After a tortuous week of not hearing anything from Ben,we finally got an email from him! I don't know if it was a special call from a special man in our ward down to the MTC that got it here or it was just coincidence, but it came and we were SO glad to read that Ben is doing well and is happy. Then, Maggie, angel that she is, found a picture of him on Facebook and sent that along. (A girl she knows from Seattle is in Ben's district--miracle!) So now we have a letter AND a picture to show!
Here are excerpts from his letter: (and yes, he really did ask if he can wash his suit in the washing machine . . .did his mother not teach him anything???)
Well hello family!
Wow! I don't know where to start! I've only got 25 minutes left and there's a lot to tell.
First of all, I love you and miss you all more than I can say. :) I think about you often and I hope things are going well on your end.
So I'm in Brazil and it is awesome! The plane ride was long and we arrived in Sao Paulo about 8 in the morning. We exchanged some money and loaded up the van with our stuff. There were 11 of us in all. We met with five or six more at Atlanta and the rest at Sao Paolo. It took almost an hour to drive what would take twenty minutes in the states to drive - traffic is horrible.
The MTC is beautiful! The first day was just orientations and stuff like that. It's got like seven stories and is the largest church owned building outside of the U.S. Very great. The food is hit and miss - some days it is really good and other days not so much. I've eaten a lot of rice and beans already! Today, I ate a delightful sausage made of pig intestines. I wonder was Ted would say about that :)
The biggest tender mercy I've had while being here is my first comp, Elder Ryan Reese from Dallas. He's such a hard worker and a very spiritual guy and it hasn't been a problem at all to get along, keep the rules and feel the Spirit with him. I'm very lucky to have him. He went to BYU last year and was actually in my fall semster humanities class! We never talked but what do you know!
The rest of my district is really great - there are 11 of us, soon to be twelve. All elders except for two sister missionaries. Ask Maggie if she remembers a girl with the last name of Sargeant in Seattle. She said she knew Maggie through the singles ward.
Let's see, what else....oh yes...Portuguese. It's hard - I'll tell you what. But I've actually come a long way and I'm feeling optimistic. The blessing and the curse is that there are a ton of Brazilians down here so you can practice with them whenever you want but it often leaves you very humbled and confused about what you or they just said. Seriously though, I'm feeling great.
Not to say that it hasn't been hard. In fact, the first three or four nights were really rough for me. I missed you guys a ton and couldn't help but think of home. But you know what? I found out for myself yet again that the Lord answers prayers. He's really helped me stay focused. I know that He can and will apply His to me and anyone else who will earnestly pray and repent. I'm feeling a lot better now - still humbled by my call but ready and willing to work.
Honestly, I'm feeling so good right now. I know that this mission was meant for me and I'm very excited and happy to serve the people of Brazil. This morning we went to the beautiful Sao Paulo Temple and got to do baptisms. Six of us elders baptized 95 people! It's a gorgeous temple and I really felt the Spirit there. The gospel is all about self-less service! I love it!
I can't tell you how much your letters meant to me. I've read them through so many times and each of you brough such joy and peace to my heart with your words in your own individual way. I keep them with the rest of my valuables in the safe in my room because they are really really precious. Thank you.
I'll send pictures when I can but right now, I don't really know how. Did you get my letter? I hope you did because it has information on the back about sending letters and packages - which you can't send to the MTC.
Let's see, did I mention I love you all? Because I do!
Funny thing - all the Brazilians are fun loving and friendly. When they see my name tag reading "Elder Jacob" they all go - without fail - "Jacob....Jacob... like in Twilight!" It's funny.
Tell Bro. Francis that he was right - if you make it to the first Monday in the MTC things get a lot better.
Please email me all about your lives. And tell everyone who reads the blog that I love them all and I hope all is well with them.
Guys, I know this is what I'm meant to do. It's going to be hard, I've got to learn a new language and talk to Brazilians about the gospel, but I'm excited and ready. This is the Lord's work and I'm humbled and honored to be a part of it. I've been reading Section 100 of the D&C often lately; I feel like it applies nicely.
I love you all! Please know that I'm praying about you and thinking about you often but I'm mostly focused on the work! :) I love you!
Dad, Mom, Sam, Annie, Ellie - I love you all! Please tell me about your lives and know that your bro is thinking about you in Sao Paulo Brazil!
By the way - the sky and the city are very beautiful here. :)
Ciao! Boa Noite!
P.S. can I wash my suit in the washing machine?