I am serving a two year mission for the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints in the Brazil, Porto Alegre North Mission. I post on this blog every week, so check it out to hear about my life as a missionary!

Monday, June 29, 2015

Week 43

It seems like each week this transfer gets better than the last one. On Tuesday we visited a contact I´d made the previous week named Natacha. She is a 16 year old young woman that was having a few health problems recently. She told us that she had been searching for a church to join but hadn´t found anything that she´d liked. As we taught her and her mother the Restoration, everything made sense to her and she became excited. Later that day we visited a very poor lady named Seloni that lives with her depressed cousin Ivonette. After we taught them they accepted to be baptized. I talked with Élder W. Silva afterwards and we made plans to do the same thing I´d done with Élder Diamond in Carazinho for Daniele. We wanted to get the members´ help in gathering clothing and food for them.

On Wednesday we brought the other missionaries to Jacira´s house so they could interview her to be baptized. Up until the interview she had kept putting it off and saying that she´d waited 10 years to be baptized and she could wait a little longer. After almost 2 hours of talking with the other elder she came out almost in tears and shouted, "Yes! Yes! I have to be baptized this Sunday!" The rest of the week she had the firmest determination to be baptized that I had ever seen. She realized that it was in the midst of trials and tribulations that we need to seek out and come close to Christ, not when everything is going well.

We visited Natacha again on Thursday and taught her about the Book of Mormon. She told us that she had prayed to know if our message was true and she had felt the same feeling she felt when we were describing the First Vision. She knew without a doubt that she had received an answer to her prayer. We committed her to baptism and she said, "Not even my boyfriend will stop me from going to church and getting baptized!"

Friday morning we had District Meeting and I gave the 10 minutes of English. I made a game similar to charades where there are 2 teams, and they take turns sending one of their teammates to act out an animal or insect using actions and sound only. The catch is the names of the animals are in English and the first team to shout out the name in English gets the point. I had already done this many times and so this time I´d chosen super difficult ones like Humming Bird, Praying Mantis, and Dolphin (as opposed to Dog, Cat, Cow, etc.).

Friday afternoon we visited Angelica, the contact we´d made last week that had already been taught by the missionaries in Santa Cruz. We´d already taught her several times and so we challenged her to be baptized. Unfortunately she´d chosen a different path and didn´t want to give up the world to be baptized. She told us, "It´s always been my dream to get 2 tattoos and to be a magazine cover model and I know that I won´t be able to do that after I´m baptized." The saddest part is that she is only 12.

The same night we visited our recent convert, Lucas, that had been baptized 2 weeks ago. We gave him the picture of his baptism and he showed it to his friend, Luan. He also showed Luan the Book of Mormon picture book I´d given him and began to explain to Luan all the things that he had learned. I was super impressed with our 9 year old convert when he explained what his CTR ring meant, showed his favorite parts of the picture book, and then pointed to a picture of Joseph Smith and said, "If you´re going to go to church you have to know who this guy is!" Before we left Luan came up to us and asked if he could be baptized. Lucas leapt right up and showed him exactly how to be baptized in the water and even remembered the words that I had used haha!

Luan took us to his house nearby and we talked with his mom, and 9 other siblings. The next day we returned and taught them the Restoration. What surprised me the most was that everyone paid attention and even told their friends waiting outside to wait because they wanted to listen to our message. They are very poor yet there was a different spirit about their home. They recognized the importance of what we were saying and asked very intelligent questions for a bunch of kids, the oldest being 16.

Saturday night we went to the farewell of a young man here that will serve in Argentina. His family lives right in front of our house.

On Sunday as we were opening up the chapel an older couple walked up and asked us if it was the Catholic church. We told them where it was but invited them in to attend the services. They accepted and walked right in. Soon after, a member rolled up in front with Luan´s family, the back door opened, and kid after kid hopped out, I didn´t know that 9 kids could fit in the back of that car! We picked up Natacha and her cousin Tamirez who were waiting all ready at their front door, and even Lurdes walked to church. The bishop´s jaw dropped when he saw the 17 investigators we´d brought to church. After church we held Jacira´s baptismal service and Élder W. Silva and I sang a special musical number. Later when we visited her at home she said she´d only cried from joy twice in her life: when her daughter was born, and when we sang at her baptism.

This Sunday marked the last Sunday that we have President Wright as our mission president. The mission had made a goal to have baptisms in every area as our thank-you and farewell to him, and the majority of the 100 some areas did so!

Monday, June 22, 2015

Week 42

Last Tuesday we had the opportunity to go to the temple in Porto Alegre. For lunch before the session we ate with a family that seemed 100% Americanized. They all speak English fluently, and all the kids were going to school in Utah and returning to Brazil during the Summer. Their son is even serving a mission in Salt Lake right now. They served us nachos with brownies for dessert! At the temple we were able to see the missionaries from other Zones which was cool. When we returned to Feitoria, our bishop sent us pizza delivered for dinner. He´s starting up with a pizza business and told us that he´d send us pizza every Tuesday night. He´s the best.

Tuesday evening as we were on the bus a contact I´d made the week before named Sabrina passed us and recognized us. When I´d contacted her she´d shown a lot of interest and even given us the cell number that she usually uses. On the bus she talked with us and we set up a time to visit her. Unfortunately she works two jobs and doesn´t have a lot of free time but she continued to show interest. She´d been through a bad marriage and was trying to figure out what to do with herself now. I thought about the contacts I´d been doing and realized that this week especially it seemed like every contact was a golden one. The Lord sure is blessing us in this area.

On Wednesday we visited an older lady named Jacira. She had been living with a less active member for years but something happened and he moved away. She had always wanted to be baptized (it´d been 10 years that she´d been saying that) yet she kept putting it off saying, "I need to be more prepared." She´d also been attending church for 10 years, had a strong testimony, and had already been reading D&C, and the Pearl of Great Price as well as the Book of Mormon. The last week she´d told us that she would be baptized this coming Summer (December-ish). However, we visited her and after sharing a message about the importance of baptism and not putting it off, she accepted to be baptized on the 27th of June!

Thursday night we had an FHE with Lucas´ family (he was baptized last week). For dinner I taught them all how to make American Pancakes and made Buttermilk Syrup to go with them. At first they were hesitant because the pancakes they eat are thin and eaten with ground beef. They questioned the large amount of batter I had made. However, they understood why after they had their first bite. The 50ish pancakes I´d made for this family of 5 were devoured in less than 10 minutes with cries for more! I would say it was a success. Earlier in the week I had stopped by to give Lucas a CTR ring and Book of Mormon picture book that I´d bought at the temple and while I was making the pancakes he proudly showed me the ring he hadn´t taken off yet and how his sister Evelin had read all the way to chapter 11 with him every night.

Also last week we had made a contact with two women walking the opposite direction. While we were talking one of them asked, "are you guys the elders?" When we said yes one of them told us that her husband is a member and the other woman told us how she had been taught by the missionaries in Santa Cruz but hadn´t been baptized because she moved here. Talk about golden contacts! We visited them several times during the week and helped the husband (Madesson) re-activate himself and taught the two young women.

On Friday we visited a contact I´d made that lived in a closed community. When I found the house, number 17, it was empty. Just as we were about to leave, an older lady came out of the neighboring house, number 16, and asked us who we were looking for. We were a little surprised but we told her that we were trying to get in contact with Dirse and her daugher Brenda. Without hesitation she invited us in telling us that Dirse was her daughter and Brenda her granddaughter. When we entered she told us how she´d been praying for help in her life for many days and had felt that she should step out of her house at the very moment that we were knocking on her neighbor´s door. She said that when she saw us she knew that we were 'good men' and that we would help her. When Dirse and Brenda arrived, they told us that when I´d contacted them at the bus stop the other day, they felt something they´d never felt before. She told us that she never gives anyone her address because of security, but she had seen "a light about us and knew that we were really servants of the Lord." We couldn´t believe what we were hearing but she went on to say that Brenda had turned to her after we´d left the bus stop and said, "They had the Holy Ghost with them, there was something different about them." Apparently they´d been waiting for our visit anxiously. The lesson about the Restoration that we taught was one of the most spiritual ones I´d ever participated in. The next day when we visited them again they accepted the Book of Mormon without hesitation and told us how they´d read the pamphlet we´d left with them (usually investigators don´t) and received an answer that our message was true after they said a prayer that night.

Saturday evening we were called by the Zone Leaders to do and interview for them in their area. As we grabbed the tram in São Leopoldo we saw three deaf men in the middle of the station arguing in sign language! I´d never seen something like it before, they were arguing heatedly yet not saying a word.

On Sunday I we had an FHE with a less-active family and I made cookies for them. After they were all baked everyone in the family was trying to hide them from everyone else because they wanted them all to themselves!

Wednesday, June 17, 2015

Week 41

This past week was the beginning of a new transfer. I stayed in Feitoria and got a new companion, Élder W. Silva, from Natal, Brazil. It was cool because during my first transfer on the mission I did a division with him for one day and so we´d already know each other. He is the oldest in his family and only active member. He has about the same amount of time on the mission as I do as well. Throughout the week we hit it hard and got a lot done.

On Tuesday we visited the older couple that had been to church a few times. Their names are Macário and Vera. Turns out he had already been counselor to a few bishops and even the president of the stake young men, but had fallen away during the past 3 years. In those years he met Vera and they live together now. We got to know them better and we taught them the Restoration, one the most spiritual lessons I´ve had. At the end we asked Macário, a real quiet guy, to bear his testimony to Vera. We could definitely feel the Spirit in the room when he bore his simple testimony of what he knew. We committed them both to pray in private and ask if our message was true.

When I found out that I would stay for another transfer here, I had begun to make plans and think of what we could do for the next 6 weeks here. As I was doing so, I would say that I was hit with revelation/inspiration. I talked with the secretary of the ward and he helped me print off an updated list of all the members in the ward. We went through the whole list and marked who was active and who was less-active. From the less-actives we printed off all their baptism certificates and planned to visit them during the transfer and re-activate them as well as teach the other members of the family that hadn´t been baptized years before. We created a goal to re-activate and complete many families here in Feitoria.

The first miracle that came from this inspiration was on Wednesday, when we found a boy named Lucas who was the only one in his family not baptized. We invited them all to come to church on Sunday (which was Ward Conference) and invited him to be baptized which he accepted without hesitation. As we taught them the Restoration and the Gospel of Jesus Christ they were very excited and eager to respond to our questions because everything was similar to them and we were igniting the fire of the gospel that had been dormant so many years.

The next day we went to the house of a contact I had done the last transfer. When we entered the house and began to teach, his wife joined us and asked, "you´re the elderes right?" We responded in the affirmative and we discovered that she too was a unactive member from another nearby city. I marveled at how the Lord places people in the missionaries´ path to lead us to his lost sheep. We invited them, Luis and Gislenia to the Ward Conference as well and she was very excited as she heard our message as well.

On Friday we visited Vera and Macário again and much to our happiness they had prayed and felt that our message was true. We taught them about the Book of Mormon which she accepted right off the bat. We committed her to read a part we´d marked and pray about it as well. Then came the challenge, will you be baptized? To which she said, "don´t I have to be married with Macário first?" We said yes and so she decided to do everything to get married so that she could be baptized in a few weeks!

Recently a new Ward Missionary Leader was called and we set up an appointment with him when we had lunch at his house. The meeting was very productive and I saw that he was eager to help and do everything he could to help the work go forward in his ward. On Sunday we really saw his enthusiasm as he tried everything to get the water heater working for the baptism of Lucas. Unfortunately it still wasn´t working when the time came so as we threw buckets of boiling water in the font to heat up the ice cold water we brought Lucas to the font to test the water and see if he still wanted to go through with it this week. I´ll never forget what he said back, "Oh I´ve taken many baths much colder than this!" He made us all laugh. After church we held the service and there were more people there than I´d ever seen at a baptism before. We assigned a few less actives to give the messages and prayers which helped them a lot.

Throughout the week I had been sick with a pretty bad cold, it had rained 2 of the days straight, and the weather had dropped down to the 40´s but we didn´t even notice it because of all the miracles we saw each day.

Monday, June 8, 2015

Week 40

This week we worked a lot with some of the members in this ward to make a choir for the ward conference this coming week. We chose two songs and have been working with them for a few weeks. There is a young man here that is coming back to church and preparing for a mission that has helped us out a lot. He works with bands and records them in his studio. He recorded us singing one of the songs so that we could show the choir how to sing it. It was super cool and because of it the young man is helping us teach his friends.

Oh Saturday I got a really awesome opportunity to give a presentation at an English School called TopWay. A traveling professor had talked to me beforehand in the church which is close by and given me an overview of the slide show that I´d base my presentation on. I talked a lot about the culture differences and what life is like in the States. I was really impressed with the level of English they spoke, and the professor even helped me out with a few words that I´d forgotten after 9 months of straight Portuguese!

The best part of the presentation was the end, when I explained why I was here and about the Church. I told them all about what missionaries do, and bore my testimony to wrap it up. At the end I gave them all pass-along cards and they were very interested. One young man even asked me if he could have the Book of Mormon. Thankfully I always carry at least one with me so I was able to give it to him and for the first time on my mission I explained what the Book of Mormon is in English! I really felt the Spirit testifying of what I spoke.

Before we left they all invited us back and gave us shirts from the school. As we were grabbing our bus we ran into one of the students that had been at the presentation, and during the bus ride we talked about what we do in more detail. He was a 17 year old young man and actually lived really close to our house. We grabbed his address and plan to visit him soon.

At church on Sunday we were very surprised and happy to find that Nicole had come to church all by herself and had even brought the Book of Mormon we´d given her! She loves the Primary and has made many friends there. The older couple that had come to church two week ago also came again and thanked us for passing by last week even though they weren´t at home. After Sacrament Meeting they gave me both of their numbers and asked for us to swing by this coming Tuesday. We see a lot of potential in them.

It´s transfers week this week and so I will stay while my companion goes to another area. I´m excited to stay and have many plans for the next transfer here!

Élder Joseph Andrew
Missão Porto Alegre Norte
Caixa Postal 13008
CEP: 91010-971
Porto Alegre - RS

Monday, June 1, 2015

Week 39

Last P-day we called up a few of the young men in the ward and hit up a soccer field made of sand to play some futebol. I came away from that experience realizing that I knew nothing about soccer compared to 8 year old Brazilians! While we were playing some neighborhood kids stopped what they were doing and joined us. Something I love about the culture here is that soccer is the second language of the country after Portuguese. The cities here are dotted with these sand fields with grass fields as well and whenever anyone shows up with a soccer ball everyone that lives nearby drops whatever they´re doing and comes to join. It doesn´t matter who you are, how old you are, or how well you play, if you like soccer you join. After playing for a few hours I also realized that I´m super out of shape. We talked with the people that had played with us and visited them later in the week.

A few of the people that played with us:

On Wednesday I celebrated 9 months serving! For 4 days straight beginning on Tuesday, it rained non-stop. Needless to say, our clothes hanging out on the lines ended up getting wetter than they were in the washer. Saturday we were saddened to hear of the passing away of Elder L. Tom Perry. Also on Saturday we traveled to Sapucaia to interview a man for baptism that my trainer, Élder Nielson, had taught and prepared for baptism. He was a middle aged man, disabled because of a work accident, and had been keeping all of the commandments for a month already.

We had marked Jenifer´s baptism for this Sunday but it fell through due to opposition from her boyfriend. He is a batuqueiro (messes with black magic and spirits) and threatened her family if she got baptized. On Sunday we attended a baptismal service that the sisters in São Leopoldo had arrainged. They helped a family of 3 be baptized and right after the service they received home and visiting teachers from the ward. It was one of the more spiritual baptismal services that I had been to.