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