Tuesday, 29 December 2015

Wonderful Christmastime

Much like Paul McCartney once sang, this year we we could say this past week were were 'simply having a wonderful Christmas time'. While the emphasis in this statement could likely be more focused on the 'simply' part, it was still a very memorable and happy Christmas week for us :)

Our week started out with a division with the Zone Leaders, I had the opportunity to go out with Elder Willes, in which our primary purpose was to do a baptismal interview for our investigator, Mariozinho, who we had marked for baptism on the 26th. Elder Mason and I had struggled to find him in the days past, and as such,  I was kinda panicking to see if we could find him or not. I was absolutely STOKED when, after teaching a lesson, Elder Willes and I ran into him, and we were like, 'HEY, your baptism is this week, you gotta do an interview, letsssss'a'goooo ' but in traditional form, Mariozinho had something else he had to do at that moment, but we marked to find him at 6pm, right before our Ward's Christmas Party at 7. By the time 6pm came around, he was nowhere to be found, and while we waited and waited, he never came, so we hoped to see him at the Christmas party, and though we waited and waited, he never showed. We concluded that, if he didn't show up, it likely meant that he wasn't ready for his baptism at this point in time, so we kinda put him off for now. 

As for our Christmas Party, I'd have to say it was probably my favorite part of the week. It was kind of funny, because, in classic Cape Verdean fashion, it didn't start til WAY later, and by the time we had showed up, Elder Mason and Elder Rodrigues, who were on a division, had been singing hymns with those who showed up on time for like at least an hour. 
By the time we got it started, not everything went as was planned, but it was nice. There were some videos showed, some testimonies given, and some more hymns sung, but the real highlight came after the spiritual part. Our ward had organized what they called a 'troca de prenda', or gift exchange, in which members of the Elders Quorum had to get presents for a specific person in the Relief Society, and vice versa. I got the name of a member in our ward who I think is like over 70, she's super old, and suuuuper sweet, like she always shakes our hands for at least 20 seconds every time we see her. We didn't really have a whole lot to give, so I gave her this dollar store item I had gotten in a package of a pink bunny with a battery powered fan on its head. Merry Christmas for her I guess :) hahaha. The fun part about it though, was they did it like a chain, where one member would get up, and describe who they had, and the congregation had to guess who it was, and man, it was hilarious. Some of the descriptions they used were classic. I especially loved it when they described the person as white, and the person would get up to get it, and they were distinctively not white :P or when a member would get their spouse, and would describe the person as 'the girl I love the most in the whole world' or cute stuff like that. It was hilarious. I got a present from our Relief Society President, Samila, who is one of my favorite members here, and she described me as having 'fine hair and being really good at Creole' and everyone guessed that it was me. It was a pretty great present too, being the only Christmas present I got before Christmas; I can now say I get to join the illustrious club of those who say they only got socks for Christmas, because that's what I got :) 

Our other highlight from the week was Christmas Eve, as that's the real celebration that they had here in Cova Figueira. One of their traditions is they always hold a 'ceia', or like big supper, but the only problem is, is that their tradition is that they always have their ceias at like midnight. We had been going around asking members what they had planned for Christmas, and ALL of them went off about their ceias and all the food they would have, and I think every one of them invited us to come. It was much to our dismay, when they answered to us that it would be happening at midnight :P thankfully though, because our members love us, we had a couple of families that were very kind to accommodate to us, and they had their ceias a little bit earlier, so that we could get home when we needed too. Some of the food we ate included bacalhau, a Portuguese dish that lots of Portuguese people eat, or so I'm told. We also got lobster, and maybe a little bit of good pork too (shhhhh). It was such a good dinner, and while it wasn't a whole lot like the regular Christmas Eve's I'm used to, it was a really good one :)

On Christmas, to be honest, not a whole lot happened. We were going around expecting to find families together and celebrating and having fun, but instead, everyone was just doing their usual stuff. We did get to eat a reaaaaaaally good Christmas lunch at our other family's house, where we got to eat more bacalhau, but this time it had black olives with it. I like black olives a lot. We did get to go around a bit and wish people merry Christmas, but a large part of our day went towards figuring out problems with Skype, and getting to Skype our families, which was the best Christmas present of all!!! It was definitely the bomb. 
With moving forward now, we're really stoked to be having the baptism of our investigators Kahtia and Fabio this week. We had the Primary Presentation in our ward yesterday, and Fabio got up to give a talk, but when he was stumbling on what to say, a couple of kids started to giggle at him, and he had a momentous struggle which resulted in him crying and sitting down next to our bishop. Poor kid didn't sing the rest of the presentation, but it was kinda cute how he just had a little breakdown. He got over it pretty darn quick too, which was good. 
So, it's been a good week for us, and I hope all y'all out there had an incredible Christmas. My only major sadness from this week I guess was the fact I got a major Star Wars spoiler fed to me by my dad, but even though it's caused for such trauma on my life, somehow I'm working on forgiving him. 
Love y'all! 
Elder Massey

Monday, 21 December 2015

Year in Review

Isn't it convenient that the Black Keys happen to have the most fitting title for a year-mark letter?

Making it one solid year on the mission caused for some definite reflection this past week, about the lessons I've learned, sometimes about lessons I've taught, experiences that I wouldn't trade the world for, and some of the absolute hardest days of my life as well. I've been extremely blessed to meet some incredible people, from the MTC all the way to the Fogo Zone I'm in today, and had better comps than I could've ever asked for. All in all, I honestly have to say that this past year has easily been the most incredible year of my life, and I have been so blessed by the Lord to have had such an incredible first year of my mission. 

To celebrate hitting a year, I was lucky enough to be able to participate in the 'Year Mark Challenge', in which I got to sit down and eat a Snickers bar, a full Dan Cake, and drink a full Pear Compal. To explain a little, A Dan Cake is quite possibly the grossest, most processed cake-type thing here in Cape Verde. It's basically a very large twinkie, about 20-30cms long. I hate them. A Pear Compal is about a litre of straight pear juice, and while wonderful, is a heck of a lot of juice :P Anyways, as is tradition, I embarked on the journey, but failed to finish it. About 70% of the way through the Dan Cake I realized I really hate Dan Cakes, and I just decided to down the juice and call it quits. I laid on my bed all night in pain, it sucked :P I'm never buying a Dan Cake again. 

This week was actually a really good week for us in general, like every day just seemed to go by really well, though we did work our butts off. We had a lot of success in finding both investigators and less actives to teach. We've been continually prepping up for Christmas, and it's been a lot of fun to do so. We've found a few Christmas messages we like to teach to our less actives, and at the end of some of the lessons, I'll play a Christmas song on the harmonica for these families, and the smiles we get make me SO happy :) something I'm learning about a Cape Verdean Christmas is that they really don't have much, and unlike at home, nobody really is expecting anything. They're just happy to pass time with family and friends, have fun together, maybe have some good food too. We've been asking people in our lessons what they're excited for for Christmas, and almost always, they say it's because of their families, and because of Christ, and I love it SO much. 

Also this week, we worked more and more with our miracle investigator, Mariozinho, who we're planning to have the baptism of this week. We were able to have an awesome lesson with him this week, in which we taught the Word of Wisdom to him, and had a member sit in with us, who has been recently struggling with the Word of Wisdom, and when our member, Kenny, gave his testimony on the Word of Wisdom in the lesson, the power of his testimony was so strong, just because we could really feel he KNEW that it's a commandment of God that will bless us, and I know Mariozinho felt the Spirit really strongly about it too. We're looking forward this week to having a big baptism with the other Elders with something like 7 people getting baptized, so prayers will be necessary for us to have a White Christmas here in Cape Verde. 

As for other weekly highlights, our other investigator working toward baptism, Kahtia, shut down her 'man' again, and it was another one of those moments in which I wanted to shout because it was just so like YES. We were teaching her, and her man Patrick happened to be in town for the day, and so I asked him, 'sooooo, are you sticking here for Christmas, or you gunna be back home, orrrrrrr..' and he responded with, 'well, maybe here, or maybe we might all do Christmas out there...' suggesting that Kahtia and her kids would go with him, to which Kahtia just looked at me and said, 'no, we'll be here for Christmas, because the ward Christmas party is on Tuesday'. I was like HECK YEAH! and I'm pretty sure Patrick didn't say a thing the rest of the lesson :P hahahaha. It was the boss. 

Hoping ALL y'all out there have an interstellargatorskinboots Christmas, wherever this finds you! 
Love y'all! 
Elder Massey

Wednesday, 16 December 2015

Losing Touch

We've been feeling the winter winds here even more and more this week, it's not nearly as cold as it is back home, but it is sorta nice to feel like an actual chilly breeze. It's been good :)

THIS WEEK, we had our Zone Christmas party, which was actually really, really good. The highlight of it was definitely the training Sister Mathews gave for us. For lunch, there were these sugar cookies on the table in the shape of hands, and she told us that it would become important later on in the day, so when her training came around, she explained it. We had the opportunity to listen to President Uchtdorf's talk from 2010 when he spoke of the statue of Christ in World War II that was subject to bomb damage, and had the hands blown off. After a certain amount of time, the decision was made to leave the statue, and to place a sign reading 'you are his hands'. As such, Sister Mathews based her training off of that. She talked a lot about the physical qualities Christ displayed in his life, and especially how he touched those he came across, both spiritually and physically. Unfortunately, we live in a world without his physical hands among us, and for us, especially as missionaries, we are called to be his hands in a world where he's 'losing touch' (see what I did there?). One of the things I really liked too about her training was the example she used of Christ in the first mention of him using his hands in the Bible, in Matthew 8, as he touches a leper. We all know that a leper is NOT a person you wanna touch, but Christ did so because he didn't see the person on the outside, but the Child of God on the inside. Something that we were challenged to do by President and Sister Mathews is to be his hands this Christmas, and to serve someone in some special way. I hope that all of you can find some way to do that this year too :) 

The BUMMER about the whole Christmas party thing was that Sister Mathews showed up Elder Mason and I HARD. Each district was asked to make a dessert prior to bring, so Elder Mason wanted to make sugar cookies. We started making them, and we had great ideas of making Christmas trees and stars and snowmen, but once we got to the cutting process, we realized that it's not very easy to cut out upwards of 40 stars or trees or snowmen by hand; it's pretty dang hard to cut out ONE by hand!! We ended up using a plastic cup as our cutter to make 40+ circle sugar cookies (I know, don't judge) and we thought we could make it up by making colored icing. The icing, upon first glace, appeared to be going well, but what was green the night before turned to a very sketchy Shrek-esque, two-toned, very gross green, which President made a comment of audible questioning over. It only made things worse when we all received, as a present, a hand-shaped cookie cutter, the key element we were missing in our baking, and to add insult to injury, a sugar cookie mix in the package I received. Guess it all turned out pretty ironically. 

Another thing with the Christmas party, was each district was also asked to come up with an 'activity' to do. Our zone has 5 different districts, and ours is one of the smaller ones, and we were at a loss of things to do. I had asked if I could play my harmonica but I was told I wasn't allowed to (which made me a little sad) so instead, we brainstormed up a simple idea. I really couldn't think of much else to do, other than our own little Nativity scene putting the other dupla of elders in our district, Elder Cosmo and G. Silva, as Joseph and Mary, respectively. At first, I thought the idea would be a bit sketchy, but as I got the approval from the ZLs telling me not to cross dress them, we went ahead with it, and used a bobra, basically a Cape Verdean zucchini, as the Baby Jesus (I may have nicknamed it the 'Bobra Jesus'). I was a tiiiiiiny bit afraid people wouldn't like it, but it turned out really, really well, and it was a lot of fun. Elder Mason and I read passages from Luke and Matthew while we called up Elders to be shepherds, wise men, and angels, and we all sang 'Away in a Manger' to finish 'er off. I'm rather proud of what we pulled off :) 

 As for actual work this week, it was a bit of a tougher one. We seemed to be constantly fighting to get lessons, but at the same time, there were a lot of little tender mercies along the way. My favorite part of the week was when we went to teach one of our favorite investigators, Kahtia, and we were going to follow up with her about baptism, since she was kinda stalled for a bit cuz of living with a man and such. We'd invited her to think about the date of the 26th to be baptized, and when we came back a few days later, we could hardly sit down before she was excitedly telling us she did NOT want to be baptized on the 26th, because she wanted to wait a week and be baptized with her son, Fabio, who turns 8 on the 29th of this month. I was SO dang excited when I heard that, because it was EXACTLY what we were going to suggest to her, but she beat us to it. She's already come to church like probably MORE than 10 times, and we don't even have to help her get to church, she just comes, and is usually here before we are. I'm so dang excited for her. 

All in all, it's been a good week for us :) I'm happy, and it's Christmas! What more could we ask for? 
Love y'all!! 
Elder Massey

Thursday, 10 December 2015

Winter Winds

(Sorry no new pictures this week... hopefully next week!)

Cova Figueira happens to be one of the FEW areas in Cape Verde where we actually get to feel cold every once and a while. Though the seasons don't really change here all that much, we still get to feel just the slightest chill come night time, which is rather nice :) the 'winter winds' are also bringing about some changes in our area which are pretty dang cool :)

This week has been a pretty solid one for us, and we saw a lot of blessings from the Lord come in our work here in Cova Figueira. In all honesty, this week saw just good, solid, hard work more than anything. We had some AWESOME stuff happen though. 

Last week, we had the Lord work some wonders for us, and put into our work a new investigator, named Mariozinho. I may have mentioned him last week in that we had a random guy show up at church for the first time, and this week we had the opportunity of teaching him a few times. He's the cousin of our one member, Dani, who goes out and walks with us all the time, and so Dani has been really helping him out. Mariozinho was recently in what I think was rehab for the past 10 months, and on coming out of being in there, he knows that the best life for him is to follow Jesus Christ. It's actually really cool to see, because I can see in him that he KNOWS that he can't keep with the life that he had before he went to prison, and that following the path we teach him about is the right one. Another thing I love about him is that he really recognizes the Spirit, in that whenever we teach him, he's always telling us about how 'sabi' he feels when he's at church, which is Creole for just overall goodness. 'Sabi' can be used to describe anything from good tasting food, to a nice breeze, to the Spirit at church. I love Creole so much :) we have Mariozinho marked to be baptized here in two weeks, which will take a lot of prayers, but I really think it's going to happen. 

We also had to put a lot of work in this week to our one area, Tinteira, because the stake here in Fogo has decided to pay for a car to take people to church on Sundays for this month alone, in the hopes of putting a group out there in the new year, and so our task this week was to get people hyped for the car. Normally, we make two trips out there a week, during weekdays because there's a bus that drops high school kids off at night, and we use it to get back to Cova Figueira when it returns. We went out there on Tuesday and had more or less success, but on Friday, we had Zone Meeting in Sao Filipe, and weren't able to get out in time, which meant we would have to make the trek on Saturday, but without a car. So, after we had opened our fast on Saturday at lunch, we walked ALL the way out to Tinteira, which is more or less about 5kms, and we freaking WORKED to make sure we could get around to every member we could so they knew there was a car going the next day. We were basically running all over the place so we could get to everyone before it got too late. While we were running around, we were going to teach one of these less active members, and Dani, who was out with us, walked up and just started talking to a guy right outside this less actives' house, and by the time we got there, this guy was like, 'hey Elders, I don't have a lot of time, but I do have 10 minutes for palavra de Deus, let's do it' and so without even having to argue with the guy to sit with us, we jsut sat there on the roadside and taught him. It's cool how the Lord guides us to people without us even realizing it. That day ran rather long, as we had to walk all the way back in the dark, another 5km, and teach another lesson in Cova Figueira just to hit our daily goals. We wiped OUT that night. 

The next day was really dang cool too, and it seems to me every time we are fasting on Sunday, the Lord pulls some cool stuff on us. It seemed to me that just everyone was coming to church, and while it wasn't the most we've had there, we managed to have 4 investigators there, 1 being Mariozinho, and also having a bunch of less actives show up, including 3 brothers, who brought Ricardo, our investigator with them. 

Something I'm starting to learn is that, even if we feel like we're giving it our absolute ALL and nothing is coming from it, the Lord finds ways to show us the fruits of our labors, even if it is very occasionally in some places. 

We're getting stoked about Christmas here, and I hope all you back home are enjoying the snow I don't have. I really miss it like a lot. Hoping all is well where ever this finds you! 

Elder Massey

Tuesday, 1 December 2015

I Stand Corrected

(So I just realized that last week's letter never got posted...better late than never!  Sorry - no pictures)

23 November 2015

Well, coming to the end of this week, I guess I can stand with Ezra Koenig and say that I wasn't exactly right on what I thought would happen.

So, a large part of this week we spent working towards setting up the area for Elder Mason to take over with a new companion, as this past week was the 6th week of the transfer. Also, being the last week of Elder Mason's training, he got the opportunity to step up and lead out on lessons and teaching and such, which meant a little less stress for me :P hahaha. It also meant that going to certain areas would've been the last time for me going there, so I was saying partial good-byes and taking pictures throughout the week with people I wanna remember and such, however, I found out that it really wasn't necessary to do so. 

We did have some cool parts to this week. We found out that our further out area we work in, Tinteira, is getting a car paid by the stake to bring people on Sundays for the coming month, which was no more  than a small miracle. We also found some people in Tinteira that are pretty dang cool. One such was a younger woman named Livia, who's house was one I had never knocked on, and I decided that we should give it a go, since we had a little bit of time to kill. We knocked on the door, and they answered and basically ushered us in, which was cool. We had briefly explained our message and what not, and asked for a few minutes to talk, and this girl, Livia, was like, 'well, I am REALLY busy, but I can make 10 minutes for God' and I was like YESSSSS. It turned out she had never spoken to the Elders before (a rare feat for Fogo), and doesn't have a specific religion, because there are so many around that say they are true, but she has no clue which one is, and believe they all more or less profess one thing, and act another way. I love it when people ask questions like that, cuz the First Lesson really answers all those questions so well. She was super willing to do our invites, and was open to us coming back. She started to laugh a lot at the end cuz I kept asking her questions and it was kinda awkward cuz we still had a few things I felt we needed to ask, but they all just loaded off at once :P I had to be like 'okay, I KNOW I ask a LOT of  questions, but I just have ONE more, I swear' and she'd start laughing. It was funny. 

We've been finding that in our working towards helping less active people come back to church that they really are warming up to us, instead of being a bit cold or harsh as they were a few weeks back. We've started by doing Family Home Evening's with quite a few of them, which is something the mission wants us to be doing. It was really fun this week actually, we went to do a family night, and I suggested we started out with a hymn, and the less active mom was like, 'lets sing Mais Perto Quero Estar! I love that one!' I guess it goes to show that the fire of the gospel is in everyone, we just gotta help them find it! 

So, come Sunday, like I had mentioned, I had been almost expecting a transfer call to go somewhere else, and so at church I said good bye to a few people and took pictures with a few and such, and we had even planned to each lunch at a member's house so that we could let them know what was happening when we got the call from President. Well, Sunday consisted of waiting, and waiting, and waiting even MORE, until 8:40 came around, and I called the Zone Leaders out of confusion, to which they told us only 3 people in our zone had gotten called by President saying they were leaving, and I wasn't one of them. Soooo, out of all the good byes I gave, I guess I stand corrected in my likely premature preparations to leave, and will be staying another transfer in Cova Figueira. By  the time this transfer finishes, I'll have done a full 6 months here. I'll also be staying with Elder Mason for a third transfer, making him my longest served with companion. However, this next transfer looks to bring a year mark hit, Christmas, and New Years, so it should be fun.

Sorry for the lame update for the week, hopefully this next one is a bit more happening! Love y'all! 
Elder Massey

I Still Haven't Found What I'm Looking For

Kinda like Bono, I guess I've 'climbed the highest mountains' and 'scaled these city walls' having been in Cova Figueira for so long, but as my mission president suggested to me in a letter today, I'm still here because 'I still haven't found what I'm looking for', and for that reason, I get to stay here to figure out exactly what it is the Lord would teach me here.

With that said, this week has been doing exactly as such, trying to find out exactly why the Lord has kept me here in Cova Figueira just a bit longer. One of the first things that brought me to was a gospel study on repentance, mostly for the purpose of sharing with our less active members, and it brought me again to one of my favorite scriptures, in Alma 36, verses 17 through to 20, which talk about the complete joy and love that Alma felt, as he truly turned himself to the Lord, and how doing so caused him to forget the bitterness of his pain. In a small way, this taught me that the Lord really does have great joy stored up for me, I just need to turn to him to let it him give it to me. In doing so, I thought about the statement, 'whether you can or you can't, you're right'. I guess this week was important for me, cuz it's helped me gain the attitude I need to keep in staying in this area a bit longer. 

We were able to see a few small miracles in our area this week. We have one less active woman, named Eduarda, who all the members had told us to pass by and talk to a few weeks back, having just gone recently inactive. In the first visit we made to her house, she was more or less apprehensive, told us she didn't have time, etc. , yet we still taught her; that was a few weeks ago. Over time, she's slowly been warming up to us, until this week, when, on Friday or Saturday night, accepted the invitation to come to church again. We passed her on Sunday morning before we went, and she told us she wasn't going to come because she 'didn't have shoes to wear to church', but we talked her through it, and told her she was coming to church. It was so awesome to see when I sat down at the piano in Sacrament Meeting and looked at the congregation, and saw her sitting with her kids. It was freaking boss. 

This week, I also had the opportunity to go on a division with Elder Cosmo to his area in Estancia Roque so we could do a couple baptismal interviews, which was fun. I love going back to Estancia Roque every once and a while, and it's always so much fun because everybody there just gives the elders food, like all over the place. I think I had 5 different cobs of corn in two different houses, as well as some cookies cooked in egg (kinda weird) and some fresh goat cheese (also weird), as well as some little treats and dinner too. I never leave there hungry :P Elder Cosmo is also a lot of fun to hang out with, he's from Brazil and is a bit more reserved, but when we've had as long as we've had in the same district together, we get along pretty well. It's fun cuz I always get a little test on my Portuguese when I go out with him, since he speaks like no English, and he happens to have a beautiful Brazilian accent as well. 
This week also brought Zone Conference for us, which was good. We had the opportunity to hear from the Assistants, and President and Sister Mathews. Sister Mathews just rocks it every single dang time she gets up, like her trainings are so good. She gave a training on Chapter 4 of Preach my Gospel, and I thought I knew what it was all about, but she proved me wrong cuz she pretty well expounded straight doctrine to us. It was good. We also learned how to make like missionary shirts out of paper to give to people for like commitments and such. The last thing I thought I would be doing on my mission would have been making cute little paper shirts, but the mission really does change ya I guess. 
Rding in the Hiace - Elder Cosmo sleeping in the back seat!
Rock throwing never grows old!
Love y'all! Have a good week! 
The Lone Elder Massey