Tuesday, September 25, 2012

The Weekly Update - From Maranguape, Cearà, Brasil!

Olá, todos vocês! Como estão indo as coisas lá em casa? Tá tudo bem? Um pouco molhado, né? Mas, com certeza tudo vai dar certo:) (Google Translate is nice, isn't it?)

I hope that everyone's week went well, and that your lives are awesome!

This week, some cool things happened. A young man that we were teaching named Vitor was at home, and we decided to invite his whole family to listen to the message also. We discovered that his mom is an inactive member of the Church! His aunt and uncle were also really interested, so we will continue teaching them, and help them to know that these things are true.

Also, a few weeks ago we were talking to two boys on the street who were going home from school. They told us where they lived, and that we could pass by. We went to Diego's house, but he wasn't home, so we instead went to the other's house, whose name is Gabriel. His grandma was home, and she let us come in and talk to them. We taught them about the Restoration, and in the middle of the lesson, Gabriel's cousin, Pedrina, walked in. She, too, listened to the message, and it appeared that she was interesed and understood the concepts that we were teaching. She is only 12 years old. We marked with them for us to pass by again another day. When we went back, basically no one was at home, except the grandma, who is around 70, and while she understood surprisingly well about the message the first time, she didn't seem to show much interest. So, we weren't sure if they were going to progress or even go to church.

Then, while we were walking near that area one day this week, we saw Pedrina on the street corner, waiting for her mom to pick her up. We asked her if she had prayed about what we said, and she said yes. Excitedly, we asked if if we could pass by her house and talk to her and her family. She agreed, and we marked a day. 

One the marked day, we went to her grandma's house, thinking that she would be there. Sadly, she wasn't, and her grandma said that she didn't live there, and lived on another road a little ways away. So, we left there without much direction except east, and I felt like we should go up on the next road and just walk down it and look around. So, we did. We walked, and eventually came to the end of the road, asking someone if they knew any Pedrina, and they said no, no one by that name lived on that street that they knew of. So, we turned right onto the next road, and asked the people at a house close by. They said that they knew who she was, and that we should just go back on that road, and ask where Telma lives, which is the name of Pedrina's mother. So, we did, and an older gentleman pointed out the house to us. We clapped at the front gate, and to our surprise and delight, Pedrina walked out! She let us in, and we asked her who was at home. She said just her and her little baby brother. We decided to mark for the afternoon to talk to her and her mom together. She said that would be alright, and we left to eat lunch.

After lunch, we went back, and Telma, her mom, go to the house just before we did. As we clapped at the gate, she greeted us, looking a little bit curious or even a bit suspicious. Thankfully, Pedrina came out, and told her mom that she knew who we were, and that we had talked to her before. We came in and sat down, and we found out that Telma had been taught by sister misionaries more than ten years ago in that same area! Apparently, she had gone to church for three or four years, but was never baptized, and then she stopped going. So, we found her again, and we will work with her these next few weeks to see how things will go!

I love this work. What a blessing to be able to work with the children of our Heavenly Father, to preach the truths of the Gospel, and to seek to help build the families here in Brazil, assisting them in their preparation to return to the presence of our Father in Heaven. I am so grateful for this chance, and for this privilege to serve. I hope and pray that I can be worthy, obedient, and prepared, so that the Spirit can guide us, and magnify our efforts, so that we can accomplish His work in His way, and with His help.

I love you all so very much! When we know the truths of the gospel, we come to realize what things in our lives are really the most important! As was said by a young convert to the Church speaking to President Hinckley, "It's true, isn't it?" After President Hinckley responded yes, the young man tearfully responded, "Then what else matters?" What a wonderful example of sacrifice and the conversion and the love and devotion that we develop when we seek to follow the truths that we learn of His Gospel, and His plan for us.

Have a wonderful week! Don't forget that General Conference is coming up, and that we will get to hear the words of God's living prophets here upon the earth. Please, all who read these messages, take advantage of this sacred and heaven-sent privilege, of receiving His word for us and for our day. For those of you who aren't members of the Church, you, too, are invited to hear their words, and to learn from their messages. You can even watch it live online at the Church website, at http://www.lds.org/general-conference?lang=eng. If you would like, you can even listen to messages than were given at the last Conference to see a little bit of what it will be like. You can download, watch, listen to, or read their messages at that same web address. If you have any questions, just talk to a member of the Church that you know, and I'm sure that they will be willing to explain more about it.

Love you all tons and scoops and kilos and liters and kilometers and all of the strange metric units that exist in this country and the world,

Elder Reid Powell Empey

What a Great Week from Maranguape

Hey, all!

This week was incredible:) We had some awesome experiences with fasting and prayer.

So, we were teaching Luis Henrique, who wasn't totally interested in the messages and a little bit shy. We stopped focusing a lot on him because we had other progressing investigators. Then, out of no where, his mom and his sister showed up at church! His mom's name is Socorro, and she was really interested in learning more about the Church. So, we started talking to them and teaching her. She accepted the messages, and was really liking everything. However, she was still feeling nervous and uncertain about leaving the Catholic Church and going through all of these changes. A big part, I think, of what was holding her back was that if she was never really active in the Catholic Church, what's to say that she won't go inactive in the Church of Jesus Christ as well? So, she was hesitant, yet willing to learn and to act. She said that she wanted to be baptized and to follow all of these things in her life, but that she still had this doubt, and didn't know how to get rid of it.

So, we did something that was suggested to us in the Zone Training earlier that week: we challenged her to fast with us. She accepted, with a little bit of hesitation, not knowing if she would be able to stand it for the full 24 hours. We don't usually think about this sort of difficulty where we live in the U.S., but here, in a tropical climate, it can be extremely hard on the body to go without food or drink for 24 hours in this heat and humidity, and for some it can even be dangerous. But, she accepted nonetheless, and we fasted with her. Actually, a few of the members fasted with us as well to show their support, their desire for her to accept the gospel, and their faith in the power of the Spirit.

We started the fast at lunch the next day, and went over to her house that night. She said that she wasn't even feeling hungry, nor the desire to eat or drink, and that the fast was going well. When I asked her about how she was feeling, she also said that her doubts and fears and uncertainties simply weren't there anymore! She felt calm, and confident, and was no longer feeling doubtful about acting. We invited her to be baptized that Sunday, and she accepted wholeheartedly. I was so happy:) We also invited her daughter, Ana Luiza, to be baptized with her mom, and she also accepted. She is eight years old:)

After their interviews, I was told that they had both asked that I baptize them:) So, I had the privilege of doing so yesterday after church.

During the talk that was given on baptism and being born again, Socorro began to cry. I knew that she was feeling comforted by the Spirit that she was making the right choice. After the baptismal service was over, I asked her how she was feeling, and she said, with a firmness and a confidence in her voice, "Good." Everyone says that when you ask how they're feeling, but the way she said it conveyed a certainty and a deepness of feeling. She then said, "I feel like I have truly made the right choice." I told her, "Yes, absolutely, without a doubt, you have."

Her friend Antonia is now one of her visiting teachers. Antonia had actually invited her to church many times, and we didn't have any idea about that while we were teaching her son, Luiz Henrique. So, now, we will try to teach him, too.

Socorro also stopped drinking coffee very quickly, and showed her faith by acting upon an invitation by representatives of Jesus Christ. She is an excellent example of why we, as missionaries, need to invite people to act. She wasn't sure what to do, but she was willing to act upon inspired invitations to live the commandments and to seek after the blessings of heaven for her and for her family. As someone extremely new in the church, she already has a testimony of the power of fasting in her life. When I think about that, I feel so happy and excited and pleased for her.

What a great work this is! If we rely on Him, and do what He asks us to do, we will be guided by His omnipotent hand, and we will begin to see literal miracles in our lives, "day by day" (Alma 37:40). We just have to do the "small and simple things" (Alma 37:6-7), and He will guide and bless us.

I love you all so very, very much! Never forget who you are, or the potential that you have, as you seek to be obedient to His word and His commandments. And try not to forget that we don't have to be perfect to receive those blessings! That's why we have repentance, as well as the Sacrament, to renew all of our covenants each week. Something interesting that I already had an idea about, but saw a direct quite about it, is that when we partake of the Sacrament, we don't just renew our baptismal covenants, but"all covenants entered into with the Lord" (Ensign, "Understanding Our Covenants with God", July 2012). This means that we renew batpismal covenants, priesthood covenants, covenants we make with our callings, missionary covenants, and all of our temple covenants. So, if we make any mistake, we can repent, and renew that covenant with the Lord. So, seek after His voice and His hand, and He will guide you for good.

I love you all so very much! Have a wonderful week!

With all the love in my heart,

Elder Reid Powell E

Monday, September 10, 2012

Quick Letter Home!

Hey, everybody!

This week was a bit of a slower week, but it was still insanely crazy because I passed one year on the mission on September 7th!!!!! Wow, this year has gone by so fast. I can't believe all the things that have happened, and that the time passes so quickly. I am excited for this next year, and for the things that we will be able to accomplish and learn. I pray that I can rely on the Spirit, and serve and obey as the Lord would have me do. He sure has blessed me, especially in these past few weeks:)

Things that have happened in this past year:
  • I learned a different language: Portuguese! I'm still trying to improve every day, and it's nice to see that work paying off
  • I learned how to survive in a foreign country (albeit supported by daily lunches in the houses of members and other things, but still, it's not that easy....)
  • I have seen cockroaches, rats (HUGE rats), a tarantula, a weird small type of monkey that they have here in Ceará, among many other animals (did you know that the bees and wasps here don't have stingers? I freak out and wave them away while everyone just looks at me like, "What are you doing, you weirdo?" Good thing they don't really have that many wasps and bees here...)
  • I have eaten many types of foods, including rampadura (I finally tried it yesterday, it's a Cearense candy), pop that is made from the fruit above cashew nuts (lots of people don't know that there's a fruit there, but there is, and they make pop out of it! It's amazing:) ), mangos, coconut water (I remember telling my dad when I was little that I wanted to drink coconut milk, and he said that is isn't that good. Well, Dad, you were right: it's not that great), among many other fruits and vegetables that don't exist at home in the U.S.
  • Made 15 liters of root beer only to find out that basically everyone thinks that it tastes like tooth-paste and having the grand privilege of drinking at least 8 liters all by myself (oh, it was great. I had all the root beer I wanted, and no one was going to hog it from me!)
  • Oh, two other types of drink I tried: chimarrão and tereré, which are both made from the same "weed-like" herb, yet chimarrão is common in Rio Grande do Sul, and is made with hot, hot, hot water, while tereré is more common in Manaus and Pará in northern Brazil and is made with cold, cold, cold juice, usually a type of lemon juice. So good:)

It's been quite the adventure, but the adventure isn't over yet! It keeps on going, and I can't wait for the awesome times to come. I am so grateful for the people that I have known, and for those who have decided to follow the Gospel of Jesus Christ, being baptized, and becoming members of His Church here on the Earth. I am not anywhere near perfect, and I have so many things that I want to improve upon, and I know that as I rely on the Lord, and follow the promptings of the Holy Ghost, I will be guided by Him, and be blessed and privileged to see others be baptized as well, those who are searching for the truth, yet "know not where to find it" (D&C 123:12).

I love you all so very much! Have a wonderful day, a wonderful week, and a wonderful time as the days keep on rolling along!

With all of my heart,

Elder Reid Powell Empey

Monday, September 3, 2012

Another Great Week from Maranguape

Hello, everybody! I hope that you all had a wonderful week.

This week was good. We had Zone Conference, which means great food and great trainings. I got to lead the music. We had four zones together, so about 80 misisonaries or more were there, along with President Souza, Sister Souza, the secretaries, and the assistants. One of the past assistants was called as a trainer, and the new assistant, is Elder Araujo, who I lived with for 3 months in Beira Mar! I love him tons, and I know that he is going to do a great job.

Andreline was baptized this week! Things went really well for her this week, and the baptism went smoothly. Her dad even came, although he was a little bit tipsy from drinking......we plan on helping him out and hopefully the whole rest of the family.

Also, there was an incredible lesson this week. A member named Vitória has a brother named Romário, and they live way far away in Columinjuba, which reminds me of home because it's in the middle of no where. Anyway, we were going to have to head out there for a 40 minute to and hour bus ride to teach him. Before this, we had an appointment marked with Andreline, but she wasn't at home. So, we headed back to the chapel, and who did we run into? Romário! He was on his motorcycle, just like the last time we saw him. We asked him if he was going to be home for us to head over there, and he said no, because he had some things that he had to do still in Maranguape. But, he said that he had some time right then to talk. So, we asked him if we could meet him over at the church and talk there, and he said sure.

We opened up the church, and he drove his motorcycle into the parking lot. We when in, and opened up the bishop's office. We started talking to him, and asked if he had prayed to know if the Church is true. He said that he had prayed, and received an answer that it is true! I then invited him to be baptized.

Usually when we invite people to be baptized, we ask them, "When you receive and answer and know that these things are true, will you follow the example of Jesus Christ by being baptized by someone holding the authority of God?" They usually say, "Well, if I receive an answer, yeah."

But, this time, he already knew that the Church was true. So, as I invited him to be baptized, I felt a strong spirit testify of the truth, and of what he needed to do. I said, "Because you know that these things are true, will you follow the example of Jesus Christ by being baptized?" He responded, "Yes, I will." I felt the Spirit so strongly, and said, "We are preparing a baptismal service on _____. Will you be baptized on this day?" And he replied, "Yes, I will." I felt so happy, so excited, and my eyes teared up as I testified that I know that he had made the right choice, and that this Church truly is the true church here upon the earth.

How grateful I am for this Gospel, and the impact it makes in our lives. I love you all so very much, and hope that you have wonderful weeks, and wonderful experienes! Quoting President Uchtdorf, "Don't let a day go by without doing something to act on the promptings of the Holy Ghost." He will guide you in your daily lives as you seek His will with the real intent to follow it. You will be instruments in His hands for good, and you will bless the lives of many of His children.

I love you all so very, very much! Make it a great day! YOU ROCK!!

Love always,

Elder Reid Powell Empey