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.
Love, Elder Sears