Friday, we went with the Sisters offroading (as Janet says). Itabuna is quite hilly, although they are not high hills. The roads (for lack of a better word) are not maintained away from the main part of the city so it is an adventure to go visit some people. So far we have not needed 4 wheel drive, which is good, because we don't have it.
Saturday and Sunday was conference. We really enjoyed it. The members are very kind, they set up a room were we could watch everything in English. Janet really enjoyed that. We enjoyed the testimonies of the speakers. It helped strengthen ours. We are so grateful to be here.