"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, March 31, 2010

Elder Mackay in the Boa Vista Airport to Catch a Red-Eye to Manaus
From Taylor Mission Pics


Macuxi...that's what you call someone from the Brazilian state of Roraima. It's just like someone from California is called a Californian. I decided to save some time by writing this week's letter while I was on the airplane. I have a busy couple of days ahead of me since I will be doing divisions with the assistants.

The trip to Manaus was a little hectic. We arrived at the airport at 11 p.m., but our flight got delayed until 3:50 a.m. because the airport in São Paulo and Rio de Janeiro shut down due to the weather. We finally landed in Manaus at 5:15 in the morning and took a taxi to the Mission Office where we crashed for 30 minutes before getting back up and making ourselves presentable for the Leadership Council. I am now back in Boa Vista, but it has been a crazy 36 hours!

The Leadership Council was very informative. As zone leaders, we established the mission's goals together with the assistants and President Jayme. We were also given the topic of the training that we will be holding on Friday at the zone conference. It will be on how we can correct our fellow missionaries without losing their confidence and at the same time respectfully doing so.

So, my area, Caçarí, is ridiculously spacious. The limits are huge so every once and a while we have to walk quite a distance to talk to our investigators. The Rio Branco passes right by our area, but it currently doesn't have much water since we're in the dry season. The branch meets in a rented house every Sunday, making it the smallest church building I have ever entered. As a way for the branch to get to know me better, the Branch President called me as the first speaker in Sacrament meeting. This sort of thing isn't as nerve-racking as it used to be. My companion, Elder Lima, is from Vitória, Espirito Santo. I ran into him quite a bit while I was in the office since he used to be the zone leader of Zona Central. I'll be sure to send a picture of the two of us next week since I think we'll be playing soccer next P-day.

As for the zone, it consists of 12 missionaries...it used to be larger but has been reduced due to the lack of missionaries serving right now. It consists of: Elder Soares, Elder S. Johnson, Elder Seastrand, Elder Dorneles, Sister Poole, Sister Gabani, Sister Costa, Sister Dos Santos, Elder Francisco and Sister Francisco, Elder Lima, and me (Elder Mackay).

Last month the zone wasn't too successful with baptisms (only 1 baptism). We are working hard with the missionaries, so they can help their investigators progress to the point of becoming a member of the Church. As part of this effort, we had a meeting on Monday with the members of the zone to establish goals and ideas to better the work. The interesting thing about this area is that it is wealthier than any area in which I have served, but the way of life of the Macuxi makes them more interested in our work and more willing to accept a visit from the missionaries. I am really hoping I will be able to finish my mission here in Boa Vista.

We are having a lot of success right now with three families. The first of these families is Alcides and Walquiria, a couple who is around sixty years old. Their son is a returned missionary. Finally after two years, they have prepared for their wedding, which will be in a month followed by their baptism. The next family is Giselle and João Paulo. They are the friend and sister of a member. Giselle called us the other day and said she wanted to get married and João accepted, so we went to the cartório with them and the documents for their wedding will be ready at the end of the month. Finally, Oneto and Sumara have family who are members and are also planning to get married this month. All is perfect for the baptism of Sumara but Oneto needs to stop smoking, which might be more difficult than one thinks. That's about all I have for now. I should have more updates for you next week.

Até mais,
Elder Taylor Mackay
Spending Time with the Souza Family: Teresa, Jéssica, Dany, and Carlos
From Taylor Mission Pics

Elder Mackay's District in Cidade de Deus (Front-Mackay, Melo, Cainã Back-Soelberg, Keicher, and Bittencourt)
From Taylor Mission Pics

Saying Good-Bye to Dear Friends
From Taylor Mission Pics

João Carlos' Baptism with João Santos, Ana Célia, and Elders Mackay and Soelberg
From Taylor Mission Pics

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

It's Not a Good View...IT'S A GREAT VIEW!!!!

Já Fui Já. Well...my time in Jardim Botânico came to an end when my head hit the pillow Monday night. It definitely was a very difficult area for me, but I would like to think those whom I taught now know more than just that the Gospel is true...they know what the Gospel is. Many times as members, for our entire lives, we ride on the faith of others...bearing our testimony that things are true and not really knowing the specifics of what those things are or what they mean.

We were able to baptize João Carlos Caldeira Dos Santos my last week in Jardim Botânico. He is a great kid. We accidentally (to the human eye) knocked on their door to talk to the person who originally lived there. When the door opened, it shut quickly and their son screamed, "Mom, it's the Elders." The door reopened and there stood Ana Célia with a smile on her face as if she had been waiting a long time for our visit. From that day forward, we worked on their reactivation and all quickly made their way back (family of five). The only difficulty that remains is João Santos, the dad and past Elder's Quorum President. He is now a pastor (a profession here in Brazil) for Assembleia de Deus-Nova Vida. Through many visits, they are making great progress and João (the son) was baptized.

I could never have guessed where I would serve next but am very thankful to be here. I'm 40 miles away from Guyana and close to the border of Venezuela in the state of Roraima...a city better known as "Good View" in Portuguese. I'm in BOA VISTA!!!! I was called to be the new zone leader with Elder Lima, who already has one transfer here. I also have the privilege of working side by side with a good friend of mine, Elder Seastrand, who was called to be one of the new district leaders up here. The city is pretty small and the weather reminds me A LOT of Palm Springs. It's really hot, really sunny, and gets a nice dry breeze. It is the only Brazilian capital located entirely above the Equator.

I'm really excited, though, to more than likely finish my mission here in the extreme North of Brazil. There are a lot of people to teach and the culture is a lot different than in Manaus. Our branch is renting out a house for their weekly meetings. I'm excited to work with the missionaries in the zone, which includes a few elders and sisters and a missionary couple. This upcoming Monday will be the first time the entire zone will get together to meet one another, so I'll have a lot more to say next week.

As zone leaders, we fly back once a transfer to Manaus for the zone leader council with the assistants and President Jayme. There we talk about goals and what we can do to better our work. It just so happens that this council will take place next Tuesday! With less than a week here, I'll catch a red-eye flight Monday night to Manaus and then fly back Wednesday evening. It will be a great experience.

It was sad to see my missionary buddies finish their missions and head back home. Now that I am the next American to return home, it's official that I am dying...but like a race, the last stretch can determine if you win or lose - if you slacked or gave it your all. This is the difference that can be applied to every aspect of life...the difference of a fulfilling life or a life of regrets. I DO NOT want that heavy weight of regret on my shoulders, so I'm going to give an extra kick and sprint my butt through the finish-line. Thank you to my friends and family for the e-mails, letters, love, and support.

Elder Taylor Mackay

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Elder Mackay with His Newest Investigator
From Recently Updated

Making His Way Through Fazendinha/Alfredo Nascimento
From Recently Updated

Receiving the Prized Piece of Dany's Birthday Cake
From Recently Updated

From Drop Box

Let's Rock and Roll!
From Taylor Mission Pics

A Fire Inside

"The mind is not a vessel to be filled but a fire to be ignited." There is little in my memories pertaining to my mission that I would consider of little importance. As I started my mission, I was initially very dedicated to writing in my journal. However, after a few months I woke up and realized that my writings were of little or no significance for myself and future generations. Rather than write in vain, I decided to do as Nephi and write "that which delighteth my soul." Truly, the fondest of my memories will forever be recorded in ink on the first pages of my study journal. That is, the names of my companions and those whom we were able to help take upon themselves the name of our Savior Jesus Christ.

My mission thus far has been one of great lessons and sacrifice. By no means was I or am I the world's best missionary, nor do I compare to such trailblazers as Dan Jones and the Sons of Mosiah...but the changes I have been able to bring about in myself and others is something that will forever be burned in my mind. As Confucius, in his timeless wisdom, once said, "Our greatest glory is not in never falling, but in rising every time we fall." I witness to you that I have fallen several times on my mission, to the point where screeching wheels and jet exhaust entertained my thoughts, but I can also say proudly that each time I fell, through God's guiding hand and sufficient endurance, I stood back up and stepped up so today I can say I am on higher ground, a level at which I can reach down and lift up our struggling brothers and sisters. I am thankful for the opportunity we as members have to serve missions, for our Savior's atonement, my family and friends, and their positive influence to me while I was at home, college, and now in the mission field.

In the future, I'm sure someone will tell me I had a lot of luck on my mission. To be honest, I will say, "Yes," because luck is something God gives us when preparation meets opportunity. Luck is the result of spiritual guidance and tuning through fasting, prayer, and scripture study.

Forever etched in my memory will be the pain I saw in the faces of those struggling with addiction, temptations, and the weight of sin. There is also a special spot reserved in my heart for all the smiles I shared with investigators and members whom we were able to bring back to the fold of the Good Shepherd. Looking back now, I am thankful to God for all the trials I encountered on my mission, because just as a gem cannot be polished without friction, a man cannot be perfected without trials. Por todo tempo e eternidade Missão Manaus é a MAIOR.

Elder Taylor Mackay

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

To Tie the Knot or Not?

Dear Family and Friends,

This week went well. This Saturday we have planned the baptism of the brother of a member (Gabriel- 13) and then his sister will be baptized the following week. The family is really cool and very humble. We are teaching their mother and she has accepted everything so far and has even ditched the café which isn't easy. The determining factor will be marriage. Once again, we have managed to find a great family that keeps progressing, but then we hit the whole commandment of marriage and everything slows down a bit.

Today we got up early and headed over to Êxodo to play some soccer with a few locals and a kid that I'll be interviewing later to see if he's prepared for baptism. A good time was had by all. I don't have any pictures to share this week, but I'll have a few for sure next week with all that is going on.

I have some cool news regarding a friend I met while on the mission. Remember Selena? She is from Compensa, which was my first area. She was called to serve a mission in Recife, Brazil and will be leaving the beginning of April.

It's kind of a weird feeling knowing I only have two more transfers left, which is the amount of time I have been training Elder Soelberg. I have no doubt that the remaining time will fly by even faster. It's funny how the mission works...in your first year, you kind of wish you had more time under your belt, but once you hit a year and change, time starts flying by. It reminds me of the movie, Home Alone, when he wishes he never has to see his family again. The moral of the story: be careful what you wish for...it might come true.

I'm anxious to see what will happen this next transfer. Hopefully, I have the opportunity to leave Manaus and serve in another city or state. Don't get me wrong, I have very much enjoyed serving the people of Manaus in Zona Norte and Zona Oeste. However, since the mission is so expansive, it would be cool to get to know another part of the country.

A highlight of the week is that we have been teaching the next door neighbor of Carlos, Teresa, Dany, and Jéssica with their help. After several visits, we made a goal with her yesterday. With a lot of support and visits, we decided she will be 100% ready for baptism and confirmation on the 8th of May. I know I'm probably not going to be here when it happens, but it's cool to know that I had a part in the process. Hopefully, all goes well.

Apparently, the new church building they are constructing in Alfredo Nascimento should be ready by April, but we'll see. In my opinion, it still has a long way to go. They originally said it would be ready November of last year.

So, this week I bought some new shoes to get me through the next couple of months. They have managed to give me some sweet blisters in just a couple of days. They're not Eccos, but they will have to do.

In other news, I received the package from Grandma and Grandpa Mackay this week. It was full of a ton of great stuff. Thanks for thinking of me...I really appreciate it.

The preparation for the World Cup should be flaring up any day now. According to locals, there is Brazil apparel everywhere. Although I have yet to see any, I might just have to get myself a jersey when I do.

I know I'm a little lost when it comes to news, but it seems like there have been quite a few earthquakes lately, i.e., Haiti, Chile, and Turkey. There are several people here from Haiti that are staying in an immigration building waiting for the situation there to improve. Since Chile is quite a bit more established, I'm sure there will be fewer people leaving the country to seek refuge. That's all I have for this week. Até mais.

Elder Taylor Mackay

Thursday, March 4, 2010

The Leite Family with a Few of Their Fans: Elders Mackay, Soelberg, Reis, and Smith
From Recently Updated

Elder Mackay in His Botafogo Soccer Jersey
From Recently Updated

The Ceiling of the Teatro Amazonas (Opera House)
From Recently Updated

Elder Mackay Clowning Around in the Opera House
From Recently Updated

Another View of the Ceiling in the Teatro Amazonas
From Drop Box

Elder Mackay Quenching His Thirst on Another Hot Day in the Amazon
From Recently Updated

Curiosity + Blowgun = ...A Dead Cat?

Dear Family and Friends,

This week went by really fast. At this point in my mission, it seems like each week passes faster than the previous. Even so, our teaching has been going well and I remain focused on the work. In fact, as we made our way to the LAN house today to use the Internet, we met our new neighbors who are excited to go to church with us. They kind of just showed up out of nowhere, but we are excited to start teaching them.

For those who might be wondering, I do not have a pet cat. Instead, I am posing with Little Rib who belongs to Carlos, Teresa, Dany, and Jéssica. They thought he was going to die because he was depressed last week and wouldn't eat. I decided to take advantage of the situation and take a picture with the cat before he kicked the bucket. In case you were worried, he has recently started eating again and is healthy. Something I have learned in Brazil is that cats have 7 lives and not 9 like in the United States…bummer!

Yesterday, we toured the Opera House in Manaus also referred to as the Teatro Amazonas. It was built during Manaus' affluent rubber boom period and is truly amazing. Much of the materials used in its construction came from as far as Europe, including paintings by Domenico de Angelis which adorn the ceilings. It took fifteen years to construct and opened on December 31, 1896. Since flash photos are not allowed in the Opera House, my pictures don't do it justice.

Another part of our P-day adventures included going to a native products store with a returned missionary and a recent convert. There was a ton of cool stuff there and the experience was pretty interesting. I asked the clerk if we could handle the objects and she said, "Feel free." Being the curious person that I am, I picked up a wooden blowgun and loaded it. I blew the dart softly into my hand and it kind of hurt. That was a good sign. I thought to myself…if it hurt when I barely blew into it, let's see what happens when I put some force into it. As the lady had her back turned to us, I aimed at a wall on the other side of the room (not thinking it would travel that far). To my surprise, the little bugger ripped through the air and logged itself into the concrete wall! I casually walked over, not wanting to cause a commotion, and plucked it out of the white painted wall. I was impressed with the product and will certainly buy it the next time I'm in the area.

Also on our way to the center, we paid a visit to the Leite family. It was great to see them again. The family is doing well but misses having the missionaries frequently stop by their house. From what I have been told, the missionaries in the area only stop by for lunch, but hopefully that changes in the near future.

Now that I have had a few weeks and divisions as district leader, I feel like I have a handle on the job. It's not too overbearing and you get a chance to know a ton of people as well as missionaries. Every other Thursday, we have a leadership meeting with the zone leaders to better our work, districts, and zone. The extra responsibilities really haven't affected my teaching in our area too much since I only have two divisions each transfer and our Thursday meetings don't last too long. As for baptismal interviews, I only perform those on appointed days such as Friday or Saturday after 6 p.m., but I would honestly be willing to interview anytime since it's a pretty important step in the conversion process. Including myself, there are a total of six people in our district: Elders Keicher, Melo, Bittencourt, Cainã, and Soelberg.

Our district looks to have an awesome month in March. So far this transfer, we have baptized three people but have really set the stage for success in March. We made a goal of nine baptisms (three men and two families). As of now, we already have thirteen people with dates marked for baptism in March with a potential of even more. We are passing by the homes of these individuals nearly every day to maximize the possibility of their acceptance and conversion.

Now that Elder Soelberg and I are no longer living with another companionship, we are responsible for covering both areas (ours and the other companionships). It makes for a pretty spacious area, which requires a lot of walking. My legs are beginning to get back into pre-mission shape like when I was running. Let's hope the same thing happens soon with my abs (haha).

Elder Taylor Mackay