Monday, August 15, 2011

"God's plan is perfect. He wants all of us back, and we all have the opportunity to get there."

"It's over, I'm out."

Well, I'm in Londrina right now. Elders Cavalcanti, Trigo and I left Apucarana yesterday at about 5:30 and slept at some missionaries' house here. We went to the mission office with three other elders (Webb, Ayres, and Araujo) and got some general instructions. Then we had our exit interviews. It was pretty chill.
Today we have the whole day for Pday, then tomorrow afternoon we can walk around in Londrina and stuff. Then we have dinner with The Tavares' at fiveish. Then we head to a hotel close to the airport where all 15 departing missionaries will sleep. Then each one will get their flight. Then it's all over.
It's a weird feeling. I feel sad to leave the mission after dedicating so much time and effort and receiving so many blessings. But at the same time I'm super excited to get home and see you all again. I don't know how things are going to be. I feel a lot like I did when I headed for my mission - really excited, but nervous at the same time. We'll see how it goes.
These last two years were my best. I learned a ton. I think I have grown a ton mentally, especially in the last few months. They were definitely the most difficult, but were very rewarding as well. I think my perspective on life has changed a lot, my outlook on things is a lot more positive. My priorities have definitely realigned.
I have realized that the purpose of our existence is to align our desires and actions with those of Christ, so that we can feel part of the joy He feels. I have grown up, but still think I am the same person for the most part.
I'm glad for my upbringing and the people that God put in my path as I have grown up. I know everything worked together to get me to this point, and I thank God for all the second and third chances he has given me over the years. I know that Jesus suffered for all of us, and that it's up to us to do our part. God's plan is perfect. He wants all of us back, and we all have the opportunity to get there.
I'm so thankful for the restored gospel and church, I have now seen it bless the lives of those who embrace it. I have developed a greater love and understanding for mankind. I think that, along with an increased personal relationship with God, is the most important result of my mission. I hope and pray to find ways to carry the spirit with me forever at the same intensity as it has been here.
I'm super super psyched to see you all! It's going to be so nice. I hope you all haven't changed too much, and I hope that I'm not really unbearably boring. Only these next few days will tell.
Love you all very much,


Monday, August 8, 2011

"...most things were really easy to leave behind."

This week was pretty dang successful as far as finding new people to teach goes. We found some solid people, but unfortunately the majority of them already stopped investigating the church.
Easily the worst thing this week was João, the guy we baptized threeish weeks ago. We hadn't been able to find him in quite some time. On Saturday, we were passing in front of his house and he was walking out. So we started talking to him and he was a little weird. He invited us in, and as he was walking to the front door he was kinda wobbling. I got suspicious and when he started talking our fears were confirmed. He was dang drunk. His sentences were totally mind boggling, I'm pretty sure I left with a considerable amount of brain damage from trying to figure out what he was saying. I asked him if he was drunk, and he denied it. So we are trying to decide what to do with him.
Nothing super interesting really happened this week. I have just really been trying to soak everything in while I still can. It was extremely cold (between 0 and 6 Celsius I think) Monday through Thursday and I was having some serious problems dealing with the cold. Tea and hot chocolate were my biggest allies. On Friday it warmed up a bit, and yesterday and today it has been pretty hot, it doesn't even feel like August. I'm glad it warmed up, it makes the work a lot better.
It's stranger every day imagining that I am going home next week. Looking back, it went by really fast. I missed some things while I was here, but most things were really easy to leave behind. Hopefully this will be one of my best weeks.
Love you all


Monday, August 1, 2011

" big the difference is between the truth and part-truth."

We worked in the area of some other elders on Tuesday. The area is called El Dorado, but is anything but golden. My trainer had talked about that area as being a place of many hills, and sure enough it is. The entire area is either on an upward or downward slope. I got super tired by that place, it was tough.
Our week was pretty tough as well. We are trying a lot to find new people, but it is getting really hard for some reason. To make matters worse it rained on Sunday. Hardly any members went, much less investigators.
Presidente and Sister Tavares came to our branch. The first thing Sister said to me was "Elder Burt, just 15 more days!" It was totally unexpected coming from her, usually they are so anti talk about home/going home. But it's cool, it doesn't really faze me.
At church, a woman who has been a member for about 15 years prayed to Jesus. I didn't really know what to do, so I just didn't say amen. That's about all I want to say about that.
There is this really cool family here of members, inactive members, and non-members. The inactives don't want to return and the non members don't want in. But the active woman's mom died this week and we went to visit a couple times. She has 12 living brothers and sisters, and four that already died. I was impressed by the way she dealed with the situation, really she is chill about it.
She can't read, but understands the plan of salvation well enough to not get super shaked up by things. It is so good to know that death is not a huge deal. It's something I didn't really give a lot of thought to before seeing the other side--people that have no idea where their dead relatives and friends are or what they are doing.
I think about what it must be like to be an atheist. Having zero hope or zero desire for something after death seems like it would make life such a dead end road. I think most atheists and agnostics have hope for an afterlife, even though they deny or try to ignore the light of Christ that they have.
The importance of the restoration of the gospel is something that probably none of us that were born in the church really comprehend fully. I think one of the big reasons we go on missions is to recognize how big the difference is between the truth and part-truth. Even the members who don't really live the gospel are generally so much more at peace with the idea of death. The sadness is natural, but the despair some people go through is unnecessary. I'm glad that I was able to see that contrast here, it has really changed my perspective on things.
Thanks, love you all, have a great week!!!


Monday, July 25, 2011

" really doesn't seem like it is coming to an end."

A river

The last time I will see o gaucho Sehn

Well, we didn't really have a great week but I feel good about it just the same.
We had a solid zone conference on Thursday. President had the missionaries who are finishing their mission go up to the front and bear our "last testimony", it was pretty awkward.
There are some dang good elders going home next month, I really like my group.
I got the two year package you sent with all the candy in it, thanks a ton! Should I wait to eat it at the end or can I chip away at it little by little?
Joao was gone almost all last week,but he was confirmed on Sunday. He is really stoked to help out at church in whatever form possible.
Our mission is going forward at a good pace. We have 109 baptisms so far this month, which is the most of the Tavares reign. Hopefully we finish above 130, that will be classic.
We adventured through a lot of forests this week to find shortcuts. I almost fell off this dang slippery bridge made of broken wood into a dirty little stream (or for the Utah readers, crick), but recovered and jumped to the land. We found some pretty cool little places with a lot of fruits and stuff. I'll send a photo of one place we crossed.
I don't have a lot to say. It's really weird the way time is passing, it really doesn't seem like it is coming to an end. I hope these last few weeks are the best of my mission.
Love you,

Bone saw is ready


Monday, July 18, 2011

"Joao...was baptized yesterday..."

It was great to be able to just do my work this week. Elder Sander and I get along pretty well and are having success.
I don't even remember if I told you about Joao last week. but he is this old guy that unexpectedly went to church. Anyway, he was baptized yesterday, it was pretty sick. He is just way stoked to keep the commandments. So that was the bomb.
Nothing else really notable has happened. I just wanted to share with you the funniest service project ever.
The relief society president asked us to help her put together some booths at the church for a party. We carried some logs to build the booths about two kilometers, then she told us her plan: pull four of the cobblestones out of the parking lot and dig holes deep enough to hold the logs up. The logs would all be nailed together, so really no holes were necessary.
As she was laying down digging a hole with a nail, I told her there was a better way to do it. But she said to me, "Elder, you may have the priesthood, but I have intelligence." I never thought someone would ever call me mentally inferior while digging a hole in a church parking lot with a nail. It was a good day.
Love you all


Monday, July 11, 2011

"...people received him well and he got really happy about that."

I am now in Alvorada, a super small branch in Apucarana. My companion is named Elder Sander, from São Paulo. So Elder Proulx was my last American comp, like a year and two months ago. There were 40 people in the sacrament meeting this Sunday. In these places where the church is poorly established, the classes are not very good, the talks usually don't make sense, and people don't go to the temple.
It used to really bother me. Now I have pretty much a different attitude about it. These people don't know how the church should function. The branch president has been a member for three years, branch president for one.
Almost nobody has cars, I believe no one has gone to college. It is a different situation than my last few areas, but I'm stoked. It's basically a blank canvas to paint.
I'm focusing on finding people who are a little more educated and ready to receive the fullness of the blessings of the fullness of the gospel. Here is a district, so really the leadership is thin all across the map. But really it's a better opportunity for us to exercise the priesthood.
We taught this guy named João on Wednesday, but he showed like zero potential so we didn't even mark to go back. We invited him to go to church, like always, and like always, he said he would go with us. So we were passing by people's houses on Sunday morning and stopped at his house. He was ready to go, so we took him to church. He loved the meeting, he lives here but his whole family lives in São Paulo. He felt good in the church, people received him well and he got really happy about that.
Things are going well here. It's good to not be zone leader or district leader, I can just focus on making myself more Christlike and helping everyone in my area.
Well, what do you guys want me to buy as far as souvenirs go? In these last few weeks I can start grabbing stuff. So far I have Napolean Dynamite in Portuguese and a shirt and drawing that Wagner gave me.
Love you all, have a great week


Monday, July 4, 2011

"...a little disappointed to leave Bauru..."

As the title suggests, I am headed to my last area. It will be a city called Apucarana, close to Londrina. I was a little disappointed to leave Bauru, but not that much. I'm kinda just down for whatever at this point. It's just going to be really weird going to a new place knowing that in six weeks I will be leaving. It doesn't give a whole lot of motivation to get to know the people, the area, etc. I don't know who my comp will be or if I will still be zone leader.
It's really weird that I am now the oldest on the mission. I still feel like a noob, it's so weird. It's something I dont think will really register until I am on the plane. Hopefully I can maintain good focus for these last few weeks.
Love you all