Monday, January 27, 2014

Great Power through Small Means

Oi família!

Well, another week has rushed by and I feel like I was sitting in this chair just yesterday writing this e-mail.  I´m more and more grateful each day for the power of goal-setting and how it´s helped me so much to use the Lord´s time effectively as I truly focus on the most important things.  We had a number of appointments and plans fall through this week, but we perservered and were able to teach 25 lessons to investigators with a member present!  This required a lot of finding and contacting, but I´m improvig rapidly at talking with random people.  Que ótimo!

I feel like this week, instead of my usual grand experience, I´m just going to talk about mini miracles, because we were blessed with many this week. One of our investigator couples marked their date for marriage (big hurdle down here.  Practically no one is married) for February 7th, so we marked them for baptism February 9th!  They have a little bit of reservations about it, but I know they can do it.  We taught the husband about the Word of Wisdom last week before we were able to teach the restoration because of his crazy work schedule.  We testified that it is a comandment from God that we don´t partake of coffee (everyone here drinks coffee, everyone) and he committed to live it.  We came back this past Saturday and his fiancé said "Well, Mateus gave up coffee cold turkey.  He quit Monday and hasn´t had any since."  So awesome.  Right after she said this he walked in the door and we were able to have a great Restoration lesson with them.  Every time I have the privelege of hearing the First Vision the Spirit always testifies of the truthfulness of the message.  So awesome.  Then, guess who came to church yesterday?  Well, Mateus didn´t, but Sara did!  So did our other person on date, her friend, Socorro.  And another investigator, Irecelia.  We were very blessed yesterday.

Another number of miracles have been happening in the lives of Aluizo and Redilane.  Remember them, from my experience with Elder Rector?  Well, we´re still teaching them.  Their progress is slow, but only because we only get to see them about once a week because they work long hours (they both have their Ph.D. in Chemistry and they´re professors.  Yeah.  Legit).  This week we went over and taught the Word of Wisdom to them as well.  We reviewed the 5 things we can´t partake and Aluizo said "Well, that´s not a problem.  I don´t have a problem with any of these things."  I almost jumped off the couch with excitement.  Then Elder Tribino and Elder Lemos (divisão = exchange) went back Wednesday and taught the Law of Chastity.  Again, no problems.  But even better, at the end of the lesson Aluizo asked "So, The Word of Wisdom and the Law of Chastity are commandments to prepare me for baptism, right?"  Yeah, he brought up baptism without them saying anything.  Then, we went back Friday to visit, though they had to leave when we got there.  But what were Aluizo´s final words to us?  "Oh we´ll be at church on Sunday too!  I need to prepare to get baptized!"  YEAH!!!!  They were unable to make it because of an unexpected travel incident, but we´re planning on inviting him to baptism tonight and having the service this Saturday or Sunday.  What blessings.

But here´s the moral of the story.  I was reading this morning in Ether 3:5 which talks about how the Lord shows his great power to us by small means many times.  Sure, altogether this has been a week of mini miracles, but grand things have happened.  I testify that our Father in Heaven is truly a God of miracles.  And small means, in many instances, confound the wise.  This is His work.  I am His servant.  And more than anything, I love being a missionary :)

Até mais!  Vos amo!

Elder Evans

Monday, January 20, 2014

Why Am I Here?

Oi familia!

Now, before everyone freaks out that my subject line is "Why Am I Here?", no, I´m not having a crisis where I question my service as a missionary.  I know perfectly well that I am here to invite others to come unto Christ by helping them receive the restored gospel through faith in Jesus Christ and His Atonement, repentance, baptism, receiving the gift of the Holy Ghost and enduring to the end (Preach My Gospel Pg.1).  I don´t think any of you had doubts about this.  But the title will direct this letter.
This week, in general, has been pretty grand.  We were able to teach a happy number of lessons (21) with a member present and a handful of others.  Long story short, our numbers this week were awesome.  Elder Tribino and I are working better together than ever before and I´m loving it.  We´re really beginning to have the same mindset and look towards the same goals.  He really is a great missionary, he just needed a little bit of adjustment time, that´s all.  But let´s be real, who doesn´t need adjustment time on the mission?  With all that aside, we´ve grown a lot together, and it´s been a blessing.  We´re starting to communicate more and I think he´s less scared of me.  I don´t think he was really scared of me before, but he wouldn´t ever say anything if he didn´t like what I did.  Basically, everything is improving because of the blessing of communication. 

But the real subject of the week, why on earth am I here?  I´ll explain.  We had divisões (exchanges) with the Zone Leaders this week because Elder Soares wanted to come down and work with me.  Elder Soares is absolutely awesome.  He´s a killer missionary, a stellar teacher, and probably my best friend here in Brasil.  Only sad thing, this is his last transfer.  But, at the same time, it was a blessing to be able to work with someone so experienced.  We traded about 11 in the morning and had the whole rest of the day to work together.  It was amazing to work with him because everything he did seemed so natural.  Teaching was truly an inspired conversation. Street contacts were simple, to the point, and, again, natural.  Every single moment we were teaching, finding, and focusng even more. The Spirit was strong and I saw a little bit of my potential as a missionary during these moments.  The next day as we went to trade back, I reflected on the lessons I´d learned during the past day and thought to myself "That was amazing.  I feel like there´s so much to do and so little time to do it.  I don´t know how I´m going to do all these things."  As I thought about my time on the mission so far I realized I´d been working hard, but with little direction.  I had goals, but nothing written down, nothing planned.  How could I possibly expect to accomplish anything if I didn´t have a plan?  As I reflected on this I thought, "I don´t want to sit down on the plane when I come home and think "Well, I filled my time.  Guess I can go home now."  I want to go home thinking "Opa, foi ótimo!  Trabalhei com tudo todo dia, todos os dias.  Na verdade, eu fiz tudo para me melhorei, e ajudar outras pessos aceitam o evangelho" (Wow, that was awesome!  I worked with everything, all day, every day!  Truly I did everything to better myself, and help others to accept the gospel).  But how can I do that if I don´t know what I´m doing?  So, this morning I kelt in prayer for personal study and prayed for the Spirit to guide my planning that I could set real mission goals that would give me direction and purpose, every single day.  I then read Alma 26 to give me a vision of where I want to go, and then "How to Establish Goals" in Preach My Gospel.  Then I planned.  I want to know my Savior.  I want to master Portuguese.  I want to return home with a working knowledge of the scriptures and the ability to teach.  I want to be a real friend to my companions, ward members, and everyone I meet.  More important, I have plans to accomplish them.  It´s not going to be easy.  It´s going to require 110% effort 110% of the time.  But that´s the mission.  I´m not here to fill time just so I can return home and say "Did my two".  I´m here to be molded into a servant of Christ for the rest of my life.  I´m here to help others to receive the blessings of the gospel.  More important, I now know how I´m going to do this.  Remember when I said on the phone that I´m going to come back a lot different than when I left?  Yeah.  It´s going to happen.  Welcome to the mission.  The worlds greatest refiner´s fire.

Vos amo!

Monday, January 13, 2014

But One Soul...

Oi familia!

So, last week when I said that if we keep the comandments we shall have everything we need I said the scripture was in Mosiah.  I´m pretty sure it´s in Jacob 2, though to be honest, I haven´t looked lately.  I made toast for breakfast this morning.  We borrowed the panini press of the couple missionary that lives next door and I used that to make toast.  Just hot bread really, because I forgot that we have cinamon, but it was great.  To be honest, as a missionary I´ve learned greatly how to find pleasure in the simple things.  Hot bread, ramen, suco (soo-coo, means juice) and happiness.  On another note, the oranges here are green and they still call them oranges.  Weird.  On the bright side, the Lord has blessed my Portuguese A LOT.  My language skills are improving rapidly and I´m quite thrilled.  You know you´re a language missionary when at times it´s easier to think in the mission language than it is in English.  Que bênçãoes.

But, this week has been all sorts of exciting.  It´s been one of those weeks you have on the mission when everything you had planned falls through.  We were making plans every day for an ótimo next day.  What happened?  Fell through.  Every single day was like that, more or less.  We had a member with us almost every day and I felt so terrible draging him from house to house trying to teach lessons when eveyone kept not being there.  But, we have a great experience nonetheless.  We had one of those days when everything was falling through.  Appointment to appointment "Desculpe, não podemos fazer agora" (Sorry, we can´t do it right now) over and over and over.  Finally, we arrived at the house of Iuzet and Gutenberg (they´re progressing slower than I would like, but at least they´re progessing).  When we got there I realized I had no idea what we were going to teach them.  I was running through ideas in my head, but nothing felt right. We were walking up the stairs into their house and still, nothing.  So, we sat down and started with the usual "So, been reading?  Ya been prayin´? How ya been feelin´?"  But this time, something was different.  As we were talking Irmã Iuzet said "Elders, I´ve been reading and praying every single day and I feel so bad.  Every time you say ´Do you have an answer yet?´ and I want to say yes, but I still don´t have it"  And suddenly my mind cleared.  Scriptures that I´d read flew to my memory.  We talked in Alma 32 about faith, and sometimes a desire to believe is enough.  We discussed this for close to half an hour and by the end Iuzet said "Well, for sure, I will continue reading and praying until I get an answer" and the Spirit poured into me.  I gave her a promise that if she read at least 3 verses every single day and prayed 3 times a day to learn that these things are true, she would recieve an answer in the next 6 days.  An extremely specific promise.  But the Spirit was strong and both she and Gutenberg commited to do it.  It was an amazing lesson.  To be honest, it was the only lesson we were able to find that day, but I didn´t feel that day was wasted.  Instead, I felt more strongly about the scripture we find in D&C 18:15(?) "And how great shall be your joy if you bring but one soul unto me in the kingdom of my father."  Sure, it was only one lesson.  But it was truly a showing of God´s power and the Spirit.  There are always more ideal days when we can teach and baptize multitudes as they did in the days of Peter and Paul, but, that one was enough for me to feel that the day was a success.

Well family, I´m off to another week.  I greatly appreciate your prayers in behalf of me and my companion. We´re working hard, and with a couple marriages, I think we´ll be able to have a number of baptisms next month :)

Até mais!

Monday, January 6, 2014

Get Lost!

Oi familia!

Well, this week has been all sorts of an adventure.  We had Ano Novo (new years) and that was pretty great.  We hung out at a members house and played this game called "Monopoly Deal" which is like Monopoly, but with cards.  Big suprise, didn´t stay up for the new year, we went to bed at 11:00.  I called my Zone Leader to see what time we needed to be in bed because we didn´t have to return home until 10:00 and he said "You can stay up until past midnight because it´ll be dificult to sleep with all the firworks going off" and I said "alright.  Cool."  But let´s be real, I inherited mom´s ability to sleep anytime and anywhere.  Fireworks?  Not a problem.

Now the subject line "Get Lost!"  No, this has nothing to do with the man that said this to us the other week, though that was actually quite funny.  No, this week we´re focused on the verse we find in Mark 8:35 - "For whosoever will save his life shall lose it; but whosoever shall lose his life for my sake and the gospel´s, the same shall save it."  The concept of losing oneself is an interesing one, and one that I need to study in greater depth.  But, the idea here is that when we are lost, our focus is not inward, but outward towards the people whom we serve and help each day.  This week, this was my focus, and the results were amazing.  When I woke up at the beginning of the week my thoughts were constantly "Ah, I don´t want to go out and work today.  I´m so tired..."  but of course, we need to fulfill our responsibilities.  We went and we worked.  As we worked during the week, my attitude and my countenance changed.  When I wake up in the morning now my first thoughts are "Rockin, time to run so I can prepare other people for the blessings of the gospel."  As we´ve been teaching my thoughts have been "This is the greatest message that has ever happened to the world!" and it shows.  We were talking with some women in the street yesterday and taught an impromptu lesson about the restoration.  At the end I was bearing my testimony and it was amazing to feel the happiness that was flowing from me.  I was talking with them and said "Sisters, we have prophets on the earth today.  Real prophets!  How marvelous is that?!" and I could even discern the amazement that graced my voice.  As I focused this week on serving others, on their needs, what mattered to them, everything else fell away.  My concerns about the language, culture, and my inability became meaningless.  The fact that it was hot, I was thirsty, and really blasted tired became immaterial.  I´m lost! Certainly, I can lose myself more and more each and every day, and I´m working to do so.  But, it´s such an amazing feeling.  I don´t really understand it, but I just know that I´m happy to be here.  That´s inacurate.  I´m thrilled to be here.  Why?  We have the greatest thing on earth!  We have living prophets!  We have the Priesthood!  More important, we have the fullness of the everlasting gospel of Jesus Christ!  How great is that?  We literally have everything we need to return and live with our Father in Heaven again.  Certainly, we will face challenges.  We may lose loved ones, but we know we´ll see them again.  We may face financial difficulties, but the Lord has promised necessities to all those who keep his comandments (Mosiah 2:41 and there´s another one, thought I don´t know where).  Yes, the mission is the refiner´s fire.  But to be completely honest, I´ve never been so happy to be refined in my entire life.

The results of this happiness?  Yesterday we had 3 investigators at church.  At the end one of them came up to me and said "Elder Evans, I loved church today!  We´ll definitely be coming back next week!"  The best part?  He´s married to an inactive member who returned to church last week as well with their 4 year-old daughter.  Not just him, all of them came to church with us.  And I can´t wait to see them united as one happy eternal family :)

Até mais!  Vos amo!

Elder Evans