Monday, May 27, 2013

There and Back Again / Second Breakfasts and Elevensies / Something Different

What it is, all of my people??!! As the month of May comes to a close, I can hardly believe how fast the time is flying and how much there is to do! I´m working like crazy all the time and it´s great. There´s nothing quite as invigorating as doing the work of the Lord!

1)There and Back Again-This is a story I forgot to mention last week, but is a very cool one. We had another missionary division, and I went to the nearby city Sete Lagoas to spend the day with another missionary while Elder Wilson stayed in Pedro Leopoldo with our district leader. It was the first time I´ve done missionary work outside of my area, and it was very cool to get the chance to work in a new environment. But the day ended a little earlier than expected, as our district leader wanted to get back that same night instead of the next morning, as is usual. We met up in the bus station at 8:20, but Elder Wilson and I missed our return bus. And the next one didn´t leave until 10:30, which is a little late for a missionary.

So we had to catch a taxi, which was four times the price. But it was so so worth it. We got in the car and began to talk to the taxi driver. He quickly let us know that he had investigated our church six years ago, knew it was true, loved the Book of Mormon, and wanted to be baptized! The only reason he hadn´t been baptized before is because he lived with a girlfriend, but since then they´ve broken up. It was an amazing miracle, clearly something set up by the Lord. The man lives in Sete Lagoas, and we sent in the reference the next day knowing that some lucky companionship just got a free baptism.
And guess who is one of the missionaries now teaching him? My old companion from the MTC, Elder Cushing! He was transferred to my zone in an emergency transfer two weeks ago. It was great to see him, and I´m also happy to know that this taxi driver is in good hands.

2) Second Breakfasts and Elevensies- I had a rather difficult experience in the middle of the week. Difficult both physically and mentally. As a missionary, members really like to feed us a lot of food, and in order to make them happy we have to eat insane amounts. Fortunately, as missionaries we also use all of this intake in our very busy day. Well, on this particular day we had a full lunch with a member, left me feeling happy and full, and we headed directly to the house of some investigators (the 'adorable old people' from the last couple weeks). We arrived to find that they, too, had made us lunch. And instead of let us decide the portion size, they had set out the plates absolutely heaping with rice, beans, potatos, and meat. I nearly died as I forced almost all of it down, but it reached a point where I knew I couldn´t eat more without throwing up. So I am ashamed to admit that I took one of the rolls they set out for us, slipped a large amount of meat and rice into it, and then slipped it into my backpack when they weren´t looking (and yes, I´m sure they didn´t see.) I know it´s not particularly polite, but it had to be done! I´m pretty sure we would have lost two golden investigators had I thrown up the lunch they had so carefully prepared. Sigh, life really is tough as missionary, and sometimes we have to make some difficult decisions.

3) And Now for Something Completely Different- Different in that I was unable to come up with a suitable Lord of the Rings reference for this part and also because it´s not the same type of story I usually have. This week I have really had the chance to immerse myself in the scriptures and receive personal revelation after personal revelation as I read. My testimony of the Book of Mormon, of the power of prayer, and of the Holy Ghost  increased significantly through these experiences. I am so grateful for the scriptures and the things that can be learned and applied, as Nephi says in 1 Nephi 19:23. A scripture that particularly touched me was 3 Nephi 9:13-14, as this scripture came to mind in a prayer as one that could particularly help my investigators. Truly Christ is waiting, with arms outstretched, to cure us. We just need to do our part: repent and come unto him. And the way to first accept this mercy is through baptism for the remission of sins by one holding authority. Absolutely!

Oh, and if anyone can think of a suitable Lord of the Rings reference for that (cough cough Andrew cough cough) be sure to let me know!

You all are amazing. Stay strong, love life, fight the good fight, and never give up!

Much Love,

Elder Alex Burt

Monday, May 20, 2013

Steamrolled, More of the Adorable Old People, and a Request for Prayers

What it is, my many friends and relations?!

Another week in Brazil has flown by with large amounts of excitement, hard work, some difficulties, and many miracles. This week I was striving to be more bold and open, and I believe it went quite well. We have several possible baptisms this week and I believe that we´ll see a large amount of success this last two weeks of the transfer because of our hard work this past week.

1) Steamrolled- So the week started off with a bang as we visited a young man named Pablo who we´d met near the beginning of my time here in Pedro Leopoldo, and who has crossed our path various times recently. He is a staunch evangelical and seems to be set on converting us. We arrived at his house last Monday, and he immediately sat us down, set on preaching to us. I wasn´t saying much as he said some lovely, doctrinally empty phrases about the love of God, 'cast the evil spirits out of us,' and then sat down to ask us how we felt. I opened my mouth to answer but he stopped me, set his hand on my shoulder, told me to take off my glasses, had my comp close his eyes, and-staring very hard at me-asked me what I felt. I said I didn´t want to offend him, but that I felt that he didn´t have authority to say or do any of these things. He was a little stunned, and retreated to his computer while we began to teach the first lesson to his mom. The lessons split, however, as Pablo (who didn´t seem to like Elder Wilson very much and was still focused on me) began to talk to me while Elder Wilson talked to the far more receptive mom. As we began to converse, however, it quickly became clear to Pablo that he´d picked the wrong missionary to try to convert. He attempted to show me anti-Mormon videos in English but I shut the computer off and began to talk. And this fiery evangelical got steamrolled. He did everything possible to try to change the subject, but I overran everything he said, countered every single one of his points, and got him to promise to read in the Book of Mormon and pray to know if it´s true. We left the house with him feeling a little overwhelmed and with me raring to go.

We returned Saturday to see if he had read but, surprise surprise, the only thing he´d read were anti-Mormon articles online that he then was eager to share with us, as a new tactic to try to convert us. We absolutely ignored him, taught the first lesson, bore powerful witness, and then left. His attacks were some of the most pathetic attacks on Mormonism I´ve ever heard, but it made me sad to see them scare the mom out of interest. We left the house with Pablo legitimately angry-not because of anything we said, but because of the poison that anti-Mormon crap always puts in the hearts of people. He actually told me that he preached against our church because it was of the devil, and that now that I knew the truth and wasn´t changing, I was going to hell. This is the sad and frightening power Satan has on the hearts of men. I am so thankful to have the true church and gospel in my life.

2) Adorable Old People, Cont.- So we have continued to visit that old couple from last week, and they always manage to lift my spirits. They are reading the Book of Mormon nightly, and the husband, José, clearly has a great desire to learn and grow. Well, actually, the wife can´t read, so they sit up in bed in the evening while he reads to her and explains what he thinks it means. Very touching. He has even said to us that he already considers himself to be a member of our church. His wife, Maria, came to church without him Sunday, because sadly he was sick. She caught a bus at eight in the morning alone just to come to church, and told us she absolutely planned to return weekly. And with her husband in the future! Their examples of faith and desire to show it are magnificent.

3) A Request for Prayers- This week one of our investigators made the decision to be baptized. She shared an amazing story about her experience reading the Book of Mormon, receiving personal answers to prayers, feeling the Holy Ghost, and deciding to take a step of faith and be baptized. All was ready to happen on Saturday, but we still hadn´t received the mom´s signature (our investigator is only 16). The mom flatly stated that she would never sign, that she was absolutley against the baptism of her daughter, and that she would have to wait until she was 18 and could make her own decision. We are striving to help her, but can´t do too much without just making her more angry. Please, I would very much appreciate your prayers in her behalf. Our investigator´s name is Emanuele. I have seen so many miracles as we´ve taught her, I know that the Lord is helping her, and some extra prayers certainly couldn´t hurt!

So that´s that, I´ve got to sign off now. I love you all and hope you´re all well. Do good, keep to the course, and choose the right! I do know that I´m doing the right thing and working as hard as I possibly can to serve the Lord. This is all true.

Much love,
Elder Alex Burt

Monday, May 13, 2013

Hippy House, Adorable Old People, Eavesdropping, and Stupid Rich American

Hello all of my beloved friends and family members! Another week has flown by down here in Brazil. It´s crazy how that happens. It was a week full of hard work, many lessons, a wonderful phone call home, and lots of walking! 

1) The Hippy House- Well, this week we discovered where the hippies in Pedro Leopoldo hang out. We´d met a man last week just in his doorway, but he was very welcoming and invited us to return. When we came back this last Friday, we found him in his yard playing what looked like a toy accordion while a friend of his played a guitar. In fact, we already knew the friend as well from various different occasions and were very surprised to find him here. Small world, and also shows that I think I´ve met a majority of the people here already. Anyway, to the faint smell of marijuana they showed us their folk-ish song they´d been writing, chatted a little bit about the sad, frantic state of the world today and how people needed to relax along with various other hippy things, and then we slipped away to eat lunch after inviting them to church. Entertaining if less than fruitful visit.

2) Adorable Old People- Another lesson we taught was to an old couple who lived a little ways off in the outskirts of town. I´d put them in their early eighties, and they were extremely welcoming. Usually it is extremely difficult to help older people get through our accent and the nature of the lesson to really understand what we´re trying to say about the Church, but the husband here was very astute and kept up with us entirely, aside from a slight misunderstanding in which he believed we were Evangelical. There was a special spirit in the lesson and at the end they had clearly felt the power of our words, even if they didn´t directly understand everything exactly perfect. They promised to come to church in a week and to bring all of their friends and relations. We´ll see how that works out, they live a ways out there, but it was wonderful to see our words touch this old couple so strongly. The wife asked us for a priesthood blessing, telling us that she had no doubt that she´d be healed of her diabetes if it be God´s will. Her faith was incredible, and taught me a lot.

3) Eavesdropping-Quick story here. We taught a lesson to some of our recent converts, Delmir and Emílio, in their house. Their sisters, who have been avoiding us recently, again ran off before we could talk to them. Well, actually, one sat in for about five minutes before excusing herself to take a shower. The bathroom has a high-set window that was open to the place where we were teaching. Elder Wilson and I ended the lesson with strong testimonies about the Book of Mormon and the church, and immediately after Elder Wilson said "In the name of Jesus Christ, amen," the shower turned on. Seems like someone might still be a little interested!

4) Stupid Rich American- Yes, me. Well, at least according to a particularly friendly drunk I ran into this last week at the bus station. We had just arrived late one evening from one of the neighborhoods further out, and my companion had to use the bathroom. I stayed standing outside waiting. A man came out of the bathroom, walked over to a nearby row of benches, and began speaking to a woman there. I noticed because he was clearly a little tipsy, the woman didn´t seem to know him and looked a little uncomfortable, and he seemed to be gesturing in my direction. I thought nothing of it and my comp soon appeared and we left. We were looking at the bus times for the next day when the same man came over and began to talk to us. He asked who we were, if we were Christian...and then asked why we didn´t believe in helping others. Surprised, we said we did. He pointed furiously at me and asked why I hadn´t helped the drunk man lying on the ground next to me back by the bathroom. I was very confused, because no such man existed. Then he said that when he´d left the bathroom he told me to help but I didn´t listen. This also didn´t happen. At this point he accused me of being a rich American, while he was a poor Brazilian, but that for all I knew that drunk man had more money than me. I was getting a little flustered and insisted I hadn´t seen or heard anything. Than he began to go off on how I must not know Portuguese because I didn´t understand him, how if Americans were going to come here to Brazil they needed to learn the culture first and how people should help each other, and so on. My companion alleviated the situation and we escaped, but I was left a little confused and very happy that I will never touch an alcoholic beverage in my life.

Well, that about wraps it up. I love you all and pray for you regularly. I have no doubt that I´m doing the right thing in the right place. I love the people here and am doing my best to serve them. Keep up the good fight back home, and know that this Church is true. I know it without a doubt, and am so grateful for the gospel in my life. And I know that there are many many people here in the world who still need it. So let´s get on it!

Much love,
Elder Alex Burt

Monday, May 6, 2013

Missionaries vs. The World / My Missionary

Many happy salutations to my beloved friends and relations on the home front! Another week has passed and I have some rather exciting stories to share. This week I saw very clearly the power of the Spirit, inspiration, and fasting.

1) Missionaries vs. The World  This involves one of our investigators who´s been progressing for a couple weeks now. She´s 16 years old and is currently a member of an Evangelical church. She is very interested in the church but is also very confused. Over the course of the week we came to realize that this other church is fighting very, very hard to keep her, but they´re forgetting one thing: We have the Lord on our side.

First, they keep trying to keep her out of the house when we schedule appointments. The first was a week and a half ago. We showed up two hours late, due to extenuating circumstances, at the exact same time that her mom and her drove up. The look on her mom´s face when she saw us there was priceless.

Second was this past Thursday. We arrived and no one was there. Her brother let us know that she wouldn´t return for another couple hours. We knew we didn´t have the time to return later that day. As we left, I encouraged my companion to call her. She didn´t respond. Our plan was to visit some contacts in one direction, but my companion was feeling strongly that we should visit a nearby member. This member is active, 80 years old, and has a caretaker. It seemed odd, especially because we really needed more lessons, but we did it. On our way there, we ran into our investigator coming home to find us, having received our call. If we´d gone the other way we wouldn´t have found her.

We found out on Sunday, when we explained to her this feeling/prompting, that she had actually been in the house of this member. The caretaker is her pastor! The pastor was explaining why our doctrine was false when, miracle of miracles, we called. That´s why she didn´t answer, but she immediately left to come meet us.

That lesson was rather exciting. She expressed a couple of doubts that were very clearly given to her by the Pastor, but we easily responded. We finished the lesson and began to invite her to baptism when the mom (a member of this other church) burst in. She told us that we were confusing her daughter and needed to leave immediately. If her daughter was 100% sure about continuing to hear the lessons, she would call us. She finished by saying that the sign of the church doesn´t save a person. I said that was absolutely true, it´s the power and authority of God that does. First time I´ve ever been kicked out of an investigator´s house.

We didn´t receive a call for the rest of the week and I was worried. I was praying like crazy and then fasted on Saturday for her. Then, on Sunday, she appeared in the church. When we talked to her afterwards, she told us that she had felt something marvelous in the church. Like something inside of her was bigger than her, and she could hardly keep from crying for joy. That she´d received many answers to her prayers. It was marvelous to hear, but I would ask that those of you reading this pray for her, to give her the courage to be baptized. Her mom will allow her, but she´s not going to be happy, and I know this is hard for our investigator. But it´s also very clear that the Lord cares very much for her and wants her to have the blessings of the church in her life.

2) My Missionary The second thing I wanted to mention is about a recent convert (one month) of mine. On Thursday we went to visit and received some amazing news. He is going to serve a mission. He has already received the paperwork and started to work on it. He needs a year in the church before he can go, but he´ll have the paperwork all prepared to send immediately. It is very likely that I will have a recent convert of mine serving a mission at the same time as me. That´s a very amazing feeling.

This same convert stood up in testimony meeting to bear his testimony. I was nearly crying as he expressed his conviction that this was the true church, that he knew Christ was his Savior, and how his decision to be baptized had changed his life. I believe this testimony in part was an answer to our investigator´s prayers. It certainly helped make my week that much better.

So that´s the latest in the life of Elder Burt. It´s pretty crazy but also wonderful. I love you all. Keep working hard, choose the right, follow your hearts, and never forget that you have a Father in Heaven who is looking out for you and wants you to succeed.

Much Love,
Elder Alex Burt