Dearest Friends and Family,
The time continues to slip through my fingers! Just yesterday I was going through the transfers for next year with President and arranging the different dates that missionaries would be going home on. It has been decided that I’ll be headed home on July 17th, arriving on the 18th! It’s so strange that I’m in a position to even think about that already. 8 months and counting!
This past couple of weeks has passed by in a blur. Right around transfer time things get crazy around here so it’s difficult to keep up with what day it is! I found out a few days before the actual transfer that I would be training a new person, Elder J. Ferreira, to take my place as Executive Secretary. At the end of this transfer I’ll be headed out back to the “normal” mission field. He was transferred in so that I can train him, and Elder Chandler was transferred out!
I’ve been out long enough that I’ve acquired a number of cool things that I want to take home with me. Unfortunately my space and weight limits slim! One of the sisters, Sister Newell, that was finishing her mission was kind enough to take my carry-on bag (she didn’t have one) full of stuff for my family to pick up when they go out to Utah in January for Katie’s wedding.
Brazilians don’t really celebrate Halloween because they have a national holiday a few days later in remembrance of the dead. We have these members in our ward, Patricia and Fabian, who are super awesome and set up a special lunch for us a few days before Halloween. We had Mexican food, complete with Cafe Rio style cilantro dip, followed by themed cupcakes. It was all delicious! They went all out and decorated their house, too. After being in one ward for so long I’ve really developed an attachment to some of the members, and these two are definitely at the top of the list! They’re the kind of people that help and serve others selflessly without asking for anything in return. I’m grateful for the opportunity I have to serve in Brazil, to get to know new and different people and learn about their lifestyle and culture. It has broadened my perspective on life and what I want from it. I know that I was sent here for a purpose, and that the things I’m learning here will be essential to my growth throughout the rest of my life.
Two weeks ago we started teaching a woman named Simone. We got a reference from one of the members in the ward who indicated that she was really needing some help. We went to contact her a few weeks later, only to find out that on that very same day she had prayed and asked for help from God. Since that day, we’ve been stopping by almost every day to share our message with her and her oldest son, Willian, who is 17. She also has a younger son who is about 18 months old. The three of them as well as the dad (who is a less-active member) live in a very small and cramped house that’s roughly the same size as the average master bedroom in an American home. They have proven to be extremely receptive and really awesome people. They have absolutely nothing, and live day by day on the money that the dad earns doing odd jobs while Simone takes care of the baby and Willian goes to school. I can see very clearly how the Lord pointed us to them at exactly the right moment and has used us to help them through this difficult time in their lives. I’m so grateful for the opportunity that we’ve had to do so!
One thing I thought about a lot this week is the comfort zone that we often find ourselves in. Regardless of our present situation our bodies and minds are naturally and constantly seeking to maintain homeostasis. One of our most basic human desires is to have equilibrium and stability in our lives. When that homeostatic environment is interrupted the body immediately seeks to return to that state as quickly as possible. When in that state our minds are at peace because they’re not having to exert themselves to resolve some kind of problem. When we have reached homeostasis we subconsciously cling to that status, trying to push away anything that would take it from us and throw us back into discomfort.
Unfortunately, we are not capable of progressing while in this comfort zone, just as a muscle doesn’t grow while it’s resting. For the muscle to grow its fibers must be repeatedly torn and then healed, growing slightly after each repetition of this process. We, like muscles, have to be constantly stretched to our limit so that we can heal and grow into the people that God needs us to be. When we are put through trials it’s because Heavenly Father knows that there’s something we have to get better at, that we have something new we need to learn. What the Lord wants most is that we turn to him at all times, not just when things are rough. He wants us to become more like Him. That is the entire purpose of our existence here on earth, to be tried, tested, and gradually honed into Godly beings. We must learn to accept our challenges and take them head on, always doing our best to do what is right.
In times of trial we always have access to Christ’s help. Throughout the scriptures he is referenced to as the Comforter because he will always be available to comfort those who are in need of comfort, and strengthen those who are in need of strength. “And now, my sons, remember, remember that it is upon the rock of our Redeemer, who is Christ, the Son of God, that ye must build your foundation; that when the devil shall send forth his mighty winds, yea, his shafts in the whirlwind, yea, when all his hail and his mighty storm shall beat upon you, it shall have no power over you to drag you down to the gulf of misery and endless wo, because of the rock upon which ye are built, which is a sure foundation, a foundation whereon if men build they cannot fall” (Helaman 5:12).
I testify of the truthfulness of Helaman’s words, that with Christ as our foundation we cannot fail. It is absolutely impossible. Sometimes we can fall and our foundation might crack a little bit because we didn’t build it as strongly as we thought we did, but through repentance we can strengthen that foundation and make it even stronger than it was before. I know this to be true because I see it constantly in my own life as I continue to make myself better. I invite all of you to do the same, to build up your foundation in Christ so that you’re prepared for the oncoming storm. I’m afraid that things are going to get a lot worse before they get better, so we all need to be well prepared. Thankfully we’ve been blessed to know exactly where and how we can prepare ourselves!
I’ll close with my testimony of the truthfulness of the Gospel of Jesus Christ. I can see how obedience to its principles has allowed me to progress in my life and how disobedience has inhibited that progression. I know that I know that we all have the potential to become just like our Heavenly Father and to live with him for eternity. That is largely dependent on how we choose to act while were here in this probationary state. If we do our absolute best to be obedient to God’s commandments then we will be rewarded with eternal life and exhalation through the grace of Jesus Christ. If we don’t do our part then he won’t be able to do His part either. It all depends on how we choose to use our free agency. I know that true and lasting happiness can be found as we do our part and keep the commandments which have been given to us. I know that God’s love for us surpasses all comprehension. I know that he sees value in each and every one of us as His children, and wants for us to be able to see that same value in ourselves. I love you all, and thank you for your love and support. I leave these things with you in the name of Jesus Christ, Amen.
Elder Chapman Tew