Rio Branco: Week 23

Monday, May 23, 2016

Hey mom!

I think I´ll just wait until I get home to tell you about this week! Sorry for the short email this week. These next couple of days will just be in the office. To answer your question, 15 missionaries are leaving and 7 are arriving. That´s good to hear that the releasing will be shortly after I get home. I´m excited about the family´s plans for the next couple of weeks.

See you in a little bit! Love you too!

Rio Branco: Week 22

Monday, May 16, 2016

I´m starting to realize that my mission is actually going to end. This is my last week. For a long time I had been imagining how great it would be to return home and how excited I would be. As it gets closer I realize that I won´t ever have the opportunity to be a full-time missionary again. I am working hard every day to be able to look back on my mission without regrets. I am excited to go home but I know that I will have a lot of adjustments to make in starting my real life again. Sometimes we forget how great mission life is. The mission brings so many great feelings from hard work and dedication.

I can´t wait to see you all again and I´m sure these last few days will fly by!

I spent this last week in Cidade do Sol. It was a good experience to be able to find lots of new people to teach in their area. We were able to find a good family when we offered to help move some furniture that they were carrying down the street. We helped take the closet to their house and we met the whole family. On sunday the parents had something come up that prevented them from going to church but they sent their oldest kids with us.

It was great to see everyone from the Cidade do Sol ward!!! This was the ward that I served in for the most time - 5 months. I loved seeing recent-converts, active members that were once less-active, and some of the great leaders. Now this church building has a sports court for soccer and basketball. Before, the church building was always dark and closed on weeknights. But now there are always activities or sports games which bring lots of people! The ward is really growing fast and the members are excited.

Have a great week! Love you!

Rio Branco: Week 21

Monday, May 9, 2016

Dear mom,

It was so great to see all of you too! Skype calls always go by fast but it´s good to know that we´ll have a lot more time to talk once I get home. I´m so far away that it was hard to do something special for you this mothers day. But I thought a lot about you yesterday. We had lunch at a single mother´s house who has an energetic 4-year-old son who reminds me a lot of how I must have been when I was that age. She had gotten married in the temple with a returned missionary, but unfortunately the marriage didn´t work out. I felt bad that she had to make lunch for us on mother´s day. But I felt that the least we could do was wash the dishes afterwards. I felt a strong impression that we should because I knew that it´s what the men do on mother´s day at home.

Congratulations to Grant on getting his eagle award! And it´s good to know that he was the one who did his eagle scout project and not his mom (although i´m sure you helped push him along ;))

That´s great to hear about the marriage class that you´re teaching.

I feel like I´ve been out for a really long time when I hear about all of these milestones that the kids are reaching! Hayley losing a tooth, Corinne taking over the kitchen, Jill taking AP tests and almost driving, Grant graduating and going to Germany, and Alyssa with her own business.

Thanks for always encouraging me in the work! I look forward to these last 2 weeks.

Please pray for this family that we are teaching so that they can be baptized!

Love you too!

Elder Church

Rio Branco: Week 20

Monday, May 2, 2016

This week we traveled to Sousa in the state of Paraíba. Two of us worked for the week in Sousa, and the other went to Pombal. This part of the mission doesn´t have a stake yet- it´s a district. There are currently 5 branches, but most of them are pretty close to turning into wards. It´s great working in this part. The church has a history of only about 10 years or less in these cities. Although some of them don´t have a whole lot of experience, the branch and stake leaders are great and very dedicated. We worked hard this week and saw the Lord do miracles. There is a 19-year-old recent convert there who introduced the missionaries to one of his friends. This friend is married and has a little girl. He works and studies and had gotten interested in the church. He has been fascinated by the missionary lessons. He arrived at church early on sunday with his wife and other family members, but the minute that sacrament meeting started, he got a phone call saying that his father-in-law had a stroke. So they had to rush out of the church building to be with him. When he got to his house, he was in a really serious condition. First he said a prayer for him. Then he went to his room, picked up the book of mormon and asked that if it was true, that his father-in-law could get better. Then, as soon as they got to the hospital, his condition dramatically improved. He later called the missionaries and told them that he had received an answer and that he had absolute certainty that it was true! He said that he was excited for his baptism and chose that elder to baptize him this week! That was really a miracle, especially after the baptism of another family had fallen through on sunday. I received a testimony that instead of getting too stressed at times, I should trust more in the Lord to help us do the work.

The trip back was kind of tough because there was only a bus that came to Natal during the night. So we weren´t able to sleep much on the trip and we came directly to the mission office at 6am.

Well i´m doing well and i´m excited for another week of work!

Elder Church

On Sunday I think we can do skype at 6pm my time, 3pm your time. Does that work?

Rio Branco: Week 19

Monday, April 25, 2016

Wow, great to hear that you and dad were able to take a couple days of vacation! I like the climate of Southern California a lot. Is this the first time in a while that you have a stress-free loosely-planned vacation?

This week was really busy with transfers. But there is a 3rd assistant now which helps a lot! Now we can divide the work a little more. He is learning everything to be ready for when the new president comes. It is Elder Balaich- I already lived with him once in Panatis and he is great!

On Thursday we went back to our area after all the missionaries arrived in their places. We worked hard until Sunday to have as many people at church as possible. One thing we are doing that is helping out is to talk with everyone on one single street. This has been an effective way to teach lots of people and take lots of people to church. We had a van help us to get everyone to church this Sunday.

Yesterday was Sister Soares´ birthday and we had the chance to visit her and the President at their house! We went with a few other Elders and Sisters to wish her a happy birthday and give her a present. She was really happy to have us! And she even served us açaí. We had gathered pictures from lots of missionaries holding up happy birthday signs and we made a banner with them.

I´m excited to work hard in this last month out here!

Elder Church

Rio Branco: Week 18

Tuesday, April 19, 2016

Really, you found açaí juice there? I have actually never tried it as juice. You´ll have to let me know if it´s good or not. The açaí I was talking about is frozen, pretty much like ice cream. I am curious to know if it exists in Utah. It´s almost like the berry smoothies that you would make.

I was in Mossoró last week. It was pretty good. I just stayed in one area. We worked really hard and had some good-quality people at church on Sunday. Mossoró is a city that the church grew really fast in! A couple of years ago there were only a couple of branches and now there is a strong stake! If I could, I would finish my mission in Mossoró because it´s a really great city. At the end of the week, one of the elders there was called to be the mission´s new financial secretary so I traveled back to Natal with him.

Haha, that´s funny to hear that getting a dog was the topic of the family council. I hope Corinne and Hayley understood and didn´t get disappointed. I didn´t remember that I had written a poem about wanting a dog!

That´s good to hear that you got together with the Kelley´s. I´m excited to be able to talk to Jameson and his family when I get back. No, I haven´t read Jacob 5 in a while- I´ll have to read it this week!

Thanks so much for the email! Have a great week!

Elder Church

Rio Branco: Week 17

Tuesday, April 12, 2016

Today we got the travel itinerary for Evan's return home! May 27th--just 6 weeks away! I had to laugh when the letter said, "Please arrange to have someone waiting to pick him up at the airport." Well, I think we might be able to arrange that, if we're not too busy that day.

Dear Mom,
Good to hear that the weeks are passing by! That means that you´re working hard or that you're having fun. The weeks were passing by super quickly here too, but then once I realized that I was getting close to going home, the weeks started passing by a little more slowly. Which is good.

How was the Provo temple? Are there lots of people going there this month?

Wow, I'm sad that I won´t be able to see Bryson before he leaves. And I miss ward service projects. That´s one thing that they don´t have a lot of here. But most of the members don´t have yards or trees like they do in our ward, so it´s a little different.

That´s great to hear about dad from the point of view of his coworkers.

Yes, I would like it if you could find housing for me. I am guessing that Alta Housing is already full! You might have to put my name in a few different places. It would be great if you could find a place for less than $300/month.

No, I can´t think of anything you can do for me. Thanks for all of your prayers!

This week we worked hard in our areas. On Saturday night we bought a 5-liter container of Açaí! One of the highlights of the week was hearing from Maria das Neves after she went to the temple for the first time with her daughter to do baptisms. The temple is 4 hours away from Natal, and once a month there is a bus from the stake that takes members there.
On the mission we work a lot with the list of recent converts and help fill out every step of the process in their integration- everything from the missionary lessons after baptism, to having an interview from the bishop, receiving a home teacher, all the way until the final goal of receiving the endowment at the temple. But one cool thing is that after baptism, the recent converts can go as soon as they want to the temple to do baptisms. They just need an interview from the Bishop.

We made a plan this week to get more references from members through family nights. We also set up a schedule of family nights in one of the neighborhoods that we work in so that every monday night can have one in someone´s house! The first one will be tonight with Judson and his mom and several other members and recent converts.

This week we will be traveling. I hope everyone at home is doing well!

Elder Church

Rio Branco: Week 16

Monday, April 4, 2016

This is from the conference we had with all of the missionaries in the capital
Dear family,

When I get home and see our living room I´ll probably feel like i´m in the wrong house! It looks great though. That´s great that Melayna spent the weekend with you guys.

Yes, I had several favorite talks too. The other conference sessions on the mission I had watched in English, but this April conference we didn´t go to the stake center- it was just in our ward´s chapel so it wasn´t worth setting up a separate room with English. Plus it was just me and the 3 other Brazilian elders that live with me. This was also the first time I was able to watch the priesthood session on the mission because it usually doesn´t work out with our schedule. I love how lots of the speakers talked on the theme of temples and/or the work of salvation. I am always uplifted by the stories of apostles that receive promptings from the spirit, follow them, and end up answering someone´s prayer. I want to be able to listen to the spirit better and be an instrument in the Lord´s hands. The Prophet´s message was short and clear. I am grateful that twice a year we are able to have these conferences that teach us and help us feel what we can improve on.

Mom, I was thinking about you on April Fool's day and wondering what prank you would come up with this year! That was a pretty good one, haha. We also had a little fun here and switched 2 of the elders´ things around when they left the house.

Yes, I was able to sign up for BYU classes. I also started to sign up for Alta Housing but I´m not sure if my request went through yet.

This week I stayed in the area. One of the highlights of this week was teaching an 80 year-old woman that I think I had mentioned before. It´s cool to have the experience of teaching someone in a nice apt building with a view of the whole city and the beach. She has 2 maids in her house. She is a member´s mom but she lives alone. Her daughter has a neat story of how she was baptized. She was living in Barçelona, Spain for work and met the sisters. They started teaching her family and after a month, the mission president who was Shayne Bowen at the time (he gave the closing prayer in the last session of conference) invited her to be baptized. She was baptized and later moved back to Brazil. Her mom was living in Brazil and never had contact with the church. Throughout the years, she had always talked to her mom about the church but her mom never had a whole lot of interest. They are a very prominent family of lawyers in Natal. So we spent a couple of hours with her mom on thursday afternoon! I loved hearing some of her stories about how she studied in Rio de Janeiro, Portugal, France, Canada, and Maine. She helped a lot with women´s rights in Brazil in the 1960s. She is so nice and humble. She reminds me of Grandma Lowe because of her hair and blue eyes. She´s also very intelligent and healthy. I´ll take a picture with her some time. But we were able to teach her the message of the restauration and she commented after that she felt the spirit. We will keep working with her and plan on teaching the Plan of Salvation next. Her husband died 4 years ago. After the lesson she called her driver and had him pick us up and take us to our next appointment in another neighborhood. She treats us so well and the driver said that he really admires her and that she treats all of her employees really well.

Today we will spend the rest of the time preparing for our mission council tomorrow.
Have a great week! Love you all,

Elder Church

Rio Branco: Week 15

Monday, March 28, 2016

This has been up in the apartment since christmas!

Way to go Corinne! Representing the family by finding the golden egg! This reminded me now of the family videos we have of Easter. But it´s true- I think that in the all time standings our family has the least amount of golden egg-findings.

I´ve been thinking about Grant and the new opportunities he´ll have in his study abroad program and at BYU. I talked with a sister who did study abroad in Europe and she highly recommends it!
Wow, I can´t believe that Scott and Heather have 5 girls now!

Grandma Lowe is such a great example to me too. I´m anxious to be able to see her when I get back.

The first few days of the week were busy with the 2 mission conferences that we had. The first one was with all of the missionaries in the captial. We gave training about the lesson of the restoration and how to teach it more powerfully. On Wednesday we traveled to Caicó with Pres. and Sister Soares to have the conference with the interior. We stayed the rest of the week in Caicó. The trip back was an adventure. We bought the bus passage a few days in advance. Normally the busride is about 5 hours from Caicó to Natal, but because of the traffic after the easter holiday, it took about 6hs. On top of that, the bus company decided to load the bus, even after all of the seats were sold. So the bus was packed full with lots of people standing. Fortunately, we had seats because we had bought our tickets beforehand. Then, after a couple of hours on the road, a man sitting near us started to have seizures. He was travelling alone and people started to panic. He had 3 seizures during the ride and at one point randomly let out a few screams. But then, one of the passengers who was a doctor went up near him and stood by him for the rest of the ride and he ended up being OK.

But it was a great week in Caicó! We were able to help out some of the sisters. Caicó was my first area on the mission. On Saturday night I was happy to be able to see a family that loves all of the missionaries. It´s the same family that we saw when they went to visit Natal. But Rogerio made one of his famous huge cakes and he gave everyone Easter chocolate.

Hope you all have a great general conference this week!

Elder Church

Rio Branco: Week 14

Monday, March 21, 2016

Hey mom!

Sorry I haven´t written today yet. We have been busy preparing things today for the mission conference that will be this week. Tomorrow will be the conference for all of the missionaries in the capital, and Thursday will be the conference for the interior.

Thanks for all of the news. That's great that you went to the new Provo temple dedication! I saw the video.

This week went well. Elder W. Silva and I spent a few days in Mossoró. I was in the neighborhood called Belo Horizonte. Mossoró is the hottest city on the mission! In all of the other cities, the water comes out of the fossit and showerhead cold, but in mossoró it comes out hot. I think it´s because the city´s water source is naturally heated. But it´s weird because there are some days that even in the morning it naturally comes out steaming hot.

Luckily, most of the sickness has passed now and I´m hoping I´ll make it through the rest of the mission without getting it.

Have a great week!

Elder Church

Rio Branco: Week 13

Monday, March 14, 2016

Dear family,

Today I wasn´t able to write an update because my computer was being fixed. But they brought it back so now I have a little bit of time to write. I was blessed to have another good week of hard work. On tuesday we picked up the new missionaries at the airport and had dinner at the Presidents house. This time we wanted to do an exciting training for them when they came in so we took out some time from our training and took groups of them out to the street to show them how to do contacts. It was pretty fun! Everything went smoothly with transfers this week. After all of that, I went back to my area. Unfortunately, my companion Elder Cassiano had gotten dengue. This virus hits pretty hard and usually requires a week of rest. There were days when he had difficulties getting out of bed or out of a chair. After a couple of days straight of him staying at home because at Sister Soares´ order, we went down the stairs really quick just to run an errand on the corner of the street. It was hard for him to get up and down the stairs. I felt bad for him this week because he had no choice but to stay resting. But luckily, the other missionaries in the zone were willing to serve. On the days that I was in the area I was able to divide with one of them to work in the area.
It´s been great to be Elder Cassiano´s companion. He joined the church when he was 18 in São Paulo. He´s the only member in his family and came on the mission with only a few years of being a member. He´s very humble and dedicated. The Lord definitely blessed us during the week despite the obstacles. Now he´s doing better. He was able to work just fine with me on Saturday and Sunday.

Let me introduce you to the family in the picture: this is Judson and his mom, Josilma. Judson was baptized by the elders before us. He has progressed really quickly and in his few months of member has been called to be the bishop´s 1st assistant. He always arrives at 7:30 to the church to prepare the sacrament. His mom supported him, and even went to church a couple of times, but never felt like she was ready to be baptized. At first, we started teaching her, but then we just let a few weeks pass by without making any formal visits. We just talked to her every once in a while when we went to see Judson. Anyway, one night we did a movie night at the church and played Meet the Mormons. We took her to the movie and she loved it. She commented afterwards that she liked the part about the missionary and his mom. She felt that she needed to be the type of mom in the movie that went to church and supported her son. She felt that she needed to be baptized! So we marked a date and she was baptized on the following week. It was really a testimony that people need to feel the spirit in order to make a decision. We were really glad to see Judson have his first baptism- his mom!

Have a great week! Love you all!

Rio Branco: Week 12

Monday, March 7, 2016

Good Afternoon!

I´ve been hearing a little about the elections. Is it really going to be between Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton? Wow that´s great to hear that Bingham Basketball did so well. I´m excited to be able to got to the new Provo temple when I get back.

We had a good mission council last Wednesday where we talked about following up with investigators and the importance of sisters/sister leaders and their contributions to the mission. We spent the rest of the week in the city Parnamirim in an area that I was in over a year ago. It was a great division! Our testimonies of the miracles of divisions grew.

I heard great news yesterday that Deybron and Nábila (do you remember this family? the ones that let me use their computer to do skype last mother´s day) were sealed in the Recife temple last week. I was also surprised to hear that he is the Elders Quorum President in the ward!

Today we had a meeting with the President about transfers and tomorrow we go to the airport to receive 13 new missionaries. President took us and the secretaries out to lunch today at Waynes, a nice american burger place here! Our mission will start to grow a little now after we lost large groups of missionaries. This group that is going away only has 5 missionaries. A few areas will be opening again.

We had some problems on the mission this week with sickness. A couple of leaders weren´t able to attend the council because of this dengue/chikungunya/zika virus. More than 10 missionaries have gotten, or currently have this fever which usually lasts for several days. I´m sure millions have been affected throughout the country because we´ve seen lots of cases in our areas. A couple of weeks ago, about half of my investigators had gotten sick or had family members who were sick! But lucky for me I´ve been healthy and able to work just fine!

Have a great week!!!

Elder Church

Rio Branco: Week 11

Monday, February 29, 2016

This is Jonatan. He is a surfer and likes playing beach soccer. His baptism was on sunday!

Hi family. My birthday was pretty normal this week. We had a ward activity that night. Sounds like a great birthday dinner. Wasn´t that Grant´s dream dinner as a kid? Mashed potatoes and gravy? We´ll, I´ll be excited too if he goes to BYU this fall.

Yes, we had a van this week. During the week we had made plans with one van driver, but he ended up not working out at the last minute (Sunday morning) so we frantically looked through the streets to find someone who could help us out. Luckily we found a school van driver who was able to save the morning. We were able to fill it up with investigators and recent converts which made us happy. This week I am with a new companion- Elder Cassiano from Riberão Preto, São Paulo. We had a good first week of work. This week, Elder W. Silva and I will be going to another area after our mission council which will be on Wednesday.

Congratulations, Grandma and Grandpa Fillmore! Are you and dad already making plans to visit them? You were never able to visit G&G Church, so I think now you have to make plans.

Hey that´s exciting to hear about our planned family vacation. I guess we´ll have to take advantage of these times when everyone is home together!
I was able to do my ecclesiastical endorsement with the President. I guess I´ll be able to register now.

Have a great week! Happy leap-day.

Elder Church

Rio Branco: Week 10

Monday, February 22, 2016

Lunch at a member´s mother´s house. This lady is 80 years old. She is a former law professor, who studied in france who has a few children who are successful people, one of which is a great member in our ward who does lots of favors for us. Anyway, it was a fancy lunch in a nice appt building. She has 2 maids that take care of the house. We also found out that she isn´t a member but she is very receptive. Her daughter wants us to teach her. 

This is a blackberry plant that we found here. I had never seen one here. But it´s a different type of blackberry

This is Maria das Neves. She is a recent convert that has been progressing really quickly. I am impressed with her dedication. She walks for about 45 minutes every sunday and various times during the week to go to the church. We were happy when she called us on saturday telling us that she had gone visiting teaching for the first time and made 4 visits that day with her companion. She´s funny because she has a small house with lots of cats. She lives with her 2 kids who are 16 and 19 years old, both of which were baptized in the month that she was. She loves it when we visit her and she often calls us throughout the day. She has been changing a lot since her baptism and has even been losing weight. She seems much happier now than she was before and she has made good habits of working and studying. She is really a proof that the gospel can change people´s lives!

Yep I´ll be an adult this week, not a teenager anymore! Thanks for thinking of me. Actually, my debit card expired last October, but it´s ok because personal money hasn´t been something I've needed or used much. I can´t remember if the bank sent another debit card, but anyway, i´ll be ok without one until I get home. And no, that was all news to me. Great to hear that Isaac will go on a mission! And I´m really happy for Marcus. Looks like I´ll be able to see him before he leaves then. Yes, Grant wrote me a birthday email. Good to hear that he will be a cougar.

This week on Tuesday, we were getting back from lunch which was in a really nice apartment building. I´ll send a picture. As we were walking on the street after lunch, a man that was in a hurry stopped us on the corner and said in english "market?" "supermarket?" It took me a second to figure out what was going on because it was a strange-sounding English. I realized that he didn´t speak any portuguese and I asked him in english where he was from. "England," he said. He was looking for a grocery store and I told him that we would accompany him to a nearby one. He asked me how long I had been here and I said 1 year and 8 months. I then asked him and he said 2 hours! He said that he was on a cruise ship with his wife that had gone from England down to Cape Horn- the southernmost part of south america (when he said cape horn I thought it was in Africa and he laughed). The ship had stopped for a few hours and he said that in a half hour the ship was leaving back to England. That was why he was in a hurry. So I talked with him for about 5 minutes. I think that was the first time on my mission that I met someone who only spoke English. I rarely see tourists or immigrants or anything so it was cool for me. I said that I wanted to visit England and he told me "if you visit the UK, don´t just go to London because London is just rubbish. You should go to the northern rural parts." His name is Phil and he´s from Birmingham but lives in Liverpool.

We worked hard this week and the bishop approved transportation for investigators/recent converts on Sundays because our area is a little far away from the church. During the week Elder Sales and I talked to several van drivers to see if they would be able to help us and if they could do it for our price limit. By next week we should already have a 15-passenger van helping us on Sunday mornings. This will be nice because we usually have to ask a lot of some members that have cars. It´s only about a half-an-hour walk, but the neighborhood is on a big hill, so it´s hard for some people to make the trip on foot.

We found a good street to work on this week! We found some good new people that went to church. I`ll send a couple of pictures from the week!

Love you,
Elder Church

Rio Branco: Week 9

Monday, February 15, 2016

A rope swing behind the houses of some investigators. 
Gabriel´s family

His dad and grandma
with Walter Ribeiro
Yes, I was happy about Maria's baptism too and was glad when I found out that you had been praying for her. She herself admits that it was a miracle because no one had imagined that she would ever be baptized. Yes, the members will definitely take good care of her. She lives alone. This week it was her son's birthday and they invited us over for dinner. It was a coincidence because we spent the day in that area to help the missionaries and they told us that they had a dinner planned.
This week we were happy to help Gabriel to be baptized. Gabriel is a young man who has lots of family who are members of the church. His grandma lives in our ward and has been a member for 31 years. She is one of the most faithful members here. All of her kids were baptized in their youth, but a couple of them went inactive. One of her sons lives in Curitiba and he has been inactive for several years. He lives there with his 14-year-old son who had never been baptized. Once a year he passes a month or two in Natal when he´s out of school. His grandma had always taught him about the church but he had never been too interested in the church as he had gotten older. So a few weeks ago we met him when he went to church here. We went to his house during the week and started to teach him. He quickly accepted baptism but the family wanted to wait a couple of weeks for his dad to arrive from Curitiba. His dad was scheduled to come in on the 10th and it worked out perfectly for us to be able to schedule the baptism for Saturday night. It was really great and all of his family from Natal came to watch it. He was really the only one in his family who hadn´t been baptized yet and his grandma was very happy. She´s even happier to see that this will help her son to get active again. We also found out that Walter Ribeiro, the counselor to the mission president, works with Gabriel´s dad and has known him since he was his bishop years ago in Natal!

Well thanks for all the updates from home and the info about BYU registration.
Have a great week!

Elder Church

Rio Branco: Week 8

Monday, February 8, 2016

Wow, thanks for your thought´s and prayers for Maria, our investigator. Actually, she´s not an investigator anymore. She´s a recent-convert! It was really one of the miracles of the week. I actually traveled with Elder W. Silva this week to Bom Jardim- Mossoró. So Elder Sales was the one who followed up with her during the week. She got mad at me last week because I took her pack of cigarettes when she wasn´t looking, haha. But she was really able to stop. Luckily, I got to see her baptism when I came back. We got back at 8pm and the baptism happened at about 8:30here. We invited her son, Felipe and his wife, Patricia. It was just them, us, and a member of the bishopric but it was a really good baptismal service. Felipe baptized her. My favorite baptisms are when members are the ones who baptize, particularly when they are of the family of the one being baptized! So that was a good highlight to end the week. I´m grateful that my companion works really hard in the area while I´m gone. I will tell her that you were praying for her and it will make her happy.

The division this week went really well. Both of us went to Bom Jardim which is an area that we had both worked in in the past. We had success working with recent converts. Of all the people that we were able to take to church- several were family or friends of recent-converts. And the others, recent converts had helped in the process of integrating them in order to come to church. One thing I like about that ward is that it runs really well but everyone in the ward is a convert. There is a great family who only has about a year-and-a-half of being members and it seems possible that their dad might be the next bishop. It was also good to work there with Elder Andrade who had been my companion before. We stayed in the ZL´s area most of the week and a couple of days I went to other areas in Mossoró too.

It´s super rainy here in Natal! About once a day it rains here. I´ve been hearing things about the Zika virus but it seems like one of those things that the media blows out of proportion. Yes, it was Carnaval week. Luckily, these cities don´t have big Carnaval parties. Lots of people here travel to other cities to go to these parades. Caicó is the city on the mission that has the biggest Carnaval parties. It didn´t mess up the work very much. It just made it a little harder because lots of people traveled! And everything was closed today.

I love you all and hope you have great weeks!

Elder Church

Rio Branco: Week 7

Wednesday, February 3, 2016

Thanks for the picture of the last snow storm. Unfortunately, when I get home the weather will be just about the same there as it is here, right?

Dad, that´s great that you met with Saxton. I remember him quite a bit. He was one of my good friends in the 4th and 5th grade. Send him a hug. I am learning lots about leadership and every week I realize there are new things that I need to improve on. I love being able to meet with the president because he is so experienced that he can usually give a great solution to any problem that we are having with any area or missionary. I am also impressed with his humility- that he always listens to the opinion of others and takes it into consideration. One of the things that he has taught me is: when helping someone that has any type of problem, identify 1 or 2 points that need to improve and then let the person make a plan of how they will improve. I used to be more worried about being able to give counsel or say the right things, but lots of times it´s more effective to let the other person act and think for himself and help come up with a solution.
I´m excited to be able to take a trip to Delta with you and visit Great Grandpa Church when I get back!

This week we helped with the transfers and then worked in our area until Saturday. No, my junior stayed the same- Elder Sales. He is really good. I like being able to stay in the area to work hard and try to make the area an example. This week we were working quite a bit with Maria who is the mother of a returned missionary. She had never liked the church and had never really had any interest. She didn´t really know much of what he was doing on his mission either. He has been back for a couple of years now. My companion found her one night when I was gone and then we started to visit her during the week. She is pretty funny and has an attitude. She went to church last week and she had started to be really receptive. She was quick to accept baptism. And she doesn´t even drink coffee! But we are working with her to stop smoking and she only smokes about 2 or 3 per day now. Her son lives in another ward but I have never met him. Yesterday, I was here at the mission office which is at the side of a church building. I was talking to some members with Elder W. Silva and when we said we were from the Rio Branco ward there was a lady that asked if we were teaching her mother-in-law. So I met her son´s wife and found out that Maria had been talking to her quite a bit about us and the church. And we marked a family night for during the week with them at her house!

On Sunday we were able to have some success with bringing investigators to church. It was raining that morning which makes it hard to walk a half an hour with them to church. But luckily we had arranged with a couple of members to help give rides. I am impressed with the bishop´s example of service. He was recently released as a mission president in Florianopolis, Brazil, and is now a great bishop. But he offered to finish his meetings early and drive to the investigators houses to bring them to church. That helped us out a lot.

Well have a great week! I hope everyone´s doing well.

Elder Church

Rio Branco: Week 6

Monday, January 25, 2016

Hey mom! Yep, this week will be busy. Today we had a long meeting with the President. Tomorrow the new missionaries arrive and we pass the transfers. Wednesday we pass the day at the bus station and on Thursday the old missionaries go home. Elder W Silva is doing great and really there´s not much to do for training. Everything was passed to me in a couple of days. Yes, we do have a testimony meeting with group arriving and the group leaving. It´s at the president´s house. He lives on the 14th floor of a very nice apt. building right near the beach. His house is actually in my area and we pass near it a few times per week. We go to the dinner for the newly-arriving missionaries, but not for the ones going home. At the dinner for them, Sister Soares cuts the bottom part of each elder´s tie and hangs it on the wall next to their picture.

Yeah I don´t think the church is having many more problems with Visas. Actually there really aren´t many Americans being called here anymore. In the last 3 groups that have arrived, only 1 american has arrived in each group. These groups have about 8-12 missionaries come in.

That´s funny to hear about the new missionaries. I can´t believe they have so many wards to work with. How are they able to work with all of these bishops? One thing I´ve learned is that missionary work is always more successful when the members love and accept whatever set of missionaries comes in, even if they are not the most obedient or focused. Sadly, there are some members here on the mission that are quick to talk negatively or complain about the missionaries´ work and slow to do anything to help or encourage them like give references or serve them. But it´s also sad to see when one set of missionaries is able to work so well with the ward and have so much success, and then another set arrives that isn´t able to keep up the same reputation. Successful growth in a ward requires lots of unity between the members and the missionaries. This means that the missionaries should have lots of humility to be able to work according to the ward´s needs and that the members should humbly support and help the missionaries.

Great to hear about your week and I hope your class is going great. My week went well. We worked really hard during the week and were able to have lots of investigators at church and baptize a man named Tadeu.

Lately the only emails I've been receiving every week are from you and dad. I used to write to a couple of friends more frequently but it´s been a while now. Every once and a while I send a few pictures to friends from high school or BYU or send a little email.

Love you too!

Elder Church

Rio Branco: Week 5

Monday, January 18, 2016

Dear Mom,

Yep, this week I was in Assú. I stayed until Sunday. One of the elders there is Elder Caldwell, who was with me in the CTM so it was good to be able to be in the same house as him for the first time on the mission. In the house there´s also another missionary named Elder Fallon who I found out is good friends with Jared! He went to timpview and was in the band with Jared. He knows their whole family well. It is a rare house because there are 3 Americans. There were 4 this week with me. I just stayed the week to help each of the sets of missionaries. I worked with them during the week and also did a couple of baptismal interviews. We worked really hard to have lots of investigators at church.

Elder Tavares is on his last week here! The new assistant was called today. Elder W Silva. I´m excited because I was his companion not too long ago and it went really well. He and I have 3 transfers left on the mission now. Elder Tavares will travel on his last week here and I will stay in my area. Right now in the office there´s a missionary that will have to go home unfortunately because he got sick and isn´t getting better. I feel bad for this Elder Chipman because he only has a few months on the mission. He played football before the mission so he got here pretty big, but he´s lost over 40 pounds and he hasn´t gotten any better. He´s trying to keep his mind off of things but I can imagine that it must be really hard for him now to have to go home. He´ll be able to return of course once he gets better though.

Will you really take a class at BYU now? Great! I´ll be excited to hear how it goes.

It´s been raining quite a bit here. It´s nice to have a little break from the heat but it also made me realize that i´m grateful for the hot weather we usually have because there are always people on the streets and it´s good for working.

Love you!
Have a great week, too.

Rio Branco: Week 4

Monday, January 11, 2016

This is Elder Church and Elder Sales in the Christmas pajamas we sent them

Dear Mom,
Too bad that dad couldn't take you with him to San Diego last week! Sounds like it was a great stake conference. Do you think Pres. Neilson will still be the stake president when I get back? I hope so. Did Jared change a lot on his mission? That´s awesome that he is taking a class from Uncle Scott. I´m glad that Alyssa is happy with her roommates. And it sounds like Grant is anxious to travel. That would be cool if he got accepted. When does he get his results back from the BYU application?

Last week I stayed in the area again but I will probably travel this week. We didn´t have as many investigators at church this week but it was a good week. My companion is great and we are working very hard together. What were some of the highlights? Hmmm. There are a couple of members here who give quite a bit of money for us to have lunch. Usually we eat in their houses, but this week a member gave each of us quite a bit of money. I didn´t even use it to buy anything fancy though. I used some of it on taxis for us or for investigators. Our leadership council went well. I was a little nervous about it because we didn´t spend a whole lot of time preparing. But our training together with President and Sister Soares´ training made it a really good meeting. One of the good parts was when we had leaders come to the front and talk a little bit about how they have had success in certain areas. These meetings usually start with training from the secretaries, then our training, then pres. and sister Soares' training. Then we have lunch and afterwards we have an "X-ray" where we show the results that the zones had in the last month and talk about their new goals.

Love you mom, have a great week!

Rio Branco: Week 3

Sunday, January 10, 2016

Christmas eve in Pau dos Ferros- it had been really dry but it rained

The view from a member´s apartment that we had lunch in this week

Dear mom,

I was happy to see the pictures of your week in Colorado! The family keeps getting bigger. It´s funny that Grant, Alyssa and I don´t have any cousins our age on the Fillmore side. We´ll always be the first group to go on missions/get married/have kids, etc. Wow, now that Jared´s home that means that I´m getting close to finishing my mission. But I won´t think about it. That´s exciting news about Monette and Aaron and unexpected too.

This was a good week of hard work that paid off. We learn here that it doesn´t matter what you do during the week if you don´t have results on Sunday. For example, you can teach an infinite number of lessons or make tons of contacts, but if you´re not able to have any investigators at church on Sunday, all of that work didn´t really mean much. People can only progress if they go to church. They can only be baptized if they go to church. So that is our focus for the week and the vision that we try to pass to the mission. Some already understand it, others not very much. But that was our focus this week (Elder Sales and I). We worked hard and on Sunday had 16 people at church! This was definitely a miracle because the part we work in is about a half-an-hour walk from the church. But we had a couple of people give rides which helped. Anyway, we are definitely receiving divine help and we feel blessed for being obedient and working hard. This will help us a lot this week because we already know who to work with and we will be able to help as many of these people as we can to get baptized in the following weeks.

It´s been different to live in this neighborhood and I really like it. Some of the members live in really nice apartment buildings. This part feels just like any other big city in the US. Two times this week we met people who travel frequently to the US. The first guy we met was in a McDonalds (this was my first time eating there on the mission- there are only a couple here in Natal and they are nice- the rich people eat here). He saw us and wanted to sit by us. He asked if one of us was from Salt Lake. He practiced his English with me and said that he had been there 3 times. He´s a dentist here and he plans to move to Salt Lake in the near future because he thinks it´s a better place to raise a family. He said that he had been to temple square a few times and that he had a Book of Mormon and he had already been to church there. He wants to go to church here and he says he will take his wife and his daughter. He lives in another area so we passed the reference. The next guy we met stopped us on the street and asked if I was from Utah. He said he´s going there in March to visit the national parks. He asked which ones he should go to and if I had ever hiked angels landing and things like that. He was also very receptive and says he´ll go to church next week. So it´s fun to be able to work with these types of people. Actually, we spend most of our time in another neighborhood where there are more people on the street. Really, most people are humble and receptive here, but it´s only effective to work in areas that have lots of people on the streets. So we always go to those parts.

We have mission council tomorrow with all of the leaders so we´re preparing for that. Elder Tavares only has a few weeks left! It´s funny that he lives so close to here. He had already come here a few times before his mission, and even stayed in one of the members houses before. It was funny when we were leaving the member´s house that we had lunch in yesterday and he told us that he had stayed in that house several years ago with his family.

Happy new year to everyone! Have a great week. Love you!