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