A selfie for mom!

A selfie for mom!

Monday, April 21, 2014

I know with a certainty that God exists and that He loves us.

Bom dia! I hope you all had a great Holy Week! We forgot that Easter was approaching until Palm Sunday (Domingo dos Ramos) when we saw groups of church-goers (non-LDS) carrying bundles of palm branches. This week has been a week that was as difficult as it was edifying, as usual. More baptisms fell through. We´ve faced physical exaustion, a little contention within the companionship (resolved immediately, of course), and illness (of missionaries and investigators). We have been rejected, forgotten, mocked, scorned, and ignored. To tell you the truth, this is all so normal. We are already used to it. But why do bad things happen to good people, especially as they try to live and share the gospel? To quote Elder Holland, it is "because salvation is not a cheap experience. Salvation was never easy." It wasn´t easy for the almighty Son of God,a God Himself, and it certainly won´t be easy for us, being mortal, imperfect beings. Difficult things happen so that we can learn to turn to Jesus Christ, so that we can learn more about the Atonement and apply it in our lives. This world is extremely wicked. It was on the Passover, a Thursday, when Christ left the Upper Room for the Garden of Gethsemane. There, He suffered for the sins, pains, sicknesses, heart-breaks, temptations, misdeeds and unjustices of every soul who had ever or will ever step foot on this earth. Almost two thousand years after this history-changing event, you would think we would find reverent commemoration. But I am telling you that last Thursday night, and early Friday morning, during the exact hours during which Christ suffered in the Garden of Gethsemane, there was a party in the street. A party with extremely loud, filthy, pornographic music, inappropriate dancing, drug use, and a lot of alcohol. This is the world in which we live. This Holy Week, I learned how important it is for us to remember that we are not of this world. We are spirit sons and daughters of the Most High God. We are a covenant people, and we belong to the world to come. As we focus all of our thoughts and actions on obtaining exaltation, our eyes will be opened and we will see that "there are more with us than be with them" (2 Kings 6:16). Despite the number of the enemy, we will always be backed up by a great number of angels, seen and unseen, to protect and confirm. This Easter, or Pascoa, as it is called here, was so great! We had 4 people in the chapel! And we got 4 presents each! Three "ovos de pascoa" (easter eggs, which are giant chocolate eggs) and one king-sized candy bar. We had lunch with the Madruga family, who has one son in the mission field, and two more preparing to serve. It was really fun! The Madruga family is one of my favorites! Instead of a message, we watched the video released by the Church in honor of Easter "Graças a Ele" ("Because of Him"), and we shared what the Resurrection of Christ means to each of us. The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints is the one, singular, true church on the face of the Earth. It is the only church that was established by the hands of Jesus Christ. It is the only church with the Holy Priesthood. It is lead by the one living Prophet of God, and Twelve Apostles of the Lord Jesus Christ. This church, with its apostles, seventies, high priests, elders, bishops, priests, teachers, and deacons, has the same organization that existed in the Old and New Testaments. This is the only church that has the authority to baptize, to administer the sacrament, and to confer the gift of the Holy Ghost. We are the only church that does temple work. It is only through this Church and this Holy Priesthood that we can be saved and sealed as families for eternity. Any other church or religion or belief system cannot and will not get anyone to the kingdom of God. It is only through the Gospel of Jesus Christ that we can be saved. Those who leave this church, for any reason, are rejecting the Gospel of Christ, and, thus, refusing to enter the kingdom of God. As members of the one true Church of Jesus Christ, we must do everything in our power to preach the gospel, in word, in deed, in example. We must live our lives as saints, disciples of the Lord. We must obey the commandments of the Most High God. We must construct our homes and our families on the principles of the Gospel. We must study the scriptures and exercise our talents, to prepare for the day when Christ will return to the Earth. We must make and keep sacred covenants, and help others to do the same. If we do and keep these things, we will be found ready at the great and last day, and when we meet our Heavenly Father once more, and speak with Him face to face, He will say "well done, my good and faithful servant." It is then that we might take our rest in the bosom of Abraham, or the Celestial Kingdom. I know with certainty that God exists and that He loves us. I know that His Only Begotten Son, who is Jehovah, the God of Israel, came to Earth in the flesh and lived and died for us. I know that because of Him, we can live forever in the presence of our Heavenly Family. I know that there is a life after death, and that our time on this Earth is just the beginning of an eternity, and that the things we do in this life will determine how we will live in the next. I know that the Holy Ghost is real and that He loves us and that He is God´s messenger. Because of the faith of my parents, I was baptized and recieved the gift of the Holy Ghost when I was young. I am forever grateful to have been guided by the Holy Spirit as I prepared for adulthood. I am so grateful to be here, serving a mission. I am grateful to serve such a humble, hard-working people. This is a blessed land. Every week here is a holy week, a "semana santa". I look forward to even great times ahead. Today is better than yesterday, and tomorrow will be better yet. I leave you my testimony in the name of Jesus Christ. Amen Elder Thomas Richins Ala Jardim Mirna Estaca Grajaú Missão Brasil São Paulo Interlagos

It's getting chilly in Sao Paulo!

First of all: I never realized it was so hard to speak English! It´s so unnatural now! I don´t like it! I have to think too much! I have been on a mission for more than six months! That´s so crazy! My mission is more that a quarter of the way over! I don´t want it to end! Every day here is better and better! Elder Paiva is awesome like always! He´s got more than 1 year and 7 months! Yikes! I got the package with the slimfast and the meds and the chocolate. Everyone (especially my companion) loved the chocolate. We ate it during the Sunday sessions of General Conference, among other snacks. I can´t wait for next October! Conferência Geral! Sad news! I´m pretty sure that Boyd K. Packer (officially my favorite apostle) gave his last General Conference talk! I haven´t got the multivitamins, yet, but I bought some Centrum at the pharmacy (the price was outrageous). I got a priesthood blessing from my companion and the bishop, so everything will work out! Last Saturday, the primary had an Easter activity that involved a lot of chocolate. We were in the church preparing for a training we were to give to the ward, while the activity was ending, so Elder Paiva and I got a TON of chocolate. The training went really well except that only one and a half families showed up, out of the 12 that were invited. But what can you do? So we went ahead and held the meeting. We provided the refreshments (Elder Paiva and I made the Brazilian equivalent of sloppy joes, and Sisters Küster and Monges made cake). On Sunday, after church, Elder Paiva and I and Thales (a 15-year-old young man who does visits with us almost every day) and 4 other men from the ward took to the streets, passing out specially made pass-along cards. We just handed them out to men of priesthood age, in hopes of aumenting the number of priesthood holders. Everyone loved it, and we´ll do it again next Sunday, with more people and possibly a potluck. Maybe the Sisters will do the same thing with the women of the ward. I know almost everyone in this ward! I must confess that i´ve been referring to Jardim Mirna as "my ward". Sorry Joplin Second! I guess that´s Stockholm Syndrome! Maybe I´ll return to the U.S., or maybe I´ll live here forever! Who knows? But it´s so great to have a ward family on both American continents! Just goes to show that we are one human family, not a collection of nations. Success is coming slowly but surely. That is, however, success measured by baptisms. We are doing our part, I´m sure of that. As we keep showing our faith, and our diligence, we will be rewarded with baptisms. Regarding success that can´t be measured, the windows of heaven are constantly open! I am being so blessed! Blessed with an awesome companion, who is one of my best friends! Blessed to work with such great missionaries! Blessed to have an AREA SEVENTY as a mission president! Blessed to have a family that supports me (not every missionary has that)! Blessed to have TWO ward families! Blessed to be a part of the gathering of Israel from all nations, fulfilling countless prophecies made in every dispensation of time, from prophets on at least two different continents! There is so much to be grateful for! And like President Uchtdorf said, we don´t have to count our blessings to be grateful! I´ve been studying a lot of the ministry of Ammon, the great Book of Mormon prophet, and how he exemplified his mission to the Lamanites, and how he was a type, or pattern, of Christ. I wish I could share with you all that I´ve learned, just from these few chapters, but I don´t have space, nor time! But I´m writing it all down in my small plates! I hope you all are studying Preach My Gospel, like Elder Ballard spoke! Chapters 3, 9, and 10 are of particular use. Study them first! Also, from this point on, I would love to hear from each of my family members (1) what you studied this week from the scriptures (Standard works, PMG, or words of living prophets) and (2) what it means to you! It would be even better to hear from the ward members, too! We are going to spend Easter lunch (remember that lunch is the major meal of the day) with the Madruga family! They have one son on a mission (he left last month to serve in Brasilia), and two more preparing to leave soon. Irmão Madruga is the first counselor in the bishopric, and Irma Madruga is the Relief Society president. They are really funny! Irmão Madruga is a lot like Dad! Well, I better wrap it up. The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is the true church, the Kingdom of God established on the Earth. The world is starting to take notice. With every temple built, every missionary called, every convert baptism, every family raised in the church, we grow stronger. The world is moving into the final stages of history, when the Second Coming of the Lord Jesus Christ, even Jehovah, is near. Opposition and persecution will rage, and the Earth herself will show signs of this great event drawing closer. Fear not and trust in the God of Israel! Remember that it is upon the rock of our Redeemer, Jesus Christ, that we are building our foundations. As we remain true disciples of Him, we will never fall. Of this, I am certain, and of this I testify in the name of Lord, Jesus Christ. Amen. I love you all and have a great week! Atê proxima semana! Elder Thomas Richins Ala Jardim Mirna Estaca Grajaú Missão Brasil São Paulo Interlagos

Monday, April 7, 2014

Healed by the word of God

The week was already going really well, prior to General Conference. Yes, there had been more trials and difficulties than last week, including more baptisms falling through, but I was feeling more edified, still. Then, saturday brought the event every missionary has been waiting for, for the past six months. We had an early lunch, met with our one faithful investigor of the day, ironically named "Messias" (Portuguese for "Messiah") and took two buses (only about 30 minutes) to the stake center in Grajaú. I said good bye to my companion as he ascended to the chapel to watch conference in Portuguese, and I stayed in the relief society room with the other ten or so Americans. The Conference was wonderful! The Saturday morning session was from 1 pm to 3, and the Saturday afternoon session was 5 pm to 7. In between sessions, Elder Paiva bought us ice cream, and (as a zone) we practiced saving baptisms. It was a great day! We ended up having two investigators watch the conference, the other, Bianca, having arrived earlier for the General Women´s Session (10 am). Unfamiliar with the area, and unsure of where to go because it was dark, we decided to walk to Bola Branca, a large bus stop nearby. En route, it hit me You know how some shops have canopies that hang over the entrance? And the part that hangs down and shows the name of the shop? Well, it has a hard, iron pole that weighs it down. Because I´m so unusually tall compared to the general populace of São Paulo, this particular banner was installed so that the iron pole reached the level of my eyebrows. Because I was walking fast (we had a schedule to keep), and there was no lighting, I ran right into the end of this iron bar. At first, I didn´t know what happened, so I stumbled behind my companion. A few seconds later, he turned around to say something, but apparently forgot it when he saw his companion bleeding from the forehead. He helped me into a bar, where I washed my face and hands. We pressed on and caught a bus back to our area. The pain in my head was excruciating. i was dizzy, off-balance (which makes standing on a roller-coaster ride of a bus even more complicated), and really confused. We reached the house of a member, where I again washed more blood off my face and hands. I used tissues to stem the bleeding, which had lessened considerably. I remembered that this sister was wanting a priesthood blessing. So with one hand on my head, trying to stop the bleeding completely, I asked this sister if she would like her blessing now. I did the anointing and Elder Paiva gave the blessing. Refusing to go to the hospital (it really wasn´t as bad as it sounds), we tried to confirm with some investigators in the street, before returning to our house (that sister gave us a ride) and ordering pizza. Elder Paiva gave me a priesthood blessing at home. The next day was work as usual, though the pain had not subsided much. Plus I didn´t sleep well. We skipped the rebroadcast of the Priesthood Session (because it was at the Stake Center, 6 am). Even as we prepared to watch the next two sessions, I was so uncomfortable that the thought of trying to pay attention to two more sessions was unappealing. But the moment the conference began, the pain disappeared. The conference was amazing, the best I have ever seen. And as we left the church, until now, I still have no pain from the already healing wound. I believe that I was healed by the mercy and by faith in Jesus Christ, the Word of God. This church is true. in the name of Jesus Christ, Amen. i love you all elder Richins -- Elder Thomas Richins Ala Jardim Mirna Estaca Grajaú Missão Brasil São Paulo Interlagos