Monday, December 16, 2013

December 16, 2013 Teaching and Testimony

2nd Christmas on the mission coming up...that´s pretty crazy when I stop and think about it. Last year I was still in my first transfer in the field, now I´m finishing up my 10th. Time is definitely very strange.

And it continues to fly by in Castelo! For the first time in a while we had a little bit of a slower week as far as the work goes, but every once in a while that´s necessary and I´m grateful for it. It was, as always, full of its small miracles. We´ve been teaching a 20 year-old named Matheus for the past 4 weeks and we´ve had some pretty cool experiences with him as a companionship. He and Elder Elswick get along really well which makes me happy because it´s helping him a lot in his adjustments to Brazil. I really feel like Matheus and I would be college bros if we ran into each other at BYU. Our lessons with him always seem to flow super well, he´s our age, and because of the real friendship the three of us have we´re able to be completely direct with him. Our biggest difficulty with Matheus is getting him to Church. He´s reading, praying, knows the Church is true and has born his testimony several times to us, but every weekend he drives an hour and a half to visit his girlfriend in a different city, complicating his visit to church a little bit. This Tuesday when we sat down and started talking he opened up the conversation with, "yeah guys, I´ve gotta say, church is looking like a plan B for this weekend." We read some scriptures but when I saw he still wasn´t changing his mind I said something like this:
"Alright Matheus, stand up."
"Now?" 
"Yeah. What do you want to happen after this life? Where do you want to end up?"
"With God, like everyone else."
"Perfect. Me too. I want you to imagine God and his kingdom are in the kitchen, okay?"
"Okay."
"So, you´re facing the kitchen. I´m going to stand next to you because I want the same thing you do." Then I turned his shoulders a fraction of an inch away from the kitchen entryway and said we were both going to walk 10 steps. "Did you make it to the kitchen?"
"No."
"Why not?"
"Because my angle was off at the start."
"Funny how that works isn´t it? We were side by side, basically facing the same place with the same goal, but you wound up half a wall away."

I remembered a talk from Deacon´s Quorum that Brother Flint, our supervisor shared with us. I think it was by Elder Hale (don´t quote me on that), about the decade of decision. We talked about how he probably didn´t see the impact of not going to church just for one week would have down the road. How these next few weeks and months and years are going to determine the course he sets for the rest of his life and eternity. Then we shared President Uchtdorf´s airplane story about the danger of a few degrees. I could tell it sank in, and when we invited him to church he said he´d think about it. But I could tell, he really was going to think about it. We stopped by to visit him on Friday and he said he still hadn´t made the decision. I called him Saturday night and he said he´d be there. Sunday rolled around and both him and his girlfriend Jessica showed up! It made my day. Beyond that, we noticed after Priesthood and Relief Society that Jessica was crying pretty hard. She told us that it was the first time in years she´d been to any church, and that during the lesson she heard exactly what she needed to. We took advantage of the situation and gave them a tour of the chapel and stopped by the font and talked about the Spirit and about baptism. I´m positive lots of steps were taken in the progress of the two of them. Matheus told Elder Elswick that we were right in having insisted that he go because he liked  it so much. So, again, I find my testimony stronger still that this really is God´s church. There´s really no way around it. I´m super excited to see how Matheus responds and how readily he´ll be able to progress towards baptism. A white Christmas would be awesome.

Daniel continues to amaze me. He has 240 talks prepared on every subject imaginable just in case Bishop decides to ask him to speak. He was confirmed Sunday and we visited him during the week with our Elder´s Quorum President and he walked out of Daniel´s apartment amazed, and undoubtedly excited about what he´ll do for the quorum and for the ward. Ricardo and Sheila are on the lunch calendar now, and we ate with them Saturday :) They did a Brazilian style barbecue (which just about killed Elder Elswick he ate so much) and invited over about half the ward. I´ve been blessed to get to know some really special people here in Castelo. That´s what´s carrying me through the difficulties that once in a while spring up.

I hope you all have a fantabulous Christmas in 9 days!! I´m not sure if I´ll be able to get an email off because our time will be spent emailing our families ( :D ) but we´ll see what President decides. Love you!!

Elder Sears


Oh yes, almost forgot (not sure how...), but tomorrow the whole mission is going to the temple!!!! I am beyond excited. The last time I got to go was March so I have some refreshing to do.

Monday, December 9, 2013

December 9, 2013 Baptism of Daniel and ward members with missionaries

Daniel's baptism:  Elder Marshall, Daniel, Elder Chagas,
Bradford, Elder Elswick

Elder Chagas, Brad, Serena (Chinese friend), Sister Muchado, Elder Marshall
Elder Elswick, the Muchado's daughter, and Kevin (Chinese friend)

December 9, 2013 Daniel's Baptism and Cantada at the Temple

Well, not really in Brazil, but that´s okay. This weekend was a white one so I´m all smiles :) I really can´t say enough about Daniel. He really knows what it means to feast upon the words of Christ. It´s remarkable for me to see what God´s done for him in his life. He told us this week that, while serving as a theology professor, there was an entire section of the manual devoted to anti-Mormonism. It´s Saul to Paul and the transformation of Alma the Younger all over again. He has a notebook of talks ready in case Bishop decides to call on him in the coming weeks. He´s on to "The Teachings of George Albert Smith" in the teachings of the Presidents of the Church series, and he´s taking every gospel topic imaginable and finding two scriptures confirming it in the Bible and in The Book of Mormon. His baptismal service was packed, as it always is in Castelo. Honestly my biggest worry with him is not with him but with me--that I can have gratitude sufficient enough to say and show a thank you as big as the blessing it´s been to get to know him and watch his conversion happening first-hand. He´s just so humble! It´s amazing to me. I´ll send along a picture in a sec...

Other cool experiences this week...Thursday night. Ricardo and Sheila hosted what basically wound up being a ward family night. Their family was there, Igor and Daniela (who came to church with their family of 5 yesterday--that family that we randomly knocked on their door and invited us in), Gilbert and his family, Lucianno (assistant to the ward mission leader) and his wife, and us 4 missionaries. Quite the party. Ricardo and Sheila have been going through a lot of difficulties and they asked us to talk about patience. So we started out like this: "tonight we´ve got a really cool message prepared. We´re convinced you´ll be able to get something out of it, so pay attention!" .........................................silence for 90 seconds (literally).........................................................
They lasted about 10 seconds before asking what we were going to talk about and what they wanted to do and why we weren´t responding to their questions and such. Until finally Igor said, "got it! You´re going to talk about patience." So that was pretty funny. We showed the mormon message video with the 4 year-olds and the marshmallows and President Uchtdorf narrating (if you haven´t seen it, I recommend it). Then we had them write out 10 of their biggest blessings, only 2 of which could be material ones. Then they had to write down how long it took for them to receive those blessings--it varied from 5 to 14 to 68 years. So everyone was like "ohhh, the bigger blessings take longer to come." Then it kind of spontaneously turned into a testimony meeting which was really special because lots of people talked about the difference we´ve made as missionaries in their life. I came home that night really happy.

Saturday we had the annual Christmas cantata at the temple. Super stressful but the music was incredible. We got to help coordinate reception and the display of a bunch of mission materials. The secretaries collected tons of referrals for all the nearby areas. They were expecting 700 there at the temple that night but we got up to over 1,000 members and visitors. Several of which were members and recent converts and former investigators from all the areas I´ve passed through (that´s one benefit of serving in the same city for over a year).

Sunday after church and Daniel´s baptism we ate lunch with the Machado family who spent 9 years living in Utah. They had 2 Chinese friends over, 1 of which spoke no Portuguese but pretty good English--so everything was in English! Which was nice but weird for a change. I´d definitely say Portuguese is more comfortable for me, at least as far as gospel language goes. It was a cool experience though--a Brazilian family, 3 American missionaries, and 2 Chinese investigators all speaking the same language about the same person and the same gospel, independent of culture or race or religion. That´s what the gospel does for people.

Gotta go...16 days left till Christmas!!

Love, Elder Sears

December 4, 2013 Pictures


Baptism of Adrianna:  Bradford, church fellowshippers Marcos and Isabel,
Adrianna and Elder Chagas

Baptism of Gabrielly: Dimas (Gabrielly's member neighbor and friend), 
Gabrielly's dad (from another stake), Gabrielly, Elder Chagas and Bradford

Thanksgiving Feast at Pres. and Sister Perotti's home:
Brad with other AP and office elders

December 4, 2013 The Influence of Good People

Alright, I´ve got maybe 15 minutes. Life around here is CrAzY. But crazy good.

I´m attaching the photos from Adrianna´s and Gabrielly´s baptisms last Sunday. They were both confirmed this Sunday and are extremely well-integrated in the ward. Gabi´s receiving the new member lessons with Bianca, her new young women´s president, and Adrianna went with us and Daniel (the pastor) to a Family History Center activity last night that was pretty sweet. First time in my mission I´ve seen family history be taken advantage of, and it was a good experience for sure. 

Walking home from that activity with Daniel gave me another 50 reasons or so to be grateful to be a missionary. Daniel is unbelievably committed and converted to the restored gospel. I talked to President and we´re going to mark a meeting with Daniel so that we can use him to the fullest as a huge missionary tool in the region. He´s invited LOADS of people to his baptism this Sunday and has already read through The Book of Mormon 6 times, Doctrine and Covenants once, and the priesthood/relief society "presidents of the church" manuals from Joseph Smith to George Albert Smith. That´s what a photographic memory can do for you I suppose. I´m still kinda speechless with regards to the man. It´s one of those stories that you read about in the Ensign but think something like that will never happen to you. I can only repeat, God is so, so good to His missionaries and his elects. We even went out on splits yesterday with Daniel and he´s not even a member yet :) Pretty sweet.

I guess I´ll continue going in reverse chronological order and talk about the mission conference we had with President on Monday. He showed a video that I loved and has given me much more motivation to be an optimist. The video starts out with a parking attendant that smiles at each driver and pays them a compliment. Soon the whole city is going to his parking garage just to hear him praise everything about them. Along comes a girl that he can´t get to smile. He tries everything--flowers, all sorts of compliments, walking her dog--but she won´t smile. So he gives up and stops smiling and stops giving out compliments. One day at an amusement park a couple asks him to take a picture for them. He tells them their smiles are fake and starts complimenting them to get a real smile for the picture. Then he sees a woman in a wheel chair and compliments her and gets her to smile. And the cycle starts up again. By chance he meets up with the only girl he couldn´t get to smile and finds out she´s working as a camera woman--one of the best because of her ability to make people smile and the sincerity of her compliments. He asked her what changed and she said one day her mom came home in a wheelchair saying that after years of a lifelong disease and never smiling and never having been complimented, a young man came up to her at an amusement park and gave her a reason to smile. It helped me see our infinite potential to influence people for good. We really have no idea the impact we´re having when we do missionary work to the best of our ability. Take Daniel for example--I´m sure he´ll be the instrument in the Lord´s hands in bringing dozens of people to the Church that I might never meet. That´s just the way God works.

Sunday--sacrament meeting was lined up for loads of investigators but 90 percent fell through. I was a little bit bummed about that but had no reason to be after fast and testimony meeting got over. So many recent converts (Ricardo, Sheila, Igor, Alzira (Kevin´s mom who came back to activity when he was baptized) bore their testimonies and left me pretty much on the edge of tears. Baptismal services are always super special, but neater for me is seeing conversion in the form of one of your former investigators getting up and telling a congregation of new-found friends that they know the Church to be the only true church on the face of the earth because of the miraculous difference it´s made in their life. It was a really, really special Sunday for me because of that.

Thanksgiving!! President and Sister Perrotti invited us over for a Thanksgiving lunch that was amazing. I´m not sure how or where but they got cranberry juice and pumpkin pie. SCORE :) It was good to be able to take a little breather for a sec. These past weeks have been way way busy. That is in no way whatsoever a complaint though :) Busy is good. 

Keeping with the Thanksgiving theme: a HUGE thank you for everyone who´s been keeping my mailbox (and inbox) full lately. I got a stream of cards last week from Grandma Julie and the cousins, Grandma and Grandpa Sears, Sister Shell (jr. and Sr.), Alyssa, and all the missionary moms at la Parilla. You guys made my week!! Thank you so much for that :)

Gotta run, but know that I love you. I apologize I won´t be able to get off individual emails this week. I read all of them though, rest assured, and hopefully next week will be a little more "tranquilo." How I love you!

Elder Sears

November 25, 2013 Reasons for Giving Thanks

Alright, I´ve got maybe 15 minutes. Life around here is CrAzY. But crazy good.

I´m attaching the photos from Adrianna´s and Gabrielly´s baptisms last Sunday. They were both confirmed this Sunday and are extremely well-integrated in the ward. Gabi´s receiving the new member lessons with Bianca, her new young women´s president, and Adrianna went with us and Daniel (the pastor) to a Family History Center activity last night that was pretty sweet. First time in my mission I´ve seen family history be taken advantage of, and it was a good experience for sure. 

Walking home from that activity with Daniel gave me another 50 reasons or so to be grateful to be a missionary. Daniel is unbelievably committed and converted to the restored gospel. I talked to President and we´re going to mark a meeting with Daniel so that we can use him to the fullest as a huge missionary tool in the region. He´s invited LOADS of people to his baptism this Sunday and has already read through The Book of Mormon 6 times, Doctrine and Covenants once, and the priesthood/relief society "presidents of the church" manuals from Joseph Smith to George Albert Smith. That´s what a photographic memory can do for you I suppose. I´m still kinda speechless with regards to the man. It´s one of those stories that you read about in the Ensign but think something like that will never happen to you. I can only repeat, God is so, so good to His missionaries and his elects. We even went out on splits yesterday with Daniel and he´s not even a member yet :) Pretty sweet.

I guess I´ll continue going in reverse chronological order and talk about the mission conference we had with President on Monday. He showed a video that I loved and has given me much more motivation to be an optimist. The video starts out with a parking attendant that smiles at each driver and pays them a compliment. Soon the whole city is going to his parking garage just to hear him praise everything about them. Along comes a girl that he can´t get to smile. He tries everything--flowers, all sorts of compliments, walking her dog--but she won´t smile. So he gives up and stops smiling and stops giving out compliments. One day at an amusement park a couple asks him to take a picture for them. He tells them their smiles are fake and starts complimenting them to get a real smile for the picture. Then he sees a woman in a wheel chair and compliments her and gets her to smile. And the cycle starts up again. By chance he meets up with the only girl he couldn´t get to smile and finds out she´s working as a camera woman--one of the best because of her ability to make people smile and the sincerity of her compliments. He asked her what changed and she said one day her mom came home in a wheelchair saying that after years of a lifelong disease and never smiling and never having been complimented, a young man came up to her at an amusement park and gave her a reason to smile. It helped me see our infinite potential to influence people for good. We really have no idea the impact we´re having when we do missionary work to the best of our ability. Take Daniel for example--I´m sure he´ll be the instrument in the Lord´s hands in bringing dozens of people to the Church that I might never meet. That´s just the way God works.

Sunday--sacrament meeting was lined up for loads of investigators but 90 percent fell through. I was a little bit bummed about that but had no reason to be after fast and testimony meeting got over. So many recent converts (Ricardo, Sheila, Igor, Alzira (Kevin´s mom who came back to activity when he was baptized) bore their testimonies and left me pretty much on the edge of tears. Baptismal services are always super special, but neater for me is seeing conversion in the form of one of your former investigators getting up and telling a congregation of new-found friends that they know the Church to be the only true church on the face of the earth because of the miraculous difference it´s made in their life. It was a really, really special Sunday for me because of that.

Thanksgiving!! President and Sister Perrotti invited us over for a Thanksgiving lunch that was amazing. I´m not sure how or where but they got cranberry juice and pumpkin pie. SCORE :) It was good to be able to take a little breather for a sec. These past weeks have been way way busy. That is in no way whatsoever a complaint though :) Busy is good. 

Keeping with the Thanksgiving theme: a HUGE thank you for everyone who´s been keeping my mailbox (and inbox) full lately. I got a stream of cards last week from Grandma Julie and the cousins, Grandma and Grandpa Sears, Sister Shell (jr. and Sr.), Alyssa, and all the missionary moms at la Parilla. You guys made my week!! Thank you so much for that :)

Gotta run, but know that I love you. I apologize I won´t be able to get off individual emails this week. I read all of them though, rest assured, and hopefully next week will be a little more "tranquilo." How I love you!

Elder Sears

November 25, 2013 It's Raining Miracles

Time is (again) short so I´m going to pick up where I left off last week, with those 2 miracles. Here´s what I wrote down in my journal:

21/11/13

"More miracles: we´ve been teaching Gabriele (13, dad´s a member) and with the help of her young woman´s president she´s ready for baptisms this Sunday. Elder Elswick has a pretty sweet object lesson planned for her today. Beyond that, last weekend some pretty noticeable tender mercies happened that I still haven´t had time to write about. Saturday night came along and we had nothing planned to do and nobody to visit before our next appointment in 45 minutes. So that left street contacts and tracting. yay! It was pretty "miss and miss", but I stopped for no apparent reason next to a house that looked pretty empty--no car in the garage, no voices, lights off. But I knocked. A man opened the door and let us in without letting us introduce ourselves. When I met his wife I recognized her as an investigator Chagas and I had taught 2 months back. Her husband Igor (who opened the door this time) was always running away from us and coming up with excuses. Then they moved, but I had no idea where. Until Saturday when we found them in that random, apparently vacant house. Then another friend of theirs, an active member in the ward, decided to stop by. I think Igor was so stunned by the "coincidence" of it all htat he started to open up a bit. They have 2 kids of baptismal age and the whole family committed to church this Sunday. After we left Nayara (the member friend) kept talking with Daniela (Igor´s wife) and she commented she wanted her kids to grow up in the Church and marry returned missionaries. Golden! We´re going to teach them the first lesson tomorrow and invite for baptism. I really do believe in miracles. They´re simply heaven-planned coincidences."

And then the other miracle: "Sunday at about 5:00 p.m. I realized I´d lost my missionary handbook with EVERYTHING inside--money, mission credit card, temple recommend, a copy of my Brazilian id, health insurance card, and my ministry certificate. I checked everywhere and made gazillions of phone calls but...nothing. So I resorted to prayer. I got the feeling everything would be alright as I always do but I was still pretty flustered and couldn´t get  my mind to focus on anything else. Monday afternoon i got a phone call from a woman named Clara, whose daughter had seen it lying in the grass and brought it home. The only contact information in there was The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. So her mom researched and somehow got the missionaries´ number. Further, she didn´t even ask me to come get it. She BROUGHT  it to me! Goes to show there really are still good and honest people out there. And that God takes care of His missionaries."

So there you have it! Just a quick update on Igor and Daniela and their family...Thursday Elder Elswick and I went there and used one of the better-known object lessons with paper cups being the foundation of Christ´s original Church (prophets, apostles, pastors, teachers, etc.). We got through not even half of the first lesson before Igor interrupted us and turned to his 10 year-old son and asked him if he´d ever heard about Joseph Smith. He then proceeded to teach the rest of the lesson by himself, including the first vision, and bear his testimony that if he ever had to join a church, it´d be "with the Mormons." I kinda just stared at him in awe and then felt impressed to ask him on the spot, "is there anything that would prevent you and your wife from getting married and then baptized?" He and Daniela looked at me and then at each other and said, "no, nothing." Score!! There´s a lot of planning left with custody of the kids and all that good stuff but I was thrilled to see how willing they were to follow Christ´s perfect example. They´re a really, really special family. I feel like Ricardo and Sheila are going to be perfect friends for them.

 In another amazingly fantabulous news, everything went perfectly with Adrianna and Gabriele´s baptisms yesterday :) Gabriele´s dad from another ward came to support and once again the whole room was packed. Adrianna´s been coming to church for so long that everybody knows her and everybody was there to cheer her on. I actually got pretty nervous with how things would work out with Adrianna because of her back. She needed warm water and Saturday when we went to make sure the heater was working it wasn´t. And there wasn´t enough time to do anything about it. So Sunday morning before heading to the chapel we said a prayer and, AGAIN, the third time we tried to turn on the heater it worked. Elder Chagas and I both went into the font with her to help ease the strain on her back. She knelt down and the water came just to her chin. After the words of the ordinance she just leaned her neck back a little bit and it was over. The smoothest, calmest baptism I´d ever seen. It was such a relief to me and I think to her as well. The blessings God is giving us are carrying me over whatever difficulties arise. This Friday and Saturday I came down with some sort of the flu (I rested it out and I´m much better now, it´s alright :)  ), but there´s no way in the world I can complain about anything. We are just so blessed! 

Love you all,

Elder Sears

November 18, 2013 Baptism of Kevin, Reunion with Andreya, and Elders at the temple

                         Baptism of Kevin: Elder Elswick, Bradford, Elder Chagas,
                         Kevin, Alzira (Kevin's mom), Elder Marshall

                       Bradford reunites with Andreya, his convert from Ponte
                       and Elder Paynter (currently serving in Ponte)

                            Bradford and Elder Elswick at Campinas Temple

November 18, 2013 More Miracles

Dear amazing people that I know and love,

The miracles continue here in Castelo. At an amazing rate. It´s really neat to see how the work is being accelerated with two duplas in the same ward. Just to answer a few questions, Elder Chagas stayed in Castelo as well but we´re helping President train some of the Americans that have been waiting for their visas for a while while serving in the States. I´m staying with Elder Elswick. We always have something to talk about and get along really well. He´s incredibly punny (mom, you´d love him) and he´s already understanding about 80 percent of what everyone says. I´m hoping in the coming weeks I can help him feel more comfortable with the speaking part too. He´s already brought plenty of miracles with him, fluency or not!

The first miracle actually happened the night before he got here. Elder Chagas and I were on our way to a family night with Kevin and Alzira in the car. I´m pretty sure I mentioned them these past few weeks but just in case I didn´t: Kevin is 18, his mom is Alzira and was baptized in 94. She fell away just a few months later but through a few dreams and a few invites she came back to church and brought Kevin with her. We were all in the car talking about I don´t know what, when all the sudden Alzira stopped and said, "Brothers, Kevin´s got something to tell you." And then the sweet sound, "I´ve decided I want to get baptized." Yes! Milagre :) Again. I really don´t quite know what´s going on here other than the fact that God is taking really, really good care of Ala Castelo. We talked with him and decided that since he´s already been going to Church for a month now and we´ve been teaching him during that time, there would be no problem whatsoever marking his baptism for Sunday. So we did, and he accepted!! Elder Chagas baptized him and it was, again, a really special experience for me. As it was for Elder Marshall and Elder Elswick who got in just this week. My favorite part of the whole thing was Kevin being completely familiar with all the hymns during sacrament meeting; I sat next to them and he told his mom she wasn´t singing it right. haha :) They´re an amazing mother-son duo and I´m really optimistic about Kevin serving a mission. He already had a dream a few years back in which he was side by side on an airplane with another young man his age dressed in a suit. Now he´s coming to understand the significance of all that :)

Milagre number 2: Adrianna, out of nowhere, accepted a baptismal date for November 24, next Sunday! Elder Chagas and Elder Marshall went to visit her on Wednesday and she started the conversation with something like "alright boys, I´m tired of trying to decide when I need to get baptized and when I´m ready so I´ll let you pick." And, most wisely, they picked the 24th! She came to church all smiles Sunday and without her wheel chair. She´s amazing. We followed up on Thursday after she accepted the 24th and she seemed a lot lighter. Not sure if that´s the right word but it gets the point across. The ward´s super happy with her progress, seeing that they´ve known her since the end of September. It really is a rewarding feeling to stick with someone for so long and finally see them make a breakthrough. And then another one, and another one. Conversion for me is the best miracle to be able to witness.

Milagre number 3: Daniel, one of our investigators who we´ve been teaching since October and served for 25 years as Pastor President of the Assembleia de Deus Church in the Campinas region, had an incredible experience with us at the temple this Wednesday AND ACCEPTED BAPTISM FOR DECEMBER 7TH! On the way there he told us that God was making it beyond obvious to him that the Church was true. Here´s the short version: after watching " The Restoration" he said he felt something he´d never felt in 25 years of ministry. Something that made him want to laugh and cry and go out and tell everyone about it. 3 weeks later he went to the video store and bought 5 movies. None of them worked on his DVD player, so he brought them back and noticed what he thought was a romance on the shelf and picked it up on his second trip. When he put the movie in, not only did it work but do you know which one it was??? Work and the Glory! He just about fell out of his seat when he saw it was narrating the same Joseph Smith story he´d felt so good about watching The Restoration. When I asked him in the temple waiting room if he felt those confirmations were enough for him to believe The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints was the only true church on the earth, he responded: "I already understood your question. You´re not asking about confirmations, you want to know if I´ll get baptized." Elder Chagas and I smiled and nodded and he said, "well, I guess there´s nothing left holding me back. I have no need to ask for another confirmation. Let´s mark a date." It was incredible. My mind is just beginning to comprehend the difference he´s going to make in the Chruch. He said he´s already talked to one of the main television channels in Brazil to start a story about his conversion and pass it on primetime (his connections with the Assembleia de Deus are pretty high-up, needless to say). It´s amazing. I´d go into way more detail but time is short.

Milagre number 4: Gabriele, a 13 year-old who´s been going to church the past 3 weeks and whose dad is a member but lives in a different ward, is going to get baptized on the 24th on November as well!! Bianca, who paid for Ricardo and Sheyla´s wedding and is the young women´s president, invited us and Gabriele over to her house and bore a testimony that touched Gabriele to such a point that she went from wanting to get baptized in January to next week. Once again, the blessings of such a mind-blowing ward.

I have 2 more miracles to tell but my time is now non-existent, so I´m owing you for next week! I love you, and enjoy the pictures! And to my dear, sweet family, thank you THANK YOU for the Thanksgiving package :)

Love, 

Elder Sears

Nov. 11, 2013 Baptism of Andreia


                     
                         Sister missionaries and their baptismal candidate, Andreia;
                         Andreia's son Sig (former English class student of Brad's)
                        who baptized his mother; Elder Chagas; and Brad

Staying in Castelo and loving it! November 11, 2013


Hello :)

So, I´m already going to apologize from the start because transfers are tomorrow and this email is going to be super short. Elder Chagas and I will be staying in Castelo! AND, 2 Americans straight from the States are going to be our companions! I´m pretty pumped for the opportunity. My companion is going to be Elder Elswick from California. He´s already served for a while in the United States while waiting for his visa, and it finally came! Hopefully the same will happen with Sister Shell. And soon!

Wednesday, Gilbert was baptized!! (again :)) Everything went just fine and he was confirmed this Sunday. It really has been a miracle. 8 years of inactivity and now it´s been 3 weeks straight going to church and all of the activities. Gilbert and Fátima (the parents) already gave us a referral and we´re hoping will get callings soon. Which will happen because our Bishop is way on top of things. Friday we were able to do the interview of Andreia, Sig´s mom. (if you don´t remember, Sig asked me to baptize him 2 weeks ago since I knew him for a while because of the English class). His mom made the decision she wanted to be baptized as well and the sisters in the area called us asking if we could be there for the baptismal service. Which of course was a yes! Sunday directly after church Sig was ordained as a Priest so that he could baptize his mom. We had to run to catch a bus right after church so we could get to the chapel in time to be there at least for the ordinance. Only Sundays the buses are always way slow and we had to wait for 30 minutes to catch one. Sig called me and asked if we´d be getting there soon. I told him the only way we´d make it was if a bus showed up thirty seconds later, so I told him he could start the baptismal service and pray we´d make it in time. Elder Chagas and I said a prayer and, lo and behold, 30 seconds later the bus showed up. We walked into the chapel as Sig and Andreia were headed towards the font. We took a picture really quick with them and then were able to watch Sig baptize his mom :) It was a really special experience, and another tender mercy from the Lord.  Adrianna made it to church in a wheelchair on Sunday, along with a few others, but we need to have a bigger focus on finding now that God has helped the majority of our teaching pool be baptized. I continue to look for more ways to be grateful with everything He´s given us as of late. I don´t quite understand what´s making the difference, other than the incredible ward we´re serving in and His perfect ability to work miracles when He sees fit. 

I´ve gotta go now, but I´m sending the pictures from Andreia´s baptism right now. Oh! I almost forgot, remember the other Andreya from Ponte? I got a phone call from Elder Vianna and his new companion telling me her 18 year-old son was baptized yesterday! That made me realllyy happy. It´s amazing to see how far one seed can go. With her, it was a simple sacrament meeting talk about the Sabbath Day. With Sheila and Ricardo (who are well by the way--Ricardo and Igor received the Aaronic Priesthood this past Sunday! :D), it was an invited to church from a 15 year-old. Miracles are so, so real, especially when it comes to God´s own work.

Love you all! I know I always say that but I mean it. 

Elder Sears

P.S. I also want to say thank you to Sister Helsing (I continue to get your letters and sent a response off last week!), Grandma Julie, and the Powder Springs Stake Presidency who have all written me recently. You are the best!

8382: the sisters from Costa e Silva ward, Andreia, Sig, Elder Chagas
(p.p.s. mom, Andreia asked me specifically to tell you she says thanks for the example she knows you were to me :)  )

November 5, 2013 Pictures

                            Extended family of Gilbert Coelho at his baptism

                    Baptism of Gilbert: Elder Chagas, Gilbert (dad), Fatima (mom)
                    Gilbert (son), Bradford, Junior (son-in-law)

                              Vulture haunting Bradford's kitchen!

Bringing in the Sheaves . . . and other wildlife! November 5, 2013

Bom dia!

I´m really sorry I forgot to mention last week I´d be emailing on Tuesday instead of Monday this week. I´m alive and all is well. Time is also...really short :) So here goes. 

So, last Sunday a little before the baptisms we found out a less active family (the Coelho´s) had come back to church after more than 8 years of inactivity. And when they came, they brought with them their 15 year-old son, Gilbert, who had never been baptized. As soon as sacrament meeting got over his brother-in-law came up to us and said "Elders, you need to visit this family and invite Gilbert to be baptized. He´s ready." So, we marked Monday night with them and said a thank you prayer for yet another miracle in Castelo. Monday we had family night with them and had a good long talk about their activity and (inactivity) in the Church. Fátima, the mom, told us they decided to come back after so long because Gilbert was being bullied a bunch in school (he´s got something similar to autism) and she knew the Church would be a refuge for them and a place where he could make some real friends. We talked about the temple and had them put a sticky-note on their fridge reminding them of their goal to enter there, soon, as a family. Obviously, Gilbert would need to be baptized for that to happen and we told them that. And they basically marked his baptism for this Sunday, we just agreed. It´s incredible how good God is being to me!! We met with them almost every day of the week, took them to the ward activity Wednesday night, and had the pleasure of hearing them say from here on out the plan is for them not to miss a single Sunday. The baptismal service was Sunday afternoon so that Junior, the brother-in-law that gave us the referral, could participate. Gilbert wanted him to do that baptism. So he did. Just with a few minor complications, since Gilbert is pretty terrified of water. He´d never gone completely under in his whole life. We were saying lots of prayers that it would work out, but his foot kept coming out of the water and after the third attempt kneeling down, he´d had it for the day. His whole family tried to convince him for an hour, literally, to give it one more go but he said he´d try again another day. I wasn´t at all worried about the baptism not working out (we marked tomorrow afternoon with them in a member´s pool with a lot less people watching), just how Gilbert was feeling and how his cousins and aunts and uncles and grandparents (the vast majority not members) would react. But the ward here was amazing. He and Junior got changed and came back into the chapel and received the welcomes to the young men´s organization and the ward. Everyone was so positive, and congratulated him on his courage in overcoming something he´d never done in his life. I could tell his family members were impressed at how supportive the ward was, and who knows, maybe some of them needed to see that so that they could have a good impression of the Church and be open to an opportunity to learn more in the future. No denying, Elder Chagas and I were pretty exasperated after the third try to baptize him didn´t work out, but we said a prayer and felt a certain peace that everything would work out. So it will. Tomorrow! I´ll still send the pictures of him and his family today though.

Sunday, Ricardo, Sheila, Igor and Diego were all confirmed!! Marvelous! Sheila cried during hers and bore her testimony during fast and testimony meeting, a huge step for her since she gets pretty nervous in front of people. I continue to be amazed at their progress. Friday they invited us over for dinner and we talked about the importance of the gift of the Holy Ghost. We had Igor call us on his phone and cover up his headphones with his hoody. Then we blindfolded him and took him outside in the yard and decided where he´d need to go without telling him. And we told the rest of the family to shout all sorts of wrong directions in his ear, which they seemed to enjoy a little too much :) After him stumbling around a little bit Elder Chagas got on the phone without anyone seeing and started whispering directions to him. Everyone got pretty confused as to how Igor wound up in the right place, and we used the analogy to talk about how the Spirit works and how prepared we need to be to know how to use it. It was something different we did...I think it turned out well?

You remember Adriana right? She´s coming along really well after her surgery. Walking normally and finally good enough to go to Church now. Anndddd, another miracle with her! Sunday night Isabel, an awesome member in the ward, went over to check up on her. During the conversation Adriana asked her if her desire to be baptized was preparation enough for her to be baptized. Isabel bore her testimony and basically finalized Adriana for us. We´re going to do everything we can to pass by today and set a date :) The ward here is amazing. Of all the people we´ve taught or we´re teaching, maybe 10 percent of them we´ve found knocking doors or doing contacts. It´s easy to see why the First Presidency is pushing so much for members and missionaries playing on the same team and on the same page. There´s really no better way.

Funny story (that will come with a picture): I think it was Wednesday that Elder Chagas and I got back from lunch to find a lovely surprise in our kitchen. I was in the bathroom when Elder Chagas started screaming, "Sears, SEARS, get over here!" So I came running to see a VULTURE perched on our kitchen counter. Picking through our groceries. Apparently when Elder Chagas opened the door it came bounding out of the plants and went straight for the kitchen. I didn´t really know how to react, so I got my camera. Haha. Then I went around to the window from the outside and started banging on it with a broom while Elder Chagas shut the door behind the thing. Then I went to the living room window and started banging. Finally we got it outside after a lot of yelling and laughing and screeching. Pretty hilarious to be honest. The next morning I was saying my prayers when I heard more screaming from the other elders. The SAME little twirp had made it into the storage room and was causing more mayhem. I knew Brazil was exotic, but why couldn´t it be a parrot or something? By the way, the word for vulture is "urubú" which I find pretty funny in and of itself. 

Here come the pictures...love you all! is it really only 3 1/2 more weeks til Thanksgiving?