Monday, December 7, 2015

Well this is it!

                                                           Baptism Day Happiness

Well family this will be the last week of my mission! 

Let me explain a bit better how this will all happen: Sunday after stake conference here in Santo Ângelo I will take a bus to Santa Maria 4:15, arrival time 8:20. We will stay at the traditional Hotel Appel that the mission constantly uses with all of the other missionaries who are finishing their missions, there are about 22 I think in my group. Then on Monday it really isn't a "P-day" because there is a whole schedule that we go through with a self-reliance course, last interviews with Presidente Parrela, a final testimony meeting and to top it all off dinner at the best churrascaria (shoo-hask-areea)(Brasilian stake house) in Santa Maria, Bovinos! And because we wont be able to sleep anyway we head off to the airport in Santa Maria 3:20 am on Tuesday (the 5 other Americans from my group and I at least). Then starts all of the flights: First from Santa Maria to Porto Alegre. In Porto Alegre we will have the amazing opportunity to go to the temple! (this is why we leave so early in the morning). After the temple trip its back to the airport and we fly to São Paulo. Then from São Paulo it's a 10 hour flight straight back to the USA baby! (where for sure Ill have a temperature shock since its been super hot down here getting ready for the peak of summer in January). And after a 3 hour wait in the Atlanta airport I will arrive in Greensboro 9:21am!!! (I don't know why that time is so specific...why not just 9:20 or 9:30... whatever)  
district meeting selfie

This past week was amazing :) Here are some funny things that happened. On Tuesday morning before our district meeting we got a call from Presidente Parrela. He called personally so that there weren't any misunderstandings and he said "Elder Pierce you are now junior, the leadership of your area and of the zone will now be passed to your companion Elder Souza Santos. Elder, now is the time for you to focus your thoughts and studies on your goals and plans for your return home. But remember no one in this mission dies". That pretty much changed nothing that we do but it was still funny to tell everyone that I was junior haha. 

Soaking wet before 6:30am
my flooded shoes
Another funnyish story: Friday Elder Souza Santos needed to go to the dentist to get a possible cavity checked out, but how the "free" health care system works here in Brasil we had to get there super early to mark an appointment for this next week. So there we were 5:30 am in the street and the thunder begins to roll and by 6:00 I was in the middle of the 2nd biggest rain storm that I've ever seen on my mission. So we were running and screaming in the streets back home "AHH!!! Holy Cow! Como Assim?! 'ta vendo essa chuva tchê?!!" (how is this possible? are you seeing this rain, man?!) and now I can say that I've been soaked from my head to my toes before it was even time to wake up in the morning. 

We also worked super close with the family of Irmão Pedro this week and we had a great Noite Familiar (Family Home Evening) with another family who they are friends with from the ward. The message was about the blessings that we receive in our lives from obedience to the commandments, especially baptism, which went well. The game we played was hilarious where you had to unwrap a candy with socks on your hands using spoons and do that as many times before someone else in the circle rolled a 6 on the dice when they will have give the socks and spoons to the next person to try and eat as many of the candies that they could unwrap. 
noite familiar with the entire family

                                                                  The candy game.

Saturday was the big day! after about 4 months of visiting their family and 11 straight weeks of them visiting the church Pedro, Janice his wife, and 2 of his daughters Carol and Kauane were baptized! It has been a long process and its only the beginning but the baptismal service was super spiritual and totally worth it. It's been 2 weeks that Pedro hasn't smoked and now they were ready to take this step in their lives :) I had the honor and privilege to baptize Pedro, Irmão Carlos 2nd from the right baptized Janice, Irmão Gelson on the far right baptized Carol, who is next to me, and Kauane chose Elder Souza Santos to baptize her :) And it was funny because we thought the water in the font wouldn't heat up fast enough but when I stepped into the water first the water was super hot! So that will be the memorable part haha because everything worked out great and everyone was so happy :) (I think you can tell from all of the smiley faces haha) 
All in white :)
And since this was my last sacrament meeting in the ward (due to stake conference this weekend) the ward choir that I've been working with for a while performed the last hymn of the meeting, the Christmas hymn "Away In A Manger" which turned out great. 
                                                                      Ward Choir

And that's it... haha its weird to know that this will be my last email to you all. We planned many things too help this week go by fast and I'm sure it will be a blast. I cant wait to see you all in just a few days (pretty much)!!! I know this time that I have been serving the Lord have been the best two years, until now (as it says in that returned missionary manual Mantenha O Espírito). The time that I have most served others and in doing so served myself. Of all the experiences that I have had for these past 2 years what I most value is the testimony that I now have of the small and simple things of the gospel. Now I know with a different certainty and a new depth that the gospel blesses families. That the church was restored through the prophet Joseph Smith. That we have a living prophet today. And above all to know through faith that our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ lives and loves us.

With all of my love and gratitude!!

Elder Pierce    

This picture is perfect haha everyone gives us this nick name and you can see why above
 "beans and rice" hahahahahaha

Monday, November 30, 2015

Holdin' Down the Fort

                                                                  Noite Familiar

Family... things are coming down very quickly... on the mission you get used to the rhythm, and next week and next week, but then I get to... next week... wow it’s a lot to think about. And we pretty much don’t have time to think about it really haha.

Zone Meeting
This week we had our zone meeting on Tuesday and we went right into the exchanges afterwards which turned out to be much more tiring than I expected. We did 4 exchanges in a row! Tuesday I was with Elder De Melo, the district leader from Santa Rosa while Elder Souza Santos went to Santa Rosa with the other companion. For the first day of exchanges I was well prepared all of our appointments were marked "tudo certinho" (all right) and we were able to teach some great lessons with members and in all it was good. The next day was my exchange with the traveling assistant Elder Molina (and Elder Souza Santos had to travel from Santa Rosa to Santa Maria, about 5 hours, and got there around midnight the night before). We are both heading home here in a few days so it was more trunky talk than normal but even on the second day of exchanges I was able to have  everything marked and all of our visits "bonitinho" (nice? more literally would be beautiful with a diminutive...). We had a Noite Familiar with a family of members and the family of Irmão Pedro which was good and Elder Molina gave a 10 for the integration work that we were doing with them. (but sadly I forgot my camera!) But then on Thursday things got more complicated. I was on exchanges with Elder Araújo, our district leader here in Santo Ângelo, after Elder Souza Santos came back from Santa Maria in the morning but since this was the 3rd day in a row of exchanges I wasn’t able to get everything planned out super well and to top it all off it began to rain... so that was a bit of a challenging day. Friday Elder Araújo needed to do an exchange with Elder Souza Santos (the DL has to do exchanges with both the ZL...) so I was with Elder Campos for the day. I think by this point the Lord helped me out because he knew that things were gettin crazy so he blessed us with some great contacts which turned into lessons and new investigators. But yea I’m just glad that all of those exchanges are over and I’ll never have to do another exchange for the rest of my mission!

I was very happy on Saturday to be able to go back to working with Elder Souza Santos. I know that the Lord really has a purpose for putting us back together again especially now. As I helped my other companions in their final hours now he is helping me. No other missionary would be able to help me have such faith and confidence in Heavenly Father and to work through the spirit til the end, not giving into fear or just pushing it with the "arm of flesh" as he has helped me. So yea I’m super excited to get everything done these last 2 weeks!! 

Love ya family and just a reminder next week is the last week I’ll be getting email from you for the rest of my mission!

Elder Pierce  
                                                        Exchange Extravaganza
                                                                 Elder Melo
                                                                  Elder Molina
                                                                    Elder Araújo
                                                                     Elder Campos

Monday, November 23, 2015

My Last "Mirth-day"

                                                                        Zone Meeting
Well this week marked my last "mirth-day" here on the mission. (Mirth-day is the best translation I can think of for "mes-versario" in Portuguese which means your "birth-day" of the month) Yup on Sunday marked 1 year and 10 months that I've been here in Brazil, but the weirdest part is... I'm not going to be here for 1 year and 11 months, uhggg shivers. I also got the official email of death today saying that I'm going home and when my flights will be and everything pretty crazy.  

Elder Wassom and I 
Things went by very fast this week. With our travels on Monday to Santiago then the Zone Meeting Tuesday morning which went well and then traveling back to Santo Ângelo literally the rest of the day. Then Wednesday my exchange with Elder Wassom the other lyric singer in the mission (I'm sure the entire building and the building next to ours heard us singing...) Pretty much all of the things I had planned for in the exchange fell through, tears, but we kept it up, haha. Exchanges are always a good test of faith, or with miracles or in everything going wrong.  Then Thursday Elder Souza Santos finally got to come home. 

We are working a lot so that these last weeks will be very fruitful, we are expecting great things with Irmão Pedro and his family and they are excited too. We had a cool lesson with them where as we read scriptures about the gospel of Christ they filled up a plastic cup with water and then when we finished we used a lighter and showed how a plastic cup without water burns easily but with water in the cup the plastic doesn't burn at all and in the same way we need the gospel in our lives, pretty cool. This week will be busier than last, haha. Tuesday we have the Zone meeting here in Santo Ângelo with Santa Rosa and I'll stay here in the city with the district leader from Santa Rosa for our exchange then on Wednesday Elder Souza Santos from Santa Rosa will go to Santa Maria and an assistant will come and do an exchange with me then when he leaves on Thursday and Elder Souza Santos comes back we will have to do another exchange with Elder Araújo, the district leader here in Santo Ângelo and that is pretty much our entire week in exchanges... yay!

So yea have a great Thanksgiving! and I love you all 

Elder Pierce 

Monday, November 16, 2015

Best (and Last) Mission Council Ever!

                                                        Presidente and Sister Parrela 
                                                         Brazil, Santa Maria Mission

After a long bus ride last Monday I finally got to my hotel room around 9:40 where I met up with my new/ old companion Elder Souza Santos! It was great to get to catch up with him and share many new stories and remember the good old days. At the mission council the next day I took a picture with Presidente and Sister Parrela for, surprisingly, the first time on my mission. 

The mission council was the best (and last) that I've participated in. The ideas were all sorted and filtered out really well and we only discussed things that would effect the entire mission (instead of wasting a lot of time on little stuff). We discussed two of my ideas 1) to include the "datas marcadas" (marked dates? if that's the right expression in English) (explanation: when a missionary marks a date for an investigator to be baptized) in the mission wide email, the "Santa Maria News" as an incentive for marking more dates and for the entire mission to have a better vision of how we are progressing. Everyone thought that was cool and it got a unanimous vote to be applied immediately. And 2) to send a copy of the teaching record together with the baptismal sheet to the mission office when an investigator is baptized. This idea sparked so much conversation and revisions etc that Presidente Parrela decided to have everyone think about it a bit more and we would continue to discuss the topic next mission council (obviously when I'm not going to be there...) It seems that no one has thought of that before so that was pretty cool :) 
Together again :)

Anyway Elder Souza Santos and I are working hard here towards the end. We had some crucial progress with some investigators like Irmão Pedro didn't smoke two days straight so far! But on the other end some other investigators that I've been really trying hard with have showed to us that it really just isn't their time now to progress. In the midst of it all it's like we have time... but at the same time we don't, haha. Especially because now we are going to have to prepare for another round of zone meetings and exchanges with the district leaders. Today (Monday) we travel to Santiago 3:00pm and from there on it's a roller coaster that I'll have to tell y'all about next week!

Love you all and have a great week!

Elder Pierce

Monday, November 9, 2015

Day of the Dead and The Book Of Death

                              The "Book of Death" aka "Mantenha o Espírito" (maintain the spirit)

So first off a big apology for the scare in not sending email yesterday. I realized in the middle of the week that I didn't advise you all that this week p-day moved to Tuesday because Monday was "Dia dos Finados" (Day of the Dead) here in Brasil. This is their substitute for Halloween even though we did go to visit some recent converts who were heading out to trick-or-treat (they were the only ones in the streets haha) so we helped them make their costumes which turned out... haha yea just look at the pics.

It's a big tradition for everyone to go to the cemetery and light candles to brighten the path of their loved ones (apostasy...) and leave flowers etc. So what all the missionaries did, I think in all of Brasil, was go to the cemeteries and pretty much just walk around talking to people visiting the graves about the plan of salvation, and offering for them to learn more etc. To be honest this is a great idea but a bit difficult in reality because first off everyone who goes to the cemetery usually is extremly religious (this may have to do with the fact that we were in a cemetery behined a huge Catholic church) and second we aren't the only church with this idea so there were many other religions roaming through the tombs and with big tables etc set up. Anyway we tried our best but what we most got were adresses of people that lived in the areas of the other missionaries so we can't even visit them, haha.

Last Monday I got the "Book of Death" in the mail! It is a book for returned missionaries that Presidente Parrela gives to all the missionaries who are finishing up their missions to help us out in coming back to the "real world" and due to the "trunky" nature of the book I call it the book of death, haha. The book is called "Mantenha o Espírito" (maintain the spirit) and was written by a past São Paulo CTM president. The entire idea of the book is to help us keep that same spirit that we have worked so hard to develop for the past 2 years as we come home. There are a ton of great tips and ideas to apply in real life from planning your morning well to reading the scriptures to weekly planning to making promises with yourself and the Lord and even making you own "white bible" (the missionary handbook is refered to as the "white bible") for returned missionary life. Super cool, I´ll be finishing reading it for the first time probably today and for these next 6 weeks I'll go back slowly making my own manual and planning on how to apply all of the good stuff that it teaches.

Anyway today is the last p-day of Elder Longo and his last week in the mission! Pretty crazy, we have big hopes and bigger faith that we are gonna see some fruits of our labors this weekend and some extra blessings for a mission well done here. Last night we had a family home evening with a family of investigators (to the right in the pic) named Pedro and Janice with their daughter Carol at a members house. We hope that the message we left them made a difference and helped them to see how God really is answering their prayers and with a bit of luck and a lot of help from the Lord we will see some miracles with them! The message was this super cool trick that Elder Longo did to demonstrate the atonement sucking water into a cup buring toilet paper to rescue a coin from "sin" really cool.

Anyway love you all hand I hope the week goes well!

Elder Pierce
Having fun with E. Longo

Reunited and it Feels So Good!


This week went by super fast 'ta louco. By the time that everyone is reading this letter Elder Longo will probably be back in São Paulo living out his post mission dreams and driving a car which he said was his greatest desire after not driving for 2 years haha. For Elder Longo's last Pday we went bowling! It was super fun, we laughed a lot and I even won the first game! And it was a great opportunity to take a bunch of pictures haha.

                                             this was my favorite picture, perfect timing!

                                                                 I won the game! 
                              (77 points in that last slot and yes the lady spelled my name pircee)

Irmão Pedro and his family decided that they wanted to wait until all of the members of the family were ready to be baptized so this week didn't work out for them. Besides the end of mission stress and trials, Elder Longo was happy that they and some other investigators of ours are progressing well and should be baptized this month. We were even able to get in contact with Irmã Edelci for the first time in a while and she seems to have sorted out some key stuff that she needed to which is exciting! 
                                     Irmão Pedro and those of his family who came to church
Edelci and Ana paula at church

And here's the exciting transfer news... **drum roll**... I will stay here in Santo Ângelo until the end of my mission! I was already expecting that especially because Elder Longo left the area and President Parrela in my last interview with him only told me stories about when he was in the last area on his mission and then told me after "...fica firme aí Elder Pierce." (stay firm there (literal translation)) And my "new" companion will be Elder Souza Santos!!! again!!! I was super excited when I saw that he would be my companion because I loved serving with him in São Pedro do Sul at the beginning of the year and we work really well together so that's pretty cool that he will be my assassin haha. 

Today (Monday) 4:15 pm I will get on a bus to Santa Maria where I will meet up with Elder Souza Santos and stay there the night to be ready for the Mission Council early Tuesday morning. Afterwards we will catch a bus around 2:00pm Tuesday back to Santo Ângelo and we will hit the ground running back to work! Exciting :) I have a feeling that these last 5 weeks of my mission will go by very quickly!

Love you all family and have a great week!

Elder Pierce  
                                                       Elder Longo's last district meeting
                                                                       morto haha
                                                                  everyone sad
                                                            this picture scared me a bit...
               when we ate at a restaurant this week there was a NC license plate on the wall!
                                                                     the last pizza
                                                           last day pics witht the comp
                                               chiquisão (suppa fly) with our matching ties
on his way home 

Monday, October 26, 2015

A Stormy Vacation

                                                    On my way to Santa Maria 10/26/2015

The time always flies by when there are exchanges and during this past week there were two! After district meeting on Tuesday I went with Elder Campos in my area so that Elder Longo could go with Elder Araújo (our District Leader) which was all good seeing as we live in the same house, no traveling involved. 
                                                               our district meeting
                                              I don't know why we did the YMCA pose...
                                       (and neither does Sister C there in the front, haha)
But on Wednesday I we had the exchange with the assistants of the transfer so that means a lot of bus time... ughh, so I headed out 11:20 and arrived in the city around 3:20. A good old friend Elder Rocha
Exchange with Elder Rocha Martins
(we lived in the same house back in Cruz Alta a year ago)
Martins was waiting for me there and we went straight to work, but the day turned out to be more of a stormy vacation than an exchange, haha. There have been a lot of crazy storms passing through the area of southern Brasil that have caused a lot of damage to many houses. We had a service project planned to help an investigator of theirs move out of their house which was literally falling over. So we switched clothes back at their house and headed out but just when we got there the rain started to fall. Before we were even able to fill one truck load the crazy thunder and wind came rolling. Because of all these crazy storms with hail and lightning etc. Pres. Parrela has made it very clear that our safety is in first place so... we were stuck there in the falling down house with the family haha. 

After a good time waiting to see if the rain would die down we decided to sprint in the rain to a near by members house, the rain was so hard running down my face I thought my contacts would fall out. Thankfully we were awaited there by towels and something similar to a "pig-in-a-blanket" that the irmã was baking, yumm. But alas the storm wouldn't calm down so after another wait we had to go walking home in the calmer-ish rain, all in our service project clothes haha. By the time we got back to the mission house and changed clothes it was 8:00 and we only had time to go to an appointment they had marked with a family of recent converts for dinner! (which was very welcome seeing that I didn't have time to eat anything for lunch haha) 

But yeah, that was our little vacation and Thursday I was back on a bus 12:10 to Santo Ângelo where I arrived very tired of bus rides at 4:00. Also this week I completed 1 year and 9 months on the mission! pretty crazy especially because that means I have less than 2 months down to go... wow 
                                 gotta celebrate 1 year and 9 months with only 2 months left!

I hope y'all have a great week! Love ya family :)

Elder Pierce
                                     coming in through the mountains (out the bus window)
                                                              cool view of the city
more city shots