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..."


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"

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?"


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"


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