Tuesday, July 23, 2013

July 22, 2013 "Miracles are Real"

Hellooo meus queridos,

Lot´s to tell and lots of questions to answer. Mostly about my new companion and area, so here we go...I got transferred from Ouro Verde to Ponte (meaning "bridge") and my new companion is Elder Vianna from Rio Grande do Sul, Brasil!! He´s got 2 more transfers than I do on the mission and we´re both work horses so we´ve been tiring ourselves out this week. The chapel in Ponte is GORGEOUS. 3 stories, brand new, and with a piano in every important room. I´m quite enjoying it :) It has it´s own basketball court which is super nice because 2 weeks ago basketball was made "ok" for missionaries to play on P-day. You can be sure I´ll be going to the court today :) But that´s probably an unimportant detail...the ward itself is...small. I think we had 60 at church this past Sunday. Our Bishop is really helpful and charismatic though and I´m excited for the opportunity to help build up the ward along with our investigators. We´re part of a newly created zone in the mission--Zona Flamboyant. President Perrotti divided 3 of the larger zones so that each stake would have its own zone of missionaries. So it´s me, Elder Vianna, and 6 other companionships in Flamboyant. It´s a lot easier to get to know everyone personally this way and I´m looking forward to getting to know everyone. I knew just one other when I got here. Elder Vianna reminds me a lot of me. He´s a little bit on the quieter side so I have to push the conversation at times but we both are loving just being able to focus on the work. He´ll turn 21 in December and has been a member all his life. It´s been a switch from Elder Hill but a good switch. I suppose transfers are always good switches, even if they´re not as comfortable in the beginning as what you were used to. Our area is huge. A little bit bigger than Ouro Verde I think. It´s on the richer side of Campinas which makes knocking doors and street contacts rather unproductive. So we´ve been talking a lot about how to help the ward help itself out. The good thing about being on the richer side is that our house is pretty good. The fridge and shower and stove are all brand new. Oh the washing machine too. And we have a hammock!! There´s loads of details to tell but I think that´s probably good for now. I´m adjusting well and I´m happy and even though we started basically from 0 on Tuesday we´ve got a pretty decent teaching pool going on now. So little of that has been us though, as always seems to be the case.

I got word that one of the two baptisms Elder Hill and I helped prepare went through in Ouro Verde. Felipe!!! Maria is still getting over coffee but will be baptized soon. I feel really happy for them. As far as the week in Ponte went for me, the week was dominated by a miracle that happened yesterday after sacrament meeting. I think it´ll probably be easier just to copy the story out of my journal:

"Moroni was right to call out everyone who believes miracles have ceased. Because we have a PROMETIDO (that means someone who has confirmed they´re going to be baptized in the coming week) this week! She´s got a story that gives me goose-bumps a little bit. Her name´s Andreia. 10 years ago she was baptized in the Universal (a popular church down here) but fell away and went to every church imaginable looking for something she felt was missing in each one. The missionaries passed by twice during that time--the first time she threw out her copy of The Book of Mormon and the second she waved them off without letting them in. As time passed she lost her job and had to resort to nail painting to get by. A member invited her to work for her salon about 2 months ago and last month she made it to church for the first time in Ala Progresso that shares our chapel. She told us she liked it and had a hope that the thing she´d been looking for would wind up being in The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints--but she wasn´t certain. She´d told us during these 10 years she was bothered by the fact that Mosaic Law talks about the Sabbath Day (Sabbath and Saturday are the same word in Portuguese) and yet every church meets on Sunday. But she kept going to Ala Progresso and kept liking it and kept praying to know if this was it. Only this weekend she said she felt she needed to go to Ala Ponte (that´s where she lives anyways). During Sacrament Meeting one of the speakers gave a talk about the Sabbath Day, citing Acts 20:7 and John 20:1 and explaining why it switched to Sunday from Saturday. Andreia started crying when she told us that part was an answer to her prayers she´d been saying for 10 years. She knew in the moment that the Church was true and that it was there she needed to be a member, not just another face in the congregation. She was so excited with the answer she got in sacrament meeting that she went up to the Bishop and told him she wanted to get baptized. I didn´t know that when I helped her take her stuff down to her car, so when I and another brother asked her what she thought of church she started to cry and said the same thing she told Bishop. I grinned. Elder Vianna and I went to visit her after lunch and listened for a half hour to the last 10 years of her life, amazed at how many details fit together in so many ways to bring her to where she is today, asking to be baptized without even being invited. We read Acts 2 with her and invited her to be baptized next Sunday. She accepted. "

So yeah! Miracles are real!! And they have nothing to do with any type of missionary work I could do by myself. This Sunday will be the day for her, so I´ll send pictures next week. Also, when I got to the area Elder Vianna and his last companion were preparing a couple (Claúdio and Edna) to be married and baptized afterwards. They already had a date set for August 9 when I got here. 2 more blessings from the Lord. We made tapioca with them Saturday night and I had a little bit of it for breakfast this morning. They´re super cool and are two more "prometidos" for 2 weeks from now. I´m just pumped in general! I´ll admit I was a little worried coming to Ponte because lots of people say it´s a hard area to baptize and the ward is super small and not all that supportive, but I´ve seen none of that. God has been really, really good to us.

Before I foget, HAPPY 14TH BIRTHDAY SPENCER!!!!  I know you´re in Idaho right now so you probably won´t be reading this for a while but know that I´m thinking of you and proud of you. You´ll make a great Teacher. Speaking of birthdays, mom, I got your package this past week and have been waiting to open it until next week. Works out well by birthday falls on a P-day :) I also got that 16 page letter you sent about Trek and read all of it while eating lunch on Friday and really, really enjoyed it. Thank you :) I know some of you have mentioned some other things are on the way so I´ll let you know when they get here. Ponte is relatively close to the mission office (on the outskirts of downtown Campinas) so it should be easy to pick things up. Thank you soo much!! I love you all and hope you´re doing well. Have an awesome few weeks left of summer! And good luck to Sister Shell (jr.) in the field! You´ll do great.

Love, Elder Sears

Tuesday, July 16, 2013

July 15, 2013 Saying Goodbye to a Group of Great Investigators

Dear everyone,

Found out last night I´ll be transferred tomorrow...still don´t know where to but there are definitely a lot of mixed feelings. I´ve only been in Ouro Verde 3 months but the area has been way good to me. I managed to say goodbye to Gabriela and Gildete last night and gave them one of the CD´s I made. They seemed to like that. But yeah, I´m excited for the next area and companion on the list! Even though Elder Hill has been my favorite companion so far. I don´t think I´ve ever laughed so much in 6 weeks :)

This email is going to be a people email because we´ve gotten to know a lot of really cool people since last Wednesday when I emailed. I´ll start off with Raquel and Sérgio. So, last week Elder Hill and I were headed to a commitment when a man in a car pulled over and stopped to talk to us. His name was Ronaldo, and he was moving with his family into the ward from 9 hours away in Goais. He´s been a member for a year and asked if we could help him get things situated with the move and all. So we did and managed to put together his wardrobe after an hour and a half of 3 clueless people putting nails in random places :) Afterwards we introduced ourselves to his neighbors (Sérgio and Raquel), explained about family home evenings and asked if they´d be interested to have one. They agreed. We came back the following week and the FHE didn´t work out with Ronaldo, but Sérgio and Raquel seemed really curious still so we sat down and started teaching the first lesson after getting to know them a little bit better. Before we could even sit down Raquel said something along the lines of, "can you show me in the Bible where it talks about the Book of Mormon?" And "how can I know Joseph Smith is not just another false prophet?" We stuck strictly to the Bible the whole lesson and both her and her husband accepted the invite to read The Book of Mormon and pray to know if it was true. We came back the next day to follow up--Raquel had gone on the internet and had LOADS of doubts and questions ranging from "I read you believe God wasn´t always God--is that true?" to "I was taught by the Jehovah´s Witnesses the only thing we do between death and the resurrection is sleep--how can you believe people will have a chance to hear the gospel during that time?" Literally, 10-15 deep questions like that. I was super glad we´d studied like we had; for every question a bible scripture came to mind. But she had so many questions that we got to the point that we realized we needed to stop answering and let God do the work. Both Elder Hill had come across the same scripture during personal study that day (Jeremiah 29:11-13) and we felt impressed to leave that scripture with her as a way to answer her doubts way faster and more effectively (it talks really simply about prayer). She said she´d pray again to know about the Book of Mormon and the Church. We came back the next day and she´d read bunches. But she´d also looked some more on the Internet. I explained to her that looking for an answer from God is like making a phone call. We call, but when we´re waiting for the answer we pick up another phone and go looking among other sources (like the internet). I told her it´s very possible God´s on the line giving His answer and she´s not hearing it because she´s on the other line. It was an example that kinda just came to me and seemed to help her understand. She said she´d stop looking on the internet and that she and Sérgio would be at church on Sunday. The two of them came (along with 12 other investigators!) and LOVED it. The talks were perfect and so many members came up to introduce themselves and mark family nights during the week without being asked. This ward is SO good--I am truly going to miss it. Afterwards Elder cox and I played a little piano for them since Sérgio loves music. They left super excited and asked us to pass by the next day (tonight, in about 30 minutes actually). I´m leaving out tons of details with their story (like the fact that Raquel told us she´s attended bunches of churches but always felt something missing and feels like we could be an answer to her search, or that Ronaldo is now going to switch houses and wards--I´m convinced he came here just so that we could meet Raquel and Sérgio), but they´re an awesome couple. And married too which is nice from a baptism standpoint. Haha :) I´m really going to miss them. Lots. They´re the most sincere investigators I´ve met so far--literally with a hunger for knowing more--and it´s been really nice to have intelligent conversations and lessons with them.

We also met Felipe (17) knocking doors. Long story short, he accepted baptism, his parents are on board, and when Elder Hill showed him the font at church on Sunday he asked if he could move his baptism up from this coming Sunday to Wednesday. Bummer I won´t be there to see it :/ but I´m really happy for him.

Maria da Carmen, a member´s friend, also was at church on Sunday. She moved to the area 2 weeks ago and was taught everything by other missionaries where she was living. Her member friend here told us about her and asked her to visit her Sunday night. We did, and felt impressed to invite her to be baptized this Sunday. We had to help her get over her fears a bit but she accepted! Yet another photo Elder Hill will have to send me because I won´t be here to see it :( It´s rough when you get transferred right as things are looking up, but I´m happy I was able to at least meet and hopefully help these people in some small way.

Oh, we finally got in contact with Jeffrey again Saturday night! He came to church and his parents are loosening up a bit. His mom told us he´s been going to other churches recently but in the time he stopped going to the church we go to she´s noticed a (negative) difference. The power of the true church in action right?

I´ve gotta run...I´ll let you know my new area and companion next Monday. Love you!

Elder Sears

Some thank you´s as well...to Mom and the rest of the missionary moms from Lost Mtn for the letter you all wrote me; Alyssa for your letter, Aunt Jenny and Uncle Josh for the package and cards and board game; Grandma and Grandma Sears and the Reshetar´s for the birthday cards, and every prayer you all say asking God to bless me. I can feel the difference. Muito, muito obrigado mesmo :)

Wednesday, July 10, 2013

July 10, 2013 Singing the Song of Redeeming Love . . . and other Tunes

Elder Hill and Elder Sears at the baptism of Weverton (age 16)

Musical roommates: Elder              , Elder Sears, Elder Cox and Elder Hill

July 10, 2013 Happy Endings

Hello y´all!

I´ll just get straight to it then...first, sorry the email´s coming on Wednesday. Monday we had another meeting which threw the P-day schedule off a little bit. But I´m doing just fine! It was a tougher week this week but with a really happy ending. That seems to be the theme lately. Celson told us when we went over to see him that he and his family had decided to stop having the discussions. We asked him why and he told us he felt uncomfortable with some of the commandments we´d been teaching (i.e. marriage instead of living together). We did the best we could to explain that that discomfort comes from God as a way to motivate him to keep the commandments and that it wouldn´t go away until he took steps to start living the commandments. He understood but told us the gospel wasn´t something he wanted anymore and was pretty rough with us at parts. Of course that left us feeling pretty sad and we explained that to him as well. That God had loads of blessings waiting for him and he´d be missing out. We bore testimony and, as with Romoaldo, the Spirit was super strong. There is no way he did not feel that the sure way for him to have his family forever was to be married, baptized, and sealed for time and eternity in the temple when we told him that. It´s interesting how you can see it working in people´s faces. But Celson fought it and wouldn´t let it in. It makes me remember one of Elder Bednar´s talks about how the Spirit will carry the truth unto, not into, the hearts of the children of men (2 Nephi 33 I think?). I walked out of Celson´s house pretty down about the decision he made. I don´t know why it has to be this way but it seems that you don´t realize how much you grow to care for an investigator until he tells you he doesn´t need you anymore. But I also left at peace with the way we handled the situation.  The elect wil hear and hearken God´s voice as spoken by His servants. 

So that was the rough start to the week. The happy ending came Saturday night when Weverton, a 16 year-old we´ve been teaching from the Viracopos Branch, got baptized!! And as always there was the last-minute drama right before. He´s a pretty big kid and not a single one of the baptismal suits we had in the chapel fit him. He was starting to get pretty flustered and Elder Hill and I were worried he´d back out at the last minute. So we said a prayer and kept looking. We didn´t find anything so the Branch President said he´d drive the half hour back to his chapel to see if he could find a bigger one. Only on the way Elder Hill remembered the week before he´d gotten some white elastic shorts in his birthday package. So we ran home to pick those up and also happened to find a shirt 3 sizes too big at the bottom of Elder Hill´s suitcase that fit Weverton perfectly. It was the first time on my mission I´ve seen someone get baptized in shorts and a Sunday shirt but everything turned out just fine :) We were really happy to end the week baptizing, and once again amazed at the timely (and often creative) ways God answers prayers.

Our fourth of July celebration wasn´t nearly as cool as how I´ve heard it was at the Provo MTC, but the 4 of us living together made the best out of it. We all put on our American jeans and did our own rendition of The Star Spangled Banner. Our poor neighbors probably didn´t like the volume we sang it with but hey, I think I´m entitled to be patriotic at least 1 day of the year. Afterwards we bought some ice cream, made cookie dough, and mixed the two together because Elder Hill and I have really been craving Dairy Queen´s cookie dough blizzard lately. It turned out really well I think. Possibly better than the original. Cheaper too if any of you are interested.

Sunday night we were on a bus on our way to an appointment and we decided to do something different. I went to the front and told everyone we wanted to sing to them. We got out our mini hymn books and sang "Lord I Would Follow Thee" to the delight of a group of super religious old women in the back corner. I think we sang to a good 20 people. It was strangely exhilarating :) 

Monday we had a training meeting with President and I walked away from it super motivated and excited to get back to work. He showed us a clip from "The Guardian" when the new rescue diver asks his boss how many people he managed to save during his career. He gets 22 as an answer and gets a little confused, thinking it´d be a lot more. But then his boss cuts him off and says 22 was the amount of people he failed to save. It was the only number he counted. President related that to our desire to save souls and how careful we need to be in being too casual when one of them winds up not getting baptized. The room got super quiet and we were all left thinking what we need to do better so that we don´t lose a single one. It´s an insight that I hope will be able to guide my work these coming months.

Time´s up...hope you all are well! 

Love, Elder Sears

Monday, July 1, 2013

July 1, 2013 Eternal Families

Bom dia meus queridos!

Time´s super short because we have a barbecue scheduled with some other missionaries nearby so I´ll get right to it. Yesterday, in spite of not having a baptism, was the highlight of the week. It was absolutely pouring during the morning just before sacrament meeting so Elder Hill and I were pretty worried about our investigators getting to church. The attendance among the members was 50 lower than it usually is, but 9 investigators walked in as they had promised they would! Celson and his whole family were there for the first time. His wife, Maria Luiza, seemed to really like it. We visited them afterwards and it was all smiles with her. Being the 5th Sunday, the Priesthood and Relief Society were combined for the 3rd hour, and the Bishopric passed on some of the recent trainings by the First Presidency, Quorum of the Twelve, and Seventy about the Priesthood in the home. We had two investigator families there and 2 less active families we´ve been working with the ward to bring back and it couldn´t have worked out more perfectly. Maria Luiza really liked the focus on family and I can tell she´s hoping a lot the Church will be able to help Celson make the changes he needs to so his family can be the family they want to be. From what we´ve been able to gather the past few years (as in 20) have been super rough. Which is why I´m amazed by the progress they´re making. Celson´s gone from one pack of cigarettes a day to 1 or two. Saturday he didn´t smoke at all. He´s made it to 1 Nephi 18 so far (and just to emphasize how huge of an accomplishment that is, even the really good investigators only make it to chapter 3 or 4 after reading 3 Nephi 11 and 2 Nephi 31 and some of the other ones we mark before getting baptized), and Maria Luiza is up to 1 Nephi 11. Julianna, the 15 year-old daughter who was super quiet the first few times we visited, read her part and came back from church saying she got along really well with some of the young women in the ward. I think it was Wednesday night that Elder Hill and I decided to talk about eternal families with them. We showed them pictures of our families and of the temple and in that context taught the law of chastity. They´re still thinking about getting married--Celson´s a little more reluctant--but I can tell it´s on their mind because they have the picture we gave them of the Campinas Temple on display in their living room. Julianna is getting on their tails for taking so long to decide. When we invited them to get married she piped up and said something along the lines of "told you it´s not just me that wants the two of you to do it!" The friendship we have with them is a huge thing I have to be grateful for. I´m really hoping they get married and baptized soon so I can be on the mission for their sealing a year from now.

Another family (one of the less actives) that went to church was Eric, Silvia, their two daughters and one of their daughter´s friends who isn´t a member. Our Elder´s Quorum President called us up and said he´d marked a visit with them for Monday night. So we went with him and invited them back to church. It was a really simple visit and a really simple invitation, but we promised lots of blessings. Silvia´s been praying for a better job since their financial situation´s pretty rough and that´s been on her mind a lot. She came to the conclusion she needed to go to church in order to qualify to receive that blessing. When the whole family came to church I went over to greet and congratulate her and she, all smiles, came up to me and told me that Tuesday night after our visit she got a job offer and is working already. Miracle! That made me super happy. Eric made me happy too...he works Saturday nights as a taxi driver and gets back at 8:00 a.m. Sunday morning. And yet he was still there for sacrament meeting. Some people amaze me here. 

Unfortunately we haven´t been able to get ahold of Jeffrey this week. We passed by three times, including with the young men´s presidency, but he wasn´t there. We´ll continue to stop by and I´m really hoping something good comes of it. 

Oh, other exciting news! Devenilson, another one of our investigators at church this Sunday, decided he´s going to get married! We brought a recently married and baptized couple with us to visit him and his wife during the week and they helped him so much to make that decision. He said he´s going to need us to help him pop the question. So hopefully I´ll have a really cool story to tell next Monday. Love you all! Abraço para todos!

Elder Sears

Oh, really quick...Mom, Gabriela said she´d sent a friend request on Facebook...do you think you could go on there for me and accept it (question mark..this keyboard doesn´t have one :( ) Thank you!!! (hug...this keyboard doesn´t have one of those either). Love you :)