Tuesday, October 30, 2012

October 30, 2012 "Placing My First Book of Mormon"

Wow, I'm going to have to type fast today! I got so many emails from all of you and just loved it :) I apologize if I can't respond to every question, but I shall do my best! Please feel free to send the remaining questions/thoughts through mission ties so that I have more than a few frenzied seconds to read them.
The biggest question most of you have had is whether or not I've made the switch to the Brazilian District. I haven't yet; it largely depends on the needs of the Brazilians coming in this week, since they are the Elders that will be leaving with the Americans from our week when we all head for the field. If they have a trio or an odd number or a problem of some sort, it's more likely that I'll make the switch. If not, then I will stay where I am. There are definitely plusses to each side, with the only minuses being the plusses of the other alternative! I am loving my time with my North American district and really feel like we are all getting to become really close friends. We all plan to try to get together in 2 years (I hope that becomes a reality, but if not, I'm taking plenty of pictures for memories...).
I will be sure to let you know if I switch districts or continue to stay with the one I'm in now.
As far as letters go: Grandma Sears, I received one letter from you written on what I think was the 23rd of September. I received it towards the beginning of October and sent a hand-written response out that week. Maybe it hasn't gotten there yet--I know post is going pretty slow. Mom, I got your missionties letter and have already written my response, to be sent home shortly. Thank you so much for that. I haven't ever gotten any letter with orange paper though :/ I'll keep looking and keep my fingers crossed! Mitchell, thank you so much for your email, and yes, "obrigado" is certainly correct! It's a good word to know around here, along with "disculpe" (literally meaning forgive me, or "sorry"). Abigail, I got your email and loved reading it, but I had to read so fast! Maybe you could send me a copy of it via missionties so I can respond in greater detail to it? I hear Swim Team is going great and that you've made a new friend! I'm also very happy to hear about your spiritual experiences and that you continue to be such a fantastic example to everyone you know. Kirsten, I got your short little note and the picture of Bentley: adorable! I also got your missionties letter that you sent on your birthday and really appreciated it. I'll be sending a response later today. Brayden and the Shell Family, thank you so much for the update and the pictures! I loved them, especially those of Heston and Rowan. It brought back so many memories :) I'm so glad BYU romped GT, and congratulations to Hill Grove as well.
A few favors to ask for the best mom in the whole world :)
Could you try to research what Zak Cole's email address is for his mission? He's my best friend from BYU and I've been wanting to email him. I know I'm friends with him on Facebook so maybe you could research it that way? I'm guessing it's zachary.cole@myldsmail.net but I'm not sure.
Also, if you could try to email/mail a copy of my priesthood line of authority that would be fantastic. We had a lesson about it this past Sunday and I figured it'd be a neat thing to have, for me and for my investigators. Thank you!
Spiritual highlight from the past week:
To keep it short, my companions and I placed our first Book of Mormon! Actually, better stated, God did. It was such a neat experience. We talked with an older man just sitting by his motorcycle a few blocks down from the CTM on our last P-day. He was genuinely interested and talked to us for 20 minutes or so! (rare for a street contact, but he just kept going). We left him with a Book of Mormon and testified of its truth. I wrote down the number of the local Sao Paulo missionaries for him to use if he had questions or wanted to learn more. He said he would read and was true to his word! We hadn't even made it halfway down the block after talking to him when we turned back and saw that he was reading. So neat. I pray that he was touched by what we said (in very broken Portuguese, I'm sure) and that he'll have a desire to read and know for himself what I've been blessed to know for so many years. God really is a worker of miracles. I'm sending a copy of my journal entry about the experience home in my letter to mom through missionties, which will have much more details than I have time to provide here.
Another spiritual highlight was the temple today, because Elder Carter, Elder Pinon, Elder Hatch and I all got to participate in Confirmations! It was a rare opportunity because normally missionaries just participate in Endowment Sessions, but the temple workers needed 4 volunteers and we were the first 4. It was really neat for me to be able to participate in the ordinance of confirmation for the first time with the Melchizedek Priesthood. I felt so humbled and overjoyed to be able to say the ordinance in both Portuguese and English. It was definitely an unforgettable experience to be able to be on the other side of the blessing. Holding the Priesthood is certainly something I will never cease to be grateful for.
As far as other highlights go:
I got my voice back this Saturday which was quite a treat! I lost it this past Wednesday and couldn't do much more than whisper until Saturday night. It was frustrating, no doubt, but it didn't hurt which was a blessing. I'm all back to normal now. Ready to go talk to someone else about The Book of Mormon today :)
I've also been able to continue to play the piano because I'll be accompanying the choir (again) next Tuesday (a week from today) for devotional. We'll be singing the EFY medley, which always brings such a special spirit with it. Can't wait! It is a little saddening though to realize how many songs have already gone out of my fingers and my memory...I'll have to play a lot of catch up when I get back!
What is weather like back there? I heard from Brayden that it's starting to get pretty cold in Georgia, and from Kirsten that Utah got its first snow on the 25th! Down here has been RIDICULOUSLY hot. And hotter in the CTM than outside, because the AC in our classroom hasn't been working lately. It's been a little bit of a challenge to stay sane in there. I was talking with the bus driver on the way home from the temple today and he said it's never been this hot this early in the season (Brazil is just now starting its second month of Spring). The high today is about 96 F. It makes sleeping hard because there's not AC in our bedroom, just a fan that does not do nearly enough for us spoiled North Americans. It'll be good practice for the field though.
I've got to go, but I love you all so much. I can't wait to hear more of your experiences, and I promise to continue to share mine. I miss you. I wouldn't be giving so much of myself and my life to be away from you if I didn't know that the cause for which I'm working is pretty much the best work on Earth. Until next week...
Love, Elder Sears

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

October 23, 2012 Half-way Mark at the CTM

Another week that went by in a matter of minutes!
I hope all of you are doing tremendously well. Mom, I got your email and was smiling and laughing during it. I hope the other missionaries I'm sitting next to don't think I'm having too much fun! It is so good to hear from you. I know I say that every week but I mean it every week as well. Are the Shell's just planning to communicate through Mission Ties from here on out? I miss their emails! But please tell them that I've written them a nice long letter that I'll be sending off in a couple of hours.  Please tell Abigail I wish her the best of luck with swimming and that I'm so proud of her. Please tell Spencer and Andrew congratulations for me! I'm sure they're the best on their team. I loved going to their games and watching them while tossing the football on the sideline with the rest of the family--little things like that make me so grateful for all of you. I wish I could be there in person watching! Joseph, keep on acing your APUSH class. I have no doubt whatsoever that you have the highest grade in there. You deserve it. Keep on (harmlessly) scheming as well...it'll keep you sane :) Dad, so neat to hear that you're in South Bend! The image of you being surrounded by Catholic nuns is an interesting and enjoyable one. I'm so glad things are continuing to go well for you with work. I'm glad that Sunday School went well however. I'm sure you're not giving yourself enough credit. And thank you for consistently sending letters and emails. It's the highlight of every P-day hands down!
Please pass along to Sister Helsing that she is the kindest 89 year-old I have ever known! God bless her for her goodness. Please tell her I am very much looking forward to hearing "Amazing Grace" when I get back. That is so kind of her to still be thinking of me.
A few more "items of business" really quick: I'm hearing it's taking about 4 weeks for hand-written letters to arrive from Brasil to the States. So, please let me know when you get some of those that I have sent! Some are copies of the mission ties letters but I think I sent at least one different letter by mail back home. I've also sent hand-written letters to Kirsten, both sets of grandparents, and the Savages. While I'm thinking of it, please wish Kirsten happy birthday personally for me this Thursday!! I sent a birthday card in the mail but that probably won't get there until November.
This past week for me has been another really, really good one. So much to write about. I guess I'll just start with some of the highlights.
This past Wednesday by instructor, Irmao Mauricio, approached me and asked me what I thought about possibly being moved to an all Brazilian district! His opinion is that I'm progressing really well and that the best way for me to be learning at the quickest rate would be to be around Brazilians 24/7. I was so humbled by his opinion. A little frightened too! A change of that magnitude would mean a lot of other changes as well (companions, wards, districts, rooms, etc.). It's still up in the air as to whether or not the logistics are even possible, so I'll be sure to update further as I hear more! My plan is to accept that change if it's a possibility, but it's definitely going to require a lot of my faith and my patience (with myself). I am so excited though, and so grateful to the Lord for His goodness in blessing me with the gift of tongues already.
Wednesday night brought another highlight for me. We were playing volleyball when President and Sister Degn walked in. I guess there have been more ankle incidents during gym time (Elder Carter is almost completely better now) so they wanted to check in on how safe the missionaries are being. Just about a minute or two after they showed up, the other team hit a high, floating ball that landed perfectly over the net to the point where I could get a pretty good spike on it. I absolutely crushed it straight down onto the floor and it felt sooo good! Haha, yes, I know--I'm such a boy. Sister Degn looked bewildered that I could hit it so fast! She's played a little bit of volleyball herself from what I hear so it was fun to be able to smash the ball so hard (and not hurt anyone while doing it of course). Hopefully I won't be the reason for a ban of volleyball in the future!
Wednesday and Thursday night I got two separate packages--one from Grandma Julie and the Utah cousins and one from the Savages. They had sent me pictures about my mission and conference and adorable little notes. One said, and I quote directly, "hope you baptize pepole Elder!" That one, along with several others, are now decorating our class room. I shared them with the rest of the district and we were all laughs and smiles. Please pass along to everyone involved in sending something that it definitely made our week!
Music has been a big part of this last week as well. I explain in fuller detail in a letter I'm about to send off after I finish this, so I won't go into everything here. But, my spiritual highlight of the week did come through music this week. For the Sunday night devotional the CTM choir (in which every missionary here sings) performed a rendition of Joseph Smith's First Prayer. I don't think I've ever felt the Spirit as strong in the CTM as it was while we were singing. The last verse, when God the Father testifies of His Beloved Son, we sang without the piano in perfect 4 part harmony. When we finished the song, President Degn rose to thank us from the pulpit and could barely get his words out. He was crying because of how much it had touched him. Coming from a concert pianist, that meant a lot to me and all of us. He asked if we could sing it again for him. We did, and the second time was just as powerful. It honestly felt as if we had angels from Heaven singing with us. One of our speakers from that night, the mission mom for a mission close to the CTM, tried to start her talk by thanking us and she couldn't get the words out either because of tears! When she finally got one sentence out in Portuguese there was even more silence because the translator couldn't muster a translation (he was crying too). And, of course, I was crying. Tears, tears, tears. It was such a tender experience and a tender memory. It left absolutely no doubts that the message of the Restoration is true. I am so grateful that I could be a part of that choir. I'm accompanying the choir tonight for "THis Is The Christ," so I have a lot of work and praying to do to make tonight even half as powerful as Sunday.
Oh, can't believe I forgot! This past Saturday was our half-way mark at the CTM. Can you believe it's gone by that fast already?? 1/24 of my mission is already behind me. I continue to grow everyday, and I'm finding my desires to become better and testify with more conviction increasing every day. God is working miracles in me, and I cannot wait to be the instrument by which He will work miracles in the lives of the Brazilians. My companions and I have set a goal and prayerfully prepared to try to place at least one Book of Mormon today. I will let you know how that goes!
I love you all so, so much. That love grows everyday because my love for the Lord grows every day. Sunday night we watched 17 Miracles and I was just so grateful for the pioneer's sacrifices to be with their families in Zion. It made me love and miss mine so much more. Please know I'm thinking of you (and all my friends as well). Mom, if you could pass this on as always, that'd be much appreciated :) God bless you!
Love, Elder Sears
Oh, and no new roommates yet :( I will wait patiently!

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

October 16, 2012 Three CTM Musts: Volleyball, Piano and Sacrament Meeting

Hello all :)
I'm very grateful, as always, for all of your love and support, and the letters you've sent so far! I think at this point I've responded to every letter I've gotten through mission ties. Still waiting on those hand-written letters to come in--silly Brazil post. I've gotten one from Amanda Miller and one from Grandma Sears so far. Can't wait for more! :) Please let me know once you start getting the hand-written letters that I've sent out. I want to make sure you're getting them, and if not, then I can work something out!

A few questions that you all have asked me this week...
What is Sao Paulo like? Do you get to go out in the city on P-days?
Sao Paulo is bustling and huge. We hear cars blazing by every night until about 2 or 3. (or my roommates do that is, I'm sound asleep most of the time). I'm not sure how many of you know, but Sao Paulo is in the top 5 cities in the world as far as population goes. People everywhere! There's 4 different missions just for the Sao Paulo area. We get to go out into the city on every P-day anytime between 1 and 5. We have to stay within a 3 block radius or so of the CTM, but that's plenty enough to see how massive the city is. There's little shops and stores everywhere that have everything that we need as missionaries. There's a lady across the street who sells ties to us for discounts and soccer jerseys and the like. I bought one a couple weeks ago for a team in Campinas and am loving it. We also get to see a pretty decent view of the city every time we go to the temple (Tuesday's during the morning, from about 7 to 12). It's about an hour drive but only 15 miles--traffic is crazy! As are the drivers. I do not want to be driving anywhere near here!

So, President Degn plays the piano. Has he played for you yet?
Yes, in fact :) He gave our Sunday night devotional this past week and bore his testimony through the piano. He played a 3 hymn medley about Jesus Christ and the spirit was so incredibly strong. I think it speaks to me more through music than through anything else. I'm scheduled to be playing this next Tuesday (1 week from today) for another choir accompaniment, so I will let you know how that goes in 2 weeks! It's an arrangement of This Is The Christ. Should be good.
Why is it the CTM and not the MTC?

CTM stands for "Centro de Treinamento Missionario." It's just Portuguese for MTC. I learned a few weeks ago that it is the largest building that the Church owns outside of the United States.
Will there be any General Authorities visiting the CTM?
Not to my knowledge :( Most of our speakers for devotionals come from instructors and leaders here in Brazil. The Sao Paulo Temple President spoke to us 2 weeks ago and gave an incredible talk.

How is volleyball?
Great, as always :) I'm living up to my nickname as "Straight-shot Sears" and I love every chance I get to play. Hopefully I'll be able to squeeze a little bit in later on today. I haven't even minded not keeping score (that's not allowed as a missionary) because I've just been enjoying myself so much. Surprised?

Highlights from this week:
Well, lowlights and highlights. Elder Carter bruised his ankle really badly playing volleyball last Wednesday. It's all purply and gross, but he's walking on it now without crutches--a small miracle if you ask me. It has been nice though since we get to use the elevator instead of 6 flights of stairs every week! This past Friday was "Dia das Criancas" here in Brazil (Children's Day). Apparently it's a big deal out here, and to celebrate the CTM cafeteria staff decorated the cafeteria and actually fed us chicken nuggets! It was nice to have a taste of home, but they didn't even compete with Chick-Fil-A.
Our Brazilian and Chilean roommate left this morning for the field. So exciting, and a little sad too. Elder Perez gathered everyone on the 6th floor last night and bore his testimony which was really neat. It was one of the few times I've seen his non-Elvis side! Elder Vieira got pretty emotional when he had to leave. He woke me up because I was asleep and told me he'd miss me and that he was grateful for my example. I gave both him and Elder Perez a copy of my CD, which only brought more tears! It's just another reminder of how young we are as missionaries.

Spiritual highlight: Sacrament Meeting this past week. Sunday's are usually the best day of the week for me, and this past Sunday was the best Sunday I've had here, if that gives any indication of how good it was! I want to copy some of the journal entry I recorded about it. I'm going to scan the rest of the entry home to you Dad/Mom, and you can share it with who may be interested:
"I got to play prelude for Sacrament Meeting today which was a treat. I played my version of "If You Could Hie to Kolob" and Elder Baughan, an Elder in my district, commented about how much he liked it. He asked for the sheet music and was totally taken back when I told im I had written it myself. That definitely felt nice, because he's pretty musically talented himself...
...President Araujo, a member of the CTM PResidency here, gave a 30 minute long talk that I hope I will remember throughout my mission. His focus was on what he called the "2 parallels of God's work," which he interpreted to be the youth and the family. He focused primarily on the youth and told the following story to illustrate how much of an impact they can make. He spoke in Portuguese with a translator, so this is what I remember about it:
'I remember one fearless, completely clueless greenie that got assigned to a trainer by the name of Elder Taylor. Elder Taylor was one of the few veteran missionaries we had in the field at that time. The previous week while he was tracting he introduced himself to a man as a representative of Jesus Christ. The man heard that, screamed at him, picked up his garden tools nearby, and started chasing after Elder Taylor with the intent to leave him limp. Elder Taylor got away, but when he heard he'd be getting a greenie he wanted to pay that man one more visit, just to scare his new companion senseless. (I hope my trainer is a little more merciful on me). The first house that companionship tracted was the neighbor of the man that tried to kill Elder Taylor. Elder Taylor demonstrated how to do a door approach, then told his companion to do the next door. When the greenie knocked on the man's door, he opened, and before Elder Taylor could pull him back and start to run the new Elder had already begun his introduction: "Eu sou Jesus Cristo" (I am Jesus Christ)." The man started to sob and invited the Elders into his home, while Elder Taylor stood there speechless. The man explained that the previous week his wife had died, and that he had pleaded with the Lord no to take her. When He did, and Elder Taylor introduced himself as a representative of Jesus Christ, he was angry because he believed Jesus was cruel and merciless. The night before the new elder showed up at his door, he had a dream in which he saw his wife. She asked him why he had rejected the missionaries and told him that they could teach him truths that would allow the 2 of them to live together for eternity. She pleaded with him that hte next time Jesus Christ sent someone to him, he would accept them. There were the 2 Elders one day later, one of them introducing himself (by accident) as Jesus Christ. But I don't believe it was an accident. That man accepted the missionaries and the gospel, and is currently serving as the Patrairch in his stake."
I loved that so much. It lifted my spirits and encouraged me that I really can do this work. I'm not the one in charge, and I will receive help from On HIgh as I seek it and God sees fit.
God bless you all. Until next week!

Elder Sears
Mom, as always, please forward this on to friends and family, especially the Shell's :)

Tuesday, October 9, 2012

October 9, 2012 A Very Special General Conference at the CTM

Hello my favorite people in the world,
I cannot believe that I'm already in my fourth week here now! Time is flying by so quickly. I'm not exaggerating, I feel like I was sending my last email to you all just one day ago. First of all, thank you to all those who have sent letters via mission ties and other methods. I am getting letters through Mission Ties--I know that has been a question on all of your minds! It usually takes a day or two from the time you sent them for them to appear in my mailbox here, which is not bad (it's a little bit longer if you send them on the weekends). I love hearing little snippets of life back home. It's great and it reminds me that I have such a solid support group writing me and praying for me and genuinely concerned for my welfare. I love you, and God bless you for your kindness.
Some other questions that I know you have had:

Have you been able to play the piano...?
Yes, but not as often as I'd like of course! I have to schedule a room with the CTM secretary, which is hard because there's not a whole lot of availability. I did, however, find a way around that :) I signed up to accompany the choir for last Tuesday's devotional, which meant that I was allowed more time--basically 30 minutes a day for Friday, Sat., Sun., and Mon. It was great! I practiced the number I would be playing (a Brazilian hymn entitled "Ide a Tudo O Mundo") but also was able to sneak in some run-through's of "If You Could Hie to Kolob" and some other church music I haven't been able to play for a while. The performance itself went great, no nerves or anything, just the Spirit. It's a really cool song, and I wish you could have been there to listen to it.

How many missionaries are at the CTM?
If fluctuates because we have districts leaving and arriving every Tuesday-Thursday, but on average there's about 150 Americans and 75 or so Brazilians, with some Hispanics sprinkled in. So, not very many compared to Provo! It's nice that way though--more time to shower and more time to get to know everyone on an individual level. The CTM has a capacity of 600 or so, which I'm sure will come in handy when we start getting all those 18 year old Elders and 19 year old Sisters!!! How about that announcement by the way?? Grandma and Grandpa Q, I'd be interested to hear your thoughts about that as a Mission President and a Mission Mom.

How is the temple? English or Portuguese?
The temple is fantastic. I get to go every week with about 70 other Elders and Sisters on P-day. The sessions are in English, which is such a blessing for me. It's really neat to know that the Church works the exact same way no matter where you go in the world. And, of course, the Spirit is just as strong. I'm gaining so many new insights and impressions each time I go. Oh, and Conference this past weekend was in English as well. yay!

How are President and Sister Degn?
President Degn is an incredible man. He's so personable and very quiet when he speaks, but very firm. A lot like the Holy Ghost. He's served in mission leadership positions in the Church for decades and he's a concert pianist!  How about that? Sister Degn is so kind and sweet. She reminds me a lot of Grandma Julie. She has an extremely powerful testimony and I think everyone that she serves have come to love her.

Spiritual highlight of the week: that'd have to be Conference!
The CTM just about lost it when we heard the missionary service announcement! President and Sister Degn had to hush us so that we could hear the change in the sister's age as well! We are all so excited, as am I individually as I contemplate the changes that may bring about within my family and close circle of friends. I've never been as spiritually fed during conference as I was this time. I tried to go into each session with a question or two that I was hoping could be answered, and pray for impressions to direct me to the answers for each of those sessions. Without fail, I got my answers. If I had to classify the knowledge and impressions I received during the sessions into 2 overarching categories they would be these:
1) As a servant of the Lord and representative of Jesus Christ who has been set apart to preach His gospel, I really am entitled to personal revelation through the Holy Ghost, sent from on High.
2) The message that I carry as a missionary is transformative and miraculous; when I promise investigators and companions that the gospel has the power to bless their lives in more ways than they can imagine, I can issue that promise with the aboslute conviction that what I'm promising is true.
I hope all of you enjoyed conference as much as I did, and I'd love to hear from you any insights you gained or thoughts you had!

Non-spiritual highlight of the week:
This Thursday we went to the "Policia Federal" to extend our visas from 1 year to 2 years. On the way there traffic was terrible; we saw a car get off the highway, drive through the hill on which the off-ramp was constructed (full of boulders and trees and dirt and such), and merge back into traffic at the end of the off-ramp. Crazy stuff! When we got there I was able to talk to two missionaries that were there that had been serving for 18 months and 21 months respectively. One was American and the other Brazilian. Hearing both of them talk gave such hope to me that I'll be able to be speaking and testifying like them at some point hopefully not too far in the future!
Another funny incident from this week: one of the sisters in our district, Sister Cook, wanted to decorate the room where we study so she brought down a gift that her mom had sent her from home. It's a solar powered flower that oscillates back and forth when it's close enough to the window. My companions and I are straight across from that window so we have the perfect view of it. One afternoon Elder Carter, one of my companions, started bursting out laughing and then proceeded to cry because he was laughing so hard. That is so unlike him, so I asked him what was going on and he said: "That stinking flower is waving at me and it won't stop! I'm going crazy!" We all had a pretty good laugh after that and on a second glance, that flower really does look like it's waving at us. I can't look at it anymore because I'll just start laughing. Silly 19 year-old's, I know :)
I love you all and I'm doing my best to send off as many letters as I can via Mission Ties today. Mom, please forward this on to the Shell's so that they can know what's going on down here! You're all in my prayers and I am so, so grateful for your kindness and support.

Love, Elder Sears

Saturday, October 6, 2012

October 2, 2012 Sao Paulo Temple Visit

                          Bradford (back row, center) at the Sao Paulo temple with his district.

Wednesday, October 3, 2012

October 2, 2012 Spiritual Highlights, Silly Highlights

Hello again,
I hope you all are doing well! Mom, Kirsten and the Shell's, I got your emails and loved reading through them and browsing through the pictures that you sent (Kirsten). Unfortunately they don't let me download anything or print them out, so maybe you can send some hard copies (there'd be a question mark there but it doesn't work on this computer...). Mom and Kirsten, still no letters yet :( I'll check with Mission Ties today to see what's up. I don't really know how it works but I'll try to get that figured out when I stop by to send off the letters I've already written for you.To my family, I already sent out a letter last week by regular mail that I hope will be getting there soon. I love you all and miss you so much, and I'm thinking of you. Please, please feel free to write (and email!) Shell family, thank you for that update! I'm so glad to hear that you're all doing well. I'm going to try to get a letter sent out to you today, and if not, certainly next week. Good luck with all your activities!

This week has been even better than the first, if that's at all possible! Last P-day my companions and I found out we'd be getting two new roommates the next day. One of them is Elder Perez, who I think I alluded to last email. He is from Chile, he's 22, and he is absolutely hilarious! When he found out he'd be moving into our room he started doing laps around the hallway and screaming (with what I think was excitement--I couldn't tell). We all love him, especially when he quiets down by 10:30 so we can sleep :) This past week he's put on a show for us of Elvis, Michael Jackson, and a 3 character monologue from Star Wars Episode VI all by himself. Our other roommate is Elder Vieira. He's from Brasil, he's 20, and he's the only active member in his family. He speaks no English so communicating with him has been...a good challenge for me. He speaks so fast compared to our instructors! It's great to have him with us though. I feel like I'm learning the language more effectively talking to him for 5 minutes as opposed to studying for an hour. Last night he surprised us all by offering back massages--he's pretty talented, I have to say. Haha!

The weather here this last week has been crazy. We've had days where we've had a high in the 40's and other days when we've had lows in the 80's I think.

As I was thinking through what I wanted to say today on the way home from the temple this morning I thought it might be fun to do a "spiritual" and "fun" highlight of every week. So here goes:
It's hard to limit my spiritual highlight down to just one thing, but if I had to choose it would be my first experience in the TRC this past Friday. The TRC (Teaching Resource Center) is where you and your companions teach an "investigator" who is really another American that's been here for at least 6 weeks. You walk into a room set up like a living room with a camera and microphone to record your lesson so that your instructor can give you feedback without being in the room and so that you can watch it for yourself later on. And of course it's all in Portuguese. A little intimidating, I know! But it was such a great experience for me. We taught an investigator named Leonardo who was struggling with the concept of prayer. Our job was to help resolve his concern by helping him see why we should pray and how prayer can bless us. I will be the first to say my Portuguese vocab is not nearly good enough for me to say everything I want to and everything I feel like I should, but for whatever reason I could during TRC. The Spirit was so strong and although we all stumbled in our teaching the spirit never left. What a great blessing and confidence builder that was to know that I really am capable of teaching with the Spirit. Or better said, letting the Spirit teach. The feedback we got was almost all positive. Other districts that had been here longer than we have said that all of our district did really well, especially for our first time.

One more spiritual highlight because I just have to...Wednesday afternoon one of our instructors, Irma Kikuchi, invited us to read in the Book of Mormon out loud as a district (in Portuguese). She asked us to choose what chapter we wanted to read, and since nobody else volunteered I suggested Ether 12. As we read that chapter, specifically verse 27 (the scripture on my plaque), I was overwhelmed with how directly God was speaking to me through the scriptures. It occurred to me that Moroni was writing that chapter because of how he felt with his weakness in writing. He didn't feel like he was adequate enough, but when he told the Lord that he replied by telling him that as men "come unto him, he will show unto them their weakness." Then they are humble enough to have the Lord turn their weakness into strength. That applies so much to me on my mission. Serving a mission was a big part of my desire to come unto Christ, and it has definitely made clear many of my weaknesses. But I feel so, so often that I am being guided by a higher power, and that I am overcoming my weaknesses in the language and as a teacher much faster than I ever could have on my own. I shared those thoughts with the class and Irma Kikuchi started to cry becuase she said she's felt the same way as an instructor so often (we're her first district, but she really is doing a fantastic job).

For the not directly spiritually related highlight...this past Sunday I attempted to accomplish what's known at the CTM as the "jello challenge." Basically whenever there's jello for dessert some missionaries will dump it out on their plate and try to slurp it up in one gulp (I know, very 19 year old-ish, isn't it). Not many people have had success. I summoned the courage (or probably better said, stupidity) to attempt it. I had swallowed half of it when the whole table started laughing because I looked like a chipmunk with chunks of jello in my cheeks. I lost it and laughed and spewed jello everywhere back onto my plate. We all laughed pretty hard, but I went to my bed that night and repented of my childishness :) Still, I think everybody in the district has opened up to me now a little more because of that.

Some last minute things I should probably mention:
I'm hoping to scan home some journal entries so far to my mom so that she can post some of them on the blog or email some of them around or whatever she pleases. Let me know what else you want to know about my life out here!

Also, it's easier on the secretary here if, when you're sending letters, you include my district number and mail box as well. My mom should have a copy of the updated address that she can send out to you, so please ask her for it to make life on Sister Steadman here a little easier!
I'm going to try to scan some pictures home as well after I send off the two letters...hopefully that work! I love you all and can't wait to hear from you.
Last thing, I found out this week that we're really only supposed to be emailing family. So, I'm going to send next week's email to my family and then I'll be sure to have her forward it to you. As far as emailing me, maybe you could just email her and she can send everything to me in one big, long email...I don't know, I'll figure it out.Love you all!

Com amor, Elder Sears