So I realize that my writing this transfer has been a little bit sparse. I’m sorry about that, but I’ll try to capture some of the “Best Of” moments of this last transfer in this email.
Everybody always talks about the moment when a missionary starts dreaming in the mission language as the watershed moment of the mission. I had started to wonder if the moment would ever come, given that I couldn’t really tell what language everybody was speaking in in my dreams. But one morning I woke up in Garanhuns and my companion at the time, Elder Withers, asked me if I had a custom of speaking in my sleep. Apparently in the middle of the night I started tossing and turning a little and began repeating the words “Você consegue! Você consegue!” which could be translated as “You can do it! You can do it!” So I’m not sure if I dream in Portuguese, but I know that at least I’m practicing the mission language in my dreams. Since that night, I’ve used that little phrase a number of times with our investigators – encouraging them to make the difficult but worthwhile changes in the lives, telling them “You can do it now!” (shout out to Elder Uchtdorf).
We had a fun little experience in our 2nd week when one of the water pipes in our building exploded and thousands of gallons of water poured into apartments and elevators in our building. I was in a division in another area when it happened, but E. Olpin told me that the staircase looked like a waterfall. We spent week 2 walking up and down to our apartment on the 12th floor. One time, we were tired and beat after a long day, dreading our long hike when we met with a young woman climbing up to the 16th floor. Count your many blessings – even when they’re stairs.
We had another fun little experience that same week in which we had a Leadership Conference in the mission and
Elder Olpin and I have been enjoying a more regular and rigorous exercise routine. I’ve found that I’m much happier and have much more energy when we’re exercising regularly.
Our ward in little sleepy Paratibe is starting to wake up and catch fire. One of the things I sensed and felt when I came into the ward was that everybody had, at some point, a marvelous experience in their church service and activity, but that the energy they once had had become dormant. The bishop, our ward mission leader, a handful of less-actives – everybody talked about a time when the church here was bustling. So we’ve been calling on almost every priesthood leader to go out and teach with us. Young men, old men, young single adults, the elder’s quorum president, the young women’s president, the bishop, his counselors, our ward mission leaders, the people we asked the bishop to call as ward missionaries – everybody gets to go out and teach with the missionaries. And the difference it’s making in the ward is remarkable. We had one experience recently with a less active young single adult woman. Apparently someone had said something to her at church that wasn’t exactly roses and butterflies and she felt offended and decided not to go to church the next Sunday. Then she missed the next Sunday. And the next. Until, all of a sudden, she was less active in the church. When we showed up Saturday night with one of the young men’s counselors (it was his first time doing visits with the missionaries since he was baptized a year and six months ago) and one of the priests in our ward, she said that she had resolved to go to church that Sunday, but had been praying for someone to come and give her a little extra incentive. This Sunday she went to church and was called as the young women’s counselor the same day. The bishop is going to visit our baptismal candidates with us tonight and is excited to hold the first ward counsel in months this Sunday.
I’ve come to understand on the mission that our powers as missionaries are limited – we cannot coerce or manipulate annyone to do anything. But I’ve also come to understand that there are great powers within our reach to influence those around us for good – principally by way of the Holy Ghost, “Espírito Santo”, or the “Spirit of God”. As Elder Olpin and I have done our best to live within the Missionary Guidelines and pray sincerely and profoundly for charity and the presence of the Spirit, we have seen miraculous changes in our teaching and in the way we interact with families. We’ve been blessed with a handful of incredible families (with married, working men who are interested in our message) in our condominiums (an area previously considered “unworkable”) and in the surrounding area.
It seems those we teach have also come to feel “something different” in our teaching and in our visits. One older woman we have been teaching, named “Jane”, has passed through some difficult times with her family and in her personal life. She recently lost a parent and the financial negotiations among the children and siblings have come to a breaking point. On several occasions, she told us that she doesn’t even want to think about trying to forgive her sister – rather, she wants to pretend like her sister doesn’t exist because she simply doesn’t see any way to resolve the situation. The first time she went to church, she cried a good three or four times. At the end of sacrament meeting, she told us “If I had a revolver at home or the strength of will necessary, I wouldn’t be here right now; but here I felt the will to live. We took her to the baptismal font and explained to her that as she made the necessary changes in her life and repented and let go of her hate and was baptized, she could feel the sweet spirit she felt continually. She recognized that the path we taught was indeed the only way for her to find happiness in her life and agreed to progress towards baptism. Some days later, after various visits, Jane told us that when her sister called, she felt something from deep inside her come out and she told her sister “God bless you, I love you”.
The Spirit is the only way we can undergo true conversion. Indeed the “Fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, long-suffering, gentleness, goodness, faith, meekness, and temperance” (Galatians 5:22). I’m so grateful to have the companionship of the Spirit in my work and teaching, and I hope to always stay worthy of its companionship.
That we all might live worthily to have the gentle, deep refining influence of the Spirit in our lives. And that we might use that influence to bless those around us.