Monday, March 28, 2011

His countenance has completely reversed . . .

Making a phone call from Apacurana (the "Hat" capitol of Brazil)

Somewhere, over the rainbow, way up high . . .ok, maybe not.

Highlights of the past week:

I did a division with Elder Shaddick in his area in the city of Apucarana (“Hat Capital of Brazil,” hence the hat pay phone), and it rained all day and we got soaked. During the day we taught some random elderly lady who refused to understand baptism*. I told her baptism means a remission of sins, and asked her if she thought children have sins, to which she said “No, no.” But then she said, “Wait, yes they do! Just by breastfeeding they are sinning!” And I was like, “What?? How?” And she said, “Yeah, a child sins by breastfeeding.” She couldn’t be dissuaded, nor could she explain why she felt that way. It was so frustrating. Then Elder Shaddick said, “Wait! Did Jesus have sins? Didn’t Jesus breastfeed?” She kind of just stopped talking. Then we prayed with her, and left. That was such a random lesson.

Later that night on the way home, we were in the middle of nowhere, stopped because of a slow moving train in our way. That’s when I decided to fulfill a lifelong dream. I ran next to the train and grabbed onto the ladder and rode it for like 50 yards, then jumped off. I did that like 5 times. It was soooo fun, even at 5 mph!!!! (Good thing my mom´s 6000 miles away, right? No pictures though, sorry.)

Elder Siqueira is doing good, but his feet are horrible, covered in blisters. He´s a real trooper though, usually only complains 2 or 3 times a day. Unfortunately, that’s kind of what he gets for bringing 2 pairs of new shoes to start off his mission, especially in an area where we walk a lot. Been there, done that.

That guy who got baptized last week has changed a lot. His countenance has completely reversed from being weighed down to now being bright and smiling. That’s what the gospel has the power to do in people’s lives.

Well, gotta run!

Elder Titus

*Our belief in baptism, as explained in the "4th Article of Faith": "We believe that the first principles and ordinances of the Gospel are: first, Faith in the Lord Jesus Christ; second, Repentance; third, Baptism by immersion for the remission of sins; fourth, Laying on of hands for the gift of the Holy Ghost."

Baptism by immersion is a symbol of the death, burial, and resurrection of the Savior. In a similar way, it represents the end of our old life of sin and a commitment to live a new life as a disciple of Christ. The Savior taught that baptism is a rebirth. When we are baptized we begin the process of being born again and become spiritual sons and daughters of Christ.

Little children do not need to be baptized and are redeemed through the mercy of Jesus Christ. They are not baptized until they reach the age of accountability, which is eight years of age.

Monday, March 21, 2011

I could feel the Spirit guiding me . . .

A porcelain resting spot perfectly placed for the weary traveller.

We stumbled onto this photogenic little stream.

Elder Siqueira next to the stream -- notice the left bank, and how high the water has been after a storm.

This week was rather normal as far as a week in the life of a missionary goes; not super interesting, but always a little different than the previous weeks.

Elder Jackson got a package from his family. They sent him some “curry” mix. So on Monday, he made up the sauce and put it with rice. It smelled pretty good, so I ate it – and I actually enjoyed it. However, it was a bit spicy for me. Here´s something I think most people don’t realize; Brazilian food is NOT spicy. Hence, I have not eaten anything spicy for a long time. In conclusion, it made my throat really dry, making it hard to sleep. This condition lasted for 2 nights, with little sleep – which makes for rough days of work. Also, it caused my body to increase in mucus activity, making me kind of congested, and to this day my body is still making excess mucus, all from one plate of curry. Maybe I’m allergic to the stuff?

Friday night I had an intense baptismal interview with one of Elder J. Lima's and Elder Jackson’s investigators. We learn in D&C 20:37* of the requirements of baptism, mainly a broken heart and a contrite spirit, or in other words, humility. Someone during a stake leadership conference asked President Tavares how we will know if a person is truly humble and ready for baptism, and he had an elder stand up and then he had an elderly member stand up and said to us, “Now imagine this full grown man confessing his sins to this boy -- can you get any more humble than that?” Anyway, my interview was an interesting experience, that tried me in an area to which I have little experience, but I could feel the Spirit guiding me during the whole process and it went well, and the investigator was baptized.

Saturday morning we had an appointment with a family that just wanted to teach US, and it was really frustrating. To every question and doubt they expressed, we had an answer in the scriptures. However, they refused to accept anything we said. At one point, he was talking about how the devil can transform himself into an angel of light, and talked about Joseph Smith’s first vision and how that could have happened in that instant. I quickly responded with my testimony about how I know that was not the case, and humbly invited him to do what everyone must do to know, and that is to ask of God. However, he then continued to argue, and for the first time in my mission, I stood up, shook his hand, said “Tchau,” and walked out of his house without saying a prayer. The spirit of contention is of the devil.

Elder Titus

*D&C 20:37 "And again, by way of commandment to the church concerning the manner of baptism — All those who humble themselves before God, and desire to be baptized, and come forth with broken hearts and contrite spirits, and witness before the church that they have truly repented of all their sins, and are willing to take upon them the name of Jesus Christ, having a determination to serve him to the end, and truly manifest by their works that they have received of the Spirit of Christ unto the remission of their sins, shall be received by baptism into his church."

Monday, March 14, 2011

"To every thing there is a season, and a time to every purpose under the heaven.”

My buddy, Jefferson. He's going to be a missionary soon!

Me and my new companion, Elder Siqueira (the camera angle makes him look short, but he's really not)

Elder Siqueira attacked by killer dog during his very first week

Faithful Titus followers:

Sorry for the lackage of valuable information for this past week, but time is like cold weather here in Brazil, there’s not much of it.

New companion information: his name is Elder Siqueira (see-care-uh), from Fortaleza, Ceará, (same state as my trainer Elder Da Silva). He is 19 years old, tall, gangly, shy-ish (for now). Dark skin, dark hair, brown eyes. He´s been a member of the church for 6 years. He is willing and obedient, just the way I like ´em.

Elder de Jesus, my previous companion, is now comps with Elder Yuma (I was in the MTC with him) and they share an apartment with Elder Galdino and his greenie companion, Elder Caetano. Elder Galdino is the zone leader in Marilia. I met up with Elder Galdino in Londrina, two weeks ago, to pick up our new companions. We ended up taking the wrong bus, and getting lost. But that’s a story for another day.

Last week I mentioned that we had a little conference with an Area Seventy,in Londrina, and besides seeing Jefferson, another awesome thing happened that day. I got another letter from Miria, who is from Assis. She informed me that her mom finally got baptized, and also if you go back to some of my June blog accounts, we were teaching Meryellen, (the daughter of Irma Rosi, a recent convert)and she ALSO got baptized!!!! And after having me tell her nearly every day for 6 months not to marry the dude she wanted to marry, it finally sunk into her head, and she followed my counsel and dumped him (he was hesitant towards the church because of things his inactive neighbor had told him). Now she is happy, baptized, sin free, and wanting to serve a mission next year!!! I have come to better understand that scripture in Ecclesiastes where it says “To every thing there is a season, and a time to every purpose under the heaven.” (Ecclesiastes 3:1)

I heard about Japan. Crazy. It’s all over the news here. Glad I’m in Brazil and nothing awful like that happens here (just drug dealers......)

Well gotta go!

- Elder Titus

Monday, March 7, 2011

18 Month Anniversary Letter to the Ward

P-day activity: bowling!

The district with new elders. Just don't ask who is who, since Elder Titus did not label the photo. I don't even know which one is his new companion! (sorry!)

Dear Ward,

It’s weird to think that it is already time to write my semi-annual letter again and that the next time I will be preparing something to share with you guys it will be in person over the pulpit. Time has flown by. But, that’s what everyone said would happen. However I´ve learned from personal experience that the slower you want your mission to go, the faster it goes and the faster you want it to go, the slower it goes. Young men, I prohibit you from crossing off days on the calendar, too many missionaries do that here.

Anyway, so I’m in a city called Arapongas, the furniture capital of Brazil. It’s only my fourth area. When I left my last area of Assis, I stopped in Londrina to pick up my greenie, Elder de Jesus, and we re-opened Arapongas. It was weird arriving in a city completely blind, but we got along. Arapongas is a branch of 80 to 90 active members, established 13 years ago after being closed for 33 years after some people from another religion tried to stone the missionaries in front of the cathedral. Needless to say, things have improved since then.

I stayed with Elder de Jesus for 3 transfers and then last week I picked up another greenie named Elder Siqueira. They are both worthy and willing missionaries, excited to do the work of the Lord. Brazil has really answered the call to send more missionaries; doubling the amount of Brazilians in the MTC in Sao Paulo since I was there 18 months ago.

In other news, we were in Londrina last week for a conference with an Area Seventy, which was really cool. However, the best part was afterwards when I was told that a guy named Jefferson was waiting to talk to me outside. Jefferson is a young man I baptized over a year ago, along with his family in my first area, Ibiporã. In fact, he was my first baptism. He is currently the Young Men’s president, and the rest of his family is strong too, but the best part was when he told me that he has been preparing to serve a mission and next week he will be turning in his mission papers. We embraced and I almost got emotional, but didn’t cause I’m a man. Unfortunately we both had to quickly leave. I had a smile on my face for the rest of the day. I testify that there is no better feeling in the world than seeing your converts firm and immovable in the gospel.

Well, I don’t want to take up too much time, but I will leave you with my testimony that there is no other work more important than missionary work. I have grown to love being a missionary and I take great pride in representing the one and only true church on the earth. There is no reason to be embarrassed, and I echo the words of Paul when he said, “For I am not ashamed of the gospel of Christ: for it is the power of God unto salvation to everyone that believeth.” I have had countless spiritual experiences that when cemented together form the foundation for the rest of my life that I will be able to securely build upon. And if there is just one thing I learned from cycling, it is how important the end of the race is. Full speed ahead, see ya in a few months.

With love,
Elder Titus