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