Wednesday, May 31, 2006

First Christmas Away From Home

I had been in the mission field about a month when Christmas came rolling around. It didn't feel like it as walked drenched in sweat every day and no snow within thousands of miles. My health was fairly well for not being accustomed to another country. On Christmas day, however, we went to a members house to eat lunch with them. On the way I started to get a bad headache, and the sun wasn't helping much. I lost my appetite (which was bad because I didn’t want the family to think I didn’t like the food). They asked why I wasn’t eating and I told them I didn’t feel well. I laid on the couch and slept for a while. Elder Oliveira thought it was a little weird that I slept on their couch in the middle of the day. We had Dona Maria’s son pick us up and take us back to our apartment. That night we used her phone to call our families. Only on Christmas and Mothers Day were we allowed to call home. (And once on Fathers Day.) It was good to talk with them, but I had a sever fever and the chills. My body ached. What a way to spend Christmas Day. Away from my family and sick.

Tuesday, May 30, 2006

A Little American Help

In my first area I felt so helpless at times. It definitely takes a while to learn thousands of words and conjugate them correctly. Many things said to me was just jiberish. But there was a time when I pulled my weight. There was a particular time when my trainer, Elder Oliveira was struggling. You could see it on his face. He tried to contact our mission president but he was in the other state that was in our mission for conferences. Elder Oliveira finally said to me that he needed to tell me his problems. So we proceeded to the church to sit down and rest. He went on and I will not reitterate what he said to maintain his own privacy. In the end, as best as I could due to my language barrier, gave him my council to what he should do. He told me that was like a ton of brick being relieved from his shoulders. He was glad I didn't make judgments against him. He said something to me I'll never forget. It was as clear to me as if he was speaking English. He said that I wasn't like many Americans, that I seemed almost Brazilian to him. That has been one of the greatest compliments I've ever recieved. Not that the Brazilian race is most superior, but that I could relate to another man as if we had been brother before. He is a great man and a great missionary.

Friday, May 26, 2006

Fortaleza's Coast

From here on out I may not stay very chronological in my story telling. I had nine areas and many companions along the way, so when I begin a story, I'll state what area the occurance took place and with what companion.
The beaches in Fortaleza are some of the most beautiful. I was told it was in the top 10 amongst the world's beaches. Some of their litoral is covered by sand dunes. We had a blast jumping of the dunes and landing in the soft dune slopes on our other P-days. I once launched off one dune like superman. Not having my center of gravity positioned correctly, I went topside down and landed face first in to the dune. I tried to stop my self with my arms but they just sunk in to the lightly wind blown dune. We would also play soccer, the most popular sport in all Brazil. The Brazilians were skilled, but us Americans were aggressive. Another sport, not popular, but accessable is sand boarding. Much like snow boarding but on the sand. The worst part of all the fun was going home and the sunburn when I forgot my sunscreen.

Thursday, May 25, 2006


RIIIIIIIIIIIIIIING!!! At 6:30 my alarm went off, for that is when we are suppose to get up as missionaries to start our day. I looked over at Elder Oliveira. He laid as still as a potato bug all rolled up. I thought we might be able to sleep in on P-days, but I wasn't sure. P-days are our Preparation days when we do our shopping, laundry, write letters, whatever. I laid back down and 30 minutes later I shot up in bed thinking I overslept. But Elder Oliveira still lied so soundly. I got up any way to start my day and unpack. Later, a lady that lived above us named Dona Maria. I couldn't understand much, but I did understand it when she said I couldn't understand anything. That made me a little indignant because I understood that! Oh well, I'm sure I'd get more of it. Some other Elders visited us. One Elder Oliveira's friend, and the other a new American like myself. He really felt for me and wish he could help the culture shock I was going through. Good man, Elder Wagstaff. We went shopping and I didn't know what to buy. Everything was so new. So I bought almost the same things Elder Oliveira bought. Silly me. The end of the day we went to an intergration with the ward members. I was excited...and nervous. It was fun to get a warm welcome from them too. The next two months would be for my learning in an area called Monte Castelo, or Castle Mountain.

Wednesday, May 24, 2006

Elder Rinaldo Oliveira

I eventually ran into my companion and trainer, Elder Oliveira. As soon as he saw me he gave me a big hug. I thought that it was neat that made an effort to give a warm welcome to a stranger. He later told me that when he was at the Mission Office, he ran into a missionary named Elder Domingues. He thought that's who he was suppose to train and gave him a big hug. Elder Domingues said that his trainer was suppose to be someone else. Confused he went back to the assistants and asked who he was suppose to train. They showed him it was Elder Deming. I had a good laugh about that. At the bus stop to go to our area, many of the missionaries were also gathered there. There was one bus that many of them had to take and they loaded all of their luggage onto it. It got so full it started to leave, and stop, leave, and stop. My buddy Elder Hellstrom almost got left behind. Elder Oliveira and I bust up laughing as he yelled, "Companheiro!" which means companion. We caught our bus and headed to the area. Apparently we got off at the wrong stop and walked all over the place before finding our apartment building. Elder Oliveira was new to the area so he got lost. I must have lost 5 pounds that night lugging my luggage around. Sweat was dripping from my face like a water fall. We finally found our building, up to the forth floor, and collapsed on the bed. Goodnight.

Fortaleza: The Fortress

So we arrived in Fortaleza, which is portuguese for fortress or stronghold, after getting up at 3:00 am so that would we be at the airport on time. I guess it's kind of difficult and takes time to round up 60 or so missionaries and get them set off to the right places. As we arrived, the beaches looked wonderful. To bad missionaries are not suppose to go swimming. It was very warm and colorful. Our mission president was there waiting with his assistants as well as his wife. President Arias is Argentine and his wife is from Uraguay. We had dinner and a meeting at their house and we recieved a lot of instructions. To bad I didn't understand all of it since he was talking in Portuguese most of the time. He showed us pictures of our trainers. Mine was a brazilian with a scary look on his face. What was I getting into? I would soon find out that we would later become the best of friends. (I suppose he's just not very photogenic.) We went to the mission home to retrieve our luggage and meet our trainers. While we were there, I saw my first cockroach ever. The next two years would prove my war with them.

Tuesday, May 23, 2006

Sao Paulo MTC

Upon arrival that moring after flying all night, we arrived in Sao Paulo. The trees and vegitation were beautiful, such tropical foliage I had never seen before. I was still nervous, not knowing how to talk in Portuguese. I recall while on the plane, the fight attendent asked if we wanted chicken or beef, but it was in Portuguese. I must have looked dumbfounded with my blank response because she laughed and said, "You guys are going to be in trouble." She didn't have to rub it in. But regardless, that's how I felt. At least I got through customes in English and there was a gentleman holding a sign for us missionaries. On the bus and to the MTC we went. Our month there was an all new experience for me. The food was so different. No large breakfasts like I was use to. Mostly beans and rice for lunch and dinner. Weird salads, but delicious tropical fruit drinks. (Now I miss those exotic foods.) The letters we were given to write home were also new. It looked like a large postcard that you write in, then fold it in half and glue the edges. We did get the chance to unite ourselves with our fellow brazilian bretheren. Most were really good to help us learn the language. We pick up on a game from one of our Provo MTC instructors, and my group of missionaries that I arrived with had the whole Sao Paulo MTC playing it. After our month of courses and what not, it was time to send us to the field. Fortaleza, here we come.

Missionary Training Center (MTC)

This post isn't quite about Brazil nor Fortaleza but I thought I would give you some background to my experiences on the mission. As members of the church, when the young men reach 19 years of age we can submit an application to serve a mission. When that is complete, after a few weeks, we get our "call" to where we will serve. They send a nice large packet full of info in the mail, the cover letter describing where we are sent. It's the more exciting, anxiety rich time of it all. I was called to Fortaleza. My family all made bets on where I was going to go. My brother hit the nail on the head, placing his bet on Brazil. Within a few months I was to buy all my suplies and report at the Missionary Training Center, or MTC, in Provo, Utah. Many missionaries are from out of state and fly there, but since I lived south of Provo 10 miles, it was hardly leaving home for me. In fact, my mom worked right across the street at the BYU Health Center. My time there was excellent, they fed us plenty. I was in the program that was testing out the new MTC in Sao Paulo, Brazil. We spent one month in Provo and one month in Sao Paulo for training before I went to Fortaleza. I was so nervous to go to Sao Paulo because I hardly learned the Portuguese language. It was also my first time on a plan. That was awesome. We said our goodbye's at the airport to our family and headed off. It was the last time I would see them for two years. The last time I would speak to them for months. On my way to become a stranger in a strange land.

Monday, May 22, 2006


In this blog I wish to talk about some of the experiences I had while serving a mission for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints. I was called to serve in the Brazil Fortaleza Mission from Sept. 22, 1999 to Oct. 10, 2001. Fortaleza is the capital of the state Ceara located on the north east coast of Brazil. During the two years I spent there I spent time in several locations of our mission boundaries and had many mission companions, as we were to stay in pairs as missionaries. Since I have returned, I am married to a wonderful woman who loves me dearly and I am currently attending school at UVSC to graduate soon with a Earth Science Education degree. I work with my professors and at 10X Media where I assist real estate agents.