"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, December 30, 2009

Elder Mackay on the Way to the Meeting of the Waters
From Taylor Mission Pics

All Aboard for the Mission Christmas Conference
From Taylor Mission Pics

Meeting of the Waters: Where the Rio Solimões Meets the Rio Negro
From Taylor Mission Pics

Elder Mackay Celebrating Christmas at the Meeting of the Waters
From Taylor Mission Pics

The Mighty Amazon River
From Taylor Mission Pics

A View of the Amazon Riverbank
From Taylor Mission Pics

I'm a Father!!!!

Well...President Jayme is getting real tricky with me. I think he gets a kick out of seeing me in complete shock. So, transfers happened this week. We got a call on Saturday saying that we would both be staying in the area but that we needed to go to the transfer meeting. I didn't want to jump to conclusions, but I figured I was going to be called as the district leader for our district and that I needed to be at the meeting, so I could be trained on the reports and things of that nature. Instead, President starts announcing the transfers and says that our LD is still Elder Yates. Now I'm thinking...real funny LZs...you tell us to attend this meeting, so we wake up early and make our way to Staff on a packed bus and we don't even need to be here. Then President Jayme says that he is going to divide our area again and calls my name to stand up. I start looking around to see who my companion will be when his name is called but instead I'm told, "You've been called as a trainer." I was in disbelief. I don't know if I've ever been so surprised and excited at the same time on my mission. After the transfer meeting, President Jayme sat down with all the trainers and told us how he chose us and what our responsibilities will be as trainers.

As I waited until 5 p.m. for my "son" to arrive, I did a division with Elder McNeil, who was enjoying his last day on the mission. Afterward, we went to lunch with some cool members that live in the center and then we were picked up by another group and taken to get ice cream before being dropped back off at the Escritorio. I waited nervously for my companion to arrive, not knowing if he would be American or Brazilian.

Eventually, the assistants brought all the trainers into a room and we started singing the hymn of the mission when all the new missionaries walked in. The trainers bore their testimonies and then the "noobs" had the opportunity to choose their companion. My new companion is an American from Farmington, Utah. His name is Elder Soelberg. Elder Trage, my previous companion, became a Senior and also got an American companion (who has been in the field 5 months), which is cool. Following all the excitement, we caught our taxi and headed to Jardim Botânico.

I know I said last week that we had four baptisms marked for Sunday, but being that we are in a third world country, sometimes there are water problems...like a lack of it. So, those will be happening this week rather than last which makes for a cool experience for Elder Soelberg. Wouldn't you like to knock down four baptisms with less than a week in the field! The month of January will be a good month for our area and the mission.

Our Christmas Conference was pretty cool. We had lunch, watched The Chronicles of Narnia, and then went on a sweet, little cruise to the Meeting of the Waters on two big wooden boats. From the reaction I saw in the missionaries, I would say it was quite a success.

As for health, I'm doing well and look forward to eating a barbecued pig's head with the first counselor on New Year's Eve...it's supposed to bring wealth in 2010!

It's been a pretty crazy two weeks, but the time is flying by. After this transfer, I've only got three more! Oh yeah...and Elder Olsen finishes in six weeks!

Até mais-bichos,
Elder Taylor Mackay

Thursday, December 17, 2009

Merry Christmas, Elder Mackay!
Love, Your Family and Friends
From Taylor Mission Pics


Dear Family and Friends,

Don't worry...I'm still alive. You know how it is in the middle of the Amazon...the Internet is received by way of radio signals, and if there is rain or clouds, it's all in jeopardy. So, this could be my last e-mail from a crappy LAN house in Cidade de Deus since the big mission Christmas party will be next P-day and we won't be able to send e-mails. President Jayme has made arrangements to rent two boats so the entire mission can visit the Meeting of the Waters, where the pale, murky waters of the Rio Solimões and the black waters of the Rio Negro meet but don't mix. These two bodies of water run side by side for more than six miles before they join to form the Amazon River. Although I won't be able to email next week, I'm looking forward to my phone call home on the 25th.

The area here is ridiculously hilly, but we've got it mastered. We have quite a few people being prepared for baptism on the 27th of December. Please keep the following people in your prayers: Jéssica, Larissa, Cristian, Crislane, Henrique, Victoria, Anderson, Leo, Suzie, Derrlane, Jorge, and Lucinete. All of them are really great, eager to learn, and legitimately cool. We encountered many through contacts and others through the help of youth in the ward. The only negative thing lately is the rain...it really slows down the work. The entire bairro shuts down when the rain falls. Nobody walks on the streets and the markets where you buy food even shut their doors. Boa sorte is all I have to say.

One story in particular is that of Lucinete. Her son was here when I served in Cidade de Deus the first time around. He is now serving a mission. The elders had started teaching Lucinete before I arrived and the progression is going great. The only thing that needs a little work is the idea of casamento. It would be really cool if she was baptized while her son was serving a mission. That would be a real testimony booster for both parties.

In other news, we now officially have an electric shower head in our humble abode. Thank goodness...being the wuss that I am with cold water, I had just been washing my hair, splashing water on my body, and washing my face with a pot of heated water from the stove. Essentially, I have been carrying the stank of the entire week with me since soap and hot water is what truly does the job.

The longer I serve, the more I recognize the blessings in my life. As the months have passed since I entered the field, I've noticed that I've become more confident and the fear or worry that I originally had to approach and talk to people has long since passed. I realize some of it has to do with my improved knowledge of the language, but I know there is much more to it than just that. I am truly grateful for your prayers, support, and the love of my Savior.

I want to thank those of you who took the time to make an ornament for my paper Christmas tree as well as those who wrote me a letter or card to brighten my Holiday Season. It's been a real treat to wake up everyday and read the letter of a new person, many of which I have been unable to communicate with for much of my time in Brazil.

With only four more transfers left in my mission, I would really like the chance to get to know a new area (preferably a new city). At the same time, when you are blessed to have something good happening in the area where you're serving and you get along well with the members (and they actually say your name right), you kind of want to stay and the desire for a new adventure gets pushed aside. We'll see what happens in the next week or so. Along with the work that we have been given to increase the peace and membership in the ward Jardim Botânico, we have also been challenged by the president to reactivate families that have lost their way.

So, I'll admit I wasn't a super prepared kid when I left for my mission, but I'd like to think that I have learned and grown quite a bit since then. One thing that occurred to me this week is how much more spiritually in-tune the kids are that we are teaching. There is no way, no how, when I was 11, 12, 15 or any other age prior to my mission that if some guys in white shirts and ties asked me to take time out of my day to read a book or pray about what I read that I would have actually done it. At that time in my life, I wouldn't have let anything get in the way of baseball, running, school, eating, sleeping, TV, etc. That's just the way it is, though. God prepares people in different ways and situations at different times in their life. Fortunately, I have been given the opportunity to be a part of the whole process and I'm sure the future has even more in store.

Before I forget, I have bad news. Suzanna's dad who went to the hospital right before I visited on Wednesday ended up dying. The funeral took place less than 24 hours after his death. They take care of things very quickly here. That's about it for this week. Merry Christmas to all! Don't be afraid to go on an eating binge...that's what the gym is for (haha).

Elder Taylor Mackay

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

Anyone Home?
From Drop Box

Elder Mackay and Elder Trage on Their Way to an Appointment
From Taylor Mission Pics

One of the Local Homes on Stilts
From Taylor Mission Pics

Elder Mackay Celebrates His Birthday with Maria and João Bosco
From Taylor Mission Pics

The Loser...Brazilian Game Where the Loser Must Dig Through Flour to Find a Piece of Candy
From Taylor Mission Pics

It's Official; I Won't Be Deported

Well, I made it to 21...pretty legit. "Growin' up in the hood, I didn't know if I would make it this far...kids cry, gun shots, nobody cares, got tattoo tears," (just kidding). Don't worry...my letter isn't going to be Tupac lyrics.

This week was ridiculous. There was a big soccer game that determined the champion of Brazil and Flamengo won. Unfortunately, a few people died with all the excitement. A guy at a bar in our area got shot and killed, but that sort of thing is a normal occurrence here. It's funny and sad at the same time because you arrive at lunch and after, "Hey, how's it going?" the next line is, "Oh, (insert name here) was killed yesterday right down the street." Then you ask, "Oh, really...how?" "...messing around with drug dealers and got shot, stabbed, etc." Once again, you'd think the local youth would learn their lesson that a life of crime and drugs just isn't the way. You never hear about innocent people getting killed, which is always good.

As for my birthday, there was sooooo much food. We started the eating off with Irmã Antônia, a new member to the ward and a big fan of Elder Noorda who served in her last ward, so we had quite a bit to talk about. She made us mini pizzas and shared some of her favorite scriptures with us, which was cool. It was the first time we visited with her in her home, so we took some pictures around the area while the pizzas were baking. Next, we had Family Home Evening at the house of Maria and João Bosco and Reginaldo and Cintia were also invited. Reginaldo and Cintia are a cool family that Elder Olsen was given as a reference from Maria (Reginaldo just got called as Lider da Missão da Ala). We passed by their homes a few days prior and I assigned messages for the kids to give as well as Reginaldo. So, for the first time in a while, as missionaries, we had the chance to just listen...and to be honest, that's the way it should be because one day the missionaries are going to leave and they've got to be able to hold their own. It was really cool to sit down with the families and enjoy the evening. Ana Taise even made a lime cake for my birthday with guava juice to drink. To finish the night, we played a game with flour that's hard to explain, but I'll give it a go. Basically, the person who loses has to dig through a pile of flour with their nose to find a piece of candy. It's pretty funny. We then went over to the house of Irmã Teresa, where we were given MORE pizza and chocolate cake! Good grief, I was full! It reminded me of the times when I would go with my buddies from USU to Olive Garden and put the never-ending pasta, salad, and bread sticks to the test.

In regards to missionary work, this week went really well. We started marking the dates of a few people. One person that is progressing extremely fast is Jéssica. She is 13 years old and sincerely interested in learning. She has done all the "homework" we have left with her and is a really good person. We are working with the youth in our ward to help us find investigators to teach. We have found this to be an effective tool in our work. Later tonight, we have a lesson that we'll be teaching at the house of Joelson who has invited 5 friends to attend. As a missionary, that's pretty sweet because the likelihood of at least one making it through to baptism is great. We are also working together with the ward to put together a Christmas program that will be taking place on the 19th. So far, so good...tonight will be the choir practice, and yes, we were invited.

I went back to Staff today to get my visa renewed with the federal police, which was sweet. I just so happened to run into Noorda and gave him an abraço. Best of all, I had the opportunity to eat lunch at the house of the Leite family. Unfortunately, their disabled father took a turn for the worse and is now in the hospital, so please keep him in your prayers.

Elder Murray, the new Financial Secretary, has a few headaches because of the Christmas conference on the 23rd, so I gave him some counsel. Hopefully, it all works out. Elder Reis, former companion and Staff member, has decided to grow a fro to prepare for the sun's rays in a few weeks when he returns to the field (haha). Other than that, all is going well here.

Até mais,
Elder Taylor Mackay

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

Elder Mackay and Elder Trage Bowling in the Amazon
From Taylor Mission Pics

A View of Elder Mackay's Favorite City...Manaus
From Taylor Mission Pics


I'm writing from a LAN house that is currently playing Poker Face by Lady Gaga. It's not quite the type of music one might expect to hear in Brazil. This week was zone conference for Zona Norte and Zona Leste. One of the many highlights of the conference was the three packages I received at its conclusion. The only downfall was having to carry them the entire two mile walk back home since buses don't run between the Stake Center and our house.

Last Friday, we did a division with the zone leaders and I had the opportunity to serve in Riacho Doce for a day. Rumor has it that I won't be serving in Cidade de Deus for more than a transfer. At least I'll be here for my birthday and Christmas. Speaking of which, I bought a CD of Christmas songs being played on the cavaquinho (a small string instrument of the guitar family). It's really cool.

So, an incident occurred this past week that I had yet to experience. I got robbed on the bus! I suppose it was bound to happen sometime before I return home. Fortunately, he just took my phone and didn't even mess with my money. The dude reached in my pocket and snatched my phone without me noticing since the bus was so crowded. He had an X-Ray in his hand and quickly hopped off at the hospital exit. I wasn't mad, but if I see him on a bus again, I'm going to bury my fist between his eyes and give him a real reason to go to the hospital (in case you were wondering, I still have a sense of humor...I'd never fight the guy).

P-day consisted of playing soccer and basketball at the Stake Center and later going bowling. We started off with soccer (Americans vs. Brazilians). I was disappointed in their playing skills. We beat them 5 to 4. Then came time for basketball...once again it was Brazilians vs. Americans. I don't remember the score, but I'm certain you can figure out who walked all over their opponent. We just got back from bowling in the center. Yours truly won even though it has been over a year and a half since I have chucked a bowling ball. It was pretty cool.

Big news...the zone leaders want us to mark baptismal dates for two people every day this transfer. That's crazy! In one week, that's fourteen people! Needless to say, we got to work and since Monday we have already marked dates for a family and a brother and sister. Wish us luck with Ingrid and Felipe who have baptismal dates for next Sunday.

Everything is going well except for the fact that there is an occasional lack of water and electricity. I guess it's just part of the experience.

Thank you friends and family for all the birthday wishes. The next time you receive an e-mail from me I'll be 21...that's the same age I'll be when I step onto US territory in June of next year (haha).

Finally, I'd like to give a shout out to Trent. Get better, buddy! At least you got the pictures...nobody needs to know how it ended.

Elder Taylor Mackay