This has been an amazing week. Full of miracles, hard work, hilarity, and success. What a blessing to be a missionary in Belo Horizonte, Brazil. It literally doesn't get better than this.
1) Odyssey- Yesterday I went on one of the most ridiculous trips of my life. What was supposed to take an hour and half to take a contract to a rental agency turned into an eight-hour long odyssey, with all sorts of mishaps and adventures. We definitely bonded as a companionship throughout the event.
It started soon after lunch, as we walked down to the center of the city in order to catch a bus to Santa Luzia, a nearby city. We were sitting at the stop for a bit, wondering why nearly nobody else was there. When we asked, after having waited for twenty minutes, they informed us that the bus stop had been moved recently. We walked for a while to find the new spot, and stayed there, standing, with the sun beating down on us, waiting on our bus. After a while, we saw our bus waiting at the next stop, about 200 yards away. We booked it over there, but arrived too late to catch it. We then waited at that stop for another half hour, during which Elder Dunford and I bought belts from a random guy on the street. Then we saw our bus pass us and stop at the next bus stop, where we'd been before. We ran back, again too late. Tensions were running high in the companionship, and then the Jehovah's Witnesses set up camp about fifty feet away from us and started preaching. Due to the patience and wisdom of Elder Dunford, we did not engage in combat.
After nearly another hour, we saw our bus return to the other bus stop. Exasperated, we ran at full speed just in time to catch it. What good luck. Or so we thought.
Traffic was horrible, and there was standing room only on the bus. We made our way to the other city, when the bus missed the turn off I was expecting. Let it be known I'd never been to this area before and was going off of the guidance of the elders who worked there. Well, we all started getting a little antsy as the bus kept going and going...and finally stopped at the end of the world. We figured out that we had caught the wrong number that went to the same neighborhood...but this one didn't pass the right street. We asked around and discovered which bus we needed to catch to arrive at our destination. It was a humorous moment: three missionaries, sitting on a rickety bench overlooking what looked an awful lot like the Amazon jungle, with a dirt pasture and soccer field in front of us. The journey had gone from frustrating to ridiculous at about that point. We waited for a while and finally got the right bus back, getting off as we passed in front of the rental agency a few neighborhoods over.
Side note: this rental agency happens to be the same one that fought with me over the telephone last week. I salvaged it. The formerly livid rental agent (clearly somewhat ashamed of his former behavior) welcomed us in like family, gave us the keys to the house, his wife insisted that we enter and share a snack/juice, and then they sent us on our way, insisting that we return to have lunch with them in the future.
We met up with the missionaries who would be moving just as the sun was setting. We sat for a bit on a high point, looking over the city and into the surrounding forest as the sun set on one side and an enormous storm approached on the other. The bus ride back was far quicker and more relaxing, and we arrived in the office just before the rain hit. It was 8:00 at night.
2) Divisions- But despite that one day of mishaps, the rest of the week was amazing. After a couple weeks of small success, this week exploded. Through working in the neighborhood of our recent converts (which apparently has never seen missionaries before) we managed to find nine new investigators in three days and get the entire neighborhood excited about our presence and the church. We found several families, each with legally married parents and three children. It feels awfully nice to be running from lesson to lesson. We divided [our companionship] with a member, and even with two companionships we didn't manage to visit everyone we could have. The four of us were running up and down the small streets of the neighborhood teaching lesson after lesson after lesson. The work is accelerating rapidly. Everyone is accepting, and I am happy.
3) Houses- That success has been matched in the office, house-hunting front. I have rented another five houses this week, including the one that took up all of Friday. The work goes on, and miracles never stop.
I was studying a chapter this morning in the Book of Mormon about miracles (Mormon 9). It explains in very clear terms that miracles still happen. Verse 20 lists three things that impede miracles from occurring: Doubt, disobedience, and ignorance, especially of the nature of God. These are the key factors that lead to a world that seems, at many times, to be so empty of the mighty miracles wrought in times of old. As we work to improve our faith, obedience, and understanding, we will begin to see miraculous things happen in our lives. I am absolutely sure of that. The miracles that have happened this week are just the beginning. I have so much further to go. But I'm awfully excited to get going.
Thank you all for your prayers. Thank you Calvert family for the Christmas package (it got here this week)--my absolute favorite song on the mission is "I Love the Lord" from that album, and I've loved listening to all the other tracks as well.
I love you all. Stay strong, remember who you are.