Friday, December 25, 2015

Dec 25th - Christmas Day!

Today marks a special day in Ben's mission service  - his first call home! I was missing Ben a lot as I decorated the house this year, but I realized that it was going to be so exciting to talk to him live that Christmas was still going to be special! We Skyped Ben through our Xbox One using the Kinect so he could see the whole family at once and he was on the big screen. It was awesome!

He looked great, so happy and doing well. He introduced his companion, who he seems to really like. He would turn his head and translate something or comment to him in Portuguese and it was so cool to see him speaking a foreign language so well. He even seemed to have a hard time speaking English a bit at first.

He told us so much about the town he lives in Itajuba, he told us about the people he meets, and what his routines are. Ben said the area is really green and is known for it's waterfalls, that he has a great grocery store close to him, and that the people are really nice. He likes his mission president a ton. It's summertime there so the weather was close to 100. Nobody has air conditioners and they just use fans.

I am so glad we got to talk to him. He wrapped up with his testimony is Portuguese and we could feel the Spirit and his commitment to the gospel. I am thankful to my Heavenly Father for the blessings that have been give to Ben, and the mission he is serving.

Monday, December 21, 2015

Dec 21 - And all through the mission, everybody was traveling.

Oi família e amigos!

Your week sounds pretty sweet. Finals, a boring meeting, and snow! Woo hoo! The fact that my bros got good grades is pretty great though. I´m definitely glad to hear that. I´m also hype for the Holy Grail. All of the choir stuff sounds pretty sweet too. Also, I have to ask, have you seen Star Wars yet? I haven´t (obviously).

As for me, the life here is good. No baptisms this week, and this week in general was pretty rough, with a lot of appointments failing. Everybody here is traveling, seeing as it´s the week before Christmas, so it´s tough to find people at home to teach. As a result we spent a lot of time searching out the less active members of the branch and inviting them to go to church, and to the big branch Christmas Dinner we had on Saturday. It was super cool. We did the decorations, and had more than 10 investigators there and a ton of less active members. It was a lot of fun. I wish I could share some pictures, but I didn´t get any myself, so I´ll see if I can get the branch president to send some that I can send to you guys later. I´ve been really working on my cooking skills this week too, seeing as I fried some ham one day. That´s right. Hard core. 

I had a really cool experience with following the promptings of the Spirit this week. Last week we had a bit of an issue at the house of Tereza, one of our recent converts, when her husband decided to pick a fight with us because we don´t drink coffee. We tried to keep the Spirit, so we said our goodbyes and stayed away from her house for a while. This week we were heading to contact some references in that same part of town, when I felt really strongly that we needed to visit Tereza. I told my companion this, and he didn´t want to at first, due to the results of our last visit, but he trusted me and we went anyways. When we got there, she met us at the door and told us that she had been praying that we would come to her house that night. She works for some house cleaners in the area, and she had been in the house that day of a woman with a disease that gives here really swollen hands and feet. While there, Tereza started to talk about the Gospel with her. She then told here that she would bring two special young men there to help her out. When we showed up at Tereza´s house, she took us right over, and we shared a message from the Bible. This woman then went to Church two days later, and tomorrow we´re going to give her a blessing to help her with her illness. I know that the Spirit guided me there that day.

I´d also like to share a scripture with you guys. While I´m out here destroying my shoes with all this walking, we also teach a lot of people. One scripture that we use a lot is found in Matthew, chapter 9, verse 9. It reads  ¶And as Jesus passed forth from thence, he saw a man, named Matthew, sitting at the receipt of custom: and he saith unto him, Follow me. And he arose, and followed him." This scripture is from early on in the Savior´s ministry, and it´s perfect for this Christmas time. Often, the main focus this time of year is on worldly things, presents and such. Matthew too had a focus on worldly things, being a tax collector before Jesus called him. But, as we can see here, he was willing and ready to follow the Savior. When Jesus Christ asked him to follow him, he did say "Oh, I need just a little more time to know about him" or "I want to put away all of my possessions first." Matthew had probably heard of Jesus, but not too much, as it was still early in the Savior´s mission. But he had heard enough, and he recognized the Spirit. So Matthew, right away, stood, left the world behind, and followed Jesus. I urge you all to do the same. When the Savior calls, whether it´s a chance for service, a church meeting, or someone else who needs the Gospel in their life, don´t wait. Arise, and follow him. This is why I´m serving a mission. I want to follow the Savior. And with his example, I will succeed.

Élder Benjamin Murray

Monday, December 14, 2015

Dec 14th - More Baptismo!

Ben had another great week! Here's his latest letter:

Oi de Novo, Familia e Amigos!

The only housekeeping this week is that I recieved two Christmas packages, one from you and one from Gma Gentry. Finally! My companion says that next time, you should put a bunch of Catholic stickers and pictures of Jesus on it, so the people in the mail won´t mess with it. It seems to be intact though. I´m still waiting on my money card though, and I really need it. I need to buy a hair trimmer so I can cut my giant chest hair lol.

As for responses, it sounds like you guys all had a great week. Tell my brother´s my advice for finals is to be patient, listen to Mom and Dad, they´re smart, and take the test, don´t let the test take you. There´s like no Christmas spirit here, because no snow, and because like 3 people actually have decorations. And it´s like 85 all week. Oh well! I´m glad to hear that wrestling still sucks. It´s too bad that Gabe is allergic to everything under the sun, but my companion is also named Gabriel, and he´s allergic to many of those things and pineapple, which everyone loves to drink here. Hopefully that helps. My boy B Lee emailed me this week, so that was really cool to get. I´m also having a really good time. I´ve grown to love Itajubá, even with all of its strange culture and flaws, it´s a fantastic place. 

This week was super cool. I´m getting to know the other missionaries from my district a little better, even though everything is really far apart here. The weekly meetings and shipping them in for weekly baptismal interviews is helping, and I´ve got some good friends here. A bunch of the other missionaries introduced me to Chimarrão this week, which is a kind of herbal tea thing that the people from the southern part of Brazil, the Gaúchos, drink. You put it in a wooden goblet looking thing called a cuia, and drink it with a metal straw/sieve called a bomba. It looks like grass, and it tastes super weird, but I really like it. I´ve included a picture. There´s a lot of cool food here, like Açai, a berry that they freeze or something to give it the consistency of ice cream, which I plan to try and bring back to the states. It would be a huge hit in Highlands Ranch. In other news, our Mission President, President Hill, came to visit us with his wife here in Itajubá this week. First they checked our apartment to be sure that it´s up to par, then he took us out to dinner at a really nice asian restaurant called Shittake and then we went and taught lessons with him along with us all night. Check the mission Facebook page for more of my face! I was a little nervous, but it all worked out all right. Apparently this is super abnormal, especially during my training period. Especially because we´re the furthest point of the mission by a long shot. Apparently President Hill loves Itajubá though, so he made the trip. It was great. And he was able to help us out a lot with our church meeting, because . . .

As the title suggests, this week we had another baptism! This time, it was a girl named Érika, who´s 11 years old. She had been going to church with a member for three months before this, and last week, after the baptism of Tereza, she asked if she could be next. We said sure, and this week we got everything ready. She´s super serious, but she´s really smart and she´ll really be a great church member, even being young. President Hill baptized here. It was a really beautiful experience. We also brought her mom and brother to church, and we have a huge group of investigators here, so hopefully we´ll have even more baptisms next week. I´m really seeing the power of Jesus Christ in my life. These people have all had their fair share of challenges and problems, but they´re united together under the same gospel. I´m so thankful for the Church. The support and hope for a better world that these people find really touches my heart. I´m so thankful for the chance I have to serve a mission. I plan to bring the biggest number of people possible that I can unto Christ. I will succeed!

Monday, December 7, 2015

December 7th - BAPTISMO

Sounds like Ben had a really exciting week! Here's the latest:

Dear Family and Friends,

Don´t have any housekeeping this week! Woohoo!

In response to your emails, yes, Nate emailed me! It´s pretty great. Wrestling sucks, but I guess everyone already knew that, so that shouldn´t be that big of a surprise. Sad to hear that Jacob got pinned and wrestled in the wrong weight class, but these kind of horrible stories are the only reason anyone does wrestling. So it´ll be good in the end. Just try to dodge the herpes and the ringworm. Gabe tells me that the chickens have really cool decorations. So where´s my picture of that? Also, I´m sending a picture of myself.

This week was really, really good. To begin, Elder Gomes/Miranda said his goodbyes to his member friends to finish out our PDay, and we had pizza and a family home evening at the Domingos home. It was good. Then, on Tuesday, we I rode the bus for 12 hours, and picked up my new companion. More about him in a bit. This week on Sunday, we sang "Glorious" by David Archuleta at an old folks home as part of a choir of English students from our branch president´s English school. We also ate a lot of pizza and had açai. I had a good time being senior of the area this week, showing my new companion around the town. His name is Elder Cruz, and he´s awesome! He´s a law student, and he studied at one of the best schools in Brazil. He also does Taekwondo He knows the Bible really really well, and he´s an amazing trainer. I´m super excited to work with him for this next while. We´ve got a whole new level of spirituality, and this brings me to my next point . . . BAPTISM!

This week was my first baptism of the mission! I´ve been working with Irmã Tereza since literally my second day here, and this week she finally felt ready for baptism! She really is a person chosen by the Lord. She was orphaned early on in her life, she basically raised herself from the age of 15, and now she has a big loving family, a good job, and a good home. We marked the date on Friday, interviewed her on on Saturday, and baptized her on Sunday! It was a really fantastic experience, and I´m really glad to help bring another soul unto Christ! I sent the picture out in front of our chapel here in Itajubá. We´ve been teaching her children too, and hopefully a few of them will be baptized this week. We´ll just have to wait and see. 

As for the spiritual thought, the scripture that I have chosen to "ponderize" this week can be found in Alma 26:32.  35 Now have we not reason to rejoice? Yea, I say unto you, there never were men that had so great reason to rejoice as we, since the world began; yea, and my joy is carried away, even unto boasting in my God; for he has all powerall wisdom, and all understanding; he comprehendeth all things, and he is a merciful Being, even unto salvation, to those who will repent and believe on his name.  We, as missionaries especially, have a lot of reasons to be happy. We´ve been given a lot of blessings by a loving God who wants to help us be happy here. My life is great! I love all you guys, and I hope you all take care. I´m going to make these next 6 weeks awesome! I will succeed!