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 week...so, 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 on...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