Monday, February 10, 2014

February 3, 2014 Elizabeth's baptism and outing with investigators

                  Elder Chagas, Brad, Elizabeth, her son Fabio and husband Hernesto
                 at Elizabeth's baptism

                      Brad with investigators Igor, Daniela, Luna, Ioria, and Ian
                      and Elder Chagas at the cartorio

February 3, 2014 Miracles with baptisms and atheists

Hello everyone!!

We have a baptism to report :) Elizabeth was interviewed on Saturday and baptized at 8:30 before church yesterday morning. She asked me to do it, and made me promise the water would be warm. It wasn´t, but it´s been getting up to 95 degrees down here so the chill was a welcome relief :) Her story is yet another example of a pure miracle, and the blessings of a missionary-oriented ward. Silvana (the member who talked to her waiting in line at the mall) was there in support. For me though, the bigger miracle has been with her family. Fábio, her son, considered himself an atheist when we met him 4 weeks ago. When we were going through the baptismal interview questions with Elizabeth he wasted no time in telling us that he didn´t believe/agree with the 1st, 2nd 5th and 6th questions. I told him we´d start small, and work with his belief in Christ as our Savior first. I marked 15 scriptures in The Book of Mormon testifying of that truth and committed him to read them (at least one per day) and pray after reading each one. Saturday, when Elizabeth showed up for the interview, I pulled him aside and we started talking. He said he hadn´t read, but he´d asked God on Monday and Tuesday if Christ really did die for our sins. He said he hadn´t received an answer, although he did mention he felt a little bit of a "heat" when he asked the question on Tuesday. We got to talking, and all of the sudden he cut me off and said, "I think I can say yes to the first baptismal question now." I looked at him a little confused and asked him to explain what made him jump to that conclusion. He said that while we were talking it he had goosebumps come over him for 5 seconds and a flood of thoughts confirming to him that Christ really is our Savior. It was so out of the blue that I laughed. Seriously--the miracles do NOT stop! Mall customers are getting baptized and atheists are confessing that Jesus is the Christ. How could this not be the true church?? What´s more, Fábio went on to say that he now believes in and agrees with all of the baptismal interview questions aside from the one about Joseph Smith. I promised him that if he´d read The Book of Mormon and ask God, multiple times if necessary, he´d have the same feeling he felt while we were talking about Christ as our Savior. He said he´d be baptized if he felt that way again. Seriously, God is a genius! He lives and He is the most effective missionary imaginable. What´s more, Elizabeth´s husband Hernesto, also atheist, came to support her during her baptism. She told us she NEVER imagined that would happen. We have an fhe marked for tonight with him and Fábio and are super optimistic about the whole thing. Yes! :D

Let´s see what else...we went to the cartório with Igor and Daniela and officially marked their marriage for March 1st!! I´ll send photos in a sec. They didn´t go to church though :/ It´s going to require a lot of prayer and fasting and following up but it´s going to happen. 

Testimony meeting was pretty sweet. Igor, Ricardo and Sheila´s son, bore his testimony about the importance of the Holy Ghost as the comforter in our lives. He started crying when he said his family had to sell their dog, but that when he went to mutual that night he forgot all about it and was able to focus on the positive side of things. By the amount of water in people´s eyes I think the congregation was pretty touched. During Sunday School, Isabela (the 3 year-old daughter) pulled my pant leg and, pointing to the font, said, "Uncle Sears, when is it going to be my turn? I know how to plug my nose and everything." I just about died :) 

On the fun side of things, this past week was Elder Lukas´ birthday (one of our mission´s financial secretaries). He´d gone to bed when I woke him up to tell him something was wrong downstairs with the finances and he needed to sort it out. I´m not sure he entirely understood what I said but he woke up and started heading down the stairs. In the meantime the rest of the crew (me, Elder Chagas, Elder Toebe, Elder Zacheu, Elder Doman and Elder Frutos) got ready a bunch of water balloons and absolutely drenched him when he rounded the corner. Hahahah :) He was a good sport about it and we all had a good laugh. Every once in a while you´ve just got to destress a bit.

Time for pictures now! Love you all,

Elder Sears

January 27, 2014 Temple Sealings

So we had a zone activity today and time is super short, but I've got one of the highlights of my mission to report so here goes...

Who remembers Douglas? He was one of our miracle baptisms in Vila União that showed up to church and a week later asked to be baptized before we could even make the invite. He was baptized on January 6th, 2013, one day after Elder Alcantara and I had finished a fast to help see someone join the church. I was thinking about him towards the beginning of the week and had heard rumors through the city that he'd be getting married soon. So I called him Wednesday and.......he said he'd be getting married Friday and SEALED on Saturday!!! I got President's permission to be there and Elder Chagas and I went and had one of the best afternoons of our lives. Douglas married Barbara, the "friend"who talked to him about the Church for the first time a little over a year ago. They weren't even dating at the time and he didn't even know eternal families were a possibility, and now he has one. It was beyond a miracle to see him. We got to the Campinas temple at 1ish on Saturday and were able to sit in on the sealing ordinance at 2:30. Both he and Barbara had already received their endowments, so the sealing itself was short and simple, but really, really, really meaningful for me. Elder Chagas described the feeling in the room as if the air conditioning had suddenly stopped working everything was so warm and radiant. I'll never forget the sight of him walking in in his temple robes and just beaming from ear to ear. The promises made in a sealing are amazing, particularly so because Saturday was the first time I ever witnessed one. You just get the feeling that that moment is what the gospel is all about. Everything points to it, and afterwards the only thing left is enduring to the end. After the ceremony I gave Douglas a huge hug and whispered to him with a grin, "you're one step ahead of me now mister." He laughed and looked me in the eye and thanked me for what I'd done. Which wasn't much. Barbara had him convinced from day 1 I think :) It's the first time I've seen the whole process firsthand: non-member to investigator to recent convert to engaged recent convert to sealed for time and all eternity, active, covenant-keeping member. I wrote so much about it in my journal. How grateful I am for the way God's blessing me on my mission. It really is surreal. The timing of it too--the fact that I felt I needed to call him this week to see when he was planning on getting married and all. The Spirit is a wonderful thing. Pictures are soon to come!

One more little tidbit really quick...Igor and Daniela and their 2 kids accepted baptism for March 1st!!!!! We're going to the cartório (marriage place thingy that I never remember the name in English....) on Saturday to mark their wedding. It's been 3 years since they've met the missionaries for the first time, and after a message and role-play that President showed everyone during the multi-zone we felt like we just needed to be really direct with them and ask really inspired questions. Igor helped Daniela realize she's already received a testimony and Elder Chagas asked Daniela why she thought we as missionaries were so focused on baptism. She said she didn't know, so he opened up to 3 Nephi 27:16 and we talked about the promises God makes to us when we're baptized. She went ahead and read 17 without being asked and finished and said "right then, I'm willing to be baptized." So we marked a month down the road leaving time to get the wedding marked. We walked out of their house super grateful, high-fiving our way home. This IS the true Church, and there are millions of people waiting to know and accept it. We just need to invite them. How I love being a missionary! 

Oh, and Elizabeth is golden for being baptized on the 2nd. We went to the temple with her and some recent converts (Adrianna and Kevin among them) on Friday and the Temple President did a fantastic job talking about what temples are for. She loved it.

I love you all super muito much, hope you know that. Love,

Elder Sears