Monday, March 31, 2014

Pense Dele (Think of Him)

Oi famiília!

Well, this week was actually pretty good.  To say we taught buckloads of lessons would be eroneous, but we had one that was super good and I think tonight we´ll be marking a couple (FAMILY!!!!) with a baptismal date.

This letter may have a little different tone than my other letters have had in the past, but I feel very strongly this is the message for the week.  Love you all.

I would like to testify that Jesus Christ lives.  Life as a missionary isn´t easy, though I doubt any of you are surprised by that. As I walked around in the heat and humidity of Fortaleza, it became abundantly clear to me just what it means to be a representative of Jesus Christ.  It was never easy for Him, and it will never be easy for me.  But, at the same time, I learned a lot about the strengthening power of the Atonement.  To put it simply, He KNOWS exactly what you are going through.  Don´t hesitate to ask for His help.

In general in life we face difficulties.  As members of the only true church of Jesus Christ we face even more on a daily basis. It´s extremely diffucult at times to bear the burderns placed upon us but we can learn that Jesus Christ is litterally right next to us every single minute if we look for Him.  A favorite scripture of mine is found in 1 Nephi 14:14 that talks about this very thing.  It talks about how the Saints of the Lord will be scatered about the earth and that we will be few in number.  But it promises that we will "be armed with righteousness and the power of God in great glory."  Think about that.  How legit is it that we will be "armed with righteousness"?  But to be armed with righteousness we need to do righteous things.  This may contradict our political or social views, but when we truly search to be "armed with righteousness" miracles happen.  And this is where Christ comes in.  Every single one of us has to make the decision at one point or another to stick with Christ or not.  Sure, at times what we´re asked to do may not be the world´s most popular thing, but Christ wasn´t exactly popular when He was on earth.  But, we have the promise of Christ that if we come unto him, he will help us with everything that we´re facing, however difficult it may be (1 Nephi 14:1, Ether 12:27, Mathew 11:28-30).  I have felt the strengthening power of the Atonement in my own life, especially this past week.  I have seen the enabeling power of the Atonement make miraculous changes in peoples lives.  I KNOW THAT HE LIVES!!!  More than this, He will help us with whatever problem we may be facing whether it be a difficult decision, a bad habit, an erant choice, or just a bad day, He will always be there to strengthen us.

Think of this as we prepare this week for General Conference.  We will hear directly from the mouth of Apostles of the Lamb what He wants us to do.  We will have the oportunity to hear from prophets of God, hand selected by Him personally.  Without doubt, they will say something that we need to improve upon that may be hard to hear.  But, I testify will all the conviction of my soul that these men are inspired of God and know what will protect us in these trying times.  When the Bretheren say something difficult I urge you to look to Jesus Christ, becasue He will be the one to bind up our wounds and help us to become better than ever before.  We can be a very spiritually strong people, but we can never forget to trust in Him. 

I know He lives.  He speaks.  He is there.

Até o próximo      

Élder Evans

P.S.  The photo included is of Élder Soares, my old Zone Leader.  He finished his mission in February, but had a grand impact on my time as a missionary.  This is who sent you a letter this week.

Monday, March 24, 2014

Who's Most Important

Oi família!

Well, it´s been quite the week.  Plenty of ups, and a few downs, but that´s life.  Fortunetely, with my new positivity kick (though we all know I wasn´t much of a downer to begin with) even appointments falling through have been exciting, in one weird way or another. 

Também, I´m sending pictures this time!  One is of us with Aluizio and Regylani at their baptism.  The other is of the family we baptized.  Leandro (on the left) baptized one of the family members who are the five in the middle.  Probably two of the greatest days of my life.  Happiness abounds at baptisms.

But, the subject of the e-mail may appear a tad strong.  Basically, I´m learning a lot about charity this week. Our chapter of Pregar Meu Evangelho (Preach My Gospel) this month is chapter 6, Developing Christlike Attributes.  As I´ve been able to study more about charity, I´ve seen how it is literally the base of everything we do to help other people. This study has been amazing in helping me to overcome my biggest problem as a missionary, listening.  In Kansas, it´s a little more easy to listen to what people have to say because they´re speaking English.  In Brasil, no one speaks English so listening is a full force effort.  At times it´s really easy to let my mind wander as people are talking.  But as I´ve studied more about effective questions, listening, and true charity, miracles have happened. 

When I arrived we went to see a family, Nena and Bernardo.  Their daughter, Raiane, was baptized a month or so ago and they´ve been hearing the good word since then.  Irmã Nena has been to church a few times but Irmão Bernardo has never been.  We were wraping up our lesson and I felt they needed still more support.  So I came out and said "We are here as representatives of Jesus Christ to help each of you to come closer to Him and one day have an eternal family." and the Spirit intensified like crazy.  We asked what they needed to do to receive this and they admitted they need to be baptized into the only church of Jesus Christ and that Irmão Bernardo needs to come to church.  We asked Irmão what was impeding his arrival at church and he admitted his fears.  Then the Spirit poured out of my mouth and said "You have no need to worry.  As representatives of Jesus Christ we will remain by your side during the whole 3 hours" and he said "Alright.  I will go to church this week."  As we were walking away Elder Bradley said "Wow, he´s never said he´ll come to church, ever before" and that is the power of listening to the Spirit and to the people.  God knows when we´re really listening, and when we honestly show that we´re willing to sacrifice our own personal desires to meet the needs of His children, miracles happen. 

It´s experiences like this that always testify to me that this is truly the only church of Jesus Christ on the earth.  The Book of Mormon is evidince of this divine work, and is the whole reason why I´m serving here now.  Read it.  Read it over and over again and it will change your life just as it changed mine.  Miracles are real.  I´m seeing them every single day.

Até mais!  Amo muito cada um de vocês!

Élder Evans

Monday, March 17, 2014

Palavras Não Podem Descrever... (Words can´t describe...)

Oi família!

Well, this week was nuts.  I´m currently writing from my new area Ala Floresta.  The funny thing is that Ala Floresta makes a boarder with the ward where I was just serving.  I litterally just passed to the other side of the train.  I wish they would have told me this sooner and I could have just walked here.  But in general things are good.  My companion, Elder Bradley, is from Pensylvania and just finished training yesterday.  I actually had a feeling I would get put with another American and if nothing accelerates my language learning, this certainlly will.  I feel very overwhelmed with everything that´s happened in the past few days but I will try to put the most important here.

Well, remember that family?  GUESS WHO GOT BAPTIZED?!?!?!?!?!?!?  Yes!  We baptized an awesome family of 5 people yesterday and the service was awesome.  I was able to baptize the Mom and one of the sons.  The father and mother cried a decent amount but I held it together.  It´s so wonderful to see these amazing people all being united under the gospel banner and preparing to one day enter the temple and be sealed as a family.  I now have two families for which I am waiting to receive letters and pictures that say "this was when we were sealed for eternity" and what a blessing that will be.  Aluizio and Regylani are firm and steadfast and definitely always abounding in good works.  To see the changes that happened over the past few weeks with Joaquim, Eliane, and their family has been so amazing and truly one of those experiences that I will never forget.

And that brings us to yesterday.  Here, transfers are different.  We pass our numbers Sunday night and then wait for our leaders to pass them all upwards.  Once the secretaries have recieved everything they give the OK to the Assistants and they call all the Zone Leaders.  The Zone Leaders then call all the District Leaders with the names of everyone in their District that will pack up.  Yesterday, Elder Savaryn called and said "well, you both need to pack up.  They´re whitewashing your area."  So, I´m thinking "lovely, now I have to pack"  But Elder Tribino said "we need to visit Joaquim and Eliane one last time.  5 minutes"  so we went.  We showed up and we explained our lack of time and that we were being transfered.  They were a little shocked and began to cry a little.  We cried together and we gave hugs and left.  As we were leaving Joaquim said "there aren´t words to describe the feelings right now.  Just thanks" and we headed out.  We said a quick goodbye to Aluizio and Regylani and we returned home to pack.  After a crazy hour and a half, everything was in suitcase and I stopped for just a little.  With the lights off I stared out the window and thought "this was the first thing I really knew of Brazil."  It was hard to leave.  I knelt in prayer and instead of the expected "why on earth am I being transfered?" I instead petitioned the Lord for grand blessings over the whole ward.  It was interesting as I reviewed with the Lord the members, investigators, and others in the ward.  I reflected on the grand experience that I had to arrive there, be trained in the language, train another missionary, and develop lasting and meaningful relationships.  Words, truly, cannot describe the experiences I´ve had as I consider the ups, the downs, and in-betweens.  To be a servant of the Lord is the world´s greatest blessing, but also one of the greatest difficulties.  I dearly love the Ala Parquelândia and it was so hard to leave.  But as I learned when I left Kansas, I can look back and live in the past and lose today.  Or, I can put my trust in the Lord and know that he has put me here specifically for a purpose.  I have no real way to describe my feelings for the Ala Parquelândia other than that it was a blessing beyond price.  But now, I will serve faithfully looking towards the future here in the Ala Floresta.  Because it really doesn´t matter where we´re called to serve or how we´re asked to serve, it just matters that we serve.  As Dad told me in his letter this morning, "faith is a future word".  So, we look forward with faith.  We press forward with happiness.  We serve with dilligence.  And with Him, all things are possible.  I´m without words to describe my feelings for the past, but certainly, I´m without adequate words to describe my hopes for the future as well.

Até o próximo,

Élder Evans

Monday, March 10, 2014

In His Way...

Oi família!

Tudo bem?  Tá tudo bem aqui no Brasil, especialmente aqui na Missão Brasil Fortaleza!  Eu amo esse chamado e eu não trocaria ele por nada!

(All good? Everything is good here in Brazil, especially here in the Brazil Fortaleza Mission!  I love this calling and I woudn´t trade it for anything!)

To be frank, speaking, thinking, and writing is almost becoming more easy in Portuguese now.  Reading, I sitll have a few struggles, but I can understand what´s being written.  Kind of funny, the other day I was conversing with a lady in the street and I had one of those "out of body experiences."  I realized that as I was speaking Portuguese to this lady that I really wasn´t thinking about it at all.  It was just happening.  It was super cool.  My language skills are improving daily and I´m really quite thrilled with the progress that I´ve made.

News of the week: Aluizio is the greatest ever.  He gave the opening prayer in Sacrament meeting yesterday and he blessed the sacrament last week.  I´ve just been able to see firsthand the promise that the Lord makes us in D&C 18, that our joy will be great with even one soul that we bring unto Him.  Aluizio has been such a fulfillment of that promise.  He´s killing it as a member of the church and last week he and Regylani said "we want to serve a couples mission."  Yeah.  Blessings are raining down on that family.  I love them to death.

Also, this week we should have 5 baptisms!  Five!  Cinco!  We´re teaching this amazing family that I talked about a few weeks back.  This time they´re prepared, they´re happy, and they´re soooooo thrilled to enter in the Kingdom.  We did a pre-interview with them the other day and we asked them what they thought about having a living prophet and the dad held up the Book of Mormon and said "Because of this book I know we have a living prophet!"  More blessings?  Com certeza.

This week I´ve been really searching for spiritual experiences and having one every single day.  I had one in particular that had a very profound impact on me  personally.  We had an awesome exchange with the Zone Leaders last Friday and into Saturday.  As we came home Élder Tribino told me that the father of our family of 5 may have to leave sometime in between now and the 4th of April to go to Receife for work.  I wasn´t particullarly scared about that and I had faith that we wouldn´t have a problem.  As we were out working that day I felt the need to have a little fast for them but I put off the feeling because I had already fasted twice that week and I didn´t really want to do it again.  The next contact we did I felt like I was trying to speak through water, more or less. The meaning was lost from everything I said and all of the people we taught for the rest of the day seemed to gain nothing from my words.  I felt like I was running into a brick wall and it was refusing to give way.  As we returned home I thought about what happened and I thought "why on earth do I not have the Spirit with me?" and as we knelt down to pray I had the strong feeling to fast again.  Suddenly, I realized what had happened.  I had received a prompting from the Spirit to fast, even despite my confidence in the family.  But, I ignored it and because of that, the Spirit left.  I knelt and begged forgiveness and began a slightly shorter fast immediately.  The Spirit returned but with a warning that if I don´t keep the commandments I won´t have the Spirit in any form.  When we think of commandments, oft times we think of those we find in the scriptures.  The Ten Commandments, the Word of Wisdom, the Law of Chastity, etc.  But at the same time, it applies to the little things too.  Follow the Spirit in all things.  Without doubt, we will be asked to do things we don´t want to.  We may have to leave Kansas.  We may have to drop investigators.  Understandably, these are missionary perspectives here, but we, at one point or another in our lives, will be asked to do something that we just plain don´t want to do.  But, when we put our trust in the Lord, there is always a good reason for it.  I really didn´t want to fast, but I did, and the Lord filled me emough with the Spirit that I was able to finish the day strong.  Yes, we will be called upon to do hard things, but He will always support us when we are in His way.

Até mais!  Com muito amor,

Élder Evans

Monday, March 3, 2014

No Unhallowed Hand...

Oi família! 

Well, this week has been interesting.  It´s been Carnaval, which is basically a 5 day party where people go crazy.  Here it´s not actually too dangerous so we still get to go out and work.

On in investigator front, Joaquim and Eliane came to church for the 3rd time as a family. They´ve started calling the church "our church" or "my church" during our visits which almost brings me to tears every time.  They´re soooooo awesome.  They´re very prepared and very very happy.  It´s been such a blessing to teach them.  Elder Tribino marked their baptism while I was on an exchange and they´ll be baptized on March 16th! 

I´m sure you all remember Aluizio.  Well, because of Carnaval this weekend everyone was traveling.  But what ended up happening was awesome as well.  Because everyone was traveling a number of people in the congregation who normally don´t administer the ordinance of the sacrament were able to participate.  And Aluizio blessed the water!!!!!!  It is true joy to see one who I was able to teach, and baptize truly converted and already strengthening the church.  He was nervous as could be, but he did so awesome.  I don´t think I´ve ever been as happy as I was in that moment as I have ben in my whole life.

To explain the subject.  Carnaval here is infamous here for missionary work because everyone says that it´s impossible to accomplish anything during the week.  I´m not sure that is always the case.  We had a very successful week and actually taught MORE this week than we have in weeks past.  We were able to find MORE new investigators than we have in all of my time in Brazil.  I´ve been able to communicate  MORE with the people this past week than ever before. This was, in large measure, due to Elder Tribino.  The poor kid was so scared when he first arrived here but he´s grown and developed like I can´t even explain.  This week in our training program was his turn to be "senior companion".  Basically I turned the reins over to him and said "this is your week.  I´m going to follow you"  and that´s what I did.  He found.  He taught.  He killed it.  Honestly, the best week,numbers wise, I´ve had in all of my time as a missionary.  It´s so amazing to see what the Lord can do when we don´t get in His way and that is what happened.   Which leads me to the point I was saying.  My last companion said "it´s impossible towork on Carnaval.  The whole week I taught 2 lessons last year"  So that´s the key.  The work of the Lord is only impeded when those sanctified to do said work refuse to do so.  When we allow the Lord to mold us, shape us, and guide us, that´s when the real miracles happen.  But we have to let them happen.  So, drop your burden at His feet and let him send you where you need to go. 

Até o próximo!

Élder Evans