"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, April 28, 2010

A View of Boa Vista
From Taylor Mission Pics

Geovanna Greta Azevedo de Souza Getting Ready for Baptism
From Taylor Mission Pics

A View from the Bridge Over the Rio Branco
From Taylor Mission Pics

Fishing on the Rio Branco with Alcides
From Taylor Mission Pics

The End is Near...Elder Mackay's Last Toothbrush
From Taylor Mission Pics

The Brushes of Trunkeza

The whole mission I have been marking my progress by the number of toothbrushes I haul around with me (I use one for an entire transfer then toss it). FYI- yesterday, I used my last toothbrush of the mission for the first time (see foto). So, this week had quite a bit of chuva (rain), and since it's not a common occurrence here in Boa Vista, the unprepared streets became rivers.

It's official...I'll be finishing up my mission here in Boa Vista! Now that the transfers are over, our zone consists of: Sister Nascimento, Sister Costa, Sister Gabani, Sister Anacleto, Elder Soares, Elder Pires, Elder Seastrand, Elder Henshaw, Elder and Sister Francisco, Elder Lima, and Elder Mackay. The zone is really prepped for the month of May. So far, there are 14 people who already have baptismal dates, included in that number is about 5 men and 4 families.

This week, as part of a service project, we helped one of our investigators (Alcides) with his morning fishing on the Rio Branco. It was a ridiculously long walk to the bridge of the Macuxis, but with three people rather than just one, I would like to think we added to his fishing success. It was interesting because the fish we caught weighed only 2 or 3 pounds at most, but when you've got one on a hook and you are reeling it in by hand (nobody uses a fishing pole here), it feels like a good 20 pounds. Alcides was using chicken liver and intestines as bait. Not knowing any better, I bought a sausage, cut it up, and put it on the hook. Right after my line hit the water, the other line started moving around. With fat-greased hands, I felt like my battle with the fish was in vain, but after a lot of slipping and concentration, I pulled the beast out of the water and then wiped off my hands to prevent future embarrassment. I caught 1 fish, which was better than Elder Lima's 0, and we ended up with a total of 7 for the morning between the three of us.

I hate to say it, but I am losing a little faith in Alcides and Walquiria. They are good people. They go to church and say they understand everything, but I feel that they are missing the big picture. We are here to help them out with their wedding, so they can receive the blessings of keeping the commandments, but they continue putting it off. I know one day they will follow through with everything, but I feel that day still hasn't arrived. So, rather than push them to do something they won't and aren't ready to do, we will most likely stop passing by their house until they show they are prepared to step up to the plate.

One of the highlights of the week was the baptism of Geovanna Greta Azevedo de Souza. She is 19 years old and was at a phase in her life where she didn't know what to believe anymore. The first time we taught her it was a real battle to get her to open up her heart to our message, but thanks to many factors, including her friend Anne, the situation progressively got better. I was glad to see the big changes in her and in her family. Her mother, who once was more or less against her being baptized and following a religion, is now excited to talk with us and feels free to tell us her worries and doubts.

This weekend will be the long awaited wedding of Giselle and João Paulo (Tito). They will be marrying in the District Headquarters here, which is a really nice looking chapel. Giselle, who is progressing at a faster rate, will be baptized on the 7th of May, less than a week after the wedding if all goes according to plan. Tito, no doubt, is making progress and changing for the better, but it will take a little bit longer for him to follow in Giselle's footsteps.

The missionary work, and all other work in general, reminds me a lot of a quote by Frank Lloyd Wright- "I know the price of success: dedication, hard work, and an unremitting devotion to the things you want to see happen." Success doesn't just walk up to your door and knock. You've got to prepare yourself: get up and out in the street and start the search. It is not an immediate condition. We must visualize what we want and not accept failure, which only happens when we stop trying. Devote yourself to the cause. As some might say: eat, drink, and breathe it until it becomes a part of you - something natural that is instinct or second nature. Many times the obstacles we must overcome seem so great that we do not even dare to try, accepting immediate failure. Challenges remind me of a drill we had to do in football. The coach pulled up onto the dirt track in his F 350 and put it in neutral. He grabbed me and 6 other guys from the skill group (wide receivers and defensive backs) and told us to push his truck around the track while he steered. We all looked at each other like he was asking us to do something that was going to really do us in, but together we dug our feet in and pushed. At first the truck didn't budge, but with all our force, it started to move inches, then feet, and eventually we were sprinting behind the truck with our hands on its bumper and tailgate. That's my two cents this week.

Elder Taylor Mackay

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

President and Sister Jayme with Elder and Sister Holland
From Taylor Mission Pics

Mackay's Secret Recipe

Dear Family and Friends,

There is no one secret. To better my Portuguese, I recently picked up an inspirational book called O Segredo, which tried to explain the secret to a successful life through obedience and understanding to one single rule: the law of attraction. No offense to the author and her poorly structured and repetitive livro, but this cure-all answer is a little naïve and childish in my opinion. Success in life cannot be measured by obedience to a law developed by man...sure, it might open up a few doors in this life but, at the same time, will shut doors with eternal consequences. The secret I have been able to understand can be found in a combination of 7 areas. The most important of these being obedience, which allows one to fulfill all other responsibilities with exactness. The areas are as follows:

Making of goals
The scriptures
Frequent prayer
Hard work
Service to others
Obedience to the commandments

This week I would like to write a little about the faith our investigators are showing. As of now, we have 5 people with dates marked for baptism: Alcides and Walquiria (a couple), Simone and Pedro (mother and son), and Geovanna. I have been extremely impressed with the faith I've seen practiced in their lives in such a quick manner. One way I have been able to better visualize the idea of faith is through a poem by Emily Dickinson:

Faith — is the Pierless Bridge
Supporting what We see
Unto the Scene that We do not —
Too slender for the eye

As the poem says, faith is like a bridge that can bring us knowledge which mankind may not consider to be scientific proof or certainty. So, essentially, we just need to take that first step on the bridge. We do not need to see the whole bridge...just take the first step. The reality of it all is that the test of our belief is our willingness to act.

With much temptation and confusion in her life, Geovanna will be postponing a trip to Venezuela, so everything can go well for her baptism. I can't say that I would have the same desire or self-control if I were put in the same situation. It's experiences like these which give you a great respect for those you teach and a better understanding of the power of God. He created the world in 6 days...by all means, it is no task for him to realize the conversion of a human being.

As you know, we had the great opportunity to hear the words of Bishop Edgley, First Counselor in the Presiding Bishopric, and Elder Holland. I wasn't able to be there in person, but Elder Holland gave us a shout-out through the webcam (haha). Monday and yesterday, we ran around getting the whole set-up ready for today's big show. Elder Holland talked about a lot of things but mostly about the influence the mission will have on your entire life. He spoke of how a day has yet to pass that he doesn't remember or share an experience from his mission. He stated that his mission was a preparation for him to make all the decisions he had yet to make in his life. Elder Holland also warned us against the lowering of personal standards after returning back from the mission. He cautioned us of the dangers and the disappointment he would feel if we fell away from the Church after dedicating two years of our life to teaching the gospel. He said, "If I find out any one of you has become less active or inactive in future years, I will personally hunt you down in your sleep and scare you silly back onto the straight and narrow." He jokingly said, "I'll surprise you so good you'll be screaming for your mommy in the middle of the night." Can you imagine? A mom asks, "What is it?" Her frightened returned missionary replies, "It's Elder Holland...he's in my room!" It was cool listening to these men speak, and every time I heard them say the words, "Manaus Mission," a smile would grow on my face knowing I am part of that effort.

As for this week's news, we will be having the baptism of Geovanna, with the participation of the local institute program, on Saturday and the wedding of Tito (João Paulo) and Giselle the following week. We were invited to Tito's bachelor party soccer game. It was pretty legit with regards to competition, including some guys who have a good shot of working their way to the professional level here in Brasil (one being my companion, Elder Lima, who was working his way up to play for the city of Vitória team). Fortunately, my American skills came into play and I scored a sweet goooooooooooolll!!!!

That's all I have for now. All is going well with the work here and I'm super excited for our May prospects. I'm really hoping I get to stay in my current area, because with all that the zone has lined up, it will make for quite the grand finale. Have a great week!

Até logo,
Elder Taylor Mackay

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

The Exposed Shores of the Rio Branco
From Taylor Mission Pics

Elder Mackay in Front of a Local Church
From Taylor Mission Pics

A Frequent Site in the Trees of Boa Vista
From Taylor Mission Pics

Boa Vista Zone Leaders: Elder Lima and Elder Mackay
From Taylor Mission Pics

A Beautiful Day on the Rio Branco
From Taylor Mission Pics

This Poor Guy Lost at Frogger
From Taylor Mission Pics

110 Degrees and Rising

It was kind of hot yesterday, hence the title of this email. This week was a great week for the zone and the remainder of the month should be equally good with regards to baptisms and confirmations. So far, there have been 8 baptisms this month with the potential of 2 more this week and several more the following week. However, our numbers for teaching and finding new people were pretty weak in my opinion.

One of the big goals we established with the zone at conference was to give 100% to find a new family to teach each day. Why every day? Well, those of you who have served missions know of the funnel theory. You start with a ton of potentials, and then after time, the shady people will get a nice spot in the area book and those who progress will continue on to become members of the Church. As a mission, we are using what we call an "escalator." Our goal, in the near future, is to have every duo baptizing a family every week. The reason we are focusing on families is because children aren't the ones who receive the Priesthood. So far, our zone is rockin' with the dates. Every dupla has at least one man or family marked for the next 6 weeks and several have more. Considering the zone only had one baptism last month (a 9 year old), the missionaries have really re-doubled their efforts to establish a balance here in Boa Vista.

This week I had the privilege of doing a division with Elder Seastrand in Canaā. It reminded me of the good, old times in Flores. One thing I noticed during the division is the work nearly becomes perfection when working side by side with certain people...there was no down time and we finished the day teaching 7 people and me interviewing a girl who was baptized the next day. I'm really excited for this month and the month of May. There is going to be a ton of baptisms and zone progress. This will hopefully make for a sweet grand finale.

One of the interesting things about Elder Seastrand's area is that there are a ton of frogs...little frogs, big frogs, green frogs, and brown frogs. As a result, I finally learned last Friday how the game Frogger came about. As we were walking back to the church to do an interview, there was a monstrous frog hopping around on the street. After 5 minutes of watching it evade oncoming traffic, I became very impressed with its skills and decided it was worthy to live and let it work its way back to the sidewalk where it could hop in peace.

Yesterday, the entire mission had to get the immunization for gripe suína (swine flu). It went well although I'm definitely glad I got it here in Boa Vista where everything is clean, organized, and I was able to see her get a new needle and dispose of it once she was done giving me the shot.

We were able to get Skype working with the webcam at the house of a member, so we will be able to see Elder Jeffrey R. Holland ao vivo via Internet. It's not the same as seeing him in person, but it'll be pretty cool. The Mission Counselor, Presidente Souza, said he would take us paintballing to make up for us not being able to attend the conference to see an Apostle.

As my time narrows down to less than 2 months, I feel weird. The mission reminds me of a Nike slogan "There is no finish line." My mind just can't comprehend that one day this is all going to come to a close and I'll begin another chapter in my life. There is a lot I could say about the way I feel, but as Gandhi once said, "It's better to have a heart without words than words without heart." So with that, I'll end this week's e-mail.

Até logo,
Elder Taylor Mackay

Wednesday, April 7, 2010

Zona Boa Vista
From Taylor Mission Pics

Taking a Break from Helping a Member Paint Her Food Stand
From Taylor Mission Pics

Elders Murray and Mackay Pass the Torch to the New Financial Secretary, Elder Cottle
From Taylor Mission Pics

Chillin' with a New Friend in Boa Vista
From Taylor Mission Pics

Zona Boa Vista After a Volleyball Game
From Taylor Mission Pics

Planning for Success

Dear Family and Friends,

All the conferences went well this week, starting with the zone conference that took place on Friday. The training we gave the zone should help a lot with the lack of baptisms and whatnot. Also, General Conference on Saturday and Sunday went well. I had some difficulty staying awake during parts, but that's to be expected when you watch 10 hours of it, in addition to being sleep deprived from recent flights back and forth. Fortunately, we were able to watch it in English...not that I wouldn't understand it in Portuguese, but it is nice to hear the words of authorities in your native language. I enjoyed all of the talks but seemed to get the most out of those who listed a number of things we can follow to improve our lives in certain aspects. Once again, Elder Holland had a sweet talk that was right up there in intensity with his talk from last conference on the Book of Mormon. I really feel bad for the guy that has to talk after him because you just can't compete with Elder Holland...he's in a class all of his own.

Our zone is rocking along this week with some pretty awesome possibilities, including a family of seven people and two other women. If we manage, as a zone, to make this week happen and keep searching for new families each day, I have no doubt that Boa Vista will have a strong Stake well before year-end.

We had a nice zone activity today where we played volleyball. It went well, but the weather wasn't as sunny as I would have liked it to be. As for our missionary progress, we had the opportunity to do service projects twice this week. There is a member in the ward who has a little food vending booth on one of the main streets. To visually bring it up to date, together with Elder and Sister Francisco and the assistants: Elder Dodge and Elder Brito, we gave it a quality painting of yellow on the outside and white on the inside.

We are still working with two couples preparing them for their wedding and baptism. I'm most excited about Giselle and João Paulo, who are essentially my age and are really pumped up about their wedding. He is from Guiana Ingles and she's from here. They have been together quite some time and out of nowhere gave us a call wanting our help. They are super receptive. The only downfall is now that Giselle is on vacation from work, they will be traveling a ton. Rather than get frustrated, we have been giving them homework assignments to accomplish during their travels, such as watching films and reading. Alcides and Walquiria went to conference on Saturday and enjoyed the talks. We passed by their place yesterday and the only thing they are now waiting for is money to get the paperwork rolling at the cartório.

Another interesting story is that we are working with a jovem (youth), named Ítalo, who plays basketball. His coach just so happens to be one of the best coaches in Roraima and is a returned missionary. It was funny talking to him yesterday because he didn't go to conference on Sunday. Ídio, the coach, was like, "I hope you have a good excuse because next time you ditch out you're going to pay for it during practice." It might not be the most spiritual way to get people to go to church, but after talking with Ítalo, it was pretty effective. I guess it's one more example of lack of separation between church and state.

To finish this week's letter, I thought I would share an experience we have had with a woman we met through a recent convert. Her name is Geovanna. When we started teaching her, she was lacking a lot of faith and wasn't even sure God existed. After 4-5 visits, she has made a complete 180 and is preparing for her baptism, which should take place on the 23rd. Miracles do happen!

Elder Mackay