Monday, February 24, 2014

BRASIL E BATISMO!! -- Feb 24, 2014

Holy cow these past few days have been INSANE!  Where do I even begin?

I think I was traveling for about 36 hours....On my flight to Atlanta from Ohio, I prayed that Heavenly Father would bless me with a seat companion on my flight to Brazil with whom I could share the Gospel with. The flight over to Brazil was just about 9 hours long... They fed us, and my prayer was answered!  I sat next to a SUPER lady from America (thank goodness!) and she was GOLDEN.  She said, "I don't know a lot about the Mormon Church.. .could you tell me about it?"  UM... YES!  We talked for a few HOURS about the Gospel, and it was a special experience to learn about her faith, share my testimony, and give a Book of Mormon away.  It was like a story out of the Ensign!  Haha I never thought it could actually happen.  Who knows what will happen, but she was very excited about the Book of Mormon and the church.

Next stop: BRAZIL....  in Atlanta I met up with about 10 other visa-waiters, which was fun :)  we were all TOTALLY drained and obviously very confused because we do NOT speak Portuguese (yet!).  Thank goodness for guides from the Church at the airport.  We received a few trainings from the Assistants, and the President, then took our stuff to the Assistant's apartment where we stayed for a few nights.  Haha my first night, the Secretaries took us new missionaries out to "street contact".... I had to go up to strangers and ask for an address so we could "pass by" another time.... That would NEVER work in America, but literally EVERY SINGLE PERSON was so nice and gave out their address and said we could come by.... #crazy!

The work here is 100% opposite of America.  In America, my mission president forbade us from tracting... here?  That is ALL we do because strangely... it is wildly successful!  We call it "Batendo portas" (beating doors, haha) and you stand outside a gate of a house, and clap your hands really loud, and the people come out!  Basically we clap, they come out, we ask to come in, they say yes, we share a message, invite them to church (and they come!  we had 20 investigators at church Sunday between the three companionship in our ward!), and the second Sunday they come, they are baptized.  YES. BAPTIZED.  The culture is so opposite of America because people are SO humble, faithful, and willing.  They already trust you, and despite being taught as few as 10 days, they stay!  I think I'm going to like it here! 

For example, Friday, we were batendo portas, and came across a man named José.  He is an ELECT!!  Unbeknown to us, he had attended church for a year, but didn't get baptized because his mom didn't want him to... now she's dead, and he told us that the day before we knocked him, he was praying to God to send the missionaries.  WHAT?!  So we re-capped the lessons, got him interviewed, and José got baptized yesterday!  And I got to perform the ordinance!  It was so special!

Woooo sorry for writing a novel... I'm so grateful to be a missionary.  It has been so frustrating not being able to speak what's on my mind in Portuguese, but I know the language will come.  I would send you pictures of my apartment, but... it is FILTHY.  There are 6 of us in it, and apparently the week before I got here there were maggots in the kitchen because NO ONE cleans.... Oh boy.... Anyhow... I really like the Elders I live with though, and my companion, Elder Astudillo from Chile is really funny, and a wonderful missionary. 

The Gospel is TRUE!  I love that it is the same wherever you are on the Earth... I know that Heavenly Father is preparing His elect EVERYWHERE to receive the gospel.  I KNOW it.  I'm so grateful to have served in America, and to now be serving in Brazil.  Looking forward to many more miracles! :)

Com MUITO amor,
Elder Jason Allred


My travel group arriving in Brazil!

José before he got baptized!

View of part of "Ponta Grossa" (area where I'm serving - poorish/farms/wonderful!) from our balcony

Monday, February 10, 2014

Vices and Visas -- Feb 10, 2014

OI FAMILIA!!   Holy guacamole the time has finally come! (ALMOST).  Prayers have been answered, and my visa has COME!

These past 8 months (can you believe it's already been 8 months?!) have been full of the very best of times and some very trying times.   I have cried, I have laughed, and I have been carried by my Savior through it all.  I am SO thankful to my Heavenly Father for sending me here to the Ohio Cincinnati Mission before heading south.  My testimony has been tried and tested, but strengthened. I have learned how to be more patient, more loving, and more Christlike.  I have had to learn how to lead, and learn how to follow the will of Heavenly Father.  More than anything though, I've come to know that the Lord's timing is PERFECT. I haven't always been able to see how or why I've been "waiting", but I KNOW that it has been, and will be, for my good! It feels so surreal that my "American Mission" is barreling to a finish.

Thanks for the countless letters, packages, and prayers that have been coming my way!  THAT will be sad to see those stop... haha (I heard it's $50+ to send packages, so... don't worry about sending any!)

This week I've really been able to reflect on my own life, and on our purpose as missionaries and as children of God here on Earth.  I have been so let down by the vices our investigators face and succumb to, but I'm filled with hope and happiness knowing that EACH OF US here on Earth at one time decided to follow Christ.  EVERYONE here exercised their agency to follow His plan, whether they know that or not.  I can have the faith to know that as long as we do our part to share, uplift, encourage, and love our brothers and sisters, we can (with confidence) hand it to the Lord and trust in His saving grace.  "Are we not all beggars..?"  Do we not ALL sin? Do we not ALL fall short of the glory of God?  We can rejoice to know that we know the end from the beginning;  that goodness and righteousness ALWAYS triumphs over wickedness and evil.  There is HOPE for us all, through our Master and Redeemer Jesus Christ.  I love that.  I love Him.  I am so grateful that because He came, we can ALL return to live with our Father in Heaven; sealed together as eternal families.  I can't think of anything better, than to be with the ones I love and my God forever!  This Gospel is so wonderful!

Things are going pretty swell, here in Angola!  We started teaching a sweet 10 year girl named I___ who for some reason hasn't been baptized.  She has fetal alcohol syndrome, but is VERY high functioning and very bright.  She is so sweet!  We're still working closely with D____ (the 16 year old boy) and K____, and things are moving right along! :)

I will miss this branch so much!  The people here are so genuine and loving.  They feed us, they pray for us, they LOVE us, and I will miss them so much!  It hit me as I was singing a musical number yesterday in sacrament that I might not ever see these wonderful people again.  Then I remembered, "HELLOOOOOO!  They're your brothers and sisters, too!"  Hahaha thank goodness for Heavenly Father's plan!

I love this Gospel so much.  There is hope for all through the Atonement of Jesus Christ.  His grace truly is sufficient for us.  I love you all, and will repent and send PICTURES next week. :) 

Com MUITO amor
Elder Jason Allred

Monday, February 3, 2014

Feb 3, 2014

Oi Familia! Como vai? This week was pretty packed full of teaching and snow!  Are you freezing where you are?  I don't think it's been above 30 degrees here in a few months... Haha
This week was pretty great!  We were really able to see Heavenly Father's hand in the work here.

Satan has been working overtime with our sweet investigator, K___.  K____ is part of a less-active/part-member family that we randomly came across one day, and have been teaching for about 2 months now.  Financial strain, Word of Wisdom complexities, car problems, and just dumb bad luck have really been hitting this little family the past few weeks!  Ever since we set a baptismal date for him (his wife is a returning less-active member), hurdle after hurdle has been thrown in their path!  It's insane!  Thankfully though, they have such a WONDERFUL attitude and vision for the future of their family.  K____ LOVES coming to the little branch here because he feels welcome and accepted, and has such great faith!  They have both been unemployed for a while now, but were just able to secure a job and start working this week!  Their car was undrivable, but by some miracle now works, and so much more.  Isn't it funny how Satan will do everything in his power to deter good things from happening?  What a relief to know that good ALWAYS triumphs over evil.  With Heavenly Father on our side, we cannot fail.

D____, our 16 year old investigator came to church for the second time yesterday and had a good experience.  He has had such a hard life (living out of a car with an unstable mother/having to leave school, etc.), and since we've been teaching him, he's really made some positive changes.  Right after this, we're going to court to support D____ and his grandmother in his mother's hearing... She's facing up to three years in jail, so it has been a turbulent and scary time for D____.  We're praying for the best!

As a district leader, I get the opportunity of interview baptismal candidates in my district, and it is SUCH a neat experience!  On Friday, I interviewed the most humble, faithful 33 year old mom named L_____.  She has given up EVERYTHING to be baptized.  Her testimony is so strong, and her determination to overcome the challenges of life through Christ brought us both to tears during that interview.  I was so overwhelmed with LOVE for L_____.  It hit me during that interview as she was pouring out her heart and testimony of the Gospel that Heavenly Father loves L____ so much, despite her mistakes and shortcomings.  Then it hit me that Heavenly Father must love ME despite my weaknesses and mistakes, too.  It was such a beautiful experience. The Atonement is REAL.  This Gospel is TRUE.  I love it!

Haha during district meeting, I showed a video from "The District" (training videos for missionaries) and guess who was in the clip I showed....UNCLE BRAD!  Hahaha it was so funny seeing "Bishop Witt" out with the missionaries in San Diego! :)

This Gospel is true!  It is a gospel of love, and eternal happiness if we can swallow our pride pill and just do what we have covenanted to do.  Heavenly Father is just waiting to bless us!

I love you all!  Have a safe, WARM week! :)

Com amor para sempre
Elder Jason Allred