We finally heard from Elder Swalberg, now that he is in the Manaus Mission. I have compiled an email of our email conversation with him. He started by answering questions we had for him about his stay in the Brazil MTC.
Elder Swalberg: Man it seems like its been forever since I have been able to email yall! I know yall gave me a lot of questions to answer so here i go!
First off I am certainly in Manaus, Brazil! And this keyboard is a little different because im here in brazil, so please forgive my spelling and mistakes!
So the Brazil MTC was great! I learned a lot! And I wish I had a few more weeks there actually! But I knew I needed to get into the field so I could get to work! But no, it was really great. I loved my district, and really fun to be there with elder Batemon and Hargrove! Love them both! We really did do a lot there! One of the things as you asked about was go out proselyting in Sao Paulo! Twice actually! The first time was pretty scary as we were sent out to hand out 4 copies of the BOM in 1 hour. but the second time we handed out 4 in like 30 minutes! People here, just want to know! Way different than New England! I know this is going to take some getting used to for sure! But it was way cool!
We surely did have the great honor of having Elder Holland address us at the MTC! It was amazing. All the missionaries and the teachers were able to attend! (oh and there were probably like 350-400 missionaries there in the MTC.) He gave a powerful talk, as usual, about the purpose of missionaries! It was amazing! We were all able to shake his hand while he was there too! It was such an honor to feel of his love in person as he shook each one of our hands! After the devotional (12:00) he ate lunch at the mtc too. As we were going down at our assigned time to eat our lunch we ran into Elder Holland coming down the stairs after lunch, and he walked the rest of the way to the cafeteria with us and talked with us! At first saw us and said, "oh hey there Elders! How are you!?" and continued "Well come on, keep walking with us." And he literally was talking with me. He said Elder Batemon and I looked like twins...I didn´t think so much HEY I do now because Elder Holland just said so! It was only for about a minute that we talked with him, but what a tender mercy it was to run into him like that! :)
Oh and the temple! It was awesome! I LOVED it! It was the campinus brazil temple because the sao paulo temple was closed for some reason. they bussed us like an hour and a half to go to the temple! Pretty cool huh? And yeah it was all in Portuguese. but I also had earphones in english. I only used them a little bit, but they had someone to do the viel in English! That was nice. I loved being in the Celestial Room, everytime I am there I receive the answers I need! And here in Manaus (if you are in the city) we get to go to the temple once every 2 weeks! I think we get to go this week! I am so excited!
Mom: What was your transfer like from the MTC to the Manaus Mission? Was it on Tuesday?
Elder Swalberg: To answer your question about transfers here. I have been here since Tuesday and spent most of the day with the mission pres and his wife. They gave us lunch and they had lots to brief us on about the mission. I have my own money card now! haha no longer do i have to get it from my companion. we get R$ 160 every 15 days or half a month. which is like 70 dollars in us money. It seems like things arent really cheaper here. And we have to use the bus if we need to go out of our area so that adds cost to our monthly money too. But it works out. But back to transfers....we are in week 5 of the transfers. There were 3 of us coming to manaus and so they emergency tansfered some elders, and opened a new area to make receiving 3 elders work.
Mom: What area are you in?
Elder Swalberg: We are in Manaus, but there a lot of little cities that make up manaus. We live in a city called Castanhera. But our area is called Cidade do Leste. This is our ward name too. But my comp says our stake is "Solimoes".
Mom: Lds.org has Cidade do Leste
Elder Swalberg: woops my bad. you are right, i keep forgeting that it is a branch. They have a really big branch, just not enough preisthood brethren for a ward.
Mom: Will you be walking/biking? I pulled up your area on satellite view on google maps. There are a ton of houses..... Hardly any cars on the roads.
Elder Swalberg: There are lots of buses! Most people don´t have cars. Motors (like dirtbikes/motorcycles) are really common though, but most people walk everywhere or us the bus. We will always walk! I already got a blister on my foot the other day. I have baby feet after being in a states mission with a car for so long! haha
There are a loooootttt of hills though! Its a workout! Im so glad for the body I have to physically be able to do this!
Mom: Who is your companion? Where is he from?
Elder Swalberg: My companion is Elder Araoz. He is from Argentina, does´t speak English, only spanish and Portuguese. But he is trying to learn English now though. haha But he is a convert of 7 years. He found the church at 15 and is the only member of the church in his family. He has been out for a little over a year, and is a great missionary. He has trained a few times already so he is really patient with the fact that I can´t speak super well. We do pretty well at communicating though. Sometimes its like a game of trying to discribe or act out a word until he can tell me what it means. haha Its kind of funny, but it works! Its crazy how we can comunicate and do things together when I don´t really even speak either of his languages. He is a great companion and im blessed to have him. He knows the area really well because he has been here for 5 months now! Which means he will probably stay here with me for the remaining of the this transfer and then next and then we will leave.....which means I need to really get to know the area, the investigators, members, oh yeah...AND THE LANGUAGE! But as you can tell, Im not stressed at all.... ;p
Mom: What is your address? Is it best to send packages/mail to the Mission Office Address?
Elder Swalberg: it is much better to send it to the mission office address. (WE WILL POST THIS ADDRESS ON HIS FACEBOOK PAGE AND BLOG)
Mom: How is your apartment?
Elder Swalberg: Yeah, our apartment is okay. My comp says its probably the better of the 3 he has had. We have running water for washing dishes, hands and showering, but yeah we have big jugs of water (like the Mawhinneys have always had.) our building is its own place with a litte porch where we have rope strung to hang our clothes after drying. and a litte area ( I would say a small yard 10 by10 but its all dirt so not really a yard but we can use it for exercise or what not.) in front that is gated in with a door and then a cement wall. All houses here are either all cement (like ours), a rough and not super sturdy brick, or cheap wood. Our floors are different in each room. Either a smooth cement, brick. or tile. we have tile in the study room, bathroom, and bedroom. In the bedroom we have an air conditioning unit. It can’t cool the whole apartment, but when we sleep we can close the door and it actually gets really cold at night. last night i woke up freezing and had to trun it down! So that is such a blessing to have. so no, i don’t need to buy a fan.
Mom: How are you holding up in a new country – different language – different culture? We are praying for you to be strengthened in your trials!
Elder Swalberg: thank you for all yall wrote me about the family! I am glad taylor and zach are doing well. And it was great to hear of all the details about them! Thank you so much. I hope I helped yall get a better idea of what I am doing now. I want yall to know that this is very stressful, but I really am happy. Its hard sometimes, its really hard sometimes, but somehow each night when the day is over I am just fine! The Lord really takes care of me, he never fails. So yeah I want you to know that and you don´t have to worry.
And yeah, that kind of explains how I’m doing with all these new things. I thought my mission was going to start leveling out in its difficulty right about this time into my mission, but the way things turned out this is the hardest thing I have done in my life! I am literally putting everything I have in the Lord’s hands because I simply couldn´t be holding up right now without him. I am so glad I have a strong relationship with him, because it’s the one thing that isn´t foreign to me! I am really trying to stay grateful...not for things..but in my circumstance. I read Elder Uchtdorf’s talk from this past conference another time this morning while we were on the bus....we had to go out of our area for something but hard to explain why....and it really was what i needed. I had already been trying to do this but this helped me see it all put together. I am in no shape or form comfortable, or relaxed. I really can´t understand anyone but a few people that speak clearly, and still have to ask them a lot of questions to be able to answer their questions they ask me. It is so frustrating I can not even explain it! What makes it worse for me is the fact that here, the missionary work is sped up times 10. We have already had one baptism in the 6 days i have been here, and have 2 more this saturday. One of which we just met last wednesday! We dont even get to know them before they are baptised. I get that these people are ready, but I don´t think they really know what they are doing....like honestly the girl we baptised this last saturday I am almost certain that she won’t stay active. You might say that this is lack of faith...but it’s the truth! There are sooooo many inactive members because of missionaries baptizing people like crazy just because they said they will be baptized. Like my comp said one missionary a while back baptized 27 people in one day! At least my companion somewhat understands and makes sure they receive all the lessons but for some weird reason he has permission to do the interviews for our investigators. Weird right? So idk. I have a great zone leader from Collyville, Texas that called me the 3rd night in the mission and said in English "look man, I just want you to know I am here for you if you need anything. I remember when I was new to the mission. I didnt have anyone and it was really annoying that no one reached out to me, and I was really frustrated a lot with so much stuff. So if you ever need to just talk about something, if you just are freaking tired of speaking Portuguese, just call me,k?" His name is Elder Thomas and I cant tell you how much that meant to me! He said he would set up an exchange for us to do this week so we could talk more. So I will ask for his help on understanding how to do the work here and still help these people understand what they are doing when they get baptized.
Sorry that was really long, but this has really been bothering me and is just another thing that I am struggling with here. But I am praying a lot and hopefully I will have a chance to go to the temple this week too and pray about all this there too!
I love you all so much and will talk to you more next week!