Saturday, June 29, 2013

BOOM Transition

I know exactly what every single one of you is thinking at this moment. "Two blog posts from Elder Burt in one week? Has Christmas come early?" Almost. Just sit back and eagerly await the story of why you're getting to read a little bit from me on a Saturday.

1) BOOM Transition- It all has to do with Wednesday night. Elder Alves and I arrived at home at the usual hour after a very solid day of teaching. We planned until nine-thirty, I took a quick shower, and then sat down at my desk to write in my journal and read a bit.

I never got the chance. The phone rang, and I saw Elder Alves look at it with a bit of shock. He answered. "Hello President!" There were a number of things going through my head about what the mission president could be calling about. My primary thought was that Elder Alves would be called as District Leader, since our old one was going home. That thought was dashed the next second when I heard the president´s voice from the phone. "Can I talk to your companion?"
Shocked, I took the phone. The following is a loose translation of our conversation.
President: Good evening, Elder Burt! How is your family?
Me: (Suddenly very worried about my family) Good, as far as I know...
President: No, no, Elder. Don't worry. This has nothing to do with your family.
Me: (Ah. Phew.) Oh, good, haha.
President: No, no. You're being transferred.
Me: (A little shocked) Really? When?
President: Tomorrow. You will be the new Finance Secretary of the mission.
Me: (Now very shocked) All right.
President: You need to be in the mission office at 10:00 tomorrow. It is a privilege to be able to serve with you, Elder.
Me: The privilege is all mine, President.

Subsequently, my comp was called as the new district leader after just three weeks in the area and as senior companion. Both of us rather blown away, I packed my bags and tried to sleep while thinking about the rather unexpected turn of events. I will serve as financial secretary for the next six to eight months. And my P-day is now on Saturday, so e-mails will always arrive on this now best of all days of the week.

2) Golden - But now let's return a bit to a good story that happened back in my old beloved area of Pedro Leopoldo. Elder Alves and I were working like crazies every day, teaching between eight and ten lessons across Pedro Leopoldo. Our hard work paid off on Wednesday when we found a golden investigator named Ana.

We were knocking doors in one neighborhood and taught a quick lesson to a rather unreceptive Catholic lady. We asked if she knew anyone in the area who would be willing or needing a message about Christ and the family. She mentioned her neighbor who lived across the street. Off we went, and were greeted by Ana. She let us in, and we taught a beautiful lesson on the Restoration. One of the best lessons I've ever taught. Very clear, heartfelt testimony, promised blessings, taught very specifically to her needs and situation...solid. And she was very receptive. She's already been a part of three or four churches, but always left after a few months because she felt they were missing something or that they had something wrong. We explained how we represented Christ's Church, taught about the Book of Mormon, and she agreed to read, pray, and be baptized if she felt it was true. And then I was transferred.

I got to talk to Elder Alves yesterday, and he said that when they returned she had read the chapter of the BoM twice, prayed a bunch, and was eager to learn more. Good luck to them, and it left me happy to hear that we´d managed to find such a great investigator on my last day in the area.

3) Office Life- Life in the office is a little different than in the field. I'll make just a quick summary. I´m being trained by the last financial secretary at the moment. I am (along with the mission president, of course) in charge of the mission budget, housing (which will include renting houses for the more than 30 missionaries arriving next month), water and electricity bills, etc. I spend until 6:00 (sometimes later) in the office, and then go out and proselyte for a few hours. I eat very well, and have suddenly developed a slight fear of obesity. I have a lot more time to study, and have full access to which is awesome. And I have the blessing of working a lot with the Mission President, who is a very powerful, inspired man. So on we go!

Yep yep. So that's my rather exciting life at the moment. I hope I can continue to supply my reading audience with entertaining and uplifting stories weekly. In the meantime, know that I'm doing well!
Know that we have a loving Father in Heaven. He loves you more than you can imagine, and understands your life perfectly. So if you're having a hard time, talk with him! Pray! He wants you to be happy. And if you don't feel like you received an answer right off the bat, don't stop! That's the dumbest thing you can do. He has given you so much. I know, because He's given me everything I have. A wonderful family, the chance to serve a mission...everything. I am so grateful for this knowledge, this surety.

So go out, lift your head up high, and be happy! Do the good work, fight the good fight, and always follow your heart. Never give up, never surrender.

Much Love,

Elder Alex Burt

Monday, June 24, 2013

Methinks Thou Dost Protest Too Much

Down with the government! We want a better life! Bus prices are too high!  Oh wait, sorry... Forgot I wasn't still in the protest.

Just kidding! I don´t know how many of you are aware of the rampant protests happening here in Brazil, but I figure it´s important to inform you all that I have not been affected. Pedro Leopoldo, fortunately, is pretty chill. Nothing like the war zones in the big cities. So please don´t worry!  Getting on with life, because I don´t have a whole ton of time to write. Had a bunch of awesome news and such from family members and friends, so they ate up the time of the rest of you beloved people.

1) Tremors or I´m Going to Change- Let me tell you all about the miracle story of Fabiano. It all began soon after I arrived on the mission. Elder Wilson and I encountered him in the street at various times. He is a little crazy. He is convinced he can predict natural disasters and murders based on his physical health (how much he´s trembling) and attitude. So he always used to pass by us and inform us of his most recent correct prediction. We always just nodded and smiled and then went on with life, laughing a little at the interesting people you meet on the mission.

Then, last week, he appeared in the church. I was extremely surprised, but didn´t expect much more to come of it. We visited him at his house, as we do all of the investigators who come to church. We listened to his ranting, he informed us that he couldn´t stop smoking, and so we taught a quick first lesson. He understood perfectly (he´s very intelligent), but didn't accept baptism immediately. He said he´d think about it.

A couple days later, we called him and asked about baptism. He said he´d be baptized on Sunday! We visited his house that night and taught all of the commandments. He agreed to live all of them, including the necessity to stop smoking. As we prepared to leave, he was amazingly excited. He had a huge smile on his face and said, contently, in English "I'm going to change!"

From that day forward, he stopped smoking cold turkey. He really has a desire to change, a clear example of repentance to me. And this last Sunday, he was baptized for the remission of sins.  Everyone was rather surprised-everyone here in the city knows him because he´s always on the streets, and was famous in his youth for his drug habits (that permanently affected his brain.) He´s clean now, 39 years old, but still has quite the reputation. It shows that the Lord´s arms of mercy are extended to everyone. And I know that this man really has accepted the gospel principles.

Annnnd that´s the only story I have time for. Sorry, folks. I wanted to send out a quick congrats to Tanner Gill for his mission call to Ukraine. I have no doubt that he´s going to be an incredibly powerful missionary, and I´m just sorry not to have him down here in Brazil. I guess we don´t get to claim all of the best missionaries in the world :)

I was also happy to receive some news about my good friends Alivia, Devin, and Chris who are off in other parts of the world. They are amazing children of God who are doing a great work.

Until next week, folks! I am so proud of all of you who have decided to serve missions, and to everyone who is following the Lord. This work is true. I know it is. I know it.
Stay strong, people. Do the good work, and never forget to follow your hearts!

Much Love,

Elder Alex Burt

Monday, June 17, 2013

Born Again, Miracle Sunday, and 9-104

What it is, all of my many soul brothers and sisters?!

Another week has passed here in the Amazon, and my native companion and I are getting along well. My Portuguese is better, my English is more bad, but I´m very happy and working hard! This week was amazing, ending in a triumphant Sunday that I will mention later. Stay tuned!

1) Born Again- So I guess right off the bat I´ll mention one of the reasons Sunday was great. We had a baptism! His name is Virgínio Paulo. He´s 40 years old, the son of a member, and has quite the story. We taught him throughout the week all of the lessons and he accepted with childlike faith.
Paulo was hit by a semi-truck on the road one year ago, and spent three months in a coma. When he recovered, it was like he was 'born again'. He had to learn to talk, to walk, to do everything again. Because of the accident, he still has a slight disability. He communicates just fine now, and understands perfectly, but is unable to remember everything and, overall, is childlike in his joy and his acceptance of the gospel.

On Sunday, I had the opportunity to baptize him. And he had the opportunity to be born again...again. He loves the church, and truly loves my companion and I. It has been a good week, getting to teach him.

2) Miracle Sunday- But that wasn´t the only reason Sunday was amazing. Well, it was the main reason, but even more happened to brighten my day. Throughout the week, a majority of our investigators, aside from Paulo, had fallen through or said they couldn´t come to church. We went to get one of them before church, but they didn´t answer the door. We arrived in the church as the meeting started...and found six investigators there waiting for us! New people, old investigators, random people Elder Wilson and I talked to once on the street...many surprises and much joy. The mother of the fierce Evangelical I mentioned in a past letter came and really loved it, there was a new investigator who has accepted baptism for next Sunday...throughout the church meetings I was frantically talking to everyone possible, torn in five directions while simultaneously preparing a baptism. Awesome day to be a missionary in Pedro Leopoldo.

3) 9-104- A short story about a person Elder Alves and I met during the week. She claimed to be 104 years old, was still completely lucid...and had two packs of cigarettes in hand. She said she´d been smoking since she stole a pack from her dad at age nine and didn´t plan on stopping before death. Holy ancient. I would like to make a point that I am not supporting smoking: it is a well-known fact that it is harmful to our health and random exceptions like this should not change anyone´s conviction to follow the Word of Wisdom and your own intelligence.

So that´s that for the week, folks. Look forward to next week and stories entitled: Cheaper By the Dozen, A Baptismal Story and How I Converted a City. I´m ready for it!

Stay strong, keep to the faith, love your neighbor, never give up, and always remember: this church is true!

Much Love,

Elder Alex Burt

Monday, June 10, 2013

Not English Easy Anymore Now

Hello to all of you that are currently residing in my beloved homeland of the United States of America, the land of the free and the home of the brave! Right off the bat I would like to ask your forgiveness and patience for any English mistakes I make. The last time I spoke English was a week ago, and I´m not seeing any English in the near future...

Because I have a new companion! Transfers were last week and, while I will stay in the same area, Elder Wilson headed off.  Elder Alves, a Brazilian, took his place. Due to the change, I am now speaking only in Portuguese 24/7, which is definitely helping considerably. I´m learning a ton, we´re working like a couple of crazies, and overall life as a missionary is awesome.

1) A Simple, Humble Man- This last week Elder Alves and I have been working with a new investigator named Raimundo. We were knocking doors one night when we came across him. He let us into his very humble house. There is just one small room, with hardly enough space for a bed, a stove, a table and two chairs. We taught him very simply one night, and he accepted a baptismal date for the 23rd of this month. He doesn´t know how to read, but has an understanding of the gospel of Christ that astounds me. It is so clear that you do not have to be an intellectual to understand the steps of faith, repentance, baptism, the Holy Ghost, and enduring to the end. Raimundo, in our second lesson, stated the steps so simply and clearly without us having to teach it to him. I learned a lot just by hearing it.
But the most touching moment of all came when he agreed to say the closing prayer after our second visit. Without any prompting from us, he began to cry as he asked God for help in his life and in his preparation for baptism on the 23rd. I felt a great love for this beloved child of our Heavenly Father.

2) Finding Guida- Another new investigator that we found this last week was something of a miracle. We were coming back from lunch on Wednesday, making street contacts on our way to our next appointment in a different neighborhood. I talked to one man named Antônio Carlos, who said we could visit his home. Elder Alves asked if we could accompany him home right then, and he agreed. He works for a wealthy woman at her house (small world that it is, the same house where Raimundo works. Total coincidence, we met Raimundo on the other side of the city). He lives in a similar state as Raimundo, but also has some problems with drugs. We taught a quick lesson and set up a return appointment the next day. When we returned, he was nowhere to be found, but we managed to teach another employee of the house, a maid. Her name is Guida, and she was very receptive to our message. When we returned the next day, she said that she had read the section we had left in the Book of Mormon twice, and had received a testimony of its truthfulness. She also accepted a date of baptism, but didn´t come to church this last Sunday so we´re going to have to adjust it a bit. In any case, I have high hopes for her.

3) Portuguese!- A little bit more on the progression of my Portuguese now that I have a Brazilian companion. It´s forcing me to speak in a manner more understandable, which helps a lot in lessons. With an American companion I had no way of knowing if the way I was saying things made sense to a Brazilian or only to a couple of people who were used to speaking English. I´m learning a lot more words daily, as well as beginning to speak a lot more naturally. I´ve got a long ways to go yet, but I´m excited for the future. Also, it´s good to see that, while I don´t understand everything, I´m able to live comfortably speaking and listening to nothing but Portuguese. I will admit, though, that the small amount of English that I read during personal study is a lovely rest.

I´ve been feeling the Spirit very strongly this last week as I´ve been striving to think constantly on my investigators. I have felt an increased love for all of them, as well as an increased understanding of the importance of baptism and covenants in their lives. But truly, the people here are easy to love and every day brings a new great experience.

So please, work hard, love life, do what needs to be done, and never forget that I love all of you!

Much Love,
Elder Alex Burt

Monday, June 3, 2013

And Another Comes to Hear the Word of God!

I have no earthly idea what happened, but I guess it´s June now. It´s crazy to me to think that back home everyone is gearing up for summer, school is getting out, people are graduating...while over here the Brazilians get out their heavy winter jackets and start complaining about the cold because for two hours at night it gets below seventy degrees. I´m not even kidding, they honestly do not understand the concept of ´cold'. It´s pretty funny.

This week we worked very hard here in Pedro Leopoldo, teaching large numbers of lessons, and though we didn´t end the week with a baptism, we did have the pleasure of seeing the people we had worked with come to and enjoy church, as well as all of our recent converts in white shirts and ties blessing the sacrament, passing the sacrament, or sitting on the stand with the rest of the leadership.

1) And Another Comes to Hear the Word of God!- We had a very entertaining lesson while visiting a slightly poorer part of town this last Saturday. We were walking down a street when a small boy, about six or seven, stopped us and excitedly told us to come to his house because his mom was home. It was clear he knew the missionaries already, but we didn´t recognize him or the house for the life of us. We entered the house and found five young kids between six and eleven sitting on the couches, eagerly awaiting us. Then the dad entered and invited us to sit. The kids continued to act like they already knew us, to our bewilderment. Then the mom appeared and we remembered that we´d had a discussion with them at a bus stop a couple months ago, and apparently had made an impression on the kids. We started to teach the first lesson when suddenly all of the kids began to shout "La-la, la-la!" They ushered in from outside a young man named Lázaro, about seventeen, who began to listen as well. We got about five minutes into the lesson when the mom shouted "And another is coming to hear the word of God!" In came another youth, who sat down. These interruptions occurred periodically until we finished the lesson teaching upwards of ten people in this one small, now very crowded house. It was an entertaining and very uplifiting lesson as we saw these people accept with joy our message and our presence.

2) Turtle Man- So this is just a quick tidbit about an interesting character that we met during the week. We encountered him while knocking doors, and he graciously accepted us into his house to have a drink of water. The first thing we saw was a turtle walking around the cement front yard. Which was perfect, because this man reminded me a lot of a turtle. He talked very slowly and deliberately while moving his hands around in front of him. We discovered that he is a Jehovah´s Witness who teaches about the Bible using sign language to the deaf and mute. It was very impressive, and he was very respectful of our beliefs and ideas.

3)Mosquito Happy- This week Elder Wilson made the very intelligent decision of buying an electric racquet to kill mosquitos. We have a bit of a problem in our house because our back room, with the washing machine, is literally a swamp. During the week, we killed upwards of 100 mosquitos throughout the house, mostly back there. And, fortunately, I was only bitten twice throughout the entire week. Missionaries-100, mosquitos-2!

4) A Powerful Spirit- Sacrament meeting this week was a very wonderful experience, as I slightly mentioned earlier. I felt the Spirit powerfully throughout the entire meeting, as many of the members got up to bear testimony. I felt the cleansing power of the Savior as I partook of the sacrament, feeling once again the peace that comes from this renewal of covenants. And I bore my testimony as well, because I absolutely know that these things are true. That this is the true church of Christ. That He is my Savior. That the Book of Mormon is true. That Joseph Smith was a prophet and that Thomas S. Monson is a prophet today. It´s true, people, accept it or not. I know it, and I need you all to know that I know it.

So go out and spread the word! Do the good work, fight the good fight, make me proud, follow your hearts, and never give up!

Much Love,

Elder Alex Burt