Monday, October 27, 2014

The End

My dear brothers and sisters, my few followers who perhaps are still reading these letters home after two years in the field, my beloved family members, friends on missions...
This is it. This is the end.

It hurts. Thursday, at 5:00 PM, I catch the first plane, to arrive in rainy Seattle Washington at 10:30 AM the next day. I don't have much to write. What I have to say will be said in person here in a bit. But I wanted to share a few words to wrap up the blog and the last two years of my life.

1) Tears/Conversion- On Sunday we had an amazing sacrament meeting, a very spiritual experience. I was given the opportunity by the branch to sing a special musical number ("Joseph Smith's First Prayer" to the tune of "Come Thou Fount") with my companion , and to give a final talk. The tears I mention weren't mine (though on several occasions they were close by), but the tears of one of the investigators we brought. She saw her sister receive the Holy Ghost, her husband at her side in church for the first time, and was touched profoundly by the spirit. Tears ran down her face without stopping for half the meeting, and then a look of profound peace came upon her. It was an image that will stay with me long after the mission.

I spoke about conversion, which I defined as the search for perfection. Matthew 5:48 gives what I consider to be the hardest commandment: "Be ye therefore perfect." The Book of Mormon explains how this is possible in Moroni 10:32-33. This life is a struggle to, through the Atonement of Christ, be cleansed from sin, be better, and prepare to meet God and "be like him, for we shall see him as he is." These last two years have been full of difficulties, trials, joys, tears, and growth...but, most important of all, I feel that I can say that I am a better person, a more Christ-like person, now at the end of my mission than I was two years ago.

I'm so very far away from perfect. So far it hurts. But I want to be better. And I hope that counts for something.

2) Miracles- Another lesson from this week that applies, really, to my whole mission, were the miracles that happened. My last Saturday decided to be a repeat of so many Saturdays gone by--in the pouring rain, without an umbrella, knocking doors. I love it.

And I felt the Lord guiding us and, in a silent way, saying: "today, you're going to be My hands one last time." We made six visits within two hours, and every single one was to a suffering family. A family torn by fighting and misunderstanding, a mother who had lost her son two days before, a wife who had lost her husband the week before. A lonely old couple, injured by age. And finally, another elderly couple. For the last two years, the husband has been lying in bed after suffering a stroke. The wife takes care of him and doesn't leave his side. We entered and offered a prayer, quietly explained the Plan of Salvation, and I offered to give her husband a priesthood blessing. She agreed. Up to this point the man's eyes were closed tightly and his face was contorted as if with pain. My companion did the anointing, and the man cried out, repeatedly, as the hands were placed on his head. I sealed the anointing, and he soon calmed. As I offered the words of the blessing, I felt inspired to tell him that whatever pain he was feeling at that moment might be made light. As I ended the prayer, I looked down to see the man staring up at me with wide eyes that seemed, now, so peaceful and serene. He was relaxed. We left, and I felt truly that I was a representative of our Lord Jesus Christ.

These are the moments that stay with me. How I have loved being a missionary. I love this people. I love the work. And I love the Lord. I am so grateful for these last two years.

I love you all. Your prayers have always made the difference for me. Know that I have a testimony of this church, of this gospel, and of our Savior. Our Redeemer. My King. My best friend. Jesus Christ. Two years in his service is not enough. I think it will have to be a lifetime. Onward, ever onward.
Sweet is the work.

Much Love,

Elder Burt

Monday, October 20, 2014

Real Intent / 15 Hours by Plane

This week was full of surprises and blessings. My comp was transferred. My new companion isn't new at all--I spent four months with the guy in Ipatinga. Yes, in answer to his prayers, Elder Newman will have the privilege of metaphorically killing me.

1) Real Intent- This week we had a baptism! The spirit was strong as Edna showed her desire to follow Jesus Christ, being baptized on Saturday into his church. Her conversion process was very cool, she is someone I'll always remember and who holds a dear place in my heart. We found her knocking doors, and in the first lesson she expressed a very true desire to know the truth, but worried that our teaching her would only confuse her all the more.

But then she opened up and began to earnestly seek the truth, asking us honest questions, and pleading with us to pray and fast for her to know what to do. She was an active participant in another religion, but felt that something was missing. She went to General Conference and stayed for three sessions and to watch a baptism. She read everything we gave her and continued praying for an answer. I will certainly remember the day we arrived and she told us of the feelings she had after reading the Book of Mormon and praying about Joseph Smith. She told us she knew it was true.  I don't know that I've taught or baptized someone on my mission who searched and acted so purely upon a desire to know and follow the truth and Christ, and not for anyone or anything else.

2) 15 Hours By Plane- Before the condemning pointed fingers and cries of "trunky!" come flying at me due to this story's title, let me explain. This week we taught an entertaining lesson to an older couple who, to begin with, were very skeptical of our presence. The husband is beginning to suffer from Alzheimer's, but it's still in the early stages and we had a good conversation. The "lesson" was frequently interrupted by the husband's questions: How far away is your house in the U.S, how did we learn Portuguese, how long are our working hours, do we believe in worshiping Mary, can we date, are there people at the church for his son to marry, etc. At the end, my companion had to use the bathroom and we excused ourselves down the hall. I was just around the corner, they were speaking loudly and not noticing that I could hear everything they said. The wife began to say how wonderful and polite we were, and aren't you glad we let them in when you didn't want to hear them in the first place?
The husband responded simply: "Did you hear what he said?"
"What?"
"It's 15 hours away by plane!" And that is all he got out of our lesson. Thanks for reminding me, sir.

I've got to run, my time is coming to an end. In every sense of the phrase. I'm working hard, don't worry. I'm giving every last breath that I have to this cause. Keep praying for me. I love you all. I love the Lord.

Much Love,

Elder Burt

Monday, October 13, 2014

Free Ice Cream / Throw it on the Ground / "His Speech"

It's still October, and the miracles are still happening at a rapid pace here in dear old Divinópolis. We're working like crazy to make this the best month of our missions. I imagine that one amazing month will set everyone up for a brilliant future on the mission. And in my case...one last good month wouldn't hurt.

Elevator pic
1) Free Ice Cream- Blessing of being a missionary #324235: you get free ice cream. This happened on Thursday. We were returning from a different neighborhood, after a very hot day with much walking in the sun, when we passed an ice cream store we'd stopped by before. We waved hello to the owner, who asked, "you guys aren't going to buy anything?" I asked, jokingly, "How much is it today?" The owner smiled and responded, "it's on me. You deserve it, you're doing God's work." We took our pick of ice cream, and had a great talk with the couple who owns the place. We explained the doctrine of Christ, the church, life, a little bit of everything. They loved it and kept asking sincere questions for a good half hour. Free ice cream forever? I think so.

2) Throw it on the Ground- Another great experience: we're working with a young woman, part of a member family, who has serious smoking problems. We set some goals with her, and with a lot of help from the Book of Mormon (which she carries around everywhere), she reduced the number of cigarettes considerably. We found her one day (after working with her about a week) waiting at the bus stop with her member grandmother. She had a pack of cigarettes in hand. I told her that it was time to end this, give me the pack. She reluctantly agreed, keeping just one in hand. I took it, pulled out the first cigarette, and threw it on the ground. "Step on it," I said. She did so. One by one, we stamped on all of them.

As we waited, she lit the last one, claiming it to be her last cigarrete smoked. I pulled out the special temple edition of the Ensign and started showing her the pictures. She took it in, telling us it was her dream to go to the temple. After a little, she took the half-smoked cigarette from her mouth, and threw it on the ground. And that was the end of that.

3) "His Speech"- To wrap things up, I wanted to mention one last miracle. This week we found a lot of new investigators, and many of them were at church with us on Sunday. One particular couple stands out to me, Laudir and Eunápia. They're a little older, and both are rather inactive in their respective churches (Catholic and Baptist). Both are very welcoming--offer us food, juice, and their attention--but Laudir was a little more closed when it came to gospel discussion. He's very set in his traditions, and also not fond of leaving home to go the church.

On Sunday, they arrived in their old pick-up. Eunápia hurried up to me and said "your speech won over my husband!" She was excited and took a little to explain. She said that her husband had been touched at the fact that someone like me would leave my family, my country, and my culture to come to Brazil, knowing nothing of the language, to share what I believe. He said there must be something special about this church. So he came. And loved it.

I love being a missionary. I truly do. It has its challenges. Ups and downs, difficulties and setbacks. But there is nothing quite like it. You feel as though you are set apart from the world. Not from the people, but from the standards, the desires, the needs that the world offers and supports.

 I don't like to think of endings. There are so many more miracles to occur before the end of the month.

I love you all. Stay strong. The world may sometimes appear to be against us, but there are more that be with us then there be with them. Don't give up. Stay strong. Please. The Lord needs you to be an example.

Much Love,

Elder Burt

Monday, October 6, 2014

Month of Miracles: Part 1

It's October, and the month of miracles began on day 1 with an enormous downpour to end the 90-day drought that was happening here in Divinópolis. It's October, everyone!

1) Miracle of the Eight-Hour Weekend- One of the miracles that happened this week was with an investigator named Edna. We found Edna last week while knocking doors--taught her the message of the Restoration, as soon as we showed the Book of Mormon she eagerly asked how she could get herself one...but at the end of the visit she got hung up on the church visit and didn't accept. We left, downcast.

This week we decided to return. We brought members, and she opened up more, but was still skeptical about going to church. With the help of a great member couple, she hesitantly accepted. She watched the first session of General Conference, and loved it. I knew I could count on the apostles to make the difference. She asked us if she could return the next day--we said of course. She came back on Sunday and stayed at church for more then six hours straight--arrived early, watched both sessions, and stuck around during the break to watch a baptism and talk to members. Eight hours in the church this weekend. And she promised to come back next week.

2) Miracle of the Member-Investigator- While visiting Edna with that member couple I mentioned, they brought their 13-year-old daughter to help out. During the lesson, I had the strangest impression. This girl is not a member. Which didn't make sense, because both members are active and the daugher comes to church nearly every week. She went on a couple visits with us, talked about the Book of Mormon...but I was sure she wasn't a member.

Sure enough, when asked, she said she'd never been baptized. She was actually the daugher of the husband from a prior marriage, but loved the church and is friends with basically all the young women. On Sunday, between conference sessions, we taught the first lesson with all the young women present.

The girl (Lorena) said she'd already read and prayed about the Book of Mormon and knows that it's true. I invited her to be baptized. She accepted without a second thought. Miracles happen. It's October!

Well, sorry that this letter is a little short. My time seems to have slipped away from me. It's October. A month of miracles. General conference was amazing--I loved President Monson's talk about following Christ's example. All of us can be a little better. Repentance can sometimes seem like such an ominous word that we avoid it except on more serious occasions and transgressions. But repentance is as simple as the process of becoming more like Christ. And we all need to repent every day.

I love you all. Thank you for your support and prayers. They are felt.

Much Love,

Elder Burt

Monday, September 29, 2014

A Promise / Acai

Much to my surprise, terror, and disbelief, it's almost October, 2014.Three awful little words are being thrown at me constantly: "one month left." But this doesn't mean despair, or anything of that type. It means the work is moving forward like never before! This is the month. This is October! The last month! It's now, it's today, it's October. It's time to put the shoulder to the wheel, and not let up until the fat lady sings: "All is well, all is well."

1) A Promise- At the end of the week, we felt prompted to call the missionaries in the zone and make a promise. We said that Saturday was a day of miracles, and went on to encourage them to do a few things in order to receive a specific blessing.

Well, I called a companionship of sisters and managed to say: "Sisters! I promise that a miracle will happen today!" when our phone died before I could explain further. I turned on the phone, called again, and exactly the same thing happened. I gave up, and we went on with our day.

Several hours later, we ran across the sisters. They came up to us and asked me what the promise was going to be. I said I didn't even remember, why? They told me that soon after I'd made that call, the miracle had happened. An eternal investigator who has been attending church for the last several months was on a trip, and brought the Book of Mormon. He read, prayed, and received an answer. Soon after my phone call, he had called the sisters and said that he would be baptized. Miracles happen.

2) Açai- Our weekend was rather exhausting, due to a bad decision I made on Friday related to the delicious Brazilian frozen treat called "açai." Let me explain...

On Friday we caught the bus to another city, Pará de Minas, for a baptismal interview. It's a little over one hour by bus, and the plan was to go and return in the same afternoon. All went well in the interview, and afterwards we had a mini-division, since the bus didn't leave until 6:00. I was with a newly arrived American--we made a bunch of contacts, and as our meet-up time of 5:30 was arriving, we stopped quickly to buy açai, which the other elder had never tried. Walking back to the church building, I jokingly mentioned that Elder Souto would kill me for buying açai without him.

Trying to catch a ride for the last bus.
We got there at 5:39, and, as expected, the first words out of Elder Souto's mouth were "I'm going to kill you!" But then he went on to explain that we didn't have time to get to the bus station, and there was no bus after 6:00. I stood, somewhat ashamed, on the side of the street with my thumb out trying to catch a ride. To no avail. Our plans changed drastically and we ended up spending the night in Pará de Minas with the other elders, sleeping on the ground while dozens of mosquitos ate us alive, and without a change of clothes or anything of the type. The next morning we caught a bus to our next baptismal interview in the next city, then returned to Divinópolis where we got straight to work.

It's the final stretch, and time to give it all I have. I love being a missionary. I love this work, and in a way that is beyond my ability to explain, I love the Lord. He is my king, my example, and my best friend. I was touched this week by the words of a favorite hymn:

"Jesus sought me, when a stranger, wandering from the fold of God
He, to rescue me from danger, interposed his precious blood."

I wish I could be better. I wish I didn't mess up so much. But it comforts me beyond words that, despite my faults, Jesus interposed on my behalf. What a wonderful doctrine. What a marvelous truth.

Elder Burt with other elders in Nova Serrana
after baptismal interviews
This week is General Conference. Listen to our prophet's voice, and you will receive answers to your prayers. I always do. 

I love you all. Keep being strong. Never give up hope.

Much Love,

Elder Burt

Monday, September 22, 2014

Today is the Day / Member Missionary / Where's the Coffee?

This week saw a lot of entertaining experiences, several disappointments, and, as usual, a lot of work.

1) Today is the Day!- On Thursday, we woke up excited for what we were sure would be one of the best days ever. Why? I'm still not entirely sure. We had good lessons planned, expectations were high, we were feeling the Spirit, and I'd promised to buy milkshakes for the two of us after lunch.

Things didn't quite go as planned. The difficulties began in the morning when I went to pick up my shoes which I'd sent for repairs...and the cobbler had lost them. We went to lunch, and afterwards to the burger stand for milkshakes. There were no more milkshakes.

At this point my companion just about gave up on life, but I rallied us with the reminder that "Today is the day!" and off we went to teach our lessons. Most went well, some fell through, we visited an older woman whose son was ridiculously drunk and sat crying as we prayed and read in the scriptures, then a member came to pick us up and take us to a neighborhood in the middle of nowhere to teach a young woman who'd come to church on Sunday.

They weren't at home. As we were starting to return on the dirt roads, we heard the wonderful sounds of a flat tire. We pulled over to the side, in the dark on an abandoned road in the middle of nowhere. And the member realized his car jack was broken. Elder Souto and I set off in search of help, and after a number of misadventures (running at full speed to escape an angry dog, the member hitting his head on the car door and earning a bloody goose egg on his forehead) we found help and were soon on our way again.

Due to the difficulties, I promised milkshakes for everyone present (us and the two members) from Bob's, the local milkshake place. However, the hour was late and there would be hardly enough time to buy them. And, seeing another car pulled over by the side of the road needing help, we decided that service was more important then milkshakes. We stopped, asked what we could do, and one of the passengers asked if we could take him to his school, where he was scheduled to give a class at 9:00. We said of course, and asked where the school was. He gave the address and said "right next to Bob's. Do you know where that is?" We all began to laugh--we got there at 8:55, in time for his class and our milkshakes.

And so the addage was born: "Every good day ends with milkshakes."

2) Member Missionary- So after that rather long, very random story, I guess my time is short for other stuff. I wanted to mention quickly a very succesful activity that we planned and performed on Saturday. It was a missionary related activity with the branch in the park--we set up a number of banners explaining about the church, and set the members making contacts with people using an "opinion poll" about the Plan of Salvation. We were surprised when the members caught the missionary spirit and spent more than two hours talking to everyone in the park, showing the banners and actually getting adresses. We ended the day with over 60 member references. So that was cool.

3) Where's the Coffee?-  I went on a division on Tuesday, which went well. I learned a lot with the other elder, the district leader in Itaúna. We taught one fun lesson about the Word of Wisdom to a simple man named Ezequiel. We invited him to stop drinking coffee, and he was very hesitant in commiting to stop, just saying "I can try!" Not satisfied, I stood up in the middle of the lesson. "Where's the coffee?" I asked. Confused, he said in the other room. I asked him to show me, and off we went. He showed me the thermos full of coffee, and I told him to throw it down the sink. Without another word, he made his way to the bathroom and proceeded to pour nearly two liters of coffee down the drain. In the words of my dear old companion, Elder Newman, "sometimes you have to help people use their agency the right way."

So that was my week. Well, that was a very small part of my week. I wish I could talk a bit more, but my time is up. I love you all. I love being a missionary--not because it's fun, but because there is not a more satisfying, rewarding work in existence. We're in the middle of a war saving souls. The best and the worst of Heavenly Father's children are with or against us, and I'm at it full time. It's exhausting. But I love it.

I love the Lord. I wish I could be better. I'm trying to be better every day. That much I can promise.

Much love,

Elder Burt

Monday, September 15, 2014

Family Nights / Piano Man / Finish Strong

The first full week in Divinópolis has passed by at lightning speed. The weather is heating up, the work is hastening, and the miracles don't stop. This is Brazil.


1) Family Nights- This week was full of family home evenings with numerous families and lots of great opportunities for members to interact with investigators. It was a great chance to show how the family environment can promote the feeling of the Spirit and God's love.

We had one on Monday night with an active member family and a family of investigators. It was cool to see these investigators who had never even been to church yet singing along to the hymns and participating in the lesson. The second was on Wednesday with a less active family who accepted our invitation to hold a family night for the first time in years. In attendance was their whole extended family and some visitors we brought, along with a couple active members. The house was full and everyone had a good time and all of them spoke of a desire to return to church. On Sunday a number of them came (for the first time in 10 years) and the others will soon follow.

2)Piano Man- For those of you who aren't aware, for a number of years I took piano lessons, up until about five years ago. Many Brazilians were also not aware of this, which I took advantage of for the last two years of my mission when members asked me if I played the piano, and I gave a half-hearted, "kind of," and they left me alone. Well, due to an error on my part, the secret got out here in my last area, and I've been recruited as the official branch pianist. I don't play well at all, but since they're used to a young 11-year-old kid learning to play, I'm one step below Beethoven and two below Bruno Mars on their scale of talented musicians.
I didn't invent the scale.

3) Finish Strong- This week I went on a division with one of the elders in my zone who has one year and eight months on his mission, and has officially stopped trying. He has the number of days remaining written on every single day of his planner, he is having a lot of difficulty staying focused.

So we spent the day working hard and talking. I talked to literally everyone I saw on the street, and soon he was doing the same. He began to get more excited, talking about the best parts of being a missionary and past experiences on his mission.

As we neared the end of the day, I asked him what he wanted from the rest of his mission. What he was hoping for. I talked a lot about my feelings at this point of my mission, and challenged him to make some goals as to things he wants to accomplish.

Because, the fact is, and I can't deny it anymore, the time is drawing near. In Book of Mormon terms, it's almost time for me to "give up the ghost." I'm not ready yet. I don't like people drawing attention to it. And it isn't over 'til the fat lady sings. But the time came this last week to ask these same questions of myself while there is still time: What do I want to accomplish before the end?

That question is still bouncing around incessantly in my head. There are a lot of answers, but what I most desire is to use every last second in this metaphorical refiner's fire to perfect myself. To become more like Christ. To become more loving, more patient, more humble, more diligent, more obedient...because I keep seeing how much more there is to learn and change and grow.

I love being a missionary. I love this work. I love the Lord. And I will finish strong. The end of a race is the moment for a runner to speed up, to give it all he has. And that is exactly what I will do.

I love you all. Work hard, live every day to its fullest, and try a little harder to be a little better.

Much Love,

Elder Burt

Monday, September 8, 2014

One More!

What it is, everyone!

One more transfer, one more area, one more stake. Yep, this week I was transferred to Divinópolis, my new companion is Elder Souto, and I'm crazy excited. So many miracles before the end.

1) Dream Come True- So let's back-track six months to the week before I left the mission office. President Fortunato was working on transfers, and I knew I would be leaving. One night, a few days before I found out my new area, I had a dream I was going to Divinópolis. President asked me, "where do you want to go," and I said Divinópolis.

And he sent me to Ipatinga! I take that back, the Lord sent me to Ipatinga to see so many miracles, change lives, and be a part of the stake creation.

But last week I got the call--transferred. To Divinópolis. Which, you guessed it, is the next on the list of stakes to be created in Minas Gerais, Brazil. I'm loving it here. We're working like crazy to send off the papers for one more stake. I'm not done yet!

2) Far-Away Places- Soon after arriving in the area, we decided to work in a new neighborhood a little distant from the chapel, so relatively few missionaries have worked there recently. However, at one point the area had a functioning branch with an attendance of 50, so we figured there must be a lot of potential. We arrived and started visiting everyone.

And we began to find person after person accepting baptism, less active after less active that wants to return but just needs a little push. Our new investigators are having dreams confirming the truthfulness of the Book of Mormon, members 15 years absent from church are bearing testimony to their neighbors...we're pretty excited!

3) How I Feel- One of the touching experiences from this week in finding new investigators was with a family--mother, father, and daughter. At the end of the lesson, I invited the father to be baptized on the 20th if he felt the truthfulness of the Book of Mormon and the existence of a true restored church. He quickly responded, "I have no doubt that what you're saying is true. I feel different while you're talking. Since the moment you talked to me in the street, I knew there was something different about you two. You know when you just feel that something is true? That's what I'm feeling right now."

So...that was cool. The Holy Ghost truly bears witness of the truth, and I can see that so clearly when teaching people with an open heart. This message that we bear is true--Joseph Smith was a prophet, and Christ's church has been restored on the earth.

And that's the same way I feel. I can't deny that it's true. I know it. I love this work, I love being a missionary, and I plan on taking advantage of every last moment.

Stay strong, keep to the faith, and don't ever give in to despair. Have hope--the future is as bright as your faith.

Much Love,

Elder Burt

Tuesday, September 2, 2014

We Have a Stake!

The missionaries in the Ipatinga ward
and a part of the new stake presidency
The Ipatinga, Brazil stake is officially the newest stake in Zion. The joy is overwhelming. Seeing the saints here receive what they have worked towards for so long brought tears to my eyes more than once during the conference. I wanted to spend this e-mail talking about the events of this weekend. 

The first session was Saturday night for the general membership of the Ipatinga District. The chapel was packed, and the subject of the night was "Hastening the Work." All about missionary work. The visiting authorites were Elder Audikatis from the First Quorom of the Seventy, and Elder Leal, an Area Seventy. The spirit was strong as they talked about the various aspects of the Lord's work of salvation. Classic line from the night: "Some people want to read D&C 18:10, the worth of whales is great in the sight of God. But God's most precious cause is to save souls, not whales." I guess we need to get our priorities straight. We all left the evening session excited for the next day.

Victor, a good friend of ours from the ward
who helps us a lot making visits.
And if I thought the chapel was packed on Saturday, I was proved wrong on Sunday morning. Hundreds of members packed into this tiny church, filling the chapel, and overflowing into all of the classrooms to watch via broadcast. Members watched in their individual cities, João Monlevade, Governador Valadares, and Caratinga, where the chapels were also filled. I had a seat in the back row of the chapel itself--half of which was filled with just the choir (there was no room on the stand.) The meeting began with the creation of the stake. I don't know of many other times that my arm was raised so quickly and firmly as after the words: "It is proposed that Ipatinga, Brazil be organized a stake in Zion. All those in favor?" The branches that would become wards were then announced, followed by the stake presidency and bishops. A number of men were sustained to receive the Melchezidek preiesthood, including my own recent convert Jaime and a number of men who I had the privilege to interview prior to baptism or interact with during my time here. Tears ran down the faces of many members, especially the leaders as each bore their testimony in turn, including the stake president's wife (who is the most loyal sister in giving us lunch).

The visiting authorities then addressed us, speaking powerfully about the importance of having a personal relationship with God, the organization of the church, and prosperity due to keeping the commandments. The Spirit was so powerful--my testimony was strengthened and I truly felt that angels were present during the meeting.

Elders and Sisters from Ipatinga
I know that this is Christ's church. He is at its head. He is our Savior and Redeemer. Our king. My dearest friend. How I long to feel nearer to Him. Experiences like these help. I love the Lord.
Never give in to despair. Pray always, and you will come off conqueror. Know that there is a missionary in Brazil who knows that all of this is true, and who loves you all.

Much Love,

Elder Burt

Monday, August 25, 2014

Visions / Marriage / Stake Prep

I'm not sure if everyone is aware, but the church is true. Also, miracles are real. Also, life as a missionary is awesome. Also, that is all.

1) Visions- I was astounded this week at the sheer amount of people who have had dreams or visions related to the church. Or whose prayers were directly answered by our presence. It was uncanny.

We taught one man the first lesson, and when we talked about Joseph Smith, he explained that he too had asked the same question: Which church is true? After a fervent prayer, he slept and had a dream. He dreamt that he was next to a river, looking at a house where Christ dwelt. He looked away, and then looked back and the house had disappeared. Confused, he heard a voice: "the true church is that which has the keys of Peter." Amazed, we explained how the church of Christ had been taken from the earth, but was restored with the priesthood keys held anciently by the twelve apostles, including Peter.

Another man said he was praying to know what church to follow, and within an hour the missionaries contacted him Saturday night, inviting him to church. Without any other contact, he showed up at church and said he planned on continuing in the church and being baptized.

2) Marriage- The whole time I've been in Ipatinga, I've been working with a part-member, recent convert family. The son and his wife (Dymrson and Sandra), were living together but not married. Sandra began to attend church with her in-laws, and felt powerfully that this was the truth. She expressed her desire to be baptized, and began to look into marriage. With our help, we managed to work our way throught the complicated marital process they have here in Brazil, and after months of beuracracy and waiting, she was married on Thursday. The baptism was Friday. I honestly didn't expect to still be here to see it, but the Lord left me here in Ipatinga and I had the honor to baptize Sandra.

3) Stake Prep- So this week Ipatinga becomes a stake. Probably another reason the Lord left me here so long. The final preparations are being made, and I am unable to express how excited I am to see this happen, after many months of work in the zone and many years of work by the members and local leaders. You can be sure I'll have lots more to say next week. The hand of the Lord is over Ipatinga. The enemy is fighting back, but the miracles and blessings far outnumber the setbacks and disappointments.

This is God's work. He is eternally and unfailingly at its head. Those that be with us are more than be with them. How can we fail in so great a cause? Missionary work is not easy, it is not relaxed, and it requires everything I have, but it is worth every second. I am on the Lord's errand. And, for at least a little bit more, I am doing a great work, and I can not come down.

I love you all. Stay firm, never say die, and make me proud.

Much Love,

Elder Burt

Monday, August 18, 2014

Good to See You Again / Family History / Teach the People

Sometimes I sit down at the computer here to write e-mails and think, "I have nothing to say. I sent them an e-mail yesterday." So if my story title or e-mail introduction creativity have diminished a bit, please forgive me.

But, as you may have noted, my rhyming skills are still going strong.

1) Good to See You Again- On Sunday we had the pleasure of seeing some very unexpected presences in church. As I may have mentioned, we work in the branch together with a companionship of sister missionaries. Often we trade references based on which neighborhoods are part of our area.

The first surprise was Geraldo: we'd taught him a couple months ago the first lesson, but he never came to church, and we ended up dropping him. Miracle of miracles, the sisters had contacted him in the street, he insisted they visit him at home, and accepted baptism. He showed up at church alone on Sunday, and will be baptized on the 30th. The other was a contact we'd made in the street, then passed to the sisters. He came along with two friends, and also accepted baptism for the end of the month. Missionary work is that much better united.

2) Family History- This part is going to make my dad happy. This week we had an emergency mission leadership counsel about...family history work! And how we can use it more fully to improve convert retention and reactivation. We returned to the area and immediately put it to the test, talking about genealogy with all of our recent converts and other less actives. The Spirit of Elias is catching here in Ipatinga.

Speaking of this, I'm feeling it as well, perhaps most of all. So, in a call to all my relatives out there, I need stories! I have all the dates, but I'd love to hear stories about the lives of my grandparents, great-grandparents, etc. So feel free to send them to me via e-mail. Truly this vicarious work is tied to missionary work, though we seem to separate the two more often than not.

3) Teach the People- This week we truly sought to teach people, rather than fall into the regular routine of lesson after lesson of the same thing. It takes a greater effort, but the results are considerable. The Spirit is powerfully present in lessons such as these. The most noteable was to a family that we've been teaching which seemed nearly ready to give up. They were tired and unsure of what to do. We taught a quick lesson on Tuesday night before catching the bus to Belo Horizonte that changed everything. We simply followed the Spirit and spoke the words that the Lord put in our hearts.
The next day, the family appeared at an activity in the church, excited and smiling. They told us that our visit had been an answer to prayers, and that they had never felt before the way they did during that lesson. And they informed us that they had full intent of becoming members of the church.

I love being a missionary. I love doing the Lord's work and acting as an instrument in his hands. I love you all. There are two types of people in this world: those that act, and those that are acted upon. I constantly strive to be the first.
We are children of God. We have so much potential to live up to. Let's try a little harder to be a little better.

Much Love,

Elder Burt

Monday, August 11, 2014

On the Road Again / Trust

Another absolutely amazing week. There was a baptism, which always makes for happiness and joy. Two of my favorite things. Baptism would be a third.

1) On the Road Again- In a flashback to days gone by, I once again hit the road on a trip with my beloved mission president, President Fortunato. He passed through Ipatinga on Thursday and we spent the day with him as he went from city to city, interviewing the missionaries in our zone. You can't help but learn a lot while spending time with such a spiritual giant. We talked about the power of prayer, and the authority we have as literal representatives of Jesus Christ.

At one point (and this was the biggest motive for our company on the trip) we left President in Governador Valadares while the branch president from the city took us to a nearby town called Frei Inocência. We were to investigate the potential in the town to open the church there. Unfortunately, we didn't have much time, but we visited a few houses, checked it out, and got a feel for the place. Not sure what the verdict will be, but we expressed our opinions and President puts a lot of trust in us.

2) Trust- Speaking of trust, I learned a lot about trust this week with our investigator (turned recent convert), Peterson. The week began without surety as to his thoughts on baptism. He was unsure, as the first time we'd visited him was two weeks ago. We visited him daily to teach and uplift him, and the changes were visible. However, he was considering leaving the city for work on Monday, and didn't want to baptize and then disappear from the church. On Wednesday we left him with the invitation to pray about baptism, and returned on Friday (after our road trip). Following President's advice, I made a specific promise. After a moment, Peterson accepted baptism for the next day. He informed us that he had denied the job offer because he had a commitment now with the church.

Something hit me more than it had in the past with this baptism. How much trust he was putting into two young men, foreigners, who he knew for two weeks, and was making considerable life changes because of the things we taught him. This message we bring changes lives. I know that it has nothing to do with me: it is the simple yet marvellous fact that Christ suffered for all sins, organized a church, and that church exists today. And people change the direction of their lives completely because of that simple fact. I am where I am today because of that fact. I cannot escape it. I wouldn't even if I could.

I love you all. Keep to the faith, press forward, and love your neighbor. Do good work, and remember: You are a child of God.

Much Love,

Elder Burt

Monday, August 4, 2014

Open Hearts / Birthday / The Price

For those of you who didn't know, I turned 21 this week. So that's new. Nothing seems that different, but it was a good birthday which I'll talk about in a bit. It's August now. That's also new. And frightening.

1) Open Hearts- This week was excellent, as we continued teaching some very open families that we found the week before. It is something very refreshing when someone you recently met accepts you into their home time and time again, talking openly and listening attentively to whatever you have to say. This week was full of those families.

One in particular comes to mind. We met them a little over a week ago, and in the first visit they explained that they had heard that we are a cult, worship Satan, "Mormon" is the name of a demon of whom the Book of Mormon teaches, and other rather blatant lies. (For those of you reading who aren't members of the church, none of these things are true. As far as I'm aware. And I consider myself to be pretty aware.) Yet, despite the fact that it was trusted family members who said this, the family said they refused to judge until after hearing us out.

So they began to read in the Book of Mormon, come to church, visit activities, and hear the lessons. And they loved it all. And they love us. The wife, Claudia, said that if any other missionary aside from us showed up at her door, she wouldn't let them in. She informed us that we weren't allowed to leave Ipatinga, and she would say as much to our "leader." At the activity, when she was introduced to the branch president, she immediately informed him that if we left she would not come back or be baptized. I love Brazilians. We'd only entered their house three times and we're already close family friends.

2) Birthday- So for my birthday I had the great privelege of going to Belo Horizonte for a mission leadership counsel. Which, in part, meant 10 hours in the bus round trip, but also meant a very spiritual meeting in which I learned a lot and began to think about how I can work harder and apply myself more in these upcoming months.

On the way back to Ipatinga, I had a touching spiritual experience in the bus. I was reading in the Book of Mormon, and once more received a spiritual witness that it is true. I was reading in 2 Nephi 31 and a strong feeling of peace distilled upon my heart, and a certainty in my mind that what I was reading was true. Suddenly it just made so much sense and everything seemed to "click." I love that, even after years in the church and study of the Book of Mormon, the Lord gives me these tender experiences to strengthen my testimony.

3) The Price- We learned something else rather shocking in the counsel. Elder Holland will be in Belo Horizonte in two weeks...but does not have in his schedule a meeting with the missionaries. An apostle. In Belo Horizonte. Elder Holland. And I'm in Ipatinga.  And so begins two weeks of work, dedication, and prayer with the whole mission fasting for a change in Elder Holland's plans so that it would include a mission conference.  Every individual missionary made a promise with God of what more we will do to live up to our potential.

We've been working without stop these last few days. Calling people to repentance.  Feeling the Spirit testify that our words our true.
I know that this work is worth any price. I cannot deny the things that I know--Joseph Smith was a prophet, he restored Christ's church, Christ is our Savior and Redeemer, and we are God's children. The only way we can return to his presence is through faith on His name, repentance, baptism, and the gift of the Holy Ghost. And then endure to the end. I never cease to learn about these simple steps. And the more I learn, the greater desire I have to teach these things to everyone I meet.

I love you all. Know that it is true. I know it. I cannot deny it. And I never will.

Much Love,

Elder Burt

Monday, July 28, 2014

Just Families / Tickets / You Do What?

Hey everybody!

Things are looking great here in Ipatinga, as we speed into another month and, for me, another year of life. I'm not sure if that makes sense in English, it does in Portuguese, I promise.

1) Just Families- This week was awesome. The beginning of the week was a little slow, there was a transfer--nothing changed in our area but it still set us back a bit. Our teaching pool was getting a little low. Then Thursday and Friday hit.

We found 13 new investigators who accepted baptismal dates within the space of two days, a majority of which are families who live within five minutes of the chapel. And a majority came to church on Sunday, which was awesome. I love teaching families who are open to the gospel. This truly is a gospel that blesses families, as I have said in the past, and I love seeing how it changes the lives of the people we teach.

2) Tickets- We saw a kind of crazy miracle here this week, last Tuesday. As I mentioned, there were transfers. And for some reason the financial secretary (my beloved "son") decided to buy the tickets in my name, so I was the one who had to go to the bus station to pick them up. Which I did that evening, then stuck them in my back pocket and ran back to the chapel where the sisters were having a baptism.

We got there and...the tickets were missing. Five tickets, which were worth about R$300. And anyone who found them on the street could trade them in for the money. We retraced our steps, looking urgently on the ground for the tickets. Nothing. We got to the bus station and asked if they could reprint the tickets and they said, no, that wasn't possible. I would have to buy new ones. And the bus the missionaries had to catch had no other openings. They would have to leave the next morning, arrive late at the transfer, and cause an enormous headache. And an enormous hole in my wallet.

So we left the bus station, offering a silent prayer and shaking our heads at how this had happened. At this point, a woman approached us to ask if we had lost something. She directed us to a man who had, miracle of miracles, found our tickets and returned to the bus station to find the owners. He explained how he had been lying down in his hotel room (he lives in Belo Horizonte), when suddenly something told him he had to go to the bank. Off he went, and found our tickets.

Then things got even crazier when he said that, in fact, he was a member of the church. He's been less active for a few years, but still remembers everything and we got his address to send the missionaries after him. Cool beans.

3) You Do What?!- Sometimes we get funny responses from people who learn just exactly what we do as missionaries. This happened on Sunday when Peterson, an investigator we're working with, came to church and offered us a ride an hour early in order to pick up the other investigators with us. As we passed by each house, he asked a ton of questions about what we do. We explained that we spend two years in a foreign country, working 16-hour days full time spreading the gospel, visiting people in the rain or the extreme sun, without pay. In fact, we pay to be here. We can't watch TV, we can't date, we can't go to parties. The list kept building up and he finally arrived at two conclusions, one spoken and one unspoken.
First: You guys are crazy
Second: There must be something special about this church, this gospel that they devote themselves completely to spreading.

And there is. Something awfully special. It's true! Joseph Smith saw God the Father and Jesus Christ. The truth, the priesthood authority, the keys to salvation were restored in these, the last days. Our familes can be together forever. We can have peace in this life and eternal life in the world to come. And we know all this to be true.

Elder Burt w/ a 104-yr-old man.
I know that it is true. That's why I'm here in Brazil, doing kind of crazy things. Because it's completely worth it. There is no greater work. No greater cause. How blessed I am to know what I know, to have seen what I have seen. And now I have the solemn responsibility of sharing this with my brothers and sisters.

I love you all. Never give in to doubt. Christ is our Redeemer, our Eternal Head. My dearest friend. How I love him.

Much Love,

Elder Burt

Monday, July 21, 2014

The Bible / Child's Prayer / I'm Leaving in 3..2..1

Hey folks,

Here I am again. More miracles happened this week. That always seems to happen. I went to Governador Valadares on splits (that word doesn't make sense to me) with a great district leader, Elder Luz. We invited people to baptism. They accepted. The work continues to move forward rapidly in Ipatinga, as we get closer to the organization of the stake next month.

1) The Bible- There has been a theme this week, and that has been the Bible. Or, more specifically, the fact that people here in Ipatinga worship the Bible. I would like to make perfectly clear that I love the Bible--it is full of important doctrine, uplifting messages, and the incomparable life of our Savior, Jesus Christ. But I do not worship the Bible.

We taught several people this week who knew the Bible incredibly well, able to quote it backwards and forwards, cross-reference until my eyes crossed, and prove their point seemingly irrefutably based on the scriptures they used. The thing is, we managed to do the same. With a different outlook. And then we taught other people from other religions who knew the Bible equally well and drew a different conclusion entirely.

And so I gained an even stronger testimony of the need for modern revelation, the Book of Mormon, and a true and living church which Christ himself leads. To me, that's the only thing that really makes sense.

2) Child's Prayer- Something touched me profoundly this Saturday. We were conducting baptismal interviews at a different branch's chapel, and as we were leaving a woman arrived with her 3-year-old daughter. I'd participated once in a family home evening at their home during a division with the other elders.

The woman said "Oh, it's Elder Burt!" motioning her child to shake my hand. "This is Elder Burt, who you pray for every night." She turned to me, "Every night, when she says her prayers, she never forgets your name. You are being prayed for." I thanked her and the daughter, telling them I could feel the difference.

I'd seen the child very few times, and the truth is that Brazilians have a hard time pronouncing or remembering my name. The fact that a child is praying for me means so much. I don't know who all is praying for me here or back home...but whoever is needs to know that it makes all the difference in the world. Thank you so much.

3) I'm Leaving in 3...2...1...- I saw a couple cool miracles this week, where Heavenly Father stepped in to make sure we were in the right place at the right time.

The first was a visit we decided to make to a less active named Alexandre, who is a potential elder and whose mother is an active member. We arrived at their apartment later in the evening...and they weren't at home. We waited a few minutes, and then decided to leave. But at that precise moment, a 70-year-old lady showed up and started to enter the apartment complex, dancing to "I Want to Be a Billionare" which was playing in the street. Which was kind of weird. She suddenly saw us, and asked us what we were doing. After a rather long contact (she was low-key crazy and didn't understand much), she entered and we prepared to leave again...and Alexandre showed up in his car. We entered, talked a bit, and he ended up coming to church on Sunday and was interviewed by the branch president in preparation for the Melchezidek priesthood.

The same thing happened the next day. We went to visit Altamir, who had disappeared off the map since two weeks ago, since he's been at his ranch in the middle of nowhere. We went to his house...and he still hadn't returned. We were preparing to leave, and spotted a young man who we'd contacted the day before. He didn't let us in to teach, but offered a glass of water. We entered quickly, then left...and at that precise moment saw Altamir walking into his house. He waved at us and told us to come over. He said he was only back for a few hours, would leave the same day...but wants to be baptized next week. We taught him the last lesson, and left, shaking our heads at how God's timing works. It feels good to know when you're in the right place at the right time.

This upcoming week is looking to be amazing. Every week seems to be that way. I'm not sick anymore, so that's a plus. I love this work. I love being a missionary in Brazil. There's nothing quite like it. I love you all. I believe in the power of prayer. Thank you so much for yours. Know that I pray for many of you. And if you need anything, all you have to do is ask. I can't do much so far away. But there is One who is always nearby. And He is able to do an awful lot.

Much Love,

Elder Burt

Monday, July 14, 2014

Trial of Faith

Hey everybody,

Yes, Brazil lost 7-1 in the World Cup. I may not be Brazilian, but it still hurts. It also hurt that the entire day on Tuesday we had to stay inside. And it also hurts that Brazilians always assume that anyone pale with blue eyes is German, so I feel like people are a little bitter towards us even though I'm just a poor American. People ask us where we're from and we always say "no, we're not Germans." They think it's hilarious.

Actually, it's pretty impressive how upbeat the Brazilian people still are. And when they ignore us and still think we're German, they just tell us that now they want us to win. I love the Brazilian people.

1) Today I Don't Feel Like Doing Anything- We taught a funny old man this week while knocking doors. He was very cheerful and welcoming, and he quickly informed us that his greatest problem that kept him from putting God first in his life is laziness. He told us that he sits in his house all day watching soccer, fully awake, but the moment he steps foot in the church he gets the enormous desire to sleep. We focused the lesson on getting him excited, and he understood fully the message of the Restoration...but when the time came for him to accept a church visit, he refused to commit. Because of laziness. He told us not to be mad at him, and offered a prayer asking God to take from him this terrible plague of laziness that was ruining his life. I learned that one of the greatest illnesses that is threatening the well-being of Brazil is called "preguiça." Look it up.

2) Trial of Faith- Friday was one of the most memorable days of my entire mission. One that I will always remember in detail.

We had a division scheduled with the elders in João Monlevade (2 hours by bus), and the plan was to catch the 7:35a bus there,  I would take the 10:00a bus back with the other elder, eat lunch in the area and get to work. That just didn't happen.

Some important facts to know beforehand: we had a young man, Jaime, with baptismal potential for Saturday. We hadn't talked to him since Monday, when he told us he wasn't ready for baptism yet since he didn't feel he had received an answer about the Book of Mormon yet. We promised him that answer, but couldn't get a hold of him all week and Friday was the last opportunity. And he starts work at 5:00p. Also, I was feeling absolutely horrible that day, coughing and with a fever.

The day didn't go according to plans. First off, the 7:35a bus was late and didn't leave until 8:15a, so we got to João Monlevade late, and already had to reschedule our lunch hour. Elder Newman headed off to the other area while I waited for the bus. At this particular bus station, you can't pay for the ticket beforehand, you have to wait in front of the ticket window, standing, until the bus shows up, and if it has space, then they let you on.

Second, it's important to know that João Monlevade is really cold in the morning. Especially when you're sick. And the buses kept arriving...and leaving again without any space. This had never happened before. We were left waiting for four hours in the cold, without lunch, sick, not knowing when we would catch the bus and not able to contact our investigators.

We finally caught the bus at 2:30p, and I sat back in my chair for the first two hours, half-sleeping and trying to readjust my plans now that I would arrive in the area at 5:30p--too late to contact Jaime. But I didn't lose hope. And I nearly cried when I received a call from the sisters in our branch, who went to visit Jaime's girlfriend, who was also investigating the church. They told me that both of them had decided to be baptized tomorrow.

The baptism went through without a problem, and everyone's joy was full.

The sisters, Mariane and Jaime (the baptized),
Adão (the baptizer), and the elders.
I have never had such an experience before of truly putting everything in the hands of the Lord and waiting until the last second before receiving an answer. It was a great trial of my faith--but I feel that it was in part because of that trial that the miracle happened.

Oh, and both Jaime (19) and Mariane (18) want to serve missions. So that's cool too.

This is the Lord's work. It isn't mine, but I am so grateful to be a part of it. To see people change their lives, to see the joy that the gospel brings to the hearts of those who need it. I feel that joy constantly on the mission. Even when I am a little under the weather. Because sickness passes, but these memories will last a lifetime.

I love you all. Make memories, work hard, and trust in the Lord.

Much Love,

Elder Burt

Tuesday, July 8, 2014

Moved by the Spirit / Laughter / Lions

Elder Burt painting tables for a service project.
So I wanted to start by sharing some good news. On August 31, Ipatinga will officially be a stake. We found out this week that Salt Lake has approved the papers. We're working harder then ever now, but it was immensely gratifying to hear that the Lord had accepted the work done here in Ipatinga and that the church would be more permanently established in this richly-deserving area.

1) Moved By the Spirit- We had a really cool experience in the bus returning from the leadership counsel in Belo Horizonte on Wednesday. We were pretty beat after not having slept the night before (I was in division until 10:30, then caught the bus at midnight to BH where we arrived at 5:00 in the morning), so it would have been nice to have just slept in the bus. But there was work to be done even during the trip.

A man who was sitting across from us turned and began to talking to us, asking if we were missionaries, then what church we represented, why we were in Brazil, etc. We asked where he lived, then the conversation died down and we returned to near-sleep. As we were arriving in Ipatinga, he talked to us again, sincerely insisting that he would visit the church. He said he felt an enormous need to find out more about us, that the Holy Ghost had moved him to talk to us.

We passed the reference to the missionaries in that neighborhood. They visited him, and without them having to say anything, he asked to go to church, learn more, and watch a baptism that was scheduled for that Saturday. He needs to get married before he can be baptized, but he plans on acting as fast as possible. The church is true.

2) Laughter- This week I laughed so hard I cried more than once. During lessons. Which isn't a good thing, usually, but there were some really funny things that happened. We were teaching about the Great Apostasy, and this 81-year-old man wouldn't pay attention. He kept going on about how the Bible had books for 11 of the 12 apostles (really?), but where was the book for Judas Iscariot? These were the kind of questions we needed to be asking, he insisted. I boldly tried to bring us back by informing him that Joseph Smith had restored all things. He said "one man took the place of 11 apostles? He must be really smart." And then he just started laughing. The situation was so ridiculous that we started laughing too. And there we sat for several minutes, two missionaries and the investigator laughing for completely different reasons. We couldn't really get a hold of the lesson after that and soon parted, and he promised to come to church when he had the chance.

3) Lions- President Fortunato spoke in the leadership counsel about courage and facing difficulties. He told us we need to be like lions, not turtles. Trials will come, we will be attacked...but we can't back down and let it happen. We have to fight back, working harder, not letting the trials distract us, and work miracles. Faith overcomes all fear. And God works miracles according to our faith.

I felt kind of attacked after that point. We taught pastors, atheists, people who did all but outright ridicule our beliefs...but we didn't back down. And at the end of the week we had investigators at church, less actives returning, and baptisms marked for Saturday. When life gets rough, we stand up and face it with all the courage that we have. All the courage that comes with a surety that Jesus is the Christ, this is His church, and we are doing His work.
And I have that surety.

I love you all. Thank you for your support and prayers. Stand firm for what you believe. Be of good courage. Remember you are not alone. This is the Lord's work. Forwards, and not backwards, and on, on to victory.

Much Love,

Elder Burt

Monday, June 30, 2014

Long Story / Nephi of Old / On the Mend

Yo!

Another week come and gone in Ipatinga. We were bold. We were inspired. I testified. I invited. I ate pizza. So, all in all, a pretty average week. Let me tell you about some people.

1) Long Story- We are working with an investigator named Altamir. He is probably the person who I was meant to find here in Ipatinga, and when he's baptized I'll feel content. I first made contact with him my first week in Ipatinga, visiting the house of an old investigator of the missionaries before me. I was still lost in the area, and a recent convert took us there. In the house, we found the investigator's brother: Altamir. I got his address, and we taught a quick lesson. I didn't return for a while because that particular investigator didn't show much interest. I did pass by one day to pick up the Book of Mormon if she wasn't reading it (we were running low), but she said that her brother had taken it and had already read it all. That doesn't happen. From that moment on began the hunt to find Altamir. He was never at home. Finally, a week ago, we were passing near his house and I said "Let's try Altamir again." And we found him! Since that day he has accepted everything, loves the church, takes notes while we teach the lessons, and is begging for a copy of Doctrine and Covenants. His baptism is marked for next week.

2) Nephi of Old- Another awesome investigator we're working with is a 17-year-old named Robson. He received us well during the first lesson, and accepted baptism easily. Nothing was super different about the lesson, and we marked for the next day after the Brazil game. We arrived, and he informed us he had read until chapter 15. I was confused--I tried to think what part I could possibly have marked that was close to a "15". But he explained that he had read from the beginning until chapter 15 of First Nephi--he told us the whole story of Nephi and his brothers and the importance of obedience. Again, this just doesn't happen in Brazil. He's also excited for his baptism.

3) On the Mend- The last investigator I wanted to talk about is Leonardo, a contact I made on the street. He's had a rough life. We taught him, and he showed a profound desire to change his life. In fact, he already has been changing, and informed us that he was about to start searching for a religion when we arrived at his door. He stopped smoking and drinking twenty days ago, moved to Ipatinga, and was unsure of the next step to take. In the closing prayer, he sincerely thanked God for sending us to his house, as he had been planning on trying to find someone to help, but instead we had found him.

The people all around us are our brothers and sisters. Many of them are lost. Many are searching for the truth. And all are children of God. I feel the heavy responsibility of one chosen before the foundation of the world to search out and comfort the broken hearted, to bring my siblings to the truth. We all have that duty. The Lord is willing to help. How I love Him.

I love you all. Fight the good fight.

Much Love,

Elder Burt

Monday, June 23, 2014

Invitation / Original Two / Peace, Be Still

Well, folks and folkesses, it has been a week. The World Cup continues to rage on, and the work never stops. Nor should it!

1) Invitation- This week I went on a division with another missionary in his area. It was great. Miracles happened, as always. We went to a house with two girls who were thinking about baptism. They were kind of avoiding us, but before leaving I made the direct invitation: "Will you be baptized this week?" They asked when. I said tomorrow. That's what happened.

2) Original Two- Another day this week we had a hilarious conversation with our less active friend, Noel. He fixes shoes, and was helping my companion out with his, when he started telling us the story of Christ. It started when he asked us "which were the two original churches in the world?" Before we could respond, he began to explain. There was the Catholic church, which the Romans and Pharisees created and which crucified Christ. And there was the church which Moses founded soon afterwards, the Seventh-Day Adventists. He continued to relate a remarkably accurate version of Christ's life and death, with only a few slightly altered details (John the Baptist at the Last Supper, Peter and John confronting Judas after the betrayal). The story was also interrupted once when a car passed by and someone called out to Noel, who responded saying, casually, "You son of a dog!" It was a very entertaining morning.

3) Peace, Be Still- This week I saw much of the Adversary doing everything possible to foil the Lord's work. An investigator's wife decided to leave her husband, taking the kids with her. A less active member we were helping reactivate died in a drunken fall. Another investigator said he couldn't keep any commitments because his son had suffered a motorcycle accident, likely associated with drugs. Missionary companionships fighting. Members losing hope. The enemy is furious.

But to every desperate cry: "Master the tempest is raging!" comes the soothing voice of the Master, "Peace, be still." The Lord is hastening His work. Of course the resistance will be considerable. "The harvest is great and the laborers are few, but if we're united we all things can do." This is the Lord's work. The obstacles only testify of this more to me, and I have a greater desire to work harder.
Because we've already won. Christ already vanquished death. The fight is being taken to the individuals. We can never give up hope.

Other happenings of the week reminded me of this. I can't talk about all of them right now. Just know that despite the opposition...we're stronger.

I love you all. Never forget who you are.

Much Love,

Elder Burt

Monday, June 16, 2014

Poetry

Hey everyone,

It's the World Cup in Brazil. It's nuts. I feel like I might enjoy it if I could watch the games or something, but as it is we have to stay at home while Brazil plays. Studying. Or at least trying to study while it sounds like the world is ending outside with the screams and explosions. We can't watch the game, but we always know who wins.

1) I Think I Know- This week we worked a lot with people who are working on developing testimonies of the Book of Mormon and the church. I have never prayed so avidly nor tried so fervently to help my investigators receive an answer. There is a particular couple that, for lack of a more creative word, is golden. They understand everything perfectly--the wife read Mosiah 18 through once and remembered how many people were baptized initially by Alma and how many left with him at the end of the chapter. That just doesn't happen here. After attending church once, their 5-year-old daughter asked her parents why her friend was being baptized, if she wasn't eight yet. I pray for them constantly. On Thursday we promised an answer, and they weren't sure if they could go to church. They ended up coming from a different city where they were visiting the grandmother, just to attend church, and then went back. I think they must have felt something.

I think I know that they know. I know that I know. That's called faith.

2) Promises to Keep- This week, as I mentioned, we've been focusing on testimonies of the Book of Mormon. We are teaching about it in a relatively new way, focusing much less on the origins and history of the Book of Mormon, and far more on the blessings. I begin by explaining that it testifies of Christ, and finding out what they are most looking for in life, how they feel when they learn of Christ, etc. Then I explain that the Book of Mormon is a proof of the prophet Joseph Smith and the truthfulness of the church. I explain that they can know the Book of Mormon is true by the Holy Ghost, and that the answer will be by the same feelings that the investigator already recognizes/desires. I promise that they will receive an answer.

Then I leave it in the hands of the Lord. And this week I saw the promises, all of them, if the investigator did their part, fulfilled:
  • A couple that was fighting incessantly stopped completely after they read and prayed.
  • A young man felt calm and peace at heart while reading.
  • Another young adult from a battered and destroyed family came to church and assured us "I know that it is true."


3) Miles to Go- Another transfer week come and gone. And, to my relief, no changes were made. Not only in our companionship, but in the entire zone. That just doesn't happen. I don't know exactly what the Lord and President Fortunato are expecting of us, but there is certainly a work to be done in Ipatinga, and it won't be done until there is a stake. We're close. But there's a way to go yet, and I guess I'm supposed to be a part of it.

I love being a missionary. I learn so much every day. I see miracles every day. I am a witness of the goodness, the power, and the love of the Lord. I know that the Book of Mormon is true. I know that Jesus Christ is my Savior. He lives. This is His church. How blessed we are. How heavy the responsibility to share what we have.

Much Love,

Elder Burt

Monday, June 9, 2014

Soiled / Found You / Open Your Mouth

Elder Burt and companions at Zone Meeting.
Good morning, America!

It's been another good week. I caught a train. That was cool. We saw two apostles speak. That was also cool. (There was a special broadcast to three Brazilian states by Elder Scott and Elder Ballard on Sunday. Minas Gerais was one of them.) There were a lot of entertaining experiences, things learned, and hilarious conversations. And, as always, miracles.

1) Soiled- So I thought I would share one of these conversations with you. We were knocking on the door of an investigator, who wasn't at home. We heard dogs barking and looked to the other side of the street where an older man was standing, staring at us from the other side of his gate with his five dogs. We walked over to talk to him, of course, and asked if we could share a message of God that would bring him happiness. 
   He responded, "I'm spiritist. And you know happiness isn't from this life." 
   "But it's possible to be happy in this life." 
   He just smiled. 
   "...in any case, do you known anyone nearby that could use a message about Christ?" 
   "There's a pastor down the street." 
   "OK, what's his name?" 
   "His son was deathly ill. I visited and suggested a type of medicine. He's better now." 
   "OK, but..." 
   "I had spinal problems. I had to take some medicine, but I ended up taking too much, and before I knew it, I had soiled my underwear, soiled the bathroom...everything." 
We were laughing at this point. "But what's the pastor's name?" 
   "My dog's name is Fooluf. Because when I found her, her head was full of things. Full of ticks, full of fleas..." 
   "Thank you, Sir. Goodbye."

2) Found You- We had a miracle happen on Sunday. After church we were street contacting and talked to a man. He was running (literally) and said he couldn't stop to talk, and off he went. Later that same day we were contacting a reference in another neighborhood. They weren't at home, so we knocked on the next door. They didn't let us in, but mentioned another neighbor. We visited them...and found this same man who I'd contacted earlier. He let us in, and we taught a very solid first lesson. The family truly needed what we had to say, and we brought a peace into the home that wasn't there before. What made the miracle even bigger? His wife has already investigated the church and visited several times ten years ago. And both of them accepted a baptismal date for the 21st of June.

3) Open Your Mouth- This week was the mission leadership counsel. It was very uplifting and inspiring, and the focus was on the need to talk to more people if we want to have more success. The mission minimum is that each missionary talks to ten new people per day.  Our new goal as a companionship is to each talk to 25 per day. There are so many people put in our way, and we can't miss these opportunities the Lord gives us. President cited the following scripture from Doctrine and Covenants 33:
Open your mouths and they shall be filled, and you shall become even as Nephi of old, who journeyed from Jerusalem in the wilderness.  Yea, open your mouths and spare not, and you shall be laden with sheaves upon your backs, for lo, I am with you.  Yea, open your mouths and they shall be filled, saying: Repent, repent, and prepare ye the way of the Lord, and make his paths straight; for the kingdom of heaven is at hand.

So that's what I'm working on at the moment. Opening my mouth even more. Being an example. This is the Lord's work. I just have to set everything aside and do His will. And I imagine that'll work out well.

I love you all. Keep on fighting. Do the good work. Read the Book of Mormon. It changes lives. Help the missionaries. Serve your neighbor. Open your mouth. And it shall be filled.

Much Love,

Elder Burt

Monday, June 2, 2014

Interviews / Conference / Love / Book of Mormon

Elder Burt in Ipatinga.
This week has been pretty crazy. Not as much travelling as last week, but I could see the benefits of our work and we had a lot of success as a zone this week. 

1) Interviews- So I spent basically an entire day in baptismal interviews. Which is cool, but also exhausting. I had one on Friday afternoon with a hilarious old man whose family have been members for sixteen years, but he never wanted to hear anything about the church until these last two weeks. And he was very prepared.

On Saturday I spent hours interviewing, each one a different spiritual experience. The longest was with a child who, after the opening prayer, abruptly informed me that he wasn't getting baptized. He refused to tell me why, but fortunately I pulled out an inspired question-- "are you afraid of water?" He silently nodded. I encouraged him, calmed him, and he finally decided to be baptized when I showed him a picture of Christ with a child. I asked if he wanted to make Jesus happy. He said yes. I asked what he could do to make Christ happy. He said be baptized. I asked if he would do that. He said "yes, but if I drown it'll be your fault!" He was baptized. He didn't drown. Christ and I are happy. I love talking to children. They are so simple and sincere, and have such faith.

2) Conference- This week we had zone conference with President Fortunato. It was awesome, very uplifting--the Spirit was powerfully present. We learned about the importance of inviting everyone, the dangers to faith, and the sheer power and importance of the Book of Mormon. It is our greatest tool of conversion. We learned how to use it to greater effect in our teaching. Elder Newman and I gave some
training about establishing goals. I talked about how we have to establish goals in a spirit of prayer, and make a promise with the Lord that we would accomplish them. If we do that, we will have His help and strength, and will accomplish miracles. All of this seemed to get the zone excited--the zone's goal for the month (based on the goals of the individual areas) is 100 baptisms.

3) Love, True Love- We're working on helping one of our investigators get married this month in order for her to be baptized. We went to city hall to see when they offered free marriages (it's pretty expensive here in Brazil, especially for people of humble circumstances). I felt weird asking the clerk what I had to do to get married.

4) Book of Mormon, Please- As I mentioned, in the conference we learned about how to use the Book of Mormon more effectively in our teaching. To make people really desire to read it and pray about it. Because it changes lives.

So we did that. Applied it's healing and calming power to an investigator who lost her two-month-old son last week. Promised answers to a young man searching for the truth.

And we had another run-in with an old crazy friend who I think I mentioned last month. I first came across him walking to lunch one day, when he asked me to pass by his house to give him a Book of Mormon. When I got there he was locked in, and peered out at me through a crack in the door, asking for a Book of Mormon. We've run across him at least twice this week, and every time he stares at me for a bit, kind of crazy, and then asks "can I have the book?" And I say "when you come to church!" And he just stares at me a for a bit longer like I'll change my mind, and then gives me his address and leaves. I have never found anyone who wants the Book of Morrmon so bad. One of these days I'm going to give in and give him one. I imagine he'll probably read it.

More "Divisions" (splits)

I love being a missionary. So much happens. I see so many miracles. There is nothing more satisfying then realizing you're living in such a way and paying enough attention to be guided by the Holy Ghost. And I have seen that a lot recently.

I love you all. Congrats to Janai on her upcoming wedding--I got the invite! Life keeps moving on, crazy as it is. Don't waste a moment, there's a lot to do. And, for an old missionary like me, you can't waste a minute. Each and every one is precious.

Much Love,

Elder Burt



Elder Burt surveys Ipatinga