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 opportunity...to 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

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