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, July 27, 2015

Week 47

Last week we had transfers and I found out that I would leave Feitoria and be transferred to Lagoa Vermelha. Because of the distance, Tuesday was spent traveling on a bus all day long. I arrived in my new area which is super close to the mission limits at almost 9 o´clock at night, just in time to unpack and sleep. I was excited to return to the Passo Fundo Zone, earlier on my mission I´d been in Carazinho which is also part of this zone. I got to know my new companion Élder Lacerda from São Paulo and we hit it hard the following day.

On Wednesday he showed me around and we did a ton of contacts. I really got to like the smaller area and found out that it´s a strong branch here with about 65 members attending. The president of the branch went out with us for 2 visits and came straight out asking a few of the people we visited when they were going to be baptized. I´m really liking his attitude about missionary work and feel like this transfer will be very successful.

I´d been praying a lot recently to find people ready to receive us and this week the Lord blessed us immensely. I had a goal to baptize 2 this week and even though it´d be hard as it was my first week here we worked hard with a ton of faith. One contact I did told us that she´d already visited the church various times and we marked a visit with her later.

The same day as we were trying to visit some contacts my companion stopped to look at his planner a bit. As I was waiting and looking around I saw a woman putting her clothes out to dry. I had the distinct impression that I needed to clap at her gate. We did so and her son answered. We entered and shared our message with them. They listened intently and understood everything we taught. We felt the Spirit very strongly during our message. Her name is Cristine and her son´s name is Kauã, who is 10. At the end Cristine accepted the invitation to be baptized along with her son. Then she went on to tell us about a dream she had had the night before. She told us how 2 men arrived at her door and even though she couldn´t see their faces she noticed that they had dark pants. They entered and shared a really important message with her and at the end showed her a book. She said it looked like a bible but she knew it wasn´t. On the cover it said, "From God." I almost couldn´t speak afterwards and we went on to teach her about the Book of Mormon.

The next day when we visited her, Kauã had read the part we´d marked and also read until chapter 18 in 1 Nephi! Cristine told us how he´d hardly slept the night before because he was reading. We got to know the his step dad Vanderlei and he too accepted the invitation to be baptized. We set a date next month for them as they will need to get married first but Kauã pleaded with his parents so that he could be baptized this Sunday.

As always there is always opposition as well as success and miracles. We contacted a young woman named 17 and she too accepted to be baptized in 2 weeks. We were shocked when she said she was already married too because 1 out of 100 people here are legally married. She understood everything as well and was super excited. However the next day when we got to teach her husband as well, her mother appeared and began trying everything to dissuade her daughter. We were super sad and invited them to pray about our message and we´ll follow up with them tomorrow.

Saturday morning we were involved with the Helping Hands service project throughout Brazil and in Lagoa Vermelha we gathered a bunch of food for the people suffering in the Porto Alegre area because of the flooding and we also helped another church build their chapel. I learned how to set bricks and the other workers there joked that I could now save money and build my own house Brazilian style in the Unites States!

Saturday night we visited a really cool young woman named Morgana that is really involved with another church. She has a lot of pressure from her family to reject us, yet she continues to listen to our messages. We had some very spiritual lessons with her and I promised her that she would receive a testimony of her own if she only would pray and visit the church. I challenged her to dare to stand alone and we´ll see if she has the courage next week.

Sunday was a very busy day and even though we were going to have 2 baptisms, the water in the whole city was shut off. However we called them up and they let us fill up the font. I had the opportunity to give a talk, and after Sacrament meeting we had the baptisms. Kauã´s little 5 year old sister begged to be baptized too, she saw how happy her brother was. A young man named Guilherme was also baptized.

Monday, July 20, 2015

Week 46

This week was full of water. I don´t think I´ve seen this much water in my life. In the past 8 days, it´s rained non-stop 7 of them! A few days we woke up to what seemed like a hurricane, the rain and wind were so strong and they were occasionally accompanied by hail. The only day it didn´t rain was Sunday, and I took a few pictures of the roads in the aftermath. Needless to say, just as they were beginning to finally drain and dry, the rain started up again today!

 Despite all the water, we continued to work all week as we were preparing 2 more investigators to be baptized this week. Their names are Natã, and his older sister Vanessa. We had visited their house early in the week to find their father Ricardo home, without a job. During the lessons that we taught, he was very interested and asked some really good questions. He understood everything we taught him and was super touched during the First Vision. When we came back the other day to teach his wife, he told her just before we taught the First Vision to her, "You have got to pay attention to this part, it´s super important and the truest thing I´ve ever heard." We really felt the Spirit during the lessons and we always left in awe at their receptiveness. One time before we left he told us he´d read the part of the Book of Mormon that we´d left marked for him and he would have some questions for us when we returned the next day.

When we taught Ricardo´s family about the Word of Wisdom his daughter Vanessa left the house right then with some money and returned 10 minutes later with milk and chocolate powder to make chocolate milk. She announced, "From now on we don´t drink coffee." I´d never seen someone so determined to follow the Lord´s commandments. The change in her heart was very quick and we saw that she had really been prepared beforehand to receive the Gospel. She set a good example for her little brother Natã who followed her in her determination to keep all of the commandments. Natã is friends with the family of Silvana who was baptized two weeks ago and they had brought Natã and Vanessa to church with them on the Sunday that they were confirmed.

Another young women that had been brought to church invited us over to visit and teach her during the week. Her name is Geovana and she too had a strong desire to do what is right. We had a very spiritual lesson with her and her mother and they accepted the invitation to be baptized without hesitation. Unfortunately they traveled this weekend and weren´t able to attend church.

During the week there was a young man from the ward that returned from his mission in São Paulo, and he came back all ready to work with us which was awesome. We could tell that he had been a powerful missionary and he had a strong desire to help us out with the missionary work in his home ward. It made us think about the day that we´ll return and how we´ll reach the dreaded day when we´ll have to take off our nametag. It gave us an incentive to work harder to use all the time we had and the rain didn´t stop us from seeing miracles on a daily basis.

As we visited Agatha (baptized last week) to continue teaching her and prepare her to receive the Gift of the Holy Ghost this Sunday we were very impressed with her progress. She asked us for a copy of the bible, and had almost read the Book of Mormon through already. She told us how she´d even answered the questions that are in the back of the pamphlets (The Restoration, The Gospel of Jesus Christ, ect.) that we´d given her when we taught her before her baptism.

On Sunday we were very happy to see Natacha, Agatha, Lucas, and our other baptisms from this transfer at church and only lamented the absense of Silvana´s family and Jacira due to the flooding. They literally couldn´t leave their houses because there was water in front of their houses. Later in the evening we had the baptism of Natã and Vanessa and we almost baptized in the streets there was so much water!

Monday, July 13, 2015

Week 45

This week was super rushed and full of visits to make. We visited Vera and found out that she has already started the process to get married with Macário. Even though it will take a few weeks due to the difficulties with the papers and everything she´s making progress. On Friday they made a really good churrasco for us.

Beginning on Tuesday we tried visiting a young man that went to church the last Sunday. His name is Alexandro and he said to us, "I really hope my mom lets me be baptized!" However each time we tried visiting they always sent him out to tell us that they were either sick, not at home, or busy. Unfortunately they really had no desire to learn more even after we talked with them.

Lurdes was a sad visit of the week as well. She had missed church the last Sunday and didn´t come this one either despite our many invites and encouragement. We were puzzled because she´d already been 3 week ago and had loved it. We saw another example of the type of investigators that only investigate until they get the blessings they were searching for. In Lurdes case she was hoping to find a job and after she had accepted us, gone to church, read the Book of Mormon, prayed about it and received an answer, she was able to find a job. Unfortunately then she thought that that was enough and she stopped investigating, placing everything else as a priority before her testimony. It makes us sad when people get answers, the Lord blesses their lives, and because life is good, they forget about their baptism and decide they don´t need Him anymore.

Starting on Wednesday it began to rain and didn´t stop until Friday morning. We visited our recent convert Natacha and she showed us what she had posted on Facebook after her baptism: "I had a really special Sunday! Some time ago I met these two young men, that showed me a new way and taught me many things. This Sunday was really important, I was baptized. I thank God for everything! I thank them for showing me what is right. And I even got a special dinner, American pancakes made by an American!" We had done a Family Home Evening with her family and a member and I taught them how to make pancakes. We were very happy with how firm she was.

During the week we concentrated our efforts with a young woman named Agatha that had also been to church a few times with our other recent convert, Lucas. Her parents were pretty hesitant for a while but with the encouragement and support of Lucas´ family and us, they decided that Agatha would be able to decide for herself if she wanted to be baptized our not. She had been reading the Primary´s Book of Mormon picture book that I´d given to Lucas and had really enjoyed it.

We got to know another family due to the missionary work Lucas was doing. Marlaine and Jonathon have 6 kids and their middle son had woken them up at 7 o´clock for 2 Sundays already, telling them that he needed to get ready so he could go to church. We taught them the Restoration and the Book of Mormon, which they understood well and loved.

After a very tiring Saturday, we came home to a water shortage, apparently the pipes on our street had burst due to high pressure.

On Sunday we had a super busy day. Before church we coordinated all the rides with the members to pick up all of our investigators. Silvana´s family came in a small bus and as you can see, it was quite packed:

What I loved the most is that every Sunday, this family brings their friends as well so we get to know everyone in their neighborhood! Natacha had made friends with the Bishop´s daughter so they came to church together. During Sacrament Meeting we had 7 confirmations, so many that the Bishop cancelled the first talk. After church we had the baptism of Silvana´s oldest son, Jonathon, who is 16. He loved the Young Men´s organization and woke up early to make it even though he had gotten home from work late the night before.

Later that day we had the baptism of Agatha, who had decided to be baptized and had spent the whole week trying to decide on the best dress she could wear to her baptism. After Élder W. Silva baptized her, we both sang a special musical number. We then did a Family Home Evening with her and her family.

Then today, Monday, we woke up to no running water still, and one of the biggest rain storms I´d ever seen. I thought that a hurricane was passing through. Later in the day when the rain finally stopped, we found all the gutters like the one below. There had been so much water that many of the drains had been eroded out and part of the road sunk:

Monday, July 6, 2015

Week 44

This week we focused our efforts on Silvana´s family and Natacha, who had progressed the most. On Tuesday we visited them both, teaching Natacha the commandments and Silvana the Gospel of Jesus Christ. During our visit with Silvana she told us how with all the other pastors and church organizations that came on a weekly basis to their home, her youngest (Brenda: 2 years old) always cried and hid herself. However with us, ever since the first visit she laughed and smiled the whole time. One time she stumbled to the gate to wave goodbye to us and said "tchau tio!" (bye uncle, which is how the kids refer to anyone older than them). For Silvana that really struck her and so she paid more attention to what we had to say.

The next day we brought the other missionaries to Natacha´s house so she could be interviewed, and she passed with flying colors! We set her baptismal date to be this Sunday. We visited Silvana´s family almost daily and helped them to stop drinking coffee. This was a real challenge with them because as they are a very poor family, they don´t have much to eat and coffee becomes the main beverage. We brought things to help them out and without hesitation they stopped drinking and decided to be baptized this Sunday as well. I taught my companion Élder W. Silva how to make cookies and we brought some to Silvana´s family which they enjoyed very much.

After we´d visited them so many times, the kids began memorizing our names and getting better at saying prayers. Every time we left, we´d say a prayer and everyone would fight to be the one to say the prayer. During their prayers they never forgot to ask that their friends Andrew and Silva would be safe. Wednesday afternoon I called President Wright for the last time to say goodbye before he caught his flight to Salt Lake City.

On Friday we had a Zones Conference in Porto Alegre to meet the new President. His name is President Campos and he comes from Natal, Rio Grande do Norte, Brazil. The same city that my companion comes from. We all teased him that he´ll be the next Assistant to the President because of that. When he told us how the change of presidents happened on Wednesday, he said that when President Wright met him at the airport he said excitedly while hugging President Campos, "You´re the president now! Make sense?" We all burst out laughing because it´s exactly how President Wright is. We all liked President Campos and his wife right from the beginning. They have 4 daughters and 1 son. As a missionary he served in the Porto Alegre mission, and the areas he had in our current mission were Lindóia (Porto Alegre) and Bento Gonçalves.

In honor of Independence Day I used a red tie with my white shirt and a blue sweater and sang America the Beautiful, My Country ´Tis of Thee, and the Star Spangled Banner. Afterwards I said the Pledge of Allegiance to an American Flag I´d drawn in my planner! Saturday was very busy as we ran around reminding everyone about church the next day and arranging rides for everyone. There was a Primary party at the church as well which we got Silvana´s whole family to. They enjoyed themselves very much and couldn´t get enough of the trampoline, cotton candy machine, and friends.

Sunday morning as we were heating the water in the baptismal font we were surprised to see Jacira show up having walked all the way from her house with her two little grandkids. She lives a few miles away and had been so determinded to go to church that she refused a ride. During Sacrament Meeting I confirmed her a member and she received the Holy Ghost. After church Natacha´s mom came to be there for her baptism. We had organized a really special baptismal service and I baptized Natacha and 6 of Silvana´s kids: Kauana, Luana, Luan, Vinicius, Willian, and Kelvin. Natacha was baptized first but instead of changing back into dry clothes directly after, she stayed in the door to watch the other 6 be baptized. After everyone was in dry clothes again, Élder W. Silva and I sang another special musical number, "Count Your Many Blessings," which really brought the Spirit to the meeting.

We ran out of white jump suits so after I baptized one of the kids, he ran in the bathroom to change and give his jumpsuit to his brother!

As the bishop signed the 7 new member records he said with a chuckle, "Good work elders, now I´ll have one less talk to assign for next Sunday due to all the confirmations!" Lunch that day was with Filipe and Grasi, who had bought a huge box of food for Silvana´s family after seeing their situation the last week without even being asked. When we delivered it to them, we also brought 2 big bags of clothes that Jacira had brought as well. That night we brought a friend that Natacha had made at church to her house and I made Pancakes with Buttermilk Syrup for them. They went crazy taking pictures because they wanted to show all their friends on Facebook that they were eating 'American Pancakes'! After everyone had eaten, we watched Joseph Smith: the Prophet of the Restoration.