Monday, December 29, 2014

Christmas Came and Christmas Went

             So Christmas is over and now we have the New Year. This week was long and a bit difficult. Unfortunately, Brazil isn't really big on holidays, I don't feel like. People don't really want to be bothered on Christmas, but we did our best. Most people for Christmas just have a BBQ and get drunk like every other Brazilian holiday but we still got a few things done.
             My companion and I also managed to catch a bit of stomach problems. I have lost count of the number of times I have gone to the bathroom today, but that is probably too much information.  
             Good stuff still happened.  We continued working with a couple named Marcelo and Germina.  Marcelo is a member of the church but he hadn't gone in years.  His wife Germina isn't a member.  We found them knocking on doors and they have gone to church the last three weeks and Germina is going to be Baptized January 10th. So that made the week worth it to see them progressing.       
             So the week was good and difficult.
I Love you all!

Elder Russell

Monday, December 22, 2014

Christmas is Coming

         So Christmas is coming. We had the Christmas conference for the mission.  The only problem was that the mission is so big (lots of missionaries and chapels are smaller in Brazil) that there wasn't anywhere to have all the missionaries meet, so the conference was divided in half. It was a bit sad since there were some people that I wanted to see that I didn't get to see.  However, it was still fun.  The Mission President and his wife gave everyone a fruitcake because that is a very traditional present in Brazil. But in reality not very many people like fruitcake (because Brazilians are people too),  so they were chocolate fruitcakes which have chocolate chips in them instead of candied fruit.  Needless to say it is a lot better.
          Other than that, we continue teaching.  We ended up re-dividing the area of the ward between us missionaries because the old division was not a good use of our resources. This week will be a bit easier because we used to live almost an hour walk from the area where we worked and now we are a bit closer so it will be a lot less walking. 
          I continue to enjoy Franca, the rain has stopped but it is still quite cool.  Even on the hot days there is a nice cool breeze. So basically it is the perfect area to work.
          I almost forgot, as well. that I got my Christmas packages that my family sent me.  I really enjoyed the foods all of which don't exist here and I am really trying to eat it all soon.  Food really is quite different here, and shoes as well.  Although that is completely another story but quite appropriate for Franca.  But I won't talk about it today.
          I love you all and hope you all have a good week!

Elder Russell

Monday, December 15, 2014

Franca is Cold!

        Brazil is a cool place but industry is something that is very lacking at least in the region I am in.  In Barretos they make nothing, just have a party once a year.  And in Franca they make shoes.  But I believe that close to Sao Paulo there is a bit more industry.  Here just about everyone works in factories to make shoes.  If you look in a lot of places you'll see people making the shoes. They are high quality since they are hand made and everything.
         Every day except Sunday that I have been in Franca it has rained.  Which is good since there has been a bit of a drought in the region.  But people still complain about the dryness.  That is just human nature. People will complain about the drought conditions until there is a flood warning. I have been enjoying the rain. It is a lot better than walking in the sun. 
          I have decided that I probably have to repent and take back my not-so-friendly comments about being a district leader to sister missionaries because I found out this week that I had been misinformed, and I am in fact district leader to sisters. I guess God is calling me to repentance.
          But this week was a very good week.  Since the ward we are serving had had only one set of missionaries and we have made that two, we have basically just been knocking doors all week.  However, that was a very blessed activity this week since were able to find two families who were members but had not gone to church for years by just randomly knocking on doors; and one of them went to stake conference which was this week.  We also found another family who we starting teaching and they said they would go to church and actually went without any problem which is really quite rare.  So this was quite a good start to this area.


          We also had a baptism of one of the two investigators that we inherited from the other missionaries (because they used to work in the area that is now divided between us).  We only taught him twice but it was really cool to get to know him and see the change that the gospel had already made in his life.  And he chose my companion to baptize him which was pretty cool since we had known him such a short time.
          But anyway, I love you all!  Have a good week!

Elder Russell

Monday, December 8, 2014

One Year and Then I Leave

         So transfers have come and I have left, Rio Preto that is.  Not that I ever actually served in Rio Preto but I was always having meetings there so I know it quite well.  But after basically one year there, I am now in Franca. This is the first time I am serving in a city that has more than one ward/branch—Franca has five or six. I am not sure.  And for the first time, I am going to be serving in a city that has an actual church building.  This means I might actually have cool pictures in front of the name of the Church.  That will be cool.
          My new companion is Elder Mendes. He is from Curitiba.  I continue to be district leader so I continue to do that bunch of stuff; but at least I am still not district leader to Sister Missionaries so I dodged that bullet (everyone always says that is terrible).  I am quite excited overall to work here.  It seems nice. 
          It was sad to leave Barretos though.  Jarbas bore his testimony in testimony meeting which was pretty cool because he really hates speaking in public.  I will miss him quite a lot and his family and everybody else but that is how it goes.  I was the missionary for the people who I found. I guess its time for the missionary of someone else to start working there. 
          I hope you all have a good week!  I love you all!


Elder Russell

Monday, December 1, 2014

Lots of Stuff Happened

         




          So since a lot of stuff happened this week I will just summarize.  First, we went to the Parque of the Peao this week and took a bunch of pictures. It was quite empty because nobody goes there when there isn't the rodeo going on.  But it was cool to see everything.  
          Then we worked a bunch the whole week.  We are just about done with Elder F. Silva's training and I think my time in Barretos is also coming to a close.  I don't really have any reason to believe that but transfers are next week, and I feel I will be leaving. Then. . . nobody knows... except the people in the mission office and I am not one of them.
          We also had a baptism in the ward. Carlos Eduardo baptized his son, the kid with the most faith I have seen.  Because they live in another city, he wanted to be baptized in the swimming pool there, and the Bishop let him. That means I got to witness the first baptism performed in the city of Gua­ra.  It’s nice to see history. 
          That was my week.  It was good.  I feel like this letter was a bit short but I think I covered the basics.  I love you all!
Elder Russell


Photos:  So there is the photo of the baptism last week (Hudo) that I didn't send, and for this week the baptism of Brandon.  The other is from the Parque do Peao with Jarbas.

Monday, November 24, 2014

Two in a Row

         So we had another baptism!  This one is to complete the wedding that we had two weeks ago. I guess the wedding really wasn't ours but it’s a manner of speaking.  If you think about it, the baptism isn't "ours" either.  I just get to watch and take pictures with everyone! But Hudo was baptized! We have been waiting quite a while for him to take the plunge.  I think he might know more about the gospel than a lot of people who have been in the church for quite a while because he is pretty smart.  But it was really nice, the baptism that is.
          In other news, we began teaching a Muslim this week.  There is a mosque in Barretos so there are a good number of Muslims here.  But he is a convert to that religion; before that, he was atheist.  Needless to say, he is very interesting.  We are planning a visit to the mosque next P-day because I have always wanted to go to one and there is no rule against missionaries going to mosques to visit.  So that will be exciting.
          That was basically the highlights for my week!  It had some very good moments!  I love you all!  
Elder Russell


P.S. I will send a picture of the baptism next week. The computer doesn't want to send it right now.

Monday, November 17, 2014

Look at the Faith of a Child

       In the Barretos Ward lives a child named Brandon.  His family lives in another city and his dad works nights but they are practically always at church even though his Dad goes sometimes without sleeping.  Brandon recently turned 8 which means it is time for him to be baptized. He had always very happily said, "I am going to be baptized and my father is going to baptize me."  This would be a normal statement for a child who grew up in the church except for the fact that Brandon's father, Carlos Eduardo, wasn't a member and really had no desire to become one.  But Brandon never doubted that he would be baptized by his dad.  We talked with his dad two weeks ago and basically he said that he didn't want to be baptized and never thought he would be baptized.  The next Sunday he went to church and basically, completely randomly, told the Bishop that he wanted to be baptized. Brandon never doubted and next Sunday he will be baptized by his father.

          Carlos Eduardo was baptized in the stake center in Rio Preto since it was stake conference, which was pretty cool since I had never had a baptism on my mission in an actual chapel built by the church.    Stake Conference was quite awesome as well since the stake was divided.  I am now serving in the Rio Preto South stake. President Claudio Costa, the area president, was here and spoke very well. Overall it was a good weekend.
          I hope you all have a good week. I sure did! I love you all!

Elder Russell

Monday, November 10, 2014

A Wedding and A Miracle


            So as the title suggests, this was a good week! We had the long awaited wedding of Mariana and Hudo which was quite nice. It ran a bit late so we didn't get to eat since we were already late to get home when the ceremony ended.  However they let us take some food home which was quite good.  Mariana is a member who for more then five years wanted absolutely nothing to do with the Church even though her entire family is active. She had begun living with her boyfriend, Hudo. Then, through a series of miracles, she realized that she needed the Church and Hudo also gained a testimony of it. Then they marked a date to get married, and sold their motorcycle to pay for the wedding. Hudo will be baptized in two weeks. It is nice to know that you make a difference in people's lives. The whole wedding, I was just blown away by the fact that all of this was happening because two people really wanted to have a better life together and were willing to sacrifice a lot for that.
            And about the Miracle (well the bigger one).  We had been working with the husband of another member who had been going to church for more than a year but didn't want to be baptized.  We had talked with him many times and he really seemed to be against the idea but then this Sunday, he changed his mind is going to be baptized this next Sunday after Stake Conference which will also make this my first baptism in an actual Chapel since I have only had baptism in portable swimming pools until now (which are very annoying to clean). It is really nice to know that no effort is wasted. Many missionaries have talked with and taught this man, and I am sure they would be happy to know that their effort wasn't wasted because I am happy to know that mine wasn't. No effort made for God is wasted.
Honestly, so many good things happened this week that I don't even have time to write about them all. So I guess I will just leave you with these two.  But I hope you all have a good week!  I love you all!
Elder Russell


Description of the picture: We asked one of the young men in the ward to take this photo and I don't think he understands centering but at least we got the picture.

 

Monday, November 3, 2014

The Rains Are Coming

I think it rained more this week than in any other in my time in Brazil. That is good though because a couple of weeks back it hit 45 degrees Celsius (which is 114 F, I believe) so the fresher weather was very welcome. 
          We have been finding tons of families lately that we are teaching in Barretos.  They are always fun to teach (but practically none of them are legally married so that is kind of rough).
          But this week we also found an old lady in her seventies who was quite interesting. Piecing together her life, it seems that she was quite a successful gospel singer that was married to a Lucha-libre wrestler. She had quite a story to tell and is very interested in what we are teaching because even though she has sung in more churches than you can count, she never felt like any of them was the right place.  Most of the time I feel like a full life is the most interesting story that there is.  I wish I could read the autobiography of a lot of people but sadly they haven't written them and probably never will.  How many stories are lost because there was never anyone to hear.  So I would advise everyone to go to a retirement home and listen to a few old people tell their story. You will be surprised what you learn. They are more interesting that the best movies.
          I hope you all have a good week! I love you all!

Elder Russell

Monday, October 27, 2014

Pizza



Another transfer has come, so that is fun, and yet, no one left. Since I am still technically training my companion, I wasn't expecting anything to change.  However, I was made district leader which (for those of you who aren't familiar with missionary hierarchy) basically just means I have to do more stuff.
This week we had a cool experience because Jarbas who was baptized about a month ago went out to teach with us.  Basically he went because his mom expulsed him from his home because she was tired of him always doing nothing with his life. We thought it was going to be rough because he is very shy and has a bit of trouble talking to strangers, but he ended up taking us to the house of a guy who works at his school and about five members of his extended family and a friend.  It was pretty cool! He complained the whole time about walking and sometimes he tried to use us as resting posts while walking, but when we took him back to his house, he asked us when he can do it again. This was actually a miracle.  It was really cool to see him get so excited to share what he knows.  
Unfortunately I don't have cool stories this week but I do have a picture of a Brazilian pizza that we ate. I hope that will cheer you all up. I love you all and hope you have a good week!


Elder Russell

Monday, October 20, 2014

Daylight Savings

So this last Saturday night was daylight savings here in Brazil.  I don't know if it is the same in the United States but I do know that when you all are jumping forward, we are falling back and visa versa. This worked as a great excuse for a lot of people to not go to Church, but it was a nice meeting just the same.
This week I received the package that my family sent for my birthday.  It only arrived, I think, three weeks late so I was happy.  One of the things they sent me was a no-bake cheese cake (the mix, the cake made wouldn't make it). Since we had some other Elders visiting us and one of them was American, we decided to make it that very night to commemorate.  It was a good thing that is was a no-bake cheese cake because the hose that connects our gas can to our oven went bad. If you didn't know that gas hoses go bad you’re with everyone else, even the Brazilian missionaries, until the Mission President's wife told us it happens. The only real problem we encountered while making the cheese cake was that pie plates/tins are not something you will find in a missionary house. But we figured it out, as shown in the included picture.  Overall it went very well I would say in comparison with the number of problems I encountered while making biscuits.  
We also had a baptism this week. Her name is Enizete. Her husband died recently so she when she heard about the  Plan of Salvation and that families can be eternal she was all for it.  I believe I have already told a bit of her story but I would just like to talk about one of the things she said to us on the day of her baptism.  She said that even now she doesn't accept the death of her husband and she just sees it as he went on a journey and one day she'll meet up with him again.  I think the only thing I would change about that statement is that it is not he that is on a journey but her.  All of us are on a journey and one day we will all go home.  I have never heard a recent-convert understand the Plan of Salvation so well. It was really a pleasure to teach her.
I hope you all have a good week.  I did.  I love you all.


Elder Russell
The Skillet No-Bake Cheesecake

Baptism of Enizete
 

Monday, October 13, 2014

A Good Week

Perhaps the title for this blog is a bit generic but this week really was a good one. It was better than usual. I guess I should say because every week is good.  Sometimes they are harder and sometimes they are easier, but they are always good.
Last week the little ward of Barretos out did themselves by having a fast and testimony meeting (a meeting where all members can share what they believe for everyone else) in which there was never silence.  It is funny how sometimes in wards that have 250 people in the meeting, there is dead time, but in this ward that had 57 people in the meeting, everybody wanted to get up and bear their testimony.  It was pretty cool.  And then after the meeting, everyone stayed a little bit longer than usual to chat.  That is a sign of progress!
This week we found two families that the biggest problem they had with our message was that they don't believe in organized religion.  I thought it was very sad to see how people can make others really disillusioned with something that should be a force for good in the world. It is sad to see when people loose hope in something that they clearly wanted in the past.  So you shouldn't loose hope in something just because other people are sometimes not all that they should be. It isn't a very good life plan to let other people affect your happiness.
I hope you all have a good week!  I love you all!
Elder Russell


Description of pictures:  1) My companion and I and 2) what happens in Brazil on election day. All the guys who are running for office throw little election cards in the street close to where the people vote. 



Monday, October 6, 2014

A World Wide Church

I don't know if I can share with you how happy I am with this General Conference!  The talks were very uplifting and instructive but that is not really what I would like to talk about today. For the first time, the speakers had the option to speak in their native language and not in English.  I think that some of you may not really understand how awesome that is!  But that is probably because you have never had to watch conference dubbed.  I will tell you, it is boring.  The voices of the people who do the dubbing are really boring.  They must take a class in how to talk boringly because it is difficult to listen to them. The talk that was given in Portuguese was by far my favorite because I was able to really enjoy what he said. Also it was a little bit ridiculous to have to dub a man who speaks Portuguese because he is speaking English.
However, this change means a lot more to me than just logistics and ease of listening.  It is a message to every person that this is a world wide Church.  It is not very easy to tell people that this is not an American church when it is led by Americans, headquartered in America, and it is an American who is preaching to them.  It’s a bit hard to believe.  This is a world wide church that does not have an official language.  And as the church grows we will feel its internationality more and more.  This is just the start.  Now we are all just waiting for a Brazilian Apostle.
I hope you all have a good week and I love you all.

Elder Russell

Monday, September 29, 2014

He is There

Birthdays in the mission don't really seem to mean that much.  I am now 21 (I know, I am old for a missionary). Really I feel like I just turned 20.  I feel like I should be a teenager still but I am not.  I am not even close to a teenager.  I don't know if this makes me fully adult or if I am just lost in between the two. But any how, the mission goes on. 
This week we were really able to get a good group of investigators to teach and things are really beginning to pick up in Barretos. The members are becoming much more excited about the ward and they seem more excited to help. This week I saw a lot of prayers being answered, not only mine but those of other people as well.  I know that God does respond to our prayers.  If you don't think you see miracles a lot just think about that. Think about the fact that we can talk to the creator of the universe and he listens, and not only does he listen but he responds. That doesn't mean he always does what we want, but he always does what is best for us. If we are willing to stop, look, and listen, there will be an answer.  I know God is real.  I want all of you to know that as well, and if you don't know that, ask Him.  He will let you know that He is really there, and He will let you know that he cares.
I love you all. I hope you all have a good week.


Elder Russell 

Monday, September 22, 2014

Miracles Happen

So my new companion is named Elder F. Silva.  There are some last names that are really common in Brazil like Silva, Oliveira, dos Santos, Moreira. Since two missionaries in Brazil can't have exactly the same name on their name tag in the same mission, my companion is Elder F. Silva.  We already have a Silva (and a P. Silva and a M. Silva just to name a few that come to mind right now). He is from the city of Sao Paulo so he didn't have to go very far.  He is really awesome.  I am enjoying the training.
This Sunday we had a really awesome experience.  A woman named Enizete just randomly showed up in church.  She has a friend that is a member who told her where the church was a while ago. Her husband died a month ago and she was going to the cemetery, as she says, to cry when she felt that she should go to church. She arrived just in time for Gospel Principles class.  Miraculously, the lesson was entitled "Families Can be Forever" (or something like that in English). It was exactly what she needed to hear. After church, we went to her member friend's home and taught her about the Plan of Salvation.  After the lesson, when someone told a joke, she said it was a the first time she had laughed in over a month.  It is really nice to help people.  Also, miracles really happen.
I had to give a talk last Sunday and I don't think it really was quite as good as I wanted it to be, but I really learned a lot preparing for it.  One thing I have also learned on the mission is how to talk for a long time.  They assigned me 20 minutes to talk but I ended up having about 30 and the Bishop had to tell me to stop (well kick my foot). So I guess missionaries talk a lot. 
Also, I was excited because we found granola bars for 3 for 2 reais (about a dollar).  Stuff like that is usually really expensive here. 
The week has been great.  I hope yours was too.  I love you all.
Elder Russell


Monday, September 15, 2014

Barretos Again

So I will start off with a cooking story. My Mother sent me a box of easy-make red lobster biscuits as I requested because they are really good. I have included some pictures of the results and I will explain the difficulties I had. Firstly, you are supposed to add sharp cheddar cheese to the batter before you cook them. The last time I saw cheddar cheese was in the MTC (missionary training center). They have a cheese here that they call cheddar but it is not; its American so I had to use that because it was the closest thing I could find. Second, measuring cups are not something you commonly find in Missionary apartments it appears. I  couldn’t find a single one so I had to eyeball the water. I think it was a bit too much. They ended up a bit more like a bready, cheesy pancake but despite it all,  it was quite good. I ate them all because my companion didn't want any.



In other news, we had a baptism!  His name is Neto or at least that’s what we call him.  He is named Jarbas III, but in Portuguese, to indicate III, a lot of the time they use the word Neto which means grandson.  He is the son of a woman who was recently baptized.  It was really amazing to see the change that happened in him. When we met him, he hardly wanted to spend enough time with us to listen to the lessons, let alone wake up early on Sunday to go to church.  He would rather play video games or sleep.  Then with time he began to read a bit and went to church and then one day we explained to him about the atonement using the example of a debtor and the friend who pays the debt for him.  It really clicked for him what Jesus Christ had done for him and he just about cried (I say almost because the tears never left his eyes).  After that he never complained about going to church again.

And for the third topic, we had transfers! Sadly, Elder De Queiroz has left Barretos.  But on the bright side, I am going to train!!! So I'm actually in Ribeirao Preto right now and I will meet my new companion tomorrow. I am very excited!
That is all I have for today. I love you all!

Elder Russell


Monday, September 8, 2014

Dust

I have begun to realize that Barretos is a very dusty city.  It is surrounded by fields of sugar cane (as this is the principal crop in the region) and the dirt in Brazil is very light and red so it gets everywhere and is really annoying to get off your shoes. Then there is the fact that at the beginning of the growing season (right now), they burn all the stuff that is in the field, and so there is a ton of ash in the air, as well. Our kitchen isn't really enclosed on the roof, so it gets covered in a small layer of ash that we have to remove from time to time. But it is what it is.
In more interesting news, this week we found some pretty cool families. That is the really cool thing about Barretos, no one is single here, they are all families!  Teaching families is always a lot more fun and that is what everyone wants to do anyway. I hope that they will all realize how the gospel can help them in their lives.  Barretos really is a very different type of city.  It is Brazil--Country Style.  I am enjoying it!  I love you all and hope you have a good week!


Elder Russell

Monday, September 1, 2014

I Survived!


So the Festival of the Peão is over and things are going back to normal! Even with the festival, my companion and I decided that we were being a bit pessimistic and thought that we would just work like normal and were definitely blessed for doing that. We found several good families who were all very interested. (All of our work was basically knocking on doors since none of our investigators were in town for the Festa) We had a dentist, age about 50, tell us that we had opened a door for him and that he really learned something knew. It was really cool because when we got there, it was clear that he is the type of person who thinks he knows a lot (which he does) and didn't expect that we would have anything new to tell him.  However, he was wrong.
There are a lot of people in this city and we are just beginning to find them. This week we knocked a lot of doors. A lot of doors, and talked with a fair number of people. We even found a lady who had a goose in her backyard. That was a bit weird.
In other news, our washing machine broke, so we are cleaning our clothes by hand; which leads me to the most interesting domestic thing I have learned in a while. Clothes can be cleaner by hand than in a machine. I have some stains that I acquired when I got to the mission field that didn't leave until this week because I washed them by hand. It was really quite amazing. That was my big discovery for the week.  
I hope you all have a good week. I sure did. I love you all!
Elder Russell


And this is a photo of a type of cookie called black power, which is the word for an afro in Brazil (like the haircut).  It is basically an Oreo but way cheaper. Oreos are really expensive in Brazil.

Monday, August 25, 2014

Festa do Peão

Well when a city has a party, it is not fun for missionaries. We have been restricted to working only during the day while the Festa do Peão is going on because everyone is either drunk, sleeping off being drunk, or sleeping so that they can go out at night and get drunk. I guess there are a bunch of people who just went travelling because they didn't want to be here right now, though. 
But this has been a good experience for my companion and I as far as growing is concerned.  I have certainly learned that being a missionary isn't really about success but about effort.  In a world where results are what seems to measure our success (because effort is impossible to be measured objectively by humans), God measures by effort.  It is also important to remember that if we are really applying a good effort, we will have success usually; but sometimes as a missionary it is not so. To take away someone's choice to choose is a miracle that not even God can do. The words of the hymn come to mind, "do what is right, let the consequence follow." The consequences will come so lets just work.
I love you all and hope you all have a good week!


Elder Russell

Monday, August 18, 2014

The Deep Breath Before the Storm


With the Festival of the Peão beginning this week we seem to be in the deep breath before the storm here in Barretos. The streets are pretty barren and people are pretty hesitant to let us in. Things get pretty crazy during the “festa.” There are a lot of robberies in the city so people are pretty careful but it was still a good week.
We ran into a bunch of old Brazilian coins that a guy gave us. My companion is a coin collector (like a hard-core coin collector, he has a catalogue of his collection at home), so he was very happy. We also are teaching a 15 year-old who never really had any kind of religion in his life until now.  It is really cool to see him change little by little.  He is a bit lazy so it is difficult to get him to listen to us, but little by little it is getting easier. The last time we went there, he actually wanted to read the Book of Mormon with us. It is really cool to see people change. It is nice to make a difference for someone.
I hope you all have a good week.  I love you all and wish you happiness.


Elder Russell

Monday, August 11, 2014

A City of Bulls





Everything in Barretos has a bit of cow imagery.  My companion and I were joking that if they built a temple in Barretos, it would fit right in because of the cows under the baptismal font. The big rodeo is coming up which means there are less and less people in the city.  A lot of people leave the city for vacation and the people who are coming to the party haven't arrived yet. Next week it will get crazy.  It sounds like people just come here and get drunk for ten days. I am not looking forward to that bunches and bunches, but that is life.
Getting transferred is really cool because you get to meet a lot of new people and see a new perspective on stuff.  The ward here is pretty awesome if it is small. They don't have a chapel yet but we are working on it. They have a lot of growing to do still, but we are going to get there. We have found some cool people here and I am excited to teach them.  Overall,  things are looking good for my time in Barretos. 

I hope you all have a good week and I love you all.

Elder Russell

Monday, August 4, 2014

Transfer

Hello everyone! So first things first, I was transferred! I am in Barretos now. This is the city where they have the Rodeo World Championships. It is about the same size as Votuporanga but it only has one set of missionaries. So it is all ours. It also feels quite a bit like Wyoming because of the cowboy-type influence. At the end of this month there is going to be a big festival here and there will be visitors from all over the world. But... we have to stay inside because people are pretty crazy about festivals and sometimes people get really drunk and forget their clothes. 

My new companion's name is Elder De Queiroz. He is from Bahia which is kind of like the Texas of Brazil. I am very excited to start off in my new area but I don't know a lot about it just yet.  I guess I will just end here and wish you all a good week! I love you!


Elder Russell

Monday, July 28, 2014

Open Your Mouth and It Is Filled

Hello Everyone! 
We did all the normal stuff this week. The only problem is that it has taken a turn for the cold and nobody wants to open their door for it seems cold paralyzes Brazilians, but we are working with that.
In other news, my companion’s hands are fine now. We went to the hospital last Monday. After waiting two hours they called him in and did a blood test that we had to wait two more hours for. It was actually two and a half because they forgot to call us for a half an hour. Then they gave him two shots (one in the rump) and a prescription for cold medicine. As much as he understood, they didn't say what was wrong with him, but he is better now so I won't worry about it. Hospitals in Brazil are a bit different.
This week I learned what they mean in Doctrine & Covenants when it tells you to just open your mouth and it will be filled. We have been teaching a family for a couple of weeks now.  It is a mother and son (advanced in age) who live together. They have been trying to quit smoking but the progress has been slow. They like all the stuff we are saying but they weren't sure if they wanted to get baptized yet. The last couple of times that we have visited them, I have just been reading scriptures from the Book of Mormon that come into my head when they ask things. I haven’t really known where I was going with it.  Then yesterday I asked them when they would feel ready to be baptized because they said they didn't feel so. They said when they quit smoking they will be ready.  I really have no idea how that happened but it is very true.  I really had no idea where I was going with any of the stuff I was saying but it just worked out.
Then we were teaching a woman and we had decided to teach her the plan of Salvation. For no reason at all, I spent about 10 minutes talking about the fall of Adam which is really a small point in the overall lesson and then she started to ask a bunch of questions about the stuff I had said (because it was different from everything she had ever learned). Then I realized that what I had said answered one of the questions she has had since we began to teach her.
Then we were teaching a less active member and I didn't know what I was going to say to her at all in the lesson, and so I just read a scripture and shared a story that was just the first thing that came into my head.  After that she said that she knows that for her to be happier in her life, she has to start keeping the commandments.  It was what we had been trying to teach her for weeks but all of the sudden she accepted it.  I never thought that would happen from the story that I shared.
Please understand that I do not share these stories to brag or to show how great of a missionary I am.  In every one of these stories I had no idea why I was saying the things that I said.  I just opened my mouth and it was filled.  It really works.  I couldn’t ever believe that I could do this whole missionary thing without God's help because I have to ask people to change their lives completely everyday.  I don't do miracles, I just get to watch them happen.  That is really awesome.
I hope you all have a good week.  I love you all!

Elder Russell 

Monday, July 21, 2014

They Are Out There!

So this week was kind of cool. We met a Mom and her kid (who is 50) this week and we began to teach them. They went to church this week and Jose Luis, the son, told us that he really wanted to quit smoking and had been trying for years. We are going to help him. There really are people out there who want help but just don't know where to find it.
Another person we met was a woman named Fabiana. She has been looking at many religions and is basically just disillusioned with the whole idea of religion now. We told her about prophets and she said that if she knew there really was a prophet on the earth today, she would feel a lot more secure because she could know what God wants for her and her family. There really are people who just want a little bit more in their life and they just don't know where to find it. They are tired of all the solutions the world has offered that don't really work out too well. That is why I am a missionary, to try and help the people who are looking for the gospel.
In other news, my companion has some kind of malady of the skin on his hands and feet and I hope it isn't contagious.  I don't think it is. I will deal with it because he is a good cook.
This week we had a meeting with the Branch leadership and they are trying to give us a lot more support now. I hope it happens like they want.
We are teaching classes in English and Spanish (because there's a Chilean here). Basically no one is coming but we are going to give it a little bit more time. I find that teaching English is really complicated.
Those are some thoughts for you, but I really don't have a lot to say this week. I had a good week. I hope all of you did as well!  I love you all!

Elder Russell


Monday, July 14, 2014

Why Do Brazilians Think That We Look Like Germans?

So Brazil lost the world cup, which really wasn't a big surprise to anyone that was honest. From the scores, they really hadn't been playing very well from what I hear. But I really don't think anyone expected that they would loose 7 to 1. That was a little extreme. The only problem now is that everyone thinks that we are Germans because anyone who is blue-eyed and blond-haired (my companion) looks German to Brazilians. I don't really know why but that’s okay.
In other news our world has returned to normalcy. Nobody is crazy in the streets and there aren't going to be more fireworks (well at least there shouldn't be). And we are just going to continue talking to people. This week was really quite amazing. We have started saying a prayer and asking where we should go to find more people to teach. When we do this and then go to the place we felt strongly about and start knocking on doors, without fail, within three doors someone has let us in, if not two. God really knows where we need to be; but like in all things, he gives us what we ask for (if its good for us). If we don't ask, we often don't get it. So we just asked and it has been going pretty well so far.
I don't have much more to say this week except that grating a pound of cheese with a knife is a bit annoying.  I included a picture of the American pizza we made and I will have you know that I grated all of cheese for two of these pizzas with a knife.


 I hope you all have a good time this week doing whatever it is you are going to do. I know I will. I love you all!

Here is a picture of my zone.  It is a lot bigger now than when I arrived.

Elder Russell 

Monday, July 7, 2014

Seven Months . . . But Who's Counting

I finally received the package from my family. It was quite satisfying and I am enjoying the shampoo the most I think, even though I have to be careful because the ants that live in our bathroom seem to like that kind of shampoo. We have a colony of ants that live in our bathroom I think; but that is okay because they eat the cockroaches. 
So this week was a bit crazy because we spent a lot of time not working annoyingly. We had interviews with the mission president so we had to travel to another city for that and then Brazil had to play in the World Cup again so we had to stay inside that day for the most part. But despite these troubles we are trying to do our best. 
As a missionary it is interesting to spend a lot of time in the same city as I have done here. People seem to be very open with missionaries. People have told me things after an hour of knowing them that they say they would never tell to even their family. Sometimes this is good, other times I didn't want to know, but I guess that is just part of the work. The other part about serving in one area for a long time is that you begin to know the city very well.  I think I know my half of Votuporanga better than some people who live here. Then it is even crazier to think how much more there is to discover in Votuporanga, principally the people. I still have an awful lot of people to talk to in this city. Maybe I will have to stay here until I talk to them all or something. There is obviously something that I am forgetting to do here because its been a while.
In other news, there will be another Brazil game this week, but it could very well be their last because they are playing Germany. However, if it isn't, they will go to the finals. That would be crazy. I guess I will just try and do my thing even with all this crazy stuff happening.
That is about all that is going on this week. I hope you are all having a great week and that the next one is even better.  I love you all.

Elder Russell 

Monday, June 30, 2014

Votuporanga From a Different Perspective

Hello everyone! This week was my first week with my first new companion. It is interesting how much things can change with a different companion but that is definitely not a bad thing. I have already learned a lot with my new companion, but I guess I should introduce him a bit. His name is Elder Sigleer and he is from Oregon. It is definitely different being with an American, but I don’t really speak English anymore so it is quite similar as well.
We had a baptism!!! Her name is Iane. She can't read, is 62 years old and has a testimony that the church is true and can really bless her life. It is pretty cool. She didn't decide quickly though.  It has been more than 4 months that we have been teaching her. She really had to feel that it was all right for her before she would get baptized. She doesn't really understand exactly what it was that Joseph Smith did but she believes he was a prophet so she qualifies. The baptism was quite nice. She was able to enter the pool to get baptized by herself which is pretty amazing because she isn't very good on her feet anymore. But God gives us strength when we need it. I would say it was a miracle how spry she was on the day of her baptism.
She and her family come from very poor circumstances. I am very excited to see the changes that this decision will make in the lives of all her six kids and at least 10 grandchildren (she doesn't remember if she has more or not). It was really quite an honor to teach this woman. She has more faith than some small cities.
Other than that we have just been chugging along. I am pretty excited to be able to continue working in Votuporunga with a different companion which will definitely give a different perspective on the work.
I hope you all have a good week. I love you all! The World Cup is still going if any of you are still wondering and as of the time I am writing this letter, the US is actually still in it, I believe.
Elder Russell



Monday, June 23, 2014

Crazy Stuff Happens When People Get Transferred

So this week is transfers and I ... am staying in Votuporanga! But Elder De Oliveira is leaving. However, he is staying close by. Actually, he is leaving to become my Zone Leader. It’s funny how stuff happens. Sadly for him, a woman that we have been teaching for four months decided that she wants to get baptized next Saturday. I guess he needed to leave for her to get baptized. But her story is a happy one for those people who are serving or served a mission and believe that members (other Mormons) never help the missionaries. She is a woman of age that lives a good distance from the church. A family that lives close to her picks her up every Sunday for Church. And now, since her family is of limited means, so to speak, that branch is going to do a service project to remodel her daughter's house. I am very happy for her decision to be baptized. 
In other news, the church continues to grow in this region. If Votuporanga continues to have good attendance in church meetings, it will become a ward this year and the Rio Preto Stake (which Votuporanga is part of) will divide this year, as well, if every thing keeps going as it is. The mission is growing too. We have hit almost 200 missionaries now. A lot of wards have two or three companionships in them. This area is just getting bigger and bigger, at least as far as the church is concerned.
It was a good week.  The World Cup continues, but I only know what the people are saying in that department so it is kind of weird. I hope all of you are having a good week as well. I love you all!


Elder Russell

Monday, June 16, 2014

A Different Idea of an Appropriate Use of Public Funds

         
My District with Votuporanga in the Background
        So since the Votuporanga Branch is basically the last stop of the church in this neck of the woods, all the members that live in cities beyond it are also in the branch. One of these members lives in a small town called Turmalina. When I say small I really mean small. The city is roughly a catholic church (because regardless of size, every city has a catholic church here) and about a four by four grid of streets surrounding it.
  This member is an elected official in this town so obviously he knows everybody who lives there. So he distributed 100 copies of the Book of Mormon to the people he knew. Then this Saturday we went and visited a bunch of these people and also invited them to come to church the next day because it was branch conference. This invite was a lot easier because this member was able to convince the mayor to allow them to use a city mini-bus free of charge to transport anyone who wanted to go to church.  We obviously had to go meet the mayor to thank her for the support.  I'm not really sure if this is corruption or just a Brazilian idea of an appropriate use of public funds.
The World cup has arrived. And Brazil went a little crazy for the first game since Brazil played.  It was a national holiday and everything was closed. When Brazil scored a goal you could hear the city cheer.  It was kind of crazy. During the game only one car passed in front of our house. Everyone was at home watching. I am sure it will only get more crazy as the Cup goes on and the games get more important. That was the thing that was interesting to me.  Everyone was partying after the game when it was against Croatia and everybody knew that Brazil would win. But a party is a party after all so why not?
I hope you all have a good week. I love you all!
Elder Russell

Monday, June 9, 2014

Short Post to Let You Know I'm Still Alive

Hello everyone. So this week to come will start something very interesting here in Brazil . . . The World Cup. For any American out there who doesn't know, the World Cup is only the biggest sporting competition in the world (perhaps second only to the Summer Olympics) and this year it is here in Brazil!!! The first game is this Thursday. But for us missionaries it is really just an annoyance because we don't watch TV and when Brazil plays we have to stay at home because everybody goes crazy It is safer to be inside, I guess. People have already stopped working and school gets out this week for the World Cup and doesn't start again till it is over. This place likes Soccer.
This week continued to work as normal even with preparations for the Cup going on. I have now been a missionary for more than six months. That’s a quarter of my mission, people! What’s crazy to me is not that that date came but that my mission continued after that.  It’s interesting how the days just keep coming.  I feel like I just got here still, when really I am a good way into this whole thing.
I don't have a whole lot else to say this week. It was a good one. I hope you all are doing well. I hope everything stays normal for you all unless you wanted it to be different and then I hope it changes.  I love you all.


Elder Russell

P.S.  We had stake conference and it was a broadcast from Salt Lake.  Did you know that Richard G. Scott speaks Portuguese?  From his accent he probably speaks Spanish as well because a couple of times during the talk he spoke the wrong language, but I think everybody understood what he meant just the same.

Monday, June 2, 2014

Routine


       So weeks seem to pass very much the same and also very different.  Every week on the mission you basically do the same stuff.  But every week every day is completely different because you are teaching different people. You are doing things different in such a way that the days are never boring (always tiring but never boring); but at the same time very similar, and time seems to pass by rather quickly.  It's beginning to be very difficult for me to count the weeks that I have been on the mission. Only the months are countable now and they are becoming rather numerous as well.  I think it is going well.

      We had a really cool thing happen in the Branch this week. Saturday afternoon Elder De Oliveira and I were stopped by a random car and asked where the chapel was in Votuporanga.  We explained its location and after a minute or two more of conversation the man drove off.  The next day the man showed up at church with his entire extended family. He explained that he had been trying to find his family again for many years after he and his brother had moved away to Northern Brazil. He had finally encountered his father again and two more siblings after many years. None of them were members of the church. It is interesting to think that after finding his family after so many years, the first thing he wanted to do was help them find the gospel. It was so important to him that he travelled all over the state of Sao Paulo picking them all up to bring them to Church. I guess his beliefs are important to him.  I can understand that.
I hope you all have a great week. I love you all!

Elder Russell

Monday, May 26, 2014

Portuspanglish

It is interesting to try and speak to a Chilean in Portuguese. Sometimes it is almost impossible to understand him and he is amazed that the Brazilians understand me (which they usually do at least).  Now that the missionaries here in Votuporanga are much more international, things are definitely more interesting.  It’s funny that Elder Silva (the Chilean) sometimes has problems with things that were never a problem for me. You would think Spanish and Portuguese are basically the same thing but he speaks with a very strong accent. He has a lot of trouble with z's because I guess in Spanish, z's make an s sound. Funny that in English, we have the same sounds for these letters that they have in Portuguese but in Spanish they don't.
But enough language talk. My week was good. We have been working hard to be more concrete when we invite people to do stuff. This week did okay.  As a matter fact, we talked to people and in the first visit they accepted not only to be baptized but were willing to set a date for their baptism. Often times these dates fall through but it is crazy to think that there are people out there that are that ready to accept the Gospel. It was a good testimony of what the Mission President has been saying because it’s been a while that he has said we should do this and I never completely believed it would work as well as it has been. Sometimes we just need to have a little more faith and try stuff out.
My mission is good well. I am almost a quarter of the way done. It is crazy to think that I only get to serve this long three more times.

I hope you all have a good week.  I love you all!

Elder Russell


This is a picture of my district right now. From right to left: Elders De Oliviera, Silva, Sibenichler, and me.

Monday, May 19, 2014

Sick

So this week was rather normal except that I got sick.  I woke up in the early morning on Wednesday vomiting my guts out!  It was a lot of fun.  We called the Mission President's wife who is in charge of missionary health and she told us to go get some medicine and stay in bed for the day, which I did.  By night time I had developed a fever so I got to go to.... The Brazilian Hospital!!!!  But for some reason I haven't been registered in the mission medical plan yet (which seems to me to be a fault in the administration since I've been here 4 months, but whatever) so we got to go to the free hospital--which was really a lot better than one might expect!  The doctor (or at least I think he was a doctor, my medical vocabulary is not very well developed in Portuguese) basically just asked me some questions and prescribed antibiotics which, my sister Hannah will be happy to know, I am still taking even though I am better since I still have pills. That was my adventure for the week.
I have a little more to share. When I talked to my parents last week, my Mom asked me what my favorite part of the mission is and I didn't know but I do know now and I would like to share with all of you. My favorite part of the mission is when you get to meet with someone who was recently baptized and confirmed and they testify of the difference the Holy Ghost has made in their life. This has happened to me twice already and if I never baptize another person in my entire mission, it was all worth it for those two people.
I hope you all have a great week! I love you all!


Elder Russell 

Monday, May 12, 2014

Another Baptism

Hello everyone! I was able to talk to my family yesterday and that was nice.  I haven’t missed them as much as I thought I might, but it was nice to see them just the same and I think they enjoyed it. This week was pretty slow but I have a great story to tell so I will just do the story and not bother with the other stuff because not much else happened anyway.
We got to baptize somebody this week! And he must be more than usually important because there were a lot of miracles along the way.  His name is Bruno. The missionaries first found him last summer (you guy’s summer that is). His brother was baptized soon after but he wasn't because he said he didn't know that the church was true so he didn't want to be baptized. He had stopped going to church (his brother too) and wasn't really doing much so soon after we got here, we decided to stop teaching him.
About a month later we went to visit his brother Ralph who is a member since he wasn't coming to church. Ralph wasn't there but Bruno was so we decided to at least share a short message with him, basically so the visit wouldn't be completely wasted.  We said an opening prayer and immediately after that he said, "I prayed and received an answer that the Book of Mormon is true."  I have already taught a good number of people and even baptized a few but to this day, I have never heard an investigator bear a testimony of the Book of Mormon as he did with this simple sentence.
Unfortunately that was almost three months ago and he was leaving to go to college in another city. We were hoping that he would find the missionaries there but there wasn't much we could do about it, or so we thought. About a month and a half later we decided to go visit Ralph again, basically because it was a vacation day and nobody was at home to visit.  It turned out that Bruno had returned for the vacation. So we talked to him again and he said that it was probable that there would be a strike at his College (which is crazy common here in Brazil). Two weeks later he returned home because he had decided to just go to college in Votuporanga.
About a month later (and after more teaching because he wasn't just going to do something he didn't understand) he was baptized.  I am very grateful that I had the pleasure to teach and baptize such an amazing person. His mother and sister do not support his decision to be baptized but he did it anyway because he knew what was right and what was true.  He was baptized Friday and confirmed Sunday.
It was a good week. I hope you all have a good week as well. I love you all!

Elder Russell


The pictures: One is the baptism and the other is us with a bunch of members.