Mission Slideshow

Monday, March 25, 2013

Week #102 - The Dash Likes


Well, this is indeed the second to last email that I will be writing home from the mission. But let's not that get in the way of a letter. Because we had a wonderful week.

First things first. We went to Manaus at the beginning of this week, as many will remember. We went time for a meeting with all the zone leaders and WHAT A WONDERFUL MEETING. I felt great because we got to address some issues that had been weighing on my mind. We received a lot of new training and we will now have to train our zone on these same things. I think it will be great to implement some new things. We received a lot about how to more effectively plan. This week Elder Shepherd and I planned our last week out according to the new planning system that we received and it was great. It basically is just a list of questions to verify that all you need to cover has been covered. It helps things stay focused. Anyway, we had our wonderful meeting and then returned to Boa Vista the night at midnight. Oh the life of traveling. I like it. Upon our return we really started working a lot. It is super hard to leave your area so much because it is hard to establish any order and pace to things. We have not had a full week to work in our area AT ALL this transfer. So we are still looking for the correct way to just let everything fall into place.

However, there are some wonderful members here that have really helped us out. This week we worked with Alex everyday. He is a 12 year old boy who lives in front of a member and he has been going to Church for quite some time now. He loves going and we began to teach him and his mother. Oh boy was she happy to see us because she just wants her son to stay away form all the bad things that the world has to offer to a young man, especially in Brazil. She sees a lot of bad out there and always worries about him. When he started going to church and talking with us she was overly excited. So every day we went there and taught him everything! Such a smart kid. He loves reading because he wants to get better and likes reading the church materials. Well, on Sunday we held his baptism and he asked Irmão Marcio, the member who takes him to church, to baptize him. What a beautiful service. I felt great and I could see on Marcio's face that he was grateful. He invited us to his house and to take me to the airport to send me home my last day!! That last day will be his little girls birthday. She turns 9 and is such a sweet girl.

We also had the district conference this week. The city of Boa Vista is not a stake yet, so we are a district. To all you non mormon folk, that just means that the church here is not that big yet, and we had a conference with all the members in the city. It was super cool because the president came up with his wife to the conference. We had interviews and my interviews with the president was about 1 minuted long. We will have another here in a few days ;) Anyway, we had 5 investigators there with us and I was super excited. They all loved it. I felt so good there. A young man who was visiting said something very profound to me. He name is André and he is investigating the church. He said,"You know, for 6 months we have been going to churches and at many of them I feel an emotional impact, something that hits me. But for the first time in my life I felt something different; it was not emotional, or physical. I felt something that I truly could describe as spiritual."

That is a mission. Its not physical or emotional. It is spiritual. I hope you can understand that.

Eu vos amo,
Elder Asa Laws

Monday, March 18, 2013

Week #101


What a wonderful week that we had. It interesting though because once again I am sitting in the mission office the week after I had left. Can't seem to get away, can I? I will explain later.

So this week we finally went back to Boa Vista by bus. The ride was wonderful actually because we got to take the executive bus and it had SO MUCH leg room. Seriously, I slept like a baby for the entire trip. Though, when we finally got home that morning, Elder Shepherd and I fell on our beds and slept for another 2 hours or so. Three weeks away from your house and traveling can really wear on you.

It is very interesting to get back to your area after 3 weeks and not know anyone! I knew nobody. The members had no clue we existed. Most thought Elder Shepherd had been transferred. Ha. Anyway, so when we started just showing up at peoples houses they were a bit confused to see two white guys for lunch! However, I am still happy because people still think I am Brazilian, so that is cool.

We felt a bit lost going back to Boa Vista because we realized we had no one that we were teaching so we would be starting from the ground up. I felt lost and I prayed a lot about it. It is super hot right now in Boa Vista and so it was a bit hard for me to motivate myself to go out and work. But we started to find some amazing people and I really like the members there so in the end I fell back into rhythm. What also helped us out was a division that we did with some really good Elders. Elder DeOliveira and Elder McIntosh. Elder De Oliveira is the same one who you sent the package too for Christmas. He received it and was super grateful for the socks and shirts. Also, he loves the old Spice antiperspirant. Hehe! But teaching with him was incredible. We taught an amazingly special girl who has lots of very complex dreams that she remembers and she had one that involved the Book of Mormon. She was super confused and had asked the missionaries to help her understand because she wanted to be baptized but felt a lot of pressure from others. She really just wanted to understand the dream. The whole time listening to this I was just praying in my heart to help her and I felt prompted to ask her a few other questions about her dream. I did so and then I really felt like I had to tell her what I thought of her dream. So I explained all the parts. I said things that just came. Then I stopped. She looked different. I asked her what she thought and she said that she felt that she had received what it meant to her. I helped her come to understand her dream and I pray she can have the courage to do what is right.

Lately, reflecting on current events and the end of my mission, I have come to realize a few things. Too much really, to put in this letter. But what I have come to understand is what now motivates me. It moves me. I have a new love and understanding of my Savior and this life, and the great and eternal plan of redemption. I think I better understand what was once said that grace is "strength and assistance to do good works that they otherwise would not be able to maintain if left to their own means."

I have been super tired this week. I sleep more and I eat more. I do all I can, but in the end I am tired. But I know at the end of EVERY DAY, that I made it through because something other than mine own forces got me through the day. I can testify of that.

Sunday I gave a class and a talk at church. I was super tired. I was done. I was feeling a lot of discomfort. I did not know how I was going to get through that day. So I said a prayer and said "God, I have a purpose. I have things to get done and important things to say and to teach. I have to help lives. Please let me do this." When it finally came around to Principles of the Gospel, it just came to me. I lost myself and we had one of the most incredible classes about the life of Christ. The entire classes at discussing for 10 minutes and the things we learned just from one line, the first line in the class manual. I started the class talking about being active in our own salvation, and how that required an active learning part on the part of every single one of us. It went well. We ended and I gave my talk about the same things. I spoke of the active members of salvation and the passive approach that satan preaches the the members of the Theoretical Church. I explained that one of the biggest challenges to the the church as a whole is being passive members, members of a church of theory, that talks and plans, but does nothing and progresses no-where. I tried to convey with a lot of love that we have to become truly fulfillers of our own promises with God and we will receive great blessings for such. Afterwards, we received 5 referrals from the members and a marked to go out and visit another. One particular lady insisted that we come to her house to visit a family she knew, because she wanted to be an active part of the work of God. I was super impressed by the love of such members to do that. I hope that we can deserve this trust from the members of this Church of Christ.

So, this week we got a call form the assistants, Elder Gaertner, explaining that we were going to have another meeting in Manaus and that we were coming back to the city again (Manuas). However, this time we went by plane and not by bus. It was nice, but not as comfortable. Super fast though. That part I did enjoy. 1 hour plane ride is better than 12 hours in a Bus. So now I am back in Manaus. Fun stuff. We will be here for another day tomorrow. Good stuff.

I love you all so much. Read the Book of Mormon. Read the Bible.

Eu vos amo.
Elder Asa Laws

Monday, March 11, 2013

Week #100 - MVP


It was my birthday this week, and I ate McDonalds! That made me very happy. I sent some pictures. (forwarded later) I will give a very detailed letter about this week.

Monday- We returned from Vilhena taking 2 airplanes and 2 lay-overs to get there. It was wonderful to sit down and talk with President Reber (Romans mission Pres) on the airplane to Cuiabá. Man, he is an incredible man, and Sister Reber is such a calming person. I felt so comfortable on the airplane rides. Actually, coming into Manaus, there was a huge rainstorm going on and we experienced some very strong turbulence. At one point it felt like the airplane was falling and I liked it! There was lady who screamed though and that kind of ruined the party. Anyways, the pilot landed safely and we took a taxi back to the staff office.

Tuesday - So, because of that pain that I had in my chest a few weeks ago on the bus, we decided that it would be best for me to go to the hospital and check it out. So we decided to not return straight to Boa Vista and instead take a day to see the doctor. Well, little did we know it would not take just a day. We went to the doctor early in the morning to schedule an appointment with Cardiology. The lady there said the earliest we could get in was Friday. That was not going to work. So we decided to go to emergency care area and see if they could check me out. We got in a line that took forever and when we were finally attended, the doctor was not so pleasant. He had me do a ECG and a blood test. The blood tests were normal and he took the ECG and said they were fine, but he would schedule with cardiology anyway because of my pain. However, he could not schedule until Friday. LAME. So we told Sister Klein who decided to go to the hospital with us the next day to see what she could do to speed things up.

So later on March 5th we found ourselves at the hospital again. We waited for Sister Klein and then she talked to some of her contacts. After a bit of fuss we were managed to get in for March 6th, 7 am. Awesome. I was going to the doctor on my birthday.

During this whole time we would stay at the mission office, and Elder Shepherd and I would enter in baptismal records into the computer system. The mission was backed up by over 1000 records and we had a lot to do, but we managed to get ALL of it done this week. Elder shepherd did most of the work entering because I was busy taking the forms that were filled out wrong and calling missionaries to have them filled out correctly. What a man Elder Shepard is!

Anyways, I actually started a large journal entry about my birthday. I have not completed it but I will put a part of it in this letter:

"The following is the account of what happened on the sixth day of march, year 2013; my 21st birthday.
T´was a wonderful day in the beginning of March as I arose from my bed. I was tired. Really tired. It had been awhile since I had slept in his own bed and a night in the secretaries’ house, though comfortable, was not the full night’s rest that had long been expected by my tired corpse. However, there was no excuse sufficient to hold me in bed. There were things to get done that day; very important things. The fleeting thought rolled through my mind that none of the tasks that laid before me were truly that important, and that I might just be able to get away with one more hour or two of slumber. This thought passed through my mind often. But rational conclusion quickly defeated such a thought. I had to go to the hospital and I had to go that very day. Harsh.

So I arose from my and quickly assessed the situation I now found himself in. No water in the bathroom, just a bucket. That water was bound to be bone chilling and there was no time to heat up a few pans of hot water on the stove as I had done the night before. I quite enjoy hot showers in the morning. I enjoy them at night as well. Any hour could be the perfect moment for a hot shower for me except the actual moment that I now found himself in. The hot water was abandoned and reluctantly I made my way to the faucet with the orange bucket. I was not happy about this.

So distracted had I become, that I had actually completely forgot about the special day that was the 6th of March. Honestly, I simply had not even considered that date up until this point and all that ran through my mind was in no way connected to the date. Hospital, heart, shower, cold water, lame. I was late by 20 or so minutes by my assessment of the situation and I was now contemplating how I was to recuperate 20 minutes. I made my way over to the shower. Elder Shepherd had quietly appeared in the hallway now and as he passed on the left, he gave a loud reminder to me that it was my birthday. A large smile appeared on my face and I appreciated the announcement. Elder Shepherd well timed those words.

They were kind words on the march to war against body odor. Unfortunately, my weapon against such odor was not preferable. Clothes off. I grabbed the pot that had been left in the bathroom for shower purposes. In to the water it went, back out it came. I hate cold showers. Oh how I detest cold showers. Because of such, rather than throwing the pot over my head, I simply overturned the pot by a few degrees. ICE. I was no longer in any way happy about the shower. No, the cold water would not do after all. I gave up and overturned the pot on my head to wash the previously applied soap from my face. One more pot was dashed over the head and that was the end of the shower. After a quick towel-off and a zit-check in the mirror, I found the silver lining of the day – I had recovered 10 minutes. Wonderful. Now I just had to find 10 more. Maybe Elder Shepherd would be just as afraid of the cold water as I was.
Elder Shepherd was not as afraid of cold water as I was. They traded places. Elder Shepherd assumed the shower with another large bucket of water, and I assumed place in front of the ironing board to prepare my white button-down shirt. I had grown quite accustomed to the daily ritual and as I passed hot metal over my cotton-polyester blend shirt and now found myself reflecting on how many times I had done the same thing before. Every day of my mission I had done that. Shower, then iron. Sometimes it was the reverse order. But regardless I realized I had done this every day for almost 2 years. The shirt was ironed. So I put on the shirt, thinking how I had ironed a shirt to simply stuff it inside a pair of slacks. I put on my slacks and then when waited for Elder Shepherd. Elder Shepherd had not been afraid of the water. He took his time.

Soon enough Elder Shepherd appeared once again and also prepared himself for the day. The basics. Shirt, toothpaste, brush, gel, Book of Mormon. We were set. It was 6:30 am. We were supposed to already be gone. I held in my heart the fear I now had of arriving late. I hate arriving late just as much as I hate cold showers. But there was no need to express such fear; no need to tell Elder Shepherd of my frustration. The deed had been done and no amount of complaining or explaining to Elder Shepherd would change that. They would just have to call the taxi and hope for good traffic. I found solace in that thought. Elder Shepherd showed no signs of stress. The taxi arrived and they made there way to the hospital.

Traffic did move quickly and the taxi found its way to the building downtown in record time, thus soothing my soul. We arrived just before 7am. It was not preferable, yes, I did want to arrive early but the worst was behind us. We were on time. We paid the wonderful taxi-man with a voucher slip from the mission office and shuffled ourselves into an empty elevator to the 3rd floor of the building. I expected to find a very full, organized waiting room. I was wrong. The room was almost empty and there was no one to direct us to where the cardiology department. The elevator had opened up to a large room full of green plush chairs which appeared mildly but not too comfortable. Each wall was plastered with doors, though none of them were marked with exactly what went on behind them. They were simply labeled "consulting 1, consulting 2, etc." I felt lost and a tad late. Where were we to go? We waited for a receptionist to appear, who then explained that she was not on duty for another hour and could not help us. Still lost. We got up the courage to then check out a door located in the back corner of the room which seemed to have a reasonable amount of movement about it.

The nurse who was found in the room confirmed that it was in-fact the cardiologists office and she asked my ID and health plan card. I felt so relieved and quickly handed over the required documents. I had had them on the ready because previous hospital visits from the day before had taught me that nothing happens in a hospital until they know you are going to pay. She returned the documents to me and directed us to sit in the reception room and to wait until we were called. Great. I loved waking up early and in a hustle to sit and wait in reception hall.

The wait was long, but not too long as to completely annoy us, who were mostly just tired and just wished to return to our beds. I had even managed to dose off for a bit while waiting. However, that moment was the moment in which my name was called and I was ushered into the small office of the doctor along with Elder Shepherd. It was a comfortable office. I first noticed the Galaxy Notebook on the doctors desk, then I noticed the doctor, and what he was asking for; my weight and height. 62 kilos (136lbs) was my weight; that was something I knew, but when the doctor asked for my height, I forced to asked the doctor to convert 69 inches (5ft 9in) into meters on the Galaxy notebook. It came out to 1 meter, 72 centimeters. Wonderful. We proceeded to converse about the weeks previous events and how I had been feeling. I explained my previous pain attack on the bus and accounted all that had come to pass since. This did not seem to worry the doctor. It was obvious that he had seen worse. We continued to talk. The subject moved to Brazilian medical care vs US care; since the doctor was currently studying in the US. He commented on the wonders of American organization. But the light chat was quickly terminated when the printer kicked to life. The doctor handed over 3 documents to me and instructed me on how to go to the department floor which would perform one of such exams. The others would be done later that day, and the following day. I was told to go and come back at 2 pm to finish the tests for the day.

So we made our way down the 3 floors and tried our best to follow the directions which had been previous explained to us, though in our experience, we had already learned that no one in Manaus really knows how to give directions. Or, at least, that they did not know how to follow directions given by those who lived in Manaus. But luck was on our our side. Another hospital worker explained once again and we found ourselves far away in the depths of the building, checking in to perform the test prescribed. We waited in another line, only to be told to wait in different line. I presented my ID and health care card another time. It was verified once again, that our plan covered the test, and we were ushered to another waiting room."

After all that happened they performed a CAT scan. COOLEST THING EVER. I have never been so blown away with a machine in my entire life! So cool. It made me want to be a CAT scan guy. I was so impressed. I want to know how it worked! Amazing!!

We then went upstairs where the doctors performed a echo-cardiogram. It was quite intrigued and impressed with that machine again, and it was so cool to get to see my insides on my birthday! We probed around and finally found out that I have Mitral Valve Prolapse. It's a very common heart condition. Usually only shows up as a heart murmur but for some reason I'm having other symptoms like pain and fatigue. Nothing serious. They gave me some medication and I have to see some doctors when I get home in three weeks. The Cardiologist and President both feel confident that I am fine to finish out my mission here and don't need to come home early. (Don't worry mother)

Then later on for my birthday we went to McDonald's to celebrate and walked back to staff from the hospital. It took about 2 hours. HAHAHA.

The subsequent days were spent working at staff and entering in baptismal records and having way to much fun! I got to relax a little bit more. Though, I am super anxious to go back to the field. Looks like we are heading back to Boa Vista for the next three weeks to finish our assignment there. I have so little time to work now!!!!!!!!
I have developed a huge testimony of this gospel. I see now the true meaning of everything that we do and must get done in this life. I better understand my Savior. I feel like, slowly the mysteries of God are unraveling and I can see beyond. Wonderful. I LOVE the scriptures. I know they are the word of God. I ask all to read the Book of Mormon. Please. Your salvation depends on it.

I love you all and miss you guys. See you soon!!

eu vos amo,
Elder Asa Laws

Tuesday, March 5, 2013

Week #99 - The best week of my life!!


The following letter will be written is a slightly different format. Enjoy

Elder Laws awoke quite early on Wednesday morning. Not that he wasn't tired, or that some rude alarm was bent on disturbing his peace. Rather that night had been calm. He had stayed that night just a few blocks north of the mission office in a wonderfully comfy apartment that belonged to the assistants, though the assistants rarely actually slept there. However, on this night they had slept there, along with Elder Shepherd and Elder Laws.

But that morning Elder Laws awoke early. His nerves, excitement, and imagination were just overflowing. Thoughts of airplane rides and family reunions rushed through his head. "Had it really been 1 year and 11 months since he had seen his brother? How was he? Was he really that much skinnier?" His mind raced as he hauled himself from his bed. Elder Laws was not excited about the sub-zero shower that awaited him.

After 2 minutes he was out of the shower, refreshed and incredibly prepared for a wonderful day. It showed 3:30 am on the clock. Shirt was pre-ironed the night before. He simply had to back his bag and wait for the other 3 sleeping lions to arise and leave the den. So he packed, and waited, and watched the 3 lions scurry about. Elder Plant called the taxi, and quickly 4 lions rushed down the stairs and out the door, and across the block to the church. Elder Laws finally found where he had left his tiredness. It was on the street waiting for him. So tiredly he made his way to the taxi and off they went crammed, 4 men and 3 suitcases into a small 1.4 liter engine car. The streets were empty at 4:15 am, and they rode smoothly with very little mingling.

The airport was a bustle. Elder Laws was quite impressed and had forgotten of the rustle that happens at an airport, even at 4:30 am. Quickly they all entered into the check-in line for AZUL airlines, and began to pass the time watching other people. Elder Laws found it interesting how many different types of people you can find in an airport in the middle of the rain-forest. Incredible! His attention was then quickly brought back to the desk as Elder Gaertner asked for his passport to confirm his identity, and out of the front shirt pocket came the little blue book. Flight confirmed. They made their way to the security and put the backpacks, keys, coins, and cellphone in the plastic tubs. Elder Laws made it through in record time with the rest of the pride. They were in and ready for the journey.

After a bathroom break and a few minutes of trunky talk, the boarding announcement was made and the four Elders made their way onto the Embraer 195 where they took their seats all in a row. The assistants passed due to lack of sleep, but Elder Laws could not. Airplane proximity disorder had his heart captured. After nearly 1 year and 9 months, he was going to fly again! What a wonderful sensation. The roar of the engines was intense, as the craft eased forward. Then with increasing intensity, Elder Laws felt as they went faster and faster and then, nothing. They had fled earthy bounds and off they flew. Oh how Elder Laws loved flying. He spent he first flight to Porto Velho in complete bliss and elation with his brown head pressed to the window as he watched a sunrise illuminate the crisp white wings of the aircraft. The silent jungle gave her morning sigh and the sky was blanketed in white clouds." Incredible," he thought.

Elder Laws was surprised at the size of the airport in Porto Velho. The city was the supposed state capital, but the airport barely had enough space to fit 2 small jets. No terminal or jet-ways. Passengers left the plane by staircases placed at and rear. However, the 4 Elders did not leave. They were bound for the next destination: CUIABÁ. So after a quick refuel and bathroom break the Elders continued on there journey, only now Elder Shepherd took the window seat and Elder Laws, the aisle. The assistants remained for the most part, dead in place, knocked out by the "over-worked, under-paid" status they now held. It was again a pleasant flight.

Cuiabá was beautiful from the air and much smaller than Elder Laws expected. This airport also lacked jet-ways but a free terminal to jet bus ride was provided instead. As they arrived in the airport, and knowing of the time they had to wait until the next flight to Vilhena, the 4 sought out and found a Subway restaurant a block away form the airport. What an amazing lunch! Elder Laws felt like the king of the world as he ate a teryaki chicken sandwich with chipotle sauce. The food of champions. Pictures were taken to commemorate the experience. Upon returning to the airport, Elder Laws bought 2 post cards and sent them to some very special people. Elder Gaertner bought one and sent it to President Klein in Manaus. "Dear president, we forgot to ask permission to leave the mission. But now that we are here, let´s take advantage of the situation? Signed Elders Laws, Shepherd, Plant, and Gaertner." Soon after, all four loaded up into a ATR 42 twin turboprop aircraft and made way to Vilhena.

Upon arrival, they found that the city airport was small, super small. But this city was nice! President Miguel, leader of the Vilhena 1 branch came to pick them up with his car and they made their journey to the south, heading into the city. As the car turned onto what was a very well paved street, Elder Laws caught a glimpse of another Elder coming around the corner. But this Elder was not so recognizable as the 180 others from Manaus mission. He was a tall blonde who appeared so familiar and yet as someone who was completely new; a lost brother from years past. Elder Laws calmly left the car, a smile beaming off the edges of his mouth. He refused to turnaround, just in case it would ruin the moment, and instead he patiently removed his baggage form the rear of the car. The blonde shouted after him. That voice rang so familiar in his ears. Who could it be? It rang out with penetrating joy and love to Elder Laws' heart. Turning around, and flinging his backpack to the ground, Elder Laws gave, or rather, received the best hug of his life. He couldn't cry because the moment was too perfect for tears...

Roman was sooooo different. He was so large, yet small. He was.... I don't know. It was a moment of bliss to see him after so long. Working with him was absolutely incredible! We had a blast. I loved it. I loved every moment. I slept and dreamed about working with him. I felt so comfortable and privileged. There was a moment near the last day where I stopped in the street and simply told him how I was so grateful for those days together. I had prayed so hard so that Roman could know what I know, feel what I feel, see what I see, and be better than I ever was. I cannot believe God gave me the opportunity to be with my brother and answer my own prayer. Roman is the best missionary I know. He will continue to be so.

Getting to know the missionaries from another mission was also an amazing experience. Elder T. Nascimento, Elder Piñon (american), and Elder Duarte are excellent missionaries that really taught me tons of things. I was privileged to get to work with each and every one of them. It was incredible. I hope the best for all of them.

We had 5 baptisms this week in the city. Elder Laws baptized Leticia, Elder Laws baptized Daniel, and Elder Duarte baptized Ian. Then on Sunday, 2 brothers that Roman and I taught were baptized by a church member that lives close to their house! I was super impressed! What an incredible experience. We had meetings with both mission Presidents and it was awesome to hear from 2 amazing leaders. Incredible!

We 4 Elders that arrived together stayed in a very nice hotel called the Hotel Rover where we had free breakfast every day and we would practice our hymn for the meeting on Saturday. The hymn was "Faith With Every Footstep". It was wonderful to sing in harmony. I still LOVE singing. Congratulations to the Union Choirs. Go win state for me!

Really so much happened:

I scrubbed a ladies rug for a chance to talk to her family.
We spoke with EVERYONE that passed by.
I stopped a man on a bicycle too!
We ate alligator, well I did.
I accidentally slept in.
We took a ton of photos
I met a Brazilian who can play the piano super well.

I really just wanted to be the best example I could to my brother. I want him to be the best missionary he possibly can. I expect to see great things from him. I love Roman so much and it broke me up to see him get on that bus as he went back to Cuiabá but some things just have to happen. I gave him a huge hug and told him that he stinks and sent him off on his way. Now its business time.

I cannot wait to sit at home talking with ALL my family in Portuguese. Yes that is the call to Hanna, Kati and yes you too Mother, to LEARN NOW! I cannot wait for that moment.

Eu vos amo.
te amo Roman

Elder Asa Laws