Monday, November 30, 2015

November 30th - A Transfer Approaches

Here's the latest and greatest from Ben Murray:

Dearest Family and Friends,

As usual, I will begin with the boring housekeeping stuff. First off, what a noob lol! The fact that you sent all the stuff to the old box is hilarious and also super frustrating. I go to Campinas tomorrow for the transfer, but I´m not sure how much time I will spend there, since, it´s a 6 hour ride there and a 6 hour ride back to Itajubá. I´ll ask some of the other missionaries where the post office is there, I hope it´s close to the bus station, so maybe I can go get all of my potencial letters. If I don´t get the chance though, I´m glad you sent box 2.0, since it would be really sad to not have anything for Christmas lol. I´m not sure which address is exact, you can probably stick with the one on the Facebook page, I just had mine written up by an older missionary at the zone meeting who was actually getting mail. Hopefully I´ll actually get the stuff this time. President Hill is awesome, I´m gonna love these two years with him in charge. As for Christmas, we´re gonna use skype, and I´m not sure where yet. I think I can do it at the Branch President´s house on his comp, so I´ll furnish you with some more details after I ask next week.

As for you guys, I´m glad you had a good week. Dave´s got a new job, and I´m sure he´s raking in the dosh. Why´d he decide on Old Navy? I never saw Dave as a shirt salesman, but I´m sure it will work out well. I´m also glad that Jacob´s still hanging in with wrestling. There are a lot of people who quit. Jacob´s made of tougher stuff though, and apparently tougher stuff than me, since I could never bring myself to wrestle. I´m not sure what to say about your Hunger Games marathon, but I´m glad it went well, and I like how Dad said " It was a good movie to end the trilogy (although they made 4 movies)" gave me a laugh. So did the image of Mom as a witch trying to dress like a muggle, and Gabe´s failed Star Wars marathon. There´s this machine in a store near us that sells really really ugly Harry Potter figurines for 2 reals, so I´ll probably buy a few some day. Also, the Subway, only American restaurant here in Itajubá, has a Star Wars promotion going on, and every time I walk past it it hurts a bit. It´ll still be there in two years though, so I´ll get to see it eventually. I´m also super pumped about the Dota 2 special on ESPN. Evil Geniuses won it all this year, and they´ve been one of my favorite teams for a while now. Go EG! USA USA.
As for me, this week was really long at first, then it zipped by. Two members of our 10 man zone are leaving for home this week, so we said some goodbyes on Tuesday, and my companion is being transfered tomorrow, so I´ll finish out my training period with another missionary. I have no idea who he is, but I´m sure he´ll be just fine. I´ll miss Elder Gomes/Miranda though, as I know exactly where I stand with him and how he works, and I´ll have to figure out everything new again tomorrow. I´m sure it´ll be a good experience. Still no baptisms here, but we´ve got some investigators that are basically ready, they just have to find the courage to let us set a date. We´ve been finding new people a lot this week, so we walked a ton. My companion says that every single Elder that comes through here loses a bunch of weight. As for me, I entered the CTM at 112 kilos, or about 240 lbs. I now weigh, as of 2 days ago, 102 kilos, or 224 lbs. Walking for 7 hours a day all week will do that to you. I have, however been experimenting with cooking a lot recently in addition to eating Dave levels of cereal (1st picture for 2 weeks worth), so get ready for the first installment of:
Ben´s Cookbook for the Cooking IneptBen´s Super Basic Breakfast Sandwiches and Chips
2 Potatoes
2 Eggs
Some Oval-Shaped Bread (I use Pão Frances here, but hoagie rolls should work)
Oil (I used Soybean)
2 liters of tang (optional)
1. Feel sad about not having Thanksgiving dinner with your family
2. Decide you´re going to try something fancy today3. Peel potatoes (don´t cut yourself)
4. Slice potatoes into pieces about 1/4 inch width (cut yourself this time)
5. Put oil in a frying pan on the stove, enough to cover the bottom, but not too much, add more if needed
6. Turn on stove
7. Put potatoes into the hot oil, frantically dodging the popping oil
8. Fry potatoes until golden brown on both sides (or burn some, undercook some, but make the average golden brown)
9. Yolo an egg into the same pan (still oiled (two ways to yolo the egg, either scramble it in a cup first, or just crack and chuck, I tried both, little variation)
10. Frantically fold the egg together while the pan nearly explodes
11. Fry egg until golden brown (for real this time)
12. Repeat with other egg
13. Put egg and salami on oval bread
14. Eat and enjoy, with a tasty drink (tang)
15. Forget about turkey, football, and pie for a while
16. Do dishes
I highly recommend this dish. It´s filling, tasty, and dirt cheap here. Makes 1 serving. Especially good when you´re tired of rice and beans.

I plan to add more recipes as I figure them out.

For my thought this week, I´d just like to share what President Alex (Branch President) shared with us for our 5th Sunday discussion this week. He began by putting a big line on the board. On one side he put pain (dor) and on the other side, he put pleasure (prazer). He said that most humans struggle to avoid the pain end, and get to the pleasure end, and you can put a lot of things that people to somewhere on this line. But we, as people who follow the Gospel, strive for something greater, called joy. He spoke for a bit about how joy is a far more lasting, durable sensation than pleasure, and how it comes from inside ourselves, not from the world. He then drew a pie chart on the board, and asked for some of the bare minimum things we need to be happy. The usual suspects were called, such as family, work to do, some form of education, good health, and money. President Alex then crossed off each of these things and gave examples of people he knew who were happy and had joy in their lives without these things. He then put a big p in the middle, and said that the real thing that will give us happiness here is principles. When we have principles, the basic building blocks of our gospel and our lives, we can be happy even in the toughest of times. I´ve really noticed that here in Itajubá. It´s been a tough road here, literally and metaphorically. I´ve had a lot of hard times, and a lot of really hard experiences. But right now, I´m still happy, and each day, I have happiness in my heart, because I´m living the Gospel. I´m here to bring happiness to people´s lives, and I´m sacrificing my time and talents to make the world a better place. And I´m following my principles. And as such, I´m happy. This week is sure to bring a lot of change, and although in the past I have hated change, this week, I plan to be happy throughout. And I will succeed!

Elder Benjamin Murray

Monday, November 23, 2015

November 23th - Stomaches

I guess I have been sending packages to the wrong address! I used the address the church sent me and the one Ben sent today is completely different. I have never seen it before. Bummer!!!

"As for me, this week was a little long and boring. My companion, Elder Miranda, ate something bad or something like that, and was having a really really bad stomach ache. So we went to the hospital this week, and they gave him a lot of antibiotics. He was feeling really bad for a couple of days, so we spent a lot of time in the house, but eventually the medicine kicked in and we got back on track. We´ve been having a lot of trouble finding people at home to teach this week. We knocked a lot of doors (clapped in front of a lot of gates), without anyone letting us in. We also tried to find a number of the less-active members in our area and visit them, but it seems like everyone took a big vacation to São Paolo or moved a while ago. I´m sure next week will be better. People drive crazy here in Brasil. I got a ride with a couple of members for various reasons this week, and when people tailgate here, it´s like 1 foot behind the other car. The road is also full of potholes and speed bumps, so people swerve around all over the place, pedestrians cross randomly, and guys on motorcycles weave in and out of traffic like nuts. I really really wish I could drive here. It´s so cool! I had an interview with President Hill this week, and it was great. I really love him; he´s a very wise man. Next week transfers happen, so I´ll see where we end up. I could get a new companion, or change areas, or really anything! We´ll find out. My Portuguese is really developing fast. I neglected to mention it, but I´ve basically been fluent since like week 3. I´ve been reading a lot in just straight up Portuguese, like the Old Testament institute manual, and I´ve been working on neutralizing my American accent. There are still a few people that I don´t understand, and I´ve still got a ways to got to get my vocabulary anywhere near my level in English, but it´s going really well. I can express myself almost fully, and I´ve been thinking in Portuguese basically full time. It´s all about the Gift of Tongues here. Also, I´ve finally figured out what food to buy here, and I´ve got some brand loyalty going on, as you can see from the picture. Life is good.

As far as a spiritual message goes this week, I´d like to draw your attention to the book of Genesis. It´s really hard to understand some times, and there´s a lot of weird stuff too. But there are also some really good parts. Particularly right after Noah disembarks from the ark. The Lord then shows him a rainbow, and says this  13 I do set my bow in the cloud, and it shall be for a token of a covenant between me and the earth.
 14 And it shall come to pass, when I bring a cloud over the earth, that the bow shall be seen in the cloud: 15 And I will remember my covenant, which is between me and you and every living creature of all flesh; and the waters shall no more become a flood to destroy all flesh. 16 And the bow shall be in the cloud; and I will look upon it, that I may remember the everlasting covenant between God and every living creature of all flesh that is upon the earth.  
I don´t know how many rainbows you guys see back home, but we get a lot here in Brazil, and the next time you see one, think of the beauty the Lord has given us. Think of this wonderful Earth the Lord has put us on, and the covenant he made to never again cover the Earth with a flood. God loves us. We are his children. When we follow him, we will be blessed, as we have been blessed with this beautiful Earth. Life here is beautiful. It´s easy to get caught up in all of the hard things, all of the challenges and difficulties, but remember to look up sometimes, and see all the beauty there is. I love my life. I want to bring this same love to all the people I meet, and in part, I know, I will succeed.
Elder Benjamin Murray"

Monday, November 16, 2015

November 16th - Working hard and Walking hard

I was going to call this post "The Burger Miracle" but I decided to use Ben's title instead. He seems to be doing really well and we are so glad to hear it!

Hello My Beloved Friends and Family,

Thanks once again for all of your well wishes and prayers. I love you guys, I love reading your emails, and it´s definitely good to hear that everything´s going well back home. As for Dad´s question "Why do you have to spend so much on bus fares" We live really far away from our district center, 1.5 hours or 22 reals one way by bus. We can file reimbursements for Zone Meetings, Interviews with the President, etc, but the reimbursements take a while to activate and we can only file them at certain times each month. We also receive a huge additional amount of cash at the beginning of each transfer to help with bus fares, so in the end, it works out almost exactly and we get the same amount everyone else gets, but I´ve got a bunch of reals tied up in bus tickets that I have to file a reimbursement for. Thus, I don´t have a whole lot of liquid cash, but I´ve got everything figured out now and money is less tight. Also, in the picture last week, Gabriel is the local guy in the background with the Pizza, and my companion has the juice. Just for reference.

It´s also good to hear that you guys got some snow. It´s pretty quente (hot) here, but this week´s supposed to be rainier and colder, which is some darn good news in my book. I hope Dave get´s better fast, being sick sucks! I still haven´t got the package, but we have interviews with the President this week, so maybe we´ll get mail then? IDK. Also, yes, the relatives have to send everything to the mission home, it´s a rule here in Brazil, I´ve heard that they have really stringent customs policies. I will get the letters, and eventually I´ll have a night where I open them all at once or something similar. 

As for my life, things are going good. It was another long week, with an absolutely absurd amount of walking, but I´m getting pretty darn good at it. My companion walks really fast, but I´ve got longer legs, so pretty soon, I´ll overtake him. Last week Pday we climbed up a high mountain and I took a picture of all of Itajubá that I have included here.

I also tried the Açai berry thing that´s really popular here and it was awesome. We had a couple of crazy experiences this week, so I´ll share them. Basically every missionary here in Brazil works straight through the dinner hour, so we don´t eat dinner usually until really late, and even then, not a whole lot. We´ve been eating more this week because we´ve been working a lot with Rodrigo (pic included), a 20 year old local guy who´s preparing to go on a mission himself. This has upsides and downsides. He knows what seems like everyone around here, so he´s useful for finding people to teach, and his mother helps make sure that we have food here at nights, but at the same time, he lives in Cruzeiro, a location 30 minutes away from our house that´s probably 500+ feet higher than the rest of the town. As a result, I´ve been climbing hills a lot. He´s good to have around though, and a big help.

One day this week, I was way hungrier than normal for some reason, and was praying a bit that I´d find some help. Then Elder Gomes/Miranda started having really bad stomach pains. We took him to a member´s house, and while there, his pain got even worse. At this point, we were worried about his appendix. We called the Branch President to take us to the hospital, but when he got there, he said "I´ve got another idea I´d like to try first". Then he took us to a burger restaurant and bought us giant burgers with bacon, chicken, lettuce, tomato, and even corn on them. It was incredible. Within about 20 minutes after eating, my companion´s pain lessened, and then we went home and slept, and the next morning, things were right as rain. I also got to listen to "Human" in his car on the way home, and man, did I miss that song. 

Then, this Saturday, we went to help the branch mission leader place a new patio in front of his house. Since my companion knows how to make cement, among a bunch of other hidden talents, we did a solid job. I also moved a giant 5 foot high pile of sand with a shovel. It was fun, until I realized that, after diligently applying sunblock every day, I had forgotten to put any on on the worst day possible, and I was burnt to a crisp. It was rough. I have aloe gel though, so I´m healing quick. Afterwards the mission leader took us to a hidden waterfall in the mountains here, and I wish I had had my camera. It was beautiful. 

We´ve taught a lot of first lessons this week, trying to find more new investigators, and I´ve also left a spiritual thought at the house of a lot of members. As I studied this week, I found in 1 Nephi 4:1 this verse 1 And it came to pass that I spake unto my brethren, saying: Let us go up again unto Jerusalem, and let us be faithful in keeping the commandments of the Lord; for behold he is mightier than all the earth, then why not mightier than Laban and his fifty, yea, or even than his tens of thousands? While Nephi and his brothers were getting the brass plates from Laban, they began to fear Laban´s wrath, that he might send his armies after them to kill them. But Nephi, here, demonstrates the principle that I´ve been loving this week. The Lord is mightier than all men, so if we trust in him, we need not fear reproach or rejection. Our Branch President also shared his favorite scripture with us this week, and I´d like to share it too. It´s Matthew 10:16   16 ¶Behold, I send you forth as sheep in the midst of wolves: be ye therefore wise as serpents, and harmless as doves. Good advice, huh? I´m working on developing these attributes, and I´ll tell you how it goes. I´m sure that with the Lord´s help, I will succeed!

Elder Murray

Monday, November 9, 2015

November 9th - The Gift of Tongues

Hello all! We got another letter from Ben this week.

"As for me, life is good. I´m really getting into the swing of things here. I had an exchange with the Zone Leader, Elder Cochran earlier this week, and I went to his area. It was a super awesome experience. We taught a recovering crack addict and a bunch of other investigators and less active members, and I got to talk a lot about the transition from English to Português. They have four missionaries in their town, but their branch is actually smaller than ours. Elder Gomes thinks that they´ll put four missionaries here pretty soon. That night we ate pizza. It was a really cool experience overall, and I learned a lot. At the end, I brought back new name tags for my companion, who is now Elder Miranda, because we have to put the very last name on the tag, and he has like 6 names.

This week we did a lot of searching for new families. We went on some splits with a few of the local young men, and although I was worried about my ability, it went really well and we´ve added a few new families to our teaching pool. We also finally succeeded in locking down Kariny, the Portuguese professora, for enough time to teach her the first lesson. We´ve got a baptism date marked for her, and she´s been going to church for almost a month now. Irma Tereza, the mother of that family we taught the first couple days here, is still fantastic. She asked us if there was any way she could pay tithing, well before we taught her about tithing. It´s crazy. The work is progressing quick here in Itajubá, and now that my feet are basically healed up, life´s going good. 

I also have a bunch of pictures for you guys. I´ll explain the ones that need explanation. 25 is me and Elder McGladrie at the Sao Paolo Templo. 50 is us at the Campinas Temple. 59 is our district. From left to right, top row first, Elder Herbert, Elder Ellis, Elder Flores, Elder McGladrie, Elder Ponder, Elder Westenhaver, Me, then bottom row left to right, Sister Christiansen, Sister Almgren, Sister Trejo, and Sister Brown. 104 is my birthday party.

Ben's 19th birthday. Love the dudes in the background!

Ben and Elder McGladrie at the temple

Overall, I´ve been loving the mission so far. It´s truly a fantastic experience. I´ve been reading a lot in the Book of Mormon, and thinking about how fast I´m learning Portuguese. So I went to Moroni 10: 8 And again, I exhort you, my brethren, that ye deny not the gifts of God, for they are many; and they come from the same God. And there are different ways that these gifts are administered; but it is the same God who worketh all in all; and they are given by the manifestations of the Spirit of God unto men, to profit them.  15 And again, to another, all kinds of tongues;16 And again, to another, the interpretation of languages and of divers kinds of tongues. 17 And all these gifts come by the Spirit of Christ; and they come unto every man severally, according as he will.

 I know that I would not be here today doing the things that I am doing, speaking the language as well as I am speaking it, without the gift of the Spirit of God. I´m so grateful for this. As for my definition of success, it´s not number of baptisms, or leadership positions held, but being able to go home and say that every day on my mission, I worked a little bit harder, did a little bit more, and learned a little bit more that the last. If I give it all I have and make it two years, I will return a changed man, a better man, and I will have shared the Gospel with everyone I met. And that to me, is success. And with God´s help, I will succeed.

Elder Murray"

Monday, November 2, 2015

November 2nd: Blisters

A new message from Ben:

Friends and Family,

Thank you for all of your kind messages this week on my birthday. I really appreciate the support. I really would love to give longer, more personalized emails to each one of you, but time is limited, so this blog mail will have to suffice. I´m really sad to hear about Gabe´s game, that must have been a rough one. I´m glad they battled it out til the end though. I really want to send some pictures back to you, but our normal LAN cafe is closed today because it´s a holiday and really rainy, so I can´t get the SD card reader to work. Next week. For all of you worrying about my food situation, I´ve basically got it ironed out. I got some eggs and ramen, along with a bunch of milk and juice at the store this week, and we received some other food that I´ll discuss later on. I also got a multivitamin, so good there. We also eat lunch with the members basically every day, and now that we´re not moving houses anymore, I´ll be getting my stuff together. If you guys have any easy, cheap recipes that make use of basic supplies like ramen, other pasta, eggs, and other cheap stuff, I´m all ears. I´m slowly but surely settling in to the new area, new customs, new people, new language, new lifestyle, and new companion, and pretty soon I´ll be getting this thing well figured out. I suppose I have to, because I go on an exchange with the Zone Leader tomorrow, so I better know my stuff.

As for this week, it was all over the place. Not only were the emotions all over the place, I´ve been all over the place. I can´t even tell you how much we´ve walked this week. I began the week with a blister that was about two inches long stretching across the ball of my right foot. Then, I got a huge blister on the other foot too, and a bunch randomly distributed around the toes and the heal. They were hurting a lot, and then I walked more, and they spread. When one of the members noticed I was limping, I realized it was time to do something about it, so I got some advice from the Relief Society President ( the one who noticed). I cut off all the extra skin, rubbed a ton of bacitracin on the horrible looking under part, and whenever I had to wear shoes, I´ve been putting gauze on them. And they´ve healed. I still get a bit of pain whenever I walk, but it´s much much less than before. It´s truly a miracle, especially when I´ve been walking on them ~5 hours a day. The power of God is real, and he looks after missionaries. 

The members here in Itajubá really are fantastic. They all want to help with the missionary work, and it´s never hard to get a member to join us for a teaching appointment. One member in particular, Gabriel, has been doing a ton of work with us, knocking doors, and joining lessons. He´s one of the young men in the ward, and he´s great. We also did a split with some of the local Priests. I found some frustration when we taught a woman who for some reason couldn´t understand my accent, so I´d say part of the lesson in Portuguese, and then the Priest with me, Isaque, would repeat the exact same thing, word for word, and she´d get it. Sadly though, despite the fact that many people are willing to hear the message, most are very non-committal. They don´t want to come to church, they don´t want to accept challenges, and although we taught a lot this week, we´re suffering in the New Investigators department. It´s alright though. As long as we´re putting in the work, eventually we´ll find those that the Lord has prepared for us. We´ve also got some good appointments set up for later this week to teach our progressing investigators, and hopefully we´ll start to see some more baptisms soon here.

As for my birthday, we celebrated by buying a couple of pizzas at the local supermarket and cooking them in our apartment. I ate a bunch of pizza and drank like a liter of banana juice, and it was good. I have pictures, but alas, I cannot send them. I also still haven´t received your package, although hopefully I will tomorrow at our district meeting in Pouso Alegre. I´ve been missing you guys more than normal this week, being my birthday and Halloween, normally one of my favorite times of year. I also remembered the anniversary of my last, disastrous high school football game. I miss disc golf, and basically all types of media too. But that´s alright. I can make it.

This Wednesday our branch had a musical training activity, where we all learned how to lead hymns, and we talked about the spiritual power of music. After, we had popcorn and Guarana. On Halloween, we had the opportunity to help the Branch President and his wife throw a Halloween party at their English school. I got to converse with a bunch of the Alumni in English, and I also got to help a younger class practice singing Glorious for a choir event they´ll be doing in December. Elder Gomes and Gabriel helped a lot with setting up chairs and tables, and we got to eat a bunch of cake. We also took home all the leftover refreshments, so our kitchen is well stocked with bread and cakes and juice. It was a really fun experience, and I got to speak my native tongue for a while and share the gospel purpose that brought me here to the South side of the globe. 

As far as the Spirit goes, I´ve been praying a lot this week. Prayer and Ibuprofen got me through a lot of the days with the really bad blisters, and it really is a miracle that my feet are healing so fast with the amount of punishment I´ve been giving them. I´ve looked a lot to 1 Nephi 3:7. Kind of a classic verse, yes, but it holds a good, robust message of hope. Through the power of the Lord we can do all things, no matter how hard. I´ve also really, really been enjoying Jesus the Christ, and I recommend that if you haven´t read it yet, you should start. It´s awesome.

Things this week were hard, but not nearly as rough as last week. I´m relying on God and slowly getting better and better at living the missionary life, and I know that soon, great blessings will follow. It´s tough, but with God on my side, I will succeed!

Elder Murray