Monday, December 16, 2013

December 16, 2013 Teaching and Testimony

2nd Christmas on the mission coming up...that´s pretty crazy when I stop and think about it. Last year I was still in my first transfer in the field, now I´m finishing up my 10th. Time is definitely very strange.

And it continues to fly by in Castelo! For the first time in a while we had a little bit of a slower week as far as the work goes, but every once in a while that´s necessary and I´m grateful for it. It was, as always, full of its small miracles. We´ve been teaching a 20 year-old named Matheus for the past 4 weeks and we´ve had some pretty cool experiences with him as a companionship. He and Elder Elswick get along really well which makes me happy because it´s helping him a lot in his adjustments to Brazil. I really feel like Matheus and I would be college bros if we ran into each other at BYU. Our lessons with him always seem to flow super well, he´s our age, and because of the real friendship the three of us have we´re able to be completely direct with him. Our biggest difficulty with Matheus is getting him to Church. He´s reading, praying, knows the Church is true and has born his testimony several times to us, but every weekend he drives an hour and a half to visit his girlfriend in a different city, complicating his visit to church a little bit. This Tuesday when we sat down and started talking he opened up the conversation with, "yeah guys, I´ve gotta say, church is looking like a plan B for this weekend." We read some scriptures but when I saw he still wasn´t changing his mind I said something like this:
"Alright Matheus, stand up."
"Now?" 
"Yeah. What do you want to happen after this life? Where do you want to end up?"
"With God, like everyone else."
"Perfect. Me too. I want you to imagine God and his kingdom are in the kitchen, okay?"
"Okay."
"So, you´re facing the kitchen. I´m going to stand next to you because I want the same thing you do." Then I turned his shoulders a fraction of an inch away from the kitchen entryway and said we were both going to walk 10 steps. "Did you make it to the kitchen?"
"No."
"Why not?"
"Because my angle was off at the start."
"Funny how that works isn´t it? We were side by side, basically facing the same place with the same goal, but you wound up half a wall away."

I remembered a talk from Deacon´s Quorum that Brother Flint, our supervisor shared with us. I think it was by Elder Hale (don´t quote me on that), about the decade of decision. We talked about how he probably didn´t see the impact of not going to church just for one week would have down the road. How these next few weeks and months and years are going to determine the course he sets for the rest of his life and eternity. Then we shared President Uchtdorf´s airplane story about the danger of a few degrees. I could tell it sank in, and when we invited him to church he said he´d think about it. But I could tell, he really was going to think about it. We stopped by to visit him on Friday and he said he still hadn´t made the decision. I called him Saturday night and he said he´d be there. Sunday rolled around and both him and his girlfriend Jessica showed up! It made my day. Beyond that, we noticed after Priesthood and Relief Society that Jessica was crying pretty hard. She told us that it was the first time in years she´d been to any church, and that during the lesson she heard exactly what she needed to. We took advantage of the situation and gave them a tour of the chapel and stopped by the font and talked about the Spirit and about baptism. I´m positive lots of steps were taken in the progress of the two of them. Matheus told Elder Elswick that we were right in having insisted that he go because he liked  it so much. So, again, I find my testimony stronger still that this really is God´s church. There´s really no way around it. I´m super excited to see how Matheus responds and how readily he´ll be able to progress towards baptism. A white Christmas would be awesome.

Daniel continues to amaze me. He has 240 talks prepared on every subject imaginable just in case Bishop decides to ask him to speak. He was confirmed Sunday and we visited him during the week with our Elder´s Quorum President and he walked out of Daniel´s apartment amazed, and undoubtedly excited about what he´ll do for the quorum and for the ward. Ricardo and Sheila are on the lunch calendar now, and we ate with them Saturday :) They did a Brazilian style barbecue (which just about killed Elder Elswick he ate so much) and invited over about half the ward. I´ve been blessed to get to know some really special people here in Castelo. That´s what´s carrying me through the difficulties that once in a while spring up.

I hope you all have a fantabulous Christmas in 9 days!! I´m not sure if I´ll be able to get an email off because our time will be spent emailing our families ( :D ) but we´ll see what President decides. Love you!!

Elder Sears


Oh yes, almost forgot (not sure how...), but tomorrow the whole mission is going to the temple!!!! I am beyond excited. The last time I got to go was March so I have some refreshing to do.

Monday, December 9, 2013

December 9, 2013 Baptism of Daniel and ward members with missionaries

Daniel's baptism:  Elder Marshall, Daniel, Elder Chagas,
Bradford, Elder Elswick

Elder Chagas, Brad, Serena (Chinese friend), Sister Muchado, Elder Marshall
Elder Elswick, the Muchado's daughter, and Kevin (Chinese friend)

December 9, 2013 Daniel's Baptism and Cantada at the Temple

Well, not really in Brazil, but that´s okay. This weekend was a white one so I´m all smiles :) I really can´t say enough about Daniel. He really knows what it means to feast upon the words of Christ. It´s remarkable for me to see what God´s done for him in his life. He told us this week that, while serving as a theology professor, there was an entire section of the manual devoted to anti-Mormonism. It´s Saul to Paul and the transformation of Alma the Younger all over again. He has a notebook of talks ready in case Bishop decides to call on him in the coming weeks. He´s on to "The Teachings of George Albert Smith" in the teachings of the Presidents of the Church series, and he´s taking every gospel topic imaginable and finding two scriptures confirming it in the Bible and in The Book of Mormon. His baptismal service was packed, as it always is in Castelo. Honestly my biggest worry with him is not with him but with me--that I can have gratitude sufficient enough to say and show a thank you as big as the blessing it´s been to get to know him and watch his conversion happening first-hand. He´s just so humble! It´s amazing to me. I´ll send along a picture in a sec...

Other cool experiences this week...Thursday night. Ricardo and Sheila hosted what basically wound up being a ward family night. Their family was there, Igor and Daniela (who came to church with their family of 5 yesterday--that family that we randomly knocked on their door and invited us in), Gilbert and his family, Lucianno (assistant to the ward mission leader) and his wife, and us 4 missionaries. Quite the party. Ricardo and Sheila have been going through a lot of difficulties and they asked us to talk about patience. So we started out like this: "tonight we´ve got a really cool message prepared. We´re convinced you´ll be able to get something out of it, so pay attention!" .........................................silence for 90 seconds (literally).........................................................
They lasted about 10 seconds before asking what we were going to talk about and what they wanted to do and why we weren´t responding to their questions and such. Until finally Igor said, "got it! You´re going to talk about patience." So that was pretty funny. We showed the mormon message video with the 4 year-olds and the marshmallows and President Uchtdorf narrating (if you haven´t seen it, I recommend it). Then we had them write out 10 of their biggest blessings, only 2 of which could be material ones. Then they had to write down how long it took for them to receive those blessings--it varied from 5 to 14 to 68 years. So everyone was like "ohhh, the bigger blessings take longer to come." Then it kind of spontaneously turned into a testimony meeting which was really special because lots of people talked about the difference we´ve made as missionaries in their life. I came home that night really happy.

Saturday we had the annual Christmas cantata at the temple. Super stressful but the music was incredible. We got to help coordinate reception and the display of a bunch of mission materials. The secretaries collected tons of referrals for all the nearby areas. They were expecting 700 there at the temple that night but we got up to over 1,000 members and visitors. Several of which were members and recent converts and former investigators from all the areas I´ve passed through (that´s one benefit of serving in the same city for over a year).

Sunday after church and Daniel´s baptism we ate lunch with the Machado family who spent 9 years living in Utah. They had 2 Chinese friends over, 1 of which spoke no Portuguese but pretty good English--so everything was in English! Which was nice but weird for a change. I´d definitely say Portuguese is more comfortable for me, at least as far as gospel language goes. It was a cool experience though--a Brazilian family, 3 American missionaries, and 2 Chinese investigators all speaking the same language about the same person and the same gospel, independent of culture or race or religion. That´s what the gospel does for people.

Gotta go...16 days left till Christmas!!

Love, Elder Sears

December 4, 2013 Pictures


Baptism of Adrianna:  Bradford, church fellowshippers Marcos and Isabel,
Adrianna and Elder Chagas

Baptism of Gabrielly: Dimas (Gabrielly's member neighbor and friend), 
Gabrielly's dad (from another stake), Gabrielly, Elder Chagas and Bradford

Thanksgiving Feast at Pres. and Sister Perotti's home:
Brad with other AP and office elders

December 4, 2013 The Influence of Good People

Alright, I´ve got maybe 15 minutes. Life around here is CrAzY. But crazy good.

I´m attaching the photos from Adrianna´s and Gabrielly´s baptisms last Sunday. They were both confirmed this Sunday and are extremely well-integrated in the ward. Gabi´s receiving the new member lessons with Bianca, her new young women´s president, and Adrianna went with us and Daniel (the pastor) to a Family History Center activity last night that was pretty sweet. First time in my mission I´ve seen family history be taken advantage of, and it was a good experience for sure. 

Walking home from that activity with Daniel gave me another 50 reasons or so to be grateful to be a missionary. Daniel is unbelievably committed and converted to the restored gospel. I talked to President and we´re going to mark a meeting with Daniel so that we can use him to the fullest as a huge missionary tool in the region. He´s invited LOADS of people to his baptism this Sunday and has already read through The Book of Mormon 6 times, Doctrine and Covenants once, and the priesthood/relief society "presidents of the church" manuals from Joseph Smith to George Albert Smith. That´s what a photographic memory can do for you I suppose. I´m still kinda speechless with regards to the man. It´s one of those stories that you read about in the Ensign but think something like that will never happen to you. I can only repeat, God is so, so good to His missionaries and his elects. We even went out on splits yesterday with Daniel and he´s not even a member yet :) Pretty sweet.

I guess I´ll continue going in reverse chronological order and talk about the mission conference we had with President on Monday. He showed a video that I loved and has given me much more motivation to be an optimist. The video starts out with a parking attendant that smiles at each driver and pays them a compliment. Soon the whole city is going to his parking garage just to hear him praise everything about them. Along comes a girl that he can´t get to smile. He tries everything--flowers, all sorts of compliments, walking her dog--but she won´t smile. So he gives up and stops smiling and stops giving out compliments. One day at an amusement park a couple asks him to take a picture for them. He tells them their smiles are fake and starts complimenting them to get a real smile for the picture. Then he sees a woman in a wheel chair and compliments her and gets her to smile. And the cycle starts up again. By chance he meets up with the only girl he couldn´t get to smile and finds out she´s working as a camera woman--one of the best because of her ability to make people smile and the sincerity of her compliments. He asked her what changed and she said one day her mom came home in a wheelchair saying that after years of a lifelong disease and never smiling and never having been complimented, a young man came up to her at an amusement park and gave her a reason to smile. It helped me see our infinite potential to influence people for good. We really have no idea the impact we´re having when we do missionary work to the best of our ability. Take Daniel for example--I´m sure he´ll be the instrument in the Lord´s hands in bringing dozens of people to the Church that I might never meet. That´s just the way God works.

Sunday--sacrament meeting was lined up for loads of investigators but 90 percent fell through. I was a little bit bummed about that but had no reason to be after fast and testimony meeting got over. So many recent converts (Ricardo, Sheila, Igor, Alzira (Kevin´s mom who came back to activity when he was baptized) bore their testimonies and left me pretty much on the edge of tears. Baptismal services are always super special, but neater for me is seeing conversion in the form of one of your former investigators getting up and telling a congregation of new-found friends that they know the Church to be the only true church on the face of the earth because of the miraculous difference it´s made in their life. It was a really, really special Sunday for me because of that.

Thanksgiving!! President and Sister Perrotti invited us over for a Thanksgiving lunch that was amazing. I´m not sure how or where but they got cranberry juice and pumpkin pie. SCORE :) It was good to be able to take a little breather for a sec. These past weeks have been way way busy. That is in no way whatsoever a complaint though :) Busy is good. 

Keeping with the Thanksgiving theme: a HUGE thank you for everyone who´s been keeping my mailbox (and inbox) full lately. I got a stream of cards last week from Grandma Julie and the cousins, Grandma and Grandpa Sears, Sister Shell (jr. and Sr.), Alyssa, and all the missionary moms at la Parilla. You guys made my week!! Thank you so much for that :)

Gotta run, but know that I love you. I apologize I won´t be able to get off individual emails this week. I read all of them though, rest assured, and hopefully next week will be a little more "tranquilo." How I love you!

Elder Sears

November 25, 2013 Reasons for Giving Thanks

Alright, I´ve got maybe 15 minutes. Life around here is CrAzY. But crazy good.

I´m attaching the photos from Adrianna´s and Gabrielly´s baptisms last Sunday. They were both confirmed this Sunday and are extremely well-integrated in the ward. Gabi´s receiving the new member lessons with Bianca, her new young women´s president, and Adrianna went with us and Daniel (the pastor) to a Family History Center activity last night that was pretty sweet. First time in my mission I´ve seen family history be taken advantage of, and it was a good experience for sure. 

Walking home from that activity with Daniel gave me another 50 reasons or so to be grateful to be a missionary. Daniel is unbelievably committed and converted to the restored gospel. I talked to President and we´re going to mark a meeting with Daniel so that we can use him to the fullest as a huge missionary tool in the region. He´s invited LOADS of people to his baptism this Sunday and has already read through The Book of Mormon 6 times, Doctrine and Covenants once, and the priesthood/relief society "presidents of the church" manuals from Joseph Smith to George Albert Smith. That´s what a photographic memory can do for you I suppose. I´m still kinda speechless with regards to the man. It´s one of those stories that you read about in the Ensign but think something like that will never happen to you. I can only repeat, God is so, so good to His missionaries and his elects. We even went out on splits yesterday with Daniel and he´s not even a member yet :) Pretty sweet.

I guess I´ll continue going in reverse chronological order and talk about the mission conference we had with President on Monday. He showed a video that I loved and has given me much more motivation to be an optimist. The video starts out with a parking attendant that smiles at each driver and pays them a compliment. Soon the whole city is going to his parking garage just to hear him praise everything about them. Along comes a girl that he can´t get to smile. He tries everything--flowers, all sorts of compliments, walking her dog--but she won´t smile. So he gives up and stops smiling and stops giving out compliments. One day at an amusement park a couple asks him to take a picture for them. He tells them their smiles are fake and starts complimenting them to get a real smile for the picture. Then he sees a woman in a wheel chair and compliments her and gets her to smile. And the cycle starts up again. By chance he meets up with the only girl he couldn´t get to smile and finds out she´s working as a camera woman--one of the best because of her ability to make people smile and the sincerity of her compliments. He asked her what changed and she said one day her mom came home in a wheelchair saying that after years of a lifelong disease and never smiling and never having been complimented, a young man came up to her at an amusement park and gave her a reason to smile. It helped me see our infinite potential to influence people for good. We really have no idea the impact we´re having when we do missionary work to the best of our ability. Take Daniel for example--I´m sure he´ll be the instrument in the Lord´s hands in bringing dozens of people to the Church that I might never meet. That´s just the way God works.

Sunday--sacrament meeting was lined up for loads of investigators but 90 percent fell through. I was a little bit bummed about that but had no reason to be after fast and testimony meeting got over. So many recent converts (Ricardo, Sheila, Igor, Alzira (Kevin´s mom who came back to activity when he was baptized) bore their testimonies and left me pretty much on the edge of tears. Baptismal services are always super special, but neater for me is seeing conversion in the form of one of your former investigators getting up and telling a congregation of new-found friends that they know the Church to be the only true church on the face of the earth because of the miraculous difference it´s made in their life. It was a really, really special Sunday for me because of that.

Thanksgiving!! President and Sister Perrotti invited us over for a Thanksgiving lunch that was amazing. I´m not sure how or where but they got cranberry juice and pumpkin pie. SCORE :) It was good to be able to take a little breather for a sec. These past weeks have been way way busy. That is in no way whatsoever a complaint though :) Busy is good. 

Keeping with the Thanksgiving theme: a HUGE thank you for everyone who´s been keeping my mailbox (and inbox) full lately. I got a stream of cards last week from Grandma Julie and the cousins, Grandma and Grandpa Sears, Sister Shell (jr. and Sr.), Alyssa, and all the missionary moms at la Parilla. You guys made my week!! Thank you so much for that :)

Gotta run, but know that I love you. I apologize I won´t be able to get off individual emails this week. I read all of them though, rest assured, and hopefully next week will be a little more "tranquilo." How I love you!

Elder Sears

November 25, 2013 It's Raining Miracles

Time is (again) short so I´m going to pick up where I left off last week, with those 2 miracles. Here´s what I wrote down in my journal:

21/11/13

"More miracles: we´ve been teaching Gabriele (13, dad´s a member) and with the help of her young woman´s president she´s ready for baptisms this Sunday. Elder Elswick has a pretty sweet object lesson planned for her today. Beyond that, last weekend some pretty noticeable tender mercies happened that I still haven´t had time to write about. Saturday night came along and we had nothing planned to do and nobody to visit before our next appointment in 45 minutes. So that left street contacts and tracting. yay! It was pretty "miss and miss", but I stopped for no apparent reason next to a house that looked pretty empty--no car in the garage, no voices, lights off. But I knocked. A man opened the door and let us in without letting us introduce ourselves. When I met his wife I recognized her as an investigator Chagas and I had taught 2 months back. Her husband Igor (who opened the door this time) was always running away from us and coming up with excuses. Then they moved, but I had no idea where. Until Saturday when we found them in that random, apparently vacant house. Then another friend of theirs, an active member in the ward, decided to stop by. I think Igor was so stunned by the "coincidence" of it all htat he started to open up a bit. They have 2 kids of baptismal age and the whole family committed to church this Sunday. After we left Nayara (the member friend) kept talking with Daniela (Igor´s wife) and she commented she wanted her kids to grow up in the Church and marry returned missionaries. Golden! We´re going to teach them the first lesson tomorrow and invite for baptism. I really do believe in miracles. They´re simply heaven-planned coincidences."

And then the other miracle: "Sunday at about 5:00 p.m. I realized I´d lost my missionary handbook with EVERYTHING inside--money, mission credit card, temple recommend, a copy of my Brazilian id, health insurance card, and my ministry certificate. I checked everywhere and made gazillions of phone calls but...nothing. So I resorted to prayer. I got the feeling everything would be alright as I always do but I was still pretty flustered and couldn´t get  my mind to focus on anything else. Monday afternoon i got a phone call from a woman named Clara, whose daughter had seen it lying in the grass and brought it home. The only contact information in there was The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. So her mom researched and somehow got the missionaries´ number. Further, she didn´t even ask me to come get it. She BROUGHT  it to me! Goes to show there really are still good and honest people out there. And that God takes care of His missionaries."

So there you have it! Just a quick update on Igor and Daniela and their family...Thursday Elder Elswick and I went there and used one of the better-known object lessons with paper cups being the foundation of Christ´s original Church (prophets, apostles, pastors, teachers, etc.). We got through not even half of the first lesson before Igor interrupted us and turned to his 10 year-old son and asked him if he´d ever heard about Joseph Smith. He then proceeded to teach the rest of the lesson by himself, including the first vision, and bear his testimony that if he ever had to join a church, it´d be "with the Mormons." I kinda just stared at him in awe and then felt impressed to ask him on the spot, "is there anything that would prevent you and your wife from getting married and then baptized?" He and Daniela looked at me and then at each other and said, "no, nothing." Score!! There´s a lot of planning left with custody of the kids and all that good stuff but I was thrilled to see how willing they were to follow Christ´s perfect example. They´re a really, really special family. I feel like Ricardo and Sheila are going to be perfect friends for them.

 In another amazingly fantabulous news, everything went perfectly with Adrianna and Gabriele´s baptisms yesterday :) Gabriele´s dad from another ward came to support and once again the whole room was packed. Adrianna´s been coming to church for so long that everybody knows her and everybody was there to cheer her on. I actually got pretty nervous with how things would work out with Adrianna because of her back. She needed warm water and Saturday when we went to make sure the heater was working it wasn´t. And there wasn´t enough time to do anything about it. So Sunday morning before heading to the chapel we said a prayer and, AGAIN, the third time we tried to turn on the heater it worked. Elder Chagas and I both went into the font with her to help ease the strain on her back. She knelt down and the water came just to her chin. After the words of the ordinance she just leaned her neck back a little bit and it was over. The smoothest, calmest baptism I´d ever seen. It was such a relief to me and I think to her as well. The blessings God is giving us are carrying me over whatever difficulties arise. This Friday and Saturday I came down with some sort of the flu (I rested it out and I´m much better now, it´s alright :)  ), but there´s no way in the world I can complain about anything. We are just so blessed! 

Love you all,

Elder Sears

November 18, 2013 Baptism of Kevin, Reunion with Andreya, and Elders at the temple

                         Baptism of Kevin: Elder Elswick, Bradford, Elder Chagas,
                         Kevin, Alzira (Kevin's mom), Elder Marshall

                       Bradford reunites with Andreya, his convert from Ponte
                       and Elder Paynter (currently serving in Ponte)

                            Bradford and Elder Elswick at Campinas Temple

November 18, 2013 More Miracles

Dear amazing people that I know and love,

The miracles continue here in Castelo. At an amazing rate. It´s really neat to see how the work is being accelerated with two duplas in the same ward. Just to answer a few questions, Elder Chagas stayed in Castelo as well but we´re helping President train some of the Americans that have been waiting for their visas for a while while serving in the States. I´m staying with Elder Elswick. We always have something to talk about and get along really well. He´s incredibly punny (mom, you´d love him) and he´s already understanding about 80 percent of what everyone says. I´m hoping in the coming weeks I can help him feel more comfortable with the speaking part too. He´s already brought plenty of miracles with him, fluency or not!

The first miracle actually happened the night before he got here. Elder Chagas and I were on our way to a family night with Kevin and Alzira in the car. I´m pretty sure I mentioned them these past few weeks but just in case I didn´t: Kevin is 18, his mom is Alzira and was baptized in 94. She fell away just a few months later but through a few dreams and a few invites she came back to church and brought Kevin with her. We were all in the car talking about I don´t know what, when all the sudden Alzira stopped and said, "Brothers, Kevin´s got something to tell you." And then the sweet sound, "I´ve decided I want to get baptized." Yes! Milagre :) Again. I really don´t quite know what´s going on here other than the fact that God is taking really, really good care of Ala Castelo. We talked with him and decided that since he´s already been going to Church for a month now and we´ve been teaching him during that time, there would be no problem whatsoever marking his baptism for Sunday. So we did, and he accepted!! Elder Chagas baptized him and it was, again, a really special experience for me. As it was for Elder Marshall and Elder Elswick who got in just this week. My favorite part of the whole thing was Kevin being completely familiar with all the hymns during sacrament meeting; I sat next to them and he told his mom she wasn´t singing it right. haha :) They´re an amazing mother-son duo and I´m really optimistic about Kevin serving a mission. He already had a dream a few years back in which he was side by side on an airplane with another young man his age dressed in a suit. Now he´s coming to understand the significance of all that :)

Milagre number 2: Adrianna, out of nowhere, accepted a baptismal date for November 24, next Sunday! Elder Chagas and Elder Marshall went to visit her on Wednesday and she started the conversation with something like "alright boys, I´m tired of trying to decide when I need to get baptized and when I´m ready so I´ll let you pick." And, most wisely, they picked the 24th! She came to church all smiles Sunday and without her wheel chair. She´s amazing. We followed up on Thursday after she accepted the 24th and she seemed a lot lighter. Not sure if that´s the right word but it gets the point across. The ward´s super happy with her progress, seeing that they´ve known her since the end of September. It really is a rewarding feeling to stick with someone for so long and finally see them make a breakthrough. And then another one, and another one. Conversion for me is the best miracle to be able to witness.

Milagre number 3: Daniel, one of our investigators who we´ve been teaching since October and served for 25 years as Pastor President of the Assembleia de Deus Church in the Campinas region, had an incredible experience with us at the temple this Wednesday AND ACCEPTED BAPTISM FOR DECEMBER 7TH! On the way there he told us that God was making it beyond obvious to him that the Church was true. Here´s the short version: after watching " The Restoration" he said he felt something he´d never felt in 25 years of ministry. Something that made him want to laugh and cry and go out and tell everyone about it. 3 weeks later he went to the video store and bought 5 movies. None of them worked on his DVD player, so he brought them back and noticed what he thought was a romance on the shelf and picked it up on his second trip. When he put the movie in, not only did it work but do you know which one it was??? Work and the Glory! He just about fell out of his seat when he saw it was narrating the same Joseph Smith story he´d felt so good about watching The Restoration. When I asked him in the temple waiting room if he felt those confirmations were enough for him to believe The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints was the only true church on the earth, he responded: "I already understood your question. You´re not asking about confirmations, you want to know if I´ll get baptized." Elder Chagas and I smiled and nodded and he said, "well, I guess there´s nothing left holding me back. I have no need to ask for another confirmation. Let´s mark a date." It was incredible. My mind is just beginning to comprehend the difference he´s going to make in the Chruch. He said he´s already talked to one of the main television channels in Brazil to start a story about his conversion and pass it on primetime (his connections with the Assembleia de Deus are pretty high-up, needless to say). It´s amazing. I´d go into way more detail but time is short.

Milagre number 4: Gabriele, a 13 year-old who´s been going to church the past 3 weeks and whose dad is a member but lives in a different ward, is going to get baptized on the 24th on November as well!! Bianca, who paid for Ricardo and Sheyla´s wedding and is the young women´s president, invited us and Gabriele over to her house and bore a testimony that touched Gabriele to such a point that she went from wanting to get baptized in January to next week. Once again, the blessings of such a mind-blowing ward.

I have 2 more miracles to tell but my time is now non-existent, so I´m owing you for next week! I love you, and enjoy the pictures! And to my dear, sweet family, thank you THANK YOU for the Thanksgiving package :)

Love, 

Elder Sears

Nov. 11, 2013 Baptism of Andreia


                     
                         Sister missionaries and their baptismal candidate, Andreia;
                         Andreia's son Sig (former English class student of Brad's)
                        who baptized his mother; Elder Chagas; and Brad

Staying in Castelo and loving it! November 11, 2013


Hello :)

So, I´m already going to apologize from the start because transfers are tomorrow and this email is going to be super short. Elder Chagas and I will be staying in Castelo! AND, 2 Americans straight from the States are going to be our companions! I´m pretty pumped for the opportunity. My companion is going to be Elder Elswick from California. He´s already served for a while in the United States while waiting for his visa, and it finally came! Hopefully the same will happen with Sister Shell. And soon!

Wednesday, Gilbert was baptized!! (again :)) Everything went just fine and he was confirmed this Sunday. It really has been a miracle. 8 years of inactivity and now it´s been 3 weeks straight going to church and all of the activities. Gilbert and Fátima (the parents) already gave us a referral and we´re hoping will get callings soon. Which will happen because our Bishop is way on top of things. Friday we were able to do the interview of Andreia, Sig´s mom. (if you don´t remember, Sig asked me to baptize him 2 weeks ago since I knew him for a while because of the English class). His mom made the decision she wanted to be baptized as well and the sisters in the area called us asking if we could be there for the baptismal service. Which of course was a yes! Sunday directly after church Sig was ordained as a Priest so that he could baptize his mom. We had to run to catch a bus right after church so we could get to the chapel in time to be there at least for the ordinance. Only Sundays the buses are always way slow and we had to wait for 30 minutes to catch one. Sig called me and asked if we´d be getting there soon. I told him the only way we´d make it was if a bus showed up thirty seconds later, so I told him he could start the baptismal service and pray we´d make it in time. Elder Chagas and I said a prayer and, lo and behold, 30 seconds later the bus showed up. We walked into the chapel as Sig and Andreia were headed towards the font. We took a picture really quick with them and then were able to watch Sig baptize his mom :) It was a really special experience, and another tender mercy from the Lord.  Adrianna made it to church in a wheelchair on Sunday, along with a few others, but we need to have a bigger focus on finding now that God has helped the majority of our teaching pool be baptized. I continue to look for more ways to be grateful with everything He´s given us as of late. I don´t quite understand what´s making the difference, other than the incredible ward we´re serving in and His perfect ability to work miracles when He sees fit. 

I´ve gotta go now, but I´m sending the pictures from Andreia´s baptism right now. Oh! I almost forgot, remember the other Andreya from Ponte? I got a phone call from Elder Vianna and his new companion telling me her 18 year-old son was baptized yesterday! That made me realllyy happy. It´s amazing to see how far one seed can go. With her, it was a simple sacrament meeting talk about the Sabbath Day. With Sheila and Ricardo (who are well by the way--Ricardo and Igor received the Aaronic Priesthood this past Sunday! :D), it was an invited to church from a 15 year-old. Miracles are so, so real, especially when it comes to God´s own work.

Love you all! I know I always say that but I mean it. 

Elder Sears

P.S. I also want to say thank you to Sister Helsing (I continue to get your letters and sent a response off last week!), Grandma Julie, and the Powder Springs Stake Presidency who have all written me recently. You are the best!

8382: the sisters from Costa e Silva ward, Andreia, Sig, Elder Chagas
(p.p.s. mom, Andreia asked me specifically to tell you she says thanks for the example she knows you were to me :)  )

November 5, 2013 Pictures

                            Extended family of Gilbert Coelho at his baptism

                    Baptism of Gilbert: Elder Chagas, Gilbert (dad), Fatima (mom)
                    Gilbert (son), Bradford, Junior (son-in-law)

                              Vulture haunting Bradford's kitchen!

Bringing in the Sheaves . . . and other wildlife! November 5, 2013

Bom dia!

I´m really sorry I forgot to mention last week I´d be emailing on Tuesday instead of Monday this week. I´m alive and all is well. Time is also...really short :) So here goes. 

So, last Sunday a little before the baptisms we found out a less active family (the Coelho´s) had come back to church after more than 8 years of inactivity. And when they came, they brought with them their 15 year-old son, Gilbert, who had never been baptized. As soon as sacrament meeting got over his brother-in-law came up to us and said "Elders, you need to visit this family and invite Gilbert to be baptized. He´s ready." So, we marked Monday night with them and said a thank you prayer for yet another miracle in Castelo. Monday we had family night with them and had a good long talk about their activity and (inactivity) in the Church. Fátima, the mom, told us they decided to come back after so long because Gilbert was being bullied a bunch in school (he´s got something similar to autism) and she knew the Church would be a refuge for them and a place where he could make some real friends. We talked about the temple and had them put a sticky-note on their fridge reminding them of their goal to enter there, soon, as a family. Obviously, Gilbert would need to be baptized for that to happen and we told them that. And they basically marked his baptism for this Sunday, we just agreed. It´s incredible how good God is being to me!! We met with them almost every day of the week, took them to the ward activity Wednesday night, and had the pleasure of hearing them say from here on out the plan is for them not to miss a single Sunday. The baptismal service was Sunday afternoon so that Junior, the brother-in-law that gave us the referral, could participate. Gilbert wanted him to do that baptism. So he did. Just with a few minor complications, since Gilbert is pretty terrified of water. He´d never gone completely under in his whole life. We were saying lots of prayers that it would work out, but his foot kept coming out of the water and after the third attempt kneeling down, he´d had it for the day. His whole family tried to convince him for an hour, literally, to give it one more go but he said he´d try again another day. I wasn´t at all worried about the baptism not working out (we marked tomorrow afternoon with them in a member´s pool with a lot less people watching), just how Gilbert was feeling and how his cousins and aunts and uncles and grandparents (the vast majority not members) would react. But the ward here was amazing. He and Junior got changed and came back into the chapel and received the welcomes to the young men´s organization and the ward. Everyone was so positive, and congratulated him on his courage in overcoming something he´d never done in his life. I could tell his family members were impressed at how supportive the ward was, and who knows, maybe some of them needed to see that so that they could have a good impression of the Church and be open to an opportunity to learn more in the future. No denying, Elder Chagas and I were pretty exasperated after the third try to baptize him didn´t work out, but we said a prayer and felt a certain peace that everything would work out. So it will. Tomorrow! I´ll still send the pictures of him and his family today though.

Sunday, Ricardo, Sheila, Igor and Diego were all confirmed!! Marvelous! Sheila cried during hers and bore her testimony during fast and testimony meeting, a huge step for her since she gets pretty nervous in front of people. I continue to be amazed at their progress. Friday they invited us over for dinner and we talked about the importance of the gift of the Holy Ghost. We had Igor call us on his phone and cover up his headphones with his hoody. Then we blindfolded him and took him outside in the yard and decided where he´d need to go without telling him. And we told the rest of the family to shout all sorts of wrong directions in his ear, which they seemed to enjoy a little too much :) After him stumbling around a little bit Elder Chagas got on the phone without anyone seeing and started whispering directions to him. Everyone got pretty confused as to how Igor wound up in the right place, and we used the analogy to talk about how the Spirit works and how prepared we need to be to know how to use it. It was something different we did...I think it turned out well?

You remember Adriana right? She´s coming along really well after her surgery. Walking normally and finally good enough to go to Church now. Anndddd, another miracle with her! Sunday night Isabel, an awesome member in the ward, went over to check up on her. During the conversation Adriana asked her if her desire to be baptized was preparation enough for her to be baptized. Isabel bore her testimony and basically finalized Adriana for us. We´re going to do everything we can to pass by today and set a date :) The ward here is amazing. Of all the people we´ve taught or we´re teaching, maybe 10 percent of them we´ve found knocking doors or doing contacts. It´s easy to see why the First Presidency is pushing so much for members and missionaries playing on the same team and on the same page. There´s really no better way.

Funny story (that will come with a picture): I think it was Wednesday that Elder Chagas and I got back from lunch to find a lovely surprise in our kitchen. I was in the bathroom when Elder Chagas started screaming, "Sears, SEARS, get over here!" So I came running to see a VULTURE perched on our kitchen counter. Picking through our groceries. Apparently when Elder Chagas opened the door it came bounding out of the plants and went straight for the kitchen. I didn´t really know how to react, so I got my camera. Haha. Then I went around to the window from the outside and started banging on it with a broom while Elder Chagas shut the door behind the thing. Then I went to the living room window and started banging. Finally we got it outside after a lot of yelling and laughing and screeching. Pretty hilarious to be honest. The next morning I was saying my prayers when I heard more screaming from the other elders. The SAME little twirp had made it into the storage room and was causing more mayhem. I knew Brazil was exotic, but why couldn´t it be a parrot or something? By the way, the word for vulture is "urubú" which I find pretty funny in and of itself. 

Here come the pictures...love you all! is it really only 3 1/2 more weeks til Thanksgiving?

Tuesday, October 29, 2013

Elder Snow and Brad Oct. 23, 2013


                         Elder Steven E. Snow of the Quorum of the 70
                                    with Brad during a Mission Tour

Monday, October 28, 2013

Oct. 26, 2013 Marriage of Sheila & Ricardo and Oct. 27, 2013 Baptism of their whole family!

Brad at the baptism of Sigfried (one of his English students), Sigfried,
Sigfried's mom, and the sister missionaries who taught him

               Brad playing the wedding music at the marriage of Sheila and Ricardo
                                                      October 26, 2013

                      Brad, Sheila, Ricardo and Elder Chagas at the marriage


                                        The lovely  bride and groom

                 Igor (14 yr. old son of Sheila and Ricardo), E. Chagas, Brad,
                              and Diego (11 yr. old son) at the wedding

                        Igor, Isabella (flower girl), and Brad at the wedding

Sunday, October 27, 2013
Baptism of a whole family!
Igor (14), Diego (11), E. Chagas, Ricardo, Sheila, Brad

October 28, 2013 One mission tour, one wedding and 5 baptisms!


Queridos,

This week had enough in it to fill a 500 page book! Seriously, it FLEW. And in spite of all the stress, it has been the most rewarding week of my mission and one of the most rewarding weeks of my life. I have to write quickly because we´re at President Lincoln Martin´s house for a zone activity, but I promise to be detailed. I´ll start with the MissionTour. Monday and Tuesday Elder Chagas and I and the secretaries were scrambling to get everything ready, and unfortunately well past 10:30--bus and van rides to Campinas, who slept where, the meeting agenda, lunch preparations, setting up sound, the program, the projector, cleaning the chapel, DEEP cleaning the office, and all that good stuff. But the tour itself was incredible. Half of the mission met on Wednesday and the other on Thursday. Both days started with a 30 minute meeting with Elder Snow and some of the mission leaders. He opened up most of the time for questions and we talked a lot about vision. How to motivate the mission and help them obediently accelerate the work of salvation. That meeting was followed by a 3 hour training, lunch, 1 more hour of training, zone pictures, and interviews. Each in part coordenated by the staff. Fun fun :) Several things that he and his wife said caught my attention. I can´t even count the amount of times he said our goal as missionaries and representatives of the Church is to ESTABLISH THE CHURCH, not just baptize at whatever cost. He told us we needed to try to baptize every body who wanted it, but to make sure to prepare them thoroughly enough to give them the base they´ll need to stay active, As he said, "investigators who can´t keep commitments will be members who can´t keep covenants." I think there´s a lot of improving we can do as a mission in that respect. Sister Snow, seeing that Elder Snow is the Church Historian, talked about the importance of keeping a journal and kindly invited all of us to repent. Challenge accepted :) She also talked about the importance of hymns and invited us to sing more with our investigators, a suggestion I loved. Today on the bus to the activity I stood up and told everyone me and the other 7 missionaries with me were going to sing to them. So we did! Families Can Be Together Forever. Everyone on the bus applauded us afterwards which was really neat. Other impressions from Elder Snow...whenever we´re in a position to influence the life of another, the most important quality we can have is kindness. He said that with words and with his example. Much to our surprise, Elder Chagas and I and the secretaries got back for the day to find 5 ties and a note from Elder Snow waiting for us. He really didn´t need to do that, but it just goes to show the kind of man he is. All in all, the mission tour was a success I feel and much-needed in my case--I learned so much.

Two days later and Saturday came along. Wedding time!!! We got to the chapel early to help Lincoln and Bianca Martins set everything up. President Lincoln is our Stake President in Castelo and he and his wife planned and paid EVERYTHING for the wedding. The decorations were incredible and they even brought in a red carpet for the procession. Kind of last minute, I found out I´d have to play 5 songs on the piano and not 3. But it went really well. Sister Heyer, one of the sisters in the other ward that uses our same chapel, sang for one of them and Sheila loved it. I was at the piano for most of the ceremony so I didn´t get to see as much of it as I´d have liked but I did get to see them make their vows and legally become man and wife. How incredible that was. Pictures are short to come. I´d write more, but to be honest I was much more excited about Sunday than I was about the wedding. Hope that´s allowed! As soon as sacrament meeting got over we got changed and went back to the chapel for the start of the baptismal service. Carlos Martins, the grandfather of the 15 year-old Leo who first invited Ricardo to church, gave a talk that left the 6 of us (Elder Chagas and the family and I) in tears. I had the strangest feeling. It was like I could have stepped out of the chapel and looked down and seen the earth hundreds of miles below. Like we left it for a little bit and went somewhere else. That probably doesn´t make sense and I probably didn´t do justice to the feeling I had, but it´s how I felt. Then the moment finally came for the four of them to be baptized. Ricardo asked me to baptized him and he went first. When he came out of the water he started sobbing. So I hugged him there in the font and he didn´t let go until a good 45 seconds later. It was so...surreal. I don´t know of anything that could have such power if it wasn´t absolutely true and eternal. Igor, the 14 year-old was next, and he asked me to baptize him as well. Then Elder Chagas baptized Diego (11), and Sheila, while Ricardo and Igor watched from the steps. A whole family! I don´t have the slightest idea of the joy we´ll feel when we all make it to the Celestial Kingdom together. I really don´t because the happiness I felt on Sunday was indescribable in and of itself. I´ve prayed so much that I can be truly grateful for the experience, because it was such a miracle. And so perfect. I gave them a copy of my CD and they invited us over next week for a barbecue. Ricardo and Sheila already asked the Bishop who they´ll be visiting and home teaching. Just to give you an idea of how golden this family is. The member support was amazing. The same number of people we had in the ward for sacrament meeting stayed for the baptismal service afterwards. 

AND, 2 hours later I was able to baptize Sigfried from the Costa e Silva ward. He´s been coming to my English classes and 3 weeks ago I felt to invite him to meet with the missionaries. He´d already by invited and taught loads of times but this time something clicked. The Sisters taught and prepared him for baptism this Sunday, and he asked me if I could be the one to baptize him. So of course I said yes :) His mom came up to me afterward and thanked me repeatedly for the miracles that have happened with her son. The sisters told me she´s set for baptism 2 weeks from now because of the example of her son. I really don´t feel like I did anything--it was a simple invite, but still, God let me be part of yet another miracle and yet another baptism. I´ve been really pensive and speechless over these last 24 hours because of His goodness. If I had to choose the happiest day of my mission until now (and that´s a hard task), I´d have to choose yesterday. It was beyond incredible. 

Hope that was detailed enough! I love you all, and Happy Halloween! 

This work is true and its message is perfect. I know that because its messengers are so weak and yet it still manages to roll forward, like a stone cut out the mountain without hands. I KNOW this Church is true.

Love, Elder Sears

P.S. I´m going to send the pictures as soon as I get back home. This computer doesn´t have an entrance for my memory card. 

Monday, October 21, 2013

October 21, 2013 Upcoming baptisms and preparing for visit from Elder Snow

Querido family and friends,

Yesterday the time changed--jumped an hour forward. So you all will probably be getting this super early in the morning. Sorry about that! I´ll try to swing back around at the end of the day and respond to the emails you´d normally send during the day. I am doing well! This week has been an instructive one for me. Wednesday and Thursday I was just feeling...off. Not really sure why. Some days are just like that. So I was praying that I could get out of that feeling, and Saturday the answer came. We were teaching Adrianna and emphasizing the importance of baptism in our salvation. The conversation was going really well and I was planning to read Mosiah 18 with her. When I started setting the context for that part in the Book of Mormon something told me I should use 2 Nephi 31:17 instead. So I went with it, and talked about repentance and baptism as the door to salvation. I read with her and she started looking all puzzled at me. After a little silence she said a long, long time back she had a dream in which she was in front of a small, simple wooden door. She saw a light emanating from it and wanting to open it, but something was holding her back. She knew there awaited only good things on the other side but was afraid. And didn´t open it. She told me that when I read that scripture in 2 Nephi it brought back that dream to her. I asked her if she believed baptism was the door she needed to open. She said yes. I asked her if this time she´d overcome her fears and open it. Another yes. So that was really cool for us. She´s still recovering from her surgery and is going to take out the stitches (there are loads of them) Thursday. 4 days after that she´s clear for basic physical activities (baptism included!) So we´re hoping to baptize her before the end of October. That´d be awesome.

We also received a referral from another area. His name´s Daniel, he´s 42, and he was one of the major pastors of the "Assembleia de Deus" church here in Brazil. He was in charge of the church in Campinas (which would be the equivalent of the responsibility of 4 stake presidents) and preached all over the world in front of congregations up to 50,000. But he got fed up with the corruption at the top and saw the whole thing was turning into a business. So he walked away, leaving behind his farm, mansion, and several imported cars he´d gained while serving as pastor. And now he´s taking the discussions! He has a photographic memory and has already read The Book of Mormon cover to cover well more than once. And 50 times with the Bible. It´s incredible. We can cite any scripture and he knows the content word for word, the context, where it´s found, and everything. But he is extremely humble. Which is amazing to me with all the knowledge he has. He has a baptismal date marked for November 3rd but we need to get him to church! He bailed on us yesterday.

Among the other people we´re teaching (so you can pray for them if you´d be so kind :) ...) are Gislane and Leonardo (still needing to get things straight with her boyfriend but coming to church every week), Hamad (a 15 year-old who told me he wanted to learn more after one of our English classes with him), Patrícia and Jorge (Rodrigo´s sister and dad), Cristina and Letícia (baptism marked for the 3rd), and SHEYLA, RICARDO, IGOR AND DIEGO!! Who just so happen to be getting married and baptized this week after 2 months of waiting! I´m beyond excited. Their interviews are set for tomorrow, and we´re planning their wedding presents and all that goodness. I´m going to have to practice today on the piano to be ready for their reception. Sheyla bore the best testimony Friday night. She told us that her first fast and testimony she felt a little bit uncomfortable with everyone saying they knew The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints was the only true church, but as she´s prayed and gotten to know more she can say the same thing. I promise to take lots of pictures and all that goodness :) 

Last thing, this Wednesday and Thursday Elder Steven Snow from the Seventy is coming to do a mission tour with Missão Brasil Campinas! So we´re running all over the place to get things ready, but I´m excited for what we´ll be able to learn with him. He´s asked for 4 hours to talk to the whole mission. So everyone´s coming to Castelo Wednesday and Thursday to hear what he has to say. Should be awesome! I´ll report more on that next week.

Love you all, and until next week! And Happy Birthday Sister Shell!!

Elder Sears

Monday, October 14, 2013

October 14, 2012 Rodrigo's Baptism

        Baptism of Rodrigo by member Jose Roberto, flanked by Roberto's
        father and sister on the left and Elder Chagas and Brad on the right

October 14, 2013 Baptism of Rodrigo and Prayers Sought and Answered

I´m back!! Basketball was good but exhausting. But I needed it :) I guess I´ll start explaining the picture. After Rodrigo´s experience during Conference, we felt to mark his baptism for the 13th. We stopped by or called every day of the week and everything was set for his interview on Saturday. Until he called us at 6:00 saying he was going to spend the night at a cousin´s house. Which got us worrying a little bit since 1) we were sure Satan would take full advantage of the opportunity to tempt him there and 2) it was pretty likely he´d sleep in and miss the baptismal service after the Sunday meetings. But Rodrigo promised we could bring our district leader by Sunday morning and he´d be there. And he was. Turns out he decided not to spend the night and he was interviewed without any problems whatsoever. The baptismal service itself was incredible. Seriously. The room was filled to the brim with members that had met him at conference and seminary when he went. Our ward mission leader planned everything--from filling up the font to asking people to say prayers and give messages and testimonies. Rodrigo asked that I say a few words, and when I started talking he started crying just like he did when we showed him the font. Then his dad, who had been pretty cold with us every time we passed by to teach, started crying. We found out he´d been praying for a long time that his son could be baptized, and he saw our appearance as an unquestionable answer to his prayers. When he started to cry, a few other ward members too. José Roberto, a ward member that lives close by, did the baptism and we had a short testimony meeting afterwards in which 2 members commented that it was one of the most spiritual baptismal services they´d ever been a part of. And, now we have Jorge and Patricia (Rodrigo´s dad and sister) to teach.

After the baptism we went to visit Adrianna to see how she was doing with her recovery from the surgery. The pain´s gotten a little bit worse and I felt kind of helpless watching her stuck in her bed groaning from time to time. We decided to read Alma 7 with her and talked with her about the Atonement and how personal it is for each of us. She liked that, and when we got to verse 14 and 15 I felt to reemphasize a promise that I´d made the week before--that if she had faith her physical condition would not in any way impede her from being baptized this Sunday as we had marked the week before. I´m confident that that promise came from the Lord, and that because of her faith, she´ll be baptized. Even if we have to put her in a wheel chair and fill the water up to her shoulders and lean her back ever so slightly. She´s an incredible woman. After the lesson she let us take pictures of her house (I´ll try to send a few in a sec of Elder Chagas and I messing around) and she asked if we could walk her 2 dogs for a little bit. So we did :) Good memories of walking around with Jimmer and Scooter. Haha.

Saturday we had an...interesting....experience. We were on our way to visit a less active when we heard a car screech to a stop next to us. The driver seemed kind of frantic and asked if the 2 of us were Elders. We said yes of course. So he kept going down the street another block and parked the car and slammed the door shut and started walking at us, messing with something in his pockets. I looked at Elder Chagas and he asked me if we should run. We decided to stay. He came up and after a tense silence asked if we could say a prayer for him. Elder Chagas asked why. He said something had happened with his granddaughter and he was feeling like doing something violent. We asked who. He said with the doctor that had diagnosed her with something. We were kind of reluctant to close our eyes so we said the prayer with them half-open. Then we heard another car screeching to a halt next to us. I seriously thought we were being kidnapped! But no, it was the Bishop. He said he was on his way home from work and felt like he should stop by that less active´s house. And he got there just in time for Elder Chagas to say "Amen." The man thanked us for the prayer, gave us a hug, and walked back to his car. Rather strange, but it was really cool to see how the Lord works to protect His servants. I have no doubt that that will always be the case as long as I´m doing His will. And I´m doing my best when it comes to that.

So yep...that was our week! Ricardo and Shayla and Igor and Diego are still golden and we´re going to try to do their interviews this Friday. We gave them a print-out last week about The Book of Mormon since a bunch of their friends were asking. They seemed to really appreciate that. Before going home, he said he had something for me. He came back with a SWEET winter blazer that I´m stoked to use when I get home. They are amazing people. And not at all because I got a blazer. 

Gotta run, but I love you all!

Elder Sears

Monday, October 7, 2013

October 7, 2013 Reflections on Conference and Lessons from a baptismal font

Hello!

I´ve been asked by several for my impressions from Conference, so I´m going to start (briefly) with that. I´m not sure if the fact of me being in the field makes me biased or anything (probably), but I don´t remember any other Conference in which missionary work was so heavily emphasized. What a Conference! And I was able to listen to 4 out of the 5 sessions in English, which makes a NOTABLE difference. Especially when it comes to Elder Holland speaking his soul. Of course, I loved Elder Ballard´s talk, as I´m sure all the other 80,333 missionaries serving right now did. Elder Chagas and I decided we´re going to put in a petition to have it added as Preach my Gosepl chapter 14. I found the promise that, if we pray and seek them, we´ll be blessed with missionary opportunities for "YEARS" to come very powerful. Also loved Elder Nielson´s talk about missionary work and exclamation points and the 3 keys for members to get involved. From all the reports I´ve been getting it sounds like Lost Mountain Ward has got them down. I´m thrilled with the success you´re having back home. Seriously. President Monson said everything in his opening remarks, that this work can only go forward with the both of us, member missionaries, and full-time missionaries. I think the line that most touched me came from Elder Holland: "if you feel like a broken vessel, remember you´re in the hands of a divine potter." I needed to hear that, and how true that is. 

This conference for me was especially special because I saw its influence in lives other than my own. We´ve been teaching Rodrigo (16) for the past week and a half after we did a street contact with his step-mom. He came to seminary with the young men Tuesday and to the Saturday afternoon session. He´s not exactly the most open of people. We try to get him to talk but he´s the shyer type. I know how that goes. But a miracle happened after that conference session. Elder Chagas and I showed him around the chapel and made a special stop by the baptismal font. We opened it up for him and talked a little bit about what happens there. I asked him how he felt and he said "arrepiado" (goosebumps). Elder Chagas bore his testimony after that. I was looking at Elder Chagas but when I looked at Rodrigo I saw tears. For the next five minutes he cried. Sobbed actually. He turned to me and asked me what was happening. The Spirit was SO strong. There was a quiet, inexpressive and seemingly normal teenager sobbing in front of 2 twenty year-old´s. We called some of the members so they could see what happened and meet him. We invited him to be baptized on the spot and he accepted. I got to thinking...we were all staring at a simple, empty, slightly dirty font. That´s normally not the sort of thing that gets someone crying. Unless of course what is done there is done with God´s approval and will determine the salvation of one of His children. I´m a logical person, but logic doesn´t explain what happened during those 10 minutes. As Elder Hales said at the beginning, the hear and feel are so much more powerful than the words (and the logic). No sincere person can successfully doubt this work and keep doubting. His feelings won´t let him. And that´s what happened with Rodrigo.

So, summarizing, conference was a miracle for us here in Castelo. And a much needed breather from a hectic week. Ricardo and Shayla, Igor and Diego are well on pace for their wedding and baptism in under 3 weeks now! They asked me to play at their wedding reception :) We watched part of 17 Miracles with them on Friday and talked about the blessings that come when we sacrifice something good for something better (that´s from Charly I think...?). Gislane passed her baptismal interview but said she still wants to work some things out with her boyfriend. She brought him to the Sunday afternoon session but he kind of made a joke out of it. I´ll stop commenting there before I get worked up about it :) Adrianna is already walking after her surgery. Yet another miracle. She came back from the hospital yesterday and we´re going to visit her tomorrow. 2 sisters from the ward stayed with her the whole 5 days she was in the hospital. I´m really, really optimistic for this coming transfer and the people God´s given us to baptize. And EVERY SINGLE ONE OF THEM (aside from Rodrigo) is a referral from the members. You make an unbelievable difference. 

I´m so grateful for you all. Grandma Sears, I got 2 letters from you! I´ll be writing back today. Dad, Grandpa Sears sent me an article that mentions you in a rather significant way. You´re awesome. 

"Look up!"

Elder Sears

P.S. Several of you have asked about daylight savings...I think it´s coming up in 2 weeks, and it´ll be spring forward for us. I´ll check and let you know.

P.p.s. I got a notice from myldsmail that some people didn´t get the group email I sent last week. If you didn´t get it, please please tell me so I can forward it to you!

Sunday, October 6, 2013

Sept. 30, 2013 Powerful testimonies and progressing investigators

Booooaaaa tarde!

I need to start off with a thank you list. Last Thursday I think it was I got a package from my family! Mom, thanks a billion for sending that. The shirts were perfect and have already been used loads of times. The weather here has been crazy--it gets down to 50 at night and then the high 80´s in the day, so they´ve been really useful. And of course the hot tamales and reese´s puffs are "divine" as Grandpa Q always says :) AND, 4 letters got in this morning! One from Grandma Julie, one from Grandma Sears, one from home and one from the Shell´s. All with HAPPY MIDWAY DAY written all over them. I seriously loved it, you can ask Elder Chagas. Thank you to everyone in all of the pictures--Sister DeLeon, Sister Cheaney (not sure if I´m remembering the right way to spell that...), Megan, Brayden, Sister (Kirsten) Shell, Bishop Shell and Sister Shell (Sr.), Alyssa, Tanner, the Miller´s, the BYU crew at the Virginia game, and the Detweiler´s. It was an AWESOME way to start my P-day. Muitíssimo obrigado.

As for the work this week. We haven´t had as much time as I´d like, what with the transfer coming up and all that joyful goodness. But God´s been blessing us with a really good teaching pool (Elder Chagas and I call it our "grupo de batismo." And some really neat spiritual experiences. I´ll get to those in a sec. We started teaching Adrianna this week. She´s in her 60´s and is going to do a major back surgery this Wednesday. Bishop has been inviting her to come to Church for a year now and 3 weeks ago she decided now was the right timing. When we walked into her house I was a little bit, maybe a lot bit, impressed. Bummer I didn´t have my camera on me but the next time we go there (tomorrow) I´ll take some pictures. It´s basically the inside of an Egyptian tomb. All sorts of paintings, sculptures, beadwork, exotic plants, everything. She´s fascinated with Egyptian culture. And native american culture too. She lived with some Indians in Manaus (Amazon territory) for TEN YEARS. And the whole time she was talking I was thinking about how excited she´d get when we told her the 2 cultures that fascinate her most have everything to do with The Book of Mormon. We showed the beginning of 1 Nephi to her when Nephi talks about writing in the language of the Egyptians and she showed quite a bit of interest in reading. She´s an older lady and feels pretty alone sometimes and is pretty nervous for this Wednesday, so I´m glad for the opportunity to help. We asked her if she could one day see herself as a member of the Church and she said yes. So we´re excited for the baptism prospect too! Last Sunday Bishop gave her a Priesthood blessing and a member from the ward is going to stay with her during the 5 day recovery period from the surgery. Her faith is something that really impresses me. It´s possible the surgery paralyzes her but when she brought that up she just said, "I´ve done what I´ve needed to with my legs. If there´s something left for me and it winds up not working out, I´ll be able to do it without my legs." Paraphrasing a bit, but that´s the gist. 

Gislane is coming along really well too. I´m amazed at how open she is with us about her life and her dreams and the testimony she already has. We were on the phone with her yesterday and she started talking about how we needed to baptize all of Campinas. I was like, yes ma´am! She brought a friend with her to an activity Saturday and told us she wants to invited somebody over for a family night. When we followed up with the Law of Chastity, I asked her if there was anything impeding her from telling her boyfriend she wasn´t going to break a commandment with him anymore. She said, "no." 
"So Gislane, will you tell him that?" 
"Yeah." 
"The next time you see him?" 
"I´ll do my best."
"And you´ll be pure from here on out?"
"Vamos lá" (let´s go)!

That was serious progress for her. Before she always went back to the fact that they were going to get married and her boyfriend would never understand the need to wait. So we walked out of the lesson pretty hopeful and it´s our goal to baptize her and Leo (her 10 year-old son) after Conference this weekend.

Ricardo and Sheila continue to shine. And because of that they are going through lots of pressure and persecution. Which makes me angry! Ricardo invited his sister to be a bride´s maid for Sheila and she accepted. But then said no when she found out they were planning to baptize with the "Mormons." Lots of "friends" have come up to them and challenged The Book of Mormon. So this Thursday we talked about testimonies and the value it has, even when we don´t have all the answers. We´re planning to make a kit with some materials and explanations about the Church that they can give to everyone that´s asking and hassling. But everything´s 100 percent okay with their wedding and baptism for the weekend of October 26th, so I´m all smiles :)

Saturday--the whole afternoon we were part of a Career Fair that was held in our chapel and involved 6-7 stakes and somewhere in the range of 800 visitors. We and 3 other companionships close by were the ushers and had a little room where we had 30 seconds to talk about the Church and get referrals from everyone visiting. It was a huge event and we have a good 200 referrals for the mission. Hopefully some will be from our area! After the fair we had an appointment marked with a family that are members of the Seventh Day Adventist. They are FIRMLY rooted in the fact that all Churches that do not keep the Sabbath Day on Saturday are false. It doesn´t help that the translation of the Bible in Portuguese has the 10 commandments as "guarda o dia do sábado" --which literally is "keep the Saturday holy" instead of Sabbath Day. But the lesson was really, really interesting and the most spiritual lesson I´ve been a part of as a missionary. After about 5 minutes of getting to know Paulo he said, "alright, let´s be democratic about this. You have 20 minutes to tell me what you believe and then I have my 20." So we started teaching. We hit pretty hard on the part about prophets--the fact that any interpretation of God´s commandments needs to be done solely by them. And then he taught what he believed as an Adventist. I was super impressed by how he defended the commandments and was committed to live them. The day he understands that we DO keep the Sabbath Day, and that it was changed by prophetic revelation to remember the SUNDAY that Christ was resurrected, he will make a fantastic member of the Church. The lesson was not at all confrontational, but it did get pretty tense. Towards the end Elder Chagas invited Paulo to bear his testimony that his church was the only true church on the face of the earth. Paulo said, "you go first." So Elder Chagas bore his testimony. It was seriously one of the most powerful testimonies I´ve ever heard. He said he was fully aware that if he lied speaking in the name of Christ and as one of His representatives, he´d be cast out. And then he bore his testimony. The Spirit was SO strong. I wish there were some way to pass on how I felt through email. Then we invited Paulo to bear his testimony. And he did. But when Elder Chagas asked him if he could honestly say his was the same church that Christ established 2000 years ago, he didn´t. Because he couldn´t. No other church can! I am so glad to have the testimony I do that The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is the only true church that exists and existed. Because it is the SAME church Christ established with his own hands when he laid them upon each one of his 12 apostles. I bore my testimony to Paulo too. And when I did I told him I was inviting the angels in heaven to write down what I was saying so it could be read at the last day. Seriously, it was an incredibly spiritual experience. I would have to lose my mind to lose the testimony I have of this work. No one can stop it, even though so many want to and so many have tried. 

This was a really long email. haha. But it was a really good week here. I love you all and hope you´re well! And I apologize if I don´t get as many individual emails out...I took a little longer on the big one this week.

Love, Elder Sears

Thursday, September 26, 2013

Sept. 23, 2013 Wedding announcement of investigators

             Wedding announcement of Sheila and Ricardo, investigators to be
               baptized at the end of October

September 23. 2013 English classes, marriage arrangements and blessings

Querido todo mundo,

Wake up! Because September is ending. I don´t really believe that since it´s going by so quickly but I´m going with the calendar. This past week was...less eventful than I wanted it to be. But that´s okay. I think yesterday was the highpoint. Rafael was confirmed and lots of investigators came to church--Ricardo and Sheila and the kids, pretty much the whole orphanage, and a few others we´ve been finding and teaching these past few weeks. Ricardo and Sheila gave us a beautiful wedding invitation (I´ll send you a picture in a sec) and the first counselor announced their wedding and baptism for October 26 during sacrament meeting. You´re probably remembering it was supposed to be on the 11th but the best-man (Ricardo´s boss, Lincoln Martins) is going to be on vacation in Orlando and will only get back the week of the 26th. Which took the wind out of our sails a little bit but every time I look at their family I cannot feel anything but awe with how well they´re progressing. Friday we visited them with a member and read 2 Nephi 5 with them. Mom and Dad, I used our family motto as the theme of the lesson (2 Nephi 5:27), so that should make you happy! We talked about the recipe to happiness that Nephi gives in that chapter. Each time we came across something his family did to live after the manner of happiness each of them raised their hands. Ricardo is going to make a FANTASTIC member and leader in the Church not too far out from here. During Sunday School he was making all sorts of comments about Nephi and Lehi and their journey in the wilderness and the liahona and everything. Elder Chagas and I just looked at each other amazed and smiled. We´re teacing another couple, Igor and Daniela, that also need to get married and when we made plans for them we decided the only thing we need to do to get them married and baptized is bring Ricardo over and let his testimony loose. He´s a better missionary than I am I think. 

Tuesday I taught my first English class in the ward. I´m working with almost fluent speakers which is a lot more fun of a  teaching environment for me. I told them their homework assignment was to write 10 sentences in English about the rules of American football. heehee :) And I promised them that if they looked up the lyrics to Viva la Vida in English I´d play for them the next week. So I´m looking forward to a mini jam-session this Tuesday! Either Wednesday or Thursday was lunch with Lincoln Martins, Ricardo´s best-man and the stake president here. His house is HUGE-theater, elevator, pool, tennis court, 2 garages with Porsches filling up the space, and, A STEINWAY FULL-SIZE GRAND PIANO. I made it about 30 seconds inside the house before saying something about it. They let me sit down and play for a good 10 minutes and I took full advantage. I had completely forgotten how good it feels to be playing on a real piano, not the electric ones they have in all the chapels here. So lunch that day was pretty much amazing.

Saturday we went to visit the kids from the orphanage. They were super excited to see us. We played tag for a little bit and then listened to them sing "The Lord commanded Nephi..." that Elder Chagas had taught them the last time we went. I taught two of the older teenagers how to play volleyball which they seemed to like. After that we sat down and read in 3 Nephi where Jesus blesses the little ones and angels encircle them with fire. We talked about how important they are to their Savior and invited them to church. 11 of them came! It´s been a really neat experience to be able to bring a little bit of light into their lives. They´re definitely not the typical investigator, that´s for sure.

Thursday the 19th, the day I actually hit a year in Brazil, a package came from Grandma Julie with the new BYU t-shirts inside and a bunch of notes and candy. It was perfect timing. Thank you so much Grandma! Elder Chagas loved the shirt you got him and shortly I´ll be putting on mine, in spite of what happened on Saturday (no further comment necessary :) ).

Know how much I love all of you,

Elder Sears

Monday, September 16, 2013

Sept. 16, 2013 Baptism of Rafael

         
                       Elder Chagas, Brad and the family of Rafael at his baptism

Sept. 16, 2013 Happy Mid-Way day! Baptism of Rafael

Hello from Brasil! One year ago to the date I was giving my farewell talk in Lost Mountain Ward. That´s a little bit unbelievable for me. But it´s reality! I wrote in my journal this morning, "I had NO idea what was waiting for me in Brazil. And I´m sure I have no idea now what the next year has waiting for me." I´m not sure what I´m going to do to celebrate the year mark but I´ll think of something. Most elders burn something, but I´m not a huge fan of that idea being as stingy as I am and all :)

Actually, my celebration started yesterday with Rafael´s baptism! I think I explained a little bit about him last week. We street contacted his mom and found out Rafael had gone to church several times a few years ago but wasn´t baptized because he wasn´t old enough yet. When his family moved, they lost contact with the Church. Until we stopped them on the street! He asked me to baptize him. I´ve already attached a picture. We´re working with Miguelina, his mom, but she´s not married. She´s going to church every week though. I feel super bad for her. Her "husband" is always out drinking and when he´s home doesn´t even acknowledge her. Rafael is the light of the family. The whole three hour block he was asking when his baptism would be. We took Bishop over to meet the family during the week and get to know the situation a little bit better. Tonight we invited them to a family home evening with some members, and later in the week we promised him a visit (that may or may not include us bringing over pizza...).

Ricardo and Sheila (I´ve been spelling her name wrong for the last 3 weeks) continue to amaze me. We taught them and the family the plan of salvation Thursday night. Friday, during lunch, Ricardo called us just to say thank you for the lesson. He told us everyone loved it and resassured us everything´s in order for the 13th of October for their baptism. Patience, Elder Sears. Seriously though, Ricardo is amazing. Yesterday after sacrament meeting he made it a point to come up to each new investigator and explain to them his decision to get baptized and the difference we´ve made in his life. We just sat back and watched him do our missionary work for us. And he hasn´t even been going to church for more than a month yet! I´ve been thinking a lot lately about the difference that a simple invitation can make. With Ricardo, it was a 14 year old kid that offered him a Book of Mormon. Now he and his family are all going to be baptized. We had another investigator, Wellington, that came to church because his next-door neighbor who is 50 years older than him and doesn´t know him all that well invited him. I´m starting to think the only invite more effective when made by the missionaries as opposed to the members is baptism. Everything else--going to church, receiving the missionaries, reading The Book of Mormon--it´s the members that have a much more powerful influence. Yesterday we were invited to a birthday lunch for one of the member´s moms in the ward. It´s a part member family and somehow we got onto the discussion about life after death. We taught a snippet of the plan of salvation to get the non-members interested but it was Irmã Isabel that invited them to read and pray about The Book of Mormon, and they accepted. Just another example of the influence y´all have!

Thursday I got to go back to Vila União on splits! We stayed there just a few hours to help out some elders there, but it was enough to see the same sights I saw at the beginning of my mission and bring back a flood of memories--good and good, but painful. Haha. Last night in the chapel after a ward meeting I happened across 3 members from Vila União and caught up with them a little bit. So that was fun.

Friday...I like to think of Friday as the day God wanted to see if we really wanted a baptism this week or not. Everything fell through and the contacts we did seemed to be with people having a realllyyy bad day. When I went to talk to a man about the English class we´re having in the chapel (I start teaching tomorrow), he took a look at the pamphlet I was offering him and slapped it in disgust, basically punching my hand in the process. I was like, dude, I´m offering to teach you English for free and this is your reaction!? I shook that one off and a little later went to talk to a lady about the Church. I got to "good afternoon" before she looked at me and booked it (literally, running) across the street to get away from me. I´m not sure if Friday was a bad hair day or what but it was interesting. The highlight was that morning, when President came by surprise to do personal and companion study with us. He shared his insights about Captain Moroni and that scripture in Alma 48 that everyone knows that talks about how if every man was like him the gates of hell would be shut forever. But he pointed out something different. The next verse says that Captain Moroni was "like unto Ammon" and the sons of Mosiah, who were all "men of God." He told us that if we can call ourselves men of God, we are no less important and no less powerful than Captain Moroni in making the gates of hell close forever. I found that really cool. We can all be Captain Moroni´s. 

I´m sure I´m forgetting something but that was my week! Love you all.

Elder Sears