Tuesday, February 4, 2014

Another great week serving in Brazil

What a great week. Lately we've been encouraged, along with the whole mission, to reach a certain general goal of lessons taught and new people found. It's a difficult goal to attain but I have found that when we work toward it, we do more than we would have had otherwise. In the past I have been de-motivated by the high goals we're asked to attain and frequently reminded of, because I haven't grasped how the numbers we report can reflect the real work we're doing. It's been hard to find a balance in between meeting our goals just to meet them and doing things for the right reason. This week I found that balance. We had everything planned to meet the mission's goal but many unplanned service projects came up. I noticed that by doing the long service projects (that would benefit future missionaries in the area) we would lose precious time to visit people and reach our goals. We decided to do them. I learned a lesson analogous to the one that we are supposed to learn in school but we sometimes don't understand, which is: The worksheets we fill out and the tests we take aren't going to prepare us for our future profession. The worksheets and tests are merely instruments we use to challenge ourselves to reach a higher level and see what we're capable of knowing and doing. Goals of lessons taught are the same. When we do our best to reach our goal, we do things we wouldn't do otherwise and end up finding great ideas to propel the work. Once we have used the instrument of goals to climb a metaphorical mountain of lessons, we find out what we're really supposed to be doing. We were able to use our goals to push us up on top of things to look down and see what we really could and should be doing. We didn't meet our goal of lessons, but that isn't the point. We worked within our purpose, striving to meet goals, and ended up helping more people than we planned on. We were surprised to see so many people at church, including a man named Carlos that came out of nowhere asking us for help.

On Friday, Elder Opdahl came to Novo Gama and switched places with Elder Bell for a day. I don't know if Coke is doing a world cup bottle cap promotion thing in the US, but here, if you find bottle caps on the road from a coke bottle, you can turn them in and get a little coke bottle key chain. There are 20 of them, one from each country that will be in the world cup. Elder Bell and Elder Opdahl were doing it and they got me caught up in the game too. 

--about Carlos--
After visiting a few people after lunch, we decided to pass by the padaria (bakery--kind of) and turn in the bottle caps for a little key chain. As we left, a man behind us said "Elderes!". We turned around and waited for him to approach us. He told a mini version of his story. He was with his four kids buying something for them. His ex-wife is a member of the church but fell away and cheated on him. She left him with all the kids and took most of his money. He struggled a lot that year. He lost 90 pounds because of all the stress. He went to various churches but said that he didn't feel good in any of them. Because of his brief contact with the missionaries in the past, he wanted to talk to us. He said he can't stand the emotional pain and stress anymore. He wants to change. He had been praying constantly that the Lord would help him and told us that the answer he kept feeling was "Me busca. Eu te acho." (Look for me. I'll find you.) We visited him at his home later that night. He told us more about his life and we explained the role of the atonement in repentance and forgiveness. We promised him that he could find peace again. His kids´ faces reflected their sad situation. At the end we invited him to go to church. He was unsure. He hesitantly replied, "I don't think so because my girls don't have clothes to wear." We told him that what you wear isn't as important as your presence. We could tell that it would still be an obstacle for him. We told him not to worry about the clothes. He turned to his two boys, Tales and Arthur, one by one, asking "Vamo pra a igreja amanhá?" (Do you want to go to church tomorrow?). They both nodded their heads. Then he looked to us and said "yes, we'll go." There was so much sincerity in his and their words and gestures. We knelt in prayer as a family and prayed for them. Later that night, right before we went to bed, a member called and said she could drop some clothes of at their house for the little girls (Maine and Isabela). When we saw him at church the next day he said that he "just couldn't not go" after getting the clothes for his daughters. I felt so happy when I saw them sitting on the back row, all squeezed in their seats like our family usually was at church. I'm so privileged to know them and to be a part of their life. I can't wait to see their life change as they continue praying and having faith that things can and will get better.

An old lady took three pieces of casserole from my hand on Friday and tried to give me 5 reais. That made me laugh. I almost didn't even mention this because crazy things like this happen all the time, but it's probably fun for you to hear about this stuff.

Have a great week of (hopefully) snow days!

Elder Young

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