"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, July 30, 2009

The Office and Friends
From Taylor Mission Pics

Break Time at the Water Cooler for Elders Reis, Mackay, Rangel, and Seastrand
From Taylor Mission Pics

See What a Little Rain Can Do
From Taylor Mission Pics

Amazonian Accessories at Their Finest
From Taylor Mission Pics

Elder Mackay and Elder Reis at the Docks of the Rio Negro
From Taylor Mission Pics

Money, Tickets, and Complications

It was a crazy week once again due to the conferences and the massive expansion of the mission boundaries. The latter is making the whole rent situation a bit more complicated than in the past. However, it's all out of the way for now, so the next few days should be a bit easier. Hopefully, I will be able to get caught up on my sleep since our curfew in the office is a little distorted.

The teaching is still going well, but recently many changes have been made in our ward. A lot of people aren't very active and it's looking like it may turn into a branch if they don't do something quick. As for Elder Seastrand and me, we can do our part to find new people and help recent converts. Unfortunately, our efforts won't have too much of an impact given the fact that members aren't fulfilling their home teaching and visiting teaching responsibilities. In addition, the ward mission leader hasn't been to church for months, but that's life. It's unfortunate that our old, Bolivian mission leader was released because he was really good. Apparently, the Stake is working on calling a new one, so we can get the show on the road.

On a high note, we have a baptism for Maria Gessy Dos Santos in about 5 hours. She has been waiting for over 23 years for this special day to arrive. I'll be baking a cake, using my funfetti cake mix, to add that special touch to an already great occasion. Besides, Elder Seastrand and I don't need the extra calories, so we might as well share it with those in attendance.

There was a lot of running around this week, both for errands and teaching purposes, given our limited time. One of the week's highlights was my trip with Elder Reis to the docks to buy tickets for missionaries serving in Tefé, an interior area, since flying is not an option. It was super bright out and a few of the fishermen were trying to sell their catch of the day, pack up, and go home. After purchasing the tickets, we headed back to the car and picked up a nice cup of limeade from a street vendor. We even got a kiss blown to us by a crazy, drunk lady, who is always hanging out at the bar.

As for excitement in the office, we had our share yesterday. Elder Rangel was having some back pain and wanted someone to help him crack his back. Forgetting that he is heavier than me, I locked arms with him and tried to lift him on my back in an attempt to stretch his back and help alleviate the pain. With our arms still locked, I lost my balance causing him to slam face first into a cupboard. Fortunately, he is gordinho and his gordura softened the impact. Surprisingly, it seemed to do the job and ease his pain.

The upcoming weeks should be pretty eventful with missionary work since the whole mess of rent and conference is out of the way. That means more teaching, cooler photos, and more baptisms, as long as we start getting the support of the ward.

To answer a question about last week's picture with the American businessman, every once in a while Americans travel down here for business. In most cases, they work for an employer that has divisions in Brazil and they need someone to do yearly inspections and interview the workers. Rather than pay thousands of dollars for an interpreter, they generally send someone who speaks Portuguese. Often times, this means returned missionaries because Portuguese isn't as highly learned as Spanish or French in the United States.

Elder Taylor Mackay

Sunday, July 26, 2009

Taking a Break with American Travis Ringger Who was Visiting on Business
From Taylor Mission Pics

Internot (7/24/09)

Dear Family and Friends,

Sorry for the delay of this letter. A series of unfortunate events occurred that contributed to its detainment. On Wednesday, my P-day, I was super busy with the zone leaders during the day. When I returned home from teaching later in the evening, I walked into my room and discovered a note with the name of a computer technician informing me my Internet wasn't working. I thought...that's just awesome considering it was functioning fine previously and I need the Internet for just about everything I do as Financial Secretary.

One thing I won't be doing anymore is saying whether we have dates marked for upcoming baptisms, since every time I have done this they seem to fall through. From now on, it will simply be one of those great surprises that appear in a letter or photo. As for investigators who are progressing, we have many including a few we have assisted in ditching coffee. They have instead taken up drinking cevada, which is actually pretty good. Their names are Dulce, Ana, Aline, and Carmen (not from San Diego). We are currently teaching an older couple whose names are Donna Beth and Waldir. They won't let us leave their house until we have been well fed. Yesterday, I learned some interesting details about Waldir. He used to live in the interior on the Solimões River with his parents. One day, his parents went out fishing and were attacked by a local tribe and killed. I won't go into the details, but he was mad and went back with his uncle and cousin and exterminated the entire tribe. When it comes time for an interview, I'm pretty sure he'll need to meet with the Presidente.

On a lighter note, I had a funny incident occur yesterday at the supermarket check-out. Five centavos fell in the conveyor belt and I reached in to retrieve it. Unfortunately, I was unsuccessful. However, the clerk, who was absolutely clueless, didn't see that my finger was still in there and started slamming the metal plate on it. By the time she finally stopped, my finger was bleeding (haha). It was hilarious. Elder Rangel was like, "...you're crazy...I wouldn't have done that for 50 centavos." I told him good thing...neither would I. I did it for 5. We then busted up in uncontrollable laughter.

Church is going well. The ward is strong, but we are trying to expand the boundaries by focusing in areas that are truly progressing. We are teaching the majority of our lessons with members, which really makes things much more effective. We have also been working a lot with part-member families. One that is doing particularly well is Tatiana, the sister of Juliana and Silvia, who is really doing her best to follow through with all of the commitments she makes with us.

Everything continues to go well in the field as well as in the office. I have found that being senior companion requires a lot more planning, talking, and leading, but I am enjoying the new responsibilities. I have been very fortunate to have great companions and Elder Seastrand is no exception. I have attached a picture of myself with an American businessman who I met at church on Sunday. Sorry this letter is so rushed, but I have a lot of work to catch up on now that my computer is functioning properly.

Seu amigão,
Elder Taylor Mackay

Thursday, July 16, 2009

Elder Mackay and His New Companion Elder Seastrand
From Taylor Mission Pics

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Senior Discount

Hello Family and Friends,

This week was transfers and I received a new companion. His name is Elder Seastrand from Holladay, Utah. Ironically, he is from the same area as Elder Noorda, my previous companion. He is a pretty cool guy. His only possible flaw is that he attended BYU before his mission, but I'm willing to work with him despite that fact (haha).

A few things changed in the structure of the office this week. In the past, there was no such thing as senior missionaries in the Mission Office. We were simply office missionaries and were all essentially equal by means of hierarchy. However, when the transfers occurred yesterday, I was made a senior companion over Elder Seastrand, the new Supplements Secretary. This change is pretty cool and took me completely by surprise. I guess it's just that much more responsibility for me, but it will be great working with Elder Seastrand and will prepare me for other leadership positions I might assume in the future.

Transfers got a little crazy this week since we had 15 new missionaries arrive. Needless to say, the orientation I gave them went well and left them with absolutely zero questions at the end. On the other hand, the flights home for several of our returning American missionaries did not go as smoothly. The door to their airplane fell off and the flight was canceled for obvious reasons. Fortunately, I was able to reschedule all their flights with minimal layovers. I just got off the phone from having booked Elder Parker a hotel in Miami, Florida, and getting all his flights in shape after the church travel department decided to cancel his rescheduled itinerary with Delta for no apparent reason. He was to arrive home Tuesday (yesterday) but will instead arrive home on Thursday.

With regards to the teaching, it is going well. After a slow period, we currently have quite a few people progressing. Family #1: Carmen, Dulce, Aline, and Marcilene- all of which are really excited about the Church and have been attending regularly. Two of them are preparing for baptism on the 2nd of August. Family #2: Solande and Jonas- they are the parents of a returned missionary who just got back. He is helping us in getting them to church every week and they are doing a lot of reading and studying. This isn't one of those light-speed conversions, but I'm pretty sure it will occur with time and understanding. Family #3: Waldir and Donna Beth- they are the parents of a missionary who just left the other week, so they are really glad to have us teaching them. I'm sure it makes it that much easier for their missionary to serve knowing someone is helping out his parents (who are really great people). We are working with a few others, but these are the ones progressing. For the most part, these individuals were all born Catholic, like most Brazilians, but have become followers of no church in particular.

With the recent change in mission boundaries, there are now 192 missionaries serving in the Brazil Manaus mission. I'm thinking there will be a request for more, which can possibly lead to the dividing of modern-day Missão Brasil Manaus. Realignment of mission borders does not happen very often. Generally speaking, it is a rare occasion mainly because all the work and planning that's involved.

We took a few pictures with the families in the area this week since Elder Noorda was leaving. Unfortunately, all the pictures are on Elder Noorda's camera and I won't be seeing him again until the next conference. I'll forward them once I receive them.

Another race took place yesterday morning, which was ridiculous. A member challenged me saying that I would be eating dirt. Being the competitive person I am, I gladly accepted the challenge. The race started and they were going pretty fast, but I knew they couldn't continue at that pace for long due to their form. At about 200m, I looked back over my shoulder and said, "...só isso?" and took off lapping them 3 times before finishing the race (they eventually gave up, which was pretty disappointing). The cool thing was that Elder Noorda apparently ran a 6 minute mile for the first time in his life. The coaches who work at the track are really cool as well. They have traveled and taught in the U.S. and coached BYU, Oregon, and others. They are now training athletes for the Special Olympics in Colorado. A girl I met from Manaus, who is completely blind, will be competing in one of the events. It's a real story of courage, desire, and overcoming challenges. It will be interesting to see how she does. Being that it is only the second day of this transfer, so far, so good. It looks to be getting a lot hotter and sunnier here, which is just the way I like it.

Com amor,
Elder Taylor Mackay

Saturday, July 11, 2009

Bosco and Maria at Their Baptism with Their Children
From Taylor Mission Pics

An Intense Game of Connect 4 with Elder Noorda
From Taylor Mission Pics

Elizeu with His Family on Their Baptism Day
From Taylor Mission Pics

What a Year it Has Been!
From Taylor Mission Pics

One Year in the Field (Also Referred to as "Hump Day")
From Taylor Mission Pics

A View from a Street in Flores (Elder Mackay's Current Area)
From Taylor Mission Pics

Time Flew By (7/10/09)

This week passed by really fast. In fact, I'm having trouble remembering all that happened. It wasn't exactly a semana of poder, but we were able to get a sufficient amount of work done. Staff got pretty hectic with the new missionaries arriving from the Cuiabá Mission and it is also getting a little crazy since our own transfers are coming up next week. It looks like Elder Noorda will be leaving and there will be a new Supplements Secretary.

Our area is going alright with investigators, but to be honest, it's a little slow. Then again, there's always that calm before the storm. At least, I'm hoping that is the case. There are a few plans we have in process that should help us make great progress. The fact that we have been doing divisions a few times a week is certainly expanding our teaching pool.

Although I've been in all my other areas for 3 transfers and only 2 here in Flores, I feel a lot closer to the ward and its members. I guess a lot of that might have to do with the size of the ward. When church started on Sunday, there were only 36 people in the chapel. I was completely surprised they started with so few present, but the show went on.

So, as we made our routine trip to mail packages, I noticed a familiar sight on the television mounted to the wall. I couldn't help but look as I saw the Staples Center being filled with people for the Michael Jackson Memorial. I think it was on every channel and it is all that has been talked about in Manaus.

Just so nobody stresses out, I'll be here in Flores for at least 2 more transfers (that's 12 weeks and I honestly wouldn't be surprised if it turned into 18 weeks). The position of Financial Secretary has been great so far. It has brought a lot of new opportunities and experience, which will be beneficial in the future if I choose not to pursue a career in medicine. Prior to serving in the Mission Office, I thought all the money stuff was done automatically...well, I was wrong. I never realized how much work, and sometimes trouble, one went through just to have money fall into my account.

In about 6 weeks, the first transfers will occur in which missionaries will be transferred outside of the original Manaus Mission boundaries. It will be interesting to see who comes and goes. Unfortunately, these new areas are a long plane ride away, so I won't be able to visit them unless I am transferred to one of them later in my mission.

Elder Olsen recently sent me baptism pictures of João Bosco Fereira Pinto and Maria Do Rosario de Souza Pinto and Elizeu's family (Marcilene Azevedo Silva, Riandra Silva Barbosa, Raian Silva Barbosa, and Renan Lucas Silva Barbosa) that occurred after I left Jardim Botânico. I marked their baptism dates but was transferred before they were actually baptized. These baptisms mean a great deal to me personally. Although I wish I could have attended, I'm grateful to at least have these pictures.

Before I forget, there's another ward race on Saturday. Many more people will be participating this time around. Let's hope I still have the speed. I'll share the details of the race next week. Given that there will be a few changes this next week, there should be quite a bit more for me to write about in my next letter.

Elder Taylor Mackay

Sunday, July 5, 2009

All Smiles in the Amazon
From Taylor Mission Pics

A Beetle on Steroids
From Taylor Mission Pics

Thumbs Up in the Jungle
From Taylor Mission Pics

Elder Mackay and Elder Noorda in Itacoatiara
From Taylor Mission Pics

Elder Mackay on a Jungle Excursion
From Taylor Mission Pics

Never Let Them See You Sweat!
From Taylor Mission Pics

Elders will be Elders
From Taylor Mission Pics

The View from Itacoatiara
From Taylor Mission Pics

Elder Mackay and Elder Noorda: The Welcoming Committee of Manaus
From Taylor Mission Pics

Regional Conference with Presidente Soares
From Taylor Mission Pics

Big Bugs and Little Indians (7/1/09)

Hello, pessoal do mundo normal. This week was a little bit busy due to some serious changes that have impacted our mission. Missão Manaus now has an extra 38 missionaries, and in my opinion, might just be the biggest mission in the world! If you are wondering where we got this extra land, it was due to a realignment of the Cuiabá Mission (under the direction of Ulysses S. Soares). The areas we gained are: Porto Velho, Rio Branco, and Cruzeiro do Sul. I must say it is all pretty exciting but a little bit of a headache for the Financial and Executive Secretaries, who now have the responsibility of putting everyone in the system, creating the areas, zones, and districts, and making sure rent gets paid. But rest assured, the work will get done!

By means of office work, it was a rough week, but a lunch appointment that we had on the Estrada to Itacoatiara made up for it. The family came and picked Elder Noorda and me up by car and took us to their home, which is literally right on the edge of the jungle. They are really nice and make a lot of sacrifices with regards to commuting to work, school, and church. Following a tour of their place, we ate lunch and then went on a jungle excursion through an overgrown trail that gave just enough room for our feet to hit the path. I thought it was hot and humid in Manaus, but when you enter into the jungle, it's a whole different story. The sweat just rolls off of your face, and before you know it, your shirt is sticking to your back. On the way back to the office, we picked up some fresh orange juice and took a picture at the city limit sign to show we had finally made it out of the city after about a year in Manaus.

This past week we went to the port to ship some stuff to Maués and Tefé and got a ridiculous surprise. The water has officially entered into the city. We walked to the docks on top of thousands of sandbags that had been placed in narrow paths leading to key areas of the port. I'm not going to lie, things got a little tricky walking on the bags with a box on top of my head and another under my arm. The unfortunate part of the trip was having to pass through the middle of the fish/meat market. Let me tell you...if there is one smell that makes me want to puke, it's freshly gutted fish and bull liver.

I know you all are probably wondering...does he know that the King of Pop (Michael Joseph Jackson) died? If the way I phrased the question wasn't a good enough clue, then my answer is, "Yes." Here in Manaus, classes stopped during the day to have a few moments of silence to remember his legacy. It made me think if the U.S. would react the same way if someone famous died from another country.

In respect to teaching, things are progressing but not at the pace we would like. Given all the work in the office and the Festas of the Manawattans, things are getting a little difficult. Fortunately, though, we have an activity planned for this month that should really rally the ward's missionary efforts. Due to our limited time in the field (only after 4pm), we really depend on the members and their references. It should be great.

Just in case it interests you, Elder Noorda's girlfriend, who broke up with him during his mission, is getting married. I thought it was kind of funny and he actually did too. Although, he probably didn't find it as humorous as I did. Anyway, it was a good and productive week. Thanks for the love, support, and prayers...até mais.

Abraço forte,
Elder Taylor Mackay