So, this week was pretty good but also very strange. First off, I love
Aracruz! The area here is gorgeous! I´m going to do my best to take as
many pictures as possible here because it is awesome!
It´s also progressing very well! We have a teaching pool of over 35
people (which we´ll have to narrow down by marking baptismal dates and
working only with those people for the time being).
My new companion is Elder Degraw. He´s also American and he has one
month less than me in the mission but all of his time was here in
Brazil, so his Portuguese is very good. As usual though, all of us
Americans (including myself) have strong American accents and people
often look at us funny, though maybe that´s only because we´re
missionaries and that´s normal? I hope it´s just that and not our
accents hahaha. I´m also still with my trainer Elder Marinho, so
we´re in a trio right now. It´s been a fun time so far.
This week was also interesting because we live with the Zone leaders
also and one of them had to do an emergency exchange with the
missionaries in Colatina for Friday, Saturday, and Sunday. So those
three days I was with Elder Barr, who was our old district leader in
Vitória (weird how everything works out). I have spent more time in
their area actually than I have in my own due to this exchange, but it
was good. I was sick the entire exchange though. I felt sick Friday,
had a flu Saturday, and had a remnant of the flu on Sunday.
Also, Carnaval started this week for real here in Aracruz, but it´s
way quiet here because everyone travels away from the city. It´s way
weird. It´s also a pain in the butt because all the stores and
services are basically closed this week. But at least it´s not as bad
or crazy as I thought it would be.
Anyways, that´s been my week pretty much. Hope to hear from you all soon!
So, I haven´t been very good about weekly updates lately, so I´m going to try again this week.
This week was pretty decent. We haven´t been able to find a lot of people to teach because President requests that we work only with members, whose trust we are still gaining. However, we do have a lot of potential, which is good because we got transfer calls saying that we´re staying another 6 weeks.
We have Ramón, who is really really awesome. He reads the Book of Mormon without us having to remind him and keeps all his commitments to us. He is progressing very quickly and is an awesome friend to the missionaries.
We have Wallace and his family. His wife, Jacira, is a less-active member of many years who left activity because of a lack of a testimony. This family is absolutely amazing! All of them are reading the Book of Mormon together and are all very curious. They have a daughter interested in baptism as well as a niece. Great family and they always feed us when we´re there, which is always a huge plus.
We also have a lot more potential for this transfer because we acquired the area of another set of the Assistants because they got transferred out. They have a lot of people ready for baptism that they passed on to us.
Anyways, we´re still working hard and walking a whole lot.
Until next week!
If you want to send letters to Austin in Brazil, here is his address.
Elder Austin Finch
Brazil Vitória Mission
Avenida João Baptista Parra, 633
Edf. Enseada Office, Praia do Suá
29052-123 Vitória-ES Brazil
Phone number (needed only for certain couriers) 55 27-3325-3703
For those who want to send packages, please follow these guidelines so else there is a good chance that the package will get stolen.
Also, tips for package sending so that it doesn´t cost a fortune to pick up (because Brazil is ridiculous with packages).
1. List the items in the package (but do so very vaguely ex: Missionary Supplies)
2. Write the estimated cost of the goods (But do so very low like $15 or something like that or they will trap the package and make us pay like $200 to get it)
3. Put pictures of Christ all over the package.
So, I haven´t written a weekly update in a while, so…my bad. But this past week was really cool and also kinda sad. So, I finally got my visa! So I am writing this letter from Vitoria Brazil! The sad thing was that I had to leave all my friends back in Rochester, but I can still keep in touch thankfully.
This past week has been so different! I spent two days travelling here on Monday and Tuesday. Most of the flights I just slept. On the flight to Brazil though, I found two Brazilians who I was able to talk to! It was cool because one of them liked us so much that she bought us dinner! Hey no complaints there from me! Thankfully I have not lost my Portuguese after two months in New York! I can still speak the language, though understanding for me is difficult. I can still understand a lot of what they say, but it´s hard to piece all the parts I understand together.
So, I am again in a trio, but also a regular companionship. My trainer´s name is Elder Marinho and he is from Brasilia. So yes he is a native Brazilian but that is such a blessing! He is helping me learn Portuguese like a native and I am able to speak to him in just Portuguese now. He also understands enough english where I can say a word or phrase I don´t know and he can tell me how to say it in Portuguese. Elder Turner is our companion for the evening because he works in the office during the day.
Man the food here is so good though! Every day it´s like explosion of the taste buds! It is amazing here (though eating lunch as the big meal and hardly anything for breakfast and lunch will be difficult haha)!
The experience here is so different. Here, a lot of people let us in their houses to teach them, but not a lot of people progress in the gospel. A good chunk of our work is with less active members because they join the church and then go in-active. However, the people here are amazing! It is very different though in a good way! We have a family preparing to be baptized on the 15th if everything goes well.
Well, that is pretty much the week so far!
So this week was awesome in so many ways! I’ll kinda just go from day to day and tell you what happened!
Monday was just preparation day, so after doing everything we needed to, we played basketball for 5 hours, as usual. Also, one of the families here found out that I was half Cuban and that I ate Cuban food a lot. It just so happens, that they are also half Cuban, so they invited us over and made some awesome Cuban food for me! It made me feel so at home! That was a great experience.
Tuesday was great! We had an awesome lesson with Hector. He had a question that he had asked other priests and preachers about who didn’t have the answers to. He asked why God would need 10% of your income (tithing) if he’s just a spirit? We were able to explain to him that God has a body as tangible as man’s, and that He uses the money we give to help build the kingdom, and not the wallets of the clergy. We explained that tithing is also a way of showing God that we trust Him enough to give Him back what He has already given us. It was a really good lesson and Hector was very happy we were able to answer his question. We also taught 3 other lessons, which we all good, but not worth reporting on.
Wednesday we taught 3 other lessons! We taught Bob and shared a Christmas message. We taught Jenny also, who really enjoyed the message of the Restoration. Susan’s lesson was great also! We brought Brother Piede along again, who continues to help a lot in our lessons with her. She finally realized the place that the Book of Mormon has in relationship to the Bible, but her understanding is still struggling to progress very fast. Also today was an awesome day because the Guy family referred us to one of their good friends who we would be able to teach! We have been trying to contact them and will keep everyone posted on how it goes!
Thursday we had district meeting and learned a lot, especially about retaining member referrals and taking care of the people they refer you to. We went out to lunch afterwards, which was clearly inspired because we walked in and were deciding on what to get at a certain sub shop. A member from another ward (congregation) came in and recognized on of the missionaries in our group and then insisted on paying for all of us. So we were able to have lunch for free thanks to the generosity of that member. We also had exchanges today with Elder Campbell. We taught Domingo again with his daughter and friend. We then went to Juan’s house to get a referral, and saw him as we were walking away from his house (we had already knocked on his door). He let us in, fed us some kind of fish. Juan is from the Dominican Republic and makes fantastic food! We always love eating over there. He also referred us to a friend! We have to get the address though.
Friday was a really slow day. All of our planned lessons fell through and we planned for the next week. We did however get invited (through a total miracle) to sing in a caroling group with Susan and 5 other older ladies who had been looking for guy voices to sing with them. Not only are we excited to go caroling with them, but it also gives us a chance to talk to more people about the gospel!
Saturday was good, but nothing really amazing happened.
Sunday was pretty good though! To try to help the Spanish group in the ward out, we held a Spanish Sacrament service in another room of the church. Unfortunately, as much as we tried to invite people to the service, we only had two members there who actually spoke Spanish as a native language. The rest of the people there were gringos who spoke Spanish and were there to show support for the Spanish members. So…that was interesting. Juan Capellan (the member from the D.R.) gave a wonderful talk though! We’re going to stop by on Wednesday to his house because he lost his wife a year ago on that date, so we’re going to see how we can support him through that day. We also taught Susan again. As much as we love teaching her, we are struggling to find ways to teach her and help her understand the principles we teach. She’s a very good Christian woman though, she just has problems understanding what we teach.
We did also get another referral from a member on Sunday! Apparently the members trust us enough to go and talk to their friends, which we are very excited about!!! Also, we’re preparing a skit for the Christmas meeting on Tuesday as requested by President Christianson. We decorated our chins and sang upside down while filming it! You’ll understand what I mean when I send the clip when it’s finished!
Well, that’s been our week! Lots of good lessons, lots of good referrals, and lots of good fun!
Talk to everyone next week!
So, this week was pretty good! We had only a few lessons, but most of them were fantastic!
Wednesday we watched Mr. Krueger’s Christmas with Hector. He absolutely loved it! We gave him a copy to keep also. He’s listening to the Book of Mormon on tape now and he is loving it! We also taught Mark a brief lesson about the Gospel of Jesus Christ, which was pretty good also.
Also on Wednesday, we taught Susan again. We brought Brother Piede, our ward mission leader, with us to the lesson. The lesson was very spiritual and Brother Piede was a great addition to the lesson. Even still though, Susan’s understanding seems to be taking a step back because she still believes that the Book of Mormon is inspiring, but fails to see the connection that Joseph Smith was a prophet.
Thursday was awesome also because we taught Domingo with his friend Juan, a super solid member that has been in the church for 3 years. This week we really started to see the difference that members make in teaching lessons! Afterwards, we went to a Christmas Festival on a busy street near us and got to talk to some people, especially on the hay ride! We could tell we were meant to be there because our presence on the horse ride and our enthusiasm for singing the Christmas songs made everyone laugh and enjoy themselves. It was a lot of fun!
Friday we had zone conference, which lasted all day. We talked a lot about having faith in Christ, faith to find, and faith in prayer. It really taught me a lot about faith and the power it can have. It was such a spiritual experience!
Saturday we had a service project for a refugee camp closeby, where we cleaned the donated toys from the ward to prepare them for delivery. It was a very well put together ward service project and almost the whole ward was there! Then again, maybe that was just because we had an awesome breakfast beforehand? Nah, I like to think it was just because everyone wanted to help hahaha. We also went downtown for another Christmas festival. They lit a giant light tree, had a parade where we all got to walk down the middle of the street, and had an awesome fireworks display at the end! We got to talk to a lot more people and have some fun at the same time!
Sunday was also really good! After church we had the First Presidency Christmas Devotional, which was absolutely amazing! I loved the nativity videos they showed! They were very well done and professional looking.
Well, that was my week! Not any huge things, but a lot of small things made this week a good week!
Hey everyone!!! This week was absolutely fantastic!!!
Nothing new really happened until Wednesday this week because it was my birthday!!! WOO! It was a fantastic day and thank you for all the birthday wishes! We started out by blowing up over 50 balloons and throwing them all over the apartment (yes I know, we’re that awesome!) I made myself a fantastic breakfast and we went to Chili’s for lunch. Chili’s was fantastic as usual, and I got a free Molten cake dessert, which was way good! I made a cake that my mom sent me the mix for, which was also really good (though we still haven’t finished it due to the huge amounts of leftovers from Thanksgiving).
Also on my birthday was one of the coolest stories of my mission so far! The night before I prayed and asked Heavenly Father if he would send us a miracle for my birthday. That day we went out knocking and knocked on a nicer looking house. No one responded, but I felt I needed to knock again, so I did. A lady opened the door, but was shy because she didn’t speak hardly any English. Luckily, we all spoke Spanish (my companions better than I) so she let us in the house. Ok, first off, for anyone who knows anything about knocking doors, you know right away that getting in the door is a miracle in itself. We taught her and her son a lesson and answered a lot of their questions. To finish the story, they are now our newest investigators and are wanting to learn more about the gospel of Jesus Christ.
Ok, so this experience just about rocked my socks off because this was a direct answer to my prayer, along with the prayers of my companions that they had been offering for weeks that we’d find someone to teach. I am so excited now. It was a huge testimony building experience and I am ever so grateful that I was able to be part of it. It taught me to expect miracles while I am out serving the Lord in His work.
Also on my birthday, was another “first” experience, and I guess it was also a testimony builder also. We were coming down the elevator after attempting to meet someone on our visiting list and at the bottom of the elevator was a man waiting for us. I felt really odd around him at first, but we started talking to him. I was curious as to how he knew so much about the Book of Mormon and the other standard works of the church. It was evident really fast that this was someone who was very against our church and someone whose sole purpose was to tear us down as missionaries. We talked with him for a bit about the difference between getting saved by grace alone and about the idea of being saved after all you can do. He started quoting a whole bunch of scriptures supporting the grace alone idea, but missed the rest of the scriptures in the Bible also supporting the idea of works being necessary to be saved. We cut the conversation off and left.
It was also a testimony builder because there are plenty of other religions that do not believe too much different from us, and yet he only picks on us. It makes me realize that Satan is trying really hard to tear down this work, starting with the missionaries themselves, as they are the ones who are pushing the work forward. So, that was my birthday experience!
Thanksgiving was also fantastic! We had two back to back dinner appointments, both of which were absolutely fantastic! I also made my mom’s famous trifle dessert, which made me feel a little less home-sick. President Christianson allowed us to just take the day to relax prior, so it was a much needed mini-vacation full of a whole bunch of food!
Friday was also great because we actually had a second Thanksgiving pretty much. We worked for the beginning of the day, and went to Greece (a city nearby, not the country 😦 ) for a second Thanksgiving. They deep-fried the turkey, which made the turkey absolutely fantastic! All of the food was delicious!
Well, nothing really happened on Saturday. We did a service project in the morning, but nothing else really to report.
Yesterday (Sunday) was fantastic though! We went to church as usual. Then we taught Susan a lesson again. She is reading the Book of Mormon and realizes it’s an inspired book. We assigned her to read the Savior’s ministry from 3 Nephi chapters 11-30. She said she would. We also taught Jenny (the lady whose house we got into on my birthday). We pretty much just answered questions but she is a wonderful lady. We then taught Domingo again, who seemed like he really needed our visit that day. We then went to dinner at the Stake President’s house. It was overall a great day!
Well, that’s my week! It was a great week to be a missionary!!!
So, this week was a really slow week. We didn’t really get to talk to very many people, but it was still a good week.
Last Monday, as we were coming down the elevator after another lesson with Susan, a guy got in the elevator with a giant butcher knife. He was sweating and looked like he could have been on drugs. We were all freaked out, especially after hearing that a guy who almost identically matched his description had killed a person that same day with a knife. I have yet to research it, but if that was the same guy, I’m going to be even more freaked out!!!
Tuesday was really good. We talked with Hector again about the gospel. He talked about how he is really struggling in his life right now, so we gave him a priesthood blessing and read the story of Nephi in 2 Nephi 4: 26-31. Hector really showed emotion when I read the part, “I will give place no more, for the enemy of my soul.” It was a great lesson and the Spirit was so thick in the room it was palpable. It was a fantastic lesson. We also went to Buffalo Wild Wings again and I got 5 of the spiciest wings. Note to self: dumb idea hahaha. After that we saw another investigator named Domingo. This lesson is worth talking about because Elder Miller exclaimed at the door, “Hi Juan!” We had just visited Juan, so he was confused. We fixed the situation and he let us come in to talk. While we were giving the lesson, I finally had the need to say something. I started talking, and almost immediately, Domingo fell asleep. I trailed off and obviously looked horribly confused because my companions were laughing. It was a really funny experience.
Wednesday was almost entirely engulfed by the fact that we got a brand new mission vehicle! We traded our Chevy Malibu in for a 2012 Ford Fusion. It was such an upgrade! Anyways, that’s pretty much it for that day.
Thursday was cool because we got to go to Lake Ontario and go out on the pier which was like a mile long! Whew, that was freezing cold! Lake Ontario is the smallest great lake, and you still couldn’t see even close to the end of it. It was a cool experience though and we of course froze almost to death haha.
Friday we went out with Mark to take pictures of the cool graffiti around town. He would have gone alone, but since that’s our area and we feel comfortable there, he came with us so he’d be protected. It was really cool to see all the graffiti for more than like a second while you’re driving. Those artists have serious talent though, it’s absolutely amazing! Mark also told us that the Sacred Grove experience last week really made him feel good and start to accept the message of the Restoration. We also taught a recent convert named Ibrahim, who is from Cuba! That was kinda cool considering my mom is from Cuba. The whole day I’d been praying I could speak Spanish to him instead of Portuguese so I could actually contribute to the lesson. The Lord answered my prayer and I was able to teach the lesson in fluent Spanish. Wow, that was definitely a sign that the Lord is helping me in this work.
Saturday was a great day! We taught Hector again and he said that this week was much better since the blessing. He said he’s been much happier and more able to control his emotions. We also went to the Sacred Grove again with another recent convert, Steve. We also got to get a really cool replica of the original 1830 leather copy of the Book of Mormon. I normally wouldn’t have gotten it, but because I served near the sacred grove and the site of the Restoration of the Gospel, I figured it was appropriate to get.
Sunday was another really cool day. After church, we taught Susan again. She really hasn’t been making much progress, so we taught her about having a desire to learn and asked her if she would take the week to think about if she really wanted to learn about the gospel. She said she would. Afterwards, we took Mark to a baptismal service for another set of missionaries. We got the times mixed up, so we only got to be there for the confirmation part of the baptism. However, the Spirit obviously touched Mark and we set a baptismal date with him for Christmas Eve so that he could get the Gift of the Holy Ghost on Sunday. How much better of a Christmas present could he get? I thought it was pretty cool.
Anyways, so that was my week! Hope to hear from everyone!
This week has been awesome also! I’ll kinda do a summary of each day.
Tuesday was a fun day. We taught a man named Hector, who is a really fun person. He has heard all the lessons pretty much, but is having a problem getting a ride to church, so we’re working with him to see how we can help. We also went to Buffalo Wild Wings today because they have like 40 cent wings. My white shirt ended up getting dominated with the sauce, but everything came out so no harm done haha. We also went around the neighborhoods to find people to teach. We taught 3 lessons to people and passed out a Book of Mormon to someone who was interested.
Wednesday was important because I finally got my electronic visa! I’m expected to go to Brazil around December 9th. It was bitter-sweet though because I already love the people here in Rochester and my companions up here. I don’t want to leave! But at the same time, I’m excited to go to Brazil (especially since it’s getting colder up here). I also got to meet Jamie, who is one of my new favorite people. Our last commitment to here was to read 1 Nephi chapter 4, which she did and was able to almost perfectly recite every detail of the story. She is really fantastic and has a date for baptism on the 9th of December. We read President Uchtdorf’s talk, “You matter to Him.” She was in tears by the end of the lesson and really enjoyed the message of it. It was a great day. We also had dinner with Mark’s parents, Dick and Gloria. They’re really warming up to us and love talking with us. Hopefully we’ll be able to teach them soon!
Thursday we had exchanges with Elder Cox, one of our zone leaders, who is really fun to be around. We talked with Bob again and taught Mark that evening, where Mark really opened up to us and expressed some of his concerns. Now we know what we can do to help him! I’m really excited with how fast Mark is progressing!
Friday was interesting. The day time was kinda lame because we weren’t able to find people to teach, but in the evening I went with the ASL elder’s to teach Debbie, an excommunicated member of the church. We taught at her friend Allen’s house. Allen was totally stone drunk during the lesson, and, as such, made it really difficult to teach about anything. He was in his late 60s, and thought that because he was so well educated, that he knew all about our message. It was a very entertaining lesson. Some of his ideas were ones I agree with, but most were very abstract and had no real base to go off.
Saturday was also interesting because we had nothing really solid planned, but we ended up getting to do service for a family and had two dinner appointments when none were scheduled. It was kinda cool how everything worked out!
Sunday was really cool also! So, I took a vitamin pill that morning, but because I did it without food, I ended up throwing up and having to miss church. Luckily, the rest of the day made up for it because we got to take Mark to the Sacred Grove! It was one of the coolest experiences ever! I mean, how many other people can say they talked about the First Vision and the restoration of the gospel of Jesus Christ in the actual grove of trees where that took place? Just this mission? Yeah, that’s what I thought! It was really awesome and Mark absolutely loved it!
So that’s my week! Hope to hear from everyone!
So, as I said in my last letter, I got reassigned to the Rochester, New York mission and arrived here on the 31st of October. I absolutely love it here so far! On Monday I got to spend the day with the mission president and have a fantastic dinner over there.
Tuesday was definitely one of the coolest experiences of my life though! I got to go visit Palmyra, New York (only about 20 minutes away). First we visited the gravesite of Alvin Smith, the oldest of the Smith children so that we don’t forget the importance and example that he was to Joseph. Then we went to the Smith farm, which was so cool! I got to see the room where Joseph Smith read the famous James 1:5 scripture and the room where the angel Moroni appeared to Joseph Smith telling him about the plates that contained the Book of Mormon. While we were in the upstairs bedroom where that miraculous event occurred, we had a testimony meeting with the mission president, his wife, and the assistants. That was a very powerful experience and a huge testimony builder to me right there.
Right after that, we left to go to the Sacred Grove (which I took pictures of but forgot my camera at the apartment so I’ll have to show pictures next week). The Sacred Grove was definitely the highlight of the trip. You could feel the difference between this forest and any other forest. Surprisingly, it was still pretty green, so I was very happy about that. President Christianson allowed me to be alone for a bit to pray and to have my own “sacred grove experience,” (meaning to know for myself about the truthfulness of the gospel). It was such an experience.
After that experience, we went to the Hill Cumorah where the plates were burried. We didn’t get to spend a whole lot of time there though because I took so long enjoying the Sacred Grove that we had to keep moving. But I got plenty of pictures and it was an absolutely gorgeous view from the top of the hill (though thank goodness we drove up instead of hiked).
I met a whole lot of new people, all of which I already love being around. First and foremost, I have two companions as my trainers, Elder Ingram and Elder Miller. Both are amazing workers and have great attitudes about the work. We also met up with a lot of people we are helping to join the gospel, but I only have time to talk about the 3 main ones.
Mark Bangs is a character. He’s about 52 but has a bunch of energy. We spent from Tuesday to Friday helping him set up an art show that he was hosting, which was a great service opportunity. He is a photographer and has some great shots of the Rochester area (which I was fortunate enough to get a couple from him). We haven’t officially taught him any lessons, but we’ve taught him a lot of principles throughout our service with him and we’re meeting with him because he is wanting to know more about what we do as missionaries.
Bob Wheeler is about 70 or so and is a professor at the University of Rochester. He is a huge fanatic of the Mormon Tabernacle Choir and has every CD ever made by them. He seems to agree with most of the doctrines, but he only wants to be baptized if he is allowed to keep drinking coffee. We think there might be a little more to his reluctancy to join the church though, but I’ll update more as I find out.
Susan is the person who is progressing the fastest out of all of them. She does very well with keeping her commitments and is reading the Book of Mormon at a very fast pace. She has a baptismal date for the 19th of this month but thinks it might be too soon. She has a problem with our claim to be the only church that has the authority to baptize. This lesson, the best we could do was to bear testimony of the truthfulness of what we were saying and the spirit touched her and I think it told her that what we were saying was true. She committed to praying about our message and getting back to us during our next meeting with her.
So, Thursday I realized how horrible my Spanish is because I just spent 9 weeks shutting off my Spanish. I am in a Spanish area of the mission in downtown Rochester (though most of the time we still teach in English). I can still understand most of the words being said in Spanish, but when I respond, it’s Portuguese and few people can understand me. This might be a little interesting haha.
Friday we went out to find more people to talk to, and it turned out to be a very productive day! We found 2 people who wanted us to come back and talk to them more about the gospel, so we got their contact info. We tried to contact them this Sunday, but none were home so we’ll try again this week. Friday was also District meeting, which was a great spiritual teaching moment. I learned a lot about really taking our Purpose to heart and making it become part of you. We also had Mark’s art show, which was a huge success! It was really comforting to see our service have such a huge impact and it made us all feel really good.
Saturday we went to the Peter Whitmer Farm, where the church was organized in 1830 and where the translation of the Book of Mormon was completed. It was really cool to be there, and we ended up having a recent convert with us, who was also really enjoying the experience. We’re taking him to the Smith farm this weekend also supposedly, so I’m really excited to see it again!
Sunday was also a really good and productive day. We went to church and then spent the day finding people and found 2 really good teaching opportunities. One was Raulph, who was referred to us as someone interested to hear the gospel. He already knows a lot about the church and was very interested in learning more about the church, seeing as his first wife was reading the Book of Mormon before she passed away. It should be a good opportunity for us! The second one was Carmencita, a recent convert. It was a good visit as well.
Well, that was my week! Whew! Lot of stuff! It was a lot of fun though! I really almost hope I don’t get my visa so I can stay here in New York though! But I know that I’ll be perfectly happy either way.
Hope to hear from everyone!