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


       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