Well, my second Carnaval in Brazil has come and passed. As I have spent it in the center of Belo Horizonte, it has been slightly more exciting than the last one. While returning from our area on Sunday, we were walking down the normal route home and began to see legions of drunk Brazilians in front of us, preparing for all sorts of iniquity. We took a quick detour down another of the main avenues, and realized from the sounds of merry-making that the parade was making its way on the street nearly parallel to ours. We reached an intersection where the two streets met and saw a parade of hundreds of drunken, costumed revelers storming towards us. We waited anxiously for the light to change, and crossed the street just as where we had been standing was filled with people.
The next day we tried to leave the office to work. As we waited at the bus stop, an inebriated 45-year-old woman tried to seduce us. Rather indiscreetly. After opening my Bible to Genesis 39:9 (metaphorically speaking), we made our way back to the safety of the office.
1) Contention- On Saturday we visited a family who had warmly invited us to return to leave the message of the restoration. When we got there, one of the sons (who had excitedly insisted on visiting the church on Sunday), rather timidly invited us to come in. We were met in the doorway by another young man about our age. He seemed surprised to see us, but insisted we enter, and said to the other younger boy "Let's preach the good word!"
Side note: something I've learned on the mission is that, as a Mormon missionary, I am the target of any young religious fanatic who wants to prove his Biblical and religious knowledge superior. They seem to think that "if I can beat the Mormons, I must be the best."
So that was about the attitude of this encounter. He was literally trembling as he attempted to Bible bash us and prove us wrong. We calmly taught the first lesson, trying our hardest to avoid contention. I admit we could have been better and simply avoided the lesson as he wasn't particularly open. Eventually, by the end of the message, Elder Dunford asked a question that left him completely confounded, unable to speak for fear of digging himself deeper in the hole he'd created. We left the lesson less than completely satisfied. Contention never brings the Spirit, and though we tried our hardest to be kind, his desire to "burn" us and our more-than-prepared responses ended up with very little accomplished.
2) Clarity- We taught a lesson yesterday that was considerably different. We were knocking doors in a very rich neighborhood and an old couple let us in. It was clear in the beginning that they were a little uncomfortable-the hour was late, they weren't entirely sure why we were there, and were suspicious of our religious beliefs. I was praying a lot more in this lesson than the last one, that the Spirit would touch the hearts of the couple and that my words would be guided. We taught simply but with clarity, asking questions to help them open up. Still, I knew that our personal force wouldn't be enough. Yet somehow, after leaving the invitiation to read and pray with them, they asked us, before we could even bring it up, if we could return to see how the reading went. They asked for our phone number so they could call and mark a visit in the church. They saw us out warmly, having clearly been touched.
3) Faith- This week I spent a lot of time studying and thinking about faith. I don't have a whole lot of time to go into what I've been learning, but I will share a couple scriptures that everyone can study when they are able. And the underlying thing that I came to realize was that the immediate precursor to faith is humility. It is through humbly realizing our own nothingness that we put our trust in Christ and truly perform miracles. That is not an easy thing for anyone, least of all for me, to say "I am nothing." To completely forget myself. Yet that is what must be done if we want to have the quality of faith that is able to "move mountains." The sciptures I read and pondered this morning were 1 Nephi 7:12, 2 Nephi 26:13, Enos 1:8,11, Jarom 1:4, Mosiah 4:9-12, 5:7, Alma 26:12, and Mosiah 3:19.
It is only through faith in Christ that we can come to perform great miracles. And only through humility that we can begin to understand our need for a Savior, a Redeemer, an Atonement.
I love the Lord. I love this gospel. I am trying so hard to be better. The work is wonderful, there's nothing better. Thank you all for your prayers. I feel them strengthening me. Keep being amazing, and remember your worth in the eyes of God.