Dear Family and Friends,
First, for Christmas, I think we´re five hours different, but maybe not. We are planning on calling at about 5 or 6 pm here, so 1 or 2 pm there. Maybe 12 noon there. Sorry I can´t be more specific, and we´ll use Skype. so I´ll just search for Schenewark, or Tanner Schenewark, Amy, etc. on it and call. I'm excited!!!
This week has been great. I know I write it every week, but I really do love it here. We´ve worked a lot with members this week. On Wednesday, we went on splits, I was with the bishop, and Elder Costa was with a member who returned from his mission to Boston about a year ago. He actually served in Framingham ward for a couple months, and finished his mission in Marlborough! for one transfer, so that was cool. And the bishop is fantastic! We barely took time to breathe, met with lots of inactive members, and some non-members, taught some great lessons, and enjoyed the companionship of the Spirit.
Elder Costa and I visited lots of inactives the rest of the week too. There actually used to be a branch here, for one of the neighborhoods that was shut down because of inactivity. It's really sad, but I've learned a lot talking with them. Practically all of them are now attending a different church. It wouldn't be accurate to compare Espirito Santo to the bible belt of the USA, but I do think this area takes religion very seriously. and there´s practically no Catholics. The biggest church by far is the Àssemblia de Deus, followed by the Maranata church, which is similar, and is a regional church, only in Espirito Santo and some surrounding areas.
The telephone poles all have speakers on them, I´m not exactly sure how it works, I think the city owns them, and then people pay to broadcast stuff, and it's always churches. So as we walk all day, we hear it all day. #Blessings of not understanding everything in Portuguese. And lots of cars have boomboxes in the trunk, the trunk is left open and they cruise the neighborhood doing the same thing, only much louder. Its' interesting. Nearly all the churches are three walls, so every day of the week, we walk past these congregations. And when we talk to people, everybody wants to know why our church is only one day a week. Most meet 3-4 times a week. I remember in Arizona, we always explained to people our church was for three hours, but here it's a selling point. But it's sad, how closed people are. So, we´re working on finding the elect, the prepared here. And we´re still looking.
Every Sunday, the ward members here leave some food in a basket for us, and it's very nice. Usually it's bananas and crackers. We expected something a little more this week, but holy cow!!! they gave us so much! They are so nice and generous here. One Christmas food is called panetone, it's bread with fruit and raisins in it. it's good, and we have so much now! we´ll be eating it for breakfast for probably two weeks. Oh, and someone gave us a couple tins of sardines. And when my companion saw them, he was so happy, he loves them. I´ll just keep eating panetone.
Other news for Tanner, one of the assistants to the president here is Elder Portillo. He is from Tanner's mission. He was baptized by Elder Mike in 2012, who I remember Tanner mentioning a couple of times, and was in the ward, Ala foz-centro, which is near the waterfall. He´s a great missionary.
Our Christmas conference was on Tuesday, and was awesome! It was only my second time meeting the Youngs, but I love them! They are great. Poor Sister Young served her mission in Germany, and doesn't know hardly any Portuguese though. Pres. Young translates everything for her.
In Cacheiro, there were some street performers, who would juggle bowling pins or stuff like that, but Serra is the major leagues. Walking home every night, we see people juggling fire, and even that looks tame next to one person who throws machetes. She´s crazy good.
Like I said my companion is really good with English, but he admits it's a little old fashioned because a lot he learned from The Book of Mormon. Last night, he asked if I wanted to split a cake we got from the ward, except he said, "I´ll divide it asunder," meaning split it in half, I just couldn't stop laughing. So he divided it asunder, and we ate.
As we've been reading the Book of John, we've been marking when Christ references "doing the will of the father." And it's a lot. When we have an eye single to the glory, it means our will is the same as our Father in Heaven. I've been working this week on making His will, my will, and that's when we experience eternal happiness.