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

Friday, February 3, 2012

YESSSSSS!!!!!!!! TICA GOT BAPTIZED!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Dear Family,                                                                      January 30, 2012

Okay, here it comes, I can't explain it all because I don't have time but here's the real short version
of the story.  Okay, Tica and her friend, Tereza found the church in 2003 and Tereza was baptized and served a  mission.  Tica had doubts and was never baptized.  The two of them have stayed close friends these past 10 years.  Tica has been recieving the missionaries for the past 10 years but she has never felt that baptism was something that she needed.  And I don't think bad of any missionaries that gave up on her (we did too, but were always prompted to go back, so we did as we were told).  We taught her at least four times a week for the past 12 weeks.  She would always tell us about some experience she had with prayer or the scriptures or a dream.  We would say, "So, you got your answer, right??"  She would always tell us she wasn't sure and then she would bring up doubts about things she had read on the internet and everytime we would say, " don't trust the internet, trust God; he'll let you know what's right!"  We had mostly given up on her but the other day Elder Santos asked her to pray about baptism.  We had been really hard on her that lesson (I felt kinda bad cause I almost made her cry from guilt, with some scriptures) and I think she was feeling kinda humbled (not because of our words but the things we read to her).  Anyways, we came back the next day and asked if she had prayed.  She said she had..."And?"...she said she'd give us an answer the next day.  We said fine and we came back the next day and she told us about what happened.  She said she prayed and felt inspired to read in the bible and she opened up to Chapter 49 of Isaiah.  It's way better in Portuguese, but in essence it was God saying to Tica, "I've given you more answers than you need and I've done everything I can; it's useless to go on like this, just get baptized already!"  So, she finally took that as her answer.  TEN YEARS!  She has been an investigator for ten years, and it was finally the right time...she was finally ready to follow Jesus Christ!  Anyway, I'm so happy and so grateful  that I was able to be a part of it.  I'm so glad that God was able to use me to bless the lives of one of his Daughters.  He definitely loves her a lot because  he wouldn't let us give up on her.  I can't tell you guys how happy I am for her.  If I don't baptize another person on my mission I will still feel satisfied because she really means that much to me.  Sorry about all the errors.  I typed this real fast. 

Also, Elder Oliviera Santos left which was really sad for me.  I love that guy, and I may never see him again.  He's in Fortaleza and goes home next transfer.  My next companion will be Elder Padula, also a Brazilian.  WHOOOHOOOO!!!!! It helps a ton to have  Brazilians for companions.  Also, I'm starting to get accepted by the people here.  Irma Linda said I'm family now and she calls me son.  And Neidi and Daiane call themselves, "minhas maes Brasilieras", my Brazilian mothers.  It's funny cause they say they've fed me since before I could talk (which is true because when I got here I couldn't speak to them).  So, that is super cool for me.  I think I've almost completely left my American ways of doing things, and I'm adjusting to the culture really well. 

Yeah well, this week was awesome and sad and happy, but I mean, I'm a missionary, I guess that's what it's all about. 

Love you all!
Elder Swinney

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

"Crazy Bus"

Hello Everyone,                                                                      January 23, 2012

This week definitely wasn't quite as awesome as the past two weeks; we went back to our usual number of investigators at church, zero.  And stuff is still hard with Tica.  We don't teach her anymore but we visit her almost every day to see how her reading is going and ask if she's ready to get baptized yet, but she never is.  I hope that before I leave Trindade I will get to see her baptism.  We aren't sure what happened to Dora's family, that awesome family we found last week.  They weren't there at church and our other investigator avoided us all this week and wasn't at church either, so that was sad. 

Something that I thought you'd find funny; the buses here are crazy!  They almost run people over and run red lights and the likes.  So, we were on the bus in Juaziero and I started singing real soft to myself, "crazy bus, crazy bus, ridin' on a crazy bus", that stupid song that DW sings from Arthur.

We had interviews with the Pres. in Juaziero on Friday and that was cool cause I hardly get to see that guy!  Plus Juaziero got a real chapel.  It is beautiful!  I really wish Trindade had a chapel but we just meet in a cute little tiny building with a couple of rooms.  Anyway, traveling and stuff this week was really tiring and we went hiking today so it's kinda bad but I'm starting the week off totally beat.  We'll see how that goes. 

Also, I'm losing my trainer this week and getting a new guy next week, which is really sad for me.  My trainer is awesome!  But, I'm hoping the next fella is a brazillian times better.   ;)  Mom, you can give that pun to Paul for me.

Oh, I almost forgot!  I got my first death threat this week!  It was awesome.  We were walking through "Narnia" (this little tiny jungle next to Trindade) and this man rode up on his motorcycle yelling to me and my 3 Brazillians, "You Americans come here to take our land!  You think you're real cute with your shirt and tie.  If you ever come back here, I'll kill you!"  But, it sounded more like this, "Americanos vem aqui para robo nossa terra, Voces sao bonitinhos..."  and it would have been real scary but he was just a drunken little man, not a killer.  So, my companion started to walk toward him and he hopped back on his mototcycle real fast and rode away.  It was actually kinda funny.

Anyways, love you guys like there aint no tomorrow.
Elder Swinney

Monday, January 16, 2012

January 16, 2012

Oi Todos!

Sounds like it's pretty dry there.  I'm getting really used to it being humid and hot all the time here.  I applaud the kids for their missionary work.  That is awesome!

This week was awesome too!  We had six investigators at church on Sunday, which is better than our past few weeks (0,0,2,0) and we found a really awesome family.  The mom told us she is looking for a church that  will be good for kids...and also, they can read so that's super cool.  She was the only one there at church but she said she liked it and we've got an appointment to go back tomorrow (ha, Pedro, her son, just came into the internet cafe here).  Yeah, so, I'm really excited for her and her family.  We had to drop Tica; she already knows everything, but she just decided to read the Book of Mormon, so we'll check up on her reading, but we have nothing more to teach her.  This week was slow but the prospect for next week is very promising.  Hope all is well for you guys back home. 

Elder Swinney

Monday, January 9, 2012

Elder Swinney is Fluent!!!

Dear Family,                                                                               January 9, 2012

I guess I'm fluent now!  I had a lot of compliments this week from everyone.  One investigator even said that my accent is less strong than my Brazilian companion, and I asked some kids to guess where I was from, and they said, Sao Paulo, Curritiba, and Rio Grande, do sul!  Ha!  And then to top it all off, two days ago Elder S. Rebierto said to me "four months and you're already fluent and most elders take 6 months."  I said, "I'm fluent?"  He said I speak better Portuguese than some guys that have been out a year.  My trainer said to me this week, "Hey, here in Trindade I can't teach you all the techniques and scriptures you'll need (because the people here are very simple and we teach very simply) and for this I'm sorry, but I'm glad that I could help you to speak fluently".

 Sorry if it sounds like I'm bragging, I'm not.  I had tons of help from the Lord, the members, my dictionary, and my trainer.  It's just that these past 2 months were without a doubt the absolute hardest, loneliest, and most depressing months of my entire life.  And I am so happy that with the help of the Lord and the love from you guys back home I made it over the first of my real hard trials in the mission.  So, thank you everyone.