Monday, May 26, 2014

Elder Andrew's Past Two Weeks in Brazil......

Birthday/Easter Package finally arrived!!!!!!
Here is last week's email, followed by this week's.......

Dear Family!

Man I feel like I was just writing you guys yesterday.  This week flew by so fast.  That stinks to hear that the Honda broke down on Nate and Phil in Elko, Nevada. (What's there to do in Elko anyway?) I guess I'm not so jealous that Nate got the Honda anymore. But I'm glad that they made it safely to Provo, and are moving on with things. It's good to hear that you guys are getting back into the normal routine of work, callings, and exercises, etc.  I'm glad to hear that you are helping fellowship your friend.  I read this book called "The Power of the Everyday Missionary" and it's a fantastic book that helps members become better at sharing the gospel in everyday settings.  It talks about the idea where sometimes we go to people and say what the gospel can do for them; but the book suggests that instead of just explaining the blessings of living the gospel, we should help them experience it for themselves with opportunities to serve others.  People will feel the Spirit more powerfully when they have opportunities to serve others.  So whenever you are doing something for your callings, invite a friend or less active member to help out. That way they feel what it's like actually living the gospel. 

We had a good week this week. We got to the registry with Antonio and Ivanilde and got everything sorted out with only a limited number of set-backs. But Heavenly Father knew it was important so he helped us overcome the little issues. When we got to the registry they asked for Elder Barreto's and my ID's because we were the witnesses. Unfortunately there is a date on my visa paper that I carry around that says it's only valid for 180 days so they thought my visa expired and didn't let me be a witness.  But we were so lucky because that same day there was a mini-transfer at the chapel nearby for the american missionaries who got a refresh course at the MTC here in Brazil, after waiting for the visa for a long time (Elder Bond my comp from the MTC was in that group; he finally made it). So we went there, grabbed another elder with a current ID to be the witness, so everything ended all right. We set a date for the wedding on the 19th of June, which I probably won't see because transfers is the 10th.  But I'm happy that everything is working out and I'm so happy for the progress of that family.  This week we also worked on finding new people and working on our teaching pool. We're trying to see who's progressing and who we need to leave for a little while.  Also, this week we got in contact with Paulo again.  He said that he couldn't go to church last week because he had unexpected visitors the past two Sundays when he had planned to attend.  But this week he came to church, and we have a lunch planned with him this week. Paulo is the kind of person that I was talking about earlier. He want's to help and he want's to serve and if he gets that opportunity, he will feel more of the Spirit and seek it more by coming out to church.  I talked with Bishop about immediately giving him some sort of responsibility, so we'll see what happens. 

Other than that the week was pretty normal. Work, work, work.  This next week we get to see Elder Anderson, so I'm super excited for that.  I'll let you guys know how that goes. Oh, and just a heads up. I'm starting to have a little knee trouble.  Nothing serious at the moment, but I'm taking precautions. I think I was getting the problems because both of my shoes were basically destroyed (see pic), so today we went to 25 de Março and I bought two new pairs of shoes.  I'm also doing knee excercises that President and Sister Tanner gave us to keep them from getting worse.  I'll keep you guys updated if it starts to get worse. 

Anyways I'm glad that everything is going well for you guys. I'm so happy to be here in Brazil helping my brothers and sisters come closer to Christ. Until next week!

Elder Schwartz

Badly worn out shoes -- 2 year warranty???
Rua 25 de Março - Big Shopping!

Dear Family!

Well, it sounds like you guys had a good week this past week!  It's good to hear that you guys have fun plans for Memorial Day.  So, the package that you guys sent to me finally came!  Thank you so much! I loved all of it, and everyone in our house loves it too!  I'll make sure to share the love with everyone.  Ahah! 

So remember when I said we were going to get to see Elder Anderson?  Well......about that..... so apparently all of the bus drivers and police of São Paulo thought it would be a good idea to go on strike on Wednesday, so the devotional with Elder Anderson got cancelled, because it became too dangerous to leave our houses, so we had to stay inside most of the day.  Everyone in the mission was so upset.  Apparently, this whole World Cup thing is wasting a lot of Brazil's money, so a lot of people are deciding to go on strike and protest.  It's all over with now.  The strike and protesting stopped that night and we got out to work normally, and we got in a few appointments.  Here in my area it's not particularly dangerous, so there really weren't any problems with the strike and everything, so just to let you guys know -- I'm safe and you don't have to worry about me.  But I think this won't be the last strike because the World Cup is coming soon, and many people aren't really too happy.  We'll see... I'll be sure to keep you all updated. 

Other than that major let down, the rest of the week was good. We had a meeting with the stake president which was awesome as always. We got to correlate with him and he gave us a mission.  He gave me the assignment to give a talk at stake conference about how missionaries and members can work together in reactivation, and then for us to focus on these next two weeks to reactivate someone together with the members.  So for these next few weeks that is going to  be our focus.  We have already started by talking with various members and making plans with them to work with people like Regiane or Paulo or other less-active members.  Our bishop did something really inspired yesterday, which was awesome.  There was a lot of empty space in the pews yesterday at sacrament meeting, and a lot of people that should have been there, weren't.  So bishop got up to the pulpit after the last speaker, and invited all the members to think about these people that didn't come and to immediately go and visit them and tell them that they were missed.  This theme carried on into the Elder's Quorum, as we talked about the people that didn't come and made plans together to go visit these people.  It was  sad that so many people didn't go to church yesterday, but there was a great spirit that was felt, when the ward came together in unity to find those lost sheep and bring them back to the fold.

I'm running out of time today (I'm always so rushed), but thank you so much for all the letters and love!  I'm super excited for this upcoming week and all the good Elder Barreto and I are going to get to do!  Thanks for all of our prayers and support!  I know that this is God's work and I know that His priesthood keys are here on the earth and that these keys are real!  I love being a missionary and I love this opportunity I have to help as many people as I can here in Brazil!

Love you all!
Until next week!
Elder Schwartz

With two brother's from the ward who are leaving on their missions now....

Text message that Elder Anderson's meeting had to be cancelled

Elder Schwartz's invitation to speak at his stake conference meeting

Sunday, May 18, 2014

Happy Birthday, Elder Andrew Schwartz!

Surprise Birthday Party at Antonio's

Birthday Lunch
The elders serving in the other ward got me pizza for my birthday....

Dear Family!

Man, it was sooooo good to talk to all of you guys yesterday (last Sunday)!  I'm glad to see that you guys are all doing well and that you guys had a great Mother's Day, too.  I hope that you guys had a good week all together.  This letter is gonna be kind of short, but I have lots of good pictures for you guys. 

So this past week was good, like I mentioned when we talked. It was full of work as usual. We have been working with a lot of people, and we're always busy, but unfortunately our investigator pool has not been progressing very well, so we're getting to the point to reevaluate who we are going to keep focusing on, and then spend some time working on finding more of the Lord's elect.  We're still working with Antonio's Family.  Yesterday they threw me a little surprise party with cake and purim.  It was awesome.  A lot of people wished me a happy birthday at church and a lot of the missionaries and President and Sister Tanner did too, so it was a great birthday.  Earlier this week, we had a monthly mission council with President Tanner which are always excellent.  I always learn so much from President and Sister Tanner.  They are a powerhouse couple!  This week on Friday, we had a really special and spiritual experience that I forgot to tell you guys about.  We went to the hospital because one of the members in our ward was there due to a problem in her kidney.  We visited a little bit with her and shared a little spiritual message with her to try to lift her spirits.  She thanked us for the message and as we were leaving she said something that really struck me:  She asked us if we would be able to bring her a tithing slip so that she would be able to pay her tithing.  I was moved by her faithfulness to keep Heavenly Father's commandments even as she was passing through an extremely difficult health trial in her life. I know that we all pass through hard times and we have lots of difficulties.  But if we just keep firm in our faith and be obedient to Heavenly Father's commandments, we will be blessed. 

I loved talking to you guys last week and I'm so happy to be here in Brazil, preaching the gospel to my brothers and sisters. This truly is His work and I know that through the gospel of Jesus Christ and living his commandments we can live truly happy lives.  I hope you guys have a good week and I'll talk to you guys next week!

Elder Schwartz

More pictures.....

Happy, Happy Birthday, Elder Dear!

Cool street art ramping up to World Cup time

We know who these guys are rooting for.....

Sunday, May 4, 2014

Antonio's Family

Antonio's Family

My Dear Family!

I'm glad that your week here in the south side was good, and you guys did lots of exciting things!  You guys will get a chance to know the other side of the continent a little more down the road.  So we got transfer calls this morning, and I'm going to be staying here in Cidade Leonor for another transfer with Elder Barreto, which makes me super stoked because most likely I'll see Antonio and Ivanilde's wedding and the baptism of Ivanilde and Camilla!  So I'm happy.  Oh, and so for Mother's Day Skype I'm sure I'm good for any schedule.  Since it would be best for you guys a little bit later in the day like 5 pm my time 1pm your time, that's when we'll do it.  We still haven't asked a member yet to use their Skype, but I'll get it all worked out this week and I'll let you guys know exactly a time next week.  I still haven't gotten your package yet but I think I'll get it if not this week I'll get it next week. 

So this past week was really good.  I got a little bit of a cold these past few days because the temperature dropped, but now I'm a lot better.  Like I said, Antonio's family is doing awesome!  We went with them to the registry this week to get the marriage papers all ready, but unfortunately Ivanilde only had a copy of her birth certificate and lost the original so we weren't able to start the process quite yet.  It's going to take a little longer to get everything together because Ivanilde is from another state so she had to call a family member to go to the registry there and get an original birth certificate and send it here to São Paulo.  We should get it either Wednesday or Thursday, so Friday we should be at the registry to get everything started up, and then about 30 days later we'll have a wedding!  But the whole family is doing well; they're loving the church and the members love them, and they are progressing so well in the gospel.  Ivanilde even wants to start paying tithing now before she gets baptized.....

We had another miracle happen this week though!  So remember when I said that we started working with that list of all the members?  Well on Friday we planned on visiting one that lived on the same street as the church but we didn't have time to visit him that day.  The next day we went there and knocked his door (actually we clap here in brazil because everyone's house is enclosed by a gate), and this old man opens the window of the second floor, looks at us, and comes down to let us in.  We do the normal greeting thing as he lets us in, and we sat down on his couch.  He sat down and said that the day before he was doing some reflection and that the church really had been on his mind a lot lately, and that he even commented to his non-member wife that he wanted to go that Sunday to church. The spirit was really strong and we knew that our going to his house to visit him was confirmation to him that he needed to go back to church.  His name is Paulo and he's a retired lawyer who was baptized in 1973.  He was a member when the first stake was organized. We left a short message with him about the Atonement and he went to church that Sunday and loved it.  Now is the part where he needs to get fully integrated with the ward members, and we're going to do our best to help with that.  He didn't stay for the whole block of meetings, but he stayed for sacrament meeting and gospel principles.  So, in Elder's Quorum we had a good discussion about how we can help him to feel welcome and needed, and we marked to visit him this week with a member of the Quorum. I know that Heavenly Father is aware of all of his lost sheep, and I'm so thankful to be an instrument in the Lord's hands to help bring Paulo back to the fold. 

Those were pretty much the highlights of the week. I'm glad that I get to stay here another transfer because there is still a lot for me to do here in Cidade Leonor. I hope that you guys have a good week this week and that you help Elder Nate make the transition smooth.  Give Nate, a big hug and a welcome home from me!

Elder Schwartz

 O São Paulo, São Paulo,... how often would I have gathered thy children together, even as a hen gathereth her chickens under her wings, and ye would not!
Matthew 23:37

Fastest way for missionaries to get around in Sao Paulo

Zona Sul

South America Visit to Pick Up Elder Nate

We were greeted in Santiago by the Dolls, our good friends from Concord Stake.  They are serving a two year mission over the missionary training center in Santiago.
We were able to see Elder Schwartz on the last full day of his mission in the ward where he was serving.  He gave a great talk on the Atonement on Easter Sunday.  No, I don't understand Spanish, but as a parent, I'm sure it was great.

On Monday, the group of elders leaving the mission field, want one farewell picture together.
After picking up our elder, at his request, we drove off up into the Andes to see this beautiful lake and beyond it, a park with towering peaks and an area of hot springs....

This is the park and the peaks in the background.  Later we learned that we were only a short distance from the Argentine border.

On our way back into town we stopped in a small town, San Jose de Maipo, and enjoyed some Helado (ice cream), and watched the street dogs chase each other around the town.

After a nice visit with Pres. and Sister Wright, we stopped by two member families (Paula and Adrian and their kids, Fabian and Benjamin, and also Eduardo and Ivonne) from the Geronimo ward that Elder Schwartz was very close to.  We loved to meet these wonderful friend, who, we could tell have great love and appreciation for our son.   Gracias for the lovely evening of food and company.

The next day we took a great tour with the Schade family to Valparaiso and Vina del Mar.  Here Elder Schade and  Elder Schwartz pose in front of the famous flower clock of Vina Del Mar.

Later Tuesday evening we stopped by to see Daniel and his mom, Edith.  They served us a wonderful dinner and share some wonderful uplifting stories of faith and blessings of answered prayers.

The beautiful Barraza family shared dessert and drinks with us as the evening grew late.  Thanks to their wonderful hospitality.

Wednesday we shopped in downtown Santiago and visited the Santa Lucia park which takes you high up a hill to the top of a tall tower where you can view all of city.  Later that evening we flew to Peru, stopping in Lima, then on to Cuzco (at 11,000 feet high up in the Andes).
In Cuzco, we met Elder Joe Sercovich (he was released from his mission and from his last companion, Elder Schwartz, just 6 short weeks ago) and his mom, Jeny, and his uncle, Victor.  What wonderful people and great new friends!  We enjoyed seeing many sights in and around Cuzco with them.  This was a large Incan site in the hills above Cuzco.

Traceey and Elder Schwartz at the Incan site.  The stones in these walls are huge and no mortar was used.  The stones fit together like pieces of a jigsaw puzzle.

The three of us in the hills overlooking Cuzco.  After touring several other sites around town, we had a nice dinner at a place that specialized in chicken dishes.
Tracey had to find some cute baby animals -- in this case, baby alpacas.  

The next day, we headed out towards Machu Picchu.  This is the two elders with the Sacred Valley area in the background.

Saturday morning we were at Machu Picchu.  It was cloudy and rained a bit, but what a wonderful place.  Massive and Impressive and two of the words that come to mind describing this wonder of the world.  Here we are at the Sun Gate, the traditional entrance to the city.  It was a bit of a hike to get here, but well worth the effort. Kurt even found a geocache nearby in a rocky outcropping.

It rained a bit on the way back down from the Sun Gate

We enjoyed a great tour of the area and just being there was a moving experience.

We were so pleased that the Sercovich family joined us and made us feel so welcome in Peru.

Finally, later in the day, the clouds started to part and we could see the famous peak called Huyana Picchu behind the Machu Picchu ruins.  

Sunday we attended church in Cuzco.  A large group of doctors and family and friends from the Salt Lake city area showed up in sacrament meeting.  Among that group was a former BYU professor of Tracey's named Paul Warner.  What a small world!

Tracey in Plaza de Armas, the central square in Cuzco, a truly beautiful city.

The two young women in this photo were from the ward in Cuzco and happily showed us around the downtown on an informal walking tour.  Such sweet young ladies!

Elder Schwartz and Pops with their Peru shirts and matching beanies.  We departed Cuzco later that afternoon and 30+ hours later we arrived home to see Elder Schwartz released by our stake president, President Score.  Now he is Nate or Nathaniel again.

After a few days at home we went over to the church on Sunday, so Nate could give a report on his mission to some of the leaders in our stake.  Mom and dad were proud to listen as he gave a great report.  We loved picking him up and seeing the land and people of his mission service.  It is an experience that we won't soon forget.

Happy Easter!

Elder Andrew loves Easter!

Dear Everyone!

Wow! I can't believe that you guys are in Chile with Elder Nate! That is so strange for me. I hope that you guys are having fun over here in the south side of the Americas and that you guys are staying safe as well. Make sure to take a lot of pictures for me! But it's good to hear that you guys are enjoying your time so far seeing the Dolls and going with Elder Nate to church. 

This past week for us was really good. Antonio and his family are doing really good. They came to church again yesterday and we have family home evening with them tonight. We also marked to go with them to the registry to get the marriage all set up this Thursday. They are such an amazing family. They are getting well integrated and we are going to continue working with them. Transfers are next week so I may not be here for the wedding and the baptism but I'm so thankful for the opportunity to get to know them and work with them. 

This week we are using this new approach to find more people to teach that Elder Barreto has been implementing, and has so far been bringing good results.  We got ourselves a copy of the entire ward list and whenever one of our appointments fall through, we just find the members that live on the street, being active or inactive and visit them.  That way, if we visit an active member, we strengthen them and help them with the family missionary work, but if it is a less active family, we work on reactivation and helping that person come unto Christ.  And usually with the less actives there are always some kids that haven't been baptized.  Some have been inactive for years and have married, had kids, etc. so it has been a good approach so we don't waste time just knocking on doors of people who we don't know and who don't know us.  Later in the week we had district meeting as usual, but we had a nice breakfast with the zone.  Then the next day we had inspections for the zone and interviews with President Tanner.  Our Zone passed and now our whole zone won pizza that we are going to buy for the next district/zone meeting.   

This week we did a division with the office elders and I worked in Cidade Vargas with Elder Batalla. The office elders have limited work time so they have some difficulty finding people to teach, so we worked a lot on finding new investigators, and teaching people in the streets.  I felt kind of bad for Elder Batalla because all of the plans for the day fell through, so we spent a good time on the streets and not really in the homes of people.  As we were walking in front of the chapel, though, I was prompted to talk to this man that was sitting on a park bench on the other side of the road. We started talking and it turned out that he was a member from another stake, and was working around in the area.  I don't know if he was active or not, because he seemed like a members with a bit of a grudge against the general church member culture, but he shared with us some amazing experiences that he had from when he served a mission and he gave us some great advice.  He basically told us to not knock doors because it doesn't bring the best results, but if we want results to be different, we have to do things differently and let the Lord lead the way.  It was really good and the whole time he was talking it made me feel that this new way of finding that Elder Barreto and I are implementing is going to really help Cidade Leonor grow. 

I'm so thankful for the opportunity to serve a mission. It's such a wonderful blessing! I'm being converted daily of the importance of this work and this gospel.  I know that it's true and changes lives and brings lasting happiness.  Here, everyone seems only to think about the easter eggs and getting a lot of chocolate -- not the true meaning of Easter.  It's something that made me a little sad to see -- that people don't really understand the true meaning of Easter with Christ's Atonement and Resurrection, and are more focused on the worldly celebrations.  I'm thankful for the knowledge I have of the Atonement of Jesus Christ and how much it has helped me grow and will continue to make me a better man.  I love you all and be safe!

Elder Schwartz