Monday, August 31, 2015

Working Hard in São José

Hello all! 

So, June 20th, 2017, I head home to California! The date is on the back of my ministerial card which is kinda wild cause I can see it everyday! I’ve essentially already finished about 6 percent of my mission, what?! So crazy! When I get back I'd like mom's cookies to be at the airport :) 

São José is kinda like Napa and Carpinteria, California combined, and it’s really nice. Our area is super small (like Calistoga size) and most people here are comfortably well off. We eat with members most meals and we have our favorite restaurant: Frango Frito (Fried Chicken). We have a few new investigators too! We searched the Area Book and found some people who had met with the missionaries before and went and visited them. We have a bunch of lessons to teach this week too! 

So this week I randomly fit 6 people into a Fiat, and saw a 3M sign on the way to a district meeting! Go Greg Biffle! #drivefastturnleft

Elder Martins, "meu pai" in mission terms, is exactly like a Portuguese Brady Hanson (cousin) in almost everyway I can think. He kinda looks like him up close (chin dimple and all) and acts much like him too, which is so funny. Brady, if you read this, I have you for a mission companion. You are my trainer. Please train me well. Elder Martins likes talking about doctrine so we have some pretty good discussions together which is helping me learn the language! 

Yesterday was Stake Conference here in good ole São José, and I was hoping I’d see Irmã Correa from the MTC because her boyfriend lives here, and he’s the brother of her roommate Irmã Araujo also of the CTM. I felt a tapping on my shoulder at one point and I turned around -- Elder Miranda was whom I found. However, just beyond Elder Miranda I saw Irmã Correa! And Irmã Araujo! And Irmã Timiris, the third roommate of the bunch and all teachers from the CTM! We all took a picture together and Irmã Correa yelled to me as I walked away,"Pode fazer! Não pode recusar!"— our district catch phrases from the CTM. 

Also it’s either really hot here or really cold. I was both rained on all day one day this week and received a bit of sun on my nose as well. 

The work is pretty hard here, but we’re working hard. And I mean hard. We are pretty much on our feet from 12 noon to 9 at night with no stops. We contact everyday, or knock doors, though it’s really a process of clapping first, the person’s dog barks (they all have dogs). and then the person comes out. We do this hours a day. We’re definitely working off the food we eat (the members feed us really well here). One member we ate with is named João Batista (essentially John the Baptist) and he looked strikingly like Don Cheadle! We ate pickled figs with yogurt and condensed milk with him that were really quite good. 

For a spiritual thought this week, I’ve been thinking of the Atonement, Christ’s sacrifice for each of us (as I think every missionary does). On our little Nokia phone we have music and a talk -- one talk to listen to. However, this talk is awesome. It’s a mix of two talks by President Eyring and by Elder Holland: “A Expiação e a Obra Missionária” (“The Atonement and Missionary Work’”). It’s in English, and everyone should watch or listen to it! What struck me in this talk is how Elder Holland talked about why missionary work can be so difficult. "If we believe in angels and in miracles and in Christ, why isn’t the greatest risk of missionary work that of pneumonia from being soaking wet all day and all night in the baptismal font? Why isn’t it easier?" Missionary work is not easy because nothing regarding missionary work or salvation was ever easy. “How could we believe it would be easy for us when it was never, ever easy for Him? Christ had to plead in the night and suffer for us to even have the chance to be missionaries or have the Gospel. Christ’s mission wasn’t easy for Him, so it’s pretty clear it’s not gonna be all the time easy for us. We don’t try to say we understand the pain Christ felt because that would be sacrilegious, but we have, "in token symbolism" to quote Elder Holland, “trials to bear to gain lasting testimony of the Atonement.” Elder Holland: “I believe it’s supposed to require something from the depths of our souls.”

This talk has really resonated with me. I know that Christ’s Atonement applies to all mankind, and because of this we will all be resurrected -- anyone with any religion or with no religion. The Atonement is universal and infinite and through it we can be cleansed from sin and have peace from knowing that Christ has felt what we feel, and knows how to comfort us -- we just have to have the strength to get on our own knees and ask for help. And then move forward with determination.

Well, that was this week! I hope you are all doing well and that little Calistoga is happy and that school and seminary are going well! Love you all and 'I’m praying for all of you! 

Elder Hughes     

MTC District 

View from the CTM
Me, Elder Merrill, my MTC companion, and Sister Kinnaman, all to Sao Paulo East
20 minutes outside of SP, on the way to Campinas temple, about 6:00am
District in Sao Jose dos Campos
Irma Correa, me, Elder Martins
Frango Frito

Monday, August 24, 2015

A Mighty Change


Brazil is awesome!

My time in the Missionary Training Center is over and done, and here’s how going into the mission field went:

Last Saturday was our last day with Irmã Correa, our teacher, who we all loved as a district, and to make the day special, we all practiced singing Hymn 85 in the Portuguese hymn book, “Deus Vos Guarde”—“God Be with You (till we meet again).” We split it all into parts to sing, so it was right professional. We went before class to the MTC garden to sing but didn’t tell Sister Correa. We left a note on the whiteboard in our class for her to look out the window -- she would find us in the garden. We were all standing there when she looked and when she came out, we started our singing. By the end we were all crying and it was awesome. She said we couldn’t have done anything nicer :) 

The following Monday, the departing missionaries sat in the auditorium for an all-day field orientation. Rumors are that field orientation is the longest day, but I loved it! I actually was thinking that I could’ve used it on the first day of the MTC because there was so much useful stuff! Also, I answered a question correctly and won a Snickers bar, so that was quite excellent! 

Tuesday: we left for the mission field! On Monday night we had district prayer, and our last prayer together really reflected our district. We all burst out laughing in the middle! It could have been more reverent, yes, indeed, but we are all really good friends and I think it just showed how well we got to know each other; we are family. And then we elders sang "Popular" along with the sisters.

So now really: Tuesday. We woke up early and went down to the buses where we would drive to the mission home which was about 30 minutes away. On the way from my room to the buses I managed to 1. lose a lock, 2. move faster than I have ever in my life because we all wanted to get down to the buses as quickly as possible because we were running a little late, and 3. rip my suit pants. I was told to double stitch them in the MTC and did not heed the advice: double stitch your missionary pants, you will be so happy you did that thing. 

We arrived at the mission home and met the mission president and his wife—President and Sister Silcox! They are so nice and are really good people. I was assigned my companion, Elder Martins who is from Porto Portugal (where Caleb Judd will be serving his mission) and were told our zone: São José dos Campos! We are in an area called Jardim Satélite and are opening it for missionary work, so we are essentially starting from scratch. That’s fine though; looking forward to the opportunity! We took the ônibus about two hours to the area and had dinner at a church member’s house, and then went to the apartment. We spent all Wednesday cleaning and getting everything organized, and we have been out contacting every day since. It’s all going well; I’m working hard and having a great time! 

A spiritual thought this week: I’ve been thinking about repentance, and why repenting is a commandment. Because doesn’t Heavenly Father want us all to become obedient to the point where we don’t want to sin? The commandment to repent and change for good helps us work towards that. Besides needing to repent to show humility and become clean to return to live with God after this life, I think when it comes down to it, we need to repent to know God. Repenting allows us to continually focus on the blessings of Christ’s sacrifice for us personally. When we repent, we show we are still trying and willing to take the name of Christ upon ourselves, to turn our hearts to Him. It’s all in the sacrament prayer—to remember. We learn of God’s love and our purpose in this life: preparing to return to Him. 

That is the week! I’ll send photos next week when I remember my camera ... oops.

Love you all and I hope you are doing right swell!! 

Also, please send me notes of the blessings you all see in your lives! 

Elder Hughes 

Friday, August 14, 2015

Mission Field on Tuesday!

So last week was Brazilian Fathers Day, so happy Fathers Day Pops! Love ya! 

So have I gained weight in the CTM? Perhaps, though the scale says I have lost one kilo. Also, we are in our last week here and we’re going into the mission field on Tuesday!! So exciting!! 

This week we were trying to translate "sponge cake" into Portuguese to ask for some more at breakfast, but we didn’t know how to say it, and the best translation we came up with was "damp bread." The Brazilians were quite confused and we were all laughing really, really hard! 

Elder Merrill was sweeping during service this week and swept a lamp for some reason, and he broke a huge light bulb -- the kind that lights a basketball court big. All the CTM knows him now haha. It’s all fine and everyone got a kick out of it! 

Last night I woke up to Elder Merrill and Elder Baker having a loud conversation at 3 am while I was trying to sleep and I had to ask what had prompted such a seemingly energetic conversation at such a sleepy time of day. Turns out, one of our Brazilian roommates had fallen out of his top bunk bed and got a concussion! (He’s doing well now don’t worry!) Elder Baker and Elder Batten went to get the doctor here, and Elder Merrill and I talked to him in Portuguese and helped him calm down. We gave him a blessing in Portuguese too which was super cool and he’s going about missionary work today just fine! 

Since I got here, I’ve fallen in love with Brazilian food, so I decided to play my cards right from the beginning and would always go for seconds since the first week. The Lunch ladies know me now, and they know that I know how to eat. Every once in a while--like once a meal--the lunch lady will sneak me the biggest piece of chicken left or give me two desserts, wink at me, then tell me to keep quiet. I don’t speak, and I remain happy. Works for me. 

This week we got new missionaries on Wednesday like normal...ONLY WE GOT 36 NEW AMERICANS. Before us, there were two groups of 6 Americans who got to the Brazil CTM in six months. Our branch had to undergo mitosis literally because there wasn’t a room big enough for all us! (Don’t hear of branches splitting too often, huh?) The work is moving right along here in Brazil and it is awesome!! 

So one teacher was in our classroom this week (the teachers sometimes just walk in and they aren’t even ours and they just ask us questions about how we study. Elder Merrill and I are like celebrities cause we pretty much have the accent and everything). This one teacher served in Chile though, and David Archuleta was his Zone Leader! He emails Elder A. every once in a while and they are good friends! 

A spiritual thought: I found myself not wanting to leave the CTM this week, but also really wanting to just go work in the mission field too. I remembered a poem by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow called “Theologians Tale.” In the poem, a priest is working and praying when Christ appears to him personally and they talk. Just as Christ appears to him however, a crowd shows up to the church because they need food. He has an internal struggle over whether he´ll serve the people, or stay and converse with Christ personally. He chooses to serve the people and provides free soup for them.

This was on my mind this week because the CTM is so spiritual, the people are so kind, and I have a comfortable bed and water and lunch lady friends and sometimes even an extra dessert if I’m lucky. But I’m here in Brazil to get to work and to serve. Missionaries are serving around the globe to bless the lives of others and not think about themselves, not to have a vacation for two years and think about how comfortable they are. Like the priest in Longfellow's poem, we each have to make the personal decision here whether we’ll do the job we’ve been called to do, or do what we think seems best for us personally. I decided I’m ready to serve. 

At the end of Longfellow´s poem, the priest returns to his room after a day of service, and Christ reappears to the man, and tells him that if he hadn’t gone to serve, Christ would not have been able to stay with him at all because the priest would have put his own desires over those of others. The point of the poem is that we need to have charity and we have to remember the greatest example of service there is--Christ. When we feel like we need a rest or we’re comfortable, we need think of Him who gave all, and we have motivation to follow His example with the blessing that He will be with us while we are serving. And it's fun! : )

Well, this week we head to the field, and I am quite excited! I pray for everyone back home and hope everyone is doing well and is healthy! Love you all!! 

Elder Hughes 

Friday, August 7, 2015

One Month

Street view of Missionary Training Center in São Paulo.
Oi! Tudo bem? Hello! We’ve reached the month mark! Woot! Time goes by really quickly and I like the MTC, so I want to stay; it’s a little sad for us to have two weeks left haha.

This week was fairly low key but that is just fine. We fasted from speaking any English from Monday to this morning when we were going need it for our preparation day, and that was exhausting. We’re getting pretty good at Portuguese though, and the Brazilians are telling my companion and I that we have a good accent (though we think they are being nice haha). Here’s a fun word translation: Jardin da infância, which means kindergarten, but translates directly to "garden of infancy."

On Sunday night we had Filme, which is when all the missionaries here get together and watch films in Portuguese of church stuff; this past Sunday we watched Joseph Smith: Prophet of the Restoration. It was cool to watch that because we watched it our first Sunday here and understood slim to nil, but now we understood almost all of it! It was awesome! I even caught some of the jokes made in it so that was a personal victory for me!

The English fast was super hard this week. We need to step up our Portuguese game a bit so we can teach and speak completely when we’re out of the MTC. Elder Merrill and I haven’t been using notes in lessons or anything for two weeks, but we learned more grammar this week, like the subjunctive tenses (Ugh. Should’ve studied them more in Spanish class). However, we started a tally mark game to see who could use the subjunctives the most and that motivated us to try harder. I have expanded my vocabulary quite a bit and I am using words like "inherently" which sound smart ha ha.

Tuesday night we had a devotional talk given by Elder and Sister Hale, who are a senior couple working here at the CTM. They talked about pioneers. Elder Hale, who was a Spanish teacher before the mission, mentioned how we often talk of our pioneer heritage as a completely separate thing from us in the sense that because the pioneers were so strong in their courage and faith that it’s sometimes hard to think we could be like them -- we only see how much stronger they seem to be than we are now. Then he concluded his point by saying that this was not how we should look at history, as something separate and unattainable for us, our pioneer heritage can motivate us to be better, to work a little harder, and gain perspective on how to endure challenges ahead in our own lives from the examples of those before us. The pioneer heritage, past and present is the heritage of the church, and we all can learn from it!

A Spiritual Thought: I’ve developed a love of the Bible Dictionary this past week, and the entry on prayer mentions how many prayers go unanswered because they may be selfish or aren’t asked in Christ’s name or aren’t humbly asking God for help. We use fancy words at times and ask for things we don’t necessarily need or that wouldn’t help other people. When we pray we need to pray only simply -- what we feel in our hearts -- like a child. Those are the most sincere and powerful prayers, and I’m trying to do my best to change how I’m praying!

Well, that was really this whole week. We’ve all been studying and reading and trying to soak in as much as possible with as much sleep when it’s time to. Playing volleyball for exercise saves us, I’ll tell you what. I love you all and will pray for you all too!

Elder Hughes
View across the street from the MTC.
(street views courtesy Google Earth.)