These two brothers, Joelson and Jailson, were baptized last Sunday, the Sunday after Christmas. Stake and ward visitors helped transport us to the Guaraituba chapel for the baptisms. President and Sister Monteiro (pictured on the right) were there, and more stake visitors. The room where we had the short meeting was full, and I played the organ. The ward mission leader, Bro. Ribeiro (brother to Ozair) brought Dennis and me home to Bocaiúva.
While everyone at the temple enjoyed a large cake before being bussed home (see previous post below, dated 12/21/2014), we slipped out, called a taxi, and were taken to Curitiba's largest bus station, or "rodoferroviária" [ho-do-feh-ho-vee-áh-deeah]. We rode nice busses, first to Mafra and then to Canoinhas [kah-no-éen-yus], city of 50,000, where we planned to spend two days with Elder and Sister Brown (Larry and Kay), who are also senior missionaries serving there, in the Curitiba South Mission. After having to take an alternate route, we arrived in Canoinhas about midnight. We planned on taking a taxi to our hotel. But! We couldn't rouse a taxi after midnight. So, we walked 1 1/2 miles through the rain, in the wee hours of the morning, through a dark and strange city, to our hotel, arriving there about 1:00 a.m. Phew! Another experience!
The next morning, the Brown's met us at the hotel, and for two days, we talked non-stop while walking all over their town, midst the hustle-bustle of Christmas shopping, and enjoying unique Christmas decorations in their parks. All of the displays are made out of wired-together parts of 2 liter plastic soda bottles. Even hanging lights, bush decorations and walkways are decorated using tops, bottoms, and sides of the bottles. The creativity of the figures and decorations was amazing.
We did some fun shopping, including a few grocery items we can't find in Bocaiúva (pictured below left). Kay gave us the BEST gifts: Mapleine flavoring and two packages of Hidden Valley Ranch Dressing!! We relaxed in their new apartment, toured their church building (former police station), which has an above-ground (??) baptismal font built into what used to be the garage. We attended their branch's Family Night activity and had almoço (lunch) in a restaurant with the Brown's and their four Elders (incl. district and zone leaders, below--both are trainers). It helps us to know that their experiences are similar to ours.
We learned that Canoinhas is THE CAPITOL OF ERVA MATÉ! Maté is an herb that the southern Brazilians love to drink as a tea, or chimarrão [shimah-hone], in their maté cups, or "queias," which are hollowed-out gourds. They drink hot or cold thru a silver straw called a "bomba." I will soon post a section about chimarrão-drinking in Brazil. It's a topic with a history.
It rained almost the whole time we were there, but with our trusty umbrellas ("guarda chuvas"), we were prepared and had a ball! Our 2 days with the Brown's was re-energizing for us, and we're looking forward to the next time we can get together. It helps us a lot to know that many of their experiences and challenges are similar to ours. They are our only American peers, as the Thomas's and the Brown's are the only senior couple missionaries ("casals") in each of our missions.
Sunday afternoon, December 21, 49 people from our little Grupo at Bocaiúva Do Sul--including 12 investigators--boarded a bus arranged by the missionaries, and traveled 1 1/2 hour to the Curitiba Temple. The bus was provided at no charge by the municipal government (?), plus some money to pay for the driver's time. At the temple, we were joined by five more people from the Grupo--54 people!! Most had never seen the temple before.
Our hearts break for those who have felt the witness of the Holy Spirit of the truthfulness of the Gospel of Jesus Christ, who have made the covenants of Baptism, who have received the gift of the Holy Ghost (or at least were offered it), and have become friends with us in our little Grupo; but have chosen to stop learning about the restored Gospel and attending church, for various reasons. Our Father in Heaven has assured all of us that we will always have the right to make such choices. Most of them do not realize that they will henceforth be listed as members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints, and that we will try to maintain contact and will keep encouraging them to return. We realize that positive influences will continue to come from various sources in their futures, and that some of these beautiful people will once again feel to promptings of the Spirit and will return to full activity and fellowship in the Church. First gospel principal: FAITH. . .Still, it hurts.
*Because of the nature of this blog, it is not appropriate to share with you readers any names or pictures of these people with whom we have worked in the short 6 months we have been here.
Nov. 2 - Stake conference, no local baptisms
Nov. 9 - Big Almoço after church in our apartment, for Lucas (12), Juliano (14), João Vítor (15). We didn't go to their baptisms in Guaraituba (too exhausted), but Elder Thomas gave the missionaries money for everyone's bus fare. We watched the group walk down our driveway on their way to the bus stop.
Nov. 16 - Big Almoço after church in our apartment, for José [jozéh] (in his 60's); Gudalfo (10 - Larisa #1's half-brother); Lucas's mom Marta and two sisters Kiara and Larissa #2 (#2, since Gudalfo's half-sister is Larissa #1). We went with them on the bus and paid everyone's fare (our gift). Marta's daughter Larissa #2 was not planning on being baptized, but had been interviewed just in case. After seeing her brother baptized last week, watching us taking pictures of her mother and sister, and then watching them being baptized too--in the c-o-l-d water, she decided she wanted to be baptized too! Marta's husband is a long-haul truck driver and is away a lot. He was able to be with this wife and daughters when they were baptized. This family has a very strong, loving spirit about, and are real "characters." They live close to us, and we meet them on the street often. Hopefully, their dad will be baptized, maybe the next time he's in town...he seems to be a great Dad.
November 29 - Before her husband José was baptized last week, Ilda [eelda] stood firm in claiming that she wanted to stay with her church, the Universal Church. But after seeing her husband baptized, she compared her sprinkling baptism to the immersion and said to the Elders, "Sprinkling isn't right. Jesus didn't go into the river to be sprinkled. Why can't I be baptized too?" The next week the Elders taught the lessons again, this time for her. They arranged for Saturday night, and traveled by bus to the Columbo chapel (our first time there, a few miles beyond Guaraituba) for her baptism. She was delighted! She announced that the next day would be her birthday. Luckily, I had brought a pumpkin-banana cake for a small celebration afterwards. We turned it into a birthday party and sang Brazil's birthday song, "Para Bens!" We were able to ride home with them in Eduardo's car, and got to know each other at bit. I wish I could carry on conversations--I'm much too silent when I should be building relationships!