Well, wonderful people, it's been quite a week. And an awesome P-day. It's not every day that one gets to go on a road trip with the mission president to explore a giant cave. Taking advantage of my last weeks here in the office? I think so.
In any case, due to this awesomeness I don't have a whole lot of time to write, but I'll jot down some quick fun stuff.
1) Fight, Fight, Fight!- OK, so this first story isn't super "fun", per se. I found myself having some extremely heated arguments this week. Now, for those of you that know me, I'm not someone who loses his cool or is inclined to spark contention. But somehow I found myself in a couple debates in which one side was absolutely furious with me. It was actually pretty entertaining.
The first was in a lesson I taught while on a division with my good friend and AP, Elder Sonnefeld. We entered the house of a Seventh-Day Adventist and taught him the message of the Restoration. We taught pretty well, and he was respectful but also clearly firm in his religion. He only got a little flustered towards the end, and started talking about Saturday being the day of the Lord, etc. I really didn't want to Bible bash, so I decided to just ask questions. I asked him why he loved the Bible so much, or why he knew it was true. Something along those lines, because he had a clear obsession with it, and I was hoping to use those feelings to explain how he might feel about the Book of Mormon through prayer. I don't think he understood where I was going, because he started getting very flustered and saying that anyone could make there own church by picking one scripture and misinterpreting it, that he wasn't well read, but that his pastor could totally convert us. I tried to salvage the situation, but he was upset and didn't want to listen.
I found myself on the other end of an even worse fight the day after. One of the houses I was renting fell through because the rental agent didn't want to change his contract to fit our needs. I assume he didn't like being told what to do by a twenty-year-old American. But I told the missionaries to go to the landowner and try to negotiate something directly with him. The landowner talked to the rental agent, who agreed to let us rent under our conditions. I called, got the information I needed, and sent him a form the church needed filled out. Several minutes later, he called. He started by telling me I needed to stop with all the bureaucracy, that he absolutely refused to sign this form (that's really all he had to do), that we were being ridiculous, and that I had to tell the church that we weren't going to use the form for him. I responded, calmly, that the church has over 1,000 houses rented in Brazil and all of them followed this pattern. He responded, nearly yelling, that we could have five million houses rented in Brazil, but he wasn't part of any "Association" and wouldn't fill out the form. He then said I'd gone behind his back to talk to the landowner. I said that I hadn't done anything, I'm just the middle man, and if he doesn't want to fill out the form we wouldn't rent the house. He told me to talk to the church headquarters to change their requirements. I said I already knew the answer, thank you, we will not need your house anymore. He began to talk again, and I hung up on him. I can honestly say I never expected to have such an animated discussion about house rentals when I turned in my mission papers. And Elder Juergens was very grateful he wasn't in the office at the time to take the call.
2) Going Where?- I also had an interesting visit with a less active early in the week. We've visited him a few times before, and he's always been pretty clear about his lack of interest, his lack of faith in the church and in God, all in a very sassy, intelligent old person way. He's awesome. This time he was a little more explicit about how he thought Christ and God were just legends, the church was full of hypocrites, etc. I was praying the whole time that he talked that the Spirit would guide me when I spoke, as I was preparing to do. But not preparing by thinking about what I would say, but by paying close attention to what he said.
So when he stopped, I started talking. He had mentioned that he wanted to get better, that life was about getting better every day. My first question was "why?" Why try to get better if the only end is death? How can there possibly be a "better" if there isn't a "best" that we are all striving for? And where is that destination, that "best"? I explained that it had to be a higher Being, a God. A "best". He had no retort, but said that there were a lot of ways to get to the same end. He said that instead of a highway where you can see the end, life is like a country road with lots of twists and turns, where you take it step by step. I seized the opportunity and said absolutely. That's why we have the church. We have a lot of little steps to get us to our final destination, because no one can wing it alone and expect to end up in the right place. We need baptism, the sacrament, and the temple in order to get back to our Heavenly Father. And then I invited him to leave the highway and come back to the country road. Come back to the church, because I have no doubt that deep inside, he still knows it's the right thing to do. He's just mad at the members.
But it's an excellent question: where exactly are we going? The gospel has all the answers. If you want to know, all you have to do is look. Knock, and it shall be opened unto you. Or maybe you just have to open your own door when the truth knocks on it. And trust me, we're knocking all the time.
It's all true. I know it. I know that we have a loving Father in Heaven. I love him. I love that I have this knowledge, this hope, and have the opportunity to share it with the world. Ours is a message of hope. Of love. Of truth. What a marvelous work.
I love you all, thank you for being amazing.