April 28, 2009

So I only have three p days left. It's winding down and I'm getting crazier as the time goes by. Poor Elder Brown. He's full of envy of Japan trip. A simple, begrudged "thanks" is all he has to say. I spent most of the morning sitting at my desk eating Japanese chocolate with a big smile on my face, spouting off spiratic Portuguese phrases that just naturally come out these days when I'm overjoyed.

I'm particularly excited about going to Japan because our best friend in the branch the last few weeks has been this fat guy named Carlos who speaks perfect English and served his mission in Japan. He had a few black companions who taught him a lot of the gems of the English language. He's showed us a lot of pictures from his mission. Japan looks simply AMAZING. I cannot wait. I'm so excited. You got my other email, right? OK.

Dad, to answer the two questions you had (about the stories and about a Japan itinerary). First, thank you very much for the stories. They're wonderful. I particularly liked the testimonies others gave of the Prophet Joseph. I enjoyed very much the story about Thomas Kent. I didn't know anything about that before. I love that kind of stuff, it's so interesting to me. I'm bummed because I probably won't use it here because of the amount of background with the Civil War and all, Brazilians just don't know anything about that and I would have to explain a bunch of other details for them to get it. But you can be sure that story will come in handy for future talks and lessons when I go out with the mission at home. I'm currently in the process of translating what I can into Portuguese and I'll be able to use some of that soon with the members and investigators. Thank you so much!

As for Japan, I'm going to talk to Carlos and I'll get you a list of things next week. Of what I know right now, I think I'll probably want to see the cities of Tokyo, Kyoto and Osaka. Apparently the biggest roller coaster in the world is in Osaka. Kyoto would be cool for seeing shrines and learning about history and culture. Tokyo just sounds amazing overall. I don't even know where to begin. Let me just talk to Carlos first and then I'll be a little more sure. Plus I'm sure I'll want to look up a few things once I'm home, and Michelle and Jonny will plan all kinds of tight stuff. I say spending at least one night in the little pod hotel thing is a must.

This week has been great. We had a wonderful family night last night with Joao and his family at a member's house. We taught about the restoration with this kid named Wanderson who is preparing to go on a mission. I love Wanderson. He's kind of a butthead, but he says that it's because of our visits with him and his family that now he's decided he wants to serve a mission. When I got here three months ago he was inactive. We're also working with his friend Wesley who has also become even more decisive about going on a mission. He too was inactive when I got here. These two guys are the best.

I'm pretty sure I won't see Joao and his family get baptized, as much as I want to. The marriage thing just takes too long here. It makes me really upset at Brazil. They could have been baptized two months ago if the government were to have just made things simple with marriage in this country. Awful. But I'm happy as can be for them because they're progressing and they will get baptized. It's just a matter of when. I'll see the pictures.

We had a great experience yesterday after our district meeting--we saw Stella!!! It was so wonderful to see her. It made me so happy. I hope it didn't show but I was a little emotional. I don't think she noticed at all, I do a decent job of controlling myself. We have been praying since we found her that she might understand and accept the gospel. Since it had been a few weeks we got worried, we prayed that we might find her again, and yesterday we did. I was touched at God's kindness with us. She probably doesn't realize it, but she is an elect of the Lord.

Everything else is going great. I had a great last zone conference this week. I gave a talk on Sunday that was probably my last talk in Portuguese. Scary. Be sure to let me know soon how long Bishop wants me to talk the Sunday I get back. I'll start preparing now.

I love you. Have a wonderful week.

ps: here's a picture of me with Japanese candy this morning!!!!!

April 21, 2009

I have one suit now. I've gotten rid of almost everything. Actually, there was a member in one of my areas that took one of my suits and had it tailored to fit him without saying anything to me. Brazilians...
The suit I currently have will work just fine for Sacrament meeting the Sunday I get back. I'll get it cleaned before I come home.
Thanks for the itinerary info. I read it out loud to my companion and he appreciated it very much. He still has a year and a half left:) You said I leave at 6pm from Brasilia and get into Sao Paulo at 7:45pm, but I think those times are actually am, not pm. Since I've been here, the missionaries have always left early eeeaaarly in the morning Tuesday morning and then spent the day waiting in the Sao Paulo airport. Although if it were nighttime that would be fine with me. However morning would also be good because the plan, apparently, is to have a van from the CTM come pick us up from the airport and take us to the Sao Paulo temple where we would do one session there and then come back to the airport to catch our flight home that night. I don't know if that's true or not or if that would even work, but it sounds nice. I miss the temple.
Regardless of whatever we're busy doing the week I get home, please leave me a little bit of time to go to the temple.
I haven't gotten my secret special package yet but I'm hoping I will this Thursday at zone conference. I haven't gotten the special letter with the pictures of Mom's "changes in appearance" either. My guess is short hair? Fine by me. Anything to make me feel less self-conscious about my male pattern baldness. If you want to say "widow's peak" in Portuguese you say "entrada", which means entrance.
I'm pretty excited about how things are going in our area. We're having a breakthrough with member missionary work. Things are going as planned. We're dedicating most of our time to visiting the members, teaching them, challenging them in simple and easy ways to be the "finders". Little by little we're having results. If this is the last thing I can do in my mission, good then. Our Branch President told us that we're the only missionaries that have ever come to this area that have given an honest and persistent effort to working well with the members and administering the teachings of the gospel through the members, which is how the leadership of the Church wants it done. I know we're doing something good, even though it's not what the majority of missionaries do here. Unfortunately, there are a lot of missionaries that rejoice only in numbers and do everything for the wrong reason and have completely the wrong vision. It makes me so sad. I love this mission! I feel the Spirit tell me so strongly and so peacefully that the way we're doing things here is the way God wants it done. I'll need to keep in touch with the Branch President and Branch Mission Leader after I leave to see how things turn out here.
That's all for this week. Oh, I saw Elder Cosme last Monday on transfer day. He finally came back from the jungle. He cried when he saw me. I saw Elder Chacon too, but didn't manage to get a picture with both of my kids like I wanted. Oh well.

Have a great week! I'll get you the phone call number next week. I love you.

ps: Thanks for the stories, Dad! They're great, and they'll for sure come in handy.

April 13, 2009

You can tell Bishop Boyer that I'm very excited about speaking on the topic he gave me and it will be an honor to be able to speak. And if Bishop Sandstrom would like I would be very happy to speak at his Singles Ward too. Will that be my Singles Ward? I'll be honest, I'm a little freaked out about regularly going to a Singles Ward. I might need to get married as soon as possible to avoid that.
The only problem I foresee in speaking at Church when I get home is that I have NEVER given a talk in English!! For all the experience I've gained to giving talks over the last two years, none of it has been in my native language. I might have a hard time.

Changing the subject, before I forget, I would like to make a special request please:

To help the members here, I'm wanting to get my hands on some Church history stories. What I would like everyone in the family to do this week is search around the internet and books and ask others for interesting Church history stories, and send them to me in this next week's e-mail. Don't mail them. Copy and paste as many as you want. I'm going to print them out and translate them into Portuguese and use them in lessons with the members in their homes. People here love Church history even though it is not their ancestry.
Why I'm wanting to do this is because we've come to the conclusion here that missionary work does NOT work in the way we try to do things here in this mission. I mean, you have success every once in a while because God isn't going to allow the work to stop. But we know that it can be done in a better way---together with the members! Feel free to get on the Church website and watch the talk by L. Tom Perry in the Sunday afternoon session on the fancy Church video player thing. He articulates exactly what I feel about missionary work and the way it needs to be done. Some missionaries don't try to change from the way it used to be. We're trying to come up with new ways to help the members be more involved in the work.

I want to help complete families prepare to go to the temple and be sealed forever. That is my desire. I know it is President Pizzirani's desire as well. The problem in the mission is that a lot of missionaries are still trying to use all those old techniques but with new vision. It doesn't work. We're only going to have success if we work together with the members. It's as clear as day to us now. We can't do it alone, just the missionaries. In the last two transfers we've met a lot of really great people but no baptisms yet because we haven't figured out a good way to really work with the members well. We've got some new ideas now though, and we're going to put it in practice this transfer. Things are going to be really different, but I'm excited. My goal is to leave this area ripe for the harvest when I leave. Pray for us and for the members that we'll have success together in building up the Church here.

No one was transferred!! Elder Brown and I will stay together another six weeks. I'm really happy about that. I love him like a brother. And he'll kill me! In doing so he'll be orphaning two children, but I'm sure they're okay with that. Elder Brown's excited to be getting his first taste of blood in the mission. I don't know what I would have done had he been transferred. He helps me a lot and is an inspired missionary.

Someone mentioned Joao's family two weeks ago I think. He has not been baptized yet because we are waiting on the marriage. Joao needs his birth certificate to be legally married and he does not have it. We asked for a new one to be sent to him from his home state. That was two months ago. It still hasn't come. Our Branch President has decided that he and the Branch Mission Leader are going to drive 100 kilometers into Goias to get his birth certificate so that we can finally get the ball rolling. That's needing to happen because I haven't been feeling very good lately about Joao and his family, they seem to be getting a little stagnant with the lack of progress with the marriage and everything. We're running out of things to teach them. I believe things will turn around soon and they'll be married and baptized by the end of this transfer.

Stella is another person on my mind a lot. I get so happy when I think about her. Bel says she is always reading the copy of the Ensign (Liahona) we gave her. She's being taught by the sisters in a different city. I hope all is going well. The only thing I worry about is that she has a lot of questions. Not that it's bad to ask questions--we should all be courageous enough to ask the important questions. But if we're not careful it can be like building a huge house without any foundation. Each piece of wood is another question, and when it's answered it fits into its place in the house and helps build up something beautiful. But when the wind and the rains come, if there's no foundation then none of it matters because it won't stay grounded. Our knowledge of the gospel, great as it may be, can all come crashing down if we don't have the foundation of testimony. For every bit of knowledge we seek, we should seek testimony to go along with it. A lot of our investigators need to understand that, not just Stella. But I mention her because she has the ability to learn so much, and it will end up profiting her nothing if she does not gain a testimony.

It's important to remember that testimony is simple. All a testimony is is a confirmation by the Holy Ghost of gospel knowledge. Knowledge can be gained by the human mind alone, testimony can only be gained by the Spirit. That's why scripture study and prayer go hand in hand. We learn about the Book of Mormon by reading it and pondering its message, we gain testimony of its truthfulness by praying and feeling the way that Alma describes in Alma 32:28. It makes sense in our minds, it feels right in our hearts, it's peaceful. But that is not enough for a lot of people. That's why I worry. Not just for Stella and our investigators, but for Jonny as well.

OK I'm really, really, really, really excited about this trip business. I better get some information on it, quick! I'm hoping to get my last package this afternoon when we go to Asa Norte for the little transfer day family night with President. Which reminds me, two of my companions are going home tomorrow. Elder C Nunes and Elder Tenorio. I'll miss them. Next family night it will be me going home. Freak.

OK don't forget, Church history stuff. I love you guys.

ps: Tell me how the itinerary looks on my arrival home. What time I'm getting in etc. I'm sooooooooo curious!

pps: Tell Uncle John hi from me. Is he still dating the girl who doesn't shave her legs or arm pits? I'll be sure to pray for Eric and Sam, and especially Grandma D.

ppps: Tell Gma Hoon I hope she has a very happy 77th birthday! She deserves it more than anyone. Also, please ask her if she and Grandpa have gotten the letter I sent to them several weeks ago.

April 7, 2009

First, just before I forget, about you guys deciding when I'll call on Mother's day... you need to remember that I am not able to call you - you have to call me. Plus, I'll be needing to set things up here with my companion because he has his family too. As a matter of fact we've already got our location planned: we're going to use the phones at this business office owned by a member. Assuming I don't get transferred of course. It's very unlikely that I'll be transferred. I'll more than likely "die" here in Aguas Claras, but who knows? I'd be fine with it if I stayed here for my last transfer. I like it here. I love the members. I'm familiar with the addresses and I feel very comfortable, Elder Brown, on the other hand, he's almost certainly on his way out of this town. He's already been here longer than me. I always miss my companions.
Remember! Next Monday is transfer day. This is a short transfer, it's ending a week earlier. My old companion Elder C Nunes is going home, and so is Elder Tenorio. I don't know if anyone remembers me talking about them. I'll miss them.
As for me going home, the reason the mission office hasn't called yet is because everything got screwed up when I went to get my visa renewed like a year ago and that's halted things a little. I'm not sure what it was but they messed up on something in the office and so me, Valentine, Barton and Day are going to the airport early tomorrow morning to get everything fixed. I'm excited to meet up with them. As soon as that's taken care of I'm sure you'll hear from someone. I know things are moving along fine with making sure I get home when I'm suppose to because I got a phone call from the office early this morning asking which airport is closest to my house. I felt old.
Speaking of making sure everything is normal for my coming home, you might want to get a hold of President Gulbrandsen and make sure he's going to be in town the day I get home. There was an AP here that went home from his mission in November and when he got there his Stake President was out of town, so he had to wait another week to be released! Look, I love being a missionary, but I don't like the idea of being at home and still being a missionary. I think I would have some anxiety problems.
Now, as for conference... what a wonderful weekend! I was able to watch in English. It is so sooooooo much better in English. In Portuguese it's terrible. It's not their voices. It's not Elder Holland's voice, with all the emotion. Both Elder Brown and I feel that the best session was Sunday morning. It started with Uchtdorf's talk, which I loved. "Discipleship is not a spectator sport". Then Elder Anderson's talk. He was TOTALLY my guess for new apostle! I was so excited when he was called. Then Elder Holland...wow. Let me just say, Elder Holland has a power to speak that is just undeniable. I am always amazed by his talks. I don't think I've ever heard anyone speak so beautifully about the Atonement. Then President Monson's talk helped me to feel greater love and appreciation for the Savior as well. There were many other wonderful moments. Please save a copy of next months Ensign for me (I know it's all over the Church website and everything but I want to keep a hard copy). I'm particularly excited that the next conference I'll be there in person. At least I hope so. I plan on going up to Utah to watch it all there. There are so many Brazilians who would give anything to do that and just don't have the opportunity. I can't take it for granted.
Stella went to conference and loved it. She's currently being taught by the sisters where she lives. One of them used to be in my district when I was in Arapoanga. She's in good hands. We'll see her once a week, every Monday after our district meeting.

I love you! Have a great week.

p.s. - I got the Easter box. Thank you. We're gonna use the Easter eggs to give candy to the primary kids on Sunday. Tell Hajax I was more than blown away by his long letter, and that I'm writing him back today.