I hope all of you are doing well. Thank you tons for all of the updates via email. It sounds like loads has been happening back home and I wish I could be a bigger part of it! But I´m where I´m supposed to be. First of all, many congratulations to you, Joseph, for getting your driver´s license! I´m thrilled for you. It´s such a cool feeling behind the wheel--something that I miss a lot down here actually. Although maybe it´s a good thing I´m taking a 2 year break. If I´m remembering correctly the last time I drove a car I managed to hit a deer. haha. And of course, loads of congratulations to you Kirsten for being worthy to take out your endowment in the temple. I´m sure that was an incredible experience for you and I really appreciate the pictures you sent. All of them came through, and it´s not hard to tell that that day was a special one. Parabéns!
I mentioned last week that I´d be getting a new companion. His name is Elder Barbosa and he now has a whopping 6 days in the field! I was kind of shocked to find out I´d be training a greenie. I´d have to describe my reaction as: "no way! This is awesome and super exciting. Wait, what? I´m training? I don´t know the first thing about training and there´s no way I´m ready for this. Is it really going to be me now answering all the questions instead of asking them?" Elder Alcântara got a kick out of the news. He wouldn´t stop shouting "I´m going to be a grandpa!" which I found quite hilarious (remember here that trainers are "dads" in the mission). He seemed genuinely happy for me, but also wished me the best of luck saying that I was going to need it. I´m sure I gave him a bit of a headache at times as I was learning and I´m sure there will be times with my new companion when I will go through the headaches that I put my trainer through. But I´m very humbled with the responsibility and I´ll be doing a lot of seeking of the Lord´s help. There´s no other way I can think of that I´ll be able to train and find and teach and baptize and stay sane and happy without His help. It´s definitely a lot to take in but I´m exciting for the opportunity. Elder Barbosa is from Santa Cantarina, the southern part of Brasil, which means he´s almost as white as I am. He wasted no time in showing me his personality. As soon as we got home to unpack his bags he pulled out some medicine and told me it was for "uncontrollable rage" that randomly would appear if he didn´t take them. I kind of stared at him uneasily and he just started laughing. I was able to breathe after that. He´s a really hard worker and eager to improve in every area imaginable. I think this past week I´ve worked harder (mentally and physically) than I have in the mission up to this point. I often times feel like giving him advice in response to his questions and concerns is a bit of a guessing game, because I´m still very much lacking in experience myself. But I continue to seek the Lord´s help and I hope I´ll be able to help my new companion grow into the type of missionary God envisions him being. It´s been funny and interesting for me to see so many similarities in the two of us. He´s a bit of a perfectionist as well and the same kind of "worry wart" that I can be at times, stressing out over the things that really don´t matter all too much. I remember the first question I asked Elder Alcântara when we got to our house was "so....where´s the filtered water, or are we just trusting the tap?" I smiled when that was the first question Elder Barbosa asked me as well. He says he plays chess so today we´re going to try to find a cheap chess set and see who comes out the winner. Oh, and he´s only 18. I found that neat. I´ll try to attach a picture of the two of us in a separate email after I send this off.
As far as the work outside of training goes, it´s been a tough but fulfilling week for me. Vania was confirmed a member of the Church yesterday and I think I appreciated the ordinance much more after what happened with Lena and Reobe. Her son Alfredo (10) continues to come to church with her every week but she still seems reluctant to let him get baptized. He grew up in the Catholic church and is pretty attached to it, but we´re working to schedule loads of family home evenings with the 2 of them and some other families in the ward with kids his same age so that he feels more at home and more eager to be baptized. Fingers crossed that it´ll be this coming Sunday. After a week without contact we finally managed to sit down and talk with Lena and Reobe on Saturday. I explained the situation to Elder Barbosa and we both felt it´d be a good idea to fast in preparation for our visit with them. It´s been brutally hot and we walked a lot that day during our fast, but I do not in the least regret it. I felt really guided by the Spirit in talking with the two of them, but much more than knowing what to say I felt that I felt what I needed to feel to really be genuine with them. I feel like I´m coming closer to feel charity for my investigators than I ever have in the past. As I was bearing my testimony to them and promising blessings that will come after their confirmation, I choked up for the first time in a lesson. The tears came flowing--I don´t know why, but probably because I´m learning to love them so much. Lena, who I think has been feeling really pressured by the ward to come back and be confirmed after 3 weeks without coming to church, told me that me getting all emotional like that helped her to know that I wanted nothing but the best for her--that there wasn´t any sort of selfish desire inside of me that wanted her to receive the gift of the Holy Ghost. I´m really grateful she understands that and I continue to plead with the Lord every night that He will, somehow, as only He can, help her and Reobe to come back and put the dream that she had behind them. Unfortunately she had to work the night shift Saturday and got back at 7:30 in the morning which made church for her impossible. But I´m hopeful for next week. Cristiane has decided to move back in with her husband and 2 other kids who are living about 4 hours away in Minas. I was pretty sad to find that out because, well, the two of them aren´t married and I´m worried that she´s going to fall off the radar when she gets to a city in which she has no connection to the Church. She was going to come to church this Sunday to say good-bye to everyone--it would have been the first time in a month--but came down sick the night before and didn´t make it. Definitely a bummer.
Yesterday was crazy for me! I had to give the Sunday School lesson on the fly as well as a 20 minute talk that I had zero time to prepare for. But it went well. A visitor from another ward came up to me after my talk and started crying a little bit and told me what I had said had been an answer to her prayers. Just the small miracle that I was needing to boost my spirits a little bit. I literally got up to the pulpit having no idea what I was going to say. It was neat for me to see the very real fulfillment of the promise that as we do our part (in this case, my part was working as hard as I could with our investigators and my companion this week, not necessarily preparing for that talk), it will be given to us what we should say in the very moment that we open up our mouths. God is so good. I probably say that a lot but it´s because I forget it in my impatience and He is always so gracious to remind me.
I can´t think of too much more to say...oh, I got MissionTies letters from Kirsten (January 24--the one you wrote when you were sick :/ ) and my mom (excerpts from Elder Holland´s talk at the Provo MTC) this week. I remember that a few of you mentioned packages were on the way; I´ll be sure to let you know when they get here! Thank you very much for sending them :)
Love you all muitíssimo,