Monday, January 25, 2016

January 25th - The Elect

Dear Family and Friends,

I´ve already gotten most of the housekeeping out of the way, but I´d just like to thank you for the package you sent me. I´m really grateful to have so much support from you guys back home. There are some missionaries out here that basically don´t even have contact with their families, and it really makes you grateful for what you have. Thank you.

This week was really pretty fantastic. We worked hard and got results. We had a transmission this week on teaching the doctrine of repentance that was a training for missionaries worldwide. It was pretty good, with talks by a lot of the apostles. Then we had a Zone Conference last Friday that was fun. We got popcorn, I got a super-late birthday treat, and we talked a lot about making contacts on the road and working with ward/branch members to do missionary work together. It´s always fun to see other missionaries and President Hill. Then, on Sunday, we baptized a fantastic woman, Marlene. But more about that later. First some funny moments. Here in Itajubá it´s all about the weird names. Between the two groups here we have found Joandarco, Jezzer Papi, Ronilson, and Idelfonso. There are some other missionaries in our zone teaching a less-active member named Johnny Quest. Itajubá also has a problem with people that have eyes looking in opposite directions. To date we have met 15 people here with crazy eyes. It´s pretty epic. I´ve been learning all the sweet Brazilian slang too. It´s pretty dank. They have a buttload of memes here. T-shirts with "Keep Calm and Speak English" are the biggest offenders. And Minecraft is gigantic among the children. Some 8 year-olds from the branch tried to get me to help them download mods this week. I said no. I´ve officially mastered the poorly-fried egg sandwich. It´s nice that this new 50 cent restaurant opened up, because the food is actually pretty good, and you eat for basically free. My life´s really good right now.

This week we baptized a woman named Marlene. When a person is a really good investigator, that accepts commitments and really wants to make a change in their life, we call them elects. Marlene is the definition of an elect. She heard the first missionary message, along with the miraculous testimony of a member here, and she immediately accepted to go to church. She loved the church meetings, loved the missionary lessons, and took everything to heart immediately. She read the Book of Mormon when we asked, and when we told her she would have to stop drinking coffee, she stopped that moment. Then, this last Thursday when we visited her, she was feeling really sick, so we offered to give her a blessing to help cure her. This type of blessing works based on the faith of the person being blessed. Marlene was coughing every 20 seconds, was feeling a lot of pain, and was generally in bad shape. We gave her a blessing and she stopped coughing immediately, and said that the pain was gone. I know, that through the power of Jesus Christ and our faith, we can be cured of any sickness, pain, or worldly problems. She was baptized 3 days later. I know that the Gospel of Jesus Christ really helps people, and I plan to spread to as many people as I can. I will succeed.

Monday, January 18, 2016

Jan 18th- Anti-Mormon Dogs and New Companionships

Oi Queridos Amigos e Família,

This week was pretty awesome and I can´t wait to tell you about it. 

The amount of dogs on the road here have really made me miss Blaze. He was a bro, and he never tried to bite me. One day my companion and I got attacked by all the dogs in the road, and after about 5 of them, we started to sneak past the dogs or use other roads to get home. I still don´t know why they were after us. Guess they´re anti-Mormon. In other news, we got two new missionaries in our house this week! They´re named Elder Piedade (piety/godliness in English) from Rio Grande do Sul here in Brasil, and Elder Fossum from Georgia. They´re good guys and it keeps the house a lot more lively! I´m really enjoying it! My companion is still Elder Cruz. He´s still awesome.

This week rained basically constantly until late Saturday. That´s pretty good though, because there´s an old missionary legend that says that every hour you spend in the rain, your future wife spends an hour in the gym. I´m going to go buy some combat boots today that work with the missionary pattern so that I can stop having shoes full of water. The Dr. Martins still work, but they´re getting pretty thrashed, and the right one has a hole in the bottom that lets water in. We taught a ton of lessons though, this week was by far my most productive week on the mission. I´ve learned a lot of little tips that are making my life better and better. I´ve got some good hope that we´ll get a baptism this week. The hardest part here is getting people to wake up for 9 o´clock church. It was a really good week though. The most fun I´ve had yet. Today we´re gonna hit up the new restaurant that has lunch for 2 reals, or the equivalent of 50 cents. I´m hype.

As for a spiritual thought, I´ve been reading through Matthew this week, bit by bit during my personal study time. It´s pretty sweet. The teachings of our Savior are really powerful, and it feels super easy to apply them to my life. I´d encourage all of you to go read Matthew 5, because I can promise each one of you that you will find something that you can apply directly to your life. It´s a great source of inspiration for me. I love you all, and I´ll keep praying for you. I will succeed!

Élder Ben Murray

Monday, January 11, 2016

Jan 11 - Wind, Fire, Air, Water, and Cockroaches

Ben writes about another week in the Brazil Campinas mission. In my previous letter to him, after he had kind of a bad week, I told him to remember what my friend Cathy always said "It's either a good time or a good story." I love this piece of advice!

Oi familia e amigos,

Cathy Emmelkamp is a wise woman. I've found myself repeating that phrase quite a lot during the mission. It´s some good stuff though. Good luck with the mice, but hey, at least you don´t have cockroaches! They´re obnoxious buggers, super fast, annoyingly resilient, and they found a way to move the wood block we have blocking the drain so that they could come up through the hole. They´re honestly like an element here. Wind, water, fire, air, and roaches. It´s fun though. 

This week was pretty solid, although probably not as interesting as last week was. We taught a record number of lessons, and I got to go on a 2 day exchange with the Zone Leader. It was pretty good. He also brought over this drink called Tereré. It´s like a cold version of chimarrão with a mint and lime flavor attached. It was really good. We´re teaching a bunch of families here. It´s weird, because half of the family always really likes church, and the other half is usually super anti-mormon, so it´s weird to see how these things turn out. Hopefully we can baptize some more people here soon though. We've got a lot of people really enjoying church and getting answers to their prayers, they just have little things stopping them. We had a pretty great moment this week knocking doors. This woman came out, and we said, "Hey, we´re the missionaries of the Church of Jesus Christ. Could we enter and leave a message about Jesus Christ with you and your family (in Português)". So she goes, "Yes! Come on in." Then, as she went to open the gate, "Wait a minute, you´re trying to trick me! You guys are the Mormons!!! Go away!!" and she made that Catholic cross symbol to ward off evil. So the mission´s going good.

I've got some pics this week. Here is our sink filled with gross stuff last week. 

Here is the Christmas dinner we had here in Itajuba. 

Here is our zone at the pizza rodisio.

The epic moment in which Ben is seen with a tan! Truly, missions are full of miracles.

For the spiritual thought this week, I have been reading the Old Testament. This week I came across a verse in Genesis where Joseph, who was sold into Egypt, is naming his second son. The verse, Genesis 41:52, reads "And the name of the second called he Ephraim: For God hath caused me to be fruitful in the land of my affliction." 

Oftentimes, the parts of our life that are the most difficult are the parts where we learn the most. I am thankful for all of the challenges I face here on the mission, because I know that in the end I will grow, and it will all be worth it. I will succeed!

P.S. This is not to say that Brazil is the land of affliction. It´s closer to paradise here, but the point still stands.

Some additional pictures of paradise that Ben sent:

This is a capybara and best thing he has seen in Brazil in my opinion! Here's the definition:
  1. a South American mammal that resembles a giant, long-legged guinea pig. It lives in groups near water and is the largest living rodent.

So now you learned something new. The next picture is Ben's area.

Monday, January 4, 2016

Jan 4th - A New Year Ahead

We had a great talk with Ben on Christmas day. What a wonderful gift to get to talk to him! We had to wait extra long for a letter since Christmas was his p-day, but his weekly letter is finally here!

Queridos Amigos,

I´m grateful for the chance to write you all again. This week was a super weird one, so we´ll jump right in.

Last week was Christmas. I had a chance to speak with my family, it was great. They´re all doing well and alive, so that´s good to hear. I also got to go to several Christmas parties, and watch 1 animated movie with members, authorized by the President. We watched Hotel Transylvania, and all the Brazilians laughed when the name of the mummy was Murray. I got a lot of crap for that one. Then I opened up all my gifts. Thanks for the chess set Grandma Gentry! Unfortunately, I destroyed my companion pretty bad a couple of times and now he won´t play with me. Oh well! 

Then came this week, and it was pretty rough to be honest. We got to see the power of Brazilian plumbing when our sink got clogged, and then it started filling up with water. We went in and dismantled the pipes underneath, only to find that the problem was with the building, and water was gushing up from the wall, and it basically flooded the kitchen. It also came up with a bunch of rotten food sludge that looked like poop. So we spent the whole first half of the week fighting the kitchen until, 3 days after we called the mission office for help, a guy came in from another branch to fix it. He fixed the wall, but left the sludge, so we spent a while cleaning. It also stunk, but they left this super powerful stink killer, so it worked out alright. Then, that same day we fixed the sink, our toilet clogged super badly. So we tried for a while to fix it with plungers and such, but it didn´t work. So we left it for two days. We prayed for a way to fix the toilet, and in a dream, my companion received the revelation that he should pour dish soap in there. So we did, and guess what, it worked! It somehow dissolved the block. It also left the toilet really clean. For New Years day, we had dinner planned with a member, but they canceled 20 minutes before. So we went to the store, bought a bunch of burgers, and did a really crappy "churrasco" or Brazilian barbecue, on the stove in our apartment. We also ate a kilo jar of olives, and drank some Guarana Black. It was sweet. Then Itajubá had a super weak-sauce fireworks show that we watched from our window. Then the new year came. Woo hoo!

Yesterday, 0 of our investigators came to church, which is sad, and we had 28 people in Sacrament meeting. So that was rough. Then we went to knock some doors and make some contacts on the road, and got caught in a downpour, so we found a members house to weather the storm. Only bad part is that this member has a huge dog who thinks he´s a puppy. So we played around with him, but he left dog smell on us, and when we left to knock more doors, all of the dogs in the area attacked us. Like, trying to bite us. Cruz and I booked it out of there before he had to use his Taekwondo to fight them off. It was pretty great.

As for the spiritual thought this week, we´ve been setting a lot of goals for the new year. We watched a motivational video a while back, and the guy in it quoted Luke 17. "The kingdom of God is within you!" This hit me pretty hard this week. The kingdom of God is within you, within man, and with it, you can do great things. We have been given power and the Spirit of God, and with this we can do anything we put our minds to. I know this, and I plan to make it a great year! I will succeed!

Élder Benjamin Murray

I love you guys!