HAPPY NEW YEAR (FELIZ ANO NOVO) 2015!!!!

I can´t believe 2014 is coming to an end. I remember a year ago in my mission like it was yesterday. On New Years Eve we ate dinner at a member´s house, who gave us little party hats and noise makers. Afterwards, we were walking down the street (with our party hats on because we forgot to take them off… although we quickly remembered afterward) when we saw the opportunity to serve a lady who was moving things from her car. We helped her move a bookcase into her house and she consequently became an incredible new investigator. However I was transferred three weeks later and now I have no idea if she got baptized or not.

It is crazy to think that an entire year has passed since that night, and I can´t even begin to recount all of the miracles that I have seen happen in the year of 2014. But looking back, I am grateful for the growth I have seen in my life. I think it is the year I have grown and matured more than any other year in my entire life.

This week was difficult. I related a lot with Joseph Smith in D&C 121. I mean, I haven´t been in prison for nine months nor have my family and friends been persecuted and oppressed, but all the same I felt many of the same feelings he expressed in that section. Most of our marked baptismal dates besides one fell through, and most of the people because they don´t want to learn more about the church. People who have received answers that the Book of Mormon is true, people that have literally had dreams that they need to be baptized in the church of Jesus Christ rejected the greatest gift they could ever receive. And many were SO CLOSE to receiving the blessings of the gospel of Jesus Christ. One girl, after going to church, told us “Even if this church is true and is the only way to return to have eternal happiness, I think I would prefer Hell”. We received many responses like that this week, and each time it felt like someone was stabbing me in the heart. Because I know the gospel is true and I disdain hearing people speak poorly of the church. But also because I love these people dearly and want so badly that they have the blessings of the gospel.

Also, as you may have noticed talking to me on Google Hangouts, I was starting to lose my voice. I spent the rest of the week without any voice whatsoever, making it literally impossible for me to contact people in the road or teach lessons. If only I knew sign language. But today my voice is already mostly better and I know that this week will be better.

As The Lord said to Joseph Smith, “All of these experiences will be for thy good”. And I know it is true. If Satan is trying this hard and throwing this much opposition in our path, it is because he saw how much potential we have to do good with God´s help. He would love it if Elder Padilla and I gave up now or got discouraged, but we won´t let that happen because that would just weaken our faith and our ability to help others.

I think that is what I learned this week.

It was fantastic to talk to everyone this week, even if I didn´t get to see everyone. I don´t even think I talked to Ryan (sorry!). Thank you for the awesome package, Mom. The family photos and history are incredible. And thank your for the pictures of my baptism. It was a blessing to see Grandma and Grandpa Koetitz as well as Grandpa Mooney in the picture.

Also, President Dalton wants me to tell you that my return date is JUNE 17, 2015. I know, A WHOLE MONTH OF MY MISSION GOT CUT OFF! President Dalton said there is a possibility that I could stay another transfer and come home JULY 29, 2015. He told me to ask you (my family) which you would prefer, June 17th or July 29th. Although it isn´t “for sure” that I would be able to stay until the 29th, just a possibility.

On another note, the mission secretary said that in order to go to BYU-Idaho Fall of 2015 I need to have everything taken care of by February. Just let me know what I need to do!

AMO TODOS DE VOCÊS!!! FELIZ ANO NOVO!

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MERRY CHRISTMAS E FELIZ NATAL!!!!

Feliz Natal e Feliz Ano Novo!

I will most likely call between 10:00 AM and 1:00 PM in Utah. That is the only window of time we have to make phone calls, because we study in the morning, have a lesson before lunch, have lunch, and then we have to be inside our house at 6:00 PM for safety reasons. So that probably means Tyler and I won´t be on Google Hangout/Skype the same time, unless he gets up at 2:00 AM to do Skype.

I will make a phone call of 5 minutes sometime on December 24th to confirm everything (probably… we have to go to the church to call and we will have to plan when we will go there because it is a long way from our area).

This week was much better than last week. We had a transfer this week because 11 people who would have finished their missions in three weeks decided to instead go home for Christmas (actually, President Dalton TOLD some of them they should go home for Christmas instead of stay…), so Elder Rezabala ended up being transferred. My new companion is Elder Padilla from Peru. He is super good. He has 7 months in the mission and he is super willing to do everything possible to qualify for the blessings of the Lord, which I am super grateful for. The thing I have learned most this week is the importance of SANCTIFICATION. I remember when I left on my mission, Michael (and perhaps Dave as well) told me that I am sanctified when I don´t talk about ANYTHING during the day other than missionary work. Before my mission, I didn´t really understand the significance of this phrase. But now I do. In the past two transfers, all of the other desires (that are still good) in my life have fallen to the side and my only desires now are those of my mission. I don´t even like thinking about things other than my mission anymore. I´ve talked to enough missionaries during exchanges about their family and favorite movies and the girlfriend they left at home. But in order to have the spirit with me 100% of the time, I need to think, talk, dream, and breath about missionary work (and the related goals) 100% of the time. That is when I will be sanctified enough to recognize and follow the promptings of the spirit 100% of the time.
One experience from this week: I did a division with another missionary, Elder Dean. We decided that during the day we would not talk about anything other than missionary work until after 10:00 PM. That is a sacrifice, because it can be cool during divisions to get to know another missionary. But, sacrifice brings forth the blessings of heaven. During this day, we felt the spirit in every moment. We had a list of members with us, and we went by one house, only to realize that the member had transferred their records but not yet moved to the ward. However, as we were standing next to the members house, we felt that we should talk to the neighbor. (Just as a side note, in our mission we don´t “knock doors”. It isn´t effective in São Paulo and is discouraged as a finding tool by the area presidency). In front of the house, we called “Maria!” By chance (or not), there was a Maria that lived there, and she came up the steps and began to talk to us. She told us a member lived next to her for YEARS, and missionaries were always at the members house. She shared with us that she was always curious about “our religion” but never had the courage to talk to her neighbors, who have since moved away. As we shared with her the message of The Restoration on her doorstep, we remembered that a recent convert of 4 weeks lived on the other side of the street. We asked Maria if she knows Marlene, and she eagerly responded that they are best friends. Maria felt the spirit, accepted a baptismal date, and already has the strong support of some of her closest friends.

Did we have any idea that Maria lived in that house? No. Did we have any idea that one of her best friends was a woman that we baptized 4 weeks ago? No. Afterwards, we talked to Marlene. She has been inviting all of her friends and even random people she met in the road to learn about the gospel and talk to the missionaries, but every single person has said no. And little did we know, Marlene had been praying to God, pleading that she would be able to share the gospel with her friends. We had no idea. But God did. I am sure that if we hadn´t made the sacrifice to have the spirit with us in every moment, we would not have received the prompting to call the name of Maria at that door.

This is one experience of many that happened this week. If that is what happens when we sanctify ourselves, I´ll never talk about anything besides missionary work for the rest of my life.

Because it works miracles. Three scriptures that I love about “sanctification”. Doctrine and Covenants 88:68, Helaman 3:35, and Ether 4:7.

I love everyone. Merry Christmas! I will talk to you on Thursday!

Mission Tour with Elder Costa

This week was good….
but it was also difficult.

On Thursday we had a “Mission Tour” with Elder Costa, the area president of Brasil. It was INCREDIBLE. He told President Dalton afterward that he shared experiences that he has never shared before because he felt like our mission was prepared to hear them. The São Paulo Interlagos Mission really is incredible. The Long Beach Mission was great. The missionaries, for the most part, were obedient and hard working. But the day I got to this mission, President Dalton said, “Welcome to the most obedient mission in the world.” And I honestly believe, especially as I hear “stories” from other missions. But, all I can say about the meeting with Elder Costa is that it was a sacred experience.

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The rest of the week POURED DOWN RAIN. It was great. I definitely prefer mind-blowing rain to scorching sun. Because of the hills and lack of civil engineering here, the roads literally turn into rivers during rainstorms. And we are the only living beings crazy enough to stay in the road walking in it. The roads here are always, ALWAYS full of people, until it clouds up. Then the roads are emptier than my stomach last fast sunday. Needless to say, we have to be a little more creative in our finding efforts. Street contacting doesn´t exactly work when the only other living soul in the street is your missionary companion.

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Also, Sunday morning, our most solid investigators dropped us when we went to their houses to go with them to church. It was pretty rough. Of the 5 people SUPER FIRM to go to church on Saturday night, 0 went with us and three said they never want to talk to us again. The law of opposition is REAL. In our mission we have a rule called “As Regras Domingueras” (That means The Sunday Rules). Really, two rules.
1.We ALWAYS go to church on Sunday.
2.We CANNOT go to church without an investigator.
These rules might seem a little like a catch 22, and it is. But that´s the point. If we are faced with a situation where we cannot avoid breaking a rule, we have to choose which we will break, if we are going to skip church or if we are going to stay without an investigator.

AND CLEARLY WE AREN`T GOING TO SKIP CHURCH.

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To make a long story short, we didn´t have an investigator at church on Sunday. In other times during my mission this wouldn´t have bothered me at all. But now it does. A lot. Because my expectations have changed. In this mission we have a goal to baptize weekly (which, I´ll be honest, I didn´t have much faith in when I got here… but now I do). And if we don´t bring someone to church, it is pretty hard to baptize.

But, Elder Rezabala and I had an opportunity to reflect on our work and make some changes to make sure that we are doing EVERYTHING that President Dalton (and in extension, The Lord) is teaching us in order to have success.

It is incredible how much I learn every week. It feels like I don´t have enough time to apply ALL of the things I learn. That is the challenge.

We also had a Mission Christmas Activity all day yesterday, which is why I am emailing today. It was great. I love our mission. And President and Sister Dalton.

But Mom: Yes I will be able to use Google Hangout to talk with the whole family at once. As I said last week, it will probably be between 3-6 PM São Paulo time. I will call Dad´s cell phone on Christmas Eve to identify specifically when and how I will call.

When I open my package, Mom, I will be sure to replace my medical card.

EU AMO MINHA FAMÍLIA E TODO O MUNDO QUE ESTEJA LENDO ESTA CARTA.

Batismo de Djalma!

This Sunday, Djalma was baptized. He is SO AWESOME! He bore his testimony during the baptism. There are few things more powerful that the testimony of a recent convert… and he was about as recent as it gets! I forgot my camera, but our other recent convert, Marlene, brought hers and took pictures. When I get the pictures from her I will send them.

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Baptism 2

Also, on Sunday I was talking with another missionary, Elder Maciel, about how I had only been sick one day in my entire mission. I should learn to hold my tongue, because that night I spent emptying the contents of my stomach in the bathroom. I went to the hospital today (I was ordered to go by our Health Secretary) for the first time in my life and they gave me an IV and got me all drugged up. But don´t worry! It is just a stomach virus that I happened to catch a lot stronger than most people. I´m pretty much already better. Just really hungry.

This past week went well. We are definitely going to be running from place to place this week. Sometimes now it just seems like there is not enough time to do all the work we need to do. Especially this week, since we have a Mission Tour with Elder Costa (the area president) this week. It is interesting to see how my perspective has changed (and is still changing) during my mission. In the beginning, it seemed like I had ALL THE TIME IN THE WORLD, and therefore my sense of urgency in the work was lower. But now, it seems like there is always more work to do then there is time.

I received the package this week, Mom! Thank you! I´m deciding to wait until Christmas to open it. I´m assuming if everything lasted 4 weeks to get here it will last another three until Christmas. On Christmas, it will probably be between 3-6 PM here in Brasil when I call to talk. And I will use Google Chat. I still haven´t heard if I will be able to talk to everyone together or just with people on one computer. More details should be coming soon. If I´m not mistaken, 3:00 PM here is 10:00 AM in Utah. Is that right? I´m not sure. I will have to look at the reference Dad sent a few weeks ago.

Mom, I hope you (and your back) are feeling better! When do you and Dad leave for Utah?

FELIZ ANIVERSARIO, RYAN!

First of all, we had Thanksgiving dinner! Actually, Thanksgiving lunch, because nobody really eats dinner here. We had a Zone Conference on Thursday and President Dalton had the sisters prepare turkey, pumpkin pie, mashed potatoes, and gravy for us. It was great. I mean, it wasn´t EXACTLY your traditional American Thanksgiving Dinner. It still had beans and rice ;). But it was pretty good.

This week, more than anything, I have learned that I won´t figure out how to be a missionary at least until the last week of my mission. Probably not until the end of my life. As I said last week from my conversation with President Dalton, it seem like the more time I have in my mission, the more I have to learn. This week I felt like I learned some really essential principles of missionary work that will work miracles. I thought, I can´t believe I didn´t know that when I started! But as I shared last week, “When we experience and grow, when we increase our faith, when we come closer to the potential God sees for us, we have a greater capacity to act. We have a greater vision, or rather, we have more light. With this greater light, we see challenges and opportunities that weren´t even visible to us before.”

That´s really about all that I have to share from this week, other than He is The Gift. If you haven´t yet seen or heard about this initiative introduce by the church this Christmas, click on this link, watch the video, read the website, and learn about it. The church truly does incredible things to invite people to come unto Christ. You might be able to learn a little more about the background of the initiative on lds.org But, it sure made me excited about Christmas. I mean, because of the initiative we now talk about Christmas in all of our contacts. And it is working miracles.

Mom: In respect to Christmas, yes I will be able to google chat. What hour? I still have no idea. And also last Christmas here there was a rule that we could ONLY talk to people in one place. For example, I wouldn´t be able to talk to Tyler in Japan and you at home even if it was at the same time on the same screen. But, that was with another mission president, so I will find out more soon.

I LOVE EVERYONE!