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!