Don´t worry, I´m doing considerably better than most of the Brazilians after their 7-1 defeat against Germany :) It´s been a good week, full of spiritual experiences and lessons learned. I´ll get started then...
Wednesday was my last mission conference ever. It was surreal and a little sad and sobering at the same time. After lunch the assistants asked me to play a special musical number so I went with an arrangement of "In Humility Our Savior" that I brought with me. I felt good about it. Shortly afterwards I had the opportunity to bear my "exit testimony" in front of everyone. I´ve witnessed dozens of such testimonies during all my multi-zones but me being up there was utterly shocking and quite a bit sad to be honest. I shared with the group a scripture I´d found on the bus ride (Ether 4:19). It seemed to fit the situation perfectly. Our stake president taught 2 weeks ago in ward conference that when you bear testimony, the Spirit confirms to you the truth of what´s coming out of your mouth. I felt that strongly Wednesday. This church is true.
Friday to Saturday I was on exchanges with Elder Hanekamp in a nearby area. In about an hour or so I had my beliefs challenged and questioned and criticized more than they have been in a while. We were walking to an appointment when a man ran up behind us and handed us 2 anti-Mormon pamphlets printed in Grand Rapids, MI. How do I know they were from Grand Rapids? Because I only looked at the back of it where I saw the printing address before tearing it up and throwing it away :) Seriously people, what do you hope to accomplish by that, giving it to a missionary of all people? We got to the appointment where Tiago, one of their more difficult investigators, was waiting for us. The lesson was going just fine for 10 minutes before he started heavily questioning the plan of salvation and The Book of Mormon, pulling various scriptures from the Bible. We responded with other scriptures, to which he presented another interpretation. It got pretty heated pretty fast, and I made the error of presenting other scriptures to continue the debate instead of just bearing my testimony, letting Elder Hanekamp bear his, and walking out. The Spirit was entirely absent and I walked out feeling awful and empty. I prayed long and hard that night to get it back, and to know how to respond to Tiago´s doubts without causing mayhem (in particular our belief in pre-mortal life which he believes doesn´t exist). Sunday morning I came across a few scriptures in Job that served perfectly.
Job 37:24: "He [the Almighty] respecteth not any that are wise of heart." --> a gentle reproach for me trusting too much in me and too little in the Spirit
Job 38:2: "Who is this that darkeneth counsel by words without knowledge?" --> an affirmation that Tiago´s reasoning really didn´t have reason
Job 38: 3-4,7: "Gird up now thy loins like a man; where wast thou when I laid the foundations of the earth?...when the morning stars sang together and all the sons of God shouted for joy?" --> a cry for courage, and proof that we really were in God´s presence and rejoiced with Him before coming to earth.
I felt such relief when I read that, and felt the Spirit return immediately. Good feeling :) I relearned a crucial lesson in the process that is the title of this email: this isn´t my work. I can´t do it my way because it isn´t my message. The only, only, only way to preach the gospel is by the Spirit.
Sunday we had a tender mercy. Remember Erica and Gabriel and Gustavo from last week? Well we showed up to pick them up on Sunday morning and nobody answered the door. I was pretty put out because she´d confirmed emphatically that she´d be ready when we stopped by, and she wasn´t even there. When Priesthood and Relief Society got over (here sacrament meeting is last) I saw her and her 3 kids in the hallway! I´d said a prayer 30 seconds earlier that someone would show up. Apparently she hadn´t heard anyone honk, but when she saw that no one would be passing by she gathered up the kids and walked there. She had a million and one reasons to throw in the towel and stay home but she went. And for a woman that hadn´t set foot in the Church for 4 plus years, it´s the second time in 2 weeks!
Flavia was there too. We found her and her family Monday night doing a street contact on our way home and were able to teach them twice this week. We left the first lesson pamphlet with them after our first visit and Fabiana, her twin sister, read it with her and filled out all the questions at the end of it. People, no one ever does that. It´s the second time it´s happened in 1 year and 10/11 months. We asked her what she understood and she said "well, basically Christ set up His church but it was rejected and then the apostasy started when a bunch of people started up their own churches in its absence. That´s why God had to call Joseph Smith as a prophet." Um, yep, that´s about right Fabiana! I was super impressed with her response. The family´s got a baptismal date marked for July 27th, but we´ve got a long ways to go still. Flavia being at church was a huge first step.
In other news, Eva from ala Castelo was baptized on Saturday!!! Elder Nelson and I taught her several times but she had some things to work out with the law of chastity first. She worked them out and Saturday was the day :)
Today I got permission from President to go visit Andreya from ala Ponte, who I helped baptize almost a year ago to the date. She´d called the office and told them she needed to talk. We arrived for lunch and you know what I found out? Her son, Kaique, is headed to the mission field in January!!! He was baptized shortly after I was transferred. And they have a sealing date marked in the temple for November!!!! I was thrilled beyond belief. They both have multiple callings and she said she has a testimony that nobody will take from her. She said that when she went to the temple for the first time to do baptisms she felt something so powerful that The Book of Mormon could be proved to be a lie and she´d still go faithfully because of what sheh felt and KNEW by the power of the Holy Ghost. Do you know how much that means for a missionary to hear a recent convert say that? She´s dating a returned missionary and she´s been tremendously blessed with a new job and a new house. Tell me that´s coincidence. I´m trying to send a picture but this stupid computer isn´t letting me. I´ll try the one next door.
LAST THING, PLEASE PAY ATTENTION! The mission office address is changing, so as of TODAY, all letters that you´d like to send need to be directed to the following address:
Rua Duque de Caxias, 645
All letter/packages previously sent will be forwarded on, so don´t worry :) Speaking of which, a huge thanks to my family for the Father/s Day card/letter. I got it last week and loved it!
Sorry this email was so long...gotta go now!
Love, Elder Sears