A selfie for mom!

A selfie for mom!

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

I would not give up my mission for anything!

Boa tarde, todo mundo! First things first: do not watch the news about São Paulo. None of you need to be seeing what´s going on here, because it´s CRAZY! But it´s not super dangerous. Just don´t watch the news... I´m super excited for Brasil to destroy Mexico in the World Cup. It´s not fair that the U.S. has to lose so quickly. It´s in the "group of death" with Portugal and Germany, two of the best teams in the world... By the way, I love soccer... I got the package! PEANUT BUTTER! It´s heaven! I´ve still got some, just a little to pay for a haircut (a missionary from Fortaleza), repay a member for taking our baggage to the mission office, and a little more for me and my companion. It was a great package! Thank you SO MUCH! I loved it! I´m working on a package to send home! I just need to save up enough money and JA ERA! I´m taking lots of pictures and tomorrow (P-Day was moved because we have to stay in our apartment on the days Brasil plays) I will put them all on the pen drive you sent. I hope they all fit! At least, I´ll put as many as I can, starting with the MTC. I´m also keeping up diligently in my journal (never missed a day) so I´ll have lots of stories to share! Also, you may want to look around on YouTube for a video about my mission. It´s really good! So, we had transfers! I´m staying in Palmares (Casa Grande), but Elder Pinheiro went to Guarapiranga, and Elder Greenwood went to Ranieri. Elder Florentino´s new companion is Elder Parraguez, from Santiago, Chile! He´s really cool and has a sweet accent! And my new companion is... ELDER J. BARKER! He arrived with me in Brasil! He served for 8 months in Michigan before receiving his visa. We met in the airport in São Paulo and we conversed in the van going to the mission office! He´s from Springville, Utah (my first American companion in 7 months!) He´s 20 and awesome and sings really well and is District Leader (6 out of 8 months of my mission so far have been spent as companion to the District Leader). This Saturday, we are going to make a visit to Jardim Mirna, my last area, to go to the wedding of an awesome couple. Elder Paiva and his companion will be there, too. Sueli was a less active member, who hadn´t gone in years, and Vagner is non member. But after we started visiting them, Sueli returned to church and Vagner started working toward baptism. Finally, they will be married legally and Vagner can be baptizd! I´ll go to their sealing next year! Their daughter is preparing to serve a mission next year! It´s going to be so great to return and see the fruits of our labor in Jardim Mirna! I´m really excited for this week. We had to stop teaching all of our investigators because they didn´t have enough desire to continue and already weren´t progressing. But a less active young woman, Vanessa (15) returned to church yesterday! She had only gone to church two times, once before the baptism, and once after (to be confirmed), but lost the desire to go back. Finally, after 5 months, she returned. And she is starting to do family history work, and wants to serve a mission, and has a brother and a mom who can be baptized. And her mother, Cisera, makes us cake (already happened three times!). It was truly a miracle brought about by hard work and following up. And of course, it wouldn´t have happened without the help of a family of members who live nearby, who invited them to a family home evening. This week was really edifying! I´m making more friends, growing more spiritually, and learning so much about almost everything! I can´t image what my life would be like had I not chosen to serve. And I can´t believe that I´ll be 19 in less than a month. I´m super grateful for the age-change for missionaries. These are the last days and God is preparing His children at a younger age, to combat the forces of Satan as he tries to destroy us at a younger age as well. I finally read the talks from the last Priesthood Session. What a great conference it was! I loved what President Uchtdorf said about sleeping through the Restoration. It´s true that the Restoration is still happening. What is being restored? The kingdom of God on the Earth. Is it here yet? No. Then what does that mean for us? That there´s still much work to do. We are pioneers. We may not have handcarts, nor do we have to cross oceans or wade through snow or be martyrs, but we are still pioneers: builders of a great nation that will one day fill the Earth, with Christ as its perfect king. This the better world for which we must battle the forces of the adversary. The World Cup has begun, but, as Presidente Pinho reminded us, there is a greater battle being waged. This war has just two opposing teams: the army of God an the army of the devil. We are all enlisted, we are all on the field. We just need to get in the game, and quit sleeping through match. I´m really excited to work harder and make more goals and bring souls unto my Heavenly Father. I know that He exists and that this war is real. I know that the people who I see on either side as I walk down the street, are my brothers and sisters, and that they are perishing in darkness, whether they know it or not. I am a witness to the power of Jesus Christ in the lives of these people. It is only through His Gospel that we can find hope in this life and happiness in the next. Through the Atonement of Christ, all mankind may be saved through obedience to the laws and ordinances of the Gospel, which is: faith in the Lord Jesus Christ, repentance, baptism by immersion for the remission of sins (by the authority of the Holy Priesthood), receiving the gift of the Holy Ghost, and enduring to the end, which includes keeping the commandments of God, and making sacred covenants with Him. I know that this is the only way to return to our Father, and the only way that families can be together forever. I´m so happy to be here. I would not give up my mission for anything. It´s making me who I am. These two short years will determine the course of the rest of eternity. If I stay faithful here, and do everything I can, then I will have the tools to continue on, after the mission. I love working alongside the Master in His vineyard. I invite all to come join us in this great work. I promise that you can never go wrong when you trust in the Lord, return to Him, and stay with Him. Christ lives and He loves us. This is His church. President Thomas S. Monson is His prophet. I and my companions are His messengers and we represent Him. It is an honor and a privilege, and is available to all who are willing. His yoke is easy and His burden is light. I love you all so much! Have a great week! Love, Elder Richins

Monday, June 9, 2014

The Church is true, the Gospel is true, and Christ lives!

Sometimes in the mission, you have huge downs that turn into huge ups, and once the dizziness fades, you find yourself in a place higher and holier than before. Due to a ton of opposition from other people and from the Adversary, I kinda snapped last Monday. All of the pressure came to a head and after a surprise visit from the assistants to inspect our apartment, I told my companion that I wanted to be transfered, among other things. I´ll skip this part because it´s not very encouraging for you all. But, after a couple interviews with the zone leaders, I was back on the road to recovery, regaining my excitement (animation). But it wasn´t until Thursday that I reached a new level of animated (It sounds strange in English, but it makes sense in Portuguese). President Pinho gathered the entire mission together (259 missionaries) for one last grand conference (like King Benjamin). I saw my old companions (Elder Aguiar from Salvador, Elder Almeida from Fortaleza, and Elder Paiva from Recife) and all of my missionary friends, including Elder Sharp, who arrived the MTC with me. I have pictures to send you, but it might not want to work today, but we´ll see. The Multi-Zone Conference was the following: •Photos of the Mission (I forwarded this to you) •President Pinho addressed us in a training session •We watched "Ephraim´s Rescue" as a mission (really good!) •Commentary on the Film by President Pinho •Lunch and Dessert •Birthdays for April, May, June and July (I got a present!) •Video made by the Assistants •New Program of the Mission for June and July •Testimonies of the Missionaries who will finish mission soon I´d like to share just some of the things I learned from the Training Session (I have to translate it for English right now, so excuse the weird wording): •Elder Russell M. Nelson - "Don´t ask God to change the circumstances, but ask him to change your attitude or perspective." •God counts the steps we take in the mission, especially when we walk by faith. •There has to be pain because it is only through pain and sorrow that we can change •Elder Monte J Browe - "Our greatest blessings in this life and the future will come through our disposition to make the sacrifices that the Lord asks of us. It is only through sacrifice and the faith it produces that we can reach happiness in eternity." •Which disposition do I need to give everything to God? (In relation to temple covenants) •Why am I here? To baptize people, but more importantly, to change ME. •Everything I do should result in missionary fruits (baptisms). •A mission results in a fulness of joy. And my notes on "Ephraim´s Rescue": •You always have to be worthy and prepared to help others using the Priesthood •You should always be willing to administer blessings •The Lord will help those who help themsleves and continue on with faith •We should stay clean and worthy before the Lord • We have to avoid letting Satan (or the natural man) destroy our mission and worsen our perspectives. •We have to always carry and spread joy wherever we go. •We must be obedient immediately and follow our leaders humbly •We are pioneers for other people. So this meeting was really important for me, and I learned so much from the Holy Ghost. It was a spiritual feast. And because I didn´t give up, and because I made the decision to keep working with all my heart, might, mind, and strength, we had six people in the church yesterday, and as of yesterday, we have 11 people in ONE family that have a strong desire to follow Christ and be baptized. Despite the baptism of Raquel falling through, and a transfer without success, finally we will have great success, as I will be staying here in Palmares for one more transfer and administering to the wonderful people here. Serving a mission is just blessings! It´s changed my life so much. I hope to continue changing the lives of others in the process. I love you all so much! The Church is true, the Gospel is true, and Christ lives! Until next week, Elder Richins

Being a missionary is so great!

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  Enjoy the view. All Photo