Sunday, March 8, 2015

The Power of Music

Elder D. and the killer ant monster
February 23, 2015
Well, today we emailed and then we wet straight from that to practice the choir pieces. That was basically our entire p-day. It just so happen that I had to sight read one of the accompaniments and it was one of the hardest ones of them all! Ugh!!!  And unfortunately I am a yes man, so I told her that there was no problem and that I’d get it down.  I sure hope so!  I know that I will have to dedicate one of my days of studies to practicing this music.  So me and the other elders were starving because we hadn’t even eaten breakfast OR lunch and it was already 5 pm.  I ended up going to McDonalds with Elder Anderson and Elder Smyth.  It’s weird, because McDonald is a nice restaurant here! I took some pictures because it seemed so nice. I have a feeling that I have completely forgotten what it is like back in the states.
         The best news of the day is that I finally got the camera from Taylor.  I am so excited that I will be able to take some pictures of the last part of my mission.
February 24, 2015
         Wow, it has been a long time since I have sat down and practiced piano for an extended period of time.  I was able to sit down and play for 3 hours!  It didn’t even seem like it was anything. I miss that.  Before my mission I wasn’t able to appreciate just how nice it is to play instruments.  I am actually excited to play the viola again.  Guitar as well….Oh it is going to be nice to have access to the internet and as much time as I want to play.
         We taught someone today and he has been bedridden and is waiting for surgery of some type. He is very faithful, reads the Book of Mormon, knows that it is true, and wants to be baptized.  But he can’t come to church for a good long while.
         The big news down here is that it actually does rain here in Fortaleza.  In fact, it has been pouring for the past 4 days.  I had to buy an umbrella because mine got all rusty and broke.  Water is leaking through our ceiling with all this rain. 

February 25, 2015
         Zone conference was really good today.  Up until today, I didn’t have a lot of faith for the future of this mission.  Don’t ask me why, but I didn’t feel it from the leadership.  I have had a hard time feeling mutual love and respect that existed with President Sousa,  But this conference was a turning point and felt perfectly inspired and uplifting.  With these changes I think that the mission will definitely start to make progress.  

         It was weird watching all of the Elders that I have known for so long bear their last testimonies as they get ready to finish their missions.  Some of them have been with me from the start.  Elder Muniz, for example, was in my zone when I first got to Brazil, and then again at the halfway mark, and he is currently my zone leader.  What is even stranger is to think that at the next conference it will be my turn to say goodbye.

          After the conference, we were planning to grab a bus, but one of the brethren from our ward passed by on his way home from work in his VW van.  (There are a LOT of those here.)  It was perfect for us because we fit almost our entire zone inside…12 elders.  The bus would have normally taken over an hour to get home and we made it in 15 minutes. 
         We held a special activity tonight at our ward mission leader’s house.  We had one of our investigators come and at the last minute I was asked to present the message.  So, I asked everyone there who was a convert to share their conversion story, specifically how they came to know that the gospel was tru.  Everyone told their stories and each one was very different except for one thing that they all had in common: they each applied the test in Moroni 10:4-5 personally and sincerely.  The cool part about the night was that I finally got to here my companion’s conversion story which was cool.  He said that his answer was completely based on the Book of Mormon.  Before, when I asked him how he got baptized, he would just say, “Oh it was normal.”  I guess that it is true because even something that is so special and sacred is at the same time normal here on a mission.
February 26, 2015
         I am thoroughly convinced that every single week as a missionary has to have as least one day where everything falls through.  Today was one of those days.  One the plus side, I made the most of the zone conference and tried to hit the standard of excellence as far as the contacts went.  We should have made our 20 contacts, but on contact #17 we ended up talking a long time so we had to hurry home before 9:30.  We made it home just in the nick of time.  The other Elders made it back late because a member gave them dinner and they brought home some extra crab for us!!! YUM, I have never eaten an entire crab before, so that was a new experience for me.
February 27, 2015
         Today was almost the exact opposite of yesterday. We taught a ton of people, and it was kindof sad because we had to drop a lot of investigators and we also had a big family drop us because they don’t want to give up praying to Mary or their saints.  I really had thought that they were going to change, but they ended up telling us that they didn’t have any desire to change their religion. They told us that if they were to change, it would be to become a Mormon. It was a hard day for us.
February 28, 2015
Evaldo and his wife!

Evaldo's new family!
         Wow, that musical activity that Sister Evans had us do turned out amazing!  It was a stake activity for the Fortaleza stake.  I have already passed through both the Nova Aldeota and the Aerolandia wards, so I saw a bunch of people that I knew.  Mainly, I saw Evaldo!  He was baptized almost a year ago and he got  married to another member and they are planning to be sealed this summer.  Only Taylor and Dad would be able to understand the pure joy I felt at this moment.  Levi is going to feel this too, and it will make all the moments of hardship and sacrifice worth it.  Also, I found out that one of the investigators that we had to drop, got baptized one year later.  I was able to visit with Bishop Amorim and his son, Bruno.  It was great!  I should have taken more pictures than I did.  I think that it is kind of funny because I spent very little time in those wards and still everyone remembered me and I have such a love for them.  It was by far my favorite place to be. 

         As far as the actual activity went, the chapel was full to the brim and it is a huge chapel/stake center.  We pulled it off much better than I thought we would.  I messed up on a few parts, but I have developed the ability to keep going and cover up mistakes.  Before my mission, that was one of the hardest things for me.  Sister Evans got after me a TON, but it was actually really fun in the end.  We have an interesting love/hate relationship that usually exists between the pianist and the chorister, especially when the pianist isn’t all that great.  We didn’t get any missionary work done this week because of all the practicing that I had to do, but I think that it was worth it.  I know that this activity was inspired and for me it was a special gift.  I would never have been able to see these people again had it not been for this activity.  It was just sooooo good for me. 
         On the bus ride home we got to talk to some other elders in the neighboring zone to the zone that I was in when I served in Jatoba, mainly Elder Evangelista and Elder Pereira. Elder Evangelista told me that he was surprised at how much I have changed since the Jatoba days.  Well truth be told, I was suffering a lot during the days that I served in Jatoba and that suffering shaped me and changed me into a more mature and better person.
March 1, 2015
         Where did February go?  That month just snuck right past me!  We started off the months super well.  We did the normal before church routine of running around trying to get investigators to come to church, but no one came.  However, I am convinced that God wants to see our efforts despite the outcome. Ultimately we had 4 investigators show up late and 2 kids of less actives that we are teaching. One of our investigators came by herself, and another came and brought her cousin (who is a member) with her. Another person came to church that lives on the other side of the city.  We referred him to the elders in his area.   Ultimately, we had a great Gospel Principles class about exaltation.  I am always apprehensive about potential anti-mormon propaganda that can come up during this lesson.  We read a bunch of scriptures that teach the doctrine simply and clearly: Romans 8:16-17, Revelation 3: 21, Psalms 82, and a few others.  Everyone seemed to comprehend the lesson and one of the recent converts asked me a question that led us to go to his house after church and teach her a really meaningful lesson.
         In fast and testimony meeting today, I bore my testimony and got a little emotional (which never happens to me). I also had a bad cold so I was snuffling and snorting…I was a mess.  One of the reasons that I was emotional was because a less active member came to church and bore her testimony about the stake musical activity.  She went to the activity because her less active brother told her about it and she described the choir as a choir of angels. I felt so touched that something that I participated in would have such an impact on others.  I was able to testify to the ward of the power that we have to touch people’s lives without even knowing about it simply by living the gospel and serving the Lord.
         After church we taught M. and she committed to baptism.  She really loves the Plan of Salvation and had a lot of questions about it.  I expressed some impressions to her about the three degrees of glory.  I told her that everyone is going to be happy and receive according to their desires.  I compared it to fish in a tank.  A small fish needs a small tank and is content in that place.  A bigger fish needs an aquarium and a whale needs the ocean.  Each fish is happy in the environment that fits his desires and needs,.  The Celestial Kingdom is created for people who have enlarged their capacity to be like Christ and be obedient to his gospel. It is the best place for celestial beings to live. M. has such a great spirit and understanding of the gospel. I could see her serving a mission someday.  I really hope that she does.
         After that lesson we taught another really GOOD lesson to B.  Seriously, it has been a long time since I have had a lesson like this.  She read the Book of Mormon 3 Nephi 11 and had questions about baptism and what would be the right baptism.  She expressed her desire to be baptized and asked us what she would need to do to prepare herself.  Well, she lives with her boyfriend so we taught he about the Law of Chastity which is usually a very hard topic to teach.  It went perfectly and she committed herself to living the law from now on.  She decided right then that she would move out and keep the commandments.  As a missionary, it is a great feeling when you can help someone to change and become closer to Christ. 

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