This week had enough in it to fill a 500 page book! Seriously, it FLEW. And in spite of all the stress, it has been the most rewarding week of my mission and one of the most rewarding weeks of my life. I have to write quickly because we´re at President Lincoln Martin´s house for a zone activity, but I promise to be detailed. I´ll start with the MissionTour. Monday and Tuesday Elder Chagas and I and the secretaries were scrambling to get everything ready, and unfortunately well past 10:30--bus and van rides to Campinas, who slept where, the meeting agenda, lunch preparations, setting up sound, the program, the projector, cleaning the chapel, DEEP cleaning the office, and all that good stuff. But the tour itself was incredible. Half of the mission met on Wednesday and the other on Thursday. Both days started with a 30 minute meeting with Elder Snow and some of the mission leaders. He opened up most of the time for questions and we talked a lot about vision. How to motivate the mission and help them obediently accelerate the work of salvation. That meeting was followed by a 3 hour training, lunch, 1 more hour of training, zone pictures, and interviews. Each in part coordenated by the staff. Fun fun :) Several things that he and his wife said caught my attention. I can´t even count the amount of times he said our goal as missionaries and representatives of the Church is to ESTABLISH THE CHURCH, not just baptize at whatever cost. He told us we needed to try to baptize every body who wanted it, but to make sure to prepare them thoroughly enough to give them the base they´ll need to stay active, As he said, "investigators who can´t keep commitments will be members who can´t keep covenants." I think there´s a lot of improving we can do as a mission in that respect. Sister Snow, seeing that Elder Snow is the Church Historian, talked about the importance of keeping a journal and kindly invited all of us to repent. Challenge accepted :) She also talked about the importance of hymns and invited us to sing more with our investigators, a suggestion I loved. Today on the bus to the activity I stood up and told everyone me and the other 7 missionaries with me were going to sing to them. So we did! Families Can Be Together Forever. Everyone on the bus applauded us afterwards which was really neat. Other impressions from Elder Snow...whenever we´re in a position to influence the life of another, the most important quality we can have is kindness. He said that with words and with his example. Much to our surprise, Elder Chagas and I and the secretaries got back for the day to find 5 ties and a note from Elder Snow waiting for us. He really didn´t need to do that, but it just goes to show the kind of man he is. All in all, the mission tour was a success I feel and much-needed in my case--I learned so much.
Two days later and Saturday came along. Wedding time!!! We got to the chapel early to help Lincoln and Bianca Martins set everything up. President Lincoln is our Stake President in Castelo and he and his wife planned and paid EVERYTHING for the wedding. The decorations were incredible and they even brought in a red carpet for the procession. Kind of last minute, I found out I´d have to play 5 songs on the piano and not 3. But it went really well. Sister Heyer, one of the sisters in the other ward that uses our same chapel, sang for one of them and Sheila loved it. I was at the piano for most of the ceremony so I didn´t get to see as much of it as I´d have liked but I did get to see them make their vows and legally become man and wife. How incredible that was. Pictures are short to come. I´d write more, but to be honest I was much more excited about Sunday than I was about the wedding. Hope that´s allowed! As soon as sacrament meeting got over we got changed and went back to the chapel for the start of the baptismal service. Carlos Martins, the grandfather of the 15 year-old Leo who first invited Ricardo to church, gave a talk that left the 6 of us (Elder Chagas and the family and I) in tears. I had the strangest feeling. It was like I could have stepped out of the chapel and looked down and seen the earth hundreds of miles below. Like we left it for a little bit and went somewhere else. That probably doesn´t make sense and I probably didn´t do justice to the feeling I had, but it´s how I felt. Then the moment finally came for the four of them to be baptized. Ricardo asked me to baptized him and he went first. When he came out of the water he started sobbing. So I hugged him there in the font and he didn´t let go until a good 45 seconds later. It was so...surreal. I don´t know of anything that could have such power if it wasn´t absolutely true and eternal. Igor, the 14 year-old was next, and he asked me to baptize him as well. Then Elder Chagas baptized Diego (11), and Sheila, while Ricardo and Igor watched from the steps. A whole family! I don´t have the slightest idea of the joy we´ll feel when we all make it to the Celestial Kingdom together. I really don´t because the happiness I felt on Sunday was indescribable in and of itself. I´ve prayed so much that I can be truly grateful for the experience, because it was such a miracle. And so perfect. I gave them a copy of my CD and they invited us over next week for a barbecue. Ricardo and Sheila already asked the Bishop who they´ll be visiting and home teaching. Just to give you an idea of how golden this family is. The member support was amazing. The same number of people we had in the ward for sacrament meeting stayed for the baptismal service afterwards.
AND, 2 hours later I was able to baptize Sigfried from the Costa e Silva ward. He´s been coming to my English classes and 3 weeks ago I felt to invite him to meet with the missionaries. He´d already by invited and taught loads of times but this time something clicked. The Sisters taught and prepared him for baptism this Sunday, and he asked me if I could be the one to baptize him. So of course I said yes :) His mom came up to me afterward and thanked me repeatedly for the miracles that have happened with her son. The sisters told me she´s set for baptism 2 weeks from now because of the example of her son. I really don´t feel like I did anything--it was a simple invite, but still, God let me be part of yet another miracle and yet another baptism. I´ve been really pensive and speechless over these last 24 hours because of His goodness. If I had to choose the happiest day of my mission until now (and that´s a hard task), I´d have to choose yesterday. It was beyond incredible.
Hope that was detailed enough! I love you all, and Happy Halloween!
This work is true and its message is perfect. I know that because its messengers are so weak and yet it still manages to roll forward, like a stone cut out the mountain without hands. I KNOW this Church is true.
Love, Elder Sears
P.S. I´m going to send the pictures as soon as I get back home. This computer doesn´t have an entrance for my memory card.
Yesterday the time changed--jumped an hour forward. So you all will probably be getting this super early in the morning. Sorry about that! I´ll try to swing back around at the end of the day and respond to the emails you´d normally send during the day. I am doing well! This week has been an instructive one for me. Wednesday and Thursday I was just feeling...off. Not really sure why. Some days are just like that. So I was praying that I could get out of that feeling, and Saturday the answer came. We were teaching Adrianna and emphasizing the importance of baptism in our salvation. The conversation was going really well and I was planning to read Mosiah 18 with her. When I started setting the context for that part in the Book of Mormon something told me I should use 2 Nephi 31:17 instead. So I went with it, and talked about repentance and baptism as the door to salvation. I read with her and she started looking all puzzled at me. After a little silence she said a long, long time back she had a dream in which she was in front of a small, simple wooden door. She saw a light emanating from it and wanting to open it, but something was holding her back. She knew there awaited only good things on the other side but was afraid. And didn´t open it. She told me that when I read that scripture in 2 Nephi it brought back that dream to her. I asked her if she believed baptism was the door she needed to open. She said yes. I asked her if this time she´d overcome her fears and open it. Another yes. So that was really cool for us. She´s still recovering from her surgery and is going to take out the stitches (there are loads of them) Thursday. 4 days after that she´s clear for basic physical activities (baptism included!) So we´re hoping to baptize her before the end of October. That´d be awesome.
We also received a referral from another area. His name´s Daniel, he´s 42, and he was one of the major pastors of the "Assembleia de Deus" church here in Brazil. He was in charge of the church in Campinas (which would be the equivalent of the responsibility of 4 stake presidents) and preached all over the world in front of congregations up to 50,000. But he got fed up with the corruption at the top and saw the whole thing was turning into a business. So he walked away, leaving behind his farm, mansion, and several imported cars he´d gained while serving as pastor. And now he´s taking the discussions! He has a photographic memory and has already read The Book of Mormon cover to cover well more than once. And 50 times with the Bible. It´s incredible. We can cite any scripture and he knows the content word for word, the context, where it´s found, and everything. But he is extremely humble. Which is amazing to me with all the knowledge he has. He has a baptismal date marked for November 3rd but we need to get him to church! He bailed on us yesterday.
Among the other people we´re teaching (so you can pray for them if you´d be so kind :) ...) are Gislane and Leonardo (still needing to get things straight with her boyfriend but coming to church every week), Hamad (a 15 year-old who told me he wanted to learn more after one of our English classes with him), Patrícia and Jorge (Rodrigo´s sister and dad), Cristina and Letícia (baptism marked for the 3rd), and SHEYLA, RICARDO, IGOR AND DIEGO!! Who just so happen to be getting married and baptized this week after 2 months of waiting! I´m beyond excited. Their interviews are set for tomorrow, and we´re planning their wedding presents and all that goodness. I´m going to have to practice today on the piano to be ready for their reception. Sheyla bore the best testimony Friday night. She told us that her first fast and testimony she felt a little bit uncomfortable with everyone saying they knew The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints was the only true church, but as she´s prayed and gotten to know more she can say the same thing. I promise to take lots of pictures and all that goodness :)
Last thing, this Wednesday and Thursday Elder Steven Snow from the Seventy is coming to do a mission tour with Missão Brasil Campinas! So we´re running all over the place to get things ready, but I´m excited for what we´ll be able to learn with him. He´s asked for 4 hours to talk to the whole mission. So everyone´s coming to Castelo Wednesday and Thursday to hear what he has to say. Should be awesome! I´ll report more on that next week.
Love you all, and until next week! And Happy Birthday Sister Shell!!
I´m back!! Basketball was good but exhausting. But I needed it :) I guess I´ll start explaining the picture. After Rodrigo´s experience during Conference, we felt to mark his baptism for the 13th. We stopped by or called every day of the week and everything was set for his interview on Saturday. Until he called us at 6:00 saying he was going to spend the night at a cousin´s house. Which got us worrying a little bit since 1) we were sure Satan would take full advantage of the opportunity to tempt him there and 2) it was pretty likely he´d sleep in and miss the baptismal service after the Sunday meetings. But Rodrigo promised we could bring our district leader by Sunday morning and he´d be there. And he was. Turns out he decided not to spend the night and he was interviewed without any problems whatsoever. The baptismal service itself was incredible. Seriously. The room was filled to the brim with members that had met him at conference and seminary when he went. Our ward mission leader planned everything--from filling up the font to asking people to say prayers and give messages and testimonies. Rodrigo asked that I say a few words, and when I started talking he started crying just like he did when we showed him the font. Then his dad, who had been pretty cold with us every time we passed by to teach, started crying. We found out he´d been praying for a long time that his son could be baptized, and he saw our appearance as an unquestionable answer to his prayers. When he started to cry, a few other ward members too. José Roberto, a ward member that lives close by, did the baptism and we had a short testimony meeting afterwards in which 2 members commented that it was one of the most spiritual baptismal services they´d ever been a part of. And, now we have Jorge and Patricia (Rodrigo´s dad and sister) to teach.
After the baptism we went to visit Adrianna to see how she was doing with her recovery from the surgery. The pain´s gotten a little bit worse and I felt kind of helpless watching her stuck in her bed groaning from time to time. We decided to read Alma 7 with her and talked with her about the Atonement and how personal it is for each of us. She liked that, and when we got to verse 14 and 15 I felt to reemphasize a promise that I´d made the week before--that if she had faith her physical condition would not in any way impede her from being baptized this Sunday as we had marked the week before. I´m confident that that promise came from the Lord, and that because of her faith, she´ll be baptized. Even if we have to put her in a wheel chair and fill the water up to her shoulders and lean her back ever so slightly. She´s an incredible woman. After the lesson she let us take pictures of her house (I´ll try to send a few in a sec of Elder Chagas and I messing around) and she asked if we could walk her 2 dogs for a little bit. So we did :) Good memories of walking around with Jimmer and Scooter. Haha.
Saturday we had an...interesting....experience. We were on our way to visit a less active when we heard a car screech to a stop next to us. The driver seemed kind of frantic and asked if the 2 of us were Elders. We said yes of course. So he kept going down the street another block and parked the car and slammed the door shut and started walking at us, messing with something in his pockets. I looked at Elder Chagas and he asked me if we should run. We decided to stay. He came up and after a tense silence asked if we could say a prayer for him. Elder Chagas asked why. He said something had happened with his granddaughter and he was feeling like doing something violent. We asked who. He said with the doctor that had diagnosed her with something. We were kind of reluctant to close our eyes so we said the prayer with them half-open. Then we heard another car screeching to a halt next to us. I seriously thought we were being kidnapped! But no, it was the Bishop. He said he was on his way home from work and felt like he should stop by that less active´s house. And he got there just in time for Elder Chagas to say "Amen." The man thanked us for the prayer, gave us a hug, and walked back to his car. Rather strange, but it was really cool to see how the Lord works to protect His servants. I have no doubt that that will always be the case as long as I´m doing His will. And I´m doing my best when it comes to that.
So yep...that was our week! Ricardo and Shayla and Igor and Diego are still golden and we´re going to try to do their interviews this Friday. We gave them a print-out last week about The Book of Mormon since a bunch of their friends were asking. They seemed to really appreciate that. Before going home, he said he had something for me. He came back with a SWEET winter blazer that I´m stoked to use when I get home. They are amazing people. And not at all because I got a blazer.
I´ve been asked by several for my impressions from Conference, so I´m going to start (briefly) with that. I´m not sure if the fact of me being in the field makes me biased or anything (probably), but I don´t remember any other Conference in which missionary work was so heavily emphasized. What a Conference! And I was able to listen to 4 out of the 5 sessions in English, which makes a NOTABLE difference. Especially when it comes to Elder Holland speaking his soul. Of course, I loved Elder Ballard´s talk, as I´m sure all the other 80,333 missionaries serving right now did. Elder Chagas and I decided we´re going to put in a petition to have it added as Preach my Gosepl chapter 14. I found the promise that, if we pray and seek them, we´ll be blessed with missionary opportunities for "YEARS" to come very powerful. Also loved Elder Nielson´s talk about missionary work and exclamation points and the 3 keys for members to get involved. From all the reports I´ve been getting it sounds like Lost Mountain Ward has got them down. I´m thrilled with the success you´re having back home. Seriously. President Monson said everything in his opening remarks, that this work can only go forward with the both of us, member missionaries, and full-time missionaries. I think the line that most touched me came from Elder Holland: "if you feel like a broken vessel, remember you´re in the hands of a divine potter." I needed to hear that, and how true that is.
This conference for me was especially special because I saw its influence in lives other than my own. We´ve been teaching Rodrigo (16) for the past week and a half after we did a street contact with his step-mom. He came to seminary with the young men Tuesday and to the Saturday afternoon session. He´s not exactly the most open of people. We try to get him to talk but he´s the shyer type. I know how that goes. But a miracle happened after that conference session. Elder Chagas and I showed him around the chapel and made a special stop by the baptismal font. We opened it up for him and talked a little bit about what happens there. I asked him how he felt and he said "arrepiado" (goosebumps). Elder Chagas bore his testimony after that. I was looking at Elder Chagas but when I looked at Rodrigo I saw tears. For the next five minutes he cried. Sobbed actually. He turned to me and asked me what was happening. The Spirit was SO strong. There was a quiet, inexpressive and seemingly normal teenager sobbing in front of 2 twenty year-old´s. We called some of the members so they could see what happened and meet him. We invited him to be baptized on the spot and he accepted. I got to thinking...we were all staring at a simple, empty, slightly dirty font. That´s normally not the sort of thing that gets someone crying. Unless of course what is done there is done with God´s approval and will determine the salvation of one of His children. I´m a logical person, but logic doesn´t explain what happened during those 10 minutes. As Elder Hales said at the beginning, the hear and feel are so much more powerful than the words (and the logic). No sincere person can successfully doubt this work and keep doubting. His feelings won´t let him. And that´s what happened with Rodrigo.
So, summarizing, conference was a miracle for us here in Castelo. And a much needed breather from a hectic week. Ricardo and Shayla, Igor and Diego are well on pace for their wedding and baptism in under 3 weeks now! They asked me to play at their wedding reception :) We watched part of 17 Miracles with them on Friday and talked about the blessings that come when we sacrifice something good for something better (that´s from Charly I think...?). Gislane passed her baptismal interview but said she still wants to work some things out with her boyfriend. She brought him to the Sunday afternoon session but he kind of made a joke out of it. I´ll stop commenting there before I get worked up about it :) Adrianna is already walking after her surgery. Yet another miracle. She came back from the hospital yesterday and we´re going to visit her tomorrow. 2 sisters from the ward stayed with her the whole 5 days she was in the hospital. I´m really, really optimistic for this coming transfer and the people God´s given us to baptize. And EVERY SINGLE ONE OF THEM (aside from Rodrigo) is a referral from the members. You make an unbelievable difference.
I´m so grateful for you all. Grandma Sears, I got 2 letters from you! I´ll be writing back today. Dad, Grandpa Sears sent me an article that mentions you in a rather significant way. You´re awesome.
P.S. Several of you have asked about daylight savings...I think it´s coming up in 2 weeks, and it´ll be spring forward for us. I´ll check and let you know.
P.p.s. I got a notice from myldsmail that some people didn´t get the group email I sent last week. If you didn´t get it, please please tell me so I can forward it to you!
I need to start off with a thank you list. Last Thursday I think it was I got a package from my family! Mom, thanks a billion for sending that. The shirts were perfect and have already been used loads of times. The weather here has been crazy--it gets down to 50 at night and then the high 80´s in the day, so they´ve been really useful. And of course the hot tamales and reese´s puffs are "divine" as Grandpa Q always says :) AND, 4 letters got in this morning! One from Grandma Julie, one from Grandma Sears, one from home and one from the Shell´s. All with HAPPY MIDWAY DAY written all over them. I seriously loved it, you can ask Elder Chagas. Thank you to everyone in all of the pictures--Sister DeLeon, Sister Cheaney (not sure if I´m remembering the right way to spell that...), Megan, Brayden, Sister (Kirsten) Shell, Bishop Shell and Sister Shell (Sr.), Alyssa, Tanner, the Miller´s, the BYU crew at the Virginia game, and the Detweiler´s. It was an AWESOME way to start my P-day. Muitíssimo obrigado.
As for the work this week. We haven´t had as much time as I´d like, what with the transfer coming up and all that joyful goodness. But God´s been blessing us with a really good teaching pool (Elder Chagas and I call it our "grupo de batismo." And some really neat spiritual experiences. I´ll get to those in a sec. We started teaching Adrianna this week. She´s in her 60´s and is going to do a major back surgery this Wednesday. Bishop has been inviting her to come to Church for a year now and 3 weeks ago she decided now was the right timing. When we walked into her house I was a little bit, maybe a lot bit, impressed. Bummer I didn´t have my camera on me but the next time we go there (tomorrow) I´ll take some pictures. It´s basically the inside of an Egyptian tomb. All sorts of paintings, sculptures, beadwork, exotic plants, everything. She´s fascinated with Egyptian culture. And native american culture too. She lived with some Indians in Manaus (Amazon territory) for TEN YEARS. And the whole time she was talking I was thinking about how excited she´d get when we told her the 2 cultures that fascinate her most have everything to do with The Book of Mormon. We showed the beginning of 1 Nephi to her when Nephi talks about writing in the language of the Egyptians and she showed quite a bit of interest in reading. She´s an older lady and feels pretty alone sometimes and is pretty nervous for this Wednesday, so I´m glad for the opportunity to help. We asked her if she could one day see herself as a member of the Church and she said yes. So we´re excited for the baptism prospect too! Last Sunday Bishop gave her a Priesthood blessing and a member from the ward is going to stay with her during the 5 day recovery period from the surgery. Her faith is something that really impresses me. It´s possible the surgery paralyzes her but when she brought that up she just said, "I´ve done what I´ve needed to with my legs. If there´s something left for me and it winds up not working out, I´ll be able to do it without my legs." Paraphrasing a bit, but that´s the gist.
Gislane is coming along really well too. I´m amazed at how open she is with us about her life and her dreams and the testimony she already has. We were on the phone with her yesterday and she started talking about how we needed to baptize all of Campinas. I was like, yes ma´am! She brought a friend with her to an activity Saturday and told us she wants to invited somebody over for a family night. When we followed up with the Law of Chastity, I asked her if there was anything impeding her from telling her boyfriend she wasn´t going to break a commandment with him anymore. She said, "no."
"So Gislane, will you tell him that?"
"The next time you see him?"
"I´ll do my best."
"And you´ll be pure from here on out?"
"Vamos lá" (let´s go)!
That was serious progress for her. Before she always went back to the fact that they were going to get married and her boyfriend would never understand the need to wait. So we walked out of the lesson pretty hopeful and it´s our goal to baptize her and Leo (her 10 year-old son) after Conference this weekend.
Ricardo and Sheila continue to shine. And because of that they are going through lots of pressure and persecution. Which makes me angry! Ricardo invited his sister to be a bride´s maid for Sheila and she accepted. But then said no when she found out they were planning to baptize with the "Mormons." Lots of "friends" have come up to them and challenged The Book of Mormon. So this Thursday we talked about testimonies and the value it has, even when we don´t have all the answers. We´re planning to make a kit with some materials and explanations about the Church that they can give to everyone that´s asking and hassling. But everything´s 100 percent okay with their wedding and baptism for the weekend of October 26th, so I´m all smiles :)
Saturday--the whole afternoon we were part of a Career Fair that was held in our chapel and involved 6-7 stakes and somewhere in the range of 800 visitors. We and 3 other companionships close by were the ushers and had a little room where we had 30 seconds to talk about the Church and get referrals from everyone visiting. It was a huge event and we have a good 200 referrals for the mission. Hopefully some will be from our area! After the fair we had an appointment marked with a family that are members of the Seventh Day Adventist. They are FIRMLY rooted in the fact that all Churches that do not keep the Sabbath Day on Saturday are false. It doesn´t help that the translation of the Bible in Portuguese has the 10 commandments as "guarda o dia do sábado" --which literally is "keep the Saturday holy" instead of Sabbath Day. But the lesson was really, really interesting and the most spiritual lesson I´ve been a part of as a missionary. After about 5 minutes of getting to know Paulo he said, "alright, let´s be democratic about this. You have 20 minutes to tell me what you believe and then I have my 20." So we started teaching. We hit pretty hard on the part about prophets--the fact that any interpretation of God´s commandments needs to be done solely by them. And then he taught what he believed as an Adventist. I was super impressed by how he defended the commandments and was committed to live them. The day he understands that we DO keep the Sabbath Day, and that it was changed by prophetic revelation to remember the SUNDAY that Christ was resurrected, he will make a fantastic member of the Church. The lesson was not at all confrontational, but it did get pretty tense. Towards the end Elder Chagas invited Paulo to bear his testimony that his church was the only true church on the face of the earth. Paulo said, "you go first." So Elder Chagas bore his testimony. It was seriously one of the most powerful testimonies I´ve ever heard. He said he was fully aware that if he lied speaking in the name of Christ and as one of His representatives, he´d be cast out. And then he bore his testimony. The Spirit was SO strong. I wish there were some way to pass on how I felt through email. Then we invited Paulo to bear his testimony. And he did. But when Elder Chagas asked him if he could honestly say his was the same church that Christ established 2000 years ago, he didn´t. Because he couldn´t. No other church can! I am so glad to have the testimony I do that The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is the only true church that exists and existed. Because it is the SAME church Christ established with his own hands when he laid them upon each one of his 12 apostles. I bore my testimony to Paulo too. And when I did I told him I was inviting the angels in heaven to write down what I was saying so it could be read at the last day. Seriously, it was an incredibly spiritual experience. I would have to lose my mind to lose the testimony I have of this work. No one can stop it, even though so many want to and so many have tried.
This was a really long email. haha. But it was a really good week here. I love you all and hope you´re well! And I apologize if I don´t get as many individual emails out...I took a little longer on the big one this week.