Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Adventures of Elder Empey - Capítulo Alguma Coisa - Novas de Juazeiro (News from Juazeiro)

Olá, todo mundo! Tudo bem? Eu espero que sim:)

This email will probably be pretty short, but I will try to write all that I can in the time that I have.

This week was kinda hard. Actually, it was pretty hard. Many of our appointments fell through, and we have been having difficulty finding new people. It´s hard, but I know that we are supposed to be here, and that we are here to do the Lord´s work; and that He will continue to help us to do His work here in Juazeiro do Norte:)

The capela (the church, or, literally translated, ``chapel´´) is being renovated right now, and I´m not sure of the address. But, right now, we are meeting in a building that is on the corner of Rua Conceição e Rua São José (``rua´´ means road or street). It´s quite large for the buildings here in Brazil. I am so excited for the capela to be finished. It is beautiful, and reminds me of home.

It´s crazy, because there are things here that are different that you maybe wouldn´t expect to be different. One example: grass. It wasn´t until I got to São Paulo, and lived there for a little while that I realized how much I miss grass. Weird, huh? There was one place at the CTM in São Paulo that had grass, and one place that I have seen here in Juazeiro with real grass, but nearly anywhere else it simply isn´t there. Also, the dirt is different here. It´s red:) I miss brown dirt!

Another thing that I sort of miss that I never would have expected to miss, or thought that I was addicted to it: chocolate. I didn´t even know! They don´t have much chocolate here, or at least good chocolate. And even the regular chocolate is pretty expensive. Elder Call and I found a box that has American chocolate in it, like Hershey´s, Reeses´, Almond Joy, Mounds, Whoppers, and stuff like that in it. We bought it, but it was nearly eight reais (R$ 8) for 300 grams of chocolate (like $4.50 or $5 in the US). But, we are trying to savor it while we can. I´m glad we found it:)

Elder Bednar came to speak to the Brazil Fortaleza Mission last week, and it was a great talk! Sadly, we were not able to attend because there is a rule that missionaries can´t go to meetings that require more than two hours of travel (it is nine or ten hours by bus from Juazeiro to Fortaleza). Yet, I know that it was a good talk because we got copies of it. Well, sort of. Another rule is that you must get permission to record video or audio of these sort of meetings, and they did try to get approval, but things fell through, and it didn´t work out. So, they wrote down everything they possibly could, and combined all of their notes together, edited it, translated it into Portugues (``português´´ in Portuguese :) ), and sent it off to all of the missionaries. It was a little bit hard to understand at times, but I was able to translate some of it directly into English in my journal (funny how the names for languages in Portugues are never capitalized...).

One of the cool things that he said was about the Atonement. Someone asked him to teach them about the Atonement (they opened the meeting up for questions, as they typically do in these types of meetings, I hear), and he said what he had heard Elder Packer say before: ``Buy a copy of the Book of Mormon, cheap and simple, and read it the maximum that you can for six months. When you finish, write a summary of what you learned on one page. Not ten, only one.´´ Elder Bednar said that he has done this various times since he heard Elder Packer say that in 1995. He then said (not a perfect quote, but I´ll do the best I can), ``Ì give you a blessing and a promise that as you do this, you will have eyes to see what you´ve never seen, ears to hear what you´ve never heard, and you will have more love and admiration for your Savior in your life.´´

What a blessing:) Truly, through the Book of Mormon we can become more converted to the Gospel, each and every single one of us. Elder Bednar also said that we should read the Book of Mormon hundreds and thousands of times in our lives. I know that as we study the word of God, we will hear His voice, and hear the Spirit whisper to us what we need to do now in our lives. And as we follow those promptings, we will grow in faith, trust, and in knowledge and understanding of our Lord, our God, and Their wondrous plan for us here on earth. The important thing, though, is that we must act upon the promptings of the Spirit if we want to grow and learn in faith. Please read Elder Bednar´s talks that you sent me from Dallin: Ask in Faith, from General Conference, and Seek Learning by Faith, which is in the ``Additional Addresses´´ category on the Church website. They are wonderful, and as you follow the guidance given there, as well as the promptings and feelings and impressions that you receive as you read them, you will be blessed, and you will be guided by the Holy Ghost.

There is something very important that I have learn, now from two apostles of the Lord: The promptings and impressions and thoughts that you receive during a meeting, even during a meeting with a General Authority or an Apostle, are the most important things that you need to do in your life. They very possibly, yes, very probably if not definitely will stem from the words that are spoken in the meeting. But, there is something that Elder Richard G. Scott said in a devotional at the MTC a few years ago that struck me as significant, and Elder Bednar said something very similar: ``I want you, tonight, to only take notes on the thoughts and feelings that you  have tonight, not writing down what I say, because the Spirit can teach you things that are greater than anything you and I could talk about tonight.´´ Wow.

So, listen to the Holy Ghost, seek after personal revelation, and do it. Also, if you aren´t receiving revelation before hand, do something. Another thing that Elder Bednar said was, ``We only receive revelation when we are acting.´´ So, keep the commandments, do you´re very best, honor your covenants, and act in faith. (This is almost a direct quote from his talk last week, and also, if this is confusing or your have questions, read those talks, and apply them; they´re really good:) )

I love you all so very very much! Please keep pushing forward! I know that it´s hard sometimes, but don´t even forget that Heavenly Father loves us so, so, so much. Do you know why? Elder Holland answered this question very emotionally, because it was very personal to him as a father. He said, ``I am no where near perfect. But the one thing that I am nearly perfect in is that I love my children. I would do anything for them.´´ My dear friends and family, our Heavenly Father loves us because we are His children. He will always loves us. And as we ponder the connection that we have to our own families, our own children, or anywhere else where there exists a connection of deep, tender love, we still can only see a glimpse of how much Heavenly Father loves us as His children. If you love your children, even if they are not perfect and make mistakes, and make unwise choices sometimes, do you still love them? Of course you do. Now, imagine the sadness and pain and love and desire that you feel for your children when they make decisions that are not for their benefit. Do you cry when they cry? Are you sad because they are sad?

These feelings that we feel are only a taste of what our Heavenly Father feels towards us. He is happy when we are happy, He rejoices and cheers when we make good decisions and succeed. And He mourns when we mourn, He is sad when we fell let down or disappointment, and He cries and mourns and yearns for us when we feel like we are unworthy of Him, and when we cannot feel His love and His support. He wants us to return to Him so, so badly. And He wants us to be happy on the way there:)

I know that God lives. I know that Jesus is the Christ. I know that Christ paid the price of our sins, and that he took upon Himself our afflictions, our sadness, and our sicknesses, both physical, spiritual, mental, and emotional. He wants us back. And, the good news of the Gospel (which word literally translated means, ``good news´´) is that we can repent, we can be clean, we can feel His love, and we do not have to do it alone. Please, please, please, turn unto Him, in every thought, and trust in Him and His counsel. Have faith that He will guide you in the paths that you need to walk for your benefit, learning, and growth. For along the way, He is giving us experience that will allow us to be more like Him, and to feel the joy that He feels, and to rejoice with Him, together, in the hereafter.

As families, as siblings, and as friends:)

I love you all so very much. May you see the Lord´s hand in your life, and be humble, that He may lead you by the hand, and get you answers to your prayers (D&C 112:10 - I love this scripture).

May God bless you, and may you feel of my love that I have for you. Keep moving forward, and know that you are truly a child of God:)

This is my prayer for all of you. I love you all so very, very much:) You are a blessing (in fact, many blessings) in my life.

Love you all tons and scoops, love your guts (Mom...), zerbers for you all, Clifton Murrays and musical notes for the whole world (well, maybe not Clifton Murrays, just for Joslyn:) ), and as many bullets as you can afford (I think that applies to everyone, not just Dad:) )

With love and affection,

Elder Reid Powell Empey

P.S. And yes, I am a Powell too! I nearly cry when I sing our family songs from the book....I miss you all so much:) Bye! Até mais!

Monday, November 14, 2011

Finally Here in Fortaleza! Except……….I’m in Juazeiro : )

Hello everyone! I won´t be able to write very much this week because the computer I have been using is very slow and it took some time to read the other emails.

However, for those of you who don´t already know, I am in Juazeiro do Norte, a town that is in the south of the state of Ceará. It probably has right around as many people as the Tri-Cities, except they are all squished together, so it is much smaller than that.

My first companion in the field, my trainer, is in fact my cousin, Elder Dallin Call! I was so excited to hear that we are able to have this opportunity together on our missions. I am excited to see where
things go, and how these next two transfers turn out.

By the way, I have some news for you that I think no one is going to like, including myself. Due to the very far distance between Fortaleza and Juazeiro, I only recieve letters, mail, or packages once every 6 weeks in Juazeiro. That´s once a transfer:) So, if things get to the mission office address (my mailing address) by the end of those six weeks (not sure the exact date, but it´s around five weeks from today), I will receive it before Christmas. If not, I won´t receive it until the end of January :( I can still write and send mail to you, because I use the postal system directly, whereas my mail from all of you goes through the postal system to the mission office, and they handle those things. I don´t think I´m supposed to give out my actual address to circumvent that, so I guess I will just have to wait:)

Anyway, things are crazy around here. And very hot! Juazeiro do Norte is apparently hotter than Fortaleza, so it´s pretty hot:) We played basketball at the chapel (which is beautiful, and being renovated at the present), and it was blistering hot on the basketball court.

Anyway, I have to go, but I love you all so very much! I am finally out in the field, and I want so badly to do the very best that I can, and do what the Lord would have me do. Read your scriptures, cry unto the Lord in prayer, keep your covenants that you have made, and seek for the Spirit in your lives. One thing that I have learned from the scriptures is that the principles of missionary work (especially concerning the spirit of revelation and prophecy, and the need for faith to accomplish the work of God, and to see miracles, and to receive the blessings that Heavenly Father has in store for us, and to open our mouths, bear our testimonies, and be missionaries to the world) are the principles that apply in our everyday lives. As members, and parents, as children, as priesthood holders, as glorious mothers and daughters and sisters and aunts and friends, and as the children of God, we are to use these principles to draw nearer unto God, just as any missionary would. Yes, there is a difference in being set apart, being ordained, and having the authority given to use to preach the word of God. But the principles that we use are the same as the ones that we all must use for the rest of our lives, and for eternity. That means also that the blessings are powerful too! We can receive wonderful, glorious, faith-building, and awe-inspiring experiences in our lives. And as we are obedient (which is DEFINITELY an important principle in missionary work AND for the REST of our lives), and have faith in Jesus Christ, His Atonement, and His power, Heavenly Father will bless us as fast and as greatly as we will let Him. (Read Moroni 7, it´s really great:) )
I love you all so very, very much! Please continue to pray for me. I need all of the help that I can get, and I am receiving it already. Please know that I pray for you too, my dear family and friends. May you be blessed and filled with love always (Moroni 7:48),

Elder Reid Empey

P.S. And may your expectations for the future be replaced with gratitude for how things actually turned out:) One of my favorite sayings is this: ``Life is what happens when you´re planning for something else.´´ And I think that Heavenly Father intended it that way:) Love you all!
P.P.S. Hugs and kisses and love to my dear family.
P.P.P.S. Especially to you Mom:)
P.P.P.P.S. Especially to you Joslyn! :)
PPPPPS. Zerbers for Anna
PPPPPPS. And especially to Dad:) I hope that you find some more magpies, I´m sorry the others slipped out of your scope:)

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

He's in Fortaleza!

Hey, everybody! I don´t have much time to write. We are here at the mission home, and I need to let you know that I am alive and well, and that I am HERE in Fortaleza!

I love you all so very much. I will let you know how things turn out when I can:)

Love you tons and scoops and wagons and wheel barrels and back-hoes full,

Elder Reid Empey

P.S. I hope I spelled that last one right...:)

(For those of you who don't know, our family likes to express our love  in "Tons and Scoops" and whatever else strikes our fancy at the time we are writing. Sometimes we get pretty creative!)

Monday, November 7, 2011

No email from Elder Empey today but...

I did get an email from his cousin, Elder Dallin P. Call, who is serving in the Fortaleza Brazil Mission already for the past 14 months. Here is what Elder Call said in his email....

"This week was OK. We found some good investigators, but sadly in the end of the week none of them went to church, so for a lot of them it is back to square one. We had a good end to the transfer though. Working hard to get people to progress towards baptism and salvation. We did have one visitor at church on Sunday though, and we will be working a lot with her this week to see if she can be baptized on Sunday after the church meetings.

We also had the transfer calls. My comp went to Crato in the same zone here in Juazeiro, and my new companion will be an Elder Empey, from somewhere in Washington... YES, I will be training Reid! He will get to Fortaleza tomorrow, and then he will get here to Juazeiro Wednesday morning. I´m super excited to see him. This also means that we will both be staying here in Juazeiro for at least two transfers or 12 weeks. A Juazeiro CHRISTMAS!!!

I do have some sad news to add though. Due to the distance from here to Fortaleza our zone of 20 missionaries will not be able to go to the conference with Elder Bednar. I almost cried when I found this out on Saturday. But it´s ok. All will be well in the end. I know that the Lord sees us and our needs, and guess he decided that I don´t need to be there."

Some FUN stuff! Elder Empey will be thrilled that his first companion outside of a Missionary Training Center will be his cousin, and that he may even get to participate in a baptism soon! He will be disappointed to learn that they won't be able to see Elder Bednar, but who knows maybe they will get to see him, somehow.
And we will be able to talk to both of them on Christmas. My sister and I are going to have fun figuring out how to get flat gifts to them so they won't take forever to get there.....maybe we'll take pictures of his presents that he will get when he gets home....probably not a real fun idea to him!
But I had to share with everyone!

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

The CTM Times

Hey, everyone! I hope that life finds you smiling and involved. I know that whether I´m smiling or not, I am being involved some way or another down here in São Paulo, and I´d rather be smiling while I´m doing it.
Thank you so much, Mom, for sending me the emails from Dallin. I got a letter from him yesterday about the mission conference, and I will be there for it! I am so excited:) (For those who may not know, Elder Bednar is coming to my mission conference a week after I get there! Elder Costa, Area President and just recently Emeritus Seventy, will be there as well. So excited! It will be on Nov. 14th, and the very next day, the 15th, wil be the groundbreaking of the Fortaleza Brazil Temple. I dont know if we´ll´be going to that, but it makes sense that Elder Bednar would visit my mission while he´s here for the groundbreaking.) Also, the scripture about charity is extremely important for all of us to remember and ponder (Moroni 7:45), and I definitely needed that reminder.
Here, things are bustling around as usual. The volleyball courts are finally finished after I-don´t-even-know-how-long. They were covered up when I arrived, and now they are done, and that is what is important to me:) I get to use them for a week!
Which brings me to the simple reminder of what your calendars would tell you if you were to count nine weeks from when I entered the MTC in Provo....This is my last week in the CTM!! I will be leaving the CTM next Tuesday, and I have no idea when I will be emailing next. It might be two weeks before I can touch bases if I miss a P-Day in transit. We will just have to see.
Therefore, I hereby request that all correspondance by mail be postponed until I can get you my address in Fortaleza. Or, I´m sure that my mother can put up my mission home address, and I´m also pretty sure that they will accept letters that way. I have received quite a few letters, for which I am grateful. Dear Elder isn´t as convienent here as it is in Provo, and yet the news has still gotten through to me one way or another. Thank you all so very much for writing. I love to hear from you all:) I will try to write back when I can, P-Days are crazy around here, and so is the postal system, so I have been semi-trying to wait to reply until I get to Fortaleza. (Mom, please let the girls in Apt. 210S, Campus Plaza know that I will be replying to their letters shortly, and that I beg their forgiveness for the long wait. If your not sure that you know who they are, just think for a minute, and it´ll come to you:) )
Well, I don´t have much time left, but I wanted to tell you about my first proselyting experience in São Paulo! It was kinda awkward:) I´m sure that many other missionaries would tell you to same thing about their first street contact experiences. For one, it was interesting to see how difficult it is to understand some people when they talk. We talked to a man (he looked like he might be homeless) whose name was Enoque(In English, Enoch). We talked to him for a little over a half hour, and by us talking to him, I mean we listened to him talk:) But, it was really interesting. He was very nice, and only a little bit drunk, so it was quite the conversation. The only actually Book of Mormon that we were able to give away was to a girl who was waiting for her mom to pick her up. I think she is probably in high school, and I can´t remember her name, but she spoke a little bit of English, and that helped the whole conversation go a lot smoother! She was very nice, and it was good to see that there are nice people who are willing to talk to you sometimes:)
I have to go, but I also wanted to let you know about an article in the Economist that was published a week or so ago, where the Economist declares, in large, broad letters, ``MORMONS ARE CHRISTIANS´´. Isn´t it nice to see some people catching on? Anyway, I haven´t read it, but I thought that I would let you know about it.
I love you all so very, very much. Write to me when you can, and if you can´t, that´s fine too. I will write and reply when I can, but please be patient with me:)
With all of my love and hugs and kisses,
Elder Reid Empey
P.S. Congratulations, Joslyn, about Seussical! I thought that it sounded like you weren´t going to be able to participate in it, but I´m so glad that it worked out! Congratulations to Eric and Jackie, and to Shannon as well! The earth sure keeps turning, even when you´re on the other side of the world while it´s happening:)