With each passing week, my understanding of what a missionary is grows. I´m unsure how life is for missionaries in other countries, but here my typical day is as follows:
Wake up (always the only person to actually get out of bed at 6:30)
Exercize (typically me alone doing pushups, situps, lifting a makeshift dumbell - 2 liter bottles filled with water tied to a broomstick)
Eat breakfast (always bananas, yogurt, and wheat mashed together in breakfast paste - cheap and healthy)
Get ready for the day (take my blood thinning pills, take a shower in our one functioning bathroom, shave, get dressed)
Personal study. I practically only read the Livro de Mórmon, mouthing the words as I go along. 4 weeks in and I´m halfway through Alma. Helps my Portuguese incredibly!
Companionship study and plan the day. We always begin with singing our mission hymn (specific to Rio de Janeiro Norte mission), saying our mission motto, reciting the missionary purpose, and reading the last page of PMG. We then read some of the good ol´ white bible and then share what we learned in personal study. Then it´s off to planning the day. Our days here always start with lunch, meaning we typically don´t leave the house until 11. We look over our list of investigators, plop their names down in our planner along with what we´re going to teach them, then check if we have any activities going on at night.
Almoço (lunch). Most days, we eat in the house of a member. Every once in a while the member we have scheduled for that day doesn´t have time or whatnot, and instead gives us money. Since our house is outside of our area, we typically buy groceries and bring them to the chapel to cook there. Or go to a "self service" (type of restaurant). At a self service, you pay for one plate, are allowed to grab 2 pieces of meat, and then stack your plate one time as high as you want with rice, beans, salad, pasta, etc.
2:00 - 7:30 -
Proselyting. Our work is done in the morros (hills). If you look on google maps of Tijuca, you´ll see it´s a sliver of city between green mountains, with poor residencial areas climbing up into the green mountains. The poor are much more accepting of the gospel, so this is where we work. A lot of stair climbing and going up and down, trying to navigate the nameless roads and numberless houses. With little to no street lights and being a poor area, we typically leave the morros after it´s dark, for safety purposes.
7:30 - 9:00 -
Work with members. Many nights throughout the week we have activities at the church, be if volleyball/futbol, seminary, or some integration activity. If we have nothing going on at the chapel, we try to meet with members, be it our LMA, a counsellor, or another member. (We want to meet with the bishop, but he´s been out of town for three weeks)
Return home. We ride the onibus to get into the area and also to get out. Had we lived closer, we would walk. Our house will change soon, hopefully, into our area.
Now to answer some questions:
Q: Do you have a chapel?
A: Yes. A chapel, a cultural hall and stage, a baptismal font, classrooms, volleyball/futbol/basketball court outside... Just like home. Minus carpet.
Q: How do you send emails?
A: We go to what´s called a LAN House. Like an internet café, you pay per hour. People come to do work, email, play video games, and the like.
Q: What´s the food like?
A: Delicious. Pretty simple most of the time, every meal having white rice and black beans, and sometimes a pasta cooked with butter. Always some type of meat, be it chicken, beef, pork... No abnormal meats yet! A salad (just lettuce, people don´t seem to know what salad means here). Juice, like guarana (heavenly), goiyaba (heavenly), or grape. Often times soda as well (only have two types - guarana and coca cola). Then, last but not least, dessert. Ice cream, brigadeiro (amazing, look up a recipe at home), puddim (flan), cake, or something covered in sweetened condensed milk. Practically every dessert has sweetened condensed milk somewhere in the recipe.
Q: How is public transportation?
A: Well organized chaos. The metro is like your typical subway. The onibus, however? Granted, I don´t know what buses are like in the States, but here the bus is quite crazy. The bus only stops to pick people up who wave the bus down and when someone presses the "stop here" button. Yes, there are bus stops, but most people don´t use them. Also, the bus driver likes to go fast. Pretty thrilling.
Now with questions out of the way, here is the weekly report.
Elders Barnum and Vazquez (not Sanchez, typo last week) were a bit under the weather this week. Don´t know why; we eat the exact same things. Let´s just say Elder Barnum gained a new nickname - Barfnum. As for my companion and I, we´re perfectly fine. Lunches with members are always a treat, and since we don´t really have dinner here, you eat a lot at lunch. I think I know where Alex learned how to eat so fast. I don´t know what changed in my body, but I can pile down food at frightening speeds. When my companions finish their first plate, I´m finishing my third at the same time. I have manners, so it doesn´t look like I eat so fast. Thus, when my companions all reach for seconds at about the same time and I sit there not grabbing any more, members often say, "Come mais, Elder!", not knowing that I already completed three plates.
One of our lunches this week was with a professional chef, and my oh my was it amazing. She doesn´t eat meat, but knows that Elders generally don´t like salad, so she makes both salad and meat for us. She also knows we eat rice or pasta with every meal, so she decided to give us a break from that. We had some sort of sweet bean, carrot, and cucumber salad (delicious), what appeared to be baked potatoes that tasted slightly sweet (delicious), and cuscuz (delicious). Yet not only was the food divine, but the atmosphere was as well. Being a perfectionist myself, I appreciate seeing rooms in perfect order. She´s the exact same. Also, I love ambient music. During our meal, I heard soft ambient music in the background. My own little slice of heaven.
Now as for the title of this letter - finally - What is repentance?
Throughout my whole life, whenever I´ve heard of prophets or missionaries "crying repentance", I think of a man standing on a wooden crate shouting, "repent, ye sinners, for hellfire awaits your wicked souls!"...or something along those lines. I´ve come to learn while yes, this is one interpretation of "crying repentance", there is another form, one that I am to do here in Brazil. I am not to call out to people that they NEED to repent, but rather that they CAN repent! What a beautiful message that is! Most people, if not everyone, want a change in their lives. Some have difficulties with this, some wish they had that, others wonder why they are the way they are. My message to the world is that of Jesus Christ, that change is possible. Yes, we are to teach the gospel, the commandments, invite others to quit things in their lives and start doing difficult things, but there is an underlying purpose to is all. Change! We all can change, because of our Redeemer.