Your birthday wishes give me a cozy feeling inside and sheer joy! I never would have thought that Birthdays as a missionary were so awesome. This morning Elder Hougaard sang me "Happy Birthday" in an opera voice he used to act as one of the opera house keepers from his High school performance of "The Phantom of the Opera." He also gave me a shirt with tye dye and a picture of a lion with dreadlocks on it, as well as a pink heart keychain made in a machine at walmart that says, "I'm gonna take you down the path that rocks" as quoted from the Emperor's groove. He already knows me too well.
I did not end up getting my visa, which means I will be here for at least another 6 semanas. It was a bit of a shocker, but I am glad I have some more time to focus on becoming a better missionary without worrying about learning a new language. Plus, after seeing some of the miracles that took place this past week, I didn't feel like my time had come to enter into the great land of Brazil. They made me want to be part of the success that is about to erupt in Albany.
This week was cold. -3 degrees Fahrenheit to be exact. When the clouds are away and the day looks sunny, I look forward to a day where I can wear 3 layers of clothing instead of 4. But this is false. Days with clear skies means that there is nothing to shield the cold away. Today I finally bought a nice covering for my face that will keep it from turning blue. The amazing thing is that the weather will not stop the work from moving forward.
The other two elders serving in our branch are leaving and being replaced by sisters. It was very sad/funny on Sunday when they bore their testimonies. They announced the changes that would be made regarding missionary work expecting that people would be sad, but the branch was too excited to have sisters. The branch could really use a womanly touch to missionary work. We have many single sisters in our Branch.
I told you that there were some miracles that took place this last week. It would have been creative to call this email "17 Miracles," but I would have to think of 12 more.
1. Remember that family Elder Hougaard and I found on the 15th while shoveling? We prayed for inspiration to be lead to people that could use the gospel at a crossroads and decided to take the right turn to find them. While we were shoveling for him a couple weeks ago he said he would call us to set up a time to come back, but never did. Well, Elder Hougaard felt inspired to visit them a couple days ago, so we followed the spirit. They happened to be two firm believers in Jesus Christ searching for the truth. Their names are Courtnie and Erik (yes, with a k) Finkell. They invited us in and shared gratitude in coming back because the holidays were so stressful that they had forgotten about us. They knew that we were sent by God to teach them the gospel. They wanted to come to church and read the Book of Mormon before we asked them to. As I was bearing my testimony at the end, Courtnie began tearing up, which led me to begin tearing up. Afterwards, Courtnie asked if she could "be a Mormon AND a Catholic." The Courtnie and Erik Finkell family will be entering the waters of baptism here shortly. Yes, dreams do come true. Even in upstate New York.
2. On New Years Day in the morning before going out and proselyting, Elder Hougaard said in our companionship prayer specifically that the lord would place someone in our path to share the gospel with. RIGHT when we opened the door, there was an African American 23 year old man who was smoking. He asked who we were, what we did, and even expressed that he wanted to quit smoking. In awe, we both ran back into the apartment to grab a Book of Mormon to give him. We met with him two days ago and he committed to getting baptized.
3. I believe I have told you about Jenaro, the Hispanic man who loves missionaries. He feeds us all the mexican food we can get in New York. I love this guy to death. He is not very good at speaking english so many people take advantage of him, yet he keeps a happy smile and a positive attitude. His only family in the States is his Nephew. Mid week we recieved word that he was sent to the E.R. I was so scared since he has HIV and almost died a year ago. We rushed to the hospital and he didn't look so good and asked me to give him a blessing. I don't remember everything I said, but I do remember saying that I promised that he would be okay because he has help to the rod tightly and always does what's right. The next day he was at his home, walking around being his normal, happy self.
4. We finally started teaching a less active family from Manila Philippines (Matt) whom I've been trying to reach for 3 months, the Cortez family. They are feeding us Philipino Food on Thursday, they came to church on sunday, and are even bringing a family member who wants to learn more about our church.
5. We finally got into the home of another less active family, the Muse Family, whom we met on the same day as the Cortez family. They even had a friend over who wants to start taking the discussions. AMAZING.
This transfer is going to be amazing.
I love God. Please serve him by serving your fellow men. Please SINCERELY pray to him ALWAYS. I love you all so so much, this may seem cliche, but I think about how much I am blessed to have you all part of my life.