A selfie for mom!

A selfie for mom!

Tuesday, December 23, 2014

He will come again, and we shall see him!

FELIZ NATAL!!!!!! ESTOU ANIMADO DEMAIS! Wow! This will be the best Natal yet! We had a week of badly-needed rain, rising temperatures, lots of running around, and a few miracles along the way. Sadly, despite our efforts, nobody went to church. But this week, we are going to work even harder to help them! Today we are going to the city´s center (last time didn´t work out) so that Elder Sharp can withdraw money from the Western Union bank. Tomorrow, as a zone, we will have a secret santa gift exchange. Wednesday (Christmas Eve), we will dine with members in the evening, then spend the rest of the day at home (it gets pretty crazy around Christmas and New Year´s). We´ll be calling you guys to confirm the Skype stuff. Thursday (Christmas Day), we will probably sing christmas carols at the train station as a zone, we will talk with our families, and head home early (18h). Here are our investigators: Isaura - A senhora (60ish) that we are teaching. She investigated the church in the past, but was never baptized. Now, she wants to be baptized! We just have to help her quit smoking (she´s down to just one or two). Her baptism is scheduled for this Sunday. Laila - A young woman (16) who also investigated the church in the past, but stopped because the Sisters that taught her were transferred. Now, we are helping her to be baptized. But it seems like every time she is about to go to church, something happens that prevents it. We´ll have to envoke the powers of heaven to help her overcome the opposition. Her sisters, Pamela (18) and Leticia (14) are inactive members that we are trying to bring back. We have a family home evening with them tonight in a member´s home. Danila - A woman (20ish) who is a friend of Alessandra, a recent convert. She feels that the Church is true, and that Joseph Smith was a prophet and that baptism is essential. We just need to help her to keep the Word of Wisdom, and also to go to sacrament meeting. Zoolaide - A single mom (35ish) who we met through her neighbor, Rosemere, an active member She has three sons, Carlos Eduardo (15) and Carlos Augusto (15), who are twins, and Carlos Henrique.(12). We taught her the Restoration in a very spiritual lesson, and now she wants to come to church. Damiana - (35ish) Another of Alessandra´s friends. She´s pregnant and very interested in being baptized. She has already given up drinking, and we are following up with her on not drinking coffee. The only problem is that she isn´t legally married to her husband, Gildasco. We are working with them to gain a testimony and be legally married so that they can be baptized. Flavio - He´s Junior´s (a less active we helped reactivate in Palmares) father. He and his wife, Adelia, and thier grown children, Levi and Natalia and Daniel are all inactive. We are trying to help them to come back to activity in the church, especially in this time when the ward is in such great need of them I know that Jesus Christ lives, and I have seen Him not only in my life and the lives of my friends and family and companions, but also in the lives of those whom we teach. I have met Him in my afflictions and appreciate His Atonement so much more now that I have tasted (in just a very small portion) of the suffering He went through for me, because He loves me. I know that He is our Heavenly Father´s Only Begotten and perfect Son. I know that this is His Church, and that I am His missionary and representative. He is the Jehovah of old and the Messiah who came. He is my Older Brother, my Redeemer, my Lord and my King. He is the Gift sent from our Pai Celestial. He will come again and we shall see Him. I testify of this in His name, Jesus Christ. Amen. I love you guys! Have a great Christmas Eve! --

Tuesday, December 16, 2014

Being a missionary is so awesome!

WOW! THIS WEEK WAS AWESOME! On Monday, we had family home evening with Alessandra. She was baptized recently. She lives alone with her three young kids (with another on the way) in a very humble home. But, working with the members, we have brought the spirit of Christmas into her home. Among other things, they´ve got a small Christmas tree, a large photo of the Temple of São Paulo, and a beautiful painting of the Savior. We´re working with her son, Davi, to prepare him to receive the Aaronic Priesthood. On Tuesday, we had a HUGE miracle! So, we were walking home from lunch after district meeting, when it started to rain, out of nowhere. I swear that it was flash flooding (actually there was devastating flooding in the neighboring missions). Because we were returning from district meeting, we had our area book with us, and other study materials that we consider sacred. So, we decided to pray. Ducking under a canopy, we said a fervent prayer, asking God to stop the rain just enough for us to leave our stuff in the apartment. We both acknowledged a feeling of great faith as we continued our walk home. Immediately, as we left the cover of the canopy, the rain stoppped completely, for the rest of the day. I feel impressed also to mention that right before the rain stopped, two beggars, who were also under the canopy, asked for food. Luckily, at that moment, we had some chocolate chip cookies. We gave them some, and they were so grateful! On Thursday, we had a mission tour with President Claudio R. M. Costa, in the stake center next to the temple. It was amazing. I learned so many great and wonderful things! It turns out that he was so impressed by our mission, that he shared things that he usually doesn´t share. After the meeting, On Saturday, we had stake conference! Isaura, who we are preparing to be baptized on the 27th went to church and loved it! Especially President Dalton´s talk about the Spirit of Elijah and temples. President Dalton gave us a ride home. Elder Sharp got two Christmas packages! Peanut butter snickers and gingerbread cookies! Woo! On Sunday, we had a huge lunch, with the Bishop, his second counsellor, the Relief Society president, one of her counsellors, the YM and YW presidents, and their families. It was so great! I love my "familia Interlagos"! Yesterday, we had the Christmas Conference! A team of podologists (foot doctors) came and gave us a training, and a check up. They gave us tie clips! Also, the First Presidency sent a Christmas card to all the missionaries! Sister Dalton made us ornaments! She´s so sweet! She got hurt recently (she did something to her knee, similar to what happened to Dad), so keep her in your prayers! She´s recovering from a surgery! President and Sister Dalton furnished a great breakfast AND lunch (churrasco) with dessert! We also had many musical numbers, including that was just my zone, and another that was the mission choir. I loved singing in that choir! I now know how to sing the tenor and bass parts of "Joy to the World"! I finished the Standard Works! WOW! I learned SO MUCH from the scriptures! What a privilege it is to have them! I also finished Preach My Gospel, and I´ve arrived at Alma 34. I know that the Book of Mormon is the word of God. And I know that God speaks through his living prophet, Thomas S. Monson! We´ve been getting a lot of rain (which is needed), but today is a great sunny, warm day. I´m stoked! It´s going to be great! Being a missionart is so awesome! The 22nd of December is arriving! I hold this day in sacred remembrance because this is the day that Mom and Dad were sealed to each other, to me, and to our Heavenly Father. This week, I´m excited to share with everyone the good news of the Savior´s birth, and also of temple blessings, which come through His infinite atonement. I glory in my Jesus. He is my Hope, my Strength, my Rock and my Redeemer. Without Him, I am nothing, and through Him, all things are possible. I´m so happy that I have been able to get to know Him through my trials and afflictions. And I am so excited to see Him again in the flesh at the last day. He lives and He will come again. Of this I testify in His holy name, even the name of Jesus Christ. Amen. -- Élder Thomas Richins Ala Interlagos (antiga Cidade Dutra) Estaca Interlagos Missão Brasil São Paulo Interlagos

Monday, November 24, 2014

What a blessing it is to be alive!

Bom dia, minha família bem querida! I´ve got so much to tell you guys! First of all: PARABENS! I´m still in shock over your family history explosion (como assim?!) I feel really bad now because I thought there was no more work to be done. You guys sure showed me! Wow, I am so proud of my wonderful family! You guys are so great! And thanks so much for the wonderful package. I know that it was intended to be a Christmas package, but it arrived last Thursday. We thought it was Thanksgiving (I´m not positive when exactly IS Thanksgiving), so we opened it after the ward barbecue. THANK YOU SO MUCH! I needed new socks so badly! And the ties are awesome! And I LOVED the t-shirt! So great! I loved everything! So, this week was so eventful, that I have to start at the beginning: Monday: When we left the lanhouse to go home, we stopped by the market and I bought ingredients to made chicken parmesan (the poor missionary version). We returned home, ate lunch, cleaned, and relaxed. I boiled 4 gallons of water because we didn´t want to buy mineral water. So glad we did! Saved R$15! We didn´t get to do visits with William because he forgot. We marked visits for the next day, but it fell through again. This continued until today (he´s determined to at least say good-bye to us tonight). But he went to church! Woo! Tuesday: Nothing much happened on Tuesday, except that in District Meeting we got esfihas (mini-pizzas) and going home, a member pulled us aside and gave us a ton of espetinhos (barbeque). Wednesday: Service Project! WOOOO YEAH! FINALLY! It was construction! So awesome! So great! And we got more free food! Lunch was in the form of money, so we ate at a member´s restaurant. He refused to let us pay the full price. Later that night was English class (did I mention that I teach weekly English classes?). Thursday: Interviews with President Dalton! It was an awesome interview! Sister Dalton made chocolate chip cookies for everyone! They tasted just like Mom´s! After the interviews, we had the ward barbeque (there was also karioke, but we didn´t stick around for that). The zone leaders arrived at the barbeque with my package! Awesome surprise! Elder Sá and I went home and opened it (there is a video), and then we studied and worked normally. Friday: Lunch with an awesome elderly couple in the ward! He´s from Fortaleza, and she´s from Madrid (SPAIN!). They are really cool! And the food was soooooo good! Ice cream for dessert! At night, we missionaries were in charge of mutual for the youth. So, in Brasil, there is a candy called "Bis". It´s our district´s "official" candy, "bis" meaning "baptism, endowment, and sealing". So, we started by having all the youth look for "bis" that we said was hidden outside of the church. In reality, we missionaries had the "bis", and we gave it out secretly. Some got bis and some didn´t. But no one was allowed to eat this bis until they paid for it by doing push-ups. But told them that they couldn´t do it themselves. They needed someone to pay for them. Just as we planned, one of them volunteered. His name is João. I wasn´t really sure if he could handle it. But he insisted, so we let him. Most of the youth watched in reverent silence as João did more than 120 push-ups. I had him do them one by one (two for Rayane, three for Sidney, five for Marcos, three for Ana Paula, etc.) As I did this, I felt such an appreciation for Heavenly Father. I nearly began to cry as João begged me for mercy, asking if he could stop, if it could end. I could only hold back tears as I told him that he had to finish. In the end, he stood before the group and testified of the Atonement of Jesus Christ. And, as one of the youth publicly pointed out, there were some young people who didn´t even pay attention to João, nor what he did. I hope you can see the analogy here. What a great experience. Many of these youth sent pictures to their friends, inviting them to next week´s mutual. When Sunday came, our mutual was the talk of the entire ward! Saturday: Lunch with Rosilma. Isn´t she an angel! I love that little couple! Her husband makes wooden furniture! They´ve got family living in the U.S.! And they gave us ice cream, so they get double blessings. Today, we had two really great visits (among others). The first was with Ivanete and Vinicius. They were baptized just days before I arrived. We are helping them to stay firm, bringing members of ward council to meet them. They have overcome so much. It´s amazing to see what the gospel can do. The same can be seen with the second visit, Cristina. Cris and her mother and son were baptized last transfer. She has another son, Tiago, who is 13 and is a special needs child. He can´t walk, nor can he talk more than a few words, but he is so great! I love this kid! He understands so much and I feel the spirit so strong around him! Cris has also overcome so many trials! Her transformation is amazing. She is much happier, healthier, and has a wonderful spirit about her. She got a new job that allows her to attend church, and she´s so eager to pay tithing. Being a missionary is so great. Saturday night, we got our transfer calls. Elders Maynard and Hernandez (the zone leaders) and Elder Sá and I are all being transferred. I´ll be staying close to home, because Elder Dean (mission secretary) told me to pack my bags but leave them in the house. I´m so sad to leave this place! I love Interlagos so much! But I trust in the Lord, and I know that things can only get better! Sunday, Reynaldo and William and Caio (another less-active) all come to church thanks to our efforts and a lot of prayers offered this week. Reynaldo is coming to church completely on his own, William also. I guess we´ve left our marks on this ward. We gave parting hugs to bishop and we went to lunch (feijoada! Yum! look it up!). So now, I´m feeling great! We have a great last day planned! I finished Doctrine and Covenants Section 48 and also 1 Nephi. I LOVE LOVE LOVE LOVE LOVE this gospel! How blessed are we to have the Bible, Book of Mormon, Doctrine and Covenants, Pearl of Great Price, Ensign, New Era, Friend, Liahona, General Conference, Gospel Principles, Preach My Gospel, patriarchal blessings, Mormon Messages, Hymns, and so much more! I´m so grateful that our Heavenly Father has so many ways to talk to us! We are about to go eat lunch with a part-member family that invited us last minute to eat lunch. I love Brasil so much! (I´m not getting fatter, don´t worry!) Mom, Dad, the desire of my heart right now is to send a package home! I do not want another package until I send one home! Please? Can I? I´m trying to do better with not using my personal card so much, but I might need to rely on it a little more to save up. I really want to send you guys some stuff! I love you all so much! I know that this Church is true! What a blessing it is to be alive! -- Élder Thomas Richins Ala ? Estaca ? Missão Brasil São Paulo Interlagos

Monday, November 10, 2014

We went to the temple!

So, this week was really great (setting aside the depression)! I´m in 3 Nephi 20! I LOVE the Book of Mormon! Every time I pick it up, I have a hard time putting it down! Wow! On Tuesday, we went to the temple! It was so great! Our mission had reserved enough seats throughout the day so that the ENTIRE mission can do a session. But when we got there, we found out that the other FOUR missions in São Paulo showed up! So the temple was (wonderfully) full of workers! Our scheduled session was already full, so some of us were chosen to do vicarious baptisms. I was chosen, however, to work in the laundry room. The temple president led us down to the laundry room, where we folded clothes for an hour or so. He read to us what has become one of my favorite scripture passages, found in 1 Corinthians 12: "For the body is not one member, but many. If the foot shall say, Because I am not the hand, I am not of the body; is it therefore not of the body? And if the ear shall say, Because I am not the eye, I am not of the body; is it therefore not of the body? If the whole body were an eye, where were the hearing? If the whole were hearing, where were the smelling? But now hath God set the members every one of them in the body, as it hath pleased him. And if they were all one member, where were the body? But now are they many members, yet but one body. And the eye cannot say unto the hand, I have no need of thee: nor again the head to the feet, I have no need of you. Nay, much more those members of the body, which seem to be more feeble, are necessary: And those members of the body, which we think to be less honourable, upon these we bestow more abundant honour; and our uncomely parts have more abundant comeliness. For our comely parts have no need: but God hath tempered the body together, having given more abundant honour to that part which lacked: That there should be no schism in the body; but that the members should have the same care one for another. And whether one member suffer, all the members suffer with it; or one member be honoured, all the members rejoice with it. Now ye are the body of Christ, and members in particular." No matter where we serve in the temple, whether it be in the kitchen, folding clothes, cleaning bathrooms, etc, we are doing temple work. All of this is necessary and contributes overall to the work of salvation. In the temple, we can receive revelation, whether it be on the grounds, in the kitchen, the laundry room, or the celestial room. God will have us serve where we are needed, and where we need to be. I´m learning that this is the same in any place in the church. Whether you are an apostle, a nursery leader, a sunday school teacher, giving a talk or cleaning the chapel, you are participating in building Zion. No matter our callngs, we are members of the Church of Jesus Christ. Each and every one of us is important and necessary. Thus, we must magnify our callings, all of them, including home and visiting teaching, and the duties we inherit when we are baptized. This week, Elder Sá and I haven´t had much time to work. Actually, we´ve had very little time, between meetings and service projects, and bouts of depression. So on Friday, I got really discouraged. I felt ashamed that we had done nothing... because of me. But Elder Sá reminded me that we had done many things. We´ve received revelation in the temple, we´ve discussed the ward with Bishop, we visited a struggling recent convert, we helped clean a member´s house, and we helped both the zone leaders and the sisters by traveling to the mission office to get boxes of the Book of Mormon. Elder Sá reassured me that Heavenly Father is seeing my desire and will reward us. That same night, three things happened: (1) immediately after he said this to me, we both felt suddenly really uncomfortable and unsafe, so we went to get our investigators. Once we were far away from that spot, I felt the Holy Ghost confirm, in my heart, that we had been protected once again. (2) The investigators, Murilo and Kelly, despite our inability to follow up with them this week, were ready and waiting for us. We went together to a family home evening in a recent convert family´s home. Josie and Amauri, who were baptized almost a year ago, testified about eternal marriage, and got Murilo and Kelly excited to be married. Our neighbor bought us pizza when we got home. (3) Yesterday, a member from the ward brought his brother to church. He and his wife will be married and baptized! I love you all so much! But i´m out of time! This gospel is true! -- Élder Thomas Richins Ala Interlagos (antiga Cidade Dutra) Estaca Interlagos Missão Brasil São Paulo Interlagos

I Know that Christ Lives.

Well, I´ve got some news! I finished the Bible! Woo-Hoo! What a great experience! I also finished "Evocando os Poderes do Céu" ("Invoking the Powers of Heaven")! Remember how our district has a goal to finish the Book of Mormon in six weeks (before November 23)? I´m in Alma 31! Woo-Hoo! I´m a cuz-cuz addict! It´s really good, really filling, really healthy, and really cheap! I´m going to the temple tomorrow! Oh yeah! President Claudio Costa (of the Brasil Area Presidency) will visit our mission this month! This Saturday, we will have Mão Que Ajudam ("Mormon Helping Hands") in our stake! It´ll be great! Elder J. Barker (my last companion) is in my zone, after an emergency transfer! Three companions in the same zone! We went to Bishop Lima this week and we asked him where we should work, as he receives revelation and holds the keys for this ward. He pointed out a neighborhood where we have never worked before. From what we´ve seen, it´s a great area! What a testimony to me of the divine calling of bishops in the work of salvation! This Sunday will have a Formula 1 race at the Autodromo. It´s going to be huge! Tourists are already coming in busloads! We saw 10 buses of tourists as we walked home from lunch yesterday. Pretty soon they will block off the streets. Sunday, November 16th, will have a nation-wide fast, under the direction of the Brasil Area Presidency, to recieve rain. The city of São Paulo will be without water in just a couple of months. Yikes! Elder Sá gave me a haircut! He thought he could get away with giving me a favela-style (pretty ghetto) cut. I made him finish. But not before I got a some pictures. Never before have I been so close to my Father in Heaven. I know He is there. I know that He loves me. I know that He sent Jesus Christ to suffer for me. What I am going through right now is just a glimpse of what He went through for me. I am thankful for this privilege, because I appreciate the Atonement now more than ever. This gives me hope. I know that Christ lives and because He lives, I can be made perfect one day. I know that the Plan of Salvation is real. And I know that I can be healed through the Gospel of Jesus Christ. This Church is true. I am absolutely certain of this. I stand as a witness of the divinity of the work of salvation. It is God´s work. And I love Him so much. I leave you with my testimony and with my love in the sacred name of our Redeemer, Jesus Christ. Amen. -- Élder Thomas Richins Ala Interlagos (antiga Cidade Dutra) Estaca Interlagos Missão Brasil São Paulo Interlagos

Monday, October 27, 2014

I know we were protected from harm because we obeyed the promptings of the Holy Ghost.

Wow! This week was AWESOME! First off, I want to bear my testimony of following promptings from the Spirit. My companion and I have been trying really hard to follow the impressions from the Holy Ghost. This has led us to 13 new investigators, including families! Murilo and Kelly were walking with their cousin, Talita, when we found them. I almost walked past them. I don´t like making street contacts with groups, I´m still uncomfortable doing that. But Elder Sá told me to talk to them. I felt, very briefly but very clearly, a promption of confirming revelation. I did so and, now, we are helping Murilo and Kelly to get married! I´m so excited! Shortly after meeting them, we entered a dark street. We both felt very unsafe and the Spirit clearly told us to get out of the neighborhood quickly. So, we got out! As we walked away, some men were calling after us, but we didn´t pause to listen. I just know that we got ourselves out of what could have been a very dangerous situation. The next day, we were walking and a car pulled up to us. There were two men in the car. One of them called to us and said "Elders! I´ve got a question!" He gestured for us to come to the car, but we both felt the Spirit whisper for us to stay put. "Go ahead and ask!" Elder Sá said from the curb. The man made a strange face, then simply asked where the church was, then sped away. Once again, I knew that we were protected from harm because we obeyed the promptings of the Holy Ghost. Second, I want to tell you about Reynaldo. I was on exchanges with Elder Assunção in my area, visiting less actives. When I reached a certain address and called for Sonia from the gate, a man appeared at the door. He didn´t look very pleased. But when we said that we were missionaries from the church, his expression changed dramatically. He asked us to enter. We reached the door and I shook the man´s hand. He used a crutch and walked with difficulty due to an injury, and was almost completely blind because of diabetes, but he was so happy to see us. He welcomed us into his very humble home. Sonia is his sister. He lives with his 75 year old mother, Ana, and takes care of her and the house as his three sisters work. The Spirit I felt from this man was very strong. In the name of the First Presidency, and of Bishop Lima, I reassured this brother that he was not forgotten and that the prophet, the bishop, and we love him very much. We then downloaded the Book of Mormon in audio so that he could listen to the book. He was in tears as he heard the word of God after being unable to read for so long. Yesterday, Reynaldo went to church, alone. I sat by him in Sacrament Meeting. He could not read the hymnbook, but he listened reverently to each hymn. He struggled to partake of the bread, and I had to help him take the water. But this did stop him, nor me, from feeling the Spirit. As the Sacrament prayers were read, it began to rain, which is very much needed, as water supplies are running low in São Paulo. It was a wonderful Sabbath. At the end of the day, I felt so great. As I conversed with my Heavenly Father in prayer, I felt His love for me so strong. I know that He is my Father in Heaven. I know that I am a son of God and that He loves me. I testify of Jesus Christ. He is the Son of Man and is my Older Brother. This is His world. This is His church. I testify of this in his name, even the name of Jesus Christ, Amen. -- Élder Thomas Richins Ala Interlagos (antiga Cidade Dutra) Estaca Interlagos Missão Brasil São Paulo Interlagos

Monday, October 20, 2014

So I got transferred!

So I got transferred! My new area´s got a name that´s really hard to remember! I´m in the Interlagos Area, Interlagos Ward, Interlagos Zone, Interlagos Stake in the Interlagos Mission! This ward is of historical importance, as it has one of the older chapels in São Paulo, called Cidade Dutra. Unfortunately, this ward has seen better days. The Interlagos Ward is actually two wards: Cidade Dutra Ward and Interlagos Ward. While the Cidade Dutra Ward began a new era of growth, the Interlagos Ward threatened to close. To preserve the name of the stake and the mission, the wards were combined under the name of Interlagos. But there are other wards in this stake that are threatening to close, so it was starting to look as if the stake would have to be closed. And now, I´m here. President Dalton is working with all of the bishops and ward and stake leaders of Interlagos so that we can save this stake (if it closes, it can never reopen with the same name). So this is a very serious situation. We are entering a new theater of war. Every missionary in the mission is being equipped with the book "Invoking the Powers of Heaven" and we are learning to do exactly that. Personally, my vision and faith have been greatly increased! It´s an amazing experience! Yesterday, I gave a talk in church. Really, I am feeling the weight of my calling on my shoulders. The more I think about it, the more excited I get! I already love this ward so much! We have one batism marked for this Sunday and my companion and I are ready to keep finding more! My companion is Elder Sá, from Recife, Pernambuco (the same city as Elder Paiva), but he grew up in Olinda, Pernambuco. He´s got 10 months in the mission and this is his first transfer as District Leader. He´s just a couple months older than I am. He´s really funny and a great guy. There are four other missionaries in our ward: Elder Maynard (from Pocatello, Idaho) and Elder Hernandez (from Boston, Massachusetts), and Sister Soares da Silva (from Fortaleza, Ceara) and Sister Boulangger (from Lima, Peru). Remember Elder Almeida, my trainer? He´s in my zone! His area is right next to mine! Well, I´m out of stuff to say. One of the packages arrived! I will get it tomorrow when Elder Sá comes back from the meeting in Santo Amaro. I bear my testimony that Jesus Christ lives and that He loves us and is more willing to help us than we are to receive help. I know that God exists and is watching out for us. I know that the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Sants is the very church that Christ organized during His mortal ministry. I testify that the church was lost after the death of the Apostles, and that the priesthood was taken off the Earth. I tesify that both the priesthood and the church organization were restored through the Prophet Joseph Smith and that the kingdom of God is filling the whole Earth. I know that Thomas S. Monson is the chosen prophet of God, that he talks with God face to face and that he cannot lead us astray. I testify of these things in the name of Jesus Christ. Amen. I love you all and have a great week!

Monday, October 6, 2014

What a week! General conference!

What a week! GENERAL CONFERENCE!!!! SO MUCH BETTER THAN CHRISTMAS AND BIRTHDAYS!!!!! I don´t know about you guys, but for me, these last two days were two of the best four days of the year! GENERAL CONFERENCE! So, about the sickness: it sumiu (or disappeared). But I think what´s going on (from what the doctors told me) is that I had inflamed intestines due to a lot of really bad diarrhea, for a long period of time (sorry for the grafficness, I try to make my emails family-friendly). The thing that baffles me is what caused the diarrhea in the first place! But I´m on a special diet, that has helped a lot. The pain went away and the other symptoms are almost gone, too. Whatever happens, I know exactly where to go for help! I´m also eating less pizza. :( But back to General Conference! The TV connection in English wasn´t set up, so we had to watch the first three talks in Portuguese (not the same). But we got to watch it on this little TV in the "English room". That means snacks, and talking in English! Oh yeah! When Godoy started talking, we switched back to Portuguese. It was so cool to see him speaking Portuguese in GENERAL CONFERENCE! THAT´S NUTS! It seems like Conference gets better every time! I´m downloading all of it so that I can listen to it every day! The work is going really difficult in Palmares. Despite this, we are seeing miracles still. I know for a fact that I will be transferred on the 14th of October. It´ll be sad to leave this ward, and the people I love so much, but I know that I´ll go where the Lord wants me. Besides, change is good. I´m ready for a fresh start. Well, that´s about it. We´re coming into the last week in Palmares! Time to leave this area better than I found it for the incoming missionaries! Keep up the good work and stay true to the faith! I love you all and thank you for all of the prayers on my behalf. I know that Jesus Christ is our Savior and that He loves us. I know that He speaks to us today through personal revelation and also through His chosen servant, Thomas S. Monson, and the other leaders of the church. I testify of these things in the sacred name of Jesus Christ. Amen. -- Élder Thomas Richins Ala Palmares Estaca Casa Grande Missão Brasil São Paulo Interlagos

Monday, September 29, 2014

I'm just so glad to be here and to be in this work!

What a week! So many things happened! First off, I have to let you know about what´s going on with my health, because i´ve been spending a lot of money lately... So my stomach problems got really worse this last week. I went to the hospital on Tuesday. Then I went to a gastrologist (?) on Thursday, and a laboratory on Saturday to do some tests. Then, on Saturday night, after a baptism (I´ll explain below about the baptism), we were walking home and the pain got worse than it had ever been. We went home, and, after an hour, we were driven to Albert Einstein Israelite Hospital, the best hospital in São Paulo (I think). There, they gave me some pain medicine, and conducted some more tests, including an ultrasound and some kind of x-ray that looked like a CAT scan. They found nothing, but we will return to the laboratory tomorrow to do more tests. All of the doctors said that I´ve probably got an inflamed intestine. But President Dalton knows about all of this (he stayed up all night, waiting to take us home from the hospital Sunday morning at 5.) and he´s already giving me a blessing. I didn´t want to tell you this, because I don´t want any of you to freak out, but you need to know why I´ve been using my personal card so much! Well, it´s because I need to buy medicine (it´s not expensive enough for me to get reembursed), and I have to buy food for a special diet. And I´ve already used all of my mission money (and almost all of my emergency fund) getting to and from the doctor´s. I´m really sorry about it! I´m trying the best I can, but I can´t really do anything! :( We stayed home (President´s orders) on Sunday, and the Sisters brought us our lunch, and the Elders from Vila Natal came and administered the sacrament to us. We didn´t have bread, so we used chocolate crackers (all we had!). But I´m anything but discouraged! I´m actually really excited, despite having to miss so much work. I´m just so glad to be here and to be in this work! Saturday, after we got back from the laboratory, we went to city hall for Juvenal and Magda´s wedding! It was so great! They were married legally, until death! And later that afternoon, they were baptized! Now, for a long time, Juvenal had not spoken so much as a word to his brother because they had had a falling out. This conflict brought Juvenal and Madga very close to separating. But just as he was leaving his house to go to the baptism, Juvenal felt, in his heart, that he needed to talk to his brother. So he went there and made up with his brother and his family. They didn´t even know about the wedding. Juvenal and Madga showed up late to their baptism, but they brought with them a lot of family members, including their daughter, Laura. The baptism was so great. They were baptized by a brother who was bishop in the ward where they first went to church. It was such an amazing feeling! Now there is an entire family open to the Gospel. Madga´s baby girl will now be born and raised in the Gospel of Jesus Christ. There are so many reasons to rejoice! So, there´s something I learned in last Wednesday´s Multizone Conference. It´s President Dalton´s keys to making and accomplishing goals. They are as follows: Deadline Realistic Etched in Stone Always Reviewing Measurable Supreme Being Using these six keys, we can make and accomplish great goals, from key-indicators in the mission field, to preparing for an exam in college, or improving performance in a career. But I would like for us, as a family, to make a goal using this six steps. The goal is as follows: To bring two families to Christ, one being a less-active or inactive family and the other being a nonmember family, before October 2nd, 2015. As I come to the halfway mark in my mission, I was thinking a lot about what I can do to thank and also to support my family. This is what the Spirit told to me I should do. Because I can´t think of any gift greater than this, to help my family experience the thrill of bringing people to Christ. To accomplish the goal about the less-active family, you will need to do some visits, maybe bring people to church. This half of the goal will only be accomplished when every member of the less-active family has returned to church, and (if eligable) the temple. To accomplish the goal about the non-member family, you will need to help find and teach a family. You will need to help the missionaries follow up with them, help them feel welcome in the ward, and help them be baptized and confirmed and progress toward the temple. This half of the goal will only be accomplished when every member of the family is baptized and confirmed and firm in the church. In order to find and teach these two families, you have three great resources: The Missionaries - The missionaries will help you with the teaching. They also have an Area Book full of possible families, and they have their current investigators. They know lots of ways to find and teach people. Through Family Home Evenings and other meetings, they can teach you how to use Preach My Gospel and how you can help them! The Bishop - As you already know, the bishop will help you with integration. He can help you not only with the teaching and finding, but with helping the two families feel at home. He also knows, by way of revelation, which family is ready to be brought back to the fold of Christ. The Holy Ghost - Of course, in order to find these two families, you will need to, as a family, pray for inspiration from Heavenly Father. He knows all of His children, and will guide you two those who are prepared to hear your message. Through the Holy Ghost, you will know exactly what to say and when to say it. As an ordained servant of the Lord Jesus Christ, I promise to you that this goal is very much possible. Please, do not wait! Use the six keys from President Dalton! The deadline is October 2nd. The goal is very realistic. Write the goal down in many places where you can see it and be thinking of ways to accomplish it. And do not change it! Every day, look and your goal and think about what you have done so far, and what you could do to get closer! Always study the scriptures and pray for inspiration! You can measure it by reporting to me about experiences, lessons, people going to church, and keeping commitments! I´ll ask about it every week from here on out! And don´t forget to have faith in the Supreme Being, that He will help you! God and Jesus Christ will be at your side as you embark on this great endeavor! Just have faith that you can do it and that these families are waiting for you. I want you to know that I know that you can do it. I know that you already have work, previous callings, etc., but nothing compares to sharing the temple blessing with two families who really need it! Just think of the joy we have as an eternally sealed family. Don´t you want to share that with the world? This is your opportunity. As a missionary, I´ve learned that, under the direction of the Spirit, I can make certain promises. I promise that working hard to meet this goal will strengthen our family and make our lives better, as well as benefit the entire Joplin Second Ward, even the whole world! Imagine if every year, we brought two families to Christ, bringing one back, and bringing another for the first time. This work will change the world. I testify that the Lord is calling you to embark in His service. I testify that the adversary is working harder than ever to destroy us and our mission, as individuals, and as a whole. Just look at what he is trying to do to me! But I testify that we will win, that nothing can stop in the way of this work. We are the rock cut from the mountain without hands, as spoken in Daniel 2. We, as a people, under the direction of our prophets and apostles and our King, Jesus Christ, will bring this world the truth of the Gospel and the temple blessings. I testify that Jesus is the Christ and that He lives. I testify that God is our Heavenly Father. I testify that this world is His world and that the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints is His only true and living church. I say these things in the name of our Savior and Redeemer, Jesus Christ. Amen. I love you all and have a great week! -- Élder Thomas Richins Ala Palmares Estaca Casa Grande Missão Brasil São Paulo Interlagos

I know that this work is the work of God.

So, I can´t really hide the fact that I got sick this week. Really sick. I missed so much work this week! I had to buy gatorade (to keep hydrated) and some meds (I called the mission doctor first). So, sorry for spending so much! I can´t say that I´m all better, but it´s not as bad as it was. It started last weekend, and continued all through the week. But now, it´s better. Whatever happens, it won´t stop me from working this week! Wow, you have no idea the kind of opposition we had last week! Someone threatened to kill an investigator of the other elders, and someone tried to burn down the stake center! Everyone is getting sick! It´s crazy! Luckily, it looks as though things are calming down. It´s funny. I finished reading the Acts of the Apostles. From what I can see, our hardships are absolutely nothing compared to that of the early Apostles in their missions. They were not just mocked, persecuted, and cast out, but they were beaten, stoned, condemned, exiled, crucified, beheaded, burned, etc.! Yikes! I´m feeling pretty good! Between that and what Christ went through during His Atonement, I don´t think I can complain! So there´s some updates on the work: Fred went to church with his family the Sunday before last. It was great! They missed last Sunday, but I did see Fred doing Home Teaching visits! We´ll visit them this week! Juvenal and Magda are so ready to be baptized! Their wedding is this Saturday, 11h30 and the baptism will be 17h, followed by a barbecue! I´m super excited! We haven´t talked to Leonardo since last Monday, but we will keep fighting! We will get them married and he will be baptized! I´m not giving up on them! We took Lucineide and Romeo to the city hall, but she needs to get a more legible copy of her birth certificate. The city hall in her hometown burned down, so... it´s complicated. But we aren´t giving up! They love the church and they love the gospel! Remember Junior? His uncle works in the city hall in Santo Amaro (close to the mission office) and is willing to help! We are also helpingthe family of Antonia, the Relief Society President, to join the church. She´s the only member in her family. We are starting with her sister, Cristiane. She investigated the church in the past, and went to church this week. It´s just hard because it´s almost impossible to find her and her husband during the week. But nothing is impossible for God, nor His children! I´m so happy to be a missionary! It´s such a great calling! General Conference is coming up! Woo! I´m so stoked! It´s going to be even better than last time! And I´m so glad that Boyd K Packer made it to another one! I just hope I don´t almost get a concussion this time! I´m in chapter 35 of the New Testament Student Manual (I´m reading the NT in chronological order, so i´m in 1 Corinthians.) I´m loving it! Not much more to report from this front! I´m still here, and still fighting! I won´t give up until these people with whom I am working are well on their way to being with me and my family in the Celestial Kingdom. I´ll keep doing this work here and I plan on continuing in this cause even after I return to Missouri. I know that this work is the work of God. I know that I am a chosen servant of the Lord Jesus Christ. I testify that He is our Savior, our Capitan and our King. There is nobody on this Earth more powerful than He! I testify of Him in His name, even Jesus Christ, Amen. -- Élder Thomas Richins Ala Palmares Estaca Casa Grande Missão Brasil São Paulo Interlagos

Monday, September 15, 2014

It's been a long, hard week.

So, I´m kinda at a loss for words this week. It´s been a long, hard week. We are truly at war. Something that i´ve seen a lot of this week is that opposition will always come. It will come harder and faster and fiercer. All of our batisms fell through. Almost all of our marriages fell through. We are battling so hard with the forces of Satan. We teach, he tempts. We invite, he drives away. It´s a great back-and-forth. Recently, one of the city halls, out of nowhere, decided not to help the Church marry people for free. So we had to switch for another city hall. This week, we planned to take two couples there to mark a marriage. We got there too late and they were not marking any more until the next week. This morning, we arrived in the home of one of the couples, at 7 in the morning to go with them to the city hall. They told us that they had a fight and that we would have to wait for a while. Despite all of this opposition, we will keep fighting. The Lord is approaching. We know it and Satan knows it, and he´s doing everything he can to stop it. But we are not here to merely baptize or marry. We are here to prepare São Paulo for the Second Coming of the Messiah to usher in His Kingdom and to judge the world. I will keep fighting until the end! I know that Jesus Christ lives and that He is at my side, supporting me in this work. I know that God is our Heavenly Father and that He is all powerful. I testify of these eternal truths in the name of our Redeemer, Jesus Christ, Amen. -- Élder Thomas Richins Ala Palmares Estaca Casa Grande Missão Brasil São Paulo Interlagos

I know that the day of miracles has not ceased!

NOSSA! ESTOU MUITO FELIZ!!! This week was GREAT! There were so many miracles! So many things happened! So, in Palmares B, Presidente placed Sisters! Sister Tucker (from Taylorsville, UT, with 1 yr 2 mnths) and Sister Evaristo (from Lima, Peru, with 8 mnths)! They are pretty cool, and the best part: they like to work! So, we did a little damage control (whitewashing areas are always really risky because you could lose investigators in the transition) and switched Palmares A and B. The sisters are now working where I worked the last four and a half months (so they will take over Cicera e familia, Juvenal and Magda, Rodrigo e familia, Jaqueline e familia, etc.). We are now in the area where Elder Florentino worked. So we had to let go of some elect investigators, but we also inherited some elects. As of yesterday, we are helping three couples (besides Juvenal and Magda) get married. Thier names are as follows: Lucineide and Romeo Elder J. Barker actually made the first contact with them. Lucineide´s a crazy Bahiana (but is really cool and sincere) and Romeo is a timid assembliano (he went to the Assembly of God). But they are both super open to our message and ask a lot of questions. They really want to get married, and go to the temple to be sealed. We will take them to city hall THIS SATURDAY. Last Saturday, we warned Lucineide that the adversary would be working really hard to stop her from progressing in the gospel. Later that night, she had an argument with Romeo, and her daughter got really sick. When she realized that it was the adversary, the argument and the sickness went away really quickly, but it was too late to go to church. Now, they are both determined to let nothing stop them from going to church. Kelly and Leonardo Kelly is a recent convert. When she was baptized, she was separated from Leonardo. After the baptism, they got back together. But Leonard has a desire to be baptized, and they both want to be sealed together in the temple. They just showed up to church and asked our help! What a miracle! Regilaine and Joseildo They are the parents of Vitor, a recent convert. He and a big part of the extended family were baptized at the beginning of the year. Regilaine and Joseildo have a few doubts, but really love the church and want to enter the temple. They just are afraid to get married before they finish paying off some debt. We are trying to explain to them that marriage and baptism will help their situation. If you have any suggestions on what to say, please let me know! There´s a few people we are helping to get baptized: Gabriel He´s 13 or 14 years old. His parents weren´t going to let him be baptized, but Elder Florentino convinced them to let him be baptized on the 14th (now this Sunday). He loves the church and wants to be baptized really badly! Now, his parents are also gaining and interest in the church and expressed desire to marry! Yes! But last week, Gabriel´s cousin got really and suddenly sick. He´s in the hospital, and the famliy visits him every day, so it´s gotten really hard to talk with them. We think this might have been what kept Gabriel from church this Sunday. Lurdes Givanildo´s wife. She went to church! She is a little rebellious and is a little harder to help. For example, she doesn´t want us to visit every day, nor does she want to make a definite goal to be baptized, but she did like the church, so maybe that softened her heart a little. She also is praying to know if she should be baptized this Saturday. She just needs to give up coffee. Guilharme He´s 16 or 17 years old. We met him in the church this Sunday. He had been coming to church for 9 years, but stopped recently. Now, he´s back and we are going to help him be baptized. Igor He showed up to church all by himself! He´s only 10 or 12 years old, and really like church. He´s a close friend of Vitor. He and his mother are ex-investigators. We´ll try to bring them back! This time, we´ll save them as a family! This week was just full of miracles! There´s so many reasons to rejoice! So, Elder Paiva went home last Tuesday. By the time we were at the mission office for the transfer, he was already on the plane to Recife. But he left me a letter, photo, and two ties (they are really cool), and we are emailing each other. So out of my 5 companions, two have already "died"! Yikes! In the New Testament, I´m in John 7. I´m slowing down a bit so that I can use the Institute manual, too. I love reading about the life of Jesus Christ. I´m learning so much from Him! I´m really excited to read during P-Day. Another miracle: A few months ago, Josefa, a recent convert, told us about a woman she worked with. So Josefa and this woman work cleaning a mall that is right next to the temple. The woman was curious and, knowing Josefa was a member, started asking questions. Josefa came to Elder Pinheiro and I for advice. I gave her a Book of Mormon to give to her friend, with an invitation to learn more. This woman lives close to the temple, which is outside of our mission boundaries. Naturally, I thought no more of the incident. This week, Josefa told us that this woman has gone to church and that she and her husband are receiving the missionaries. Just look at how the seeds we plant can bring forth fruits, even if we can´t see them! Another miracle: When I was in Mirna last December, Elder Almeida and I visited a recently baptized young man named Ricardo. I quickly befriended him, and we were excited to see him progress in the gospel, despite subtle opposition from his family. Then, about the time we received Sisters and had to divide the area (about New Years´). Ricardo disappeared. We heard that he had moved to somewhere in the Casa Grande Stake. Since then, I kinda forgot about him, occasionally remembering and wondering where he went to. This Sunday, before sacrament meeting, I saw a young man that looked really familiar. The thought entered my mind, but I dismissed it: it couldn´t be him. But when I saw him again, after church, I decided to ask one of the young women who it was. She said that his name is Ricardo and that he lives in the Casa Grande Ward, and that he is going to serve a mission next year. On the verge of tears, I went to him. He recognized me and we embraced. I was so afraid that he had gone inactive, or fallen away. But he stayed strong the in gospel! I remember how Elder Almeida and I talked to him about being a missionary someday. And now, he was preparing to serve a mission. My heart was full! One more miracle: So, four of the youth in our ward met a drunk in the street who wanted a message of Christ. Not being trained as missionaries, they showed up at the drunk´s house the next day, only to find that they had received the wrong address. They did, however, find an inactive member from the Casa Grande Ward. He had lost his job, his wife, and his children to a terrible addiction to alcohol. But the four youths shared a healing message of Jesus Christ with him. They made a covenant with him to stop drinking. They then threw away all of his alcohol. From that moment, he stopped drinking. The four youths returned later and helped him clean up his house. He returned to church and started talking with Bishop to go through the repentance process and also to recieve welfare aid. Now, he´s been coming to church every Sunday. I know that the day of miracles has not ceased. I know that Jesus is the Christ, that He is all powerful and that there is no one whom He cannot save. I testify of the divinity of Jesus Christ and His mission and His Atonement. I know that He loves us and that He has called all of us to assist in this work. These things I know in the name of Jesus Christ, Amen. I love you all and have a great week! -- Élder Thomas Richins Ala Palmares Estaca Casa Grande Missão Brasil São Paulo Interlagos

Tuesday, September 2, 2014

I love reading about the life and ministry of Jesus Christ!

Transfers! Elder Florentino and Elder Mathews are being transferred (the area will be white-washed, probably closed, and combined with my area). But Elder J. Barker and I are staying together! We´ll be together for General Conference, Juvenal and Magda´s wedding and baptism, my one-year mark, and a bunch of other stuff. This transfer will be DOIDO (CRAZY!)! I´m talking with President Dalton to see if I can get an extension on my mission so that I can see Juvenal and Magda get sealed (They can go to the temple in late September 2015, and my mission will probably end in early September 2015). We´ll see what happens. In the Bible, I´m in John 5! I love reading about the life and ministry of Jesus Christ! I´m learning so much about how I should be as His representative. I love the scriptures! So, we had a huge miracle happen last night! We were walking home (a little discouraged) after a busy day of running around in the rain, when the bishop called. Here is more or less of the conversation that occurred: Bispo: "Oi, Elders, you know Givanildo?" Elder J. Barker: "Which one?" Bispo: "Givanildo from the Elder´s Quorum Presidency" Elder Richins: "The recent convert?" Bispo: "Yeah, that´s the one! I just got done visiting him and his family. You remember his wife, Lurdes?" Elder Richins (to Elder J. Barker): "I don´t think you´ve met her. She´s super flaky. We´ve already tried and tried to invite her but she doesn´t want anything." Elder J. Barker (to Bispo): "Sure?" Bispo: "She wants to be baptized. I´ve already approved everything. Her baptism will be this Saturday. Can you come and teach her this week?" Both Elders: "Sure!" (we ended the call) ".......... WHAT?!" And that´s how it happened. We don´t know what bishop did, or what he said, or how he did it, but Lurdes is going to be baptized! One of the most spiritually uplifting parts is that more than three months ago, I promised to Givanildo that if he stayed true to the Lord and magnified his calling, his family will accept the gospel. I read to him the following, from Doctrine and Covenants 31: "Behold, you have had many afflictions because of your family; nevertheless, I will bless you and your family, yea, your little ones;and the day cometh that they will believe and know the truth and be one with you in my church." I testify that the Lord qualifies His servants. If we are worthy and diligent and believe in His power, He will send the Holy Ghost to tell us what to say. I testify that in accordance to our faith and diligence in magnifying our callings, miracles will happen. They do not always happen when we want them, but they will happen when the Lord sees fit. Just to fill you in on the people we are working with: Breno... disappeared. again. So I don´t know what to do. We´ll try to find him again. But we will probably have to give up for now. Weverson... blessed the sacrament this week! It was great! Adilson helped him do it because he was really nervous, but did great! Vanessa and Cicera didn´t go to church. We will work with them at least one more week. Jaqueline... came with all three of her kids. We didn´t talk with João Vitor, but we will baptize him before the end of this transfer. She´s doing really good! Rodrigo... also came to church with his family (everyone except his dad and brother) He´s progressing towards baptism and has a testimony of the Restoration. Juvenal... went to church. His son is also returning to activity and even brought his girlfriend. Juvenal and Magda... are going great still! I love you all so much! Have a great week! -- Élder Thomas Richins Ala Palmares Estaca Casa Grande Missão Brasil São Paulo Interlagos

The Standard Works rock!

This week was really good! I finished the Old Testament! Now I´m in Matthew 22! I love the Bible! It testifies SO MUCH of the Restoration, Book of Mormon, Joseph Smith, the Priesthood, and, most importantly of all, the life and Atonement of Jesus Christ. I´m really loving it! No wonder it´s had such an impact on so many people! The Standard Works rock! I bought new shoes: they are boots made for construction working. All the missionaries here have them because they are cheap (R$44 or about US$20), durable, and... cheap. They are also pretty ugly. But now I have two pairs of shoes, so I can keep one nice and polished, just for meetings. There´s not really much more to say... I´ll just skip to talking about the investigators: Breno So, everything seemed like it was going great when we talked with him on Saturday. But on Sunday, when we went to get him, he was nowhere to be found. So we will give him one more week. We just can dedicate all of our time to someone who won´t progress. But he´s so great during the week! We´ll pray for him! Adriana and Beatriz and Stefanie A family that we haven´t taught too much. We just taught Adriana (the mom) and Stefanie (the 13-year-old) about the Plan of Salvation. It´s very different from what they had learned in the Catholic Church, but they really liked it. We will return and talk with them today. All three are marked for baptism on the 7th. Cisera and Weverson and Vanessa Weverson and Vanessa went to church! Vanessa is coming back and she wants to go to seminary! Weverson was sustained to receive the Aaronic Priesthood in the office of a priest! Next Sunday, he says, he´ll bless the sacrament. And Cisera was too busy to go to church, but she promised to go next Sunday. We´ll talk with her more tonight. Juvenal and Magda THEY ARE GETTING MARRIED!!!! We went to the city hall right when it opened last Saturday and we scheduled their wedding! It´s going to be on the 27th of September! They will be baptized on that same day and confirmed with the Holy Ghost on the 28th! So they will go to the temple on the 28th of September of 2015! Woo-Hoo! Jaqueline and João Vitor and Ludimila and Camila Jaqueline didn´t go to church because Camila was sick. She´s doing really good! She´s super excited to be a missionary! Ludimila and Camila love Primary! It´s just João Vitor who is having a really rough time. I don´t know what happened, but he just lost interest and is now hiding from us. We can only fast and pray at this point. Gabriel and Guilharme Gabriel received the Aaronic Priesthood! He´s doing great! He´ll pass the sacrament next Sunday (we´re going to teach him!) But Guilharme doesn´t want to go to church (he was going for a year and a half! He just lost interest after he received the Holy Ghost!) We´ll keep trying to bring him back! Juvenal He´s returning to activity, and brought two of his kids to church, one of which isn´t baptized yet. He´s already doing his home teaching visits again! Awesome! Maria and Fred The only reason they didn´t go to church was because they were making our lunch (oh the irony). But it was a really good lunch! They started making it 8 in the morning! It was Brasilian barbeque! So good! But they will both come back! They want to go to the temple! That´s about it! I´m out of time! I love you all and I know that Christ lives and I know that this is His Church! -- Élder Thomas Richins Ala Palmares Estaca Casa Grande Missão Brasil São Paulo Interlagos

We are helping so many people return to church! It feels so good.

This week was really good! We are seeing so much progress here! It´s like nothing I´ve ever seen! This ward has changed so much since I got here! Sacrament Meeting was absolutely packed! It was so great! We are helping so many people return to church! It feels so good to se them return! So, I´m going to go through the list: Breno. So, we lost contact with Breno for a few days. Mykail went on surprise vacation to the beach, so he couldn´t help us. Breno didn´t go to church, but we fasted for him yesterday, so I´m sure that we will find him today and he will be baptized this Sunday. Pablo. Pablo didn´t go to church, either, but we talked to him yesterday and discovered that it was only because he didn´t wake up in time. He said that he´s still excited for his baptism this Sunday (originally Saturday), and that he wants to continue in the church. João Vitor (member) and Beto (young men´s president) are helping him out a lot! João Vitor. His baptismal interview didn´t go so well. He passed everything, but said that he didn´t want to be baptized. We think this is because he was already angry and onery when we found him. He´s got some kind of ADHD, and we really need to complete this family. He went to church yesterday and liked it. Now it´s just a matter of helping him accept the baptism this Sunday. We fasted for him, too. Jaqueline e Ludimila. They are doing really good! They were confirmed yesterday. Jaqueline said that she felt a difference before and after the confirmation. She´s super excited to visit her friends with us and also to go to the temple next year! All is going so well with her and her family! The only problem is that she loves to give food to us, but she really can´t afford it, but she gets upset if we refuse! She´s so great! Rodrigo e Family. Elder J. Barker found this family last week on an exchange. Everyone is baptized, except Rodrigo (14). We visited them yesterday and taught about the Plan of Salvation. They all loved it and expressed desire and intend to return to church next Sunday and work towards being sealed in the temple. We will help Rodrigo work towards baptism on 6th of September. Juvenal e Magda. They are going really well! After a brief relapse, Juvenal quit drinking beer! And they are going to get married! Our fast worked! Both Juvenal and Magda are really excited for this Saturday, when we will go to City Hall to mark their wedding. It was really cool! We convinced them to finally commit to marriage. I challenged them to get married and let God bless them. It was a very powerful lesson. Now, they are on their way... finally! And Magda is pregnant! Cisera, Weverson, e Vanessa. Vanessa is on the verge of coming back, and Weverson is still going strong. We will visit all three of them today, and we will try to help Cisera come to church. We´re going to complete this family! And they all know how to make cake. And they love giving us cake! Gabriel e Guilharme. Gabriel went to church and will receive the Aaronic Priesthood this Sunday! He was sustained in church yesterday! It´s so great! He´ll be a deacon! Guilharme is another story... but we will get him to church! He´s so young, and these first months are so critical. But with the help of Gabriel, Selma (their family-friend and ride to church), and the Lord, he will stay active! Juvenal. So, this story is pretty interesting. I was trying to call Juvenal (the investigator), but I accidently called Juvenal (the inactive member). Juvenal said over the phone that he was wanting to return to church. The next day, we asked Bishop Getúlio who he wants us to reactive. Among the group was Juvenal. So we visited his house later in the week. Turns out he was really strong in the church, even the Ward Mission Leader, but he fell away. He expressed desire to return. Last Saturday, he gave a powerful testimony of the gospel to his nonmember wife, and on Sunday, he went to church! We will help him baptize his wife and daughter! Fred e Maria. I attached a photo with Maria and Fred to this email. They are from Pará, a state in the North of Brasil. They are really cool. Maria is helping out a lot with Jaqueline (recent convert). We are currently helping Fred come back. He flaked out yesterday, but sounded more firm for this Sunday. Turns out that his sister is Rodrigo´s mom (also called Jaqueline). We will use the two Jaquelines to reactivate Fred. I really want to help this family come back! We will have lunch in their house on Sunday! So, those are the "main characters" of this week. Please remember them in your prayers! There are so many miracles that we are seeing here! I´m writing them all down so that I can share them with you when I return! I started Daniel this week in my Bible study! I really want to send an email to Ashton. Do you have her address? I also want to know more about Dad´s and Kyle´s missions. I realized that I know very little about them! If you could, send me stories! Or even pictures! That´s about it for this week! I want to leave you with my testimony that God lives and that He loves all of His children. It´s our sacred responsability, as members of the only true and living Church of Jesus Christ, to help them to return to the Kingdom of God. I know that Jesus Christ died for us, and that He arose from the tomb as a perfect, glorified, resurrected Being. I know that, because of Him, we will overcome physical and spiritual death, and receive eternal exaltation, according to our own faithfulness and obedience. I love my Savior and I love this work! I leave you this in the name of Jesus Christ, amen. I love you! Have a great week! Elder Richins

Monday, August 11, 2014

We had lots of miracles, big and small!

Wow! This week was really good! We had lots of miracles, big and small! We had a great Multi-Zone Conference with President Dalton! He´s doing such a good job! The number of baptisms already grew this week! We had THREE! There was lots of good stuff this week, including barbeque with a member of the bishopric! I don´t have much time, so I´ll go through the list of the people we are working with: Weverson He´s doing really good! He was baptized last Saturday! Now, we will focus on reactivating Vanessa and we´re going to try to mark his mom (who likes us again) for baptism! Jakeline and João Vitor and Ludimila and Camila She was baptized last minute on Sunday after church. Maria (see next couple) walked with her to church. Jakeline didn´t want to be baptized, but Maria challenged her to "be baptized and see if your life doesn´t change." So, Jakeline and her daughter Ludimila (9) were baptized. It was a really big surprise! So many miracles have been preparing her for this! Remember that she was my first real investigator in this area, four months ago! Now, we will help her son, João Vitor (12) be baptized this Sunday! Camila is too young to be baptized. Maria and Fred Maria is returning to church and bringing her young daughter (maybe 10). She is really happy that we are helping her come back, and that we helped Jakeline, her best friend, be baptized. She wants to give us lunch (next week) and have a family home evening. Fred, on the other hand, isn´t showing any interest in returning to church. Fred and Maria were sealed, and Maria is really frustrated that Fred doesn´t want to come back to church. We´ll find out what´s going on and we will help them. If necessary, we´ll hand them over to the bishop. Their son, Rarison (14), is very active in the church. Breno Thanks to help from his best friend, Mykail (an inactive member returning to activity), and Adilson, our favorite recent-convert, Breno will be baptized this Sunday. His mom already approved. He´s excited to be baptized, go to the temple, and serve a mission (he wants to go to Argentina). He´s thirteen years old and has two inactive brothers. His family doesn´t show interest in the church, yet. We´ll work on inviting them this week! This baptism will happen! Juvinal and Magda They are getting way better. We saw them holding hands going to church yesterday morning, and they say that their relationship is improving thanks to daily scripture reading and prayer as a couple. The lesson in the 3rd hour yesterday was Eternal Marriage! What a blessing! They stayed for all three meetings! We will try to take them to the city hall this Saturday and mark a date for them to get married and be baptized! Keep praying for them and us! We have a few more issues to resolve, but the situation is so much better! Gabriel and Guilharme They missed their ride to church. Gabriel is still super excited about the church, but Guilharme (who is just 8) is struggling to keep excited. We have a less-active sister, Selma (returning to activity), who is their ride. They won´t miss it next Sunday! Gabriel will turn 12 soon, and he will recieve the Priesthood. Their parents show little interest in the church, but maybe they will go to church to see Gabriel receive the priesthood. Others There are a lot of people returning to church because of the new chapel being opened in our area! We had a ward activity last Saturday, and, now, everyone is excited about bringing their friends to church. This week, we will be contacting all of the referrals we recieved! Wish us luck! I´m so happy to be a missionary! I love this work so much! Thanks for all of your support and prayers! I know that Christ lives! Elder Richins

We went to the temple on Tuesday!

This week was really good! We went to the temple on Tuesday! It´s been little more than six months since I´ve been there, so it was needed! The session was so good! Elder Pinheiro (my last companion) was there! It´s been so long, it felt like the first time all over again (and it was in Portuguese, which didn´t help! I actually felt really nervous). But it was so good! I felt so close to the Savior! I was able to sit in the celestial room and just breath, and meditate a little about God´s love for us and His great plan of happiness. Going to the temple is literally taking a little time out of our busy schedules to visit our Father in Heaven, to sit with Him and just be in His presence. It was very refreshing! I just want to go back! After the temple session, we went to the Loja do Templo (Temple Shop, or Distribution Center). It´s in the same building as the Church Headquarters in Brasil. It was cool knowing that President Monson and the apostles could well have been in the same building! So, I bought some DVDs to aid in our teaching, and a white tie for baptism (mine disappeared), a Temple magazine to show investigators, and a couple other things I needed. I also bought the Old Testament Seminary DVD. It´s not only really helpful for teaching, but it´s also really helping my study. And it reminds me of Seminary with Mom! In my spare-time Bible study, I´m in Isaiah. My companion has an interview with the President today, so I´ll have lots of time to read. I think I´ll finish it. I love Isaiah so much! There´s so much about the Atonement, life of Christ, Great Apostasy, Restoration, Joseph Smith, Book of Mormon, missionary work, temples, and the last days! I´m hooked! I´m also really enjoying Preach My Gospel and the Book of Mormon. The more I study these materials, the more I grow as a missionary and as a servant of the Lord! There´s so much to learn! I made a new friend! Our new zone leader, Elder Brelaz! He´s from Manaus, Amazonas. He´s really cool! We are going to hang out in Utah after our missions! I´m meeting so many people, here in the mission! Having good friends truly is part of God´s plan of happiness! So, I put Juvinal´s and Magda´s names in the temple and the very next day, when we went there, they said that they were getting better! Since then, we´ve been seeing progress! I think we might just save their marriage! Jaqueline and her kids weren´t baptized yesterday because Jaqueline´s boss switched her day off. Next week, she will definitely be baptized! Her friend, Maria, who is less active, and gave us the referral that led us to teach Jaqueline the first time, is really excited for her, and we will try to help her return to church so that she and Jaqueline can support one another. Kelly needs a lot of help. I can´t explain much, but her situation is really bad. But every time we talk to her about the Gospel, she feels better. We find her on her breaking point and leave her calmer and glowing. There is still hope for her! There´s a young man named Breno that we are working with. His two brothers were baptized but don´t affiliate with the Church. His friend, Mykail, was also baptized, but has the desire to return to the church. So, we are helping Breno to prepare to be baptized on the 17th. We went there with Adilson, a 17-year-old recent convert, who´s also a good friend of mine. We taught about the Gospel and Temple Work. I asked Breno if he has a loved one who passed away. He told us that his older brother died recently. As we explained about temple work and about the spirit world, Breno begun to cry. Adilson explained to him that he could see his brother again and that death is not the end. Adilson also had a death in his family within the past few months, and, although he hides it, I think it was hard on him. So this experience really touched Adilson. He didn´t want to make the visit with us. He was really busy that day, but we conviced him to do just this one visit. On the way back to his house, I told him that he would baptize Breno. Yesterday, Adilson bore his testimony about the experience and about what I said. When I said it, I didn´t even think much of it. But now, I can see that even the little things that we do or say can really affect people! In the case of both Breno and Adilson, just an inspired question, or an uplifting thought, put the Gospel in the first priority. I´ll always remember to watch what I do, because it´s just as easy to hurt people as it is to help them. There´s also Weverson. He´s Vanessa´s brother. He´s really excited to be baptized! He wants it so badly! The only thing that is stopping him is his mom. Because of an anti-Mormon in our area, she went from loving the missionaries, to banning us (and any member of the Church) from visiting her or Vanessa. The anti-Mormon left, so there is hope. We gave Weverson the permission slip, so he´ll be getting the signature today. Please keep him in your prayers! I know that his baptism will not only reactivate his sister, but also excite all the youth in the ward to do more missionary work! Well, I have to go! We need to head to Santo Amaro for the interview! But I want you to know that this Work is true. I have no doubts about it! God exists! He is not dead, nor does He sleep! He loves us and wants the best for us! He sent His Son, Jesus Christ, a God Himself, to suffer and die so that we may overcome spiritual death. And Christ lives. Because of him, we will live again, too. I bear witness of this in the name of Jesus Christ. Amen. I love you all and have a great week! Elder Richins

Monday, July 28, 2014

I'm so good....Brasil is so cold...and English is so hard!

Hola, minha familia querida! I´m so good, Brasil is so cold (40 degrees!) and English is so hard! We had a transfer! I saw Paulo and Thassya (my first two baptisms). They are getting ready to go the temple next January (I´ll get to watch their sealing). I also saw Elder Paiva (he goes home September 2nd) and Elder Pinheiro and lots of others! Elder Parraguez, o Chileno, was transferred and we recieved Elder Mateus (Mathews). He´s from Utah/North Carolina/Gemany/Florida (military famliy). He´s awesome. We were in the MTC together for a week, but we never met! Good news! The chapel near our house will be open this week! We will start meeting there on the 10th! It´s way closer for our area! And we´ll have a ward social focused on missionary work the week it opens! And we might have a triple baptism this week! I met Jaqueline my first week in Palmares. She was a referral from a less active family. She was really good, but then she changed her mind and stopped investigating. Last month, we found her again. The Spirit told us to see if she was home. And she was! It was the only day of the week she had a day off! She works all day every day except for one day every week, which changes (every sixth day is a day off). We found her and she said that she was looking for us and that she lost our number. We taught her about the Plan of Salvation and about Temple Work (as is our new focus as a mission), and when we invited her to be baptized, she said "Now, I will. I want to go to the temple." It´s been super hard to follow up, but every time we do, she is more excited to be baptized! She even asked her boss to have a day off this Sunday to be baptized! And once the church is back in São Bernardo on the tenth, she can go every Sunday, with her three kids, two of which, João Vitor (12) and Ludimila (8) will be baptized with her. Juvinal and Magda are having serious problems, so please pray for them! We found a new investigator, Kelly. She´s a young mom. She lost her faith in God because of her chaotic family life. But we challenged her to ask God if He exists. I shared some verses from Doctrine and Covenants 121 with her. She felt a lot better and I believe she will be baptized. We will teach her about the Restoration of the Gospel today. We are going to the temple tomorrow! We are all super excited! I haven´t gone since January! I´m still reading the Bible! I´m in Isaiah 15! It´s going a lot slower without the World Cup... I sent an email to Ben, but I don´t have the email of Ashton, nor Garrett (who´s almost here?!) Mission is just blessings! My advice for anyone eligible to serve a mission: get/stay worthy, go on a mission, and stay on a mission! I know that this church is true and that Jesus Christ is our Savior! I love Him, and I am grateful for Him! This is His work! In the name of Jesus Christ, amen. I love you all and have a great week! -- Élder Thomas Richins

Never, never, never give up on anything!

So, I´ve learned a HUGE lesson over the last 3 months: never, never, never, never, NEVER give up on ANYTHING. Don´t give up on the mission. Don´t give up on the members. Don´t give up on the lunch calendar. Don´t give up on your companion. Don´t give up on your leaders. Don´t give up on yourself. And above all, don´t even think about giving up on God. I´ve seen so many people here, and back in the States, giving up on one or all of these things. It´s one of Satan´s favorite traps: to make us lose hope for someone or something. When we lose hope, we make room for doubt which just leads to suffering and sorrow. For a lot of time, I had given up on a few of the above things (I´ll assure you that it was never the last one). But thanks to a new companion, a change in leadership, and most importantly (and vitally), a change in perspective, I gained more hope. I grew, in the space of just a week, to really truly love this area. My heart began to ache as the transfer calls drew near. But I knew that whatever happened would be inspired. Thankfully, I will stay here in Palmares, with Elder J. Barker, at least until 2nd of September! When that day comes, I will (probably) have just 12 months in the mission! Can you believe it! Super trunky! I´m going to try not to think about it! So, I did have a birthday party after all! After I emailed you all, we did some grocery shopping. My birthday lunch was hotdogs and doritos: A good American lunch! We also bought pizza. I was the only one who had money at the time, so I bought it, but I didn´t have to help pay for the next one. My companions made my birthday awesome. And a family of recent converts threw me a surprise birthday party disguised as a family home evening. They made me TWO cakes, and sang for me, and they shared the spiritual message. It was really great! The candles (they had to go a long way to find them) didn´t work, so they gave them to me (it´s a big 1 and 9). I´m going to use the rest of my birthday money to buy a new shoulder bag (hopefully this one will last longer), and new shoes (super cheap but super durable; I just hope they will have my size!) About Gabriel and Guilharme, the two kids who showed up to sacrament meeting.... WE BAPTIZED THEM!!!! After more than four months, we finally had a baptism! My first in Palmares! It was so great! So Gabriel (age 12) and Guilharme (age 8) are super elect! They had already been going to church with their aunt Rita, but they weren´t baptized until now. They already knew everything, so we retaught everything during the week. There were so many miracles that made this baptism happen. I´m so happy for them! It was the greatest feeling when I baptized Gabriel. I love being a missionary! This church is so true! About Juvinal and Magda... They are having problems. Juvinal wants SO BAD to be baptized! But they need to get married and between their work schedules, and (maybe) a lack of desire on her part, they can´t seem to make it to the city hall with us. We missionaries can´t give marriage counsel, so we are just going to keep teaching, but at Magda´s pace. We need to keep them together! I want so bad for them to be sealed! Be sure to keep them in your prayers! Well, I´m going to close my letter here, because I´m going to try to send a picture. Tomorrow, I´ll see if my package arrived (thanks a lot!). I know that this Church is true! I know that Jesus Christ lives and that He loves us and that He suffered and died for us, and that, thanks to Him, we will be perfected one day. I know that God is my Heavenly Father, and that He called Thomas S. Monson to be our prophet. I love this gospel! This Church is true, and the Book of Mormon is the word of God! In the name of Jesus Christ, amen. Have a great week! I love you all! Elder Richins

Monday, July 14, 2014

The best present I got was when I opened my email and saw 35 letters!

Today has already been a great birthday! Instead of a cake, we ate bread, and instead of a candle, we used a Q-tip dipped in cologne. It worked well! I filmed the celebration! Elders J Barker, Parraguez, and Florentino sang "Happy Birthday" in English and Portuguese! The Zone Leaders called and gave me a birthday messaged and promised to buy me ice cream (you all are my witnesses). We´ll probably buy pizza tonight! But the best present I got was when I opened my email and saw 35 letters. I´m so thankful for all those who wrote me! The World Cup is over. I hope no one saw the humiliating loss for Brasil. 7 to 1! It was so crazy! People were screaming and cussing and gnashing their teeth. We were watching The Testaments when Brasil lost. Outside of our apartment, looked exactly like 3 Nephi 8. The world was ending! The next morning, Elder J Barker and I were scared to death to walk to District Meeting. We just need one drunk guy to yell "Alemães!" ("Germans!"), and ja era! But we survived! I´m a little disappointed. It would be so cool to be in Brasil when Brasil won the World Cup. But at least it won´t be super crazy. Not that the Cup has ended, missionary work can return to normal. It interfered a lot with following up on our investigators. Many baptisms fell through because we weren´t able to follow up on account of a game. Yesterday, we had a miracle: two boys showed up at church. They have already been frequenting for some time in an other ward, and want to be baptized. We´re going to start teaching them today. If their parents give permission, we´ll baptize them this Saturday. Magda had to work last Saturday, so we´ll mark their wedding this coming Saturday. I really hope I´ll be here to see the wedding. Whatever happens, I´ll ask President Dalton for permission to see their baptism. Juvinal and Magda also weren´t at church yesterday. We´re praying that it´s just because of the World Cup final, and nothing more. Keep them in your prayers! They want so badly to be sealed! I´m very excited for them. Also, keep President and Sister Dalton and their family in your prayers! This is their third week in the field and they are still a little nervous (but they are doing awesome!) Sister Dalton was robbed last friday! Just imagine: your second week in Brasil, you don´t speak Portuguese, and you get robbed. It must have been horrible. But she is so sweet: she was only worried that missionaries would try to call her while her cellphone was robbed. Sorry that this week´s letter is a little short! I love this work! I know that Jesus Christ is our Savior and that He loves us and through Him, we can all be saved through obedience and life-long perseverance in His gospel. I know that the Book of Mormon is the word of God, and that Thomas S. Monson is a prophet of God. I know that God is our loving Heavenly Father. In our mission, we are focusing using the powers of Heaven, receiving help from the other side of the veil. I know that the Plan of Salvation is real, and that my ancestors and descendents, and those of my investagators are fighting at my side. I love you all so much!

Monday, July 7, 2014

My circumstances didn't change; my perspective changed...

Out of all the lessons I have learned this week, the one that stands out the most is: My Heavenly Father knows me and loves me. Here in the mission, we pass through so many trials and tribulations on a weekly, even daily basis, that it is often easy to forget all of the miracles, big or small, that happen. We sometimes let one great tribulation cloud our sight of the multitude of tender mercies. All this week, I have been suffering with a really bad, painful cold, sometimes flu. I still don´t really know what happened, but I just know that it was a mess. It was uncomfortable to work, and I even had to stay home a day. Because of this sickness, and a series of meetings and exchanges, little work was done in our area. Two more baptisms fell through. During this week, I often felt discouraged and asked myself: when I am trying so hard to be good, and to work hard, why is this happening to me? Why isn´t God protecting me? What am I doing wrong? My fear and sadness disappeared after I received a priesthood blessing. It began when Elder Barker asked me what our monthly goal for baptisms was. I responded that it would be 8, the minimum. He tried to encourage me to go for 10. I confessed that I did not believe we would have even 8. As I said those words, I felt my faith grow feeble, and I felt suddenly distanced from the Spirit. After a long talk, I requested a blessing from my companion. What followed was one of the most sacred experiences I have had so far. In the blessing, I was told exactly what I was so longing to hear. Through my companion, Heavenly Father told me that He loves me, and knows me. He reassured me that He has accepted my work so far, and that He has not forsaken me, nor forgotten about me. He told me that I am forgiven of my past mistakes and trespasses. Through this blessing, Heavenly Father said that He is proud of me, and that I am living an honorable life. During the blessing, I was filled with such a burning in my bosom that I had never before felt. It was as if I was being embraced by the Father Himself. I began to cry, as the spirit healed my broken heart. I was filled with a testimony that is unbreakable: a testimony of God´s love, of His power and the priesthood, and of His mercy. After the blessing, my circumstances didn´t change. My perspective changed. Although the week continued, my sickness lingered, and we had little success, I feel edified. The Lord is accepting my work, here. A couple of days after the blessing, I received yet another testimony of God´s love for me. This came in the form of an empty plastic bottle. I was on exchanges in Casa Grande with Elder Mariano. We were waiting in front of the church for the other two Elders to arrive so that we could go to lunch together. A man walked past. The wind suddenly blew, sending the plastic bottle rolling after the man. I noticed it and pointed it out to Elder Mariano. We joked that it was chasing the man. As soon as we said it, the wind blew again, in the opposite direction, bringing the bottle rolling back. It´s red cap was facing us, as if it were looking at us angrily. I said that the bottle was angry with us for making fun of it. Elder Mariano spotted a woman approaching and said it would be funny if the bottle chased her, too. As the woman walked passed, the wind blew a third time, sending the bottle in the opposite direction, rolling after her. For two tired and hungry missionaries, this little episode cheered us up and gave us a reason to laugh. I don´t see this little incident as a coincidence. I believe that our Heavenly Father doesn´t just love is in a small way. He is our Father, and loves each of us as our Earthly fathers love us. My Earthly dad has a sense of humor and loves to joke and play with his kids. So why wouldn´t our Eternal Father love to play with His children? This small, insignificant joke with a plastic bottle, however subtle, was a reminder from God that He is my Father, and that He does love to play with His children. From now on, I am excited to view the world in a different light: how many times do I miss these little reminders from our Heavenly Father that He loves me? I know that Heavenly Father loves me. He made it known in the beginning, when He presented the Plan of Salvation to us in the Pre-Mortal World. Under the direction of the First Presidency, the Twelve Apostles, and our new Mission President, President Dalton, we are helping Heavenly Father present this wonderful Plan a second time. Our entire mission is changing focus, teaching more about this Plan of Happiness, and about the temple, in order to better motivate people to follow Jesus Christ. And it´s working. We were prompted to stop by the house of a past investigator, Jaqueline. When she came to the door, the first thing she said was: "Elders! I´ve been trying to find you!" She got a new job that requires her to work Sundays, but she had been trying to get in contact with us, but had lost our number. We were prompted to share with her the Plan of Salvation, including the role of temples and vicarious work. At the end, when we invited her (again) to be baptized, she said: "I will, now. I´ll talk with my boss about taking a day off on Sundays." Jaqueline asked us if we could escort her three young children to church the next day. We agreed, and, with the help of some members, her three children, João Vitor (12), Ludimila (8), and Camila (6), went to church, liked it, and want to be baptized. Little Camila isn´t too happy about having to wait almost two years, but she really liked Primary. It´s amazing what a change in perspective can do, not just for missionaries and members, but also for our investigators. I am excited for this week. We will go with Juvinal and Magda to the city hall to schedule their wedding. We received a call that Cileide not only has desire to come back, but also that her friend (who, earlier, spoke against the church and baptism) wants to receive our message. This week will be really good. I have faith that it will be. I am filled with hope, because of my Heavenly Father, and because of His plan. I am excited to continue on in this great work. I know that God lives and loves me. I know that He sent Jesus Christ to suffer and die for me. And I know that Christ lives, and will return to this Earth, to cleanse her of evil and to preside over His kingdom. I know that, after all I do all that I can, I will find peace. I know that the priesthood is real, and that President Thomas S. Monson is a prophet, seer, and revelator, along with the Apostles. They speak with God face to face, and through them, we receive His counsel and instructions. Of these things, I testify in the healing name of Jesus Christ. Amen I love you all and hope you have a great week! --

This week, I will have nine months in the mission!

Nine months! This week, I will have nine months in the mission! It´s going by so fast! I can´t believe it´s almost July! It´s easy to forget, here in Brasil, when it feels more like September. In the mornings and at night, it feels like November! We often joke that Christmas will come soon, because it´s getting colder. But I don´t think it´ll get much colder than this. We´ll see: July is the coldest month of the year! Brasil beat Chile in the World Cup this week! Woo! It´s really funny because we have a Brasileiro (Elder Florentino) and a Chileno (Elder Parraguez) in the house. Several times, the Brasileiro shouted out the window "Hey, there´s a Chileno here! Let´s get him!" The funny thing is that everyone in the street zoou (teased) Elder Parraguez before and after the game. There was a game Monday, too, against Cameroon. Brasil won that, too. That is awesome for Elder J. Barker and I because we will have to stay home on what day? The Fourth of July! And there will be fireworks because of the game. It´d be even better if there was a U.S. / England match on that day. Cileide wasn´t baptized. She was really excited all week, but someone has been fighting us and telling her bad things about the Church and about us. This same person took Cileide away for the entire weekend, preventing her from going to church and being baptized. I swear, this war is so real. Also this week, other baptisms of youths fell through because of ignorant parents. Another woman was prevented from going to church by her hostile husband, who does not like any church in general. So this week was really difficult in this aspect. Even Vanessa, who was on the road to reactivation, fell. She said that she does not feel like going to church anymore and doesn´t want us to return. Also, her mother is avoiding us. She knows the Church is true, that Joseph Smith was a prophet, etc., but she doesn´t want to commit. The only bright spot is a family we found this last week. Juvinal and Magda were taught by Elder Pinheiro (my last companion) a few months ago. Just before I arrived, they were dropped because they didn´t want to marry, despite their willingness to go to church, quit smoking and drinking and coffee. This last week, however, Magda went to church to find us. When we arrived in their house the following day, we witnessed a miracle. Juvinal and Magda felt so bad for not going to church (for about 2 months) and for not yet being baptized. They showed true desire and real intent and sincere hearts. I´ve never seen such an elect couple. Had it not been for the World Cup, we would have gone to the city hall and scheduled a wedding. But this Saturday, for sure, we are going to mark their wedding! At first, they had small doubts about buying a ring first. But I told them that their eternal marriage is more important than a ring, and that, instead of a wedding ring, they could buy a "sealing ring" for when they go through the temple. Now, they are really excited. Magda will stop drinking coffee (Juvinal already quit everything), and I believe that nothing can stop them from being baptized and sealed. They have a daughter, Laura, who is also excited to be baptized. Her baptism is marked for next Saturday (July 12). That same Saturday, we are planning to take Juvinal, Magda, and Laura to the São Paulo Temple and teach them in the waiting room and show them the garden, etc. All three of them have such strong testimonies of the Restored Gospel. They already have read the Book of Mormon, Gospel Principles, Teachings of the Presidents of the Church: Joseph Fielding Smith and are reading Doctrine and Covenants. They have truly been prepared to receive us. This time, they will be baptized and they will endure to the end! I´m so glad to be a missionary! I know that this work is true! I know that Christ lives and loves us! I´d never trade my mission for anything! Time to go. I love you all so much! P.S. I´m in 1 Samuel 15! I´ve got a lot of time thanks to the World Cup!

Tuesday, June 24, 2014

Every week is better than the last here in the mission!

Every week, I´m surprised to find that this week was better than the last. It doesn´t make much sense, but it´s true! Every week is better than the last here in the mission! I´m so happy to be here! I´m glad to hear that you all are enjoying your summer. Meanwhile, Brasil is still switching from a little hot to freezing cold, every other day. I´m really happy that Mom got her Mother´s Day card! I was afraid it would never arrive! And my companions and I thank you for the package you are sending! Elder J. Barker is awesome, by the way! He´s a great companion! Info about President and Sister Dalton: Brazil São Paulo Interlagos Mission Loren G. and Annette N. Dalton Loren Grant Dalton, 52, and Annette Nielsen Dalton, four children, Placentia 2nd Ward, Placentia California Stake, succeeding President R. Pacheco Pinho and Sister Beatriz P. Pinho. Brother Dalton is a former counselor in a mission presidency, bishop, counselor in a bishopric, high councilor, elders quorum president, ward Young Men president, and missionary in the Brazil São Paulo South Mission. Co-owner, Meds in Motion Pharmacy. Born in Harbor City, California, to Leonard Franklynn Dalton and Davida Payne. Sister Dalton serves as a counselor in a ward Young Women presidency and is a former ward Relief Society president, counselor in a ward Relief Society presidency, nursery leader, and Primary music leader. Born in Brigham City, Utah, to Farrell Spackman Nielsen and Coleen Andersen. The wedding of Vagner and Sueli was really great. I think that was the first real wedding I´ve seen, or at least that I remember. It was so great to see everybody in Jardim Mirna again! Sueli and Vagner were very emotional (more emotional) when they saw Elder Paiva and I. She started crying again and thanked us for saving her family. We remembered a little about that one rainy day when the Spirit led us to her door. It truly was a miracle. I´ll try to make it back to Mirna this Saturday to participate in the baptism of Vagner, but as we have to stay home Saturday (because of the World Cup (we´re playing Chile)), and we have a baptism of our own to plan, it´ll be a little difficult to get there. ​The joy I felt as Bishop Amaral proclaimed Vagner and Sueli married legally was so powerful because I know that they will keep going, that Vagner will be baptized and that Sueli´s daughter will serve a mission this coming year, and that this family will be sealed in the temple approximately one year from this weekend. I imagine that the feelings I felt are reserved for only the most sacred of experiences, when our will and our desires are most close to the will and desire of our Heavenly Father, that is, the salvation of man. We have a baptism this weekend! It´ll be really good! Her name is Cileide. Her daughter, Amanda, was baptized a few months ago, and her aunt and uncle are very active recent converts. It was this aunt and uncle, Josefa and Ronaldo, who referred Vanessa to the missionaries. Vanessa´s mother, Cisera, will be baptized next Saturday. Also, we are working on baptizing Terezinha, mother of a recent convert, 17-year-old Adilson (who will serve a mission when he finishes school). We are having a lot of miracles here! The rough patch is starting to come to an end. I was studying this month´s Liahona. It´s really good this month (June). Here´s some of my favorite parts: (From the First Presidency Message) The Lord has never, to my knowledge, indicated that His work is confined to mortality. Rather, His work embraces eternity. I believe He is hastening His work in the spirit world. I also believe that the Lord, through His servants there, is preparing many spirits to receive the gospel. Our job is to search out our dead and then go to the temple and perform the sacred ordinances that will bring to those beyond the veil the same opportunities we have. When we live as righteously as we know how to live, He will open the way for the fulfillment of the blessings that so earnestly and diligently we seek. Therefore, we must plunge into this work, and we must prepare for some uphill climbing. This is not an easy task, but the Lord has placed it upon you, and He has placed it upon me. As you pursue family history work, you are going to find yourself running into roadblocks, and you are going to say to yourself, “There is nothing else I can do.” When you come to that point, get down on your knees and ask the Lord to open the way, and He will open the way for you. I testify that this is true. Heavenly Father loves His children in the spirit world just as much as He loves you and me. Regarding the work of saving our dead, the Prophet Joseph Smith said, “And now as the great purposes of God are hasteningto their accomplishment, and the things spoken of in the Prophets are fulfilling, as the kingdom of God is established on the earth, and theancient order of things restored, the Lord has manifested to us this duty and privilege.” “Through our efforts in their behalf their chains of bondage will fall from them, and the darkness surrounding them will clear away, that light may shine upont hem and they shall hear in the spirit world of the work that has been done for them by their children here, and will rejoice with you in your performance of these duties.”4 But now they have been taught the gospel and are awaiting the daywhen you and I will do the research necessary to clear the way so that we can go into the house of the Lord and perform for them the work that they themselves cannot perform. My brothers and sisters, I testify that the Lord will bless us as we accept and respond to this challenge. (from the Relief Society Page) At the October 1856 general conference, President Brigham Young (1801–77) announced that handcart pioneers were still crossing the plains and that everyone was to help gather supplies for them immediately. Lucy Meserve Smith wrote that women “stripped off their petticoats [large underskirts], stockings, and every thing they could spare, right there in the Tabernacle, and piled [them] into the wagons.” As the rescued pioneers began to arrive in Salt Lake City, Lucy wrote, “I never took more … pleasure in any labor I ever performed in my life, such a unanimity of feeling prevailed. I only had to go into a store and make my wants known; if it was cloth, it was measured off without charge.”4 President George Albert Smith (1870–1951) said of ministering to others:“Our eternal happiness will be in proportion to the way that we devote ourselves to helping others.” (from page 8) We folded back the beautiful white tablecloth that covered the bread. As I held the bread, I knew I had the responsibility of breaking it as part of the ordinance, but I hesitated. The bread represents the body of Christ. I thought of the soldiers hurting the Lord, and I didn’t want to break the bread. When I broke the first piece, I thought of the painful and humiliating way Jesus was treated prior to His death—the crown of thorns, the whipping, the suffering. The tears continued to roll down my cheeks as I prepared the bread. Then the thought came to me that these painful and humiliating events were necessary. They were part of the atoning sacrifice of Jesus Christ,and He made the sacrifice because of His love for me and each one of us. I began to feel a great peace and joy. I broke every piece of bread carefully and slowly, knowing that what I held in my hands was about to be blessed and sanctified for a special purpose and represented something very precious, beautiful, and extraordinary. I felt the great responsibility of doing this ordinance so that those in the meeting could renew a covenant with the Lord and receive the blessings of the Atonement. There´s so much more that I loved from the Liahona, but I can´t put it all in the email. I´m reading it through all the way, and going back and prayerfully studying each section. It´s amazing what I´m learning through the Holy Ghost. Although the First Presidency Message spoke about Family History Work, I was able to apply it to Missionary Work. I did the same with another really good article about temple covenants (https://www.lds.org/liahona/2014/06/the-challenges-are-the-blessings?lang=eng). The Liahona truly is scripture for us in the last days. Page 16 says that "If you can´t glean some gospel-related truth from your entertainment´s message, it´s not valuable and not worth your time." Pages 18-23 contain an amazing article by Linda K. Burton about the Priesthood, that changed the way I view the power and authority of the priesthood. On pages 30 to 37, Jeffery R. Holland speaks of how we are called to be Christ-like. I highly recommend that, if you haven´t already, you read the Liahona (or I guess it would be Ensign in the United States), because it is the word of God. When used with the Standard Works, it is a vital source of light and truth. I´m so glad that I am learning to appreciate these modern-day scriptures so early in my life. I´m so glad to be here on a mission. I´m learning so much about the scriptures, the Atonement, Christ´s love for us, my relationship with God, and what I need to do to have salvation for me and for my family. I wouldn´t trade my mission for anything. Thank you for your letters and support! It´s so edifying to know that all is well on the homefront. Remember that this is war! Never let your guard down! I know that Christ lives and is our Savior and Redeemer. I know that this is His only true and living Church, and that we have the Holy Priesthood. I know that the Holy Ghost is real and that we have a Heavenly Father that loves us, who wants us to become like He is. I am a witness of these things, in the name of Jesus Christ. Amen. I love you all and until next P-Day! -- Élder Thomas Richins Ala Palmares Estaca Casa Grande Missão Brasil São Paulo Interlagos