Thursday, September 26, 2013

Sept. 23, 2013 Wedding announcement of investigators

             Wedding announcement of Sheila and Ricardo, investigators to be
               baptized at the end of October

September 23. 2013 English classes, marriage arrangements and blessings

Querido todo mundo,

Wake up! Because September is ending. I don´t really believe that since it´s going by so quickly but I´m going with the calendar. This past week was...less eventful than I wanted it to be. But that´s okay. I think yesterday was the highpoint. Rafael was confirmed and lots of investigators came to church--Ricardo and Sheila and the kids, pretty much the whole orphanage, and a few others we´ve been finding and teaching these past few weeks. Ricardo and Sheila gave us a beautiful wedding invitation (I´ll send you a picture in a sec) and the first counselor announced their wedding and baptism for October 26 during sacrament meeting. You´re probably remembering it was supposed to be on the 11th but the best-man (Ricardo´s boss, Lincoln Martins) is going to be on vacation in Orlando and will only get back the week of the 26th. Which took the wind out of our sails a little bit but every time I look at their family I cannot feel anything but awe with how well they´re progressing. Friday we visited them with a member and read 2 Nephi 5 with them. Mom and Dad, I used our family motto as the theme of the lesson (2 Nephi 5:27), so that should make you happy! We talked about the recipe to happiness that Nephi gives in that chapter. Each time we came across something his family did to live after the manner of happiness each of them raised their hands. Ricardo is going to make a FANTASTIC member and leader in the Church not too far out from here. During Sunday School he was making all sorts of comments about Nephi and Lehi and their journey in the wilderness and the liahona and everything. Elder Chagas and I just looked at each other amazed and smiled. We´re teacing another couple, Igor and Daniela, that also need to get married and when we made plans for them we decided the only thing we need to do to get them married and baptized is bring Ricardo over and let his testimony loose. He´s a better missionary than I am I think. 

Tuesday I taught my first English class in the ward. I´m working with almost fluent speakers which is a lot more fun of a  teaching environment for me. I told them their homework assignment was to write 10 sentences in English about the rules of American football. heehee :) And I promised them that if they looked up the lyrics to Viva la Vida in English I´d play for them the next week. So I´m looking forward to a mini jam-session this Tuesday! Either Wednesday or Thursday was lunch with Lincoln Martins, Ricardo´s best-man and the stake president here. His house is HUGE-theater, elevator, pool, tennis court, 2 garages with Porsches filling up the space, and, A STEINWAY FULL-SIZE GRAND PIANO. I made it about 30 seconds inside the house before saying something about it. They let me sit down and play for a good 10 minutes and I took full advantage. I had completely forgotten how good it feels to be playing on a real piano, not the electric ones they have in all the chapels here. So lunch that day was pretty much amazing.

Saturday we went to visit the kids from the orphanage. They were super excited to see us. We played tag for a little bit and then listened to them sing "The Lord commanded Nephi..." that Elder Chagas had taught them the last time we went. I taught two of the older teenagers how to play volleyball which they seemed to like. After that we sat down and read in 3 Nephi where Jesus blesses the little ones and angels encircle them with fire. We talked about how important they are to their Savior and invited them to church. 11 of them came! It´s been a really neat experience to be able to bring a little bit of light into their lives. They´re definitely not the typical investigator, that´s for sure.

Thursday the 19th, the day I actually hit a year in Brazil, a package came from Grandma Julie with the new BYU t-shirts inside and a bunch of notes and candy. It was perfect timing. Thank you so much Grandma! Elder Chagas loved the shirt you got him and shortly I´ll be putting on mine, in spite of what happened on Saturday (no further comment necessary :) ).

Know how much I love all of you,

Elder Sears

Monday, September 16, 2013

Sept. 16, 2013 Baptism of Rafael

                       Elder Chagas, Brad and the family of Rafael at his baptism

Sept. 16, 2013 Happy Mid-Way day! Baptism of Rafael

Hello from Brasil! One year ago to the date I was giving my farewell talk in Lost Mountain Ward. That´s a little bit unbelievable for me. But it´s reality! I wrote in my journal this morning, "I had NO idea what was waiting for me in Brazil. And I´m sure I have no idea now what the next year has waiting for me." I´m not sure what I´m going to do to celebrate the year mark but I´ll think of something. Most elders burn something, but I´m not a huge fan of that idea being as stingy as I am and all :)

Actually, my celebration started yesterday with Rafael´s baptism! I think I explained a little bit about him last week. We street contacted his mom and found out Rafael had gone to church several times a few years ago but wasn´t baptized because he wasn´t old enough yet. When his family moved, they lost contact with the Church. Until we stopped them on the street! He asked me to baptize him. I´ve already attached a picture. We´re working with Miguelina, his mom, but she´s not married. She´s going to church every week though. I feel super bad for her. Her "husband" is always out drinking and when he´s home doesn´t even acknowledge her. Rafael is the light of the family. The whole three hour block he was asking when his baptism would be. We took Bishop over to meet the family during the week and get to know the situation a little bit better. Tonight we invited them to a family home evening with some members, and later in the week we promised him a visit (that may or may not include us bringing over pizza...).

Ricardo and Sheila (I´ve been spelling her name wrong for the last 3 weeks) continue to amaze me. We taught them and the family the plan of salvation Thursday night. Friday, during lunch, Ricardo called us just to say thank you for the lesson. He told us everyone loved it and resassured us everything´s in order for the 13th of October for their baptism. Patience, Elder Sears. Seriously though, Ricardo is amazing. Yesterday after sacrament meeting he made it a point to come up to each new investigator and explain to them his decision to get baptized and the difference we´ve made in his life. We just sat back and watched him do our missionary work for us. And he hasn´t even been going to church for more than a month yet! I´ve been thinking a lot lately about the difference that a simple invitation can make. With Ricardo, it was a 14 year old kid that offered him a Book of Mormon. Now he and his family are all going to be baptized. We had another investigator, Wellington, that came to church because his next-door neighbor who is 50 years older than him and doesn´t know him all that well invited him. I´m starting to think the only invite more effective when made by the missionaries as opposed to the members is baptism. Everything else--going to church, receiving the missionaries, reading The Book of Mormon--it´s the members that have a much more powerful influence. Yesterday we were invited to a birthday lunch for one of the member´s moms in the ward. It´s a part member family and somehow we got onto the discussion about life after death. We taught a snippet of the plan of salvation to get the non-members interested but it was Irmã Isabel that invited them to read and pray about The Book of Mormon, and they accepted. Just another example of the influence y´all have!

Thursday I got to go back to Vila União on splits! We stayed there just a few hours to help out some elders there, but it was enough to see the same sights I saw at the beginning of my mission and bring back a flood of memories--good and good, but painful. Haha. Last night in the chapel after a ward meeting I happened across 3 members from Vila União and caught up with them a little bit. So that was fun.

Friday...I like to think of Friday as the day God wanted to see if we really wanted a baptism this week or not. Everything fell through and the contacts we did seemed to be with people having a realllyyy bad day. When I went to talk to a man about the English class we´re having in the chapel (I start teaching tomorrow), he took a look at the pamphlet I was offering him and slapped it in disgust, basically punching my hand in the process. I was like, dude, I´m offering to teach you English for free and this is your reaction!? I shook that one off and a little later went to talk to a lady about the Church. I got to "good afternoon" before she looked at me and booked it (literally, running) across the street to get away from me. I´m not sure if Friday was a bad hair day or what but it was interesting. The highlight was that morning, when President came by surprise to do personal and companion study with us. He shared his insights about Captain Moroni and that scripture in Alma 48 that everyone knows that talks about how if every man was like him the gates of hell would be shut forever. But he pointed out something different. The next verse says that Captain Moroni was "like unto Ammon" and the sons of Mosiah, who were all "men of God." He told us that if we can call ourselves men of God, we are no less important and no less powerful than Captain Moroni in making the gates of hell close forever. I found that really cool. We can all be Captain Moroni´s. 

I´m sure I´m forgetting something but that was my week! Love you all.

Elder Sears

Sept. 9, 2013 Finding Investigators and Following the Spirit

Bom dia!!

I´m going to break up my computer time today since in a little bit we´re headed to Parque Taquaral (the Central Park of Campinas basically) to play frisbee and basketball and all that good stuff. This past week was really, really tiring but really rewarding. First off, I got to talk to Andreya from Ponte on the phone this morning! She got a calling last week as visiting teaching coordenator. And her year-old daughter Ana Luisa was blessed in sacrament meeting last week. Those updates made me super, super happy. I tried to call Selma this morning but nobody answered, so I´ll be trying again later. 

Let me see what´s happened since Wednesday...we had a pretty sweet lesson with Gislane on the law of chastity. She´s 42 and has a boyfriend so...yeah. But it was a really neat lesson because we were able to be completely open and sincere with her. We talked about what she wanted in life and in a husband. I know, odd for 2 20 year-old´s to be doing, but hey we´re missionaries. We talked about eternal marriage and asked her if the guy she´s dating is the type of guy she wants to be Leo´s dad for eternity. She said no. So we committed her to talk to her boyfriend about at least changing the nature of their relationship and she said she would. She didn´t come to church yesterday because she was out of town celebrating her birthday. Elder Chagas and I called her and sang to her (in English and Portuguese). She seemed to like that. Ricardo and Shayla are coming along really well. We took them to the temple Friday night and walked around and got permission to talk with them in the waiting room. Ricardo said the moment he drove in the gate he felt something really strong. I´m amazed by the faith of that man. The temple has a perfect view of downtown Campinas, and we had a good chat about temples and eternity and families. They had to remark their marriage for October 11 because of some problems in the cartório but they´re still excited, as are we (but maybe a little bit impatient too :) ). Saturday night when we got home we were both exhausted. We finished our planning and were ready to go to bed but I just had the feeling we needed to call Shayla nad make sure everything was set for her to come to church the next day. I asked Elder Chagas what he thought and he said "go for it." Then the thoughts of "no, but I saw her yesterday, she´s going to get annoyed if we´re contacting her every day" and "it´s already 10:00, she´s probably asleep" kept going through my head. But I decided to call anyway. She told us she´d been feeling super stressed and overwhelmed that day with some family problems and that when Diego asked her if she´d be going to church on Sunday she said "I honestly don´t know. I´m about ready to give up on the whole thing." We talked with her for a solid 20 minutes and listened to what she had to say and helped calm her down a little bit. When we finished the call she promised she´d be at church and that she was anxious for her baptism. I was really glad I decided to call. It was a simple feeling I had but it goes to show how important it is that we follow feelings like that. The whole family came to church and, as always, loved it.

Saturday here was Brazil´s independence day. Which meant lots of chaos and lots of drunk people. The plan was to take a bus to do a division with another area, but when we got to the bus station downtown all the tickets were taken. So we went back to Castelo and got to work. We stopped by a street contact named Miguelina we´d done the last week and started teaching her. As it turns out, her 10 year-old son Rafael went to church a few times 3 or 4 years ago and has been asking her to let him be baptized since then. When we talked with her in the street she put two and two together and is completely on board with Rafael´s baptism that we marked for the 22nd!! And she accepted baptism too! She came to church yesterday along with 11 others. God is being really good to us. If we´d done the division we wouldn´t have taught her and who knows what would have happened.

Half of our investigators at church were kids from an orphanage that we found right next to the chapel. There are about 15 of them living there from 7 to 16 years old. And they´re adorable. One of them, Vinícios, asked me after church, "are you going to help me find a family?" My heart just about melted. None of them are allowed to have any kind of contact with their parents because of things that happened in the past. We´re working with each of them and Maria das Graças (the woman that takes care of the orphanage) to help them have a Christian background that hardly any have at the moment. I sincerely feel a huge love for them. It´s no wonder to me that Christ asks each of us to become like little children. The primary teachers fell in love with them too and are planning to visit the kids during the week to sing to them and do everything that a mom would normally do.

So that was the week! I think I got everything in there. I love you all, and GO COUGARS!!!

Love, Elder Sears

P.S. if you want to respond today I may be able to get a response in after we get back from the park. tchau!!

Sept. 4, 2013 Wigging out with Elder Chagas

                  Sheila, Ricardo, Bishop, Elder Chagas (Brad's companion)
                  and Elder Riquerme

Elder Sears and his new companion, Elder Chagas, in front of the 
Bauducco Factory (a daughter company of Hershey)

Elder Sears and Elder Chagas wigging out!

Sept. 4, 2013 Ala Castelo and Elder Chagas

Boa tarde!

I know I have lots of questions to answer what with the new transfer and everything so I´m going to get cracking. I got transferred to Ala Castelo, which includes a pretty big part of downtown Campinas. My new companion is Elder Chagas. He´s from Pernambuco, Brasil and is an incredible missionary. Super, SUPER, super happy all the time and super experienced in teaching and every part of the work. I went on splits with him my second day in the field. We´re living with Elder Frutos and Elder D. Souza who take care of the other half of Campinas. I think it was Wednesday night last week Elder Frutos got a package with root beer extract in it so we made home-made root beer :) Our ward is out of this world. Wednesday night we had a missionary dinner designed for members to bring their friends. The members planned and prepared everything. We showed up with 2 of our investigators but the ward destroyed us in the competition of who could bring more. In compared to our two they brought more than THIRTY to the chapel. I was amazed. It has been beyond crazy trying to contact each of their referrals and start teaching. We were in charge of the message and decided to show the story of John Tanner. Only we didn´t have time to download it so we had to use a pretty shaky iPhone internet connection that one of the members set up. We tested it about 5 minutes before the activity started and it wasn´t working. But we both felt like it needed to be that movie so we said a prayer and hoped everything would work out when we pressed play. It´s a 19 minute movie and didn´t glitch once. Lots of people commented on how much they liked it, including several of the investigators there. So, another miracle on the mission!

The Sunday before I got here a family showed up to church because of Leo, a Teacher in the ward that had invited his friend Igor to come. Leo´s grandpa is named Carlos Martins, the owner of an English school called Wizard that´s extremely popular here in Brasil. They´re the 8th richest family in the country. And they are 150% perfect member missionaries. Igor came and brought his 10 year-old brother Diego, 2-year old sister Isabela, and his parents, Ricard and Shayla. They really liked church, especially Shayla. She bore her testimony in relief society and told the sisters she´d been praying for ages that her husband would be willing to choose a church to go to. We went to their house Thursday to teach the first lesson. When we got there there was a stack of papers they´d printed off on the internet with controversial stuff about the Church. I kept thinking in my head "here we go again." We said a prayer and started responding to each doubt one by one--polygamy, baptisms for the dead, our potential to one day be like God, etc. In talking with Elder Chagas afterwards about the lesson, we both were impressed by the fact that we did not feel in the least bit nervous. Ricardo even showed us a youtube video of a pastor bashing the Church, but the whole time I felt completely confident that if he really wanted to know the truth the Spirit would help us to help him know it. Different from Fábio last week, Ricardo and Shayla opened up completely and understood the way we explained each subject. It was already 9:00 by the time we´d gotten through everything, but Elder Chagas felt like we needed to teach them the first lesson and invite them to baptism, so we did. The whole family accepted and Ricardo was almost crying by the end of it. They told us they weren´t married so we got out A Proclamation to the World and read it with them. Ricardo asked us, "so I´ve gotta get married to get baptized then?" "Right." "Well then we´re going to get married." WOW. Sunday the 5 of them went to church and Ricardo got up to bear his testimony. He´s known the Church for one week and he´s bearing his testimony!! This morning we went to the cartório and marked September 27 for their marriage and September 29 for the baptism of the 4 of them. MILAGRE. A really really big one. Oh, and it wasn´t Ricardo and Shayla that paid this morning to mark their marriage. Bianca, Leo´s mom (who invited them to come to church), insisted that she be the one to pay the $340 reais.

So much has happened this past week that I do not have nearly enough time to tell. But Ricardo and Shayla are the highlight. By far. We´re also teaching Gislane and her 10 year-old son Leonardo and they both have a baptismal date set for the 15th. We had a family night Monday with Gislane and half of the ward it seems. The members organized everything and invited her without us having to say anything. This ward is seriously amazing. Members make a HUGE difference in missionary work. Thank you to each of you for the difference you´re making.

I love you all and miss you!

Love, Elder Sears

I´ll try and send photos in a sec...