Monday, November 25, 2013

Happy Thanksgiving from Santiago!

Dear Everyone!

Well first of all, thank you for the pictures.  It looks like youre all having a really good trip, and it's great to hear that you (Dad) made it back to good ol´ Martinez safely.  This week went by really really crazy fast for Elder Sercovich and me.  We had to do divisions twice, and we had interviews, and district class, and an activity yesterday too.  Lots to do, lots to do, but I like it that way.  I get back to the apartment gassed every night, but that's the way that the mission is supposed to be, right?

So, we did divisions with the Assistants.  I stayed here in Tobalaba with Elder Espinoza, and Elder Sercovich went to the office with Elder Schade, and I learned SO MUCH during those 24 hours.  Elder Espinoza is an awesome missionary and example, and he knows really well how to zero in on the needs of the people.  He did a really good job of using inspired questions as he taught, something that I feel like I could get a lot better at as a teacher.  Oh, and Elder Espinoza is Chilean; I think that was the first time that I have been with a Chilean companion since i got here!  The other divisions we did was with Todd's cousin, Sallys nephew, Elder Bushman, and let me tell you, that boy is one heck of a missionary!  I am very happy to have him as a district leader in the zone.  He´s a great example to me, a really good teacher and a really good friend, too.  

So, on Thursday we had interviews with the President, and those are always great moments.  I love talking to President and Hna Wright -- they both gave me some really good advice.  Annnnd on Sunday, we did this thing called a sector slam, where all of us missionaries from the zone La Reina go to one ward and visit people.  It was a well organized activity, with maps and lists of peoples addresses and everything, and all of us missionaries went on divisions with the youth from the ward, and that was especially fun, I went with a 17 year old named Diego who is preparing for a mission, a really good kid.

Walter and Mercedez are doing great, we actually had a couple of really good lessons with them this week, including one in the house of our new ward mission leader, Hno Soto.  They are both progressing really well, but their one really big roadblock that's impeding them from being able to be baptized, is legal issues with a prior marraige that need to be sorted out before Mercedez and Walter can get married.... That's always difficult.  

All in all, it was a good week.  Elder Sercovich and I are getting along really well, and we have a great time together.  This area is amazing too -- I really couldn't be happier.  I love you all -- have a great week -- the church is true!


Elder Schwartz

With an awesome Brazilian guy -- "El Negro"


Friends from BYU

With Elder Dusty


Dear Family!

Thanks so so much for the awesome email!  It sounds like you guys are having a blast on the east coast. You guys are gonna have to take me and Nate to Harry Potter World, too when we get back.  But seriously, I'm glad that you guys are having a good time.  So we got transfer news this morning, and it turns out that Elder Fernandes and I are gonna stay for another transfer together, which we expected because I'm still training him; so that was no surprise to us. 

Well, this week had its ups and downs. Unfortunately, Elder Fernandes got sick with a virus, so for the majority of the week we were in our house.  So unfortunately, we weren't able to do that much missionary work this week, but we managed to have some pretty awesome lessons when we did get back out.  Don't worry because he is starting to feel a lot better now.

We had the opportunity to teach Diego's little sister, Barbara, and she is awesome. We were able to teach her about the Restoration and she loved it. However, the next time we talked to Diego he said that his mom doesn't want her to be baptized, so we are gonna talk with his mom and help her see what a great blessing that this gospel will be in her daughter's life. 

This week we also got the opportunity to teach a woman named Nisi who is a friend of a member in another ward. She is pretty much the most awesome person ever.  When we first talked to her, she told us about these dreams she had when she was little about a church where all the men wore suits and ties and all of the women wore dresses.  She told us about how she had spent most of her life looking for this church.  She told us about how she went to a church for a little bit and it didn't feel right, and then she went to another and didn't feel right, until she got referred to check out the Mormon church. She told us about how she went on and read all of the testimonies of everyone and thought how beautiful it was. Then she started to have those dreams she had like she was little and she started asking around if people knew if there was one of these churches in São Caetano until she got in contact with that member from the other ward.  And then we got in contact with her and we had an awesome lesson.  She accepted a date for baptism December 7th. 

So we are still continuing to work with Wesley. Unfortunately we weren't able to get in contact with him until late in the week and when we did, he started telling us how he's not feeling prepared for baptism. We agreed and we told him that we would like to keep in contact with him more, and introduce him to more members of the ward to help him feel more confortable. We set a goal for him for the 8th of December and we plan on keeping firm contact with him this week and helping him with all of his doubts and needs.

So those are pretty much the highlights of the week. We may not have had the best week but it's the start of a new transfer and Elder Fernandes and I are hungry to tear up this area!  I hope that everyone at home is doing well and that you all know that I love you guys. I know that this work that Nate and I are doing is truly the Lord's work and that we are truly His representatives. Until next week!

Elder Schwartz

Monday, November 18, 2013

São Caetano: Minha Cidade!

São Caetano: My City!

Dear Family!

WOW! It sure sounds like you guys are staying busy and having a lot of fun on the east coast!  Make sure to give the family my love!  Everything over here in the south side is going fantastic as always. We have a saying here: só alegria.  Which means "just joy" and that's basically what the mission is: só alegria!  But that's good to hear that everyone is doing well and is happy.

Man this past week has been so crazy but it was really good and I learned a lot. Unfortunately, we had a few days where we literally could not get into one house to teach a lesson, but that doesn't get us down.  We just count our blessings, look forward, and keep working hard with a smile on our faces.  Let's me see if I can give some highlights of the week.  Well, this week Elder Fernandes and I had the opportunity to go to a little conference for the new missionaries with President and Sister Tanner, and the assistants giving the training.  The trainings were SO GOOD and I learned so much!  It was really cool too because I got to see Elder Watt again and some sisters from my district in the MTC.  Oh, that's another thing.  So one of the sister companionships in my district had a trial missionary, and she got her mission call, and went back home to prepare, so a sister from my district in the MTC, Sister Duncan, is now in my district.  So that's pretty cool. 

Also this week, I had the opportunity to do a division with Elder Doggett, one of the zone leaders, and do a baptismal interview for him in his area while Elder Iorg stayed with Elder Fernandes to do a baptismal interview for Wesley.  This is where the crazy stuff happens.  So we planned just to do the interviews on Friday and switch back Saturday morning.  But what ended up happening was that Elder Iorg and Elder Fernandes weren't able to get in contact with Wesley because our phone ran out of minutes, and they couldn't get the interview done on Friday.  So what happened was that I used the Zone Leaders phone to call him and his mom picked up and said that he wasn't available until 6:00 p.m. the next day. So we extended the division until they were able to do the interview with him the next day.  They were able to interview him and unfortunately he didn't pass, but Elder Iorg made some goals with him, and is going to follow up with him and he will most likely be baptized this next Sunday. 

So that's pretty much all the crazy stuff that happend this week.  I had a lot of really good experiences with Elder Doggett in their area.  They are working with a lot of really good people.  I was able to do an interview with a woman named Laura whose children got baptized a few weeks ago. It took her a little while longer because she had a problem, but she resolved it and she is really happy that she is finally ready and worthy to be baptized. 

Well that's pretty much my week. It had it's ups and downs but hey, that's part of the mission right? I just want all of you to know that I am super happy to be out here doing the Lord's Work, and helping other people make changes in their lives so they can have more peace and happiness in their lives.  I know this church is truly the Church of Jesus Christ on the earth!  I love you all and I hope everyone has a good week next week. 

With Love,
Elder Schwartz

Elder Fernandes in Sao Caetano

Elder Holland's Visit

Elder Holland came to Santiago last week

Dear Family,

I am sorry but this is probably going to be the shortest letter that I ever write you, I opened my inbox today, and I was amazed to see all of the emails that I had received, so I took a long time writing to everyone.  Todd, and Andrew, and Anthony, and Grandma wrote me!  I sure felt loved.  It is great to hear that you made it back east safely, and that you are having a great time out there.  Thank you for the pictures too!

This week was super, SUPER good!  Mercedez and Walter are doing great, same with Claudio.  Claudio actually came to church this Sunday, that was really cool.  It was the primary program, and both he and Mercedez really enjoyed that.  Like I think I said earlier, we are now starting to teach Mercedez´s boyfriend, Walter.  We actually taught him a lesson with President Wright this week, which was super cool, and we helped him out with a little service on Saturday morning.  Then they made us a KILLER lunch; Peruvian food is SO GOOD.  This past Wednesday we had the monthly meeting with the stake president and President Wright, which went really well.

Okay, the Elder Holland experience was AMAZING.  We got to the chapel at 5am to make sure that we got good seats.  Actually, our whole zone was there before 6am, and the meeting started at 9:30.  We all have the front two rows, it was awesome!  He did an AMAZING job.  It wasn't the first time that I had heard him speak, but this time it really impressed and moved me, probably because I have the tag on.  I need to know and love the Book of Mormon even more than I do right now -- that was the biggest thing that I learned.  So I left the meeting committed to improve.  It's so interesting because every time I leave a meeting with a general authority, I just feel so good, like anything is possible, that the sky is the limit -- it is so cool!  I know that Elder Holland is a man called of God, without a doubt.

Anyways, I would love to go into more detail about the week -- it really was an awesome one, but I am totally running out of time.  Just know that I love you, and that I miss you, but I am having an amazing experience here, and that I know that the church is true.  Thank you all for your love and support, and thoughts and prayers.

I look forward to hearing for you again next week.

with much love,
Elder Schwartz

Friday, November 15, 2013

Elder Sercovich...From Peru

Good Bye, Elder Sandoval

Welcome, Elder Sercovich

Dear Family,

What an eventful week!  And thank you so much for the pictures!  It is great to hear/see that the family is doing so well.  Wow!  You guys sure do know how to keep busy!  And wow!  Time is going by so fast!  I can’t believe that the Dolls are already home, and that Phil is finishing up his time at Americorp!  And Thanksgiving is in two weeks!  Do you guys have any big plans?  

To answer some of your questions, my missionary service will be ending on April 21st.  I think it would be best for you guys to come on the really early on the 20th or maybe even the 19th, to be able to attend church on Sunday morning in my ward (which will probably be Tobalaba, where I am at now).  But we can work out all of the details from there, or over Skype in December.

As for my week -- Super good!  Elder Sercovich and I hit it off super well!  I know that we have only been together for a week, but I feel like we have known each other for much longer than that.  It’s pretty cool.  Lets see, lets see...... He is from Peru, my 3rd Peruvian companion in the mission, which is great because they know how to work hard.  He is an only child, and he is 26 years old.  His father passed away when he was only four.  He has an amazing testimony.  He goes home in January.  His last name is Sercovich, because his great-grandfather moved to Peru from Serbia.  

Elder Sercovich and I spent a lot of time this week working with people from the ward list, and we have had a lot of success with that.  We are putting our main focus in finding new investigators.  We have been spending a lot of time in the street talking to lots and lots of people.  We have been spending some more time with the ward leaders as well, which has been fun.  Mercedez is doing well; really well actually.  This past week we started teaching her boyfriend Walter, and they are both progressing really well.  They are seriously SO COOL!  They just need to get married!   That’s kind of a common problem down here in Chile....well its a problem in the whole world nowadays.  We were able to visit Claudio briefly this week, he is doing okay... really busy with work though....

Elder Sercovich and I taught our monthly zone class on Wednesday, and it went really well.  There were lots of changes in the zone last week, so we are basically working with a brand new zone, but they are all really great missionaries.  Elder Bushman (Todd’s cousin) and Hna. Volkert (from Uncle James ward) stayed in the zone though. which I was happy about.  The class went really well.  The president of the mission is making it really clear that it’s not just a class but more of a council, so we all shared ideas and set goals together, and Elder Sercovich and I facilitated the conversation.  It’s a three hour class but it went by really fast, and I was actually kind of bummed when the time ran out.

I get to see Elder Bonkemeyer (BYU roommate) and Elder Holland tomorrow!  I’ll be sure to take lots of pictures and tell you how it goes!

Dad, I loved how you ended your email with your testimony, especially about the Book of Mormon.  I am almost done with Alma.  I’ve been trying to read 4 chapters a day, sometimes more, sometimes less, but I am seriously learning SO MUCH – It’s unbelievable how much one can learn in just an hour a day of study.  I feel the same way as you described.  I really cannot picture my life now without the Book of Mormon in it, and I don’t want to.  I know that Heavenly Father gave us these tools because he loves us and wants us back with him.  I am so thankful for this knowledge that I have received through putting my faith into action, by reading, by studying, by reflecting, by praying.  I am thankful for the time that I have to help these people here in Chile, and I am thankful for all of your support.  Keep up the good work.  I love you all and can’t wait to hear from you again next week!

With much love,
Elder Schwartz

P.S.  We had lunch with the Relief Society president this week (she is the one who I make the cinnamon roll cake with and she LOVED IT, and now she is basically famous for it).  It’s like her favorite thing to make now, and she made us a batch for dessert!

Relief Society President and Cinnamon Roll Cake 

P.P.S. Carlos is a convert from peru that we are teaching, he is studying gastronomy and he made us a nice little dish after one of our lessons.

Posing with Elder Sercovich

Diego's Baptism

Elder Fernandes, Diego, and Elder Andrew Schwartz

Well hey fam!

First off, FELIZ ANIVERSARIO MAI E PAI!!!!! Man, these months have gone by so fast!  I can't believe that it's already November.  I guess time flies when you're staying busy.  It's sounds like you guys had a really good week and lots of good times with family. Give everyone my love! 

This past week we had, was really good!  I got the chance to do two baptismal interviews this week.  The one last Monday was for a baptismal candidate of the sister missionaries on the other side of São Caetano and another on Friday was for the sisters in São Bernardo. The one on Monday wasn't my first interview ever, because actually, I did one for the zone leaders a few weeks back; but these interviews are always really good spiritual experiences. 

This week we focused a lot on Diego to get him and everything else prepared for his baptism.  He is so good! Everything we were teaching him, he was writing down on a little notebook and studying it.  He also got new dress shoes and new ties and a new shirt that he received as early Christmas presents.  Thursday, I was able to do a division (split) with Elder Dogget and he came here with me in São Caetano to do Diego's baptismal interview.  It was a really good division.  I learned a lot from Elder Dogget.  He's one of those people who is always smiling and always happy, and that you just want to be around. We were able to teach Alex that day and we also went out with our ward mission leader to make a visit to an inactive family. 

Another cool experience that we had this week was that we had Zone Conference again.  It was SO GOOD! I learned so much and it really re-energized me to go out and serve with greater energy.  They focused this conference on the word "OPA" which is said a lot here in Brazil. (It is a Portugese interjection that means “Hey!” or “Wow!” or “Oh!”).  They broke down the word into three parts Obediência (Obedience), Planejamento (Planning), and Acompanhamento ( Following-up), which spells OPA.  I learned so much about the importance of these three principles in missionary work.  Elder Fernandes and I made a goal to focus more on these three principles, and we are already starting to see great results. 

On Sunday, we were able to have a lot of really good experiences.  Wesley came to church with us and he was able to stay for all three hours of church.  We were able to take him aside during priesthood and share a lesson with him to help him to prepare for baptism.  We have him scheduled for this upcoming Sunday so we're gonna focus a lot on Wesley this week and do everything we can to help him prepare for baptism.  Sunday, we also got to hold Diego's baptism.  At first, it seemed like everything was going to go wrong because someone lost the plug for the baptismal font, but fortunately, we were able to find a "replacement," and we were able to fill up the font.  We had to start the baptismal service a little late but other than that, everything went perfectly.  The speakers were great, we got a lot of support from ward members, and the young men sang a special musical number for Diego.  It surely will be a day that he never forgets. 

Diego's Baptism

Welp, everything here with Elder Fernandes and me is going great.  We're working hard and staying busy and I'm loving it!  I hope that you guys have a great birthday! I love and miss you guys!  I know that this work is the Lord's work!

With love,

Elder Schwartz

Monday, November 4, 2013

Fruits Of Our Faith

Elder Fernandes in our room
Our kitchen

Dear Everyone!

Thanks so much for the emails and the support. It sounds like everyone is happy and staying busy.  Sadly, here in Brazil they don't really celebrate Halloween.  They all know what it is, and I saw a few people dress up, but to the majority of people it's just something that they see in the movies.  But at least you guys sent me some candy corn, so I wasn't completely left out of the spirit of Halloween.

Other than that, we had a really good week here in São Caetano.  Elder Fernandes and I are really working hard, and we're starting to see some of the fruits of our effort.  Let me give you guys a few good highlights from the week.  Alex is doing really well and is making really good progress.  We were able to follow up with him this week about the Book of Mormon.  He was able to read some passages that we left with him to ponder and  pray about, and he said that he felt different; he felt really good.  We were able to help him to understand that the Holy Ghost was testifying to him that it was true.  He really likes the things that he is learning with us, and he has a desire to learn more. Unfortunately, he wasn't able to go to church because of an obligation he had to visit family members who live more in the interior of São Paulo. But other than that, he is progressing really well and is growing a lot. 

Another cool experience that we had this week was with Wesley.  I don't know if you remember him, but he is one of Sandra's kids from a few weeks back.  Unfortunately, we visited Sandra yesterday and she just straight told us that she had no desire to read the Book of Mormon or go to church at the moment, so there is nothing we can really do to help her if she has no desire.  Wesley, however, has a different attitude, and we were able to meet with him this week and take him to the chapel and have a lesson with him there. We had a really powerful lesson with him as he expressed how he's been feeling really lonely and we told him how he never has to be alone because he has us, the ward, and a Father in Heaven who love him.  We were able to comfort him and help him to feel better.  He also told us about his desire to follow Jesus Christ and to do the right things. He expressed his desire to be baptized and we set a date for him on the 17th of November.  Not only did we invite him for baptism but Elder Fernandes was moved by the Spirit to invite him to prepare himself to serve a mission and Wesley accepted! It was such a spiritual lesson and definitely one of the highlights of my mission so far. 

So in our ward there is this 13 year old boy, named Diego, that has been to church for the past three weeks with his best friend.  We were finally able to sit down with him and talk with him about everything that he is learning, and what he thinks about the church.  We talked to him about baptism and he accepted a date for the 10th.  Firstly, we made sure that he read the Book of Mormon and has gained a testimony of it.  So, we were able to meet with him yesterday and he said that it is true, and he want's to do everything he can to be ready to be baptized. 

These experiences that we had this week really helped me feel that all the hard work and the exercising our faith that we have been doing since we got here is finally starting show us the miracles we have been seeking.  I know that this church is true, and I know that the Gospel of Jesus Christ changes lives.  I hope that everyone has a good week this week, and that everyone is happy!  I love you all!  Until next week!


Elder Schwartz

Halloween and New CompanionI

Ward Halloween Activity

My New Companion?
With Hermano Soto at the activity
It's a Mi -- Mario!
Dear Family,

Well, it sure sounds like you all had a wonderful week!  Looks like halloween was a blast and that you are all doing a great job keeping busy.  We are in November now!  I can hardly believe it!  Time is going by so fast!

Well, today was a kind of weird day for me because I had to say goodbye to my dear friend Elder Sandoval -- he is probably at the airport right now..... So, his farewell stuff took up a very large majority of the week.  He had lots of meetings to go to and what not.  I tried to get out of it as much as I could by going on divisions with Elder Zarate.  We spent a lot of time together this week, and that was fun.  

This week we had our monthly leadership meeting with President Wright, which was great like always.  Those meetings are lots of fun because I get to see my friends from the MTC, and La Florida and all parts of the mission!  We also had to do apartment inspections at the end of the week, and I was very pleased to see that everyone in the zone does a really good job keeping their pension neat and tidy.  On Sunday we had the farewell devotional thing (for departing missionaries like Elder Sandoval) on the temple grounds.  That was a weird experience, as it was the first time I had ever been to one because this is the first time that I have ever been with a missionary who is finishing the mission.  It was so sad!  Everyone was crying and stuff.  I don't want this mission to end. Seriously, they all looked so torn apart!  It was nice for me though because I got to see Elder Sanchez, and I got to see lots of people from Chiloé too, so that was pretty cool.

I saw Elder Sanchez at the Temple Grounds

I met my new companion today, Elder Sercovich, but don't let his last name fool you -- he is actually from Perú!  That's right, my 3rd Peruvian companion in the mission!  Ahaha, but I get along really well with the peruvians, so I am totally stoked to be with him.  I actually met him a little while ago in a zone conference, so it was cool when we found out that we were going to be companions,  He goes home at the end of January.

Claudio and Mercedez are both doing really well.  Basically, Mercedez`s whole family came to the ward activity that we had on Wednesday to celebrate Halloween, so that was really cool.  And we visited with Claudio two days ago, and he is doing very well.  

I am really excited for this upcoming week and to be able to work with Elder Sercovich.     I know that we are going to have a really good time here together.  I know that we are doing the Lord's work and sharing with the people here in Chile about His restored gospel.  I know that He guides our steps and that if anyone wants His guidance in their lives, all they have to do is look for it.  Thank you all so much for your love and support and prayers and everything.  I really can feel your support holding me up and giving me strength.

I love you all, keep being great!
until next week!

Elder Schwartz

Some more pics....

World's Greatest Zone
Hermana Hardman