Wednesday, August 25, 2010

A Letter to the Crestwood Ward (but you can read it, too!)

A beautiful sunset in Assis

We don't have a dryer -- so this is my best "quick fix" for wet socks!

To my beloved Crestwood Ward,

‘Tis I, Elder Titus, speaking as one crying from the dust to proclaim to the world that I, indeed, am still alive. Yea, the very same Elder Titus who left your presence one year ago and headed to a foreign land situated on the other end of the globe. Remember me? Good. Well, I’m doing great, and the work is just swell. Brazil hasn’t changed at all, and it's still hotter than it should be. We’re in the dead of winter here, and yesterday was 93 degrees. Nonetheless, the work moves on.

Currently I’m living in the middle of nowhere, in a city called Assis, population 100,000. And Area Assis is the biggest area in the mission, or to put it in perspective, my area is the size of the Seattle Mission. District meetings are a 2 hour bus ride away. We cover 10 smaller cities each 30-45 minutes outside of Assis. I’ve travelled to only 5 of them. There should be churches in all of them, but I’m afraid I have to quote the Savior in Matthew 9 when He said “The harvest truly is plenteous, but the laborers are few.” In conclusion, we need more missionaries, until then, there will only be a church building in Assis. As for the progress here, it's kinda weird; On a good Sunday we have an attendance of 80, which isn’t bad, but seeing as though the church has been here for 20 years, it isn’t really good either . . . nevertheless we are making good progress here, and the majority of the people are working to turn the branch into a ward.

Well, my last companion was Elder McCombs from Puyallup, so that was cool to get to spend some time with somebody from my own neck of the woods, but he was transferred. At the moment, I’m training Elder Morris, who is from Mississippi, he’s only my second American companion. Good guy, big heart. We are doing super well together and teaching well. Currently, we are teaching a lady named Jozi, who was recently a Catholic missionary and sings in the catholic choir, and she and her family are progressing super well. I’m not leaving Assis until I baptize them! You can ask my mom what happens.

Well, much has been accomplished in this last year. I have walked approximately 3,300 miles, eaten the same lunch of rice and beans everyday, talked to around 7,500 people about the gospel, and been an instrument in the hands of God by administering the ordinances of salvation to many of His children. I echo the words of Alma when he said, “I know that which the Lord hath commanded me, and I glory in it. I do not glory of myself, but I glory in that which the Lord hath commanded me; yea, and this is my glory, that perhaps I may be an instrument in the hands of God to bring some soul to repentance; and this is my joy. And behold, when I see many of my brethren truly penitent, and coming to the Lord their God, then is my soul filled with joy; then do I remember what the Lord has done for me, yea, even that he hath heard my prayer; yea, then do I remember his merciful arm which he extended towards me.”

But my phrasing is in the present tense, for the Lord hears my prayers and His merciful arm is constantly extended towards me (oh, if I could only tell the stories, but can’t because my mom is listening), and my soul is being filled with joy, because I am seeing God’s children come unto Him. Such joy can only be experienced as a missionary, and while negative experiences occur almost daily, they are always for our profit and learning, and in the end, if we endure it well, we become stronger.

Brothers and Sisters, this is the true gospel of Jesus Christ. I know why I’m here. I’m here to declare to Brazil our unique message, which is: Through a modern day prophet, God has restored knowledge about the plan of salvation, which is centered on Christ’s Atonement, and fulfilled by living the first principles and ordinances of the gospel. It is the most important message in the world. I thank my Heavenly Father daily that I have the privilege of sharing it daily. I love my Savior, for no other reason would I do this for 2 years. In fact, I love Him so much that I hope to get an extension to my mission, we’ll see though, it’s a political problem.

This last year has been great, but I’m no pessimist, my mission is not half empty, it's half full. I have much yet to accomplish, and as far as I’m concerned, I’ve only just begun.

In the name of Jesus Christ, amen.

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

I could feel for myself that yes, it is indeed true

Our humble supply of copies of "The Book of Mormon"

Me and my new companion, Elder Morris

Howdy y’all!

As y’all might already be able to perceive, I be pickin’ up my new comp’s suthurn accent. Elder Morris be his name, and he be from Woolmarket, Mississippi. He dun assured me that his family ain’t into da market of sellin' wool.

So, it’s tchau, tchau to Elder McCombs (I’m a gonna miss him) and howdy to Elder Morris. As I said last week, he’s super new, just starting his 2nd transfer and upon conversing with him, it turns out that his 1st transfer was beyond dismal. He was only able to make it a few weeks with his trainer (1st companion) before he had to go and stay with a host of other missionaries. The last week of the transfer he went back to stay with his trainer, and by the end of that week, he had marked “The Interview” with President Tavares in order to get his plane ticket to return home. President Tavares told him that he had been praying hard to know who he should put Elder Morris with, and that he knew exactly who that was, and asked him to give it one more shot. And here we are.

Turns out, Elder Morris is just a big misunderstood teddy bear, and all he really needed was one of my healing hugs. Elder Morris is a good guy, just a little lost. My only hope is that I can help him find his way (NOT back to Mississippi), and help him understand that yes, the mission some days may seem impossible, but that we need to realize that we are here for a greater cause (for complete love of the Savior) and we have a greater purpose (to bring His lost sheep back to the fold). We can’t let anything get in the way of fulfilling our purpose. The mission is FULL of trials, but I am reminded of a quote that was above the refrigerator when I was just a lad; it read: “I never said it would be easy; I only said it would be worth it.” And so it is. And if I can help Elder Morris understand this, and stay on his mission, then I will understand why Pres. Tavares felt inspired to send him to me.

Nonetheless, Elder Morris has already been a huge blessing. He has the “Official Missionary Elastic Workout Band,” of which I have yet to acquire. Dude, I’ve been going to town on that puppy . . . miraculous results? Behold the picture! With no other elastic workout band would I be able to obtain such strength – only with the “Official Missionary Elastic Workout Band.” Not sold in stores.
Check out the muscle!

OK. On a more serious note: These past few weeks, I had the opportunity of completing (for the 3rd time), "The Book of Mormon." Contained in the last chapter is a promise that I now hold very dear to my heart, which says that upon reading the book, pondering and praying to our Father in Heaven, we can receive a testimony of it’s truthfulness, by the power of the Holy Ghost (see Moroni 10:3-5, below). Furthermore, in "Preach My Gospel" (the missionary manual) on page 111, you read “You, too, should apply this promise regularly to strengthen and renew your own testimony of "The Book of Mormon." This renewed testimony will help you maintain a firm confidence that anyone who applies this promise will receive the answer.” And so I did. And upon finishing, I knelt and asked God if what I had read was true, if the book really was a testimony of Jesus Christ written by a Christian people that lived on this continent 2000 years ago, brought forth by God, and translated by Joseph Smith, by the power of God. In response, I could feel for myself that yes, it is indeed true. I felt feelings of love and peace that must be experienced by everyone individually.

Last night, we were teaching Augusto about "The Book of Mormon," and at the end of the lesson, I bore my testimony of the truthfulness of it, and upon doing so, I felt so much stronger in that moment than earlier this week, about its divinity. I became emotional for the first time on my mission. I have a testimony of "The Book of Mormon." Before, I think my testimony was based on factual evidence; in other words, I could prove it was true by using Bible scriptures. But now I have received an answer from a loving Father in Heaven; an answer that can never be proven false, for I know that God cannot lie.

I know that anyone who truly and sincerely searches for this answer, as I have, will obtain it. And how good it is to know, for now, no one will ever be able to take away the knowledge that I have.

Until next week,
Elder Titus

Moroni 10:3-5
Behold, I would exhort you that when ye shall read these things, if it be wisdom in God that ye should read them, that ye would remember how merciful the lord hath been unto the children of men, from the creation of Adam even down until the time that ye shall receive these things, and ponder it in your hearts.
And when ye shall receive these things, I would exhort you that ye would ask God, the Eternal Father, in the name of Christ, if these things are not true; and if ye shall ask with a sincere heart, with real intent, having faith in Christ, he will manifest the truth of it unto you, by the power of the Holy Ghost.
And by the power of the Holy Ghost ye may know the truth of all things.

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

When we don't go, we slowly forget...

Silvia's Baptism Day

Our Tower of Açaí (Elder McCombs and I ate THIS much in one month!)

Yo yo,

This week was good, but sad. Currently, I’m here in Marilia, waiting to pick up my new comp, Elder Morris. Elder McCombs, my bestie, is on his way to Maringá, city of trees. I’m sad, but life goes on.... well, I hear Elder Morris is from Mississippi, so it should be a new experience. He’s starting his second transfer, so he’s quite new. I also hear he is a big dude.

On Saturday, we had the baptism of Silvia, and all went well. She choose Elder McCombs to baptize her, and I was glad because the water was super cold. We’re asking for a water heater... we’ll see. I gave a talk about “the gospel” (faith, repentance, baptism, gift of the holy ghost, and endure to the end) at the baptismal service, because not a lot of people went. But it was still good.

Jozie and family are progressing very well. They all (minus Rogerio, the husband) went to church. Tomorrow we’re gonna go visit them and bring along a male member of the church with a strong testimony, who is from Candido Mota, to try and befriend Rogerio so he comes to church.

Everyone else is doing awesome. And Augusto has returned for good now because he started college, so hopefully he goes to church this week and remembers how great it is, and gets baptized. He’s kinda forgotten how great he felt when he went in June, but that’s how it goes. When we don’t go, we slowly forget how good it feels until we get accustomed to not going. That’s one of the many reasons why we need to go church every week!

Crazy news: one of my former companions, Elder Galdino (the one whose parents died a couple months back) is now Assistant to the President, which is crazy (in a good way). This is a position that is usually reserved for the elders with only 3 or so months left on their missions, and he has 10 months to go. I knew he would be AP some day, but holy cow, that was quick!!! So, parabens* to Elder Galdino, he’ll be a great leader!

Well, see ya later!


*parabens = congratulations

Wednesday, August 4, 2010

Yea For Member Referrals!

Zone Conference. That's my companion, Elder McCombs on the front row, left side.

A map of our area. We live in Assis, but travel to other cities close by.

This is sooo awesome! I think we need these in America!

Oi colegas! There’s a lady at the post office that says that to us, it’s annoying. It means collegues, we’re not amigos, just colegas.

Last p-day was a good one. After I used this sweet phone (see pic above), we ate lunch at a burger place in Ourinhos with the gang. On the long bus ride back home, my companion, Elder McCombs started feeling sick. When we got off the bus, he barfed muito! And then many more times on the 2 block trek back home. Poor thing. As for me, well, I have the immune system of a hippo, so the food didn’t even phase me. Plus, I ate açaí that morning. I testify that it works. If they ever make an açaí commercial, I’m there. Anyway, he’s all better now.

The rest of the week was good though. We are teaching a family in Candido Mota, (see map of our area minus Ourinhos, and south of the river) who are progressing very well. Jozi, her daughters Stefani and Ianca, and recently her husband Rogério, and Jozi’s mom, Flora.

Silvia is going to get baptized this Saturday (as long as she passes the interview, of course). She lives in Maracaí (on the map, it is to the west of Assis). And another investigator, Augusto, is still hiding on the farm. Ugh. We are also working with a few members that have some references, and we will probably make contact with them next week. Yea for member references!

Last week, we were teaching this one elderly guy (José) and in the middle of the lesson, he got up from his chair, went into another room, grabbed his guitar, and then commenced playing and singing two songs for us. He was actually pretty good for a 70-year-old. It was sweet.

Well, I have writer’s block and can’t remember anything else at the moment...take care, and see ya later!

- Elder Tito