Monday, May 4, 2015

IT'S THE FINAL COUNTDOWN!

I literally cannot believe that the best two years of my life are coming to an end so quickly.  It is impossible to squeeze 2 years of experiences into one tiny letter, but I just wanted to share a few of my take-aways of the mission.

First, sacrifice.  It is so easy to think that it is a 'sacrifice' to serve a mission, or to magnify our callings, or to be true disciples of Christ.  Certainly, we have to sacrifice a few things, but the mission in itself, is not a sacrifice.  I love the promise found in Matthew 19:29 which reads,  
"And every one that hath forsaken houses, or brethren, or sisters, or father, or mother, or wife, or children, or lands, for my name’s sake, shall receive an hundredfold, and shall inherit everlasting life."

This mission was the hardest thing I've done so far, but how can I say it was a sacrifice, when in return I have learned SO much about myself, my Savior, and God's perfect plan?  How could I say it was a sacrifice of 'my time' when the time is His and for this time spent, I have been promised sooooo many blessings, even "...an hundredfold"?  A mission was not a sacrifice, but was the greatest blessing and opportunity I have yet received.

These past 23 months, I have tried my hardest to be a good, happy, obedient servant.  Sometimes things didn't go as planned.  Sometimes I let myself down. But each time, the Savior was there to lift me back up, to give me strength, to give me hope, to bless me with challenges and experiences to build my faith.

I feel as though I can say with Paul of old in 2 Timothy 4:7 
"I have fought a good fight, I have finished my course, I have kept the faith:"

I have found treasures in the scriptures and used them to help those who we taught to get to know the beautiful cleansing of the Atonement, the hope of the Plan of Salvation, the miracle of eternal life and second chances.  I have learned SO much, and yet have SO much to learn!  But some of the greatest things I've learned during this time were:

- CHARITY - how to love people and see beyond physical/intellectual differences and see them how Heavenly Father sees them 
- PATIENCE - Haha I think patience is lesson that every missionary has to learn.  Heavenly Father has blessed me with LOTS of patience with companions and with myself.  He has taught me that ALL blessings promised will come, but come in His time. 
- NECESSITY OF DAILY SCRIPTURE STUDY AND KNEELING PRAYER - Without it, we become weak. The consequences of daily study and meaningful, kneeling prayer are immediate and powerful.  We cannot access the fullness of our potential with them! And as we use these tools, ALL things become more simple and more clear. 
- COURAGE - it is not easy to be courageous, and especially not for the sake of righteousness.  But without courage to INVITE, nothing will happen.  Without the courage to FOLLOW UP after an invitation is made, progress will not come.  We have to be courageous to be successful! 
- PORTUGUESE!  Haha 
- HUMILITY - If we think we're humble... HAHA we need to humbled!  I thought I was humble before the mission.... oops!  I still have a looong way to go, but learned that as we humbly accept correction from priesthood leaders, it all goes right!  It's like magic!  Humble obedience isn't weakness, it's strength.

I've learned a lot more, but I won't bore you to bits... Most of all... I've learned that I truly have a Savior who loves me and will help me when I seek him.  I know that there is truly enabling power in the Atonement of Jesus Christ.  I know that He lives!  I know that He loves us and because He does, he restored HIS church so that we could enjoy the fullness of theliving Gospel. I know it's true. I have seen it work miracles in the lives of those we baptized, and in my own life.  

I LOVE THE GOSPEL OF JESUS CHRIST.  The only feeling I have left is one of gratitude for being granted this time to learn and to grow and to be tested. I owe Heavenly Father EVERYTHING.

Just one more scripture! 2 John 1:12
"Having many things to write unto you, I would not write with paper and ink: but I trust to come unto you, and speak face to face, that our joy may be full."  :)  (see you at the airport!)

Love forever,
Jason

Monday, April 13, 2015

April 13, 2015

WOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO  Hey family!

Crazy week.  Great week!  It was fuuuuullll of running around and lots of teaching and commitments, but it ended well, and ended in white. 

 G_____ accepted the Lord's invitation to be baptized!  It was such a special day for him.  He has been in Brazil for almost 2 years, and it has a been a huge struggle for him (having to learn a new language, find work, leave his family and friends and culture, and on top of that make enough money to live here and to send back home.  It's complicated!).  He is SO funny!  Even with all of the stressful things in his life, he keeps a smile on his face, and tries to do what is right.  He readily accepted all of our messages, the Book of Mormon (he was so excited that the church has an app in his native language with the scriptures!), and finally, baptism.

It was a bumpy journey though... haha always, ALWAYS when someone accepts baptism, things start to happen... People appear out of nowhere trying to deter them from being baptized!  Haha and it wasn't just once that this happened with G______ this week... We were teaching him in his tiiiiiiiny little dorm (it's not even a house, just a cement room with a window and a door) when out of nowhere appeared some Haitian Pastor from some obscure church who tried to Bible Bash with us.... haha thankfully we shut him up with a LOT of scriptures and testimonies and once we re-assured him that we weren't Jehovah's witnesses... haha  Later the same week, 4 other friends showed up during a lesson and started to ask ridiculous questions to throw G____ off.. but.. it all worked out.  G_____ stayed true to his commitment with the Lord, and he'll surely be blessed!

This week, I've started to read the Book of Mormon from the begining again, but this time, much slower, making notes.  I just want to share a quick scripture that always hits me when I read in 1 Nephi 8 about Lehi's dream. Verse 10 reads:

"...he saw other multitudes pressing forward; and they came and caught hold of the end of the rod of iron; and they did press their way forward, continually holding fast to the rod of iron, until they came forth and fell down and partook of the fruit of the tree."

There were many groups of people who either made it to the tree, or didn't, but this last group, that "continually held fast to the rod" then "fell down" (exhausted from the journey's battles - the daily battles of faith we face as disciples of Christ) and partook of the fruit of the tree, even eternal life.  It is my goal to be part of this last group - the group that never lets go of the rod; the group that isn't ashamed of the Gospel; the group that achieves the best of all gifts, eternal life.

I am soooo thankful for the simple path Heavenly Father has paved for us to find happiness here on Earth, and to one day return and live with Him and our families for eternity.  The gospel ROCKS!

Love you all!  See you in 4 weeks!
Love,
Jason

Pictures!
- G____ getting bapped


- The best American dog in all of Brazil (lives in G____'s complex)


Monday, April 6, 2015

April 6, 2015



Holy Moly... What a wonderful conference weekend!  I hope all were touched and inspired by the words of the living prophet and apostles.  What a marvelous blessing it is to live in this time when Christ's Church has been restored, and we are once again guided by living authorities as in times of old.

This week was full of meetings and mission conferences, and left little time to work work work in the lovely area of Tarumã.  Because the mission set a new record for baptisms/confirmations, President and Sister Monteiro treated the entire mission to a 'SUPER PDAY' where the entire mission got together at one of stake centers to celebrate, wear 'worldly' clothes, and relax for the day.  It was GREAT to see old friends that are now serving in the outskirts of the mission and to exchange stories and tips.  We also had a mission conference, a zone meeting, and then just one day to find people to bring to General Conference!  It was a mad dash, but it all worked out.

We are now working with a really neat young man from Haiti.  Here in Brazil, there are many Haitians who come to work, and live here, sending their earnings to their struggling families in Haiti.  " G____" is a 24 year old young man who came with us to ALL SESSIONS OF GENERAL CONFERENCE.  Whoa... that's 8+ hours of church... #champion   Haha  he has been in the country for almost 2 years, speaks the language well, and is seeking the Lord.  We'll work closely with him this week, and hopefully will be able to baptize him this Sunday.  Pray for him!

Because 24 missionaries finished their missions and went home today, and only 6 came in to replace them, the mission 'closed' a few areas.  We had a set of Sisters here in the area with us, but now, it will be just Elder Cruz dos Santos and me here inTarumã.

This week, amidst the hustle and bustle, I had the privilege of finishing the Book of Mormon again, this time, in the Portuguese language.  It was a touching and memorable experience as I read Moroni 10:3-5 and felt the sweet Spirit of the Lord testify to me again that it is true.  I LOVE THE GOSPEL OF JESUS CHRIST!  it is TRUE.  It is the same in all languages. There is power, and healing in the Book of Mormon  Something that President and Sister Montiero always counsel us is that if we are feeling sad, or discouraged, or weak.... READ THE BOOK OF MORMON.  I am a testament that their 'prescription' from the best doctor, Heavenly Father, works.  It really works.  Time and time again (I think I've already mentioned this in my letters, but I'll say it again) the Book of Mormon has lifted, blessed, and healed my soul and the souls of those we teach.

I would include my favorite quotes from conference, but I left my notebook at home! Oops! 

I love you all SOOOOOOOOOO much and am so thankful that we can all be partakers of the free gift of the Atonement of Jesus Christ and become our very best selves.

Love forever, 
Jason

PHOTOS!
- our zone


- my furry friend


- in our mission, we follow the example of the Lord and KNOCK DOORS

Monday, March 30, 2015

March 30, 2015



Hello my wonderful family!  WHAT A CRAZY WEEK!  Haha wow... 
We have been working very closely with L_____ and her family in efforts to re-active them and baptize her and her daughter, F______.  We marked their baptism for this Saturday, and you know what happened...?  Let me tell ya...  THE DAY AFTER WE MARKED THEIR BAPTISM L_____ was riding her bike with her daughter to a doctor's appointment, and her front tire hit a huge hole in the road and sent her flying!  She broke her four front teeth, busted her face (black eye swollen shut) and almost broke her hand... yep.  So this Saturday didn't work out.  But she told us she recognized this accident as Satan trying to throw her life changes off... she said she will not give up, just has to heal first!  Haha sometimes you just have to laugh at life!
On a brighter note, our mission as a whole confirmed 346 people this month!! That has NEVER happened here in Curitiba. President and Sister Monteiro  are planning a fun 'Super Pday' for the mission.
This week was one of the hardest of my mission so far.  Not sure why... I think Satan was really trying to discourage me because so far in this area, we haven't been able to baptize anyone, then our two baptisms we had marked fell through. Our mission as a whole is having a LOT of success, but we seem to be missing out on the experience...  I was feeling so overwhelmed and sad about it all when I said a prayer, asking for a calm, or a peace, or some guidance.  I picked up my Book of Mormon and read the first thing I opened.  This was what I read (Alma 38:1-5):
My son, give ear to my words, for I say unto you, even as I said unto Helaman, that inasmuch as ye shall keep the commandments of God ye shall prosper in the land; and inasmuch as ye will not keep the commandments of God ye shall be cut off from his presence.
 And now, my son, I trust that I shall have great joy in you, because of your steadiness and your faithfulness unto God; for as you have commenced in your youth to look to the Lord your God, even so I hope that you will continue in keeping his commandments; for blessed is he that endureth to the end.
 I say unto you, my son, that I have had great joy in thee already, because of thy faithfulness and thy diligence, and thy patience and thy long-suffering among the people of the Zoramites (Tarumã).
 For I know that thou wast in bonds; yea, and I also know that thou wast stoned for the word’s sake; and thou didst bear all these things with patience because the Lord was with thee; and now thou knowest that the Lord did deliver thee.
 And now my son, Shiblon, I would that ye should remember, that as much as ye shall put your trust in God even so much ye shall be delivered out of your trials, and your troubles, and your afflictions, and ye shall be lifted up at the last day.
It was such a beautiful, direct response to me in my moment of sadness.  I think we ALL pass through trying moments.  One of the most powerful things I've learned this week, and throughout my mission, is that the scriptures LIVE. That they literally have the answers and guidance we need in our day-to-day difficulties and trials.  I am SO thankful for a loving Heavenly Father who heard my prayer and answered in a form so sweet and simple, even when there were MILLIONS of other people with bigger problems to be resolved.  He hears. He is listening always.  He will ALWAYS reach out to us when we reach out to Him.
I am so thankful for the peace that comes through the Restored Gospel of Christ.  TRUE happiness and eternal life are the fruits of this gospel.  I am so thankful for this Easter season we have now to reflect and remember all that Christ has done for us that we might have joy in this life and the life to come. :)
This video is one we are sharing with all people we come into contact with.  Watch it! Share it on your facebook and with your friends.
Have a wonderful week, and a wonderful General conference!!
Love forever,
Jason
PHOTOS!
- This pioneer got lost on the trail and ended up in Brazil instead of Salt Lake!

- Our area

- Funny TINY lawn mowers that they have here (creeper shot)

- a crazy dear lady named S____ we're helping to quit smoking so she can get confirmed next month 

Monday, March 23, 2015

March 23, 2015

What a crazy week!  But it went by real fast.  Again! 

Gosh... it is LITERALLY EXHAUSTING dealing with other people's agency!  Holy cow... we were finding people this week, and teaching them, and then when Sunday came around, so did SATAN.  Haha sometimes you just have to laugh at how obvious he is... Had some good people to bring to church, but.... it will have to wait until next Sunday.

We are knock-knock-knocking on heaven's door these days, praying for miracles!  And it seems like they're coming.  This week, we got a call from an Elder in another area who had a referral for us.  L_____ was baptized a year and a half ago, but never confirmed.  She has a ROUGH life (7 kids, cannot work due to health problems, etc.) and was praying to Heavenly Father to send someone to help her.  The very next day, she was in a different town, and the Elders talked with her.  She said it was a direct  response to her prayer, and welcomed us right in two days later.  Because she was never confirmed, she needs to be baptized again.  She already had a dream where God told her she had to be "born again" to avoid death... Whoa.  Prepared!  She also has an 8 year old daughter.... :)  We are working with her and against Satan to get her and her daughter, F_______, baptized this Saturday or Sunday!  PLEASE pray for them...  it is SO frustrating how Satan works so hard to trip up people from doing something GOOD.  But it will all work out.

It has been raining sooooo much here!  Even with umbrellas, we get soaked!  We're getting lots of pizza to stay happy.  It helps!  PIZZA HERE IS SOOO GOOD!  And cheap!  The dollar is 3/1 to the real, so now's the time to buy! ;)

Are you excited for conference?  Because I'M SO EXCITED!  Conference is always a wonderful opportunity to hear the prophet and learn exactly what we are needing.  I always leave conference with more faith, hope, and determination to be better.  I am SO thankful for this Easter season we have to remember more fully the Atonement and resurrection of Jesus Christ.  It is literally all because of Him that we can have hope and joy and miracles each and every day of our lives.

He lives!

Love forever,
Jason

Pictures!
- M____ and her recent convert husband, L___

- a crazy caterpillar that we have a bunch of in our house

- the steps to our house (or really, the WATERFALL to get to our house.  Haha see the water  gushing down from our door trying to drown us?!)

- some soaking elders

Monday, March 16, 2015

March 16, 2015

Hey family! 

What a week!  It was another work-filled, crazy week, but it was a good one.  Everyone here in Brazil keeps talking about how the US is getting hit with so much snow.  We're just getting a loooooot of rain!  Rain is our enemy because people shut up their houses and it is hard to talk with people, but things still happen.

This week, man oh man, we talked and talked and shared scriptures and testimonies with M___, but she is one tough cookie! She said she WILL get baptized, but only 3 months from now... haha so yeah.  She made a 'pact' with us that she is going to read the Book of Mormon with her Recent Convert husband 30 minutes each day, hold family home evening each week, and attend all of the church meetings in this time to be 'more prepared'.  I guess some people just really need more time.

We found a few neat people this week after a rocking, motivational mission conference.  There is so much energy and such a strong spirit during mission conferences when alllll of the missionaries are untied with President.  It is something that I'm already starting to miss.... We left the conference pumped and motivated to find some people, and Heavenly Father opened the door of W_____ and W______ - some cool guys from the sticks of Paraná.  They had lots of questions and became our friends so fast.  Only W______ came to church because of a mis-communication, but hopefully this week, W______ can come, too, and we'll be able to find some elects.

It's funny... whenever you plan something GOOD for the people you teach, it all goes wrong!  Our ride bailed to take W_____ to church, so we scrambled to call a taxi, (because the bus would have taken another hour...) and then church seemed to drag on forevvvvveerrr!  Haha but the elects of the Lord don't notices gaps like that, so hopefully, we'll be able to teach him and baptize him!



The weeks are passing by SO fast now!   We're trying to fill all of our time with meaningful work here in Tarumã.

I LOVE the Book of Mormon!  I LOVE all of the scriptures.  It is all so plain and obviously laid out the path we must tread to return to our Father in Heaven.  I have a goal of finishing D&C before I get home, and have loved studying the revelations received.  One of my favorites is, D&C 82:10

 10 I, the Lord, am bound when ye do what I say; but when ye do not what I say, ye have no promise.

It's that easy.  When we obey, we're blessed and have the promise of GOD. When we choose to disobey for whatever reason (no matter how "justified"), we don't have the blessings or protection of the Gospel.  Our joy cannot be full.  I am so thankful for the simple, eternal and priceless gospel truths that guide and direct us to happiness.  It's a time-tested, fail-proof way to be better, live better, and to have true joy in this life and the life to come.  It's TRUE!

Love forever, 
Jason

Pictures:  
- Sometimes when the days are hot and things aren't going too well, we and the Sisters get some free ice cream!  Ice cream makes everything better!


- Our chapel being reformed


- Bairro Alto/Tarumã



Monday, March 9, 2015

March 9, 2015

Another week down!  This one passed more quickly.  It was a toughie, too, but much better than the first!

It's raining like c-r-a-z-y here in Curitiba!  Haha but the work goes on.  This week was full of lots of doors, lots of contacts, and lots of prayer and fasting.  We met some good people this week that might have potential next week to come to church.  We were able to bring a nice, studious lady named M____ to church with us this Sunday.  She's the wife of a Recent Convert who was studying with Jehovah's Witnesses, but now is thinking that our church is the way to go.  She has been to church 3 times already, but the Sisters in the past offended her, and she stopped progressing.  We passed by there last week, and picked her back up!  She really likes us, and is a lot more open with us.  She's studying the Book of Mormon a lot and we'll be passing by each day this week to help her get baptized this Sunday or the next!  PRAY FOR HER, PLEASE!  She has a lot of doubts, but wants an answer.  I have a lot of faith that she will feel the truthfulness of the Restored Gospel through the Spirit.  I love how the Spirit works!

Looking forward to another week full of work and miracles!  We were praying and fasting a lot this week that we could have success in teaching and in bringing SOMEone to church.  Heavenly Father helped us out (as always!) and we are more hopeful and more grateful.

Here are some pictures! 

Get to know Elder Cruz dos Santos!  He's from Manaus (super north and hot part of Brazil) and is a silly goose... haha he's kinda crazy but it will be a good transfer.  He's very new and doesn't talk much with people, soooo it has been good Portuguese practice for me!



Our little house (or room that someone built behind their house to rent to the missionaries) is quite humble but good!  It has all the things we need (washing machine, microwave, and refrigerator!)


THERE ARE A LOT OF BUGS HERE!!  A huge 4 inch spider came crawling down to meet us during studies!  not fun!  Only Elder Cruz dos Santos had the guts to kill him for us... 



Pizza is a miracle from heaven!


Love you guys!
Jason


Monday, March 2, 2015

March 2, 2015

TRANSFERRED!  

Oh me oh my... what a CRAZY week!!!  It was a reeeeal whirlwind, and man... I'm pooped!

I was transferred to "Tarumã" - a suburb of Curitiba.  It's a nice area... a richish area... yikes!  Haha it is part of "Bairro Alto" which means "Tall town".  It is verrrrry hilly (which is good to get in better shape, right? :))  My new companion is Elder Cruz dos Santos - a new Brazilian!  He has 12 weeks on the mission, and is a funny little guy.  I HAD  a picture, but I left the card reader at home, so you'll have to wait until next week to see him and our area.

Holy moly... this area will be a trial, but it will all work out.  Our chapel is being reformed, so we have to take the bus to get to church (and to get people to church).  The Elder whose spot I took left no notes, no investigators... nothing to work with (and left the house a huge mess!)  We're basically starting from zero.  Which is good!  Change is always good.  Because we literally have nothing to work with here, we'll really have to rely on the Lord to help us, and show us where there are people who are waiting to be taught.

I have never knocked so many doors or made so many contacts in my life!  Our plan is to work work work work and pray pray pray pray and do our very best.  SOMEthing will go right, and Heavenly Father will bless us.

It was a tough week, but a good learning experience.  Pleeeease say a little prayer that this week will show a bit more promise.  I'm trying really hard to give my new companion good learning experiences here on the mission (teaching people, baptizing, etc.) but man oh man... we're needing some help!

This week being thrown into a tough situation, I've been praying much harder and studying more sincerely.  It has been a good learning experience for me to realize that Heavenly Father hears and answers all prayers, but in HIS time.  I think here in this area I'll learn a bit more patience. ;)  IT'S ALL GONNA WORK OUT!

Love forever, 
Jason

Monday, February 23, 2015

February 23, 2015

Crazy week!

TRANSFERS CAME!  I will be leaving Guabirotuba!!  It is happy and sad... 4 months passed quickly, but having one more new area will be another growing experience.   Tomorrow we'll have transfer meeting, and a lot of changes came this transfer, so we'll see where I end up going.  This morning, I took  Elder E. Silva to the airport with a few ward members to hug him goodbye and send him off.  I love that Elder!  I am so thankful for the time I was given to learn with him and serve with him.  

This week was mostly a week of goodbyes - as Elder E. Silva finished his mission and I will be leaving the area, too.  So many neat ward members and people here in the area.  I will miss it!

GUESS WHAT HAPPENED.  I put my memory card in the computer to send you pictures, AND THIS COMPUTER WITH VIRUSES DELETED ALL OF MY PICTURES FROM MY MISSION.  20 MONTHS OF MY LIFE ARE GONE!  I almost cried... Hopefully there will be some way to recover them when I get back to the states.  I already bought another card to use for these last 11 weeks.

Time is short!  But I love you all and hope you're all happy and safe.  I know that this gospel is real and true and blesses each one of us as we live it.  I KNOW that God hears our prayers and always answers even our silent pleas.

Have a wonderful week!

Love forever,
Jason

Photos!
- A HUGE PIZZA we ate to celebrate Elder E. Silva's 'death'

- Found a sketchy Chinese restaurant here in Curitiba with "sushi"

- Tchau Tchau, Elder E. Silva!