May 19, 2009

To Dad,

Despite not having the Suns in the playoffs, this conference finals looks as legit as can be. A bunch of gangsters all going at it. Kobe, Odom, Lebron, Iverson, Carmelo, Howard. So ghetto. I'm so all about it. We'll need to be watching ALL of these games, please. I'm reminding my companion that this is all next week and probably all in HD and he's burying his head in his hands. Haha oh boy. OK, Anyways...

On Sunday I gave a talk in Sacrament meeting. Having considered the counsel you gave me regarding how to give a talk, I used the story you sent me about the conversion of Parley P. Pratt. I translated the story into Portuguese and used it to illustrate the power of the Book of Mormon in converting ourselves and in converting others, and thereby making us great missionaries. I felt like it was a wonderful example, simple as it was, how he had been converted by the Book of Mormon, then turned around and bore that testimony to the world. He was one of the greatest missionaries of this dispensation. Just the example of a great missionary in the early days of the Church is enough to welcome the Spirit, but I hope that at least someone at church was able to grasp on to what I was hoping to tie it to--which is member-missionary work. Something I have tried to dedicate myself to very much in the last few transfers. It is the best way to do the work.

The last speaker at Sacrament meeting was a man named Christian Klein, second counselor in the stake presidency. He talked about missionary work, amongst other things. As he spoke, he thanked me for my talk and then mentioned that the man Parley P. Pratt had special meaning to him because one of his descendants was the missionary who taught and interviewed his grandfather to be baptized years ago in Sao Paulo. The name of that missionary was Wilford Cardon. My thoughts turned to how the early days of the Church in Brazil must have been. How great they must have been. I felt a great love for missionary work. I hope that I can be that special missionary for someone generations from now.

So from that I discovered first hand that storytelling really is the best way to give a talk. Thank you for that suggestion, Dad.

I want to thank you and everyone for so many things that have helped me to learn and become something better on my mission. I want to thank you for being an example of a good man and so many other things. It's a hard thing to put into words how you want to thank your Father for things that have such eternal and infinite significance. One of the things President Cardon taught me in the CTM is that it's difficult to describe the infinite in finite terms. Such is the case with me trying to describe the way I feel about my family, or say thanks for things that have been so important. I guess all I really can do is just say thanks. So, thank you.

I make it sound like something is ending and it's all sad, but really it's more the opposite. I mean yeah, the mission is ending, but all the greater then is my resolve to do what is right and live worthy of an eternal family one day.

Everyone's getting a personal e-mail today so I have to cut it a little short here because I still have to write everyone else. You were the first though. Just one more thing I wanted to say--I'm honestly amazed by the grace of the Lord in my life. This is something I can't help but make mention of. It's hard to think about without becoming emotional. That too is something hard to describe--what forgiveness and learning and testimony and love for the Savior feel like. But those are some of the things that have been mine during this season of my life and I am endlessly grateful to Heavenly Father for having given me these things. My testimony before the mission might not have been something that would have lasted me my whole life. Now it is fixed.

We have a lot to talk about and plan when I get home. Really, A LOT. So I hope you're up for it! I can't wait to see you again, Dad. I love you.


May 19, 2009

To Momma,

To me, it's a miracle that I've served a mission. But I think it's perhaps an even greater miracle that you've managed to survive me being on another continent for two years. Congratulation, Momma! I'm sending everyone smaller personal e-mails today to say thanks for things and whatnot. Really, I don't know where to begin. There's so much. I want to thank you for being my Mom, for having raised me, for having supported me, for having given me so much and for having been an example to me and a standard for what I should look for when I want to get married. There's so much to be thankful for on the side of a son who has good parents--especially a good Mother. I love you, Momma. I wish I could actually express in words how much, but so long as that's impossible, just know that I love you.

I like to think that for every son there's a lot to be sorry for. Part of me learning and changing on the mission is recognizing just what an idiot I really was before. Not that I'm perfect now. I have many flaws. But I've learned a lot. Really, if anyone were to ask me what was the price I had to pay for me to learn to do what is right, I would say "two years of my life as a missionary". That having been said, I'm sorry for anything I've done in the past that has made you even a little worried, sad, upset, disappointed, frustrated or any other mildly negative adjective you can imagine. Now, don't go thinking too much about those things, just know that I'm sorry for all the stupid things I've done to make your job harder in the past. I can't do much to make it up to you while I'm here but you can be sure that once I'm home I'm at your disposal to do WHATEVER YOU WANT! You name it. I love you more than I can say and I've gained an incredible appreciation for motherhood, especially for my own mother. As far as things I can do here, if you remember last Sunday on Mother's Day I did dedicate the song "Hey Momma" by Kanye West to you! I don't know if anyone managed to play it during the day but feel free to take a listen, haha. Really though, it's a good song. I like it at least.

Momma, we've got a lot to do when I get home! I'm excited. I'm SO excited!

Don't worry, I'm not going to be condemning anyone to hell when I get home. You can be sure of that. I'm not here to judge anyone. I've made a goal to not be what they call, in Portuguese, "chato", which connotes anything at all displeasing or irritating. I know a lot of returned missionaries get that way. I would rather not be chato. Nevertheless, if anyone is seeking my counsel for any reason I would gladly share my opinion. But most likely only If I'm asked.

I love you. I can't wait to see you again. As a matter of fact, I HAVE missed you all this time, and I will be so happy to be all yours again. I love you.


May 12, 2009

Just a reminder first... don't forget to call President Gulbrandsen and make sure someone is around to release me when I get home. I assume that's already been taken care of, but one way or another just let me know so I can put my worries to rest.

Phone call was so great! I felt wonderful afterwards, as always. I swear I could talk on the phone every week with you guys. For some, it takes their focus off the work completely. For me it's therapeutic. It makes me feel more calm, more in control, and much happier. The mission is hard, even when you're two weeks from going home, and you need every chance you can get to smile and be happy. There's no greater joy to me than you guys.

After phone call we went downstairs from the little English School we were at and met an investigator named Marcone and his not-so-less-active sister Elda who started coming back to church when we started teaching her brother. She is 29 and he is 39, although he doesn't look it. We hopped in their car and they took us to the church they go to sometimes. The church is called "Sara Nossa Terra" or "Heal Our Earth", which is very a typical, empty Brazilian evangelical church name. Like all of them, they had a rock band and a pastor who yelled a little. He told this Mother's Day story about Abraham's wife. It was okay, but it also kind of reminded me of why there is no mention of our Heavenly Mother in the scriptures---exactly so that her sanctity isn't made a joke of the way Heavenly Father's so often is. Elda turned to me at one point and slipped me a note written on one of the little tithing envelopes that were sitting on our seats when we got there, it said: "they're weird, aren't they?" I looked at her and said "who"? and she pointed all around and said, "everyone".

They dropped us off afterward, we were very polite and very grateful. We marked to come by the next night. So, yesterday, we got to their house where they live with four or five other siblings and taught them about the plan of salvation. We bore testimony of the Book of Mormon. We told them, when we were asked, how we felt about the church we went to on Sunday night. We said it was very nice, but that we ought to be careful not to confuse the Spirit of the Lord with emotion. We invited Marcone to be baptized on May 24th. He accepted whole heartedly. He'll be baptized my last week! I'm so excited.

President Pizzirani is really upset because the mission is baptizing very few men and families lately. I understand where he's coming from, I really do. He sent a bulletin out to the whole mission burning everyone. Which is absolutely fine. Sometimes I need a little kick. Although I feel like he might have been speaking a little bit emotionally, I love President and I always appreciate his counsel. I want to make him happy and I seek to understand his vision more and more all the time. I know it's the right vision. The vision the mission had when I first got here made me want to go home.

Thanks for all the advice, Dad. I appreciate it all very much. I need to remember those things. And Momma, if you'd like to fly here to stalk me I suppose that's alright. My companion might be a little freaked out. Don't worry, two weeks is no time at all. I'll be home plenty soon. As for the airport, I don't mind who's there really. If Hajax wants to come hang that's fine with me. If anyone is afraid to let their emotions show, don't worry, because I'm not! So take peace in that. I don't know if I'll cry. Maybe. If anything I'll probably just be worried about people making fun of my hair loss. I'm gonna look like Uncle John one day. So anyways, yeah, bring whoever, fine by me.

OK don't forget to call right away, if you haven't already, and make sure someone is around to release me. I guess if they have to they can release me by phone? I don't know. Either way. Don't get me wrong, I love being a missionary. But really, I only love being set apart as a real missionary in Brazil. Once I'm home it's time to be a normal person.

One other detail about going home---I know I said that going to the Temple was more on the want list, but I've decided to move that up to the need list. Essential. I can't have going to the Temple on the same list with cowboy boots and an iphone.

Next week will be my last e-mail! If you have any last questions or concerns that need to be answered before I leave Brazil, next week is the time. I'm so excited to see you guys, and I'm so content with the feeling that I'm going to be near you again soon. I love the mission, I love Brazil, I love so many people here, but I really do love you guys more than any of that. You are the most important of all people or things or places in the world to me.

Have a good week!