Friday, November 28, 2014

Week 3 in Brazil

Brazil doesn't celebrate Thanksgiving the way we do, but we had some great food in the CTM here! We had mile high ice-cream bowls that (to be fair) were decimated in about 30 minutes to small blocks of ice cream by the Brazilians. That was a well taken meal by those of us from the states.

I'm ready to leave the CTM to teach the gospel ... talking to people about the weather, what I like to do, how to get to the church on time, and about that odd mole on someone's foot—yeah, about that ... Pray for me that I can get the gift of tongues; specifically; pray that I'll be able to learn how to use the grammar and conjugations.

My last week isn't over yet; I'll record it when it's done. But, here's what I will say about my experience here: the Spirit is awesome, I wish I could say that my stay here has been nothing but flowers and sunshine, but I'd be lying. I have had moments where I'm trying to be productive only to be interrupted by an Irmao or Irma [Brother or Sister] here and completely try to change my line of work ... distracting. Other than that, my district is great, my companion is awesome, and I'm happy. My observations are like this: in the CTM, bliss and equality. Just over the pointy fence and large bodyguard guys, literal chaos on the streets (driving, even in a bus is a nightmare, forget traffic jams in the states! They have nothing on this place). Poverty is so total, beds are literally what line the sidewalks, and yes, people do use them.

Elder Bednar (yep, Mom, one of your favorites) did a Live Feed from a Provo devotional to the 6 MTCs that were awake at the time, and had a question and answer session. How? VIA PHONES AND EMAIL!!! I forgot what phones looked like! No, but what was so cool is I got some great insight about the nature of the gospel, God, and science that I never would have gotten if I didn't come here now. I also found out that the only reason for the age change was to line up with the rest of the world, as the [age] 18 for young men was already a thing in Korea, Mexico, and a few other places. I got one of my questions answered, and he didn't even read it off his tablet, how? He said something that was so profound that I had to write it: "When we designate the Spirit to be the teacher, He can speak to the hearts of all men and tell them things that we don't say." The Spirit is the teacher. Not you, not me, we are instruments that open our mouths and he speaks through us. I wish I could have recorded the whole thing, but I only got what the Spirit said to me personally. There were some profound questions, and some profound answers.

Elder Smith

Friday, November 21, 2014

Week 2 at Brazil CTM

The food is much better, but every breakfast we have cream-of-mystery. It's really good but only God and the people who made it know what's in it! 

I'm the District leader at the moment, and I cannot tell you how stressful that is! I'm trying to learn just as much as I can and still keep order in the room when we're on personal study time. Other than that, I'm doing really well at learning the language, but I'm really struggling with it because of the odd rules that don't exist in English. For example, em+ o osso= no osso. AHHH! where did the "n" come from?  (Please send a prayer for me learning the language!)

My experience here is 6:30 get up, get ready, 8:00 personal study in the sala de aula (class room) 9:45 dejejum (breakfast of pinine, cream of mystery and hot chocolet!) and after that study and teach an "investigator" (our teacher for that hour) study with companion, Lunch, repeat previous 2 steps, Dinner, actividade fisica (I don't need to explain that I hope), shower, planning for the next day, lanche (snack which as a district we decided not to bless it because, just like manna, it's a miracle!) and then we get ready for bed and must be quiet and luz off at 2230 (Everything here is military time). 

The temperature never falls below 65 F or rather the Celsius I don't know ... sorry. For fun, how many stories are there when the top floor says 6 in Brazil? I'll answer at the end.

I actually go to two [temples], and we don't know which one we go to until we get on the bus. [The other one outside of Sao Paulo is] Campinas [link to temple info], which is a hour and a half- two hour drive and is absolutely beautiful!! I wish I could send pictures of the interior! and Sao Paulo, which I love just as much! If we ever take a vacation here, we have to go to both! And I'm trying to do the sessions in Portuguese (speaking, not listening yet!) I had a real culture shock when I got in the bus and saw trash on the ground everywhere, people with make-shift-beds on the sidewalk, and vendors sitting with blankets on the grass. The poverty here is unreal. Almost everything is a first-world aplience with third-world economy.

I'm happy, I'm healthy, having fun, and [I'm getting] a really big support from D&C 31 at the moment. Love you all!

The answer is 7 floors.

NOTE: For anyone wanting to send a letter to Joel, he leaves the CTM on December 2, so it's too late to send a letter to him at the "Brazil MTC" address at this point, since it takes two weeks to arrive. You can use the mission home address now.

Friday, November 14, 2014

Week 1 in the Brazil CTM

The CTM is great down here. It was moist the first day, and all things that could have happened to make me feel like I was out of the states did! The food here is actually better than the food at the Provo MTC because if they mess up cooking it's on the dark side... or burnt, if you prefer. 

I'm back to feeling healthy again and everything wrong with my hand has been removed. I'm learning that being a missionary is a lot more than knowing the information and knowing how to speak the language: you have to FEEL what the investigator needs to know!

In the week I've been here, I've been out shopping (Yes, Mom, I've been on the streets of Sao Paulo), taught almost 10 lessons to our teachers/ investigators in the CTM and 4 other lessons (to members visiting the CTM). My teachers are so great. Ermao Talvarez is so full of energy, and he will not speak English at all. He will bonk your forehead if you are late and is really enthusiastic about baptizing "TODOS PESOAS EM BRAZIL!!" (“all people,” for you just learning :)). The [group] picture you got was of all the new arrivals, and the one of me, Elder Taylor and the other guys was taken across the street from the CTM [at a] fun, little place with American foods ... and a crazy shopkeeper. 

OK, let me explain, in the CTM or MTC you cannot upload images onto or off of the computer because the storage ports have been encrypted, so you can't use them. Period. I'd love to send photos, but the only people with permission to do that is the higher up (also known as the "responsible missionary couples"). 

In the CTM there were almost a thousand [missionaries] the day we got here, but today, we’re at about half of that. People have to get to the field sometime! I actually don't know if I know that number. ... 

What you said about the language is actually what I've gotten from almost every RM I've talked to since I've entered the MTC in Provo—in 3-8 months, the language comes. 

Elder Taylor is still my companion. He's from nowhere other than Pocatello, Idaho ;) and he's so great! He's not really a talker, but he knows his stuff and is great at doing the work. 

Okay, [I have] no allergies, the bugs aren't bad ... yet, and the problem I'm having here that I didn't know I would be is the sisters! For whatever reason, when I show up [and] a conversation has been going on with the district and the sisters for a while, suddenly the sisters are focusing on none other than yours truly. Por Que? 

I've been in the main part of Sao Paulo and placed four books of Mormon with our district. That was a ton of fun, but don't go down any old subway stairs—there's an example of public waste I didn't need to know about. [It’s] fun when you hardly know the language to try to tell people about a book that they think is the Bible. That's all I have time for right now; I'll write and send letters home, don't worry! Love you all!

Friday, November 7, 2014

First P-Day in Brazil

OI from CTM in BRAZIL!!! okay, story time! after we landed and went through customs, we got on a bus that brought us to the CTM, which even though was only a half hour from the airport, it took an hour to get here due to traffic. And what traffic it was! You couldn't put another car on the road without the guardrails breaking! But, as is the case with all over populated [places], you have the scooters and motorbikes using the "lane" between the cars to get to their destinations. And it was raining! I honestly thought I was going to watch a bike slip and then a car hit the rider! And for Dad, we got to see an ambulance get swallowed with traffic. The same process that applies to how food moves down the throat applies to traffic here with emergency vehicles. 

I wish I could send digital images from here, but I can't. So I hope to print and send some snail mail soon. Crowded has a whole different meaning here. There are no yards, no allies (that aren't blocked by razor wired gates) and the buildings are almost all sharing a wall. And the garage? Oh yeah! Use the space between the gate and the front door, no problem. (the cars are all FIAT style, it's okay!) This place is awesome. ...

I'm learning the language... slowly. I wish I was quicker; everyone is so nice about me trying, but it takes me the amount of time to get a point across that it would take to learn a musical instrument! It's a little trying, but God willing, I hope to understand eventually. I went to the Temple today (P-day!!!) and was really amused to occasionally take off my head set and watch the new session video with the words not matching the mouth movements (English-Portuguese is great! It's twice as bad as English-Japanese!) 

Okay, I have jet lag, and the humidity and the change in air pressure made my nose bleed for a while and just about made me pass out, but besides that I'm mostly healthy. I hope you're all well, take care of each other ...  Love you!

Thursday, November 6, 2014

Elder Smith made it to Brazil!

We received a brief note from Joel Wednesday morning saying he had arrived in Sao Paulo.

On Thursday, we received a letter and a group photo from the Brazil MTC president and his wife. For those of you who want to communicate with Elder Smith, take note of the follow instructions from the MTC president:

PlEASE DO not send packages to the Brazil Missionary Training Center. All packages must be sent directly to the mission where your missionary will be serving not the MTC. If you have already mailed a package to the Brazil MTC, please understand that the package cannot be forwarded to his or her mission and will be returned to you.

WE Strongly eNCOURAGE sENDING HAND WRITTEN LETTERS. Please write your missionary´s first and last name. Your missionary will provide you with his district and box number. 

Also, please DO NOT SEND ANYTHING BY FEDEX, DHL, UPS, or other private carriers.  The cost to process this type of correspondence is exorbitant.