I haven't gotten anything from Jon and Brooke yet...but that's really nice of them to send something! I'm used to mail working slowly here, so I'll wait patiently but happily!
The same thing for the first package that you guys sent. I'm very surprised it hasn't gotten here yet! But I'm sure it will get here eventually. Thank you so much for being willing to send me packages!
I am very happy to get to play the piano so often. I will also play the violin next week at church. I'm not able to play all the notes for the hymns, but I've developed a knack for staying with the choir and generally not playing too many wrong notes. The members appreciate everything that I am able to play, I'm sure :D.
Austin: FOLLOW THE ADVICE OF THIS DOCTOR. DON'T CUT YOUR TOENAILS TOO SHORT. Just a friendly word of wisdom! My ingrown toenail actually has not yet healed completely and I will go to the doctor again sometime in the next couple weeks. Maybe I will get a pedicure as well!
The questions about our teaching are interesting ones. Actually I don't think I've taught an active Catholic yet. There are Catholics here, but they almost never go to church and only call themselves Catholic.
Generally, what I've found here is that most people already believe a majority of the doctrine that we teach. Or if they don't believe it, they are willing to accept it. Every once in a while we will come across a person that actually has beliefs that clash with ours, and almost always that belief is that every church is true. I think our doctrine that there is only one true church is an idea very alien to people here.
Almost everybody frequents churches like Assembly of God, Universal, God is Love, or Quadrangular. But usually people will just go to whatever church is closest.
Elder J. Santos said it best when he told me, "People here don't want to know which church is true. They want to feel good at a church".
So doctrine is hardly ever a problem here. Everybody knows the role of prophets, that Christ established a church on the earth, and generally people are willing to accept that Joseph Smith was a prophet and the Church of Jesus Christ was restored to the earth. But they don't want to change because of it. People generally don't understand that if there is only one church on the earth that has authority of God, you should probably go to it!
It's that coordination between belief and action that we have to overcome here as missionaries. It's frustrating at times, but much less frustrating than having Bible Bashes with every person we met in South Carolina. Actually, sometimes I like Bible Bashes (not that I do that as a missionary ;D) because it's amazing how the Bible supports our teachings as missionaries! Generally I use the Bible a ton everyday. I actually need to work on using the Book of Mormon more.
One other thing that's a bit different and difficult here is that hardly anyone is married. It's a bit strange, because everybody believes it's a commandment of God to be married, but nobody follows it. We always get excited if we hear during a contact that a person is married, because it is much easier to help them. Elder Nores has already married 5 couples on his mission, so he has some experience with that sort of thing.
This last Thursday, we had a split with one of the assistants. Elder Nores and I stayed with Elder Peterson, from Wyoming. He's pretty cool, and only has a little over 1 year on the mission, which is unusual for an AP. We were teaching a lesson to Vanessa, a 20 year old woman that is living with her father. We had been talking to her about a baptism date for the , because she had never attended church. We finished teaching the lesson (Restoration), and Elder Peterson challenged her to be baptized the if she prayed and was answered. She accepted.
We returned the next day, and she hadn't read or prayed. I personally determined that she was not ready to be baptized the next day without ever going to church or living the Word of Wisdom. And yesterday, she proved that she was not ready by sleeping in until and missing church. We'll continue to work with her and help her become a solid member. Personally, I am not here to baptize less-actives.
Yesterday we had quite an experience trying to get people to church. We searched for, talked with, and called everybody we could think of, and it seemed like everybody had an excuse. We were just about to give up and go to church (church had already started), when we remembered a contact we had made that we could visit on the way to the church. She was an elderly woman named B. We walked up to her door, and she was sitting down, waiting for us. She asked why we had taken so long to pick her up for church.
So we escorted this 84 year old woman down the street in the direction of the church. Then we remembered that there was a huge highway in between the church and our location, and that she would not be able to cross with her poor health. So we waited for an omnibus to pick us up...and waited...and waited. Still I don't know why it took so long. Finally, after 2 hours of waiting, we got a hold of a member to come and pick her up for church. She made it in time for sacrament meeting. It will be interesting to see if we continue working with her.
As for other missionaries in my district who have made it here, only three of us have actually gotten our visas. Elder McCrea, Elder Worley, and I are serving here in Brazil. Elder Blackner, Packer, Hayes, and Klodnicki are still waiting in the US to come here. I feel so blessed to be serving here in Brazil. I know that I have a purpose here and I am fulfilling it.
Last minute thought--I titled this email "Lots of Rain" because it is raining hard right now, yesterday, and throughout the whole week. I'm getting used to being soaked :D
I love you all! Boa sorte para tudo mundo!