February 10, 2009

This week was progressive in regards to working with the members. We were able to go out almost nightly with a different member to work around the city. Most of them have cars, which helps a great deal. What comes most in handy are their testimonies and their willingness to help our investigators. There was one night this week we went to visit a guy named Ricardo with a member/returned missionary named Rafael. As they got to talking they realized they work at the same bank (Banco de Brasilia), only Rafael is quite a bit "higher up". I was touched as I heard an executive in a business humbly teach and bear his testimony out of genuine love for the Gospel to a man considered much lower on the ladder. Rafael offered a ride to Church, which Ricardo gratefully accepted. Then, on Sunday, seeing them sit together at Church, I knew that this was the way the Lord wanted the work to be done.
That night, we were offered a chance to speak at a little Church near our house. The lady pastor stopped us on the road and invited us to come by at 7:30. We went, and when she invited us to come up and speak we taught about the history of prophets God has called leading up to today. We asked the pastor lady to read Amos 3:7 for us. When we asked her what she got from that scripture, she took a moment to think, and then replied, "gloria hallelujah". We asked her again what she learned, and she read the scripture one more time, said "gloria hallelujah" again and then after a moment said, "I believe the word of God is inspired of God". There are no doubts, family, we are in the right church. James 1:5 was equally as misinterpreted and poorly understood.
In the end, pastor lady ended up not liking our message very much. We did indeed bear testimony of the Prophet Joseph, of God's pattern of calling prophets throughout history and the necessity of having a prophet on the earth in order to have revelation, authority, and therefore, the true church, in accordance with the teachings of the Bible. We gave pamphlets about the Restoration to everyone there and that really frustrated her. I've never heard so many "hallelujahs" coming from a clearly angry person in all my life. We got the address of a girl who was sitting in the front who is interested in learning more.
I'm fully convinced that if we get everyone integrated with the members here we will very soon have many baptisms. We had a meeting with the branch president on Wednesday where we presented our ideas to help the branch grow and he really liked all of them. It made me happy to see the branch president happy. We should always do what we can to make the bishop/branch president's life a little easier. We've likewise gained the trust of the counselors in the branch presidency, the Quorum president, and several other members who want to help and are excited about the future of the Church here. I'm excited too.
OK now the annoying asking for stuff part. I have bad news: I lost my camera. This means I lost about 7 months worth of pictures. I'm really sad, but I'll try to find something to learn from it. I guess I'm glad that there is really no means of chronically my hair loss now. I need to ask for a new camera still. As soon as possible, please send me a cheap little digital camera that I can just use for the last three months of the mission. I would like to at least be able to take pictures of my last few weeks and my last day. You could even send me the Leika that I got for Christmas before I left, if anyone remembers where it is. The only thing is I'm not sure where the USB cord is at. I don't necessarily need that, but I just wouldn't be able to send any pictures home. I mean I can always use my companion's cameras for that. Whatever is easier for you guys. Sorry, I hate asking for things.
Worry not, Momma. Soon enough all your kids will be living in the UNITED STATES OF AMERICA.

I love you, family.

February 3, 2009

That's right, I'm happy to say I am a missionary who now has time on my hands! I am no longer District Leader, nor Trainer. I don't want to make it sound like those responsibilities are no good, but it's a relief to be back to being a normal Senior Companion Missionary. It was all a good experience for me and I'm really happy I went through all I did over the last five months. It was the hardest time of my Mission. It's over now though, and I can just focus on work, work, work. I am in a new area called Aguas Claras, in the DF. (It's not Taguatinga, Momma, but it's very nearby.) My new companion is Elder Brown. He's from Antioch, California near San Francisco. Two California companions in a row! He's from Elder Chacon's group from the CTM. They are such a great group of missionaries. They all speak Portuguese really well for only having three transfers, and they will no doubt be great leaders in the Mission.
We spend most of our time working in an area called Areal that is smaller and has more houses. Aguas Claras is all skyscraper apartment buildings, but it's where almost all the Members live so I imagine we'll start working more in that area soon. We need to be working with the Members here. We have a strong Branch of about 200 Members, many Priesthood holders, many tithe-payers, and about 30 returned Missionaries. It's about ready to become a Ward, I don't know what it is that's keeping that from happening. My hope is that we use this time to push the Branch past the point of being "ready" to be a Ward, but that it BE a Ward. To do this, we'll need to work with the Members in a very efficient way. I think this part of my Mission will be mostly dedicated to learning how to work best with the Members.
Chapter 13 in Preach My gospel is about exactly that, working with the Members, and I need to study it more closely and pray to have ideas of how, using the Members, we can really find the Elects here. The Lord has already answered our prayers and fasts from last week of how He wants the work done here. It is, without any doubt, working with the Members. He's blessed us with some ideas that I really think will help. If things work out as planned, I can expect to not dirty my shoes nor break a sweat with this transfer. We will train the Members, and they will fulfill what Elder Bednar instructed the Church a year ago, that the Missionaries are the full-time teachers and the Members are the full-time finders. We won't have to knock on anymore doors, and we won't have to spend anymore time thinking of where we can go after all our appointments have fallen in a matter of hours. We will work with referrals and everyone will be planned visits in Member's houses, or there will at least be a Member present at the investigators house. Please don't misunderstand, it's not that I want to be lazy, only that I know this is the right way to work. The field is white and ready to harvest, so we ought to go about harvesting in the best possible way. It's been made known to me that this is a place where the Members can be and need to be involved in the work.
My only worry is the time. People are rich here and they have a lot of fancy appointments. Pray for me and my companion that things work out here and we will be blessed with the help of the Members, and particularly pray for them that they will receive revelation and will have opportunities to bear their testimonies. My whole Mission I've always wanted simply to be a Missionary that (1)trains the Members, (2) teaches the Gospel to those the Members have found, and (3) has no leaders breathing down my neck about numbers because the work is steadily progressing and the Elects are being baptized. Even with only four months left, I know that's possible.
This week we had a meeting with Elder Quentin L. Cook of the Quorum of the Twelve at the chapel in Asa Norte. It was wonderful. He taught us some really great things to help us be better Missionaries. He gave us four points to remember: (1) Love the people and the culture, (2) Love your Mission President and his wife, (3) Love your companion, (4) Love the Savior. He mentioned that when he was a Missionary years ago in England, he and Elder Holland were companions at the end of their Missions, and they learned these things and had success because of them. He said that he too had two different Mission Presidents, and that it was a very similar situation to ours here. The first brought in the numbers and lifted the faith of the Missionaries, but it got to a point that there were so many children and young people being baptized that there weren't enough adults and Priesthood leaders to take care of it all. The second did more refining of the work and got things more organized and on track and the area grew towards having a Temple.
The most touching part to me was when he told us the story of when he was called to the Twelve. The Thursday before Conference he and all of the Seventies were brought together to have a big lunch with the Apostles and the First Presidency. Then they went to the Salt Lake Temple and had a big Testimony Meeting and everyone had a chance to speak. Then the Wives left and the Seventies stayed in the Temple to spend a little while in reverent prayer and scripture study. About 4 o'clock he got a call to go meet with President Hinckley, who was almost always joking around and making fun of the Seventies when he saw them, was as serious as he had ever seen him. He simply asked Elder Cook if he would be willing to fill the vacancy in the Quorum of the Twelve. He said that at first only feelings of inadequacy and inability came and he didn't think he was worthy, but President Hinckely stopped him and said, "no, none of that, I only want to know if you are willing to accept the calling", and he said that he was. Telling us how it was that he was able to accept such a responsibility he said that one time he had asked Elder Neal A. Maxwell what it takes of someone to be an Apostle, and Elder Maxwell said the only thing you need to do is ask yourself, "how comfortable do you feel testifying of the divinity of the Savior?" And he realized after President Hinckley had stopped him and asked him if he was willing, that he was completely comfortable testifying of Christ. He then bore that Testimony. It is powerful to hear the Testimony of an Apostle standing right in front of you.
Since then I've asked myself everyday, after every lesson we teach, that same question. "How comfortable do you feel testifying of the divinity of the Savior?" Those words are in my mind a lot. Probably because I can improve on it. We all can I'm sure. As Latter-day Saints, it would be worth asking ourselves that more often I believe. If we truly are comfortable, we need to pray to have opportunities to bear our testimonies to the people who are prepared to hear them. We'll find many people for the Missionaries to teach.

I need to go eat ice cream. I love you family. I love each of you perhaps more than I ever have. And for as much as I miss you, just remember you only have four more months of receiving truckloads of blessings. Enjoy it while it lasts. I'm writing a letter to Grandma and Grandpa Hoon today about why I asked them to read the Book of Mormon. I hope I say the right things. Pray for them that they'll understand what I say, in the way they need to understand.
p.s. - Don't worry, Cards National Champs 2010

January 27, 2009

No e-mail from Elder Hoon this week! It is transfer week and we are assuming he is getting transferred. Let's hope he is happy about it and that we will hear from him next week.

January 20, 2009

Every once in a while I get an e-mail from Tim if something momentous happens in sports. This week I get "CARDINALS IN THE SUPER BOWL", followed by Mom's letter which mentioned the same thing. I can honestly say I cannot believe it. I don't believe it. I still think this is a joke. Is it a joke? Be honest with me. It can't be real. If so, DAD, TIVO THE GAME FOR ME! PLEASE! At least burn it onto DVD along with President Hinckley's funeral and B. Obama's Ignauguation. So many wonderful things happen when I go on a mission.
Once again I have no time to talk. I have a million things to do on the computer in a short amount of time, and then I have to get on a bus and go to Brasilia to have my monthly interview with Presidente. I'm excited. Although I'm not excited for running around town doing all of my usual p day things in only a few hours. I still have to shave.
I'm really excited about the Cardinals. They're gonna win. (Speaking of that, who does it look like will win the fantasy league?) I'm really excited about having a new U.S. President. I'm happy that Maxwell went to visit and that Elder Chacon's Mom sent you guys an e-mail. They are not from the military, they are just very rich. His Dad is a Real Estate Agent. I'm especially excited that Grandma Hoon is reading the Book of Mormon. Please tell her that she can know for herself that it's true if she will just open her heart and pray to know. Anyone who wants a testimony of the Book of Mormon will get it, but they have to actively seek it.
I love you, family. Have a great week.