September 22, 2008

Travis Barker?? Crazy. God did not allow him to die because he is (a)an incredible drummer and has much yet to accomplish (maybe even a Blink 182 reunion??????) and (b)because he is a baptized member of the Church and maybe this experience will bring him back. Who knows.
That's too bad about the stock market and Bolivia and all that. It's all interesting from my point of view because I'm far away from everything and nothing happens in Brazil. Part of me thinks it would be fun to be evacuated from my mission to another country. Remember when I told you about President Aidukaitis giving us those instructions about emergency evacuation from Brazil? The same instructions are given to missionaries the world over. Amazing to think that somewhere they actually had to use it.
The map of Obama/McCain states is great (yes, it showed up) and now I'm curious to learn more about each of them. I need your help, family. I want to make an informed vote. The debates will be tight, I'm bummed I'm missing out.
But there is plenty to report on in the mission today. Today is transfer day, my entire group has gone crazy. Along with several others in the mission. FIRST OF ALL, I'm leaving Villa Planalto. I'm opening a new area called Arapoangas where there hasn't been missionaries before, and there I'll be District Leader AND I'll be training a new missionary. It's a little crazy but I'm confident I'll do well. I'm kind of glad to be leaving Vila Planalto, but I'm a little sad because I love the Ward here. I'll miss the Elders Quorum. It's amazing here. Best Quorum in the World! Only deep doctrine. Amazing. Sad. BUT Arapoangas is part of the Planaltina zone! My dreamland! So I'm happy to be going back there finally. Elder Valentine is also going to be District Leader and trainer. Elder Barton trained last transfer and will probably keep doing what he's doing. And Elder Day was called as an AP. Crazy, CRAZY.
I don't have time to write much else. I'm sorry. I have to pack my bags. Just know I'm excited and happy. Pray for me that I'll do a good job. Send me PICTURES for comfort, please! I love you all.

September 15, 2008

I will certainly say Hi to Brazil from all back home. Speaking of back home, I don't know if I've already mentioned this a few times, but do you guys have any idea if people in our Ward remember who I am? I have dreams that I'm home and I have trouble speaking English and people have trouble remembering my name and who I am. I know Bishop Boyer knows me. People from our neighborhood maybe. Jeff Whiteman (is he still quorum president?), maybe a few others. I don't know. All I know is that when I'm home in 9 months I'll probably be bald and no one will recognize me. Frustrating.
This week I had yet another chance to hear The Reckoner by Radiohead, in a member's house. UGHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHH. AMAZING. I left floating out of the house. Seriously. Why is that the only Radiohead song I hear in Brazil? (twice now)
You know something, I'm beginning to see the trend that my mission is taking. I'm beginning to recognize it's form, and how I'll speak of it when it's all over. One of many things that I believe my mission to be is a test of persistence. I've noticed that there are missionaries who baptize everybody, and then there are missionaries who suffer and whose only success is persistence in the absence of success. I honestly believe my mission experience to be that of the latter. I'm not sad about that. I don't think I'm a bad missionary. I don't title myself a failure. The experiences I've had have been essential to my spiritual progression. But one thing I can certainly say is that I count myself among those who have come to know Satan very well. My mission at large has been an experience of recognizing the other side and the power that exists there. I can honestly say with all the fervor of my soul that Satan and his angels who work round the clock in Vila Planalto have incredible influence, and that I have no choice but to testify of it's reality. It requires strict obedience to combat. I know that the forces of Satan are real, and I know all the more that the power of the Priesthood is real as well.
This week in our Elders Quorum we learned about the Plan of Salvation. Rather than going into depth about the spirit world and degrees of glory, we reviewed quickly the basic doctrines and began to discuss what needs to be done by each of us to obtain celestial glory. The man who used to be the Stake President here was teaching our class. He mentioned that there were several occasions during his ten years as Stake President that he had the chance to be trained by Apostles. At least once a year there was a training given by one of the Apostles to all Stake Presidents and Mission Presidents in the area. This man told us that the most impressive training of all of them, for him, came from Elder Richard G. Scott. He said that in this training Elder Scott taught a lot about the Priesthood and the importance of magnifying it. Part of magnifying your Priesthood means overcoming obstacles. Elder Scott asked those present if they would like to know one of his weaknesses. What he said was impressive and touching to me. He told them that every time he has to travel to another place in the world to have meetings or trainings or whatever else, when he checks into the hotel, the first thing he does is he takes a towel from the bathroom and puts it over the TV, and then places a framed picture of his wife on top. He said, "I do this because I know I am a weak man". He went on to say that he had already known a number of general authorities who had fallen because of situations as simple as this. They get to the hotel and are watching TV after their meetings and something pornographic just happened to come on and they ended up losing control. An example of the power Satan has, and that his influence is real. Even amongst the general authorities. Their level of testing is significantly greater than mine or anyone else in our family. It must be unbearable, but somehow they pass the tests. If they didn't, the Church would be in ruin.
This week in my interview with President Pizzirani, I was telling him about some of the difficulties we've been having lately. he taught me something interesting about Satan. He asked me where Lucifer is at this very moment. Not "the Devil" or "Satan", but the literal spirit of Lucifer. I said I didn't know. He told me "walking alongside Thomas S. Monson". He, Lucifer, concentrates his best efforts on the ONE that he knows if he brings down, he brings down the Church with him, and wins. Lucifer walks alongside the Prophet. President Monson is personally tempted by Lucifer himself. President Pizzirani went on to tell me that Satan literally has a quorum of twelve, seventies, bishops, mission presidents, missionaries. The same organization. One to tempt each one. Imagine the tests given to the Apostles. President also told me that when an Apostle is called, part of his calling is to NEVER sin. Imagine that. NEVER sin. Imagine President Monson. Imagine the horrible things he has had to see. Why do you think they have their meetings in the Temple? Satan cannot enter. He has no influence there. Imagine also the indescribable blessings as well for the fact that these men overcome. That's what is happening in Salt Lake City right now. That is what goes on in the Church of Jesus Christ. How can it not be TRUE? I would doubt it all if I hadn't had experiences for myself that testify of this. And I'm forever grateful for the Prophet and the Apostles. I'm so excited to see them speak in three weeks. I hope everyone else is too. Amazing.
I love you family.

September 8, 2008

Brazilians have this thing about freaking out and going to the hospital when anything goes even slightly awry with the immune system. This last week I ended up getting sick and spending a few days in bed in our EXTREMELY HOT house, drinking water all day and trying to sleep. I had a bad cough (which I still have, although the fever has passed) that kept me from sleeping, which kept me from getting better quickly. By about day 3 my companion was insisting that we go to the hospital. I told him that it was just a fever and I only needed sleep. He still insisted, saying it was absolutely necessary for the doctor to know what was wrong. So I went, but promised him that in the end the doctor would say "tylenol, water, and plenty of rest".
We got to the hospital and waited about an hour to see the doctor. He was a nice guy. Said all was well, that the fever had become a cold and that he wanted to do a blood test just to make sure there wasn't a virus in me. I got my blood taken and then we waited another two hours for the results. Even when I'm in the hospital, sick and with a headache, minding my own business and watching the soccer game like everyone else, Satan still has his servants! This guy, a Jehovah's Witness who had been in a car accident earlier in the day and had been in the waiting room for something like 9 hours, comes up to us and starts yelling at us and telling us the Book of Mormon is false and unnecessary. He started quoting all these scriptures and telling the doctors that they "shouldn't take care of the Mormons!" I told him as politely as I could that I had a headache and maybe we could talk another day. He started quoting some more scriptures and as he walked away yelled "you guys lost with me!" We didn't say anything. just a smile and a thumb's up. Satan works round the clock!
The results finally came back from my blood test and it turns out there was nothing. Just the fever/cold. We went back into the doctor's office where he wrote out a prescription for none other than tylenol, with a suggestion to get plenty of rest and drink water with lime. We made it home by about midnight.
I'm feeling better now. Just the cough is killing me. I didn't sleep last night because of it. Literally, I didn't sleep at all. Despite my prayers, God has yet to cure me. I'm just trying to drink lots and lots of water like everyone including Sister Pizzirani has told me to do, and I believe I'll be taken care of. I've learned on the mission that God won't do for us what we can do for ourselves. He only blesses us once we do everything possible on our own. He provides for the part that we can't do, but expects us to do everything we can. I've learned that when I give a blessing to someone for their health, part of what I say is in regard to the medicine and it's ability to be used in the best possible way by the body, IF the person will take it exactly as the doctor instructed. When we ask God to bless the food we eat, what would be more realistic would be to ask for the sugars and proteins and carbohydrates to be accepted by our bodies in the most efficient way and in the right places so that we can have the best possible health. Obviously just because you bless a banana split doesn't mean that it isn't going to make you fat. Along the same lines, you can't ask God to help you lose weight if you're not going to the gym and trying hard everyday. God isn't a magician. I think all this is very interesting, does anyone else?
I'm way bummed about the Husky game. That call sounds like the WEAKEST. I was upset just reading about it. I'm glad Ditka stood up for the Huskies though. I wonder if that Ref feels bad at all. What's so frustrating is that it's more of a judgement call on his part rather than justly defending the rules. Ugh. I'm so excited to go to a game next season.
MOST IMPORTANT OF ALL......happiest birthday of all birthdays to MOMMA this Sunday!!! Mom, I will try my best to give you a birthday present by baptizing someone on Sunday. That doesn't look very promising for this week, but I'll certainly try my best. At the very least I'll be working hard. If nothing else, at least know I'll be thinking about you on your birthday. I miss you and I love you, Momma. More so even than last year. And next year I'll be home! I'll be sure to spend some time looking at July on my birthday calendar you guys made me. I hope all is well. I hope "IKE" is a little more exciting to watch on TV. Send pictures of stuff! I love you guys.

September 1, 2008

Guess what I'm finally gonna do! A girl in the Ward here named Marciele and I are going to teach a free English class in the chapel. I've always wanted to do that. Should be interesting. Don't worry, my companion will be nearby. Marciele is a babe so I get kind of scared.
Momma, don't worry about the video game thing my old companion was asking about. Don't waste anymore time looking for it. I ended up reading the scripture to him about how "many are called but few are chosen" because "they have their hearts set so much upon the things of this world". I got fed up with Brazilian companions asking me to ask you guys if you could buy something unrealistic like an ipod or a psp. Happens all the time. They want you to buy it, send it to their name here in the mission, then give me the money to send back to you guys. Complicated. And annoying. Elder A. Nascimento asked but I more politely this time explained that I won't do that kind of thing anymore. I mean, ranch and barbecue sauce I don't have a problem with . But a psp?
I'm a little sick right now so I need to get out of this hot internet cafe before I get dehydrated and die.
I wanted to say that I'm sorry if you guys get at all annoyed when I only talk about keeping the commandments and that kind of thing. Maybe it is a little irritating, but I know it's important. I just want you guys to understand that SATAN WANTS TO DESTROY MY MISSION AND MY LIFE. That's become VERY clear to me here in Brazil. And I don't want that to happen to anyone I love. I know the best way to combat him is to be good about the small things. If you are obedient in the small things, you're much less likely to fall due to something big. You're less likely to fall at all. Like I said before, if we would simply reserve no place in our hearts for the desire to sin or break the commandments, Satan has no power over us.
This church is the only true church because it is the only church on the earth that has the Priesthood. We brought a Catholic lady to church last week and when we visited her later she said that it was very similar to her church. She said that one of the talks sounded exactly like what her Padre says. We explained to her that the only difference then between the two of them is that one has authority and other does not. We went on to explain about the apostasy and the restoration of the Priesthood. I felt pretty good about things until we were leaving and the lady's niece stopped us and let us know that she's a little bit retarded:):):):)and has a lot of trouble remembering things and that we should not come back. That was a little bit of a let down, but at the least explains why she didn't understand very well what we were explaining. Dad, I like that phrase you told me about when you don't get what you want, experience is what you get.
In answer to your questions... no it doesn't bother me at all that you guys don't call me Elder. I don't want you guys to call me that. I believe the neck size on my shirts is 16. I am kind of in need of shirts. ONLY short sleeve ones though. One of the biggest mistakes of my mission was bringing all the stuff I brought on the mission. I made a list of things I feel like I absolutely NEED. It came out to about 25 things. And a good number of those things I plan on leaving here. I don't plan on coming back with luggage, just the backpack that I bought here. Maybe a few things in my hands. I was an idiot to come here with three bags. I give everything away.
Do a lot of people still come visit? Does Jonny still lock himself in my bathroom for 15 minutes with the guitar every once in a while? I hope so. Everything sounds great back home. I need pictures! I love you guys. Have a great week. I will pray for Zach, please do the same. He'll come back.

August 25, 2008

Another one of those wonderful, magical weeks where the computer stops working just as I have everything written and ready to send. It's ok. Nothing very important happened this week. Tell Chaz Wright I said good luck. There is an Elder Wright in this mission, he's an AP. Maybe that's a good sign for Chaz. Something I can't wait for is to see the new missionaries that will be going out when I get home. I'm gonna have to talk to President Gulbrandsen about what we do in our stake for missionary preparation. I hated the missionary prep class before I left. We need to get everyone excited about the work, especially the guys that are leaving soon. Trainings and practices and all that fun stuff.
I saw a trailer for a movie called Love in the Time of Cholera that looked amazing. Reminded me how I still haven't seen There Will Be Blood, and how I still haven't heard the soundtrack, and how I still haven't heard In Rainbows. I'm not complaining. I don't mind. But man am I excited for all that when I get home. Ok I need to focus. FAMILIES AND MEN IF WE WANT A TEMPLE.
I got in trouble this week because of the Olympics. The day that the US beat Brazil in women's soccer no one would talk to me on the bus. Then the same thing when we won in volleyball. Everyone here loves Michael Phelps though.
I brought my camera to send pictures but it's taking wayyyyy too long to load. We have to go. I'm kinda ugly anyways. I'll try next week. I love you, family.