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.