Monday, June 30, 2014

Long Story / Nephi of Old / On the Mend


Another week come and gone in Ipatinga. We were bold. We were inspired. I testified. I invited. I ate pizza. So, all in all, a pretty average week. Let me tell you about some people.

1) Long Story- We are working with an investigator named Altamir. He is probably the person who I was meant to find here in Ipatinga, and when he's baptized I'll feel content. I first made contact with him my first week in Ipatinga, visiting the house of an old investigator of the missionaries before me. I was still lost in the area, and a recent convert took us there. In the house, we found the investigator's brother: Altamir. I got his address, and we taught a quick lesson. I didn't return for a while because that particular investigator didn't show much interest. I did pass by one day to pick up the Book of Mormon if she wasn't reading it (we were running low), but she said that her brother had taken it and had already read it all. That doesn't happen. From that moment on began the hunt to find Altamir. He was never at home. Finally, a week ago, we were passing near his house and I said "Let's try Altamir again." And we found him! Since that day he has accepted everything, loves the church, takes notes while we teach the lessons, and is begging for a copy of Doctrine and Covenants. His baptism is marked for next week.

2) Nephi of Old- Another awesome investigator we're working with is a 17-year-old named Robson. He received us well during the first lesson, and accepted baptism easily. Nothing was super different about the lesson, and we marked for the next day after the Brazil game. We arrived, and he informed us he had read until chapter 15. I was confused--I tried to think what part I could possibly have marked that was close to a "15". But he explained that he had read from the beginning until chapter 15 of First Nephi--he told us the whole story of Nephi and his brothers and the importance of obedience. Again, this just doesn't happen in Brazil. He's also excited for his baptism.

3) On the Mend- The last investigator I wanted to talk about is Leonardo, a contact I made on the street. He's had a rough life. We taught him, and he showed a profound desire to change his life. In fact, he already has been changing, and informed us that he was about to start searching for a religion when we arrived at his door. He stopped smoking and drinking twenty days ago, moved to Ipatinga, and was unsure of the next step to take. In the closing prayer, he sincerely thanked God for sending us to his house, as he had been planning on trying to find someone to help, but instead we had found him.

The people all around us are our brothers and sisters. Many of them are lost. Many are searching for the truth. And all are children of God. I feel the heavy responsibility of one chosen before the foundation of the world to search out and comfort the broken hearted, to bring my siblings to the truth. We all have that duty. The Lord is willing to help. How I love Him.

I love you all. Fight the good fight.

Much Love,

Elder Burt

Monday, June 23, 2014

Invitation / Original Two / Peace, Be Still

Well, folks and folkesses, it has been a week. The World Cup continues to rage on, and the work never stops. Nor should it!

1) Invitation- This week I went on a division with another missionary in his area. It was great. Miracles happened, as always. We went to a house with two girls who were thinking about baptism. They were kind of avoiding us, but before leaving I made the direct invitation: "Will you be baptized this week?" They asked when. I said tomorrow. That's what happened.

2) Original Two- Another day this week we had a hilarious conversation with our less active friend, Noel. He fixes shoes, and was helping my companion out with his, when he started telling us the story of Christ. It started when he asked us "which were the two original churches in the world?" Before we could respond, he began to explain. There was the Catholic church, which the Romans and Pharisees created and which crucified Christ. And there was the church which Moses founded soon afterwards, the Seventh-Day Adventists. He continued to relate a remarkably accurate version of Christ's life and death, with only a few slightly altered details (John the Baptist at the Last Supper, Peter and John confronting Judas after the betrayal). The story was also interrupted once when a car passed by and someone called out to Noel, who responded saying, casually, "You son of a dog!" It was a very entertaining morning.

3) Peace, Be Still- This week I saw much of the Adversary doing everything possible to foil the Lord's work. An investigator's wife decided to leave her husband, taking the kids with her. A less active member we were helping reactivate died in a drunken fall. Another investigator said he couldn't keep any commitments because his son had suffered a motorcycle accident, likely associated with drugs. Missionary companionships fighting. Members losing hope. The enemy is furious.

But to every desperate cry: "Master the tempest is raging!" comes the soothing voice of the Master, "Peace, be still." The Lord is hastening His work. Of course the resistance will be considerable. "The harvest is great and the laborers are few, but if we're united we all things can do." This is the Lord's work. The obstacles only testify of this more to me, and I have a greater desire to work harder.
Because we've already won. Christ already vanquished death. The fight is being taken to the individuals. We can never give up hope.

Other happenings of the week reminded me of this. I can't talk about all of them right now. Just know that despite the opposition...we're stronger.

I love you all. Never forget who you are.

Much Love,

Elder Burt

Monday, June 16, 2014


Hey everyone,

It's the World Cup in Brazil. It's nuts. I feel like I might enjoy it if I could watch the games or something, but as it is we have to stay at home while Brazil plays. Studying. Or at least trying to study while it sounds like the world is ending outside with the screams and explosions. We can't watch the game, but we always know who wins.

1) I Think I Know- This week we worked a lot with people who are working on developing testimonies of the Book of Mormon and the church. I have never prayed so avidly nor tried so fervently to help my investigators receive an answer. There is a particular couple that, for lack of a more creative word, is golden. They understand everything perfectly--the wife read Mosiah 18 through once and remembered how many people were baptized initially by Alma and how many left with him at the end of the chapter. That just doesn't happen here. After attending church once, their 5-year-old daughter asked her parents why her friend was being baptized, if she wasn't eight yet. I pray for them constantly. On Thursday we promised an answer, and they weren't sure if they could go to church. They ended up coming from a different city where they were visiting the grandmother, just to attend church, and then went back. I think they must have felt something.

I think I know that they know. I know that I know. That's called faith.

2) Promises to Keep- This week, as I mentioned, we've been focusing on testimonies of the Book of Mormon. We are teaching about it in a relatively new way, focusing much less on the origins and history of the Book of Mormon, and far more on the blessings. I begin by explaining that it testifies of Christ, and finding out what they are most looking for in life, how they feel when they learn of Christ, etc. Then I explain that the Book of Mormon is a proof of the prophet Joseph Smith and the truthfulness of the church. I explain that they can know the Book of Mormon is true by the Holy Ghost, and that the answer will be by the same feelings that the investigator already recognizes/desires. I promise that they will receive an answer.

Then I leave it in the hands of the Lord. And this week I saw the promises, all of them, if the investigator did their part, fulfilled:
  • A couple that was fighting incessantly stopped completely after they read and prayed.
  • A young man felt calm and peace at heart while reading.
  • Another young adult from a battered and destroyed family came to church and assured us "I know that it is true."

3) Miles to Go- Another transfer week come and gone. And, to my relief, no changes were made. Not only in our companionship, but in the entire zone. That just doesn't happen. I don't know exactly what the Lord and President Fortunato are expecting of us, but there is certainly a work to be done in Ipatinga, and it won't be done until there is a stake. We're close. But there's a way to go yet, and I guess I'm supposed to be a part of it.

I love being a missionary. I learn so much every day. I see miracles every day. I am a witness of the goodness, the power, and the love of the Lord. I know that the Book of Mormon is true. I know that Jesus Christ is my Savior. He lives. This is His church. How blessed we are. How heavy the responsibility to share what we have.

Much Love,

Elder Burt

Monday, June 9, 2014

Soiled / Found You / Open Your Mouth

Elder Burt and companions at Zone Meeting.
Good morning, America!

It's been another good week. I caught a train. That was cool. We saw two apostles speak. That was also cool. (There was a special broadcast to three Brazilian states by Elder Scott and Elder Ballard on Sunday. Minas Gerais was one of them.) There were a lot of entertaining experiences, things learned, and hilarious conversations. And, as always, miracles.

1) Soiled- So I thought I would share one of these conversations with you. We were knocking on the door of an investigator, who wasn't at home. We heard dogs barking and looked to the other side of the street where an older man was standing, staring at us from the other side of his gate with his five dogs. We walked over to talk to him, of course, and asked if we could share a message of God that would bring him happiness. 
   He responded, "I'm spiritist. And you know happiness isn't from this life." 
   "But it's possible to be happy in this life." 
   He just smiled. 
   " any case, do you known anyone nearby that could use a message about Christ?" 
   "There's a pastor down the street." 
   "OK, what's his name?" 
   "His son was deathly ill. I visited and suggested a type of medicine. He's better now." 
   "OK, but..." 
   "I had spinal problems. I had to take some medicine, but I ended up taking too much, and before I knew it, I had soiled my underwear, soiled the bathroom...everything." 
We were laughing at this point. "But what's the pastor's name?" 
   "My dog's name is Fooluf. Because when I found her, her head was full of things. Full of ticks, full of fleas..." 
   "Thank you, Sir. Goodbye."

2) Found You- We had a miracle happen on Sunday. After church we were street contacting and talked to a man. He was running (literally) and said he couldn't stop to talk, and off he went. Later that same day we were contacting a reference in another neighborhood. They weren't at home, so we knocked on the next door. They didn't let us in, but mentioned another neighbor. We visited them...and found this same man who I'd contacted earlier. He let us in, and we taught a very solid first lesson. The family truly needed what we had to say, and we brought a peace into the home that wasn't there before. What made the miracle even bigger? His wife has already investigated the church and visited several times ten years ago. And both of them accepted a baptismal date for the 21st of June.

3) Open Your Mouth- This week was the mission leadership counsel. It was very uplifting and inspiring, and the focus was on the need to talk to more people if we want to have more success. The mission minimum is that each missionary talks to ten new people per day.  Our new goal as a companionship is to each talk to 25 per day. There are so many people put in our way, and we can't miss these opportunities the Lord gives us. President cited the following scripture from Doctrine and Covenants 33:
Open your mouths and they shall be filled, and you shall become even as Nephi of old, who journeyed from Jerusalem in the wilderness.  Yea, open your mouths and spare not, and you shall be laden with sheaves upon your backs, for lo, I am with you.  Yea, open your mouths and they shall be filled, saying: Repent, repent, and prepare ye the way of the Lord, and make his paths straight; for the kingdom of heaven is at hand.

So that's what I'm working on at the moment. Opening my mouth even more. Being an example. This is the Lord's work. I just have to set everything aside and do His will. And I imagine that'll work out well.

I love you all. Keep on fighting. Do the good work. Read the Book of Mormon. It changes lives. Help the missionaries. Serve your neighbor. Open your mouth. And it shall be filled.

Much Love,

Elder Burt

Monday, June 2, 2014

Interviews / Conference / Love / Book of Mormon

Elder Burt in Ipatinga.
This week has been pretty crazy. Not as much travelling as last week, but I could see the benefits of our work and we had a lot of success as a zone this week. 

1) Interviews- So I spent basically an entire day in baptismal interviews. Which is cool, but also exhausting. I had one on Friday afternoon with a hilarious old man whose family have been members for sixteen years, but he never wanted to hear anything about the church until these last two weeks. And he was very prepared.

On Saturday I spent hours interviewing, each one a different spiritual experience. The longest was with a child who, after the opening prayer, abruptly informed me that he wasn't getting baptized. He refused to tell me why, but fortunately I pulled out an inspired question-- "are you afraid of water?" He silently nodded. I encouraged him, calmed him, and he finally decided to be baptized when I showed him a picture of Christ with a child. I asked if he wanted to make Jesus happy. He said yes. I asked what he could do to make Christ happy. He said be baptized. I asked if he would do that. He said "yes, but if I drown it'll be your fault!" He was baptized. He didn't drown. Christ and I are happy. I love talking to children. They are so simple and sincere, and have such faith.

2) Conference- This week we had zone conference with President Fortunato. It was awesome, very uplifting--the Spirit was powerfully present. We learned about the importance of inviting everyone, the dangers to faith, and the sheer power and importance of the Book of Mormon. It is our greatest tool of conversion. We learned how to use it to greater effect in our teaching. Elder Newman and I gave some
training about establishing goals. I talked about how we have to establish goals in a spirit of prayer, and make a promise with the Lord that we would accomplish them. If we do that, we will have His help and strength, and will accomplish miracles. All of this seemed to get the zone excited--the zone's goal for the month (based on the goals of the individual areas) is 100 baptisms.

3) Love, True Love- We're working on helping one of our investigators get married this month in order for her to be baptized. We went to city hall to see when they offered free marriages (it's pretty expensive here in Brazil, especially for people of humble circumstances). I felt weird asking the clerk what I had to do to get married.

4) Book of Mormon, Please- As I mentioned, in the conference we learned about how to use the Book of Mormon more effectively in our teaching. To make people really desire to read it and pray about it. Because it changes lives.

So we did that. Applied it's healing and calming power to an investigator who lost her two-month-old son last week. Promised answers to a young man searching for the truth.

And we had another run-in with an old crazy friend who I think I mentioned last month. I first came across him walking to lunch one day, when he asked me to pass by his house to give him a Book of Mormon. When I got there he was locked in, and peered out at me through a crack in the door, asking for a Book of Mormon. We've run across him at least twice this week, and every time he stares at me for a bit, kind of crazy, and then asks "can I have the book?" And I say "when you come to church!" And he just stares at me a for a bit longer like I'll change my mind, and then gives me his address and leaves. I have never found anyone who wants the Book of Morrmon so bad. One of these days I'm going to give in and give him one. I imagine he'll probably read it.

More "Divisions" (splits)

I love being a missionary. So much happens. I see so many miracles. There is nothing more satisfying then realizing you're living in such a way and paying enough attention to be guided by the Holy Ghost. And I have seen that a lot recently.

I love you all. Congrats to Janai on her upcoming wedding--I got the invite! Life keeps moving on, crazy as it is. Don't waste a moment, there's a lot to do. And, for an old missionary like me, you can't waste a minute. Each and every one is precious.

Much Love,

Elder Burt

Elder Burt surveys Ipatinga