Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Terra Nova

Hey guys!

Well, it's official. I'm now 20... My companion went to sleep at 9:30 on Tuesday night (my birthday), so I had an hour where I just stayed up eating American food and thinking about life. I started thinking....I'm 20 years old. I don't have a job. I'm not studying. I'm not planning on studying or working for more than another year. I live off the food that others give me....I don't have a girlfriend, or anything close to a girlfriend. In fact, it's been almost a year since I've even hugged a girl. Not to mention that I live with another guy that I've known for about 5 weeks....I have 7 shirts, 4 or 5 pairs of pants, and a few socks (all of which have lots of holes in them...) Talk about successful! If I wasn't a missionary- my life would sound pitiful. But, the birthday went pretty well. We had a massive lunch! So good! And last night we had a little party with my district (10 missionaries). We bought 8 pizzas and 10 2-liter bottles of pop, and we went to town! It was way fun. Especially becaue my last comp, Elder Paredes, was transferred to our district. I'm really enjoying this district and have a lot of friends here. So, it was a fun birthday! I still feel like a kid...

As far as transfers went down, I'm still here with Elder Lopes. I pretty much knew this would happen though. He's a good guy and I just remember what Pres told us, that we're here to make this the highest baptizing area in the mission... I have a lot of friends in my district, so it's fun.

As far as baptisms go, we're going to mark at least 2 more this week. If everything goes well, next month we should do pretty well....I'm feeling at least 7. We might have to re-mark a few of our others for later, but I'm excited for next month. It should go well. One "eternal investigator" family that lives in my area decided after about 3 years that they finally want to get married. Only problem is that they marked the date in July, which is still a while away...But we then talked to them about baptism. The wife seems like she really wants to get baptized. The husband is kinda....not there yet. He told us he had doubts. So, I said, "what are they? Let's get rid of them right now." So, he went to his room, pulled out a dictionary and looked up "mormonism". The dictionary defined it as (more or less), "A religious cult, founded in th 1800's by Joseph Smith, that practices polygamy." I almost took the dictionary and beat him across the head with it! But, then decided that wasn't a good idea. So, first I asked him if he'd seen anyone in the years he's been going to church with more than one wife, to which he responded- no. I then told him that polygamy doesn't exist in the church, and you can't have more than one wife. I then took his dictionary and told him to read the definition of cult, which happens to be, "A minority religious group who fervently adore together." So, according to the definition, sure, we can be called a "cult." But that doesn't mean anything. We then responded to some other questions he had, but still didn't mark his baptism. Gotta love the eternal investigators...

Other than that, this week was kinda normal. Starting to get a little busy getting everything ready for our weddings....Just trying to work hard and have a good time. Today we played basketball and soccer at the church building. I'm stoked. Next month we are going to have a new chapel dedicated. We went to see it, and it's way nice (at least for our Brazilian/Manaus standards). I'll be excited to leave the little house where we usually meet...

But anyway, yeah. That's pretty much what went down this week. Thanks for wishing me a happy birthday. Hey, in about 2 weeks I'll talk to you guys. We'll see how much English I remember...But hope all is well. Have a great week. Love you guys!

-Elder Eric Stapley

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Terra Nova

Hey guys!

Well, today was a pretty sweet day. We woke up at 6:00 and headed to mission HQ. We were able to hear Elder Jeffery R. Holland, Bishop Edley (first counselor in the presiding bishopric), and President Godroy (70). Rapaz. It was good! When he came in he let all of us go through and shake his hand. I could honestly really tell that he was an apostle. He talked a lot about how good President and Sister Jayme are and gave a really good talk. He talked for about an hour, and the others for a pretty decent amount of time too. It was way good, and way spiritual. I think I was in the 4th row. Way close...It was cool being able to see and shake a hand of an apostle. It was so personal that he even called out a missionary who wasn’t paying a lot of attention...kinda embarrassing. But I really enjoyed hearing all of their talks and really felt the Spirit. He did mention however, that ever sister missionary is worth at least 5 Elders. I thought about Shannon when he said that. But Elder Holland talked a lot about his mission, teaching with power and authority, Preach My Gospel, and missionaries who go inactive after the mish. I can honestly say that I’m personally frightened if I now ever go inactive after the mission...But I really know that that man is an apostle. One time he even said, "I’ve seen things that I can’t tell you. I’ve had experiences so great and sacred I can’t share them with you that you can’t even imagine." Whoo intense. But it was way good...

This week I’ve really been trying to live up to the expectation of Pres and of the Lord. I marked another wedding, and 3 more baptisms for next month. So, if everything goes well next month (which I pray it does...) we'll have 3 weddings and 7 baptisms. All families. I just hope everything goes well. We still have a few probs to sort out with 2 of the families, but I have faith that everything will go well. One of the things I learned with Paredes (my last comp) is that you ant be afraid to invite anyone and EVERYONE to be baptized…so, I’m trying to go to work and really invite everyone to be baptized....

Transfers go down this week. Next P-day I could be with a new comp. I’m almost positive that I’ll stay in this area and with Elder Lopes.

Let’s see...what else went down this week....we are really gaining the respect of the members here, and they seem really excited to help in missionary work. I’ve been impressed with the amount of visit that they've been doing and how they've embraced some of our investigators. I think they are also a little surprised with us. When we tell people there will be 3 weddings next month they usually are pretty impressed. But I’m really grateful for their help. It makes my life a little easier.

By the way, thanks for the package! I got it today and was way stoked. Good stuff....

No new pics this week, I need to take some more. But this area is kinda dangerous, so I usually don’t carry my camera with me. This really isn’t the safest of all my areas. Drugs. Murders. Robberies. Yeah. I'll try to take some this week though.

Well, that’s pretty much what went down this week. Weird. I turn 20 this week....But anyways. I love you guys! Hope that all is going well! Tchau!

Thursday, April 15, 2010

Terra Nova

Hey guys,

Well, it's been an interesting week. We're really trying to prepare for the upcoming weddings and baptisms. One family is awesome and were really prepared by the Lord. They even went to church in (pretty much) church-standard clothes! The other couple is having a few difficulties. The husband drinks the occasional beer....But we are working with them and it looks like everything should go well for next month. We visited one family and took the bishopric with us. When we were leaving, the bishop's counselor complimented us and said he'd do anything for us and that the ward will do anything we ask concerning people we're teaching and member visits. So, it looks like we have ward support, which is always nice.

Yesterday was an interesting day. We had interviews with President. This week he had to send 2 missionaries away because of disobedience to some commandments. So, he drilled us on obedience and talked about being a strong companionship. I was expecting the interview to just be me and Pres, but it was with the companionship. I was impressed by some of the things he said. He told us that our current area had been the highest baptizing in the mission. But, when we showed up there wasn't even a baptismal date marked. He then went on to say that he felt strongly that we needed to be in this area and we, are what he considers to be, one of the strongest companionships in the mission. He told us that he has faith that we are the right companionship to be in this area, and he felt we have the potential to turn this area back into the highest baptizing in the mission....Then, he looked at me and said that either one of us are capable of being senior...I guess I was a little surprised by that comment. It sounds like there is a purpose for me here, and President expects a lot out of us....Interesting.

Today was a pretty fun day. We played soccer starting at like 7:30am. In the first game, I twisted my ankle pretty bad. It's pretty ugly right now....I was wearing an Argentina jersey, maybe all the Brazilians wanted to beat me up or something. Brazilians don't really like Argentina.... After that we had a churraso and just messed around for a little bit. It was fun, but hurts a little to walk. But it happens...

On Saturday, a family in the ward had a little birthday party for me. It was pretty low key, just 4 missionaries and the family, but it was pretty fun. The sister made a big lasagna and bought a bunch of pop and cake. So, that was fun. I still can't really believe I'm almost 20 though...Weird...

That was pretty much this week. Just trying to work hard and find some good families to teach. But hope all is going well at home. Love you guys!

-Elder Eric Stapley

Wednesday, April 7, 2010

Terra Nova

Hey guys,

Well, another week passed by. It actually seemed to go by really fast. We watched general conference and had zone conference on Monday. Lots of sitting....But I really enjoyed conference. It seems like it was just Oct. general conference yesterday. I went from being the newest Portuguese speaker in a room of Americans to the oldest...It's weird to see how much has changed in 6 months....But, general conference was so good. I really enjoyed it. One problem was that priesthood session was sent without audio to a lot of the chapels here in Manaus. They got it fixed and we watched it Sunday night, in Portuguese (which isn't as good) but I still really enjoyed it. On Monday, we had zone conference and a lot of the trainings were about making sure that our investigators are really converted. I enjoyed it. They also talked a lot about the "elevator effect." It involves always looking for new investigators and preparing them while others are near baptism. When it functions right, it'll mean baptisms every week. We just gotta get it going in this area. But zone conference was cool. I have a lot of friends in the 2 zones here and I've got a pretty cool district.

We really went to work this week trying to find a lot of new ppl to teach. One thing I learned in Porto Velho, that I'm trying here, is to find at least 2 new people or 1 family every day. It usually gives a good teaching pool and helps find the people that are really interested. We had some good success this week. We marked 2 weddings and baptisms for May. One of the families went with us to general conference and really were prepared for the Lord. They read the Book of Mormon, got a response it was true, and WANT to get married. We didn't even have to convince them! The other family is related to members in our ward. The husband is the man that we took back to his house (from the bar) to teach him the Word of Wisdom. Since that day, he hasn't gone drinking. I guess something went well. So, now we just have to find some people to baptize this month. But we're getting this area going again....

Today we went to McDonalds! Good stuff! It's kinda expensive here....But so good! And next week- I've planned soccer and a churrasco with my zone and district! The week after that- Elder Holland is going to come! Gotta have fun on P-days!

Let's see...what else has gone down recently....It's kinda weird. I'll be 20 in 3 weeks. That just seems weird....

I went on a division this week. He's a good missionary and I got to know him better, which was good. He's got a really good work ethic and we worked really hard. But, he insisted that he could "prove" that the Book of Mormon is true to some people that expressed they had no interest. After about an hour and a half, I honestly just got embarrassed. I undestand the need to respond to doubts, but I always like to say that I'm not here to convince anybody about the church and the things that we teach. I'm just here to invite them to pray and know for themselves. I tried a few times to cut them off and just leave an invite, but finally I just gave up. I can't say that I enjoyed it. I tried to leave the best invite I could with them to honestly read and pray to know if the Book of Mormon is true. The investigators weren't annoyed, and said they "enjoyed the discussion", but I left apologizing to them for what had happened... I guess it's just a reminder to me that I can't convince anybody about the church and what I know is true. I just like to invite them to know for themselves..

Well, that's pretty much what went down this week. Just trying to work hard. We eat lunch, everyday, with 2 other really cool missionaries. I'm trying to be patient when things are hard.

To respond to Dad's question- Easter is celebrated like any other holiday in Brazil. DRINKING!!! The missionary handbook says that "holidays are some of the best times to find and teach families." That's not true it means that you won't find anybody to teach...

But, anyways, hope all is going well with you guys. Have a great week. Love you!

-Elder Eric Stapley