Leaving the City, Blitzing the Country

So, I got transferred. I FINALLY left the endless city of São Paulo. I mean, my last area technically wasn´t “São Paulo”, but it is the difference between Los Angeles and Long Beach. Just city. And more city. And more city.

I arrived in my new area, a city of 20,000 people in the middle of the forest. It was like taking a huge breath of fresh air. Actually, I did take a lot of breaths of fresh air. The pollution is like 90% less than in São Paulo. Our ward, Jacira Ward, is modest in size. the average frequency is about 110 people. The ward split 4 months ago, so our ward is actually brand spanking new. It isn´t even on MLS yet.

This area is completely different from any that I have already served in. I really like it. It is so nice to walk up a hill and and see GREEN. And there are a LOT of hills. This area is notorious in the mission for having the most and steepest hills. The members are all really genuine. There is a LOT of opportunity for growth in our ward and a lot of potential. I am excited to see what will happen in these 2 1/2 transfers that I stay here.

This week was really dedicated to finding new investigators, of which there were none when I got here. Actually, there was one, but he can´t get baptized yet because he needs to get married and is waiting for a document from the Brazilian government to prove that his last wife is dead (he has been waiting for 6 months. And his wife passed away 25 years ago).

I don´t know who my companion is. This week I have been in a “super dupla”, or “4-companionship”. The two missionaries who were serving there are going home this week and President Dalton didn´t want to “whitewash” the area, so he sent me there to learn the area in a week. Also, a short-term missionary from a ward in our mission came to our companionship so that we could go on splits every day and be more effective. Tomorrow, when the other three missionaries leave, I will find out who my new companion is.

I am ecstatic for General Conference. Here, the priesthood session starts at 9:00 PM, so we pretty much have to pull an all-nighter to watch it. We will get home around midnight.

The weather here has actually been really nice. Cloudy and 70 degrees every day. I will send some pictures next week, but I forgot my USB converter so I can´t send any today.

I love my family. I´m grateful for my Savior Jesus Christ. Every week I learn more and more and more about how precious those two truths are.

Have a good week!

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Guess who is going to be transferred???

AGAIN, I am going to be transferred. I think that I might make a world record of the missionary with the most areas. As of now I will have 8. However, I BELIEVE that this next area will be my last. I hope. I mean, there are only 2.5 transfers left (Yeah, my group will come home in the middle of a transfer. It is kind of strange, but it was the mission decided to do). The mission will actually be closing a lot of areas in the next few transfers. When I got to the mission, there were 254 missionaries in our mission. When I leave, it is possible that the mission will only have 140. That is more than 50 areas that have to close. Right now the mission has 188 missionaries.

There are two reasons the mission will shrink. First the big group of missionaries that left in the 6-8 months after the age change will all be coming home. There will be a few thousand less missionaries in the mission field (our mission president said the number of missionaries will probably descend to 80,000 instead of 87,000 where it is now). Second, the church created 11 new missions and intentionally is creating missions with less missionaries because the church saw that many missions with 200+ missionaries became a little hard to manage.

But aside from being transferred YET AGAIN, this week we had a few good experiences.

Edna, who I have mentioned the past two weeks, is progressing really well and will be baptized next Sunday (too bad I won´t be there).

Also, Claudia (the pastor´s wife) is progressing as well. We visited her with a member of the bishopric who works in the temple (he is the head chef of the cafeteria). The visit was awesome. As missionaries, we avoid at ALL COSTS “proving” the truthfulness of the restored gospel. By logic, scriptures, or science. We just avoid it. Because we know that in our minds we can prove many things, but we also know that the SPIRIT is the one who teaches eternal truths. The SPIRIT will be the one who testifies the truthfulness of the gospel to the heart of our investigator in a way that we simply cannot do. However, Claudia, being a missionary in her church and the wife of a pastor, knows the scriptures REALLY WELL. She admitted to us that she had some doubts because she thought we couldn´t show her that the message of the restoration was true using the scriptures. Our first counselor of the bishopric then responded to ALL of her questions (which were many) using the bible. I was really grateful that he was there, because my companion (who I love to death) was really wanting to “bible bash”, but Isaquiel, the member of the bishopric, incredibly helped us bring the spirit into the lesson and also resolve all of her doubts. Her church is a lot different. People babble in tongues, fall trembling on the ground, and suddenly stand up in church to “prophesy”, and she was having a hard time seeing how the church could be true if it didn´t contain the “miracles” that she thought the church of her husband contained.

After an extremely powerful, spiritual, and scripture-laden lesson, she tearfully told us that ever since Stake Conference on Sunday she knew the church was true and the we have prophets on earth today. She told us she was just scared to leave behind her husband´s church; that she needed the confidence that the scriptures could bring her. The lesson taught me the importance to FOLLOW THE SPIRIT.

I know the church is true. I cannot deny it. By logic, it all just makes sense! But beside the logic, the spirit constantly reaffirms in my heart that the church is true. Every time we teach the Restoration. Every time we talk about the temple. Every time we teach the Word of Wisdom or Law of Chastity. Every time I partake of the sacrament on Sunday. And these constant whispers of the Holy Ghost in my life are much more powerful than a string of scriptures that make sense or a recent archaeological finding that proves that ancient Indians performed baptisms. The spirit testifies of truth.

I LOVE EVERYONE! Have a good week!

Rain Drops Keep Falling on My Head

Everyone in Washington said that it has been raining a lot there…. well here in São Paulo it is RAINING. I think it has rained every day for the past two weeks. And it will continue this week. The difference here is that it rains two hours of the day… and the rest of the day is HOT. São Paulo is like Rexburg of the south. You need an umbrella and sunscreen and a jacket and short sleeves 5 times in the same day. Well, for me it is never actually COLD. The last time I felt cold was when I went into President Dalton´s air-conditioned office.

This week was Stake Conference. We brought Claudia and João with us (the Pastor and his wife that I mentioned last week). I had told President Dalton about them in an email to him last week, but to my surprise he was in our stake conference and used their story as part of his talk! I was a little nervous, as I hadn´t exactly asked permission from them to tell their story to 1000 people, but Claudia leaned over to her husband with tears in her eyes and said, “That is EXACTLY the same thing that happened to us!” Afterwards, I told President Dalton that Claudia and João were at the conference, and he too was a little nervous. He asked, “Did I tell the story right? Were they angry? Are they still here?” But it ended up being exactly what Claudia and João needed. They needed to hear someone else telling their story so they could recognize the hand of God in their lives. It is interesting how God works through us even when we don´t know it.

Also, Edna (who I mentioned last week) miraculously showed up after the opening hymn of general conference. It reminded me a lot of the last general conference of my mission, which was the first time that Marlene went to church. We passed by Edna´s house in the morning to get the bus with her to come to stake conference…. but no one responded. We were a little bummed, because she has to work every other Sunday in the hospital and we would have to remark her baptismal date if she didn´t go. I´m still not sure how she managed to find the stake center, since she had never been there and hadn´t ever even seen the building, but she ended up coming alone, exactly how Marlene had done in Stake Conference in Santo Amaro.

I love being a missionary. There are so many miracles; so many tender mercies. Every single day, if we are really looking for them, we will see them.

AMO MINHA FAMÍLIA (E AMIGOS)

ATÉ MAIS.

PS Dad… I printed out the Driver´s License Form and I will mail it ASAP.

Steady and Sure

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This week was much better than last week. It was FULL of meetings. I had a meeting almost all day on Tuesday and then we had District Meeting the next day and then Thursday we had New Missionary Orientation almost all day (because Elder Calixto is a new missionary). But, with all the meetings, it added an even greater sense of urgency to the little time we had to work.

We are teaching a few awesome people now in our area.

First, we are teaching a lady named Edna, who was taught by missionaries 6 YEARS AGO, but we found in the Area Book and felt that we should visit. We went there, and she is perfect! The missionaries must have done a good job preparing her six years ago, because now she is one of the most “eleita” investigators I have ever taught (eleita is a term missionaries use in portuguese to describe REALLY GOOD investigators… literally “elect”, derived from the scriptures). Her only difficulty is that she has to work every other Sunday in a hospital, so it is a challenge for her to go to church. But I love her. She is a widow and probably is about 50 years old. Her daughter is an inactive member that lives in another ward.

Also, we are teaching the cousin of Bruno and Diogo, who is the youth leader in another church. Her name is Tayna. She is actually the reason that Bruno and Diogo got baptized. One day we were leaving Bruno and Diogo´s house after a lesson, thinking we would drop them and never return (they weren´t keeping any commitments), when she ran out in the street and yelled, “ELDERS! COME BACK! I´m curious about your church!” So, we marked another visit with her, and when we came back, Bruno and Diogo had miraculously changed. However, Tayna works A LOT, so it is hard to find time to teach her. She wrote us a letter after the baptism of Tiago and Igor and João, expressing her gratitude and telling us about how she recognized us as true representatives of Jesus Christ. Now, she wants to be baptized, but she is afraid that all of her friends from the other church will turn against her.

Third, we are teaching a pastor and his wife, João and Claudia. We met Claudia one day as we were looking for the address of a potential investigator. However, we felt we should knock on Claudia´s door instead. We knocked on her door and she said she would go to church with us. We were a little doubtful, as she is a missionary for another church, but when Sunday came we passed by her house to see if she would go and she came running up to the door in her “Sunday best”. She had an awesome experience at church. She already was friends with half of the ward, and we had members who asked us, “How did you get her to come to church? We have been inviting her for 20 years!” The difference is that now she is prepared. She told her husband, the pastor, that they can never miss another Sunday (and miraculously he accepted without question).

I am excited to see how all of these people progress. We also met another awesome family, but I´m running out of time to talk about them, and they are on vacation for two weeks, so I will wait until another week to talk about them (stay tuned…).

Dad/Lacey… I believe you can give me the information through email. The visit to the temple will probably be 3-6 weeks from now. THANK YOU!

Mom: Here has daylight savings time as well, except that it starts and ends on different dates than in the U.S. and when the U.S. “springs forward” we “fall back”. I have no idea what time it is in Washington now. I THINK that it is 2 or 4 hours different now, but I have no idea.

Isaac: GOOD LUCK with the house/job hunt. Well, the house you have already found. Now you are just waiting to move in. Your new house is in which city? Here in São Paulo, people travel 3-4 hours one way to get to work and are still in the city of São Paulo. Also, a lot of people travel 3-4 hour one way and only go 3-4 kilometers. In my last area, our church was usually 15 minutes by bus, but during rush hour was 2.5 hours by bus. And 1 hour walking.

AMO TODO MUNDO!

PS I cannot believe it is MARCH.

Family History… I am doing it!

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This Sunday Bruno and Diogo passed the sacrament! Woohoo! Bruno pushed Diogo around in the wheelchair as Diogo distributed the sacrament. They were really, really excited. They both want to serve missions, we just have to see how it will be possible (with their physical deficiencies). Also, Myllena, Igor, Thiago, and João were confirmed.

I´m not sure if I have much other news. It is a little frustrating because in the past 4 weeks, only one new investigator has gone to church and all of the others have already dropped us. We have found a LOT of families that seem to have a lot of potential but end up not wanting to talk to us or avoiding us or other such things. I think one of the hardest parts of a mission is seeing the potential of people but watching as they choose much, much less. We also started working with a few less active members and part-member families that are great, but seem to be stuck in a rut of inactivity. We are praying and fasting to know how to help these people. And how to find the people that will progress.

Thankfully we have an incredibly inspired mission president who never fails to provide us with the solution that we need. It is incredible to see the change that has taken place in the mission since he has arrived. The last mission president was great, doubling the number of baptisms per month and turning this mission into one that is now called by the Area President of Brazil “the most obedient mission in the world”. The theme of the last president was, “JUST BAPTIZE”, which is what the mission needed in that time. But President Dalton saw that the mission was ready for a higher vision, “JUST TEMPLE”. Now, with 25% less missionaries, we are baptizing 25% more and retaining 50% more. And the foundation he has laid for the mission is creating situations that lead to miracles (Because we don´t create miracles, God does. We can only create a situation that allows them to happen, and God grants miracles according to necessity, obedience, and faith). But, that´s enough bragging about President Dalton for today.

In our next visit to the temple as a mission, President Dalton has asked that EVERY missionary has a family name (which I am REALLY, REALLY excited about). We will do all of the ordinances for our family member besides the sealing. So, I would like to ask that someone prepares a name of one of our family members for me that hasn´t yet had any ordinance performed. In our mission we don´t have access or permission to use FamilySearch or other such family history tools, so President Dalton asked us, if possible, to ask a family member to prepare the name for us.

EU AMO MINHA FAMÍLIA!!!! (e todos vocês.) I LOVE the temple. I love my mission.