"But they that wait upon the Lord shall renew their strength; they shall mount up with wings as eagles; they shall run, and not be weary; and they shall walk, and not faint."-Isaiah 40:31

Thursday, May 28, 2009

Flooded but Still Functioning (5/27/09)

As I jog through my memory reviewing the events of the past week, nothing too extraordinary has transpired since I last wrote, but I'll share some experiences nonetheless. So, being that I'm the guy who goes to make big purchases in the center or ship things at the port, I had another chance to get a better look at just how high the water has risen along the edge of the city. The most ridiculous part of all is people continue to go about their lives as normal even though the streets are legitimately flooded.

After finishing our task of sending packages to Maués, our taxi driver, Marcos, suggested we check out a butcher's market and fish market. So, we, the three musketeers, jumped out on the bustling street and entered the market. It was crazy! It's been about a year since I have smelled formaldehyde so strong. There was blood and guts everywhere...oh, the humanity...cleavers pounding against chopping blocks and heads flipping in the air after being brutally severed at the spine. I'm not going to lie, if I ever thought about being a butcher in the past, that idea has officially been removed from my mind. Although the scene was violent and the smell was less than soothing, it was pretty cool to see one more aspect of how the city functions. Markets like this definitely wouldn't fly in the United States due to FDA regulations. While with Marcos, we got a great view of the city during our sunny ride and eventually made it back to Staff safely. There are some pretty cool buildings in the center with vines growing all over them, kind of like a ghost town due to government restrictions.

One cool thing that occurred within the last week was that everyone got sick and started drinking a rip-off version of Sunny Delight called Yo-Suco, which I actually like better and it's only $6 for 5 liters. Fortunately, we recovered quickly. There is no rest for the weary in the Mission Office...business continues as usual whether you are healthy or not.

On Sunday, everything was going well until something happened with Francisco's brother, so he had to go to the center to take care of him, which postponed his baptism until this upcoming Sunday with Karol. They both live on the outskirts of our area in a neighborhood called União (union in English). Let's hope everything goes smoothly this week and they are both baptized as scheduled.

My days with a trainer (Elder Guerrette) are numbered. In about 5 days, I'll officially be the new Financial Secretary with 100% of the responsibility on my shoulders. The reality of this transition is exciting and overwhelming at the same time...mostly exciting, though, due to all the learning and experiences that lay ahead.

A missionary couple just arrived yesterday from São Paulo, the first of their kind here in Missão Manaus, which was pretty cool but also a lot of paperwork. Rather than have them remain here for 23 months, President Jayme shipped them off to Tefé for the next little while.

Other than that, all is still well here. In fact, there has been a large spike in party invites by ward members, which is almost always accompanied by cake and kikão (hot dog). Teaching is going well and the ward continues to help us out a lot. For the most part, people have been very accepting of our message. Last week more visitors stopped by from Compensa to say, "Hi," due to the conference...it's always good to see familiar faces. Thank you all for your love and support.

Elder Taylor Mackay

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

A Surprise Visit for Elder Mackay
From Taylor Mission Pics

Tommy Boy

Hello Everyone,

This week was very busy but a good week overall. I'll begin by answering some of the questions I've received recently. The names of those we baptized last week in Flores were: Maria Benidita Azevedo Malcher and Josivane Azevedo Malcher. There are currently 152 missionaries serving in the Brazil Manaus Mission. Approximately, 3 out of 5 missionaries are Brazilian. With summer approaching, tourism should begin to increase in Manaus with people coming for river and jungle excursions. And, yes, the heat continues to progressively get hotter.

I have some great news from Jardim Botânico (my previous area). Elder Olsen has been keeping me posted on the progress of the investigators we were teaching before I reported to the Mission Office. I am pleased to report that all those who marked dates with us were baptized on their scheduled day: a big, tattooed dude named Luis Almeida Machado and the rest of Elizeu's family (his wife and children): Marcilene Azevedo Silva, Riandra Silva Barbosa, Raian Silva Barbosa, and Renan Lucas Silva Barbosa. Also, today will be the baptism of Fábricio, the nephew of the ward mission leader in Cidade de Dues, and his brother-in-law, Kleyton, will be baptized shortly. It is pretty crazy the way things are progressing here.

Besides teaching and baptisms, the work is getting ridiculous as Financial Secretary with only 2 weeks left to finish training!!! It's insane how much money and the number of requests that go through our hands in such a short amount of time. And if one little thing goes wrong, we're out of money! No pressure, right? In addition to being Financial Secretary for the mission, I just found out that I'm also Financial Secretary for the branches in Maués, Parintins, and Tefé. This will surely be interesting with some of the activities they have planned.

On another note, you'll never guess who stopped by the office last week to pay me a visit. It was none other than Daniel, Matheus, Selena, Cleonice, and a friend. Should the names not sound familiar, they are the family of Marianice from my first area (Compensa). Somehow they found out I was in the office and decided to stop by and surprise me. They brought by a nice food basket that we had devoured by the end of the day. Marianice's daughter also informed me that she turned her mission papers in and was awaiting her call. It was great seeing them again!

In other news, this week we learned some interesting information about the mother of Carolina. We discovered she was baptized but never confirmed, so we are restarting the whole process and teaching her all over again. Someone dropped the ball on that one! We also have the baptism of a man named Francisco on Sunday, which is really cool.

Since I'm on the topic of cool things, the Festival of Cupuaçu is coming up at the end of the month. Now that I am in the city, it will be the first festival I'll be able to witness. Something I have already witnessed, however, took place the other night in a little fruit garden of a home we were visiting, when out of nowhere, a bat started flapping around endangering our health, so we did the smart thing and continued the conversation inside.

This morning we played soccer (just 4 of us). It was Americans vs. Brazilians, and once again, we beat them! The score was 7-2. I don't know what the deal is because they get all dressed up in their soccer jerseys and whatnot but can't seem to keep up with the guys who only play basketball every morning. I'd initially say it was luck on our part, but it isn't the first time this massacre has taken place, so it's obvious that we have some skills.

In our free time today, we plan on starting our own version of The Office called The Escritorio. It's going to be a big hit...at least for the 5 of us starring in it. It gives us something lively to do on P-days being that we are a little more confined due to our responsibilities as secretaries of the mission.

Just in case you are wondering, the title of this email originated from an incident at our last Zone Conference. We were sitting in front of President Jayme when the zone leaders decided to make an analogy with suit coats. They had the biggest guy in the mission switch jackets with the skinniest missionary. The larger missionary couldn't move his arms around for fear of ripping the jacket. Then out of nowhere, President Jayme said, "Why am I thinking of Tommy Boy right now?" I couldn't help but laugh along with Elder Noorda and Guerrette. It reminded me of the following scene in the movie, "...here comes the meat wagon wee-ohhh wee-ohhh...we're on fire...I can't feel my legs...the medic steps out (pulls away cigar)...oh, my gosh...and the new guys in the corner puking his guts out whaaaa whaaaa."

Elder Mackay

Monday, May 18, 2009

The Rise of the Amazon River
From Taylor Mission Pics

The Wedding of Bosco and Maria
From Taylor Mission Pics

Lunch in a Jungle of Fruit Trees
From Taylor Mission Pics

Elder Mackay Taking Target at Elder Noorda
From Taylor Mission Pics

An Island of Turtles Near the Airport
From Taylor Mission Pics

A Truck Load of Bananas
From Taylor Mission Pics

Elder Guerrette, Elder Noorda, and Elder Mackay at Their Mother's Day Baptism
From Taylor Mission Pics

A Dutch-Brazilian Feast
From Taylor Mission Pics

Now Starring...(5/15/09)

Sorry it took me a while to get back to sending this email. I didn't think it was possible to have so many things going on all at once. After slightly more than three weeks in the office, I can now understand why Elder Guerrette went more than three weeks without writing home to his family. By the way, I sent out a few things in the mail this week, so it'll be just a matter of weeks before they arrive.

To answer the questions of the future missionaries reporting to Manaus, I would highly recommend bringing a credit/debit card since at times you will need more money than is allotted, especially if you have intentions of buying keepsakes. When you only get $100 a month for food, transportation, and whatnot, there isn't a whole lot left over at the end of the month. As for the towels, from my point of view, the best ones are from REI because they dry extremely fast, which prevents them from getting a foul, mold odor. The only other suggestion I can make is to buy an inexpensive suit for the mission. Let's just say, the weather here doesn't allow for a suit to retain its mint condition.

As for events of the past week, I have a funny story about Carolina, one of our recent converts. In Manaus, McDonald's is like a 5 Star restaurant because there are very few in the city. One day, Carolina got really mad at her mom because she bought McDonald's for her sister and herself while Carolina was at a friend's house. I've never seen someone so disappointed over a Happy Meal!

Something else you might find pretty humorous is that there is a choreographer in our ward and he is going to be putting on a huge production at the end of June. They have been working months on it, and out of nowhere, I was asked to help in the production with the filming, editing, and promotional aspects. It's going to be a pretty good attention grabber for investigators in the area. I'm really excited! He was also asking for hints of how to make the production better. I told him I'd help, given the limited time I have, but I guess it will go toward the two hours of service we have been asked to perform each week. And by the way, the theme for the production is High School Musical (haha). They are going to combine all three movies into an hour and a half show.

In other news, there were a total of 40 people in attendance last week at church due to a massive rain storm. It just so happened that the speaker was one of those people who decided to not show up, so right before the meeting started, I was informed that I would be speaking. Fortunately, it went well and everyone seemed to like what I had to say. The Bishop and some of the ward members even referenced my talk during their lessons afterward, which was pretty cool.

Elder Hodges stopped by the Mission Office this week since it was Zone Conference. He got to stay with us for a day, which was great. He also dropped off a few pictures. It sounds like everything is going good in Manacapuru. It was nice to see him.

Mother's Day was great! Besides being able to call home, we had two baptisms. Lunch on Mother's Day was also a special treat. We ate at a Dutch-Brazilian family's house and I am pleased to say there weren't any rice or beans included in the entire meal. The food was really good and had the unique flavor of American food, which I haven't eaten for some time now.

By the way, before I left Cidade de Deus, Elder Olsen and I marked 5 dates for baptism. One of them is a large, tattooed man named Luis and the rest are part of a family: Marcilene, Riandra, Raian, and Renan (the man, Elizeu, was already baptized). They will all be baptized this Saturday!

I've sent quite a few pictures this week. The descriptions are as follows: the rising of the Amazon, our lunch appointment in a jungle of fruit trees, Mother's Day lunch, the wedding of Bosco and Maria, a truck load of bananas, an island of turtles near the airport, our recent baptism, a group picture at the baptism, and me shooting Elder Noorda in the butt with a dart gun.

Just in case you're wondering, summer has officially hit the Amazon...weather-wise at least. Have a great week.

Paz e amor,
Elder Taylor Mackay

Friday, May 8, 2009

A Sloth in its Natural Habitat
From Taylor Mission Pics

Never Far from His Roots - Armenian Pizzas in the Amazon
From Taylor Mission Pics

Carolina on Her Special Day Surrounded by Family and Missionaries
From Taylor Mission Pics

Carolina and Friends on Her Baptism Day
From Taylor Mission Pics

Money, Money, Money...MONEY!
From Taylor Mission Pics

The Office (5/7/09)

Dear Family and Friends,

A lot happened this past week...progress with some, loss of interest with others, but overall the week ended up on the positive side. I'm not going to lie and say that being Financial Secretary is easy because it isn't. There have, however, already been quite a few cool experiences that have come with the job. As Financial Secretary, I am in charge of paying for all shipments in person, which means I must be present at the port when sending things off to the "interiors" i.e.: Tefé, Parintins, Manacapuru, Maués, and so forth. On one particular day, we called our taxi (which is cool because he lives in the area and arrives in only 5 minutes) and headed down to the port to make some shipments. Due to the recent rain, the Amazon River is huge! It has risen several feet and is starting to take over the city. As we walked around on the docks trying to find our boat, we could see what was once a boat launch area and a bridge. Currently, only about 3 feet separate the water from the arch on the underside of the bridge! Still, people were paddling in their make-shift canoes to get their fruits and supplies to the boat. It was a pretty cool sight. I guess it'll get dangerous for those living in the center soon enough if the levels continue to rise. Fortunately for us, we are far enough away from water to be out of harm's way.

So, lately we have been doing a lot of divisions to make up for time spent in the office and we are working with an interesting character. He is Brazilian and his name is Kennedy Boby. He served a mission, is moreno (look it up in the translator), and he teaches Boi dancing to professional dancers for Carnival. He helps out a lot, but after seeing Bring it On, it's weird to be working with a choreographer.

Sunday was an interesting day, to say the least, because the neighborhood of Alvorada/Flores decided it didn't want water. As we were getting ready for Carolina's baptism, we turned the water on and after 3 seconds everything stopped...shoot! We ran around looking for buckets and then started filling them up running to and from the font, but once again, after only 4 or 5 buckets...game over...the water ran dry! So, in a rush to get this event on the road (Carolina's mom got permission to leave work to see the baptism, so it was time, money, and disappointment on the line), we called the elders in Dom Pedro to fill up their font and it all worked out. The ward was awesome...they piled into their cars (they have quite a few here) and hauled over to Dom Pedro (in a less than safe manner) leaving Elder Guerrette and me in the dust. Fortunately, a few minutes later we hitched a ride with a passing member and it all worked out. The support of Carolina's ward friends was cool. They had practiced a special song to sing for her and were all present for her big day. Contrary to its rocky start, the baptism was a huge success.

As for the rest of the week, it kind of flew by between bank runs and mail drops. This week, though, we have 3 baptisms on Saturday and possibly one on Sunday. Those being baptized on Saturday are: Graça, Josivane, and Gabriella. Ozorio, a refugee from the interior, is our hopeful for Sunday. He'll be going back home in a week or so...hopefully it works out. That's about it for the week. Happy Mother's Day and I'll be calling home from a good phone this time!

Paz e amor bichos,
Elder Mackay