Last Sunday, August 30, Dennis celebrated his 72nd birthday. He seemed to thoroughly enjoy all the events surrounding the day! He tried to reply to the many birthday wishes he received on Facebook and by email--that's a first for sure! We enjoyed the Campo Largo Ward Conference at church -- we taught our Temple Prep class as usual, and he sang in the ward choir while I played. That evening, we invited the Elders to join us for my Brazilian version of German Chocolate Cake and ice cream (which fell because our oven went out several times). As a result, we enjoyed ice cream with a chocolate pudding cake with German chocolate cake topping! The ice cream was very soft and was blobbed in big heaps onto the plates. But still, the food was gone RAPIDAMENTE!
On Monday evening, we hosted the Elders again, with lots of delivered pizza, after their big P-Day at the Vila Velha Park (see our blog post dated July 20, 2015). Wednesday, we again met the Elders at Lacador Churráscaria for lunch--also his choice, for his birthday. It was a great several days!
One of Brazil's biggest challenges is their water purification system. It includes drainage canals which are supplied by runoff from rain, residences, businesses and factories. In short, their sewer system is openly handled by canals, like this one below our house, and small reservoirs. This Canal Road is really quiet and nice to walk on, away from the city hustle and bustle. We try not to look closely at the water in the canal, as we take this route frequently on our way to and from the Condor supermarket and home visits. Our ignorance has been noticed; last night we were warned that it is a very dangerous place because of the drugs and violence that occur there. Neighbors claim they never walk on that street and advise us to stay away also. Darn! Now what?
With such a large ward and so many members that are less-active or in-active, the Bishop hopes that we will be able make a difference in peoples lives. He has given us several wonderful families to visit weekly, giving gospel messages, encouraging them to come to church, making sure that their needs are being met---loving them, as the Savior would have us do. Kika's family was the first that the Bishop took us to visit, on July 2nd. It was "love at first sight," and we have visited almost every week since then. They are so good to us; it's easy to forget we're on an errand for the Bishop and are the Lord's representatives. Kika's family has lived in the same upstairs apartment for 15 years. Her husband passed away about a year ago, and she lives with her older sister Dete, her daughter Monica, and Monica's son Pablo. Two other sons Xander and his family, and Ronaldo and wife live close-by. Kika, Monica, Pablo and Ronaldo are members of the Church.
Well before his release date, Elder Carvalho made a dinner date with the girl back home, to see if there might be a future together. The date was for two days after his return home. ;)
Every Tuesday evening, the ward had a Family Night Activity, which includes an opening hymn, prayer, spiritual message/lesson, occasionally an activity, closing hymn, prayer and refreshments. This activity was a fun one: a piece of cake was placed on a plate on the floor. Contestants had to pick up the cake with their teeth without touching the floor with their hands.
In an effort to build friendships, social awareness and to encourage ward members to welcome investigators and new members with open arms, Elder Thomas and I try to schedule Family Nights on Sunday, Monday, Wednesday and Friday evenings, either in our apartment or in other homes. When it is in our home, we start by getting to know them, challenging them to master several puzzle toys, and having them write their names on our Book of Mormon banner. We open and close with prayer, have a gospel message, then an activity of some kind, then food (a light dinner). It is a LOT of work, but we hope that the idea will catch on, and people will initiate invitations to new and old friends in their own homes--without our instigation.