Saturday, December 13, 2014

August 21, 2014 Homecoming at Atlanta Airport!!!!

After two faithful, fruitful years of dedicated full-time service to the Lord, Elder Sears is joyfully welcomed home by those who love him most in all the world:
Joseph (19), Andrew (13), Abigail (15), Mom, 
Elder Sears (21), Dad, and Spencer (15)

Elder Sears's 8-hour overnight flight from Campinas, Brazil finally arrives August 21, 2014 at 6:15 AM in Atlanta, Georgia. 70 minutes of airport anticipation seemed to match two years of waiting, but finally Bradford's parents and siblings, Grandma and Grandpa Sears, and Shell "cousins" were ecstatic to greet their exhausted but beaming return missionary. 

Elder Sears with his dearest brother-friend Joseph, and his most adoring fan, Abigail, at the Atlanta, Hartsfield International Airport

Two prospective missionaries, 
Tanner Shell and Andrew, 
look up in every way 
to one extraordinary Elder brother

Pres. Ron Cheney, dear friend and 2nd counselor in Power Springs Stake presidency, releases Elder Sears from his full-time missionary calling and introduces him to the family as "Brad."

Home at last!! The Sears family reunited again at 455 Schofield Drive, Powder Springs, Georgia. 

Briefly after walking in his own front door, Bradford makes a beeline for his beloved baby grand!

Friday, December 12, 2014

August 18, 2014 Final Farewells

 Two years' worth of possessions and souvenirs . . . a members' overzealous farewell gift :) . . . only two suitcases . . . Elder Sears goes bananas!

Farewell lunch with dear friends: Evan and Ebonete (new investigators), Elder Frutos, Elder Sears, E.lder J. Rodriguez, and Rogerio, Regina and their children (recent converts)

Final Zone Conference with Zona Itatiba

August 18, 2014 "Mission (Training) Accomplished"

Well, this is it. It´s a lot of things to think about and feel at the same time. But it´s a good thing all in all and I can wave goodbye to the (fulltime) mission field with a clean conscience, a tired smile, and a changed nature. It´s been an incredible, irreplaceable ride. My time is limited today (I´m bunked in the mission office for today and tomorrow helping out with a few things) but I wanted to say a HUGE thank you to each of you. You´ve collectively and individually been the helping hands to buoy me up and keep me going during the good times and the hard times. I´m in debt to each of you. I hope that my service in the field can serve as a profound thank you.

I´ve set aside some time to reflect on my mission recently--the things I´ve learned, who I´ve become, goals and plans for the future, what I´ll miss most, etc.--and I wanted to send along a short list from my personal study of some of the things God´s taught me over these amazing months, together with a scripture:

1) This isn´t our work; God knows what He´s doing and how to do it. (D&C 3:1-3)

2) True happiness comes from a clean conscience, a clean conscience comes when we feel the Spirit acting within us, and the Spirit is only present when we are obedient and filled with love (Mosiah 4:1-3; Alma 36:17-20)

3) Our influence in God´s service goes way beyond our understanding (D&C 58:2-

4) Personal revelation is a reality (I´ve had several sacred experiences with the scriptures on my mission. Among some of the scriptures I´ve been guided to are Alma 31:38 in my first transfer, Job 38:4-7 after a frustrating lesson with Thiago who was questioning our belief in a pre-existence, "Where Can I Turn for Peace" in the hymnbook after a particularly difficult week in Castelo, and Jacob 5:71 just last week)

5) Attributes are more important than abilities (Moroni 7:46)

6) God fulfills His promises (3 Nephi 12:17-18)

I love you all and canNOT wait to see you in just a few short days. This IS God´s church and there is no other. I would give my life to defend that truth as I have lived to defend it for these past 2 years. How grateful I am to know that, even after my release, I will continue to be a covenant representative of Christ and a member missionary of His church. His name is written on my heart, with or without a tag (Mosiah 5:12). ABRAÇOS!!!!

Elder Kevin Bradford Sears

Wednesday, December 10, 2014

August 11, 2014 Treats and Treasured Friends

Elder Frutos and Elder Sears enjoy another belated 21st birthday breakfast

With the help of Bisquik and Mapeline from home, 
Elder Sears is able to feast on pancakes for the first time since Oct. 2012 in the CTM

A surprise reunion on Father's Day (Aug. 10) with Ricardo's family 
Elder J. Rodriguez, Diego, Sheila, Ricardo, Elder Sears, Igor and Isabella

August 11, 2014 Planting and Harvesting in the Lord's Vineyard

Dear loved ones,

The journey is almost over! As surreal as it seems, my 2 years are almost up. I had a pretty special experience during district meeting as we were studying Jacob 5 together. Verse 71 caught my attention in a way I´d never seen it before: "And the Lord of the vineyard said unto them: Go to, and labor in the vineyard, with your might. For behold, this is the last time that I shall nourish my vineyard; for the end is nigh at hand, and the season speedily cometh; and if ye labor with your might with me ye shall have joy in the fruit which I shall lay up unto myself against the time which will soon come."

When I read that, the phrase "for the end is nigh at hand...and ye shall have joy in the fruit which I shall lay up unto myself " jumped out at me. I´ve questioned myself several times on my mission, especially towards the end, if I´ve done enough and gathered as many fruits unto the Lord as He wanted me to gather. But when I saw that phrase again I noticed that God doesn´t say "ye shall have joy in the fruit which ye shall lay up unto me" but rather "ye shall have joy in the fruit which shall lay up unto myself." I felt a strong reassurance that I can feel total joy in all of the fruits the Lord has layed up unto Himself because of my mission. So that was a cool new insight.

We´ve been teaching a 45-50 year old couple named Sandra and Carlos over the past 2 weeks. When we related the First Vision Sandra cried quite a bit and was touched signficantly by the Spirit. Unfortunately she´s having a really tough time making the decision to leave the church she´s been attending for 25 years-- a church that she presented to her Family and because of her, all of her family participates. Elder Rodrigues and I felt during companionship study that we should read with her in Matthew 14, the part where Christ invites Peter to walk on the water. We compared the comfort of the boat to her membership in her church. It´s a safe place, a good place, and a familiar place. But, it´s not where Christ is. Christ is on the water. The way to Him is treacherous, but it is afterall the way--the only way. We explained to her that when Sandra felt the truth of the first vision, she, like Peter, felt a sudden desire to jump from the boat and run to Christ. She did so, but then took her focus off of her goal and put it on the winds and waves around her (the fact that changing is difficult--that it would mean the rest of her family questioning her and such). She understood the comparison well but insisted "I feel like what Joseph saw was real, but I don´t feel like God´s calling me to be part of your church." So we reread with her in JS-H 1:19 when Joseph receives his answer that none of the churches were true and asked her, "if none of the churches were true, where does he want you to be? In the boat or on the water?" We saw the truth sink into her eyes. She knows it´s true. I´m just hoping that she acts on it. I love teaching people, not lessons.

I got a surprise phone call from guess who on Saturday--Ricardo and Sheila!! Ricardo´s sister lives in Vinhedo and he and his family got together for Father´s Day yesterday (it´s in August here, not June--shoutout to the best dad on Earth  by the way!). So I got to see them again :) They continue 100 percent active--Igor goes to seminary every day and has been called as teacher´s quórum presidente. Diego is serving as 1st counselor in the deacon´s quórum presidency, and Ricardo as 2 counselor in the Young men´s organization. In 2-3 weeks they´ll be starting their temple prep. course so they can be sealed as afamily exactly one year after their baptism--October 27, 2014. I made them promise me they´ll do a Skype session the day after they´re sealed. I´ve said it before but I´ll say it again--there is no greater joy as a missionary than seeing your recent converts active and keeping covenants. What a special family they are!

Oh yeah, we finally had a decent group at church yesterday, so that´s a plus too.

I love you all! I think I´ll have a few minutes to write next week so this won´t be my last email. I´d like to send along some of the lessons I´ve learned while in the field, so that´ll be next week.

Love, Elder Sears

Friday, November 21, 2014

August 6, 2014 Twenty-first Birthday Celebrations

Birthday Eve with Elder Sears and his roommates

The second of three birthday cakes missionary friends 
made to help him celebrate his 21st birthday.

                             Elder Sears with the cake made by Sister Heyer and Sister Solano 
(missionaries in his district)

August 6, 2014 "Quite Possibly the Best Birthday Ever"

Ola :D

Tuesday I turned 21! I celebrated waking up at 4:25 am to make it to zone meeting on the other side of the mission. Elder Frutos and I had been preparing for a week but until Tuesday morning on the bus the pieces still weren´t fitting. About 30 minutes before getting there things finally clicked. We´d asked everyone to study chapter 9 in Jesus the Christ along with D &¨C 93--both talk about Christ´s development grace by grace until he received of a fulness. We talked about what exactly is a "fulness" and what our potential is as missionaries and as sons and daughters of God. Understanding the limitless potential of those we teach and within ourselves is one of the most powerful weapons we have in the field. It´s interesting to note that God prepared both Christ and Moses for their respective ministries by emphasizing their divine nature and potential (see Matthew 3:17 and Moses 1:3-4). Fittingly, our understanding of our potential is the first thing that Satan attacks--he did it with Christ (Matthew 4:3, 6), with Moses (1:12) and he does it with us. Then we talked about growing grace by grace in our potential as a zone and set progressive goals--this week every companionship is going to close out 20 contacts per day, next week new investigators, then baptismal dates, then people at church, then baptisms. We bore our testimonies and I felt the Spirit was so strong. I was amazed to see everything fitting together so perfectly just in the nick of time. We planned 2 role-plays: one in which the missionaries needed to use what was taught about our potential to help their investigators to feel capable of preparing for baptism within the next 2 weeks, and the other to help their investigators overcome problems with one of the 4 major commandments (word of wisdom, chastity, tithing, and the Sabbath day). What was incredible is that we received phone calls from 5 different companionships during that week telling us that they used what had been presented during the meeting with their investigators and that it worked really well. Two were baptized last Saturday :) It seriously was one of the most spiritual meetings I´ve particpated in for a long, long time. I got a pretty sweet surprise at the end of it too. Seeing that it´d be my last zone meeting ever, wo of the sisters in the zone called me up front and did an animated reading of Mosiah 2, comparing me to King Benjamin and thanking me for everything I´d done on the mission. I was super surprised and no doubt got pretty red by the end of it, but I was super grateful. President, who was in attendance, stood up afterwards and thanked me as well. I was kind of awestruck with it all. I´d been struggling to look for some way of knowing if God was approving these last, rather hard moments of my mission Monday morning, and Tuesday at the end of zone meeting I received a very emphatic answer. I spent a long time on my knees that night saying thank you. More still, after the closing hymn several missionaries in the zone had a room filled with balloons and cake waiting for me, seeing that someone (ehem Elder Frutos) spilled the beans that Tuesday was my birthday. They all made a card that is definitely going in my scrapbook when I get home. It seriously was on the most rewarding birthdays ever. 

We continue to be blessed with small tender mercies in the area, but unfortunately our investigators continue to close off their hearts. Saturday morning we had 25 investigators confirmed for church. When nightime came along the number dwindled down to 12, but they were 12 absolute yes´s. Sunday not a single one showed up. I´ve seriously never seen anything like it! But as I told President in my weekly email, maybe one of the bigger miracles of my mission is that I´m managing to truly feel happy during the middle of it all. Don´t ask me how. There´s always an experience here or there to keep us going and keep us smiling. Tuesday night for instance--we went to visit a young member couple and I felt prompted to share Helaman 12:24. When I finished, Elton, the member, looked at me and said "wow, there´s a part of my patriarchal blessing that I never understood that I understand now because of that scripture you just read." It really does feel really good to minister, to be the Lord´s hands in the vineyard even during one of those moments when none of the trees seem to be bearing good fruit. Rogério, according to his wife, has calmed down a little bit but still doesn´t want to talk to us. But, we´ve managed to reactivate 3 people so far since arriving in the area! Lucia was at church last week for the first time since last October, and Erica for the first time 3 weeks ago since 5 years before that. She has a 12 year-old son named Gabriel that has a baptismal date set for the 17th.

I love you all! Thanks millions for all the birthday wishes. I got cards/letters from Grandma Julie, Sister Shell, mom and my family, the Savage´s and the Idiart´s. I´ll be responding shortly! 

Elder Sears