Tuesday, May 27, 2014

Que Firme Alicerce (What Firm Foundation)

Oi família!

So this week was legit.  I´m learning more and more about the gift of tongues (?) every day.  It´s actually super cool.  There comes a point that I don´t even have to think any more and things just come out in Portuguese.  There were a few times this past week when I said some things that are actually decently complicated, without thinking.  It was soooo cool.  I love being a missionary.   Whenever I thought about the gift of tongues I always thought it would be soo cool to just talk in whatever language I want, but as I thought more I thought "well, it´ll be cool to talk, but I want to know what I´m saying."  All that I can say, the Lord has blessed me SOOOO much to really understand what I´m saying.  Portuguese, is really flipping cool.

But this week we had a really cool experience with a member named Beatriz (that´s basically the Brazilian way of saying Beatrice).  She´s been a member for four years now, but attends church in Caucaia, that´s kind of like the Sandy of Fortaleza.  It´s a different city, but it´s a branch-off of Fortaleza.  Anyway, she´s been attending there because that´s where she was baptized and that´s where her aunt lives, even though she lives in our ward boundaries now.  Every week we´ve been telling her "Hey Beatriz, you coming to church this week?"  And she always responds "yes."  Then we say "Here in Floresta?"  then she always says "no."  But we´re working with her.  Her brother, Rodrigo, is an investigator who´s super cool. But, we went to pass by and, well, it´s hot here, so we asked for some water.  We headed to the kitchen to get some and we passed Beatriz´s room on the way there.  I said, "Hey Beatriz, you coming to church this week?" and she responded, "probably not.  I haven´t been going to church for a few weeks now."  Well, if there is anything to not say to a missionary, it´s that.  So our conversation went something like this:
Us: Whoa, why aren´t you headed to church?
Beatriz: Well, I´m having doubts about the church.
Us:  Doubts like what?
Beatriz: Well, I don´t know if it really is the true church or not.
And it was in this moment that I remembered an experience I had just a few years earlier when the Lord had showed me how to reaffirm my  testimony in times of doubt.
Us: Well, do you remember the prayer in which you asked the Lord if this was the true church?
Beatriz: Well, I never really prayed about it.
Us:  Do you know the Book of Mormon is true?
Beatriz: I don´t know.
Us: Do you know that Joseph Smith is a prophet?
Beatriz: Yes.
Us: Do you know that Thomas S. Monson is the prophet of God on earth today?
Beatriz: Yes.
Us: Well, if you know these things are true...
Beatriz: Then...it must be true.
Wow.  The Spirit hit us all like a wall.  It was amazing. 
Us: Exactly.  But, we have an invitation for you.  Will you pray to know if this is the true church?
Beatriz:  I will, but how will I know what the answer is?
This was one of the coolest things that´s ever happened as a missionary, the Spirit filled my mouth completely and this spilled out:
Us: Well, when you ask something from your mom and she says no, how do you feel?
Beatriz: Well, I feel sad and I little angry.
Us: And when the answer is yes, how do you feel?
Beatriz: Good, happy, things like that.
Us: So, if these things are true, how will you feel?
Beatriz: Good. Happy.
And the smile that broke across her face as she was talking with us was priceless.  These are the moment you look for as a missionary.  When the person you are teaching teaches themself, it´s the world´s greatest thing.  The Spirit was sooo strong.  Afterwards we bore testimony and went to teach Ricardo.  As we were kneeling to pray Élder Bradley said "hey, let´s invite Beatriz to pray with us too."  She came in and we invited her to pray.  In the prayer she said "Thank thee father that we belong to the true church."  The Spirit was so strong and testified to me of the importance of the message that we have.
Elder Bradley frequently says "I don´t know how other missionaries do it.  We can invite them to pray and they WILL get an answer."  The other day our Zone Leaders said " we entered in someone´s house and they said 'if you invite me to pray, I won´t'"  When they asked her why she said, "because my pastor said that´s how you get us"  But just think of that.  We KNOW these things are true because we prayed.  I didn´t gain my knowledge of the gospel from any member of the church, nor because I read something on the internet.  I didn´t gain a testimony becasue bishop said "what we teach is true" or because I was raised in the church.  I gained my testimony because I talked with God and He said it was true. 
Last week, I had a very beautiful response to one of my prayers.  A feeling of peace comforted my doubts and responded to a question that only God could respond to.  So, what I´m saying is to pray today.  Pray to know that the Book of Mormon is true, that Joseph Smith is a prophet and that this really is the true church of Jesus Christ.  It doesn´t matter how many times you´ve already prayed, God will respond again.  I know he will because he responded to me.  This is the truth.
I love being a missionary.  It´s the greatest thing I´ve ever done in my life.
Vos amo!  Até o próximo!

Élder Evans  

Tuesday, May 20, 2014

Frutos do Labor (Fruits of Labor)

Ola Família!

Well, I can´t wash my right hand ever again because I shook the hand of Elder Neil L. Andersen of the Quorom of the Twelve!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! It was so awesome.  We had this HUGE meeting this morning with all of the Brazil Fortaleza Mission and all the the Brazil Fortaleza East mission.  We had some 400 missionaries in attendance to hear the words of one of the Apostles of the Lamb of God.  It was amazing.  I learned so many things, especially about the Atonement of Jesus Christ.  It was also the first (and let´s be real, the only) time I was able to leave the mission limits becasue the meeting was on the other side of the city in Messejana.  But it was so awesome to feel the power of the testimony of that man.  Much like the accelaration of my testimony of Jesus Christ after General Conference, it was amazing to feel fortified and strengthened after the meeting with Elder Andersen.

This week was a little slow, but it was also really cool.  I entitled this "Fruits of Labor" because of one lesson in particular.  Remember Cleiton from last week? (I think)  Well, we had another visit with him this week.  We reviewed with him the importance of prayer in his life and how it could help him.   We also reviewed the importance of knowing that this is the only true and living church of Jesus Christ on the earth and how this could help him.  In this particular lesson we were reviewing the Book of Mormon and we testified of how this great blessing can bless his life more than he ever imagined.  Then he said something I will never forget.  We asked "do  you have any doubts or questions about what we taught?"  And he responded "No.  I just want to say thanks.  You guys have helped me out a lot.  I was feeling such a lack of security and happiness in my life.  I didn´t feel like I could talk with anyone about what was going on in my life.  But I know I can trust you guys."  Wow.  When he said that, that went right to my heart.  Here we are, two twenty year-old americans, living in Brazil, trying to teach people the gospel in Portuguese.  And this man who has a career and is trying to do things with his life, trusts us with his most personal feelings and concerns.  That´s a big deal.  But why is it that this man can trust two americans he has never met?  Because we were called by a prophet of God to share this message and we know that this message is true.  Elder Bradley and myself are two simple people with an extraordinary message.  What we are is very little when compared to what we have.  We have the fullness of the Gospel of Jesus Christ as restored by a living prophet of God.  There is nothing greater than that.  I am very little compared to this message.  But this message is everything to me and I´ve never been more happy in my entire life.  I know that this truly is the only true and living church upon the face of the whole earth.  Why?  I´ve never been so happy while thinking so little about myself.  When our will is truly swallowed up in the will of the Father, everything can be ours.  I love being a missionary more than I have ever loved anything in my entire life.  Swimming, was super legit.  Playing trumpet, as well, was awesome.  Mowing lawns, I also enjoyed.  Learning stuff in college, was pretty cool too.  But when compared to the glory, happiness, and eternal splendor of the gopsel of Jesus Christ, nothing even compares.  I love being a missionary.

I hope what I wrote makes sense.  I´ve just been so impressed this week with how much I love Brazil, Portugese, and in general just being a missionary.  Teaching people to draw closer to Christ is the greatest thing I have ever done.  I love it here.  I will cry when I have to leave.  I love being a missionary.

Amo vocês!

Élder Evans

Monday, May 12, 2014

Dude, that Spirit thing is cool....

Oi família!

Despite what it may have appeared, speaking in English with everyone yesterday was actually a grand effort.  But, the Lord blessed me with the gift of tongues to speak in my native language (you laugh, but really, it´s extremely hard to speak in English).  It´s just that when you speak in Porgacheese all day every single day, it´s a little difficult to form words in English.  Fortunetely, I don´t have a super thick accent yet, though I make no promises when I get home.  But, I don´t want to think about that.

So, awesome news. When I was transfered from the Parquelândia ward, the APs sent themselves there.  So, the APs are serving in my old area. So last night one of them called us while we were planning and then handed the phone to a man named Dante, who is the Elders Quorum president in Parquelândia.  He began "Élder Evans, how are you?  You won´t believe what happened!  Remember the Vasconcelos family that you baptzied?  They went to the temple this week and took thousands of pictures." (They´ve only been baptized about 2 months so they still can´t be sealed) But then it got even better.  He said "Élder, we´ve done all of their family history together and they have a huge number of names to take to the temple in July and they´re going to do proxy ordinances for almost all of they ancestors that we found!"  and a small number of other things.  Basically, it was awesome to hear this.  A family, baptized only two months ago, is 100% engaged in the gospel, on this side of the veil and the other.  This is why we serve.

But the real experience of the week was something that happened with a man named Cleiton.  Cleiton was riding his bike one day for work and stopped in the street and said "hey, I want to talk to you."  Sure it´s easier to find people in Brazil, but still, no one does this.  So, we took down his address and marked to visit with him the past week.  We headed over and began talking a little with him.  At the beginning of the conversation we asked, "so Cleiton, why did you want to talk with us?"  and he began relating this story about a friend of his and how they were having problems.  To be sparse with details, I´ll suffice it so say it was a rather complicated problem.  To conclude he said "so I wanted to talk to someone who´s close to God to give me guidance.  What do I need to do?"  I had absolutely no idea what to do.  I was praying like crazy to know what to say and then the Spirit whispered "teach him the gospel" so we began teaching him about the Restoration and how it blesses families, how God called prophets and how Jesus Christ was a prophet himself.  WE were teaching and the Spirit was strong.  As we were teaching about our Savior Jesus Christ he said "Sorry to interupt, but just one thing.  Although you haven´t answered my question, I feel like what I need to do is this...." and explained the solution to his problem.  He than siad "wow.  I feel so much more secure now.  I feel a security that I haven´t felt in years."  We testified strongly of the power of the Spirit and that this is a witness that what we were teaching was true.  It was amazing to me to see the power of the Spirit of God.  I had no idea how what we would teach would help him, but God did.  Our Father in Heaven knew that the message of the Resoration would bring him the peach and happiness he needed in his time of difficulty.

Because of this experience, and a number of others, I know beyond doubt that this is truly the exact same church that Jesus Christ established.  Only the true church of Jesus Christ will truly have the power of the Spirit to change the hearts of men and to produce such miracles as we saw with Cleiton.  I know that Jesus Christ lives and just as He worked miracles in Jerusalem and in the Americas, He is working miralces among us today.  I have seen His hand more in my time as a missionary than ever before and I know that He is looking over each and every one of you every day.  I know that Jesus Christ personally called Joseph Smith to restore His church on the earth and that Thomas S. Monson is our living prophet today. 

Até o próximo acontecimento,

Élder Evans

Monday, May 5, 2014

Atacar ou Apoiar (Attack or Support)

Oi família!

So, portuguese is cool.  It´s actually super legit that I can speak another language now.  The other day I was looking in my True to the Faith for some more information about the Kingdoms of Glory.  As I was searching I couldn´t seem to find it.  Then I realized I was looking for "Reinos de GLoria" in my english True to the Faith.  Afterwards, I had trouble remembering how to say "Reinos de Gloria" in english.  Long story short, "porgacheese" is taking over my mind. It´s kind of awesome.  Weird.  A little unnerving.  But super cool. 

But this week was cool.  We worked super hard and saw some awesome miracles.  We´ve decided that this week we´re going to strive to work even harder than before and really go for the gold, so to speak.  We have a baptism this week and we´re working to find even more.  I know you´re all praying for me and we appreciate it like you would never believe.  We´re working hard and we´re going to kill it this week.

But the experience of the week was rather eye opening.  Though it might just be a little short, it was quite impactful for me.  We have an investigator that her boyfriend loves the gospel.  He´s eating it up and wants to be baptized right away.  Because they´re living together we have to marry them before this can happen.  Marriage here is delayed about 3 or 4 weeks.  During this whole time, though his girlfriend (Leila) has always been present for the lessons, she hasn´t really taken to the gospel as much as he has.  Her biggest problem?  The Book of Mormon.  She couldn´t get over the fact that we have other scripture.  We´ve been praying and one day I decided to study specifically for our lesson with them.  I began thinking "oh yeah.  I´m going to break out my Bible and prove to her 100% that the Bible talks about the Book of Mormon and that this stuff is true."  But as I did so I felt I needed to go the other way around and show how the Book of Mormon testifies that we need to read the Bible and how they work together.  Though a little odd, I went with it.  We headed in and read parts of 1 Nephi 13 with them.  We testified of the power oif the Bible and the Book of Mormon together, especially that "the truth [of the Book of Mormon] shall establish the truth [of the Bible] (1 Nephi 13:30something)."  Leila seemed more open, but still unsure about what we had taught.  We returned two days later and she said "well, I started reading the Book of Mormon, and it´s actually not too bad.  It teaches the same thing as the Bible, just in a different way."  We testified that this is true because God is the same, always.  THerefore, the truths in the Bible will be the same as the truths in the Book of Mormon.  It was amazing to see that as we strived to support and expand her beliefs, instead of attacking and proving, how much more open she was to the beautiful message.  The Book of Mormon is truly this wonderous evidence that the gospel was restored to the earth by our loving Father in Heaven through a living prophet.  There is no greater witness we have that Jesus Christ is our Savior than the Book of Mormon.

I know that the Book of Mormon is the word of God.  I cannot describe in numbers or words how many time the Book of Mormon has helped me to understand things that I couldn´t understand before.  I know that the Book of Mormon is a second witness that Jesus Christ is our Savior, and it is truly a miracle that we have such a wonderful and beautiful record to help us.  I know that the Book of Mormon brings miracles into all the lives of all the people who read it.  It is truly "the most correct of any book on earth and a man will get closer to God by abiding by it´s precepts than by any other book."  The Book of Mormon is truly a blessing and it is such a privelege to have it in our lives.

For those of you that haven´t read the Book of Mormon, or those of you that have read it many times, I invite you as an ordained servant of our Lord and Savior to read this amazing miracle for yourselves and ponder it´s truthfulness.  As you read daily from The Book of Mormon, the Lord will pour out miracles upon your lives that you never thought were possible.

Até o Dia das Mães!

Élder Evans