Monday, January 27, 2014

First 2 weeks in Brazil!

Hey, everyone! Sorry for not writing last week!

      So, the first night, all the new missionaries (six of us), had dinner, took a picture with the mission president and his wife, watched an orientation video, and then were assigned a companion. Then, we walked to our apartment to sleep for the night.The next day was our preparation day, where we bought groceries, wrote emails, studied, unpacked, and then worked from 6pm to 9pm. The first full day that I was here, I was sick all day. I almost thew up a few times, and whenever I walked, the sick feeling came back. If I was sitting, it wasn't nearly as bad. But, we did a lot of walking that day, so I was just feeling miserable, and rested whenever I could. The next day, I felt A LOT better, thankfully. My prayers were answered! haha!
      These little kids playing soccer outside of th church were making jokes about me and singing to me and asking me to sing, because my last name is "Canto", which means "I sing" in Portuguese (and Spanish!), also "song" and "corner kick" (in soccer), I think. A LOT of people ask me if I sing because of my name, haha! A lot of people also think I'm from Brazil or South America when they are guessing where I'm from. It's pretty awesome. Then I tell them I'm from New York, and they think New York City. Anyways, so my companion's name is Elder Bezerra, and he's Brazilian, and from Sao Paulo (city), Sao Paulo (state), Brazil. He barely speaks Enlgish, so I have to speak Portuguese to communicate with him. Sometimes it's nice, but it can be frustrating, like when I can't communicate something to him clearly. But, we make it work, for the most part!
      The next day, it was time to work. After breakfast, we went out and talked with people on the street, and then went into the favellas, which is the area where the poorer people live. All of the houses they are pretty small, and generally are connected to each other (by the exterior walls). There are some streets, but mostly there are just paths in between the rows of houses, just wide enough for 2-3 people to walk side by side. It's like a maze, to be honest. But anyways, the people there are usually very friendly, and I enjoy talking with them! Well, to be honest, I basically didn't talk to anyone on the streets the first week, because it's hard to understand everything that's being said when people speak so rapidly, and their accents make it even harder for me to understand them! I'm getting better at understanding people though, and I actually talked to people on the street last week! When people speak slowly and clearly, I can usually understand them. Otherwise, I only get bits and pieces. I can pretty much understand the American missionaries when they speak Portuguese at least!
      So, back to that day. After lunch, we studied until 5pm. An elder (Elder Amorim) had been dropped off at our apartment earlier that day, because he's been having problems with his leg, and needed to be closer to the doctor. He's been staying at our apartment the past 10 days, but he's actually going home soon.
      So anyways, Elder Bezerra and him stayed at our apartment the next few days, and I went with Elder Loaiza and Elder M. James every day until Sunday. It was a lot of fun. Elder M. James is from Albequerque, New Mexico, and Elder Loaiza is from Ecuador.
      The past week, I've been with Elder Bezerra again. We're learning to work together better, and I'm trying to help with street contacts more now. Some people give up on talking to me almost immediately if I don't understand them the first or second time, but some people are more patient, and try to help me understand what they're saying. It makes my life a lot easier when people are like this, haha! I oiften feel alone and left out when everyone around me is talking in Portuguese and laughing and I don't know what's funny, or something. It's easier to understand when someone is speaking to me directly, or one on one.
      I've been in Brazil for 14 days now (today is day 14)! I actually wrote this out by hand last night to save some time, since we only have 60 minutes to email, once a week! If I don't respond to you for a while, it's not because I don't want to, it's because I ran out of time! Sorry about that, everyone!
      I guess the last thing I'll talk about this week is the food here. IT IS SO GOOD! I especially like this food called Tapioca (not the pudding). And yes, I do eat beans and rice at every lunch at member's homes. I love eating lunch at member's homes! Lunch is the main meal here, and dinner is usually a small amount of food. The salads here are always the same - lettuce and tomatoes. But yeah, Brazil has a lot of great foods (shoutout to Acai!) and juices.
      Oh, one last thing (get used to hearing about this, this won't be the last time) IT IS SO HOT HERE! Even at night! I can't imagine living in this heat for my whole life, haha! There is a nice breeze a lot of the time though, and it's not so bad in the morning, at night, in the shade, or when it rains (rarely, it's summer right now, and it rains a lot in fall and winter apparently. But it's pretty much just as hot then I think!) Oh, 4 more things. The beach is beautiful and about a 15 minute walk from where I live, but we can't go on the beach, just on the other side of the street from it. :( We walk just about everywhere, or take the bus if it's really far, and occasionally, get rides to member's houses for lunch. Also, everything is in metric here! Lastly, shopping for groceries is confusing. I've done it 3 or 4 times so far. It's hard to tell what's what! Plus, they use Reais instead of USD.
      Anyways, I love you all, and I hope you have a great week! Feel free to ask me questions about Brazil, my beliefs, missionary life, oranything! I would write more, but I don't have time, and this is long enough already, I think!

Send emails! :)


Elder Canto

Friday, January 10, 2014

So.. about salt lake city.. just kidding?!

Hey everyone!

So I actually just got my visa TODAY around noon, the day after I got my reassignment to the "Utah Salt Lake City" mission. I didn't even get to go and see the Salt Lake City temple! Maybe I'll get a chance to see it when I'm on the train on the way to the airport, but, I'm thinking.. probably not.

Anyways, I am extremely excited. I'm the third Elder in my District to get his visa for Brazil. Elder Taylor got his visa last week, and Elder Milstead got his visa yesterday. Everyone else is still going to their reassignments, and I just hope that they can all stay positive. After all, being on a mission isn't about the location, it's about the people! And they'll get to Brazil eventually. Hopefully pretty soon!

I was NOT expecting this at all.. like I said in my email yesterday, I was expecting to at least be in Salt Lake City until the end of the month.. but, I guess not! The Lord must need me in Brazil right now! :) I was worried about having to try and keep my Portuguese up without being able to use it very much, but now I don't have to worry! So the other two Elders in my District that are going to Brazil, are leaving at 4:30am on Monday morning, and I leave at 8:30am, with a few Elders that I don't know. Actually, all that I know right now, is that there are some other Elders who are going to be with me.

So, just for fun, here's my travel schedule:
1) Car ride to train station
2) Train ride to the airport
3) Salt Lake City, UT - Departure @2:20pm, Arrival @6:00pm (Dallas, TX)
4) Dallas, TX - Departure @8:25pm (1/13/14), Arrival @10:30am (Sao Paulo, SP, Brasil (1/14/14))
5) Sao Paulo, SP, Brasil - Departure @2:00pm, Arrival @3:06pm (Rio De Janeiro, RJ, Brasil)
6) Rio De Janeiro, RJ, Brasil - Departure @4:00pm, Arrival @5:55pm (Joao Pessoa, PB, Brasil)

So my longest flight is going to be the flight from Dallas, TX to Sao Paulo, SP, Brasil. It'll be 10 hours. The other two Elders in my District are going to be in the Sao Paulo airport before me and they're leaving after me, so maybe I'll be able to meet up with them there. I've been wanting to see Texas, so that'll be cool to finally see it!

Oh also, Elder Milstead, who got his visa yesterday, got an email today (which is irrelevant now), saying that he was being reassigned to the Orlando, Florida mission. So either way, he would've been pretty happy, haha!

I really was not expecting this.. I am so excited to go to Brazil, and I can't believe this is happening already. Please pray for me that I will make it to Brazil safely! :)

I love you all! Please write to me, I'd love to hear from you!

Type to you soon! haha!

Okay maybe that was a lame joke.. tchau!

Elder Canto

Still waiting for my visa!

Hey everyone! Sorry there was no newsletter this week, I was trying to write more personal emails! You'd be surprised at how quickly 60 minutes of emailing goes by!

I just wanted to write you all a quick email to let you know that I'm being reassigned to the "Utah Salt Lake City" mission temporarily, until I get my visa, and then I'll be off to Brazil! I heard that the missionaries who get assigned to this mission are supposed to get their visa pretty soon, so I'm not sure how long I'll be there, but I'm expecting to get my visa sometime this month, or early in February.

I leave the Missionary Training Center on Tuesday, January 14th, at 6:00am, and I'll be taking a train to Salt Lake City, since it's only a short distance away from Provo, UT, where I currently am.

I hope you're all doing great! You are all in my prayers! :)

I'm excited to serve in Salt Lake City while I wait for my visa! The other 5 elders in my district who haven't gotten their visas yet have been reassigned to:
1) Utah Salt Lake City (my companion)
2) Riverside, CA
3) Boise, ID
4) Rochester, NY! haha! That's where I'm from! His name is Elder Wilkie, for those of you who live in that area. So look out for him in a few days! He gets there on Monday, I think.
5) Not sure yet, because he's waiting until later today to read his reassignment letter :P [okay the fifth one is Spokane, WA :D]

Tchau! Tem um dia bom!

Elder Canto

Friday, January 3, 2014

Week 4 at the Missionary Training Center in Provo, Utah!

Oi todo mundo! Feliz ano novo!

Next week is week 5, which is likely my last full week at the MTC! I'll have been here for 5 1/2 weeks total when I leave, on January 13th. I still haven't gotten my visa for Brazil yet, so I may end up in a U.S. mission for a while, but that's alright with me if that does happen. I can't believe I've already been here for a whole month! The first 2 weeks were a little slow, but the past 2 weeks have completely flown by! I think I have about 10 days left here now.
Alright, so, this week, I'm going to go through my days one at a time and tell a little bit about them. This is my first attempt at an actual "newsletter" or whatever you want to call it, so I'll probably change how I do this later on. I was going to try to write a blog post once a week for the blog that my fiancee (Alissa) is posting things on for me, but I haven't been able to do that yet, unfortunately! I'll try to do a better job of keeping up with that from now on.
Friday, December 27th:
I had this thing called TRC (Teaching Resource Center, or something like that), today, for the second or third time ever, where members of my church volunteer to come in and be taught by the missionaries (in Portuguese, in my case). We didn't have a lesson prepared (I guess we forgot about it), but we just ended up talking to the two people we met with about their lives and their family. They were actually married to each other, but we met with them separately. **Side note: Alissa got her wisdom teeth out today, and she sent me some pictures of her face, which was all swelled up, and she had this ice pack wrapped around her head. It was funny, but I couldn't help but feel bad for her, haha! She's doing better now though I think. :)
Saturday, December 28th:
So we have teachers come in and teach us for about 3 hours a day here (once or twice a day), and at the beginning of class, they pretend to be someone that they taught on their mission, and each set of missionaries goes in a room and teaches them for about 15-20 minutes. We taught our teacher (Irma Petitta) who was pretending to be an investigator (someone who's learning about our church) named Edinea. We taught her about the 10 commandments and had her commit to keeping them in her life, which she didn't seem to have a problem with. She's already agreed to be baptized, and that's supposed to happen on January 11th (again, this is all pretend, but we're trying to make it seem real, because it's good practice). Our next investigator (Irmao Walker) was named Sergio, and he's a little bit tougher to teach. He doesn't seem too interested in what we have to say.. but we taught him about prayer and about the Holy Ghost, and he committed to praying once a day. Later on, Irmao Walker told my companion (Elder Gartside) and I, that we needed to be more enthusiastic in our lessons.. haha! Otherwise, he said it feels like we're only there because we have to be there.
Later that night, two of my roommates and I, stayed up late talking. It was a lot of fun, but I was really tired the next day! Oh also, another side note, at lunch- someone was doing the bird call whistle from the movie "The Hunger Games" and held up the three fingers sign, and just about everyone did the whistle back and held up the sign.. it was pretty funny. (It's gotten a little annoying at this point though.. haha! oh well)
Sunday, December 29th:
I absolutely love Sundays at the MTC! We had quite a few lessons today about how to recognize the Spirit. It's usually impressions that come into your mind, a feeling in your heart, a warm feeling (for some people), or just a good feeling. God communicates with us through the Spirit. Anything that comes into your mind that is persuades you to do good, is from God. Anything that comes into your mind that persuades you to do evil, or is just bad by nature, comes from Satan. I also learned about inviting the Spirit into lessons with investigators, through sincere, heartfelt testimony.
We had a devotional (a guest speaker and his wife come in and speak to us for about 50 minutes) later that night, and then we watched a teaching demonstration video with Jeffrey R. Holland from the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles in it, which was a little over an hour. It was great. I love hearing him speak. The video was called "The Gift of Teaching". He was saying that we should do the following things when teaching:
1) "Ask, seek, & knock (spiritually)."
2) "Teach from the scriptures."
3) "Teach by & with the Spirit."
4) "Help the learner assume responsibility for learning."
5) "Testify." (share how you came to know the truth of whatever principles you are teaching the class (or the person) about)

I liked when he said "You may not be able to teach them, but you can love them." and also, "If you love them today, maybe you can teach them tomorrow." I need to develop a greater love for the people that I teach! :)
Monday, December 30th:
We had two substitute teachers today. Almost all of our teachers are students, so they're going on breaks to see their family and things like that right now, and as a result, we've probably had.. about 7 or 8 substitute teachers in the past month.. haha! One of my main teachers (we have two, Irma Petitta, and Irmao Khang (Irma means "Sister" and Irmao means "Brother)), Irma Petitta, is actually getting married tomorrow! So that's why she's gone right now. She's awesome, and I am so happy for her.

So our first substitute teacher was really awesome, and his name is Irmao Tiago (Brother James). He taught us some Portuguese, and then I asked if he could name objects in the classroom for us, so that we would know how to say their names in Portuguese. After that, we took a short break, and came back, and then he said "Let's go outside." or something, and we went outside, and he just went around and named objects/things outside and we wrote them down. It was a lot of fun, but my hands were hurting after being outside in the cold for so long, and my pen almost stopped working! haha! After that, we went over the Preterite and Imperfect tenses (past tenses) for Portuguese.
Our second substitute, Irmao Laws, was very serious about missionary work, and he essentially gave us a lecture about how we need to use our MTC time wisely, and how it's up to us to figure out how to use our time, for the most part. He made an analogy with Lehi's family traveling in the wilderness for many years, and then when they finally arrive at the land that they called "Bountiful", which had a nice beach, and everything that they needed, the Lord told Nephi "Get thee up into the mountain". So instead of laying in a hammock and resting after his long journey, Nephi was obedient, and he climbed up into the mountain. When he got to the top of the mountain, he prayed to the Lord and asked what he needed him to do. He told him that he needed to build a ship to cross the ocean, to go to the Promised Land (the Americas). Instead of saying "I don't know how to do that" or asking for tools, he inquired of the Lord to know where he could find ore to make tools. Anyways, the analogy here, was that our time at the MTC could be fun and easy, like the valley Bountiful, or, we could climb to the top of the mountain (aka, work hard and study, and focus). The MTC is can be as easy or as challenging as we make it. I'm trying to challenge myself more now, after hearing that analogy. (for those of you who are unfamiliar with this story, it's from the beginning of The Book of Mormon :])
Tuesday, December 31st, 2013:
I got two Brazilian cookbooks from Alissa this week, and they are full of colorful pictures and recipes for tasty Brazilian food. Sweet! Some of the recipes look a little complicated, but that might just be me being intimidated by the professional-looking pictures of food that are in them, haha! So it was New Year's Eve that day, so obviously, what did I do? I stayed up till midnight! There were even fireworks outside (off-campus), which we watched for a little bit (they were partially blocked by some buildings, though).
Earlier that day, we had two substitute teachers at once (they accidentally signed up for the same day). Irmao Laws again, and then a new one, Irma Compton. We did something interesting today. We had our 4 companionships split up into groups of 2 companionships, and 1 companionship taught the other companionship, who was pretending to be investigators. It's actually really fun, and I think I like it better than teaching my teachers, in some ways. Since it was just us missionaries, we snuck in some English words when we didn't know the Portuguese words, haha! So my companion and I taught two other missionaries, and then two missionaries taught my companion and I. I have to admit, it's not the easiest thing, pretending to be someone else, and pretending to not know everything that I know. It went alright though, and we've met with the two missionaries who are teaching us twice now. It's not too bad, and can be a lot of fun at times, when we're joking around with each other. :)
That night, we had a devotional, where Brother Stanley G. Ellis (from the Quorum of the Seventy), and his wife, spoke to us. Afterwards, we had an awesome testimony meeting with our Branch President and his wife. The Spirit is always so strong in our classroom when we have testimony meetings.. I love it!
2013 was a great year. Spending so much time with Alissa is what made it great, in my opinion. I can't wait to marry her in 2016! :) So far away.. haha. I also got to spend a lot of time with my family, which I really enjoyed, and I got to know a bunch of the associates at the Webster Walmart, and made some good friends there. I absolutely loved December, at the MTC, and that was a great way to end the year. I miss my fiancee, and my family, and my friends, but I know that I'm where the Lord needs me to be right now, and that's exactly where I want to be. I'm willing to give up these two years of my life to serve the Lord, because He has done so much for me! Everything, actually! Also, knowing that I'll see my friends and family again near the end of next year makes it easier to be here. And knowing that I'll be getting married to Alissa a few months after I get back makes it easier too! haha! I can't wait! :)

Alissa actually has decided to serve a mission since I got here, and I am SO excited for her. It's great being on a mission. I love it! I am learning so much about myself, about the gospel of Jesus Christ, and I'm learning the awesome language of Portuguese. Eu amo Portugues!
I want to be a better person this year, 2014. I want to be the best that I can be, for my family, for my fiancee, for my mission companions, but most of all, for my investigators. People are counting on me. I can't let them down. One full year of missionary work, here I come!
Wednesday, January 1st, 2014:
Happy New Year! It's nice to be in an even year again. Today, there were about 300-400 new missionaries arriving at the MTC, and my district was asked to be hosts for the new missionaries. Basically, what that is, is we help new missionaries get their nametags, their books, find their residence room, and then we bring them to their classroom. It was cool to get to know some new missionaries and help them find their way around, and answer their questions about life at the MTC.
Today marked the 13th month that I have been engaged to Alissa! I am so happy that I get to marry her, she's absolutely amazing, and she has been such a great example to me. She has written emails to me almost every day since I got here, and it makes me so happy, and makes my week a little more exciting. :) She has been very supportive of me since I've been here. I love her so much!

I'm grateful for all of you who have written to me so far, and who will write to me in the future! I've said it once, and I'll say it again.. I love receiving letters and emails! So feel free to write to me whenever you want!
Okay, here's a funny story:
About two weeks ago, we got two new districts in our zone. The day that they got here, Elder Taylor (a missionary in my district (which has 8 missionaries in it in total)), said to all of them, "So, this may sound a little weird, but, as a zone, we like to pray on top of our wardrobes at night, because it helps us feel closer to God." None of us thought that they would believe him, and he didn't even think that they would believe him.. but.. haha XD (I'm laughing as I'm typing this) they confessed today that ALL of them have been doing that EVERY. NIGHT. since they got to the MTC! HAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA!!!!!! XD my district just about died when we heard that. hahaha!!!!! They haven't done that since then (we never did it in the first place!). It was so funny though.

Oh also, and we had this one Elder here (who went home), but, he was in our district, anyways, he was pretending that he was from Scotland, and he did a Scottish accent around the two new districts every day until he left, and then before he left, we had him record a video on someone's camera, saying that he wasn't Scottish, he wasn't from Scotland, and he didn't have a Scottish accent. (All in an American accent) And we showed the video to the other two districts. Nobody knew that he was faking it! haha!
Thursday, January 2nd:
I got up a little late today.. I need to work on getting up right at 6:30am when my alarm goes off. It was probably 6:54am when I got up, but I still made it to breakfast at 7:15am on time, so it wasn't a huge deal. So our investigators (two other missionaries), are "Kevin" and "Mark". "Kevin" is a friend of one of the missionaries, and "Mark", is one of the missionaries, if he had fallen away from the Mormon Church. It's interesting teaching them. "Mark" is pretty open to our lessons, but he's worried about not being able to be forgiven for the things that he's done in life, which is why he stopped going to church. "Kevin", has never really attended a church, and he isn't very open to our lessons.. but we're working on that. We invited them to come to church next Sunday, and they're going to try to free up some time to go with us. (again, this is all pretend, but we're trying to make it seem real) We encouraged "Mark" to pray and ask God for forgiveness for his mistakes, and he said that he would try.

Later that night, during language study, I learned the verb conjugations for regular AR/ER/IR verbs in the Imperfect and Preterite past tenses, and I learned a few new verbs. It wasn't too difficult, and it should be useful when I'm teaching lessons or having conversations in Portuguese. Not everything can be said in the Present Tense! haha!
Friday, January 3rd (today):
I just wanted to say, that I am so grateful for how much my faith has increased, and my testimony has grown, since I got here. I am so grateful for the other missionaries in my district, and my zone, and for all of the things that I have learned from them. My district feels like my family right now, and they might as well be! We're all pretty close at this point, after being here for 4 weeks. I love being a missionary, and being at the MTC. I am really happy here, and I haven't been missing everyone too much (it comes and goes, but I've been doing alright away from everyone for now).

I know that the Lord has called me on a mission for a reason, and that this is where I am supposed to be, and that I'm here when I am supposed to be here. I have a strong desire to share what I know about the gospel of Jesus Christ with everyone, and that's why I'm here. I want other people to know what I know, and to be able to find true happiness and joy in their lives. I want them to be able to return to live in heaven after this life, with their families, forever. I know that this is only possible through following the example of Jesus Christ and having faith in Him. I know that God wants us to pray to Him every day, in sincere, heartfelt prayer. He wants us to be happy, and He wants to bless our lives. All we have to do, is ask Him. I'm not afraid to say all of this, to anyone. I'm sorry if this offends anyone, but, I know with a surety that having faith in and following the gospel, and the example, of Jesus Christ is the only way for us to return to live with Him and with God, and with our families. Those who do not get the chance to accept the gospel in this life will be given a chance after they pass away. They will be taught, in the Spirit world, after they die, and they will be able to choose whether or not they want to follow Jesus Christ and accept Him as their Lord and Savior.

You can pray to know the truth of these things for yourself, and I would encourage anyone to do so. :) I am by no means perfect, and I still have a lot to learn, so you don't have to take my word for it. Read The Book of Mormon if you want to know more! :) I know that The Book of Mormon is a true account of the Lord's dealings with the people in the Americas, and that anyone who reads it can pray to know the truth of it. I know that if anyone does this, sincerely, with real intent, and a real desire to know, that they can (and will) receive a knowledge of the truthfulness of it, from God, through the Holy Ghost. Maybe not right away, but in time, if they are diligent, He will answer their prayers.
If anyone has any questions about what I said in this email, or about how I'm doing, or anything, feel free to send me an email! Or even if you just want to say hi, or tell me about your life, or something that's happening in the world right now (I'm completely cut off from the news, the media, radio, TV, etc. haha!), feel free to do so!
Thank you to everyone who wrote emails to me this week. It made me very happy, and it's nice to know that so many people care about me.

I love you all, and I hope that you have a great week!
Until next week,

Elder Canto

I forgot to mention something!

During our lesson with the two other missionaries on Wednesday, I asked (in Portuguese), if one of them had a girlfriend, and he said yes, so I asked (in Portuguese), "how old is she?" And he said "dois anos" (two years old), and me, his companion, and the teacher burst out laughing. Him and my companion both thought that I had asked how long he'd been with his girlfriend, and they were confused why we were laughing at first. It was so funny though, and once they figured out what happened, they were laughing too, haha!
Anyways, I just wanted to share that experience with all of you.

Elder Canto