Hello again! My first and most pressing question is...is everyone still alive back home?? I don't know what's going on with the mail around here, but not many North Americans have been getting mail this past week. Only 3 letters have come for our entire district and I haven't been one of the lucky ones :( Dad, thank you so much for your email. It was the only letter/message from home I got this past week! Are you all okay? I continue to think of and pray for you daily, and I will look forward to the letters that I hope will be trickling in soon. Mom, I'm sending home a pretty big letter via Mission Ties later this afternoon (I also am sending it to Kirsten and the Shell's as well) that should explain thoroughly what's been going on this week. I'll probably repeat some of those things here so that everyone else can know how the past week has been. Did you get the Mission Ties letters I sent last week? I sent one home to the family, one to Joseph, one to the Shell's and one to Kirsten. Maybe I sent another one too..? Any crazy news from home? I heard about Hurrican Sandy. I hope everyone is okay. And today is election day, right? Good luck to Mitt! (am I allowed to say that as a missionary? I don't know...haha).
A few more really quick things: mom, I know you were planning to send a package to the Mission Office. Thank you for that :) If you haven't sent it yet, could you include some family pictures please please please? Some of the pictures from that last weekend together with the cousins would be fantastic. Also, I am going to start writing the address to the Campinas Mission Home on the hand-written letters I send out because I will be there in 2 weeks. The secretary here at the CTM recommends that you use that address as opposed to the residential address that I will get in the field. Mission Ties will still work just fine; the lady that operates it sends all your Mission Ties letters to the mission home. It's probably safest to start using the Mission Office address in Campinas from here on out for hand-written letters just to make sure that none of them get stuck at the CTM when I've already left. Last thing, my morning instructor (Irmao Mauricio) told me that he found me on Facebook and sent a friend request. Could you accept that for me?? I think he posted a picture of the two of us as well but I'm not sure...thank you!
Spiritual highlights from this past week: so many!
Last P-day my companions and I set another goal to set aside 30 minutes just for proselyting. It was really neat, as expected! The first street contact is always the hardest becasue you don't want to stop somebody and start talking naturally. But, Elder Johnson flagged an older man down and handed me the reins. He had already received The Book of Mormon but accepted our invitation to continue to read. He said that the previous Sister's that had talked with him promised him "a grace" if he read the book and he said that he received it because his business started doing really well after he started to read. We promised him that he would continue to see blessings from the Lord in his life as he read, pondered, and prayed about The Book of Mormon. We taught him that one of the greatest blessings he could receive was a knowledge that The Book of Mormon was true. He thanked us and said he'd do what he asked and continue "looking for more graces." We talked with probably 7 or 8 more people that day, and it became easier and easier as time went on. I honestly was having fun. It's so neat to be able to share your testimony and see the effects of it at work immediately when people accept your invitation to read and pray. We placed an additional Book of Mormon and talked with several people that had already received one but also promised that they would continue to read, or begin reading again.
This past Sunday was Fast Sunday, which involves a Mission Conference in the morning instead of the typical 3 hour block of Church. President Araujo spoke (a counselor in the CTM Presidency here), and talked about the dream in which Daniel saw the stone cut out of the mountain without hands rolling to fill the whole earth. He asked us as missionaries which side of the stone we were on--pushing it down the hill as we've been commanded to do or foolishly pushing against it through disobedience and a lack of diligence. That was a really powerful way of putting it. I get the feeling a lot more lights went out at 10:30 that night than usual after having heard his talk. I loved his interpretation of the analogy because it makes laziness and disobedience look so ridiculous in the grand scheme of things. When we choose to try to push the stone back up the hill, we are pushing against God and gravity--quite the task if you ask me! I remember writing in my journal that whoever chooses that route will inevitably get flattened. I promised myself I would be part of God's army rolling the stone down the mountain, not being rolled down the mountain by the stone (even though that does conjure up a pretty good mental image).
I'm still in the same district that I came with (and will be until I head for the field), but sadly Irmao Mauricio will be leaving us this week. His two years as an instructor here are up. He spoke with each of the companionships individually and told us how much he's enjoyed working with us. He told Elder Johnson and Carter and I that he considered our district a "miracle." He commented that he's rarely seen a district work as hard as we have in such unity in his 2 years being here. I considered that quite the compliment coming from him, especially since our district is so huge! It really is a blessing that we are all so equally committed and enthusiastic about missionary work. I couldn't have asked for a better district or a better instructor. I gave Irmao Mauricio a CD that I'd made before I left and I think he really appreciated it. We are all going to miss him.
We got new Brasileiro roommates this week! Their names are Elder Batista and Elder Albequerque. They are very diligent and join us in companionship prayer every morning and every night. Elder Batista even brought Bananagrams! If we ever have any time to play, I'll be interested to see how well I can do in Portuguese. I miss all those family memories playing together, and I miss the fact that it was in English!
Halloween was this past week (as you all know), and Elder Johnson and I decided we ought to celebrate in some small way. Just before 10 we got our pillowcases and went door to door in our hall asking for treats (politely of course). I think most of the Elders in our hall got a kick out of it. We managed to pull in a cough drop, a nail, some "centados" (pennies, basically), a half-cookie, some sugar-free gum and, finally, some actual chocolate. We were quite pleased with ourselves. It was a fun memory of home.
I've got to go, but I'll look forward to reading all of your letters and emails for the coming week. I hope you're all okay. I love you. Until next week!
Love, Elder Sears
P.S. Mom, or Dad, please make sure the Shell's get this!
P.p.s. I got to do Initiatories in the temple today (in Portuguese!). Super neat.
Love you, again. Ciao!