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The history of Brazil goes back to the 1500's with the landing of Pedro Cabral. The region which the mission covers is partcially in the Amazon rain basin and partcially in the Northeast and Tocantins river zones. Each of these regions play a part in the way life is. Most of this area was inhabited by local natives, that lived in semi-permant settlements. With the coming of explorers and opportunist they have all but been religated to perserve and tribal lands set aside by the government. Though, the fact that much of this region is rich in natural resources "garimpeiros" and other opportunitist have gone outside the law to obtain fame and fortune as well as land. The famous "ant hill" pictures of a mining camp are typical of the attitude of the settlers. Many have carried over the 'use the land for all it has' and move on attitude of the early Portuguese colonists.
More recently, the big news of the region is a large corruption scandal involving the head of the Senate who happens to be from the state of Pará. This is definately a region of constant change. Ten or twenty years from now things will once again be completely different. Especially if the landless masses keep stealing lots on the outskirts of town.
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Due to the fact that the Amazon rain basin has been sparsely populated even up until recently and in places still unexplored you find a mix of people within the mission. Do not think that you will be going out into the jungle to preach to a bunch of Indians or Natives. Many of the people you encounter are as european as you are. Though it is not uncommon to find people of mixed backgrounds with some native blood in them.
Most people have to some extent native blood but, most have some portuguese in them as well. So finding people with a built in tan is not uncommon, but, at the same time there are quite a few people of fair skin. Some cities like São Luis play host to a great mix of backgrounds due to its history. First if was founded by French who where run out by the portuguese and then inturn forced out by the Dutch. The portuguese finally took control and turned the city into the most Lusitanian of all of Brazil.
It is not uncommon to find persons of African descent in the Mission. They are not as common in this region as others since slavery was not as heavily practiced especially in the Rain basin. Though running into Mulattos and Cabocolos is very common, and the norm in many areas. But, you may just run into a pink skined blond guy in your journeys also.
As a note Presidente Penha once told us of a woman who had never gone more than five miles from her home. Imagine that. You will find poorly educated and Lawyer types living just a few miles from one another.RETURN TO THE TOP
What to say about food. Sure not what you might expect.
Fast food?? Don't get your hopes up for McDonalds regularly since I never did see one the whole time I was in the mission field.
The North of Brasil is the home of many exotic plants and fruit.
I remember buying pinapples by the lot when they were in season and getting served mango juice by serveral members. But, a common favorite in the Belém region is Açaí (a purple liquid usually eaten with corn meal and fish as a meal).
As beans and rice are the staples of brasilian food get used to see them at all your lunches. But, don't get to worried. The Author was able to avoid eating beans the whole time with little trouble. Most members will not make a big deal of your dinning habits or tastes. Though you will not have much say in what is served in the end.
A typical lunch would include most of the following Beans, rice, Macarrão Nada (pasta with tomato paste), Mayonaise salad, chicken, and of course juice (cashew fruit or passion fruit mainly).
The all time favorite soda pop you will ever have in the field is one that comes from a berry called Guaraná. The only thing better is Cajuinha by the brand São Geraldo.
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Weather in this region is best described as hot. Though, there is not one set pattern to rain. In Belém during the non-rainy season it is always raining some time between 2 and 4 in the afternoon. The rainy season adds morning showers around 10 am. But, just a few hours by bus away in Imperatriz you find a 6 month rainy season that brings scattered showers and flooding; to the dry and hot season the other half of the year. With rain just a few moments away the best you can do is bring an umbrella and hope you don't get stuck at some investigators house after some heavy rain.
Even though the humidity is high it is not unbearable. You actually get used to it by the time your coming home. And all the chapels use over head fans in place of air conditioning units so you never have to worry about it being nice outside and freezing during church.
Go to the following links to get an up to the minute report and weather in the area and judge for yourself. Find out why they call this the Sacred Land of Sun.
What to say about clothing? There are standards all missionaries must follow for clothing. The typical white shirt and tie and slacks for guys and sisters the simple old dress etc. All that can really be said here is that you must carefully consider your footware to make sure you don't run into problems. Dock martens are a recommended shoe since they will hold up well. Some have done black tennis shoes but, they don't last for a long time. And some dress shoes will get trashed easily.
As for what type of cloth is better. Think clingy and not so clingy. The humidity is high and can make some types of cloth stick to you like a bad swarm of mosquitos. Same goes for garments. Best recommendation to be made here is to take serveral pairs of shirts and garments(over the bare minimum for the week). I had a companion that used only 5 pairs of garments total. Don't get caught having to wash your garments in the shower. You may have a maid and if you do it will be a once a week afair. And trying to be frugal to have great new garments half way through is bunk. Don't skimp and you will find you have lots of usable clothing to take home or give away at the end or else you can end up with tatters.
And don't forget to include some p-day and service clothing.
You will want something different to use for these opportunities.
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You will find many opporunities for service thoughout the Mission. The general concensus is that for the most part many people are poor. Their standard of living may be different but, when put into the context of the area and earning power not everyone is really below the poverty line. But, you will still find that service is a good thing that can have great effects on bring people to Christ. Worth mentioning is a project or system called "PROJETO AMMON". This is based off of the great missionary Ammon in the book of Mormon that started his mission by way of service and in the end was able to convert thousands. Can't guarantee the same but, the results of this system or way of working has netted many choice converts in the region.
You start by going to a local school or other type of organization and volunteering to provide service. This could be anything from cleaning out the drainage ditch in front to helping repaint some walls. And the whole time you never push anything about the church. You slowly win over the curiousity and minds of the students and administrators. Then after some time you approach an administrator to ask if you could have some kind of demonstration or question answer type session with the students. Commonly in Brazil you find many schools have some type of religion class and it is not uncommon to have visitors or comparision opportunities.
So now you have lined up the chance to pass a church video and answer some questions for the local student body. At the same time you provide a questionaire to see if they have further interest. And the rest is history.
One set of missionaries even had the chance to show a church film to a group of Police officers in Imperatriz. A great nonthreating way to show alittle about the church while building relationships of trust. Those that get into the spirit of charity will go great lengths to help someone and not just for numbers.
Because if your going for "Gee Ah Gah" or fame, glory and numbers to impress the President then you've got another thing coming. If you go for service and true charity and genuine concern then you will likely baptize more than the others that do not. It's amazing what can happen; just ask anyone that has been to the "Mission of Miracles"(Missão de Milagres).
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The big thing to remember about P-DAY is not to get your hopes up. If you do things right you will truely be using this as a day of rest and not one of being a tourist. Sure it is fun to vist the Equitorial line or go down to the Rivers edge to see the isle in the middle of the Amazon river. But, P-day is the day to write letters home and take care of business.
The biggest thing you should know is that Soccer or Futebol is off limits due to the ability to easily get injured. Many times we played volleyball and even had a mini-olympics. Just enjoy yourself and use it as a day to gather your thoughts and get some rest. Your feet will thank you if you treat them right. Since walking everywhere can be tiring.
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