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