Sunday, November 27, 2011

The Real Thanksgiving

People celebrated Thanksgiving all across America this week, whereas Canada celebrated it in October. We are very thankful this week is over.

Monday was spent in preparing lessons. The first lesson was a special lesson for Tony and Simone about Nephi's testimony of Jesus Christ (2 Nephi 25). The second was a lesson about the family and preparing for baptism for Marzia. The third was about body language for ESL. The fourth was a short lesson for our district meeting about planning. Finally we prepared a lesson about the Word of Wisdom for our institute class. We did take a quick break to the post office between lesson preparations.

Toronto with the moon at sunrise
Tuesday was lesson day. Why do we get so nervous about giving lessons. At times it may be the language, but we still get nervous when we teach in English. In the morning we visited Tony and Simone. We hadn't seen them for two weeks (since Simone returned from Brazil). They haven't been reading the Book of Mormon so instead of going on with the lessons, we had a special lesson on Nephi's testimony of Jesus Christ. It leaves little doubt about the Book of Mormon being a second witness of Jesus Christ. We also had a lesson with Marzia and we were able to meet her husband, Domingo. He was born in Portugal, but raised in Canada. We talked about the importance of family, including family prayer and family home evening. Domingo declined the invitation for the elders to teach him the missionary lessons, but is somewhat supportive of his wife being a member of the church. We ended the day with ESL where we discussed nonverbal communications from various cultures.

We were asked to present a short portion of our Wednesday district meeting on planning (as if we knew how to plan). It ended up being about the use of planning to bring the spirit to let you know the needs of each individual we work with. 

How did we get into the job of planning a party. The bishop wanted a ward party (everyone invited) centered around the Portuguese culture. This one ended up as a "Baile Brasil" (dance Brazil). We were going to pick up some of the supplies on Wednesday, but didn't have much time since we took Elder Woodruff to Unionville again for his PT treatment. We did have another party planning meeting in the evening which gave the opportunity for everyone to change their minds from what they had planned last Sunday.
Pouring a new parking or garbage area at our apartment building
Thursday was Thanksgiving Day in the United States. The senior couples decided to celebrate it with a traditional dinner in Brampton. Sister Wheeler made some gluten-free pumpkin pies and a veggie tray. Some of the Brampton missionaries were having a district meeting and decided to join us. We left about 4:30 pm to return to Toronto for our institute class. We had a lesson about the Word of Wisdom, which was perfect after overeating for Thanksgiving. We determined the "real" Thanksgiving comes from the "tender mercies" we receive from the Lord. Elder Wheeler forgot the camera, but we remembered he had his ipod-touch that could take pictures (even though the resolution was poor). Sister Wheeler forgot the gluten-free gravy mix, however, Sister Dodge made some gravy using corn starch in place of flour. As we were rushing off to institute class we couldn't find the small speakers that go with the laptop for video presentations. After looking all over we gave up and decided to skip that part of the lesson. As Sister Wheeler was saying the prayer prior to leaving our apartment she asked that we be able to find the speakers. At the end of the prayer, Elder Wheeler went right to the spot where the speakers were and we were able to use them for the lesson. We are very thankful for the "tender mercies" of the Lord.

Sister Wheeler close to the gluten-free store in Brampton
Elder Martindale and Elder Carroll singing for their dinner
Friday was shopping day for the ward party. We did most of the grocery shopping for the food. Most of the items we were able to get at No Frills, two blocks away. They were really heavy to carry back. We decided we need to do something to get in the Christmas spirit since we have celebrated two Thanksgivings. It is Black Friday in Canada when they have a lot of good sales to keep shoppers in Canada rather than crossing into the USA. All we got was a box of 10 puzzles, a book of Christmas stories, and a few videos. We then went to two talhos (Portuguese butcher shops) to get the sausage needed for the feijoada (beans and rice) for the party. Elder Woodruff is winding down his mission so we were invited to stop by the house of Kelly, Kimberly, and Emily to say goodbye by eating Elder Woodruff's famous stroganoff. apparently that's what they ate (instead of beans and rice) when his father was the mission president in Recife, Brasil.
Elder Woodruff and Kelly fixing the stroganoff
Emily and Sister Wheeler looking at pictures
Elder Woodruff and Sidy eating on the floor
Elder Seabra finding his favorite scripture to share
The crew
 Saturday was a long tiring day preparing for the party. Elizabeth Mesquita came to our apartment to show Sister Wheeler her special way to make beans and rice. It takes a long time, even using a pressure cooker for the beans. Elder Woodruff made hotdogs in a tomato sauce. We had Oscar make "colored" rice, since many of the Spanish don't like white rice. Andre made cochinhas, a stuffed dough. Sister Ferreira was in charge of the decorations, which included a cake like a Brazilian flag. This week has been very uncertain with a lot of chaotic activity leading to the party. We have been looking forward to the week being over all week. Meanwhile, also on Saturday was an 8:30 AM inservice meeting for institute (over the internet which requires the PC partition on the MAC and the MAC partition for watching videos), a 10:30 AM ESL class (about clothing), and a 1:30 missionary coordination meeting. Elder Wheeler covered the meetings while Sister Wheeler handled the food for the party.
Elizabeth and Sister Wheeler making feijoada
Elder Woodruff making his hot dog dish
 Just after 6:00 PM, Oscar showed up with his rice and started serving everyone in the kitchen while we were putting the rest of the food on a food warmer for serving in the cultural hall. It all came together finally and everyone seemed to have a good time. We had at least 10 non-members attend and several less-active members. For once, the Portuguese-speaking out numbered the Spanish-speaking. We had good food, Brazilian music and dancing (the samba, of course), and good entertainment. We finally met the Neves family whom we have been trying to find since we got here.  The address we had was about two years old apparently.
Elder Woodruff adjusting the playlist on the laptop
Marzia talking to Bishop Ferreira
The Neves family: Eric, Valesca, and son
Luis singing Portuguese songs
Kimberly with two children
Adla and Sidy dancing the samba
What was this game again?
Elder de Moura accompanies Elder Germann's song
 If you think Sunday is the day of rest, think again. We barely got to the Toronto Ward as they began sacrament meeting. We were hoping to meet Simone, but she didn't come. We got a call from the Portuguese missionaries from the emergency room at the hospital. Elder de Moura got sick last night so they took him to the hospital. He has kidney stones but they couldn't help him last night so they are trying to squeeze him in sometime today. We picked up Elder Woodruff at the hospital then Marzia to go to the church for her baptismal interview (which was to be performed by Elder de Moura). Elder Germann, our zone leader, performed the interview in Spanish. Marzia was sad because she wanted her husband, Domingo, and her son, Mateus, to be at her baptism, but Mateus had come down with a little cold and the two of them were staying home. Just before the interview ended, they both walked in to the church. We got them settled in the chapel. Tears filled Marzia's eyes when she found out they had come. More "tender mercies" from the Lord. Just before the church block was over we got another call from Elder Seabra and Elder de Moura that they were finished and ready to be picked up. We hurried and took Elder Woodruff back to the hospital (he had to drive the mission car back) and all hurried back to the chapel in time for the baptism. Well, we guess we actually are "real" missionaries since we have had our first baptism (which is not really expected for senior couples). Elder Woodruff has been helping us teach (since Marzia lives in the general area where we take him for his PT sessions). He was happy to be invited to perform the baptism the Sunday before he returned to Utah. There were only two Portuguese baptisms in 2010 and two others to date in 2011.
Marzia, Domingo, and Mateus with Elder Woodruff and us
This has been a very busy week with a lot of uncertainties. It was different from any other Thanksgiving weekend we have ever had. We had a lot of curves thrown at us in the process and were not sure how things would turn out, but we left things in the Lord's hands, did the best we could, and were very thankful for the "tender mercies" he sent our way.

Sunday, November 20, 2011

Toronto crazies

We have heard from other missionaries that most of the people in downtown Toronto are crazy. Since we work in the Christie Ward and don't understand the Spanish they are speaking we can't tell who is crazy and who isn't. This week we had a few encounters with some of the Toronto crazies. On Thursday after a baptism a man came to the church and wanted to talk to us (instead of the sane missionaries at the church). He had a story about being a member from Cambodia who needed help in getting his family to church. Although we suspected a scam we helped him with a little bus money. On Friday at the wedding reception we were called out by a member of the Toronto Ward who was obsessed about giving a blessing to a non-member friend with a sore throat whom he could not contact. After several attempts to contact her, prayers (on our part) and much agitation (on his part) we were able to go home. We received a call at 11:30 PM wondering if he should stop trying to contact her for the night. On Saturday coming back from ESL we were approached by a may from Somalia who knew all about the church (how Jesus didn't really die on the cross, but visited the Nephites instead and how Brigham Young translated some golden plates). Elder Woodruff has the reputation of attracting all the crazies of Toronto. Since he is going home in a couple of weeks, I guess we will be taking his place.

We had a typical Monday by going to the supply room in the morning, a lesson with Sidy in the afternoon, and watching videos (The Mountain of the Lord) for FHE. Simone called and cancelled our lesson for Tuesday since she just returned from Brazil (she was to return on Sunday) and had to work because she missed work on Monday.

Fancy lettuce as a potted plant in a shopping mall
Most of the day Tuesday was spent in weekly planning and in preparing the institute lesson for Thursday night. Spending a beautiful day indoors was hard. We finally got away just before supper time, but the sun was already going down. We located a store by the church that has a good selection (though expensive) of gluten-free products. We found a special gluten-free bread made in Toronto that is almost like real bread. Rather than go back to the apartment for supper we decided to be adventurous and eat out. We found an Ethiopian restaurant on Bloor Street. It comes with enjira, a flat bread made out of teff (we hope). No silverware; we ate with our hands. We walked to the church just in time for ESL. The lesson was about family history so we had them fill out their own pedigree charts and family group sheets. We learned a little poem:
I do my genealogy
To learn about my ancestry;
I fill out all my family tree
By researching my pedigree;
I write my pers'nal history
To pass on to posterity;
I chart my family carefully
This is my family history.

Everyone seemed to like it and were eager to go home and contact family members to get more information. The missionaries thought the poem was a rap.

Tiger of lights in Koreatown
Mural in Ethiopian restaurant
Our Ethiopian dinner
We had our regular district meeting on Wednesday. After the meeting Elder Seabra demonstrated a magical person-lifting ceremony they used in the MTC to lift a 300+ pound Samoan.

Sisters performing the special lifting ceremony
Lifting Sister Hodgkin (she's no 300-pounder). Each person using only two fingers
 Sister Hurst and Sister Hodgkin told us about a new gelato (Italian ice cream) shop on Bloor Street and about Sebastian who owned the shop. Since it was close to the church we decided to go with them after district meeting to find out where it was. I told them I would treat them to a cup of gelato. (Yes, it was very good - as good as we found in Italy). We had a good visit with Sabastian as Sister Hodgkin challenged him to read the Book of Mormon they had given him. As I went to pay for the gelato, Sabasian waved it off. It was on the house.
Artegelato, best gelato in toronto
Sabastian, the gelato man
We took Elder Woodruff to his physical therapy session in Unionville again on Wednesday. We stopped by the supply room for some Italian missionary supplies (Sebastian's Book of Mormon was in English). The old Toronto East Mission office was unlocked so we walked through it, unlocking many fond memories of our first month in Canada. We had trouble getting home because of an accident on Don Mills (some pedestrians crossing at night were hit) which closed the road down for several hours. Knowing a detour helped.

Elder and Sister Wheeler on their six-month mark
The Christmas guardian in the corner of a yard
 We had an emergency baptism on Thursday. Lucia was going to Mexico, but called the Spanish elders asking if it were possible to be baptized before she left on Thursday night. Arrangements were made for her to be baptized and confirmed on Thursday before leaving. President and Sister Scott were able to attend the baptism. Sister Wheeler played the piano for the baptism.

Smiling faces at the baptism
Sister Wheeler at the piano
Institute class on Thursday evening was on selecting an eternal companion. As part of it, we went through the proclamation on family. Elders were there from Etobicoke (pronounced eh-toe-bi-co) with a young investigator (Tessa) asking if she could attend institute. Of course we had no objections. She got a full dose, including the proclamation on family being scripture as revealed through the prophets, eternal families, and testimonies from class members about the importance of marrying members of the church. She participated in some of the discussion, but turned down the opportunity to say the closing prayer when asked by the class president (who didn't know she was an investigator). It ends up that the elders had just met her and had not even given her any lessons. She said she like the class, however.

Institute class with Tessa next to SisterWheeler
No preparation day on Friday. We got a call from the zone leaders asking us if we could be at the church at noon for a baptismal interview. We finally found out what we are good for as senior missionaries - balancing out the number of males and females allowed to be together for lessons and interviews.
After the interview we were able to go to the Talho (Portuguese butcher shop) for some chicken and Sumol (a Portuguese soda with real fruit juice).

Elder Williamson and Elder Germann modeling a size XXXXXL
 We had a lesson with Marzia in the evening and a chance to meet her husband, Domingo. He is very nice, does not want to hear the lessons himself, but is supportive of Marzia being baptized. She said she would like to be baptized on November 27th before Elder Woodruff returns home from his mission. Domingo said he would attend. We hope they follow through.

We have two fewer young single adults in the church. Victor (the institute teacher for the Spanish class) and Kristie (from the Toronto Ward) were married in the Toronto Temple on Friday with a little reception at the church on Friday evening (who's teaching his class?).

Kristie and Victor entering the chapel
The bride and groom (they seem happy)
Laura Kay (former Sister Crosby) and Angel (ward mission leader)
Sara and Ryan (our institute class president)
We had CES as usual on Saturday morning. Our topic was adventure stories. We decided to go on a lion hunt (if you remember the activity from camps). We got a call in the afternoon about having a missionary coordination meeting. We have been having them on Sunday mornings, but some of the missionaries are picking up investigators at that time so they decided to try Saturday afternoon. When we got there we found out it included a dinner. Elder Wheeler has been working with Angel (pronounced ang-hel, our ward mission leader) to have an area book and to follow the ward mission process. He is eager to learn, but this is a Spanish ward, so we'll see how things work. As part of the Spanish ward customs, birthday parties for children are often held at the church.

Missionary coordination meeting
Saturday birthday party (we didn't attend)

Sunday was a bit disappointing since none of our investigators attended church, but the Spanish elders had another baptism. We just do the best we can and leave the rest to the Lord.

Sunday, November 13, 2011

Out for the count

We were about ready to go to the stake cultural night last night when we got a phone call from the Portuguese elders for Sister Wheeler to look at Elder de Moura's tongue. Elder Seabra accidentally hit Elder de Moura in the face which resulted in a pierced tongue (we'll spare you the tongue pictures). They met us in the basement (we were going into the garage to get our car) and suddenly Elder de Moura passed out. We treated him for shock the best we could and got him back up to their apartment where his companions could give him a blessing and get him some medical care. Yes, he's OK.
Elder de Moura after a KO punch by Elder Seabra
We had a couple of special projects this week. When they discontinued the Scarborough Spanish Ward a while ago all of the membership records were sent to the Christie Ward, even though none of them attend our ward (you can imagine what this did for sacrament meeting attendance percentage). The bishop wanted to clean up the records so the Relief Society president tried to call all of them. Those she couldn't contact were given to Elder Wheeler to coordinate missionaries to pass by their homes to see if they still live there. This involved four different sets of missionaries outside our normal ward area. The zone leaders also asked each area to get information about female heads-of-household, prospective elders, and unbaptized children of record for our areas. We already had information for the Portuguese members, but the Spanish are spread across two areas so we agreed to get the information for the Spanish missionaries.

On Tuesday we had another lesson with Tony (Simone is in Brazil). We showed the Restoration video and talked about his reading of the Book of Mormon. He felt the name "Moroni" come into his mind so he skipped to the book of Moroni before completing 1 Nephi. We told him that was OK. He can feel the truth of the book as he reads it. He has a commitment working each Sunday until the end of December then will be able to attend church.

Wednesday we had a district meeting in the morning. The activity was instruction on how to bear your testimony quickly on the bus and mark a visit before you (or the contact) needs to get off the bus. Though this applied more to the younger missionaries than to us, it was interesting. We had an activity where we went into a room to find as many contacts (pieces of candy) as possible in three minutes. We found five, leaving one on the chalkboard unfound. I guess we need to start looking up instead of down.

We took Elder Woodruff to Unionville again on Wednesday. This time we were able to take a short walk around a small lake.
Lake at Unionville
A cold gull
Sister Wheeler among the rushes

We had another lesson with Marzia on Wednesday, teaching about the commandments. A friend of hers from Iran stayed to hear the lesson. Marzia as well as her friend agreed to each of the commandments. She didn't make it to church on Sunday, but did attend the Mission President's fireside on Sunday evening. It was unusual for us to have an investigator at the fireside.

The institute lesson this week was on developing knowledge and wisdom. We figured out how to make a picture of our slides, so you will get one of them here:

First slide of the lesson
Now that Thanksgiving and Halloween are over it's time to get ready for Christmas. The stores are playing Christmas music and a few of the homes in the neighborhood are decorated. It will be here before we know it.
Christmas decorations
 We got some free tickets for Black Creek Pioneer Village so we returned on Friday. We took the bus there (actually two long bus trips) and three buses (plus a subway ride) back. It was quite cool, in fact we encountered the first snow of the season. It was behind a building at York University where they pile frost from refrigeration units, but it was still snow. Actually Barrie (up north) and in Woodstock, (southwest) did have snow on Friday.

Tin smith at the pioneer village
Our guide for the "Behind Closed Doors" tour
First snow of the season
Subway station at Yorkville Mall
We had ESL again on Saturday morning where we found out about the stake cultural night tonight (instead of next week as we had planned).  Most of the time we can't understand the announcements of activities at church (since we don't understand Spanish). We were a little late (because of the de Moura mishap) and left early to get Elder Robinson and Elder Bruce back by 9:00 pm (pumpkin time for missionaries). We actually got them there with 2 minutes to spare.

Latin dance at the stake cultural festival
The bishop had asked Sister Wheeler to give a talk in sacrament meeting for today. After spending the week preparing the talk she found out that the bishop forgot asking her and other speakers were lined up. She will give a talk next month (on a different subject) unless the bishop forgets again. As Sister Camejo quotes the eleventh beatitude, "Blessed are the flexible for they will not be bent out of shape".