Monday, April 28, 2014

Division / Healed / Doubt

Alex and his chocolate Easter egg.
What a week. At the end of it, I looked back and honestly couldn't decide if it was a week of testing my faith or strengthening it. I guess one has a way of leading to the other. In any case, I wanted to share with all of you some of the miraculous happenings of this week in Ipatinga.

1) Division- Well first off, I'm sorry to any missionary who served in an English-speaking mission and calls divisions "splits" or something weird like that. Here in Brazil we call them "divisões," so I can't think of a better translation.

In any case, I went on a couple divisions this week that were excellent. The best was on Tuesday, in which I went to Fabriciano (a nearby city) to help out in an area that had been struggling to find people and help them progress towards baptism. I got there at about 4:00pm and had just a few hours, so I asked that we visit the people who had potential to be baptized the following Sunday. Praying for a miracle to strengthen the faith of this elder and help out the area, we went to the first visit with a family who had been to church once, enjoyed it, but was doubting further progression. I talked to them, firmly had them commit to live the commandments, and after reading Alma 7:11-15, invited them to be baptized. All three were baptized yesterday.

We continued the division, found new investigators, and this small branch of 30 members has one more family to help strengthen it.

2) Healed- The miracles continued through the week. On Thursday we felt impressed to visit a less active. We arrived and no one answered our knocking. Ready to leave, I stayed just a few moments more to look something up in our list of members. As we turned to leave, a car pulled up. A young man got out and said he was this member's son. He let us in, and we talked with him and the father--who had been hit by a car two days before. He was really beat up, alone in his small, humble home, with an apparently broken leg that he couldn't stand on. I was worried for him, but he refused to go to the hospital. He just asked for a blessing, which we willingly gave.

The next day, across town, he called me, telling me to come quick. I said I was a little far away, but would do my best. A couple hours of nearly running later, we arrived sweaty and breathless at the house. Upon entering, the man showed us what had happened. He said he had woken up that morning, left his bed, and felt absolutely no pain in his leg. He was walking normally, and even hit his foot against the ground to prove the lack of pain. He was healed. Crying, he bore testimony to us of the truthfulness of the church, the priesthood, and Jesus Christ.

3) Doubt- One other great miracle happened this week, again in an area that was not my own but in which I played a part. I went to interview someone for baptism and quickly came to realize that he was lacking considerable faith. He told me he wouldn't be baptized because he didn't believe it was true. As we talked, he opened up to me. Said he had been praying, imploring for an answer from God. To know He was there. I saw this 15-year-old boy, in tears, tell me of his sister's terminal illness. That he loved her so much and wanted her to be healed. I spoke to him of faith, of hope, and committed him to daily prayer, scripture study, and weekly church attendance. I promised that in the Lord's time he would feel God's presence. Because that's how it was with me. I bore my testimony, explained how I know what I know, and left, saying I hoped to return soon. I wondered if I'd said what I needed to say, wondered at this poor boy's situation, and prayed for him to feel something of God's love. It hurt all the more as I remembered a similar experience I'd had before the mission.

And it was all the more sweet as I received a call from the missionaries today, informing me that the baptism will happen tomorrow evening. The boy had recognized the faith he does have and is willing to act on that small knowledge. Small, but amazingly powerful.

This is the kind of week that will stay with me for the rest of my life. Miracles happen. I am doing the Lord's work, giving all I have, and seeing His hand daily in what I do. Rest assured, anyone who is taking the time to read this, it's all true. Take heart, have hope, keep pressing forward. I love you all.

Much Love,

Elder Burt

Monday, April 21, 2014

Happy Easter!

Happy Easter, everyone! What a wonderful time of year to be a missionary, serving the Lord and talking about Jesus Christ daily. I love what I do! This week has been full of good experiences and miracles, as always. I mean, you must get tired of hearing that from me every week, but they keep happening and I'm not complaining!

1) Past Addictions- We're working hard at helping an inactive member return to the church. We've made a number of breakthroughs while visiting her, including a very spiritual lesson on Thursday which seemed to have changed her desire to return. We returned on Saturday to discuss the church, and she explained that she didn't want to go as long as she was addicted to smoking, because she didn't feel right going if she was sinning at home. Our first approach was to convince her that the church is the best place to go--a "hospital" of sorts for people who want to repent. Her being old and rather hard-headed, I switched to a new tactic--getting her to believe she could stop smoking. What followed was the pep talk of the century, preparing her to stop smoking over the course of four days and be ready for church next week.

She got really excited and a little worked up, which was pretty funny. She went off talking about how when she'd come into the world, she'd been pure and free of addictions. On thinking about it, she revised her statement, saying she'd only been addicted to her mother's milk. "And if I was able to stop that," she said "why can't I stop smoking?!" "Absolutely!" I responded, "And just like your parents were there to free you from your milk addiction, we're here to help you stop smoking!" And we will help her.

2) Tears- I love the Book of Mormon. Honestly, we don't have a more powerful tool in missionary work aside from the Spirit. And the two work together magnificently to touch hearts and help people desire repentance. I saw this at work during a visit on Friday to an investigator we'd found last Sunday. She'd read the chapter we marked, and as we asked about it, she explained a spiritual experience she'd had. In her words, she'd been reading the chapter and came to a particular verse. As she read, a powerful feeling came over her and she began to cry. I was rather curious to know the verse, and she showed us 3 Nephi 11:33. Read it. I was nearly speechless.

We continue to visit her and the Book of Mormon continues to touch her heart. Alma 36:1 led to more tears and an important discussion on the law of chastity. For the honest seeker of truth, no book has a greater ability to touch the heart or draw us nearer to God than the Book of Mormon. I've read it since I was a child and my appreciation for it continues to grow. I'd encourage everyone to read it. Ponder on it. And pray asking God if it is true. Miracles will happen.

3) Easter- I want to end by taking just a few moments to write about the holiday we just celebrated on Sunday. Because it's important. Not because of the chocolate (though I love that as well), or because of bunnies and springtime and family dinners. But because of what happened on a similar Sunday over 2000 years ago.

I took the time this week to read the accounts held in the four gospels about the last days of Christ's earthly life and ministry. The betrayal, the suffering, the crucifixion, Peter's denial, the women's tears, and the loss of hope. I cannot begin to imagine what passed through the minds of the disciples as they saw their Master offer his last breath, cry out, and die. It hurts me just reading it all. But that is not where the record ends. That is not even the climax. The climax comes with three simple words offered by the angels by the empty tomb: "He is risen." 

He lives. I know it. He overcame death for us, and on this particular day of the year we take the time to celebrate it. It is the ultimate message of hope and joy. I'd encourage you to take the time to watch this short message, it's great. 

This is the glorious message that I am striving to bring to the people here in Brazil. That He lives. Because of His sacrifice, we can live eternally with our families if we do our part. It's not always easy. But it wasn't easy for Him either. Just remember: shortly after every Gethsemane is an empty tomb. Don't ever give up hope. The fight is worth it.

I love you all. Thank you for your support and prayers. It helps.

Much Love,

Elder Burt

Monday, April 14, 2014

The Hand of the Lord / Love / Dream Couple

Dearest Friends and Family,
Ipatinga Ping Pong Championships

The weeks continue to flash by in the blink of an eye, and the miracles don't stop here in Ipatinga.

1) The Hand of the Lord- Something I have come to see in my weeks here is that the Hand of the Lord is truly over Ipatinga at this moment. It is a great privilege to serve here at this point of my mission. The branches here are all growing remarkably, the papers asking to become a stake are already in Salt Lake and we should know what will happen by the end of the month.

Due to that, the miracles are happening here in our area as well. We contacted a family in the street a couple weeks ago, shortly after arriving. They came to church on Sunday because the sisters in our area, on a seperate occasion, also made contact with them. All will baptize on the 26th. The Lord is putting prepared people in our way.

Together with this, unfortunately, is the fact that the enemy is stepping up his game as well. There are so many people who are very closed, want to argue, and become very angry with us despite our kind approach. Others are convinced that there is no need of change because everything is fine where they are now. Well, folks, all is not well in Zion. Sorry to break it to you. There is work to be done and someone has to do it!

2) Love- Something interesting I've learned over the course of the week has something to do with a passage I read in Preach My Gospel (note to everyone--listen to Elder Ballard and study it.) It says that the power of our calling is made manifest as we express our love for others. I'll be honest, that part never made much sense to me. But I gained a testimony of that this week. We visited a number of people who were initially closed to our teachings and questions. But time after time I expressed the love I felt for them, the sheer power of the Spirit that came nearly overwhelmed me. It changes hearts. I know that in those moments these people were touched, and I realized that love truly has far more power than I had realized. Maybe it sounds cliche. But it's a truth of missionary work, and the general work of the Lord.

3) Dream Couple- Another proof to me of the Lord's hand in our work was being led to the most amazing couple I have ever met on my mission. They are so crazy prepared. We made a contact with him on the street at the beginning of the week, and he said he wanted to practice his English for a program he was participating in in the Baptist Church. We marked an appointment for Thursday, but I didn't think much would come of it.

That Thursday night we almost didn't go because of some other appointments. But I felt it was important, so we showed up and taught one of the most amazing lessons of my mission. Not because of us. Because of who was being taught. They were open, expressed a desire to learn, understood everything, accepted baptism, are intelligent, have a great love for the family and for each I can't stop going on about them. I was so grateful to the Lord for leading us to them after a somewhat rough week.

Oh, and they had bought us food, too. Based only on a passing street contact. So I think they're people of their word.

I'm so blessed to be here in Brazil. It's not always easy to be a missionary. Honestly, it shouldn't be easy. That wouldn't be right. But it is so worth it. The miracles, the emotions, the people you meet, the hearts you comfort, the souls you's beyond words or even comprehension. So if you're of that age...serve a mission. Stop second-guessing it. It's worth it, I promise.

I love you all. Thank you for your support and prayers. I pray for you. If you need anything from me at all, that I am able to give, please ask. We're doing the Lord's work. Of this I am sure.

Much Love,

Elder Burt

Monday, April 7, 2014


Good morning, ladies and gents, from Ipatinga, land of the water and fire! Life is awesome and it's good to be alive here in the field. This week was full of miracles, and I truly felt that we were being guided by the Lord throughout the week, which was very refreshing.

1) Part 1-Stay off the Bus- This week, due to our spread-out zone and distance from the mission office, we had to spend a bunch of time on the bus. Mission leadership council was on Wednesday, so we spent 12 hours on the bus. Yet, due to the tender mercies of the Lord and a little bit of help, we found all of our new investigators this week during times when we should have been on the bus but, for various reasons, ended up in the area.

The first was on Tuesday in preparation to go to Belo Horizonte. The financial secretary was going to buy our tickets for 3:00 in the afternoon so we would get there in time to sleep. Excited to work, I asked him to buy our tickets for a little later in the day. Inspiration. During the two extra hours we had, we found an amazing family who accepted baptism. We're working with them a lot--they have some adorable kids who really like us, and the mom has a great interest in the Book of Mormon.

Another time when we were supposed to catch a bus for a baptismal interview, it ended up being cancelled at the last second. This kind of threw a wrench in our day, since that was all we had planned. But we followed the Spirit, and found yet another person who is completely ready for the gospel and accepted baptism. So cool.

2) Part 2-Knocking- Another cool experience of being guided by the Spirit came while knocking doors in a neighborhood we were visiting for the first time. Well, I say knocking doors, but really we were walking to an appointment, sporadically knocking on doors we felt we should. One of these let us in warmly (though we did see the woman's sister storm out shouting that she would never enter the house again. Awkward). Anyway, we got to talking and found out that we had stumbled upon a former member of the church who still had a testimony and believed in the Book of Mormon. She is a very spiritual, great person, and we'll work with her, and I firmly believe she'll return to church, bringing with her several non-member family members

3) Part 3-Words of the Prophets- I hope all of you watched conference this weekend. If not, go watch it. It was amazing and incredibly inspiring, answering many of my prayers. The talk that most touched me was Elder Bednar's talk about the Atonement. I've been focusing a lot on the Atonement this past month and have encouraged the zone to study it daily. Hearing Elder Bednar give the same advice and explain how it helps us have success in our lives (and missions) made me grateful to know I was on the same page as the apostles. The other thing I was focused on for the zone was following up, the theme of Elder Ballard's talk. Good stuff.

To end, I wanted to talk about a scripture that really touched me this week: Alma 7:11-15. As missionaries, we frequently use the scripture in two parts. Verses 11-13 explain the Atonement and 14-15 have a powerful invitation to baptism. I realized this week how well they fit together. It explains how much Christ went through for us. He suffered for our individual pains, sorrows, and transgressions. He died so that we may live again. He did that for every single person who has ever lived, a burden unimaginably difficult to bear.

And what are we asked to do in return? Set aside our sins. Have faith in Him. Be baptized. It's so simple, so miraculously perfect. I am so grateful for what He did for me and am willing to do my part. I wish I could do more. I think about that every day. But I'll give of what I have, and I hope that's enough for now.

Think about the Atonement. Ponder and pray about it. And act. Do your part. I love you all. I love the Lord,

Much Love,

Elder Burt