The Fires of Faith (Football and Festivities)

I’ll try to wrap up last week and this week as fast as my little tiny fingers can go.

Brazilian Flag CC

Yesterday night was the Confederations Cup here in Brazil. Everybody and their brother, and their dog, and their brother’s dogs (even the multitude of stray dogs, really) gathered together around the television. It was a fun thing to see. I personally have no idea what happened in the game because we were working. But I do know that every time Brazil scored a goal the entire city lit up in fireworks. It was as if we were in WWII London, only the bombs were coming from the ground. The power flickered on and off, and the lights dimmed as the entire country of Brazil turned on their televisions and put the power grid to the ultimate test. One year from now I will be in the heart of the World Cup. I’m trying not to think too hard about it.

This week I went and did a division with one of the District Leaders in our Zone. He has become rather discouraged in his work, but his heart is in the right place. We started in the street at 9h30 in the morning, worked until our 1 hour lunch at noon, then continued making contacts with every breathing thing in sight until 9h00 at night. All in all, we made some 50+ contacts and taught some 11+ lessons. It was the biggest effort knocking doors and making contacts I’ve seen since I came on the mission. We got back to the apartment and conked (after prayer, planning, shower, and a little bit of cleaning, of course). It was great. I’ve had some sweet and merciful experiences on my mission in which the Lord has quite literally made what seemed impossible possible and literally lifted my shoes from the pavement to help me keep going. Some people say that we must do 99% and God does the last 1%. It seems to me rather that we must do 100% and, when it seems like our very best wasn’t good enough, God sheds his grace and mercy and the job gets done. I’m reminded again of Winston S. Churchill’s quote – “Sometimes doing your best is not good enough. Sometimes you must do what is required.”

This last Sunday, the church presidency held a General Missionary Broadcast. I don’t think I’ve ever seen such a powerful display of missionary spirit. There were a handful of touching and quite powerful videos on how to make missionary work an integral part of our daily lives. I was reminded that the message we have to share is not one of religion, nor one of personal belief, but that of the Gospel (“gut spel” or good news) of Christ – that he lived, died, and rose again, and that through him we may return to live with our Heavenly Father. One of the apostles shared a powerful truth – when we share our belief in Christ, if we share it motivated by love for our Savior and our friends, the message we have will not be offensive. If anything, it will be cherished.

On our way back from the broadcast, we passed by the festivities of São João.I don’t think anybody really knows what the purpose is, but it’s a great excuse to light fires in the street and light fireworks in the sky. If you were to ask an average American kid what the purpose of Christmas is, he might say “To get the newest video game system as a present from Santa!” If you were to ask the average Brazilian the purpose of São João, he might say “To build pyres in the street and light stuff on fire!” An interesting case of ritual overriding the underlying reason. It was kind of a haunting, creepy experience taking the bus back from the General Missionary Broadcast. Each street-bonfire we passed by pushed a powerful wave of heat into the already-packed bus. Moments like these that will come back as part of my dreams 30+ years from now…

I’m happy to announce that Bianca, the woman to whom my Elder and I gave a blessing in Ipsep, was converted to the Gospel of Jesus Christ and baptized this last Sunday. I’m not sure the details of the story, but I was so happy to hear the news. She really was one of the Lord’s chosen placed in our path there.

Another chosen of the Lord was Cíntia, our baptism this last weekend. The missionaries had gotten to know her before I ever arrived in Beberibe/Casa Amarela. She had heard about the church, approached the missionaries, and asked them to visit her house. They happily obliged. My companion and I have been teaching her since day one when I arrived here. We taught her nearly everything in about a week. From day one, she has been excited about changing her life and getting baptized.

This Saturday, we had an “Open House” in our chapel. We called youth and leaders from the ward and everybody went out and invited people passing in the street (our chapel sits on a busy one) to come in a take a tour of the chapel. As it turns out, only about 5 people from our ward showed up to help us. The vast majority were recent converts. Just goes to show who really has the missionary spirit, huh? The event worked out wonderfully. Few people in the street showed any initial interest, but after a little effort many of them took a step inside to see where the “Mormons” meet. Most everybody that entered loved the visit. Everyone commented on the peaceful and sweet spirit they felt inside. We, of course, did not hesitate in inviting them to come back on Sunday. Most everyone happily accepted the invitation. Nobody showed up. But! I have full faith that with a visit this next week we’ll have a handful of people in church next Sunday.

To be honest, we didn’t have anyone in the chapel this week. Elder Sanchez and I started to feel rather discouraged. We had a pretty good week, teaching 31 lessons, making 72 contacts, finding 9 good new investigators to teach, and – nothing. Or so it seemed. God is merciful, and led us to the house of a family we had met briefly during the last week. We sat down to teach the only son at home, and, little by little, the two other brothers and the father came. Then the aunt came. Then the aunt took us to her house. Where she introduced us to her cousin. And her other cousin. And her daughter-in-law. Needless to say, an entire neighborhood of in-laws and relatives opened up in a matter of 120 minutes. I almost cried with joy. They all said they’re excited to go to church this next Sunday.

I’ve been reading “Our Heritage” these last few days. I’ve never found such strength or inspiration in the stories of the early Mormon pioneers. This work truly is built on a foundation of faith, and I feel honored to play a part in it.

I thank you all for your prayers and kind thoughts sent my way. I feel so loved by all and love you all in return. God Bless each and every one of you.

-Elder Fleming-

P.S. For those of you who are curious, there has indeed been a recent strike here in Brazil. Some fight against corruption, others for the future, and the vast majority just wait an extra half-hour at the bus stop. Though their efforts are not entirely futile. Bus fares dropped from $R 2,25 to $R 2,15. On the Brazillian Flag there’s a slogan: “Ordem e Progresso”. Many have hope for “Progresso”. “Ordem” will come soon. Here’s for “Ordem e Progress” in the World Cup 2014.

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