Monday, May 7, 2012

April 30th Letter


This week (in response to the lack of questions from last week), I think we ended up overdoing the questions…so we’ll have to make sure to send only a few to leave Elder Blackford more time for any stories he can think of. So here is the “best” Q&A from this week:

Q: I noticed you haven’t spent anything other than a couple of little things right after you arrived in Brazil. I assume the monthly living allowance is adequate. Yes?
A: Holy cow is it more than enough! We get 144 rais every 15 days, which is like $80, and so that gives us like 70 rais or $40 each week to buy food. Since there’s just little stores all around us, all we really end up buying is fruits, bread, cheese, milk, some crackers and eggs with like tang mixes and chocolate milk mix. So on average we spend 30 rais a week each, and then the rest goes for adding money to our bus card (it’s like a credit card you can refill, you scan it to get on the bus). Elder Crandall has over like $600 on his card because if you really just save and be wise, you don’t need all that money, and you can basically get pizza whenever you want. I have already hidden my credit from home and really won’t need it.

Q: Dad is wondering how much of your time (in 7ths if that works) is tracting, how much teaching from referrals. (Remember that Elder Blackford does everything in 7ths, so we try to stay consistent with that in our family.)
A: Well at first we spent a good time trying to find people (3/7 of our time), but once you get a relative amount of people in your group to teach, its such a waste of time to put on your planner "Achar novos bate portas" so we haven’t in weeks. As of the last 2 weeks we had a few referrals from the youth in the ward, and we have started to teach with them, so about 2/7 of our day is with the youth and teaching youth. Then 4/7 is teaching the people we already have or teaching the people that they give references. We’re stubborn we don’t like to leave a house without a name and address of someone we can teach. And then the last 1/7 is walking on the streets and making contacts with the people that pass by. And yes we get lots of "I told you guys no last week," but hey it’s whatever.

Q: What do you think your language skill level is now? Would you say you are 70% proficient? Or what percentage?
A: So you don’t want this in 7ths? But definitely not 70%. Let’s see, we have several things, we have speaking, and understanding, and writing.
Speaking: I can say pretty much anything I want to say, but it’s with basic verbs still and sounds a little funny, and it takes time for me to say complicated things. I obviously still have a horrible accent, and I still will talk for like a minute, and then look at the blank stare of the person and go crap...they understood nothing. So I would place myself at a 3/7 for speaking. When in lessons I do pretty well because I have done it so many times.
Understanding: I am going to put a 5/7. I can understand everything Elder Crandall says, because he has a range of verbs that I have gotten used to hearing. So 0 problems there. As far as other people, depends the scenario still. When teaching a lesson I am 7/7 I understand pretty much everything. With talks at church and people talking about other things like work, school, and what not I am only a 4/7. But I have passed the point for a while now where I need to translate, and to think in English or Portuguese is pretty easy. Like if I stop to pause and think even when I’m typing here I will start to type out Portuguese because my thoughts switch over and there’s already some English words that are getting hard to say because they don’t retranslate from Portuguese really easy.
Writing: I am about a 1/7. I can’t spell anything. Like literally almost anything, it’s horrid. I can sound everything out but for some reason I can’t ever seem to figure out how to write lots of stuff, so this I really need to work on.

Somehow the fact that spelling/writing is a struggle for Elder Blackford doesn’t really surprise me…he may be my brother and I love him but it wasn’t one of his strong points in English, so this doesn’t come unexpectedly.

Q: You’ve mentioned that getting people to get married has been one of the challenges missionaries face when teaching investigators. What would be another large challenge when trying to teach people?
A: The fact that everyone here believes a bunch of stuff that the churches teach here. You will walk by a church on the corner all the time with a bunch of people yelling gibberish—just noises and random words. This is because "they are receiving the gift of tongues and the spirit," so many people ask what "gifts" our church and our pastor have. So generally when people bring this up we do stuff like this.
            "Yeah I have a gift I can run really fast."
            "My tongue has the gift of tasting food."
Basically the biggest challenges are explaining to people sensitively that what they learned at the Catholic Church is not what we believe. (See how I use sensitive wording?) Things from if you’re not baptized you’re not a child of God, Mary was a prophet, prayers go fast to God if you pray through a Saint, so you find one if you really want him to hear it, and then a lot of people believe you must yell and scream your prayers to be heard—say it with energy.

Here is what I would say was the most meaningful little quote we’ve received from Elder Blackford so far:

Q: What gospel principle have you gained the most understanding of to this point?
A: Arrependemento. Because really there’s a lot to the word repentance. We say a lot that to repent you have to stop, confess and never do it again. This is hardly the truth. The keyword to repentance is change. The point is not to get you to stop doing bad things so you choose good things instead; it’s to get you to want to choose good things. The fact that you stop doing them is not the problem, what matters is the change inside your heart. If you feel like you are becoming a better person, your desires have changed. Stopping the sin, fixing it, and doing good things are the result of the change. Without having a true change of heart, arrependemento dá nada [or repentance is nothing].

Of course, we never are without a mini update on the “chain reaction” group!
But this week was way awesome because we had our first baptism! Vanessa was baptized and it was way great. She is the result of our chain reaction group. Quick background on her due to time... she is 22, has a 5 year old son, and lives with her family with all girls. She currently is not working but she used to be a model. And she has been going to church since conference (she went to 2 sessions). She is really shy and doesn’t talk to other people a lot, and since her ex-boyfriend and her broke up like a year ago (they dated since she was 14,) she has almost no friends and she doesn’t really do social stuff. Since we have brought a ton of youth and members of the ward, the majority of her friends are members, and yeah it was awesome!

Here are the baptism pictures!




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