Wednesday, January 27, 2016

Just... rollin with what God's got in mind.‏

Dear family and friends,
This week was another good week. Some disappointing news is that Ivo still is a bit iffy on the whole baptism thing. One of the factors, we learned, is that he is part Gypsy, and participates in Gypsy practices that he said would be "against church teachings." I have no idea what Gypsies do, but whatever it is, Ivo is praying and talking with God and his family, confirming that baptism really is what he wants to do. I know it's what God wants him to do.
Speaking about Gypsies (rarely I get to use that phrase), we made a contact with an elderly lady the other day. Afterward, we went to her house yesterday, and we noticed that there was a sign outside her house that said "astrology, tarot cards, and palm reading" So we clapped our hands outside her gate. She took us in well, and gave us limeade. She’s a great lady. Turns out, she too, is a Gypsy. Moreover, she is an inactive member of the church. What does this mean? Either she can help Ivo, or Ivo can help her. I'm guessing it’s going to be the latter, but let’s see how the cards play out. Get it? haha
Fun fact - the Portuguese word for Gypsy is "sigano" Another fun fact. Pie in English is a large, filled pastry. In Portuguese, Pai means father. In the Gypsy language (forgot what it’s called), pae means water. Cool! March 14th now has more meaning to all of you. My nerd friends might have to help the others.
Next Tuesday, it’s GROUNDHOGS DAY! I’m already planning the festivities. :) Despite the fact that it is the most useless holiday of all time, I was tempted to buy a little Capybara statue because it looks like a groundhog. Then I figured that temptation was not from God. Actually, February 2nd is the day of our transfer, so let’s see what happens. I'll find out this Thursday. My companion thinks that he’s gonna be transferred. I don’t think so.
This week I’m just full of funny things to tell. We took Pitan to Ivo's house for a lesson. It all went awesome, until the subject about parenting was brought up. Ivo said "you know, my parents never slapped me or spanked me." Pitan replied with "really? I guess my parents didn’t really slap me either. They would rather beat me with sticks or pieces of metal, or throw bricks at me or something. In fact, one time, my mom grabbed the back of my head and bashed and smeared my face against the wall and broke my nose! She took me to the hospital and told the doctor that I fell." I already knew he had cruel parents, just by the way they named him "Jurupitan," but that didn’t exactly bring the Spirit to the lesson, haha.
One more funny thing, then I’ll get serious. While visiting a new investigator, and before telling her our national origin, she said "I’ve never been to the land of you guys before -" Elder Anfuso rolled his eyes, as he was a little sick of being misunderstood as an American. But much to our surprise, she said "-Japan." then she started talking about Japanese culture and how much she'd like to visit our homeland of Japan. That’s a first. Never been pegged as Japanese before.
Returning to the work side of things, Sibele got a calling as the Relief Society Secretary. I’m so happy for this, as Luisa (president) is an awesome lady, and will be working closely with Sibele.
To respond to your curiosity, this Saturday, we have Daniel's, and possibly Ivo's, baptism. J, Mirian, and Zenira had to be pushed back just one week to the 6th, where I imagine that that date will stick. Referring now to the title of the E-mail, these weeks haven’t played out 100% how we imagined they would, but. It all seems to play out in the end. My companion and I are doing everything in our power to realize the work of salvation here in Alegrete. So. We're just gonna keep it up, and roll with God's plan.
Okay? I’m really happy. Always smiling. Until I look in the mirror at the wonderful haircut my companion gave me. Then I frown for a bit. I did a much better job on his hair than he did on mine. But. I diverge. Anyways, I’m super happy and full of the Spirit. I love you all, and hope you have a great week.

Tuesday, January 19, 2016

Another Week in Paradise‏

As you all might have implied, the awesomeness has not let up. We got things straightened out with Daniel, and his baptism date is on the 30th with J, Mirian, and Zenira. Ivo is marked for this Saturday.
The story about Daniel is pretty cool. He asked us an interesting question. "How do you guys study every day?" We explained to him how it worked with personal study, study in companionship, and such. But after the lesson, Elder Anfuso had the idea of doing a brief personal study WITH Daniel. SO we did one in the chapel after church with him. It was super spiritual. After, he asked us to clarify how baptism worked. So we took him to the baptismal font and showed him. I think that was the first time that we challenged someone inside the baptismal font. But it worked out well.
J, Mirian, Zenira, and even J's mom went to church on Sunday, along with Daniel. Ivo wasn’t there :/, but we'll talk to him today. By the way the phone call went, his baptismal date sticks.
Last Monday, We went to the watermelon stand. The man said they were 5 reais apiece. I wanted to grab and share one, but my companion said "no, I want one for myself just to see how much I can eat all at once." rolling my eyes, I bought my own, too. We got home to find out that Elder Oliveira and Elder Pastrana had the exact same idea. SO all of the sudden, we had 4 watermelons and four missionaries. The only rational thing to do at that point was have a watermelon eating contest. We later learned that watermelon works as a fantastic natural diuretic. That was the impression we left with the assistants when they showed up to do splits with us the next day :)
Anyways, it was fun while it lasted. We experimented with the rind - making juice, candy, etc. But we were pretty sick of eating watermelon after a few days.

The Flood is completely gone, and the river is back to normal. It’s actually pretty low right now.

With all the hectic-ness of putting together baptisms, running after the jumpsuits scattered across the city, I have been thinking a bit. Irmã Kellen saw my pensiveness one day and told me "Sometimes we worry so much about tomorrow that we forget to enjoy today." This not only has helped me, but it has, in turn, been helping our investigators.
I love you all like crazy. Have a great week.
Com Amor,
Elder Wassom

Monday, January 11, 2016

Another Awesome Week in Alegrete‏

Hey guys!
This week was super awesome! I love being here!
So as the pics (sent so kindly by my companion) show, Sibele and Cauana were baptized on Saturday! It was super special, because they are so firm in the faith, and very well integrated in the ward.

Other good news! Ivo did end up moving ahead his baptismal date to the 23rd of this month! He is such a good guy - I'm really excited to be a part of his baptism. I teared up a little bit when he pulled out a huge stack of papers of his family history work. It was an experience similar to that with Rosane in Ijui when she showed me all her ancestor’s photos. I got to see that the work I’m putting into the mission has a big impact. Clearly, it’s the spirit that does all the work, but he's using me to bring to pass what God wants for this people here in Alegrete.
Renan is still studying well and progressing. He's just the kind of guy that wants to be CERTAIN, you know? Because he belongs to a cult called Saravá, (A cult based on voodoo to summon spirits and such) and he's afraid that if he converted, his gods will punish him. But. I’m confident he will feel the difference between the Holy Spirit and... uhm... other spirits.
Daniel had a huge curveball thrown at him, and it took him a while to recover spiritually. But he seems to be back to normal, and we hope to set his baptism on the 23rd with Ivo.
We still haven’t found any pants for Jorge, but we have made progress in that home - we have been teaching his wife, too.
J and Mirian have been travelling due to sick relatives, but by our phone calls, it seems like their determination of being baptized has risen a lot. They promised us that they’d be at church this upcoming Sunday, so I’m excited. Mirian's mom, Zenira, is also enthused about the idea of baptism.
Zenira, is like, my favorite old lady. Mom, you'd just love her. She's got a severe case of Parkinson's, so she shakes a whole lot. But she always makes it a case to give us a little "lanchinho" or "snack" when we visit her. She's very independent, and so she doesn’t accept help. She pours the juice and serves us sauteéd pears and things, always flinging food and spilling water. She’s just too funny and awesome. We found her, actually, clapping doors. She took us in warmly, and accepted the message happily and readily. She felt the spirit strongly, and agreed to be baptized on the very first visit. Our second visit, we asked if she had prayed about the message. She said she did. We asked what God told her about the truthfulness of the message of the Restoration. She responded "well, YES OF COURSE! What else would He say?!"
This came as a shock to Mirian. According to her, Zenira was always a fervent catholic, and was worried sick (literally) when Mirian's sister converted to an evangelical church. But. Upon hearing the message of the Restoration, she's just fine about leaving the Catholic Church behind.
We also found some good new investigators this week. One of which will join us in a Family Home Evening at Sibele's house. Ivo will also be there.
The mission is just... at a very, very high point. I feel like I inadequately have been describing to you what’s going on over here. But. There’s just so many things.
I love you all very much.
Com Amor,
Elder Wassom

Monday, January 4, 2016

Finishing the story

So, as you can imagine, I had a super busy day today, and I can just write the story about Ivo and Renan.
So they get back all sweaty from helping people from the flood. And the conversation starts. We started off uneasy - not uneasy of being confounded, but uneasy that someone with so much knowledge of the gospel would want to bible bash with us and send the spirit away. But we quickly realized that it wasn’t his intention at all. It was simply to tell us of his desire to return to the church, and to mark a baptismal date. He wanted to mark it for the 13th of February, as it was his birthday then: "I was born on Feb. 13th, and I want to be born again on the same day!" So we reluctantly agreed, knowing that, if it be God's will, teaching more about the concept of the Gospel of Christ would help him to mark the date closer... sometime in January.
After some powerful lessons, now the possibility of this happening is good. But I diverge.
We invited him and his friends so come to church. He came to church the next morning with Renan. There we learned it was apparent that Ivo taught Renan quite a bit. Let’s just say they surprised the Young Men’s leader and the gospel principles teacher, haha. The first question in Gospel Principles from Renan... "If it takes a man and a woman, bound by the sealing power to have spirit children, how did God make us alone? Do we have a Heavenly MOTHER too?" Many questions had to be responded by: "We'll answer that a little later... maybe tonight."
Deep questions such as these were asked, and it sparked an interest in Daniel, who was present as well. That night, we had a great lesson. Yes, Renan and Ivo still had those questions. But it's amazing how many of those questions can be responded to by adhering to the simple yet powerful doctrines: "God is our father. And he loves us." We gave Renan a book of Mormon, and marked a few passages for him to read. We are excited to see how it goes.
Basically, that’s all the story about them until now, but I’m really excited to teach them because they're great young men.
I love you all, and I have to go, but just know I’m still super happy.
Elder Wassom

Friday, January 1, 2016

Surprise! And Happy New Year!‏

Hey Guys,
I have so so much to say. Thankfully I have Monday as well to write to yall.
First thing's first, I learned that the phrase: "Time flies fast when you’re having fun" isn’t always true. These two and a half weeks have been what I think to be the slowest in the mission. But they have also been, without a doubt, the best two and a half weeks of my life. And the slowness just made it better, as I could then enjoy every precious moment, as there have been a lot of them. I feel like the skype call certainly didn’t give my happiness the justice it needed, because I was still a little stunned by the massive amount of flooding the city was undergoing. The pictures show what I’m talking about, I think. All of those flood photos (and the churrasco photo) were taken on Christmas. Saturday it got even worse, but then it all went back down. It’s still flooded, and some people are still out of their houses, but it’s not nearly as bad as it was.
So what makes my week so really awesome? Well, I am constantly at the side of two of my very best friends - Elder Anfuso and the Holy Spirit. The three of us make a pretty awesome team. Actually, the Holy Spirit's doing all of the work, but Elder Anfuso and I are just along for the incredible, sweaty, ride.
It seems like I've been here in Alegrete forever, because so much has happened. I will have to tell you guys about one person at a time. I won’t get to everyone, but I’ll get the rest on Monday.
Daniel - Daniel is 18. When I first met him, he was doubting his faith in God. He didn’t know if God existed. But in just two weeks, his faith is strong, He accepted to be baptized on the 9th of January, and he has decided that he will serve a mission. When he talks to us, his very countenance glows in his eyes - a huge change. Yesterday, we asked him if he was praying and reading the scriptures daily. He said he has been waking up at 4AM every morning just to find time to do just that. We were pleasantly surprised. He said "I saw a little video clip called "Patterns of Light" by a man in the church (David A Bednar) that said that sometimes the spirit talks to us in the form of memories. He said that the spirit can let us remember, like, our mom telling him to say our morning prayers. My mom doesn’t do that, but I remember you guys." He then went on to explain that he has seen all the bible videos and Mormon messages on
Ivo and Renan - I don’t even know how to begin. Like, wow. Ivo was taught by the missionaries 3 years ago, but stopped going to church, and stopped receiving the lessons. Well, he is part of a service-oriented society, that, every time they meet, a prayer is offered and a scripture is read. There are a ton of different religions there, so sometimes it’s the Bible, sometimes it’s the Koran, sometimes it’s the Torah, etc. Well. It was Ivo's turn to share a scripture. He thought "Well, the Book of Mormon is scripture to me, I'll share one from the Book of Mormon." This sparked some... discussions within his youth group. He then defended the Book of Mormon and the LDS faith. After his defense, he had many opportunities to share the message of the restored gospel with his friends. One of these friends is Renan. More on him later. But anyways, he started studying again.
Then, Elder Anfuso and Elder Sousa (his last companion) were doing a service project in a nursing home, and Ivo and his group were there as well. He seemed like a nice kid, so they got his address. However, they did not know how much Ivo had been prepared. The missionary exchange happened, and I came in. We passed by Ivo's house a few times, but he was never there. Anyways, the flood happened, and at its worst point, (Saturday Night) only two small parts of our area were not underwater, and separated by about 40 minutes of walking on the train tracks (because the roads and bridge were all underwater). Our plans had all been completed by about 7:30 that night, and we were on "our side" of town (the part with our house). We thought about teaching some short lessons with some recent-converts and less-actives close to home, but then we thought about Ivo. The spirit pressed us to make the hike. So we took the perilous train trail across the flooded city of Alegrete and got to Ivo's house. His mom greeted us and took us in. My companion's eyes widened. Firstly, he had never seen such an elegant house, but secondly, he directed my attention to the bookshelf. There, on the bookshelf, were all 15 of the "Teachings of the Prophets", the Book of Mormon, Gospel Principles, and other LDS books. There was even a Book of Mormon in English, haha.
Soon, Ivo and his friends all showed up, sweaty from helping other people in the flood.
I’m sorry, guys, for the cliffhanger, but I have to sign out. For now.
Até Segunda!
Com Muito Amor,
Elder Wassom

The end of the exchange with Elder Alves in Santiago:

The floods in Alegrete:

The churrasco photo: