Monday, February 29, 2016

Feb 29th - Valinhos!

Hi Everyone!

This week I finally got my cash card, and I upgraded my busted up Doc Martins to a pair of sweet missionary-pattern-compatible construction boots. They´re waterproof, they look cool, and they protect my ankles against the rough roads here. One day I´ll send a picture.

This week I was transferred to Valinhos! It´s a city right next to Campinas. About the distance from Highlands Ranch to Denver. It´s got 2 thriving wards and a giant chapel with three floors. It´s been raining pretty constantly here, but now I´ve got waterproof shoes so it´s all good. The area has a ton of hills, everything is hills. It actually reminds me quite a bit of Highlands Ranch. My new companion is Elder Mancilla. He´s from Chile, and he´s already got a year and 9 months on the mission. He´s pretty jacked because he worked as a road surfacer before the mission. It´s pretty crazy that I can be working together with a guy from a Spanish speaking country and we´re both speaking a non-native language, but we understand one another really well. 

This week we´ve been knocking a lot of doors and working a lot with less-active members who have family members who aren´t baptized. We´ve also been working with a couple named Nei and Cleigh. We´ve been helping him to stop smoking, and we did the math. If he stops spending money on cigarettes, he´ll save enough to buy a small car each year. It´s pretty powerful. He´s been making good progress. We also got stopped by a really large number of homeless people this week. We talked for a really long time with a guy named Gildo dos Santos, who called himself son of Baiha. He was really crazy and also drunk, but he knew the Bible really well and quoted a lot of scriptures. He then pronounced a blessing upon me. Sadly, he didn´t come to church.

This week I was reading in the book of 2nd Nephi, in the beginning of the Book of Mormon. I found a scripture that gave me a lot of hope and energy in chapter 6 verse 17. It reads 

17 But thus saith the Lord: Even the captives of the mighty shall be taken away, and the prey of the terrible shall be delivered; for the Mighty God shall deliver his covenant people. For thus saith the Lord: I will contend with them that 
contendeth with thee— "

 Sometimes it´s hard to have a lot of faith on the mission. Sometimes it seems like every person you teach has so many things keeping them from the Gospel, and it´s easy to lose energy and become depressed. But, here, as in other places, we have a promise that the Lord will fight on our side. He wants the best for us, He wants His work to succeed, and I know that with His help, I will succeed.

Elder Murray

Monday, February 22, 2016

Feb 22nd - His First Transfer

Hi Familia and Friends!

In terms of housekeeping, sorry about no email last week. The church got a virus and blocked all outgoing emails. I´m back now though, and I re-sent last week´s email. It should be all good now.

As for me, the big news is that I´m being transferred! After 4 and a half months here in Itajubá, I´ll be heading out tonight. Tomorrow morning I´ll find out who´s my new companion and where my new area is. I´ll give you the details next week. I´ll miss quite a few of the members here, and the other missionaries I´m with, Elder Cruz (companion), Elder Piedade, and Elder Fossum, but I´m excited to move on to a new place. I´ve got faith it will all work out. It´ll be hard to say goodbye to this town in the middle of the mountains in the south of Minas Gerais, but São Paolo, here I come! I´ll bring the Gospel to all who will listen!

This week I found some sweet deals in a store nearby that I´d like to share with you. The first pic (617) is Tony Stark with Thor´s helmet on. I don´t know what´s going on there. 

Finally, we have the New Avengers (616), featuring drugged-out Hulk, Woody with what appears to be a ring made of thorns, Ben 10 with a broken arm, and slightly messed-up Batman. Don´t even ask what the red thing is.

For a spiritual thought this week, I´ve been reading a lot about the prophet Elijah, also known as the Tishbite, (because of his hometown). One moment in particular is impressive, when he called fire from heaven to prove the power of his God, the LORD, over Baal, the false god of that time. This all happens in 1 Kings 18. Apart from being really cool, this also shows an important principle. Our God is a God of miracles, and buy His fruits, we can have a firm testimony that he exists. The Lord really acts in our lives each day, but we have to have sufficient faith, like Elijah. The Lord even burnt through the water the priests used to douse the offering. This shows that the Lord can do all things, no matter how impossible they seem for men. I know that our Father in Heaven loves us, and he can do a miracle in our lives like he did in the life of Elijah. I love you all, and I know, that with the Lord on my side, I will succeed.

Feb 15th - Problems with Email

The church is having some kind of email issue so the emails have been kinda spotty  for a lot of missionary parents around the world. I don't know if it's fixed, but we got some letters today! Ben got all of our emails, but his emails never came through. I am so happy the email is working today!! So here is Ben's letter from last week, better late than never!

"Hi Fam,

This week we've been working hard here. The weather is hot, the people are lazy, but the Lord is with us, so I´m sure that things will all work out in the end. We´re teaching a few good families. Now if we can just get them to go to church we´ll really see some miracles here. I've officially made it through to the bottom of my sole in some spots on my shoe. It´s socks to the ground here until I get a chance to buy new shoes, but I walk so much that my feet are basically Hobbit level strength and I really don´t even feel it. It´s kinda cool honestly. My first Zone Leader here had shoes with a hole in the front and in the back, so apparently it worked like air conditioning! We´ve been playing a lot of chess here in what little we have of free-time, so thanks for the chess set Grandma! It´s been doing good work.

As for cool Brazil stories, we saw a group of people in the plaza here doing a demonstration of Capoeira. It´s a Brazilian Martial Art that involves a lot of spinning kicks and almost acrobatic moves, all low to the ground. It´s also a dance form! They have a special instrument that looks like a bow for archery with a big gourd on the end, and it makes a really cool musical sound. It was pretty sweet to see people from up to my size down to short fat guys all doing these sweet moves to a sweet dance beat. I really felt the Brazilian culture.

This week, I was reading in 2 Nephi, Chapter 2, because it answers the questions that a lot of people have about the Church and God´s role in our lives. A lot of people wonder why there are bad things in a world with a loving God, and Lehi describes it perfectly in verse 11. It reads "For I must needs be, that there is an opposition in all things. If not so, my firstborn in he wilderness, righteousness could not be brought to pass, neither wickedness, neither holiness nor misery, neither good nor bad.". We all appreciate the good things in life a lot more when we have an apparent contrast. Cold water is a lot more refreshing when we've just left the hot sun to get a drink. Likewise, colors appear much brighter against a darker or contrary background. If we didn't sometimes face adversity, we wouldn't really appreciate the blessings as much. This also applies to hard work. When you work hard to earn money, you value it a lot more than when you´re a child and your parents buy everything for you. It also preserves our free choice. We can complain about our life, we can complain about our situation, but it won´t move and we´ll just get depressed. It´s much better to focus on the positive aspects, knowing that in the Lord´s hands, everything will work out. I love you guys, keep your heads up! I will succeed!

Elder Murray

Monday, February 8, 2016

Feb 8th - Guy on a Horse

Oi gente!

This week was pretty good in general. The other group here in Itajubá baptized a woman named Sylvia that was Miss Itajubá one year in times long past. She had a lot of problems when she tried to stop smoking, but in the end she made it through with the help of the Lord and the other companionship. They actually found her on accident, when Elder Fossum and I were going to find people to bring them to church one Sunday morning. Elder Fossum was still new in the area, so we knocked on the wrong door, and Sylvia came out. Later that day they started to teach her. Knocking on that door wasn´t an accident, it was the Spirit. This week I went to Campinas with Elder Cruz to watch the mission leadership meeting, seeing as Elder Cruz is our district leader here. It was really cool, I got to see the big city and I got to sort out some lingering problems in the mission office. They also upgraded our cell phone which was sorely in need of an upgrade. We walked a ton this week and knocked on a lot of doors, but in general the people weren´t very receptive. This week is/was Carnaval here, so everyone just wanted to party. We´re still working hard though and pretty soon we´ll find some people willing to make commitments. Brazil continues to suprise me. It´s both super modern and weirdly backwards at the same time. I saw a guy riding on a horse down the main street, iPhone in hand, with his dog sitting on the back of the horse behind him. Needless to say, it was epic.

As far as spiritual experiences go, I´ve been really enjoying reading the book of Isaiah. It´s got a lot of good prophecies about our Savior, Jesus Christ, and it´s really good to use on spiritual matters. Since we´re basically always talking about Jesus Christ and focusing on the Spirit during our lessons, I find a lot more depth to Isaiah than I did back home. I also found some good advice in the book of Matthew, chapter 13 verse 9 "Who hath ears to hear, let him hear". This is an invite to the whole world, because all of us have ears, but at the same time, it´s a much deeper lesson than that. We need not normal ears to hear and understand the Savior´s teachings, but spiritual ears. He always spoke in parables, because in parables, we need to really focus and ponder on the message, and it becomes deeper and deeper, and we get more and more out of it. Sometimes, our ears are clogged with wax, or the things of the world, and this prevents us from truly hearing. Other times, we don´t use our ears, willfully ignoring the Savior´s message. All of us need to open our ears, use the gifts we have been given, and really ponder the teachings of Jesus Christ. I´m striving to do this here on my mission, and I´ve really learned some truths that I need to improve on. This week I´ll strive to be a better person and missionary, and with the Lord´s teachings at my side, I will succeed.

Elder Murray

Monday, February 1, 2016

February 1st - Another baptism!

Oi familia e amigos!

This week´s been a pretty sweet ride. To start things off, our house has been getting super into working out. We´ve got a buttload of elastic bands, some dumbbells, and we´ve been really killing it during morning exercise. Last week p-day we did a deck of pushups. We put two card decks together, and then we went around in a circle and everyone drew a card, then did that number of pushups. Jacks were 11, Queens 12, and Kings 13, with Jokers 14. Then you go until the deck runs out. Unsurprisingly, it was pretty tough. We pushed through though, and to show-off, I hit one last set of 30 after the deck ran out. Doctrine and Covenants 38:15 says "Therefore, be ye strong from henceforth," and we´ve really taken that to heart here in Itajubá.

This week we entered a house to teach a guy and he had a statue of a saint next to his TV, a plate with a Psalm written on it, and a giant picture of the Pope waving on the wall. So you´d figure the guy would be Catholic, right? Nope. "I´m an evangelical." The other group here had an encounter with a Jehovah´s witness this week. He walked up to them and said "Matthew 6:9", then left, went and bought a Coke, then came back and said "Do you know what it says? It´s the Lord´s Prayer. Our father who art in heaven, hallowed be THY NAME. Do you know what the name of God is?" and at this point they realized he was a Jehovah´s Witness and had a good conversation with the guy. His tactic was pretty stylish. There´s also this one guy, really dark skin, that runs around the town shirtless with a footlong cross on a chain around his neck. Every time he passes us he says "No way guys! One flock and one shepherd! No room for you guys here!", then keeps on jogging. Itajubá´s a pretty great place.

This week we had another baptism, of the daughter of the woman that we baptized last week. We had a date all set for this week, but then, on Tuesday, she told us that she has a problem that she has to fix, and she wanted to wait until June to be baptized. I didn't know what her problem was, I still don´t, but I felt impressed to testify to her that it won´t get any easier to solve this problem with time. I promised her that, with the Lord´s help, he would help her solve her problems if she was following him. We fasted and prayed, and the next day, she changed her mind, wanted to be baptized on Sunday, and cut the bad stuff out of her life. I don´t know what changed, but on Friday, she had a completely different countenance. She was much happier, and at peace.

I know that the Gospel changes lives. When people put their problems in the Lord´s hands he always helps them out. As it says in Matthew 14: 36 “And besought him that they might only touch the hem of his garment: and as many as touched were made perfectly whole.” You have to reach out first, but if you put forth the effort to make it through the crowd to Jesus Christ, you can be whole. I plan to help people get to point where they can reach out and touch Jesus Christ. With the Lord´s help, I will succeed.

Èlder Murray