Monday, January 27, 2014

DAY 200


Seems like I should have something really profound to say on day 200…Really not a whole lot has happened.  Well, a lot has happened, but not enough for our leaders to be happy with.  I hate it when missionaries get super focused on numbers and not on the actual welfare of a person.  Leaders and missionaries, missionaries and investigators, all of those relationships matter and are more important than hitting a target number. Right now we have one zone leader who is all about numbers, and another one who actually cares. I just hope that I won’t lose focus on why I am here.

Forbidden shores for missionaries - this is as close as we can get to the beach!
     Anyways, V. was confirmed in church today.  I actually got pretty pumped this sacrament meeting because J., one of our recent converts, said the opening prayer, and Y. another of our recent converts, blessed the sacrament for the first time.  All in all, sacrament meeting was pretty great!  Sadly, that was probably the highlight of the week.  Elder N. had some kind of virus and we couldn’t work for two days, so that was kind of frustrating.  We also had our interview with our mission president on Tuesday.  I basically told him everything that was going on in our house….that was after he had finished telling me that our district is the weakest area in the entire mission, and that I need to step up my responsibilities as a district leader and be an example to my district. The problem is, I don’t know what it’s like to work in a good area!  This is still my first area (after the US. that is, and there is nothing about this place that is like the US.)  I have no idea how a successful area in Brazil should work. He told all of the other missionaries in the house that their purpose as missionaries in my district in my house is to help me to grow. I think that he called me to be district leader to grow even more in the mission because people generally make the most progress when they're under stress.  I am feeling stressed and I still don't really know what he wants me to do... I'm just getting so tired and I haven't even hit 1 year yet.

     Needless to say, we changed a lot of things this week in HOW we work, so I hope that we can see some major changes in our results in the next week. And we've been trying to figure out some kind of way to involve the youth, but it's been going really slow. I don't know if you know, but the wards here are at the very largest 100 people. I don't know why, but that only leaves room for about 13 youth. And of those 13 half of them are rich and lazy and don't like to help other people. The most successful type of integration so far has been our English class which has had up to 7 people.  There is no mutual program at all for the youth, and they only meet once a week for seminary. There are lots of other issues with our ward that makes missionary work really hard. Members are so important when it comes to missionary work.

     So we have one person who we are teaching, T., and she is having a lot of difficulty believing in the Book of Mormon and Joseph Smith and the fact that there is a living prophet on the earth today who guides us.  However, she is willing to learn.  She wants to read the entire Book of Mormon before she will pray about it.  Really, she just wants to study it and not pray to ask God if it is true.  That is the hardest part, because I know that if she would pray with a sincere heart and just ask God if it was true, then she would know the truth for herself. I know this works, because I have already received that witness for myself.  Just in the few short months that I have been serving as a missionary, I have prayed and asked God for reassurance because I find myself faltering.  I find myself faltering because this work is HARD, it really is!  However, every time that I get down on my knees and ask God if I’m doing the right thing, I get an answer, through the Holy Ghost testifying to me that this is the TRUTH.  The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints contains the fullness of the gospel and this is the way to return to live in the presence of God.  I get an answer that tells me that the Book of Mormon is really the word of God, and can help us learn of Him as much, if not more, than the Bible can. These answers help give me the strength that I need to spread the truth as a representative of Jesus Christ.  I am working my hardest to help others know of the gospel of Jesus Christ, restored in its fullness through the prophet Joseph Smith.  Some of our investigators actually say that I’m so excited when I talk and when I teach that they can see that I just want them to know that what I am teaching is true.  However, I can’t give them a testimony, and most of them choose not to try to find one….all I can do is keep on working.

Monday, January 20, 2014

Missionary Ups and Downs

The ups and downs of Missionary work
Anyways, here's what happened that was annoying this week. One of our investigators V., was keeping all our commitments and even she said that she would be baptized! We were all stoked about her baptism, but the week before, we found out that she is going to be baptized in the Universal Church! Apparently we didn't teach everything well enough....  

Also one of our best investigators stopped talking to us. She asked us to not visit her anymore... She was going to be baptized .... We even had marked a date for her baptismal interview, but she changed her mind the next day and told us that she couldn't meet with us anymore....

Enough of the bad stuff. We finally baptized V. ! She had some problems with her parents, because they are devout Catholics, and wouldn't let her leave the 'family church'. However, she turned 18 years old in December and now she decided that it was more important to follow what she knew to be right than to follow in the traditions of her family. She really inspired me because it takes a lot of faith and courage to make that kind of choice. 

This is my "mom" in that she fed me lunch EVERY p-day of my time in Aldeota.
We have some other investigators who are really progressing but in particular T. She went to sacrament meeting and was there for V.´s baptism! She made a lot of friends with the ward members,  and in particular the bishop's wife, A. We're going visit her again on Tuesday to follow up! Here was a miracle. She has been baptized before in the catholic church, and she told us exactly how everything happened including how much she paid to be baptized (because she was baptized when she was 23). We were teaching about baptism, and as we were explaining what it takes for a baptism to be done correctly (following the example of Jesus Christ, our perfect example), she asked us "so are you telling me that my baptism was not valid?"  I hate answering that question! But this time, I had the best answer: "Do you believe that your baptism was valid ?" She thought, and thought, and thought, and then she answered and said, "No, that she didn't feel like it was a real baptism." So now we're showing her the way and helping her along. Really that's what we're trying to do all over the world. We're here as missionaries to help people who want to learn the truth to find it. We can't force it on anyone, and sometimes it gets really frustrating when you know that something is right  because you have searched for yourself and found the answer.  And we know that the gospel would help someone's life more than anything else in the world, but they just won't take the time to learn and find out for themselves! I know that everything that we teach as missionaries is true. It's not something that can be denied by someone who is sincerely trying to learn about this church, because it is true. 
Interesting sight for the week: Trees grow right in the middle of the street.
High Ropes course
We did have some fun on our p-day when we visited a local park.  It was early in the morning so I felt that it was safe enough to take some pictures.  This part had some high ropes courses, but we didn't go on them because I thought we should ask first if that would be okay, and also because I am pretty sure that the answer to that question is no.  We had fun anyway.

More ropes course

Kings of the dirt pile.



This was the "lake" in the park, which was really a small pond.
Water bird? Nope, pigeon.

I spotted some mangos in a tree and wanted to try them.
We took 5 home for lunch!
Other Elders from our apartment on our p-day outing.
I have to go, but I hope that everyone has a great week!

~Elder Colvin

Monday, January 13, 2014

Communication Skilzs

 January 14, 2014

A small part of my area.
A view from a member's apartment.
         




  



First off, everything is dramatically better in Nova Aldeota!  This next week we could potentially have 4 baptisms!  We’ve been working with V. for a long time, but we lost contact for a while, so that is why it’s taken so long.  G. is on the path but still hasn’t taken that leap of faith to be baptized.  I know that once he is baptized, he will recognize the blessings of a new life, a new start, the beginning of the rest of his life.  R. is a really fun person to teach because she is both intelligent and accepting.  She loves to learn and it’s been super fun to teach her.  She went to church today for the first time.  V. is taking the discussions, but does not have a supportive family so it may be hard for her to commit. 
         This week was awesome.  I’m working really well with Elder N.  The coolest thing that happened to me this week was when we went on a split with our zone leaders.  They basically came to our area and worked with us for about 2 hours.  Anyways, what was cool was that we were teaching a lesson to A and C (a married couple) and the lesson wasn’t going so well.  The zone leasers teach well, but they teach almost completely without the spirit.  I am sure that it is harder for them because they do not know the people they are teaching.  During the lesson I kept thinking to myself, man this is going nowhere, they are just butting heads with my investigator.  The zone leaders would go off on why A and C needed to come to church. Throughout the lesson my leaders tried to dodge every question that A asked and I could literally see A getting frustrated because his questions weren’t getting answered.  After the 3rd invitation for A to come to church, he was ready to explode!  He said, “I think that you don’t understand me!”  It was then that I spoke up and said, “I think that I understand you.  You have a lot of questions and doubts about a lot of things.  I understand that, because I have had doubts and questions too.  Do you know where I have found the answers to my questions? At church.  So I am going to change our invitation a little bit.  Instead of just asking you to go to church, will you pray tonight with this question in mind: Can I find answers to my questions at this church?  I promise you that God will answer your prayer.  The answer that I received to that question was yes, but that was for me.  Now it is your turn to ask God.  Will you pray tonight to know if you should go to church?”  Well we all felt the spirit and the spirit changed everything.  Instead of saying no, he asked me what time church started….and he came today with his family.  It was a great learning experience.  I learned a lot of things from my zone leaders in just 2 hours.  I learned that I need to be more bold in my invitations, but I also learned that you should never be so bold that you take the spirit out of the equation because without the spirit, what we teach can’t be felt or understood. Anyway, that was the most exciting thing that happened to me this week.         
Burning my first mission tie...6 months out!
         Looking back it s hard to believe that it has already been 6 months since I left home!!! That’s already 1/4 of my mission! When I think about it that in the big picture, it sure seems like a lot of time, but it's already passed really quickly. I can't imagine what it'll be like at 1, 1 1/2, and finally 2 years! Anyways, I'm really starting to see some drastic changes happening with my capability as a missionary over the past few weeks. As you know, I've had a lot more responsibility over the past couple of weeks and with that pressure, I'm amazed at how much progress I've made. At the same time, I look at the missionaries who are leaving for home and I can only think 'Man, I've got a long ways to go!' Really that's one of the things that I'm trying to develop, a vision of the bigger picture. Right now I'm trying to focus on all of the things that I can improve one and all of the things that I can change to become a better missionary and a better person. I'm learning things right now that won't just help for the next 2 years, but for the rest of my life!!! Anyways, I know that we need to always think, think, THINK before we act! That's always been a huge problem of mine, but I've been getting a lot better at it (especially since I have to think to speak Portugu√™s!!!!). Saying a few perfect words can have a lot more impact on something that an entire speech. I hope that everyone can get a little bit better with this because if the entire world could communicate with each other better, there would be a lot less fighting and a lot less stress. One of my favorite talks is a talk called 'No Corrupt Communication'.  It has a really great message that I've been trying to apply a little more in my life!

In ANSWER TO SPECIFIC QUESTIONS (hint to missionary moms, if you want specific answers, you have to ask specific questions.)
His "good" shoes.
1. A couple of things that have broken: my alarm clock and my shoes. I already tried to fix my alarm clock, buuuuut it's broken beyond repair. I don't know what happened to it. As for my shoes, I think that I can probably fix them by just going to a shoe shop and having them glue it or something. Really, it's a shame because I think that those shoes will last me throughout my mission if I can get them fixed. They haven't worn down at all! The rockports on the other hand.... They're probably only going to last a couple more months.

2. The good news is that despite the fact that my shoes are wearing out, I haven't gotten a single real blister since I've gotten here! So I think that I've been doing pretty well

The happy and sweaty missionary

3. I haven't gotten homesick at all. I think that the only thing that hit me hard is that picture I have of the Jaguar!!! Haha just kidding, but it is kind of a bummer not being able to drive.... I'd love any photos that you can send me! They don’t make me homesick at all, just happy!

4. I know that I won't get transferred on the next transfer (February 3rd) because I'm training an actual missionary. I don't know how corto prazos work, (the short missions like the missionary that Taylor is training)  but my companion still has to complete the whole 12 weeks program. However we might end up moving location to a different house in our area, so that's exciting! Our new house will be a lot more central to our area, so it'll make the work a LOT easier!
What a missionary spends money on for his birthday.
5. The cards (credit/debit) are all working great, but I still don't end up using too much money. I take that back.... I kind of went on a spending spree and bought a bunch of movies (mission approved) that we could watch on P-Day! Haha other than that, we're not living too glamorously. Debit cards work better here than credit cards because they charge you a huge fee when you use your credit card. I had some fun on the p-day after my birthday.... I was a little bit excited to watch movies!!! Not to mention I totally dominated when we played WAR!!! It was a fun day!
 6. We do have fun with the members of our ward.  We had family night at the Bishop's house and I taught them how to play the flour game that the Fullmer family taught to us.  The game involves cutting sections of molded flour with knife. A dime is balanced on edge on top of the flour tower.   If the flour collapses when you make the cut, you have to push the dime out of the flour with your nose.  Little kids love this game. The bishop and I lost!


7. Interesting foods:  I ate some acai granola and peanuts and this cream powder and oooooh it was good! The bowl is a polished coconut.

 

Monday, January 6, 2014

HAPPY NEW YEAR/BIRTHDAY!



It’s finally a new year.  The last one seemed to be a really long one for me.  This first week of the New Year went really well.  The week started off with actually playing basketball!!! It’s been about 4 months since I last played basketball.  I ended up just playing one on one with a guy in our ward. His name is Helder, pronounced Elder – so there really are people out there named Elder.  He is about 6’4” and can actually play!  It was a challenge for me, but I did end up winning one game. 


The next day was New Year’s Eve, which is HUGE here in Brazil.  Basically all of our meetings fell through, and we just ended up walking.  There were 27 tons of fireworks sold in Fortaleza, seriously.  We were pretty pumped to see the fireworks at night.  Of course, knowing my luck, we had a perfect view of the fireworks except for ONE building that blocked exactly where the show was happening.  So we only saw all of the colors in the sky and the occasional firework that went extra high.  Also we had to stay in for New years, so that was pretty depressing with the 4 of us sitting around.  Some idiot blasted music until 4:30 in the morning.  It was literally impossible to sleep.  Needless to say, everyone was grouchy the next day. 

Nothing outside of missionary work was really all that interesting this week.  It was my birthday, but we basically worked like a normal day.  I am a little excited not to be 18 anymore.  Now people won't look at me so strangely. 


As far as missionary work goes, this week was really rough because basically no one was awake or they were all getting ready to party.  We did have a couple of cool experiences though.  One was that we finally found a referral and managed to catch him at just the right time.  He is from Ferreira. He is an older wealthy gentleman with probably the nicest house that I have seen since I have been here in Brazil.  We sat down and talked for a while and just became friends.  It is interesting because he has basically believes all of the doctrines of the church without having any formal religious training or background.  We hope that we can talk with him some more and teach him about the restoration and the importance of baptism as taught in John 3:5.  Another cool experience was when we knocked on a door of a REALLY big house.  We were talking with one of the guys who lives there and he said that we could come back, and that 30 other guys lived there while they were working for a construction company.  My favorite part of the week was when we had 7 investigators show up for church.  Some of the investigators are very close to committing to baptism.


The relationship in the house with all of the elders is getting a lot better.  I had the chance to talk to the other companionship and help them to figure out a way to work better together.  Basically it was just listening to them talk and them helping them to compromise and understand each other.  I hope that it helps them because they are really struggling to get along.  Anyways, in my companionship, things are really going great.  We are working a ton and we are planning to start classes in music, English, and studying the scriptures next week.  We get along really well and we are having some success.  I am really lucky to have a companion who is willing to work and willing to be my friend, which is more than a lot of missionaries, can say about their companions.  


This year is yet another chance that we have to do better than we did during the last. One of my resolutions this year is to put down my pride. A lot of times I find myself thinking rather selfishly and always thinking that I'm right and that everything I do is the right thing to do. The problem is that most of the time, I'm wrong! Haha, my goal is to always think about how other people are feeling or thinking, and what influence my actions have on them. It's incredible how one word or one simple action can influence someone. I've experienced that firsthand. Sometimes when you are at your lowest, a simple, kind word can lift you up. On the contrary, our words can also put people down. I don't want that. Whenever I find out that I have offended someone, or hurt them in any way, I get this huge feeling of guilt. It's one of the worst feelings in the world. So something I've been focusing on is thinking about what other people think, feel, or desire. I'm trying to figure out the best way to make everyone happy. I know that I'm imperfect, and that it's probably an unrealistic goal to do it ALL the time, but I'm going to try. We never know the impact that we can have on someone, so I'm going to try my hardest to think before I act. It's a problem that I've always had, and if I can master it, I will be a lot better of a person. Anyways, I hope that everyone has an awesome new year and that you all can accomplish your goals! 

Tchau!

~Elder Colvin