Monday, January 28, 2013

Matozinhos Area

Well, I´ve been here nearly three weeks and I think I´m finally starting to get the hang of things. I don´t have the perpetual appearance of a startled rabbit anymore. Or so I hope.

The big stories of this week all relate to a certain town called Matozinhos. As I think I´ve mentioned already, our area covers three cities: Pedro Leopoldo (where we live and the branch is located), Matozinhos, and Confins. We received a couple references for Matozinhas, which I think I also mentioned. Well, success continues to appear there as people haven´t heard much about the church and are very open to learning more. The only down side is a rather large sum of money that is now going to daily bus rides there and my meals will be a bit more scanty, I think. Or maybe it just means less snacks. However, everyone there loves us, feeds us, insists on our return...we are a welcome presence, and it makes me grateful to be a missionary.

Some fun stories! First, a lesson that occurred in Vera Cruz, another area. We were knocking on doors. In fact, it was the first door we tried that day, and a woman came out, opened her gate, and told us to enter before we even explained who we were, saying she had been expecting us. We walked in and she had an open Bible and said she´d been praying for answers right when we arrived. It seemed like a miracle! We were ready to teach but then she just kept talking...and talking...and talking. I don´t think we said a single word until we´d been there twenty minutes. We tried, I promise, but she just kept interrupting! We were there for TWO HOURS and didn´t even get to fully explain the Book of Mormon. She kept saying she didn´t need it, she already had the truth, ignoring everything we said including attempts to leave. Overall it was rather entertaining and very frustrating. However, her husband was more receptive, and we will try to teach him more on a later day.

Next was a pair of lessons that occurred one right after another and were exact polar opposites. We entered the first home and encountered just the wife, an older woman, of a man who had been extremely excited the last time we visited (different family from my last story.) This woman ignored everything we said and insisted she didn´t have any desire to read the Book of Mormon, that reading was too much work, and that she was very comfortable with what she had. Not a whole lot we can do at that point but testify. The next lesson we taught was to a reference of a reference. We had no idea what would happen when we walked in. Turns out she had already received a visit from the missionaries twelve years ago, had a Book of Mormon, read it and believed in it, and was extremely open and understanding of everything we said. It was an awesome lesson, teaching someone who is so ready to hear our message. Brought me up considerably after our last lesson. (So you know, we returned to that home later with the husband home and he was just as excited about the Book of Mormon and seems like he could continue progressing.)

I want to share a quick thought. I don´t know who all reads this, but I guess it´s quite likely there are some people who aren´t religious, or perhaps just not Mormon. I want to explain a term that I´ve used frequently: The Spirit. I wish I had more time to explain, but essentially The Spirit is the Holy Ghost, a member of the Godhead. We believe it is a distinct personage from God, and we receive the gift of its presence and guidance after baptism. It has various roles, including teaching, comforting, and testifying. For this reason it´s really important to me on my mission, as I need a lot of help, comfort, and guidance from God. It is via the Spirit that we receive these things.

So there you go! I´ve got to close now, I wish I could write more. I have so many stories, experiences, and lessons that are helping me become a better person. It´s not easy, but as Elder Holland would say, salvation was never easy! I´m here to help others and to serve Christ. And I know that I´m doing the right thing.

Much love,
Elder Alex Burt

Monday, January 21, 2013

First Full Week

Hello and sorry for the wait!

I am sending this letter from Pedro Leopoldo, my mission area. It is a small town in between Belo Horizonte and Sete Lagoas. A small town, but we have a large area of proselyting. Lots and lots of walking and bus riding. Exhausting, but rewarding. I´ll try to use the small time I have to share a few stories and thoughts. Sorry if they´re a little scattered!

First, I´ll talk a little about how lessons work here and how I participate. We spend much of our time clapping at doors and talking to people in the street, because when I arrived we had fairly few progressing investigators. We have taught the first lesson like fifty times these last couple weeks. That´s hardly even an exaggeration. People are very willing to let us in and hear a message, but far fewer care to hear more. But we have found a few who are interested and will continue to visit. During the lesson itself, I usually teach about a third. My Portuguese is limited in terms of small talk and extended teaching, but I am able to teach all the parts of the Restoration lesson and improve every day. My companion and I switch off roles, he´ll talk about God, then I´ll teach prophets, then Christ, apostasy, restoration, etc. Back and forth. Sometimes my companion has to clarify things I say, but overall I am taking a bigger role than I thought I would in the first week.

Next, language! It is a lot more difficult out here in the field. My companion and I try to always speak in Portuguese, which helps. I say try, but honestly it´s true, at least 90% of conversation is in the mission language. Makes me think a lot more in Portuguese. The toughest thing is comprehension.  I can understand everything my comp says, but with Brazilians, listening is far more difficult. They speak quickly, place words in a different order, and obviously there are phrases I don´t comprehend. But every day is better and I understand more, get more accustomed to the way they talk. It´s especially tough because here in Minas Gereis they have a particular way of speaking called 'Minheiro' in which they make all their words shorter. Very tough for a person learning the language.

Now for some stories. The first occured almost a week ago. My companion decided it would be a good idea to take a 'shortcut' to another neigborhood in the city via a rickety ladder up a wall and down the railroad tracks for a mile. I was doubting how good of an idea it was until, miracle of miracles, we found a few houses directly next to the railroad tracks. In one of them we found a new investigator. Crazy world.

Second, and sadly I think this is all I have time for, we went to another city in our area, Matozinhas, to teach a couple contacts there who had visited the church in another city. We found Dream Street there, with many new investigators, contacts, and receptive people. One particular family let us in, had us teach with the whole extended family gathered around, then fed us and chatted for a while. They told us we are welcome back anytime to teach and rest. Oh the blessings of being a servant of the Lord! And I hope that family is blessed as well for their hospitality. I love the people here. So welcoming and kind.

All right, to wrap up. Congrats to Tasha Munk on her marriage! That´s fantastic, and I wish her my best. Congrats also to Devin Munk and his mission call! I´m so excited that he´ll be joining me in the work of the Lord, even if it´s in a different place.

Also, scripture of the week: Alma 5:45-46. Read it and know that I feel exactly the same way, and know I´m in the right place doing my best to serve the Lord!

Love you all, always do good, follow your hearts, and I´ll see you on the flippity-flip!

Elder Alex Burt

Monday, January 14, 2013

Finally... In the Field

Town of Pedro Leopoldo
All right, so here we go! First P-day in the field and what a week it has been. I have so much to say, but honestly so little time. To begin with, my area and companion:  My area is Pedro Leopoldo, in the Sete Lagoas district. A small town with a very large area of proselyting. Tons and tons of walking! I love it so far here, the people and circumstances are very humble but people are also very accepting of us. My companion is very kind, has incredible faith, and teaches with the Spirit. 

The language! This has certainly been a large challenge. It is so much more difficult trying to listen to people here. I am getting better every day, but it´s extremely mentally exhausting. We only speak Portuguese in conversation, which I have actually gotten used to. In fact, a couple nights ago I woke up thinking in Portuguese. So that´s cool. But still, I really can´t do too much in lessons due to this fact. I always participate, bear testimony and teach some, but I wish I could do more! More individually for the person! But I know it will come with time. 

I got here the first day after miles of walking in the rain (yes, rain. There´s lots of it here) and my companion immediately took me out to work. I had my first lesson, first baptismal invitation, and he said yes! Very cool. Though since then his mother (he´s fifteen) has gotten cold feet, and we haven´t been able to see him. Big bummer, but again, we´ll keep trying. We've extended a couple other baptismal invitations and taught a lot of first lessons, but as of yet only a couple follow-ups and progressing investigators.

Elder Burt prepares to leave the training center.
Church here is great. Very welcoming and loving people. I had to give a five minute "talk", really just an introduction and testimony. It went well, and the rest of the meetings passed by just like back home, but with very little comprehension on my part.

I know I´m out here doing real work for the Lord.  It´s hard, but extremely rewarding and spiritually uplifting!

Much love,

Wednesday, January 9, 2013

Leaving Sao Paulo

No post from Alex this week.  He left the CTM in Sao Paulo on Tuesday and flew up to Belo Horizonte.  We should get a blog entry next week.  Stay tuned!

Wednesday, January 2, 2013

New Years and Proselyting!

Feliz Ano Novo! And a Happy New Year too, if you're an English speaker. The week between Christmas and New Years is kind of tough to focus during, but I did my best and continued to work on the language. But by far the most excitement happened this last couple days.

To start out with, yesterday we had an English fast as a district, which was easier than the past but still frustrating to fully express yourself. Especially in the morning when we had a pretend lesson with a teacher who was being the toughest possible investigator. Asking questions that are extremely difficult to answer even in English. It got frustrating at times, but I had a solid response for pretty much every question he was throwing out...if not in Portuguese then at least in my head in English. Which I hope I can communicate fully in a few short months. Later that day I had a solo in front of the CTM during a devotional, singing "Nearer My God, To Thee." I think it went over well, at least I felt good about it. I love bearing testimony through song.

Today was P-day but we couldn't go to the temple because the other Americans couldn't go last week or on their own P-day due to Christmas and New Years. So instead we stayed here and went proseltying in the morning. It was an amazing experience. My companion and I went out with four copies of the Book of Mormon and the goal to have conversations with ten people during the hour we had to teach. We talked to about eight, handed out all our books, and got two addresses. It was amazing to realize that I actually understood what they were saying and could answer the questions that they had. Our last two placements were really solid, the first was a lady who wanted to know what we wanted out of life. I explained about eternal families and how much I loved my family. She seemed very interested and happy with the teaching. We answered a few other questions before leaving. She said she would read and call the number to learn more. We then were walking back to the CTM with one Book of Mormon left, out of time. We saw a guy sitting in a park and decided to chat with him. He was extremely receptive, excited to hear that we were talking about Jesus Christ, accepted the Book of Mormon and wrote down all of his information so other missionaries could contact him. I'd been praying all day for the Lord to place people in our way to teach and help, and He most certainly did. I hope every day in the field is at least kind of like this. I'm ready to preach the word! I was reading the beginning of 1 Corinthians 2 this morning and it got me really excited to teach and get the work started with earnest.

Which reminds me of just how much I've been loving and feasting upon the scriptures, the words of Christ, this past week. My study has been a lot more intense and far more rewarding recently, for some reason. I love the scriptures, and particularly the Book of Mormon, more and more each day. I have found ways to apply what I have read in lessons every single day. It's all true! I know it!

This week I had the opportunity to look back on the past year and reminisce a little. It really felt like three different years crammed into one, all based around enormous personal growth. First, the second semester of college. Certainly the most fun part of the year, but there were definitely difficulties and a lot of learning as I lived and acted on my own. Then came the six months of work as I waited to leave for the mission, which taught me all about hard work, diligence, and a little patience too. And then suddenly that door slammed shut and I was here in Brazil learning a different language. Which has been the hardest couple months of all, but also the most rewarding. Looking forward, this year will be spent entirely preaching the gospel, the year of my mission. I leave for the field next week and will be working every single week right through the next new year. I have absolutely no idea what is in store, except that it will be enormously different from this past year. But I am excited and ready for whatever is coming.

Again, a happy new year to you all. Choose the right, follow your heart, and work hard. This is going to be a great year. A tough year, but a good one. I'd encourage everyone to make it worth remembering.
Elder Alex Burt