Monday, April 28, 2014

April 28, 2014 Castelo Ward Supports the Missionaries in Body and Spirit

 Easter Sunday Baptism of Douglas (son of Ademir and Wanda): Elder Sears, Douglas, ward fellowshipped and Elder Nelson

"Kind of just maybe a really big pizza the ward gave us!"

"Elder Lukas on the couch using the really big pizza as a blanket.

April 28, 2014 Missão Brasil CASTELO!

Dear everyone,

Do I hear a seventh transfer in Castelo?! Yep, I´m staying. I´m actually pretty excited about that because we have 3 families set to be baptized in May. I´ll get to them right about now.

But first, Douglas´ baptism!! He was baptized on Easter morning :) Pretty cool symbolism when you think about what he chose to do compared to what Christ was able to do. Both lived again, just a little bit under 2000 years apart. The usual crowd of members was there in support and it was a fantastic baptismal service. He´s been a member for a while now--coming to seminary, stake dances, mutual, reading half of The Book of Mormon, and now it´s official. Bishop interviewed him yesterday so that he and Ana Claudia could go to the temple with the youth this Thursday. Ademir and Wanda and Viviane are solid for May 24th/25th (marriage and baptism) after a really miraculous experience Friday night. Marcos, the member who referred them to us, was with us during the lesson and we felt it´d be a good idea to have him give Ademir a blessing to help him get over the 2-3 cigarettes he´s been smoking for the last 2 months, after having brought it down from a pack a day. Marcos gave the blessing and said afterwards he´d never felt the spirit so strong in a blessing before. Ademir felt it too because he started crying after the 'amen.´He and Marcos shared a long hug and we left. Sunday, after priesthood, Ademir leaned over to me and told me that since Friday every desire he´d had to smoke left him after the blessing. He´s been clean for 48 hours already :) I felt so happy in that moment, because it´s been 2 months we´ve been working with him to get to that point. Marcos was with us and was beaming when Ademir told him. Really, really special. They finally went to the cartório this Wednesday and everything´s squared away. It´s been worth the wait!!

Placídio is coming along really well too. Saturday night we taught him with João Batista in a lesson that I won´t be forgetting anytime soon. We´d studied, prayed, practiced, and fasted in preparation for that lesson--something needed to happen to help him and his family agree to get married and be baptized. We taught him exactly as we´d planned and nothing. Questions, testimonies, member´s help, examples, scriptures, and still nothing. Quite a bit disappointed, we decided it was time to end with a prayer. Out of nowhere Jessica, his 8 year-old daughter, volunteered to say it. She hadn´t said anything during any of the 6-7 lessons we´d given to them over these past 3 weeks. But, she said one of those perfect, heartfelt, innocent 8 year-old prayers that are enough to melt anyone´s heart. And that´s what happened with Placídio. When we stood up to leave he was crying, and he said, "I´ve got something to say. This isn´t for me, but if it´ll help my daughters, I´ll get married." YEESSSS! Elder Nelson and I looked at each other, grinned, and skipped down the stairs and out the door. They accepted May 31st for their baptismal date. They came to church as a family yesterday and we have a lesson with them tonight to solidify their date and schedule when we´re going to the cartório. It´s a marriage party down here :)

Unfortunately Paulo and Adriana (mostly Paulo making the decision for Adriana) decided not to continue investigating the church and went back to their old ministry. That left us pretty sad BUT, Marcos Damico gave us another family as a referral that seems to be golden. José Milton is the dad, Maria the mom. José found out just 2 weeks ago that he has terminal cancer, and he instantly got serious about God. He stopped smoking and drinking on the spot, and was eager to find out more about the church and the possibility of living together with his family. The 2 of them came to church yesterday with Maria´s sister and loved it. My favorite part of it was when Maria told me, smiling, "I got the hang of your hymn book!" And guess what--they´re married! We´re going there on Wednesday to mark their baptism for later this month.

I am feeling sooooo happy right now. Not just because of all the miracles God is heaping down on us, but because I can honestly say I am giving everything I can and have lost myself in the work. It really is fantastic to be a missionary.

I love you all!
Love, Elder Sears

Saturday, April 26, 2014

April 26, 2014 "Until Monday . . . ☺"


I´m sorry for all the email/P-day switches, but we´re out of time today so I´ll get off all the emails on Monday. Do you forgive me?!? I love you!

Love, Elder Sears

P.S. A picture just for kicks...Elder Nelson insisted on doing my hair today and he put a "part" in it. I think it´s the first time since 2nd grade. Ha Ha!

Saturday, April 19, 2014

April 19, 2014 Harvesting in the Field and Laboring in the Office

 Baptism of Ana Claudia--the first one in her family to be baptized. Viviane (almost 8), Ademir, Wanda, Ana Claudia, Elder Sears, and Elder Nelson

As an A.P., Elder Sears helps plan and train at a multi-zone conference. "The Elder with the hammer is my friend, Elder Riquerme."

April 19, 2014 Easter Sunday--Missionary Work's Greatest Victory

Happy Easter my friends!!

I hope that you´re all able to feel the missionary spirit this weekend, seeing that Christ´s victory over death and hell is the greatest missionary moment in history. How grateful I am to be serving full-time in His service, helping others recognize what He´s done for them and how to accept it. We are being so blessed in our efforts.

This week was CrAzY, but crazy good. 36 hours of multi-zone conferences is enough to drive anyone insane, but I was insane to begin with so it´s all good. I sent along a few pictures at the end showing some of the trainings and practices. The emphasis was planning (Preach my Gospel chapter 8). The multi-zone was set up like a regular missionary day. We started with daily planning, then personal and companionship study, then the actual lesson itself and finally and evaluation of it all. During the companionship study part we got to practice preparing object lessons (that´s why you see Elder Riquerme gleefully waving around his hammer in the second picture I attached). It was a really good experience. President showed the Church´s new Easter video in the end to cap everything off. Friday I accompanied another missionary singing "His Hands" to bring the Easter spirit. It went really well, in spite of not really being able to see the last few measures of the sheet music because my eyes were fogged over with tears. Really special.

AND, work in the field has been an absolute joy. Ana Claudia asked us on Sunday if she could be baptized Tuesday after mutual so that all the youth could be there. After coordinating with her family and the young women´s organization, bishopric and ward mission leader, that´s what we did. It was a really, really special baptismal service. Her brother Douglas is A okay for tomorrow too :) Ademir and Wanda didn´t make it to the cartório this Saturday because it´s closed for Easter. Kinda forgot about that, but we remarked for next Saturday. Ademir, who is simple by nature and sometimes a little slower to understand what he´s reading in The Book of Mormon, told us 2 days ago that he was reading in the Gospel Principles book about the millennium and felt a bunch of goosebumps all over the place. He said it was a feeling he´d never had before, and because of it he resolved that 12:00 a.m. Easter Sunday he would give up smoking. He´s only been smoking 2-3 cigarettes a day, but for Elder Nelson and me his experience with the Spirit was a miracle. We asked the family what´s been their favorite part of getting to know the Church and the missionaries--Ana Claudia was the first to respond with "knowing that I made the right decision in getting baptized." They are a really special family. Ana Claudia and Douglas passed Jacob in their Book of Mormon reading. Viviane (almost 8) is following along in the Book of Mormon picture book we bought for her at the temple. We talked about enduring to the end the last time we met, and to demonstrate I got down on the floor and did a "plank" (it´s an annoying ab exercise Elder Nelson and I have to do as part of our P90X exercise routine in the morning) for as long as I could while talking about enduring to the end. We explained that at baptism we set ourselves up in the right position, but the only way our muscles grow (spiritually) is when we endure to the end. They seemed to understand. So, all smiles on that front :)

I talked a little bit about Paulo and Adriana last week. We had one of the most spiritual lessons of my mission with them on Thursday night with a ward member named Jean and his wife Ana Luiza. Our plan was to follow up with 3 Nephi 11. When we did so and asked what most stood out to them Adriana responded with "well I thought it was interesting how Christ called Nephi to be one the 12 apostles in the Americas just as He did with Peter in Jerusalem. Then he gave him power to baptize. I also liked how Christ warned against contentions because of different doctrines about baptism, which is basically what you see happening today." I´m gonna go out on a limb there and say she got the gist of 3 Nephi 11?? I can´t explain how much I LOVE teaching people like her, not just because she accepted but because she understands the doctrine in The Book of Mormon. People that gain a testimony that way, really embracing and feasting upon the word, are the type of members that build the Church and don´t fall away. Paulo understood similarly well and told us he´d read the testimonies of the 3 and 8 witnesses as well. The time came when we invited them to be baptized. Paulo was a little reluctant because of his involvement in another church but Adriana cut him off before he could finish. She told us that she´d been praying for a long time to know the truth, and that the first day we showed up and talked to her daughters was moments after they´d had a huge fight and were needing a little bit of the "palavra de Deus" to calm them down. She told us that, as she receives a spiritual confirmation that The Book of Mormon is true, she´d more than willingly be baptized, and soon. I felt really strongly to leave 3 Nephi 15 with them and promise that that very night they´d receive their witness. 3 nephi 15 because she talked a bunch about what Christ meant when He talked about "other sheep which are not of this fold." We´ll be seeing them tomorrow at Church and following up with their answer. I´ve never felt more confident that they´ll have received it. Their faith is inspiring to me. Especially Adriana´s.

Placídio and his family are coming along well. Elder Nelson and I have been very bold and direct with them and I feel they´re on the edge of accepting marriage and baptism. We have a lesson with them tonight at 6:30.

Oh, I think I mentioned a month or so ago an exchange that I did in Jundiaí, a nearby city, and finding a really special family there. Well, I got a phone call from Elder Batista Thursday night tellig me that the whole family will be baptized by May. The kids this coming Sunday and the parents a little bit afterwards because they need to get married. But they have a date marked and are going to the cartório this coming Friday. Sweeeeett!!

Life here is going really well, summing everything up. I´m losing myself in the work. It was maybe 30 minutes ago that I realized that Monday will mark 2 years since I opened my mission call after coming home from freshman year at BYU. How time flies.

An incredible, spiritual, memorable Easter to you all.

Love, Elder Sears

Monday, April 14, 2014

April 14, 2014 Fabio and Fun

Fabio's Baptism! Back row: Church members and family with Fabio; Front row: Elder Sears, Elder Chagas and Elder Nelson

"Elder Nelson and I being dorks while waiting for a mission training to start."

Elder Sears models "the Word of Wisdom coffee mug we gave to Marcilene. (In order for her to drink coffee, she has to read each scripture on the mug first. They all talk about obedience and such.) Thanks for the idea, Mom!"

April 14, 2014 "One of the Sweetest Palm Sundays of My Life"

Dear everyone that I love,

I know this is turning into a theme here, but I literally have 9 minutes to get this all out. Things are super crazy this week but I promise that Saturday I will devote the full hour and a half that we usually have to respond to all of the 30 wonderful emails I received from y´all this week. I just wanted to talk a little bit about the families we´re teaching right now because that´s what matters most to me.

Fabio: baptized member of the Church as of 8:50 yesterday morning!!!!! It was one of the most incredible baptismal services I´ve ever been a part of. Probably in part because it demanded so much patience, trust, so many miracles, prayers, fasts, and lessons entirely guided by the Spirit. Lots of hectic things happened Sunday morning before the baptism but as I started playing my version of If You Could Hie to Kolob for prelude I felt so much peace and gratitude. Elder Chagas came back for the baptism (Fabio´s request), and as always, loads of ward members were there in support. How grateful I am for God´s hand in Fabio´s transformation. He´s changed his life in a way that Alma the Younger knows pretty well, just maybe on a little bit smaller scale. Picture to follow in 3 minutes.

Placidio, Marlete, Janaina, Jacqueline and Jessica: went to church for the 2nd week in a row yesterday!! They really liked it, and Placidio came up to us afterwards asking us for help in getting Jacqueline more involved with the young women. So, a huge sign that he´s liking the experience. We have a family night marked with them an hour and a half from now. We´ve already invited them to baptism but they haven´t accepted a date yet.

Ademir, Wanda, Douglas, Ana Claudia and Viviane. Baptisms marked for Douglas and Ana Claudia for this coming Sunday, Easter!! We felt that´s what needed to happen while Ademir and Wanda get their marriage squared away. They´re still coming to church and keeping all the commitments (minus marriage). But they have a baptismal date marked for May 19th, together with Viviane who will turn 8 on the 18th. We´re able to teach them 2-3 times a week. Douglas is going to seminary and Ana Claudia, when asked where she was in The Book of Mormon, responded with "I don´t remember the chapter name but I know it´s page 109." She´s twelve and she´s read more than some members have in a year! They´re a super special family.

Paulo, Adriana, Janaina, and Larissa: we met them this past week and had a super spiritual first lesson with them. Paulo understood perfectly because he asked us at the end, "so basically you´re saying the primitive church is back on the earth...?" Yesssirr, and pretty soon you´re going to be a member, you just don´t know it yet :)

So, that´s our teaching pool. God is being so merciful with us. This is HIS work. I testify of it. No unhallowed hand can stop if from coming forth and filling the earth. 

I love you all,
Elder Sears


Tuesday, April 8, 2014

April 5, 2014 The World Report . . . from Campinas

Well, things are getting better down here! :) General Conference will be an awesome way to cap off the week.

Last Saturday after our P-day ended we had an hour and a half planned to find new people to teach. We were heading home when Elder Nelson said he felt we needed to take a different way back, taking a left turn instead of continuing up the avenue. So, we did, and immediately saw a family of 3 headed our way. I talked to them and after a few minutes we marked for Monday. Monday we found out that they´re part of a family of 5, with 3 kids 8 and up. Placídio is the dad´s name, Marlete the mom, and Janaina (19), Jacqueline (15) and Jessica (8) are their three daughters. Huge blessing, right? It was pretty clear to us we needed to teach the plan of salvation first, so we did. The first half on Monday and the second on Wednesday. Since Monday they´ve knelt 5 days out of 5 in family prayer, a tradition that they didn´t ever have in 20 years together. Placídio said it´s making a difference. We talked a lot about eternal families (Placídio and Marlete aren´t married), and Friday we hit pretty hard on that key again. It´s incredible how open and bold we´re able to be with them even in the 2nd/3rd visit. They´re understanding well and everything´s set for them to watch the Sunday afternoon session of conference tomorrow. We´ll have to share Elder Andersen´s talk with them because it´s perfect for their situation. So, score one more family for the Castelo teaching pool!

Thursday we had a pretty interesting lesson with Fábio. He said in the beginning that he´d "cooled off" a lot about the whole church/baptism thing, but we didn´t really buy that. It was kind of an odd lesson in the sense that neither I nor Elder Nelson remember what was said. I just remember saying something about the Holy Ghost and then Fábio saying, "you know based on what you just said I want to get baptized this Sunday. I can´t because my mom´s going to be out of town and she´s gonna want to see it, but I´ll see with her and choose a date and get back to you." We shook our heads okay but inside my heart was pounding and overflowing with gratitude. We felt it was best with him to let him feel 110 percent in control, so we didn´t call him the day afterwards to see if he´d come to a decision. On Friday HE called US, asking if Elder Chagas could stop by to do the baptism after he decided the date. And Elder Chagas is headed home in 3 weeks so Fábio will be a baptized member of the only true Church in 3 weeks tops. Amazing! God is taking reallllyyy good care of him. Fábio´s been trying to fight the spirit for 2 months but he´s losing. Just about the only situation that I like to see an investigator lose :) It was a really important experience for me to feel that I was worthy of the Spirit to the point that I said what it told me to say and because of that Fábio felt the desire he did. Yet another reminder that God is the real missionary in this work.

We managed to get a date marked (April 8th) for Ademir and Wanda to get their wedding underway! We continue to teach them 2-3 times during the week and, slowly and in spite of lots of worldly pressure not to, they´re progressing. Hallelujah. We´ll have to see if I´m around to see their baptism. Either way I´m happy to have helped them to this point.

One thing that I´ve noticed during all the difficulties here is that I´m growing in my ability to recognize small tender mercies. Things that probably went unrecognized for a long time in my life. I loved President Eyring´s line about waiting for blessings because that´s the only way we can build our faith and receive a blessing at the same time. One actually rather large blessing that I recognized this week was an email I got from Vania Madeiros, who was baptized in Vila União last February. I´d gotten a letter from her a few weeks earlier in which she was completely discouraged and lost and frustrated with her situation and with God. She´d moved to another state to help her parents out with a sickness but was totally rejected in the process and left without a place to live. Her plans to enter the temple were frustrated because the temple where she lives is pretty far away and she didn´t have the money to get there to take out her endowment. BUT, in the email I got from her this morning, she´s feeling loads better and has been attending church in the local branch in Paraná, Brasil. I´m praying she finds a way to the temple soon. Grandma Julie sent me some temple clothes that I decided I´m going to send to her. So, hurray for Vania :)

Gotta go to get ready for the next session, but know that I love you. Hope you all receive loads of personal revelation in the hours to come. I´ll have to share some of my impressions next week. From Saturday morning seems like the theme so far has been defending the truth and our standards, which I loved. Elder Holland knows how to put the world in its place.

Love, Elder Sears

March 29, 2014 Refiner's Fire

Hello queridos,

Unfortunately there´s not a whole lot of exciting things to report this week--it´s been one of the harder ones on my mission. Eva and Marcilene´s baptisms had to be postponed. Eva, in spite of her age, has some things to clear up with her boyfriend that we found out yesterday she had, and Marcilene´s still struggling to get over coffee. We´ve been praying, planning, practicing, and following up like crazy. We´re just kind of on stand-by right now with each of them. And patience isn´t exactly my strong suit :) But things will get there. 

2 high points of the week though--first, thanks to a VERY dedicated young women´s president, Wanda and Ana Claudia are back in our teaching pool and progressing. Last night was new beginning´s and Bianca Martins (young women´s president) did everything in her power to help Ana Claudia and her mom feel totally included. It was super positive and we´re hoping to be able to go to the cartório with Ademir and Wanda this Wednesday to get things marked for the wedding, now that her birth certificate finally came in the mail.

Second was a lesson with another one of Marcos´ referrals (Weslei and Andréa). Here´s what I wrote in my journal:

"We taught Weslei and Andréa with Irmão Jean. It was one of those lessons where you know from the way your investigator is beating around the bush that they want out. The conversation ended (almost) with Weslei telling us he was going to stay Catholic unless something bizarre happened, and Andréa saying she was at a crossroads and didn´t know which direction to take. They´re such a good couple (the kind that has that light in their eyes) that I couldn´t let them go that easily. The question came to mind, `Do you think the suffering Christ went through was easy? Put yourself in His shoes for a sec--He never sinned, not once, He dedicated every moment in His life to selfless service and sacrifice, He cast out demons and worked miracles--and yet His final earthly reward was to be mocked, condemned, spit upon, and to take on the sins of the whole world. How do you think he knew He needed to continue, that the injustice of it all didn´t call for Him to stop and ask why it had to be so hard?´ `Because God told Him He needed to.´ `Exactly. And He´ll tell you you need to join the Church if you ask Him. I understand that it may be hard, different, and maybe even a little bit scary at first. But as a representative of Christ with His authority I invite you to ask Him and promise you He´ll answer.´  When I finished Andréa was crying and I knew they´d both received a primary answer. We dropped them (for now), but I´m hoping they wake up and show up at church Sunday."

It was one of those lessons that I felt really guided by the Spirit, and I´m grateful for that. I´m glad I know this work will roll forward, even if it´s (visibly) going a little slower than I´d like at the moment. As a fellow missionary quoted a few weeks back, "shall we not go on in so great a cause?"

Love, Elder Sears 

March 22, 2014 Twinners!

             Elder Nelson and Elder Sears pose in their matching ties and pants.

March 22, 2014 Staying in Castelo and continuing Creative Teaching

Dear family and friends,

Transfers are Tuesday and Elder Sears will be staying another one in Castelo!!! I´ll continue with Elder Nelson, but our ward is also going to get 4´s fun to see the work accelerating up close.

I´ll get right to it then...Eva and Marcilene still haven´t been baptized yet. (grr). BUT, they both have dates remarked for the 30th. We found out that Eva had been taught very little by the missionaries in São Paulo, even though she´d been going to church there for a year. So we just have 2 more lessons to teach and she´s set. Marcilene has been having a tough time with coffee. Her husband has been putting it into her head that it´s not a commandment and that there are billions of scientific reports that show that coffee is healthy, not harmful. Last night when he told us that I looked at them and asked, "how many scientific reports have you seen proving that we can live with God again after we die? None, right? Why then, do you believe in it?" That got their attention and we talked about how everything missionaries teach is spiritual truth, and can only be researched/learned/confirmed through spiritual channels. We invited Marcilene to ask God if the word of wisdom really is His commandment, and she agreed to being baptized on the 30th if she received an answer. So, we´re hopeful.

I had some pretty cool experiences this week that I wrote down in my journal. Here´s what I wrote yesterday:

"I hit a year and 6 months two days ago and forgot to mention it. Yeah...! The challenges continue to be a constant (yesterday we found out Wanda and Ana Claudia from Ademir´s family don´t seem to be interested anymore), but in trying to look on the bright side I have 2 pretty cool experiences to report. Tuesday was exchanges with Elder Batista in Jundiaí. We taught an umbanda lady (a religion that prays to Satan, doing "good through evil") and a really special family--Everaldo, Eliete, Gabriel, and Carol. They have to get married first, but they accepted baptism. It was one of those lessons you dream about as a missionary where the Spirit is so strong that you see the truth sinking into the hearts of your investigators. What´s more, we taught with pasta. Yep. I built a 2-d house with spaghetti and explained it represented Christ´s church. Every component fit in its proper place exactly the way Christ arranged it. When He was crucified and the apostles rejected and killed, the people distorted the truths and perfect organization. So I messed up my pasta house. Than I asked Gabriel (11) to rebuild it. He did a really good job but left a few pieces out of order. I explained that many truth-seekers with good intentions tried to establish churches of their own, but none of them were exactly like the way Christ had shown. When we moved on to Joseph Smith I completed/restored the house and taught them the restoration. Everaldo told us he´d received a bunch of pastors in his house but never felt they were telling the truth. He told us that our message was different, that it clicked. He felt impressed he needed to tell his brother about us too. Pretty cool, I´ve gotta say."

The other experience was with Fabio. We had a lesson with him Wednesday in the chapel and before we could say anything he sat down and said "I have something to tell you but you can´t tell my mom. I´m 98 percent sure I´m going to get baptized. Somewhere between in a week and a month." WOW. I sat there laughing to myself, again, at how good of a missionary God is. We did NOTHING, just invited him to pray about President Monson. Those words, 98 percent sure I want to be baptized, are coming from a 20 year-old who didn´t believe in or acknowledge God a month and a half ago. What a huge change, and how awesome it´s been to be a testimony of it. Fabio, however, continues being Fabio and likes to be difficult. When we reviewed the baptismal interview questions he complained a little bit about the law of chastity and the word of wisdom that he´d already been taught. He said he believe there ought to be certain exceptions, like drinking a glass of wine at his brother´s college graduation ceremony. We talked about the importance of exact obedience but it didn´t sink in, so I took a 5-cent coin and a 20 "reais" bill out of my pocket and put them on the chair. "Fabio, if you saw $20.05 fall out of a man´s pocket in front of you, how much would you return to him." "All of it, obviously." "Even the 5 cents?" "Yeah." "Why? It´s only 5 cents..." "Because it´s the right thing to do." Then Elder Nelson and I had fun playing devil´s advocate :) Fabio, you can fit 5 cents into $20 400 times. There´s no problem in returning the 20 and sticking with the coin. Fabio, you´re doing more than most would. You´re returning 20 more than the vast majority. What´s the problems. And on and on. Then we turned it on him and asked him why he was willing to obey the commandment of not robbing in all circumstances and wasn´t willing to live the law of chastity and the word of wisdom. I think the light turned on and he said he´d be obedient to them both in all situations. Victory :)

Oh, one more thing I haven´t had time to fit in my journal yet...on the way to Jundiaí I started getting pretty sick the moment the bus left the terminal. I went to use the bathroom and it was locked because it was out of order. I got pretty worried because it´s an hour trip and I had no way of making that trip without exploding. I said a silent, pleading prayer and the moment I did my upset stomach went away. I got off the bus and as soon as I did, the nausea came back. But I was able to get to a bathroom and take care of everything downtown and work completely normal the rest of the day/week. God hears and answers prayers, even and especially in the little things.

Well, it´s about that time....until next Saturday!

I´m including a picture of Elder Nelson and me and our matching pants/ties. we´re dorks, I know.

Love, Elder Sears

March 15, 2014 Castelo Zone

                          Castelo Zone Conference with Elder Costa

March 15, 2014 Answered Prayers


Just an fyi I´m going to try to get off the email to everyone right now, and I´ll come back in an hour or two to respond to all the kind people that wrote me individually :) Sorry if this isn´t super detailed but I shall do my best.

I forgot to mention something cool that happened last week. Elder Nelson and I were invited to give a pre-missionary training at our stake´s scout camp 2 weeks ago. We went out into the middle of nowhere and basically did a district meeting with role plays and all with all the young men from the stake (Igor and Diego and Sigfried among them). Super cool experience. The stake young men´s president gave us a Castelo hat and water bottle to remember the occasion. I have to say though, I left wondering if I was as wild as some of the Brazilian boys when I was 15. For my mom´s and Brother Barnes´sake, I hope not :)

This Wednesday Elder Nelson, Frutos, Lukas, Doman, Zacheu and I were authorized to go to the temple. It was one of the clearest experiences of personal revelation I´ve had on the mission. I went into the session praying for something specific that I was needing in the moment, and felt that I ought to take my patriarchal blessing into the celestial room with me. The moment that I opened it a phrase just on top of the fold caught my eye and was EXACTLY what I had asked for in my prayers that morning. I felt so loved and really well taken-care of by Heavenly Father. What´s more, Irmã Kikuchi from the CTM participated in the session with us! She was there supervising some missionaries from the CTM that came to Campinas for their P-day because the Sao Paulo temple is in maintenance. She´s 8 months pregnant and 20 kilos heavier, but it was super good to see her. As I like to say, it was another heaven-planned coincidence for me to be grateful for.

As for our investigators: lots of them are keeping their commitments finally :) Eva is progressing well and all set for her baptism next weekend. Marcilene, a friend of Irmã Cesira in the ward, has gone to church with her boys 3 times this month and also has a date set and intact for next weekend. Elder Nelson and I are pretty stoked. We´re working with her husband, Antônio Carlos, so he can stop smoking and drinking and join with her in the Church. We felt we needed to be pretty direct with him in our latest lesson and I remember asking him the same thing that so many Nephite missionaries asked their Lamanite investigators: are you going to follow the traditions of your fathers or are you going to follow God? Marcilene jumped in and bore her testimony to him and called him out in a way that only a wife can do :) It was pretty special to witness that, and how eager she is for him to experience what she´s been experiencing. 

Fabio, Elisabeth´s son, is taking huge strides towards baptism again. We had a lesson with him last week in which he told us some friends starting questioning him about Joseph Smith and he walked away from the conversation with a ton of doubts. He told us he didn´t believe he was a prophet anymore. BUT, he told us yesterday that while he was on an airplane headed for Rio de Janeiro last week the plane started going through a bunch of storms and shaking all over the place. He said that he promised God he´d call us and keep the commitments if the turbulence went away. And it did, almost immediately. We unexpectedly got a phone call from him Thursday asking if we could meet Friday. He told us he´d read the conference talk by President Monson that we´d left with him and that he´d received another confirmation that Joseph Smith really was a prophet. He´s so, so close to baptism. He himself said it. He still didn´t accept a date, but please pray with him so that he does!

We´ve also been teaching the family of Ademir, Wanda, Douglas, Ana Claudia and Viviane for the past 2-3 weeks. They´re friends of Marcos and Isabel Damico (about the umpteenth referral we´ve received from them), and here´s what I wrote in my journal yesterday:

"Ademir and his family were all at church and are receiving the discussions 2-3 times a week. They´re getting married and baptized in April. They´re a really simple family but the Spirit has been doing wonders with them. At the beginning of yesterday´s lesson I asked them if they´d noticed any positive changes in their family since they started meeting with us. Douglas surprised me and shot his hand up right away. "I´ve stopped doing nothing in my free time--now I´m reading in The Book of Mormon." I asked him where he was and he said chapter 2. I thought--well, that´s a start--but then he showed me where he was and I saw "2 Néfi" chapter 2 at the top of the page. Wow! Ademir said he´s gone 25 days without drinking and Wanda said the once constant fights between her and her husband are non-existent now. Tell me tht´s not because they´re starting to live the only true gospel."

We´re going to the cartório with Ademir and Wanda early next week to mark the wedding/baptism date for next month.

As I mentioned last week, we had another mission tour with Elder Costa this week. It was super inspired and I took loads of notes. Here are a few things I wrote down:

-the earth is already organized for Christ´s coming; if he came today, Elder Costa would be President of Brazil...haha!
-D & C 138:56: we were called as missionaries before the foundation of the world
-when we feel the Spirit is at its high point in the lesson, we need to testify and leave
-never mix spiritual with social
-we need to BE missionaries (ser, not estar in portuguese)
-if we want people to teach, we need to always be smiling and always be opening up our mouths
insights he gave me during an interview with him:
-fun is a moment, happiness is a state of soul
-God made the earth with mountains and valleys--you´re happy when you keep going forward and you´re learning
-I have the right to ask the Lord for success when I´m diligently doing my part

Needless to say, it was a really cool experience, especially being able to talk with him one on one for a few minutes. I feel very lucky!

I think the thing that most caught my attention during the mission tour was when Elder Costa said he was 100 percent happy all of the time. I made a goal to be happier and smile always. It´s been making a huge difference already. Yesterday I did a street contact and got to "we´re missionaries from the Church of Jesus Christ..." before the lady cut me off and said "não obrigado." I jokingly asked her which part she didn´t like..."missionaries" or "Jesus Christ." She laughed and it broke the ice super fast. She still didn´t accept, but I walked away from that contact laughing. Small things like that that are making a difference. 

I love you all! Happy Saint Patrick´s Day to everyone! Here´s a picture of our zone with Elder Costa...

Love, Elder Sears

March 8, 2014 Tender Mercies

20 years ago and some change my mom was born! :) haha. Feliz aniversário mom, I love you. You have a card (handmade--maybe not perfect but handmade) on the way.

This week´s been full of several tender mercies. My journal tells them better than I can come up with now, so here goes...

"5 March 2014...

Yesterday I was on exchanges walking back from a referral (that didn´t exist) when I heard, in English, an "excuse me!" from across the street. It came from an 18 year-old named Phillippe who just so happens to be from Alpharetta, GA--maybe a half hour from Lost Mountain. He came here 2 weeks ago for Carnaval and on the way over had a 2 hour conversation with a missionary headed for the CTM. His first question for me was "who goes to the Celestial Kingdom?" I had one of the best, flowing conversations with him that I´ve ever had on my mission. I was stunned at how naturally the English came out, since I´ve never taught the gospel in English in 17 months and the one time I made an attempt during a companionship practice it was the worst lesson of my life. We sat down on a doorstep downtown and talked for 35 minutes. I asked him if he believed in God. he said yes, but to him God was energy. I asked him if he´d ever felt that energy stronger at times than others. He said yes, that when he was on a 3 day road trip he needed to know if there was a God or not so he asked Him. He said he felt a surge of energy rush over him for 10-15 minutes straight. I explained that was how God answered questions, and used the experience to invite him to ask God which church was God´s church (Specifically if it is The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints), promising him he´d receive a similar answer. He agreed, and since we were close by we took him to the mission office and got him some Church materials in English. He heads back to Georgia tomorrow but he wrote down the chapel address there, the Bishop´s phone number, and Elder Frutos is going to email his contact information to the Atlanta North Mission. It was so good to be able to preach the gospel in my own language to another American. I finished the conversation so renewed and grateful to still have some time left as a missionary.

7 March 2014

The other miracle I mentioned was a golden referral named Eva. She attended church for 1 year in São Paulo but was never baptized. Monday she saw some other elders on the street and called them over. She´d just moved here from the capital and wanted to know where the nearest chapel was. And she now lives in our area :) We contacted her with Bishop and discovered she´s been reading The Book of Mormon this whole time and she has a huge testimony that ours is the only true church in the entirety. We marked her baptism for March 23rd."

Two really neat experiences that I was really needing. Eva´s all set for going to church tomorrow. I think it was Wednesday that we checked in on Ricardo and Sheila. They´re doing super well. Can I just say how much I love that family? Towards the end of our lesson with them I bore my testimony and shared my love with them and could not hold back tears. They are amazing people that are enduring a lot because of their membership in the Church. I cannot wait until we´re all in the Celestial Kingdom one day. 

Other news...we had a successful training on Friday, focused on the why of missionary service. I´ve studied a lot about motives and desire lately, and have come to the conclusion that the only way to fully fulfill our purpose as missionaries (and human beings) is to do God´s will because we love him, nothing else. Elder Holland spoke so perfectly on that a few conferences ago in a talk that I´ve studied called "Feed my Sheep." I have felt my love for God, my Savior, you, my companion, each of the missionaries in Campinas, and the Brazilian people grow substantially this week, and I´m really happy about that.

Next week we´ll be having another mission tour! This time just with Elder Costa. Should be fun and really inspiring. 

Love you all,

Elder Sears