Sunday, July 31, 2011

The Grand Shuffle

This was the week of the grand shuffle, when the two missions really came together. Officially, the Canada Toronto mission came to life on the first of July, but it wasn't until this transfer that the missionaries of the two missions merged, like a deck of cards. Almost all companionships were changed (fortunately, not ours). We traveled to Brampton four times this week (including Sunday which we mentioned in our last blog).

We got a call to drive to the mission office on Tuesday, leave our car in Brampton, and drive a mission car back to be used for the transfer. This is the first time we have been involved in a transfer, so we needed to watch a safety video (staring Elder Holland) before we could drive a mission car. Since we were going to Brampton we arranged with the Zone Leaders to help load up our car and the Lindsey's car with all of Lindsey's belongings that will be shipped back to Utah. As you may recall, Elder Lindsey had a blood condition (probably picked up as a senior missionary in the Philippines) and had to return home. We were able to get everything in the two cars and take them to the mission home. After we unloaded, we drove our car to the mission office to trade for a larger car.

Wednesday was transfer day. Our assignment was to 1) Pick up Hermana Wheeler from her Christie apartment and take her with her luggage to Black Creek (she had other arrangements so it ended up just taking her luggage); 2) Pick up Sister Crosby with her luggage as well as Sister Tillet's luggage (she's going home) and return to the Christie apartment; 3) Pick up Sister Seller's luggage (she is also going home) at the Christie apartment and take the luggage to the Toronto Stake Center; and 4) Take all the luggage that we could carry of those going home  from the Toronto Stake Center to the Brampton Stake Center. We had luggage for five missionaries packed in the mission car.

Previous Christie Sisters: Fotheringham, Wheeler, and Sellers

New Christie Sisters: Fotheringham and Crosby

Waiting at the Toronto Stake Center for the transfer
When we arrived at the Brampton Stake Center we ran across the other Elder Wheeler (from the East Mission) who was on his way home, There is also an Elder Wheeler from the West Mission. We went to the mission office to turn in the mission car, get our own car, and wait for the zone leaders to arrive with their van. they needed to use the mission truck the next day for moving furniture so they drove it back to Toronto rather than returning with us.
Three of the four Wheelers
 Hermana Wheeler, Sister Wheeler and Sister Brown (Hermana Wheeler's new companion)

With transfers over, we had a big day planned for Thursday. We needed to get some mail from the old mission office (which we couldn't get earlier because they changed the locks), attend zone and district meeting with our new zone, and attend a 2:00 PM temple session with the senior couples and missionaries going home. We didn't do any of our planned activities. We got a call at 9:30 AM that one of the missionaries needed to be in Brantford (1 1/2 hours from Toronto) by 11 AM for a doctor's appointment. We got there as fast as we could arriving after 11:30. Fortunately, the doctor (LDS) was understanding about arriving late. While waiting, we took the car into a Honda dealership for servicing. We finished just in time to pick up the missionaries from the clinic. We arrived in Brampton about 3:30 PM, and were able to make it for a pot-luck dinner with the senior couples, then back to Toronto.

By Friday we were dead tired. We got a notice that our window air conditioner couldn't be in the bedroom (safety reasons - something about a 19 story drop on someone's head) so we moved it to the living room on Thursday night. We couldn't use cardboard to fill in the gap of the open window so on Friday we got some plexiglass from Home Depot, cut it to size, and installed it. It really looks good. The city was really socked in with a dense fog so our plans to walk the city center didn't materialize. We didn't get the break we needed this week.

Taught another Mandarin class for ESL on Saturday. It is really brain wracking trying to teach someone English with the very limited Chinese I know. We walked up and down Bloor Street near the church. We found a Portuguese butcher shop that also had guarana, a gluten-free cheese bread mix, and manjoca flour. Toronto is hosting a Caribbean Carnival downtown. We didn't go, but passed some people in "costumes" headed for it. We didn't take a picture since it wouldn't have been appropriate for a mission blog. We did get a picture, however, of two lovely ladies in front of a painted fence.

Sister Hodgkin and Sister Phillips - new Toronto Ward missionaries
As we look out over the city from our apartment we can see the roof of the Ossington Chapel. It is easy to find because of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church close to it. As I passed the church one day I was curious to find out which church it was. After reading about the church from a sign in the Cyrillic alphabet, I noticed the same thing in English right below it. Why do I always have to do things the hard way?
Ukraine Orthodox Church next to our chapel
Well, it is Sunday and our brains are fried. Elder Wheeler was down to about 10% comprehension in Spanish today. Even the Portuguese was low. The Portuguese elders are gone. Elder Lima is a district leader in London and Elder Workman is a follow-up trainer in Midland (in the north). We are alone in the Portuguese effort in Toronto and feel quite lonely. We are focusing on Portuguese members of the ward, but just this week we have had several possible referrals, including a young couple (soon to be married) who came to church today. We will have to see how things go in the future. We do know that it is all in the Lord's hands, not ours.

Sunday, July 24, 2011

Allegory of the Olive Tree

We went to the mission home in Brampton this morning to meet with President Brower. He informed us that he will be pulling the Portuguese missionaries out of Toronto this coming week. There are about 20 missionaries going home that will not be replaced in the mission. There is a need for missionaries in many areas of Ontario. The work with the Portuguese has not been progressing very well. I reviewed the baptisms over the past 9 years. Out of 51 baptisms 60% have disappeared from the ward. Of the remaining 40%, half are not attending meetings at all. As we were returning from Brampton we were reminded of the allegory of the olive tree in Jacob 5. The Portuguese constitute about 12% of the ward and most are inactive or less-active. They have "waxed old, and began to decay". The "young and tender branches (the elders) "will be grafted "whethersoever I will" and the branches of the wild olive tree (that's us) will be grafted into the olive tree to preserve its roots. It is now up to the members to take charge of their eternal life and not let the missionaries do everything for them. After a season it is anticipated that the Portuguese missionaries will be able to return.
Elder Lima, Sister Wheeler, and Elder Workman at the mission home
We had a hot day on Monday arranging the Books of Mormon in the missionary supply room. We also picked up the mail from the Family History Center in the building to get to the missionaries. Unfortunately we put the mail for other zones (we kept the mail for our zone to give out at zone meeting)  in the mission office. Since the supply room has no air conditioning we would take breaks in the mission office. During the week they changed the lock to the mission office so we can't cool off and can't get the mail for the other missionaries.

We had ESL classes again on Tuesday night (taught in Portuguese) and on Saturday (taught in Mandarin). We have the beginning class so the students know very little English. We only have one student for Portuguese and one for Mandarin.

All the missionaries for zone and district meetings were dragging on Wednesday. We think it is because of the heat and anticipation for the big transfer coming up. President Brower plans to shuffle the deck and completely mix up the missionaries from the former east and west missions. Everyone will be affected (but hopefully not as much as us by loosing our security blanket in Elders Lima and Workman). It seems everyone is leaving us. Sister Stebar, Sister Sellers, Elder Herycz, and Elder Blomfield will all be returning home from our zone.
Hermana Wheeler gets a long-awaited package at zone meeting

Sisters in PINK: Sisters Stebar, Phillips, and Sellers
Thursday was the hottest day for July in the recorded history of Toronto at 37.9 C (101.22 F). The hottest day ever was 38.4 C (only half a degree hotter). The portable air conditioner can't keep up with the heat so we purchased a second air conditioner to mount in the bedroom window. It has really made the apartment bearable.

Friday was our touring day with the Dodges and Bolins. We went across the border into New York (yes, with President Brower's permission) to take a boat tour on the Erie Canal ("Low Bridge, Everybody Down"). We thought of Lucy Mack Smith leading many of the New York saints on the canal on their way to Kirtland.
Approaching Lock 34 on the Erie Canal

Sister Dodge (head turned), Sister Bolin, and Sister Wheeler on the boat

Door of the locks opening
We were able to get buffet lunch at a casino on the US side of Niagara Falls. Fortunately they had plenty for me to eat. We didn't even stop to play the slot machines. We then went back across the border to the Canadian side of the falls.
Elder and Sister Wheeler in front of one of the many tourist traps at Niagara Falls

American, Bridal Vail, and Horseshoe Falls

We actually get to wear P-Day clothes

Elder& Sister Dodge and Sister & Elder Bolin

Sister Wheeler with humidity-curled hair

Water Lily pond
On our way back we went along the river to see a whirlpool, a floral clock, and take a peak at Fort Erie from across the lake. It was used during the war of 1812.
Fort Erie in New York as seen from Canada
Saturday evening we were invited for dinner by Joaquin and Fatima Verdasca. They joined the church about 25 years ago in Portugal. She is the stake young women's president and he is in the high priest group. They also work in the temple. The Bishop of the Christie ward is Brazilian and there are a few other strong families. There is a need for more core strength for the work to progress here in Toronto among the Portuguese-speaking members.
Fatima and Joaquim Verdasca
We will be starting a new chapter of our mission next week being the only Portuguese-speaking missionaries in Toronto. It seems we start a new chapter about every month. Once the heat leaves the cold will soon follow, then we will be needing space heaters instead of air conditioners.

Sunday, July 17, 2011

Week of the Doldrums

This has been a different week. We are still trying to figure out what we are doing here. First of all IT IS HOT. Even though we have air conditioning it doesn't keep up with the head and humidity. Although it was more expensive we got a portable air conditioner that we could move between the living room and bedroom instead of one that fits in the window. It also dehumidifies the room so we need to drain the water. It surely gets a lot of water from the air. It has a little catch try that is hard to drain so we set up a system to collect water in a pop bottle laying in a tray for when it overflows.

Our air conditioner vented to the window

Our drain for water removed from the air
Monday we had our first day at the mission supply room since the mission office closed. The room is not air conditioned so we were really sweating from cleaning off shelves and replacing Books of Mormon. For Family Home Evening Monday night we had the three Portuguese elders and Sidy (who stayed after her Portuguese lesson with Sister Wheeler).

On Tuesday we had interviews with President Brower. We had a skills meeting in the morning (while other missionaries were being interviewed). Being a senior couple we were the last to be interviewed. In fact we were able to return to our apartment for lunch before the interview. Sister Stebar needed to go see a doctor about her sore hand so Sister Wheeler went with Sister Phillips to give a lesson to a lady at a Lady's shelter. Since I couldn't go in the shelter I was able to walk around for an hour while waiting for them to finish. I walked past an African drum shop and talked to Saikou, the owner. We had a good talk about African musical instruments (he had a nice balafon and kora there) and about the church. When the sisters arrived I gave him a Book of Mormon he said he would read. I didn't have a camera at the time so we returned on Friday (our P-day) to take a picture of us drumming.

Saikou and Elder Wheeler drumming
We like to walk around the neighborhoods every morning. One day we took the camera to show you what it is like on our walks.
One of the nice homes we pass

A corner grocery store (note the pink mailbox)

Some homes like lions. There must be some meaning.

We finally foud the black sheep we have been looking for

On Tuesday evening we went with the Portuguese elders to visit Adriana (a member), her husband Dereck (a nonmember) and their daughter Melody. We really had a nice visit with Adriana telling about her conversion. Dereck has had the lessons, but seems more interested now that he has a daughter to care for.
Adriana, Melody, and Dereck Rosw (spelled correctly) from Brazil
Wednesday morning we found out that Elder De Moura had a sudden transfer to Trenton to work with some Spanish elders. We will really miss him. He has been having difficulties from his family in Brazil. He is a great missionary and a good friend. The missionary work among the Portuguese-speaking people is hard here. There is not yet a critical mass to sustain the work. The Portuguese are VERY Catholic. The Brazilians want to be friends, but not listen to the gospel. Everyone seems to be focused on working hard for what the world has to offer. Salaries are high, but so are the taxes and cost of living. Everyone is  working to get ahead with no time for family nor the gospel. Even active members may only attend church every other week because of work.

The Lindsay's are finally going home. Elder Lindsay has been in the hospital for the past few weeks receiving the Canadian version of health care. Finally a doctor flew in from Salt Lake City to accompany them on the airplane back to Utah. He is now home and improving. Sister Wheeler helped mend Elder Lima's pants so hopefully they will hold up until he completes his mission. We got a call from Sister Fatheringham who was sick (something she ate) so she came to our apartment to rest where she wouldn't be out in members homes.

Friday we had another preparation day, which means "see the city". We drove downtown and parked in what we thought was a safe place (we got a parking ticket for not having a permit that was posted way down the street). We walked through Chinatown and went to the Art Museum of Ontario. We really enjoyed some of the works of Canadian artists. We stopped in a Korean restaurant for a late lunch.
Fruit stand in Chinatown

The Art Museum of Ontario

How is this for art?
Saturday was ESL again with a special class in Mandarin. Who ever thought we would be teaching English in Mandarin? We had a father and his daughter from Sao Tome and Principe, off the coast of Central Africa, attend ESL. This is a small Portuguese-speaking nation.

Sunday, July 10, 2011

Finally a P-Day

We have been in Toronto for six weeks and haven't had a real P-Day until this week. We have snatched a few hours for wash or some activity, but haven't really been able to see the beauty of Ontario. On Friday four senior couples (The Dodges, Mayos, Bolins, and Wheelers) went on the Thousand Island cruise of the St. Lawrence River. The Lindseys were planning on going, but Elder Lindsey has been in the hospital from a reoccurrence of a situation picked up while on a mission to the Philippines.

After a three-hour van ride to Gananoque, east of Toronto, we loaded on a boat to see the 1000 Islands (actually more than 1800) in the St. Lawrence River. Some of them are in Canada and some in the USA (Don't worry, we got permission to leave the country from Pres. Eyer as he was leaving the mission home on his way home from his mission).

Our tour boat
Some of the islands were large with many summer homes. Others were mere rocks in the river. 

The shortest international bridge connecting Canada with the USA is between two small islands.

International bridge - Canada on the left, USA on the right
We stopped for two hours to tour Boldt Castle, built by George C. Bolt a millionaire then abandoned (before it was finished) when his wife died. There were hundreds of rooms, only a portion have been restored. This tower seen in front is a play house. It has several floors and looks like a tower Rapunzel would live in.
Boldt Castle from the river
Sister Wheeler at the castle
The mote at the power tower
Don't they make a cute couple in their P-Day clothes?
We still don't know what we are doing here as missionaries. We figure that we are here so the Lord can use us any way he wants. If we were still in Logan we would be of no use here. The mission office is officially closed and many of the senior couples we have known are (or soon will be) gone. We did have a zone conference on Tuesday with President Brower, however, most of the topics covered are for the younger missionaries.

We will maintain a missionary supply room across the hall from the former mission office so missionaries in Toronto can pick up supplies directly without having to go to Brampton. We will go in each Monday (p-day for the missionaries) to be available. There is still a lot of work to do in organizing the supply room.

One of many shelves in the supply room showing the Book of Mormon in 95 languages
We are also helping with ESL (English as a second language) classes. One time we may have a man who speaks Mandarin and little english. The next time we may have someone who speaks only Portuguese. 
Paulo and Elder Wheeler studying English
Sister Wheeler has started tutoring sessions with Sidy (See-gee), a member of the ward who taught Portuguese in Brazil. She teaches the gospel doctrine class and has beautiful Portuguese. 

Sidy tutoring Sis. Wheeler in our apartment
We have noticed that some times our car would get covered with a gooey mess when we parked at the stake center. We finally figured out it was because they are demolishing a building next to the stake center and clouds of debris blows right onto our car.
The building being demolished with piles of debris
Yesterday (Saturday) we heard a lot of music coming from the street and noticed that the street by our house was blocked off. It is the St Clair (the street by our apartment) salsa festival. We went down to see if we could find some good salsa and found something quite different.

St. Clair Salsa Festival from our balcony
They have the street blocked off for several blocks for the festival. Apparently this is what they do in the summertime in Toronto. This was only one of three festivals (that we know about) going on in the city.

Barrier for closing off the street
 By now you know that salsa is not something you put on your tortillas, but a hot (as if it were not hot enough) Latin American dance. Every block had a band blaring salsa music for people to dance. the measure of a good band is not how well they play, but how loud they play. Why did we ever invent electrical engineers who could design sound reinforcement systems. Audiology will be a good field in the future when everyone is deaf.
Doing the salsa in the street (only one of many groups)
 Besides music and dance there was also a lot of food. You could choose from many different items, including whole fish and pig heads.
Anyone for a pig head?

Besides the activities listed we have been working in health care. We have been helping Sister Lindsey get ready to return home. They were to fly out Friday, but Elder Lindsey's platelet count is not high enough to travel so they are still in limbo. We have not settled down to a routine yet, but I guess that is OK. We love the Lord and are willing to help in any way we can.

Monday, July 4, 2011

A Time for Change

After being in Toronto for a month it is finally time to move into our new apartment at 161 Oakwood #1905. Tuesday was the big day which started before 7:00 AM and didn't finish until after 7:00 PM. We took 5 trips across town (1/2 hour + each way). We really appreciate the elders who helped us move. Elders Herycz and James drove the truck with furniture while Sis Wheeler and I took many loads of small things in the car. The Portuguese elders (Elders de Moura, Lima, and Workman) helped us unload in the new apartment along with Elders Te'o and Sitton. The elders managed to get two loads into one so there were only four truck trips instead of five.
200 Gateway (old apartment building)
 Our old apartment building was in an area called Don Mills. It was just a few blocks from the mission office. Since we didn't have internet in the apartment we would go over to the mission office to get online. While there they would often give us other things to do which was OK since we were not living close to our area. We took walks in the morning where we would see many black squirrels and beautiful scenery. It didn't really seem like home, however, since we knew we would be moving in a month. We also had to travel across town for church and other meetings.
Don Mills Creek on a morning walk
Our new apartment is in the middle of the Portuguese (and Italian and every other) area. It is nice to be able to walk to members homes from the apartment. Church is only 1.3 miles away. It is on a busy street so we can hear traffic (and the trolly) at any time of day or night. It seems the fire engines also go any time day or night. It looks like there is nowhere to take a morning walk, but the residential side streets are very nice with little traffic.

161 Oakwood apartment building
We are on the 19th floor (next to the top). Our apartment is second from the left with the balcony and bedroom windows showing.
Our building from a side street. 
We are feeling much more at home in this apartment. It has a nice layout and an excellent view. We needed to buy a queen-sized bed, but the other furnishings were donated to us. The dresser drawers and the dining set came from the McNabbs who moved from the office to Wallaceburg, close to Detroit. The quilt on the bed is a friendship quilt. Many years ago Relief Society sisters made quilt blocks and signed them. Sister Wheeler finally completed the quilt just before we left. It has memories of each of the sisters whose names are on our bed.
Bedroom with "friendship" quilt

Dining area
The living room set came from the mission home. President and Sister Eyre couldn't take all their furnishings with them so we inherited the couch, recliner, bookcase and rug. We also got some paintings for the walls, but haven't mounted them yet. The walls are plaster and we need a drill to put up picture hangers. 
The kitchen is a lot larger than most of the kitchens in Toronto. 

One of the nicest things about our new apartment is the view. We can see downtown Toronto from our windows and balcony. We can see Lake Ontario and even see lights from Niagara Falls area and New York at night.
View of the CN Tower from our apartment
View of Lake Ontario from our apartment
The photo does not do justice to the night scene from our apartment.
Toronto by night from our apartment

We got a call on Friday morning (Canada Day) about a Portuguese barbecue at the Landim family's house. they are Brazilian, but attend the Toronto Ward rather than the Cristie Ward. We had a good time and a lot of good food.

Landim family
Missionaries at the barbecue
Food preparation for the barbecue
Friday night we sat out on our balcony and watched the fireworks for Canada Day. They came from every corner of the city. We were even able to see some from across Lake Ontario.

Fireworks for Canada Day
Thought you would like to know, we have adopted another daughter. She is Hermana Wheeler (Spanish speaking) from Idaho Falls. She is in a "threesome" companionship so we were able to have her with us for a couple of days this week. She is delightful and a very good missionary.

Sister Wheeler and Hermana Wheeler working on curtains for the apartment
A new apartment is the small change in our missionary life. Also this week: President and Sister Eyre left on Monday; The McNabbs left on Tuesday; President Brower took over the responsibility of the combined mission on Friday; and the Mayos will be leaving as soon as they can close up the mission office. Who said change wasn't fun?