Monday, November 13, 2017

Brazilian Bees

Hey Mom,

First of all, I love you so much.  My new companion is Elder Kozlowski.  He is a big burly football player from Boise, Idaho.  He´s been here for 8 months and is fluent in Portuguese, which is a blessing and a curse. You know how I compare myself to others. He has a strong testimony, teachers with power, and we work, work ,work!  I am very tired. I hated not doing work with elder Galdino, but now I hate ´´working´´ because it keeps showing me how inadequate I am, sitting through lessons and not understanding anything.  Seriously, I am not able to explain even the simplest parts. Kozlowski always gives me time to talk but whatever I say people don’t understand and he just has to go back and re-explain everything to them. I was hopeful with transfers, and my new companion things would definitely be better, but I expected everything to just instantly start improving yet I am struggling with all the same problems.  I still don’t have a grasp at all on the language, I am struggling to remember experiences I have had in the past that has helped me find strength and feel the love of the Lord.  I still think about Grandma often, she gave me a tie with her classic ´´XXGGOO´´ that I will cherish the rest of my life and I see it every morning when I get dressed.  I hope next week will be a bit better.

This week we had a fast as a companionship, and that day found 4 families to teach.  One of the fathers had the PERFECT thoughts and feelings about many igrejas (I thought this word was a typo but just in case, I put it into google translate.  Guess what igrejas means….CHURCHES!  I think he is so worried about not being fluent that he isn’t even recognizing the progress he is making.)  in our world today.  This was the perfect opportunity to teach about the restoration.  They were all open to the gospel, we baptized one of the kids named Enrique, but then Sunday NO ONE showed up to church!  Now it’s impossible to get in with them.  That’s SO frustrating.

I had my first run in with a Brazilian bumble bee, and that thing was FAT. It flew right up in my face.  You know how I feel about normal bees... this guy was about 3 times the size.  Scared me SO BAD; I took off down the street faster than I eat feijao e arroz! (There’s more Portuguese!  beans and rice) Elder Kozlowski was laughing pretty hard.

Elder Kozlowski likes to exercise.  Some mornings we wake up early and run to a little park a ways from our house.  They have a pull up bar and we do some exercises there, so that’s nice.  In my new apartment I get my own bathroom which is awesome!

Not the bumble bee but possibly another Brazilian native wanting to share his private bathroom!

Another thing, no one in the ward here plays the piano.  The Bishop says they haven’t had an Elder that plays piano for 2 years so even though I can’t speak for crap, I am able to play piano for them. Though this Sunday there was a draft that kept turning the pages during the rest hymn and it totally screwed me up. I was super embarrassed. Hopefully next week will be better!

Love, Elder Sork                       

Monday, November 6, 2017

My First Transfer

Hey Mom,
Today I got transferred to Joao Pessoa. My new companion is Elder Kozlowski, he’s an American from Idaho. I don’t really know him well because this is just the first day I have been with him. We have been talking in English just so that he knows my struggles and difficulties, but tomorrow we go to work. I really hope an American companion, THIS companion, is who can help me grow and learn to enjoy my time here.

My last week with elder Galdino was pretty crappy. We didn’t work AT ALL because it was his last week and basically we just hung out with all his buddies. We stayed up past curfew, even watched a movie with Wellyda (which they had a really weird relationship). I just felt like crap. I got fed up and finally talked to him and said I thought we needed to be better about following rules and that I didn’t feel god about the movie and things we were doing but he just said I would learn with more experiences and justified everything we had done. This first transfer will definitely be different.  I think one thing I did learn from Elder Galdino though is the importance of being not just a missionary, but a FRIEND to investigators and even just people in general.

Now, I hope to be more obedient and focused, Elder Kozlowski seems stronger in this regard.  I am hopeful. This last week was tough.  Emails will now be shorter because now I don’t get 2+ hours to email like Elder Galdino did! But I just have such a desire to truly connect with people, have real friendships, be able to joke around and have fun with the other Elders.  If I can get to this point, I feel like a mission would be so much easier! The language is ALWAYS a barrier. I have had no improvement this week with that.  You can basically just assume that I am always struggling, always frustrated, and doubtful of my abilities.

 I studied the premortal existence and creation like you suggested.  I had some good thoughts about it.  I have a study journal where I write it all down. It was cool to know that I was a real being before this life with attributes. I enjoyed thinking about how who I am today reflects those attributes I came to this world with versus  solely being shaped by the influence of the world and the experience I am having here. As I studied the creation I think of it abstractly. I believe that science truly plays a role in it, the two aren’t separate, the creation without science or science without God, but together. We don’t understand the process or timeline of God in the creation really, but I believe that the creation was divinely guided and God used laws of nature, (some that we understand and others we don’t yet know) to do this work.

Let McKenna know that even people here in Brazil think we´re twins! Lots of people cried yesterday when Elder Galdino and I left. Meny gave me a necklace to remember her.  She’s the crazy lady, spit fire I wrote about in the previous letters. I really hope that missionaries in the future are able to continue and to interact with her and eventually get her to church. I just wish I could have made true strong relationships with all these people, but when I don’t speak Portuguese that really doesn’t happen.

I hope Halloween went well. I forgot it was Halloween until the end of the day! They had a few trick or treaters here in Brazil.  Seeing them made me smile! Other than that there is really not much to talk about this week:  no work.  I am hopeful for a new start in Joao Pessoa (where. oh my gosh, it is HOT).  Next week I am sure I will have lots to say about my new area and companion! My new area/ward is Parque Do Sol. I got to see my friends Elder Allen and Elder Bradshaw from the MTC this morning during transfers.  That was nice but it also made me feel worse because they clearly are progressing a lot faster than me.
I love you mom, have  good week!
Elder Sork

Monday, October 30, 2017

CRAZY Stuff!

Dear Mom,
Missionary work wise I don’t really have anything to report this week. We didn´t have squat happen, and all our newly baptized people are already in the past. None of them came to church and we can’t get in to continue teaching them... they are always conveniently busy. So that has been a bummer. 

This week we had splits, (where multiple companionships in an area split up and go with a different companion for the day) which confirmed to me that not all missionaries are equal... Elder Sousa was my companion for the day.  He has been out 6 months and was clearly more obedient and honestly a LOT more helpful then my ´´trainer.” Although there are some things I have learned from Elder Galdino that I could see would help Elder Sousa. I just really hope my next companion is who I need at this time, and truly called through power of revelation, to help me. I think Elder Galdino was a blessing to have during these first few weeks with all of the things that have happened, but I feel ready for something else. I’m not sure what that is; we´ll see what the Lord gives me!

Saturday we had a ward activity, and watched a move about the life of Christ. It MADE ME SAD THAT I STILL DO NOT UNDERSTAND anything except for simple key words throughout the whole thing, and when I converse with people, so that was a bummer. It was nice to do something as a ward though, and there were lots of people there who, even though I can’t really talk with them, clearly care about me. 

Like every previous week, I kept a paper and wrote down all my unique experiences so i can share them with you.  I’ll go ahead and tell you about them now:

Our house has been getting horrible and it has these little geckos running around all over.  Today, Elder Galdino slept in until 9;30 so after I had exercised and had breakfast and read some BoM, I decided to clean the entire house - it was oddly therapeutic. You would still die if you saw the conditions, but they are a LOT better than they were before. 

A few spooky things this week in honor of Halloween:  Here in Brazil Galdino has pointed out houses - all white with white flags. From what I understand, this is a sign of some very strange religion practices that are associated with the devil.  We have been sure to steer clear of these! Even more spooky was an experience we had contacting a less active family this week. We went to their house at the end of a long narrow alley and it literally has a grave site marked underneath it where someone was buried. We go talking with some of the family, then the grandma comes out with her face all torn up and scratched and ripped. Apparently the night before the mom became ´´possessed´´, attacked the grandma, and was dragged off by the police. Even spookier is that before we ever walked into the house, Elder Galdino said that in the past he has always felt bad feelings in this house... I'm not sure what’s true and what is an exaggeration, but either way, it is crazy stuff!

On a lighter note, a funny experience: We were socializing in the house of Wellyda and got invited to sit around with her drunk parents/aunt& uncle. It was definitely a little weird, but they love trying to talk to me. It’s hard enough understanding things already, but understanding drunk Brazilians is even harder - and there are tons of drunks every weekend, haha. During the conversation the topic of pork came up, the word in Portuguese is very similar, porco, and I assured them I understand what they were saying, but just to make sure, one guy felt the need to get down on all fours and impersonate a pig, with sound effects that rival even Dad’s!  Believe me when I say I laughed for quite some time! I couldn’t help myself! There were some other funny moments but that was a highlight.

I had my first interview with President Dias this week. I know he has love for me and he wants me to stay and be comfortable here in the mission field. Even though he speaks English I don’t think he is able to completely understand my situation and feelings.  After trying to talk to him, his advice was really just to wait things out. I think he still thinks my major issues are with grandma’s death, but even though that was so hard it is just one more thing on top of my struggles out here with the language and my companion situation. But, he suggested just waiting, that with time things will get better. Dad´s email was similar. I will do my best to wait things out, and I hope, hope, hope that things will get better. Thank you so much for your love, support, prayers, and fasting.  I know that no matter how hard this is, it would be impossible without the amazing family I have. I thank my Heavenly Father every day for you guys.

I finally got letters! I get them about once every transfer it sounds like. I got a letter from Grandma G that she wrote and sent while I was still in the CTM. (She sent that letter 2 weeks after Carson had left for Brazil!  That is how long it has taken him to get his mail.) That was hard, reading something that was written back when we all thought her cancer battle was still ´´normal´´.  At the end of the letter, she told me that ´´she would always be my white-haired cheerleader, cheering me on in my corner´´ and that she loves me ´´always and forever.´´ She obviously didn’t know the impact these words would have when she wrote it, but this week this letter just strengthened my belief in the Plan of Salvation. When I read her letter I was so sad and crying but I didn’t feel despair - I really felt love inside me. I know that grandma STILL loves me; she will continue to love and support me. I don’t know all the details or where she is right now or what her ability is to know of my struggles and experiences after her passing, but I know that she still loves me, and I believe that death is not the end. The Plan of Salvation truly is a beautiful plan, and truly is special. I hope to continue to grow in knowledge and testimony so I can share this hope and love with others in the future.
               This week I had a meal with a member.  It tasted great: it was rice, corn and chicken all mixed up in some sort of cream, but I quickly discovered that they had definitely used a bit more of the chicken than I was used to... It didn’t taste bad but I left some choice pieces on my plate... including some tubey organs that were VERY chewy, and a few bones that looked a lot like vertebrae... Again, tasted great, and I’m not super sick this week, but I miss your cooking!

Yesterday they had a special meeting about preparing for missions for the youth. Sitting in there, they talked a lot about how to prepare, what you need to be a missionary, and showed a ´´pump up´´ video with missionaries in the field.  All these things kind of bummed me out because it reminded me how inadequate I am right now, in faith, testimony, and my ability to connect with people. But again, time - hopefully with time I can see some growth and improvement.

I am trying to continue in your advice on prayers, I wake up a bit earlier to make sure I have some time for a good morning prayer, I will continue to do this. A scripture that stuck out to me this week with my focus on prayer was 2 Nephi 9:52, a reminder to pray always. I know that focusing on good prayers morning and night will help me, but it is important to have Heavenly Father in my heart ALWAYS, and through this I know that I will be happier. So I am trying to live up to this scripture!

Thank you for your guidance and support. I love you and hope the family is all doing okay.  Make sure people know the mail situation; honestly I probably won’t really be sending handwritten letters unless for very special occasions, I just don’t know. But that doesn’t mean I don’t think about you all and appreciate all you are doing to support me. 

When you send me all the missionary updates from friends, could you also include any BIG/IMPORTANT news about home/the United States?  That would also be nice. I want to know if Trump does anything super crazy.

                                                                                     I love you, have a good week!
                                                                                     Elder Sork

Tuesday, October 24, 2017

I flooded the church!


This has been a really tough week.  The news of Grandma G’s death has hit really hard.  I am on the computer, going to read through emails and write my weekly one just to keep the schedule normal because right now that’s the only way I´m able to function.  We can message back and forth a little while I do that, I would like to set up a time to call you guys today. Right now it is almost 2 o’clock in Brazil, I think you guys are 4 hours behind me? Hopefully you´re online.  (Eric’s mom died suddenly this last week of renal cell carcinoma that she was diagnosed with in April, but thought it was caught and controlled.  In August shortly after Carson left we found out it had metastasized to her lungs and bones. After her first immunotherapy treatment she had a bad reaction. A week after that treatment she passed away. Following this letter we were able to talk to Elder Sork in a conference call with his mission president.)

We are teaching another investigator and preparing him for baptism.  His name is Victor and he is 15 years old.  He seems like a really nice kid but he didn’t show up to church yesterday with the member we had planned.  We will have to get back with him and see what’s up and if we are still on track for baptism.

We contacted some crazy less actives to re-invite to church.  Elder Galdino definitely uses me to his advantage as the ´´Americano.” One less active family, who I guess was baptized by the mission president himself, has a daughter who’s 16 and every time I tried to speak in Portuguese, or every time I spoke in English at their request, she was literally tearing up because I guess the voice of an American has a very, very special place in her heart. That was very strange, and just ONE example of a lot of attention I get for my home country. I really do not like it.

Enjoying Lunch with Members

We had a couple rainy/cloudy days in Campina Grande.  They are VERY similar to some days I have had back in Washington! It was very weird. The only difference is that by the afternoon the clouds are always burned off and its back to the same old weather – HOT.

This week was hard even before other occurrences.  The only things that help me not sink to the bottom are distractions. We had a big distraction last night... Definitely not mission approved, but I think my companion had me in mind to help me get some things off my mind.  We had an unapproved ´´district get together´´ and all slept in the apartment of another companionship and they played games until like 3 in the morning but I was miserable. 

Panorama from the roof at our district get together.

My stomach has also been having issues this week; looks like things are finally catching up to me. Also, if you remember those red itchy dots I used to get? Those are back everywhere and with a vengeance. Hopefully whatever it is that causes it, my body will just eventually get used to it. 

Contacting is THE WORST. We do it every day, and I hate it. Elder Galdino does one side of the street and I do the other, all alone. I can’t understand anything people say and they clearly can’t understand me, but he insists we do it separate for efficiency. But I worry, what if I ended up knocking on the door of a real, potential investigator? I feel I am causing them to miss the opportunity of a life time -- to accept the gospel -- because I can’t speak or understand their language.

Here is a light-hearted moment. I had my first funny mission experience. We flooded the church building!  We went to fill up the font, while it was filling we had a meeting with the ward mission leader (an hour long and, I kid you not, I did not understand any of it; any improvement is nonexistent). Then afterwards we completely forgot it was filling until we were getting ready for bed like 3 hours later.  We SPRINTED to the church building.  I almost forgot to put on a shirt, we were so flustered and I would’ve been running through the streets of Brazil in my underwear! LUCKILY, the church building is ALL TILE and they have drains everywhere.  Conveniently, some large window washing squeegees were close by so we squeegeed for about an hour to get all the water into drains.  No damage was done to anything but it was still quite a scare! Now I have something I can laugh about.

Another happy thing, William and Harynne got a pug puppy one month old and it is the cutest thing in the world. I don’t even like pugs, but having meals with them and being able to play with a puppy makes things a little better. When I got the call about Grandma I was with them. I will get a picture with them this week, they are a very nice family and their son Guillarme, that I wrote about earlier, has been sure to give me lots of hugs because he knows I am having it rough.

Thailany's Baptism Day

I performed another two baptisms this week.  One of them is Thailany who is 15. We´ll see if she stays active.  We still haven’t taught her any of the lessons past the 5 principles of the Gospel.  The work does not feel right: Rushing people to the font before they have a testimony. 

That’s my week shortened and condensed.  It’s really not much.
                                                                                                                                           Elder Sork

Monday, October 16, 2017

Almoco (That means lunch in Portuguese)!

Hey Mom,
This week was just about the same in all aspects. I really liked reading those little updates. I don’t have time to read all my friend's emails so if you can continue and do that for missionaries each week, just some highlights, that would be awesome! It sounds like everyone is having just good experiences and growing so much. I hope one day to be able to have a similar affect and experiences with the people here, and really get to know them, but right now I´m just always clueless as to what the heck is going on.

We had lunch yesterday with the bishop and his wife, who are really nice and supportive, and keep telling me in 3 months I´ll be fluent.  I hate those expectations because I just dread setting myself up for failure. I am afraid the language is ALWAYS going to be a struggle for me here. This week if anything it felt like I digressed. Bishop had me bare my testimony again and it went even worse than the first time.  I couldn’t think of the words I needed, my brain went blank, it was terrible. Then He said to be prepared for a talk in November. That’s gonna suck :(

FYI:  Elder Sork is one of those people that could NOT have any food touching each other on his plate.

If for whatever reason you ever get a package down here, two things I REALLY want are resistance bands and a jump rope for some good exercise with the 30 minutes I’m given. Without stuff like that there’s not much variety that I can do. Also, I am uploading pictures today; you will see a brown leather scripture case, the one I bought. I need an extender for the zipper, I had a makeshift red one on it, but I was wondering if McKenna could make something artsy/nifty that would work to attach to the zipper, otherwise when I unzip the case all the way the zipper gets shoved way back and lost.

From what I hear, I will be getting letters from the mission home on the 26th. I got the letter from you and Austin/Dani the last day in the CTM, but so far that is the only thing. I CAN print, but just use good judgement on what you tell me to print because it costs money and I am sure it will get complicated as everything seems to here in Brazil. (I'm not worried about printing costs so send me your emails and I will put them into one doc so he can just print once and get all his notes from home.) Also make sure you have the correct mission home address, like triple check, I don’t have it with me right now but that would calm my fears of my mail getting lost that way. I am definitely looking forward to getting mail.

Hearing about Grandma today was really, really tough. I don’t know if she has tried sending letters, but let her and ALL family know I don’t get mail often so not to feel bad if I’m not responding or anything, let them know email is a lot better if they really need to talk to me. I will definitely be praying for her. That was a blow today, but thank you for sharing. 

Okay, now from my list of experiences this week.  This week was tough in many, many ways, but during the week I carry around a paper and write down thoughts/experiences unique that happened that I can email about so I´ll go through that:

             1. There are TONS of motorcycles here and not many cars.  All the cars I have seen are stick shift. It makes me want to learn to drive a stick and also get a motorcycle when I get home... But I know that would never fly with you!  I’m just day dreaming :) A member drove us to the chapel for a meeting this week and, oh my gosh, if dad’s driving is bad, this is terrible. Cobblestone roads, lots of speed bumps, stick shift, plus the crazy driving of Brazil, got me SO SICK. 

2. There are also SO many stray dogs! It sounds a lot like Texas with Austin but instead of people shooting the strays, the dogs just die from starvation all over. It’s really sad. I see so many sad puppies and sick dogs all day :( I miss Pippin! Give him loves (and the rest of the family).

3. They don’t refrigerate the fruit here.  I eat bananas and it is exactly like the microwaved mashed bananas I used to feed Spike (Our box turtle from Louisiana).  They’re pretty hard to get down! Also, I discovered the first thing I do not like – Papaya; especially warm, mushy, gross papaya. UGGGHHH it’s gross. But my tummy is doing REALLY well so far (I am going to chalk that up the regiment of vitamins and probiotics that I told him to start taking a week before he left for his mission and then stocked him up with.) That has certainly been a blessing.

4. We always have lunch with members, often dinner as well.  Every morning my breakfast is two buttered pieces of bread with a slice of some kind of meat.  I am not sure what it is, kind of like bologna/sausage stuff, I actually really like it.

5. This week one thing that really, really was a bummer was a recent convert named Wellyda (she was baptized by Elder Galdino) had some big problems. Apparently for the first few weeks she was a perfect investigator and gaining a super strong testimony, but this week we came across her really drunk and with a guy. Now she isn’t going to church. We had spent a lot of time with her and she had been a practice contact for me.  Now we´re cutting ties because she doesn’t have a desire for the gospel anymore. That is really sad but also so, so common here. All the people here seem to have been baptized already if they’re eligible, but then don’t continue in the faith.

6. I HAD MY FIRST BAPTISM THIS WEEK! His name is Diego Da Silva Fernandez and he is 10 years old. It was really cool to perform the ordinance. I am so sad though because the line that reeled him in was Elder Galdinos, “We will buy cake and Coca-Cola for you after the baptism.” He uses this line with every kid, so we get a bunch of kids who want to be baptized, but no real investigators and it just makes the work feel useless. Then I start thinking about if we do find a real investigator, I am not going to be able to get to know them well or effectively teach them because I can’t speak the language and it is even more disheartening. I am still searching for my testimony, faith, and purpose out here.

7. I don’t know if I already said this but tone deafness is like an epidemic out here. My companion is SO BAD but loves to sing. It is so hard not to either cringe, or just laugh, depending on the mood I’m in, when we sing. He insists on singing hymns a lot in our house. What I would not give to hear McKenna’s beautiful, sweet voice!! I miss her a lot, A LOT, Mom. Please give her love for me.  

8. Saturday nights we play soccer as a ward with a lot of the youth. I wore my Timbers jersey from Tanner, they were all intrigued. I wasn’t the best player out there.  There are a lot of really good Brazilians, but I am certainly not the worst! All those years of soccer practice paid off. I had a few goals, and the Brazilians here definitely have a little more respect for me now! It was good, and I was able to connect through soccer if not the language.  It was fun to play, but I am SORE! It’s been a long time since I have run around like that!

9. I have got my first few blisters of missionary work, with many, many, many more to come. My socks are good sometimes, but others I find myself wishing I had some black Nike socks like Austin did, just for a change in material. My feet get so sweaty they often end up slipping around in my socks inside the shoes because of the material. But its not terrible, definitely better than normal Sunday socks would be!

10. It is REALLY heating up. In the middle of the day we go back inside after almoço (that means lunch in Portuguese – so he must be getting some of it ;)  because everyone takes naps and everything shuts down, but - even before and after this time it is getting roasty!  This area is the cooler part of my mission. Yikes! I sweat SO MUCH but am already getting to the point of just not caring.  There is not much I can do about it.

11. I miss family the most by far out here on the mission, but this week I heard some English music.  Tons of Brazilians listen to it and, oh my gosh, I miss music a LOT more than I was even expecting I would. I didn’t realize how big a part of me it was, even just being able to listen to it. On preparation days (p-days) I take some time to play hymns in the chapel but I have such a craving for all types of music I am no longer able to listen to. I will definitely enjoy having that back when I get home.

A quick spiritual thought before I go:  One conference talk I enjoyed was by Jean B Bingham about how to find joy. This conference was the first one I went into with questions. One specific question I had  was how to feel closer and develop a more personal relationship with Christ, how he is not just this being I read about, but truly my savior, someone who  understands me. One good line that caught my attention first was that Christ doesn’t care as much about our comfort as he does our progress.  This made me laugh a little inside thinking about this ridiculousness that I’m in Brazil and don’t speak Portuguese! But then one thing she said was the best way to get closer to Him is to study Him. Because of this talk I have started reading Jesus the Christ from the special edition Jason gave me.  I was waiting until later in my mission, but it’s been really good for learning about Jesus and being able to personalize more his life and existence and purpose for ME. Please let Jason know I am really grateful for the book and I will be rereading and studying more in depth throughout my mission.  Right now just reading through it, I am about halfway done, but I have really enjoyed studying his life, and encourage others if they find themselves lacking in their feelings of a personal relationship with Christ, to study more in depth his mission and life before, during and after his ministry on earth. I still have so much room to grow. My faith is so weak in this area because I still struggle to have those personal feelings of Christ in my life, but I know this study will help.

Thales, the guy who speaks English, suggested one way to study Portuguese is to listen to General Conference audio in Portuguese while also reading along the talks in Portuguese. Not sure if it’s doable or if it would even be helpful, but if it isn’t too much trouble I was thinking maybe you could try and send a SanDisk card with the Portuguese audio of the talks from conference in a letter or something, along with some printed talks? I don’t know how hard that would be or even if it’s worth doing, but it’s just a thought. 

I have uploaded pictures to the drive.  It’s hard to get pictures because I can’t walk around with my camera - I don’t even walk around with my bag. My companion suggested against it because it makes me look more like a target. There are a few pictures of my apartment, so you can feel like you have had the tour.  

Kitchen, Laundry Room and Storage Closet all in One

Study Area


The shower that contains a toilet that you can't flush toilet paper down, and the sink.

This week I am going to try and get a picture with a family recently reactivated in the ward, Willian and Harynne with their children Guillarme and Maité.  They are a super sweet family and so nice.  Guillarme is really attached to me and Elder Galdino already.  Last night he was telling me he’s really gonna miss me when I have to leave. I don’t know how because I don’t speak his language really, but he likes listening to names of super heroes in English. They were my first meal in the field, my first night in Campina Grande and have fed us a lot.  They are super nice and encouraging. I am also gonna try and get a picture with a lady named Meny, she isn’t a member but really likes the missionaries, and making fun of my Portuguese. But she’s super nice (a little crazy, definitely a fire cracker). Before I leave I want to try and re-invite her to church and give her some lessons, but in the past missionaries were unsuccessful. She looked me up on Facebook and looked at all you guys and said I had a beautiful family. She always has fresh juice, and oftentimes cake at hand.  She likes to joke around with us. She’s kinda like a crazy, but still cool, Grandma.

 I can’t think of anything else right now.  My companion really loves his computer time!  I think he is ready to go.  I love you, Mom.

                                                                                                              Love, Elder Sork

Monday, October 9, 2017

Smiling and Nodding

Hey Mom, hey Dad –

I love you guys SO MUCH. It was awesome to hear your experiences, missionary and vacation wise. I hope you guys are having a great time and everyone is safe and happy. First, Mom, from what I can understand from my trainer (who is from Sao Paulo and speaks no English) all mail goes through the mission home, and we only receive it once a month. So unless it’s something really special, or tangible, or something I need, just for normal communication email it will be.

 I am serving in Campina Grande, which I am told is much more mild then Joao Pessoa but let me tell you it does not feel mild AT ALL. HOT, HOT, HOT! I am in the Monte Castelo Ward, which has 500 recorded members, 70 active members, and had about 30 members in attendance yesterday. Sounds like that is kind of how it goes in Brazil. . I’m in a LAN house, little internet cafe, I see a printer but not sure how that works, I’ll ask my companion and get back to you next week. (Carson still has not received any of our mail.  After chatting with some of the Mom’s on my missionary Mom’s of Brazil facebook group, I told Carson that I would send him emails and just put money in his account to print them.  In the subject line I would put PRINT THIS so he knew he didn’t have to take up his computer time to read it or READ THIS if it is something I needed him to read and respond to right away.  We will see how that works.  I will still collect everyone’s letters to Carson and send them in one as I did for snail mail to save on the printing – so keep the letters coming!)

I have a lot to say so excuse my terrible spelling and grammar. Last Tuesday we woke up at 2:30 in the morning to fly out to Joao Pessoa.  We met our mission president and had a fancy meal at his house. I haven’t had a chance to interview with him so I don’t really know what he’s like. 

I am assigned to Elder Galdino, he’s 22 and from Sao Paulo and does not speak any English.  Let me tell you, this mission is kicking my butt right now. I cannot communicate with my companion except for one-word things. I can’t even talk as good as the babies of some of the members families here. The bishop asked me to bear my testimony in sacrament meeting - something I was uncomfortable doing back home in English, and I was up there for a painful 3 minutes with just blank stares. It makes me want to rely so much more on the spirit because it’s like the only form of communication I´ve got. I read Uncle Don’s talk about the Holy Ghost and a few others on the plane ride here. I had forgotten about the “Best of the Best” and it is AWESOME thank you! (The “BEST of the BEST” was the book that I put together for Carson before he left.  I asked everyone here at home to send me their favorite conference/gospel talk and why it means so much to them so Carson would have the ability to study the gospel with each of them while he was on his mission far from home.) I am trying to put the things into practice.

Now about Brazil and my week!  I will try and send all my pictures today. I have some of our apartment... On my scale it is a step BELOW Tanners house down at BYU, haha. There are occasional rats, lots of bugs, our shower is pretty awesome it’s like a 2x2 space next to our toilet and it soaks the whole room when you use it! This is quite an adventure. I am definitely in BRAZIL now. The CTM did not prepare for the culture shock. Sanitation isn’t really a thing here, I can see why I will be getting sick frequently (that hasn’t happened yet, food has actually been great so far, hopefully that continues). They don’t flush toilet paper they throw it in garbage next to the toilet which feels so wrong hahaha. The streets are FULL of dogs, and always people too. I can’t drink the tap water, but lots of people here have mineral water (filtered), so i just have to always double check that. and shower with my mouth closed! I haven't come across anything I HAVEN'T liked yet, which is awesome. The Brazilians love it when I say ``Eu gosto de sua comeda` which is one of the few phrases I do know, but I think I need to stop... they LOVE to feed an American who appreciates there cooking! I have been fed cake 3 days in a row so I gotta be careful and not get fat toooo quickly. I exercise every morning but it is definitely not the same as my exercise at home and not as good as the CTM either. I don’t want to get fat but I think it’s gonna happen :(

The people here are super nice even though I can’t understand anything they say, and I know they make fun of me 24x7.  Because I am American I get a lot of attention everywhere I go, people try to talk to me and it’s frustrating when I don’t understand them let alone be able to respond, and they are obviously disappointed AS WELL. My bishop speaks a little English and so does his wife. They are very nice and encouraging.  They keep saying 3 months you’ll be fluent. I’ve been hearing things like that ever since my first day and it’s just frustrating to never meet those goals. Elder Galdino (I think) says that people are a lot more open to missionaries now because I am here. I’m like a celebrity, which I actually kind of hate but oh well. He’s been here 3 months and says we´ve already talked with people that wouldn’t talk with them in the past just because I am American. 

I was able to visit a less active who spoke English; the bishop wanted me to invite him back to church. I really connected with him, his name is Thales.  He looked me up on Instagram haha.  He plays violin, loves music, and used to be really active. I finally invited him back to church and he said he´ll come next week. But afterwards he told me the reason he stopped going - he loves the church and almost all its teachings, but he’s gay. He doesn’t see how he could possibly be a member when the church basically says he can’t marry and be as happy as everyone else. I remember this exact discussion in seminary, and let me tell you, there’s no good way to help. I feel for him. He’s gonna come to church this next week just because I asked, but probably not again. He also said that ´the church preaches acceptance, but its members aren’t accepting.  This is a reminder that we truly need to love EVERYONE, and truly accept everyone for who they are. With his struggles I don’t know how it would have been different, but from what I heard one reason he left the church was also because of the way the members treated him about being gay. I felt so bad. I know just how judgmental people can be. But I spent 2 hours with him and know he’s a really cool guy. We just need to be accepting.

Also I got to share my testimony with an investigator, Marielle, about Ether 12:6. She says she doesn’t receive answers to her prayers so she won’t be baptized or come to church. We taught about the importance of having ACTIONS in faith, and how afterwards we receive the witness of our faith. I was able to share my testimony in Portuguese about that and I think she understood the gist of it. She didn’t end up taking any steps towards the church or baptism and I know that’s why she hasn’t received any witness of faith, or answers. Also she expects big answers and more often than not, we receive answers in small and simple things, and confirmation is always small.

Elder Galdino is a really nice Elder, and we have had the opportunity to teach people and I can tell he´s really good. It’s just frustrating not being able to understand or really contribute. I’m sure I will have more to tell in the future. I think he thinks my understanding is better than it really is because I always just smile and nod when he says things and I guess it’s always the right response. Smiling and nodding, I do quite a bit of that here!  I really miss my District from the CTM, I love them so much and they really helped me. Not having them here makes it even more difficult. 

Here in Brazil, or at least from what I can tell, they’re super focused on baptism but the recent converts all just fall away again which is sad to see and so different from the way I always thought of the church back home.

Overall, it’s SO COOL to be in a different country and seeing how other people live. It’s crazy and makes me so much more grateful for what I had back home.

Photos? My computer couldn’t read the SIM card and my USB port is not working so my companion is sending them from his to mine and then I will forward them to you... but it’s taking forever.  (We still couldn’t get it to work, so Carson will hope for a better computer next week where he can upload the photos.) 

                                                                                                    Love you!  Elder Sork

Wednesday, October 4, 2017

Elder Sork has arrived!

We got word today from the Joao Pessoa Mission's executive secretary that Elder Sork has arrived to the mission home safe and sound.  Included with this short communication was this picture with his Mission President and the President's wife:

He is smiling - that is a good sign.  We probably will not hear from him for at least a week.  I am extremely anxious to hear about his new area, his training companion and how his travels went.  Eric and I met a friend while in Hawaii from Joao Pessoa.  He is the nicest guy.  We found him working at a Brazilian food truck.  He is here to surf the big waves for a few months before he returns home.  The food truck is his part time job.  He goes back to Joao Pessoa in February.  We told him to keep an eye out for Carson when he goes back and if he sees any young men in white shirts and ties to be nice to them and listen to what they have to say.  He recorded the following video message for us welcoming Carson to his country:

We had traveled to this food truck in honor of Carson's first day in the mission field - what a small world!