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