It's been a great week to be a missionary. I'm excited for the future, living every day to its fullest, and trying my best to serve and love the people here in Belo Horizonte. Truly nothing compares with being a missionary.
This week began with an awesome surprise. We have known for a while that Elder Gledhill, my current companion, would be training a new executive secretary to take his place at the end of the transfer. Training began this last Monday, and we were thinking about who it would be. I really wanted someone great, because I knew I'd be staying with them for the next six months or so.
So I was very happy when I found out who it was: Elder Cushing, round 2! Yep, my old MTC companion and I are ready to set a mission record of time spent as comps. And this first week with him we managed to get out to teach a bunch and had several solid lessons and experiences.
1) Crossroads/Dead End- One day, while making a rather long walk home from one of our appointments, we ran across a less active who we hadn't visited in a while. Her grandson was an investigator when I first got here. A little over a month ago, we had visited him for the last time. Since that point, we'd seen neither one in church, and they were never at home. As we approached her in the road, she looked frantic. At first she accused us of not visiting her, but we explained we'd passed by a few times but never found them at home. As she calmed down, she explained what had happened after our last visit.
On that visit, we'd seen that the investigator was on the brink of falling. He was supposed to have been baptized the day before, but it seemed like he was returning to old drug habits. I told him in that lesson that he was at a crossroads in his life. He could either choose to go to church to receive enormous blessings, or turn away. I told him that if he did that, he would see clearly the consequences of his actions. We invited him to call us if he wanted to continue in the church. He didn't call. That was the last time we saw him.
Four days later he was in prison. We had no idea. His grandmother told us he's still there, asking us to pray for him. I was crushed. Wickedness truly never was happiness.
2) Open- Yesterday we had a very different lesson, one I'm not at all used to but that gave me some cool opportunities. It was a follow-up visit, after having invited her to read in the Book of Mormon and pray about it. Upon returning, she let us know that she had not felt anything different while reading. I admit I had a kind of stupor of thought. I read a verse from 3 Nephi 11 and kind of explained what it meant to me, knowing that I was just saying words. I wasn't helping her.
Elder Cushing stepped up and asked some killer questions. She told us she thought that Jesus Christ was a great person, but that's it. She believes in God, but thinks we operate our own salvation. As a missionary in Brazil, this kind of situation isn't so common. She asked us straight up why we need a Savior. And so I had a unique opportunity to bear my testimony of our need for Jesus Christ. That we can not make it alone. We need a mediator. Only he was capable of suffering for all of the sins of the world. I love him.
Then we asked about how she prayed. She said that she didn't see the need to ask for anything, because God already knows everything. Then we got to talk about the nature of God. He is our Father. He loves us and wants to hear from us. I asked about how she felt after a long, difficult surgery ends well (she's a doctor). She said it was a marvelous feeling of success that's hard to describe. I explained that God understands that feeling. That's why he asks us to search, ponder, and truly strive for something. Because in the end, the answer will mean more to us. We are striving not to change his will, but to change our own. It had a lot to do with that scripture I was pondering last week in Alma 5:45-46. It seems to be the theme of my mission recently, actually. How much do I want something? What am I willing to sacrifice to receive answers?
Throughout it all she was very open to our responses and had a genuine desire to understand.
3) Miracles- This week also had a few of those small, tender mercies of the Lord. Miracles, though nothing enormous. Moments that touch me and bring me up, that can sometimes slip by unnoticed. Life is full of those. Teaching an investigator in the chapel and having a random member from another ward accept my invitation to teach with us, before going on to bear powerful testimony of her recent conversion and desire to keep the commandments. Knocking doors in the richest, least accepting neighborhood and marking multiple lessons with amazing families. Entering in contact with an investigator who had dropped off the map months ago and accepting another visit. Finding answers to my questions in the scriptures. Listening to uplifting music. This week I tried to pay more attention to these small things, and I realized just how many there were. Look on the bright side. It's a lot better.
I love you all. I am working as hard as I can and only hope that it makes some small difference in the lives of these people. These children of God.
Know who you all are. Know that someone loves you. When life is at its darkest, remember that there is hope of a glorious reward if you endure the trials now.
Never give up. Do good work. See you all in a bit.