A Day of My Life:
Every morning I wake up at 6:30 am to the sound of the roosters crowing as the sun slowly rises over the luscious green mountains and brilliant red rooftops that decorate the skyline of the city of Sousa, Brazil, where I have been called to serve for the time being as a representative of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints by a prophet of God. Although I am tired, I roll out of bed onto my knees and pray. I thank my Father in Heaven for the marvelous opportunity He has blessed me with to serve for 18 months of my life as a full time emissary for Him to share the Restored Gospel of Jesus Christ, which I know to be true. I ask Him to bless me with charity, patience, diligence, and strength as I prepare to go out another day to declare His word to the amazing children of God here who I love unconditionally. I ask Him to bless me with the Gift of Tongues that I might be able to communicate with the people here in the Portuguese language, which I studied for six weeks at the Missionary Training Center in Provo, UT.
When I am done, I rise to my feet and walk over to the window. I look out and see a horse and oxen grazing randomly on the side of the street. The dogs are already up searching the streets for breakfast and, if I'm lucky, I may see a couple seguis monkeys playfully racing along the telephone wires.
I exercise for 30 minutes while listening to BYU Vocal Point and other approved music and then shower, eat, and prepare for the day (there's only one knob in the shower, because there's only one temperature - cold). By 8 am, I am on my knees asking my Father in Heaven to guide me as I personally study the word of God (The Holy Bible - Biblia Sagrada and The Book of Mormon), “Preach My Gospel”, and other materials for one hour. There are times when I will study solely for myself and there are times when I will study for the people I will teach as I pray and ponder the things they need to hear that day. More often than not, I find that when I study for others, my own testimony of the restored Gospel of Jesus Christ grows even stronger than it does when I study for myself.
At 9 am, my companion and I are on our knees together as we pray for inspiration and guidance for the people we teach and visit with in our area. We share the things we have studied for the last hour and discuss the needs of the people we will visit that day. The hour passes quickly and when we are done we pray again, thanking our loving Father in Heaven for His inspiration and asking Him to bless us and the people we will meet with.
We meet up with the Elders at noon and head over to a members' house for lunch. Most of the members here are pretty poor and hardly have enough to feed themselves, but they are also so kind. There is hardly ever a day when lunch is not provided to us by these loving people. To eat, we have rice, beans, noodles, cous cous, and a little bit of meat. To drink we have juice (guava, passionfruit, mango, etc.) or guarana soda.
Since I've gotten here, I've learned that you can never eat a meal without a knife. Rather than using knives solely to cut food, the people here use their knives to neatly scrape their food onto their forks. I am still mastering the art of timing my eating. I have learned the hard way that you cannot be the first missionary with an empty plate because the loving people here will always insist you get more food (even if you are already stuffed. there are many times when we missionaries have to pray that we will be able to eat all the food on our plates), so I have been trying to eat slowly and consistently check where my fellow missionaries are in terms of their meals (note: the Elders always get seconds, and sometimes they'll get thirds).
My companion and I walk the streets of Sousa each day finding people to teach about the Restored Gospel of Jesus Christ. We teach people about the restoration of the church Christ organized when He was here on the earth; we teach people about the Plan of Salvation that bring us so much happiness; we teach people about the principles of faith, repentance, baptism, receiving the gift of the Holy Ghost, and enduring to the end; and we teach people about the laws ad commandments our Father in Heaven has given us to protect us and keep us safe from the things of the world. We invite them to read The Book of Mormon and ponder its message; we invite them to come to church with us on Sunday; we invite them to pray to know if The Book of Mormon is true and if Joseph Smith was a true prophet; and we invite them to follow the example of Christ by being baptized by someone who holds the proper priesthood authority.
The field is so white here in this foreign land of Brazil. Every week, the eight missionaries in our district fill up the baptismal font once, if not two or three times, to watch wonderful children of God enter the waters of baptism and make covenants with the Lord. It is amazing to see the way the Gospel changes lives and the happiness it brings to individuals and especially to families.
In the month of March, Sister Acosta and I were able to see R., S., and E. make these promises, and we are now doing our best to help them endure to the end. The individuals, Sister Acosta and I taught who made the decision to be baptized this month are all so different. One, an 11 year-old girl trying to figure out who she is as she lives with her grandmother instead of her parents [who have some challenges]; another, a 29 year-old man who came from a family addicted to drugs and had to overcome this large stone in his path to keep the commandments of the Lord; and finally, a timid, middle-aged man preparing for marriage, who has been attending church for five years but has never, until now, felt prepared to be baptized (his fiancée and he are looking forward to the day they can be sealed together for time and all eternity in the temple in a year’s time).
While here on my mission I have seen so many different people enter the waters of baptism and my testimony that we are all children of a loving Heavenly Father has grown so much stronger. Our Father in Heaven loves us so much that he restored the same Gospel that Christ taught upon the earth through a living prophet (Joseph Smith). This Gospel is the Gospel taught by The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, and this Gospel is not for just a collection of chosen people. It is for everyone. God would not create different churches and religions for different people. This is the work of man.
I respect each and every church and religion and the things they teach, for they all contain truth, but I can testify that The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is the only church that contains all of the truths and the fullness of the Gospel f Jesus Christ. How grateful I am to have the opportunity to dedicate 18 months of my life to sharing these truths full- with my fellow brothers and sisters and watching these children of God change and find joy they have never felt before.
The work here is not easy. Each day, I begin sweating even before I step outside; my legs ache as we walk all day every day; I feel inadequate as I attempt to communicate a special message with others in a language I still have not mastered; and each day my companion and I fall into bed exhausted after praying to our Father in Heaven and thanking Him for the strength He blessed us with that day and praying for the people we are teaching. Tears have been shed (I've probably cried at least five different times since I've gotten here), but they have all done me good, refined me, and made me stronger. I wouldn't trade my mission for the world, because I know that I am in the midst of the Lord's vineyard and am sharing the pure fruit of the restored Gospel of Jesus Christ with those I promised to share it with before I came to the earth, and I also know that my mission today is preparing me for greater things to come tomorrow. I am an LDS missionary. I am Mormon. I KNOW it. I LIVE it. I LOVE it!!!!!
[Our mission] had 208 baptisms this month! Woooohooooo!!!!! Sister Acosta and I helped three of these happen!
Q: What is that bandage on your forearm [in your photo]? Were you injured?!
A: I burned my arm while ironing a skirt the other day, but it's fine now. I only have a small scar. Tudo bem.
Q: Does it rain much there?
A: Sister Acosta told me that it never rained before I got here, but it has been raining a bunch. The other day we had water up to our ankles when we were walking home. Our roof is getting worse as it leaks into our room and the floor gets wet. We have buckets though.
Q: Do any of the missionaries have bicycles? Nope. If not, why not?
A: They would definitely get stolen.
Q: Is there sufficient public transportation?
A: some cars/taxis, a lot of buses and motorcycles/mototaxis, horse/donkey carts
Q: Do you ride horse / donkey carts ever? How about mototaxis? Do you ever hitch hike on donkey carts?
A: No to all of those
Q: Do you feel safe?
A: Of course I feel safe. I'm in the Lord's hands.
Q: Does anything dangerous ever happen?
A: I'll save those stories for when I return home.