Monday, April 25, 2016

April 25th - Until the end

Hi Family and Friends!

It´s good to hear that you are all safe and sound. First off, I´d like to wish a Parabéns to my good brother Dave. Happy Birthday bro. 17 already. Pretty soon you´ll be heading to the mission too. Maybe you´ll even go to Brazil! Sounds like Dave´s play was a success and the week was a really good time. I really like Mom´s observation about the long skinny branches of the tree breaking off during the snow. As we try to serve the gospel, we need to follow as close as we can to the pure, true doctrine of Christ, and not focus on nit-picking or "deep doctrine". As Irmão Douglas put it yesterday, half-truths remove the Spirit. 

A few weeks ago in a church meeting, our Deacon´s Quorum President who´s 13 years old said a phrase that I think marked this week pretty well. "Keep going just a little bit more isn´t the gospel princple, but perservere until the end". Sometimes, things aren´t going to go so well, and you can´t hope that everything will get better quickly. In life, we´re not in it to find success for the next week, or the next month, the next year, or even the next decade, but to find an eternal success in the kingdom of God. This week was tough. We knocked a lot of doors and took a lot of no´s this week, but even though we didn´t have much success, we have found a lot of little victories that add up over time. One would be the delicious milk-shakes that they make here. Another would be the pair of sweet R$10,00 ($3.50) pants that I found in a thrift shop last p-day, or the barbecue that a member gave us for lunch on the 21st (which is a Brazilian holiday called Tiradentes. Who knew?). Or my great companion who puts up with all of my lame jokes. And as you look back, you realize that in spite of the problems, you had a good week. 

Our greatest victory, perhaps, would be that of one of our longest-standing investigators, Nei. He had been smoking a pack a day (20 cigarettes) for years, until 2 weeks ago, andtoday, he hasn´t smoked at all. Through prayer, the scriptures, and the power of the Spirit, I have seen a miracle in Nei´s life. It´s not easy to give up an addiction like this, but with God´s help, all is possible. 

In Moroni 9:6, it says the following, "And now, my beloved son, notwithstanding their hardness, let us labor diligently; for if we should cease tolabor, we should be brought under condemnation; for we have a labor to perform whilst in this tabernacle of clay, that we may conquer the enemy of all righteousness, and rest our souls in the kingdom of God. ". 
Although sometimes we face set backs, trials, and other difficulties, I know that I am in the Lord´s service. It is a commandment to preach the gospel unto all the world, and it´s hard to get discouraged when you have such a wonderful cause to serve. My life is great and I´m happy. I know that with the Lord´s help, even when times are hard, I will succeed.

Elder Murray

Monday, April 18, 2016

April 18th - Some Stuff We Did (This epic title is brought to you by Ben himself!)

Hi Family and Friends!

This week sounds like you guys had a bit of crazy weather there in the US, especifically Colorado. I find myself wishing for snow at times as I stand in the flaming sun and sweat it up here, but you get used to it. I´m not even serving in a place that´s that hot, so I really don´t have anything to complain about. 

First off, I´ll go through all the questions you guys sent my way. Jacob asked for a rundown of my daily food intake, so here we go. For breakfast, I usually just drink my protein shake, just like home. I also like to make 2 liters of juice from the Tang packets they sell everywhere here, and all of the missionaries in our house share a horn of tereré during our study period. It´s an herb drink thing that you drink with juice. I´ll send pics some day. Sometimes I also eat leftover cake because we get a lot of cake from the members here that are always making cake. For lunch, it´s usually beans, rice, salad, and some type of meat, and you mix it all together. Some days you have other weird stuff like stroganoff with rice, or a Brazilian barbecue called a churrasco. It´s all really delicious. The most common desert would be ice cream, but sometimes we get mousse of some type of fruit, or some sort of condensed milk pudding. Lunch is really the big meal of the day. For dinner it´s usually some sort of sandwich, or more rice, beans, and meat. This week, the primary president in the ward here brought us a pizza because we helped her and here husband put up kitchen shelves in their house last week.

Yes, I run in terror from the photographer. Actually it´s just because I ran out of batteries and I keep forgetting to buy new ones. I forgot to explain the new clothes part last week. All of my shirts are super stained from the sunblock, and they´re beyond the reach of any bleach, so we´re going to buy some new shirts here today. For now, I really don´t need any packages. They´re a lot of work and cost. My money is going really really far here, and I´m completely good on cash for a long while. Some people have monkeys as pets, but they are very few. Mostly you get a lot of Shitzu´s (the dog) and parrots. One lady had a parrot that tried to flee from the missionaries, but couldn´t fly, so it waddled away fast. They get hyped about the same movies we do down here, but it´s all translated into Portuguese. They especially like the super hero movies.

Dave this week asked for a great spiritual experience. One day this last week we were without a plan after all of our appointments fell through, so we reverted back to the list of members we have been trying to visit this week. We had already tried to visit Alice this week, but we didn´t find her at home. I felt the prompting that we should try again to visit her, so we went and searched for her. She wasn´t at home. Then we asked around, and found an older lady working in a restaurant next to her home. It turned out to be her. She was converted to the church 8 months ago. She told us that we were the first missionaries she had seen in a months, and that she didn´t think anyone remembered her because she switched wards 1 month ago. We talked with her and shared some scriptures with her. In that exact moment when we passed there, her son walked up, and we were able to mark a date to visit and teach him. In the end, she bore her testimony, that she searched for 75 years of her life before finding the right church. Now she knows she´s in the right place, and this was just one more piece of proof that the Church is true. The Lord puts us in the right place at the right time so that we may find the right people. With divine guidance, I will succeed.

Elder Murray

Monday, April 11, 2016

April 11th - New Comp, New Call

Family and Friends,

Hello again from the South! No, not Georgia, nor Texas, but South America. Here in Brazil it´s really hot. But that´s normal. Sounds like a great week with the Grandparents in town. They´re probably really spiritual after all that time in the temple, and send my best to them! I´m missing Texas Roadhouse now, but that´s alright. The food here´s really good, so I don´t have too many issues. Dave needs to hit me up with some sweet details about Prom.

This week I got a new calling and a new companion. I´ll explain a little about both. First, for those of you unfamiliar with the mission, each missionary has a companion, a district, and a zone, ascending in size. With companions, one is the senior, that leads the work, and the other is the junior, that follows, but still plays a big role. Each district has 4-10 missionaries, and each zone has 20ish, depending on the place, and the district has one leader, that reports to the 2 zone leaders. I was called as district leader here in Valinhos, and I´m now the senior companion instead of the junior. As a district leader, I have to care for a group of missionaries, being an example for them in my work, authorizing anyone leaving the area, and helping them to do their best to baptize. Here in the Valinhos district, we have me and my comp, Elder J. Nascimento and his new companion fresh out of the CTM, Elder Azevedo, a trio of Sister Trainers (I don´t really understand what they do), and another Sister training a new Sister. I also have to track all of the numbers for the district each week, such as number of lessons with members, number of new investigators, number of investigators in sacrament meeting, and so on. I then pass this information to the Zone Leaders. I also have to lead a district meeting each week that involves doctrine and practices. It´s a new responsibility, but I´m really enjoying it. 

My new companion is Elder Azambuja. I´d send you a picture but my camera is out of batteries and I'm too cheap and keep forgetting to buy new ones. He´s from Rio Grande do Sul, and as such, he likes chimarrão and barbecue, and everyone refers to him as a Gaúcho. He likes milkshakes, and thinks everyone here in Valinhos is pretty crazy. I agree. He has 10 months on the mission, and he´s still yet to actually serve inside Campinas. Me too. 

This week we've been working a lot to help our investigator Nei stop smoking. He´s been making a big push this week to cut down from a pack a day, and now he´s down to less than half. Prayer and fasting help a lot when trying to kick bad habits and addictions. It´s cool how the gospel does what a bunch of programs and hospitals struggle to do.

I know that Jesus Christ lives, and that He is my Savior. Through Him, I can be clean and return to live again with my Heavenly Father. We have prophets today, and they still speak to people. Miracles have not stopped, and they will not ever stop. God loves each one of us, and I am privileged to work as His instrument to help people come closer to Him. It´s His work, and with God on my side, I will succeed!

Elder Murray.

Monday, April 4, 2016

April 4th - The Unknown Bridge

Hello Family and Friends,

First things first, Happy Birthday to Gabe! Congrats on finally making 12 years old! Soon young Gabe will be a Deacon master and will be using the Priesthood to bless others for the first time in his life! Cherish these days Gabe, they are really awesome, and if you try, you will learn a lot. 

The rest of the week sounds pretty good for the rest of you. It´s weird to me that you guys are complaining about snow when I´m out here getting hit with a sun so hot it actually causes pain just to be out in it. We pulled some low 90s all week long, and the heat´s pretty brutal here. I´m good about putting on sunblock though, and you actually get used to the heat after enough time. I´m pretty thankful for fans here! Grandma and Grandpa are a great example for me and a real source of pride for the work that they have done and they missions they have served. Imagine the joy on the other side of the veil that they have caused!

As for me, this week we watched General Conference. It really is a fantastic chance to recieve some personal revelation and guidance. My personal favorite talk was that of President Russell M. Nelson in the Priesthood Session. I´ve really been trying to increase my personal spirituality, and he brought some really good points to build on. We watched all of the sessions this week, in Portuguese, in the chapel here in Valinhos. It was a cool experience to watch Conference together with a bunch of members of the ward, and we got some good missionary work done too. I still miss Mom´s cinnamon rolls and the thousands of jelly-beans I ate though. 

As for the unusual experience of the week, a drunk guy walked up to us on the road one night as we were leaving a member´s house, and asked for some help with his cell phone. "It´s all upside down!" he said, so my companion flipped the cellphone around. Then he asked if we could help him call Riba Mar. Elder Mancilla then opened the contacts to find exactly one name, Riba Mar. We called it, but the guy didn´t have any minutes on his phone, so he then said the Portuguese equivalent of "Aw crap," and then he walked away. 

As for your other questions, we split the house cleaning into big bathroom, small bathroom, kitchen, and study room. This week I got the small bathroom, and Elder J. Nascimento did the dishes. My new shoes are awesome. Completely waterproof, good ankle support, and they´re stylish! Also, we´re having a transfer tomorrow, and sadly, Elder Mancilla and Elder Donadon will be leaving their respective areas. Elder Mancilla was a great companion. We´ve gotten to be pretty good friends, and I´ll be sad to se them go, but I´m always ready for new experiences.

I owe you guys a lot of pictures, so I´ll send a bunch today. First, we have 7625, us in the Temple Cafeteria really early one morning. From the left to the right it´s me, Elder Donadon, Elder Mancilla, and Elder J. Nascimento. 

 Here is a really lame pic of the group in front of the temple.

 In this pic, we have Elder Donadon hugging a shrub.

Here we have some hard work taking place as we knock doors. (This is how they knock doors in Brazil, they stand outside and clap.)

In this picture, Ben's companion is looking dismayed at their collapsed bridge. Where this bridge was, where it led to, and why these guys are sad about it's collapse in a corn field is a mystery. Ben never explained.

The spiritual experience of the week had to be watching the guy from the Mormon Tabernacle Choir cry during the performance of Come Thou Fount of Every Blessing. At my side was Walter Baraquet, returning to church for the first time in months, and to my other side was Leonardo, a recent convert that changed everything about his life to reach the restored Gospel. Not a single eye was dry. I love that hymn. Another happened on the road right outside our chapel, where we stopped to talk to a man who said that he always wanted to learn about the church, but never had a chance to talk with the missionaries. We were really short on time that day, but stopping to talk with that man was what the Spirit said that we needed to do, so we did. I know that Jesus Christ lives, and that his Prophet still speaks with us today. I have to bring this message to the world, and in my calling I will succeed.

Elder Murray