"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

Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Red, White, and Burned

I just got back from a zone activity where we had a churrasco...it was pretty entertaining. We started off playing soccer then moved on to volleyball, and then after eating some really salty meat, the activity ended. It was pretty fun. It was actually the first time since I have been here that we were able to escape the office to go to an activity on P-day. After being indoors during the sunniest part of the day for the last 6 months, my skin has become very white, but that all changed today. I am now a nice shade of light red. I haven't had this sunburned feeling for a long time, and with the fire for the churrasco, it was like a mini beach party without the sand, ocean, or marshmallows.

This week went really well and Andrews da Silva Bezerra was baptized as planned. He learned extremely fast and is now helping us teach his cousins, Alexandre and David. We have also planned two ward baptisms that we are teaching since the members aren't taking the initiative and the Bishop isn't the best at scheduling meetings.

So, tomorrow I will learn when I will be training the next Financial Secretary. I'm thinking I will start next week, but then again, maybe I'm doing such a great job I'll be asked to stay. Of course if that is the case, I'll immediately ask for a pay raise and health care benefits along with a nice bonus. A new spring-loaded leather chair with wheels would be nice as well. The big question is whether or not Elder Reis will stay working with me in Flores or if he will return to Alvorada and I will have 2 new companions (the trainee and the new Supplies Secretary)!!!

As for an update on teaching, we are working with the brother and sister of Paulino (a returned missionary in the ward). With the help of Paulino, we have already marked one of the baptisms after only one visit. The brother is 9 and I believe the sister is 17, so it will be a nice addition to the ward. Wellington and Erica are two of our investigators who are difficult to get a hold of because they both work during the day and study at night (except on Saturday and Sunday when only Wellington works). We are helping them plan their wedding since it's not a priority for most people, but they, unlike others, have the desire to get married. We have one BIG problem, though. Wellington is 18 and has 2 children with Erica who is only 16! Bummer...right? Well, in Brazil there is a crazy law that allows minors to get married if their parents give their consent and sign a paper. Given the situation, we aren't going to force anything, but surprisingly their parents are all for it. We'll see what happens.

The upcoming transfer is looking to be a pretty legit working, teaching, and baptizing transfer. One of the things I'm glad I was able to accomplish with my companions, and with a little help from the ward, is that the once dead and dreaded area of Flores, which went without a baptisms for 7 months, is now an area that functions like a well-oiled machine. Is it a hard area? Yes! Is the ward helpful? Rarely...but if you make goals and have a desire to change things, do contacts, pump members for references, and use selective cutting, there is no reason Flores should ever return to its previous state. Funny thing is...looking back on the other areas where I have served, they have all been like this: Compensa, Jardim Botânico, and now Flores. As a missionary, you really don't realize the difference you have made in an area until you leave. It is very rewarding when you run into members from previous areas and they remember your name, ask how you are, and give updates on the ward. That's about all I have for this week so TCHAUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUU!

Elder Taylor Mackay

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

A Piece of Paradise
From Taylor Mission Pics

We Love You, Elder Mackay!
From Taylor Mission Pics

Elder Mackay and Elder Reis Heading to the Lakes
From Taylor Mission Pics

An Amazonian Version of Mirror Lake
From Taylor Mission Pics

The Expert to the Rescue
From Taylor Mission Pics

Another View of Paradise
From Taylor Mission Pics

Elder Mackay Baiting the Line
From Taylor Mission Pics

Where are the Fish?
From Taylor Mission Pics

A Long Walk...Indeed!
From Taylor Mission Pics

Elder Mackay Feeding His New Friend
From Taylor Mission Pics

Elder Mackay and Elder Reis Fishing for Tucunaré and Piranha
From Taylor Mission Pics

Let's See...Who Will Get Bit First?
From Taylor Mission Pics

Gone Fishing

Soooo...almost all went as planned this past week. I've just been a little occupied with some packages we have been trying to send to Rio Branco and Porto Velho. The boat that was supposed to arrive here a week ago to take the packages still hasn't arrived. The process to ship by airplane is a lot more expensive and complicated, but it has become our only option given the situation.

This past Sunday was nothing short of crazy with all the running around we did to help our investigators make it to church. Marivane was confirmed (we arrived just on time) and it was also the homecoming talk of a missionary who returned from Rio de Janeiro. He is the only member in his entire family and is really excited to get to work. I think he's a little too optimistic with his initial thoughts of activating his entire family but that makes things easier for us.

We have been teaching a group of friends: Andrews, Anderson, David, Flávia, and Karla. All of them are actually really cool and willing to talk to us, which is surprising because generally speaking religion isn't a priority for teenagers. Andrews, whose father was already baptized and actually knows a ton about the gospel, will be baptized on Sunday with the presence of a large chunk of the ward, family, and friends. The teaching is going a lot better now that the conference season is over and everything has settled back down.

As Financial Secretary, you get asked a lot of questions, but the question that beats them all is the ever so popular, "Mesada caiu?" to find out if the $$ will fall on the established dates (7th and 22nd of every month). Just when I would rather not answer the phone or begin to think the questions are annoying, I have to put myself in their shoes. In the normal mission field, you've got to walk to the bank or in some cases, like in my last area, take a bus. It is nice to have a confirmation before you make the jihad to the banco.

One of the neat things that took place last week was a lunch we had planned with a family in our ward who lives at Kilometer 22 on the highway to Itacoatiara. They were glad to see us since it is a rare occasion missionaries visit due to the fact they live out of the city. After lunch, we were invited to go on a fishing trip on their property. Their property is amazing...one of those as far as the eye can see properties with areas possibly unexplored by civilized man. After we grabbed a few sticks, hooks, and pieces of bread, we marched off to a few small lakes that have tucunari and piranha (both relatively small fish). Being that I am not a fisher, I went along more for the journey and to know the wildlife of Amazonas. I'm not going to lie...my shoes got filthy, but that's what the shoeshine kit is for. Right? As you can see from the pictures, it was very green and the water was a little less than welcoming, so we were thankful for the mission rulebook. We did, however, roll up our pant legs in an attempt to lure in a few fish, but we still didn't catch anything. Unfortunately, I won't have any cool stories about how I got bit on the leg by a piranha...although I tried. The weather and air were very clear...maintained by nature rather than mankind. It was a long walk out to the lakes and a long walk back. Once we arrived back at the house, we drank some suco and had a visit from one of the horses that roams freely on the property and decided to stop by for its daily dosage of salt. They never have to buy food for the horse because there is so much vegetation it will never go hungry.

On the way back to the office, we caught a bus that took two hours before it passed by. It just so happened to be a party bus. A nice, little crowd was passing around shots of alcohol and chanting, "...drink, drink, drink." Fortunately, nobody messed with us, but it was just one more reminder for me that I wasn't in the United States anymore.

In two weeks, I'll be sitting here with my new companion, teaching him the ways of Financial Secretary. I have an idea of who it could be, but it's still up in the air. Wish me luck and thanks for all the support.

Elder Taylor Mackay

Friday, September 18, 2009

Elder Mackay and Elder Reis at the Baptism of Marivane
From Taylor Mission Pics


I'm going to make this quick since the week wasn't too interesting. Once again, it was a bit of a money disaster with some last minute needs for the Tefé group (those who went to the temple last week). Nonetheless, all went as planned for the baptism of Marivane. She is a 17 year old native Indian from Tefé (which is located in the middle of the jungle). Elder Seastrand and I met her in a member's home and felt inspired to teach her the discussions. She has a few sisters, nephews, and nieces who are already members and we are now trying to teach her sister, Ana Glaucia. We passed the reference for the rest of the family to the elders in Tefé (her family lives on an island that is only possible to reach by means of canoe or small motorboat).

The ward isn't helping out as much as we would like, which should make it clearer to them why it has so few members. However, a missionary from the ward arrived home yesterday after completing two years in Rio de Janeiro, so it looks like we will have a good force to keep the missionary work rolling at a decent pace.

We made quite a few trips to the port and the center during the week. For the first time, I actually saw people swimming in the brown water of the Rio Negro to try to clean themselves. I'm pretty sure the water in the port will only make them filthier.

This also happened to be the week that São Paulo got all the Financial Secretaries together on a program called Webex to have a conference and go over new topics. The main purpose of the conference was how to make deposits into the mission account using the Bank Itaú...sounds cool right?

This next week's e-mail should be a lot better. Anyway, we have a ton of people progressing. Even though it has been hard to get out of the office, progress is being made.

Elder Taylor Mackay

Friday, September 11, 2009

Independence Day Flyover
From Taylor Mission Pics

Party at the Sambódromo
From Taylor Mission Pics

Brazilian Kite Runner
From Taylor Mission Pics

Don't Mess with the Master
From Taylor Mission Pics

Dia de Paz, Amor, e Bagunça

Well...this past week was pretty normal until about Tuesday when it got really complicated as a result of a few young families from Tefé making their first trip to the temple to be sealed together. The trip was last minute and very poorly planned, which made our lives here at the office all the more difficult (running around to get food for them and making sure they had the money they needed for their trip). The original plan was to go to the São Paulo Temple, but in the middle of the trip, the Mission Counselor informed them the temple was closed for restoration (funny...I already knew this and figured he did too) so they will now be taking an hour minivan ride to the Campinas Temple instead of just walking around the corner. I guess that's life.

As for the whole thing with Adriana, it didn't work out this week because of her extremely busy schedule. I have no doubt her baptism will occur. It's just a matter of time because of the increased responsibility of living on her own.

As for the big changes in the escritório, my companion is Elder Reis, the Historiador. He is the one who puts together the jornalzinho every other week. Fortunately, Elder Rangel is training his replacement, so we actually have 4 people here at staff but still no one person 100% designated to the job of Supply Secretary.

The 7th of September in Brazil is like the 4th of July for the U.S. (Independence Day). Independence from what? I have no idea and I'm pretty sure the majority of the people in Manaus have no clue as well. It's just one more reason for them to have a big party, shoot off fireworks, and drink before noon. Fortunately, though, there was a pretty cool rally going on at the Sambódromo, which is right next to us, so we were able to see all the military vehicles and ridiculously unsafe flybys done by plane and helicopter.

Another big mess of late was with the Branch of Parintins and Maués, who took forever (last minute as usual) to pass me the information necessary to make the boat payments so all could go as planned for the district meeting...but, of course, Parintins passed the wrong type of account, which further complicated things with the whole money situation. After quite a bit of communication with São Paulo and the Mission Counselor, Presidente Martins, it looks like we have managed to make a solid Plan B.

In cooler news, I'll be training my replacement in about 3 weeks and the day before I leave the office Elder Guerrette will be finishing his mission and heading home (the same thing happened with Elder Hodges when Elder Guerrette was training me). It got me thinking...it's quite possible the person I train will still be serving in the office when I'm catching my flight back home in June. It's a long ways away, but that just gives you an idea of how long Financial Secretaries serve.

In even better news, bananas are back! After a long period of poor harvests due to flooding, the prices have gone back down and yesterday I bought a palm of bananas for R$2,50. Lately, there has been a serious heat wave unlike anything we've seen for some time. The water is drying up and apparently crop failures are possible if things continue this way. Seriously, though, I was outside for maybe 30 minutes and burned! Never in my life has that happened. Then again, never in my life have I been as UV ray deprived as I have been the past few months working in the office.

Boby came over on Wednesday to teach me the techniques of kite fighting. It's pretty cool. They have these paper kites with glass coated strings that they fly (usually on Sundays) and they cut each other out of the sky. It's a big deal even for adults...it's a life or death thing. I actually saw a 26 year old guy rip a kite (worth 50 cents) out of a 5 year old's hands and push him to the ground leaving him there crying. It was pathetic!

The other day we received R$50 for lunch, so we decided to go somewhere good for the first time and dine with the wealthy of Manaus. We went to La Parrilla, a first-class churrasco. It was amazingly good, but as we were eating, we realized Elder Reis, for the first time, was the only black guy in the restaurant and instead we were surrounded by what appeared to be Italian drug traffickers and a pimp.

Teaching continues to go well and we are working really hard on re-activating several members and teaching several families who are interested in changing their lives for the better. It appears that Selena (Marianice's daughter) hasn't received her call yet, but it should be coming any day now. Wish us luck this week with our baptisms and hope everything goes as planned.

Elder Taylor Mackay

Thursday, September 3, 2009


A lot of things happened this past week. To get it all started, I have a new companion, Elder Reis, who is 26 years old and from São Paulo. A new missionary arrived to the mission here in Manaus, got sent to Maués (an awesome interior area), and in less than 24 hours decided he wanted to go back home. Elder Seastrand, my previous companion, had already served there and knew the area, so after a quick interview with President Jayme, he was shipped back out to his first area! This was a serious, emergency transfer, which left us without an official Supply Secretary! The balance of the office staff is contributing a little bit of their time to make up for the empty position.

I have to admit, it is nice having a Brazilian companion for the first time since December of last year. Your Portuguese really suffers when you have no need to use it in communication 24/7 (among the American elders). It is also the first time in about a year that a Brazilian missionary has stepped foot in our area, which is very exciting. To be completely honest, Elder Reis can phrase things a lot better than I can. Although the work in the area has been going well, it can only get better with his help.

This past week was super rough with all of the transfers and people getting shipped out to the middle of nowhere. Meaning...elders hang around with us in the office the entire day until it comes time for them to catch a flight. Needless to say, our week was weak, but given the seriously low teaching numbers, we were able to magically have 7 investigators at church on Sunday. It got me thinking...if we can get 7 investigators out with little effort on our part, we could greatly improve an already decent attendance with a week of poder.

As for big events this week, there will be the baptism of Adriana, who has gone through 13 different missionaries but has finally been convinced to change her ways and move on with her life. It's really cool to see this transformation since she is just starting college and has a job, working to gain her independence. I'm truly thankful I have been given the opportunity to put an end to several of the Flores area's eternal investigators, who had been working years to make the right decision but just needed that extra push or maybe hear the same words from a different person with a different perspective. If all goes as planned, the baptism will be on Saturday.

One of the big projects I've started in this area is reactivating the less actives and helping the rest of their family join the Church. There are several people who are at the age of baptism (it'll be a baptism of the ward rather than mission) who just need to be taught by someone and need an appointment (which we have to coordinate) with the Bishop, so they can be baptized. Right now, Ana Vitória and Ana Leite are the next to take these steps.

Another cool story is that of Andrews and Anderson. They are the same age but Anderson is Andrews' uncle...it's complicated. Alex, a less active member in our ward, showed up one Sunday with two 16 year old guys, who I thought were just friends but just so happen to be family. After talking briefly, it was easy to see that he wanted to help them learn about the Church. Unfortunately, three Sundays of them attending went by before we were able to teach them, but it all worked out. With the help of Alex and Kennedy Boby, they have become pretty knowledgeable of the gospel and have dates marked for baptism. Although Elder Seastrand was excited to visit his first area again, I'm sure it was a bit of a bummer leaving all the potentials and progress being made in our area, which was once a dreaded assignment (understandably so since it supposedly went 7+ months without a baptism). We have several other investigators progressing that I'll keep you posted on in the future.

Since I'm basically the branch Financial Secretary in Tefé, Maués, and Parintins, I'm in charge of getting the payments organized for their yearly district meeting (about 200 people) which will take place here in Manaus. One cool thing is rather than rent a bus to get them here, we have rented an entire boat!

Until next week...Tchau tchau,
Elder Taylor Mackay