March 31, 2009

Two Mondays ago Elder Brown and I were having lunch in a city a little ways from here after our district meeting, and this girl sitting at the table next to us turned and started talking to Elder Brown. Her name is Stella. She wanted to know a little bit about what we do and what we teach. She lived in the US in Atlanta for a few years and she speaks fluent English (and really well, without any accent) so we explained a few things about the Church to her in English. We stayed there for nearly an hour talking to her and her friend about the gospel. They seemed really interested. We told them that we wanted to meet up with them again somehow and teach a few more important things to them. Since they both live in different cities, we decided to meet them the next Monday (which was yesterday) at the English School they work at where they are both teachers. So, after district meeting yesterday, we went there together with another missionary who works in that city.

First, backtracking a little, on Sunday at church we were talking to a woman in our Branch named Bel who we always speak English with because she was a missionary at Temple Square and speaks fluently, and she started telling us about how these two girls who work at her English School had met the missionaries and how they told them all this great stuff and were going to come back on Monday. Bel didn't know it had been us that talked to them. We asked what their names were, and sure enough! Bel got all excited and explained how she gave Stella a copy of the Book of Mormon and the Livro de Mormon in Portuguese, and taught her a few more things about the doctrine. Apparently every day of the week Stella asked her if she really thought we were going to come back on Monday.

Stella also told Bel about a dream she had a few days before she met us at the restaurant. She said that in her dream she saw two young white men and was instructed that she should listen to them because they would change her life. She said that the dream went on the whole night.

So now coming back to when Elder Brown and the other missionary and I met up with her yesterday. Stella had gotten on the internet and read a bunch of things that weren't true about the Church, and luckily Bel had explained ahead of time that the majority of things you read on the internet about the Church are not true. She understood that if she has doubts about the Church, she ought not to consult its enemies. So she had a whole long list of questions for us written out on a piece of paper. We did our best to answer all of them, both in English and Portuguese. Between the three of us we did a decent job. I was a little concerned about the other missionary because he was acting a little gung-ho and Stella called him out on it. She said that when he tried to answer her questions she felt like he seemed threatened by her. But she was very forgiving and not upset at all. She is a very humble girl, and very sincere and interested in learning. At the end, Elder Brown (who, as a new missionary, doesn't speak the greatest Portuguese) told her as best he could that if she really wants to know if these things are true, she needs to seek a testimony more than she seeks knowledge. I bore my testimony as well.

Then she told us about the dream she had, and in greater detail. She expressed the happiness she felt hearing us speak, and her gratitude for our willingness to come and talk to her about the Church. Then she started to cry and said in English, "I hope you guys won't forget me". She apologized for having so many questions. We told her we would be right back there next Monday. I can't wait to go back and see her again.

There will be a lot of missionaries teaching her, along with the help of Bel and other members. Including her Mom who, as it turns out, was baptized in the Church some 20 years ago and has since gone inactive and never said a word to Stella about it.

She's going to watch conference at the stake center. She's excited too. Bel is going to give her a ride. We're perhaps more excited for her to go than she is. It's so wonderful to be used as a tool in the Lord's hands to help bring the Gospel to someone. This experience, along with others this week, has given me a greater appreciation for missionary work and a better understanding of what it really is. The Lord is entirely in charge of these things. It's not the missionaries. Nothing I did made Stella's life change. I was only worthy. She said as we were leaving, "I never eat at that restaurant we met at, and I had no idea that going there that day would change my life".

I hope everyone is as excited for conference as I am. I hope everyone watches every session and listens intently to every talk. Conference is such a wonderful opportunity to receive counsel and revelation. As for the Ensign, I guess there's no need to send it here. But please save me a nice fresh copy to add to my collection when I get home. Tell Jonny to watch a few sessions of conference. Maybe even take him to Priesthood session. Take Zach too. And Socs. I suppose he's old enough. I can't believe it's my last conference in the mission. Next time I'll be back home and hopefully up in Utah watching at the conference center.

I miss you family. I love you.

p.s. - the pictures from Squaw Peak look TIGHT. Let's plan on going on at least one hike that first week I'm back. Camelback would be fun too.

March 24, 2009

Let me go through and try to answer each question in the order it was asked.

1. I was not certain that the McRib was back, although Michelle had mentioned it on the phone at Christmastime and that made me very hopeful that it would return someday soon. They don't have McRib in Brazil, but they do have McDonald's. We have one in our area as a matter of fact. We actually went there today. I had chicken nuggets. McDonald's is soooo fancy in Brazil. All the rich kids go there after they get out of school. They remind me of the black kids I saw in Chicago the first time we went there years ago who were all excited that they got to go to "MAC-donalds". Does anyone else remember that?

2. I have heard from Maxwell. He wrote me. I have yet to write him back, but I had Lex send him a facebook message. He is my good friend. I hope he wasn't weird when he went to visit. Was he? He would never speak English with me. I hope he'll come back to the States again sometime before I'm able to come back to Brasilia.

3. I was not aware that we would not be able to come back until June of next year. That's too bad. I'll need to write some people when I get home and tell them I won't be coming back anytime soon. But then again, June of next year would be the earliest we could go as a family, right? Because of Dad's station rules? If I were to go alone, I would only need to wait until I have the tourist visa? Considering how much studying I'm going to want to be doing I don't think it would even work to go alone. Actually, even June 2010 might not work because I'm kind of wanting to do 3 straight semesters at MCC (fall'09, spring '10, summer '10 and possibly the winter intercession in between). Lots of school. Maybe spring break. We'll have to see. I love Brazil. I want to come back as often as possible.

4. Going on a trip June 3rd sounds fantastic to me. As for possible impediments:
a. I don't know our financial situation but I am 100% sure we'll be just fine as long as we pay honest tithes and offerings.
b. If Grandpa's condition makes it so we can't leave I completely understand and I am willing to help with anything he needs.
c. Apparently we don't have to worry about terrorism anymore because Elder Brown and I talked to a man yesterday who "knows" that we're really spies here working for the US government. He told us where Osama bin Laden is so we can take him out.
d. I'm sure I'll be plenty wiped out but I'll have a whole week to rest before we leave.
e. I don't think any de-worming will be necessary. I haven't gotten horribly sick yet on the mission. I haven't thrown up or been bed ridden for days. Only a few colds. I do plan on eating plenty of fruits and vegetables when I get home though.
f. Jonny can come with.
g. I would LOVE to learn all of the languages spoken in EUROPE and JAPAN and CHINA and INDIA. Now if that's not a hint I don't know what is.
h. My legs are fine. The Lord has blessed me. However, I would like to see the foot doctor (Dr. Allen I think... the one in Scottsdale that I got my orthopedics from) the week I get back just to see if there are any problems going on that I'm not aware of. I certainly have walked a lot and if I have some fracture that I'm not noticing, I need to get that taken care of asap. If possible, call this week and make an appointment for me.

5. Denver Lane is nowhere near as cool as PARKER REX!! Sao Paulo is tight from what I can tell. That would be a fun mission. I'm sure he'll have a great time. Too bad he may have to go to the MTC instead of the CTM. The CTM is a wonderful place. But no need to tell him I said that.

6. Yes, I got the camera and am taking good care of it. I'm taking pictures of everything I see.

Don't worry about taking my focus off the mission. I know how to focus. Feel free to talk about whatever you want to talk about. And feel free to tell me where we're going if we're going somewhere! You know that more than anything what I'm excited for is to see family/house/animals/friends. If that's all I have (along with maybe an ipod and a few good books) this summer when I get home, that's good enough for me. One of my very favorite talks from the last conference was by L. Tom Perry called "Let Him Do It With Simplicity". It's worth reading over and over again and to reflect on. It helped me to learn more than I had before that I don't need EVERYTHING I want. You guys, my family, are without a doubt the most important thing in the world to me. Nothing separates or changes that. So that's what I'm looking forward to most about being home.
As for work when I get home... I'm try to think of what I could do. I'm fluent in Portuguese. It's natural to me at this point. I'm only working on learning more advanced vocab and figures of speech and that kind of thing. I would actually really really like to teach Portuguese to English speakers and/or teach English to natural Portuguese speakers. So I would ask if Mom and Dad could look around for a way for me to do that either in AZ or maybe New York or San Francisco or Boston or Portugal or Rio Grande do Sul in Brazil or where ever.
This week was a fun week. We are teaching a few men who are just amazing to me. The ways they are changing their lives are incredible. These are grown men. Fathers. One man has been reading the Book of Mormon for just three weeks and has already gave/threw away his entire porn collection. Another has committed to live the word of wisdom and has been. Another has gone from 2 packs of cigarettes a day to just 2 or 3 cigarettes a day. Another man named Adiel whose wife absolutely HATES us and has threatened to separate from him if he doesn't stop talking to us. He's been a rock. He reads the Book of Mormon and has committed to keep going to church even if he can't be baptized (a man can't be baptized if his wife doesn't approve). There are great people here. Anyone can say whatever they want the world over about the Gospel and about the Book of Mormon and about Joseph Smith--none of it means that the Church is no longer true. You can even doubt it all yourself, but when you see someone you love change their life because of the Gospel, there is no denying it. At least not for me.

I love you, family. I miss you.

March 17, 2009

You asked for package requests, so before I forget:
1. I need Pilot G2 size 7 pens (or size 5 if you want, just not size 10!), feel free to send a pack of those.
2. I need PICTURES! Of anything. Socks, Pebs, Josie, the new (to me) plasma TV, everyone sitting on the couch with their macbooks. Whatever. Anything. I love pictures more than anything else.

I think that's all. There are a lot of great missionary resources that I've unfortunately only thought of late in the mission, and with only ten weeks left I don't feel like it's worth it to send them. Rather, I'm just telling my companions, (who, for the last 9 months, have been new missionaries in their first few transfers) about these things so they can use them throughout their missions. I'm happy enough about that. They take my ideas and improve upon them and get really excited so I suppose I'm happy to help. Makes me excited to help my kids get ready for their missions.
Thank you for putting money in my account to buy shoes. Which I did, on transfer day last week. I was a very careful shopper and didn't give up after one or two stores. I went all over the mall and my perseverance paid off. I found a great slip-on shoe for R$60 ($25 American). Quality shoe, really. I was so excited I wore them right out of the store! I left the old shoes there. They even brought out a box of trash for me to throw them away in. Elder Brown was so impressed by what we'd found he bought a pair too. We took pictures with everyone at the store.
I imagine I'll have some money left over from what you put in my account so I plan on using that soon to send home a box or two of things I don't have room for in my backpack, like letters and a few books. I think I'll check the weight at the post office here and then let you know the price just to be sure.
I don't have much time this week because I have a bunch of letters to write to people back at the house but I wanted to share one story.
Last night I was telling Elder Brown how ever since Mom and I had the opportunity to do the sealing for Bam and her husband in the Temple, I've always wanted very much to have some kind of spiritual confirmation that the sealing was accepted and that they were indeed now sealed together. We went on talking about the Temple and eventually our conversation turned toward patriarchal blessings. He told me something that his patriarch grandfather taught him. He said that any father's blessing, whether it is before or after, is a continuation of your patriarchal blessing. A father is endowed with the same patriarchal authority over his family, even if he is not ordained to the office of a Patriarch in the priesthood. So as we went on talking my mind started sifting through the priesthood blessings that you, Dad, have given me. Then I remembered the blessing I received from you a little while before going on the mission, when you mentioned that there were ancestors of ours on the other side who were proud of me for the decision I was making, and who where helping me. I remembered how at that moment I thought of Grandma Bam. For some reason, I didn't take that as anything special at the time. Only last night, nearly two years later, as my companion taught me about the power of a father's priesthood blessing, I realize that I had received a spiritual confirmation at that time that the sealing had been accepted. Now I know why I thought of Grandma Bam at that moment, now I know that her sealing to her husband has been accepted and they are together forever!
We ought to go to the Temple the day after I get back if possible.
One last thing---a few weeks ago I wrote a letter to Gma and Gpa Hoon about the Book of Mormon. I'm not sure if they've received it yet, but let me know if they say anything to you regarding it soon.

I love you and miss you more than ever!

ps: I'm glad your talks were such a hit! I'll go back and read that story about Pres. Aidukaitis' Dad again. He told me that story in an interview once, it really is great. I'd like to find the father of a future general authority here in Aguas Claras! Pray for us.

March 9, 2009

Don't worry, Momma. I've gotten very accustomed to teary-eyed women. Sister Pizzirani cries all the time, so did Sister Aidukaitis. S. Pizzirani is worse. But not worse than some of the women in the wards and branches I've served in. There are some people who just can't seem to be able to talk from the pulpit without bawling.
As for transfers, both Elder Brown and I are sticking around. I'm happy about it. I like this area, and Elder Brown is great. We're both really looking forward to this transfer. We actually have a few families and men already in mind that can be baptized very soon so we're expecting success this transfer.
I think our greatest success' this transfer have been gaining the confidence of the members and getting them more involved with and excited about the work, and also this 19 year-old kid named Thiago (chee-ah-go) who has been in from out of town visiting his uncle the last few weeks and has decided now after several times going out and walking around/working with us that he wants to go on a mission. He wasn't sure before. He was planning on coming here to go into the army but that hasn't worked out as planned. He's feeling a really strong desire to serve a mission now and wants to go as soon as possible. Last night we sat down and gave him as much counsel as we could about how to be a missionary. It was great. I'm so happy for him, and proud of him. He'll make a great missionary. He goes back to where he lives in Goias tomorrow but I'll be sure to keep in touch with him. I'm hoping he'll get his call before I go home.
As for this week, it was a slower week. Fewer people in church. Fewer new investigators. All the numbers were low, but I try not to concern myself too much with that because I know we've been working. We can work harder though, and we're going to.
If Grandpa's condition worsens and we're not able to go anywhere in the summer as a family that's alright. He's more important. I'll be happy to help take care of him too. I plan on taking little weekends and going to California and (maybe) Utah (to see Michelle and my missionary buddies there). We'll find some fun things to do even if we're not able to go everywhere as a whole family.

Love you, family

ps: Mom, if possible, write out some of these entries from Gpa's journals for me to read.

March 3, 2009

I think everyone is accustomed to working in our family. Everyone has or has had jobs and has helped with Church responsibilities and callings. However, I have to say that there is a difference between working as a full-time missionary and being someone who works hard for a good part of the day and then comes home to their own house and takes their shoes off and watches TV and eats a healthy, home-cooked meal and can relax, read a book, listen to music, and most of all--can enjoy the family they have so near to them.
Therefore, let there be no mistake, I am planning on fully taking advantage of being home when I am no longer a full-time missionary. I love my mission and I know exactly what it means to me. I plan on using my new work ethic at jobs, at school, and in doing many things to help the Church, and I'm looking forward to these things. However, you can be sure there will be plenty of sleeping (at least in the first week home), and plenty of late nights full of conversations with those I love, getting caught up on movies, music, books and whatever else has been going on since I've left. Maybe even video games, who know? Those things cool your mind off.
This last week has been wonderful. We brought so many people to church it was amazing. I don't say that to boast of anything I and my companion have done, but, like Alma, to boast of the glory of God. We were truly blessed because we worked hard this week and didn't leave a single house without leaving a strong commitment with each and every person to go to church. We were blessed to have the help of the members to give investigators rides to the chapel. On one of the trips we had so many investigators in the car I had to ride in the trunk! It was great. The branch president was really happy,so I'm happy.
There is a man named Jesiel we're working with to get baptized this week. He was someone we talked to on the street who accepted our invitation to go (like everybody in Brazil does) and then ACTUALLY WENT. He went to church all by himself, by foot! It was amazing, particularly considering he lives at least two miles from the church. We taught him all about the Restoration yesterday. He accepted everything really well and was excited about reading the Book of Mormon.
There were a few others who went to church who have shown some interest in being baptized so we'll see how this week goes. Should be crazy.
There is a really great family we've been working with this whole transfer (I sent a picture of me and Elder Brown with them last week). Joao (John) is the dad's name. He's a really good husband and father. He's a carpenter. His job is stressful and that made him pick up smoking several years ago. Before he met us he was smoking two packs a day, now he's down to just two cigarettes per day. It's been amazing to see his progress, and his family's as well. His wife is a great person, and his kids are adorable and hilarious. I love their home. We've taught a lot to them and helped them in many ways, and they've agreed to be baptized as soon as Joao and his wife are officially married (which is a little bit complicated in Brazil, as I've explained). They have a date for the 22nd of this month. Hopefully things are all taken care of by then. The challenges and encouragement from us and from the members, and especially from the family, have helped Joao to slow down his smoking a lot. We call him in the morning to make sure he doesn't bring his cigarettes to work. His ten year-old son keeps a record of how many cigarettes per day and at what time, and everyone in his family is sure to give him plenty of hugs and say I love you. I've gained a true testimony that when someone has faith in you and expects things of you, you can do anything. That's what families are for I suppose. That's increased my love for you guys even more.

Have a great week. I miss you.

ps: I got the package with the pancake batter and syrup this week. Elder Brown and I had a huge, fattening American breakfast this morning! AMAZING! Thanks from him and from me. And thanks to Dad for the amazing picture book of your trip with Grandpa to Pennsylvania. I love it. More pictures, please!

February 24, 2009

I pressed the power button on the computer as I was trying to find the USB port just now and off went the computer along with my email. Genius! It' ok though, I wasn't talking about anything too important. I was just talking about how great zone conference was yesterday, and that I somehow managed to hear the song "The Reckoner" by Radiohead YET AGAIN in the Brazil! Drove me crazy the rest of the day. Just so everyone knows, my love for Radiohead has perhaps doubled during this time of my mission.
Last but not least... YES I do have my passport. Well, the mission does. It's been in the mission office since the day I got to Brasilia. They give it back to you at the airport the day you go home. Good thing considering my tendency to lose things. So yeah, it's in safe hands. Plan away!
By the way, now that you've got me all curious about these fancy plans being made for this summer, feel free to let me know what's going on! You don't have to, but still. I'm allowed to remember that I'll be home in only a short 12 weeks. Eeeek. Exciting/scary. I may be needing this "step down" program.

I love you family,

ps: - Dad, yesterday I got your letter telling about your Civil War book. All I can say is keep them coming! I loved it all.
pss: - I'm asking for pictures of family and/or Socks.

February 17, 2009

OK, I have the address of our building, but unfortunately I forgot to check the apartment number before I left today. I would say to just send to the building but I'm not sure how they do things with mail there, so maybe it's better that you not send things to the apartment. From what I can tell there are no little mailboxes, and I never see letters slid under the front door, and there's no doorman at the front. It all looks a little weird to me. Just send things to the mission office for now. Safer there.
This week we met a bunch of great different people. We met a really nice Bolivian couple one day, then a drunk Argentinian the next. He only spoke Spanish, but I found that I could understand nearly everything he said. (I'm now even more excited to start learning Spanish when I get home.) The next day we met a girl from Nigeria who we taught in English. Then we ran into a Jehovah's Witness from England. He gave me some suggestions of places to go see in London. Everyone we've met this week has been really nice. Usually it's not like that. Perhaps the best lesson we taught this week was with a member of our branch here named Keith, who is an American who moved here six months ago and married a Brazilian woman he met on LDS link-up.
He doesn't know how to speak Portuguese, so it was funny watching him interact with this family we were teaching. He was all smiles. He bore his testimony in English and I translated for the family, and I could tell they were happy and felt the Spirit.
The members are really beginning to understand how we want the work to be done here. How the Lord wants the work to be done here, I should say. We want to be the TEACHERS, they need to be the FINDERS. It should always be that way, everywhere. The thing is, people who are not in some way naturally involved in missionary work because of their callings or whatever else, they don't think about missionary work. Therefore, we plan on going to a bunch of different member's houses this week to share brief messages, and leave little, tiny commitments like "tell someone in the next 24 hours that the Church is good", and then we'll go back (or call) and see how it went.
Depending on the level of involvement the person currently has in the work, and the level of courage they have, we'll adapt to each giving different commitments to different people. One will have to make friends with someone in their building and talk about the Church within one week, another will have to give away a Book of Mormon and then report back to us how it was received and when we can teach the person, another will have to say hi to everyone in their building, or invite someone on their floor to their family night. Things like that. If members aren't involved, we won't have any real success here.
Now my challenge to you, family, is to be an example of this and make like easy on the missionaries there in Mesa. I know they're out floating around several different wards and have a lot of planned dinners with the members, but that doesn't mean you can't call them and say "Elders, we have a family we want you to teach, come to our house at 6pm on Friday night and they'll be here waiting for you". That's what needs to happen here, and little by little it's happening. An idea for your new calling, Mom and Dad... you could have the missionaries come over to our house and teach the Restoration or the Plan of Salvation to some of the young single adults who are maybe a little less active. Promise food, and tell the young single adults that they each need to bring one friend. Offer to pick them and their friend up. The missionaries will have something to do, and more people to teach and to baptize.
I love you and I miss you and I'll send you pictures from Elder Brown's camera next week.