Saturday, December 1, 2012

Oi yoi yoi!

November 26, 2012

       This week was kinda rough but it was good.  We have few investigators these days, just a family that recently moved from the inland, and they're kinda hard to teach because they are mostly illiterate, but we're going slow with them and they are going to church, so that's good. 
      Oh yeah, and this week I saw Wildnelly, Jessica, and Gizeli (3 girls from my area five months ago) at a bus stop in my area.  We were walking home at about 9 o'clock and I saw three people running down the sidewalk yelling SWINNEY!!! It was really fun and really bizarre to see someone from an old area, but we just chatted for a moment.  They said they were thinking about me the other day and it felt so good to know that people remember me from other areas.  Sometimes as a missionary it feels like you just pass through and get replaced by the other Elders and no one even notices, but it was great to know that I had an impact on a family I didn't even baptize. 
      The house I'm living in here is kind of a shack.  It's a small apartment that has TONS of mosquitos, but at least I'm sharing it with someone that speaks English.  I was thinking of drinking mosquito repellent before I sleep each night so that my sweat is repellent and it keeps the mosquitos away all night.  Not really...I'm just aftraid of getting some kind of gnarly disease from all these mosquitos.  But I do ok, I just sleep with repellent on the floor next to me (I don't have a bed yet, just a mat on the floor, but the secretaries are working on that). 
      Anywho, me and my comp are looking at moving houses.  We want to live closer to the church and our investigators.  I hope it doesn't take too long, plus our neighbor said we'll get robbed on that side of town, but we are always over there at night time and no one tries to steal our scriptures.  So, I'm not too worried about it.  It mostly depends on whether the President will let us move. 
      Plus, we will be ushering in the most depressing month for a missionary.  December is the most backwards month there is.  It's supposed to be cold, we're supposed to be with family, the food should taste good and I should be singing at old people.  But here it's none of those things.  They just wrap lights around the palm trees and hope that it distracts from the open sewer smell! 

I love you all!!!

Elder Swinney

Monday, September 17, 2012

Adventures as a Trainer...

September 10, 2012

Things have gotten a lot better this week.  Elder Botelho and I had companion inventory and he said he realized that I have experience and there are some things about the mission that he can learn from me.

Things have gotten a lot better.  This week was the marriage and baptism of Raquel.  It was so awesome.  It was like my sister was getting married.  It's really cool how close you grow to people after enough time working with and teaching them.  The baptism was phenominal.  We had several investigators there and afterwards three people came up to us and asked,"Elders what do I need to do to be baptized?"   I was so happy.  the spirit there was so strong.  Even the non-members could feel it and they wanted more.  The most surprising to me was Raquel's mother-in-law who has had members in her house for the past 12 years and she never wanted to talk to the missionaries.  But, after the baptism she told us she wants to take the lessons and now we've got a baptismal date marked for the 27th.  I hope everything works out with her. 

We also have been working with a man named Israel...he's like 38 years old.  He is addicted to cocaine.  His family has abandoned him because of his problems.  His dad is a baptist pastor and he said to us that God would never speak to him.  He felt completely abandoned by everyone.  But we invited him to come to church with us anyway.  There he said he felt something.  He told us that he prayed and asked God that if he had no purpose in life that God could take his life, but if God had a purpose for him to make it known to him.  There at church he said that he got an answer to his question.  We marked a baptismal date for the 21st of this month.  So, as long as he doesn't have any serious drug or crime problems he will definately get baptized this month.   It's so awesome to find and teach people that receive such clear and powerful answers to prayer.  I hope that with ours and God's help he will be able to abandon his problems and change his life.  The hope that the gospel has brought into his life is incredible.  I'm so grateful to have seen that change in him. 

Well, things are going much better these days.  I'm feeling really extra focused in the work and that makes everything seem easier.  I love you all so much!!!!

Elder Swinney

Sunday, June 3, 2012

Senior Companion May 28, 2012

   I'm a senior companion now but I'm not training.  Here's a really funny story, a newer Brazilian elder called me a minute ago and asked me a series of really wierd questions, but I know him because he's in my district and I know he speaks English, so after I couldn't figure out what he wanted I said, "Elder Contrerra, what do you want?"  And he replied, "Elder Swinney?  Dude, I totally thought I was talking to a Brazilian."  Hahaha!  It was funny because we spent the whole day together but he still thought I was Brazilian cause I don't have a very strong accent. 
   Oh yeah, my new companion isn't Brazilian, not American, not even the Canadian in our mish...I got the one and only African!!!  He's from Cabo Verde, some islands off the west coast of Africa!  The word on the street is that he speaks English and Portuguese but we've only been together for about 4 hours and we've only spoken in Portuguese.
     So, my last companion went back to Sao Paulo today, kinda wierd.  But that kind of thing happens on the mission, you can only stay here for 2 years, I guess.
     We baptized a little girl this week and we're working with her mom to get her to go to church but she just started her new job and is never home...bummer.  And also our President is on this awesome campaign called Cresimento Real (real growth) and as part of it he told us to stop burning people so much.  It's a very northeast Brazilian thing to just tell it like it is.  For example, if someone says that they won't pray to know if our message is true we usually tell them that they will go to hell, which to what their understanding of what hell is they will in fact experience in the spirit world.  Well, President wants us to be nicer now, which is really easy for us Americans.  It was cool because I had a chance to put what he taught into practice the day after the conference (we had a conference with Elder Gadoy from the 70's...awesome) anyways, we had a drunken father who was yelling at us for trying to baptize his 3 kids.  Where we normally what have told him that he will be condemned for stopping the progress of his daughter, I stopped and marked an appointmnnet for another day to answer his questions.  He said no but we came the next day anyways; he was sober and it was awesome.  We taught him and at the end he apologized for all that he had said and he said we were completely welcome at his house anytime.  So, now we are working with him and we may baptize the whole family!  So, yeah, there's my little testimony that President is inspired and we should listen to him. 
     So we had a conference with Elder Godoy, and it was awesome.  He's 100% behind the Crecimento Real thing, and I believe it's going to change all of Brazil.  They are working to make the church here more like it is in America, which because of cultural differences is very hard to do.  They want to have the members more dedicated and more active.  They want the leadership of the church to be more on top of their callings.  And they want the missionary work to focus more on reactivation and family work.  So, our work got harder but it's also going to be way better here in Fortaleza.
     So, this update is scattereed and very unorganized but so it my mind right now...I've been traveling a lot and helping my new comp. so I'm sorry if it's hard to read/understand. 

    Love you guys,
    Elder Swinney

Sunday, April 29, 2012

April 24, 2012

I finally left Trindade!!!!!!!!!  Wooooooohooooooo!!!!!!! Yes, I traveled 15 hours to Fortaleza, it was awful, but I'm alive.  It was actually really sad to leave those members that I loved but I was so happy to get away from my last companion.  So now I'm in Castelao Fortaleza with the rest of the world.  I feel like I'm in another country....again.  But, I live with two other Americans and they seem super cool; a guy from Northern California and a guy from Neveda.  My new comp. is Elder Batista (yes, another Brazilian from Sao Paulo) but we are gonna tear this place up and baptize the whole world, so there is nothing to worry about. 

You guys are awesome and I love you so  much!!!

Love Elder Swinney

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

New Companion...Brazilian, of Course!

Dear  Family,                                                                                                                                                              Well, you guys have been to one more mission conference than I have (we don't really get invited to things down here) but, that's cool.  I'm sure I'll see stuff like that when I get to Fortaleza.     Super cool story about Carly.  I'm sad I couldn't be there to see it all happen.
     Well, this week Elder Padula and Elder R. Santos returned up north to Fortaleza (the mysterious land of my mission that I have yet to set foot in) and my new companion will be Elder Porcina, another Sao Paulino.  All of my companions have been from Sao Paulo so far.  I've heard really good things about him so hopefully this transfer will be good.  I'm still in Trindade, and that's slightly sad for me but it should pass quickly and then I'll get to go be a missionary in the city, wooo!
     It was super hot this week, but that's kinda normal.  I made a lasagne at Tica's house and that was fun.
     Work here is really slow but I'm still running on the goodness of Lucileide, our last baptism.  She's awesome and I know she'll do well.
     Well, sorry about the dull email but that's about it.  I'm sure I'll have more to tell about my new companion when I meet him tomorrow in Juaziero.

Tchao, um abraco
Elder Swinney

Wednesday, February 29, 2012

E-mail to Mom in Louisiana for Katie's Baptism

Dear Mom,

You asked about my mission president.  He is cool but it's kinda sad because he's very much a business man and conducts the mission like a business.  All the other missionaries that had President Beck complain that President Souza is much colder.  So, it makes it kinda hard to hear everyone complain about the new President and still be positive about him.  But, I'm trying my best and yes, I've only seen him about 5 times.

I'm super happy you guys got the package off.  I can't wait to get all that stuff, moon balls, pictures...the elders will laugh about the baby wipes but that's ok, they'll be healous when we run out of water.  And also, Elder Padula says he can pay the $40; it's like R$80 in Brazilian money (note from mom: this elder wants me to send him Crest White Strips because you can't buy them in's important for an elder to have white teeth). 

Sorry you guys have to do all that traveling.  We did over 10 hours this week going to Araripina and Juaziero and stuff, but we had a zone conference there.  They talked about health and stuff.  It was actually super boring and kinda a waste of 3 days (due to traveling and the likes).

Okay, well, that's about it for this week.  Love you tons, mom!!!!!

                    Elder Swinney

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

3 Investigators at Church!!!

Well, Tica is great but she is also kind of a stumbling block in the work.  Everyone wants to get baptized her way and it's making stuff hard.  Also, happy birthday to Katie!

Okay, well this week was very strange.  We had 3 investigators that I was sure would be easy baptisms (this is to say we wouldn't have to push them into the font), 3 girls that were loving the branch, they're teachers and they were really close to baptism, but this week one of them wasn't home the 8 times we passed and then she wasn't in church.  The other girl said she needed more time like Tica (worst excuse I've ever heard).  The third girl said she'd be at church but wasn't so we'll have to talk to her.  But that's not the strange part, get a load of this, we had 6 investigators at church.  Here are their backgrounds.  First,  a woman that said the church wasn't bad but that it wasn't true.  She likes the missionaries but doesn't want anything to do with the church.  Well, she was at church on Sunday.  Second, third and fourth, a woman and her kids from Araipina, a town about an hour outside Trindade that we visit every Friday cause we have members there.  Anyway, we passed there this Friday to invite this woman and her kids to church (they are inactive members and haven't been for several years).  We invited her and she said, "thanks for the invitation but I will never go to church again".  After some talking we extended the invitation again and left.  Well, her and her two kids were there at church on Sunday.  Five and six, a couple with several kids that are members of the church, and the first time we ever met the husband about a month ago, we entered the house and he called his daughter into another room and started hitting her with a wooden bar.  He got so mad at her for letting the missionaries into the house that he started beating her.  Well, he was pretty drunk, so some of her brothers pulled him back and the girl left the house.  We left since we were mostly the problem and we had never been back to that house until this week.  We were invited by a member of the ward over there.  I was afraid something bad would happen again but he just quietly listened.  It was really bad missionary work on my part because while we were teaching him the whole time I was wanting to get up and smash my chair over his head.  I was still very angry at him for the way he treated his daughter but I learned to have faith that people can change because he and his wife were there at church on Sunday.  So, that's what I mean by this week was strange.  I learned to trust that God can change anyone. 

HAHA!  And also I was talking to an investigator that the other elders are teaching and I told her I was from the United States.  She replied, "oh", and I said California.  She said "is that close to Sao Paulo?"  I said the United States.  She guessed, "Rio?"  I said no, I'm not from Brazil.  Yeah, so that just goes to show my Portuguese must be kinda good, and also she is really uneducated.  Everyone knows where the United States is. 

Also, the Branch President was trying to speak to me in English.  He said, ", are Flowers?"  I didn't know what to say to that so I asked him to just speak in Portuguese.

Last thing that was wierd this week...on our way here to the internet cafe we turned the corner next to the big Catholic church and became the head of a funeral procession.  It was perfect timing so that everyone was just behind us and followed us for 3 blocks.  It was kind of wierd but mostly kinda funny.

Also, yes the music is acapella.  I'm the unofficial music conductor guy...I do it most weeks.  The branch president conducts.  The priests pass and I think we've got like 100 active members and something like 300 actual members.

I love all of you,
Elder Swinney