"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, January 27, 2010

Family and Friends at the Baptism of Leonardo Rodrigues Dos Reis
From Recently Updated

Elders Soelberg and Mackay at Leonardo Rodrigues Dos Reis' Baptism
From Recently Updated

Elders Soelberg, Keicher, Mackay, and Trage
From Recently Updated

Taking Down the Amazon One Tree at a Time
From Recently Updated

From Recently Updated

A Cool Creature of the Amazon
From Recently Updated

My Letter and 6,000 Words Worth of Pictures

Hello Family and Friends,

This week passed by pretty fast. All went well on Saturday with the baptism of Leonardo Rodrigues Dos Reis. However, we marked 7 o'clock with the ward and the leadership, but nobody arrived until 8 p.m. I was a little more than disappointed, but then again, I guess it goes to show why the ward is having difficulties. They take little responsibility and have little desire to be true to their word or magnify their callings. Fortunately, with the exception of starting late, everything went as planned and many friends and relatives of Leonardo were there to support him. If all goes well, this Saturday will be a cool baptismal ceremony for Jéssica and Anderson, two people that I have been teaching since last transfer. On the other hand, we learned this week that the sister of a family we are teaching decided to run away and has yet to return (she lived with the family). Saturday will be a week since she's been gone and living on the streets.

Yesterday was ridiculously busy. We woke up and headed over to the Quorum President's house to tear down some banana trees that he didn't want. It was quite a sweet workout since the trees were huge and we were only given a normal kitchen knife and a hoe. After 40 minutes or so of hacking away, we managed to destroy more of the Amazon's wonderful vegetation against our will. We then ran back home, got washed up, and headed over to lunch, which was scheduled at 11 a.m. since we had interviews with President Jayme at noon. Fortunately, we managed to arrive at the Stake Center for our interviews prior to the president. In my interview, I was asked one of those questions that reminded me my mission is coming to an end in 4 months and change. "What do you think about your mission so far?" It's not the easiest question to answer, but it made me think of the work that I've been doing every day of the week since arriving in Brazil.

Today we had a zone activity where I was able to sport my new futebol kicks. I must say, they made a significant difference since I've been playing with my running shoes that have lost their grip and are ripped up pretty good due to usage. After several hours of soccer and a game of basketball and dodgeball, Elder Soelberg was getting burnt to a crisp, so we decided to call it quits. After a little rest, we're here at the LAN house.

Last week we got a ton of references, so we'll be spending a good part of this week contacting them. That's all I've got for now. Since pictures are worth a thousand words, I'm going to limit my letter since I'll be sending quite a few photos today.

Com amor,
Elder Taylor Mackay

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Elder Mackay and Elder Soelberg at the Docks
From Recently Updated

Elder Mackay in Front of the Teatro Amazonas
From Recently Updated

A Bad Day at Port
From Recently Updated

Elder Mackay and Elder Soelberg with the Leite Family
From Recently Updated

Inside a 100 Year Old Catholic Church
From Recently Updated

Another Sunny Day on the Rio Negro
From Recently Updated

Elder Mackay's Travels

Well, this week was good. As for the baptisms, they didn't go as planned, but to be honest, I'm not that disappointed. We are changing our tactics and leaving more responsibilities in the hands of the investigators and the members. By doing this, we aren't just doing our part and then have them go inactive shortly after they're baptized. So, more or less, the members didn't come through and our investigators were too lazy to walk. But...we will continue working with them until they follow through with everything or they stop progressing. I must say, though, the members are helping with the references, but it seems like they waited a little too long before hopping on the missionary work train (since only 14% of the members are going to church). In my opinion, you can think of the Church like a human body and the members are the blood. We all know after you lose a little blood your body can recuperate and produce more, but there comes a point of no return where after losing so much (blood/members) it's game over. Rest assured, we aren't going to give up. We are starting up activities at the church every 15 days to re-activate and find those interested in the Church.

Today was a pretty good P-day. After resting a little, we hopped on the bus at around 9 a.m. and headed to the center to check out the place (Elder Soelberg's 1st time there). It was pretty cool. One thing that was interesting was a sunken boat right in the port. I don't know how it sank, but it definitely won't be up and running for quite some time. After that, we headed over to look at some native art and check out the animal market. Before leaving the center, we made a pass by the Teatro Amazonas and the cool fountain in front. We also saw a 100 year old Catholic Church that was open for viewing, so we took a look inside...it was pretty neat. It reminded me a lot of the early Catholic Missions along the California coast.

Before returning to our area, we had to stop by the office to drop off Elder Soelberg's visa to the Executive Secretary, Elder Sant'anna. In doing so, we encountered my old office buddy, Elder Noorda, which was a great surprise. Since we were in the area, we arranged lunch with the Leite family. It was cool talking with them again and catching up on everything. Our good mood unfortunately took a turn for the worse when we happened to stop by the house of a family Elder Guerrete, Noorda, and I had baptized and learned Josivone (15) is pregnant. If I am not mistaken, the father is her second cousin or something like that (22). As if it was no big deal, she said they'll be marrying in June. Oh, whoopty doo...that's awesome! It's not exactly the best situation in the world, but at least they're working with what they've got. I guess she'll be having a baby shower here in a week. I'm still not sure how he isn't in jail for what he did, but that's life in Brazil.

The weather here has been kind of crazy and the fish in the rivers are coming back to life. There were a few guys there on the dock that would toss in a line with a piece of banana on the hook and within a minute they'd pull up their line with a fish on it. It was crazy to watch. That's all for now...until next week.

Elder Taylor Mackay

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Elder Mackay Says Farewell to Elder Durrant
From Taylor Mission Pics

Elder Mackay with Old Friend, Elder Spotts
From Taylor Mission Pics

Anybody Want Seconds?

Well, one more down. This week was pretty good with regards to preparing for the future. We met a ton of people through contacts and members that seem to be very interested in our message. Once again, I must say the people here are a lot more open to hearing a religious message than back home. Not that I ever really tried back home, but in my opinion, the people here rely a lot more on religious values. Due to this religious heat wave, people are naming their little shops "Butcher God is Faithful" and "Little Market God Gave Me." These wouldn't be my first picks for a store name, but it seems to be working for them.

My first week with my trainee concerned me a bit. I was a little worried about his capacity to speak the language, but in a relatively short amount of time, he is improving. By the end of the transfer, I'll be able to sit back and let him do more of the talking.

Something cool that's happening today, which should make me fatter than I already am (don't worry...I'm not really fat but compared to my 5% body fat and rock hard abs before the mission, I'm feeling a little out of shape but that will all come back after a month or so of hard training) is that Victória and her family invited us over for lunch. Being that we are especially lazy on P-day, we accepted the invite.

I thought I would share a ridiculous story with all of you that I found kind of funny. At lunch yesterday, the host had farinha, beans, and rice on the table, which to me is enough for lunch. Then she said, "When you finish, I'll bring out the chicken." Oh great (sarcastic)...then after she brought out the chicken, she said, "When you finish, I'll bring out the macaroni and salad." WHAT?!?!...fala sério rapaz...where am I supposed to put all this food? After that she brought out dessert which was a pudding (I was exempt since I can't eat anything with milk). My companion, after a few bites of the pudding, turned a little yellow and his cheeks started to inflate and then he started coughing. I asked him if he was feeling alright and he said, "No." I asked him if he needed to puke and he said, "Yeah." I suggested we politely leave since puking at the table isn't exactly a real crowd pleaser. Fortunately, he's all better now.

Monday of this week was Zone Conference. Out of nowhere, I was asked to speak on the topic How God has Blessed Me through Using and Testifying about the Book of Mormon in My Teaching. It went surprisingly well. I must say I'm a lot more confident in my public speaking. It has become no big thing. It's crazy seeing some of my best buds bearing their testimony for the final time at conference since they'll be leaving after this transfer. Then it hit me...in two more conferences, that's going to be me. I took a picture with Elder Durrant (who goes home this transfer) and Elder Spotts (who goes home in the next).

I think after a year and a half and change on the mission, I have finally figured out how to be an effective missionary. You've got to visit those you are teaching at least four times a week and really become friends with them, so they feel comfortable telling you their doubts or questions. After the ward had taken a nosedive, we finally are getting things back on track. The attendance is going up and the ward is baptizing again. I'm not going to lie, it's been a lot of work, meetings, and planning, but I have no doubt that if the missionary work continues this way AND the members do their part to re-activate those who are no longer going to church AND if they do their monthly visits, the ward will divide this year.

Elder Taylor Mackay

Wednesday, January 6, 2010

Elder Soelberg's First Baptism
From Drop Box

A P-Day Churrasco
From Drop Box

Two-Thousand and Ten (2010)!!!

Dear Family and Friends,

Our New Year was pretty uneventful. Surprisingly, there were a lot less fireworks than there were at Christmas, which doesn't make a lot of sense. Nonetheless, Happy New Year!

When you train, it's like your mission starts all over again. This week went as planned with regards to the baptism. Even though I had more time with the people, I threw the "noob" in the água to make his first week here all the more special. He was super nervous trying to memorize in Portuguese and getting the person's name right: Victoria Regina Santos da Silva...but that's life on a mission. I told him in a few weeks he'd have it all down.

On Monday, I got a call from the district leader, Elder Yates, as we were walking to Êxodo for the district meeting. He notified me that his companion was sick and they wouldn't be attending. To me that meant there wouldn't be a meeting. I asked, "So.....????" He replied that I would have to give the training and lead the meeting. Crash! It's so nice just sitting there and listening, but everything went well. I did a training on contacts and we talked about the importance of teaching lessons when given the opportunity. Apparently, according to the zone leaders, our zone is slacking with respect to numbers. I'd like to see my companionship outside of that stereotype since we are rolling along pretty well.

Today we played soccer on the cuadro above the church for a few hours and afterward had a churrasco out behind our house. It was pretty ghetto but got the job done. The meat was good and nothing beats the ice cold Kuat guaraná we drank along with it. I've heard rumors that BYU sells guaraná. If that's the case, I'll make a pit stop on my way up to USU and buy some in bulk.

The government here in Amazonas is really slow to react to problems with regards to electricity or water or massive holes in the street. Unfortunately, that makes our job walking the hilly streets a bit harder. The dirt here is like a red clay that builds up on the bottom of your shoes and makes a nice slippery buffer between your foot and the ground. It's one of those situations where if you make the wrong step, you'll be lying on your stomach covered in mud in no time flat.

A request the Bishop has made is to baptize only on Saturdays. That means we had to re-mark the baptismal dates of Crislane, Cristian, Leonardo for the 16th and Jéssica, Katrine, and Anderson for the 23rd. It's all right, though. In my opinion, the additional time is better because it allows for more preparation.

We have a ward activity that is being planned for the 13th of January. It is going to be called "Night of the Banana." If that isn't a giveaway that you're serving in the Amazon, I don't know what is. Not only do people like to plan things around food but the banana is a staple in their food supply.

This week should be a pretty good week of teaching and learning. We have a few people who are reading the Bible and Book of Mormon. To give them a better visual, we are going to start watching The Testaments, which is a relatively entertaining film the first four times you watch it...after that it's not too exciting. We also have conference on Monday so it's a guarantee that lunch won't fall through. That's all I have for this week...thanks for the e-mails and support.

Elder Taylor Mackay