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!

Sunday, July 24, 2016

Week 99

Last week of my mission! It was also the busiest week of my mission. On Tuesday I went with Élder De Lima to the temple with my leaving group of missionaries. As I'd served in zones that are far away from the mission office in Porto Alegre for a long time, it was the first time in 1 year that I was able to visit the temple. After the session Presidente Campos took me aside after taking pictures with everyone and we went to the baptistry. He then baptized and confirmed me thrice, something I'd been wanting him to do for many months. The Spirit there was incredible.

Right after we went to our first assignment of the week: Caxias. I was excited because it was the only zone that I hadn't passed in until then. On top of that, I got to work with the elder I'd trained, Élder Reis! There we worked very hard. I was happy because I was able to pass on everything I'd learned ever since I'd trained him.

In Caxias we met a man that lives in a fairly rich neighborhood named Otto. He is very talented, has a busy life, and appeared a bit closed. However, as we taught him he seemed to change. When we invited him to be baptized and to go to church with us he immediately said yes, commenting that he had visited many churches, but hadn't found the one he'd liked.

The next day we were able to contact many people, but it was being difficult to teach. As we diligently searched we found a woman named Nadia sitting in the sun with a few of her children warming themselves from the chilly weather. As we spoke with her she let us cross the street to enter her house to listen to our message. She invited her 4 children to listen as well. After the lesson they all accepted baptismal dates for the next week!

After the division with the elders in Caxias we talked with them about the things they'd learned. They commented that they'd met their goals in learning how to work with the members, mark significant baptismal dates, and help the investigators commit to visiting a church meeting. During our stay it was super cold.

Élder Reis, Élder R. Silva, Élder De Lima
Friday morning we participated in the council of the new missionaries and their trainers. We discussed many things that had been done to train the new missionaries; what had gone well, and what had not.

President Campos

We celebrated one of the elder's birthday at the mission office Friday night with churrasco (barbeque)!

Élder Robert after being egged!
On Saturday we worked with the elders in Alvorada, in the Porto Alegre zone. They were needing help because one of the elders was sick and needed to invite everyone to go to church. That day we broke many records, one of them being 136 contacts and 7 lessons in 4 hours. I was very impressed with their area, one of the best in the mission.

Monday, July 18, 2016

Week 98

One of the best parts of the week was when I got word that a family I'd found, taught, taken to church, and prepared for baptism had been baptized in Ala do Vale, Gravataí! Three more of the same family were baptized yesterday as well. Even though I'd been transferred a week before their baptism, I was happy to receive word that they'd continued and been baptized. Elias also received the priesthood and was ordained as a priest.

Eneida, Neida, and Lucas
Our first assignment for this week was to visit Capão da Canoa. There we were to help Élder E and Élder F to be more obedient, show them how to work more effectively, and create a good relationship with the branch. When we arrived the companionship also made a few goals to work on during the 3 days: Contact more people, commit the investigators to go to church, and teach more effectively.

I went with Élder E and on the very first day we found a really good young man named Tiago. We taught him and after inviting him to pray, go to church with us, and be baptized in 2 weeks he said yes to everything without hesitation! He told us how his mother had died one week after his birth and had felt the need to find the right path/church to follow God and see his mother again.

We taught a single mom named Josiane who has 2 little kids. Her sister-in-law was baptized a long time ago and had fallen into inactivity but had always talked about the church to her. When we appeared at her door and taught her about the Restoration she told us how we'd been an answer to her prayers. Her grandpa had died recently and she'd been passing through quite a few difficulties in her life and was wanting to find meaning in her life. She as well accepted baptism for the same date as Tiago.

On Thursday it rained a ton but still we left to work in good spirits knowing we'd once again find someone to be baptized. After lunch as we were going to our first appointment we passed a house with its door open. We felt we should knock and when we did a man named Jair appeared and invited us to enter. He is single, has 4 children (18, 17, 14, and 12 years old) and a daughter-in-law (16) that live with him. They too were elect and listened intently, asking good questions. Everyone in the family accepted to be baptized in 2 weeks.

The last family we taught that day was made of four: Father, Mother, and 2 daughters ages 20 and 10. We taught them about the Plan of Salvation and it was one of the most spiritual lessons I've ever been a part of. They'd been intrigued with our message about Joseph Smith the last visit and asked us many questions about life after death.

At the end of the division we reviewed what we'd learned and made plans to put it all into practice. They listed things such as obedience, diligence, talking with everyone, preparation to teach, studying for investigators, how to recognize elects, being clear, direct, and firm in the invitations, and following up daily. We were happy with the result of the 3 days we spent with them.

Élder De Lima, Élder E, Élder F

For the last part of the week we went to an area nearby, Torres. There the Élders are both new on the mission and our focus with them was to help them know how to work effectively. We noticed that Élder G and Élder H are really really good, they only needed a little help to know how to use what they had to work well. I stayed with Élder G and after every lesson, contact, ect. he asked me what he could do to do it better. I was very impressed with his eagerness to learn, humility, and desire to be the best missionary he could and reach his potential.

The very first day (Friday) I got to know Bruna, a 24 year old woman that had recently moved to Torres. She had already known the church as her mom and brothers had been baptized. The missionaries had already been teaching her but she'd moved before making any progress. The Lord lead us to her and we saw how elect she is. We identified her problems as smoking and drinking coffee. What impressed us immensely was that when we returned the next day she'd gone from smoking 30 cigarretts to 4 per day, 5 cups of coffee to 1 per day, had bought a bunch of gum, carrots, and oranges to distract her from her smoking desire, had read the Family Proclamation to the World pamphlet and instead of reading the first 2 chapters of the Book of Mormon that we'd left with her she read the first 10! When we stopped by her house to accompany her to church she was sitting in a chair outside her house all ready to go. At church many members became her friend and she had a wonderful experience. She will be baptized this coming week.

While in Torres I was very happy to run into Mamélio Ferreira from Ivoti! He was one of the first members there to take me in during my first transfer of my mission. As he and his wife speak English, they'd helped me quite a bit to learn Portuguese 2 years ago. He is now the branch president there as well as the owner of an english school there and in Torres.

Mamélio Ferreira

Élder G, Élder H, and Élder De Lima
On our way back to Porto Alegre Élder De Lima and I lamented how sad we were to teach and find amazing investigators all week only to leave after seeing them progress so much!

Monday, July 11, 2016

Week 97

This might have been the craziest and most busy week of my mission. Last Sunday (July 3rd) I called President Campos to ask permission to do something in celebration of Independence Day the following day. His response was no and then continued to tell me that I was being transferred the very next day and that I would need to report to the mission office at 3pm the next day. I was taken completely off guard and the first thing I thought of was the 7 investigators we'd brought to church that day. 4 of them were preparing to be baptized that following Sunday (July 10th). I sadly packed up my things after a short stay of 3 weeks in Ala do Vale, Gravataí. When I got to the mission office there were many other missionaries arriving as well. President Campos called 2 at a time into his office to interview them and give them their new assignment. As they came and went off to their new areas with their new companions one by one I was left alone with the last missionary, one of my good friends Élder De Lima from São Paulo.

Finally President Campos called us in with the other Assistants and told us what was going on. He said that due to a few things that had happened and the Spirit's promptings he needed to do an emergency transfer half-way through the normal transfer. He then designated us on the spot as his first travelling assistants! He explained to us how he'd noticed that the majority of the missionaries in the mission simply didn't know how to work effectively, with the Spirit, ect. and that we had been chosen due to our excellent history of work, diligence, obedience, loyalty, energy, and success. Our purpose would be to travel to 2 areas that President Campos would choose each week and stay there for 3 days in division with the companionship already there. We'd be there to get them excited again, show them how to reach the weekly standard (lessons, contacts, ect.), teach with the Book of Mormon and with the Spirit, obey the rules, be loyal to the President, baptize converts, among other things. When President Campos told us all of that and explained what we'd been called to do we were very surprised. I was very happy to be with my new companion, Élder De Lima, I'd always hoped that the President would put us together, even if it would only be for 3 weeks.

President Campos told us that our first 2 areas would be Carazinho and Novo Hamburgo. I was excited because in these two areas I began my mission (the very first 2 transfers), and now I would be able to work again on the same streets after 2 years. We were told that in Carazinho Élder A was having trouble accepting the changes the President had made in the mission and didn't want to adapt his work. Élder B had problems with obedience and know-how in the daily missionary work. So the very next day we packed up a suitcase full of everything we'd need for a week and grabbed the next bus to Carazinho.

After 5 hours of travel we arrived and began working with the elders there. I went with Élder B and we got right down to business. In the 3 days there we worked super hard, involving the members in teaching the investigators we found. Many of the members were happy to see me again and I was glad to be there to help the missionaries gain their trust. After the first day Élders A and B collapsed in their beds saying how they'd never spoken with so many people (an average of 50 contacts per day), taught so spiritually, used the Book of Mormon so much in their lessons, and so on. They told us how these 3 days had seemed like a whole transfer of learning. At the end of the division they bore their testimonies to us how much they'd learned and will put into practice. They'd learned how work is the secret to success and the companionship of the Spirit, how to ask more questions, how to invite everyone clearly and without fear, and how to plan well. Every day we left the house saying, "today we'll find someone to be baptized!" And everyday we did. Even Élder De Lima and I were surprised at how successful the division had been. It was only possible because of the Lord's help.

The Carazinho Élders, and my new companion Élder De Lima (far right)
Gair's family (Carazinho)
Márcia's family
From Carazinho we travelled directly to Novo Hamburgo. There we were met by Élder C and Élder D. Élder C has only 6 months on his mission and is training Élder D. He opened the area with his companion and was quite down because he didn't know how be successful and consequently wasn't able to find many people, teach them, bring them to church, and baptize them. When we got there we saw that they were lacking quite a bit in their planning and energy to work. They told us that they wanted to learn how to teach by the Spirit, find people with potential, and be more clear in their invitations. I went with Élder D and we destroyed the area. Every night we came back home and announced how many people we'd been able to teach, new investigators, baptismal dates, and contacts done. Saturday night I came home with Élder D after having marked 9 dates!

I was having more success in their area than I'd had in my own area. They became very excited with all the new people they'd met and begun to teach. We'd met a single mother named Márcia that had been super open and willing to make a change in her life. Both she and her son accepted dates to be baptized this coming week and to go to church the following day. Kris and João are married for over 20 years (they're in their mid 50's) and also accepted everything we invited them to do. We were surprised because usually older people are more obstinate and closed to new things and change. Kris expressed her deep desire to get to know this new church and follow Christ by being baptized. Pablo is a young man that had been taught by the sisters a few months ago but didn't want to be baptized. I interviewed him and after his dad gave him full support Pablo wanted to be baptized quite a bit.

Our division there was very successful as well, Élder C became very excited with his new-found knowledge of how to work hard and find new people. At church I saw many members that I'd served with in Ivoti and Feitoria.

Marla's family
Grasi's twin sister's family
After church we had lunch with a really cool family that showed us their view of the city from the window.

Novo Hamburgo

 We worked quite a bit in a place called the Ant's hill due to the narrow streets:

The Novo Hamburgo Élders
We came home Sunday night and crashed into our beds. We had no idea that it'd be so tiring to travel and work with an even higher level of dedication. We're excited to meet with the President to get our new assignments for this week!

Monday, July 4, 2016

Week 96

This week was incredible. We worked so hard that the members took note of it and we gained a lot of their trust. Yesterday during Fast and Testimony Meeting many members used experiences they'd had when they came with us, or when we taught their neighbor or family member. I had the opportunity to bear my testimony as well, the last Fast and Testimony Meeting that I'd have in Portuguese.

I became sick on Monday and because of that we weren't able to work on Tuesday either. Wednesday was the leadership meeting so we were only able to get working in our area Thursday. Even still, the Lord blessed us immensely in guiding us to his elects.

During the week we saw much progress in Elias. He's read until Mosiah in the Book of Mormon, he got a suit and I gave him one of my white shirts to wear on Sunday, and he fasted with us for the first time this weekend. What was also very surprising is that when we taught him about Family History and gave him the pamphlet to fill out we came back the next day to see it completely full of the names and dates of his ancestors. The best part is that he's got all of this information memorized!

At church we brought 7 investigators to church, more than the members had seen in a long time. The best part is that 4 of them already have a date to be baptized this coming week! I was very grateful because all the sisters in the Relief Society worked together to make them feel welcome, sitting with them and accompanying them from class to class. Elias was confirmed and sustained to receive the priesthood this coming week.

We're feeling very good about the work we've done so far with the Lord's help. We've dedicated ourselves to talk with everyone and we're doing 50 contacts per day. The members trust us a lot and consequently help us very much and are introducing us to their neighbors and family members who aren't members.

Here are a few pictures of the view from our house every morning:

Monday, June 27, 2016

Week 95

This week we broke a few of our records in lessons and contacts. President Campos told us to work so hard that every area in the mission catches fire. We gained a lot of respect and trust from the members here in showing them how we work in their ward. Many times as we were talking with them or doing splits with them we dashed off to talk with someone that had just passed by. We were talking with so many people that we didn't have more space in our planners to write their addresses down!

Elias was our focus of the week. He'd already accepted a date to be baptized this Sunday so during this week we visited him daily teaching him about the gospel of Jesus Christ. He began delving into the Book of Mormon and got to chapter 12 on Saturday. We challenged him to read 9 chapters a day to finish the book in 4 weeks. As we taught him the commandments we saw how prepared he is, he understood tithing and fasting perfectly. When we taught him about the Plan of Salvation he had many questions and told us the next day how he'd prayed to know if the Plan was really true. We saw how the Gospel was making a difference in his life already. He began taking the initiative and went to Porto Alegre to look for a better job. He began shaving as well. On Sunday he was baptized! Right after his baptism I took him to the bishop and we set up an interview during the week so Elias can be ordained a Priest this coming Sunday. Elias was awe struck when we taught him about the Priesthood and told him how he'll be able to bless the sacrament and baptize.

During the week we also found a few others that the Lord has been preparing. Joseli is a married man with 2 kids. We'd already taught his daughter Amanda and when we returned we met him and taught him about the Restoration. We were feeling aprehensive but the Spirit guiding us we challenged him to be baptized in a few weeks and he paused before saying, "Why not?" and nodding his head with a smile.

Jorge is an inactive member for 10 years. We met his non-member wife the other day and returned on a set day to get to know everyone and teach them. They have one daughter, Dielley (it is pronounced as 'jelly'), who is 17 and very interested. As we taught them and talked we saw that Jorge remembers everything about the church and had previously held callings such as Elders Quorum presidente, stake YM president, and others. His first wife had divorced him and due to embarrassment he fell into inactivity, and re-married. When we taught about the Book of Mormon Dielley dived right into the book reading as much as she could. She motivated her step-dad Jorge to go to church with her this Sunday.

Eneida is a single grandmother and 8 of her grandchildren live with her currently. We got to know them and they all accepted a date including Eneida! They are a special family we love a lot.

During a division with the elders in a neighboring area I got to know the church where they meet. It looks almost like a temple! The churches here in Brazil are very aesthetic and well made.

Gravataí is catching fire!!

Monday, June 20, 2016

Week 94

I had a great week in the new area. My last companion is a hispanic from Argentina named Élder Martinez. Ala do Vale is fairly close to Porto Alegre and the ocean and therefore much warmer than Canela!

The very first day we met two very prepared youth. The first was a young man, 17 years old Mateus. We noticed that as we shared our message with his family he paid attention more than the rest. After asking him a few questions we found out that he'd been looking for a church for a while, and after visiting many, he hadn't felt at home in any of them. We shared the Book of Mormon with him, and before leaving we saw that he hadn't even paid attention to what we'd said at the end, he'd already begun reading the chapter we'd assigned to him.

Kelyn was the second. She also is 17, and had broken her leg a few weeks ago. We'd come to her house to visit her brother, who was a referral from another young member. This brother happened to be an unactive member as we found out. Shortly after we sat down his sister came out of her room with her crutches, and rather quickly grabbed a chair and sat down. She immediately gave us her full attention. As we shared our message with her she asked many questions. She interrupted us many times to ask questions like, "So if God always calls prophets, who is the prophet today?" "How can I know what you guys have said is really true?" and my favorite, "When will you guys return to follow up on the prayer I'll say tonight?"

During lunch one day I received an unexpected complement. The sister that had prepared lunch for us asked me from which part of Brazil I was from. When I told her that I am actually American she looked doubtingly at me and said, "are you sure? You speak like a Brazilian."

On Thursday as we were walking down a street the stake patriarch stopped us abruptly and asked us if we wanted a referral. After nodding our heads quickly he lead us to a house nearby and introduced us to a man named Elias. He returned to his work and we sat down to teach his friend Elias. He is in his mid 30's and was very prepared by the Lord. During the first visit he accepted our invitation to be baptized on the 26th, in 10 days. In subsequent visits we found that he really is progressing quickly. He is already praying very well, has read all the chapters in the Book of Mormon that we left with him, and when we taught him about the Word of Wisdom we found out that he doesn't have a problem with anything, not even coffee! He went to church yesterday and loved it, especially because it was calm, and everyone was welcoming.

Yesterday I had the opportunity to give the lesson in the Gospel Principles class on the Sacrament and give a talk during Sacrament Meeting. I'm loving this area and we've already made some high goals to work hard during this transfer.

The view from the front of our house:

Monday, June 13, 2016

Week 93

Recently it has been very cold here in Canela. Even though the temperature has hovered around the low 30's (°F) it has felt much colder due to the humidity. Even though we used sweaters and many coats, it seemed like the cold humid wind reached our bones. For the first time in a few years there was frost on the ground in Gramado and Canela a few mornings. Everyone was crazy to see snow because it's so rare here.

On Tuesday we got to know a new family that was a referal from some recent converts baptized almost a year ago. This couple has had many problems in the past and because of their trials have become humble and eager to seek the Lord. When we visited them the second time they told us how their house had changed so much after a simple prayer we'd said our first visit. Everyone was able to sleep well, their house appeared brighter, and they had success in selling one of their cars. It's incredible how much the Lord blesses those who listen to and follow His representatives, often immediately.

On Wednesday we taught a sadly misguided woman. She couldn't understand why she couldn't drink tea. She said that it doesn't matter what we eat and drink, God loves and accepts everyone how they are. She told us that our church could have so many more followers or members if we just allowed everyone to drink what they wanted. After we testified of the gospel truths and left, Lucas, Élder Ferreira, and I discussed the lies that Satan had used to so skillfully blind this woman. If the Church allowed it's members to do what they pleased, it wouldn't be Christ's church, and it would have just as many followers as the Catholic church! This woman didn't understand that our purpose isn't to bring as many people as we can into the church, but to invite all to come unto Christ and enjoy eternal life. Eternal life isn't free, it 's price is our obedience to and faith in the commandments of the Lord.

This week we had a meeting with President Campos. He emphasized the importance of the Book of Mormon in his training and established a new rule: effective immediately, all missionaries will walk with a copy of the Book of Mormon in their hands. We've already seen the difference. We're more focused on our purpose and we talk with more people that we pass.

This was the last week of the transfer and so a few of the members invited us to eat dinner with them. One of them made churrasco for us.

An abandoned house caught fire Sunday afternoon:

This weekend there were many tourists visiting with hopes of seeing snow as well as taking advantage of the Valentine's Day weekend.

I received the call I was expecting Sunday night that I would be transferred. After 4 transfers in Canela, I will go to my last area in Ala do Vale, Gravataí. I said goodbye to my recent converts as well as a few members.

President Felipe