First of all, mom, you´ll be happy to know that I was able to use the Plan of Salvation diagram that you sent to me a few weeks back! I glued a picture of the Savior on the back of it to emphasize the role that He has in that Plan and used it to review the second lesson with Henrique and Junho (Cristiane´s kids). It was one of those days when we didn´t have many commitments and Elder Alcântara was in no mood to knock doors, so I took full advantage and reviewed the Plan of Salvation with them. It´s a perfect teaching tool, because I use it to explain and have them do the puzzle the second time, this time using it to teach me. They´re both pretty easily distracted, but they stayed interested the whole time and wanted to use it to teach Cristiane after we had finished. So, thank you for thinking to send it to me! It helps me to focus on the simple, most important parts of the doctrine and teach for understanding instead of just to check something off the teaching record. I also read through the family history stories you sent and loved them. My goal for my language study this coming week is to translate the jist of them into Portuguese so that I can use them in my teaching when the opportunity presents itself.
I feel like this past week dragged on forever waiting for Saturday to get here. The work was slow and a lot of the time I felt like I was the only one trying to move it forward. But Saturday came and made every moment of waiting worth it. We met up with Lena and Reobe at 8:15 in the morning to go to the Cartório (that´s the government building where marriages are performed here). I was impressed and grateful with the amount of people that showed up between their relatives and many members from the ward who wanted to be a part of the special day. Marriages in Brazil go something like this: wait in line for your slot to come, squeeze everybody into a small room where the couple sits down at a table and listens to two official-looking women give them congratulations and counsel (probably not always women but this time it was), promise your oaths to each other, exchange rings, kiss, and sign some papers, followed by the signing by the padrinhos and madrinhos (me being one of them!). And that´s it--officially married by the Government of Brasil. It was so simple and yet made me so happy. Everybody was smiling and I´m sure I was beaming as well. Lena and Reobe looked so good and so happy together. I did my best to film and take pictures of everything that I could. I remember writing in my journal that the only thing missing was the color white--but that came a few hours later and will come again in February 2014. Lena and Reobe already told us they have the sealing in the temple scheduled for February 10 next year. Yay!! Elder Alcântara and I went to the church to get everything ready for the baptism. I wanted everything to be perfect, to the point that I spent a good half hour decorating the chalk board in the room with the baptismal font. Probably didn´t need to do that but hey, I was excited. The room was filled to the prim--I think half the ward showed up. I was so grateful for that. We took loads of pictures of the four of us in all white just before the baptism. Elder Alcântara went into the water first and baptized Reobe, and I baptized Lena. We watched Reobe come up out of the water and then it was our turn. Everything just felt right. Of course there was that anxious excitement/nervousness that always seems to come just before a baptism, but that´s normal. It felt SO good to be able to baptize Lena using her new last name--her new married name. I´ve been doing a lot of thinking about the changes that they went through that day. They´d been living together outside of marriage for more than a year. All that sin built up over months, and yet gone in a matter of seconds through one simple, yet sacred and essential ordinance. And God was so good to let me be a part of that! I´m sure that well before they came to this earth they agreed to be married and baptized together. An eternity of preparation led up to Saturday, and now they have an eternity in front of them filled with the now very real potential of living with God and with eachother forever. How cool is that?? The 2 month wait for me was definitely worth it. They´re such incredible people and I hope I have some of the memories recorded in my mind and heart forever from the most important day in their lives up to this point. After their baptism, the ward put on a huge party to celebrate their decision. Irmã Soraia made a huge, gorgeous pineapple cake (although to be honest I was more concerned about the taste, which was equally good) and loads of members showed up with food and wedding presents for the new couple. It was the first time I really felt the ward getting excited about missionary work. It was so good to see, especially with Lena and Reobe right in the middle of it. She told me later that night when we stopped by to say a final congratulations before their honeymoon that if they had any doubts that they belonged to the Church and the Vila União ward family before their baptism, all of them were erased. I still think it´ll take a little bit longer for me to process the fact that their marriage and baptism finally got here. It may have been the best day of my mission so far up to this point. I saw in it a very literal fulfillment of the Lord´s words in D&C 18 about the worth of souls, and the joy of them rejoicing together in salvation. It´s a kind of happiness that I don´t think can come from something good happening to me, but being part of something incredible and eternal happening to someone else.
So that was this week for me...waiting for Saturday and then being absolutely ecstatic when it came. I´m going to try to attach some photos from the wedding and their baptism now.
I love you all and can´t wait until next week!
Love, Elder Sears
Oh, and before I forget, I got a package from Jamie and Chris with an awesome note and some amazing chocolate from England. A huge thank you to you for that if you´re reading this!!