First I will share a few fun things that happened this week.
I have been here, along with many other missionaries with whom I arrived, one year in the Brazil São Paulo North Mission.
Allelujah!!! …Just one more year—but, like my mom said, who’s counting?
I cannot explain the change that has happened in this year of my life. It feels like my life always was being a missionary and always will be. It is hard to imagine not doing this work every day. I remember vividly the day that I left. I was thinking on the 1 of October, when I woke up 6:10 am, that exactly one year before, I was riding in the plane that would bring me to this new life. I had no idea what I was getting myself into: The hardships, the challenges, the sadness, the holes in my shoes and pants, the happiness, the blessings, the miracles, the fun experiences, the drunk people talking with us in the street, the people we teach, the lives moved, me being moved, me almost being hit by the cars nearly killing us, the smells, the streets, the favellas, the houses, the animals, the Spirit, the gospel, and the word of God.
All of these things describe my mission—wonderful above anything else that I have done in my life until now.
Celebrating one year of being a missionary, clearly I had to do something here. I called my zone leader, Elder Linford, and planned with him a division on the last day of our first year. It was awesome that I could be, once again, his companion for a day. (He was, after all, my first companion in the Provo Missionary Training Center.) It was a great experience to work with him again, but this time in the mission field.
On October 1, I had the chance to do a division with the assistant of the President. He did all of the interviews that needed to be done and when the day was over, we partied.
We had pizza and we talked until we fell asleep. But, let’s continue with what happened this week.
This week being the week of LDS General Conference, I wanted to share a message with you all about faith in the Lord and keeping our promises with him. Since President Thomas S. Monson and the other elders in the General Conference Priesthood Session spoke so much about faith and keeping the commandments, I wanted to share my testimony of what happens if we give heed to what they say.
A little bit of a background story: Three weeks ago we had the privilege of participating in a multi-zone conference. In this conference, President Farnes had stressed the importance of weekly planning, goal setting, and following up with our goals. He showed us better, more efficient, smarter, and specific ways we can plan to help make better results of the Lord’s work and our time spent here serving. Then President Farnes gave various 20-minute study breaks during the training to let us try each of the steps he was teaching us. During these study breaks, my companion Elder Paixão and I made a few goals. We made a goal to baptize five people in the following week, to find families of four, to trust more in God, and to give our all so that God can do the rest. If we don’t give our all, what reason does God have to give all the blessings that we are needing?
We started to fast every other day so that we could improve our obedience, work, focus, and our spirits—overall, to show God that we were willing to sacrifice in order to receive his blessings.
I also said a personal prayer and fasted to start this goal. I asked the Lord if he could put in our path the people we needed to find. I asked him for a few specific things to stretch my faith. I asked to find families of four people, with the kids being of the age 13 and 9. I don’t know why I asked this, but I remember being taught that the more specific we are in our prayers, the more specific God will answer them, and it will be a little easier to identify the answer.
My story starts on Saturday, 26 September. We were running to talk with anyone and everyone to invite to church. We had sweated, run, and fasted all week long trying to follow up with all the people we are trying to teach. We were looking for even more people who were willing to accept our message and accept the invitation to go to church the following day. Going to church is so important that it is a commandment that was given to Moses, to keep the Sabbath Day holy. There are many people who want to be baptized here, but they have to start the path of keeping the commandments to be baptized; for this reason, they need to attend two sacrament meetings before they may be baptized. Thus Sunday is the most busy day of all, because if the people we are teaching don’t go to church, they cannot be baptized the next week. So Saturday is busy reminding everyone of their commitment to go to church and the importance of it all.
As we wrote about a week ago, we had followed up on a reference to a family who wanted to hear about the gospel. So naturally, we have to pass by, right?
We found them. A family of five (father, mother, and three kids, two of whom were old enough to be baptized). These two kids are Gustavo and Ana Julia. We talked with them and then invited them to church, acknowledging that it was very last minute. They said clearly they would make a visit!
Awesome!! Afterward we went to visit a family who is related to two kids who were baptized right after I moved here (in Guapira); they are cousins of Marcos and Gabriele.
This second family is a family of four: stepfather and mother and two kids, Vitória and Ágatha. The two girls had a great desire to be baptized, and they eat up all the information that we teach them.
We were also teaching a girl named Anabele who wanted to be baptized and learn what is necessary to follow Christ. We also were preparing one more young woman, whom I will give the name Brianna for privacy reasons.
Although being famished with hunger, we visited all of these people to make sure they would go to church the following day. They all came. In all, with the help of the Lord, 11 investigators went to church Sunday, September 27th. Five of these had a baptismal date. We planned carefully during the week to follow up with everyone, respond to their doubts, questions, and tests of faith.
This weekend we had planned a baptism after each session of General Conference, four baptismal meetings in total. Our plan looked like this:
13h-15h (General Conference)
15:30h (baptism meeting)
17h-19h (General Conference)
19:30h (baptism meeting)
13h-15h (General Conference)
15:30h (baptism meeting)
17h-19h (General Conference)
19:30h (Baptism meeting)
It was so tightly planned that we didn’t even plan lunch (the most important meal here in Brazil).
Now I will explain what happened.
After the first two hours of General Conference, Gustavo and Ana Julia were baptized, together with other people the other elders were teaching (we have four missionaries in our ward).
We didn’t see until we did the baptism form that these two kids are 13 and 9 years of age.
After the second two hours of General Conference on Saturday, Anabele was baptized. She is 13 years old.
Sunday, after the first General Conference session, Vitória and Ágatha were baptized—13 and 9 years of age.
The Lord, being exactly mindful of our promise and goal with him, let the other baptismal date of Brianna postpone, so that this week we did not baptize six, but five, like we had asked and so prayerfully worked for.
In the end, five people, Vitória, Ágatha, Anabele, Gustavo and Ana Julia, were baptized. All of them having the age of either 13 or 9.
Our prayers and fasts have been answered. (Twelve baptisms were performed in our zone this past week, eleven being our district, five being Elder Paixão and me.)
I cannot stress enough my testimony of my Heavenly Father. I know that he lives and that he loves us and wants to bless us. I testify that I know that Thomas S. Monson is the Prophet of God and holds the keys necessary to return to our Heavenly Father. I know that if we follow the counsel of the prophet, the promptings of the Spirit, and the voices from the dust, they being the same, we may return to live with our families and with God again for eternity. I give this testimony to you in the name of Jesus Christ.
Love you guys and I hope you have a wonderful week! Love you!!!