Monday, April 2, 2012

Christmas in the Mission

 Welcome to the Mission Home at Christmas time.  

Being crazy for Christmas as we are, Curt had to bring a few of his Christmas Village pieces with us in the mission, and I had to bring a few nativities.  It is a little lonely here with-out our family, but we have lots of friends and missionaries that we can share our Christmas with.
These are our wonderful counselors in the Mission Presidency, Kenjiro Yamasaki, and Angela & Caio Asconavieta.  

Kenjiro came to Brazil in his early 20's not knowing any Portuguese - just feeling driven to come.  After several years he was baptized, married and raised his family in Porto Alegre.  He is one of the pioneers here in this area.  Ciao's family joined the church when he was a child.  He and all of his family are wonderful leaders here as well.  Ciao is now serving as a Bishop (for the second time)  One of his brothers is an Area Seventy, and another a Stake President in Pelotas.

We are having some better success in our mission recently because of the focus we are putting on the key indicators of conversion, (lessons, contacts, references etc) and because of two wonderful assistants we had.  Elder Kuceki and Elder Rogers knew that they had to set the example for the other missionaries to follow.  They set a goal to baptize two men and a family in the month of November, and they made it.  Here we are at the Baptism they held for 6 people:  Regina (a grandmother raising 5 grandchildren) Elder Kuceki, Valerio, Elder Rogers, José, Leonardo, João Pedro, and Uri.

These 3 young boys were very special.  They were outgoing, polite and friendly.  Curt was very impressed by them and could imagine them 10 years from now dressed like missionaries.  I had a good chuckle though as their Bishop was talking to them about what would happen the next Sunday . . . "Tonight you have received the Baptism of water, and next Sunday you will receive the baptism of FIRE!"  Uri's eyes go really big and he started talking pretty quickly with Elder Kuceki to figure out this fire thing.  The week of these baptisms we had a record of 41 baptisms in the mission in one week.  That is the most we have had since we have been here.  Our missionaries are working hard right now to have some baptisms for Christmas.  Curt and I met a wonderful family of 6 in a near-by Branch that are planning a wedding on December 22 and Baptisms on December 23.  The Branch members are so excited.  Good things are happening.

Our Mission Secretary, Elder Geovani actually found Valeriano.  It is hard for our secretaries to get out and work, but they were determined to get in their 10 contacts per day, even if that day begins a 6:00PM.  Elder Geovani spoke to Valeriano just outside of the chapel gate by our mission office.  Valeriano said I'm sorry I don't have time to talk to you right now.  So Elder Geovani said, "come to church tomorrow, it starts at 9:00AM"  When the Elders arrived at church the next day, Valeriano was there in sitting in the gospel essentials class.  When the teacher asked everyone to introduce themselves Valeriano said his name and then he simply pointed to Elder Geovani, and said "He invited me to come today."

 Here are two of our other Secretaries Elder de Almeida and Elder Mollerup with three wonderful children that they baptized at Christmastime.  When we first came to the mission I was quite concerned about the number of children who are baptized with-out their parents.  But after 2+ years of serving here, I have seen that most often it is the desires and motivation of the children that most often bring the parents into the church.  We are still waiting for Mom and Dad to be married so that they can be baptized.

 Every six weeks we say good-bye to Elders and Sisters who have completed their missions.  Sister Modesto said to me.  Sister Swenson, it is hard to go home, my body is tired and worn out and ready to go home, but my heart wants to stay.  You could tell how much Sister Modesto loved the people she served, because they loved her back.  On our transfer day we meet at the Bus Station at 2:30 pm. with the missionaries who are moving to new areas, completing their missions. Sister Modesto had more members and investigators show up at the Bus Station to say goodbye to her than any other missionary that I have witnessed.  She truly learned how to love the people.

This is a beautiful tree at our Mission Office that blooms at Christmas time.  It is called flamboyant.  I think the blossoms are just gorgeous.

I also loved this window grate and house color combination, its very Christmassy don't you think?

Our hungry missionaries waiting in line outside of our favorite Restaurant "Cheiro Verde"  for our Christmas Zone Conference Lunch.

 A few days before Christmas we always have to take a final Santa Claus run down to the south part of our mission, to deliver the late arriving Christmas packages.

Ma in her kerchief. And I in my cap, Had just settled down. To a long winter's nap . . . . . . 

Thursday, October 27, 2011

Girl Power

A great thing that we were able to do in October was arrange a special "division" with the Sister missionaries in our mission.  As a general rule, Elders have a division every 6 weeks or sometimes more often, where they trade companions and learn from working with someone new.  There are so few Sister missionaries in our mission, that they hardly get to see one another, so we decided to arrange a "division" in each half of the mission for all of the sisters.  They were thrilled to be together.  You can see from the photos that they had a wonderful time.

Left to right:  Sisters do Rosário, Conde, Campos, Souza, Fasterra, Silva, Kersh, Modesto, Azevedo, Michael Sister and President Swenson.

Here the Sisters in Pelotas are having lunch with President Francisco Asconavieta (First Counselor in the Mission Presidency.) and his wife Angela. From Left to right:  Sister Vicente, Barreto, Negreiros, Daniele, President and Sister Asconavieta, Sister Withers, Almeida, dos Anjos, and Gregory.

Some of the Sisters are having a HUGE impact on the work here in our mission.  They are showing the other missionaries how to have 20-30 lessons a week, they are showing them how to baptize.  In the month of October, Sister Barreto and Sister Withers helped with the baptisms of 3 families in their ward, Arco Iris (Rainbow). They baptized 11 new members in that month. Now in November Sister Withers with Sister Souza now, are hoping to baptize 2 more families, 8 more people.  Sister Daniele Gregory and Negreiros are doing a fantastic job as well, and will baptize two families here shortly.  We are so grateful for their hard work and examples.  Because of them the other missionaries, especially the Elders are sitting up to take notice.
Hooray for Girl Power!!!!!!!

A day at the zoo

In September Curt and I decided to celebrate our wedding anniversary by going to the Zoo.  The Zoo isn't huge or elaborate, but it was very fun, and we saw some beautiful birds and some interesting monkeys.  There were lions and tigers and capybaras too.  It was fun to walk around on a beautiful sunny day, and also fun to see some new animals that we hadn't heard of . 

Maned Wolf
The most interesting animal to me was the maned wolf. I had never heard of this wolf that looked like a fox on stilts and was very stinky like a skunk. Isn't this world full of interesting animals?  When we were approaching his cage, we thought there must be a skunk nearby. . . . but as we drew nearer we realized it was a smell much worse than a skunk.  We also realized quickly why the Zoo manager arranged for his cage to be on the far edge of the zoo, away from the other animals.

One of their largest collections was several varieties of wild boars. There were at least 6 or 8 different types, but being as I am not a wild boar expert, I really couldn't determine what distinguised them from one another.  

Curt and I enjoyed seeing this Condor as well.  He was quite a lot larger than he appears in this photo.

 About a week before our trip to the Zoo we drove at night to the city of Bagé.  We had quite the wildlife experience driving at night.  We saw, yes you guessed it, (insert drum roll here) after a long 2 year search we sighted a Capybara. HOORAY!!!!!   Then at the zoo the next week, we saw these two cuties.  I just love how the pond is covered with a type of lily, and then when the capybara climbs out of the water he his covered with green. Too cute.

Gray Brocket
We saw lots of other fun wildlife on the side of the road as well
– 2 deer, 4 silver foxes, and a rabbit. 
Crab Eating Fox


On the next afternoonwe sighted 3 Emu (a Brazilian type they call Rhea here.) I was surprised to see them because Bagé is the coldest area of our mission, and it can get down in the 10-20 degree Fahrenheit, I thought Emus were a more warm weather bird. So we felt amply rewarded for our long drive.

Missionary Buddies

I checked in on the blog this week and I realized that I haven't written anything for about 6 months.  OOOOOPS!  I guess we have been busy.  I will try to catch you up on our life here in Brazil.

On July 9th Curt and I were VERY excited to welcome Rich and Marianne Reading, Mark and Belinda Romney to come visit us in the mission.  Rich and Mark are mission buddies of Curt from their mission almost 40 years ago.  They were so happy to return to their mission for the first time, and to be able to show a little bit of Brazil to Marianne and Belinda. 

Since they arrived on a Saturday we took them downtown to see the
Public Market
We stopped by our favorite pet shop on the way to see the beautiful
birds, monkeys, chinchillas etc. 
But the thing Curt liked the most was this boa constrictor. 
He was about ten feet long, and weighed over 50 lbs. 
The owner said he was about 20 years old.
That night we took them to our favorite Churrascaria
Roda de Carreta  (check out the video)
Where they have the show with traditional gaucho folk dancers.  I made sure to seat Rich and Marianne next to the stage so that the
Bolo dancer would invite Marianne up on stage to
get her hair combed by his bolo while it was whirling over 100 miles and hour.
On Sunday we went to church at one of our beautiful new Stake Centers here in Viamão.  In the remodel they used the former church which you can see on the left, and added a huge chapel with cultural hall and stage and even Stake offices on the right.  Things have changed a lot since these boys were holding their meetings in rented houses.
On Sunday afternoon we invited Walter and Ângela Pinto to have lunch with us. Walter was one of only 2 or 3 Brazilian Elders who served here in the mission with Curt, Rich and Mark. Now 70% of our missionaries are Brazilian, which is truly remarkabel change to have in only 40 years.  From left to right: Rich and Marianne, Mark and Belinda, Walter and Ângela, and you know the other two. Walter and Rich were companions on the mission.

On Monday we took a drive up to Gramado and wandered around the town
window shopping and enjoying a gorgeous day. 
Then we drove to the lovely Caracol Parque nearby,
where Curt and I go a couple times of the year to have our walk in nature.
 We stopped in to have an early dinner at one of the restaurants that they call Colonial.  They serve a lot of pastries and meats and cheeses that are very European fare.  When Curt and I stay in hotels as we travel, this is the type of food they have every morning in the restaurants. 
Unfortunately the Temple was closed when our friends came.  We forgot to check the schedule when they booked the trip.  On our last day we took a quick drive to the Temple . . . . it was really rainy, but still wonderful for these returned missionaries to see how the church has grown in Brazil in the last 40 years.
We had a wonderful time Readings and Romneys. 
Thank you so much for coming to visit us on our mission.


We decided after serving for two years here it was about time for us to drive to the far reach of our mission, Jaguarão, which lies on the border with Uruguay.  On October 9th we arranged with the Elders there and in Arroio Grande (Great River), to stop by on the same Sunday for a short visit.  We stopped in Arroio Grande first and met with about 40 members there.  We taught them in their Relief Society and Priesthood meeting about how you can invite someone over  to learn a little more about the church.  Curt is here with two of the future missionaries from the Arroio Grande Branch. Curt likes to take off his missionary tag and put it on the young boys so that they can see how they would look as a missionary.
 This is the front of the house in Arroio Grande which has been converted into a chapel.

 Here we are with the Branch President and his wife, and Elder Higdon and Elder Melo who are currently serving in Jaguarão.  We were able to take a photo with almost all of the members who were attending church that week. 
We went to Jaguarão to their testimony meeting, and shared short testimonies. Afterwards we had interviews with the 4 Elders serving in those areas and even had time for a quick photo at the Border of Uruguay. The church was first preached in Jaguarão by missionaries who crossed the border from Uruguay. They have a nice chapel there and I was surprised when we asked them how many of their ward members had served missions, and there were 5. We finished the Sunday night by giving a Fireside in Rio Grande about how to share the Book of Mormon with a friend
 We are taking turns posing by the border of Uraguay:  Elder Melo, Curt and Elder Higdon.  We couldn't actually go over the border, but it was fun to know that we were close enough to touch it.

 If you cross this bridge you would be in Uraguay.
 Almost every one of these cities has some kind of Statue of a Gaucho.

Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Special People, Incredible Opportunities

On March 5, 2011 we had a wonderful visit from Elder and Sister Camargo, one of our Brasil Area Seventies. Here in this photo you can see Elder and Sister Burnett, from Porto Alegre, who are serving in our mission as housing secretaries (taking care of all the rental contracts for our apartments, and doing inspections now and then.) Next to them Sister and Elder Carmargo. Elder Camargo was the Mission President here from 1997-2000. They moved from the Mission Home (house) that was here for years, into the condo that we are in now. They were taking a little walk down memory lane, remembering the rooms in the condo, and seeing the furniture and remembering some of our neighbors, and the people who still work here. It was the first time that they had been back here since their mission, so it was kind of fun for them.

We held two special Conferences in our mission with the Camargos. Here we are in Porto Alegre with half of our missionaries. One last photo with Elder Skanchy and Elder Hickman, Curt's assistants at that time.

On April 16th, Curt was invited to baptize this wonderful man, Jaci Fernando Machado da Silva. His wife and family are already members of the church. In the month of March our mission held a special fast with all of the Wards and Branches, to be able to receive help in our missionary efforts. The Bishop of the Pineirho Ward felt like Jaci decided to be baptized after the ward members fasted for him. He had been investigating the Church for at least 5 years. Now in a year from now his family will be able to go to the Temple to be sealed for all Eternity.

On April 20th we had a Temple day with the missionaries in the Porto Alegre Area. Who did we run into at the Temple but Curt's good friends from Caxias, João Carlos and Claire (Curt knew them from his first mission). Our son Nick also knows them because he finished his mission in Caxias. Curt, Danielle and I ate a wonderful churrasco (Brazilian Barbeque) at João Carlos and Claire's home when we came to pick Nick up at the end of his mission. This is about the fourth time that Curt has "run into" these friends at the Temple.
On April 24th Curt and I flew up to Campinas (near São Paulo) for our yearly Mission Presidents Seminar. We had 3 wonderful days of learning at the feet of Elder & Sister Neil L. Andersen and Elder Donald L Hallstrom the first 2 days, and then Elder and Sister D. Todd Christofferson joined us at the end of the second day.

We had a nice reunion with the other Presidents/wives that were called in 2009 with us. The Vecchis (Salvador South), Campos (Belem), Parrellas (Belo Horizonte), De Oliveiras (Cuiaba), Moreiras (São Paulo East), Dias (Teresina). The Pavans our neighbors here in Porto Alegre are missing in this photo.
Curt's two mission buddies and their wives will be finishing their missions in June. We will miss seeing them and corresponding with them: President & Sister Chris Jackson, and President & Sister Steve Richardson. They will be living in Utah when we get home, so hopefully we can have some fun reunions then.

Chris Jackson and Curt were companions here in Porto Alegre, and Steve Richardson was in the same group with Curt in the LTM (Language Training Mission) for 5 months while they were waiting for their Visas.

Some more friends who are completing their missions this year, President and Sister Beynon from the Maceio Mission. These are our new neighbors in the Santa Maria mission in our state of Rio Grande do Sul, Presiden & Sister Ribeiro.

Seated here with Elder & Sister Christofferson, are the Mission Presidents/wives from our State of Rio Grande do Sul, the Ribeiros (Santa Maria), Pavans (Porto Alegre North), Christoffersons, and Curt and I (Porto Alegre South).Who ever thought that a little girl from Pullman Washington would have the great blessing of learning from and associating with Apostles of the Living God. What an unbelievable opportunity. I am still pinching myself.

Kathy read a terrific talk and testimony in Portuguese, and her accent was very good. Elder Christofferson was amazing. He spoke with-out notes for more than an hour in Portuguese. He told us that the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles has been studying recently, what it means to "take upon you the name of Jesus Christ". He lead us through the scriptures and taught us in such a powerful way who our Savior is, and what it really means to try to be like Him. It was an experience that I will never forget. At the end he gave all of us an Apostolic blessing upon our families. Our family has already benefited from that Apostolic Blessing.

Here we are with Elder & Sister Andersen, and our wonderful friends, Elder and Sister Christofferson.
In this photo we are standing with our Brazil Area Presidency, Elder & Sister Mazzagardi, Elder & Sister Soares, and Elder & Sister Godoy. Elder and Sister Soares will be moving to Africa where he will be President of the Africa East Area (I think), and Elder Claudio Costa from the Presidency of the Seventy will be coming to Preside over the Brazil Area in June.

While we were in Campinas our wonderful friends Claudio and Cristina Souza, Lucas, Claudinho, and Mateus, came to visit us at the Hotel. They were our very first friends in Porto Alegre, but are living in Campinas now. Claudio was serving as Curt's first Counselor in the Mission Presidency for our first year.

At the end of our seminar we scurried home, excited and anxious, because Elder and Sister Christofferson were scheduled to arrive in two days, to hold a Missionary Conference with the Porto Alegre North and South Missions in the same chapel. Our missionaries from both missions were so excited. First of all this could be the only chance that some of them will ever have to meet and Apostle. Secondly they were excited to have a double mission conference, because that is really unheard of these days, and many of our missionaries have good friends serving missions in the North mission.

Kathy gave a wonderful talk to the missionaries from 2 Kings 4 where Elisha helps an impoverished widow woman by inviting her to find as many vessels that she can, bring them into the house, and they will be filled with oil that she can sell. Kathy taught the missionaries that the Lord is ready to fill your vessels, but you are the one that needs to find and prepare the vessels that you want filled. Some will bring a few, others will bring many, and fill them to overflowing with the blessings of the Lord. Elder Christofferson gave our missionaries wonderful advice and encouragement to continue working diligently, and they would receive the Lord's blessings.

It was such a special experience to have them here with us, even if it was only for one night. It felt like we had family visiting, and it gave us such a big lift and motivation to continue serving as best we can.