Monday, July 28, 2014
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
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
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
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! --
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!