Monday, January 28, 2013

January 28, 2013 From Referral to Font

Subject: January 28
(or more importantly, 5 days until Lean and Reobe´s marriage and baptism!)

Dear Mom and everyone else,

Hello again! Everyone has been asking about how Lena and Reobe are doing so I figured I'd make them part of this week´s title. Our Zone Leaders came last night to interview them and that, aside from the marriage and baptism itself, was the only thing left. Of course, they passed with flying colors and they continue to be so excited. Lena´s been talking about getting her hair all done for the wedding and it´s just so neat to be a part of their excitement and their story. She told us last night about a rather personal experience--how about a year ago she was walking home from work completely exhausted and forgot to check for cars before she crossed the street. She headed out into the intersection but saw some headlights at the last second and quickly stepped back, narrowly missing being hit. When she went to cross again she said she felt some sort of unseen hand on her arm pulling her back. A motorcycle had been closely tailing the car that passed by and would have hit her had she decided to cross when she wanted to. She told us that she was confident that the unseen angel that pulled her back did so because he wanted her to be alive for this Saturday--when she´d be married and baptized. I think my heart melted a little bit when I heard that. She just gets it. She and Reobe have been the light at the end of the tunnel on so many discouraging occasions on my mission--for both me and Elder Alcântara. I´ll be sure to attach some pictures along with a full report of the wedding and baptism in my email next week.

Earlier in the week we got a phone call from some missionaries in another area that had a referral for us. Vanha and her son (Alfredo) had gone to one of the English classes they put together and became interested in the Church. Only she didn´t live in their area but ours! Lucky for us. We called her Saturday night because it didn´t work out to visit her and we invited her to church. The next morning the two of them were dressed and ready waiting in front of the door when we got there with a member from the ward to pick them up. She said that she loved the 3 hours of church and that she felt a peace there that somehow she knew was missing. She had seen a Mormon Ad years back and from then on was curious about the Church but never managed to talk with anyone about it or actually attend. I feel so lucky to be able to be the person that finally explained to her why she felt the way she felt and how much the Church can bless her life and the life of her son. We visited her a few hours after church and taught her the first lesson. She agreed to be baptized with her son this coming Sunday. I´m amazed at how easily faith comes for so many of the Brazilian people. They know what is right and they don´t mess around with that knowledge, they just go and do. I´m also amazed although probably shouldn´t be at how often miracles happen in the mission field. I know I don´t deserve them but the people that I´m teaching do. God knows what He is doing and I´m so glad that this is His work and not mine. It makes the hard days much easier, knowing that after a trial of my faith there´s a miracle, one of God´s elect, waiting around the corner. We´ll see what happens but it´s looking like this coming weekend will be "celestial" as the Brazilians say down here. 2 baptisms on Saturday and 2 on Sunday.

It´ll also be the first Sunday in a while that Cristiane will be able to come to church because her work schedule will change. She is excited, as am I, because I´ve been worried about her. Mom, thank you for sending the cupcake pan and recipes for her! She´s been asking about that and she´ll be super happy to hear they´ll be on their way soon. You asked if I´ve been able to use any of the family history stories yet in my teaching. I haven´t but I intend to this coming week. I need to be better about remembering them (my ancestors) and using their examples to help build the faith of my investigators. 

Elder Alcântara is pulling my chair away from the computer because he wants to go--I guess I´d better cooperate. I love you all and can´t wait until next week! Keep the faith!

Love, Elder Sears

Monday, January 21, 2013

January 21, 2013 Friends Old and New in Brazil

First things first...

CONGRATULATIONS SISTER SHELL!!! My goodness I´m in a little bit of shock right now. I´ll just keep typing and hope that things make sense. Basically every email I got said "open Kirsten´s email first!" so I did and had to scroll through about a minute´s worth of blank space with ellipses (very funny Kirsten) before I found out. São Paulo South!! Oh my goodness. Or as they say down here, NOSSA. It´ll be São Paulo Sul in Portuguese then. And according to everybody´s calculations just an hour and 16 minutes from the border of the Campinas Mission?? Who would have guessed? (aside from Spencer, who of course guessed right again). Sheesh. Should I send my congratulations in Portguese as well then? It´s going to be loads of fun when we both get back to speak in a language that nobody else is going to understand. Unless you all would like to study up that is! Parabéns Kirsten! :) It is so exciting and a little unreal that you´ll be passing through the same places I did in the airport and the CTM and the temple and all just 2 months back. When I found out I just stared at the computer for a little bit and then I started to grin and I haven´t stopped since. I´m shaking a little bit too I´m so excited! Is that normal? Haha. Brail is going to be so, so lucky to have you. And yes, I think I´ll say a little something in Portuguese. The translation will be good practice: "Sister Shell, nossa ainda não consigo a acreditar que isso realmente está acontecendo! Me parece que nossa ala é destinado a mudar coisas como elas estão em Brasil...Ben, Danny, eu e agora você. Quem é próximo? Parabéns com tudo. Com sua preparação, desejo a servir, e as milagres que trará para as pessoas aqui, só uns poucos quilômetros de onde eu estou, escrevendo este email agora. O Senhor é tão bom, e Ele sabe que Ele está fazendo. Bem-vindo a meu pais!! Ou seja, Brasil. Na verdade não é meu pais, mais eu sinto como assim. Eu fico muitíssimo feliz com seu chamado e com sua decisão a servir. E novamente, parabéns, minha amiga. Parabéns!! "

This is so neat. I´ll admit it was a fight the past couple of days to stay sane, knowing that you all knew where Kirsten will be going and I would have to be kept in the dark until P-day. But it was worth the wait!! The highlight of my week for sure, as I´m sure it was for all of you. I want to hear all about the preparations and each of your reactions, at least a snippet of them. Especially yours Kirsten. I imagine so many things were/are going through your head. That´s how it was for me opening mine. That seems like yesterday but really it was April 21 of last year. Hard to believe! June 5th will be the big day then huh? Has anybody started the countdown yet? I think the timing of it all will be good--you´ll get to have a month and a half or so to relax a little bit and get ready and spend Mother´s Day with your mom, and then you´ll hit the field! In the middle of Brazilian winter, which from what I´ve heard is not so bad at all. More endurable than the summer I´d say. Are you going to stay in the CTM for 6 weeks or 9? Goodness, so many thoughts and so many questions...what do you all think? I´m rambling, but this is so super incrivelmente (had to sneak a Portuguese word in there) exciting! I am so happy for all of you and happy for all the lives that will be changed because of your decision. I know this is a long ways away (but not really), but when you get to the CTM try to track down Irmã Kikuchi. She was my instructor and it´d be so cool for you to meet her. As a side note, Elder Alcântara says that although he was rooting for Campinas he is happy that you´ll be going to the best country in the world. He´s been very vocal in announcing to everyone he meets (our investigators, the ward, the district, and the zone) that this past week you got your call. We´re having a zone activity for P-day today so I´m sure I´ll get to be the good-news bearer many times over. Brasil Brasil Brasil...São Paulo Sul. What a blessing. 

I considered writing "the second most exciting thing(s) that happened this week" as the title of my email because I already knew what number one would be, but beyond the amazing news, it´s been a good week for me in the field. Saturday marked 4 months since I entered the CTM and today is the first day that I actually have more time in the field than I spent in the CTM (2 months and 1 day to 2 months and half a day--haha). Time flies when you look back even though it often seems to go nowhere when you´re looking squarely at it in the moment. Funny how that works. Elder Alcântara has been fighting off some sort of bug this week which meant a lot more time than usual staying home and making sure he´s doing alright. He´s been discouraged lately and I don´t think the sickness helped. But we had a good week together. While he rested I got through the first 100 pages of Jesus the Christ and am loving it. Tuesday we spent a good 2 hours or so cutting out a bunch of full-page pictures/youth ad´s that we found in our collection of over 100 copies of the Liahona and the Ensign. Then we taped them up onto the wall above where we study to bring a little bit more life into the apartment. He quite enjoyed that, as did I. Wednesday was a big day for me because I finished all the qualifications I needed to in order to be considered ready to be a senior companion. Elder Alcântara signed off on it and immediately afterwards said something along the lines of "my work here is finished my friend." So that´s exciting. This week also was my first "Multi-Zona" (or Zone Conference) that I had in the field. Our zone, Campinas, and another, Castelo, got together with President and Sister Perrotti in a chapel downtown and we had a good 6-7 hours of training. That sounds like a lot but I really, really enjoyed it. It´s always such a blessing to interact with loads of missionaries and practice teaching and hear President Perrotti talk. He´s a quiet speaker but he is hilarious and much more importantly inspired in what he says. He talked a lot about faith, as based in President Monson´s oft-quoted line, "The future is as bright as your faith." He reminded all of us that although missionary work very much has to do with numbers, our focus always, always needs to be baptism. And the baptism of people that is, not numbers. He asked some of the Zone Leaders to talk about pride, and how destructive it can be in the mission field. They mentioned that if our focus really is baptism--not for our sake but for the sake of the salvation of those we teach--then pride has no room in our hearts. Missionary work has nothing to do with who baptizes who or who gets called to be District or Zone Leader or senior companion, it has to do with bringing people to the Savior through baptism. President Perrotti put it this way: "You were called to be missionaries, not Zone Leaders. God will not ask you at the end what leadership positions you had, but He will have you measure the effort you spent in bringing souls unto Him." That´s paraphrasing, but the general idea is there. It was a really good reminder for me to just forget myself and go to work as President Hinckley´s dad once told him. 

Saturday Elder Alcântara had an interview to do as District Leader in another area and Paulo, an investigator we´ve been working with recently, needed to be interviewed in our area. So Elder Miller, one of our 2 Zone Leaders, came to Vila União for a couple of hours and did a "divisão" with me. He´s just about as crazy about BYU as I am which makes conversation pretty easy with him. Haha! I learned loads from him, and equally much from the result of the baptismal interview he did with Paulo. Paulo is a character. He talks for hours on end unless you cut him off rather forcibly. 2 or 3 years ago he attended Church with the missionaries and members for a solid 6 months straight but didn´t get baptized because he was living with his wife out of marriage. The ward raised the money for the two of them to get married (it´s expensive down here) which they did, but afterwards he completely stopped coming to church. The past couple weeks we´ve been visiting him to try to reactivate him and help him want to be baptized. He´s beyond ready and keeping every commandment, and yet just doesn´t feel the need to get baptized anymore. During the interview Elder Miller told him that he was ready to be baptized and that the only thing left was his decision to go through with it. Paulo told him he will get baptized as soon as he receives his answer, but he specified exactly how he wants his answer to be. He´s told us numerous times that he feels so at home and at peace everytime he comes to church, but he doesn´t consider that a confirmation that he ought to get baptized. So Elder Miller had him kneel down and offer a prayer out loud asking the Lord if he should get baptized this Sunday (yesterday). He did so and described that he felt some sort of stirring in him that was telling him that that´s what God wanted him to do. I was in the other room but I knew the Spirit was there working in him because I felt it incredibly strong working in me too. Elder Miller explained that that was a clear answer of "yes" from the Lord, and asked if he´d be baptized the following Sunday, to which Paulo responded, "No, I´m still waiting for my answer." Both of us Elders just about groaned out loud when he said that! He has everything he needs but doesn´t know it--he´s looking for a sign of some sort which can never be good. I expected to be much, much more annoyed with Paulo than I was--I honestly felt sorry for him, and a sorrow that could only come from the genuine love I feel for him and his welfare. That was an indication to me of how I´m starting to change on my mission. It´s becoming easier to love those I teach, even those that just don´t get it in spite of everything I try to do for them, instead of becoming angry or annoyed with them. And it´s becoming easier to trust that I´ve done the best I could and move on rather than sulk in self-pity when our promised baptism for the week fell through. That´s a real blessing for me.

Sunday I got a surprise phone call from Irmão Maurício from the CTM! He was nearby for the day and wanted to go to a couple of teaching appointments with me. We met up in the chapel and spent an hour knocking doors together and catching up. It was SO good to see him again and have so many of my good memories in the CTM flood back to me. I was surprised but shouldn´t have been that he cared enough to personally track me down (still not quite sure how he found out I´m in Vila União but no matter...) and make sure I was doing well in the field. I doubt too many CTM instructors do that, so just one more reason to be grateful. He´s such a good man and I hope a fulfillment of the promise I´ve received of eternal friendships with regards to my mission. We spent the rest of the night with Elder Alcântara and Irmão Geyson, our Elder´s Quorum President, reviewing the message of the Restoration with Douglas while teaching it for the first time to his mom, Elena, and 20-year old brother Bruno. I sensed they took it well and the testimony of 2 firm beyond firm members of the Church (Irmão Maurício and Geyson) had to have helped. They said they would be willing to be baptized if they came to know that Joseph Smith was a Prophet and the Book of Mormon was true. So they´ll be our primary focus I think for the week to come, along with Lena and Reobe of course (who continue to do well). 11 days left for the two of them until the best day of their lives! We talked with the Ward Council about making a big deal out of their decision and planning a big lunch in between their marriage and baptism. I´m excited about the idea.

Just so you´re aware, I sent off MIssionTies letters to my family, Kirsten, and the Shell´s last week that I hope have already gotten there, along with two letters by hand to the Idiart´s and the DeLeon´s. I got letters from Kirsten and my mom (Grandpa Q´s talk about covenants that I thoroughly enjoyed), along with a Christmas package from Aunt Jenny and Uncle Josh. Thank you very much for that! I know am spoiled because of how incredible you all are, and for that I really am grateful.

Once again, CONGRATULATIONS to the soon to be Sister Shell and I hope you all have a fantastic week! Happy Martin Luther King Day as well!

Tons of love from Campinas,

Elder Sears

Mom/Dad, I think this week it goes without saying but please forward this on to Kirsten and the Shell´s :) Thanks!

Monday, January 14, 2013

January 14, 2013 Fearlessness!

Well I have loads of reasons to be grateful today. I opened up my inbox about an hour ago and have had a reading feast! That´s how long it took me to read everything because there was just so much! Thank you to all of you for being the best part of my P-day and such a happy part of my mission in general. I continue to claim the title of Elder Van Pelt in terms of the number of letters I receive at every District Meeting/Zone Conference; I closely edged out a new American in the field--Elder Gabrielson. Haha--since sports aren´t allowed out here I have to have something competitive to keep me going! In all seriousness though, thank you millions of times over. I will be busy until 6 today doing my best to respond to each of you.

The past week has been one of a lot of growth for me. Not necessarily with my investigators but me personally, which is really good to have every once in a while. I´ve never been hugely successful when it comes to patience but I´m learning a lot of it down here. I´m also learning that at the first sign of me enduring well any kind of difficulty, God is so very quick to bless me, and all of us. Since the start of the New Year President Perrotti (my mission president) has made some pretty significant changes to how we measure the key indicators (baptisms, confirmations, lessons with members, new investigators, etc.). Whereas previously the definition of a "lesson" was simply teaching some portion of restored truth with an investigator, independent of where you taught it, now it means that you have to physically enter the investigator´s house and teach. It´s an inspired change (often times in the past missionaries would, when they needed to close out their goals for the week, very briefly teach whatever person they found in the street and count it as a "lesson"), but it means that our work as far as the numbers go got much, much harder. When President Perrotti entered the field in July, he set weekly goals called Standards of Excellence that he expected every companionship to accomplish. Those goals included 15 lessons taught to an investigator with a member there and 25 without a member there--so 40 lessons. It was a lofty goal, but most of the time those who wanted to could reach it. When he changed the definition of a lesson to include physically being in the investigator´s home, he felt he should leave the standards of excellence where they were. Which means entering 40 houses every week is the only way we can reach that goal. To give a general idea of what´s normal per week, the average amount of houses actually entered per week with an investigator is between 5 and 10. Of course, Elder Alcântara and I didn´t get anywhere near to 40 this week (and from what I´ve heard, nor did anyone else). Me being me, always going for what may be impossible, that was a tough pill to swallow. But it´s changed the way I see the work. It´s very much less about the numbers now and all about the people behind those numbers. The change he made meant we needed to work a lot harder this week, which we did. And I have no doubt God will be blessing us for that. I can say I´m fully satisfied with what I did this past week, even though we came nowhere near to that goal of 40. That´s a leap of improvement for Mr. Perfectionist! I´m learning that our best really is good enough, not because of what we did but because by doing our best we qualify for access to the Lord´s help, and His best will always be good enough. 

One house that we did manage to go in this week was Douglas´s. He is doing really well and was confirmed yesterday in Sacrament Meeting. He has invited us over for dinner every Sunday from here on out which is a huge blessing because Sunday nights can be some of the most painful as far as hunger goes. His family is warming up to us a lot and I´m hoping and praying that it´s not just Douglas who will be baptized by the end of the transfer! But we´ll just have to see. Lena and Reobe continue to be rock solid and the countdown is now at 19 days until their marriage and their baptism! Very exciting, but the wait is yet another test of my patience. Haha.

The weather here lately has been delightful in my opinion, miserable to everyone else. We´ve had rain everyday, basically constantly since this past Wednesday. That means the high rarely gets above 70. It´s summertime here, but everybody except me is walking around in sweaters and sometimes even winter coats. I love it :) I hear that Utah has been freezing...and Grandpa Sears told me New York has been as well. How is Georgia? 

Yesterday I had the misfortune..errr try feijoada for the first time. It´s an extremely popular and somewhat luxurious dish down here with an interesting recipe: chop up every edible part of a pig, put it in a pan with some black beans and eat it. "Every edible part" ranges from nose cartilage to tongue to...well that´s when I told Elder Alcântara he could stop with the details. I stomached it without too much difficulty but I´ll be just fine if I never try it again! Oh, and out of the generosity of my companion´s heart he told me that the bones were meant to be eaten too. Of course I thought that was ridiculous but in my stupidity/desire not to offend the member who made it if it was the expectation that I eat them, I chewed one up for a while until Elder Alcântara started cracking up. Good times...

Not much else to report I don´t think. Although I´m in a much better mood than I was last week which is always good :) I´m excited to stay busy with the heightened expectations for our work. It´s a lot easier to lose track of time and of myself that way. 

Oh wait, I forgot! Yesterday on the way back from a baptismal interview that Elder Alcântara had to do as District Leader, I decided I would try to talk to everyone possible that was with us on the bus about the Church. It´s something that lots of missionaries joked around with me about doing but didn´t think I would. I wanted to. So I stood up in the front of the bus and asked for all of their attention and then talked for a good minute or so (maybe it was shorter than that but it felt like forever) about the Church. I told them that Christ left us a perfect example with regards to how His church should be built--with prophets, apostles, and authority (Ephesians 2:20). I invited them to see those 3 pillars at work for themselves by coming with us to church next Sunday. I explained where the chapel was and said I´d be in the front if anyone else wanted to learn more. Or at least that´s what I think I was saying. Noboby asked to learn more but at least now they know where the church is! It felt good sitting down with 30 pairs of eyes on me and not an ounce of fear or shame. And it felt good knowing God has blessed me with the Portuguese to be able to say something coherent for a minute to a bus full of people I don´t know but that He does.

I´d best be going, but before I do, thank you again for all of the letters, pictures, emails, and prayers! I am so blessed to know you. 

Com amor, 

Elder Sears

Monday, January 7, 2013

January 7, 2013 Baptism of Douglas

Elder Sears, Douglas, and Elder Alcantara at Douglas's baptism
January 6, 2013

Elder Alcantara (Brad's trainer or mission "dad")
Elder Sears
Elder Souza (Elder Alcatara's trainer or Brad's mission "grandpa")
January 2013

January 7, 2013 A New Year's Miracle

Oi novamente!

I hope that 2013 is off to an awesome start for all of you. I´m very grateful I actually get the normal amount of time to email today--the past few weeks have been so hectic as far as P-day goes. Today the only thing I have on the schedule is eat, write, and sleep (until 6:00 that is. Then back to work!) A few people have asked about the letters I´ve received recently. MissionTies seems to be back to normal now, or at least I hope. I got 3 letters from Kirsten and the Shell´s (including pictures!) last week. I think the dates on those were mid-December-ish. Mom, I know you sent some Christmas stories not too long ago as well, so I´ll keep my eye out for them. 

I didn´t get a chance to talk much about my New Year´s Eve/New Year in the last email I sent, so I´ll fill you in today. We got permission from our Mission President to spend the night in Ouro Verde, an area neighboring ours, to celebrate the New Year with 6 other Elders. I´m sure you can imagine how crazy that was (4 beds and 8 Elders doesn´t exactly add up without 4 sleeping on the floor), but we all had a blast. The missionaries in Ouro Verde live on the second floor of a 2-story apartment with an incredible view of the city. We all stayed on the balcony to watch the fireworks and talk and wish every person that passed by a Happy New Year until we got tired and went to bed (don´t worry, we got permission to stay up a little later too). Waking up at 6:30 the next morning wasn´t the best of experiences but the night before was well worth it. Elder Beech, a missionary from the zone, made what´s called "arroz de forno," which was consumed rather rapidly. Quite possibly the best meal I´ve had so far in Brazil. It was so good not to have to be alone for the holidays. It was also a little bit of a sobering thought when I woke up on the 1st and realized all of my 2013 will be spent in Brazil. I remembered something Elder Johnson (from our District) had said to me about counting time--that it doesn´t work, and that the best way to avoid counting it is to set goals consistently and stick to them. So that´s what I did. My mom asked that I share some of them, so here goes. I broke them up into daily, weekly, and yearly:

Study 1 chapter in the Book of Mormon, 1 chapter in the New Testament, and 1 section in Preach my Gospel, writing down what I learned
At least 1 teaching practice with my companion using an actual investigator that we have
At least 10 street contacts/doors knocked, smiling (seems easy but some days it really is not at all)
A full 30 minutes of exercise every morning (there´s a joke here in the mission that every missionary´s exercise routine goes something like this: stretch in bed for 10 minutes, go to the bathroom for the next 10, do a few sit-ups (in bed) and work out your knees while you´re praying on the bare floor--I´m going to try not to fall into that mentality :) )

Achieve the "Standards of Excellence" every week (Contacts, Baptisms Marked, Lessons with Members, Other Lessons, New Investigators, etc.), with the focus being on real people and not just numbers
Choose one Christ-like attribute, study, and apply it throughout the week (my focus being on hope, patience, and humility)

Qualify to be a senior companion 
Finish reading The Book of Mormon twice, New Testament at least once
Be a friend to every companion I have, not just another missionary that lives in the same place and walks everywhere with him
Baptize an entire family (parents and kids)
Reach the baptismal goal I set with my companion for each transfer
Be fluent in Portuguese without an accent!
Dec. 31, 2013: look back and see 365/365 daily goals met and 52/52 weekly goals

I got an immediate opportunity to work on the patience part of my goals when we left Ouro Verde and got back to our apartment. Our sink was overflowing with water and the whole kitchen flooded. Happy New Year from our house! The same thing happened on Christmas, I just forgot to mention it. Haha. We got it cleaned up (eventually) and haven´t had any problems since...although everytime it rains we have to plug up the sink so that the water won´t come through. I have no idea what´s up. It´s been raining a ton lately though so perhaps that has something to do with it. We can count on a 30 minute downpour everyday around 3 or 3:30 p.m. 

In other news, transfers were this past Wednesday. Everyone that could gathered together at the central bus station (called the Rodoviária) to see where we´d be going. Elder Alcântara and I already knew we´d be staying in Vila União for at least the next 6 weeks because we got a phone call last Sunday. I´m just fine with that because it means I´ll be in town for Lena and Reobe´s marriage and baptism! We went to the cartório (basically something like a court house) with them this past week to get everything legally squared away for their marriage. The big day is going to be February 2nd. It´ll probably be the best Groundhog Day I´ve ever had, not that anyone down here knows what that is. For a marriage to be legal down here, 2 "padrinhos" and 2 "madrinhos" are required. They´re basically a combination of a best man/witness/godfather sort of thing--I think. Anyways, Lena and Reob asked Elder Alcântara and I to be the padrinhos! I´m pretty excited. I have no idea what I´ll be doing--probably just signing something--but nonetheless it´ll be cool. It makes me feel a little bit more like a Brazilian. They continue to do well and are keeping all of their commitments. I am so, so grateful for that. 

Remember Douglas that I mentioned last week? Well I have a little bit of an update about him...BAPTISM!! Yesterday. It really was a miracle. Here´s what I wrote in my journal about it Sunday night:

"Christmas morning, after having read the blessing that my dad gave me just before heading to the airport for São Paulo, I decided I´d pray for a miracle. I was needing one, if only to boost my spirits a little. Well it came today. In reality yesterday and today. We taught Douglas yesterday afternoon the message of the restoration. Guess where he went a few days before without even being invited to do so? The temple. Guess what he thought of the part we marked with him in THe Book of Mormon (3 Nephi 11)?--that he needs to be baptized. His only 2 doubts?-- "How much time do I need in the Church to be baptized?" and "Baptism´s just a one-time thing right? So how do I renew it?" My goodness, he just gets it. We marked his baptism for today (one day later) and he chose me to be the one to do it. No objections there! Just before the baptism he told me he had the butterflies and that he could barely wait to get in the water. He wanted to review how he´d be baptized several times over. Afterwards he told me he was completely filled with peace and a kind of indescribably love. I´m just blown away at how prepared he was and how fast and easy it all happened. Yesterday morning the only word we had written on our list of "possible/promised baptisms" was "miracle." That´s normally code for a week without a baptism but this week we really did get our miracle. Last week I didn´t even know Douglas existed and now he´s already been baptized. He came to church on his own, went to the temple one his own (and his friend from another ward), and accepted baptism seemingly on his own. The only thing we did was taught and invited. God did the rest. My confidence in Him is growing so much. I´m learning to hold the promises He´s made to me as sacred. 100 percent guaranteed if I do my part. He promised that when needed I could call upon angels to work miracles. Christmas morning I did that and He´s already answered with such force and in such mercy. January 6 and I already have my first miracle of 2013."

So there you have it! I´ll send some pictures in a separate email. I´m doing well, especially after yesterday. I´m still, without a doubt though, missing you all very much. Can´t wait to hear from you soon! I sent off a letter to each of the grandparents last week, along with Sister Helsing. Oh, and Kirsten too. I hope everything gets there soon. 

Love you all,

Elder Sears

Friday, January 4, 2013

Dec. 31, 2012 "Feliz Ano Novo!"

Thank you so much for the email Mom! Today´s been so crazy--it´s P-day but none of the stores are open to send an email. So we headed to the church and managed to get the key to the secretary´s office, but time is limited. I´ll do my best to fill you all in on everything. I´ve got 10 more minutes! 

The past week has been a difficult one, but one well worth it. I prayed really hard Christmas night that I´d be able to focus fully on the 26th and I definitely felt some divine help when I woke up the next day. Our strongest investigators are still by far Lena and Reob. We took them to the temple on Saturday to visit the temple grounds. We got permission to show them the waiting room inside the temple which was a really neat experience for them. They were so taken back by the beauty of it all. Reob, who is not one to express his emotions all that often, mentioned to me afterwards that when he walked inside he felt something change, something "diferente." Of course, as a missionary, that was music to my ears. I explained why he felt that way and, as of today, everything is lined up for them to be married on February 9, baptized on the 10th, and sealed in the temple on February 10, 2014. I´m beyond excited for them. Next week, when things are a little less rushed, I´ll try to send some photos of the 4 of us at the temple. 

Sunday morning was a trial of my patience followed by a rather immediate, merciful blessing. Aside from Lena, all of our pesquisadores who promised to come to church didn´t come. It´s pretty complicated, being the end of the year and all. I was pretty upset but before I could really complain Elder Alcântara got a phone call from a 25 year old named Douglas who was trying to find the chapel. He has a friend who invited him to another ward last week. He went, felt completely at home there and wanted to attend church this week in his own area (our area--Vila União). He showed up just in time to catch Sunday School. He´s already living the Word of Wisdom and knows bunches about the Church. He told us he´s anxious to know "everything." More music to my ears. We´ll be visiting him this weekend after his schedule calms down a little bit and I´m really optimistic about the possibility to baptize him. I´ll be praying that he´ll have that desire.

To summarize my Christmas/New Year´s really quickly: Christmas morning I woke up, read Luke 2 along with the blessing my dad gave me just before leaving for São Paulo. I´m so glad I did. There is some counsel in there, especially about hope and optimism, that I really needed to hear this time of year. I open the package my family had sent and it has already been put to good use! Especially bananagrams. Elder Alcântara has fallen in love with it. He wants to play every day for our Language Study--I´m not sure it´s the best way to learn the language but I´ve allowed it for 10-15 minutes every day. No complaints there! We went to Cristiane´s house afterwards and had lunch with her family.Christmas lunch is a huge deal down here. Her grandma, Valdenoura, took me by the hand and sat me down in my seat to make sure I got to eat. She kept serving more and more until I was about to explode. It was delicious, and only took an hour or two afterwards to recover from the amount of food I stuffed into my stomach...

After lunch and skype with my family (by far the best present I could have asked for), we went to Elder Johnson and Santana´s house to not spend Christmas night alone. We talked and talked and slept well.

Tomorrow our only plans are to eat well and work well. Should be a good start to the New Year.

Gotta go, but I love you all. I´ll try to respond in full to each of you next week when I have more than 10 minutes! HAPPY NEW YEAR!! FELIZ ANO NOVO!

Much love, Elder Sears