This week´s been an interesting one for me. I feel like it´s had enough to fill a month, maybe two. I guess it makes the most sense to start at the beginning. Wednesday night we taught Vania and her son, Alfredo, who were our "possibles" to be baptized this week. Vania had before said that she wanted to be baptized but was really unsure about it being anytime soon. Monday night she had a dream that she got baptized, and it was me that baptized her. She had been praying for her answer about the truth of the Church and everything we´d taught her, and without a doubt that was it. I was amazed to see how God had worked with her and prepared her. I´ve heard of dreams being an answer to prayers for the Brazilian people several times, but this was the first time I´ve seen God work in that way personally. People here have such faith and that is no doubt the reason why their answers come in such convincing demonstrations of God´s love and power. I feel very much indebted to Him. We were hardly able to visit her or follow up with her during her conversion process because Elder Alcântara´s asthma has started acting up pretty severely lately and that´s mean a lot more time inside than I would have liked. Perhaps things happened like that so that I could fully realize that I really did very little to help her be baptized and make that covenant. The Lord did everything, and the glory be His. There´s no way that I can take even a percent of the credit. We took her to the temple Saturday with her son and she agreed there to be baptized the next day (yesterday). And, as was in her dream, I was the one priviliged to perform the ordinance. It was a really special day for me, and a really tender mercy from the Lord when I really needed it (I´ll explain why I was needing it a little bit later). We´ll be working with her and her son this coming week so that she can be confirmed and he can be baptized. She didn´t feel ready enough to let him be baptized this week.
Thursday night we had our first ward activity designed to bring investigators. It´s taken awhile to get the ward leadership on the same page and help them plan something. The goal is to have an activity every week for ward members to bring their non-member friends. Elder Alcântara had taken advantage of his time inside to plan a really fun activity and help it be a successful one. It was scheduled to start at 7:00, and we got there an hour early to set everything up. 7:30 came and went and nobody showed up. When the first car pulled in, it was the bishop from another ward here for a meeting, not the activity. Our ward mission leader showed up at 8:00 along with a few members to clean the chapel. So we took advantage, helped them finish early, and started the activity. The two of us were pretty bummed about the turn-out but we decided we´d try to make the best of it and I think it turned out well in the end. Elder Alcântara had prepared a list of trivia questions (about the gospel and otherwise), and he called people up 2 by 2 to try and answer. If you got the answer wrong or the other person answered first, they had the privilege to splatter a mixture of flour, water, green food coloring and chocolate sprinkles in your face (which we´d prepared earlier that day). It was hilarious to watch to be quite honest. Alfredo, 10 years old, was our only investigator there but he was smiling until he couldn´t anymore. I got called up to compete with the first counselor in our bishopric. He answered first and answered correctly, which meant a pie in the face for me. Actually, 2 in the face because Elder Alcântara gave him another one to do me in. It was sticky but fun :) I´d send a picture but I forgot to bring the cord to my camera with me... Anyways, hopefully we´ll have more people (on time) at our activity next week and it´ll be a good way to grow our teaching pool.
Saturday night, after getting back from the temple with Vania and Alfredo, we went to visit Lena and Reobe to make sure everything was squared away for their confirmation. They had gotten back from their honeymoon Thursday and were exhausted, so Saturday was the first chance we had to visit with them this week. Earlier in the week Lena told us that she had a dream in which she was standing on top of a tall building looking down over a bunch of darkness (very much like Lehi´s dream I think). She told us that in her dream someone she thought to be God told her that she was following the wrong path and that she needed to stop. She was super unsettled after that dream and let some seeds of doubt grow within her--to the point that by the time we visited her she was extremely reluctant to even consider the idea of being confirmed the next day. I think my heart fell down somewhere into my stomach when she told us that. We did our best to follow the Spirit and explain to her that what she had experienced was definitely not something of God. We tried to help them focus on the bazillions of miracles they´d already seen in their process of investigating the Church and all the happy memories, but it didn´t seem to have much effect. I tried to process everything and felt that we should all say a kneeling prayer together asking for God to clarify the situation. Reobe, who had kept quiet the whole time, said it. I marked the first part of Moroni 7 with them afterwards (which talks about the importance of distinguishing between what is of God and what is very clearly not) and they said they´d read. They promised as well that they´d go to Church the next morning so that they could talk with Bishop and work their doubts through. I got home that night and got on my knees and prayed harder than I think I ever have. I don´t think I´d ever wanted anything as much as I wanted them to receive the gift of the Holy Ghost and continue pressing forward toward their temple sealing and, eventually, salvation and exaltation. I started a fast too. We called around to the other missionaries in the district asking them to pray for them as well--that somehow they´d have a different dream or something, anything, to help them understand the importance of completing their baptism with confirmation. I didn´t sleep well at all that night. I´ve never heard of or seen Satan´s power at work like that. We woke up early the next morning and waited at church for them to show up. They didn´t (nor did Crisitiane). Elder Alcântara went to visit them with our Elder´s Quorum President while I made sure that Vania and Alfredo felt comfortable at church and were excited about her baptism. He told me that Lena´s countenance had changed completely and that she hardly wanted to talk to him at all. Her mom had shown her a website with a bunch of garbage and anti-church literature and she refused to come to church. So yeah...it´s kind of a tricky situation with them right now. I know they can use your prayers.
Still, the Lord is good. I felt miserable learning of how drastically they had changed in just a week and that feeling lasted a good part of the afternoon. But it left and I was able to cheer up for Vania´s baptism later that day. I managed to be genuinely happy for her, and Sunday night I slept well, knowing that I´ve done (and will continue to do) everything I can with respect to Lena and Reobe. I trust them in God´s care, and I´m grateful to know that He has infinitely more power than whatever type of opposition they´ll face/have already faced. We´ll continue to try to visit them and work with them this week. I´m not sure how I feel to be honest about the whole thing, but the level of peace I feel about it is just a much a miracle for me as was their baptism and marriage and transformation over the last 2 months.
To lighten the mood (and get rid of our hunger) Sunday night, Elder Alcântara and I got creative. We mixed some flour, water, and chopped up bananas in the blender and then fried it. When we finished we put yogurt on top. I highly recommend it actually. It was delicious. We ended the night laughing and high-fiving and in a good mood.
Oh, almost forgot...that same night we found out about this coming transfer. I´ll be staying in Vila União! And Elder Alcântara will be transferred. I don´t know much about my new companion--I´ll be finding out this Tuesday when I go to pick him up from the Mission Home and next week I´ll be sure to fill you in. I´ve learned a lot from Elder Alcântara--not always in the easiest of ways but probably in the way that I needed to learn. I don´t doubt it wasn´t coincidence he was my trainer. I´ll miss him, but I´m also exciting for a little bit of change in the future. We´ll see how the next 6 weeks go!
Last thing, I got a bunch of letters this last week, so thank you to all responsible! (Kirsten, The Reshetar´s, my family--the Valentine´s Day Card, Sister Helsing, Andrew Frese, Grandma Sears, and Grandma Julie). I´ll be busy responding to them this afternoon! Thank you as well for all the emails. I need and always am grateful for your support and genuine love for me. Unfortunately today I won´t be able to respond to individual emails because there´s a line behind me to use the computer (I´m here in the chapel for our zone´s farewell barbecue--it´s become a tradition at the end of every transfer). And I promise next week I´ll send pictures (can´t believe I forgot the cord to the camera, sorry!)
Much love, Elder Sears