Monday, August 26, 2013

August 26, 2013 Ala Ponte Chapel

Bradford in front of the beautiful chapel at Ala Ponte

Elder Renato and Brad at the mission office after a "division" (split)

August 26, 2013 Leaving the Place Better than He Found it . . . Transfers

Transfer week this week! Tomorrow actually. I was pretty surprised when I found out Sunday night I´d been transferred after just 6 weeks in Ponte. What happens happens I guess. I still have all my packing to do and a house to clean for the rest of my P-day...yay! But I´m excited for a new area and for the energy that always seems to come along with a change in the regular routine. I hope I´ve been able to leave Ponte in at least a little bit better of condition than how I found it. The ward has been starting to catch the flame of missionary work lately and I´m excited about that. Friday our Elder´s Quorum President organized a ward party in his neighborhood just for the recent converts to have an excuse to come and socialize with the ward. Sunday the Stake Presidency came and gave a training during Priesthood and Relief Society about the importance of members and missionaries working on the same team and on the same page. They´re starting a family night program here in the stake that is totally designed to help us find investigators and less active families to teach. The training was pretty cool. President Silva, 1st Counselor I think, showed a 5 minute clip of a herd of buffalos that got attacked by lions. The lions dragged the youngest buffalo into the nearby lake and started tearing him to shreds. Then a crocodile (true story) pops out of the water and wants his fair share too. That goes on for about a minute before the whole herd of buffalos comes back and takes it to the lions and the crocodile. President Silva talked about our responsibility to work as one to rescue the one that may have gone astray. It seemed to have a really positive effect on the members. Some of them came up to us afterwards asking when we could go on splits with them without his having to say anything. A bummer I won´t be able to be a part of them, but we have 3 nights locked up with the members for this coming week, and a ward activity. We participated in 'Comitê Executivo' with the bishopric afterwards and were able to help them get our ward mission plan going. So I´m excited with the potential for progress here.

The teaching this week was awesome for me to be a part of. We didn´t have a ton of appointments but the people we taught have real challenges and doubts that have forced me to study, pray, and practice even more than usual to be prepared. I went on a division with Elder Renato in a neighboring area and we taught a man (28) named Fábio. He knows the Bible cover to cover and kind of came at us with an attitude of trying to find a fault in our message. The whole lesson the Lord´s promise in D & C that He won´t let us be "confounded before men" kept coming to mind. Fábio directly challenged Joseph Smith, the Book of Mormon, and doctrines of the Church ranging from eternal marriage to our belief that we can grow to become like Heavenly Father. I knew he wouldn´t be the type of investigator who would progress, but it was super neat for me to watch how the Spirit helped us defend the truth in ALL aspects during the lesson. Several scriptures, especially from the bible, came to mind that at least helped Fábio to see the basis for our beliefs. There were a few occasions where he had to keep quiet because the Spirit was not letting him doubt what we believe in and know to be true. It was the thrid or fourth time I´ve met an investigator like that, and the third or fourth time I walked away from the lesson knowing, absolutely knowing, that anyone who wants to can challenge the Church, but no one will ever be able to prove that it is not directly governed by God Himself. There´s just no way for this work to be stopped. I´m hoping Fábio´s able to open up his mind and heart a little bit to be able to come to that conclusion. The only thing anybody ever needed to do is be sincere and ask God as Joseph Smith did. That´s what we invited him to do in the end. Elder Renato and I passed by the mission office to undo the division and President happened to be there. So I talked with him a little about the lesson and he emphasized the same thing. He told me he´s met a lot of people just wanting to argue and wasted a lot of time trying to do the convincing that only the Spirit can do. I am 200 percent confident the answer will always be 'yes' when someone who really wants to know asks if this is the only true church on the face of the earth. I´m really glad I have that answer for myself.

I´ll let y´all know where I end up going next email! It might be Wednesday, just a head´s up. Go BYU!!!! Brayden, best of luck to you at the Y, and Elder Krogh, best of luck to you on your mission. You both are going to tear it up.

Love, Elder Sears

August 19, 2013 New Convert Enthusiasm and a New Ward Mission Plan

Bom dia amigos,

So, 11 months ago I got to São Paulo. Exactly. That is a really weird thing to think about. I remember so well that day and my first impressions of the mission and how much has changed since then. My perspective, testimony, struggles (esp. with Portuguese), oh and the 20 pounds I´ve put on too. Haha :) It´s been an incredible ride. And I´m really glad it´s not even close to over!

Claudio and Edna were confirmed this past Sunday. The whole ward is really excited with their progress and potential. I am too. They are just solid. They´re giving us some referrals from their family members nearby and Bishop has already talked with them about going to the temple to do baptisms. Edna´s super stoked. AND, she got a job she´s been waiting for a while now, coincidentally 2 days after she got baptized. Seriously, how can anyone not know the Church is true. All you have to do is look at the way God blesses it´s members. The same thing happened with Andreya (who is doing well too). Our Elder´s quorum president is having a recent convert´s dinner in his home this Friday and we´re invited. He told us to bring an investigator so we´ll be sure to do that. Selma´s coming along well too. One of her family members got super sick Sunday morning so she had to rush him to the hospital and missed church (and her confirmation) again! :( But she´s excited for it. We had a family night with her and a less active member named Marlene on her street (who is slowly becoming completely active) and taught about the importance of the gift of the Holy Ghost. We blind-folded her and had several different voices whispering/shouting in her ear which way she needed to go to get back to the living room couch. Marlene and her sister had a lot of fun with that. Selma´s job was to pick out which one was the Holy Ghost. She seemed to like that.

Robson and his son, Luis Guilherme, are our two investigators that are most progressing. They came to church on Sunday and said they liked it. It just so happened that one of Robson´s friends (who he didn´t know was a member) decided to come to our ward today. Coincidence? I think not! Our difficulties finding new people to teach knocking doors and doing street contacts led us to talk and study a lot about how to work better with the ward. We scheduled a meeting with our ward mission leader for Saturday to create a ward mission plan (Ponte hasn´t had one for a while). He didn´t show, but Elder Vianna and I came up with some ideas and made them all pretty and printed them out to show to the Ward Council on Sunday. Everyone really liked it and seems to be a little more excited (and committed) to help us out with the work. So that´s a plus. 

On a much sadder note, we got a phone call from a member Friday saying that one of our investigators, Clodoaldo, took his own life. That hit pretty hard on me and Elder Vianna. Prayers for him and his family are much appreciated. I´m sure, though, he´s being taught by a much more experienced companionship on the other side of the veil.

Friday was also interviews with Presidente Perrotti. I love that man. I can talk really openly with him and I always walk away from conversations with him a lot more determined to work a lot harder and be a lot better. I´m not quite sure how he has that effect on everyone but he does. Friday was also zone meeting which went well.

I´m gonna send along a picture from our last P-day at a place called Parque Taquoral. We got to play basketball and frisbee and the like with our zone and a few missionaries from another zone. Love you all!

Elder Sears

picture´s not sending...(again)...i have to be smarter about choosing which computer I sit at :P I´ll try next week, promise.

Monday, August 12, 2013

August 12, 2013 Black Suits and a Couple in White

Zone conference competition is on!
Brad and Elder Vianna prepare for wheelchair racing

Zone conference reunions:
 Brad with his previous companion, Elder Hill
and other missionaries "pretending to be trunky"

Baptism of Edna and Claudio
             Carlos (Claudio's brother and recent convert), Edna, Claudio and Elder Vianna 

August 12, 2013 An Eternal Family is Organized

To the best people in the world (and especially the best dad and grandpas and father figures in my life),
Happy Father´s Day! Again! Yesterday was Brazil´s Father´s Day so I´m taking advantage and passing it along. Bummer they don´t let us do a phone call.
Last week was another fantastic one. Friday, Claudio and Edna got married! It was the same place Lena and Reobe got married 6 months ago and brought back lots of good memories. Our trip there was a little more interesting than it was intended to be. All the bus drivers and employees were on strike because the government took away some of their benefits. Elder Vianna and I had arranged a ride with a member for Claudio and Edna and their family but we were left to the busses that weren´t operating. So, we called a taxi :) It was pretty cool. 20 reais (10 dollars) for 15 minutes inside but it was a good experience I´d say. Definitely worth it considering our destination. The marriage was simple as it was with Lena and Reobe, and I came down with some sort of the flu that morning, but it was still really neat to be there in support. Claudio and Edna are from Pernambucu, more towards the northeast of Brazil where it is always and ridiculously hot. Claudio´s brother, Carlos, came to Campinas a year ago, met the missionaries, and decided he wanted to be baptized. So he brought the rest of his family with him, got married, and he and his wife got baptized just under a year ago. Claudio´s told us loads of times that his brother´s life changed so drastically in the past year that he started to get really curious about the Church. So he and Edna started attending with their two kids (Katianne, 7 and Raisha, 3). This was about 4 months ago. Edna loved it and when Elder Vianna and his old companion visited, they accepted baptism the moment they extended the invitation and have had a marriage and baptism marked for August 9 and 11 for a long while. I got to the area and was lucky enough to be part of the whole experience. Saturday they invited us over for a celebration lunch, Brazilian barbecue style. Delicious. And then Sunday came around and they were baptized. Sunday morning was FREEZING (at least for Brazil), so we were worried when we got to the chapel and saw the gas to the water heater had all been used up the previous day for another baptism). We turned on the water without the heater, but instead of coming out freezing it was lukewarm. Not quite sure how but I´m considering it another small miracle. Carlos baptized Edna (his first time performing a baptism) and Elder Vianna baptized Claudio. They´re a really special couple and I´m not really sure what I did to deserve being a part of their conversion. But I´m really grateful I am.
What else to report...we found a man named Robson Saturday. Actually we contacted him on the street a week before but Saturday we were finally able to teach. He started telling us how miserable his life´s been lately and how he´s been looking for some sort of signal that God still cares. He told us that when we stopped to talk to him last week he understood that as his signal. He loved the fact that we gave him a Book of Mormon and said he´d read. Unfortunately he had to take his son to the hospital Sunday morning so church didn´t work out, but we´re praying for him and really excited about his eagerness to learn. He´s given us a solid base to be able to start teaching.
Oh, I finished my first mission journal! Onto the next one :) I´m going with Mosiah 28:3 as my theme for this one. President used that scripture 3 months ago in a Multi-zone and it left a pretty big impression on me. On the food front, in the past 2 weeks I´ve been introduced to "lingua" and "dobradinha." Or in English, cow tongue and cow stomach. I did not vomit after eating. I´m quite proud of myself actually. Betcha can´t wait for a similar opportunity Sister Shell (jr.)... :)
Have a fantabulous week y´all. You´re the best.
Love, Elder Sears
8137--from left to right: Carlos, Edna, Claudio, Elder Vianna all in white!
8132--me and Elder Hill and some other Elders pretending to be "trunky" at our meeting last week (just pretending of course :) )
8116--game faces. Me and Elder Vianna set to go wheel chair racing (one of the things we did at our zone activity on P-day for my birthday)

Wednesday, August 7, 2013

August 7, 2013 Baptisms of Selma and Andreya

Brad and Elder Vianna at baptism of Selma

 Brad and Elder Vianna at baptism of Andreya

Elder Sears with church member, Vania Medeiros

August 7, 2013 Season of Joy

So, I decided to start with the pictures. Hopefully they come through this time. Because there have been a lot of picture taking opportunities lately!! The first I sent is of Andreya. I think I had a little bit of time last week to mention how her baptismal service was for me and the rest of us. The room was completely crowded. I was on the piano and had to lean forwad crouched over the keys so that people could stand around me and fit in the room. It was a really, really special experience and the best birthday present I could have asked for. We´ve been continuing to visit her this past week. She was confirmed Sunday and bore her testimony about her conversion to the Church during Fast and Testimony meeting. I wanted to be able to record it. She has made such progress these last few weeks and Elder Vianna and I have basically just been spectators. She told us that Tuesday (two days after her baptism), Fox Live called her offering her a really well paying job--she accepted and was hired to do "dublagem" for a popular home makeover program in the States. She does the voice-over in Portuguese for the show. She was in a really tight financial situation before the offer and understood the opportunity as a direct result and blessing of her decision to be baptized. It brought home to me the reality of the promises that we make to people as missionaries with authority from God to make those promises. There´s no way for them not to come true, especially with the faith that Andreya has.
This past Sunday we were blessed with yet another baptism!!! (the second picture I sent). Her name´s Selma. My first week here in Ponte we were knocking doors and we knocked on hers. She accepted our visit and has been progressing since for a baptismal date that was set for the 4th. She went into the baptismal interview super unsure if she was ready but came out feeling confident that God wanted her to be baptized this Sunday. When we came back a day later to follow up she said she´d ask Him yet again in prayer that night if it was really the right thing to do and a strange "peace" came over her. So, Sunday was the day! We had the font all filled up and the water heated, but one of the primary kids (or at least this is our theory) pulled out the drainage cord and the font dried up. So we had to fill it up again last minute (buckets again :) ) and there was not time for the heater to work, so it was ice cold. And the delay made it really hard for the members to want to stay and watch. So we had a good 7-8 in attendance. I was worried Selma was going to feel unimportant because of it all but she told us her baptism was a really spiritual experience for her. She invited us over for dinner tonight and we´re brining a member over tomorrow. It´s the first time on my mission I´ve had the opportunity to see a "street contact baptism" actually happen. All the rest were referrals or miracles that randomly showed up to church on Sunday. I´m really really grateful to her and for the miracles God´s been giving us these past few weeks between her and Andreya. Our teaching pool is super small, but everyone in it has been getting baptized. Fine by me!
AND, we have a marriage scheduled for this Friday for Claudio and Edna and 2 more baptisms marked for Sunday!!! I have NO idea what´s the reason behind all this. The only thing I know how to do is say thank you and keep working. Claudio´s brother, Carlos, has been a member for a little under a year now. He´s told us several times the miracles he´s seen happing in his brother´s life after he joined the Church, and how much he wanted that to be a reality in his life too. He´d been attending church for a good two months with his soon-to-be wife, Edna, before I got to the area. Elder Vianna and his former companion went to their house the Sunday afternoon they found out they weren´t members. They taught the Restoration, explained the importance of families and marriage, and invited them for baptism for August 11 (this Sunday). They accepted and have been soaring ever since. Their interviews were yesterday and both of them passed with flying colors. We´re invited to a huge lunch on Saturday to celebrate :) I´ve never seen so many baptisms and miracles happen all at once in all the time on my mission. Like I said, no idea what the difference is but how am I grateful. It is THE BOMB being a missionary. I´d recommend it to everyone.
As far as the work, those are the highlights from this week. Once again, THANK YOU to everyone who made my birthday last week so memorable for me. The packages and letters continue to come in and I feel super spoiled :)
One last thing I want to mention that I didn´t have time to last, the second week of the transfer we had a pretty awesome zone activity during zone meeting. Elder Vianna and I filled up twenty water balloons or so and all of us wrote down on the balloon one concern/frustration/flaw/etc. that could impede us from reaching our potential as missionaries. Then we had everyone throw their water balloons as hard as they could at an envelope with a target drawn on it. All 12 of us destroyed the envelope quite speedily and skillfully if I do say so myself :) Afterwards we pulled a picture of baptism out of the envelope and invited everyone to get rid of that one thing in our missions that inhibits us from being the missionary God needs us to be. As we do away with it, the blessings will come, one of which being baptism. It was a fun little activity to be a part of and I felt like passing it´s not everyday you get to throw water balloons in the church parking lot as a missionary!
I continue to love and miss you all MUITO.
Love, Elder Sears

Friday, August 2, 2013

July 29, 2013 Birthday and Baptism!

Dear everyone,
I have a problem...I got 33 emails from y´all which means my email for this week is going to be short. It is a very serious problem and a very good one to have :) Thank you to each of you that has made today an awesome 20th birthday for me. And awesome that it happened to fall on a P-day! The secretaries, assistants, and Sister Perrotti called me to wish me a happy birthday. And we had a zone activity playing basketball and piano and just hanging out. I woke up this morning and the first thing I did was open my package up from home. I´ll be sending pictures shortly (as in one minute from now since time is non-existent). Everything was perfect and I am so grateful to be so loved and so well-taken care of. Mom and family, I´ve already flipped through the photo album several times. It was the best thing I could have gotten. The zone put the frisbee to good use, I used the jump rope for exercise this morning, loved the card, am saving the hot tamales for as long as possible and will soon use the shirts.
Cliche, but they say pictures are worth a thousand words and I don´t have time for a thousand words so here are some pictures to sum up the past week. And ANDREYA GOT BAPTIZED! TONS of people showed up in support. It was really special for me. She asked me to do the baptism and when she came out of the water she leaned over and whispered, "feliz anniversário Élder." The best present I could have asked for.
Elder Sears
grrrrrr the pictures aren´t sending!! :( and I´m so out of time. I promise I´ll get them sent for next week! Promise promise. It´s written down in my planner so it´ll get done. Oh, and P-day will either be Tuesday or Wednesday next week because of a meeting. Just a head´s up.