This past week was very productive. We got things rolling with our progressing investigators and it appears that we'll be having a few weddings in the near future. Investigator attendance at church was pretty large on Sunday, but the week to come should be even better. Through much work, we were able to bring thirteen people to Sacrament, and in one week, we marked five baptism dates (Kleive, Anapaula, Daniela, Matias, Tiese).
As for the English Class, we have discontinued teaching it. The Stake is offering a certified class that counts for college credit and such. Unfortunately, the best teaching time was from 8-9 p.m., so it was a little bit of a conflict even though it was only once a week for each dupla.
The ward in Cidade de Deus consists of approximately 130 members (give or take a few since we can only count on the stronger members to faithfully attend every Sunday). Elder Olsen and I took a leap of faith and put a heavy heap of missionary work in their hands and they are really coming through for us. It's more effective with the members' help that's for sure. The members feed us lunch about six times a week or provide us with money to fend for ourselves... which is fine. The ward mission leader is very supportive of our work although it seems as though he is always working or at school. We only see him on Saturday and Sunday. Only a handful of the ward members have gone through the temple...really not too many due to the distance and expense of traveling to Caracas, Recife, or São Paulo. The members are extremely excited for the completion of the Manaus Temple, which will hopefully be completed by late 2010. They are also anxiously awaiting the World Cup in 2014 (haha).
We just got back from the actual Jardim Botânico (Botanical Garden), which is just a bunch of open forest with some crazy trails throughout. It was a district activity with Elders Cavaliero, Morris, Olsen, Mauro, Paredes, and me. Like our last attempt, we walked about two miles to find out the trails were closed. Fortunately, we have two rich Brazilians in our district who were able to persuade one of the workers to take us on the trail. Even though we were walking on a previously blazed trail, the guide told us of some other places off the trail where we could go take sweet pictures. There were a lot of strange things we saw during the walk, but the coolest were vines like Tarzan swings on...they really exist! They are thin but really strong. I tried climbing up one but was a little worried that I would pull the whole tree down because of my ridiculous strength. While in the rain forest, I saw an awesome colored lizard that resembled a snake just sitting on a little log. It's amazing how once you enter the jungle, it's a whole new world. It is not hard to see with all the greenery how life is easily brought about in the rain forests of Amazonas. The only bad part about the whole trip is the mud caked on the bottom of my shoes and pants, but hey, it's nothing a cloth or good wash can't fix. It was a great experience.
As you can see by the pictures, my hair is a little long since I wasn't able to get it cut last week due to Elder Olsen's illness. I will be getting it taken care of today.
I bet you're wondering why I didn't send an email home last week...I'm glad to report that it wasn't because I was sick in a hospital. For some reason, the Internet was not working on myldsmail last week, and after several attempts, we finally gave up. Transfers occurred yesterday and Elder Hodges is now in Manacapuru and I have a new American companion, Elder Olsen, from Orem, Utah. I'm not sure what happened yesterday, but Elder Olsen was up all night throwing up, so we stayed indoors much of today so he could rest. We just managed to get out of the house with an hour of P-day remaining to email home. He seems pretty good, though, from what I can tell.
Something ironic happening at this moment is that I'm seated right next to our runaway investigator, who showed up to church on Sunday and said he just wanted to get baptized to get his parent's attention. I was a little bummed to say the least, especially since that meant we went an entire transfer without a baptism. It appears this next transfer will be pretty good (it's only 5 weeks in length, which happens only once a year). I'm going to do some things differently, which I believe will help more people to progress and eventually accept baptism. Currently, we have a few people who are really standing out above the rest...one of them being Lazaro, who is progressing strongly and is very reliable. The other, of course, is Vanessa, who has already accepted baptism along with Edimar and Maria who seem to be off and on, but it's all good.
Some of the unique events that occurred last week were catching and holding a toucan. It was really neat seeing something so rare up close. The attached picture doesn't do the colors of the bird justice. Finally, last P-day we went to the center for a little tchau party for Elder Portes at an Arab fast food place called Habib's. It was sort of a surreal experience having Arabic food in the middle of the Amazon.
Sorry to have to cut this short, but I've got to go. I'll do a better job of writing next week when I have more time. Hopefully, Elder Olsen isn't still puking next week.
We just got back from the center after having looked for lembranças (souvenirs) for Elder Hodges since he will be leaving to go home shortly. I thought I would share with all of you several highlights that made this week quite unique. To begin with, we had divisions, so essentially I was senior companion for the day. As fate would have it, a ton of our appointments fell through, so in order to keep the day rolling, we walked all over the place to remain busy.
Of late, we have been getting a hold of some old references that hadn't been contacted by the previous elders. As of two days ago, we just had one remaining that we needed to contact. It was on a street called São Salvador, and as we went down the road, it turned into dirt, which isn't unusual for our area. As we approached the end of the street, it opened up into a little village of Indians. Before we knew it, we were surrounded by three kids pointing arrows at us who warned that they would shoot if we moved. Of course, we moved and the arrows went whizzing past us. Once they depleted their arrows, they resorted to stabbing us with little reeds. The only casualty was a hole they poked in my mission bag. Besides the excitement of dodging arrows, it was pretty cool to see all the natives down there living together in their tribe. Unfortunately, the reference we went to see had recently run away from home, so we made the journey for nothing.
Another cool thing that happened this week took place at the house of an investigator. When we went to buscar (look for) him on Sunday, we found him at the back of his house where we talked with him. Low and behold, they had a toucan. I actually got to hold it for a while, which was awesome! Hopefully, I will have a picture of that by next week.
We also had interviews with the President this week, which went well. He always has good stories to share from his mission that remind you of what works best when you are trying to find people to teach. It's clear to me that the best way to find new people is through Family Home Evenings.
We are currently working with a family (Edimar and Maria) and also a 15 year old boy named Alexandro. They are all making good progress. As for the ward here, it continues to grow even though it recently lost its status as a ward for some reason due to a lack of priesthood holders and such.
One thing we started doing this week was living off the land. There are jamba trees and green coconuts all over the place, so when we're hungry, we just knock down some fruit, clean it, and enjoy a free snack. Well, I've got to go get stuff in order in the house. I'll be sending a little package home soon with some pictures and a cool, little thing I picked up today.