This week has been really interesting. We really wanted another blue week, and have been working like crazy to try and earn another one. We set some ridiculous goals and have been desperately trying to reach them. One thing that I´ve learned so far about the mission is that, even if we really want things, they don´t always happen in our time. Our Heavenly Father has a timetable, and we need to align our time with His. Otherwise, we´re in for a longer and more painful ride than we need to put ourselves through. We had three baptisms on Sunday! Matilde, Anderson, and Nice were baptized and it was an amazing experience. For those reading who haven´t had the opportunity to perform/watch a baptism, I encourage you to convert a family and try it out. It´s really the most addicting feeling ever. The ward here is basically addicted to baptisms: they ask me and Elder LeBaron every week "Quantos por essa semana?" (How many this week). We usually have an impressive number, and though not all are baptized in the exact time we would like, most of them are. Anyway, back to the week. We set some nuts goals and were pumped to see them all achieved. I´ll describe our area a little so y'all can see what It´s like: So we have two areas in our area: Santa Felicidade (Holy Happiness) - a richer, snobbier place with a plethora of excellent and frickin expensive Italian restaurants - and Campo Magro (Skinny Field), which is basically what I thought and hoped Brasil would be like, with the dirt roads, concrete jungle houses, and rolling hills of forest and jungle. It´s an awesome diversity, though it does come with a unique set of challenges. As all missionaries know, planning is very important. Here, it´s doubly so. You need to give attention to every person you have in every part of your area. Right now we have around 40 investigators. Without divisions and splits with the members, it´s utterly impossible to visit them all throughout the course of the week, let alone follow-ups daily. This means that we really have to plan well, efficiently, and prayerfully. As missionaries, we have a certain list of things we can do - teach with and bring the Spirit, help people gain motivation, make friends, baptize if people will let us, etc. The Lord also has a large part in missionary work. This may sound a little sacrilegious and stupid, but it´s a true principle. In our area, if we don´t pray and earn the fact for our investigators to be home, they won´t be. People work a LOT here, and get paid close to nothing ( depending on the job, but you get the idea). This means that we need to specifically pray for the people to be home, because that´s the field that Heavenly Father can work with. Then there´s the field of the members. We have an AWESOME ward!!! I don´t want to leave this area, and if President let me I´d stay for the whole time I´m here. We have an arsenal of returned missionaries and pumped up families at our disposal, and we´re only beginning to tap into the resources available there. My goal is to have every single one of them have at least monthly splits, FHE, or references, from each family and each person. It really is a formula of success: when you want to baptize, use the members. If you want to use the members, show them how you work by bringing people to church, proving your work, and by serving them like crazy. I have really grown close to the members in this ward, and I know that even though it´s a far away day, I can´t wait to visit them again later.
So yes, the work rolls on. Although we didn´t have fabulously high numbers this week and didn´t find many new people to teach, we baptized and worked our best. At times this has been the hardest thing for me to say to myself - that I really have been doing my best. It is important to ask throughout the day how you are doing, because sometimes without that small reminder it´s easy to get lost.
I know that I´ve vented enough on the fubecas (the lazy, stupid Elders who are here for other reasons than to serve. Yep, there are those.), but I just want to say this: it is utterly selfish to serve a mission and give it half your effort. It is not fair to our Heavenly Father, to the people whose salvations we will save, and to ourselves and our families. There are certain people who are here to gain a car, to be called Assistant to the President, to be recognized in the emails, to blah blah blah. One thing that gives me great faith is the fact that I was not called to be the district leader, trainer, zone leader, secretary, assistant, etc. I was called to be a MISSIONARY!!! WOOO!! What an amazing opportunity, to give a tithe for our lives until now (2 years out of 20. Cool!) to the Lord and receive and give the blessings that we are promised.
To end, I´d like to share an experience that happened this week. We were in another exhilarating District Meeting and talking about how we improve using the Spirit and helping others recognize it during our lessons. Elder Nascimento, our LZ and one of my favorite people on the planet, told us about when Elder Bednar came to visit the missionaries here. He said that as Elder Bednar was about to end, he basically said "I invite the Spirit to be with us as I share with you my apostolic testimony". It was powerful, E.N. said. I really liked that, and started thinking about our call as missionaries. If we are worthy, working, and serving with all our heart, might, mind and strength, it is possible to do those things! The priesthood really is that amazing! Later that day we were visiting a family - Miguel and Miguelina - and only Miguel was there. He was looking a little on edge when we showed up and gave us a letter that he said his wife wrote. They have a baptismal date marked for this week. The letter basically said that she loved us and knows that we are men of God, but she wants to stay in the Assembly of God. I almost cried at that moment, because she has come so far. I decided that there was no way we were giving up on them and we shared a message about the Spirit with Miguel. I did what Elder Bednar did - invited the Spirit to be with us as I bore my testimony as a representative of Jesus Christ. It was a physically Spiritual feeling, like you could reach out and grab it. He KNEW what he felt, and though he says he´s still looking for his response, he´ll understand that it has a white shirt and tie on soon enough. I would like all of you to know that I have a testimony of the Savior Jesus Christ. He lives. He knows us all and loves us more than we can possibly imagine. We are here with the Gospel in our lives because we have been blessed with a responsibility to share it with others. We CAN NOT keep this message to ourselves. That is SELFISH! PLEASE be the best missionaries you can, for our Heavenly Father, for the people we will serve, and for ourselves. I love you all and hope that after this email you will all run into the streets proclaiming the Gospel with the Book of Mormon in hand :) 2 more baptisms this week!!!
Elder Brown, Santa Felicidade, Curitiba, Brasil