Sunday, December 25, 2011

Merry Christmas

For those of you who follow our blog especially those of you who are not members of our church, I hope this post will help you understand some things about us and our dedication to people of the world who come from cultures different than our own. Let me say that we love diversity and have many friends from many different cultures both in the church and out of the church. Today as part of our Celebration of Christmas we went to Church at the Missionary Training Center here in São Paulo. There are 197 missionaries here all learning the basics of missionary services and some learning Portuguese for the first time.

They come from Brazil already speaking Portuguese and will serve in various parts of Brazil away from there home area. Many are in a big city for the first time (like an Idaho or Montana farm kid coming to São Paulo, it is different and scary even thought they know the language). We also have both Elders and Sister from several Spanish speaking countries in South America, including Chile, Argentina, Peru, and Uruguay who speak Spanish and are learning Portuguese in order to serve throughout Brazil. There is also a contingent from the United States many of whom have come straight from home to São Paulo to begin their missions and learn the Language that they will be speaking for the next 2 years. We also have a contingent from Africa who will be working in Mozambique (also in Africa) and speaking Portuguese but who now speak a combination of Portuguese and Creol, and we just sent out a group who came from various parts of Germany speaking German and learning Portuguese and who are now spread out in various of the 27 missions here in Brazil. Brazil has both a large German population and a large Japanese population.

This diverse group is attended to by equally diverse group of instructors and leaders. The MTC (Missionary Training Center) president is an American who has lived and served in Brazil more than once, his wife is an immigrant to Brazil as a young child from Czechoslovakia and speaks Portugese, Czech, and English natively as well as some German (She was a great help with the German speakers, especially one who was experiencing some significant adjustment issues). One of President Clark's counselors (assistants) is Japanese and speaks Portuguese, Japanese, and Engish, has a beautiful Tenor voice and sang "Requiem" in Latin for the Staff and Leader Christmas Party. The other Counselor is Brazilian. The instructors here are all Brazilian but many speak more than one language and have had experience in different cultures.

The missionaries are divided into Church Units called branches and the branch leadership for each of the branches comes from here in São Paulo, native Brazilians or from the Senior Couples who are serving here in other capacities. As we have compared our experiences and that of our children we can see the real diversity that becomes a part of you as you grow and serve in the Church. We have people who have served in or were raised in Japan, Hong Kong , many of the countries of Europe and Eastern Europe, all over South America, and Africa. At the moment we don't have anybody here that has served in India (although Darwin and I have a friend who served his mission in India and married a girl from India).

It is fun to compare stories about driving in various places in the world. How you navigate in Africa is entirely different than how you navigate in Russia.

The following poem was shared today in Sacrament meeting. It was written for an Elder who served in Russia from the ward (home church congregation) of the sister who gave the talk.

I know this post is long, but I hope you can feel this as much as we did today as we Sat with 19 to 23 year old young men and women (the simple things of the earth) who are about to go out into Brazil and Mozambique to serve people as representatives of Jesus Christ.

Who are you boy?
You are a boy who journeyed to this land of ours.
This land where I've endured my days and felt oppression kill my soul
And fit me into some tight mold.
And teach me that I should not hope
Unless I care to smell the smoke of the dreams that the Red Army tamed.

Who are you Boy?
From a land of plenty, teaching of God,if there is any,
You have all, we have none.
Do you know what that feels like,son?
And yet, you ask me to believe in something that I cannot see.
Some force you say will bring me joy.
Do you know what that feels like boy?

Where you're from, faith is free,
But it has a price for me.
When I have pain, I have my bottle.
Hurt kills quickly, when you drown it in vodka.
That's enough to warm my soul.

I work, I sleep, the days go by.
I'm waiting for the day I die.
You don't understand this place.
You talk and give.
Here in Russia, we just live.

Who are you boy?
Why do you come?
To save a soul who once was numb?
To teach a wretched hateful man who cursed your help,
Refused you hand.
I thought that we were worlds apart.

So how is it that you knew my heart?
A fraction of my age, you calmed my rage;
Mercy paid my generous wage.
I should have been left behind.
It is hard to love my kind.

Hope in your heart,
Power in your hands.
Why did you come to this distant land?
I know now, it was for me.
The Red Curtain fell, but I was still not free.
Until a boy from nations away, brought me my Lord.
I bless the day!

He led me to weep at my Master's feet,
The American boy I met on the street-
New and naive, still in his teens,
With a message to bring the world to its knees.
I thought that truth would come from another-
I did not know, this boy was my "brother".

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