Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Homecoming . . . (more photos at end)

From Derek's mom: I am SO VERY SORRY that I forgot to post this final blog from Derek. I could make a lot of excuses at this point, but let's just say I got distracted. Having Derek home for a few weeks has been wonderful. These last two years were an adventure for both of us, and it was fun spending time with him and getting reaquainted. Oh, the stories he told! And then, all too soon, it was time for him to leave again. Last weekend, we whisked him off to attend college at BYU-Idaho. It has been an amazing three weeks! So, without further delay, here is what he wrote about a week after returning home:

My family at the airport. They got lost, and I had to search the whole place to find them.

A foot inside the front door and I couldn't wait to show them my souveniers! Kind of looks like my suitcase exploded . . .

Well, I would like to formally apologize for putting off my last promised blog. As you all know, I am home and safe. The trip was long, but worth it, and faster than I thought it would be. The layovers were quick. The hardest part was Atlanta to Seattle. Almost too cliche, I arrived in Seattle to find no one waiting for me. But I knew that could not be right, so after walking from one end of the airport to the other end, I finally saw my family. I walked up behind them as they were waiting for me at the wrong escalator (to their dismal surprise), but it was fine. I then got my long awaited French Toast from IHOP. Soooooo good!

Currently, I am adjusting to normal life, it's going better than anticipated, but I'm still not completely used to it. I'm preparing myself to go back to college soon, to tackle some of the biggest obstacles I will face in my life. However I am sure that everything will go fine because I have developed some skills on my mission that will get me through most difficulties with success.

On my mission, I was able to develop my testimony little by little and develop a rock solid foundation upon which I can securely build the rest of my life. I know that in this Church I will be able to find counsel and strength to acheive my goals.

I am so grateful that I served a mission. I have learned and grown so much. My testimony of this gospel is undeniable. I am certain of the things which I have been teaching for the last 2 years. The Gospel is true. I know that when we follow the things that we have been taught, we will be blessed. I know that Jesus Christ is my Savior, that He suffered for my sins and all the sins of the world, and that through Him we can achieve salvation. I know that God and His Son, Jesus Christ love us just as much as They loved the people when Christ was on the earth, and that Christ leads His church through a prophet today, even Thomas S. Monson. I know that The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is the true church of God. It has the priesthood authority of God to administer the ordinances of the Gospel of Christ. The Book of Mormon is the word of God, translated by the Prophet Joseph Smith. I have read it and prayed about it, and know that it is true. My testimony is a lot more than mere words on a page; it lives inside of me and it's difficult for me to transmit that which I know to be true, to you, a person reading this blog. However, please know that I'm grateful you are reading this, and I hope you can feel a portion of my testimony through these words.

And finally, I want to thank everyone who helped and supported me on my mission. It would have been a lot harder to do it without you guys. And... thanks for reading my blog.

Tchau blog,
Derek Titus

Grandma, Grandpa and Gaylord worried that I hadn't arrived yet. They were told by the Delta airlines people where to wait. But it was the wrong location!



Headed to IHOP!!!

Monday, August 15, 2011

My feelings right now are rather tranquil.

Baptism of Raulino and Elaine

Missionary Farewell, Titus Style

Hey, My Favorite Blog Stalkers,

Welp, my last week in the field has arrived. Currently I’m here in an internet place with some bros from my MTC district, Elder Ingram, Elder Parrott and Elder Yuma. We’re just chillin in Londrina, waiting to be interviewed by President. Tomorrow is another day to do whatever and it sounds like me and Elder Barbosa are going to go to Ibipora (my very first area) to see some families since we have the whole day to do nothing.

My feelings right now are rather tranquil. I’m sad and excited at the same time, resulting in quietness. Everyone is kinda quite. There are 15 of us leaving. It was easy and hard to leave Cascavel -- by far was my best area. The members there are what make it happen. I took a lot of pictures, but this computer is so slow -- just to get the baptismal picture of Raulino and Elaine took forever, so for now, that’s all you get. The secretaries called me on Saturday morning telling me that I was going to travel to Londrina on Sunday after church, meaning I would miss lunch and the baptism. But, then they changed it to midnight. So I got to eat a nice lunch and participate in the baptismal service. I said goodbye to Elder de Jesus, my beloved, and Elder Azevedo and Elder Stinocher, and got on the bus to meet Elder Parrott and Elder Pinheiro who were coming up from Foz to Londrina. Usually it sucks to travel during the night, because it’s hard to sleep on buses, because of the bumpy roads, and it doesn’t help when they put us at the back of the bus by the bathroom again, but it was actually okay. We even got a non-stop ride too, cutting the time from 9 hours to 6 hours. That was a blessing. I even slept a little.

It still hasn’t really hit me yet that I’m going home. I know I’m going to, but it doesn’t seem real yet. Kinda like a dream, but I think that when I get on the plane it will begin to sink in.

My mission has been a great adventure, full of experiences with all sorts of emotions. Getting on the plane Wednesday morning I will leave a part of my heart behind. I love Brasil, the countryside and the people, and I would love to stay, but sooner or later we all gotta leave.

Next week I’ll share my testimony because right now, we need to leave. So until then, be comforted by this scripture in 2 Corinthians 7:6 "Nevertheless God, that comforteth those that are cast down, comforted us by the coming of Titus."

Elder “for the last time” Titus


Monday, August 8, 2011

Fernanda was excited to get baptized, but . . .

One last photo of a pretty Brazilian bug. Jealous?

Baptism! Elder de Jesus, Ragny (Wanderlei's daughter), Wanderlei, Fernanda (niece) and Marlene (and me)

Staring death in the eyes (missionary death, of course).

So here I am, week 103. The last week as a full time missionary. Strange, to say the least. But it’s not over yet!

There is a cool member family in our ward. The father, Wanderlei, used to be a Vice Pastor of a common church here, and they are really involved in missionary work. We have been teaching some of his extended family for quite some time. However, the parents were not divorced from their previous marriages, and live far from the chapel. However, their 12 year old daughter (Fernanda) became interested and went to church. And she has been to church 4 times. We were trying to get her baptized, but the parents were kinda reluctant because of the commitment to go to church every week and some other stuff. Fernanda was excited to get baptized, but then lost her enthusiasm and stopped going to church for a few weeks. Thursday morning we had an idea. We went to Wanderlei’s house and invited them to invite her to family home evening at their house. The following day (with our intention to baptize her on Sunday), they agreed and she went to their home for FHE. We taught her the gospel of Jesus Christ and laid 5 pamphlets on the floor signifying faith, repentance, baptism, the Gift of the Holy Ghost, and enduring to the end. We had everyone stand up and said, all those who have faith, take a step forward. Each one moved forward. Those who have repented, take another step forward. Who has been baptized? Go forward, and so on. The whole family and us made it to the end representing the kingdom of God – with the exception of Fernanda. We said, “Hey Fernanda, what happened?” Anyway the activity kinda made it sink into her head the importance of baptism. We asked her if she had a desire to be baptized, and she said “Yes.” Then we invited her to be baptized on Sunday. She stayed in silence, looking at the ground, for like 2 minutes. Finally she said, “I don’t know if my mom is going to let me go to church.” We said, “But if she lets you, would you be baptized on Sunday?” And she said, “Yes.”

The next day we planned to talk to the mom, but no one was sure if she would be home. We were on our way there, when I decided to stop and pray. I asked that everything would go well; that we would find the mom at home and that she would be supportive. Almost immediately, as I ended the prayer, Wanderlei called me telling us that the mom was at home waiting for us, and was going to be supportive. We got there and she was really chill about it all. She signed the form, and all went well.

After the baptism on Sunday, a bird flying overhead pooped on my arm. Nice.

Rauling and Elaine got sick, but they are excited to get baptized this Sunday. She even came to church in a dress, which was a first.

In other news: I go home next week.

Elder Titus

Bird droppings adorn my arm. I'm definitely feelin' the love.

Monday, August 1, 2011

The lesson was waaayyy spiritual . . .

Streets of Santa Cruz prepped for paving. Elder de Jesus dodges a bullet.


My keyboard is moist . . . why is it so humid??? It has been raining non-stop for the last 4 days!!! But, in short, my complaining will have an end.

We had a very good week this week despite the rain and the lack of baptizing. However the mission has been on fire. We baptized 150 people in the month of July!!! The small zone of Cascavel baptized 10.

For many months we have been teaching a family where everyone is a member of the Church, except the dad, Josmar. He used to be really Catholic. He is not legally divorced from his past wife because she didn’t wanna sign the form. However, he called her this week and told her that he is following a new religion and wants to get baptized -- but he needs to get married first, and for that to happen she needs to sign the paper. And she agreed!!! Unfortunately it’s gonna take about another month or so for the marriage paperwork to come through. I won’t be here, but that’s fine.

With the division of the ward we got a new investigator family; Raulino and Elaine. They are what we call “eternal investigators.” They are a middle aged couple. Raulino is the husband, and wants to be baptized. However, Elaine was a little hard hearted, being a practicing Catholic, but finally, finally, she got an answer to her prayers. We did their baptismal interview Sunday after church (without them knowing) and they are both ready, but we didn’t mark a date. We went to their house in the afternoon and taught them about the atonement with the Bishop (he is their neighbor) and committed them to stop drinking coffee forever and being baptized on Saturday. The lesson was waaayyy spiritual, as we read Luke 22 about Gethsemane and what we need to do to have Christ’s sacrifice valid in our salvation. Eight months of investigating the church, having the missionaries going to their house almost weekly -- and finally making the decision to follow through now -- MIRACLE!

More good news, the neighborhood of Santa Cruz is getting un-ghettoized!!!! Another miracle! It’s getting PAVED!!!!! (Elder de Jesus in photo above, is dodging a bullet... lol.)

Holy cow, my mission is going by sooo fast.


Elder “while I can” Titus

Monday, July 25, 2011

. . . some trunkiness crept in . . .

Birthday lunch with Irmã Margarete and Irmão Nascimento

Well, the week was interesting as usual. Every week with Elder de Jesus in Cascavel is interesting. Nothing bland. Ever.

The beginning of the week was going well. We saw a dead guy laying in his driveway with a small black bag over him, in the pouring rain surrounded by cops, with his family screaming nearby. That was fun . . . pretty sure he was the victim of a gang drive-by shooting. I’m gonna miss my ghetto “free pass” aka “missionary name tag.” We’re pretty tight with the gangsters here.

William and Sabrina were excited for baptism, especially William. João (my Mini-Me) was excited as well. However, on Thursday we had to leave to go to Foz do Iguaçu for zone conference on Friday. We got back Friday at midnight. Zone conference was fun. Me and Elder Parrott gave our “last testimony.” It was intense. I almost cried, but then I didn’t. Unfortunately, by the time we got back, William and Sabrina had gone downhill due to lack of follow up, and didn’t get baptized. João had quite the adversity to deal with, but came off conqueror. His dad gave a little battle, saying he was kinda young, but I told him about me and then he said it was up to João and João said it is was he wanted. Awesome kid!

My birthday was okay. It’s kinda hard to have a great birthday as a missionary, but I don’t really care. In 3 weeks I’ll celebrate it with some Pizza Hut and a DQ Blizzard . . . ughhhhh soooo goooood!!!!

The potential for a major set-back for me occurred Sunday night when we went to a member’s house with the intention of scheduling a Family Night with them for Tuesday. When we walked into their home, they were watching the last 5 kilometers of the last day of the Tour de France. (I have been trying so hard to stay focused on missionary work these last few weeks – even to the extent that I forbade my mother from giving me any news about the Tour. Do you realize how hard that is for me? Focus. Focus. Focus!) I can’t believe Cadel Evans won. But whatev. Anyway, some trunkiness crept in as I explained to them why I was on the verge of hitting the TV. But I’m better now. I took a picture with him (below).

Well, gots to go,

Elder Titus
Me and Cadel Evans, winner of the 2011 Tour de France

Monday, July 18, 2011

He really, really, reminds me of me when I got baptized

Ugh, unfortunately I am not going to baptize consecutively my last 7 weeks. Fernanda didn’t get baptized this past weekend, but this coming weekend is looking excellent. Alex took two friends to church, Sabrina and William (siblings) and they are going to get baptized on Sunday.

This week we were given a less active member reference for Irmã Marina. She has a son who is not baptized yet. His name is João. He is nine years old and is a super cool kid. He really, really, reminds me of me when I got baptized. I was baptized when I was nine years old, also. I don’t remember why, but for some reason, my mom was not going to church at the time and when I turned eight, she didn’t push me to get baptized. She said it was my choice and I needed to make that decision when I was ready. So, I waited, and then at nine, I was taught by the missionaries and chose to be baptized. However, unlike me, João has a Catholic dad who we still have to go through for him to get baptized on Saturday, but I know that everything will turn out just fine.

Unfortunately, the computer lab lady is going to lunch in 1 minute and I have to log out.

I’m doing great. Every day that passes, I’m less trunky. Elder de Jesus is helping a ton.


Elder Titus

PS: And, sorry, I forgot my camera cable, so no pictures today. I know, I know, I’m lame.

PPS: 4 weeks! . . . hahaha

Monday, July 11, 2011

Baptism of Suzana

The bishop of the new Coqueiral Ward, Bishop Marcos Tasso.

"O Dedão," which translates to "The Thumb."

Yo yo yo 5 to go,

This week was boa to say the least. Let’s start with Suzana’s baptism. I think she was one of the most elect people I’ve taught so far on my mission -- especially when it comes to “feeling” the Spirit at church. She said that she got goose bumps during the closing prayer at Sacrament Meeting and that the entire time it felt like she was floating. She told us last Sunday that the sooner she could get baptized, the better. Now that’s something every missionary dreams of hearing. Wish granted to her. Her boyfriend baptized her and I confirmed her.

Other news: Cascavel 1st Ward has officially divided!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! WOW! If that is not an achieved goal in a missionary’s life, I don’t know what is. Elder de Jesus and I will probably be part of the new ward since it’s in our area, named Coqueiral Ward. (coke eh ral - roll the “r” once – it’s a type of coconut tree, but also the name of a neighborhood here). Everyone is excited, except the young women who were crying during the entire Sacrament Meeting. Oh, and one 15 year old young man, too, was sobbing. hahahaha. The Lord is doing a marvelous work and a wonder here in Cascavel. 1st Ward had an attendance of 198 and 3rd Ward had an attendance of 126! Usually it’s around 95. That will make 3 wards with an attendance of 100 each, which is a really good headcount for Brazil. In 3rd Ward, Elder de Souza and Elder Ealey baptized a lady whose daughters have been members for 14 years, but has always denied baptism for herself. It has been and continues to be fun to watch miracles happen here in Cascavel. I remember in Apucarana everyone were rivals it seemed like, (the members) completely un-united, and the Lord did not bless them. But here in Cascavel, everyone has one thought and one mind: growth. And the Lord is on our side. President Tavares made a goal for the mission that every companionship can baptize this month of July, due to having 5 weekends. This is a goal that has never been achieved in our mission. Not to brag, but Cascavel Zone was the first zone to have all its companionships baptize. Boo ya! I’m so grateful to be a part of this work! It is epic. We’re growing, and growing faster than ever.

Tcau, later,
Elder Titus