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, August 31, 2015

Week 52

This week was super busy due to the preparations for the wedding and many splits with other missionaries. I was only in my own area two days of the week. The climax of the week was the wedding of course. Friday morning Vanderlei and Cristina were married and signed all the papers necessary. Saturday evening we held the baptismal service and all their non-member friends came to participate. There were almost more non-members than members. I baptized Vanderlei and Élder Lacerda baptized Cristina. After the baptisms, while we were drying off and changing clothes, the members finished decorating the church and getting everything ready for the reception.

It was such a cool experience to be there with all our investigators. There were lots of pictures taken, a few wedding traditions done, lots of food to eat, and afterwards there was a dance that lasted hours. All the members integrated with the people that were visiting and after it was over the members as well as the non-members were commenting that they would like this to happen at least once every month!

This is their youngest kid, Bruna.
The Wedding Reception!

The next day Poliana and Grasieli were confirmed with Vanderlei and Cristina. After the Sacrament Meeting the Branch President ordained Vanderlei to be a priest. In a few weeks he´ll be an elder already. A young man named Eliezer that had been to church last week came this week as well. We had been preparing his family to be baptized but they had gotten cold feet the last minute. As Eliezer left church with a huge smile on his face he told us, "Man, I want to be baptized."

That night we watched Joseph Smith: The Prophet of the Restoration with Vanderlei´s family. Everyone felt the Spirit and it was even stronger as they had the Gift of the Holy Ghost now. I gave them a few hymn books, the Liahona, a poster of the Porto Alegre temple, and a few other church materials to stock their house. As we visited with them, a pastor from another church arrived to give them an invite to some 'miracle meeting' of theirs. It was so gratifying to hear the testimony that Vanderlei bore to him as he explained that he wouldn´t be attending the pastor´s church anymore because he had found where he belonged: in the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints!

Today we received the transfer email and we discovered that neither one of us will be transferred. I'm happy to stay in the area as Vanderlei and Cristina will be a great source for other baptisms. He used to work as a taxi driver and so he knows almost everyone in the city.

Monday, August 24, 2015

Week 51

We saw many miracles this week with our current investigators. Unfortunately we had to cut a few as always due to their lack of desire to progress, but the investigators that continued with the desire were very blessed and 2 were baptized yesterday!

Grasieli impressed us with her excitement for her baptism early in the week. When we showed up to interview her, she proudly showed us a dress she´d bought with her mom for the special occasion. The also surprised us with her talent (she´s 8 years old) in cooking, she´d made some of the best cupcakes I´d eaten for us. When the other Elder came out of the room from the interview he told us and Grasieli´s mom how he´d felt like the one being interviewed! When he asked her questions she whipped out her Book of Mormon and showed him many scriptures that she´d marked and that had helped her.

When we went to visit last week´s baptism, Lenai, her grandmother told us how the government had taken her and her 4 siblings to a place where kids without parents that can´t provide for them live. We were devastated and we visited the building with the branch president and other members that had been taking care of them. As it always is, our attempts at visiting them were denied due to the complicated nature of the government system. We went to the building where they told us one thing and then when we went to the government building they told us something else.

Lenai´s grandma told us how Lenai had cried when they came to pick her up because, as she told them, "My missionaries are going to visit me tomorrow!" Apparently before we´d met the family, the kids had been doing many bad things, not obeying their grandma, leaving at night, ect. Yet after we began to visit them, teach them, and take them to church, all of that stopped. Her grandma noticed that every night without fail Lenai said a prayer, and guarded her precious Book of Mormon close.

We had been working a lot with one of our investigators named Poliana. She´s 23 and is taking care of her 2 little kids by herself. She has been through a lot of difficulties and trials and had been looking for a purpose to her life. Her mother had tried to kill her, her husband had abandoned her when she was pregnant, and she had felt very alone. When we visited her she always had a smile on because of the light and peace she felt when we taught. We invited her to be baptized and even though she accepted without hesitation, her neighbors gave a lot of opposition, trying to dissuade her from her decision.

On Thursday we had a Mission Tour with Élder Costa, the seventy over Brazil. He taught us how to be more effective and successful and we all enjoyed the way he presented the training in a very funny yet spiritual manner. The conference was in Porto Alegre and so we had to take a bus 6 hours there, and 6 hours back in the same day.

Saturday night we met a really cool family with many kids playing around with each other. They paid a lot of attention to us and the father was very interested, especially when we shared the First Vision. On Sunday we were able to take only one of the kids, named Eliezer, to church. However when he got home he told everyone how it was and they expressed desire to go as well the next Sunday.

One of the best parts of the week was Sunday night, when we held a Family Home Evening with Vanderlei´s family. We were following up with them and teaching them how to hold one in their own house. I shared a message with them on The Family: A Proclamation to the World. The discussion we had was very spiritual and all their kids paid a lot of attention. I made cookies for them and they made a hamburger type thing called Xis. I was very very happy to hear that they are reading the scriptures and praying as a family every day. They´re excited for their marriage and baptism this coming week!

Monday, August 17, 2015

Week 50

Our week started off by rescheduling a few of our lunches so that we could visit a certain family. We had met Micheli and Guilherme last week and they´d shown some interest. They are a young couple recently married. We shared the Book of Mormon with them and they got right down to reading it.

The same day we visited our planned baptism for this week. Her name is Lenai and she was so excited to be baptized she did everything we taught her and woke up on time last Sunday to get her little brothers up and ready for church. She had even brought a friend her first time at church and so we taught him as well during the week. Unfortunately his family wanted nothing to do with it and didn´t let him go a second time. Lenai´s older sister, Eduarda, also showed a lot of interest. When we taught them both about the Book of Mormon they wanted it so bad that they asked for two so they could each have their own copy.

We visited Camila and Daniel during the week and had to stop teaching them because even though they stopped drinking coffee and read the Book of Mormon, they always had an excuse to not go to church, and therefore didn´t progress. It is always sad to cut investigators but not everyone has the desire to follow Christ fully.

On Thursday and Friday we had a division, so I went to Passo Fundo and one of them came to Lagoa Vermelha to stay with my companion. During the division they visited Micheli and Guilherme but they cut themselves from our teaching list because they didn´t want to "change their way of life." However, a few new investigators were found and taught. One older lady named Maria had been having problems with deaths in the family and it always seemed to her like nothing was going her way. When we came back the second time we´d found that she´d read the pamphlet we´d left with her and she had many questions for us. We felt prompted to share the Plan of Salvation with her and she ate it up. Everything made sense to her and we could tell she was hungry for more.

On Saturday we taught a young man named Lucas that lives close to Lenai. He is married with a small son but he told us how his marriage isn´t exactly how he´d like it to be. We taught him about the Restoration and when I asked him how he felt after describing the First Vision he looked down and remained silent for a few moments. When he looked up he said, "I see a light." We felt the Spirit strongly throughout that lesson and we know he felt it too.

When we visited Lenai the same day her grandmother told us how their neighbors had been telling Lenai a bunch of odd lies and rumors trying to dissuade her from being baptized. After she told us Lenai slammed her Book of Mormon on the table and said, "I don´t care about them, I´m going to be baptized tomorrow!" We were impressed with her resolution to be baptized and congratulated her.

Our last visit of the day was to Vanderlei´s family. We taught them about the Priesthood and it´s role in the family. Vanderlei paid a lot of attention and embraced the opportunity he will have in a few short weeks to have the Priesthood and be able to bless his family and others.

As always, there were disappointments with who showed up at church on Sunday but the most important thing was that Vanderlei´s family was there as well as Lenai´s, and that she was baptized. During Sacrament Meeting I saw that Vanderlei´s eyes had teared up. After the meeting all the young women crowded around Eduarda and told her about an activity that they will have this coming Saturday. I was happy with the integration in the branch.

Later on Sunday we visited the house of the young girl, Grasieli, who had almost called a taxi to go to church last Sunday. The branch president came with us and we talked with Grasieli´s parents. Even though they didn´t accept the invitation to be baptized, they encouraged Grasieli to be baptized this coming Sunday!

Monday, August 10, 2015

Week 49

This is our neighbor´s crazy dog. No matter what time of day it is, whether it´s raining or super cold, he never misses the opportunity to go nuts barking at us when we pass. And it´s only to us, with anybody else he´s super chill.
First of all, this week I was super impressed with our family, Vanderlei & Cristina, and their 3 kids, Cauan, Gabriel, and Bruna. They went to all efforts to change their previous way of life in harmony with the gospel. They found out that last week had been fast and testimony meeting and even though only Cauan is baptized so far they all decided to fast for 24 hours as well. Later irmã Cristina told us how Cauan waited until the very last minute, counting down the last 5 minutes before leaping on the table and chowing down dinner!

We found a young woman named Vanusa during the week and after the first lesson, we set a baptism date for her which she accepted without hesitation. However, trying to visit her in the following days, we weren´t able to find her at home and her grandmother didn´t help. We had a dinner with Vanderlei´s family and I was super impressed with the prayers they said before and after. Cristina made a really good lasagna and Cauan made 3 desserts!

Although we had planned a few baptisms this week, they asked for a little more time to get to know the church and others were difficult to find at home. We also had a divisão Thursday and Friday so we switched companions and went to other areas. During the divisão I found a new neighborhood that looked very promising. From what I heard, no other missionary had been there before. It was really humbling to see the circumstances in which some of the people there found themselves.

Saturday night there was an activity of the branch. We impressed the branch president by bringing so many investigators that they almost out numbered the members in attendance. They all enjoyed the night and ate churrasco.

On Sunday it was a bit difficult to get people to church due to Father´s Day. One girl cried because we had picked her up a bit late. She´d almost convinced her mom to call a taxi so she could go to church! During a meeting with the church leaders, I felt proud of our investigators when the Relief Society and Primary leaders began ´fighting´ for Cristina. We had to explain to them that Cristina hadn´t even been baptized yet!

Sunday night we had an FHE with our missionary ward leader, Roberto. We invited Vanderlei´s family and taught them how to hold an FHE on a weekly basis. For the activity and food, I taught them how to make Pancakes with Buttermilk Syrup. They couldn´t get enough of them.

Monday, August 3, 2015

Week 48

Last Monday all the missionaries in the Passo Fundo Zone had the opportunity to help all the people suffering closer to Porto Alegre from all the flooding. We worked with the police department in putting together a ton of food, cleaning supplies, and clothing. After getting everything together we worked in placing it all in a huge truck.

As we were working (as part of the church´s Helping Hands program), the news team came and filmed us. Later that day the other elders all called us telling us how we´d passed on the TV during lunch!

During the week we working a lot with Vanderlei and Cristina´s family. We got on top of their marriage and after many miracles we were able to schedule it for the last Saturday of this transfer. The same day they´ll be baptized and the following day confirmed. During our many visits we taught them about the Plan of Salvation, Temples, and Family History Work. They felt the Spirit and were comforted because they had both lost some brothers and sisters to illnesses and wanted to know if they were lost forever.

We found many other families, including a couple that had just been married recently. They paid a lot of attention and asked great questions during the first lesson. However during the week as we tried to visit them it seemed as if they were avoiding us.

We were also disappointed because another family that we´d been working with for many weeks finally decided that they didn´t want anying to do with the church anymore. We heard the phrase that we hear on a daily basis, "My dad was catholic, my grandpa was catholic, I´m catholic, and I´ll die catholic."

The branch president here is very good and in only a few months he´s increased the activity in the branch tremendously. He goes on splits with us and works hard to make this branch a ward.