Monday, November 24, 2014

Independence Villa

Hi Everyone,

My airplane-tire-soled shoes are finally giving up on me. I need to re-sole them with the help of our neighborhood cobbler. I hope he can do the job again. Airplane tires do not touch the ground so much because you know, airplanes fly. I need 18 wheelers on these bad boys.

We've been walking a bunch, mostly in one little villa. It's called Independence and the name fits the villa because it seems like there is no police here to enforce the law. The people are free to do whatever they want. We teach people and we hear a different crazy Brasilian story every lesson. The crazy stories go from homicides in the town to extremely skillful soccer moves.

This week we should have another baptism. Next week I will be giving you all at home the down low. It's going to be a great and uplifting story for the blog next week.

Our zone had 8 baptisms just this last week and we are really proud of our Elders. The other week I got a phone call from President that wasn't the most pleasing. He didn't burn me or harshly correct me or anything but he sure let me know what our zone´s difficulties were. To make a long story short, he told us that our zone had in-experienced Elders that needed a lot of help. Elder Schirmer and I quickly made some plans to get to know every area of our zone better. It has been great to see the qualities of every Elder. I swear that there are many things that they can do that I honestly haven´t achieved yet. The past exchanges have helped me understand that I have much to learn to become a well- tuned missionary of the Lord. We set goals with them and they set goals with us so that we could follow up with one another on our daily check-in calls. The best part is that everyone is achieving their goals and is growing their faith.

Splits with Elder Laurentino,
Elder Forsyth

Monday, November 17, 2014

One of the best stories of my entire mission

Luciana Foi's baptism

Uma das melhores histórias de minha missão inteira. (One of the best stories of my entire mission):

Yesterday, around 7:50 we found a super kind Jehovah´s Witness and we had a healthy conversation about why we believe in temples and the Book of Mormon. He asked us why the Book of Mormon was attacked with great frequency and we let him know that it is the keystone of our religion. 

But the best part is the following: When we were leaving his house he offered us a ride home. Then our phone rang. It was another companionship from our district and they needed a lot of help. I heard the elders on the other line trying to tell me something really important but it was hard to understand because they were talking in a really subtle quiet voice, like a whisper scream, if you know what I mean. I had to distance myself from our new investigator's barking dogs and listen closer. They told me that they were being chased by two cars but they were able to run away and hide in the woods. It was super nuts because they told us that the cars had been following them for some time and when the elders decided to change direction the one car passed them then made a u-turn to follow the elders once again. So they split. I told Elder Schirmer and the JW what was going on. Our new friend looked at us and said, "Lets rescue some Mormons". I thought I was in a movie when he said that because he gave us a really serious stare. It was funny because he´s a really short guy - maybe 5 foot 3 - that has a lot of energy. We hopped into his hatch back, he hurried over to the other side of his car to take out the baby seat, got into the driver seat and hit the accelerator pedal. We were on the line with the elders the whole time and they gave us directions over the phone. We zoomed around a bunch of corners, and down dirt roads and cobblestone streets. The variable terrain gave it a more adventurous feel and the inter-denominational relations saved the Elders from the punks. It was sick to say the least. 

The missionary opportunities come when you want them to come. You have several more doors to open because you are looking for them. I´ve been learning a ton here in this ward. The Elders Quorum instructor is a philosophical/  spiritual guru who likes to make the lesson really dynamic.  I have a little "Renault" french car notebook that I write all my newly discovered physical and spiritual secrets in. The other day I learned that when we put our faith on paper and when the practice is put in gear, our faith, which is an unseen truth, becomes reality. Because of this newly found faith we have been able to set 4 baptismal dates for the 29th of this month. They are a family of four that are extremely prepared and ready for the restored gospel. Just to give you an idea, we left 3rd Nephi with them and on the 2nd follow up lesson, the mom shared with us how she thought it was so cool that the Savior appeared in the Americas to ordain Nephi to the priesthood, giving him the authority to baptize so that there would be no disputations among the people. 

This last Saturday we followed up a church invite to another family with our ward mission leader (the man is on fire) and we met the dad (I am concealing the names until the baptism). The dad told us he has been looking for the right path to find salvation and the mom gave us a huge head nod. Yesterday they stayed for all 3 hours of church and we set an appointment for that afternoon. We showed up right when they were finishing up the other marked chapter of the Book of Mormon we left for them. They sat in a row with eyes on us to hear our message. We read Alma 36 to help them understand that our purpose is to help others repent of their sins. They understood that the Lord was calling them to be a part of the church. As we asked them more and more questions they seemed to realize that the Lord had been answering their prayers this past week. One of the daughters had a smile on her face but she wasn´t looking at us. Her eyes were locked on the ground so we asked her what she was thinking of the church and all this. She told us that she had prayed the night before to receive an answer from God.  "God confirmed Moroni´s promise," she said.  They are a great family. They are charismatic and speak English. So, I've been teaching them slang and what Americans "really" say. I am super excited for this family. They are an answer to Elder Schirmer´s and Elder Forsyth´s prayers and fasting. Many more doors must be opened to receive us.


We´ve been working with the Foi family for 4 weeks exactly. Luciana used to be extremely evangelical, but fell away from Christianity because of marital and other common Brazilian problems. She is living proof that the Book of Mormon and sincere prayer with real intent can change the lives of those who have fallen away from the path. Instead of teaching lessons, we have basically given a "how to be a better friend and spouse" course to them and it resulted in baptism. I´m not married. So I don´t know how it was possible to help and guide a broken marriage. But I do know the spirit let Luciana find true spiritual conversion. 

We had a ton of Leadership meetings and adventures this week. It has been a blast. I will share my stories of people chasing after me when I get home so that no one gets worried.

Monday, November 10, 2014

Fogo nos ossos novamente*

*Fire in my bones, again.

This week we had a bunch of high participation ward council meetings. We are coordinating a lot with our ward leaders now.   I don´t know what it was that got them going. They have been giving us a bunch of referrals and are driving us everywhere to drop us off at our investigators' homes. It's paradise here in São José.  I feel super lucky. I called President the other day and tried to bargain with him. The root of my worries was that I would be transferred for my last two transfers. I had to promise him a couple of things in order for him to leave me in the area until I "die." This is one of my favorite areas by far. I feel like I have reached a level of teaching where I can talk with just about everyone and feel comfortable resolving many difficulties (difficulties that I have never personally experienced in my life). Like Ammon in the Book of Mormon, I don't want to seem arrogant because I know that the Lord is blessing me with his spirit to understand those who are lost and have passed through many problems.  These are problems that I may never face in my life.  I´ve never been married but Elder Schirmer and I have been able to start the delicate process of helping two frustrated couples repair their marriages. They are now happy and have been going to church for the past four Sundays. The Portuguese is getting a lot better as well. Elder Schirmer has helped me a lot just by talking. His accent is super cool because it comes from the Rio Grande do Sul. Where Ross Pagotto served. 

This is God´s gift to mans´ stomach.  I must admit that the Brasilian meat and grilling style is much more advanced and tasty than the classic American barbeque. We have been eating a lot of this every week during our family home evenings with investigators and membros. 

During Christmas the membros like to grill ribs outside with fires they make in the ground. I am so excited because it will be my first time at one of these shindigs. Friends, be advised, the churrasco here is the best thing in the world. I would buy a plane ticket just for everyone to get to know Sergio from our ward, a diamond in the roughness of the favela. 
Here are some pictures that were taken a while back from an Integration activity we planned:

Monday, November 3, 2014

An unusual week

This week was an interesting one because I was sent to Portão - Curitiba to go through some exams to see if I have something wrong with my stomach. I got the exams done and everything's normal. I think it's just Brasilian food and getting everyone´s germs when I shake hands. 

We lost a lot of time this week because of the various exams and tests but a miracle happened yesterday. I think I shared with everyone that we were bringing a lot of people to church but we hadn't been able to help our investigators understand the purpose of baptism nor set a baptismal date. It was difficult and kinda frustrating for the past weeks. To give us a spiritual boost we've been asking every member family we come across, whether it be during our lunch appointments or on the street, to accept a little piece of paper with our names and investigator's names written on it. We explain that the written names are children of our Heavenly Father and have high potential to start their trail towards exaltation through baptism. We've been challenging everyone to pray for these precious souls and we promise them that their prayers will help their lost brothers and sisters enter into heavenly rest in the celestial kingdom.  The prayers have helped a ton. Yesterday, we were able to clear all the doubts of a great family we are teaching and help them understand why they need to be baptized in the true church of our Savior. They sure got it. It came to a point in the lesson were I got really excited and started raising my voice asking them, "Do you have faith, my friends?.....yes.....a little louder please.....YEESS....  Great!  God is answering your prayers and you just need to act to give thanks for his divine intervention. Will you be baptized on this date?..Yes." I felt like Reverend Alonzo back from my Oak Lane robe choir Presbyterian days. The spirit testified of the message and they felt it for sure. 

I love the spirit. I've learned to distinguish my random Ian thoughts from the promptings of the spirit these past months. I've been praying earnestly so that the Lord can help me with this. Because it's hard to know when the Lord is telling you to do something or when it is just my head doubting or inferring. It's tough. Also I wanted to share something. Ever since I was a little kid to now, my personal prayers have been weak and I have had trouble expressing my true thoughts to my Father in Heaven.  Everyday now I feel like the Lord has been helping me spill out my heart to him. It was a tough battle. Sometimes I feel so tired at the end of the day or sometimes I just don't feel like I have anything worthwhile to say. Reading the scriptures before my nightly prayers has guided me to what I need to ask for and express gratitude for in my plea. I know I feel more comfortable when I converse with my Heavenly Father now. I know the Lord doesn't take us away from our weakness and drop us off in a paradise full of strengths. I know the Lord doesn't just remove our sins or challenges. He cleanses our sins and strengthens our abilities when we face challenges.

Brasilian culture that I've slowly but surely picked up:

- Hand signs. If I'm talking, I'm for sure talking with my hands.  
- I'm more friendly. What do I mean by that? Anyone that passes by on the street I holler (holla) at them. It sounds like "wow" mixed with "a opa". Woooohpa tudo bom? Sometimes it's just "bom" which means good. BAAWWHM. You've got to hear it to understand why it's super strange but very normal here. 
- I shake hands with everyone. I walk into a room and I have to shake everyone´s hand. 

Pictures are coming tomorrow from Elder Nixon's camera.  I will send them from the chapel where we have wifi.   

Elder Forsyth