Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Hey guys,

Well it's another week. I’ll start with responding to some questions. I’m technically still junior... I’m still a little "young" to turn senior, but I really thought Pres was going to let me turn senior. But my comp, Elder Lopes just turned senior this transfer and I’m able to help him a bit. And no, I’m not opening an area, but the last missionary that was here is now home in the U.S and it sounds like they didn’t really work that much. But, I’m trying to invite people to get baptized and mark some dates. My comp was amazed that I asked someone to get baptized after talking with him for only 20 minutes or so....but you just gotta do it. He ended up we'll see how that goes. But it looks like we will have a wedding/baptism this month if everything goes right. I’m working on it....

My comp is from São Paulo--another Brazilian. It's been a while since I’ve had a conversation in English. He’s a nice guy. He’s really trying to be a good senior....With all my comps I usually liked to tell stories about home and stuff. I asked him what he liked to do Saturday nights and he told me he liked to go to institute. That’s pretty much it. I like him though.

So, this area is pretty gnarly. Lots of hills. Lots! We cross rivers, walk across tree trunk bridges, hike up stairs cut out of the side of the hill... it can be a little tiring at times....but it's kinda a cool area.

Our ward split on Sunday. It was a cool experience. The new bishop’s "testimony" seemed more like an Oscar acceptance speech to me than a testimony. My favorite line was: "I’ve been a member of the church 17 years and have only missed church 1 time!" Gotta love it...

So, this has been an interesting last 2 weeks. I’ve had to deal with harder/stranger situations in these past 2 weeks than I have in my mission. Two weeks ago when I was in Porto Velho all of our commitments fell through one day so we ended up visiting a member. Turns out the day before she found out that she would lose her unborn child (she’s pregnant) and ended up telling me about it just the day after. She was rightfully pretty upset about it. This week we visited a less active family and talked to them about going to church. The wife really wants to go to church with all the kids, but her husband just wants to play soccer all Sunday. "Soccer is sacred on Sunday." We talked to another less active family where the wife gets beat by her drunk husband. We went to one of our commitments that was supposed to be with a member family and some of their relatives. But the husband of the member family was at a bar with the father of the relatives. So we went to the bar, convinced them to go back to their house and taught them the Word of Wisdom. And to top it off, we found another inactive family. They went inactive when the father of the family killed the wife’s brother. The wife has since been divorced, but hasn’t been back to church because her old ward pretty much just abandoned her and told her how condemned her husband was. Talk about an easy week! In almost all these circumstances, all I could think was, "what can I say? I’m a 19 year old kid..." But I can honestly say that the Lord really guides missionaries. In all these situations all I did was pray and ask the Lord to tell me what I could tell these people. I ended up saying things in some of these circumstances that I can’t say I could have even planned before the moment. It was a testimony builder to me that the Lord really gave me the words to say in the moment. Hopefully, I was able to help somebody out. But it’s been an interesting week...

Let’s see...what else went down this week... Elder Holland comes on the 20th and 21st. I’m stoked. My zone here is pretty sweet. I’ve got some good friends here and it looks like we'll have some pretty sweet P-days in the future. I’m stoked for general conference this weekend--I need a few hours to just sit down.

Oh yeah. Our house is pretty gnarly....I take my showers outside. I think the water pressure of the shower rivals our sink. And that’s not "your" sink in the U.S, because I KNOW that has more water pressure than the shower here. I’m talking about my sink here in Brazil. I know you guys are jealous....I’ll send a pic sometime.

But, yeah, pretty much just that. Loving life, working hard. Just the life. But hope all is going well with you guys. Until next week. Tchau!

-Elder Eric Stapley

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Terra Nova, Manaus

What's up, guys?

I'm a little exhausted today...It's been a busy week. First off, I was transferred from Porto Velho! I found out Saturday morning and left Monday afternoon. I was both excited and a little sad. I was ready for a break from the ward and the area and I wanted to get transferred back to Manaus to see Elder Jeffery R. Holland this month. But, I'll miss the wedding and baptism of a sweet family that we taught and I had a really good time with Elder Paredes. I think the hardest goodbye for me was with Lucimar and Télis. (The family that will be baptized next month.) I had the privilege to teach them and to really get to know and love them. I visited them on Sunday and I was expecting to leave a message with them. But, we said a prayer and Télis (the husband) said, "I prepared a message for you" and went on the share some scriptures and bear his testimony. It was one of the most fulfilling parts of my mission. After he finished, I shared a thought. I'm a little bummed that I'll miss their baptism. Télis even came to the airport when I was supposed to leave (my flight got changed around a bunch...) and left a present for me with the other missionaries leaving Porto Velho...

I left Monday, got to Manaus, and slept at the mission home, which is pretty scary...Lots of missionaries, cushions that are probably older than I am and air conditioning that barely works. Tuesday morning, we had transfer meeting and I'm now with Elder Lopes. I'm in Manaus again. Zona Norte. Terra Nova is the name of my area... It's pretty cool. It's another big area. I guess the ward is cool. We don't have a chapel and we meet in a big house right next to our house. I think it's the poorest of all my areas so far. The average house is about the size of our living room and there are a lot of hills!!! Actually- not hills. Mountains. I just got back from Porto Velho where it's flat for as far as you can see. Here, I feel like I'm on a hiking trip or something...I swear that my tie has touched the ground as I've been walking. It's pretty insane. Elder Lopes seems cool. He's really excited and likes to talk a lot. Only problem is that the last elder that was here- is now probably back in the U.S. We don't have any baptism dates marked and need some new people. Looks like there is some work to do....But hopefully we can find more people to teach and really go to work. One cool thing is that Elder Holland will also speak in our Stake. I'm stoked. Then the next day, he'll speak with the mission. I'm curious if any changes will go down with the mission when he comes. There are a few rumors of the mission dividing. I'm not sure if I really believe that, but at least now I know I'll stay in Manaus and not Porto Velho...

Today we had a pretty busy day . We woke up and headed to Ponta Negra, one of the biggest tourist spots of the city. We went with a few other Elders and played some volleyball on the beach and had lunch. It was fun, but now I'm pretty tired. I think after packing up Sunday, traveling Monday, working on Tuesday with only a little bit of sleep, and now playing volleyball all day, I'm pretty exhausted. So, after this I'm going to crash for a little bit...

We passed the temple on our way to the beach today. It's coming along pretty well, considering when I passed it last time it was just a bunch of dirt. Good stuff. After the mission, it'll be cool to come back and visit it.

Let's see...what else went down. Oh yeah. Looks like the Brazilian mail system has problems... Again. Or they're on strike again. So, it sounds like it'll take even longer to get and send letters. Gotta love the Brazilian mail system...!

You guys didn't tell me that Mom, Erynn and Meg were going on a cruise. I'm jealous. Actually, I'm a little tired of the hot weather ALL THE TIME! But, a week of relaxing seems like paradise right now. The mish kinda wears you out... By the end of it, I think I'll be a little tired and just sleep for a week or so.

I hope that Shannon is doing well....She needs to remember not to compare herself to anyone else in her district. No matter how "good" they speak, they all are just learning. She'll be fine. I shot her a letter from missionties. You guys can read it if you want.

Anyways, that's what's going down right now. I can't really think of what else has happened. Have a great week. Love you guys!

-Elder Eric Stapley


Friday, March 19, 2010

March 17, 2010

Hey guys,

Well, we had a decent week this week. Not really anything too new is going on. We find out about transfers on Saturday. I’m not really sure what will happen. I can see me staying here one more transfer, but I can also see me getting transferred. So, I guess we'll see what happens. I would like to turn senior now. I'm still a little "young" for an American to turn senior in our mish, but my Portuguese is good enough and I’m ready to go to work the way I feel like things should be done. Another incentive is that Elder Jeffery R. Holland is going to visit the mish in April and will speak, but only the missionaries in Manaus will get to see him. So...just one more incentive. I guess I’ll find out Saturday though...

Looks like the baptism that we had planned for this next Sunday will fall through. But we have another 5 marked for the end of this month, considering everything goes well...The only problem being transferred is that I would miss some baptisms.

Sunday night was a little hectic here. We were in our house and had just gotten done passing our weekly numbers and it started to rain really hard, which is pretty normal here so it didn’t seem like that big of a deal. But our power ended up going out and we opened the front door to have a little more light. As we were watching, the road next to our house ended up flooding. We watched cars trying to pass with water above their headlights. Some cars ended up getting stuck and/or crashing. So, Elder Paredes and I just looked at each other, threw on some sandals and headed out to help some of the cars. We barely made it out of our house when the water in front of our house took away our sandals. We ended up catching them but then ended up going out barefoot to help some ppl. We helping about 5 cars or so get unstuck. It was pretty crazy though. The water in the road was up to my knees. We have a little park next to our house that has a little river then flooded all over. There is a little walkway that we were using that was completely flooded. We pretty much just had to wade our way through. I felt like some Alligator or something was going to float past me...

But, other than that things are going pretty normal here. We watched "special witnesses of Christ" with one of our investigator families and they thought it was funny that President Monson told a story about Elder Delbert L. Stapley. He referred to him as Elder Stapley, so the family got a kick outta it...

We had a little churrasco (BBQ) at our house with a few missionaries Saturday night. But, we didn’t leave to buy the meat until like 8:30, thinking that a store right next to our house would be open. Turns out they closed early, so my comp and I had to run to another part of the city to buy meat. We literally ran....I’m sure people thought we were crazy. The Mormons walk all day in the sun and run at night, with ties and white shirts...We got a few strange looks. But we had the churrasco!

Well, that’s pretty much it for this week. But, maybe next week I’ll be in another place. We'll see I guess....But Shannon good luck! Welcome to this side of the world. Bring some snack foods with you from home. But anyways, love you guys! Tcahu

-Elder Eric Stapley

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Porto Velho

Hey guys,

Well, it’s me again. I don’t have too much time to write today, so sorry. We are about to head out and go play some soccer. I’m ready to put in a few more goals on the Brazilians...

This morning we got up way early and left our house at 5:45 to go fishing! It was sweet. I guess I didn’t realize how gnarly it is outside of the city. We went to a little town on the river and fished for a little while. Only problem is that I didn’t catch a fish--they all got away from me. But seeing as I was the American white kid of the group, I didn’t feel too bad.

We had a baptism on Sunday. It went really well, and was really well attended. It looks like the baptism we had marked for this Sunday will be moved back a week or too, but oh well. We marked another few baptism dates this week, so the work is going really well.

Also, a cool experience for me this week was to go to Stake Priesthood meeting. Obviously, it wasn’t as good as the ones back in the home stake with doughnuts and chocolate milk afterwards, but it was cool to see the men that I’ve taught attending. One man we baptized in December is receiving the Melchesedek this week. Good stuff.

We've started having "integration nights" every week with our ward here. Every Friday night Elder Paredes and I put on a little activity for members of the ward and investigators. We usually have a message and game, and bishop is going to start contributing and buying snacks. But, I’ve already used a lot of the old mutual games and am trying to think of all the other ones I know. They've been turning out well, and it seems like the ward members are enjoying it.

Its sweet Shannon got here Visa to go to the CTM in Brasil! I’m stoked. I’m going to try to write my "survival guide to the CTM" really fast. Shannon, you gotta say "hi" to Irmão Ramón for me!

Sorry this email is a little short, but, today’s been a busy P-day. I’m already exhausted. I’ll be dead by the end of today, but, its fun. But, anyways, hope that you guys have a great week! Happy Birthday Mom, love you! Tchau!

-Elder Eric Stapley

The following items have been approved and tested by District 26-B of the CTM (aka the 26 Ballerz).

If anything seems unmissionary-like, please completely and utterly disregard that point.

1. Fluency

When you arrive in the CTM the first thing they will tell you is that all of you will leave fluent. So, it only seems appropriate to commence this list by telling you THAT IS NOT CORRECT! The only ones that leave the CTM fluent in Portuguese are those that entered the CTM fluent in Portuguese, meaning the Brazilians. Just accept it.

2. Italian Night

This is one of my personal favorites. One day, you won’t be able to take rice and beans any more. First off, accept it. It’s the only thing you will eat for the next two years. But, when you can’t take it anymore, combine olive oil and vinegar in a bowl and grab a bunch of rolls with your friends. Break the rolls and dip them into the bowl and pretend you are at an Italian restaurant...After 1 month and a half you'll understand.

3. Desserts

IF YOU DON'T KNOW WHAT IT IS DON'T EAT IT!!!!!!!! It won’t be good....

4. What’s your team..?

When you arrive to the point where you don’t think you can study anymore, ask your teacher what is his favorite soccer team....Ask him how they played in their last game and when the last time it was that they won a national title. Always works for a 15 minute tangent....

5. Comparisons

Don’t compare yourself to anybody with the language. For better or for worse. If you don’t speak the best, don’t worry about. If you do speak the best, continue to push and challenge yourself. I spoke some of the best Portuguese in my class, and regret not having pushed myself harder.

6. Cousins

At meals at the MTC you get to sit with Brazilians. When you run out of conversation topics or don’t want to talk more about soccer, ask them if they have ever kissed their cousins. Don’t be surprised how many of them say yes.

7. Book of Mormon

Read the Book of Mormon cover to cover at the CTM. Then take up Moroni’s promise just to make sure it still works.

8. Basketball

When you get frustrated with your companion (I guess this is more for guys...) make sure you end up on a different team than him during basketball...Just make sure you don’t foul TOO blatantly...

9. Comp

Find out what bugs your comp. Do it. It’s good for them.

10. Comp (cont.)

Found out what makes your comp happy. Do it. It’s really good for them.

11. Drinks

Go to the drink shop right next to the CTM. Try to ask for pineapple juice. You'll see how good your Portuguese is. Don’t be surprised if you end up getting avocado juice. But it’s good...

12. 50 cent cookies

There is a little candy store next to the mail office. You can buy cookies for 50 centavos. Good stuff

13. Music

Remember, you are a missionary. Your worldly music is gone.

14. Irmão Ramón

Find Irmão Ramón. Ask him if he still has his Corinthians jersey...But, he'll be excited to meet you.

15. Sleep over

Your last night at the CTM have a sleep over with your district. Considering Shannon will be a sister, that probably just means you and your roommate....but oh well.

16. Study

Remember that the CTM is really your time to study. Don’t think to yourself: "I'll learn Portuguese in the field..." Bad idea. Work hard, and try to get the accent down while you are still learning, or it will be harder to get rid of it later.

17. TALL Lab

When you are stuck going to the TALL lab, try to find a computer with windows media player. Open it up and search for the sample music. There are some classical songs and smooth jazz songs. They will help you get through your time at the TALL lab...

18. Have fun

I’ll be honest, the CTM really isn’t the funnest place in the world. So, you gotta make it fun. I made some cool friends in the CTM that I still write letters to. It can be an alright place, you just gotta make it fun.

19. Gold Bond

Bring it. You'll need it

Anyways, I have a more complete list in my house, but I forgot it. So this will have to do. If I remember what else I wrote I’ll add it on. But enjoy.


Wednesday, March 3, 2010

Porto Velho

Hey guys,

Well, we had a pretty good week. We had interviews with President and Zone Conference. We left our house Thursday afternoon and headed to the center. Before interviews, we grabbed some açaí (some bitter fruit that's only in the Amazon. We eat it with whipped cream and granola. I don't really know how to describe it, but it's good stuff.) We met up with some other missionaries and headed to the church. My interview with President went well, and afterwards, we headed to the LZs to spend the night because conference was in the chapel right next to their house. Conference was cool. It had a lot of trainings about being more sincere as missionaries and on how to find more families and men to teach/baptize. I gave a quick talk about how my personal study has helped me better understand my purpose as a missionary.

So, we are really going to town and trying to mark a lot more baptisms of families. It looks like we should have a baptism this Sunday if everything goes well, and the Sunday after,too. Télis (one of our investigators who is having problems with wedding papers) told me that he wants me to baptize him. Then he mentioned it would be cool to get baptized in the river....I'm not sure I'm able to do that, but it would be sweet! We are really working hard and focusing our work with families and men.

(Why didn't the elder cross the road? Becuase it wasn't real, it was a lake! -Callen, age 6)

So, I'm starting to get a little worried. The wedding of Télis and Lucimar (the couple that we've been working with for some time) looks like it won't go down this transfer. Probably the next one. The thing that worries me is that I'm pretty much to the point that I want to stay in this area for one more transfer, to be able to see the baptism/wedding. But, whenever a missionary starts to want to stay in an area, he gets transferred. Transfers go down the 23rd, so I guess I'll find out then. I'm fine with whatever happens because I know it's the Lord's will, but we'll see I guess....

Monday, I went on a division with a new American who spent 14 weeks in the Provo MTC (get ready Shannon...) It was interesting to me to see how far my Portuguese has come in a little time. Eight months isn't that long to really learn a language and be fluent, but seeing the new Elder reminded me of when I couldn't speak that well. It reminded me that the Lord really is helping me with the language, and with His help I've been able to improve quickly. I'm still really working on my accent. I'm recognizing Americans (with more time on the mission than me) speaking wrong. I have a fear of that happening to me. So, I'm asking Paredes for a lot of help and I'm really working on mastering my accent. But, I think I'm forgetting English. You guys will see on Mother's day. It's been a while....

That was pretty much my week. Next P-day I'm going fishing! I'm pretty stoked. But anyway, hope you guys have a good week! Love you!

-Elder Eric Stapley