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.
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!