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 firstname.lastname@example.org 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