A selfie for mom!

A selfie for mom!

Monday, May 26, 2014

I've got a story, but don't freak out, because everything's fine already!

Dear Family, I forgot about Memorial Day! So, I´ve got a story, but don´t freak out, because everything´s fine already. Last wednesday, the buses and subways and train systems all went on strike. IT WAS INSANE. Even the police went on strike! I don´t even know how that´s possible! All of the missionaries were told to stay indoors all day. So we stayed in our house ALL DAY LONG. When we learned about the strike, it was Tuesday night. I was on a "companion exchange" and was more than an hour and a half from our regular proselyting area (walking). The buses already were being shut down, and we received a report from another companionship in the area that Terminal Varginha (the bus terminal) was full of very annoyed, very angry Brazilians. We had just taken a bus to a part of the area that was in the middle of nowhere. It was dark, practically in the rainforest (or as much of the forest we get in São Paulo), and we had to walk along the side of the road. We returned home as quickly as possible. Luckily, the other two missionaries in our house bought food, so we would have something to eat Wednesday. During the strike, we watched 17 Miracles and studied and slept. I read Exodus and a big part of Leviticus. The striking continued on Thursday and Friday, but the police didn´t strike very much after the first day. Luckily, not all of the police went on strike, so there really wasn´t that much danger, just a few riots and some looting. But that´s normal around the time of the World Cup. Before I forget: I need to buy more multivitamins. I ran out last week, but waited until now to buy them, so that I could tell you. My meds haven´t arrived yet. I don´t think they are coming. My new camera is really good! I don´t know the price in dollars, but I don´t think it was too expensive. I also bought a razor (and shaving cream) because I needed it, and my companion will pay me back (I bought him one). The razors don´t count as emergency, so leave the account empty (after the multivitamins) until June. My new personal goal is to only use my personal card for emergencies (medicine, shoes, etc). I´m reading in Numbers, now. I´ve found lots of time to read the Bible, lately (not interferring with my regular studies). It´s really edifying, not just learning from the Bible itself, but from the Holy Ghost that eminates from its pages. I´m learning a lot! And of course, the Book of Mormon is being a blessing in my life. Preach My Gospel, too! We aren´t having success in baptisms, but we will keep working hard, with diligence, faith, humility, and obedience. There was a really cool experience I had with a girl named "Talita". She and her sister and mom are recent converts, so we´re visiting them every day as part of the program. Tainara (her older sister) is really strong in the church, especially the Young Woman´s program. But Talita is struggling. She´s only 8 years old, but is already being really disobedient. She´d been going to the neighbor´s house too much. This neighbor is a woman who smokes marijuana and listens to pornographic music, etc. But I talked with Talita. I imagined what Dad would say, and I tried to speak with love, but with sterness. I forbade her from going there without her mom or sister, and told her (and her sister) that they need to read the Book of Mormon together, every day, at least a chapter. I later gave Tainara instructions to help Talita understand. I also told them they needed to pray together each day. Just days later, Tainara, her mother, and we saw a difference in Talita. Her semblance had alreadly lightened. It´s amazing. Eight years old is the age of accountability, when we can both 1) be baptized and 2) sin. We need to care for all of God´s children, even the little ones. I have no more time left I love you so much! Elder Richins

I now know why agency is so important.

I now know why agency is so important. Without agency, we can do nothing. As I have more and more trials here in the mission field, I am always confronted with choices. Usually, this choice has something to do with choosing to give up or to keep going. This is the root of the battle between good and evil. When Jesus Christ was chosen to be our Savior and Redeemer, Lucifer had to make a choice: humble himself before God, or to rebel. We know the choice that he and one third of our spiritual brothers and sisters made. Because of their rebellion, we have an opposition in all things: a common enemy bent on our destruction. Because they cannot progress, themselves, the forces of the devil will try everything to keep us from doing so. They would have us give up and turn against God, rather than keep going and returning to Him. In our daily lives, we are faced with frustrations, conflicts and crises. We can choose to give up or we can keep going. We can hold grudges or forgive and seek forgiveness. We can throw in the towel or we can continue working. We can curse our Father in Heaven or we can praise Him. It´s our choice. We can give in to the natural man and halt our eternal progression, or we can become saints through the everlasting Atonement of Jesus Christ. I can choose to be happy, despite the opposition. When I am tired, discouraged, sad, wanting to go home (be it our apartment, or the U.S.), frustrated with others, with myself, or with my situation; when negative thoughts come into my mind, I can choose to be happy. I can be excited, encouraged, rejoicing, grateful, and glad. I thank my Father in Heaven for all that I have had, that I have now, and that I will one day have, if I stay faithful. I read the scriptures, especially the passages meant for me. I read my patriarchal blessing, or my call letter. I turn to my God for forgiveness, comfort, and help in my day-to-day. I have my friends, companions, and mission leaders. And I have my family, and my Savior, and my agency. We can choose for ourselves to turn to, or away from, our God. He loves us and is perfect, and knows so much more than we do. His thoughts are higher than ours, and His ways higher than our ways. If we trust in Him, remember His Son, and do our best, all will be in our favor. We just have to make the choice for ourselves, because no one, not even God, the Almighty, can do it for us. What a great power we have been given. I thank Heavenly Father for giving us agency, and I am so proud to know that we fought to retain this gift, before the Earth was made. I know that God exists. I know that He made a perfect plan for us, which involves opposition from the devil, and salvation from the Redeemer. According to His plan, we can all be saved, according to our choices in this life. I know that Christ suffered for me, and that He knows how to succor all of us. I know that through Him, because of Him, I can be saved from sin and death. I know that Christ´s Church is the Church that I represent, and that it is the only true and living church, with prophets and apostles and the priesthood. I know that I am making a difference here, and that today was better than yesterday, and that tomorrow will be even better yet. I love this gospel, and I love my life. I am making the right choice. This has been confirmed to me through the Holy Ghost, who is also very real. I share these things in the name of Jesus Christ, Amen. I love you all, and have a great week! Elder Richins --

Monday, May 5, 2014

The Covenants We Make

I´m here in my new area. Palmares Ward in the Casa Grande Stake! My companion is Elder Pinheiro from Fortaleza, Ceara, Brasil! (Same city as Elder Almeida). Elder Pinheiro is 21 years old, and his family joined the Church when he was 6. He´s currently got 1 year and 3 months in the mission. He´s awesome. You´ll meet him this Sunday. We share our house with Elder Greenwood (19 years old, from Winslow, AZ) and Elder Florentino (18 years old, from Pernambuco, Brasil (same state as Elder Paiva)). Our house is inside of a walled-in community called Residencial Palmares. It´s a lot quieter than the outside world and has nice gardens. And we´ve got some investigators and recent converts within the community, which is awesome. Our area is REALLY small. You can see it using the map on lds.org. As part of the new project in our mission, I´m also filling out the "My Family: Stories That Bring Us Together" pamphlete. I finished the part about me and my parents, but I´m stuck. Can you send me the full name and birthdate (and place) of ALL of my aunts and uncles, on both sides? Please? :) And also, it would be awesome if I could have some information about the lives of both pairs of grandparents. Just the basics (baptisms, missions, jobs, marriages, church service, callings, etc.) I´m super glad to hear that Dad is adjusting well. I´ve already decided that when my mission is over, I´m going to sleep for 24 hours straight. It´s so tiring at times! Yesterday in sacrament meeting, two women recieved the gift of the Holy Ghost and four men recieved the Melchezedek Priesthood. All of these are members who were recently baptized. So I´ve been thinking a lot about covenants. It´s so important that we make and keep these sacred covenants. They protect us from evil and from physical harm. They give us hope and increase our faith. They give us gifts of knowledge and spiritual gifts. The covenants and ordinances of the gospel make the difference between Disciples of the Lord Jesus Christ and ordinary people. We literally have a higher power at our backs. We can borrow the power of God, be it through the Holy Ghost or the Holy Priesthood, according to our righteousness, faith, and the will of the Lord. And if we keep these sacred covenants, we can also keep this power of God and enter His presence clothed in Celestial glory. The thing about sacred covenants, is that we must hold each one of them sacred, in reverence, and in remembrance. This includes the sacrament. I was astounded to see, yesterday, that the congregation was silent during the confirmations, but during the sacrament, they were conversing, walking in and out of the chapel, doing everything except remembering Christ. Now, of course, not everyone was doing this, but there was a substantial amount. Sacrament meeting is the most important meeting of the Church. Because during this sacred time, we are not only renewing the covenant we made at baptism, but also the covenants we made at confirmation, when we received the priesthood, and in the temple. The 15 to 20 minutes (if that) during which the sacrament is served, are the most precious, and sacred minutes of the week. We can be clean of our sins and mistakes. We can feel free of guilt and sadness. We can be reassured of our Father in Heaven´s love for us. We can remember the sealing covenant we made as families. We remember the Atonement of Jesus Christ, and how His love was so great, and His perspective so broad that He could make that "great and last sacrifice" (Alma 34:10) for us, that we might be spotless from the stains of the world, and enter, with Him, into a better world. Ether 12:4, which I studied today says: "Wherefore, whoso believeth in God might with surety hope for a better world, yea, even a place at the right hand of God, which hope cometh of faith, maketh an anchor to the souls of men, which would make them sure and steadfast, always abounding in good works, being led to glorify God." I have heard many people say that they are without hope, or that this world is without hope. But that is not true. Hope, true hope, comes from faith in Jesus Christ. As we make covenants with Him, we will grow in faith and hope. Christ "prepared a way that thereby others might be partakers of the heavenly gift, that they might hope for those things which they have not seen... Wherefore, ye may also have hope, and be partakers of the gift, if ye will but have faith... in the gift of his Son hath God prepared a more excellent way; and it is by faith that it hath been fulfilled." (Ether 12:8-9, 11) I know that we are covenant people, and that if we keep sacred all of our covenants, we will receive the heavenly Gift. The Gift of hope, and of salvation. I know that it is only by way of this Gift, who is Christ, that we can be saved. This is the great message that I am here to declare to the world, fulfilling prophecies made millenia ago. I am proud to be a disciple of Christ, and more pleased still to be a missionary of His Church. I know that the Church that I represent is the same which Christ established in the Meridian of Time, and that I have made covenants to remember and represent Him. I am so glad to be here. I know that Christ lives and that because of Him, we will live too. In the sacred name of Jesus Christ. Amen. I love you all! Have a great week! Elder Richins

Coming up on 7 months!

There is so much to tell you! > In Brazil, if you are whitish and "blond" (I´m blond by Brazilian definition), you are German. Everyone in the street calls me "Alemão" ("the German") or "Grandeon" ("the Giant"). I have also been called Italian, English, Chinese, Japanese, Korean, and Brazilian! Very rarely do people refer to me as "Americano". > Elder Paiva showed me something really cool: the 13 points of Preach My Gospel apply to all aspects of life, especially finding a job, making your way through college, and having success in general. > Both pairs of shoes that I have are worn out (to the point that I shouldn´t use them, so I´ll have to buy a new pair tomorrow after the transfer. I also need to buy a new shoulder bag (it won´t be very expensive. Definitely less than $20. I don´t know about the shoes.) > My circular scar that I got coming home from General Conference hasn´t gone away yet. I think it never will. But I´m okay with that. > Sister Küster, who has been in my district since New Year´s has been called to be "Sister Training Leader", which is the highest calling a sister missionary can have. > I´m being transfered! Tomorrow, I report to the mission office with all my bags to recieve my new companion, meet with old friends, check for mail, buy new shoes, and go to the bank! I´m super excited! Elder Paiva and I will keep in contact and we´ll continue being good friends after the mission! We already made plans to hang out and he and his future wife will attend my sealing to my future wife. > I ate chili. Good, hearty, American chili. An irma in our ward received chili mix from her daughter (who lives in the U.S.), and made me chili and cornbread and chocolate cake! It tasted like home. Elder Paiva liked it, too, so get ready to made a ton for him when he comes to stay in our house! It´s starting to get cold in São Paulo. I mean it this time. It´s not pleasant. I gave a talk in church yesterday about building Zion in our hearts and in our homes. I also talked about the role of the Doctrine and Covenants, which is a manual for building Zion. Elder Neil L. Anderson will visit our mission and make a tour on the 21st of May. We get to go to the temple and do a session on the 20th of the same month. We have a new program in our mission, called simply "pilot project". It´s straight from the Area Presidency of Brazil. Our mission was chosen to be the guinea pig for this project. If it works here, it will be implemented in all of Brazil. President Pinho said that while he was in Salt Lake, many of the Apostles and Seventy congratulated him and our mission for the outstanding work. Right now, the entire Church government is watching our mission. We could be changing church history with this program. We will use 50% of our proselyting time for reactivation and retention, teaching recent converts and less active members how to do family history. We will teach them to use FamilySearch.org and the "My Family: Stories That Unite Us" booklet. We will help them to feel the Spirit of Elijah, which will encourage them to return to (or stay in) the church to receive their temple recommend and participate in the Work of Salvation. The purpose of this program is to increase new member baptisms and reactivated members by animating the members, fortifying wards, training members how to be missionaries, etc. I´m really excited for this program and I know it will work. I have never seen the Spirit of Elijah work within someone like I am seeing with my companion. He was the first in his family to join the church, and no one in his family has started family history. But yesterday, during the nationwide family history broadcast, my rock of a companion teared up as he heard the stories of people finding their ancestors. He has a burning desire to start now. In fact, I´ve already seen him working on his own "My Family: Stories That Unite Us" booklet. Just imagine, starting family history from scratch. I´m super excited for him! This morning, in between packing my suitcases, I studied 1 Kings 13, which contains a very interesting story about two prophets, an angel, a wicked king, and a lion. I suggest you to read it and pay special attention to the JST in verse 18. I also studied about Elijah the prophet (1 Kings 17-18) and the importance of obedience. Whether you are a prophet of God, or a poor widow, or a faithful servant of a wicked king, obedience to the Word of the Lord is the key to blessings. Obedience is the first law decreed in Heaven, and is a celestial law, that will never be changed. Being a missionary is so great! I´m so glad to be here! This work really is the work of salvation. What a wonderful gift it is to be a part of this work. I know that Christ lives and that He will save us if we accept Him. I know that God exists and that He loves us and only wants the best for us because He is our Father. I know that we can learn the truth of all things through the Holy Ghost. The Church of Jesus Christ is true. It was true in Jerusalem with the Apostles, it was true in the America with the coming of the Savior there, it was true in 1830 when the Church was restored to the Earth through the Prophet Joseph Smith, and it is true today, led by inspired men who hold priesthood keys and speak with God face to face. I boldly declare these things to be true in the name of our King and Savior, Jesus Christ. Amen. I love you all and have a wonderful week! Elder Thomas Richins Click to reply all Send                 Nice and tidy. All