So last week on P-day (Monday) Andy had told us that he didn’t really know how the Mother’s Day call “would go down” to use his words…he had said that he could Skype but only on Monday or he could just call on Sunday.
Long story short, no phone call came on Sunday, but he tried to get Skype going mid-day on Monday…lousy internet connection and it wasn’t working so he ended up at the church where we were able to call him and talked for a little over an hour and a half!
He sounds great, but it was also obvious that he didn’t want to hang up…it was actually a little hard on all of us at the end! Mark said it felt sort of like the night he was set apart where we know it’ll be a long time before we see him again…
Here are as many notes as we could capture from our conversation…this is pretty random…sorry!
He is not allowed access to phones or computers at members’ houses…he can only go to member homes for lunch which they do pretty much every day.
He accesses the internet each week at an internet café. They are allowed to email for an hour, but his first email has to be to his mission president and it has to be in Portuguese so sometimes that is slow going for him so he hasn’t had a lot of time to write to the rest of us J.
He has received his first batch of snail mail letters…they are getting there!! Keep sending them!! He said he got a big pile of them last Friday when they had some kind of Zone Conference and that they made his day!
Each day he wakes up a half hour early to study the language. Then after two hours of regular study they head out to proselyte. As mentioned they eat lunch at a member’s house and then they proselyte till 9 pm when they go home. He doesn’t really eat breakfast and they don’t get dinner because they’re just out working, so basically he eats one meal a day and then has a Top Ramen at 9 pm!
He said he’s sleeping really well because he’s so tired every night he just totally crashes. His only problem with sleeping was that he was getting mosquito bites on his feet…Mark asked if he could get some mosquito netting and Andy said he could probably round up some fish nets but we all laughed and figured that might not work! He actually said the bug bites are diminishing since he started wearing socks to bed....
Their P-day schedule is pretty busy too…they are up at the normal time to study, then they go to the internet café for their hour. Then they go to the supermarket and stock up on what they need, go home for lunch and sometimes a little sleep. They are back out to work at 5 pm. They do laundry in their own little house…they actually have a washer, but they have to fill it up by hand with buckets of water! Then the clothes just air dry.
He said his house looks like the one across from where he was showering in the rain. There are 4 Elders in it – him and three native Brazilians. When he and his companion got there, they were actually opening up a new area so they don’t currently have a cell phone – only the other Elders in their house have one. They also didn’t have beds at first! They did have mattresses and they slept on floor in the same room as the other Elders because they had the only fan and a fan is crucial! After a few days, when they had gone to a meeting in Natal, they stopped at some other missionaries’ home on the way back and grabbed a couple their extra bed frames. He said the driver for the van service that had been hired to drive them all to the meeting seemed a little puzzled about why this big group of young men dressed in white shirts would stop in front of some house and come running out with a bunch of bed frames!
Their house is in a suburban area outside of the actual city of Mossoro…on Tuesdays they walk into Mossoro for a District meeting at a meetinghouse there. They leave early and do their two hours of study time at the church, have the District meeting and then walk back to their area. He said it’s about a half hour walk. He also said his shoes are doing great and he’s only had one blister J We asked if he ever gets any car rides and he said no…he’s had only one and it was after General Conference.
His companion, Elder G. Costa is from a city in Brazil called Belem which is apparently pretty big and by the Amazon and it rains there all the time. He has been out 15 months. He also loves music in English and Andy asked if we could send him an English version of the Hymns.
Elder G. Costa met Andy at the mission home and went with him to Mossoro – he hadn’t been there before either. Andy said that when he arrived in Joao Pessoa, they were met by President Hall and spent one night at the Hall’s home. Then, the next day they took him and the other new guys to go get registered with the police. He said it took all day to get his fingerprints, mug shots, etc. and the whole time he’s got these policemen sort of yelling at him to do things and he couldn’t understand a thing! “They weren’t speaking the language I was taught in the MTC!” After all the police action, he and Elder G. Costa got on a bus at about 9 pm for the 6 hour ride to Mossoro. He said it was the worst bus ride of his life… he was so tired and it was so freezing cold from the air conditioning that he couldn’t sleep at all. They got into Mossoro at 3 am and were up at 6 am to start studying and working!
He said he really loved President Hall and that President Hall reminded Andy of President Paxman…”he has a twinkle in his eyes”! Andy said that President Hall told him that he prays very hard about which missionary to send into a group like Andy is in where he’s the only non-native…he prays about it a lot because it’s a hard situation and he needs to know who can handle it…how great it is that Andy is in there and doing it! Andy said that Brazilians love to talk and they talk loud and in a very animated way. It was hard to get used to J
Andy and his companion are working in a new ward called the Bom Jardim Ward. Andy said it’s a ward and not a branch but it’s really small since they just divided the area and set it up as a new ward. He said there are a lot of young people in the ward and not too many of their parents. The parents all like to just keep going to the church they’ve always gone to where their friends are and stuff. The parents seem to not really care about whether the kids join the church and give their permission and stuff, but aren’t really all that engaged in the process. Andy said that the parents of the first boy he baptized, Antonio, didn’t even come to the baptism!
The missionaries work with their ward clerk who sort of doubles as the ward mission leader. The bishop in their ward had a totally inspired idea to start holding soccer games for all the kids in the area to come play. Andy said it’s the “jackpot” for teaching the kids and that they meet a lot of investigators that way…just not their parents…mostly the parents don’t come. It sounds like a lot of these kids are between the ages of 10 and 20. He’s building an army of Stripling Warriors! He said they hold seminary in the evenings on Tuesdays, Wednesdays and Thursdays but don’t really have regular YW/YM activity nights…he and his companion don’t attend much of these kinds of things because they are just out proselytizing.
He said their church building is really really beautiful…it’s not really like the buildings here...he said that it has an indoor garden…a courtyard. There are many many churches in the area he’s in and none of them are as beautiful as the LDS church…he said it’s a beacon on a hill compared to all the other churches and it’s like it’s beckoning people to come to the church! He said he hasn’t popped into any of the other churches…wasn’t sure if he should look inside them or if that would be inappropriate J
Andy said they met Antonio and his brother Jefferson (the first two boys that he got to baptize) by knocking on doors only it’s not knocking…it’s clapping J…most people have a gate in front of their door so they clap to get attention rather than knock!
Andy got to Brazil right before general conference weekend and was sooo happy to be able to watch conference on some computers in the church…he got to watch in English! He said that his companion and the other Elders have a huge desire to go to Salt Lake and to be able to learn English and to hear the prophet in English and without translation.
Andy had advice to future missionaries:
· If your testimony isn’t strong and you don’t have a desire to work, it could be the worst experience.
· You need to have a strong desire to share your testimony…to be willing to talk to everyone!
· Be prepared to study hard…the biggest struggle he’s seen others have is with getting the language down.
· About the MTC specifically and getting into the schedule and routine of the mission life, he said you have to really want to be there…to leave the world behind.
None of us had a clue about how he pays for things, etc. so we asked J...for those of you who already know all this, feel free to skip ahead! He said he was given a new credit card when he was at the mission home and they use that to get money out of their account the church set up. They use it to pay their bills…Andy mentioned going to the supermarket to pay the water and electric bill with money that he got from the ATM. Then they send a voucher to the mission home and they get reimbursed for the bill. He said he hasn’t needed any extra money and has lived okay on the budget the church gives them. He was sweet and said he really didn’t want to have any more than his companion and roomies…he doesn’t want to have more food than they do and he’s happy to spend within his budget.
When asked what his favorite things are, he said the food…specifically the fruit…he said there’s all this interesting fruit and that it’s just so fresh and good…he said “it’s like Jamba Juice on steroids” J
His least favorite thing is that he has to take cold showers…there is no warm water and the cold showers in the morning don’t feel good.
He said there isn’t really an “H” in Portuguese and the people can’t say his last name…they pronounce it more like “Rowell” J…he also said they call him “Jabonez”…or however Japanese would come out with a Portuguese accent J
This week is transfer week and he hadn’t yet heard if he would be moving…he had mixed feelings and didn’t really want to go yet because they’ve just started teaching a whole family and since having a whole family interested and united in the process is so unique and great he didn’t really want to be transferred.
All in all it was just so great to hear his voice and get all these details about his world! He is doing great even though it’s hard and he clearly misses just speaking English! He’s just all about doing the work, doing it well and being obedient…what a great example to us all!!