I'm currently in an area called Educandário, and more than a fourth of our area is the combined space of a nature reserve and a large Jewish cemetery. Life in general is good, and I find myself laughing harder and more often than I ever have in the rest of my mission. That has to be a good sign.
- I had a culture collision at a member's house in my last area. Mickey Mouse said "Puxa vida!" The members there still don't understand why it was so funny to me. I tried to think of a similar example, but realized that anything I said in English wouldn't make sense to them. So I just reminded them that where I came from, Mickey Mouse doesn't speak Portuguese.
- SOMEone taught one of my companions that obnoxious game of punching people every time she saw a Volkswagen Beatle. This game is NOT fun in Brazil because those cars are EVERYWHERE! So in order to take control of the situation, I told her we would pick a color and only hit each other for that color. I don't recommend green because you can't tell if it's green or not until you get close to it. I told her that pink would be our Holy Grail and would be worth three shots right in the arm.
- The dog inexplicably licking the wall during the Family Home Evening in which we gave the First Vision is further evidence of two realities: 1.) If something can go wrong/ be funny/ happen at the worst possible moment, it will always be during the First Vision, and 2.) Dogs are the stupidest creatures on the planet.
- Things not to sing alone before nightly planning: "Thunder, Thunder, Thunder, Thundercats!"
- Things not to sing in unison after nightly planning: "Who you gonna call?--GHOSTBUSTERS!"
- "I'm not lazy, I'm selectively active!" Me.
- Moments in Sacrament Meeting when I shouldn't be laughing (roughly translated): "The prophet... um... Aziro... Tafti... Benson... said we should always read the Book of Mormon. And not just the Book of Mormon, all the standard works of the Church. The Church has 3 standard works. The Book of Mormon, the Bible, the Doctrine and Covenants... oh yeah, and the Pearl of Great Price. So we have 4 standard works." (And just so you don't think I'm making fun of this guy, he was alive and a member when Ezra Taft Benson was the prophet.) I like that member. He's super old and he roams through the halls after the first hour telling everyone to go to 26. Everyone knows that this means go to Sunday school, but nobody knows why he calls it 26. I think he might be on a secret mission that nobody else knows about, and 26 is a code word.
- There was a little boy in China who got his head stuck in his balcony. Everybody here in Brazil was laughing at him as he made international "head"lines.
- After a 20 minute conversation with a member about toilet paper and toilet paper-related disasters, I turned to my companion and said, "Somehow, I feel like that was all my fault."
- The most I have ever had to struggle NOT to laugh during the First Lesson: the five year old daughter was making out with the banister at the bottom of the stairs.
- Moments when when I realize I have no control over the Universe: same little girl ballet dancing in front of her mother during the First Vision.
- Fun with Portuguese: The word for the place where you put old people that about to die is called azilo, (think asylum.) The place where you put people in straight jackets is called hospicio (think hospice.)
- After the most recent reminder from Sister Pinho about not drying clothes, shoes, or socks in the microwave, I turned to my companion and said, "Sister, that one's about MEEE!"
- "What is it?--Ge willy gonkers, Batman?" --My companion. She meant Golly gee willikers.
- Things you never expect your companion to say: "I like the name Charles Dickens because if you say it wrong, it's Darles Chickens."
- This same companion got her arm stuck in a chair, and we still can't figure out exactly how she did it.
- We found the pink Volkswagen!!!
- In the spirit of elections, there was a clown that won an election here in São Paulo. His slogan? "Vote Tiririca, because it can't get any worse!" Also, he doesn't know how to read.
We were eating at a member's house yesterday, and she told us about how she got married at 13 when her husband was 17, and they literally started with nothing. She lives in a very comfortable home now, so looking around at everything she has and listening to her story almost gives a sort of whiplash. She talked about how she has already passed moments in her marriage where the only thing they had to eat was one packet of Ramen noodles for them and for their two children--so they ended up drinking a glass of water and going to bed hungry and letting their daughters split the Ramen.
She looked at us and said, "No one there in the Church knows this story because we had already passed through all of this before we ever joined the Church. But it happened, and I can tell you that if you want to get married, you have to be prepared. When problems set in, love it the first thing that goes out the window. And you have to decide that you're going to make it"
As I listened to her, I recognized a change in myself that took place without me even noticing it. Hearing what she said, I wasn't afraid of the future. I wasn't afraid of being married, or being poor, or passing through that same way. I've already been in that same situation dozens and dozens of times. I know what it means to go to bed hungry. I know what it means to have just received money that's supposed to last for two weeks, and it's gone in three days. I know what it feels like to pray for a miracle, and a bag of food shows up at the door. I know what that feels like. I'm not afraid of that experience anymore--I'm excited to start that part of my future. As crazy as that sounds--as crazy as that would've sounded to me at the beginning of my mission--I'm not afraid of the worst things that I can imagine anymore. I've seen for myself that they aren't the worst things that could happen.
My mission hasn't been easy. It has had its share of suffering and hardship. But it's like President Pinho always says, "the mission isn't just for the mission--the mission is for life." My mission has prepared me for life, and I'm ready to face that with courage and heart.
I know that God lives and He loves all of His children. I see Him reach out to them every day. I've seen Him reach out to me and teach me things that I never could have learned had I never served a mission. Jesus is the Christ. His Church is restored with a living prophet and the power of God again on the earth. I know that God wants to save all of His children, but the decision is ours to make if we will accept His help or not.
This is my testimony that I bear to the world, in the name of Jesus Christ, Amen.
I am, as ever, your humble servant and never-deviating friend,