We’ve been reduced from four assistants to two here in the office, so I’m sorry if my communication has become even less frequent. There were a handful of mini-transfers the week before the big-boy transfer that happens every six week, and the president needed the other two assistants to help out a few zones as Zone Leaders. This left Elder Gustavo and I, the newbies, here in the office all by our lonesome selves. The transfer fortunately ran quite smoothly. Elder Gustavo and I were able to dot all of our I’s and cross all of our T’s in time for the Monday morning transfer. We’ve had to be a little more exact and meticulous about the way we divide our tasks in order to get done everything that needs to get done, but it is in doing more with less that we become more efficient and effective. So that’s been fun.
I had the privilege some time ago of seeing a young woman who I interviewed for baptism almost a year ago while in a division back in Zona Casa Amarela. It was incredible to see the way the gospel had changed her life, lifted her countenance, and given her added strength in a time of great need. She had recently been diagnosed with Uterine Cancer, which would be bad enough, but to add insult to injury she felt that all of her friends started treating her differently when she let everyone know about the diagnosis. In a dark cycle, cancer led to perceived estrangement by her friends which led to added stress and subsequently a more aggressive cancer. She decided that she would move to a small city in the interior – not so much to run away or to hide, but to regain her peace of mind – and invited friends and family in to a “Farewell Party”. She invited the missionaries to give the message, and there was a sweet spirit as all came to grips with the fact that she might not see any of them again. Understanding changes perspective, and it was clear to see that the Lord had opened her mind to a much deeper understand of where she came from and her purpose here on Earth. I felt so happy to see the sprouting tree growing from what I had seen as just a small seed not so long ago. The gospel does not often change our immediate circumstances, but rather changes our immediate perspective, giving us the power and Faith to lean on the Lord and change our own circumstances, lifting those around us in the process.
I had another similar experience returning to an investigator named “Rodolfo” in a part of Recife called “Camaragibe”. I met Rodolfo in the beginning of my time as an assistant – about 4 months ago. I went to Camaragibe to do a division, nothing out of the ordinary, and one of the marked commitments for that day was the mother of a recent convert they had baptized that same month. Rodolfo just happened to be at the house of this recent convert and sat listening to the message. We prayed and taught and explained and showed pictures to the mother of the Recent Convert but it appeared as though, in spite of our best efforts, all of our teaching just wasn’t having any effect on her. Then, subtly, but very perceptibly, the Zone Leader I was on exchange with and I felt impressed that we should shift our focus. So we started teaching Rodolfo and everything changed. He asked inspired questions, made insightful comments, and mentioned in the end that he would consider being baptized. We marked his visit to church and I left the division with great hopes for what seemed like a marvelous young man’s prospects in the future. Fast-forward some 3 months, the Zone Leaders (this time two entirely different ones) were in the office and mentioned that they had double-booked their teaching commitments and baptismal interviews. I slipped into the President’s office and said “President, we need to help the Elders in Camaragibe. Can I do all of this tomorrow?” He said yes and in an hour the Camaragibe Zone Leaders, Elder Gustavo, and I were on our way to Camaragibe. They mentioned that we were going to teach a wonderful young man who was still on the fence about baptism. When we got to his house, I could hardly believe my eyes. There he was, Rodolfo, the same young man I had taught not 3 months ago! We sat down, we prayed, and he began, “I want to tell you a dream that I had”. He mentioned that he had been reading the Book of Mormon and praying to know it was true and, one night, he had an interesting dream. In this dream, he was speaking with two missionaries – one of them being the Zone Leader by my side – and that they were talking about baptism and he just felt something deep down inside of him say, “Everything will be okay”. One interesting aspect of the dream, he mentioned, was that the whole dream was with subtitles – so that he could read what was being said as the words played through his mind. And he mentioned that one of the missionaries had the first name, “Taylor”. So he kind of laughed, disbelieving, and asked Elder Kirk, the Zone Leader by my side, what his name was. Elder Kirk responded, “Taylor”. We all just sat in silence for a moment as the Spirit testified in all of our hearts what had happened. Rodolfo said, “My dream was the confirmation I’ve been waiting for. I’m going to be baptized on Sunday.”
The Spirit has such a subtle but powerful way of making a lasting impression in our hearts. Rodolfo was just one of many who received a spiritual witness of the truth. But the spirit leads those who are just getting to know the missionaries for the first time as well as those who are actively reading and praying to know the truth. Some time previous to my experience with Rodolfo, Elder Gustavo and I did a division in an area called “Jaboatão”. The division we had planned fell through, so we made a quick scramble for a nearby area that was in need of help. When we called Jaboatão, they said “Well, you can come, but we’re opening the area so it will be basically be knocking doors all day”. We prepped our knuckles and hopped on the train. The day was basically as it was made out to be. There were a lot of knocked doors – some opened, many closed – but it seems that every door knocked led us to the last and final door. We were just about ready to call it quits on the street where we were working, but we felt we should knock just one last door. Frankly, I thought it was some sort of garage or studio, given the girth and bleak appearance of the gate, but I’ve learned better than to pass up a “Last Door” prompting. So we knocked and, after simply mentioning who we were, the man who came to the door asked us, “Do you want to come in?” Elder Moura and I looked at each other, smiled, and responded, “Yes”. The man, it turns out, was a math teacher who held private tutoring sessions in his little back-door studio and who was scheduled to teach a class that night. He mentioned that normally he would have simply answered the door and told us he didn’t have time due to his class schedule. “But,” he said, “Something told me I should let you in.” We taught the first half of the message of the Restoration, and it was wonderful. So many brilliant questions, so much understanding packed into such a small amount of time. Everything we taught stuck like glue and it was as if we could literally see the Spirit opening his mind to understanding. We were about to get up and go when it started to rain and he said, “No, just wait a little bit for the rain to stop – tell me more about the Book of Mormon”. So, we explained the Book of Mormon and gave him a copy. We read a passage together, and he said, “It’s so clear and so true. I can feel that it’s true, what I’m reading.” The rain stopped, as did his and our time, but we invited him to be baptized and he said it was a definite possibility that he would sincerely ponder and pray about. The disadvantage of doing what I do is that I have no idea how he’s doing. But I’ll seek to find out and keep all of you updated.
These last few days the Mission has been on lock-down. All of the police in Pernambuco decided to go on strike all at once. The result has been that many normally civilized people got the crazy idea that they could do whatever the want without any fear of justice. Well, they were wrong, and the Army stepped in, and there were a handful of Citizens Arrests and you can probably inform yourself better than I can just looking on the internet, but, suffice it to say – all of the missionaries are safe and sound. It was actually really interesting to be where I was when I was. The President has kept a very open line of communication, leading methodically and carefully the missionaries out of harms way. I have never seen so clearly just how divinely-inspired the missionary hierarchy is. Within a matter of minutes, every message that was passed to us by the President was propagated to 200 different missionaries spread out across the State of Pernambuco. Truly, the Lord is using cutting-edge technology to guide his work. We are all giving prayers of thanks for the way in which the Lord has protected each and every missionary. Not even a single missionary has been robbed – not their cellphone, not their wallets, nothing. The Lord protects His missionaries.
I love you all dearly and hope this message finds you all well.