A selfie for mom!

A selfie for mom!

Monday, February 24, 2014

Lots of miracles this week!

Nossa! Lots of miracles this week! But I´ll start with the news.

The weather in São Paulo has returned to normal, being in the 80s, 90s, and above, with intense sun and occasional storms. Carnival is NEXT WEEK, meaning that all of the craziness that is Brazil will reach its climax for the year, until September, when they have their Independence Day, and can prepare for NATAL (CHRISTMAS!).

I got the acne medicine you sent (TWO MONTHS AGO), so go ahead and send the citricil and multivitamins. They´ll arrive when I need them! And Elder Paive and I really enjoyed the chocolate! Can you send vanilla slimfast? Here, they have a farmer´s market (it´s HUGE) one street over every Thursday. Four HUGE mangos for R$5 (or a little less than US$3). Fruit and egg slimfasts every morning sounds like a dream!

I´m still getting skinnier! I´m going to need to buy new clothes soon!
My shoes are dying slowly and painfully. I´ll keep you posted on the prognosis.

Elder Paiva and I are doing awesome! Every night, when we arrive in our house, we are dead tired from working so hard, walking so much! And our numbers are the highest they´ve ever been, except for those that rely solely on the agency of others (when our investigators decide they don´t want to come to church at all).

I made concrete last saturday! I feel like a true Brazilian! We hand-mixed huge piles of sand, stone, and cement, then carried it, in buckets, and spread it, making an awesome patio for a beloved recent convert family (whose son will leave for the São Paulo MTC in March). After the hard work, we ate hard (like Brazilians), and didn´t nap (like Missionaries).

Last week, we had a pizza party with our new Ward Mission Leader and his wife (both return missionaries), which was really awesome. Together with the sister missionaries and the ward missionaries and bishop, we are beginning to visit EVERY SINGLE ACTIVE OR INACTIVE MEMBER ON RECORD to ask for references, reactivate, and baptize everyone!

Feliz Aniversario, Rachel! 21 years old!

I start teaching English classes next Saturday! 

We might get a THIRD companionship in our ward! Whoa!

I finished Helaman 11 today in personal study in the Book of Mormon... in PORTUGESE! I´m understanding more than 90%, which is about average for reading scriptures in English!

I found the thing that I hate the most (really it´s two things):
1. Pride (as in not forgiving others)
2. Breaking the Law of Chastity
So many of our members and pesquisadores have huge problems and issues because they don´t legally marry or stay faithful to their spouse, etc.! And that always leads to contention and more sin, which leads to grudes and pride and hard-hearted-ness and stiffneckedness! The Book of Mormon is a testament of how not living the law of Chastity and being prideful will tear a person, family, community, or nation, into pieces. Not keeping the commandments and not being Christ-like will only end in misery and destruction for everyone involved, even little children, whose parents, aunts, uncles, or grandparents, or siblings, are meddling in sin. That´s a lesson we have to teach a lot, here, and that will continue to be more and more important as the world continues to grow wicked.

A miracle: 18-year-old Vinicius, boyfriend of Jaiara, who was baptized not long ago (and whose family is being reactivated), told us yesterday in the street the following:
"I´m going to youth conference this weekend... And I´m going to get baptized before that."
It was hilarious, our jaws dropped and our eyes were super wide. Just the day before, he was acting super moly (like it wasn´t going anywhere), and i´ve been trying to teach him for at least a month. Here´s what happened to him:
He can´t sleep without brushing his teeth, first. One night, he couldn´t find his toothbrush and felt like he needed to pray. He resisted for a while, but then gave in and said a prayer. He found his toothbrush immediately. That night, he DREAMED OF GETTING BAPTIZED and he woke up and realized, "I NEED TO BE BAPTIZED!!!".
He will be baptized this coming week, and we´ll start teaching his family after that. 

A little more about my companion, Elder Paiva. I´ve learned a lot from him, and from his example. He´s awesome. He was baptized at the age of 17 (he´s 21 now) and was always active in church, but, according to him, he was very unexcited about church, just participating, not actually being a part. This continued until he was 19, when he realized that he needed to serve a full-time mission. By this time, no one believed he could serve a mission, and no one, except for his bishop, helped or supported him. At the time, he was the only Mormon (and the youngest) in his family, and they weren´t too accepting of the missionaries. 
So, Elder Pàiva began to work really hard toward a mission, doing every class and course to prepare him to receive the Melchezedek Priesthood, to go to the Temple, and to go on a mission, aquiring the essential financial aid from the church, giving up a successful and promising career as a soccer player (already semi-professional on a well-known team), and putting off his dreams of moving to the United States and finding a job working with computers, and even putting off impending marriage, to do what it takes to heed the call of the prophets. 
He gave up everything to give two years of his life to the Lord.
Finally, he entered the São Paulo MTC and, after just 12 days, found himself in the favilas of inner-city São Paulo. And now, with just 7 months left in the mission, he´s my companion and district leader, teaching me all the things I need to do to be successful in the Lord´s work.

The greatest thing he´s taught me is about agency. I have the freedom to choose to be happy, to be excited and to work hard. He helped me overcome the last of the mental barriers and blocks that prevented me from putting my heart, might, mind, and strength into this glorious work. I´ve never been so happy. It´s all a choice. Elder Paiva is always happy because he chooses to be. His family hasn´t written him in more than two months, yet he chooses to be happy because 1) he´s doing what God wants him to do and 2) he knows his family will be blessed. From what he´s heard from his friends, two of his brothers have been baptized, and his parents are accepting the missionaries.

Brothers and sisters, family and friends, this work is true.
This Gospel is true.
God is our Heavenly Father and He loves us.
Jesus is the Christ, the Living Son of the Living God.
The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is the same church established by Christ, Himself, and is the only true church, the only one with the Priesthood.
The Book of Mormon is true.
Thomas S. Monson is a prophet of God.

In the name of Jesus Christ,

Elder Richins

Monday, February 17, 2014

News from Brazil

It´s getting colder! It´s been below 80 for 4 days, which feels really cold! And with the intense rain for FOUR DAYS, it feels like it´s in the 60s. So this is spring in Brazil. This summer will be really cold!
Before I keep going, I want you all to know that English is really hard. 
The baptism of Jaiara went really well. Her parents (extremely inactive) not only went to her baptism (and cried) but also to church the next day to see her recieve the gift of the Holy Ghost. Now we just need to baptize her boyfriend (he´s marked for 8 of Março) and completely reactivate her family, help her mom quit smoking and coffee, and get them all to the temple to be sealed together with her four brothers, who are all dead. It´ll be awesome!
My new companion is awesome! I´ve realized that: 1) I´ve never actually had a terrible companion, 2) I´ll never, ever have a terrible companion, and 3) Presidente Pinho will only send the best missionaries to be my companions and mission leaders. Knowing this, I won´t have any problem!
His name is Elder Paiva, from Recife, Brazil. He´s 21 and will turn 22 in August. He´s already got 1 year and 5 months in the mission, so he´ll hit "Dump Day" (6 months left before he goes home) during our time together. He´s really awesome! He´s a Corinthiano, whereas Elder Almeida was São Paulino, but I´m a bandwagoner, so all is well (Brazilian futebol teams). I´m helping him learn English, but he already knows quite a bit because he´s the biggest fan of Jeffery R. Holland I´ve ever seen. He has talks MEMORIZED. In ENGLISH. It´s insane! He is a convert, and was baptized four years ago. It´s really cool to see the photo of his baptism! He still has his first Book of Mormon, given to him by the missionaries. It´s the most powerful and sacred copy I´ve ever seen. I´ll send pictures. Elder Paiva also knows how to cook, so we´ll not go hungry, although we never do much cooking, living in the LAND BOUNTIFUL! Best stake and ward in the mission!
We got your valentine´s day package two days early (the day of the transfer). It was really awkward because in Brazil, valentine´s day is called "Dia dos Namorados" or "Day of the Boyfriend/Girlfriend". So... yeah. Don´t say "happy valentine´s day" to your companion. Or the sister missionaries...
I´m SUPER happy to see slimfast! Can I have that in every package? It´s ACTUALLY working!
Everyday is better and better, here. This transfer will be a transfer of miracles!
Here is our zone, as of the last transfer:
(ZL) Elder Crosland, from Utah, EUA
(ZL) Elder Fernandes, from Brazilia, Brazil
(DL) Elder Paiva, from Recife, Brazil
Elder Richins, from Missouri, EUA
Sister Küster, from Londrinas, Brazil (and London, England)
Sister Wolfgramm, from Georgia, EUA
(DL) Elder Reiman, from Washington, EUA
Elder Melo, from Santa Catarina, EUA
Elder S. Silva, from Fortaleza, Brazil
Elder Jensen, from Nevada, EUA
(DL) Elder Olivera, from Rio Grande do Sul, Brazil
Elder Chapman, from Illinois, EUA (almost Missouri, and he´s a Sooner fan!)
Elder Ross, from (I can´t remember), EUA
Elder Severiche, from Santa Cruz, Bolivia

In our District Meeting, something really special happened and I want to share it with you. Elders Crosland and Fernandes, our Zone Leaders, prepared treats for us. On a table were two different types of cake and they made little cups of Skittles with Ferrero-Roche truffles. So the entire zone was super suspicious, wanting the treats, but not sure what they had to do to get them. 
And then, they asked Elder Jensen to come to the front of the room. I suppose they had chosen him, and he had agreed, before the meeting began. 
Elder Crosland turned to him and asked: "Elder Jensen, would you do 10 push-ups so that Elder Paiva could have some candy? He really wants it."
We were all really confused now, questioning why it had to be Elder Jensen, and not Elder Paiva. But Elder Jensen replied:
"I will"
And he did 10 push-ups.
Elder Crosland gave Elder Paiva his treat, then turned again to Elder Jensen: "Elder Jensen, would you do 15 push-ups so that Elder Richins could have a treat, too?"
Elder Jensen replied:
"I will"
And he did 15 push-ups.
I got my treat, but did not eat it, too occupied with watching the demonstration.
"Elder Jensen, would you do 20 push-ups to give Elder Reimann a treat?"
"I will."
And it continued like this for more than half an hour, until almost everybody had their treat. Elder Jensen was obviously in pain, but he continued to shoulder the ever-growing burden of paying our debt. Sweat dripped from his face, and occasionally, one of us would ask: 
"Can he have some water?" 
"Can we give him a towel?" 
"Can we encourage him?" 
"Can he just have a rest?" 
Elder Crosland replied to each of our pleas with the same response:
"He needs to do it alone."
Finally, everyone had a treat, except for one. Elder Crosland, on his knees, with a comforting hand on Elder Jensen asked one more time: 
"Would you do 15 push-ups... for me?"
And Elder Jensen replied:
"I will."
And it was finished.
The whole zone was in tears as we talked about how we were feeling. many of us said that "it wasn´t worth the candy to see him go through that", or "I wanted to take His place, but I couldn´t. Only He could shoulder our burden."
The meaning of the exercise was clear. 
It is only through the Atonement of Jesus Christ, that we can be happy. He was rejected, spat on, cast out, bound, scourged, betrayed, forgotten, and denied. He bled from every pore. He was humiliated and persecuted, nailed to a cross, left alone by all. 
And why?
Because He loves us.
I stand all amazed at the love Jesus offers me,
confused at the love that so fully He proffers me,
I tremble to know that for me He was crucifed,
that for me, a sinner, He suffered, He bled and died
O, it is wonderful that he would care for me,
enough to die for me.

I know that Jesus Christ, a God, Himself, descended to Earth to live a perfect, spotless life, so that He could be the "last great sacrifice" to pay for all of our sins, mistakes, pains, and sorrows. His suffering could only be complete after the Father withdrew His presence, leaving Jesus feeling completely, and utterly, alone. And after this, He had to experience death, of the physical kind, in the most despicable and painful way possible, so that He could know how the rest of us would feel. And then, it was finished.
But He did not rest. Jesus Christ next went to the Spirit World, working there, too, until it was time for Him to do the seemingly impossible: overcome physical death. 
Christ lives. And because of Him, we can live too. We need not suffer pains, afflictions, sin, or even death, because Someone a lot greater already did. 

This is the great message of the Gospel of Jesus Christ.
That through 
Recieving the Gift of the Holy Ghost,
and Enduring to the End,
we can receive our reward, which is to benefit from the Atonement of Jesus Christ, and receive freedom from sin and death.
This is only possible through strict obedience and fierce loyalty to the Gospel of Jesus Christ, firm and unwavering. We must constantly try to be like Christ, for that is the only way that we can be eternal families, that is, never to be separated, even after death, and be exalted and to, one day, live with our Father in Heaven, being perfect, exalted, Godly beings.
In the sacred name of our Savior and Redeemer, Jesus Christ.

Elder Thomas Richins
Ala Jardim Mirna 
Estaca Grajaú
Missão Brasil São Paulo Interlagos

Tuesday, February 4, 2014

Three weeks straight of baptisms!

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Three weeks straight of baptisms! We had our fourth baptism last saturday. They go as follows:
Paulo and Tassia - young couple in their 30s with three kids (Paulo can baptize the two daughters, who are over the age of 8), who were referencies of the Stake President. They are super adamant about missionary work and might be called to serve as ward missionaries. Baptized 18 jan.
Juan - 8 years old, whose older brother, Luka, 18, was baptized last year. technically not our investigator, but we taught him and his family until the Sisters came and he became their investigator. Baptized 18 Jan. 
Vinicius - 12 years old. His family is a part member family, where there was only one active member in the house, Thales (15). We reactivated him and his mom, only to find out that he had to be rebaptized (his records were lost). We are now working to reactivate two more family members, and baptize his dad (they have to marry legally, first). Baptized 25 Jan.
Hilda - 69 years old. She can´t walk on her own. Her son, daughter-in-law, and grandson were baptized within the last couple years. She was very stubborn, but knowing that she could have a perfect body again and live in a fullness of joy with her family convinced her to enter the waters of baptism. Her grandson, Lucas, who will leave to serve a full-time mission in Curitiba, Brazil this month, baptized her. Baptized 1 Fev. 

We need to know for ourselves that we can do anything.

Nossa, this week has been pretty hard, we´ve had great days where a lot of good was done ,and days that are physically, mentally, emotionally, and spiritually exhausting, where it seems we have had no impact.  It´s very frustrating. Satan works hardest on the missionaries, i can tell you that. but the amount of blessings and tender mercies we recieve is outstanding. and i doubt that we see half the things our Father in heaven does for us. every time we are mocked or laughed at, i remember that there was One greater than I, who already walked the path I walk, who suffered more than I can even imagine. the atonement of Jesus Christ is powerful. no matter what, i have that. never can i be tempted beyond my power to resist. never will i have to walk more than i have strength. never can i be persecuted or rejected or spit upon more than He, my Redeemer. no matter what, the things i go through in this small season of eternal progression will be very small, very insignificant, if i can only continue on, persevering until the end, bringing as many people unto Christ as possible. So when others laugh at me, or speak evil of my country or my God; when it seems there is nothing more i can do, or when nobody seems to care, I can remember these words from doctrine adn covenants 84: "And whoso areceiveth you, there I will be also, for I will gobbefore your face. I will be on your right hand and on your left, and my cSpirit shall be in your hearts, and mine dangels round about you, to bear you up." and also the words of the hymn "does the journey seem long?":(http://www.lds.org/general-conference/music/2012/10?lang=eng&session=4&song=5&media=video#watch=video)

1. Does the journey seem long,
The path rugged and steep?
Are there briars and thorns on the way?
Do sharp stones cut your feet
As you struggle to rise
To the heights thru the heat of the day?
2. Is your heart faint and sad,
Your soul weary within,
As you toil 'neath your burden of care?
Does the load heavy seem
You are forced now to lift?
Is there no one your burden to share?
3. Let your heart be not faint
Now the journey's begun;
There is One who still beckons to you.
So look upward in joy
And take hold of his hand;
He will lead you to heights that are new—
4. A land holy and pure,
Where all trouble doth end,
And your life shall be free from all sin,
Where no tears shall be shed,
For no sorrows remain.
Take his hand and with him enter in.
i know this email may seem like a lot of scripture, hymns, and testimony, but that´s because that is what we need right now. encouragement and comfort from the word of God. i know that the atonement allows us to do anything. and i know that right now, with the hastening of the work (http://www.lds.org/church/news/hastening-the-work-of-salvation-is-more-than-a-catchphrase?lang=eng&cid=HPFR012414385&im=true), we need to know for ourselves that we can do anything.

i exhort you, my family and friends, to take heed to the word of God, through His prophets. and also, i exhort you to take seriously my words. as a missionary, and a representative of Christ, i can issue challenges and promise blessings. this is part of my calling. and now, i invite you, friends and family, and all who will read this to do the following:
read the first few pages of the chapter '"how do i find people to teach?" in preach my gospel (from page 155 until the end of the "talk with everyone" section) for family home evening, then set a goal to individually invite 5 people to church. if you do this, you will receive so many blessings, as many as i recieve as a full time missionary. i will also be blessed by your effforts. i love you, and keep the faith!

Elder Richins