Monday, March 25, 2013

March 25, 2013 It's Raining Investigators

Hello again!

First off, a huge thank you to Grandma Julie and Grandpa Q, the Robinson´s, the Randall´s, and several of my Utah cousins. I got 2 huge posters from all of you in the mail this past week with a bunch of sweet notes from each of you. They made my day, so thank you.

This past week for me has been a super good one, although nothing too out of the blue happened that I´m remembering at the moment. Our house is still intact (Elder Barbosa´s been cooling it down with the pyrotechnics), and the weather is slowly becoming more and more tolerable. It´s been raining tons--water, and new investigators too. We have been ridiculously busy and blessed this week teaching lots of people that are progressing. Our planners for the week have been filled with names for people to teach and short lesson plans for each of them. 6 of them made it to sacrament meeting--Paulo (attended for half a year in 2012 without being baptized and is started to come back), Lucianna and Mateus (an awesome mother and son who, if all goes well, will be baptized this Saturday), Cris (14 years old, baptism also marked for this Saturday), Luis Augusto (grandpa of one of the young men in the ward who showed up in all white--I was tempted a little bit to lead him straight into the font even though we´ve only been able to teach him once so far), and Rafaela (girlfriend of one of the young men in the ward). The youth are doing their fair share of missionary work around here! It was such a blessing to watch the 6 of them walk through the chapel one by one, and all of them seemed to have a really good experience. To give you an idea of just how many people we´re working with right now that are genuinely interested, our list of investigators expected for Sacrament Meeting that we made Saturday night got up to 17. The Lord is opening up the area and the ward is rallying behind His work. It´s really neat to see. 

Friday night we went to see Lena and Reobe and for the first time in a while were able to find both of them home at the same time. Henrique and Junior were over which made a spiritual lesson a bit difficult, but during the conversation Lena said something that got my heart beating a little bit faster than it was at the start. She told me that ever since she and Reobe decided not to come to church (it´s been 6 weeks now :(  ) they´ve been noticing that nothing´s been going right. Reobe lost his job, they´re always tired and their relationship isn´t as strong as it was when they were going to Church. She told me that in spite of the dream she had, she feels like if God really wanted them to be going to a different church He wouldn´t let so many bad things happen. Just before the closing prayer, she asked me to say it and to thank Him for opening their eyes a little bit. And she said that they´re thinking seriously about being confirmed. What a joy it was for me to hear that! I bottomed out when they originally told us the Church wasn´t for them anymore, but now I have every reason to hope there will be a happy ending to it all. I´m learning to trust God and His timetable, and the unquestionable fact that He is well aware of their situation and it will only be Him that manages to bring them back. I´ll be sure to keep you updated on their progress!

What else? Oh, Elder Barbosa and I had a neat opportunity to be able to use our Priesthood this past week. One of the few times that our commitment with an investigator fell through, we decided we´d go visit a family in the ward that lived close by. When we got there, Sister Zuleica told us that the day before she´d really messed up her leg and that she was in a lot of pain and super stressed out. Her husband was gone and she was wanting a Priesthood Blessing, so she asked us to do it. Elder Barbosa happened to have consecrated oil on him and we gave her a blessing as she requested. I always find it amazing how close I feel to my Father when I´m able to use His power to bless the lives of His children. It´s a special bond, and when the blessing was over Zuleica was crying, thanking us for stopping by. Her grandson, Guilherme, was there, and we asked him if we could go visit a friend of his that had made it to mutual a couple of times but never meetings on Sunday, and never had been taught by the missionaries. He said no problem, so the three of us went to go teach him. His name´s Cris (one of our investigators I mentioned earlier that came to Sacrament Meeting). He loved the lesson and accepted to be baptized without a problem. When he showed up to church with Guilherme he told us that he´d read the Book of Mormon and knew it was true. We talked with his parents and they´re excited and supportive of his decision to be baptized. So to sum everything up--a priesthood blessing given, lesson taught, investigator at church, and baptism marked for this weekend all because one of our other commitments fell through and we wanted something productive to do. God plays a tremendous role in His work, no doubt about it! It´s super cool and gratifying to see His spirit guiding us in our efforts, even when we don´t realize it at the moment. 

Really quick before I go, I was able to try a lot of...interesting foods this past week and managed to keep all of them down: fried eggplant (twice), some sort of seaweedish thing called "cobe", fejoada, and an herbal drink called chimarrão (that tastes like cut grass from the lawn mower mixed with boiling water). Just a fun little update for you all! I love you all so much and hope this week is one of miracles for you. And Happy Easter!!

Love, Elder Sears

Monday, March 18, 2013

March 18, 2013 Ordinances on Land and in Water

At the Campinas temple ~ March 2013

Bradford and Elder Barbosa at the baptism of Almir

Bradford and Almir helping to fill the baptismal font

March 18, 2013 "Six Months Out!"

So, today is officially 6 months from the day that I set foot on an airplane headed for São Paulo. How time flies when you´re having fun. And when you´re blessed to be a constant witness of miracles that perhaps you don´t deserve but that come anyways because God is so good and so merciful. I think I mentioned last week that we were working with 3 people to be baptized this weekend--2 teenage boys and Almir, who was having an incredibly difficult time staying away from drinking and smoking. The teenagers didn´t work out but ALMIR GOT BAPTIZED SATURDAY AND CONFIRMED SUNDAY!! It´s been a miraculous week for him and for me. Last Monday night walking back home we saw him standing in front of a bar completely drunk. He´d gone a few days without drinking so seeing him relapse was pretty discouraging. We stopped by Tuesday night to see what was the trigger this time and let him know, somewhat sternly but lovingly, that if he wanted to get baptized this weekend as was the plan he´d need to decide that day not to drink again. He´d already come such a long way with cigarettes (30 a day a few weeks ago down to 3 or 4 at the beginning of last week) so I knew he had it in him to do away with drinking as well. We gave him a blessing and promised we´d be passing by once, sometimes twice a day for the whole week to check in, setting a goal for him to smoke his last cigarette Thursday, be interviewed for baptism Friday, baptized Saturday and confirmed Sunday. And we did just that. Everytime plan A fell through Almir was plan B. Every daily planning session and every prayer we said had him in it. Wednesday night around 11 or so we woke up to a phone call from him and answered fearing the worst (he usually calls us when he´s just getting over the hangover and the guilt starts to set in). But instead he´d called to say he had taken us up on our challenge to start reading The Book of Mormon from the beginning and had just finished 1 Nephi 4. Thursday when we checked in he was already at chapter 10 (and that´s A LOT of reading for him because he´s not all that used to it). The cigarettes went down from 4 to 1, and the last cigarette he smoked was Thursday after lunch. He passed the baptismal interview Friday and Saturday morning we decided we´d do our 3 hours of personal/companionship study with him to make sure he didn´t put another cigarette in his mouth. We got to the chapel at 4:30 for his baptism at 5:00 and he was there waiting for us. His baptism was a particularly special one for me, because I sincerely felt that we´d been the instruments in God´s hands to literally transform one of His sons into somebody completely new. Sunday night after his confirmation we stopped by to see how he was feeling and he said something that I absolutely loved that needs to go in my journal. He told us that when one of his friends passed by inviting him to get a drink at the bar he answered back, "Have you lost your mind? I just made an oath with God that I wouldn´t do that anymore and you think I´m going to break it now?" So, long story made a little bit shorter, Almir made our week. The baptism itself was a little crazy because Bishop, who had the keys to the chapel, got there way late so we had to fill up the font super fast. So Almir, Elder Barbosa and I turned on the font and in the meantime started filling up buckets of water in the bathroom to speed up the process. That was fun. I´ll send along a picture soon.

Really quick, in other news our district got to go to the temple this week for my second time in the field. That was, as always, super neat and renewing for me. Friday night Elder Barbosa was bored so he took the steel wool we had in our kitchen for cleaning and lit it on fire, spinning it around on a hanger in our bedroom with sparks flying everywhere. It actually turned out looking really cook, only one of the sparks landed on my pile of dirty shirts and burned a hole right through one of them. Whoops... Oh, and last thing, tomorrow will be the beginning of transfer number 4 for me in the field. Elder Barbosa and I are staying in Vila União. Love you all and until next week!

Elder Sears

Monday, March 11, 2013

March 11, 2013 Teaching in Portuguese and English

Dear everyone,

It´s only been 5 days since my last email so the updates aren´t quite as many, but I´ll do my best to give you all plenty to read. First off, we´ve been being really blessed lately with a pretty big teaching pool--the biggest that it´s ever been for me in the field. Referrals have been falling from the sky like crazy. And good ones too. We got one referral from two Elders in our district--2 young men that went to church in their ward with their aunt but live in our area and still aren´t baptized. We went there Friday night and they have a baptism marked for this coming Sunday. Super exciting! Their names are Vitor (13) and Ayslã (14). They´re hilarious and have a strange liking for Justin Bieber. So when I told them I knew the rap part to "Baby" they were just about dying to hear it. I gave in and sang it for them while they danced along. Probably didn´t understand any of it but I think they got a kick out of it. Gotta live a little on the mission right? I´m not sure if it´s a good sign or a bad one that I managed to remember the lyrics though...haha. Another family I´m pretty excited about is Antôntio and Gabriela. They´re a young couple with 2 kids that we found knocking doors. Gabriela recently lost her mom and grew up in a religion that taught that after death she wouldn´t be able to remember her daughter. So she´s been really shaken up lately and really needing the gospel. Their curiosity is through the roof and I´d say their potential is too. We´re going to try to teach the Plan of Salvation to them tonight or tomorrow and set a date for their baptisms. I´ll be sure to keep you posted. We´re continuing to work with Almir so that he can stop smoking completely (he´s still hovering around 2-3 cigarettes a day) and be baptized this Saturday and be confirmed Sunday. I´m exciting for when his day finally comes...he´s come so far already and I´m optimistic about this weekend. 

Sunday we had Stake Conference which was an absolute treat for me. There are six wards in our stake and probably a good 400 active members between all of them. The Church has a beautiful chapel downtown where we went Sunday morning to be able to participate. Seeing the chapel absolutely filled to the brim did a world of good for me. Our ward in Vila União only has 65-70 that come everyweek, so seeing so many members gathered together at once reminded me a little bit of my ward back home. The choir did a super nice job and the focus of the whole meeting was missionary work (no complaints there right?). One of the high council members shared a really neat story about how his brother-in-law was baptized and converted. He´d shared the gospel with him for 10 years with no success but decided to go to the temple one day with the intent to have a missionary opportunity spring up in the near future. He left the Celestial Room feeling he should call his brother-in-law again and invite him to hear the gospel. To his surprise the answer was an excited "yes" and his brother-in-law made the 300 mile trip from Rio de Janeiro to Campinas that weekend just so that he could hear more. He did that for 2 and a half months, met with the missionaries and was baptized. Now he calls every week with updates--family home evenings that he´s having, friends he´s bringing to Church, how dramatically the realationship he has with his family has improved, etc. It was a good reminder to me of 2 things. 1, the gospel really does have the power to transform lives. More effectively than anything else on earth--whichever other psychiatrist or religion or whatever it may be. 2, when we ask, God gives. President and Sister Perrotti were also there and shared powerful testimonies about missionary work. I left feeling--I think pumped would be the best word--to be a missionary. 

On the lighter side of things, Wednesday night after the English Class that I´ve been teaching Elder Barbosa and I and 4 other missionaries from the zone that were there bought a MASSIVE pizza--I´d guess a good 2 feet in diameter. We brought it back to the kitchen in the chapel and were about to bless it when an older sister from the local ward who´d gone to the English class walked in. She said something along the lines of "my goodness, what an amazing smell!," took the pizza out of the wrapping and started piling slices on her plate while the rest of us stood staring in disbelief--slightly annoyed but mostly bewildered. How she knew there was pizza in the kitchen I have no idea, and why she felt entitled to start serving herself I don´t know either. She just came in, opened up the pizza, took 3 or 4 slices (and on this pizza the slices were massive), and walked back out the door. We didn´t know what to do so we just laughed. Kind of bizarre. But funny all the same. What else? Oh, Sunday night a drunk man who thought we were missionaries from a church called "A Igreja Universal" started screaming a stream of profanity at us in absolute fury. That was interesting. I don´t know what that church did to him but I feel sorry for him. I just stood there laughing a little bit at how upset he was until he walked away a good 5 minutes later. Something to go in my journal I suppose...haha.

Well, best be going! Our district leader is headed home next week so we´re having a party for him. Better still there´ll be a piano there so I´ll be taking full advantage! I love all of you and miss you.

Love, Elder Sears

Wednesday, March 6, 2013

March 6, 2013 Alfredo Follows his Mother's Footsteps into the Font


Elder Sears, Alfredo (10), Vania, and Elder Barbosa at Alfredo's baptism

March 6, 2013 Another Baptism!

Oi!!

I´m super sorry if any of you were glued to the computer Monday night wondering why my email wasn´t coming (I´m sure that´s exactly what all of you were doing, right?). Haha. As it turned out Presidente Perrotti called a training meeting on Monday that I was invited to go to rather last minute, so I wasn´t able to send off emails until today. But I´m alive and well, I promise. Unfortunately because of the switch my time is SUPER short this week. So I´ll stop blabbing and get right to it.

Alfredo, 10 years old and Vania´s son, got baptized this past Saturday and confirmed on Sunday!!!!! Chalk up another miracle here in Vila União. As things stood at the beginning of last week, he didn´t want to get baptized because he was pretty attached to the Catholic Church and thought that his baptism there was good enough. He´s a super smart kid which can make it difficult to reason with him when he already has his mind made up--he has a counterargument or question for everything. But we passed by to talk with him last Monday night and Elder Barbosa had the idea to have him write out what he thought of the Church on a piece of paper (he can be shy at times so we were hoping that writing would help him open up a bit). We came back an hour later to find one of the most profound, incredible testimonies I´ve ever heard or read written on that piece of paper. By a 10 year old no less! He had written that he knew the Church was true, that it´d been a really good thing for his mom, and that he loved the missionaries and the work they do (I particularly liked that part). My favorite line went something like this: "I know that The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is not A church, but THE church." After having read that and closed our mouths that had dropped wide open in shock and gratitude, we asked him if, based on what he knew, he´d like to be baptized. He got all shy on us, so we wrote out the invitation instead. And in response, he wrote a gigantic "SIM!!!" It was a really neat experience for the two of us, especially for Elder Barbosa because it was his first opportunity to baptize on the mission. There weren´t too many people at the baptismal service but watching him come out of the water brought with it for me a very simple but very real feeling that the work we do as missionaries for the only true Church of God is exactly what I need to be doing write now, and that Heavenly Father is pleased with it. It was a really good feeling for me to have, because beyond Alfredo our investigators have been having a lot of difficulties progressing. 

Really quick, in other news...remember that training meeting I mentioned? I got to see Elder Alcântara at it! I don´t think I realized how much I missed him until I saw him again. I went in for a hug but instead he just about broke my ribs by picking me up off the ground. In short, I was super glad to get to see him. Oh, and last week I weighed myself for the first time in a couple of months. I was quite happy to see 156 pounds staring back at me. I left with 140 and I´ve been at that weight for a solid 2 years or so. So I´m getting fatter or my calf muscles from all the walking are getting bigger. Either way I´m happy. Haha. What else?... Elder Barbosa and I have been playing chess off and on lately just before we go to bed. It´s been fun for me to be able to play (so far I´m undefeated but we´ll see how long that lasts. haha!). Oh, and I´m teaching an English class to a good 30 non-members or so every week. It´s been a fun experience for me (unfortunately it´s not in our area--I´m one of just a handful of North American missionaries that can teach in our zone, so I have to travel to another area to teach in the place of another American that was transferred). But hey, I´m liking it.

Well, gotta go. I´m sorry this email was a shorter one--this week´s been pretty hectic with the meeting on P-day and everything. But I´ll do better next week! I love you all and thank you so much for who you are and what you mean to me. AND HAPPY BIRTHDAY TO THE BEST MOM IN THE WORLD THIS WEEK!

Love, Elder Sears