Welcome to the blog of Elder Redge Ballard!

Redge has gone from planning to fly to the Brazil MTC, to driving to the Provo MTC, to the Houston Texas Mission, and now finally he has arrived in Belo Horizonte, Brazil. We hope you'll enjoy following his adventures in sharing the restored Gospel to those he meets!

Friday, January 21, 2011

Woo Hoo! News from Brazil!!

OI!!! Finally from Brazil!!

  Man this has been some insane last few days... So, here's how it all went. I had unpacked all my stuff in Huntsville, and Elder Geldmacher had taught me all about the area and our investigators and all that stuff. We planned out the day, said a prayer and opened the door to head out. And then President called :) Told me to pack my bags and that I'm leaving on Thursday. So, I repacked my freshly unpacked bags haha. The next day me and Elder Alexandre went and stayed at the assistant's apartment for the night. E Alexandre left on his plane at 2 pm on thursday. Because my flight was later, I did actually get to visit the Temple one last time, very grateful for that, I learned a lot and it really helped me prepare. Then, after lunch and stuff I headed to the airport! Yes, by myself :) very weird feeling being alone after that long of being with missionaries. The flight to Miami was very uneventful, no one say on my row. The layover in Miami was NUTS. I found my gate, and EVERYONE that was waiting was speaking Portuguese!!! So weird!! Because I've never heard real natives speak it, it was almost like my brain was saying, whoa, people actually communicate with this stuff i've been learning?! Crazy :D So the flight to Brazil was actually pretty bad... Flew out 11:15 and got there at 10:10ish AM. SUPER long night. I sat by a guy that lives about 3 hour from Belo, and luckily he spoke pretty good english so he was able to help me decipher my customs slip :) He wasn't very talkative, but I basically focused my head off with just trying to listen to people around me talk, and try to figure out what words were actually being said. Man... the cliche phrase, This wasn't the language I learned in the MTC... was very applicable. The accent people have here is SO different from what I learned. So trying to sleep on the plane was a joke, my back is still recovering haha. The airport in Brazil was even more intimidating cuz everyone was talking a lot more. So finally I made it to the gate and met up with the secretaries, who helped me with my luggage and went with me to the bus to head to Belo. Funny story, when President Hansen was helping me unload my luggage in Texas, he accidentally dropped it and broke one of the wheels :P And then when I got it back in Brazil... the zipper had popped too, so it was taped shut hahaha. So... I'll need a new suitcase eventually :)
  For the busride to Belo, i just sat there and looked out the window. SO crazy to realize you're in a new country. Super hilly here, and just covered in little houses and stuff. It was so fun to just look and watch people and realize that I was actually in Brazil, that these were actually Brazilian people, and that I'm actually going to be here for 20 months being a missionary!!!! Once I got to the office I met back up with Elder Hilton!! So fun seeing him again. I guess Elders Helston, Bitner, and Ison are still waiting, but they1ll get here soon I'm sure. Then I met President! He sure is awesome. Classic Brazilian excitedness and extremely happy and sincerely kind. Crazily enough, he's only 48!!! Can you imagine?! That's so young!!! And I think his wife is only 45 or so... Anyways, after an interview, lunch (one of those BBQs similar to Toucanos) and some other stuff he assigned me to my new companion Elder Fernandez!! He's from southern Brazil, and ridiculously enough, doesn't speak ANY English. Holy intimidation. So I went from 8 weeks of speaking like no Portuguese, to speaking ONLY and SOLEY Portuguese ALL the time :D After getting everything figured out, we trekked a couple miles to the bus stop (carrying that 50 pound, broken-zippered, one-wheeled suitcase hahaha) and then headed to Justinopolis! And Mom you asked about culture shock, that did (and still is) hit me pretty hard. Right away I noticed the no carpet, no glass in the windows, weird looking shower heads, weird washing machine thingy, it was a huge change from normal. Especially going from 2 months in not the MTC, but a real American mission with apartments and stuff, straight to a Brazilian city, definitely a shocker. That first day we didn't really talk all that much, mostly cuz I couldn't understand much. Like I said, a Brazilian speaking Portuguese is a whole new thing.
  These past few days have been great. The highlight of it all was Saturday and Sunday. Sunday we went a house where a family lives. The mom and oldest brother were baptised earlier this month, and then we were going to visit the twin 14 year olds, Ronan and Renata. And from what E Fernandez told me, they were getting baptized the next day! Opa! Anyways as we were talking about it, Ronan randomly decided he wanted ME to baptize him!!! Once I knew he was serious I said I'd be honored (or probably something to that effect) Talk about a tender mercy for me... Man, not that I was bummed from not getting any baptisms in Houston, but like you all said, I finished my work in Houston, and got my Visa. So me getting to do this baptism was almost like the Lord was saying, "Good job Elder Ballard, I know you're scared out of your pants with this new country, but go have the experience of doing a baptism tomorrow." So cool. So the next day after church (which I actually understood a decent amount of. Luckily, gospel talk is a lot more familiar with me than all the other stuff.) we all got ready in our whites, and got ready for the baptism! So Ronan's full name is Ronan Antonio G Oliviera. And have Austin pronounce that for you, cuz especially since it was my first day, that was SO hard for me to pronounce. But, with some pronunciation guidance from Ronan I did the prayer right and it was awesome :) It was kinda hard not being able to really congradulate him besides a simple, "Parabems!" But he really enjoyed it so it was cool. The work here is so different from Texas. Texas we had an average of like 6 to 8 lessons a week, and here, the average is 40. FOURTY! Such a huge jump. And for instance, Hannah took about a transfer to teach, but here, you teach people in about a week and they get baptised in 2 weeks :) Yesterday we set 3 baptismal dates in about 3 hours and it is such an amazing feeling. Man, I already have so much love for the people here. The people here are so much more simple and family related, it's so cool to finally be here where I've been waiting to be for soooo long.
Out my apartment window
   Well, now I'm just gunna rattle off a 'Bunch of Brazil' :) Firstly, the smells here are crazy. I don't know what it is, but you know the smell of like the dancers from Togo we had? There's this specific smell, really hard to describe. It's like sweat (not stinky sweat haha) and smoke and... I absolutely can't explain it, but it seems like it should stink but it smells SO good to me. Super sentimental smell. Also, I have smelled SO many american perfumes here just walking down the street. Since I have a really sensitive nose, the smells that are familiar all connect to people I know too :) Lots of girls in highschool and stuff, really trippy. So the way things are spelled sometimes here crack me up. On a candy package, instead of "mmm mmm!!" it says "Humm, humm!" Haha, I love it. Tic tac's here are pronounced, chick-key talk-key. Really sing-songy :) I saw a candy named "Doce do leite batido" and if I'm translating right, it means "Candy of hit milk" I think they're trying to say milkshake :D Also, I saw a DVD at a member's house called "Missão Imposível" :D I've also heard so many songs from the US here... really annoying actually cuz they remind me so much of college and this last summer and stuff. The food here is great. The simple beans and rice is actually surprisingly delicious. My stomach isn't quite agreeing, but ah well. S'all good. The weather here is SO hot. I've been so tired since I got here... Jet-lag from Miami to here, and then every night I've had trouble sleeping. Either cuz of the heat or cuz the matresses are shaped like bowls :P But, I'm sure with time I'll get used to it. Man, it is such a different world here. I love it but it sure is crazy :)
 Well, the Church (even here in Brazil =] ) is true. The Lord has been testing my diligence, especially with this language. But as I get pushed by trying to teach lessons, or trying to understand people, or walk 15 miles in 34 degrees celsius (what is that in F btw?) I can really feel the Lord shaping me into who I need to be for the people here. It's hard, but I know this is where I need to be. And I know the Lord put me with a Brazilian, Portuguese only companion for a reason. Definitely a baptism by fire, but it's what I need. Thank you all for your prayers, and please keep praying for me :) Especially for these first few months, I need all the help I can get. Also, be thankful for what you have. We have SO much in the US. We taught a guy that was super active all the time, and randomly had a heart problem that made his left arm and leg paralized now, and when we went to teach him I just sat the whole lesson with my arm around him so he could sit up and listen, and I could tell he was SO thankful for just the simple act of being able to sit up. Never take anything in this life for granted :) I love you all and miss you, but are so grateful for you all and for this opportunity. Share you testimonies whenever you can, and strive to be an example of what we believe.
Hurrah for Israel!!!
 -Elder Ballard

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