Monday, December 29, 2014

Os Eleitos do Senhor (The Elect of the Lord)

Oi família!

Well, it was good to talk with you guys on Christmas.  Sorry that I don´t speak english very well now.  I tried, I really did, but it was a little harder than I had anticipated.  But fortunetely, I won´t have to speak english again until May.  Que alívio!

I had a wonderful realization today.  Cleaning bathrooms in Brazil is fun.  Everything is made of ceramic or stone so there´s no fear of causing damage to wooden cabinets and stuff.  I was cleaning our bathrooms today and after I scrubed everything down I just threw water on everything to clean off the chemicals!  Easy clean!

But the story of the week comes from Maia, our new elect that we´re teaching.  In english everyone says "golden investigator" for that one person that is really prepared for the gospel.  Here we say that they´re "eleito" or "elect".  Maia is definitely one of them.  The version of the Bible Dictionary we have in Portuguese says that the elect "Are those who love God with all their meart and live in a way pleasing to His sight."  Maia is truly one who lives as such.  After our miracle with her coming to church last week we headed over on Tuesday morning.  We began just seeing what she thougt about church, and especially the Restoration of the gospel in these the latter-days.  She kept presenting doubts about teachings from different religions and what she should think and do.  As we were teaching about the Book of Mormon it was amazing to see how her countenance changed.  As she evaluated our words and felt the Spirit of the Lord, she began resolving her own doubts and problems without our saying anything.

We went by Christmas morning and began teaching the Plan of Salvation.  We explained about the pre-earth life and she said "Well, that explains why so many of us have those feelings of homesickness for God.  We lived with him before we came here."  As we were nearing the end of the lesson she said, "Élders, I´m feeling a change inside of me.  I feel like all of this desire that I had to do bad is being washed away.  Could this be the answer I´m looking for to my prayers?"  and we showed her Alma 32:28:
Now, we will compare the word unto a seed. Now, if ye give place, that a seed may be planted in your heart, behold, if it be a true seed, or a good seed, if ye do not cast it out by your unbelief, that ye will resist the Spirit of the Lord, behold, it will begin to swell within your breasts; and when you feel these swelling motions, ye will begin to say within yourselves—It must needs be that this is a good seed, or that the word is good, for it beginneth to enlarge my soul; yea, it beginneth to enlighten myunderstanding, yea, it beginneth to be delicious to me.
She said, "Wow! That´s exactly how I feel!"

Then, Maia came to church yesterday.  She realy enjoyed the Relief Society class and then as we were waiting for Gospel Principles to start she said, "Élder Evans, I think the Lord has responded to my prayer."
Me: "And what was His response?"
Maia: "He I think He said 'yes'!  When can I be baptized?"
Me: "As soon as possible!"

It is such a blessing to be able to teach Maia at this time.  She is so prepared to recieve the Restored Gospel.  We ran into her yesterday as she was returning from work and said that her manager said "Wow Maia, is there something different about you?"  She is so thrilled to be learning about Jesus Christ and how He has restored His church to the earth today.  I know that Jesus Christ lives and that He is our Savior.  I know that He has restored His church to the earth in by means of the Prophet Joseph Smith and that Thomas S. Monson is His prophet in our day.  The Book of Mormon is the proof of this great latter-day work and I know that it is true by the power of God. He responded to my prayer and question they same way that He responds to all of us.  The same way he responded to Maia.

Até o próximo!  Amo vocês!

Élder Evans

Monday, December 22, 2014

It´s a Christmas Miracle!

Oi família!

Well, I´m no longer in Fortaleza.  Like I said last week I´ve been transfered to Caucaia and I´m with Élder Borges.  Élder Borges is from São Paulo and he´s awesome.  He works hard, he´s dedicated, and he´s a convert to the church.  The missionaries taught and baptized him 3 years ago.  He stayed strong in the church for a year and then headed out on the mission.  It´s awesome working with him because he understands how the investigators feel.  All of my other companions were born and raised in the church.  Bad thing? No.  Personally, I feel super blessed that i had the oportunity to be born in the new and eternal covenant.  But, Élder Borges brings a new perspective to my teaching because he understands what it´s like to be an investigator. It´s going really well.  I´m super excited to work with him for this next little while.

But the big news of the week was a super cool experience we had yesterday.  We headed over to the church early to make some phone calls to some investigators to see who would come to church.  We got there and Élder Borges said, "Let´s call Maia."  Maia is a woman that Élder Borges contacted a few weeks ago.  So, he called and invited her to church.  she said "Alright" and sure enough, she showed up about 30 minutes later!  We had a good first hour and then came time for Sunday School.  Maia came out of Relief Society and said "Well, I really liked the first lesson.  But I´ve been a believer in the faith for 6 years now, do I really have to attend Gospel Principles? I think I´m a little beyond that."  Élder Borges said, "Oh this will be a lesson that you´ve never heard before."  LSS, the teacher didn´t show up.  So who gave the lesson?  That´s right, me.  As i was sitting before the class I was thinking, "Restoration or Christmas?"  and the Spirit came to me and told me I would have to pick one and just have faith that it would work out.  So, I chose the Restoration.  It was awesome.  Everyone really liked the lesson but what was better was how guided I felt.  The whole lesson I felt like I wasn´t even the one teaching, but that the Spirit was using me as a tool to teach what the Lord wanted them to hear.  My favorite part was when I recounted the First Vision.  It was as if the world stopped for a few moments.  No sound came from the outside, The only thing that was sounding was my voice as I said "I saw a pilar of light, exactly over my head, above the brightness of the sun...."  Without fail every time I have recounted Joseph Smith´s marvelous vision of God and our Savior the Spirit confirms to me that it is true. All the missionaries bore testimony about the truthfulness of the message and we left everyone with the invitation to pray about the message during sacrament meeting and everyone accepted.  As we were leaving we tried to set an appointment to speak with maia again and she said "well let´s see, tuesday, thursday, saturday, sunday, oh, sunday i´ll be here again" and as we climbed the stairs to the chapel "Élder, what´s the name of the prophet agian?'  It was awesome.  I love seeing how every single day miracles happen on the mission if we´re willing to let them.

I know that our Savior, Jesus Christ, lives.  I know that he was born, lived, died, and lived again for us.  This is His church.  I am His representative.  I am so grateful for the opportunity that we have to remember Him during this wonderful Christmas season. Remember Him this season, and why this season is so special after all.

Amo vocês!  Até quinta-feira!

Élder Evans    

Monday, December 15, 2014

Mistura de Sentimentos (Mixed Feelings)

Oi família!

Well, I´m being transfered! I´ll be leaving Élder Muniz here in CC3 and heading over to Caucaia (which is like the Sandy of Salt Lake).  I´m excited becuase I´ve always wanted to serve in that area because I´ll be able to get to know other parts of the mission and because I hear that the work there is great.  But, I´m also really bummed.  I have grown to love the Conjunto Ceará 3rd ward.  It´s so amazing here.  it´s a harder area but the members have begun helping us so much and everyone is looking to help us out.  This past week we were blessed to find a number of new families and people that appear to want to come to church, learn, and be baptized.  The Lord has blessed us so much recently and I was so excited to pass Christmas here in the midst of so many amazing members.  Alas, this is not the Lord´s will for me at this time, but you can believe that I´ll be headed into Caucaia with fire.

But we had an amazing experience yesterday with a member-present lesson that fell through.  We´re teaching this family and the mother marked an apointment to talk with us yesterday afternoon.  We were thinking that because she didn´t really know any members of the ward bringing a member would help her feel more at ease to come to church.  So, we talked with Irmã Samira and she went over with us. We got there and the lady said, "So, I have clients that just showed up (she´s a beautician).  Can we set another day?"  We did and then began to walk away.  We asked Samira if she didn´t mind trying another person with us.  She agreed and we began on our way there.  On the way Samira asked, "So, is this a set appointment?"  We responded that it wasn´t and she said, "Well, can I talke you guys to meet one of my friends then?"  Member referal or backup plan?  We went with the referral.  We got there and met Isabel and Robério, a married couple, and their son.  Samira presented us to their family and we were invited in to share a brief message.  We began talking about the Church´s big message lately, "He is The Gift" and how God has given us so many presents.  His Son, the Bible, but especially our families.  It was amazing to see how easily we taught and how quickly and efectively Élder Muniz and I were able to teach together.  We talked about how the church was established by Jesus Christ to bless our families and how we know that families can be eternal.  It was so amazing to feel the power of Samira´s testimony as she explained how being a mom is difficult, but how wonderfully blessed her family is because of the restored gospel of Jesus Christ.  At the end we left a simple invitation.  "Isabel e Robério, will you pray to know that what we said is true and that we are mesengers sent from God?"  and Robério replied, "If there´s any one thing that I know, it´s that God always answers my prayers.  I will pray and I know he will respond to me."  It was awesome.  The room was so full of the Spirit.  I saw the power of a good member-present lesson, but even more important, of presenting referrals to the missionareis and then going with them to teach!  Bear your testimony!  Share why the gospel matters to you!  I know that this is the pattern established by the Lord for His kingdom to grow here on the earth.  I know that this is His church.  I am His servant.  I love it.

Até o próximo!

Élder Evans

Monday, December 8, 2014

Little Miracles (different from the Milagrezinhos from last week)

Oi família!

Élder Muniz and I took a tour of the chapel today.  The church here is being built and one of managers of the work is a member of our ward.  So, we got to tour the church in construction!  It was cool.  We took a lot of photos.  It´s amazing to see how much detail the church puts into it´s projects. 

We had lots of little miracles this week.  It was a week of ups and downs, really.  We had some awesome stuff happen and some less awesome stuff happen too.  Remember Victor?  Well, his family is a little (or a lot) anti, so he didn´t end up getting baptized.  Actually, he decided that he doesn´t want to hear anything more from us about the church.  He said we could pass by any time to chat, but as for church stuff he doesn´t want anything.  I´m glad to know that it wasn´t anything personal that we did, but even so, it was sad.

But we had good things this week too. Most of our miracles this week were finding miracles because we´re short on people to teach recently.  Almost every missionary I know who passed in this area says "Oh, that area is horrible.  It´s small.  No one wants to hear the message.  Everyone who was willing already talked to the missionaries."  Well, Élder Muniz and I decided that we weren´t going to pay attention to that.  It helps that we recieved the other half of the ward so now we´re excited to do some more work there. 

We found a woman named Claudia who has a son-in-law who is a member of the church!  It´s been a few years since he attended and has forgotten a few things.  We contacted Caludia one day and she said we could come back another.  She ended up not being home that day, so we passed by on the Saturday when (by divine providence) her son-in-law was also there.  We taught the Restoration and the Lord blessed us with a super strong Spirit.  They understood perfectly and are willing to read, pray, and come to church next week!  Yay!

We also met a super awesome couple last night who wants to get married!  Most people just live together here and have no intention to get married, so this is a big step.  Last night we were out working and I felt like we should go visit a less-active member of the ward.  We headed over and on the way we passed by a couple with a young child sitting on a bench.  As we passed by I had the feeling, "why didn´t we talk with them?"  So, we went back and began to talk.  They were super cool and invited us to their house to share the message and said that they want to visit the church!  It was awesome.  Score 1 for the Spirit.

Then last Monday we were teaching this couple who´s a little bit older, Jusé and Ana. They´re not married and were worried that if they got married that they would lose their social security (it´s not exactly that, but it´s the closest thing we have).  As we were teaching, I opened my bible to Hebrews 11:1 and read the following:
Now faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen.
Then I explained that getting married may be something that they don´t know how it´ll work out, but as they trust in the Lord, He will provide what they need.  I feel so much spiritual power behind my words as I spoke.  Fantastically, Irmão Jusé began to explain how he needed to believe more in God´s promises for him and his wife and that he wants to do everything possible to get married.  It was so awesome to feel how the Spirit just flowed through me as I taught.  I felt as if it was God talking directly to them and I was simply the instrument that He was using.  It was super cool.

In summary, our week was good, and this one is going to be even better. The Lord is in command.

Amo vocês!  Tenham uma ótima semana!

Élder Evans

P.S. Fotos
1) We made brownies last week.  No mom, I didn´t actually eat the batter.  Though I wanted to.
2) Me on the roof of the chapel checking out the AC units

3) Élder Muniz and I going missionary-worker style

Monday, December 1, 2014

Milagrezinhos (Little Miracles)

Oi família!

Well, after three months of blood, a lot of sweat (seriously, it´s really hot here) and tears, we´re having a bunch of progress!  Well, I guess that "a bunch" is relative, but compared with what´s been happening until this point, we´re having some good things happen! Élder Muniz and I set a goal to be more bold with people and to invite everyone to baptism in the first lesson, even if we´re a little bit scared to do so. And, things are going well!

We had some cool experiences happen this week with Victor.  He has a baptismal date for this Saturday (please pray that he can stop smoking before Friday) and one day we decided to talk about missionary work.  As we were explaining things he said, "Well, I have this friend, Paulo, that you guys can talk too.  He´s cool but he attends another talk so I don´t know if he´ll want to hear from you guys."  So, he went and talked to Paulo.  Paulo said he was interested in hearing a little so we invited him to a ward family night.  In the message we talked about "The Starfish Story".  This was one of Todd´s (my swim coach) favorite stores.  It goes like this:

One day, a man was walking along the beach after a terrible storm.  He was amazed at the beauty that he found during his walk with pieces of driftwood, shells, and starfish along the sand.  In the distance, this man saw a figure that seemed to be dancing and celebrating.  The man was thrilled to see someone so excited and joyous about life.  As he drew closer he noticed that the figure was a youth who seemed to be performing some practice over and over again.  As he arrived at the side of the youth he saw that the youth was repeatedly bending down, grabbing a starfish, and throwing the starfish back into the ocean.  The man, curious, asked the youth what he was doing.  Said the young man:
"I´m helping these starfish.  Soon the sun will come out and it will be extremely hot.  All of the starfish will dry up and die.  So, I´m throwing them back into the ocean so they can survive."
The man was impressed with this act of love.  Then looking up and down the beach he said to the youth:
"But don´t you see?  There are miles of beach here and millions of starfish!  You can´t possibly hope to make a difference here!"
The youth pondered this briefly and replied, "Maybe you´re right", then he bent down and plucking another starfish from the sand he throwing it into the water he said, "But it made a difference for that one."

Everyone really liked that story.  We talked about how the gospel is a gospel of "ones".  Ou seja, that people come to the gospel in ones.  One at a time people are invited, people commit, and one by one people are baptized.  We talked about how the Savior´s Atonement is a personal sacrifice.  He sacrificed himself for each one of us personally.  He knows who we are and what we struggle with in our lives.  I know that my Savior knows me personally.  With this brief message we marked another day to visit with Paulo.

We took Paulo and Victor to the house of a member here in the ward two days later.  There, we watched "Joseph Smith: The Prophet of the Restoration" and the Spirit was strong.  Victor liked the movie, but Paulo was intensely interested the whole time.  I don´t think he took his eyes off the TV for a single second.  Then at the end the members bore testimony about their own conversion and how they prayed to know that it was true. 

Then, to make things even better, he came to church yesterday!  Miracles are real.  I´m beginning to see more and more the promise that the Lord makes to us in Alma 37:6-7 about how many times, miracles are brought to pass by small and simple means.  I know this is true.

Eu sei que esta é a igreja verdadeira de Jesus Cristo.  Amo essa oportunidade que tenho para servir e ser represente Dele.  Amo vocês.

Élder Evans