Oi minha familia!
I was so excited to get my new mission call to the Tennessee Nashville Mission [to serve there until my Brazil visa is issued]! I will be leaving the MTC at 3:35 AM on Tuesday the 22nd. My flight departs at 8:40 AM to Dallas, TX and from there I will be flying to Nashville at 1:00 PM American Airlines. All of the other missionaries in my District got called to Pennsylvania Pittsburgh (2 elders), Florida Orlando (4 elders), and Wisconsin Milwaukee (2 sisters), and Elder Hirschi will be leaving for Brazil on Monday after he got his visa. I am the only missionary in my District going to Tennessee and also the only one leaving on Tuesday. Everyone else is leaving on Monday, so I'm trying to figure out what Monday will be like for me – probably just a lot of packing. I miss you all so much! I'm going to try to call you from the airport, so make sure you're home!
This last week has been pretty crazy! Last Friday Sister Ruiz and I went to the temple to do initiatories [Initiatory ordinances] on behalf of the deceased for the first time, which was pretty amazing.
On Sunday, the General Young Women's President taught Relief Society. She told us that in a meeting the General Authorities had last year, Elder Jeffrey R. Holland spoke about the Parable of the Lord's Vineyard described in The Book of Mormon in Jacob 5. He pointed out that each time the servant and his master went down to work in the vineyard, the servant asked for more time to allow the trees to grow. However, the last time they went down to work in the vineyard, rather than asking for more time, the servant asked for more help. Three days after this meeting, during October General Conference, President Monson announced the lowered age requirements for missionaries of the Church. Each time the servant and his master go work in the vineyard represents a dispensation. We are now in the last dispensation. The Lord has asked for more helpers, and it is amazing to think that we as missionaries are those helpers he has asked for and are fulfilling this revelation today.
On Sunday, as the new Branch Music Coordinator, I chose the hymns for both Priesthood and Sacrament Meeting and I conducted the Sacrament Meeting "Hinos" [hymns]. Although the opening "hino" "How Great Thou Art" (in Portuguese, of course) was in 4/4 time, for some reason I had trouble with it and was kind of embarrassed while conducting. However, I soon realized that no one was looking at me because they were so busy reading the Portuguese words in their hymnbooks so that made me feel better. During Sacrament meeting Sister Young and I gave a musical number that we rehearsed all week of the song, "I Heard Him Come," me on the cello and Sister Young accompanying on the piano. It is a beautiful song and I highly recommend you look it up on youtube.
Our District is singing "A Child's Prayer" during Sacrament Meeting on Sunday, It is tradition here that the departing Districts give a farewell musical number, so I'm really excited! Sunday night we watched an old MTC Devotional given by Jeffrey R. Holland, titled "Missions Are Forever." During the devotional, Elder Holland emphasized that the road to Salvation goes through Gethsemane. You could not be an apostle of Christ without going through some of the pain and suffering He went through. There will be sorrows, tears, hardships, and afflictions in our lives, but we have to be strong and strengthen those around us. The path to Salvation is not easy. It never was supposed to be easy. In fact, if we live our lives or do our missions the way we are supposed to, it will be hard.
The other day, two Elders in our District were teaching one of their investigators. They asked him what he was looking for in the Church. He replied that he hoped God would bless him with a girlfriend. The two Elders came out of the lesson a bit shocked and frustrated. Elder Padgett asked us how he could explain to his investigator how The Book of Mormon was better than a girlfriend. Elder Cluff immediately answered, "Girlfriends come with luggage! This thing (The Book of Mormon) is easy to carry on!" Then, in another lesson the same two Elders taught the other day, their investigator started asking about the Priesthood. Elder McBride brought out his oil container keychain and started trying to explain what it was, the investigator immediately asked, "lightsaber?"
I've been sick for over two and a half weeks with a bad cold accompanied by a sore throat and a lot of coughing as well as a really runny nose. On Sunday evening, a Brother in our Branch Presidency asked me if I had gotten a Priesthood Blessing. I told him that I had not. He gently rebuked me by reminding me that I was surrounded by the Priesthood here and, because the Elders are not allowed to offer Sisters Priesthood Blessings, a Blessing was just one question away. Why not take advantage of this amazing gift from God? So, the next day, I finally asked our District Leader if I could get a Priesthood Blessing. He was more than happy to arrange it, and on Monday I received a Blessing. All of the Elders participated and, once again, it was an amazing experience to have seven Priesthood holders encircle and bless me with health and strength and give me a comforting message from my Father in Heaven as they told me that none of my health problems would prevent me from carrying out the mission my Father in Heaven had planned for me or doing the Lord's work.
Before that day, for the last two and a half weeks, my pride had stopped me from asking for and accepting help from others. I had felt that I could take this challenge on my own and that I didn't need to bother others with my problems. That day, I realized the fault of my thinking. When I get out in "o campo" (the field) next week, there will be many people I meet who will think, "I don't need any help right now. I don't want to burden anyone with my problems. I can take my challenges on my own." What they don't realize, like I did not realize at first, is that there are people out there who truly would love to help them, just like the Elders truly wanted to help me. All they have to do is humble themselves and ask for or accept what is already available and is freely offered to them. For in doing so, they will truly receive the blessings of God as I did today. For the last few days, although I still have a cough and a runny nose, I have felt so much better. My energy has returned and I feel so much more capable. This week I witnessed the power of the Priesthood. There's another miracle I think I can add to my list.
On Tuesday night, we had an amazing Devotional. We had no idea who would speak. All we knew is that the Devotional would be broadcast to all the MTCs in the world. In the end, everyone was so excited when Elder Dallin H; Oaks and his wife walked into the room. Sister and Elder Oaks both shared messages that touched my heart and inspired me. From their Devotional I learned that personal joy is directly proportional to the degree to which we immerse ourselves in the work. And, in order to do this, we must change and forget the things of the world. We must keep our focus so that we can find the people we promised to find before we came to this Earth. We can be a "personal Savior" for those we teach (whether we are full-time missionaries or not). As I think about the potential I have to be a savior, I feel so inadequate and unworthy. Christ is the Savior and I am nothing compared to Him. However, as I serve as a representative of Him and wear His name on my heart for the next 18 months, I will be blessed with the opportunity to serve even as He did.
During our choir rehearsal before the Devotional on Tuesday, our choir director, who served his mission in Brazil, told us that he still kept in touch with one of the families he baptized while on his mission 30 or so years ago. Whenever they emailed him, they would end by writing: "Amamos Voce! ("We love you!" in Portuguese) He was their "personal savior" and they were so grateful for him, would never forget him, and would love him forever because of it. Without him, they would not have the blessings of the Gospel in their lives right now.
As Christ suffered for our sins in the Garden of Gethsemane, the pain and agony that He went through was so great that He almost gave up. He asked the Father to take away the bitter cup, but only if it was His will. What kept our Savior going during that time of tremendous agony that was so great it caused Him to sweat blood from every pore? What stopped Him from giving in and finding relief when it was just one word away? I believe that as Christ suffered and bled and died for us, as He took upon Himself the guilt and pain and sins of the world, the thing that kept Him going was us. As He suffered the burden of each of our sins, He thought of each and every one of us. He recognized that without His sacrifice, none of us would be able to return to the presence of our Father in heaven, because no unclean thing can dwell with God, and the love He had for each of us was so great that, despite the torturous agony He faced, He was motivated to continue to drink from that bitter cup and add those words as He prayed to His Father, "Not my will, but thine be done."
I am so grateful for the Atonement of the Savior and for my knowledge that His Church, His Authority, and His Gospel have been restored upon the earth in these last days. My purpose is to let others know that Christ is still thinking of them and invite them to come unto the Savior who loves them so much that no amount of pain or affliction could stop Him from making that great sacrifice that allows us to return to the presence of the Father if we but only choose to follow His example and keep His commandments.
I am a bit nervous about going out into the field next week. We had an in-field orientation yesterday and it was really weird for me to practice teaching people in English. I have found that Portuguese has overtaken my brain. The other day I was speaking to some Chinese-speaking missionaries and when they asked me if I spoke Chinese, I said, "Sim!" (yes). As I continued to talk to them, Portuguese managed to slip in quite a few times. When I first got here, Chinese slipped into my Portuguese, but now it has totally reversed, and even when I'm speaking English, Portuguese makes its way in there. The Gift of Tongues is truly real and I cannot believe how much Portuguese my District has learned in the last month. I have been taught by those people in my District who once really struggled with this language, and it is amazing the Spirit I feel as they share the Gospel of Christ with me. I hope that I will be able to teach others in English when I get in the field, but hopefully I will also be able to retain my Portuguese. Wish me luck!
|Our district at the Provo Temple|
|Saying goodbye to Sister Dumas from another District. She got reassigned|
to the Arizona Mesa Mission! Boa Sorte (Good Luck) Sister!
|Yep... Missionaries do have cell phones. Personal revelation. Via banana|
|Tempo para exercer!!! Gym time!|
|Sister Young, Sister Eddington, Sister Ruiz, and Sister Dyer|
|Sisters at Templo|