Saturday, December 31, 2016

December 31 - Hills and Holidays

Family and Friends,

Another Saturday email, I know it´s a weird time of year and as such, things are scheduled weirdly here. As for your questions that you really need answers to, yes the See´s candy got here safely. As for New Year´s parties, they generally do a countdown and they like to send off a bunch of fireworks. I´m hoping that we see some cool fireworks this year because our back porch has a great view of the city, so we should be able to watch it all. As for free time, we almost never have free time. Usually just on P-Day, and I've taken up card games.

As for road encounters, I accidently asked a mute guy what his name was this week. That was a pretty awkward moment. Sometimes your mouth just goes on autopilot and doesn´t have any connection with your brain. There are a lot of really annoying people on the road that just walk past you and leave you there with your hand outstretched, but that´s just part of the missionary life. It feels like there are only about 300 people that actually go walking here in Itatiba, and we´ve spoken with just about all of them. 

This week one guy stopped us on the road and asked us to visit him. His name is Kevin. He was a Jehovah´s Witness until recently, and he looks like he is about 27, but he told us that he actually is only 17. It was a pretty great first lesson, so hopefully he progresses.

Tonight we are going to have a sweet BBQ (churrasco) just me and my companion. We´ve already bought the meat and the coal, now we just have to grill it up. There´s a 3 liter bottle of Pepsi waiting for us too (sorry Anthony). It should be a pretty sweet New Year´s party. It´s weird to think that next year, I go home. Sometimes it feels like I will never go back to a normal life, and that I have always been out here knocking doors and talking to crazy people. 

A challenge that we are giving to all the members here, and I guess I´ll give to you guys too, is about the new year. As everyone sets goals and makes resolutions this time of year, a good thing you can do is make a goal to become more like Jesus Christ in one way. We all know something that we need to work on. This year, let´s work on it! It will bless your life.

One more chance to sacrifice all I have!

Elder Murray

Sunday, December 25, 2016

December 25th - Christmas Day Skype

Today we got to talk to Ben for 40 minutes via Skype. I loved it! He said all his brothers looked older, and that Paul and I looked younger - which is as it should be, right?! He talked about how hot it is in Brazil and how he is always sweating. He said it also rains every day. Gabriel asked him what food he missed the most from America and there was no hesitation for his answer - Slurpees! He said there is nothing like it in Brazil, there is no way we could send it, and it would be so perfect to have in their super hot weather. His favorite Brazilian food is churassco, which is barbecued steak. He is in an area with a ton of hills and he does a load of walking. He said he wears 60 SPF so that he doesn't burn but he burns anyway and he still isn't tan, lol!  He seemed pretty happy but he did mention that he is the "hole filler" so they put him in areas where people are breaking a lot of rules or with companions that are hard to get along with. That's okay, and I am proud that he is such a good kid that the mission president would put him where he can be a leader. I love that boy!


Saturday, December 24, 2016

December 24th - Hills and Christmas Time

Family and Friends,

For the family part, I´ll see you all tomorrow. Get hype for a good skype. I haven´t been practicing my English, so break out the Portuguese translators, because you´re going to need it! I jest, I jest. I think that I can still speak my mother language, at least understandably. Not with all of my stunning eloquence from before the mission though. As for all of you that aren´t my family, these next two Mondays (December 26 and January 2) I won´t be entering on my email. My P-day will be only the 31st, and I am not fully sure if I will be able to find a LAN house open. So send your emails, but don´t get mad at me if you don´t get a response until January 9!

This week we had a half-mission conference on Wednesday, and we all heard a message from our President about the Savior´s birth and the wise men and how we can emulate them. He also showed us a bunch of scriptures that prophesy about the birth of Jesus Christ. Then we had lunch together, ate brownies and ice cream, then we watched Pets. It was a fun time, and it showed me just how much time I have passed without watching a movie. Then we all went home. 

It´s been really staggeringly hot these last couple of days here. I´ve been missing the freezing weather from Colorado. -10 is a lot better than 100. You feel like you´re inside of a microwave at times here, and I´ve been drinking a ton of water each day. At least all the sweating cleans out the pores though! 

I´m really quite excited to talk to my family tomorrow, and to open up the sweet Christmas gifts you have all sent me! I don´t have a whole ton to write today, because the week was pretty weird and we haven´t had a ton of success recently, but hopeful this tides you over until the next time I can write. Have a great week, Merry Christmas to all!

One more chance to give all I have!

Elder Murray

Monday, December 19, 2016

December 19th - Hills, Christmas is coming, and Contacts

Hello Family and Friends,

So, first off, the most important news. I will be calling you guys around 3:30 in the afternoon here in Brazil, which should be, by my calculations, 11:30 in the morning for you guys in Colorado. That gives you guys time to go to church, and gives us a substantial cushion on both sides of things if something ends up going wrong. I've already got a place to make the call ready, and although I don't know if the internet and microphone are good, I'm hoping for the best. I only have 40 minutes for the call, so let´s make good use of the time! If you have any questions, write them down. I'm not sure if I´ll be able to speak English all that well, but I´ll be giving it my best! Also, it is possible that I will be able to email Saturday, all though I´m not sure if we will be able to find an open LAN house. Same thing goes for day 31. That means that I won´t be emailing on Monday next week, or on the 2nd of January.

The Christmas spirit is filling the air, although here in Brazil that takes the form of everybody leaving town to go to the beach. It feels as though about 1/3rd of the populace of Itatiba will be leaving town this holiday season, and it feels like the city will, pretty soon, have just us missionaries here. 

As for Brazilian Christmas traditions, they really like to do a secret Santa sort of thing here, where everyone gets someone to send a present to. They also like to have a party on the 24th, and everyone eats a lot of grapes in this season, because it´s the season that grapes get cheap. Outside of that, there isn't a whole ton of tradition built around Christmas here. 

We have recently been given a goal by our mission leaders to invite 300 people on the road to hear our message, per week. If that sounds like a lot of people, that´s because it is. Talking with 300 people per week means that you have a lot of crazy experiences, because there are a lot of crazy people on the road and you usually hit 3 or 4 of them when talking with 300 people. This week we met a guy that said that he received the same name as me (Murray), but in Portuguese (Marray), when he was baptized into the Masonry. yikes. He then proceeded to talk for over 45 minutes, and although we tried everything short of just leaving, we couldn't get away from the conversation. Later in the week, a guy stopped us on the road and said "Hey, you guys are the Mormons?" To which we replied, "Yes, we are. Would you like to learn more about the Church in your home?" His response, "No, I'm an atheist, but I've seen you guys on the internet, and I never saw you guys in real life before, and I didn't know if you actually existed. Cool stuff!" I thought about giving him an autograph, but you´re not supposed to mock people on the road, so I didn't. 

This week I have learned a lot about what makes up the Bible as we know it today. For those of you who have never really looked into it, the story of the King James Bible, all of the work of translation that went into it, and the process of selection as to which books go into it really is a fantastic story. The Spirit of the Lord inspired men throughout the ages to give to us the Word of God today. It's incredible. Look it up. Have a great week!

One more chance to give all I have!

Elder Murray

Monday, December 12, 2016

December 12th - Hills and a Noob and a Baptism

Hello Family and Friends,

It´s good to hear that you are all feeling the Christmas Spirit! I enjoyed the pictures too. As you have skinnied up now Dad, you really need to buy some new clothes. You´re looking like me. Enough clothes on for two other guys. I´m sorry you all didn´t get to see my pretty face in the ward party, but they told me last week as I was leaving the lan house, and as such, I didn´t get time to make a video. I am really quite envious of your cold weather back home. Here, things are getting incredibly hot, with that epic Brazilian summer really showing it´s stuff. Even when it´s not that hot out, the amount of humidity in the air keeps me sweating constantly. 

This week I recieved a new companion, straight out of the MTC. His name is Elder Oliveira, although that will quickly be changed to Elder E. Oliveira, to not have any confusion with the already established Elder Oliveira. Brazilians love to all have the same last name. Elder Oliveira is from Fortaleza, a state in the north of the country, famous for it´s beaches and weird food. They like to eat all of the animal, and that´s a lot of intestine, foot, and even cheek meat. Weird stuff. He´s 18 years old, and as such, is my first companion that is younger then me in terms of real life age. He´s still getting used to the hills.

We had one more baptism this week, of a young man named Mikael. For those of you keeping track back home, unhappily, his name isn´t Jacob, because last week I baptized a guy named Gabriel, and the week before, a David. Sorry Jake. You´ll just have to wait it out.

Mikael is a cool guy because he has blue hair, likes to take pictures of himself doing gangster poses, and received the Gospel very quickly in his life. He knew the truth when he saw it, and embraced it quickly. I was very impressed yesterday, when he had to travel to São Paulo. He didn´t know what time he would have to leave, but he wanted to go to church. So he went, watched half an hour and, then his family came to pick him up. When a good number of old members of the church would just skip church all together, Mikael went and watched all he could. That´s conversion. 

This week we had a special multi-stake conference with all of Brazil together.  We got to hear, live, the messages of Elder Jeffery R Holland and two Elder Costas of the 70. It was cool to feel the love that the international church has. The Gospel really has gone to all nations, kindreds, tongues, and people. It´s a great thing!

One more chance to give all I have!

Elder Murray

Monday, December 5, 2016

December 5th - Hills, a Transfer, and Some Baptisms

Familia and Friends,

I hope that you have all had a great week. Mom and her lego-based adventures, Dad with his vegan-based adventures, Dave with his singing-based adventures, Jacob with his hair-based adventures and young Gabe with his Christmasy ones, and it sounds like you guys are all having a great time. Here in Itatiba I´m still climbing up the crazy, crazy hills, and this week brings a bit of news about the future.

Sadly, Elder Leandro will be leaving the area this week, but not so sadly, I will be training a new missionary again! It´s always a fun chance to help a new missionary learn how to be a missionary and to start his mission off on the right foot and not waste any time in the Lord´s service. I´ll have more information for you guys next week about who he is and where he´s from. I´ll miss the chance to buy cosmetic products half price from Elder Leandro, especially because that´s something you don´t find too often. I hope the new guy is ready to climb some hills as well, becuase Itatiba is not an easy area on the legs.

Ben tells us that many Brazilians go to the beach as the way to celebrate Christmas! It's summer there!

This week and last week we were able to partcipate in two baptisms. Last week, we helped a young man named David get baptized. He was already in our teaching group when we got here in the area, and he hadn´t been baptized yet because his parents were certain that he wasn´t ready. While other missionaries had gotten there and used a lot of scriptures trying to convince them, we simply showed up, talked calmly, and boldly marked a date. They accepted. David was baptized.

This week we helped baptize a young man called Gabriel. He is from Alagoas, the same state as Elder Leandro, and we found him when we were teaching his cousin, who will hopefully be baptized next week. We are taught, as missionaries, to boldly invite people to be baptized. As such, in our first contact with Gabriel, we asked him if he would like to be baptized the way Jesus Christ was. He said he did, and one month later, it became reality. 

I know the Church is true. I´m thankful for the chance I have to be a missionary.

Have a great week!

Elder Murray

Tuesday, November 29, 2016

November 28th - Hills, Black Friday, and Giving Thanks

Happy Thanksgiving Fam and Friends!

My family took a sweet trip to make some sweet moolah with Uncle Rico in Utah, and the family partied it up as Dad enjoyed his first vegan Thanksgiving. I like to hear about the fact that you guys were able make it on to the half time report in the Jazz game. As we would call that here in Brazil, Uncle Rico used his "artimanhas sacerdotais", or sweet tricks of the trade. I guess black bean brownies could also be called an "artimanha sacerdotal" too.

This week I did a companion exchange with Elder Hedrick, a missionary from Utah. It was the first time I have worked alongside another American in almost a year. Crazy thought huh? I really have turned into almost a native. The day that we did the exchange turned out to be Thursday, and Thanksgiving day, although we only realized this fact at about 6:00 at night when we walked by a store that had a Black Friday promotion going for the next day. At that point we realized that it was a holiday. You really lose yourself and your old habits from home when you are serving a mission. Especially in another country, it´s very easy to forget about holidays and national happings. I didn´t even know elections had passed until people started asking me if I was happy with the new US President. We don´t ever see the news. We are focused 100% of the time on the work. But to celebrate that night, we did eat a pizza. Although it wasn´t turkey, it counts for something, right? 

We were able to help a young man get baptized this week. His name is David, and unhappily I won´t be able to send you a picture, because we´re having problems transfering the picture from the camera to the computer. Hopefully next week I´ll be able to send you the more complete story.

As this week was Thanksgiving, I´d like to give you guys a list of the things that I am thankful for.

I am thankful that I can be a missionary, and preach the Gospel every day. I'm thankful for the Book of Mormon, and the amazing power that it has to move lives. I'm thankful for my companion, Elder Leandro, and his sense of humor. I'm thankful for my family, Mom, Dad, Gabe, Jake, and Dave, and the love and support you give me back home. I´m thankful for my extended family, all the aunts and uncles and grandparents that remember me back home. I'm thankful for Brazil, and this beautiful city that I have to serve in. I'm thankful for rice, as it is really one of my new favorite foods. I'm thankful for the internet, as it allows me to communicate with all of you at light speed. And I'm thankful for my Heavenly Father, who created this Earth and all of these other wonderful things.

Have a great week! One more chance to give all I have!
Elder Murray

Monday, November 21, 2016

November 21st - Hills, Clean Again, and the End of the World

Dear Family and Friends,

Thank you to all those who worried about my dread plague. I have successfully passed through the medical treatment, and in about five days I will be free of the scabies and the ácaros. Yay! Hopefully I don´t get any other skin disease while I´m here, because I´ve already passed through Athlete´s Foot, Scabies, and bad acne, and I´ve always had Seborrhic Dermatitis. Fun times! It´ll be a good story to tell after the mission though, especially when I´m a really old guy. "When I was on my mission . . ."

This week we walked a lot of hills and cooked in the microwave oven. It´s been so hot here that we were searching diligently for that button that turns off the sun. I´ve been having to put on sunblock 2 or 3 times per day! Fun stuff. I´m really getting the full Brazilian experience though, especially when, on Wednesday, the extreme sun turned into a rain shower in under 20 minutes. It was so powerful that it was raining both sideways and upwards. It was honestly pretty sweet. We huddled under an awning, completely soaked, and the kindly family across the road that saw us from the window gave us a ride home. 

We eat lunch at the members´ homes here in Brazil, and this week, we got to travel to the extreme limits of our area, more than 1 hour away, so that we could visit and eat with some of the members of our ward. Of special mention is the family that lives in the last house, at the very end of the last road, in the furthest neighborhood of the city, at the end of the last stop of the bus. My companion told me that it is in fact, really easy to get to her house after that bus stop, and in fact it was. You just choose the more difficult way. If you find a fork in the road with a straight road and a giant hill, pick the hill. At the end, when there is no more road, you have arrived. The lunch was actually quite good.

I am very thankful for the Gospel in my life. The chance that I have every day to share the Gospel with other people is something that keeps me happy and strong, no matter what happens. Although we haven´t baptized yet here in Itatiba, this week we have several good candidates for baptism, and we are seeing the miracles start to take place. Happy Birthday Dad, Happy Thanksgiving to all, and have a great week!

One more chance to give all I have!

Elder Murray

Monday, November 14, 2016

November 14th - Hills and the Plague

Hello Family and Friends,

Yes, I got the packages! Thanks for all of the cool gifts! My companion especially enjoyed the candy.

Another week down here on the hills of Itatiba. This city only has hills guys. There really isn´t any other characteristic stronger than the hills. There is no flat land in this whole city. It´s crazy.

It sounds like you all had a good week back home. Getting sick is rough (more on that later), but even so it sounds as though you guys enjoyed the week. Dad´s veganism continues, and it´s inspired me to eat a little healthier here (more fruits and things), although a new ice cream store opened up in the city. 2 liters of ice cream for 8 reais. That´s really really cheap. As such, we´ve enjoyed quite a bit of ice cream these days, which hurts the whole "healthy" concept a bit. I´ve learned to cook quite a bit of cool, different things here, that someday I´ll be able to show off for you guys at home. 

Donald Trump is now the US president. I learned this fact in the hospital on Wednesday morning (more on that later), and I heard it repeated in every single interaction that I had with a member this whole week. Everybody here in Brazil has a different opinion on what will happen to the US, but I as a missionary, can´t say anything about politics. I think that´s my favorite rule in the whole missionary manual, because I can dodge all of the problems that come with such conversations! As for my opinion, only time will tell. 

As I have hinted in other places, this week I got our mission´s plague. "Your mission has a plague?" you ask? Yes, one elder brought scabies with him, and it´s transmitted by microscopic mites that stay on your skin, clothes, bed, chair, and basically everything you touch. These things are so hardcore that the mites(ácaros em português) can even contaminate the skin cream you use to combat them! Yikes! And, as this is being passed around to all of the missionaries here, and as I have already lived and had close contact with 3 of the missionaries that had ácaros, I too have become infected. It brings a horrible skin rash that itches without piety or restraint. But before you start to worry about my well-being, I have already been to the dermatologist, and I have started treatment. Here in just over a week I won´t be itching any more. My companion is also being treated, just in case. 

On a better note than that one, this week I had a bit of a different cultural experience. Brazil is the place in the world that has the biggest number of Japonese people outside of Japan. As such, we have quite a few Japonese members here in the ward, and yesterday at lunch we ate an authentic Japonese Yakisoba. 

This week I have been studying the Old Testament, especially the books of 1st and 2nd Kings, together with some ancient Church study manuals. They are full of awesome stories that illustrate spiritual concepts. I especially like the parts that refer to the ministry of Elijah. He was a pretty epic prophet, and in terms of powerful miracles, between him and his successor, you see some of the greatest miracles of healing, protection, and faith that exist in the Old Testament. I urge you all to read 2 Kings 5 and the story of Naaman as well. We sometimes forget about the Old Testament, but it it scripture, and it´s just as powerful.

Have a great week! One more chance to give all I have.

Elder Murray

Tuesday, November 8, 2016

November 7 - More Hills and Purple Hair

Family and Friends,

I thank you for all of the emails that I receive each week. Dad has gone vegan and he started to cook, so the Second Coming is pretty close. I, for one, am excited for the Millenium. I hope your mini-mission made you feel the Spirit and want to go on a mission. 

This week we started to teach a young man named Mikael. He had bleached blond hair when we found him, and when we first taught him. Then, when we went to get him for church on Sunday morning, his hair was purple. Even with this, he went to church with us, and it was pretty cool to see that purple hair at the back of the chapel. It was a good experience.

Mom sent me a huge list of questions, so instead of having to think up my own cool experiences this week, I´ll just send answers! Thanks!

Describe your apartment. Our house here in Itatiba is pretty nice. We have two bedrooms (but you have to sleep in the same room as your companion, so we use one to store extra crap), 1 bathroom, kitchen, entry hall, and a pretty big outdoor area. It´s pretty austere and spartan, as are all missionary homes, but it´s honestly quite big for 2 missionaries, and we have a space to have a barbecue someday.

What is your new ward like? I don´t really know the ward that well here, but up to this point I have noticed that our ward has a proportionally high number of old people and young women. We've got a lot of families here too, although they´re usually older in age. 

Describe someone you spoke to this week. We were sitting at a bus stop talking to a woman one day and trying to explain to her that all of the churches can´t be right because they all teach radically different doctrine. She then told us that she doesn´t believe that anyone can know which church is right. My companion then asked her if she believed that there was some being that knew everything, both on earth and in heaven. Her answer? "I think the animals do." She then told us a story about her dog. 

What smell are you grateful for? I am grateful for the smell of cooking red and green peppers. It reminds me of mexican food, and as such, of home.

What technology are you thankful for? I am thankful for hair gel. It seems a strange choice for technology, but as missionaries we almost don't use any technology, so the fact that my hair is always looking good is a pretty great use of modern science. 

Describe a spiritual moment this week. As for one time the Spirit touched me this week, I was giving the message in our lunch yesterday, and I was leafing through my Bible, and my eyes stopped on Matthew 11:28-30. As I read these verses and shared a small testimony, I saw tears in the member´s eyes. I don´t know exactly why he needed to hear that message in that moment, but I knew that it was what the Lord wanted him to hear. 

Have a great week! One more chance to give all I have!

Elder Murray

Tuesday, November 1, 2016

October 31 - Welcome to the Hills of Itatiba

Family and Friends, 

Yesterday I celebrated my 20th birthday. We tried to order a pizza on Saturday to commemorate, but it was going to get to our house 11:30 at night, so we gave up. Usually when you have a good amount of time in the area, and the members know you, some kindly soul offers to make a cake, but as I got here this week, I had no such luck. In the end, we made ramen. It wasn´t the coolest birthday I´ve ever had, I´ll admit. But hey, 2 decades! And I didn´t come to Brazil to party, but to serve a mission.

My new area is a cidade called Itatiba. Before you go and get confused, my first area was Itajubá, which is quite different from Itatiba. Itatiba is well known because of it´s extremely hilly nature. I´m having to channel my inner mountain goat every single day, because there isn´t any flat ground in this city. You are always, always going up or down. All of the people that live here have huge calves, or are extremely skinny. As you can see from the picture, it's a pretty beautiful place though. 

My new companion is Elder Leandro, shown in the pictures. He´s from Alagoas, a place in the North East of Brazil. He´s a cool guy, a little bit older than me (26), but as you can see he still looks really young. He´s the owner of a small business that uses multilevel marketing to sell cosmetics. As such, he´s got a partnership with a major line of cosmetics here in Brazil, called Hinode, and all of the many creams and lotions and soap and deoderante, and toothpaste, and basically every consumable product he uses come from this same line. Cool huh?

This week I learned a lot about true faith. To really have faith, the prophet Joseph Smith said that we need to know three things, that God exists, that He is perfect in all ways, and that the life that we lead is right in His eyes. If we know these three things, we can be certain that God will bless us, and that His will will work for our good. 

I have one more chance to give all I have. Have a great week!

Elder Murray

Monday, October 24, 2016

October 24th - Transfer!

Family and Friends,

This week marks the end of my time here in Barão Geraldo. After much time in the area, I have been transfered, completing my companion´s training. Crazily enough, he has been called to train a new missionary, and carry on the legacy. When you train on the mission, you are called the dad of that new missionary, so people ask you, who was your dad, and you tell them who your trainer was. As missionaries take everything overboard, you end up having elaborate family trees that connect all the generations of missionaries. As such, I will become a grandpa! How cool is that?

I will miss Barão quite a bit. It´s really a beautiful part of the city, full of trees and lakes, and the university is a really cool place. The ward is also filled with good members, and I've made a lot of friends here. One good example is our Bishop, Ivan (the good, lol) who is shown in the picture. It´s tough when you make too many friends in the ward though, because at some point you have to say goodbye and move on to other horizons. 

Elder Murray and Bishop Ivan the Good

This week we baptized a man named José Henrique, (pic included). He´s got a really interesting profession, in that he uses dance lessons to cure mental difficulties and work with less mentally able children. That´s a weird thing to do, I know, but it works. He took about three different masters in college to get this do all work out, and he´s going for his doctorate this year. He learned about the Gospel thanks to a member from another ward in a neighboring city. She took him to church one day, and he later told us that this was the end of a search that he had been on for 4 years. He decided that he was ready to pay the price to see miracles in his life, and he went through with being baptized. He's really a great man, and he'll see the blessings of the Gospel.

I´ll be heading to a new area soon, with new challenges, and new excitements. And a new companion, and a new district, and a new zone. Basically, the only thing that won't be new is my shoes. It should be a great time, and I´ll have plenty to write about. 

One more chance to give all I have!

Elder Murray

Monday, October 17, 2016

October 17 - Mission Tour and Member Work

Family and Friends,

This week, a billionaire attended my fireside. More on that later. 

Sounds like you guys back home had a good time with all them Grandparents and dogs and such to bug you. I especially liked the name Van Diesel for the dog. That´s a good, high quality name. And the fact that you guys were able to attend a temple dedication ceremony is really cool. I bet it was a really spiritual moment for all of you there. I´m sorry that I haven´t been writing with a ton of details lately, but it´s been mostly the same old same old. We knock doors, talk with people on the road, and then we teach lessons. I´ll try to give you some cooler stories this week though.

This week our Zone Leader spent a night in our house on an exchange with our District Leader. His name is Elder Sosa, and he´s mexican. I had a good time with someone else that shares my love for tacos, burritos, and guacamole. Thanks to Mom´s cooking and Dad´s love of Mexican food, It´s honestly the food type that I´m most missing here in Brazil. They just don´t do Mexican food here. You can find almost any other type of food, (except slurpees :( ), but all the Mexican restaurants are really really expensive. 

Then, to keep up the number of visitors in our house, on Thursday night the two missionaries from Itajubá slept at our house in preparation for the mission tour that was slated to happen the next day. It was weird to hear about the news from my old area, but at least the members there only have good things to say about me! 

On Friday, we had a mission tour with Elder Campos, of the 70. He´s the leader of the Eduational System of the Church here in Brazil, and we had a day-long meeting with him, and all of the missionaries of our mission together. He was a very funny guy, and had a bunch of stories about how missionaries worked together with the members of their ward to have magic happen. He told us about one little boy that he knew that always ran circles around the chapel, until one day his mother went and bought him a white shirt and tie. Then, when he got to church, he saw the missionaries there, sitting quietly, and because he was dressed the same way, he sat quietly too. Overall, the mission tour was a great experience, and I left with a lot of cool ideas about how I could work with the members of our ward here.

Then, to put these ideas in practice, we had a missionary fireside on Sunday night, for all of the members of the stake to attend. Including Carlos Wizard Martins, bishop of the Castelo ward, and the billionaire that I mentioned earlier. The Stake President spoke, then President Hill spoke, then we, as missionaries, gave small trainings on how to do missionary work as a member. Our group talked about how to follow up on commitments. It was a great experience, and the members left there very fired up about missionary work. 

Hopefully this email hits your detail quotient! It helped that this was an eventful week. Next week, I´ll know the transfer results, so I´ll be able to tell you if I´ll be staying 1 more transfer in Barão or if I´m leaving! One more chance to give all I have! Have a great week!

Elder Murray

Monday, October 10, 2016

October 10 - And, after much time, a baptism!

Family and Friends,

It sounds like life is chuggin on back home. I left the house and everyone decided to start singing. Pretty soon, I´ll be the only one that isn´t in any choir. Then I think about it for a moment, and I remember that I participated in the choir here in Barão for our ward conference here a couple weeks back. Looks like I´ve been infected as well. It´s part of it all.

I´d like to give a quick shout out to the amazing bus system here in Brazil. These last couple of weeks we have been using the bus a lot, and it really is amazing how the system is set up here. There are busses for just about every single part of the city, they all pass with extreme precision and speed, and the ride is almost comfortable, if you don´t hit to many bumps. In general, Brazil is a lot more pedestrian friendly than the US. There are supermarkets all over the place, so you don´t have a huge trek to buy food, and the amazing bus system makes travel fast and economic. It´s really something cool that they have here.

This week we had a baptism! This young man´s name is João Vitor. He has been going to church faithfully for over a year. His father wouldn´t authorize his baptism because he didn´t want his son to make any rash decisions, and join a church that he would later regret. Even when it became apparent that João was serious about his decision, his dad still wouldn´t let him be baptized. A slew of missionaries had already passed by his house and tried to convince João´s dad, but we knew that this wasn´t the right tactic. Instead, we helped João Vitor grow his own faith and testimony through prayer, scripture study, and fasting. In the end, João went and talked to his father on his own. I don´t know what happened in that conversation, but his dad authorized the baptism! It was a great moment!

I´m grateful for all your support back home, and I hope you have a great week! One more chance to give all I have!

Elder Murray

Monday, October 3, 2016

October 3rd - Many Conferences

Familia e Amigos,

Mom, your letter this week was really awesome. I laughed a lot with the story about the sweetest cross country meet ever, and I enjoyed your camping story. Our family really is cursed, isn't it? It rains every single time we try to camp. I have a related story here too. I really missed conference bingo once again, because eating all of the candy even when the speaker didn't say anything on the list was always a good time. And listening to the Brazilian translator isn't the same thing, even if you understand anything. General Conference always makes me a little bit homesick. It's weird that I only have one more conference here too. 

As for my rain story, it goes like this. Here in Brazil, nobody uses clothes dryers. It's all drying line here. And sometimes, you get to live in a house that doesn't have a clothesline in a covered area that lets you dry your clothes out without danger of weather, or this covered area is really small. So, what do I do? Put my clothes out on the outdoor line and hope it doesn't rain long enough for my clothes to dry and for me to take them off the line. You´d think this would have a pretty high chance of working out right, especially when the whole week didn't rain, right? WRONG. The first week in my new house here, I put the clothes out Monday afternoon, planning to put them away Tuesday morning. Then Monday night it rained. So I had to put the clothes in the washer again, and put them out again. They dried, and I took them down. The next week, I did the same thing, put them out Monday afternoon, get them Tuesday morning. Monday night it rained. This cycle continued for FOUR WEEKS. IT ONLY RAINED ON MONDAY NIGHT! I cried one day when I woke up and saw wet pavement. We're cursed.

This week we had many conferences, including zone conference with President Hill, and General Conference, with all of the leaders of the church. I spent a lot of time sitting in the stake headquarters watching great leaders give talks on how we can be better members and better people. I especially liked Elder Oaks´ talk about how now is the time for missionaries and members to work together to grow and help the church. Interestingly, earlier in the week, our President gave us a training on how we can work better together with the members of our wards. For those of you listening back home, support your missionaries. There´s nothing better here than the friend of a member to teach, and that member´s presence in the lesson. Together, we can spread the Gospel much faster than the missionaries can alone. 

I thank you all for your support and prayers back home. Keep up the good work!  One more chance to give all I have!

Elder Murray

Monday, September 26, 2016

September 19th - I'm a painter now!

Family and Friends,

It sounds like homecoming was a well-rounded and cool experience for the whole fam. I always enjoyed homecoming when I was still at home, especially because my class was the best ever. I´m glad that you guys all seem to be having quite a bit of success in your related activities. That´s important. You worry about your family a little bit in the mission field, but when you hear they are doing well, you feel better. 

This week we have been heavily involved in a service project that our ward has been hosting to build the house of an elderly widow here. There have been members working there almost every single day so that we can get it done in time for her to move in to the house at the end of this week. We've been working on this for quite a long time, and this week we moved on to the painting section of the work. I painted the walls for quite a long time. It was helpful that I´m such a tall guy, so I could reach all of the hard to reach bits. We´ll be heading back this week to give it the final coat of paint. It´s looking pretty good.

At the widow's house.

We had a pretty good moment this week when one of our investigators came up to us and asked "What do I need to do to be baptized?" That´s a pretty rare happening, and we got really happy when it happened. We are teaching a lot of people, but a good number of them don´t actually show any incentive or desire, so we end up cutting them. It´s really pretty awesome when someone shows the motivation to really live the gospel. Hopefully you´ll hear more about him in the coming weeks as we prepare him to be baptized.

I´m really excited this week for one more General Conference of the Church. It feels like General Conference has taken a new meaning in my life as I´ve been here on the mission. I feel the Spirit more, and I understand a lot more of the things that are said. I reccomend that all of you write up some questions that you hope to find answers to, and I assure you that you will get answers. Have a great week!

One more chance to give all I have!

Elder Murray

Tuesday, September 20, 2016

September 20th - The Party Don't Stop

Family and Friends,

As you should have recognized yesterday when I didn't send anybody emails, I didn't have P-Day yesterday. Instead, I have it today, because today, I went to the Campinas Temple. It´s always good to be able to replenish your spiritual energies a bit. 

This month I've basically been in and out of the hospital every 3 or 4 days. My companion has some gastric issues that we still haven´t been able to solve, I got that sweet sweet sinus infection, and this week my companion had to go get a bunch of x-rays because he was having heart problems. It´s alright in the end though, because, as it turns out, it´s probably just really bad acid reflux, not early onset heart disease. We´ll be going back this week again for him to do a bunch more tests, and I´m thinking that I might have to go back on my own account because the area around my eyes is super swollen and red. It´s all part of the mission though. At least I haven't gotten dengue yet (knock on wood). It seemed like I always hit all of the illnesses as they passed through town, so that hasn't changed here. I've always been good at working sick though, (my best PR in track on discus I hit with a fever), so it doesn't bother me too much.

We´ve been working on a perpetual service project here in the ward during the last year or so, and it´s finally nearing completion. We have an elderly widow in our ward that lived in a house where the walls were literally swaying from side to side, so the ward started to rebuild the house. Although they contracted actual construction workers, there was still plenty of work for the members, and especially the missionaries, to do when there is a service project there every 2 weeks. This week we plan to paint the house, and I´ll try to snap some pics and send them back to you guys.

This week we had ward conference, and the Stake President spoke to us about forgiveness, and "baptizing our relationship". When we are baptized in the Church, the Lord forgets all of our past sins and transgressions, and promises to never bring them up again at judgement day. Sometimes we need to do the same things with our relationships. We must agree to put aside all of the offenses of the past and not bring them up again. This is true forgiveness. We must forgive as the Lord forgives.

Have a great week! One more chance to give all I have!

Elder Murray

Monday, September 12, 2016

September 12th - Downhill Ride

Familia e Amiginhos,

I've hit the midpoint! This is the first letter of the last year of my mission. It´s a weird thought, that in less than a year I will already be back home at BYU. There are days and months that pass quickly, and others where time seems to stop. Everybody says that the second year is quicker though, so I´ll find out here in a bit.  As for you all back home, I´m really glad that Mom finally ended her many-year-long quest for a tent trailer. Even Dad wants to go camping now! They say that the mission brings blessings to the family back home, but I never imagined that this would be one of them.

It looks as though I will be spending one more transfer here in Barão Geraldo with Elder Mauricio, my greenie. We´ve been having some pretty good success here, so it´ll be good to keep up the work. I still feel as though I have work to do in this ward too, so it´s gonna be a good time. 

Mom gave me some questions, so let me hit you up with some answers. The new "apartment" isn´t even an apartment really, it´s a full on house. It´s one of the nicest houses that there is on the mission, and it has two stories, a bunch of glass furniture, a ton of space, and white tiling that gets dirty really quick. It´s by far the best place I´ve stayed here in Brazil though. In Barão Geraldo, everything is luxury. 

Speaking of which, I have three favorite places to eat here. The first is at home. I´ve actually learned to cook a few things, and it´s good to save money and time, and I actually like eating my own cooking. I know Mom´ll be suprised. When we don´t eat at home, there´s a place in the center of Barão that has a rodizio (when the waiters pass by with various foods and you choose what you want) of barbecue-style shishkebabs together with a buffet and a huge dessert table. It´s also suprisingly cheap, especially when compared to the other restaurants in Barão Geraldo. And there are a bunch of other cool restaurants here too. College towns are good that way. And the last place is a pizza place that sells a pizza with one meter in diameter. Enough said. 

This morning we had a good laughing experience. We all told our stupidest jokes on the bus to the LAN house, and everyone enjoyed that classic Cub Scout skit about the Dad and his son that bring a one man tent camping and get beaten up by a motorcycle gang. It was a good one.

As for a good experience, this week we were able to participate in the baptism of a young man named Jonathan. For his age, he´s very smart, and he´s spiritually inclined. He understood all the principles we taught him very quickly, and he knew what decision he wanted to make with his life. It was a great opportunity to teach him and get to know him. 

I've been thinking this week about my motto. As I've hit the one year mark, I´d like to change it up. I´ll be testing some until I find one I really like. This week, it´s a quote from a certain DotA character (let´s see if any of my brothers can guess who). As such, have a great week all of you! 

I´ve got one more chance to give all I have!

Elder Murray

Monday, September 5, 2016

September 5th - 1

Hello Family and Friends,

The entire district laughed at the image of Jacob being thrown out of the Target because of toilet paper forts. That was a good one. Also, you still haven´t told me what part of Brazil the Brazilian elder is from. Also, your trailer story is sad, but for some reason, you weren´t to buy that trailer. Nothing happens for coincidence. 

This week was honestly pretty weaksauce. My companion and I both got super sick, so we spent a big part of the time stuck in our house, dying slowly. As for the specific maladies, my companion got a throat infection and an acute gastritis attack, which was revealed when, on his birthday, he threw up two times on the road as we walked. So, I took him home, then that night, I started to feel feverish. That night we both suffered quite a bit. Eventually, we went, the both of us, to the hospital, and it was revealed that I have gotten a nasty sinus infection. I´m taking antibiotics now though, and everything´s getting better now. You guys don´t have to worry about me. I don´t even feel that sick now. I´m just coughing a ton.

This week I read the book of Ether in the Book of Mormon. Ether is an interesting book, because it chronicles the entire story of a group of people, the Jaredites. We get to watch as they grow as a people, as they become strong, then as they become prideful, ignore the prophets, and eventually become so wicked that all but one of them die. From this story, we learn exactly how Satan works. The death of the Jaredite nation wasn´t a fast process. It went slowly, bit by bit. When the people were at their strongest, materially speaking, that was when things went wrong. Then the Lord sent prophets to warn them, but they didn´t listen to the prophets, and in the end, they were all destroyed. We have to be always careful to avoid this same cycle. When we get content, when we think that we are doing well, when we think that we can put aside the things of the Lord because all is going well, this is when we have to be wary. Ay to him that says all is well in Zion. 

In other news, this week I complete one year on the mission. It´s crazy that I´ve been out here so long. I´ve got one year more to serve the Lord with all of my time and all of my energy. And I will spend it well. One more year to succeed!

Elder Murray

Tuesday, August 30, 2016

August 28th - A Real Letter

Hi Family and Friends,

Firstly, last week´s letter was weaksauce. I know. I heartily apologize for that. But cutting the letter short really was worth it (for me). I´ll tell you more about the story in a bit. First off, I really do need to see a picture of Jacob´s hair. You keep telling me all about how awesome it is, without sending any proof. Gotta back up them words. Also, Mom, you´re not a librarian this year? When did that change? I´ve been telling all my comps that my mom is a librarian. I don´t really know how to explain a Learning Legos teacher, so I guess I´ll keep saying that you´re a librarian. 

This last week we moved houses. We still work in Barão Geraldo, but now we live in the neighboring area, Amarais. We catch the bus every day to go to and from our house. This usually works pretty well, especially because we can now use the bus to go to every single place in our huge area. It´s a good. Also, our house in Barão Geraldo was really small, and this house is giant and way nicer quality. We also live with 2 other missionaries, Elder J. Santos, and Elder Zañartu. I´m grateful for the move.

I said last week that I would visit the house of a rich guy, and I really did, 2 TIMES this week. The name of the man is Lincoln Martins, and he´s our Stake President here. He´s a multi-millionaire, and he has a house that´s giant and looks like the temple, but he´s actually a very humble and wise man. We had a Brazilian BBQ there last P-Day, and he grilled the meat himself. He has a small soccer field and a tennis court in his back yard, so we had a good time playing some sports. Then, because our lunch this Sunday was with one of the members of the Stake Presidency, we were invited once again to a special lunch in the Martins home. It was pretty incredible to watch a multi-millionaire ask each of twenty people what they wanted to drink, and then watch as he served every member of the party. It shows once again that in the Lord´s church, we are not ever called to be served, but to serve others. I got to enjoy some high society this week, but also and even higher example. 

Hopefully in these next weeks to come, we´ll have some more baptisms here, but at the moment, the baptismal font has gone quiet. We´ll keep working, and everything will work out all right. Here in a few weeks, I´ll have been out here more than a year! Who would have thought? This is my 50th letter home. Crazy. I will succeed!

Elder Murray

Monday, August 22, 2016

August 22nd - In a hurry

Family and Friends,

First of all, I have to ask your forgiveness. The message this week will be really short because I have to go visit the giant mansion of one of the richest men in Brazil. 

We moved houses, and we´re in a way better one right now. And now I have to leave! Next week I´ll write a big long one!

Sorry, gotta go!

Elder Murray

Monday, August 15, 2016

August 15th - Marriage, It's what brings us together today

Family and Friends,

At least here in Brazil nobody calls me Elder Murphy. It´s all Moohay here.

This week was rather fantastic to be honest. As I have said, marriage is often our greatest enemy here in Brazil. To be baptized, you can´t be living with someone without being married, and everyone does that here. There´s a lot of bureaucracy and nobody wants to pay the fine to get married, so people just get together. Luckily though, this week, we beat this foe. Let me tell you a little bit about the story of Felipe and Viviane.

We met Felipe one day searching for less-active members. We were knocking on all the doors we had in the ward directory, and it was pretty disheartening. Normally the person isn´t there, or moved, or doesn´t want anything to do with the church. But Felipe was different. He told us that he was looking to return, and that he would be in church on Sunday. I thought little of it, because a lot of people tell us that they will go to church but then never show up. Then, that next Sunday, Felipe was there. We, of course, started visiting him, and he told us that he wanted us to teach his "wife", Viviane. She was a little timid at first, but then she started to participate, and she went to church too. We went to the government office, marked their marriage date, and the rest is history.

The marriage of Felipe and Viviane! Hooray!
Baptizing Viviane!

This Saturday, Felipe and Viviane were married and Viviane was baptized. I have really learned that miracles are real, and that families can be forever. As we went to the temple with them this week on Wednesday, we all felt the Spirit really strongly. One of the ordinance workers came up to us, and bore his testimony. He then told the story of the conversion of his wife, and there were many similarities with Viviane´s own conversion. I know that the Church is true, and that we have to Gospel of Jesus Christ here again on the Earth. Nothing happens for coincidence. It all has a reason. I'm thankful to be a missionary, and I really am happy here. I hope you all have a great week!

Elder Murray

A little Usain Bolt in honor of the Olympics in Brazil!

Monday, August 8, 2016

Aug 8th - New Comp, New Transfers, New Stories

This week I received my new companion, straight out of the CTM. His name is Elder Mauricio and he comes from Bahia which is a really hot state where they like peppers, weird food, and parties. I've included a picture of Tuesday when I picked him up in the mission office. He already served a short term mission in Bahia, which is a thing they do here in Brazil. You act as a missionary in your home state for 5 weeks, and then you go to the mission like normal. This means that he´s already really good at missionary work for a new guy, so I won´t have a ton of work to do here. We are going to have some good times together.

It really is weird how different Brazil is from the US. You would think that they are both pretty developed countries, so it shouldn't be too big of a difference between the two, and in the big picture there aren't that many things that change. But when you get into the details, everything changes. Sure, there are trees here, but the types of the trees are completely different. Sure, there are cars here, but you find very few of the same models here that you find in the US. Sure, they have malls here, but the way that everything is done is different. Even the smallest banal things have huge differences. Not to mention the language, food, and all the other changes. Even though I've been here almost 11 months, I don´t really feel like I've adapted yet. 

This week I've been really grateful for repentance, and the fact that we can change our lives. Even though we all make mistakes, the Lord forgives us. Every single day we fail on small things, but because of the sacrifice of our Savior Jesus Christ, we don´t have to go around carrying these failures on our back. We don´t have to go around with the same stained spirit, full of sadness and remorse for the things that we did wrong in the past. Because of our oldest Brother, we can have an assurance that one day, we can forget all of this. One day, we can break free of the mistakes of the past. One day, we can gain new life. And one day, we can live with our Father in Heaven again.

Elder Murray

Monday, August 1, 2016

August 1st - Missed My Shot and Noob Training

Family and Friends,

Thanks for all of the letters and updates. It´s always a pleasure to know what´s going on with you guys back home, although it bugs me that you only started to do cool things in the family reunion when I left. You've still got corn dogs and taquitos though, so that´s all good. Partying it up in Zion.

I´ve already made this joke once, but here in Barão Geraldo it´s also Zion. This week we ate a ton of churrasco (brazilian barbecue), because everyone decided that it´s BBQ season here, so fire up the churrasquieras. It was really good though, and I´ve been eating a ton. That´s all right, because I´m still really skinny for the time being. We didn´t baptize anyone this week, but we have a few families that are getting really close, so here in a few you´ll be getting more pictures of people in white. 

To explain the title, you guys all remember how I said that I would be killing off Elder Costa this transfer? President Hill was wrong, as it turns out, and Elder Costa still has another transfer, so I missed the killshot. Some other guy will be killstealing too, because Elder Costa will be leaving, and I will be getting a new missionary! I´m super hyped up! I´m not sure that I will be able to do everything that I have to to teach him, but I will follow the Lord´s guidance and I hope to learn as much from him as he learns from me. He´ll be a Brazilian too, because there are no new Americans coming in this transfer. I´m really excited! I´m glad that the Lord has put his trust in me.

Unfortunately, I will have to cut this email shorter than normal, because our zone was the most baptizing zone in the mission this month, and the President is paying for us to go Go Karting this afternoon. Thanks for all of your love and support, and have a great week! I will succeed!

Elder Murray

Monday, July 25, 2016

July 25th - Pictures!

Hello Family and Friends,

And welcome to one more fantastic week on the mission. Back home, sounds like you guys really enjoyed youth conference, finding a sweet Poke Gym when Dave stopped to use the bushes on the drive, and the Murray family reunion is once again in swing. I bet you guys are really partying it up. Here in Brazil, I sure am! Even as you guys are in Zion there in Utah, I´m in Zion Geraldo here.

This week we were visited by the senior missionary couple that pertains to our mission here in Campinas, and, exactly as they did in Valinhos, I have been commanded to wash the walls. And otherwise git rid of all the grime of years and years and years of missionaries in the past. This time I´m a little bit better practiced though, and the apartment is a lot smaller, so we were able to burn through the job quick and get back to work. It was really pretty disgusting though. When there´s so much grease on the tile that it turns into a paste when you try to get it off, it´s a really fun time. I'll probably get transferred and have to do this again. 

Some views of Ben's apartment. I guess this is his walk in closet, as in, you walk in the room and there is the closet.

I'm guessing this is his laundry room?! Please tell me he's never slept on that mattress . . . 

Tile everywhere!

I learned a few new recipes this week, but I still have to write them up coherently. Don´t worry though, Ben´s Horrible Mission Cookbook will not die with one recipe alone!

I was sitting in the bus station the other day when I had a marvelous experience with the gift of tongues. Although I have studied 4 years of Spanish, even with Cohen´s best efforts it was still really hard for me to understand spoken Spanish. But two days ago I was sitting on a bench and the guy next to me asked what time it was. I told him the time, and we started to talk we talked for quite a bit about the Gospel, the Church, and our dedication to helping the poor, uneducated, and afflicted receive help. It was only as I left to catch the bus that I realized he had been talking in Spanish the whole time. I´m not sure exactly how I understood everything that he said, especially as he used some pretty big words, but it´s really a strong demonstration for me of the gift of tongues. For some reason, the Lord worked through me that day.

I know that the Church is true, and that this really is the restored gospel of Jesus Christ.  I thank you all for all your support and remembering me back home. Have a great week! I will succeed!

Elder Murray - see more pictures below!

Ben's companion, Elder Costa

The hills around Campinas.

Ben's district on p-day.