Saturday, June 28, 2014

May 24, 2014 Another Couple Married: Music to My Ears

Dear everyone!

Thank you to all for your prayers after last week because this one has been a really, really good one. I´ll explain why:

Tuesday, our zone got to go to the temple! It was a really good opportunity to feel so at home there and feel God communicating with me in a very personal way (I´d asked Him what He expected of me during these last 3 months of my mission). That night we got to teach two theologians after English class. They´re from the Presbyterian church (I wanted to open up to Joseph Smith--History with them and read the part where Joseph tells his mom "I´ve discovered for myself that Presbyterianism is not true" but I decided against it :) ...). It actually was a really good conversation and they walked out understanding the basis of and need for The Book of Mormon. Can I just say it´s a really good feeling to have confidence in God and His Church to the point that you can talk to two learned, religious professionals without sweating too much? In spite of how little I know, this Church IS true and its work will go forward. We also found a man named César who speaks flawless English and is really curious about the concept of a modern prophet. He asks all the right questions ("but how do I know that he really is the guy?" and "well if you have a prophet you have modern-day scripture--let me see it") and it´s been a joy preparing to teach and actually teaching him. He´s still a little hesitant on the baptismal invite we extended to him but he´ll get there. I love teaching people that just get it.

Wednesday I got to go on exchanges with Elder Frutos, my long-time secretary friend! It was a really good, refreshing, and busy day. We ate lunch in his ward at one of the Martins relatives (the 8th richest family in Brasil) and they happened to have a baby grand piano and happened to invite me to play...?!!! Pretty sweet :) As we finished the exchange we got to talking about the principle of "the one" in the scriptures. It´s interesting to compare 3 Nephi 11 with the brother of Jared´s experience with the 16 stones--each group was touched "one by one" as they came to be molded by the Savior´s hands. So it is with us and our personal experience with the atonement. The symbolism goes on and on. I find it pretty cool that each of those molded, illuminated stones were placed 2 by 2 in the barges--sound anything like missionary work?!

Oh yeah, Roselí! She´s the referral we got from the family that passed by us last week on the street. We were able to teach her twice this week, so she actually became an investigator! And she said she´d think about baptism. It was interesting because she herself told us that if we´d knocked 2 weeks ago, she wouldn´t have let us in. Only her 32 year-old son came down with some serious health difficulties 15 days ago and that softened her up to receive the missionaries. It really is incredible to see how God does His work--combining her situation with a member family that took an unusual route to the supermarket and on the way was asked by an exasperated missionary if they had any referrals and happened to know someone on that very street. Cool cool.

This morning Elder Nelson and I ended personal study a little early to see Ademir and Wanda get married!! (pictures coming in another email). It´s such a simple ceremony but it´s the difference between 20 years of sin and a clean, guilt-free rest of eternity. It was really quite special. I´ve been blessed to see 5 couples go through that process on the mission. God really is so good. Tomorrow will be their baptism and there´ll be a lot of people dressed in white :) Douglas is going to baptize his mom, Marcos (the member that gave us the referral) Ademir, and Elder Nelson Viviane. Heaven on earth :) There really is nothing better than missionary work.

One last thing...tomorrow I´ll be accompanying one of the sisters on the piano in some sort of stake meeting. We´re doing Lord, I Would Follow Thee. Should be fun!

Love you all,
Elder Sears

8756, 8758: templo!
8769: Elder Gomes´ (far left) birthday party. He has to head home to do a knee surgery and we wanted to cheer him up a bit

May 17, 2014 Pistachio-flavored Positivity and Drive-by Referrals

Dear everyone that matters most,

20 months ago to the day I was set apart as a full-time missionary by President Owen. I had no idea how much changing I´d be doing--in my own life and those I´d come to serve and love. The reality of so much time behind and so little ahead hasn´t really set in yet and I´m grateful for that. I´m praying it stays that way because I love it here. Even on the difficult weeks.

It´s been one of those weeks....where you have plan A to H and the warmest reception you get is from the lady selling you pistachio ice cream after a tough day. But you know what? It´s all good! Because pistachio is a really good flavor. Actually, because I´m a missionary and this work is eternal and isn´t going to be stopped. It seems to be a trend on my mission that a week before someone in our teaching pool is locked in for baptism, the rest of the work gets pretty difficult. So be it :) Because Ademir and Wanda and Viviane are still rock solid for the wedding next Saturday and their baptism the following Sunday (May 25th). We reviewed with them on Thursday the sacred nature of the baptismal covenant. It has special meaning to them because Douglas, their son, blessed the sacrament for the first time last Sunday and did it flawlessly. I was sitting next to Wanda and she smiled after he finished and said "that´s my son up there." Yes, it is Wanda. And in 8 days he´s going to be performing your baptismal ordinance. So really, I have no right to complain about this week.

I was studying in 3 Nephi 8 today and was once again reminded/amazed by God´s power. He completely reshaped the Nephite landscape in THREE HOURS. Who would dare to question His ability to reshape a human heart? And in spite of the difficulties finding new investigators this week, He still answers prayers. Last night after plan H fell through Elder Nelson and I were laughing it off when we heard "hey Elders!" coming from a passing car. I recognized that they were members from a nearby ward and, probably 75 percent joking, said, "boa noite! got any referrals?" They stopped the car and the mom said, actually yeah. There´s a lady that lives on this street that went to a ward activity last week. Her sister is a member and she recently separated from her husband so she´s really needing the gospel right now. We´re on our way to the supermarket but we can show you where the house is." Alrighty then!? We took down the address and are going to pass there on Sunday to meet her. Lesson learned: ask EVERYONE for referrals, even members you´ve seen once in your life that don´t live in your ward. So that was a pretty cool experience.

And while it´s been difficult finding new investigators we´ve been working with a really cool less active father-son duo: Ricardo and Pedro. We visited Ricardo on Thursday and he said it was perfect timing because he´d just gotten in a huge fight with his son and was needing some more hope and a new perspective about everything. We read with him in Alma and talked about Amulek´s conversion/return to the Church and how much of a difference he made as a faithful, active member and missionary. Ricardo said he´ll be at church Sunday and that he´s made a goal to be worthy to take the sacrament soon while he watches Pedro administer it with the other deacons. So that was a high point :)

Placídio continues to progress, slowly. He´s almost reached a certainty that eternal families are possible (coming from someone who believe in nothing after death when we met him 6 weeks ago that´s pretty exciting), but he still needs some pushes and promptings to take the next step to secure one. Tonight we´re going to read with him in Gospel Principles and invite him to go the cartório next week. Carlos started avoiding us after we taught him the law of chastity on Tuesday. I´m hoping he shows up at Church tomorrow. Something happened with José Milton too because he´s not answering our calls....

But, life goes on and it´s a happy one for me :)

Amo vocês!
Elder Sears

P.S. the Mother´s Day call was FANTASTIC last Sunday. Obrigado minha família!

May 10, 2014 Tending the flock

Hello from Castelo! :)

First things first, Happy Mother´s Day Mom!! I hope my letter gets there quickly. Can´t wait to talk to you guys tomorrow!! (I sent you and Dad an email about that about half an hour ago).

Second things second, I have 15 minutes to get this off so here goes...I´m gonna go with some journal entries to get off everything I want to as quickly as possible.

May 6, 2014: "Something cool happened last Wednesday I think it was. We were contacting less actives downtown when a woman came up to me, said she recognized me, and asked why nobody was visiting her son. When it dawned on me who she was, I remembered Elder Hill and I had taught her family in Ouro Verde and her son, Felipe, was baptized one week after I left the area. Only he moved and nobody knew his address. That´s why I felt so grateful his mom gave me it in that moment so I could call Missão Piracicaba to track him down, help get him active again and maybe help his cousin who´s living with him. God watches over His flock!"

May 7, 2014: "President showed a video at the end of his message during a mission conference on Monday called the "invisible woman." She talks about life as a mother--all the simple acts of kindness she does that go unnoticed and unthanked. Yet all the while she knows God sees them and every now and again she can feel His embrace, just as God and no one else sees the tiny details on a cathedral that takes decades to finish. I felt in that moment God extending His hand to thank me for all the little things I´ve done as a missionary. I can´t imagine how He feels when I forget to thank Him for something--everything--and yet He always recognizes everything I do. It´s comforting to know that."
-->Mom, that goes to you too, for all the simple, sweet things you do that I may not notice and maybe never will until God shows me them, in this life or the next. Thank you!

May 10, 2014: "We got a golden referral named Carlos from Elder Lukas and Elder Cavalcante. He agreed to meeting with us 3 times a week and accepted baptism for the 24th on our first visit. He moved here recently from São Paulo and was taught by the elders there too. Just another blessing fallen from heaven after 2 weeks of no sucess in finding people to teach. I really am pathetically weak when I try to do this work by myself. We´ve still got 3 families in our teaching group and we´ve been going all out to help Placídio. We felt pushing him towards marriage with a bunch of follow-ups on the law of chastity wasn´t the way to go, so we decided to make this week a tour of Christ´s life and character. Monday was Christ the example, Wednesday Christ the Savior, and Friday Christ the judge. Each day we brought 1/3 of a magnet with a picture of Christ holding out a hand and a light for them to keep on their fridge. We read with them in The Book of Mormon and the Living Christ, shared personal experiences of feeling His love, and gave them a questionairre to fill out for Placídio and Marlete to see where they´re at in their faith in Christ. Friday we finished our lesson with the Church´s fantastic Easter video "Because of Him." The Spirit was so strong it was almost tangible. Placídio, obviously moved, lifted his head and said in almost a sad way, "He did so much for us and asks so little." I could see him wrestling with himself as did Enos. He is so close. He wants to accept, and he´s so close to getting over the pride that makes him resist. I´ve never prepared more to teach an investigator and I´ve never felt such a genuine love. We´re teaching people, not lessons, and I´m loving it. Oh, and Ademir, Wanda and Viviane are all good for 2 weeks from now :D"

So, that´s the wrap up. More details to come on Mother´s Day!!

Love you all MUITO,

Elder Sears