Happy Mothers' Day to all you wonderful mothers out there. I'm sorry not everyone is privileged enough to have the best Mom in the world, but that's just the way the cookie crumbles.
This week has been great. We're working like crazy (as always) and seeing very real results from our work. Be prepared for many baptismal pictures in the upcoming weeks, it's going to get real.
1) Magic of Music- So I have been blessed this transfer with a companion who knows how to sing well. And I have been blessed with a good voice. So we're putting that to good use. We sing hymns in nearly every visit, and it's amazing to see the way the people open up after hearing two Americans touch their hearts with the spirit of song.
It really has made a difference in helping our investigators feel the truthfulness of the message, and softening the hearts of otherwise unwelcoming people. And we get a lot more references by doing this.
One entertaining visit was to an elderly couple. When we began teaching, only the husband was there--we started with a hymn and he loved it. He accepted everything we taught enthusiastically and wanted to be baptized. Then his wife showed up. She angrily said that we could discount anything he said, he only ever did what she did, and wouldn't be going to any other church. We said all right, can we end with a hymn? They agreed, and we sang again. Afterwards, the wife said the prayer, blessing us with success in the work. As we left, she excitedly said that we could count on the presence of her husband at church, and asked if we sold our hymnbooks there. She insisted that we return, and kept going on about the song. It was pretty funny.
We've been put on Facebook several times without our knowing, taped, recorded, asked for encores...I feel like a show. It's awesome.
2) For the Strength of Youth- I don't know what's going on here in Ipatinga, or what the Lord has prepared, but we seem to have been finding just youth recently. And something cool about youth is that when they find something they like, they invite all their friends. And talk to each other about baptism and help strengthen each other. And so we have a ton of investigators coming to church, all within the ages of 15 to 17. Gabriel is the best of them--a young man who we found knocking doors. He invites all of his friends and family to church, is up at 8:00 every Sunday for us to walk a half hour to church with him and his friends, and has his baptism marked for this week. He's a little more quiet, but clearly loves the gospel and also has an enormous desire to change his life. His mom already wants him to serve a mission, and she's not even a member.
The youth are the future of the church. You who are youth--you have an enormous power to spread the gospel and change the lives of your friends. Speak up. Don't be afraid. The Lord will help you say what needs to be said.
3) Sidenote- So this isn't really a story, but a fun fact. I saw a dung beetle walking down the middle of the sidewalk Saturday night. It was enormous, with a big horn on it's head...I've never seen anything like it. I didn't even think they had those in Brazil.
4) Nearer To Thee- So for those of you who don't know, I only get to talk to my family two times a year, and one of those times happened yesterday for Mother's Day. So that was amazing, but it had me thinking of something else. About someone else who seems so far away at times. I was thinking about it as well during the week as I read a verse in Doctrine and Covenants 19:20. It explains that the closest we can come to imagining "hell" is when we do not feel God's presence in our lives. Those moments when we feel alone, abandoned, unloved, unsure. Just as Christ felt on the cross before his death.
It also reminded me of the words to my favorite hymn:
"Nearer my God, to thee, nearer to thee,
E'en though it be a cross that raiseth me.
Still all my song shall be, nearer my God to thee
Nearer my God, to thee, nearer to thee.
Though like the wanderer, the sun gone down
Darkness be over me, my rest a stone,
Yet in my dreams I'd be nearer my God, to thee
Nearer my God, to thee, nearer to thee."
We need never feel alone. God is our loving Heavenly Father. He is always there. My greatest desire has always been to feel closer to Him. How I love Him. I end with the profound, touching prayer of President Monson, given last conference:
"Heavenly Father, I thank thee for always being here, and there."
[ed. Elder Burt sang "Nearer My God, To Thee" in a sacrament program at the MTC Brazil when he first got there. We added Madeleine's voice over his recording of the rehearsal to form a duet, so here it is again for those who missed it. You can tell how much Alex likes this song!]