Tuesday, January 26, 2010

January 26, 2010

Well, are y'all excited to find out where I got transferred to? It's basically like I got a new mission call........I got sent to the Azores!!!!! I'm on the island Terceira in and area called Praia da Vitória! It is way awesome! Last Monday, we got our transfer calls. As I said in my last letter, I was pretty sure that both me and Elder Ronson would be staying. But nope, we got the calls, and they told me that I would be going to the Azores. I had to pack my bags in about 3 hours, and leave my area that same day to go spend the night at the mission office. Then the next day, they sent me on a 2 hour flight with another Elder going to the same island. I got here, and met my new companion. His name is Elder da Costa. He is from Portugal, but is actually from the boundaries of the Porto Mission. He is way cool. Definitely the coolest portuguese person that I have met so far. He actually just seems like he is American, but he speaks portuguese perfectly. This is his 3rd transfer on the mission, so I am actually older than him and am now the senior comp. We live in this way huge house! 3 stories! Supposedly it's the best house in the entire mission. It has a dishwasher, and a dryer! And three toilets! We are actually without a fridge right now, because Elder da Costa broke it before I got here. We use the fridge at the chapel. We live there with 2 other Elders. Elder Dastrup, from Lindon, Utah (he says he doesn't know any of the Hills.) And Elder Barbosa, from Cape Verde. Elder Dastrup is one transfer behind me. He was in the MTC with me for 3 weeks before I left, so I knew him before getting here. He is probably the hardest working missionary in the entire mission. He is awesome and is always way excited about the work. He actually trained Elder da Costa 2 tranfers ago. That's how hard of a worker he is, he trained a native in his 3rd transfer. He is now training Elder Barbosa, who just arrived into the mission this week. He is cool too. We all live in the same house, but the other 2 Elders work in another area called Lajes. Terceira is a lot different than Portugal. I am basically re-learning how to understand portuguese. The accent here is ridiculous, and way hard for me to understand. It is probably the equivalent of a really strong southern accent in the states. But I am already sort of getting used to it. Luckily, Elder da Costa speaks portuguese perfectly, so no worries. It's really cool having a companion that doesn't have any language difficulties. He is a very effective teacher because of it. He is awesome. Although I am the senior comp, it sort of feels like am getting re-trained. It's good though. Elder da Costa is a really hard worker as well. I am learning a lot. We had 28 lessons this week! That is the most I have had on my entire mission so far. The people here are really, really, really Catholic. It's supposed to be one of the harder areas, but we are doing better, at least lesson wise than most of the areas in the mission. It's definitely because Elder da Costa and Dastrup tore it up the last couple of transfers and found tons of investigators. But me and Elder da Costa found some this week as well. We actually just had a baptism on Saturday. It was a guy named Chris. On Terceira, I think you guys already know, but there is a US Air Force Base, supposedly one of the biggest in the world. So there are a lot of Americans here. Chris is an American from North Carolina. He is in the Air Force. They found him only about 2 weeks ago. He is kinda nerdy, but one of the coolest guys I have met on my mission so far. He is way funny. He quit drinking and smoking and was baptized, all in about 2 weeks. The baptism was awesome. We have other investigators that we have found, and others that they already had. Almost all have problems with the word of wisdom and the law of chastity, mostly just because they live together without being married. It is hard to get them to progress. It is really crazy being here in this area. My trainer, Elder Markarian told me all about this area. He served here for about 4 tranfers about a year ago. (By the way, he went home this transfer.) Also, my greeny-breaker, Elder Dean served here right before me and him became companions. So I have heard all kinds of awesome stuff about the area. We have 2 branches here. There is the Portuguese branch or Praia-Lajes branch, and the American branch, or the Air Base 4 branch. There aren't very many active portuguese members. There were probably only about 20 portuguese people at church this week. Elder da Costa is the counselor of the branch presidency. There are a lot more active american members. It is cool being around american people. I'll admit it makes me a little bit trunky, haha. We ate at an American member's house yesterday. It was so good! Basically my first american food in 7 months! They also have rootbeer here! Anyway, I am almost out of time, so I will have to tell you more next week. It was good to hear from you. I love you all! Tchauzinhos!

Elder Walker

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

January 18

Dear Fam,
Everything is still going well this week. We didn't have quite as much success this week. We had some other meetings and other stuff we had to do, so we didn't have as much time for actual proselyting. I am still working to try harder. Sometimes I feel a little bit lazy and tired. It's a little hard to ALWAYS work hard. But I am trying and still learning.

This week I learned that we need to follow up with investigators a lot more. Meaning when we leave commitments such as reading in the Book of Mormon and stuff, we need to make sure that they are doing it. Basically none of our investigators are progressing right now. We can't seem to get any of them to progress. A lot of them are hard to even meet with. And it's hard to follow up and mark appointments with them when at the same time you don't want to annoy them. It's annoying though. I guess it might just be a part of culture. I have no idea. But it is really hard to meet with people enough.

Our investigator Margarita is sort of progressing, little by little. She has read in the Book of Mormon. She only wants us coming by twice a week and when we leave her invites, she says "if I want to, I will." It is good that she is honest. She doesn't "beat around the bush." If she didn't read or pray, she tells us. She REALLY does not like to be told what to do. I am surprised she even lets us come by at all. Not even she really knows. I am sure it is the Spirit. She was basically forced to pray and do stuff in the Catholic church when she was growing up, back when Portugal had a communist government. She hasn't prayed yet, but we are trying to teach her the importance of it. Anyway, she is probably our best bet for a baptism. Everyone else is really flaky.

We actually got a couple new investigators yesterday. The sister missionaries in a different area gave us some referalls. They were teaching their landlord and her husband, who actually live in our area, and they invited them to go to church in their area. They just showed up at our church yesterday. They are cool people. They are probably about your age, mom and dad. They are Portuguese, and of course Catholic. Their names are Conceição and Luís. They are really interested in our beliefs and want to learn more. They said they won't move churches, like everyone else. But I have a good feeling about them. So we will be working with them this week.

So it is good to hear that Uncle Richard is doing better. I wasn't too worried. I was pretty sure he would make it. That is really good that he is doing ok.

That is cool that you are doing High School Musical. I'm sure all those kids will love it. They are probably the right age that High School Musical came out when they were kids. I'm sure it will be good. I am just glad I don't have to help build the set! YES!!!

So I finally got a letter from David and found out where he is going! Chile! That is so rad! I am way excited for him. He actually took Spanish from about 7th grade all the way through 12th. It think when he was a senior, he was in Spanish 4 or something, haha. That will be a huge advantage for him. He can already speak it quite well. Do you know if there is an MTC there or not? I don't know if he is going to the Provo MTC or not. I want to write him a letter while he is there. Do you think you could send me the Provo MTC address?

So I actually don't know exactly what happened in Haiti. There was an earthquake and a tsunami, right? I didn't get all the details, seeing as we don't ever get the news. I did think about Sonny right away when I heard though. I did hear that our church was one of the first help aids there, of course.

Well, it sounds like the fam is doing really well at home. Everything is going great here. Oh! By the way, we get our transfer calls today. I have no idea if I am staying or not. Supposedly there are a lot of changes going on this transfer. Elder Ronson and I both think that we are staying. But we don't really know. So, I will know by the end of the day, and y'all won't know until the end of the week.

I don't know what else to write. Thanks for the email, and the prayers. The shirts are good mom. The collars are still a little stiff, especially since we hang dry our clothes. But they are good. Well, I love you all. I will try to send some pictures. I am still not sure if this computer will let me. Tchau!

Elder Walker

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

January 3, 2010

Hello fam. This week was pretty tough. A lot went wrong. We didn't have a whole lot of success, at least with our numbers. We only taught 6 lessons all together. I have never seen so little success my entire mission so far. We counted all of the lessons that fell through this week, and we had 16 lessons fall through! Meaning we call people and set lessons up with them, and then either pass by there house when they tell us that we can but they are not home, or we call them to confirm and they tell us to come by some other day. People do that a lot here. It's really frustrating. I don't get it. We seriously call people the day before, or even the day of, and we still show up and they are not home. It's like they tell us they will be home, but they know they won't. Or else they forget right when they hang up the phone. Obviously there are a lot that don't want to talk to us. But they won't straight up tell us no.

I think this week was especially bad, because of New Years. Their parties here for New Years are a lot bigger than in the states. They party all night on New Year's Eve, and then have another party the next day, and maybe more, we don't know.

So we did a TON of door knocking this week. We had 22 hours of finding time this week. We got 27 phone numbers or addresses. Hopefully some of these people start turning into actual investigators. We actually did get 4 new investigators this week.

We taught a guy named Edgar. He seems pretty cool. We still have only taught him once, so we don't really know. But he said he will read the Book of Mormon and pray. I think he is really curious about the book, but I am not sure if he will pray. That seems to be hard for a lot of people.

Anyway, so this week was alright. I think I learned a lot. I am getting better at knowing what to say when we contact people and stuff. Especially knocking, since we do it so much.

It sounds like the family is doing really good. Especially this time of the year. The cabin is always my favorite part of the entire year. I really missed out, huh?

Supposedly, we were allowed to stay up until midnight on New Year's Eve, but nobody told us, so we went to bed, and woke up and it was 2010. It's pretty crazy that it has already been more than a year since I got my mission call. About 4 more months and I will have been on the mission for a year. It's crazy, you don't really understand when everyone says that time flies on the mission, until you are actually out serving a mission. It really is going by fast.

It has almost been a year since Uncle Matt died, huh? That's pretty crazy. I still miss him. But it is really awesome being out on the mission, and every day realizing a learning more and more and knowing that we will definitely see him again. My testimony is growing all the time.

That's too bad to hear about Uncle Richard, but I think he is going to get better. He is in my prayers, as are all of you.

I don't really know what else to write. Today is really warm. It was pouring rain this morning. The weather changed like always. It really does remind me of Utah weather. We had to walk to this place to do internet after it rained, because the other place that we usually do it at was closed. We had to walk on this dirt path that was completely muddy because of the rain. So now my shoes and pants are covered in mud. It's ok though, I need to get these pants dry cleaned anyways.

The language is still coming really well. Its crazy, sometimes we will be talking to people, and I will forget that I am not speaking english. We have this member that likes to tell us a lot of stories, and I am surprised to find myself being able to imagine the scene of the story in my head, instead of trying really, really hard to understand. There are still a lot of people that I have trouble understanding. But the people that speak well and clearly, sometimes I almost understand everything they say. I have been really blessed with being able to speak.

So, everything is still going well. I am thinking this week is going to be a lot better, since everyone is back to normal after the holidays. Plus, we have talked to a ton of people. I am pretty sure at least some will turn into investigators.

Well, I love you all. Stay happy, and do what's right. If you are doing what's right, you have that promise. Thanks for your prayers and emails and packages. Abraços, beijinhos, tchau, tchau, sim, sim, fica bem, yah, tchau, abraços, até amanhã, yah, ok, tchau, tchau. (That is really how they say goodbye on the phone. They say the same stuff over and over for like 20 seconds. Usually we just hang up.) I love you!

Elder Walker

January 10, 2010

Wow! It was really great to hear from y'all this week. It sounds like everything is going great. It is crazy to hear about the family all growing up. I can't believe Hannah and Steve are almost graduating. Max, the little kid me and Sonny used to pick on is growing and his voice probably changed already. All of my brothers and sisters are getting married and having kids and I am out on my mission. It is crazy growing up. I still get weirded out sometimes when I stop and think, "wait, I'm on my mission."

Anyways, this week was better. A LOT better. We didn't knock quite so many doors, and actually had a decent amount of lessons. All of that door knocking is finally paying off, and we are seeing the fruits of our labors. We have about 4 progressing investigators right now. We are still working with Claudia. She isn't really progressing a whole lot. But she said she would pray to know if she should be baptized. She already prays every night, but is Catholic, and doesn't feel good about being baptized again. We are teaching another guy Edgar, from Guiné-Bissau. He is this big african dude. He is way cool and says he always likes hearing "the word." He is also Catholic, but says he will read in the Book of Mormon (even though he hasn't yet) and pray (even though he hasn't yet.) He is really busy with driving school, but he said in about 2 weeks he will have more time. We are also teaching this kid that is about our age named Júnior. He is way cool, and wants to know how to have more happiness in his family. He has a lot of good questions. I think he will progress too.

We also found this lady named Margarita. When we found her, it was incredible! We were kinda just walking around knocking some doors, and decided to pass by this young woman's house named Fátima, who said we could come back another day (the usual response.) We knocked on the door, and this older lady answered. She told us that Fátima wasn't home, so we told her who we were. We told her that we are here to help people grow faith in Jesus Christ. She kinda rolled her eyes and said "o que é fé?" or "what is faith?" We started talking, and found out that she is Catholic, but non-practicing, and that she doesn't really believe in God anymore. We talked to her about the importance of faith. We offered to say a prayer, and we promised her that she would feel something different during the prayer, such as peace, or happiness, and that if she felt something like that, that she would know that God exists. I knew we would feel something, and as I said the prayer, we all felt the Spirit really strong. Probably the strongest I ever have. It was incredible. Before the prayer, she seemed sort of annoyed at us, but when I ended the prayer, I looked up, and she was smiling. We all kind of just looked at eachother, and let the feeling soak in. None of us said anything for about 1 minute. And then we finally asked her how she felt. She said she felt really peaceful, and we testified that it was the Holy Ghost. We asked her if she had any questions, and she said "who are you guys?!" It was one of the best experiences that I have had on the mission so far. We couldn't go into her house because there wasn't another man in the house, but we talked to her at her door, and briefly explained the restoration. We gave her a Book of Mormon, and left Alma 32 with her, that talks about the seed of faith. She let us come back a few days later, and we brought another man with us, one of our members. We explained the restoration in more detail, and invited her to keep reading and to pray. She is still having a difficult time accepting God into her life again. The last time we taught her was on Thursday. We invited her to come to church, and she said that if she wanted to go she would go. She wouldn't let us mark another visit until tomorrow. I am hoping she has prayed and read. She didn't want us calling either. It's really funny. She is a tough cookie. But there is no way that any of us can deny what we felt. We still want to take it easy with her, but I am sure she will progress.

Anyways, it was really awesome. We have taught a lot of other people just once. It is usually harder getting a second visit, because after the first, they know who you are. So we are working to get second visits with a lot of people. But we are doing a lot better, and the work is finally picking up.

That is really awesome that you are treating one of your converts now dad. I don't know if I ever knew about him. That is so cool. I bet that is really awesome to see somebody that you brought to a knowledge of the gospel 30 years later. I hope somebody that I baptize names their kid after me! Ha ha. I can't imagine anyone here would. Everytime I tell somebody my first name, they can't pronounce it. They all say "gweg." I have to tell them that my name in portuguese is "gregório."

Well, the mission is full of awesome experiences like that. Miracles happen all the time, especially when we are being obedient, and diligent. I am still working to do better, and have room for a lot of improvement. But I have learned a lot... mostly from mistakes. I am loving the mission and want to continue to grow.

I don't really know what else to say. I just feel really blessed to be out here on my mission and to have the knowledge that I have about the gospel and for the testimony that I have. Thanks for all of your support and for your example. Thanks for the update. I love you guys! Tchau!

Elder Walker