Well, this week was a busy one! On Sunday we confirmed Adriano, officially making him a member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints. He seems so excited all the time. I can tell that he’s going to be an awesome member and an example to all those around him!
On Monday night, we decided to try passing by this kid named Kawan’s house. He was given to us as a referral from some other missionaries. We had tried a ton of times to stop by his house previously but we never were able to encounter him at home. Monday we got lucky! He was there with both his parents. We were able to talk to his dad quite a bit and he seems very interested in the Church. We had a lesson with Kawan again last night, and he told us that he’s decided he wants to be baptized! We talked and decided that next Saturday would be the big day!
This week we had two zone conferences, so the vast majority of our time was taken up in the preparation and execution of said conferences. Tuesday I went with President Broadbent to pick up this huge flag that we ordered with our mission symbol on it. We needed it for the zone conferences so we had to drive out to Egypt to pick it up. It allegedly was going to take us an hour or so to drive there from the office. We ended up missing the exit and it took a little more time than that. When we finally got there we were about 20 minutes past the international airport that sits on the northeastern side of the city way out in the boonies. We were literally driving in between planted fields and cow pastures as we were arriving. On the way back rather than driving through the center of the city at rush hour we took a different route that was twice the distance but took half the time to get back to the office. It took us on the beltway that goes all the way around the massive city. We went from the extreme northeastern side to our mission office on the south end and it was about 83 kilometers. It was a really beautiful drive! Tall trees, large hills, and water reservoirs lined both sides of the highway. It reminded me somewhat of driving through southern Alabama (minus the reservoirs). Quite the experience!
As part of the conferences we had a huge pancake/waffle breakfast for all the missionaries. Elder Chandler and I were in charge of doing most all of the cooking. It was awesome! I don’t know how many pancakes I made but it was at least a few hundred! We borrowed an electric skillet from the São Paulo North Mission President to make the job faster. Sister Broadbent had one, but she had been unable to find another one anywhere else. Last week I went to his house to pick it up, and yesterday we went back to return it. It was interesting meeting a President from another mission. He lives in this super fancy apartment complex in an up-scale neighborhood called Morumbi. That’s also where the Area Presidency lives as well as a couple other people. It took us about 30 minutes to get there by taxi. On the way back, since it was P-Day, we got permission to stop by a really big fancy mall that’s in that same neighborhood. We ate lunch there at Applebee’s (one of three in the city) and got desert at Ben & Jerry’s (also a rare find). We briefly perused the mall while gaping at the outrageously high prices of everything before leaving.
Because of Brazil’s weak currency and their high tax rate almost everything that would be considered expensive in the United States is about 4-8 times more expensive (comparing Brazilian Reais to the American Dollar) depending on the product. The 16GB iPad Mini, for example, costs around R$4,000 ($1,250 USD). Sometimes we don’t realized how truly blessed we are!
During our conferences this week I thought a lot about discipline. Why is it that it’s so (relatively) easy for us to be disciplined and dedicated in worldly things but not in spiritual things? For example, when we work to make money it’s almost too easy to work really hard to complete our job and receive money as compensation for that effort. But, when we receive a commandment from God, for example “keep the Sabbath Day holy”, it’s so difficult to do that? After all, the compensation for obedience to all the commandments is eternal salvation which is far more “valuable” than a pile of money.
After thinking about this for awhile I have come to a conclusion: we as human beings demand immediate reward for our efforts. If we work 40 hours every week for a month we want our salary deposited in our bank account on the 1st day of the upcoming month. With that money we might make a mortgage or rent payment, pay utility bills, and then spend it on other necessities like food. We might save some of that money every month to buy something new and exciting (a new car, for example) at the end of the year as compensation for having worked hard all year, thus receiving our almost immediate gratification. Unfortunately we aren’t always willing to do the same with the things the Lord requires of us. We’d rather give up our eternal salvation so that we can break a commandment in an effort to gratify our human desires.
The most important thing that we can learn in this life is that we need to give up, completely, our will to that of our Father in Heaven. He, ultimately, has to be more important than we are. We have to put Him in first place. We must understand that what we want doesn’t really matter. What He wants does. That doesn’t mean that we can’t have plans in our lives or that we will never be able to do anything that will make us happy. It really means that we can and should. We just need to understand that if those plans aren’t in accordance with God’s plans that we’re going to have to make the tough decision to leave them aside and do that which the Lord would have us do. I myself would really like to be a successful businessman some day in the near future. But if the Lord decides that I need to do something else that would be more useful to Him then that’s exactly what I have to do, no matter how difficult it would be.
One thing that I am more sure of now than ever before is that none of us will ever be perfect. Sometimes we still are going to allow our own desires to trump the Lord’s. We’re going to mess up and do stupid things. When that happens we must call on Christ to help us. I read a talk this week during my personal study that was about the Atonement. The author, Stephen E. Robinson, was a professor of ancient scripture at Brigham Young University who gave a devotional address in May of 1990. He said, “Brothers and sisters, to have faith in Jesus Christ is not merely to believe the he is who he says he is, to believe in Christ. Sometimes, to have faith in Christ is also to believe Christ… To have faith in his identity is only half the process. To have faith in his ability, in his power to cleanse and to save, that is the other half.”
I bear you my testimony that we are all capable of becoming clean and pure through the power of the Atonement of Jesus Christ. There does not exist a limit from which we cannot return. If we first believe in Christ and then believe His teachings we will be led back to His presence. One of my favorite things to do as a missionary is call people to repentance. I think that we as members of the church often look upon the repentance process as a negative thing. We look upon others who we know are repenting of something difficult as lesser beings. “Oh jeez, John is having problems again. He hasn’t taken the sacrament in three weeks.” That is not OUR job. We have to get our own act together before we could ever hope to help someone else to do the same. Our place is not to judge but to love and help. God will take care of the judgement. If we judge others too harshly then the Lord will judge us. “With what judgment ye judge, ye shall be judged.” (Mat. 7:2)
I bear witness that the Atonement can change lives. It has changed mine, and through me it has changed the lives of many others. The only way by which we can hope to live again with God is through righteousness and obedience to His commandments. If we fall and fell like we cannot get up we must look to him for help and forgiveness. I have felt the healing and cleansing power of Jesus Christ in my own life. I have felt His love as I have left and do continue to leave behind things that held me back from spiritually progressing, and I have set my compass towards that straight and narrow path. Sometimes I still pass by earthly magnets that distort my compass and lead me away back into old habits, but through prayer and study of the scriptures I’m always able to find my way back.
I, as a Representative of Jesus Christ, invite you all to do the same in your own lives. Put the will of the Lord in first place and leave yours in second. Seek that which is good and uplifting and will draw you closer to God. I promise that if you repent of your sins that you will be blessed. Live your life in accordance with the teachings of the prophets and you will one day be welcomed back into God’s presence. Don’t waste your time because it is very short. Judgement could come at any time so don’t take the risk. Change NOW and don’t leave it for tomorrow.
I love you all, and I thank you for your love and support!
Elder Chapman Tew