Monday, June 24, 2013

June 24, 2013 "And a Little Child shall Lead Them"

Elder Sears, Wellington, and Elder Hill before Wellington's baptism

Elder Sears and Elder Hill with mission friends 
before leaving for a zone conference in Missao Brazil Piracicaba

Elder Sears (back row, 3rd from left) at a Zone Leader meeting 
with mission president, Pres. Perotti

June 24, 2013 Brazilian Bridges and Birthdays

Elder Sears "on a sketchy Brazilian bridge"

Elder Sears with other missionaries from the zone eating birthday cake for Elder Hill's birthday.

Roommates throw birthday party for Elder Hill
Elder Hill, Elder Sears, Elder Cox and his companion 

June 24, 2013 Two missionaries + the Spirit = More than 3

Wow, so I just got done watching the first hour of a worldwide missionary training meeting held in Provo yesterday afternoon. The focus is on missionary work being as one with the members, stakes, wards, and missionaries. I was highly impressed. Elder Perry announced that in the coming year technology is going to be playing a much bigger role in the work--missionaries dedicating proselyting hours during the morning using facebook, email, and probably lots of other cool things to follow up with investigators, work with church leaders, and receive and contact referrals instead of spending so much time on the street knocking doors. Yes! I´m really excited to see all the changes. The full training is on´d highly recommend that everyone watched it. I´m going to try to watch the second half next P-day. I´m kind of jealous that I, unlike certain people I know in the Provo MTC right now, wasn´t able to be there in a Marriott Center packed with the prophet, several apostles and general authorities, mission presidents, and thousands of missionaries getting ready to go out into the field! But it was a really cool thing to be able to watch. There is no way not to feel the spirit watching so many gathered together in the same cause I´ve committed myself to be a part of. My head´s exploding with things I need to do better at and how we can involve the members more in the work. 

But as for the rest of the week...

I´ve never taught so many lessons in 7 days. We´re seeing lots of people progress and I´ve had lots of cool experiences watching the Spirit work with us and with our investigators. I think it was Wednesday that we had our lesson with Jeffrey. The plan was to get him ready for the baptismal interview and help his parents, who have been rather reluctant to be part of the lessons, see the changes Jeffrey´s been making so that he can be baptized. He´s stopped smoking for a week now and is probably more active than half of the young men already members. So that was the plan. We got there and his dad (technically father-in-law) greeted us with "my son is not getting baptized in your church." That was not quite what we were expecting. We sat down with him and listened to him go on for a good 10 minutes about certain things he´d seen on the internet about the Church that would be enough to scare anybody out of their right mind. Elder Hill and I both said a silent prayer asking for the Spirit to guide the lesson because there was no way on earth we´d be getting out of that pickle ourselves. We decided to teach him the first lesson to help clarify some of his doubts, since he´d never been willing to sit down with us before. He understood everything perfectly and stop pushing the subject about the things he´d seen on the internet. But he did tell us when we finished, "there is no way you can guarantee me all this Joseph Smith business is true. Where in the Bible does it talk about him or the Book of Mormon? And what makes you think God would use His time to tell me if your book is true?" I felt a little bit like that missionary in Canada President Monson talked about a few conferences ago when an older man told him basically the same thing. It was a really special opportunity for the 2 of us to bear testimony about what we knew positively with no room to doubt even a little bit to be true. I´d never felt the spirit backing up my testimony so much before. And I´d never been so straight with an investigator before. It wasn´t too hard to tell Romoaldo (Jeffrey´s dad) felt something in it all, but he still went back to "well it can be true for you, but there´s no way you´re guaranteeing it´s true for me." So I told him he was right, and that if he´d ask sincerely God would give him the same confirmation he gave Jeffrey. Jeffrey bore his testimony about that experience he had next to the baptismal font and I have no idea how his dad didn´t tear up while listening to it. And yet he continued to insist he was not going to let his son get baptized. This time he went with "it´s a sin before God to be baptized two times." So we used a couple scriptures in the bible (Luke 12:50 and Acts 19 I think) to help him get over that doubt. Once again the Spirit was super strong through it all and I am convinced Romoaldo felt it. So then he went on to, "well, Jeffrey´s not ready to be baptized. He doesn´t know nearly enough." More scriptures, more Jeffrey bearing his testimony, and more of the Spirit. The lesson was a good 2 hours I think. I´ve never been a part of anything like it. Elder Hill and I both left sweating almost. We talked about it and both commented that it felt like there was a third teacher in the room every time we taught and testified. Romoaldo still refused to let Jeffrey get baptized but I am confident we did everything we could do in that moment. It´s interesting to see how much your testimony is solidified when it´s challenged and you feel something much bigger than you backing it up. Jeffrey´s dad decided to let him continue coming to church and let us continue meeting with him. So that´s a start!

Another really cool lesson this week...Celson, Maria Luiza, Gabriela and Julianna. They´re a family we found knocking doors. Actually a family Elder Hill saw in the yard a couple days before and said he felt like we should knock there. I told Gabriela, one of the daughters, who we were and she went to go get her mom. There was a nice long discussion between Celson (the dad) and Maria Luiza (the mom) before they came back to talk to us, but decided to let us in. They´ve been in the area a week now and have becoming frustrated with the Catholic church lately (makes our job easier right?). We taught them the first lesson and once again I felt like we had a third teacher with us. It´s been a long, long time since I´ve cried teaching a lesson but this time during the First Vision I did. Maybe that had to happen for them to open up a little bit. Celson said the only way he wouldn´t show up to church that Sunday would be if he dropped dead. He was there 20 minutes early (and he doesn´t have a car so he got there early walking). We visited them for the third time last night and we´re starting to get a friendship with them that usually takes a lot longer to develop with most investigators. If only Celson and Maria were married! But it´ll be a blessing to be able to continue working with them in the coming weeks. 

Jeffrey didn´t get baptized but a boy from the Viracopos branch (which we´ve been taking care of lately) did! His parents aren´t members but his aunt´s been taking him to church for the past few months. He begged us to be baptized. His name´s Wellington and he has quite the personality (you´ll be able to see that from the picture I´m about to send). He´s super smart and super small. Presidente Marcos, the branch President, took us to meet him a couple weeks ago and he and Presidente Perrotti gave us the green light to baptize him this Saturday. We sang for him and though it was a really simple baptismal service (the branch is tiny), it was a really good and spiritual service as well.

A few sidenotes really quick...Elder Cox went out on a whim and bought an $80 professional stage lighting system he saw in a store on display on Monday. He came home and showed us and it´s awesome. Awesome, really. A bunch of lasers flash around in sync with whatever sound is made. So if you play music right next to it it becomes a disco ball that goes with the beat. We turned on Called to Serve and We Are All Enlisted, turned off the lights, and had a dance-off. I got it on film on my camera. We look really stupid but it´s a memory I´m not going to forget all that easily :)
Saturday was Elder Hill´s 21st birthday so we ordered pizza and bought ice cream and brought out our laser toy again (I´ll try to send a picture of that too). I made breakfast for him in the morning. I think it turned out okay. Edible at least.

So yep! That´s a very busy week in a nutshell. Speaking of Shell´s, congratulations Brother Shell! And Sister Shell (jr.) for singing in the MTC choir during the leadership broadcast--I looked for you but there were a LOT of Sisters. Sounded great though. Really, really good.

Oh, and I taught myself "If You Could Hie to Kolob" and the beginning of Secrets by One Republic on guitar! When we get a few minutes of free time at night I like to practice.

Love you all! Falouuuu...

Elder Sears

Monday, June 17, 2013

June 17, 2013 Progression in the Work

Dear everyone (and specifically all father figures in my life),

HAPPY FATHER´S DAY! Here in Brazil it´s in August so I get to celebrate it twice :) I love you Dad. 

It´s been less than a week since my last email so I don´t have too much to report. Jeffrey continues to progress really well and made it most of the weekend without smoking. He came to church and loved it and is already going out with the other young men from the ward visiting the less actives. We announced to everyone from the ward that his baptism will be this Saturday morning at 10:00 and I´m really excited about it. God literally plopped him in our path and I´m really, really grateful. I get to thinking about missionary work sometimes and often come to the conclusion that it is nothing more than being worthy to be a part of miracles and working while waiting for them to show up. Every baptism I´ve been a part of has been a miracle. I´ll be sure to send pictures from the baptism when it happens. Which will be this Saturday if I have anything to say about it! Haha.

Gabriela and Gildete were at church again and Gabriela is causing quite a stir among some of the recently single RM´s in the ward. It´s kind of funny to watch. No compaints at all because she´s getting plenty of attention and feeling super integrated with the ward. Ivan and 2 of his brothers were at sacrament meeting and Ivan in particular is excited about baptism. He´s living with his fiancé but we committed them to go to the cartório and get their marriage scheduled for this coming month.

Yesterday when we got back for the day Elder Hill started shrieking like a little girl. He had turned the corner to go up the stairs to our room when a bird flew in front of him and went into the room. Apparently birds terrify him. So I got my camera and told him to film me coming up the stairs and opening up the window so the little guy could fly out. It was pretty hysterical, must say. I went to weigh myself at the drug store on Saturday and I´m at 160 pounds...20 more than when I left for the field??? I don´t know where all that weight is sitting but I guess it´s a good thing? Maybe? 

Love you all! Sorry this one´s super short..

Elder Sears

June 10, 2013 Baptism of Gabriela

Baptism of Gildete (23-year old daughter of Gabriela):
Gabriela (new convert), Gildete, Elder Miller and Elder Sears

Roommates: Elder Miller, Elder Cox, Elder Mooni, and Elder Sears
wearing white ties for Elder Miller's last Sunday on the mission

June 10, 2013 New Companion/old Friend, More miracles

Bom dia bom dia bom dia! Actually it´s boa tarde now but that´s alright. First things first, new companion! His name is Elder Hill. He´s from Farmington Utah and actually he just got an email from his dad, Bart Hill, who said that years ago we used to be in the Farmington 4th ward together. He said he was the Bishop before Bishop Bingham. Is that crazy or what?? I think I was maybe 3 or 4 at the time but dad, mom, do you know their family? It really is a small, small world, especially when you´re Mormon. He´s a really good missionary. He already has a year and 9 months in the field so I´m thrilled with yet another opportunity to be learning a lot from someone who has a lot more experience than I do. And we´re getting along just fine. Really well actually. We have lots to talk about when it comes to the work and Farmington and people he knows that I do too and all that good stuff. So I´m really excited about this coming transfer. 

We´ve had a couple of interesting experiences this week that don´t happen (or at least I don´t think they do) all that often in the field. Tuesday we had scheduled a lesson with a man named Geraldo and his 2 sons Ivan (22) and Gilson (30). Just Geraldo was there and really didn´t show a whole lot of interest, but he said we could come back another day when Ivan and Gilson were there. Two days later we were passing by his street to get to another appointment and saw Ivan sitting on the sidewalk crying. I recognized it was him and we sat down next to him to see what was up. He told us just an hour earlier Geraldo had died from an infection he´d gotten from some sort of bug that he never really got checked out. I was kind of stunned at the news. Tuesday night he seemed completely healthy. I felt so sorry for Ivan and his family and didn´t really know what to say so we just listened for a good while. We left a Plan of Salvation pamphlet with him and told him we´d be stopping by often to help him through things if that´s what he wanted. He asked us to do that so we have been. It´s been a week now since we found out about Geraldo and it´s been neat to see the difference the gospel has been making in the way that family is dealing with the situation. Ivan told us he wanted to be baptized. He still has some changes to make but I never cease to be impressed by the way God works to prepare people for trials and to receive the restored gospel. It´s a situation He tailored individually for that family, and I´m so grateful we´ve been able to be there for them as they´ve been needing it. 

Then there´s Jeffrey, 16. Thursday afternoon while knocking doors he came up to us and told us he´d gotten to know the Church in São Paulo but never found it again after he moved to Campinas. He asked us to stop by the next day so we did and taught him the first lesson. He accepted baptism really easily and asked us to stop by on Saturday. So we did. Only we got there a little bit late and nobody answered. About an hour later we got a call from Felipe, a member of the ward, saying Jeffrey had made his way to the chapel looking for us. Felipe happened to be there and showed him around. When they got to the baptismal font Jeffrey stopped and asked, "so this is where I get to be cleansed of everything? Really everything?" Felipe nodded his head and Jeffrey started bawling. Felipe told us he asked to get baptized in that moment. He´s still got to go through the interview process and we´ve got to talk to his mom, but wow, what a miracle right?! Definitely a story to go in my journal.

Gabriela got confirmed Sunday and is coming along really well. Almost every other night we stop by to check in (and teach Jaime, her dad, who we´re trying to help stop smoking so he can get baptized too), and Gildete always invites us in for dinner or dessert or something of the sort. I think back to some of the blessing I´ve received about making eternal friendships on my mission and I can´t help but think this family has to be one of those. They´re always a highlight of my week.

Monday we had a meeting with President Perrotti and Elder Hill and I had to give a short training that went well I think. Then President talked about the cause in which we´re engaged and how our vision of the effects our missions will have really ought to be unlimited. He showed a video of a man who worked during WWII to rescue Jewish children from the Holocaust and get them out to other countries. Years later a lot of the people he saved got together and planned a huge thank you event in his honor. He went without really knowing he was the guest of honor, but halfway through the MC asked everyone to stand up that had had their life spared because of his heroism. Every single person in the auditorium stood up. Parents, kids, grandkids, great-grandkids. The man burst into tears and could barely get out a simple "thank you." President asked us at the end, "have you every wondered what it must be like in the Celestial Kingdom for a missionary who served an honorable full-time mission?" That really touched me. 

I´m sure there were lots of other things that happened but I´m going blank. Plus we´re now allowed 30 minutes less time on P-days for internet so I´ve gotta run. I attached two photos--one of Gabriela with Gildete just before her baptism and one with Elder Miller and I and our roommates with all white ties on for his last Sunday in the field and Gabriela´s baptism. Mom, I got the two missionties letters you sent with the articles you wrote and loved them, especially the one with a short reference to me and Grandma Donna when I was younger :) Kirsten, I got word your P-day might be Friday but want you to know I´m cheering for you. Absolute best of luck! (I´m sending a short letter in the mail too so you can expect that in maybe 2 weeks). 

Love you all loads,

Elder Sears

Tuesday, June 4, 2013

June 3, 2013 Farewell, Elder Miller

Bro. Souza, a wonderful member friends treats Elder Miller and Elder Sears 
to one last meal before Elder Miller heads for home

June 3, 2013 Cold Baptism, Warm Spirit

Dear everyone,
It has been an absolutely crazy week so it is a good thing I have more time today than last week to write about it all! I´ll start with yesterday at about 3:00--Gabriela (23, Gildete´s daughter who was baptized 2 weeks ago) got baptized!! In ridiculously cold water, but baptized all the same :) It was a miracle the way things worked out. The plan was to have her baptized with her mom 2 weeks ago but after the interview it was clear she needed to work out a few things before she could be. To keep things simple, she basically needed to break things off with her boyfriend even though they´d already been together 5 years. I´ll confess Elder Miller and I were less than optimistic because she´d told us a couple of times she didn´t see that happening. When we called her Wednesday morning to follow up, her mom, GIldete, asked for us to come over and give her a blessing. We got there and Gabriela asked for one too. She told us the day before she had ended things with her boyfriend and was needing some help. But she also told us the fact that the relationship ended as quickly as it did was a clear sign to her that God wanted her to get baptized, and to get baptized this week. We gave her the blessing and marked another interview for her for Thursday. Elder Miller and I walked out of that house pumping fists and high-fiving and saying a lot of thank you prayers. She passed the interview with flying colors and agreed for Sunday at 3:00. We filled up the font right after church but the water heater had stopped working. This past week has been ridiculously rainy and in the low 50´s, so the water was freezing when we stuck our fingers in it. We ran home to get a huge cooking pot and started boiling water to toss in the font to try and warm things up, but it didn´t do much. We tried though. Gabriela was just fine about it and came out of the water shivering but smiling. Bunches. Elder Cox (one of our roommates), Elder Miller and I sang "Procuro arco-íris" ("I Like to Look for Rainbows") for her with Elder Cox on guitar. I think that was the first time I´ve ever sang in such a small group in front of so many people. But it was a really cool experience and there were a good amount of tears among the members there :) So that was our miracle of the week. I was so happy Elder Miller was able to spend his last Sunday baptizing. He deserves it.
Thursday afternoon we had our ward activity. Finally! (the first in 7 months here). It´s kind of like Who Wants to Be a Millionaire but with trivia questions about the Church. Some of which are pretty hard. For example, "What are the names of Noah´s three sons in order from oldest to youngest?" We had Bishop leading one team and Ricardo, Young Men´s counselor, leading the other. It got pretty competitive in all the best of ways. I was on the piano making sound effects (the Jeopardy song among them) and enjoying myself way too much. Then that night Irmão Maurício from the CTM stopped by to say hello again! We went on splits with him to a couple lessons, one of which with Gabriela when she told us for sure she´d be getting baptized on Sunday. It was good to see him again. Really good.
Thurday for lunch an investigator from Elder Cox´s ward invited the 4 of us out to a churrascaria downtown. It was the second time in the week for me eating at one and I don´t think I´ve ever eaten so much meat in so little time. They bring endless amounts of it out on sticks and cut it for you on the spot. I fell in love with "picanha", a type of meat that I think is part of the cow´s thigh but I´m not totally sure. I tried chicken heart as well and just about puked. The taste was okay but it was super rubbery and my mouth didn´t like that too much.
Pretty much every night of the week aside from the ward activity and our lessons with Gabriela the members invited us over for a goodbye dinner for Elder Miller. He was finishing up his 5th transfer in the area and the members love him. Some of the conversations they had were beyond trunky but I have thick skin when it comes to that. Eduardo, always a friend to the missionaries and one of the counselors in the bishopric, told Elder Miller the worst part about going home is when your Stake President asks you to take off your tag. He said you physically feel angels leave you to go take care of another missionary just starting. Hearing that made me super grateful I still have so much longer to be an official, full-time representative of the Lord. I think I take their presence for granted at times and Eduardo´s comment helped me appreciate the constant difference I feel because of my calling. Aside from the baptism, Sunday was pretty somber for Elder Cox, Miller, and I. We´ve become super good friends and have so many memories from this transfer and the previous ones together in the zone. Elder Miller, who insists he never cries, bore his testimony and choked up. Which of course means that I did too. It´s really cool when you get a companion that is a genuine friend. I´m going to miss him. He´s headed home tonight after lunch with President. But, I am super happy because I found out I´ll be staying in Ouro Verde for at least another transfer. I´ll find out who my companion will be Tuesday morning at the bus station downtown. Elder Cox is staying in his area as well so we´ll still be roommates and I´m pumped about that. It´s basically only us 2 that stayed in the zone. Out of 22 missionaries 16 are headed home or to a different area. Again, I´m really glad I stayed. The mission´s set to divide in the middle of this month so it´s pretty likely, almost locked up that I´ll be staying here with President Perrotti. I really do love that man.
Well, I´m not managing to think of anything else at the moment as far as my week goes. Other than the fact that the computer is still not letting me send pictures...grrr.

Before I go though, best of luck to Sister Kirsten Shell!!! You´re about to learn one of the best languages there is spoken by one of the best countries and cultures. And you´re about to formally enlist in God´s army. Sucesso em tudo que fará e felicidade trabalhando na vinha do Senhor, alguns quilómetros ao meu lado. Parabéns! :)
Love you all,

Elder Sears