Order and Progress. (But really, miracles happen at the Temple)

For those of you who didn´t catch my puny subject, “Order and Progress” is what is written on the Brasilian flag. Brasil had presidential elections this week (which are A LOT different here. I´ll leave it at that). But also, I feel like it is a fitting theme for the week. I really feel like our area is progressing a lot. But the real theme of the week is:

MIRACLES HAPPEN AT THE TEMPLE!!!!

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(As you can see, it cooled down. Thanks for the prayers! It even rained while we were there)

This week, we took our investigators to the temple. I´m so grateful to be serving in a mission that is so close to a temple. It´s not in our mission, it is in the next mission over. But the motto of our mission is SÓ TEMPLO! (Only the temple. It´s a little catchier in Portuguese) and we have permission to go to the temple with our investigators and teach them there. And then afterwards to bring them into the waiting room of the temple and pray with them. THIS WORKS MIRACLES!

In the back row of the photo are Ana Paula and Gilberto. They brought two of their daughters with them to the temple. We had invited them to be married various times, but just Ana Paula accepted each time. But we KNEW this family would be eternal. Gilberto was just stubborn. So, we took them to the temple. First, I don´t know the last time that Gilberto and Ana Paula did an uplifting activity together. Second, there is no place better in the world to have a “turning point” lesson than at the temple. We sang “Families Can Be Together Forever” in front of the temple. We taught them in the chapel . Ana Paula bore strong testimony of the truthfulness and changing power of the gospel. Afterwards, the waiting room had opened and we brought them there to pray. The spirit of the temple is profound and sacred. In the walls of the temple, Ana Paula and Gilberto accepted a date to go to the Cartorio on November 14th. We have to wait until the 14th because we are waiting for his birth certificate to arrive. I had never seen Gilberto and Ana Paula SO HAPPY.

Tawany is in the red dress. She separated from her boyfriend this week. Her companionship inventory with Douglas last week confirmed the answer she had already received from God that she needed to leave him to protect her son. She came to the temple with us as well. In the walls of the temple, the same day that she moved out of her boyfriend´s house, she accepted a baptismal date for November 9th. She fervently prayed in the temple that she will have the means to provide for her son and she too bore testimony of the truthfulness of the gospel.

This week was a good week. It wasn´t hot, we went to the temple, our investigators are progressing A LOT, and we are seeing miracles.

Dad: I am immensely grateful for the youth in the North Spokane Stake. I may be a little biased, but I literally do not think I have ever met a better or stronger group of youth. And yes, Dad, I will pray.

Mom: If you think it is strange that Dylan Young will get home in May, don´t forget that I will come home at the end of the next month! CRAZY! But that is still eight months away which means I don´t need to think about that for another eight months. Also, I wouldn´t mind receiving a little more peanut butter if there is room. I´ve been rationing it, but I can´t say no if someone in our house asks for some. It is definitely being appreciated in our house. Also, how cool is it that you were involved in finding Brittany Masters?! I remember when you told the story about the sister missionary being bit by a dog. 🙂 Someone day after I get home, I´ll tell you a similar story. As for Halloween here, it exists, but barely. I saw a few stores that had decorations for sale, but I don´t know who buys them, because I´ve never seen them outside the store. There are three pumpkins in the supermarket and it´s really tempting to buy one and carve it today during p-day. Good thing I don´t have money!

Kimmie: You were inspired with those pictures. Seriously. Thank you. And no, nothing is going to distract me. It is not possible. But I will say that I am hopelessly in love with the Pacific Northwest. And yes, I do have a lot of memories all over Grandma and Grandpa´s property. I not-so-secretly hope it will still be in the family when I get home.

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I LOVE YOU ALL!
Happy Halloween!
Fique firme!

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BRAZILIAN HEAT!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

There are a LOT of words I could use to describe this week, but the first one that comes to mind is HOT. Seriously, it´s hot down here. The coldest day this past week was 96. The hottest was 102. And for those of you that are in Arizona and think I´m a wimp, try 100% humidity, a white shirt, and a tie. It´s hot. I promise.

But don´t worry, I´m drinking a LOT of filtered water and using sunscreen to avoid coming home looking like a piece of bacon. I´m succeeding so far. And this week it is supposed to rain. Which is good, because if it doesn´t rain this week, the next week they will turn the water off in our neighborhood for 6 DAYS! 6 days without a shower would be rough. But not as rough as running out of water in two months, so I guess it would be worth it.

other than the heat, our week ended in a domingo milagroso! (I have no idea if milagroso is a word. Sunday of Miracles)

First: Gilberto and Ana Paula, who have six daughters. This is how we found them (a miracle in itself). We contacted a couple in the street, got their address, and went to their house at the appointed time. We got there and called their names, Gilberto and Mariana. Ana Paula responded and said Gilberto lived there but she had never heard of Mariana. These people had given us a false address, but (un)coincidentally there was another Gilberto who lived there. So, Gilberto and Ana Paula went to church together. He fixed his car so they could go. Afterwards, we had a lesson with them. We did a Companionship Inventory in front of them to show them how they can have a wholesome conversation as a couple. After that, we had them have a “companionship inventory”, where they gave compliments, talked about their goals, and discussed the needs of their children. Ana Paula, as she was telling Gilberto about her day, told him that the church is what her soul had always been looking for, and that she knows with a surety that it is THE church of Jesus Christ. It truly was a miracle. They hugged and kissed afterward, for the first time in a LOOONG time. (A very long time)

Second: Tawani and Douglas (and Tawani´s mom, Edna). We contacted Edna in the street, and she told us she didn´t want to meet with us but her daughter had stopped going to church and needed help (yay for referrals!). We taught Tawani and Edna, they came to church on Sunday, and then after church we had a lesson with Tawani and her boyfriend, Douglas. Their relationship is not very good, but they are both REALLY good. The problem is that Tawani is only 17 and isn´t every mature in her relationships. They have a two year old son. We did the same practice with them as with Gilberto and Ana Paula. It was great. Tawani and Edna said that our church is the most peaceful and spiritual church they have ever been to. They couldn´t believe nobody asked for money or tried to take a demon out of them. Because that´s what most churches are like here. Someone screaming in a microphone, claiming to take a demon out of you.
Just more evidence that the church is true.

Third: Marinês came to church unexpectedly. Well, we hoped she would, but we thought she had skipped her appointment the night before so we weren´t exactly expecting a lot. It turned out we were wrong and that she was just in a meeting that went really late. She should be baptized next Sunday. (Miracles! She has grown so much!)

It sounds like Fall at home is perfect. Warm, fall colors, barbecues, missionaries for dinner, fresh apple cider and chili…
that is something that you won´t see here.

If it starts getting cold, just think about me. It will warm you up. Even just this email probably will arrive a little warm.

I LOVE YOU, FAMILY! (And anyone else who reads this)

P.S. If you haven´t read the book Evoking the Powers of Heaven, read it now. Our mission president gave every single missionary a copy of the book and said we have to read it. And he is inspired. This book is so good. Essentially, the author, using examples from the life of Christ and The Book of Mormon, shows us how to take the principle of faith to call upon God for help to accomplish our righteous desires. It is so simple. But it is so good.

P.P.S. I CAN´T BELIEVE KELSEY BARNES IS HOME!!!! It literally seems like she just left. CRAZY.

P.P.P.S Thanks Kimmie for the update and pictures! Hyrum is definitely inheriting some craziness. Make sure he keeps it.

P.P.P.P.S. Isaac, i hope (and pray) that you find a job and get accepted to school. It must be strange to be done with your service in the army. And in respect to Grandma Koetitz, it is incredible how I have felt the love from and felt love for our family on my mission. Families really are eternal.

Also, we have daylight savings this week, except we “sprung forward”, so when you “fall back” in a week or so I think the time difference will be 6 hours… right?

The Gospel Blesses Families

This week, I learned a lot about how The Gospel of Jesus Christ blesses families.
I´m going to miss Grandma Koetitz. And Grandpa Koetitz. But I´m actually really happy. Because I was thinking this week about how hard it would be to be in Grandma Koetiz´s place, more or less alone, suffering from the loss of family, away from her home, and painfully passing through the final stages of life. But, I have no doubt that her memory of that pain has already been swallowed up by the joy brought by The Plan of Salvation.

This week Elder Rezabala and I focused on finding families. And we found many.

Gilberto and Ana Paula have six daughters. They live in the first house in one of the favelas in our area. And the gospel is going to transform their lives. Seriously. It was a miracle when we found them. We had an address for a referral named Gilberto that was supposed to live in the same viela, but he didn´t live there. However, Ana Paula leaned her head out the window and said “My husband is Gilberto!” We taught her on her doorstep and she burst into tears, telling us how she had been praying all week for God´s help. We taught their family about the temple and The Family: Proclamation to the World. We taught about the responsibility of Mother and Father. Gilberto has entered a deep depression and literally hasn´t left the house in a month. The family BARELY has enough bread, rice, and beans to sustain their six children. But they are capable of change. Unlike other families that live in the favela, they haven´t been torn apart by drugs, addictions, sex, and abuse. Just depression and a lack of the guidance of the gospel. I´m confident that we will see miracles (And already have seen miracles) in their home.

Sandra and Rena we found just contacting. We We taught the Restoration (probably the most incredible first lesson I´ve experienced in my mission, and there have been a lot), comparing the God and the human family to Sandra and her children. IT WAS SO GOOD! Words can´t describe the spirit that was present. Elder Rezabala bore testimony in tears. Sandra and Rena said without a doubt they believe in The Restoration, but we committed them to read and pray to really know. In the end, we asked for referrals and without waiting a moment Rena gave us his mom´s address.

I don´t have time to recount all of our experiences, but every experience this week, including when I read today that Grandma Koetitz passed away, strengthened my knowledged that the gospel blesses families.

I´m so grateful for the knowledge of eternal families. I´m a little sad that I´ve played the piano at six funerals in my mission for other people but couldn´t be there for the funerals of my own grandparents. But I know without a doubt that I am where I´m supposed to be. I can´t deny it. One of our investigators bore testimony on Sunday to someone visiting our ward about how the gospel has changed her life. It is these moments that I have to remember, because some days it feels like everything is going wrong. But the tender mercies and miracles I have seen day by day in my mission will remain deeply impressed in my mind. The boring or hard moments, I have already forgotten.

I LOVE OUR FAMILY! The only way I know how to express how much I love our family is by putting that sentence in caps lock and making it bold.

P.S. Mom, for the package you are preparing, I would really like:
1. a photo of my baptism (if we have one)
2. a copy of my patriarchal blessing (laminated and scripture-sized. My other copy disappeared last week when I was transferred)
3. Pebernuts! (If we still have some from last year)

P.P.S. The Brazilian heat has DEFINITELY arrived! All week long it has been at least 95 degrees and the forecast shows sun and at least 95 degrees forever. São Paulo is having a horrible drought right now and if we don´t receive rain soon, apparently we won´t have any water (even to drink) by the end of the year. I think they will start shutting water off one day a week in our neighborhood.

GUESS WHO WAS TRANSFERRED!

So, even though it´s not the end of the transfer (that comes next week), I was transferred AGAIN! Almost 15 months in my mission and I still have only stayed in one area for 3 transfers. I think last week I said Elder Beazer, a visa waiter who served in Mesa, Arizona, arrived with Elder Mesquita and I. Well, this week, more missionaries arrived and so I was transferred into the ward São Luis. Me and my companion, Elder Rezabala, are opening this area. It had missionaries a long time ago, but they did some things wrong, were taken out, and the area remained without missionaries for a long time. It´s definitely an adventure and a challenge, coming from the fantastic Castro Alves Ward where it seemed like everything was on fire to São Luis where both of the Relief Society President´s Counselors are less-active. Taken from the most succesful zone into the mission to the least. But, I am confident we are going to see this ward and our area change and improve A LOT. Because there is a LOT more potential than is being realized.

I think Elder Rezabala and I will develop a really good relationship together. He is pretty much the polar opposite of Elder Mesquita, but I love him. He is always really focused on getting better, which pushes me to be better as well. This week we had a roller coaster of results. Our first few days seemed awesome. One day we found 9 new investigators and the next day we had 9 appointments set. But, that day, 8 of 9 appointments fell through and it seems like everything we have done has already collapsed. But, if I have learned anything in my mission, it is that patiently doing the things we know to be right always brings blessings. It was really hard when not one person came to conference with us (Ugh…. I hate that!), but I really do have confidence that this area and ward will grow A LOT. There is a lot of potential to be realized. And Elder Rezabala and I will grow a lot.

Also, this area has HILLS. I never appreciated fully how relatively flat Castro Alves is. Now I will.

I´m realizing now how many tools I have learned to use that will be applied here in São Luis. Elder Rezabala and I have already worked super hard this week and I know we will see the blessings of this work soon. We have to.

On another note, General Conference was incredible. Seriously. This is what I took from it. We need to get a testimony, use the atonement, get in shape (physically and spiritually), pay our fast offerings, do Family History Work, share the gospel, and use every tool the gospel has to bless us and our families. And we need to do it NOW! Or yesterday. This sense of urgency to get our lives in order I felt in every single talk that was given. Because, as Neil L Andersen said, it is time to put on our oxygen masks. And if we think we can stop using the protection of the gospel for just a second, we aren´t only risking our spiritual lives, we are subjecting our families (past, present, and future) to spiritual death. Conference was just SO GOOD! And ultimately too short.

Also, my companion reminded me after it was over… I only have one conference left in my mission. When did that happen?

I was so glad to hear from Kimmie and to get those pictures of Ryan and Hyrum. Thanks, Mom, for the updates on Lacey, Isaac, Ryan, Grandma Koetitz, and Jon and Tami.

I am praying for Grandma Koetitz every single day. I´m sure life is really hard for her right now.

Oh! I almost forgot. For four days this week we didn´t have water in our house. I never want to wear the same shirt (or underwear) more than one day again. But don´t worry, we resolved the problem and we have water again. Hallelujah.

I love everyone! I love you Mom! I love you Dad! I loved conference! I love President Monson!

And yes, it was AWESOME listening to Elder Grojoy (is that his name?) in Portuguese.