Mission Slideshow

Monday, December 26, 2011

Week #37 "Dude, you were like, 'Whoa!' and then we were like 'WHOA!' and then you were like 'Whoa..."

BOOM!!

So, MERRY CHRISTMAS. I know I am a day late but I still wanted to say it.

I have to say that finally being able to call home was AWESOME!!!!! For those of you who did not know, missionaries can call home only 4 times in their whole mission (2 years); once each Christmas and once on each Mothers Day. Well I missed the last Mothers Day (I was not allowed to call because I was in the missionary training center) so I only get to call three times. So almost 9 months after I started the mission, I was finally able to call! IT WAS THE BEST!!!!! Thank you to my family for being so beautiful and patient with my stories. Also, a quick shout out to REED PERKINS and AARON DAVIS for the visit. It is always nice to see "almost family" on Christmas too!

Então, let us move on to the week!

So we started off this week with a mission Christmas trip... TO THE ZOO!! But this zoo was not any ordinary zoo. It is called CIGS. It is a zoo that is managed by the jungle warfare department of the Brazilian Army! The zoo sits on a military base and everyone that works there is in uniform. We actually had a pretty sweet tour with the Colonel who runs the base and he explained all about their military operations, how they train, and all sorts of really amazingly cool stuff! I had a blast!! I took a bunch of pictures. They taught us about certain foods and techniques that you can use to survive in the rain forest, and showed us the history of the program. I have to admit, I was geekin' out!

THEN!! They decided to teach us about how to capture snakes!! YES! They showed us some sweet techniques with sticks and other tools, and then they said " But in reality, if you have to catch a snake, you are probably going to have to do it with your bare hands." SO they showed us how. They had a 2-man team catch it where one man distracted the snake and the other grabbed its head Then they had a guy do it alone!!! It was RIDICULOUS! This guy had no fear. He just shook his hat in one hand and grabbed a 10 foot anaconda by the head!!!! I was freaking out! The whole time you could see the face of the mission presidents wife! She was not happy that they were doing this. THEN, to her horror, they pulled out other gigantic snakes, divided us into groups and let the missionaries catch the snakes with the techniques they showed us!! That is right, they let missionaries catch 10 foot anacondas with their bear hands! Even the president of the mission tried it. I got in line to do it BUT..... before I could go another missionary in front of me was bit!!!! He hesitated just enough that the snake turned and got his hand!!! After that I did not get a chance to try. But I want to go back next year to try it! However, with that Elder being bit, I doubt we will be able to. Dang!

I also happened to conduct the music for the Christmas program we had there. It was beautiful, despite the bad planning and HORRIBLE PLASTIC ORGAN that they had for us to use. I even sang a solo, O HOLY NIGHT! However, I definitely cracked the last high note. It was cool. I loved it.

On the way home, we had a private bus and I was left in charge to direct him to our chapel. So I asked him if he would take us to our houses and he said YES!! So he took all the Missionaries to their houses which is just south of my area and we just walked home. It was great!! I did not have to pay extra for another bus or anything! I felt like Mr. Norfleet on all those band trips when he sat up front and talked to the bus driver. Definitely a power trip. Haha!

So me and my companion are not getting along very well. We had a "fight" this week and basically all our work just came to a halt. We had 3 baptisms planned, which all fell through. We taught almost nobody. It was horrible. I do not think there is a week of my life that I have prayed more than this week. The situation is really complicated and I do not really care to talk about it now. "Well Elder Laws, why did you mention it if you aren't going to talk about it?" Good question. Because I want you all to know that I do not butter up these letters. I just tell it how it is. Lots of good stuff and a little bit of bad. That is just how it works. Anyway, this next week will be much better and I hope and pray all will be well. However, I have learned a valuable lesson. Anger cannot exist in the presence of the spirit. Anger forces one to leave the guiding light of Christ and take a more personally chosen path of pride and loathing.

For Christmas Eve we spent dinner with a family in another ward and with Elder Earl and Elder Reis. They prepared a TON of food and it was great!! Almost like being home. I even turned on Andy Williams Christmas music in the background to create the proper Christmas atmosphere. We even made Brownies that Elder Earl had!!! I LOVE BROWNIES!!!!!!!! Then, on Christmas Day another member invited us over because he knew how to make Brownies from scratch, using Brazilian products!!!! Sooooo last night I had brownies AGAIN!!!! It was blisselation (THAT IS RIGHT! I USED THAT WORD!). If you do not know this word "blisselation", it is a combo of bliss and elation. I give thanks to Rachel Stenberg for the creation of such a marvelous word. Anyways, Brownies... they do good things.

This week I also out that ant colony had been born within my laundry pile. However in their choice of locale, they forget to account for the fact that I am the proud owner of RAID as well as the owner of the laundry pile in question. NEVER has an ant colony been so utterly eradicated in such a short period of time. The ant community must have scrambled afterwards to comprehend the full scale of the attack. I did indeed lay waste, leaving none in my path. Ant and larvae alike; they all were given the same fate. If you cannot tell yet I am not a big fan of bugs. So when I find them living in my clothes I do not take the situation lightly. I once heard the phrase "if you are going to punch your enemy, make sure you knock him out." I would politely like to adapt this phrase to my situation. "If you are going to step on an ant hill, make sure you step on it with a bulldozer... or a large washing machine with a lot of soap!!

I hope all is well with all of you!

Eu amo voçês ( or eu vos amo)
Elder Asa Laws

Monday, December 19, 2011

Week #36 - "I will not carry a gun.... I'll carry your books, I'll carry a torch, I'll carry a tune, I'll carry on, carry over, carry forward, Cary Grant, cash and carry, carry me back to Old Virginia, I'll even hari-kari if you show me how, but I will not carry a gun"

Boom!
Dear Santa,

I know that my Christmas letter is late this year but I figured you would understand since I am in a foreign country. Good!

Santa, my life is fantastic. I have everything that I need and almost everything that I could want. Really, my mission has been the best present that I could have received this year. HOWEVER, that does not leave you off the hook! (hehe) There are a million people I know who could really use your help. So what I want from you this Christmas Santa, is for you to give someone else something that they need. If you need some ideas, I know plenty of people that need food, money for bills, a hug, a good laugh, and I know millions that do not understand WHY we have Christmas. So for all those people, please give them the gospel of Christ. It has brought me endless hope and joy this year.

Thank you very much, you are the best. If you feel like it you can share some of your cookies and milk with me. (hehe)
Elder Asa Laws


Hello everyone! My week was a a very good week. Lots of growth and new adventures.
I played soccer again today! Two weeks in a row I have played with the local young men. Last week I served up pain with 8 goals!!! However, this week I was not feeling it so I spent the time as goalie! For about 30 minutes I got trashed. But with time I found the tricks of the trade and got pretty good for only one day on the job. Then, after the game we had a kid climb the mango tree that shades the field. He grabbed a ton of mangos for us and we sat and chilled, eating the freshest, most delicious mango of ALL TIME!! I felt like it was a picture perfect moment.

There is a member here who will be serving a mission here on the 7th of January and he has decided that every Thursday and Friday he is going to spend ALL day with us. He did that this week and it was great to just joke around with him in the street. We actually had a really successful week because of him. We were supposed to baptize Rener, a 14 year old kid of a part member family. However, on the date of the baptism, his grandpa died! So we moved it to this coming Saturday, the 24TH!! How cool is that, to be baptized on Christmas Eve!! So I am excited for that.

So we are teaching this lady named Marisete. She is awesome, and has gone to church twice now. She loves the feeling she has at church and she often tells us how much better her day is when we pass by. But on Sunday it was different. We were going home after a good, hard day when my companion decided we should stop to say hi. So we passed by her house and as my companion was talking with the family, I grabbed a chair and sat down out front of the small house (there was a nice breeze). She then said something that I will never forget. She looked down at me and said "You know, you people are different. I just feel something different with you guys. You guys are so smart, you study, and you know so much. But this one *pointing at me* is dedicated."

Maybe it is a bit prideful of me but I was so glad she had said that. I am really trying to make a difference and sometimes it is just so hard. Sometimes I just want to sit and cry because it all seems so big and me so small. Sometimes I feel everything is against me. Really, some days my only comfort is what I have from my packages, my scriptures, and long, hard prayers. So when someone tells me " hey, I can see you are actually trying," I just feel a little better and that all I do is not in vain. She validated all my efforts. Very cool!

Dedication. Commitment. 100%. These are rules to me. As far as I can tell in my studies they are rules laid down by God himself to mankind. Dedication in the Home. Commitment to our neighbor. 100% in all things, all the time. "Never quit" is not just a good catch phrase on the ball field or in a war film. It is an eternal truth. Perseverance until the very last moment. No, I am not perfect and I have definitely given up on a million things. But I can repent, recommit, and rededicate.

The blessings of heaven are predicated on the laws that dictate them, and the powers of heaven are controlled only by the principles of righteousness.

Happy Holidays Everyone!!
Eu amo voçês,
Elder Asa Laws

Monday, December 12, 2011

Week #35 "Getting into trouble again aren't we Aladdin?"

Boom!

If anybody was ever wondering why I put "boom" at the beginning of ever letter, it is because I like to think that John Madden is announcing the arrival of my letter. Hehe!

I thought that the format of this weeks letter would be well put in the form of a few thank you letters.

First, THANK YOU FAMILY for the wonderful Christmas packages that I did receive this week. When I picked them up from the mission staff building we had to take a bus back to our area during the middle of traffic. We waited for an hour for the bus to arrive. When it did, my friend Elder Squire guarded one box for me while I had the BIG box. This bus was FULL, really full. So full that when I tried to get on the bus their literally was no space to stand, let alone place a big box on the floor. I actually only had one foot on the bus, one foot off, one hand holding on and the other wrapped around the package when the bus began to leave!!!! I almost fell off the platform and into traffic! Luckily I had a tight grip and I held on for about 30 seconds until someone was kind enough to move and find space for me. Regardless.............. THANK YOU SO MUCH FOR THE PACKAGES!!!! EVERYTHING IS ABSOLUTELY FANTASTIC!!!!

Thank you to the men and women of the Tillamook Cheese Factory who, through the grace of my mother, have provided me with possibly the most loved brick of milk product of all time!!! That loaf of cheese took a beating in the shipping process but oh how it tasted divine!!!!!

Thank you for the powerful stain fighting action of Oxiclean, which has given my shirts new life, as well as a new smell (oxiclean smell, not Brazil smell.)

Thank you to Tylenol for being a friend when the sun is not! Thank you to gravy for adding new life to the same potatoes!!!

Thank you to fruitsnacks. You have truly proven your worth as an anti-hunger in-church snack, anti-crying child device, and as the most delicious "packing peanut" the world has yet to see. Continue being the best!

Thank you Sriracha!!!!! The best food enhancing spice that man or beast has tasted!!! You are now a constant back-pack companion who turns the same rice and beans into exciting party friends for my taste buds. You have also served well in soup, on chicken, and on slices of fantastic cheese!!!!

Thank you JIF!!!! Your peanut butter is a neccessary companion to any missionary who wishes to remain sane after those long hard days!! Your chunky, salty flavor has been most welcomed as a singular plate of food, as well as a perfect companion to fantastic cheese!!! ( yes, peanut butter on cheese is amazing!)

Thank you Mama Collier for the wonderful letter!!! It was so good to here from you and all about home and how my second family is doing. I am so glad to hear about the good things that are going on at home!! Missionary Mondays sound fantastic!!!! Glad to contribute!

Thank you Siarra for the little but all important gifts that you sent me. Chapstick is always welcome! I am also man enough to admit that the cuticle cream you sent has helped my sundried fingers feel much more loved!!! Thank you for those home comforts that really make Christmas come alive away from home!

Thank you Lacamas Creek Ward Young Women for the great letters and candy. I can assure you it was very delicious and I am very grateful. The stories of sitting under the spruce goose made me a bit jealous.... however for future reference for all, jolly ranchers are a no go here in Brazil. I have never seen ants find food so fast in my life. I seriously set them down for 5 minutes, and ants engulfed the candy! It was nuts!!!

Thank you Aunt Kierstin!!!!!!! Your Christmas card nearly made me cry!! I loved the photos of Max, Mikaela, and Mia. They all have grown up soo much and I really miss them a ton. I actually showed my mission president and a with a few members your card because I just loved it so much! They all agreed you have a beautiful, happy family.

There are really so many other things that I am grateful for this week, but I am especially grateful for the gift of humility. "And if men come unto me I will show unto them their aweakness. Ibgive unto men weakness that they may be humble; and my cgrace is sufficient for all men that dhumble themselves before me; for if they humble themselves before me, and have faith in me, then will I make eweak things become strong unto them." This scripture from the Book of Mormon has truly become a source of edification for me this past week. Things on the mission are hard. Really hard. This week I just really felt overwhelmed a few times will all the difficulties that exist here for these people and how some people just do not want help. I felt really weak, powerless, and useless. I felt like no matter how much I left here in Brazil, it all would not matter because there would still be a ton of problems. But this scripture really touched me in a way I cannot really write. But I just know that the Lord is listening to prayers. Honest, truthful, heart-bearing prayers. I know this from experience. NEVER forget the importance of prayer.

"And now, my beloved brethren, I perceive that ye ponder still in your hearts; and it grieveth me that I must speak concerning this thing. For if ye would hearken unto the aSpirit which teacheth a man to bpray, ye would know that ye must cpray; for the devil spirit teacheth not a man to pray, but teacheth him that he must not pray." 2 Nephi 32:8, Book of Mormon.

Thank you for all your prayers and love. I truly feel them here with me. No one receives more prayers on his behalf than a missionary. I know this more and more every day.

Eu amo voçês
Elder Asa Laws

Monday, December 5, 2011

Week #34 - "As usual, I'm writing slowly because I know you can't read fast.- Radar"

Boom!!!

This week has been a very long, and incredibly fast week for me. I cannot even describe this feeling of living a lifetime in 30 seconds or less. So on to the real information that you want to hear. I am living in the wonderful bairro of Jorge Teixeira in the northeast corner of Manaus. My last area was as southeast as the city goes and now I am as northeast as it gets. It is a wonderful area that still has a lot to offer. A little bit of forest and and a lot of streets. If mauazinho is the largest geographical area in the city, Jorge Teixeira is the most densely populated! We have so many houses here!!! So many streets!!! I am excited because I finally get to meet some new people. I have committed myself to be able to navigate in this area within 2 weeks, and I already have a ton of the streets memorized. I hate being lost so I will avoid that.

My companion is Elder Everton from Rio Grande de Norte. He is 19 years old and only has barely 4 months on the mission. He is interesting to say the least. I am really excited to stay with him because his life is soooooo different from mine. His dad left their family and his mom died when he was young. He was baptized into the church at 11 years old but fell away and spent most of his teenage years outside the church (that is right, he has a tattoo!) He became active again in the church only a few years before his mission and he made a plan with the bishop to serve a mission. It is very interesting because for the first time ever in my life (how sad) I am living with a person who does not have a solid Mormon background. He is still relatively new to the church but he has a strong testimony and loves his mission. I hope we will be able to become good friends this next 6 weeks.

The members of the church here are awesome! First, they all love me because I am an American that can talk with them and understand them. Second, when I arrived I established with the bishop and all the members that I am an Elder who is going to work his tail off, if they are going to work with me. Immediately they agreed to start new programs so that they can work more hand and hand with the missionaries. Every Tuesday this bishop is going to go and teach with us and a handful of men from the ward want to go out and work too!! The young men's program here is very strong and they have about 15 young men. ALL plan to serve missions. WOW! One of them even came up to us and asked if he could spend Wednesday and Thursday with us working!

Random story/facts/things... So this house does not have cats that I can care for and help out. Instead.... our neighbors have 2 turtles. Yep turtles! They come walking (or is it waddling? What exactly is the verb used to describe the stride of a turtle?) up to our front door every day and my companion gives them a slice of bread. It is cool and the other day I told one to slow down because he was speeding. HAHA! Also, there is a young boy in this ward who decided to chase down his families duck this week while I was there. I took a photo. He actually caught it and plucked a feather. Crazy!!!

I finally decided I was going to make those brownies you sent mom. Upon opening the package I chickened out and decided to just make the batter. Then once I opened the plastic bag I realized I did not have it in me to risk raw eggs in Brazil, so I made a little bit of brownie batter with just water in my cup. IT WAS AMAZING!!!! I have decided now that I must always be kept in brownie, or in other words, anyone who sends me anything will be praised for placing brownie mix in the package. THANK YOU!!!

MY HOUSE HAS AIR CONDITIONING!!!!!!! I AM SLEEPING IN HEAVEN!!!!! It actually get cold enough that I have to use my hammock as a blanket. I LOVE IT. Also, when I say cold, I mean it gets down to 20 degrees celsius (68 degrees F.), which is the new cold for me. I am actually dreaming again and I remember them, which I attribute to the coldness. I had a dream that Mom emailed me and said she was not coming to pick me up after my mission, but that she had a better idea and would not tell me.

MY HOUSE HAS HOT WATER!!!!!!!!!!! A hot shower is sooooo good after a cold night sleep. I have never been so grateful for a shower in my life!!! HOWEVER, hot water here means that the shower head has an electric current running through it and that heats the water. When the water leaves the shower head it separates in the air and the current is broken. But if a body part is placed close enough to the shower head, where the current still is in the water, said body part will be shocked. This is not of any real concern if the shower head is fixed high enough or one is short enough not to touch it. However, neither condition exist in my situation (the shower head is low and I am "tall" in Brazil) so if I stand up straight when I take a shower I will be shocked. Let me just say that it was very interesting experience when I discovered this... Regardless, I LOVE hot, electrifying water. Good stuff, such a blessing!

As for the people we are teaching, we have none because they all were baptised this last transfer. Soooooo, I HAVE TO FIND NEW ONES!!!!! YEAH!!!!!!!! I am very excited. Time to grow on the mission. Our church building here is so beautiful. It is huge, clean, and it has a garden in the front. I cannot express how wonderful that building is. I feel something different when I go inside. It is just such a blessing.

There is a member of my new ward who is a stock broker. He speaks English, which he learned on his mission. GET THIS! He has an iPhone 4 and an iPad and he let me mess around real quick on them!!! I definitely tried my hand at angry birds again and failed miserably. Needless to say, I will have to re-learn technology when I get home. I just use a bare bones cell phone, a 7 inch DVD player, and my sweet camera.

Also, as a side note, everyone here loves my Portland timbers jersey and always wants me to give it to them, because it is beautiful. Yes, yes it is.

As for Christmas cards, I have received two new ones. THANK YOU ROMAN, my brosef!!!, and JORGE RODRIGUES, my neighbor. Jorge even sent me 5 bucks to buy a pizza ( pizza is actually way expensive because the people here consider it a "special" food - don't we all consider pizza special...?). THANK YOU both!!

Eu amo voçês,
Elder Asa Laws

Monday, November 28, 2011

Week #33 - "I want peace. But if you wanna fight, bring it. I am here!"

Boom!

Okay, so my title this week is neither MASH related nor Disney but it has a funny story. Today we played RISK, the board game, with some other Elders and it was AWESOME. While playing the game, Elder Moura, a Brazilian, said the title to this email in the funniest English accent. We all died when he said it! I thought it was worthy of title stature in my memory.

So first, I know that Mom is dying to know about transfers. YES! I will finally be leaving my first and only area of the mission, Mauazinho. I am moving to the east zone of the city where I will be a district leader again. The sad part is I do not know who my companion is yet, whether he is an American, or the exact location I will be living. SO, we will see. Surprises are always fun!! Also mother, I have yet to receive my other packages, but I should be getting them tomorrow at transfers.

This week we worked!!!!!! We walked a TON!! There is an area, Bairro ( pronounced Buy-ho), that is very far from our house, PARQUE MAUA. My companion had yet to go there so Tuesday we dedicated almost the entire day to finding new people in that area. Then Wednesday, Friday, and parts of Saturday we gave all our time to teaching new people there. It was very uplifting and challenging. I think the worst feeling on a mission is when you find someone who denies the truth. When you talk to someone who is so closed as to not being willing to ask even God himself what is right. However, we met tons of new people. It was great!

We also received a box of popsicles which my companion promptly devoured. (photos will come) My companion warned me of something this week. Apparently my sleep talking has flared up (I've done this all my life) and I talk almost every night now-a-days. He said it is really funny because I sometimes talk about really dumb stuff. That is right. He said I do not just mutter or mumble. I go off for a good 30 seconds or so AND I talk in English and Portuguese in my dreams!!!!!!!!!! That is right! Dreams in Portuguese, which I do not remember. I was really excited to hear this. The language is pretty easy now and I actually find English harder than Portuguese most days. Especially when I pray. Almost impossible when I pray. It is just really cool.

I am reading a ton. 12 pages of the Book of Mormon in Portuguese. 1 or 2 chapters of Luke in Portuguese. 1 chapter of the Book of Mormon, Doctrine and Covenants, and New Testament in English. I also read 1 talk from the Conference Ensign you sent me mom and at night I read the book "Jesus the Christ".

I have a challenge for all who accept it but especially for my family. This Christmas season read "Jesus the Christ". It is a fantastic book or analysis of the life of Christ as we know it from the Scriptures. I feel so good and close to my Savior with every page I read of this book. Roman, Kati, Hanna, and yes you Mom and Dad. You all can take time to conquer this fantastic read over the next month. I also would like to personally invite Uncle Ryan, Reed, and my good friend Reed Perkins ( if you do not have this book, talk to my mom, she will point you to it).

So the other night I was lying in my bed and I thought to myself "I should clean up the socks on the side of my bed". As I reached to grabbed a sock, I discovered that my sock was not alone. It had found a new friend-- a GIGANTIC SPIDER. Legs and all I would guess 4 or 5 inches in diameter!!!! Needless to say I freaked out and the spider scurried behind my dresser. Well after a quick plan was made I used a flashlight to discover the spiders locale and my companion smashed the dresser up against the wall! That spider did not stand a chance. We swept out his dead remains and I took a crazy picture so you can see the monster. I will not lie, I was pretty freaked. I a had few thoughts at the time I would like to share with you:

"HOLY FREAKING CRAP"
"HOW AM I SUPPOSED TO SLEEP TONIGHT"
"If Rachel Stenberg were here she would probably scream and run."
"I wish I had some way to just burn this house down and rebuild it. I hate bugs."
"At least we have no cockroaches, for now."
"I hope I get transferred."
"Well, I can check that off the list."
"I slept with that thing next to me for a week!"

In the spirit of Thanksgiving, I am thankful I do not have to deal with these things in Washington. NO, we did not celebrate thanksgiving here and actually, I forgot about it until Saturday.

SO the biggest event of my week however was................ A WEDDING. There is a family here, Renato and Josiele, that I met my second week here. I have been working with them for a long time and this week they were to be married and baptized!!!!!!!!!!!!! However, Renato gave in to smoking the day of the interview for baptism and asked if he could wait another week, so Josiele also asked to wait as well. SO this week we had their wedding!!!! It was fantastic!! I took a million pictures and I do not think I can ever find a cooler family than them here in Amazonas. They are really why I stayed in Mauazinho for so long, so that I could help them. They are both so strong in their testimonies of the gospel and I am just so full of joy for them. It is just so bad that I will not see their baptism because I am leaving tomorrow for my new area. However if the Lord be willing, I will be able to see them enter into the temple to be sealed together for all time and eternity in the new Manaus temple. (photos are coming).

The weirdest thing in the world is walking through the forest and hearing off in the distant someone blasting away "Judas", by Lady Gaga. It just feels wrong.

I hope you all have great week.
Eu amo voçês,
Elder Asa Laws

Monday, November 21, 2011

Week #32 -"Remember- BEEEEE yourself!"

Boom!!

To start off this wonderful email, I would like to openly invite all to join the race!!! I have already received my first Christmas card. Thank you Aunt Jodi and Uncle Jerry Cochran!!! I love the card!!! To everyone else, the race is on!! Who has the guts to mail Christmas to the Amazon??!!! We have a severe lack of pine trees, mistletoe, eggnog, and snow. Time to fix this problem with Christmas card cheer!!!!!!

Elder Asa Laws
Brazil Manaus Mission
Rua Loris Cordovil
1066 Alvorada 1
Manaus, AM
69042-010
Brazil

On to the week!!!!! We had a zone conference this week and it was absolutely fantastic!!! I just love it when I am able to learn more and more about how to help other people. Seriously. My mission president is called of God to help ME dot his work. I am so grateful for the guidance he gives ME so that I can help others. The conference was very spiritual and I really remembered my purpose. I was also able to conduct the music for the conference and I performed that duet of "Nearer My God to Thee". It was beautiful and Sister Klein came up to me afterwards and asked me to help her do the Christmas show this year for the missionaries!!! So now I am in charge of organizing the show with a choir and special musical numbers. Elder Sheppard, a missionary here who was also in my BYU ward and church will be playing the piano for me too. I am very excited. I will start putting it all together next week after transfers happen. Yep, transfers are here again and there is a good chance I will be leaving Mauazinho. We will see.

After the conference we had a division with the Zone leaders again. I went with Elder Dorneles again to his area and we had a great time, as usual. I bought a PIZZA there!!!! I real pizza!!! AND WE FEASTED LIKE KINGS!!!!!!! ( yes I waited all week to type that. I hope you feel my energy and love of that pizza!) I have pictures and will try to send them. It was a glorious pizza and I do not expect to find another pizza quite like that until after my mission!!!

On the division, I finally decided to address a problem that came up on Friday last week. I had an in-grown toenail and it HURT. So Thursday morning I called Sister Klein (Mission Pres wife). She said she knew a member of the Church that worked especially with this problem and she would call her and then call me back. After the call, Elder Dorneles and I grabbed some water bottles and went next door to a member house to grab water from her filter she had (we STILL do not have water at our place). When she arrived she was on the phone and told us " Yeah, go ahead and get some water, I am on the phone with Sister Klein and some missionary needs help with his toes." I told her I was that missionary and that I needed the help!! As luck would have it that member, Irmã Ray also was going to give us lunch that day. It was perfect!! I really felt blessed that day. Especially because it rained all day and we could not go out and walk (my toe really hurt even after she worked on it)! All was well.

We were able to baptize 3 people this week! Alice, Ivanildo, and Cassia. Alice and Ivanildo were baptized by my companion on Saturday, the 19th, and I was way excited, but also kid of bummed. I have had over 7 months on the mission and I had yet to personally baptize someone. I had yet to step foot in the baptismal font. Well, the next day, Sunday Cassia came to church and decided she wanted to be baptized that very day. She was interviewed this week but backed out of baptism on Friday. Well on Sunday she returned and asked ME to perform the ordinance!!! I was soooooo happy. I will never forget trying to memorize her full name- Rita de Cassia Galdino da Silva Gonçalves!!!! It was a wonderful Sunday.

We also cleaned our house all nice and spiffy!!! I love a clean house and a clean desk. Also....... I received your first package mother!!!!!!!!!!!!!! Thank you so much for the conference ensign and also for the scriptures. But what I am truly in love with is.................... the CHRISTMAS MUSIC!!!!! I absolutely love all of it. I am so grateful for Christmas. It easily is the best time of the year; my very favorite! I hear that the mission Christmas is very special. I'm look forward to it.

As a final closing story for this week; a girl stopped me in the street yesterday and asked " Can you marry?" I responded that I will after my mission but for two years we cannot date or marry. She asked if I would marry her and I replied I could not because I would leave Brazil after my mission. She responded " Please! I will wait for you and you can take me with you to the States!!!! You are beautiful and I love you!" I told her I could not wait for her and that I could not take her with me. It was very funny and my companion was laughing the whole time!!!!

I hope you all have a fantastic week!!
Eu amo voçês!!!
Elder Asa Laws

Monday, November 14, 2011

Week #31

"Holy Toledo! Either that bird hit a land mine, or you just shot down a Kamikaze pigeon!"


Boom!!

What another fantastic week in the life of me. I must begin this letter with a shout out to the awesomeness of the mission. Best 2 years is an understatement. Time flies when your having fun is truly realized out here too.

This week was filled with more work!!! And lots of it! We have 5 baptisms marked this week and 13 people came to church with us!!! It was marvelous to see the fruits of our labors this week. Hopefully, we will see that more this Saturday when our investigators are baptized.

It is interesting how I have been here for so long and yet it seems so short. Every day a new member of the ward here asks how long I have here and then marvels at how fast it has flown by. Five months in Mauazinho (suburb of Manaus). Five fantastic months. Everyone says it does not feel like five. I think it is because I just have become part of the framework here. Everyone knows me. I am not a new elder or a leaving elder. I am the missionary will has just been here long enough to be part of the family. It is fantastic and horrifying. Why? Because I cannot stay forever . My family membership is just another allusion, a lot like the time thing. I will leave (eventually), and someone new will come and take care of the flock for a while. I am pray that the next missionary after me realizes how much I love this area and how much I have put into it. I would hate to see it all fall down. It would crush me.

Really, I am lacking of news for you guys this week. Sorry. My companion is learning english very fast and I am so glad for it. He really wants to study at BYU after the mission. Also, I will be conducting the music at the missionary conference this week on wednesday. We prepared an octet version of Sweet Hour of Prayer and I arranged a duet version of Nearer My God to Thee that I will sing with a sister missionary.

Life is really good. The church is true. I urge anyone who will read this to red the Book of Mormon. It is not a manual or book a pastor wrote. It is the word of God; scripture that we can apply in our lives to better ourselves and receive not joy, but a fullness of joy.

eu amo voçês.
Elder Asa Laws

Monday, November 7, 2011

Week #30 - "Geronimo! Geronimo! Geronimo! Pocahontas!"

Boom!!


So I dare you all to tell me which Disney movie I have quoted this week!

Work Work Work!!! That is really what a mission comes down to. You have to be willing to work and not just any work. The Lords work, His way. I have really been thinking about this and I really never knew how to work before the mission ( Yes Dad, You were right.) I knew how to be busy and to get stuff done fast and effectively. But there is another side to work. Extended, long term, hard work. Something you have to do for more than a few hours for a few days. That is right. Work means a ton of hours, for months, or years. We have been working more than I ever thought I would ever need to and man, I am TIRED.

This week was a pretty interesting week for me. I spent a lot of time thinking this week and really trying to understand who I really am. How am I to operate out here to most effective. I had a leadership training this past week and the president talked a lot about planning and doing. Not just trying and looking. He talked a lot about the spirit and how this work is really not lead by us, or him but by the spirit. It is lead by the Lord himself through direct revelation through the Holy Ghost to each and every missionary who is willing and worthy to listen. Well, I have been thinking about these elements and how I can apply them most. THEN, it hit me. Like a ton of bricks. BIG bricks. Something I had already known finally clicked. You just have to work and be obedient. Not work most of the time and follow the easiest rules. 100% commitment from morning break till that final phone call before bed time. Heck, for me I feel like I even have to work just to take a shower now!! I just really want to work my tail off. I want to be effective. I want to know exactly what I am supposed to, or else I am suffering lack of energy, water, and a surplus of Sun and rain for no reason at all. I am going to just love it all and try my hardest to be a tool for the spirit to touch these people. Already, I have seen the blessing of this.
We are still teaching Heliton and Maria. I believe I mentioned them in my last letter or so. They are a very humble couple with nothing and they are really searching for the truth. Also, they are pastors. Well, they came to church again and they asked me if I could help them out. He is unemployed and they have almost no food now. The gas for the stove ran out and the rainy season is coming. I was heartbroken and I said I would talk to the bishop. Well, our wonderful bishop gathered the leaders of the ward and they came with us on Sunday to Helitons house had a sort of interveiw/chat to determine what the ward could do for them. This was harsh meeting, a very harsh meeting. What it really came down to in the questions the bishop had was whether or not they were planning on accepting the messages we had and joining the church. He stated that whether they joined or not made no difference on what the ward would provide but he wanted to know because church headquarters can provide a lot more than the ward can. Basically, the couple said no. They said they "enjoyed the lessons and they loved learning more but they found church to be 'dry.'" Well, soon the ward leadership left and left me and my companion to pick up the pieces of what once was, what we thought, a growing testimony in this family. We taught "The Word of Wisdom", a health code the church follows that was given to the prophet Joseph Smith by revelation. It clearly states that coffee, tea (green and black), alcohol, smoking, and illegal drugs are to be avoided. It also states that mankind is to have a balanced diet with many fruits and vegetables. However, Heliton did not quite agree. He agreed that all of these things were true, except that coffee was not a vice for him so he does not need to give it up. I was pretty much heartbroken throughout the entire time and near the end I simply sat staring off into the jungle as the sun set and my companion tried to explain. Elder Carmo closed the lesson and asked for a prayer. Maria offered to give it but first she wanted to pray for me. She had noticed my distress (everyone noticed) and asked if she could "place her hands upon me to prayer for my name." I conceded and allowed her to do so. She grabbed me and called upon God to bless me to feel better. During this I was praying in my mind to know what to do. A thought came to mind " Grab her hands." I was stunned and did not really get it at first but I did so. As she finished I grabbed her hands, placed them together, and simply began to say exactly why I was so despaired at the moment. I hold this moment very sacred to me and I do not wish to share exactly what happened but here is what I will say; I told them that I felt they should be willing to accept an answer from God if he were to tell them to change their course. I told them I was so sad and wanted to cry because they were prepared by God to receive His gospel, and they were not willing to see with open hearts. I pleaded that they would leave behind their pride of what they had come to know to accept what God was willing to give them. It was an incredibly spiritual moment that I will never forget. They were definitely touched. We the closed with a prayer which Heliton gave and we left on the night trail back to the road to take us home.

However, we first had to pass by the house of Rodrigo. He is 18 and is married to a 16 year old girl in the ward, because he got her pregnant. We got to the house and where we would normally find a shy, awkward, inattentive Rodrigo ther was a new Rodrigo. I asked him what he thought we wanted to talk about. He said church, the Book of Mormon, and baptism. I said " maybe, but what do you want to HEAR about?" He said " Families." So we read the first verse of the Book of Mormon. I asked him questions about what he understood about "goodly parents" and what he could do to be the same way for his family. I think it really spoke to him. He realized he has to be better than any normal 18 year old kid. He had to grow up and be a goodly parent. My companion shared another verse from the Book of Mormon and Rodrigo accepted to pray about a date to be baptized. It was wonderful and I was exhausted.

I wish to add a part here about how amazing good juice is here. Really, I will miss fresh Lime or Mango or Açai. So the food here is always the same but the fruits and juice, they are sublime. I love it. Sorry mom, I dropped another kilo and am down to 64 (about 140 lbs). Oops. Even the ward noticed I am getting smallish. Do not worry!!! I have made a resolve to stuff my face with mores beans and rice!!! It will be done!!!!!!

It is beautiful here. I will send new photos this next week as I forgot my camera. All is well inches from the sun, here in Manaus.

Eu amo voçês
Elder Asa Laws

Monday, October 31, 2011

Week #29 - "Dear Dad, Remember when I was a kid...

...you always told me if my head wasn't attached to my shoulders I'd lose it? Well ... "
 
Boom!!

If you have ever heard that a mission is a lot of work, you've heard right!! These last two weeks have been quite the ride and we are really seeing the fruits of our labors now. Let me explain. In my district there is an area called Lagoa Verde. For about a year it has become a death trap for missionaries. No one wants to listen or talk in this area. No one will read the Book of Mormon and the missionaries just get grabbed down into the depths. Well with this new transfer we have really been focusing on being more obedient, listening to the spirit and planning. Well, that area has grown HUGE in the past two weeks !!! They have many new people to teach and they are going to work way more this next week. I am so excited for them. On top of that our area has also exploded because of the new things we are doing. My companion is an excellent teacher and I am the planner. We are always working. ALWAYS!!!! I am soooo tired. However nine people here have committed to be baptized and we have many more that are progressing.

The only time we aren't working is when we are waiting in our house for the rain to stop. This week rained a ton again. I have some pictures of the road becoming a river. It is actually quite impressive. We were only about 2 blocks from our house yesterday when I noticed the incoming clouds. I stopped my companion and explained what would happen. He left the decision up to me and I hesitated for 3 minutes or so. Bad idea. You learn to make a decision and act quickly here because 3 minutes hesitation means getting caught in crazy wind and rain. As we ran to our house I gave up my fight with the umbrella, closed it and ran head on. My companion was more patient as he walked with his umbrella singing the whole way. We arrived soaked but happy!! We were even more excited when we found the house without power again. It was great. I am not being sarcastic. Seriously we felt pretty darn good. We had good numbers and church was amazing. So we rested a bit and studied until the rain subsided. Then we ventured out again and taught some wonderful lessons.

This is the water that collects in the alley outside our house. It runs down the ally to the street, to a creek and then to the Amazon river. This is why the river always looks dirty, cause it is!



This is a picture of the street outside our house after about 5 minute of raining - it's a RIVER!
















Particularly I want to to talk to you guys about a Monday night family home evening we had with the bishop of the Mauazinho Ward. We invited 3 families to come with us and two of them came!!! Albino and his family and the family of Renato and Josieli. It was amazing. When we picked up Renato and Josieli, they were all dressed up nice, and their two little girls were so freaking cute. I was so happy I wanted to just explode (yes it is an odd sensation). The spirit was so strong there as we watched a film about the life of Christ. Everyone shared their favorite New Testament story of Christ and it was fantastic. ALSO!! This week we finally got the papers to do Renato and Josielis Wedding, and this week we should get Albinos papers for his wedding too!!!!!!! I am soooooo freaking excited!!!! (it's very expensive to get married in Brazil and even more expensive to get divorced. In order for people that are living together to get baptised, they need to get married...)

We also had interviews with the president this week. This interview was fantastic. The president really is an inspired man. HE really helped me understand what kind of missionary I need to be. It was really funny that he asked me if I needed anything. I said a cellphone because we haven't had one in 4 months!!! He responded " Well, why have you not bought one then?" I was taken back. We have a rule that we are not allowed to buy our own phone. " I can do that?" He said "Yes!! If you NEED one then buy one. Go. Get outta here. Go find Elder Novais ( the Missionary in charge of the mission funds) and go buy a phone right now!" Well I left and tried to do just that. But as it turns out Elder Novais had already left and I couldn't. Well I thought if i need one, I will get one, just as the president instructed. I went and bought a sim card and I am currently borrowing a cellphone from a member until tomorrow when I get a mission owned phone. I think it would be good for you to know that the cellphone companies here are not at all the same. Everything here is prepaid and no one has a cellphone plan. To buy a nice phone like an iPhone, you have to buy it straight up for Lots O' Money. Then when you buy cellphone credit, it becomes really complicated on who you can call, depending on what provider they have and what kind of credit you are using. Man! I had my companion deal with it all for me because I just did not get it. I feel very blessed now that I had an iPhone back home with a wonderfully simple contract and good cell service. Cell credit is EXPENSIVE here.

We found a new family to teach this week. They are Heliton and Maria. We pass in front of there house almost every other day, and I finally had the courage to talk to them. They are amazing! They immediately accepted the invitation to read the Book of Mormon and they are very spiritual. Maria actually told me that " When I saw you passing by with that other missionary (Soelberg), I always thought you were hiking off into the forest to find a hill and pray for the people." She is a very special woman. My heart grieves for them though. I wrote a huge passage in my journal about them but I still want to tell you about their house. This house is about 12 by 12 feet and sits about 3 to 4 feet off the ground on wooden stilts. It stands in a floodplain of a creek, that during the rainy season, which is starting now, floods 2 to 10 feet depending on the year. The entire house is made out of thin, very old looking planks of wood that have been nailed together just enough to provide walls, a floor and a roof. However there are many gaps. On the side of the house is a small patio that is also raised off the ground and it is here where they have build stairs to climb up to reach the door. However, the bottom rail is broken. The entire house is not exactly standing straight but is actually slanted. It looks like just the slightest wind will be about its end. The inside has just one half wall, which is completed by an orange bed sheet hanging from the ceiling. They have only a bed for themselves, an old rack for clothes, a small gas stove and a very old fridge. I love this family but I sometimes just cannot take it. I feel terrible for their situation. They asked me the other day to pray for them that they could find a way to get construction materials to raise the house before the rain really comes, or else they might end up living inside the flood waters. Despite all of this they are always smiling and so happy. In fact they were the first people to show up to church. Before every ward member and even before us. We walked by and found them sitting our front of the gate. So we opened it and let them in, because we had to go pass by and pick up a few other people. The ward welcomed them with open arms and it was a miracle to watch as every seemed to greet them. The same thing happened with Renato and Josieli, who FINALLY came to church. And it was perfect.

CHURCH WAS PERFECT!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! It was the primary presentation, which means that the kids of the ward presented everything they had learned that past year! It was wonderful. I have never ever ever ever ever been in such a fantastic performance. To watch little kids speak so strongly of their savior and of the prophets, I almost cried. I was sitting with Renato and Josieli during the performance and the ward let their little girl Alessandra have a part in the presentation. She got to say the 2nd principle of the gospel: repentance. I must have been gleaming because I was so freaking happy I could have died right there. We had 9 investigators at church. One of them we actually had never taught him before. He lives in a house close to another person we are teaching and one day he asked when church was. We told him and he asked us to pick him up. So we did, and he really liked it.

I love being here. I love working my tail off.
Tell Zach Collier he needs to stop complaining about walking everywhere and man up!! HAHAHA.
I love this gospel. I KNOW that I am a servant of the Lord and His true church. Sometimes people find that offensive that We believe that The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints is the only church with the fullness of the gospel of Christ. If you are, I am sorry. But I cannot deny this truth I have come to know.
Always, I invite anyone who likes, or does not like to read this blog letter thingy, to read and pray about the Book of Mormon. I can promise you from the bottom of my soul that it IS holy scripture, written by Gods chosen prophets and translated by the power of God through is prophet Joseph Smith. It is a true and correct book that will bring you happiness and can help you find ALL the wonderful blessing God and his Son have waiting for you. God will respond to all who read with "real intent", a "Sincere Heart", and " Faith in Christ", that this book is true.

Eu amo voçês
Elder Asa Laws

Photos from Oct in the Amazon

Asa's new companion!

He's a native Brazilian

Other awesome Brazilian Elders in Asa's District


What a challenge!!


The Elders playing after the district meeting. They must not be busy enough...

Wow what a service project!!

He is taking this pretty seriously...



So Asa has this thing for taking pictures of the clouds in the Amazon because they form so fast and look so cool.


Studying by candle light. We lose power very often...
This is the Opera Hall in Manaus - very pretty building!



Monday, October 24, 2011

Week #28 - "Remember General! Lots of Buttermilk!"

The following has been translated from Portuguese into English for the sake of the audience. It is an account of one day on the mission of Elder Asa Laws. The author (Elder Laws) has chosen to take small creative license to help convey the full emotion of the story. However, all events and people are true and real. He also hopes that this will be read out loud with a British accent to better illustrate the scenes taking place (just kidding). Please, enjoy!

Early one bright Tuesday morning in the month of October, the year 2011, a young and refreshed Elder Laws rose from his bed. He had slept quite well that night because of the wonderful air conditioner that sat just above him at the foot of his bed. He rose quickly and then fell back down to the mercy of the sheets and soft pillow. "Why?" he thought, " should I get up so early if I cannot even use the shower?" His companion for the last 24 hours, had risen from his slumber faster than he, and thus had grabbed the first chance to use the shower. "Back to bed," was the following line of thought he had.


But he could not sleep again. Too much was about to occur that day. No, sleep was no longer an option. Elder Laws then arose much slower this time, and decided to try to accomplish something. So a morning prayer would be the start of the day and then "Shirt," was the first word to come to mind, as that early in the morning one word thoughts are much easier to handle. He would iron the shirt first. Grabbing it from the end of the bed were he had placed it the previous night, he stood, invested the location of his flip-flops, put them on, and then walked from his fantastically cold, comfortable, aitr-conditioned room into the boiling sunny morning. "Sunny," was the next word to pass by his thoughts.


The young Elder prepared his shirt with a quick effort and placed it with his black dress pants, which because of the sun were no longer real black. Really, they were more of a fake black that says " I was not expecting this amount of light exposure during my life as pants." The tie for the day was also relocated from the refrigerated bedroom to the kitchen/ study room. The days wardrobe had all been accounted for. By this time the Elder was able to use the shower.


The shower was quick and quite cold; just enough time to clean all the hard spots and wake up past the "one word" stage of the morning. A quick shave, hair check, and brush of the teeth. Done. Elder Laws completed his morning bathroom routine, and quickly reminded himself in the mirror " Today is the day. You can do this."


What made this day so different for the 6 month fresh missionary was 2 very large facts that he had learned the day before. Fact 1: He was to have a new Brazilian companion. Fact 2: He was now to lead a group, or district of Elders, ALL of which are Brazilian. He had another one word thought. "How?" This was followed quickly by the word "Why?". How was he to deal with these other Elders? What type of leader would he be? Could he even speak well enough to help them? Will his new companion like him? Will he want to work or just sit around? An ocean of doubt began to fill his mind and he thought that maybe trying to sleep again would be a better option. "Retire the day at dawn, and give it up to the enemy".


Elder Laws saw his temporary companion begin to suit up and thought, " I got this. I can speak, walk, and run if required. I got this." With regular pace the missionary uniform was again put on by the Elder. Pants first, shirt, socks, tie, name tag, pen, shoes. The backpack was then prepared and placed in its proper place-- his back. " No, the enemy will not have the day." Another prayer was said and leaving the chilled tauntings behind in the house, the day began.


The number 213 bus was caught and used by the two Elders, however comfort was not to be had. This particular bus on this particular day had also been chosen by a squadron of other car-less people and for the majority of the ride, Elder Laws rode with someone else's butt in his face. Sadly, he had chosen to sit down before knowing that many, many others would chose to stand right next to and in front of him. Thoughts of his family always seemed to pass through his mind on the bus. This day was no exception. They helped him remember why he was enduring these cramped situations in a foreign country. Thoughts of downtown Portland on his birthday and Friday night "Halo" with his brother were comforting. Annoying his sister by sitting on her was even better and definetly the thoughts of the other sister singing to herself all over the house. These thoughts were perfect to distract from the 50 others on the bus.


The time passed quickly and soon the Elders had arrived at their stop. Elder Laws and his companion pushed their way out and quickly crossed the street. They had arrived at the mission staff building, which existed on the opposite side of the city from their home.


" Come on," was excliamed by Elder Laws' temporary companion. " Lets beat the crowd."


" Sounds good to me. I want to find out who my new companion is now." At this point, Elder Laws had yet to find out the name of his companion. He was quite bothered by this. How could he find someone without their name?


"Laws. His name is Carmo," said a random Elder standing near by.


"What?" He looked around wondering where the origin of the sentence was coming from.


"Hey, over here. Candido. His name is Carmo," stated Elder Candido.


"Oh. Thanks," said Elder Laws quickly, as he was slightly taken aback that Elder Candido knew what he was thinking. " Wait, where is he?"


" Don't know. Look around," Elder Candido said as he ran off with papers in hand to save another Elder.


At this point, Elder Laws was still okay. He took some breaths, greeted some friends and began his awkward chest staring search in order to find a name tag with "Carmo."

It was not long until the name was found. "Carmo Santos" it read. He looked up. There before him was the Elder. Elder Carmo Santos from Bahia, Brazil. He was short, strong and dark. Real dark. He shirt was ironed and prepared with care and his luggage was packed tightly into just one bag and backpack. But he had a giant smile on his face that had a different, happy to be here look. HE was there to work. "This is going to be a good 6 weeks," was the thought of Elder Laws at that moment. " This is going to be a good 6 weeks."


BOOM!!!!
As you can tell, the format of this weeks letter is slightly different. Thought I'd try to be a little creative. I had a great week!!!

My new companion is Elder Carmo Santos. He is amazingly awesome. He only has 3 months on the mission which he spent in Acre, another state of Brazil. He is very excited, he loves to work, and he likes to follow the rules. Everything I need to improve on. We are going to work very well together.

One thing that I absolutely love about him is his teaching. He is a fantastic teacher. The people respond to him so well and they are always willing to accept his commitments and help. He loves sharing this message and is blessed with the spirit to do so. I am learning a lot from him. He also has a huge desire to be able to speak English!!! He can read a little bit and speak some simple phrases. We are practicing a lot. His plan is to attend BYU after the mission so English is a huge goal.

I am learning to love the scriptures even more because I only have them in Portuguese now. I sent my English ones home with Elder Soelberg to send to my parents. Man, I am learning a lot. This week has been a lot like my first week in the CTM. A lot of change, and growth. I am so blessed. As for being a district leader, its the same and totally different. I am responsible now and I have to help out another group of Elders improve too. It will be fun and challenging.

So this week we did a service project we we had to shovel into buckets and move a mountain of rock and old brick!!! It was hard work and it was in the rain! It rained a ton this week which is great because it is colder here now a little bit. Not really...

Also, one night the power and water went out and we had to take showers with the bucket and read and write by candlelight!!! I HAVE PHOTOS!!

Eu amo voçês
Elder Asa Laws

Monday, October 17, 2011

Week #27 - "But first, a number! C'mon boy, it's in your blood!"

Boom!
 
Wow, what a jam packed week!!!!
 
First, a shout out to Travis Shriner!!! The dude sent me a letter in September and it finally made it here! Thanks brosef for the awesome letter!! Okay, so let us start with some of the craziness that happen to occur this week.
 
This was the last week of my companion, Elder Soelberg. In fact, as I speak (type) he is in his closing meetings before he goes home!!!! Crazy!!! I am with Elder Dorneles right now, and he is way legit.
 
This week it rained A LOT!!! First, it began to rain on Wednesday while me and my companion were walking to one of our appointments. So we pulled out the trusty umbrellas you sent (thanks mom) and continued on our journey. As we were walking up a hill on road 5 of Jardim Mauá, a LIGHTING BOLT struck about 200 feet in front of us!!!!! NO JOKE! It was the loudest thing I had ever heard!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! So bright and sooo loud. I may or may not have yelled because it was so ridiculously close! My companion just laughed for a long time because he was just taken aback. It was "shocking" (excellent pun!).
 
Then came crazy Friday. Friday we only really had one appointment scheduled on the far away road of João Tomé. So, while walking over there it began to rain... again. We walked almost all the way down this road (about a quarter mile down hill) and near the bottom Elder Soelberg began to walk about 10 steps ahead of me. Just as he got just far enough away someone grabbed my collar, stopping me dead and from behind began to whisper something. It was so quiet I had no idea what he said. I froze. My thoughts were " I do not know what is in his other hand that is not grabbing me. Knife? Gun? I froze and tried to listen, saying nothing to my companion as he kept walking farther (probably 5 or more steps before he noticed I was not there). Then I heard the man. " Cala boca. Eu só quero sua cámera." OR " Shut up. I just want your camera." The man then grabbed my camera and backed up. I pulled away as Elder Sopelberg returned and Soelberg walked up to me saying,
" Hey, who was he?" I said, " He stole my camera." 
Elder Soelberg then became pretty mad and tried to CHASE this guy down but to no avail. I was just calm. Honestly I was not mad or sad. I lost my camera and all my pictures that I had not emailed home yet, but I just kept thinking I was alive and that was good enough for me. It is scary when you do not know what they are saying the first time.
 
After this, it began to rain. HARD. A TON!!! Forrest Gump style. We quickly trotted our way over to a members house but it was to late. We were soaked. Everything from the knee down was horribly wet. We stayed at the house for about 30 mintues but it seemed that the rain would never end and our house had a window open. We had a choice to make. Brave the storm or wait it out. Naturally, we chose wrong and went for "brave the storm". I will tell you I never knew that hilly streets could become waterfalls. Cascades of water pouring over your feet. We began our journey with evasion of the water in mind and ended with defeat in our hearts and water in our shoes mainly. It was incredible! Funny enough I needed that storm to distract me from the loss of the camera. BUT, all is well. We actually contacted that house on road João Tomé and will pass by this week again!
 
This week the president of the mission gave everyone a "word" to study. My companions' was "gratitude". Mine, was "retribuir". To retribute. To reciprocate. To repay. To recompense.
 
This was difficult. Never once in the scriptures is the word to reciprocate and only a few times was any of the other words used (in english. Retribuir never appears in portuguese.) I thought to myself " how can I study a word that is not in the books I am reading?" I did what I felt was the logical thing to do. Turn to the words of Christ himself. I cannot write to you how much I am grateful for the scriptures and for the studies I had. I have learned so much here on the mission and I am so glad to be able to have so many things to guide me.
 
So this week we were able to use the gravy packets I have. THAT IS RIGHT! I MADE GRAVY AND POTATOS. Really what happened is we went to a part member home on the military base (Clark and Helena) and they invited us over to have american food. I was to bring the gravy and we would have steaks, potatos, and gravy! So, we did just that. I made gravy, Elder Soelberg made potatos and the member made steak. IT WAS AMAZING. Gravy is possibley the greatest thing ever, period! I lovest every bite. I had photos but they were taken in my camera. But trust me that it was amazing.
 
KITTEN UPDATE!! Remember that week where we had kittens born in our house? Well they are doing great. I see them every once and a while. However, our neighbors dog did get one of them. Now, there are only 5 kittens. YET! a new cat has decided to live on our doorstep (literally). It is a little black kitten that I named francis. Very cute. And annoying since I cannot keep it.
 
Interesting Story! So we are teaching a wonderful family; Silvestre and Kat. They have really been making progress as of late and one day they brought up they wanted to mark a date for marriage and to be baptized. It was amazing!!! However my companion noticed a strange thing. "Your dog looks like he is going to die," he said. An odd comment in a great moment about marriage. They responded that he had been very sick and was doing poorly. I shrugged it off and then marked a day for their marriage. I did not know that as that was happening my companion watched as the dog had a short seizure, and then actually died!!! In the middle of our lesson!! I was shocked and horrified! Yet they shurgged it off, kind of laughed and then we moved on. My companion then discussed baptism and marked a date for that as well, but I was still so taken back by the dead dog. They were totally fine that he had died! What a different world.
 
The ward here also had a small lunch party for my companion to send him off. It was on saturday and they had great food there. However during the prayer on the food, instead of saying Elder Soelbergs name, and thanking Heavenly father for sending him here, she said my name and asked that I return home in safety. Just a funny moment. I love the people here. They are just fantastic.
 
I have news for you all though!! This week is transfers!!! I am receiving a Brazilian companion. I do not know his name, just that he is brazilian! AND................. I am now a district leader. That means that now I am now responsible for a group of missionaires in helping with theirs problems and issues with the area, etc. The ladder of missionaries is as follows: President, Assistants to the President and Staff, Zone leaders, District leader, Trainer, Senior companion, Junior Companion. So District leader is a great responisbility. Really I am scared out of my mind. But I know I will have the Lords help if I trully desire to serve him.
 
Well, I think thats it.
 Eu amo voçês
Elder Asa Laws

Monday, October 10, 2011

Week #26 "For every to, there is a fro, for every stop there is a go and that's what makes the world go round."

Boom!!
I thought this week was going to be a pretty quiet week for me... NOT SO!!

So first of all, I am not living so far out into the jungle to see all over the news that a new iphone came out and the Steve Jobs died. Especially because apple is opening a new ipad factory in Brazil ( people LOVE THAT).

This week my companion had another leadership training meeting which meant I was able to sit with Elder Page and chill in the staff offices of the mission. It is always really nice to just talk to other missionaries and see how different their experiences are, and how similar. I like having that perspective.

So I forget if I have mentioned this yet or not but our house has been without water for a LOOOONNNG time now. 3 weeks! Yea we have to fill up 2 liter bottles at our chapel and then carry them but to our house. Very annoying. We have a 25 liter tub tank thing that one of our investigators gave us that we fill up and use to take showers. I use a large cup and have to pour the water over me to shower. Very lame and yet totally cool. I am a jungle missionary!!!! Anyways, one night it began to rain HARD! So we got into some shorts and went outside to take advantage of it. It was a very cold shower but still quite refreshing. We even had the smart idea to use a bucket to collect some water...... which ended up being a horrible idea. We filled the bucket and added it to our large tank thing not realizing the rainwater we collected fell off our dirty, nasty roof. Anyways we contaminated ALL of our water and had to dump it down the toilet and get more from the chapel.

To wash our clothes.... we had to take them to the church and wash them all by hand. It took about 3 hours and by the end my shoulders were sore. BUT, I had clean shirts!!!!! ha ha. Luckily a member who lives close has offered us the opportunity to take our clothes to his house and wash them because his house still has water.

Actually, we got a little bit of water in our house yesterday and I tried to wash some clothes with our washer but it was taking FOREVER to fill the machine we have. Just when I almost had enough water to fill the machine for the rinse my comp messed with some buttons trying to help and drained all the water out..... annoying. But I was not mad at him. He just did not know that would happen. So its all fine.

We are having some good success teaching the gospel I think. Actually, three families we are teaching are talking about getting married (most people do not marry here in the north of Brazil) and I can really see the blessing of our work and their faith in theirs lives. It is just amazing to be able to watch the gospel of Christ applied to someone else. To watch them grow and change. I love my mission. I learn so much every day.

Sunday this week was testimony meeting (meaning any one in the congregation can stand up at the front and share their testimony of God and Jesus Christ). It was very powerful. It was my companions last Sunday with the ward because next week is the area stake conference and then he goes home. He bore his testimony and it was great. A lot of people talked about the blessings of missionary work. Jefferson, who was my first baptism on the mission, bore his testimony. He is just a kid but I was smiling soooooooo big! Then his mom bore her testimony. She shared an amazing story too. It was the following;

"On his special day when he was baptized, he shared something with me which I feel to share with you. He came up to me and said that he was not alone that day. Someone was their with him. I did not understand, I just saw the other people there. He then described the man who was with him during his baptism. He saw a tall man, dressed in white robes standing in the air. His hair was long and he was smiling. I had no clue who this was, because I did not see anyone like that at the meeting. But I soon realized who the man was."

I wanted to cry when I heard this. It was so touching. This kid who I truly look up too had seen something I couldn't at the time. Because he was so strong and faithful, hopeful, and willing, he saw a glimpse of heaven. Oh how I wish for all those I meet here to see that! We also heard a wonderful testimony from the bishop of the ward here. He served a mission and he was just so grateful for my companion to help the ward here.

I also was able to meet a family that Elder Soelberg has known here for a while. They were way cool, and they made us delicious food and we talked a long time about the states, how Soelberg is leaving and many more things. It was a ton of fun. It just is wonderful to build strong relationships with the people here and to really catch a glimpse of the full spectrum of what life really is here on earth. To live here in Brazil has really opened my eyes. I had a pretty set image of how the world was and what the rules were of life. But since arriving my perception of pretty much everything has been shifting and changing. It is such a blessing to learn a language, love a new culture, and really grow temporally and spiritually.]

Anyways, life is good.
Eu amo voçês
Elder Asa Laws

Sunday, October 9, 2011

Week #25 - "Well, he ain't getting any deader - I thought we could use some fig newtons"

Sorry for the delay is getting this out - Rick and I were on vacation and had no access to email last week.

Boom!!

What an incredibility full, great week!

So one of the rapazes we baptized, Brener, is way legit. This week we found him in his house with his netbook and guess what he was doing? He was making a church plaque in MSWord with the name of the church so he could print it and put it on his wall...... WHAT!? Way legit. I was so happy with that. I love seeing others grow in their faith.

So this week I did another division with our zone leaders. I went once again with Elder Dorneles to the Petropolis area. I really like it there and it is way nice. Plus the house their for the missionaries has AC!!!!!! We had a lesson with a new person they had contacted the day before and so we quickly walked over there. When we got there we had quite a long discussion with 2 men; Haitsen and Beto. They seemed to like our message and were very open to us. They asked some great questions. Then after we had discussed who Joseph Smith was and the Book of Mormon, they told us about another man who was " called of God to direct Brazil." I was very confused. There are many churches here in Brazil and most are protestant churches. These men belong to one of those churches. They explained to us what they believed and then invited us to do the same that we asked of them; that is to pray and ask God which church is Christ's church on the earth. It was very hard lesson with them because they refused to accept our invitation. This was a first for me. I had never taught someone who outright refused to read and "experiment on the Word." Beto said something that will I will never forget; " I have already received sufficient knowledge of Christ. I do not need anymore from this book (The Book of Mormon)." These words sunk in my heart. I felt horrible the rest of the day. How could someone reject an opportunity to find out more about our Savior? Please, never think this way. Never accept that you have finally met the bar and need not do more, or learn more, or find more.

That night, I got to stay at the house with AC!!!! My first night with AC in months!!!! HEAVEN!!!! If I will only learn thing form my mission, it it will be to be grateful for the many comforts I have at home. I also found an Italian Book of Mormon at that house. Way cool.

Now, to what you all really want to hear about. I ATE ALLIGATOR AND SNAKE!!!! Oh yes I had them fried up and I put them in my belly. My blood is full of the nutrients and strength of Anaconda and Alligator!!!! Yes I have pictures and they are coming!!! As to concerning the flavor of the two; no they do not taste like chicken. Both are way better! Snake is pretty tough meat though. I liked the alligator better. I actually love alligator meat. Its true what that guy says in "Transformers." Alligators do have the most succulent meat.

Also, the next day we ate fish... and the member that was feeding us decided that I needed to try a fish head... SO HE PUSHED IT INTO MY MOUTH!!!! I was force fead a fish head. However being strong I accepted the foreign food and did in fact eat the head. It was not exactly bad, but not good either.

One week. Snake, fish head, and alligator. Good week.

On to the subject of General Conference. To those who do not know, General Conference is a twice a year live conference televised around the world for all to watch and hear the Prophet and president of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints, as well as the words of the 12 Apostles of God. It is a wonderful experience and this past weekend it was held. Here in Brazil we watched live in English by satellite, while the Brazilians watched live translations into Portuguese. It was amazing and I loved it. I felt the spirit of God and I learned so much. I invite you all to watch it again, at conference.lds.org. I can definitely promise you will hear something that will touch your heart.

I am so grateful to be out here, and I am so grateful for all of you as well.

Oh, as a side note we found a McDonald's and ate there.....

Eu amos voçês
Elder Asa Laws

Anaconda being cooked!


Can you see the head?


Fried Anaconda!  Yum!!


Dinner at the members house.


Me and Elder Soelberg eating fried snake and of course, rice and beans and veggies! They feed us well!



Monday, September 26, 2011

Week #24 - Pictures

This is the frozen alligator that I mentioned in my letter!! 

I can't wait to take a bite!  I really want to try it!

Awesome view of the Amazon River and my area!



Week #24 - "Elimination: Lack of Education"

Boom!!


So this week was kind of just a normal week for us here in sunshine central. I have started to call this place the "closest city to heaven" because it is soo close to the sun! It has rained a bit and the world has become a giant steam cooker here. I actually just stuck my head in our freezer for a few minutes and thought to myself " This! This is what I want!" ( name that movie quote...) It was breath of fresh air in there.

Good news!!! We baptized another man this week! He is a great guy too. His name is Luiz and he had been to church for a while in another area 2 years ago, but he moved here and did not know where there was a church. So one sunday he drove past our chapel in Mauazinho and decided he would come that day. He already knew EVERYTHING about the church and helping him has been great. He really just wants to get his life back together and help his family. The ward here has accepted him so much and its great to see so much progress with the people here. They are so wonderful. Not perfect, but wonderful.

We also have a family in our ward that are 100% naitve brazilian tribe indians!!! They are way cool and in passing there house one day they showed us something incredible! A crocodile!! FROZEN!!! AND WE ARE GOING TO EAT IT THIS WEEK!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! I have a picture of it too. I am soooo excited. HAHAHA

We also found a new area within Mauazinho that actually gives us access all the way down to the beach of the river. Normally it is flooded down there and all the houses are built up on legs but right now it is dry. We are going to hopefully go down there this week and talk to some new people!!!

Our chapel here is old and has always been..... not well kept. So finally our bishop decided to have a ward cleaning and we went too!!! EVERYTHING is clean now. The whole building just glows!!! I love clean. It is the best. Cleanliness is next to Godliness ( Yes, I was thinking Ratatouille when I thought of this.)

Life is great. My week was great.
Eu amo vocês,
Elder Asa Laws