Monday, March 28, 2016

March 28th - Rescue Work

Hello Beloved Family and Friends,

And Happy Easter! I hope that you guys all had a good time remembering our Savior´s sacrifice and also eating some chocolate and some hard-boiled eggs. I know I sure did! 

(I asked Ben if they have refugees in Brazil.)  We do have refugees here, from a country called Itche or something similar. One of the new members here is from there. They had some sort of natural disaster and had to flee. Dad and Dave sent me the song they sung. I´m looking forward to hearing it!

This week we´d hit a bit of a stand still finding people with our own efforts knocking doors, so we grabbed the ward directory and decided to go house to house, visiting the members, sharing messages about missionary work and getting some references, while hopefully doing some rescue work to help the people that aren´t coming to church. One of the less-active members here is really funny, his name is Walter Baraquet, and he´s a pretty old guy that lives in a house that´s directly off the main road, but still looks like it´s in the middle of the jungle. He loves to complain about politics, and as missionaries we can´t express our opinions about it, but we can listen and Walter loves to talk. He has a ton of really long numbers memorized, like the exact number of reals that the government received last year. He repeats the same facts every visit, but he has enough of them that I still learn something every time. A few choice quotes "Rich people don´t think like the rest of us. If I had 100 reals, I´ll spend one, because I´d still have 99, but a rich man can´t, because then he wouldn´t have 100." "This isn´t the US here son, this here is BRAZIL!" "Have you ever noticed that the government here always have new cars? But you never hear of them selling cars. Where do the old cars go?" He´s a really great guy.

This week I´ve been thinking a lot about the concept of persevere until the end. It´s one of the concepts that we teach a lot, and this week the President of the Deacon´s quorum here gave a talk about how we can persevere until the end. It´s important to remember that the principle is not make it a little bit longer, but persevere until the END. We have to have a truly eternal perspective. We´re not just trying to make it until the end of today, but until the end of this life, and the things we do now will have repercussions far into the future. With the end in mind, I will succeed.

Elder Murray  

Tuesday, March 22, 2016

March 21st - Ice Cream Evangelists

Hi Family and Friends,

This week was a pretty great one. Thanks again for all the support you guys are giving me back home. Sounds like our house is even more of a zoo now, what with all the animals and Grandparents. Dave´s carrying on the tradition of sleeping in the basement to protect the computer from the guests. It´s an important role. I eagerly await any hand-written letters too. I´ve been trying to send you guys pictures for 3 weeks now, but I can´t get the cord to the camera to work right and these computers don´t have an SD card reader, so I´ll just have to send you guys a ton once I get something worked out. I hear Dave on the new suit thing. I´ve lost so much weight here that my suit looks ridiculous, so I bought a new one super cheap from a thrift store, that is also too big now. Oh well. That´s the life. I shaved off my sideburn shaving like every day, but not really paying much attention, then suddenly I realized I had shaved off my own sideburn. oops. I don´t use repellent because I´m lazy. I hadn´t heard about Andy Griffith. You guys have really been loving the old TV lately. I guess with all the trash they have now days that´s all there is to watch.

While walking this week after 3 appointments fell through in a row, I was hit with a burning urge to eat ice cream, that could have also been the Spirit. As we walked into the ice cream parlor, the owner walked up to us and said "I´ve always wanted to know what you guys do", and started to ask a bunch of questions about the church and missionaries. After answering her questions, she let us in, gave us free ice cream, and we started to teach her. Turns out, she holds Christian church sessions in the ice cream parlor every week, and she invited us back the next day. It´s always an interesting time there, because a bunch of people from the local evangelical churches meet there for ice cream and to discuss the goodness of God, and the owner lady always gives us a chance to speak a few words. We´ve gotten some good references from the place. 

This week everyone´s been super focused on Jesus Christ because it´s the Easter season, so I´ve been thinking even more than usual about our Savior. I know that Jesus Christ lives. He is our rock, and if we center our lives on him, we cannot fail. No matter how hard the winds of sin or temptation push, if we focus on really living his teachings, we cannot fail. We will succeed.

Elder Murray 

Tuesday, March 15, 2016

March 15th - Answers to Questions

We did not hear from Ben yesterday because they went to the temple so they moved their p-day. I was so excited to get a letter from him today!! Paul sent him a long list of questions, so he mostly answers them.

Hi Fam and Friends,

This week was good. Sounds like everyone back home is having a good time. Grandma and Grandpa Murray are ending their mission soon, and that´s cool. Sounds like the chickens are having some problems. Good times. Mom, your emails are really pretty funny.

Dad sent me a big old monster list of questions, so I´ll take some time to respond to all of them, with as much detail as I can muster. Next week I´ll give you good stories, so remind me. Alright, on to the questions.

My new apartment is really nice. It´s a rented house actually, and we have a lot more pots and pans here, and a couch! It´s really luxury. We´ve got 4 elders in our house, Me, Elder Mancilla (Companion), Elder J. Nascimento (District Leader), and Elder Donadon (Got here when I did). It´s a really fun house in general. I´ve laughed a LOT here. They fixed our shower this week. The problem was that whenever we turned on the hot water, fire shot out of the celing because of the faulty wiring, so they sent in the same guy that fixed the house back in Itajubá to clean things up. We´re getting to be good friends, Ronaldo (the repair guy) and I. My clothes are super stained from the sunblock, giant because I lost a lot of weight, but still pretty high quality. Our typical day starts with working out, then studying, then we go out to work at 10:30, lunch with a member from 12-1, then we knock doors, make contacts on the street, or meet with people and teach lessons until 9 at night, when we return home, prep for bed, and sleep. I eat a ton of rice and beans, a lot of strange fruits like goiaba and acerola, and they eat a lot of chicken here too. The members in Valinhos give a lot of food too. I really like the stroganoff they do here, it´s hard to explain what it is. The weirdest thing would be the salgados, which are like hot pockets that are made and fried by had and every street vendor sells. Sometimes they´re really good, sometimes it says chicken but you believe pigeon. Doing my own laundry is normal by now. A little annoying, but not that bad since I only wear one type of clothes. I´ve been really going hard in the morning workouts, and I´ve actually gotten a lot more defined, and skinny. We walk basically constantly. I spend more time walking than probably any other activity. Our District has 4 Elders and 4 Sisters, and consists of two wards that meet in the same chapel at different times. We have meetings generally every Tuesday, unless we have a zone meeting or a transfer. Brazil has plenty of buck dogs, or cachorros da rua, as they are called here, and all of them hate Elder Mancilla. Every dog in the city hates him. They all bark and slobber and run at us, but luckily they´re all behind fences. All the drunk homeless guys love him though. They love to come talk with us, but we´ve yet to convert one. Working on it though. The palm trees are abundant, and so are the cool birds. I´ve seen several toucans, parrots, and even a macaw. The goats and wildstock were in Itajubá, but Valinhos is more industrialized. Here in Valinhos it´s a lot colder and rainier, but that´s really a good thing. A lot of the members here speak English, but usually with a strong accent, and basically no one else speaks it. My companion sleeps with insect repellant on to protect against dengue, and we´re getting mosquito nets soon. Elder Cruz got dengue early in his mission, but no other missionary that I know has gotten it. I´ve never even heard of a case of zika, but everyone´s super worried about it. I still lift sweet, sweet concrete weights. I know a ton of exercises thanks to good old Coach Ackerman, so I´ve been able to get some pretty good workouts in. Still haven´t played any soccer, but I play BBall every week with the other Elders and the recent converts. 

As for advice, I´d advise you to make a big list of all the questions you have ever been given about the church and find a scripture in the Bible and one in the Book of Mormon that can answer your question. The scriptures have answers for almost everything, and if you get good at answering questions with the scriptures before your mission, you´ll be great during it. The scriptures are the word of God, and if you master them, it will really show in your teaching. I love you all, and I will succeed.

Elder Murray

Monday, March 7, 2016

March 7th - Service and Sideburns

Hi Family and Friends!

This week things were pretty normal. I´ve been eating a lot more here because the members give you a ton of food all the time, so that´s pretty great. The city is really beautiful, and I´ve really been enjoying reading the scriptures in Português. With the second language you get a better picture of the meaning of the scripture and it brings different images to mind. It´s really cool. I accidentally shaved off one of my side-burns this week, so I got my hair cut by my companion today. It looks way better now! Overall, I´m really content here. If only the Brazilians didn´t like Nickelback so much.

I really like your description of the light that shines out from us. There´s a scripture somewhere that says that the Spirit of God is light and truth. Things that bring us into the light are of God, whereas the things that don´t come from him are darkness. We really should try to be good examples and spread our light. Knocking doors is slow yes, but it fills the time, and we´ve got good work going with the members too. This week we´re launching a new program, together with the President of the Relief Society (Socidade de Socorro here). We´re going to be having a family home evening in the house of a different member each week, and we´re going to invite as many investigator families as we can from the two companionships. We had one last night and it was really pretty powerful. Our investigators have the problem that they are "brazilian married", i.e. living together without being legally married. As such, we focused on marriage and the blessings of a having a family all together for eternity. 

We started with an object lesson. We asked a recently married member to open a pão de mel (equivalent to a ding dong) and eat it without using his hands. We gave him 1 minute, and he got nowhere. Then we read Genesis 2:18, and explained that it´s not good for man to be alone, that he needs others to help him, principally his wife. Together, they can accomplish much more than a man alone. We then showed a really ancient church short film about marriage, Together Forever, and asked the members to share their testimonies about marriage. It was really spiritual, and it felt as though angels were in the room. We ended singing "Families Can Be Together Forever". Overall it was a fantastic experience.

I´ve also spent a lot of time thinking about The Ten Commandments this week. No, not the movie. We had a Stake Conference yesterday, and one of the speakers spoke about the continued relevance of the 10 commandments even though times have changed a fair bit. Imagine, if everyone just held to the 10 principles that we find in Exodus 20, everyone would be a lot happier. There virtually wouldn´t be crime in the world, and everyone would be richer, healthier, and happier. I know that God´s commandments are really the perfect guide for us to be happy in this life. I´m thankful I can share this gift with others, and following them I will succeed.

Elder Murray