Monday, March 3, 2014

March 1, 2014 Marriage of Igor and Daniela, former investigators

                                          Igor signing marriage papers
Brad and Elder Nelson at the wedding of former investigators, Igor and Daniela

March 1, 2014 Visits with missionaries across the mission, powerful discussions, and new investigators

Hello and happy March!

This week was definitely one of the more different weeks I´ve had in the field. We spent maybe 15 hours total in Castelo and the rest on the road visiting cities kinda not really close by. The cons, our teaching pool didn´t really get the attention we wanted to be able to give them. The pros, I learned loads with so many missionaries in several parts of the mission and, in spite of not being able to serve our investigators 24/7 we were able to help out and talk one on one with a lot of missionaries who were needing it. It was a different rhythm than I´m used to in the field, but I felt satisfied after it all. Following up with the work in so many areas opened my mind up to new ideas and a new vision of everything we really can accomplish as set apart, full-time servants of the Lord. I was reading in Alma 27 today about the way that Ammon felt about the Anti-Nephi-Lehites that he served, and the way they felt towards him. They literally looked at him as an angel sent by God, and sometimes it´s easy to lose that perspective in the rush of everything going on as a missionary.

On Tuesday we participated in a zone meeting in Itatiba, a city an hour or so from Campinas. The zone leaders talked about the importance of letting each investigator know why we were there in the first visit, explaining about the commitments we´ll extend and the vision that we have for the investigator. It helped me in several lessons and exchanges throughout the week. I noticed that each lesson was a lot more effective when we left it super clear for the investigator to understand that we´re here to show him not just the path to membership in the Church, but eternal life. In one of the few lessons Elder Nelson and I had together in Castelo we taught a couple named André and Claudia and their 70 year-old, lifelong Catholic parents. I think that participating in so many meetings and talking with so many missionaries helped me feel a 100 percent confidence during the lesson that independent of their beliefs and objections, we need to be clear in showing we have something new and eternal to offer. I felt the Spirit during the First Vision in a way I hadn´t in a long time, and because of that André and Claudia accepted baptism. They were pretty reluctant about a date, but I´m confident they´ll come around. I remember André telling us "look, you´re asking us to change 45 years of tradition" and then me asking, "which change do you think would be more drastic, joining a new Church or raising someone from the dead to life?" "Raising someone from the dead I suppose." Then we testified that we KNOW Christ is the head of this Church and no other, and that by the same power He raised Lazarus from the dead He would help that family leave behind 45 years of tradition. It was a powerful experience, and it was so so good to be back in the area to be a part of it and get back into the rhythm of things. 

Other highlights of the week--we found a man named Fernando who didn´t want to go to Church but t gave us 8 referrals to contact. One of them, named Sara, accepted the baptismal invite. Goes to show anyone, really anyone, can help out the missionaries by just stopping to think for a few seconds about who needs the gospel message. Also, Igor and Daniela were married this morning! It was a little different than other weddings I´ve been a part of in that earlier in the week we had to let them go from our teaching group (they told us they weren´t willing/ready to keep basically any of the commitments), but we still were there in support and I was happy to see them start the repentance process in at least one aspect of their life. I know they´ll be blessed because of it. As for Elvis and Fábio--they both cancelled on us this week and we´re trying to remark. Sometimes missionary work has its downs and you´ve just got to keep your head up looking for more of God´s elect. Because I know they´re out there. And sometimes we (especially me) just need to be more patient. I´m learning lots of patience lately :)

But I´m doing well, and I love you. Happy Carnaval! (it started yesterday and ends next Tuesday)

Love, Elder Sears

Feb. 22, 2014 Insights from mission tour, Inspired discussions, Excited investigators

Gotta fly, so I´ll start with the mission tour with Elder Evans. Really, really cool. He spoke for a solid 3 hours straight with questions mixed in throughout the whole thing. Everything, everything was focused on the family. He talked a lot about the qualifications for baptism and made sure that everyone understood that our objective as missionaries is a lot bigger than merely baptism. One of the key phrases I wrote down: "so many recent converts are falling away because missionaries are teaching just to baptize, and not with endure to the end in mind. Endure to the "end"owment and temple sealing." So that was super good instruction. I started thinking of some of the people I´ve taught (especially Lena and Reobe) that need to get back on track towards the temple. One of my weekly goals this week is to mark a visit with them and the missionaries from Vila União. Others notes/impressions that I took down:
-Sister Evans: "I believe you made covenants between you, Heavenly Father, and your mission president before coming to this earth."
-Elder Costa: "I know with perfect knowledge that Jesus is the Christ and that Joseph Smith is the prophet of the restoration"
-Elder Evans: "We need to teach repentance so that investigators understand that it is not just a list of administrative tasks like stopping smoking and getting married; it is a change of heart that prepares people for covenant keeping"
-Elder Evans: "The greatest gift of God is eternal life, and eternal life is only available to families. We need to bring families into the Church."
-Elder Evans: "Our stand for the family is what will separate us from the world going forward; it may cause some to fall away, but because of it thousands and maybe millions will join the Church." 
--> then he read through The Proclamation to the World and talked about the nature of our eternal family, emphasizing the fact that we have heavenly parents in whose image we were created

It was a really neat experience of personal revelation for me, because I came into the mission tour with 2 questions in mind. I´d read in Alma 23 about the people of Ammon and how they never fell away and wanted to know what missionaries need to do better to help recent converts stay strong. Elder Evans answered that focusing on families and the temple in our teaching. I also wanted to know how to help me and the mission have greater success in terms of people being brought to baptism, and Elder Evans quoted Elder Nelson promising that there are thousands, even millions of people waiting to be drawn to the Church because of it´s focus on and defense of the family. God always answers questions. It´s impossible to serve worthily for 2 years seeking His help and not come to that conclusion. 

Other cool things that happened this week--coming home from a family night with Elvis, he himself started talking about baptism and said, "you know the only reason I haven´t gotten baptized yet is because I want to participate more during Sunday School and Priesthood." "Seriously? Well then are you willing to participate this Sunday?" "Yeah." "And afterwards do you think we could mark your baptismal date?" "Fine by me." It was so out of the blue that I just kind of laughed to myself at the way God manages to touch people´s hearts. Elvis went on to tell us that he knows the Church is true because he felt it during that lesson that I marked his baptismal date on his birthday and it´s a feeling he can´t deny. Boom!

And a quick excerpt from my journal: "I´m feeling good. I think I was able to turn a page with my level of commitment over the last week and I´m managing to lose myself in the work. We had a super good exchange with the zone leaders from Zona Campinas. I stayed with Elder Riquerme in Castelo--plan A through G fell through I think but we had 2 super good, spiritual lessons at night. Our first was with an inactive couple named Junior and Larissa that have been going to the Catholic Church for the past 5 years. It became clear really fast that the key to getting them back to Church would be focusing on eternal families. They were a bit iffy on the fact that family relationships can continue after death. A few questions came to mind that I asked them--" Who is the only perfect Father? Who is the only perfect Son? Did Christ cease to consider God His Father after His death? Isn´t He the perfect example in all things? Why then would He continue to be His Father´s Son and we not continue to be our father´s children?" It was a line of reasoning that wasn´t my own, and Junior and Larissa just looked at each other and had nothing to do but agree. They said they´d come to church on the 23rd."

Oh, and that lesson with Rogério and Andreia...we brought with us a small tupperware, some rocks and some sugar all measured out. The sugar represented worldly priorities, and the rocks heavenly ones. We explained that their goal was to fit the sugar and rocks inside the container and be able to close the lid. That represented the goal of eternal life. When they tried to put the sugar in first, the rocks didn´t fit. With the rocks first, everything did. Then we applied that to marriage--how a party, money, friends, popularity and all that were good reasons to get married but they were earthly priorities that would wind up slowing them down from keeping a commandment. They seemed to like the analogy and accepted to go to the cartório with us this week. Unfortunately we found out Rogério´s involved in some pretty heavy stuff and we may have to stop teaching them. We´ll that sense this week´s been a tough one. Igor and Daniela went soft on us too. They´re not keeping commitments and are planning to visit family this Sunday instead of going to church. People are frustrating sometimes. But it´s all good. We´ve got a good teaching group and I´m excited for the transfer.

Love you!

Elder Sears

Feb. 10, 2014 Baptism of Raphaela

 Baptism of Raphaela (9 years old in blue dress, front row) by her recently re-activated Grandfather, Marcos Domico (third from right) with  Brad and Elder Chagas (far right).

Feb. 10, 2014 New companion, New members, New commitments

Oí! Today and tomorrow we have transfers so unfortunately this is going to be super short...Elder Chagas was transferred and I´ll be companions with Elder Nelson for at least the next 6 weeks here in Castelo!! He´s a really good missionary and I´m pumped for the new energy and vision he´ll bring to the area. He´s been out for a year and 2 months--ish and is from somewhere in Utah, I´m forgetting the name of the city right now.

We were blessed to be part of another baptism this week :) The special part wasn´t the baptism though, but who did the ordinance. Brother Marcos Damico was inactive and smoking 3 packs a day a year ago when his granddaughter, Raphaela, asked him to baptize her. She was eight at the time, and over the past year Marcos stopped smoking entirely, returned to church, was called to be the 1st counselor in the Elder´s Quorum Presidency, and last month was sealed in the temple to his wife Isabel that he married 30 years ago. He´s also the member who has recently given us 3 referrals--whole families--to teach in the past weeks. It was so, so cool to see him walk into the water and baptize his granddaughter. So many people were there in support, and several investigators (including Elvis!!) too. I´ll send a picture in a sec.

Another cool experience really quick with Rogério and Andreia. We finally were able to teach them the restoration this week and I invited them to be baptized. The date March 15th came to mind and I invited them. It was a replay of what happened with Elvis. Andreia looked at me a little shocked, asked what made me say March 15th, and told me it was Rogério´s birthday Bingo! The Spirit really is a wonderful thing. I need to do lots better about not taking it for granted.

I love you all. Seriously. Happy Olympics!!

Elder Sears