My flights went smoothly, and here I am! It didn’t sink in until we actually touched down and walked out of the little airport here and had a very warm welcome by the zone and Presidente and Sister Merrill! They are awesome!!! They have been expecting us for a long time and hoping we would get here soon; it’s been a big struggle to keep a decent amount of missionaries here. I already know I’m going to love serving under their direction; everyone agrees that they are exactly what Angola needed, and since the moment they arrived and the land was dedicated for missionary work, the work has hastened a lot. We forgot to get pics at the airport, but I have pics with my new comp and everything, so be patient.
My companion is Elder Hannay from South Jordan, Utah. He’s been here for a year and 8 months and is 20 years old. He knows Luanda super well and has served in most of the areas here, so he’s been great about teaching me how to get around and all of the cultural differences. We get along great; it should be a really productive transfer. We are assigned to the Cassequel C area just 2 or 3 blocks away from the airport. I love it!!! One thing that was strange for me is that I haven’t had any culture shock at all. I hit the ground running just like I hoped! The language is coming super quick. I would say I speak about as well as an Elder that had served here for 4ish months, so I can’t complain. Each day I feel it getting better; a lot of it is just hearing everyone talk and letting my brain absorb it all. I understand mostly everything, until I lose focus or they start to mumble. 🙂 Some people are definitely easier to understand than others, but most people speak really clearly. Everyone is super surprised at how well I can speak; the spirit has been helping me out big time. I think reading the Book of Mormon in Portuguese has been the biggest help for me being able to learn quickly and get the accent down. All of that language study paid off! Whenever I tell missionaries or members that I lived in Brazil for 2 years, they assume that I was already fluent and have always spoken this well, but after not speaking Portuguese for almost 5 years, I had forgotten most of it, and I KNOW that God has been pouring out His blessings in my life and carrying me since I’ve been here so I can be effective and not waste a minute here!
So let me tell you about some of the things that have been an adjustment for me. We either don’t have water or power frequently, so flashlights come in handy. We are lucky, because the Cassequel B Elders live a block away, so we have been showering at their house every morning since our shower is broken. Plus we didn’t have power a few times, which means the water pump doesn’t work. We have these big 500 liter water tanks that fill up every once in awhile, so if you run out, you have to just wait a few days for it to fill up; it’s a big hassle. Our apartment is kind of ghetto; the floors are very dusty and gross, so we wear flip flops whenever we don’t have shoes. One thing that has been weird for me is how safe we are. I’m used to Brazil where we always had to be cautious, but here as missionaries, most people don’t mess with us and let us do what we want. I feel like I should be more worried than I am, but we are fairly safe no matter where we are. The only time we have to be careful is if we don’t have 8:00 appointments. Presidente prefers for us to go in an hour early, rather than wander the streets, which makes sense, but that has been hard for me. I hate going in early! And lastly, taxis are way different! There are these blue and white vans everywhere that gather up at places called paragens (stops) and people called cobradores (collectors) stand outside shouting their route name and grabbing people, trying to get them to ride in their taxi. They are pretty aggressive, but we take taxis whenever we have to travel across the city or get somewhere fast. They only cost 100 kwanzas, the equivalent of 1 dollar per person. We get 580 dollars a month here, which is way more than I got in Texas, and it is plenty to last us a whole month. Everything is way expensive here too, but we get by just fine. So anyway, these taxis have 15 seats in them, and everyone just crams in, and the drivers are all crazy. They zoom around fitting into the tiniest gaps, but they get the job done! hahah They’re actually kind of fun to ride around in.
The Angolans are great people – super funny and very friendly! Everyone is always saying “bom dia” or doing thumbs up to us and saying “fixe” (cool). Luanda is a pretty busy city with people in the streets 24/7, so we don’t do street contacting frequently, because there are just too many people to talk to. People call us over all the time to ask where we are from, what we are doing, and attempt to speak a little English with us. haha I’m super surprised at how Christian Angola is. Most people believe in Christ and go to a church; for some reason, I wasn’t expecting that. We mostly do door knocking, and the average person is willing to hear us out. Our most effective method of finding is referências dos membros (referrals from members) just like everywhere else, but the difference is that members here actually give us referrals! Most people that are baptized here are friends of members that they invited to church and to meet with missionaries! Church was awesome! About 130 people showed up to sacrament meeting! We have a building here that is 3 stories tall, and the chapel is in our area. It’s been growing a lot, and Presidente Merrill told me in our interview that in the near future, Angola will be dotted with stakes! He also said that this is the frontier of the Church right now. This is one of the newest areas to have missionaries. The church has only really been established here for 5 years, and in that time, it’s been growing quickly. So much so, that they almost can’t handle the growth. They are really trying hard to build up the local leadership so that they can keep the recent converts strong and have a solid foundation to build on. We had 2 investigators come to church; we were hoping to have a lot more, but they both enjoyed it a lot. We got a lot of work done, and my favorite part was having recent converts walk with us to appointments and help us teach. Their testimonies are sooo solid! It’s been a blast. I have so many details to tell you, but not enough time to fit it all in. Sorry if this was kind of all over the place, but I have all of this information jumbled up in my head; it’ll probably be like that for a little while. Luckily I still have 15 months here to tell you about, so look for a lot more fun experiences! I’m already starting to feel at home here; don’t worry about me. 🙂 Fiquem bem família!