Monday, November 24, 2014

From São Paulo MTC to Uruguaiana, his first area


Great Week!

Dear family and friends,
So I promised to send you guys some fotos this week, because I had some weeks of making up to do. It took a lot of time, so I will try to make this a good letter, despite its shortness. I have everything written down in my caderninho (notebook), so I will not forget to write about them next week. Last week, I had forgotten to mention the most important part of my letter, that being that the people here in Uruguaiana are AWESOME!!! :) They are, by American standards, very third world, and very poor. Our apartment, by American standards, is very small, and fairly homely. It’s beaten down, and a lot of the stuff doesn’t work. But by Uruguaianian standards, we've got the best spot in town. The homes here are the size of an average American toolshed, just not as nice. I sent a couple of fotos showing what an average house on the outskirts of town looks like. (Good luck finding them, mom and dad, because they are buried in a gigantic pile of foto mess. I sent them sort of in order, with some exceptions, chronologically by emails entitled Fotos, mais fotos, mais fotos ainda, mais, and sim, ainda mais.) Anyways, they have very little, but they all seem like they have everything they could possibly want. The kids play soccer with volleyballs, because soccer balls are more expensive. When they bust, they just stuff them with garbage and duct tape them together so they can play more. The missionaries are like kings to them. Everyone, recent converts, less actives, and nonmembers alike, love to have us sit down and talk to them about the gospel. Oftentimes, they will just have us read scriptures to them because a lot of them cannot read. But the people here understand the importance of the Holy Scriptures, so they love to have us read to them. Because of this overwhelming love for the missionaries, we don’t really "tract" that often, because our schedule is always full. But when we do, we don't really have to clap houses, because everyone spends all of their time outside, anyways, because inside the house is very claustrophobic. So most of the time, we'll just find people outside on a lawn chair, sipping their chimarrão. Oh, speaking of which, we don’t have that many people that we have to coach the word of wisdom to, because no one really drinks coffee here. EVERYONE and I mean EVERYONE, drinks chimarrão. It’s like a sort of tea (that isn’t against the word of wisdom) that seems to be some sort of a status symbol. If you're a REAL southerner, you drink chimarrão. So everyone, except the native Cherokee, drinks this stuff. And there are no Cherokee here, so there is no exception. So we can just walk up to anyone in town, say hello, ask how they're doing, to which they will respond "Muito bem, pelo graça de Deus" (very well, thanks to God), and we begin our lesson.
And, unfortunately, I end my email. Enjoy the pics, I love you all!

-Elder Wassom

Monday, November 17, 2014

Elder Wassom and his new companion, Elder Molina

Bom Dia de Uruguaiana!‏

Hey friends and family,
     Please pardon me for again, the lack of photos. I was in a frenzy this morning and forgot to bring it along. First off, I have WAY more time to write you guys than I did in the CTM, so expect some good letters! I say this, so I have to commit to sending good letters instead of slacking off. 
     OKAY. So as the name implies, I am in a town called Uruguaiana. It is on the FAR west side of Rio Grande do Sul. The town actually holds 200,000 people. The inner city is rather big, with tall buildings and houses made of bricks and stuff. The outskirts are more of a poor, farming community. Lucky for me and Elder Molina (my new comp), we get to work in the outskirts. In fact, our area borders the Uruguai River. This means, I can actually see Argentina very clearly from my apartment.
     I will try to write this letter in somewhat of a chronological fashion, because I have SO, SO, SOOO much to tell you guys! Gosh, I am so excited for yall to read this letter. Okay, so first off, back at the MTC, our district sang that version of ‘Abide With Me, Tis Eventide’, with the a cap verse that I arranged, in the MTC devotional on last Sunday. It was incredible. It was funny too, because in the MTC, all the sisters sit up front. So we kept looking up to a bunch of bawling faces while we were singing. It really was really good. In fact, both the Mission President and his wife were crying, too. I am going to miss that group of guys. We also talked President Swenson into letting us record the song afterwards, and so I have a recording on my camera. The recording does not do it NEARLY the amount of justice it deserved, so yall will have to have faith that it actually was good. That is, when I remember to bring my camera. Next week, I promise.
On Tuesday, I took an early morning flight down to Porto Alegre, then a little tiny propeller plane down to Santa Maria. I arrived, dropped our stuff off with the assistants, and took off to the Mission Home in Santa Maria. The first thing Presidente and Sister Parrela did was they took us to the roof of the house, and had us overlook the valley. This was an incredible experience. It was so beautiful, and yet, so familiar. I really had a confirmation that THIS is the place that I need to be.
     Afterward, they took us inside, and, (mom, you’re gonna like this), gave us a 3-hour talk on how to stay healthy. What to eat. What not to eat. When to eat. How to eat. Where to eat. Where not to eat. And, yes. Even why we eat. And other hygiene stuff.
     WHICH REMINDS ME. There is a reason why the "b´day" is nowhere to be found in America. Make sure that the United States does not lose sight of that reason by the time I return. PLEASE. I BEG OF YOU.
     So anyways, I am well watched over. I am now a health pro. And I look more like one, too. I’ve trimmed up quite a bit.
     After all that jazz, Presidente treated all the newcomers to a churrascaria. I was so excited, as I had never had churrasco before. Lesson learned: please understand what the waiters are bringing out to you before you tell them to put it on your plate. I could have had ANYTHING my heart desired in that place. Chicken, steak, pork... my first dinner in Santa Maria was Chicken Hearts, people. Check to see what it is first. It actually wasn’t that bad, but I could’ve enjoyed a nice steak over that.
     We head to a hotel for the night. My roommate was a Brasileiro, so I could start up a basic conversation with him about his home, about his family. I had a little bit harder of a time explaining that I had accidentally locked myself in the bathroom and the handle came off. So I was shouting all the Portuguese I knew how to yell, such as "door is closed! Broken! I am here" and my roommate was yelling in Danish, I think, so it took a good 20 minutes to get me out of there.
     After a decent nights rest, I repacked my bags, headed out to a meeting, met my companion, and took a 7 hour bus ride over to Uruguaiana. My comp is really awesome. Like, really. He works hard, he’s fun, likes to follow the rules. He also walks as fast as humanly possible, like Elder Reis was for my dad. Even though he is only 5'5, it is hard to keep up with him. We get to Uruguaiana, unpack our stuff, and head out to André's house. Andre is a man, lives a simple life, and he was going to be baptized last Saturday, but he got sick, so next Saturday he will be baptized. Lesson Learned: Humility. I did not speak Portuguese as well as I had thought. Like, really. I could speak decently, but I did not understand him at all. Down in the south they have an accent "como um gaucho." Dad, imagine Portuguese WITH the tu and vos form, without the letter s, and "de" and "te" are actually pronounced as "de" and "te" instead of "djee" and "tchee" as I had learned in the MTC. So that was humbling.
     Here in the outskirts of Uruguaiana, cats, dogs, pigs, chickens, and even horses roam the streets, in great number, none of which have been fixed. Which cause for the wild animals to increase in number.  (I can’t call them streets, because there are very few that are actually paved... many people, such as André, live off the trail of the train tracks)
     Presidente Parrela gave us all a pillow, which he called "travesseiro de lagrimas" or "pillow of tears", for the nights when we can’t take it anymore, we can cry it out. This was the one time President was wrong. When you hit your pillow, you are so exhausted that you don’t have time to cry. You are out cold. The only time I almost used it was when I had a Hamburger that everyone said was as close as you could get to American. It just... no. Sorry. I want a real burger.
     Everything that dad told me about Brasil was pretty accurate. I have seen 9 year olds with pacifiers. Mothers here don’t hide themselves while nursing, even in Sacrament Meeting. The drivers here are terrible, and there are no controlled crosswalks.
     There is a lady that Mom would LOVE. That means she is about 70 years old and loves to talk. Her name is Irmã Delmaci. We were talking to her one day in a lesson, when she looks off into the distance and says "it’s ready." She promptly gets up, runs to a tall melon tree, and, with her 70 year old body, climbs the tree like in those jungle book movies, picks the melon, climbs back down, and gives it to us. It made me smile inside.
      There is a rapaz named Edivã, but we call him popó. He is 12. President Parrela told us that because of our focus on families, a youth must wait through 3 months of investigation before getting baptized, if their family is not a member. No problem for popó. In fact, a month in, he invites all of his fútbol friends to take the lessons, and in two months later, he was baptized, one month later, all of his friends were baptized, and now make up our young men’s group. Except one. His name is German, and we are working with him now. He´s the youngest of the group, he’s just a rapaz of 11, but he is progressing well. We hope he will be baptized on Saturday with André. We were heading over there, to teach him, and his mother wanted to listen in, too. So we taught her the first lesson, gave her a Book of Mormon, and we have another investigator.
     I have no doubt that this was because of a special fast we had on Saturday to Sunday, which was for Sao Paulo to get rain. But I prayed for the Gift of Tongues, and investigators as well. It was the hardest fast I had ever done, because as hard as we walk, (and as FAST as we walk, goodness) It was very hard to go without water. But this fast was by far the best working. I haven’t heard anything about São Paulo, but the success boomed yesterday. For instance, Germans mom, and also, we felt very impressed to visit a contact that was given to us by a member. Like, very impressed. So, we take off to the house, and clap at the gate (we clap, instead of knocking). A lady walks out. We asked her if she was Patricia, she said no. We asked if a Patricia lived there, and she said no. So we said to ourselves "we usually don’t 'tract' because we have so many appointments, but lets try" and we asked her if she’d like to listen to our message. She said yes. So we taught her the first lesson, gave her a Book of Mormon, committed her to baptism, to which she accepted, and we’ve got it planned for December. Pretty awesome. Stuff like that happens with the spirit.
     I still have stuff to tell you guys, I have it written down so I can tell you next week, as I have run out of time. I never resolved my "I can’t speak Portuguese" story, so It suffices me to say that through the grace of God, my Portuguese has improved greatly, and I can talk to the people here. More stories and miracles on that next week. Anyway, love you guys, until next week,

     E. Wassom

Friday, November 7, 2014

Last Week At The MTC!!!

Dear Family and Friends,
     This week was super cool and spiritual and what not. I was reading in John 17, and I found myself just engulfed in how extremely selfless the Savior is. That is a very powerful chapter of scripture. In all, I'd say that this week was rather normal, nothing particularly new happened, so I will try to make this one as interesting as possible.
     First off, yesterday, we had President Swenson visit our sala de aula (classroom) unexpectedly, looking for Elder Smith. Once we had informed him that Elder Smith was teaching a lesson, he exclaimed, "really? So no one is headed to Santa Maria in here?"  To which Elder Lang and I responded that that was where I was heading. He then announced that President and Sister Parrela had come to visit us. So they came in, greeted us very warmly, and talked a little bit about life, and the mission. I then noticed that Elder Lang and Elder Stanbury had been using the whiteboard to do a big physics problem for the last 45 minutes (instead of studying). So Elder Lang and I positioned ourselves very carefully as to block the whiteboard from President’s view. Luckily, we were both far taller than he was, so "Operation Block-the-board-to-avoid-looking-like-slackers-and/or-nerds" was a complete success. They seem like VERY awesome people, and it makes me very happy and excited to serve under them, starting Tuesday.
     Oh, yeah. I head out on the field on Tuesday. That seems very unreal to me, there is no way that I have been gone for a month and a half. What Blake said could not be more accurate. The days are long, the weeks are short. Doesn’t make sense, but extremely true. I still have no idea how I am to get there. Well, I guess I have an IDEA, I think I’m taking a plane. But I have heard nothing about it, so don’t be surprised to hear otherwise next week. I´m so excited, yall. I feel very ready. I’m excited to see who my new companion will be. I’m excited to preach the good news to anyone and everyone. I am so excited.
     As a new Portuguese speaker, I’m sure you are wondering about if I have had any bad Portuguese mess-ups. I have, but not nearly as bad as some of my district members. So I’m gonna share those. So I was eating dinner, and instead of saying, "opa, este é um colher pequeno" (wow, this is a very small spoon), I said, "opa, este é um COELHO pequeno" (wow, this is a very small bunny rabbit). So not terrible. Elder Blocker was called upon to say the opening prayer in the devotional with the whole CTM. He meant to start with "o nosso amoroso pai celestial" (o loving heavenly father) but he said, "o nosso almoço pai celestial" (o heavenly father of lunchtime). Some brasileiros had a hoot about that. My personal favorite, was in a lesson, Elder Stanbury meant to tell our investigators that if you follow the law of chastity, that "vocês vão sentir melhores por todo eternidade" (you will feel better for all eternity), but he said "vocês vão sentir mulheres por todo eternidade" (you will feel women for all eternity).
     We are all in good company. Those are the three that come to mind immediately, but I will share more if they come to mind.
     On Sunday, we had our fast Sunday. Practically all of us fasted for rain, as São Paulo was at 5% capacity in their lakes. That’s absurdly low. Anyways, about 5 hours in to our fast, the rain came. And it didn’t stop for 4 days. So yeah. Power of the fast, people.
     I will talk to you guys a little about the meal schedule. We have Panini’s in the morning, we have rice and beans at lunch, and we have rice and beans for dinner. The lunches here are bigger than the dinners. I like the schedule a bit more than in the states. But when it comes around 9 pm, we are all starving. So we have something called "launche" which means, snack, or dessert. Let me tell you of this concept. NEVER HAS MEDIOCRITY BEEN SO LOVED by a group of young men. Sincerely, it consists of a juice box (everyone hopes they get apple, because it gives them weird dreams), a thing of saltine crackers without the salt (we just put that in our makeshift birdfeeder out the window) (the instructors still don’t know about that), and a little muffin thing, that we all call a "dirt cake", because it tastes like dirt. But for some reason, we all look forward to it every day.
     Love you guys, can’t wait to talk to you next week!
     Until then,

     E. Wassom

Saturday, November 1, 2014

A Big Week of Stuffs

October 31, 2014
Happy Halloween!
Alrighty, this week was another awesome week. I feel like I am so ready to tackle Santa Maria. My language has still got some room for improvement, but I can definitely get through talking to people, as I found out on our proselyting day, on our P-days, and talking to brasileiros in the hallways! Oh, and we've got new roommates. One is from Santos, Brasil, and the other is from Paraguay. They arrived yesterday, and they are super cool. They like talking to us, and we like talking to them, because that makes our language better.
 So I had a pretty busy week. I have a lot on this list of stuff that I want to talk about, and I hope I can get through it all.
I’m going to start off with some stuff that I seemed to forget the first couple of weeks. First we have this lady named Irmã Sonya. She makes her business doing underground trading for the missionaries. Like, really. You need anything? Get with Sonya on your P-Day, and she´ll hook you up. It’s awesome. She also has a very nice collection of ties... for cheap... and I like it :) she has everything we seem to need. Oil vials, Uno cards, things of the miscellaneous missionary sort.
Ok, so I learned how to make a super cool paper airplane, and it makes me excited. I don’t know why I wrote that on the list of things to write home about.
Ok. Big thing I missed the first few weeks. Have I been using my music skills much at the MTC? YES! I still always carry around my pitch pipe wherever I go. Elder George, Elder Paulson and Elder Burt all sing pretty well, so we like to sing together. I lead the music pretty much every time a hymn is sung. Irmao Galarza (one of our instructors, super cool from Argentina) calls me the designated chorister of the MTC. One time, the Branch president felt badly that I led every week, so he called on Elder Cook (same branch, different district) to lead. Before I get to that, I have to remind yall that for some reason, seemingly all the missionaries in my branch are really tall. I am, like, one of the shortest. Anyways, almost everyone is super tall, like 6 foot 3, except Elder Cook. He’s like 5 foot. So he gets up to lead Chamado A Servir, and he asks everyone to stand. He then realized that no one could then see him, so he had to ask everyone to sit back down. It was super funny.
Anyways, so with my musical background, I was asked to lead the district in a song to perform for our last Sunday in the MTC. So what do I do? I use my free time to compose my own rendition of Abide with me tis eventide. And, not to pat myself on the back, but it’s really beautiful. I’m proud of how it sounds. I then realized that not too many brazileiros get to sing in our Sunday devotionals, because they’re only there for two weeks. So I asked them to join us :)
So I can now talk about yesterday. Our head of education, Irmao Dias, came in looking for me. Apparently, Presidente Parrela didn’t know that I had arrived. So Bro. Dias was just here to check to see if I was here at the Brasil MTC. I am still here, as was my report to Irmao Dias. So he wrote Pres. Parrela back saying "yes, he is here, we know him very well. He is the one that sings very well." I tried to get Irmao Dias to brown nose a little for me, but we decided against it, lol.
So Elder George, our new district leader, is super cool. He has an unusual sense of Idaho pride. He has a potato tie pin. Another thing that I’m not sure about is how it made it on the list.
We had a local 70 speak to us on Tuesday. He looked like a (in moms words) cute little man when he walked in the assembly hall. But that man was as energetic as I’ve ever seen. He was like a game show host! He felt really intimidated at first, because on Tuesday, ALL of the Brasileiros headed out to the field. So everyone was either white or Hispanic :) He was afraid that no one would understand him, but once he realized that we understood him just fine, he really opened up. Like, REALLY. He spoke very loudly, and it was a good talk to get us motivated for the field. I’ve never seen anyone jump up and down and/or throw stuff from the podium before. This guy was... very... involved.
There’s an ongoing joke over here at the MTC that the apple juice gives you really weird dreams.
Every time we wash our clothes, me and Elder Lang find a blue sock in our finished laundry basket. Neither of us own blue socks. It is a very bizarre mystery.
Yesterday morning, there were eggs for desjejum (breakfast).  As in 4th nefi (Nephi), never were there a happier group of people than the American missionaries on that blessed morning. We are all really tired of Panini’s. We keep trying to make them different, but it just doesn’t make me happy like it did previously.
We went to the police office yesterday. We got ourselves registered for the country and stuff like that. It was perhaps even worse than the government buildings in the US. We got there at 7. We left at 1. It was very boring.
I have a testimony of Jesus Christ and His Atonement.
Well, until Next week,
Elder Wassom