Tuesday, January 16, 2018

Busy zone conference week

January 13th, 2018

Wow, what a busy week! This one really passed by quick. This week we had 3 zone conferences and there was a lot to do. It's good to stay busy, but it seems like whenever we have zone conferences we are so busy doing stuff for them that I get behind on other stuff!
I've been really trying to focus on planning this week and how to make the most out of the time that I have. I've realized that it's been a bit hard to balance all that I need to do... Stuff in the office, in my own area, and as a district leader. It's definitely a different experience having to try to give time and effort to all these different things.

This week we had a cool experience with our investigator Leila. When we started to teach her it was a bit rocky, it just seemed like it wasn't clicking with her. But this week we finally made some progress! She's now starting to understand more about how the gospel can bless her life and the lives of those in her family. We planned a family home evening with the Sisters and our ward mission leader to take our investigators, and it was super cool. Leila and her daughter were able to get to know other investigators and recent converts better which will really help her in the long run. It was a good reminder that when members are helping in the work it's always soooo much better!

But for zone conference, President focused a lot on the Book of Mormon and the power that it has. As a missionary, it's our most important tool in helping people become converted to Christ. It's also the main thing we can use to answer questions that people have. It's so cool to think that there's a way for any question that an investigator could have can be answered with one question: Is the Book of Mormon true? Because if it is, it doesn't matter if someone doesn't agree with not being able to drink coffee or doesn't believe that God talks to prophets in our day. By teaching and studying this throughout my mission I've really come to learn this for myself. We can also apply this in our own lives! it doesn't matter what doubts someone has about the church, they only need to ask themselves the question if the Book of Mormon is true. It's so simple so get rid of doubts! If we continually focus on the basics and keep striving to strengthen our testimonies of the Book of Mormon we won't have any room for doubts or questions!

I've been thinking about your talk a bit this week mom, about how my mission has helped me grow closer to Christ. It's a big topic! But I wanted to focus on just one of the ways. Something that I understand much better now than I did when I was at home is that we don't ever have to be alone in our trials or challenges. If we do our part and just trust in the Savior, things will work out. It's for sure a hard concept to explain, I think one of the only ways to really learn that is by experience! Throughout the scriptures, we receive promises that if we ask, then we will receive, and this promise is true! Heavenly Father wants to bless us! But, we have to ask with faith, and we will get the help that we need after doing all that we can. I know now that it really is impossible to be a missionary and work just with my own abilities, I need the Lord's help in order to accomplish the things I need to, and this goes for life after the mission as well. I know that if we have hope and patience and we expect to receive the blessings we need, then we always will! It's still something that I'm learning everyday, how to trust more in the Lord in all I do, but I'm very grateful for the experiences I've had and that the Lord has given me in order to understand this a little bit better.

Another thing that I'm always saying as well is that "hard is good". I really didn't understand this before the mission. I wanted to try and escape all suffering and all trials, and when I had them I didn't try to look for ways that I could learn or progress, just how I could get away as soon as possible! Looking back now i can really see the hand of the Lord in all the trials I've had, bearing me up and teaching me things that I wouldn't be able to learn without them. The Lord really does know what's best for us, and the only way we can become what he expects us to is by just forgetting our personal desires and trusting in Him.

Well, there's my week. Sorry not much as far as experiences go. It's just not very interesting hearing about dealing with health appointments for missionaries or making announcements during zone conferences. But until next week, Love you guys!

Elder Odom

Priorities

January 6th, 2018

Hey! I had a good week. I had the opportunity this week to attend leadership council and it was cool! I was able to learn a lot, especially about the importance of being a good example. President really focused on the point that in order to teach something, you have to put in in practice and live it in your own life. The talk that he had us study in preparation was Repentance is Always Positive by Stephen W. Owen from last General Conference. It really helped me remember that we need to repent everyday, because like he says in the talk, we are all prodigal sons. You guys should for sure check it out!

The weather here actually hasn't been too bad during this past week. It's been raining off and on and so it's stayed a bit cooler. Sure, like I said last week there are some periods of hot humid sun, but in general it's been pretty good! So on Sunday, a member gave us a name of a family of inactive members that we should go visit. We went there and we talked to a man named Claudinei. he was super receptive and said that he would like to start coming back to church. He has a lot of other people in his family that were also baptized and there are even a few that weren't baptized yet, so we're going to start working with them to get them reactivated! 

Anther cool experience that I had was on Tuesday night (the day before leadership council) I got to go out and work with Elder Vilas Boas again, and President actually asked us to go to our old area, Vila Virginia, and talk with our recent converts there. They've been passing though LOTS of problems, and because of that they have stopped going to church. They were pretty surprised to see us at their door when they came outside! We talked to them and found out that they still have testimonies of the gospel and don't have any intentions of not being members anymore or anything, but the problem is that it seems like they are allowing their personal problems to take priority over their spiritual lives. This is something that I've really seen a lot of on the mission. So many people are missing out on blessings and happiness just because their priorities aren't what they need to be! During the rest of the week, I've thought about my own priorities before the mission. How many opportunities did I lose just because I was putting other things before the gospel? What do my priorities need to be here on the mission? What do they need to be after? Often times, it just requires a simple change of habit. Instead of getting home and sitting in front of the TV, open up the scriptures and read a chapter from the Book of Mormon first! Before you leave for work/school, make sure you say a quick prayer! There are so many small things that we can do that make a big difference. If we don't let our "temporal" concerns take up all of our thoughts and we give necessary time to spiritual things, I know that it will make a much bigger difference than we realize. One scripture that I love talks exactly about this. It's in 3 Nephi 13:31-34. If we do our part and make sure our biggest concerns are spiritual, then we can leave the rest to Heavenly Father and he'll make it all work out!

Next week we'll have zone conferences again, so it should keep me pretty busy. 

Elder Odom

A New Year

January 1, 2018

Happy New Year!!

This week was pretty good, everything seemed to slow down here on the mission. I got way less phone calls from missionaries and from the church in São Paulo, and in the field it was a lot quieter as well. It's nice to have weeks like this every once in a while! But in the field, holidays make working a bit more complicated. It was harder to find investigators at home and find people who weren't "busy getting ready for the new year" but it's during weeks like these that I think the Lord tests us as missionaries, to see if we can keep working even though it's a bit tougher than normal.

Something pretty funny that has happened the last 2 sundays in a row, the 24th and the 31st, is that our lunch was fallen through, or in other words the members forgot to prepare lunch for us. So we've had to make lunch in the church both sundays! It was my comp Elder Dantas and I and the 2 sisters Sister Magleby and Zêni that serve in the ward with us, so it was actually pretty fun. On the 24th we made rice, beans, and chicken, and yesterday we make rice and stroganoff. It was good!

This week it has also rained a ton. Every single day this week the day starts rainy, then (if the clouds go away) it gets really really hot and humid, then at about 7:00 or 7:30 it starts to rain again.

Man, is 2017 really over? This year really flew. It seems like only a little bit ago I was in my first area during the new year thinking "Here goes the year of the mission! The only complete year that I'll have as a missionary", and now it's come to an end. 
Thinking a bit about my "mission year" it's been really interesting to see how the different experiences I've had, the people I've met, and the things I've learned have shaped me as a missionary. Lots of times, it's hard to see a change in myself and I feel like the same person as when I left. But if I pay attention to the small things, I can see that I have changed a bit! The way that I see the world and that I think about things now are for sure different than one year ago. I'm grateful for all the experiences that Heavenly Father has given me during this past year, even though lots of them weren't the experiences that I expected or what I necessarily wanted. If there's one thing that I learned this past year, it's that the Lord always knows best even though lots of times we think that we know what's best! The faster we can learn to just trust in Him and make the best of the situations that He gives us, the happier we'll be. If we trust in the Lord, things will work out, lot of times in ways that we don't expect.

Let's have a great 2018! Love you guys!

Elder Odom

Sunday, December 24, 2017

Thick with the Spirit

December 23rd

Surprise! President decided to give us our normal Pday on saturday! So we'll get to email today and Skype on Christmas!

This week was pretty cool. We're starting a new transfer, and this time it's without my old comp Elder Vilas Boas. We were comps for 6 months and never had a single problem! I'll for sure miss him a bit but I'm glad we got the chance to learn and grow together for the last 6 months. he left as a zone leader in a city called Birigui. Now it's just Elder Dantas and I, but it should be a great transfer! Not sure if I've already mentioned it or not, but he was in the first group of missionaries that got to the mission when I got to the mission office. It's already been 7 months! Time really does fly.

Today we woke up, cleaned the apartment, went and played volleyball, and then we were blessed with another super super good brunch that Sister Scholz made. 2 of their kids are here for Christmas and so Sister Scholz wanted to have us over again to eat. I love her, she's so awesome! I'm positive that you can't have a cooler mission president and sister than I have. We had french toast, bacon, scrambled eggs, cantaloupe (I've only seen it at the mission home!), banana bread, blueberry muffins, all kinda stuff. 

I'm also looking forward to this transfer with work in the field. We had a bunch of changes moving around areas in between districts, new leaders, etc and in my district I got Vila Virgina, my last area! Now I'll be able to do splits there and see the members and old investigators that I knew. Also, in the the ward/area I'm serving in (Ribeirão Preto Ala 1) we share the area with sisters, and this transfer I'm going to have 2 sister training leaders in my district! Usually President separates them, but this time he put 2 together. They are Sister Magleby from California and Sister Zêni from Rio de Janeiro. They're both really cool and work hard, so it should be a good transfer!

This week, we had a great experience with the Spirit that really strengthened my testimony of the power of the Holy Ghost. We have an investigator named Leila, and she found the church because of one of the invites we passed out for Ward Conference. She wrote down her information and gave it to a member and asked to let the missionaries pass by her house. Pretty cool! So after a few times of trying to find her at home, we were able to talk to her last Tuesday. She has lots of problems in her family. She has 2 kids, ages 10 and 12, and a husband. But her husband has been drinking since he's been 8 years old and this has really taken a huge toll on his health, both physically and mentally. He was in the hospital being treated, but snuck out on his own and now the hospital can't let him back in unless he has someone in his family to keep an eye on him there 24/7. And, the only one that would be able to do that is Leila, but she can't because she has to watch her kids. So at this point, she doesn't really know what to to do, and we didn't either as she was explaining this to us. We were trying our best to listen to her and to the Spirit to know what to say, but there were kids walking in and out of the room the whole time and her husband kept shouting random stuff. We were about to get up and leave, thinking "this isn't working. We'll come back another day" But then we started to talk about church and the Savior and the blessings it would bring if she and her family would start trying to follow Him, and as we did she started to cry. Then, everyone stopped and started to pay really close attention to what we were saying. I can't remember exactly what I said and neither can Elder Dantas, but what most impressed on me was the feeling that came into the room. It was thick with the Spirit! As I was speaking, I got an idea that popped into my head, "say a kneeling prayer with everyone right now". So, that's what we did. As I said the prayer, Leila,her husband Luciano,  and her kids (who had been joking around before) were all crying. The Spirit touched the hearts of each one, and they were all able to feel that what we said was true. I've never had an experience quite like that on my mission, and I'm extremely grateful for the chance that the Lord gave me to be a part of it.
We will continue to work with her and her family in the best way we can. We still don't know exactly what we will be able to do to help her, but all we can do is rely on the Lord and He will provide a way!

Well, there you have it for this past week.

Love, Elder Odom









New opportunities to learn

December 16th

Okay, this week was pretty busy!

It seems like this whole week I've been scrambling to get stuff done. This week we had zone conferences and it was the last week of the transfer, so there was a lot to do! Planning announcements, organizing how and when the missionaries will get to the conferences, missionaries  losing documents the day before they go home, finishing up the t-shirts (turned out pretty good! Ill send a pic of them to the Sync this week), getting the returning missionaries' plans ready,  buying tickets, etc. But, busy weeks are good weeks!

Monday should be a pretty packed day as well. Normally, we send the returning missionaries home on Monday and get the new missionaries on Tuesday, but for some reason with Christmas being close the MTC decided to send the new missionaries on Monday as well. The group going home will be the biggest group that President Scholz sends on his mission! We're all a bit anxious to see how it'll go. Yesterday I also got an email from the church in São Paulo that didn't have super good news. Brazil came out with a new law with registering foreigners in the country a few weeks ago, but the problem is that they didn't tell anyone what it means or how to use it.... so pretty much all the federal police stations in the country are sitting around not knowing what to do, and they're all scared that if they renew a visa or something the wrong way they'll get in trouble, so they just decided that they won't renew visas until they know what's going on. Doesn't make a lot of sense, but that's the situation. So, because I'm in charge of making sure that all the foreigners are legal to stay this causes me a few problems. The email that I got said that one of the missionaries that we will get on Monday wasn't able to get registered at the MTC, to they're going to send some documents with him so that we can try to register him here. He has 30 days since the day he got into the country to get registered and he got here on the 21 of November so he's running out of time quick! I've never had to do a full registration of someone before, so... we'll see how it goes I guess!

This week I rediscovered BYU talks. When I first got into the office I was listening to them a bunch as I was working, but for some reason I stopped! But Elder Dwain reminded me in an email to start listening to them again! He told me about a really good one, called "A Law of Increasing Returns" by Henry B. Eyring. It talks about how many times, it seems like we work super hard and try to be obedient but it doesn't seem to pay off and the promised blessing don't come. It's awesome and you guys should check it out! 

We're starting a new transfer, I'll have a new district, and new opportunities to learn. Looking forward to what it brings! Thanks for the support that I always get from you guys, and have a great week! Love you!

Elder Odom

Thursday, December 14, 2017

Man...I'm Dead!

December 9th

Hey, another quick week down!

Well, not much happened this week. It was super busy, but with stuff in the office. Buying tickets for missionaries going home, doing health stuff, planning for the last week of the transfer, etc. I stayed busy but just with stuff that isn't super interesting to you guys.

But, I did have a pretty interesting experience this week. There is a Sister, from São Paulo, that's here in our mission serving as a temporary missionary waiting for her visa. She was called to the Fort Lauderdale mission. A few weeks ago, she was able to get it, and so this week she had to travel to São Paulo to do an interview at the American Consulate. The church sent us her flight plans and she was leaving on thursday at 6:00 AM, so that means we had  to get a taxi to get to the airport at 5:00. President was traveling doing interviews and the assistents we doing splits, so it was my responsibility to get everything sorted out for her. I set my alarm on my watch and phone for 4:15 AMso I'd have lots of time to get ready. Then on Thursday morning, I woke up with a start. I looked at my watch... and it was 5:00 AM!! Both my companions and I had slept through the alarms! We through on our clothes as fast as we could and called the taxi. The Sister's apartment is only 2 roads down from ours, and we were out in front of it waiting for the taxi at 5:07. I've never gotten ready that fast before! The sisters were ready to go as well. So it was Elder Dantas, Sister Abdo (the one who was going to São Paulo), Sister Behner (her comp), and me heading to the airport. Once we got there we rushed inside and went to talk to the people at the counter. It was 5:40 by this time, and as you can probably imagine I was pretty stressed out and nervous. But as Sister Abdo was talking to the people, one of the workers shook his head... it was too late. It was at that moment that I thought that my life was finished.... We tried to get him to let her on, but he wouldn't, and the next flight wasn't until 10:00. I wasn't quite sure what to do, but the only option we had was to head back to the center of the city where the office/apartments are and then go back to the airport to trade her ticket in for the 10:00 flight. The only thing I could think during that drive back was "Man... I'm dead!" Honestly I don't know if I've been as stressed as I was during my mission! So Elder Dantas and I went back to the mission office and the first thing I did was get ahold of the church in São Paulo to let them know what happened. The guy that works for the church travel office was pretty stressed out as well, but he said that we should just send her on the next flight and he'll see what he can do. Then I called President to let him know. But, he wasn't too worried as I had already talked with São Paulo and had a backup plan to get Sister Abdo there. So we went back, got the ticket traded (without a fee!) and got her on the plane. Phew! In the end, it all worked out, but I learned a valueable lesson to never let myself sleep in again, because wow that was a stressful experience!

As far as work in the field goes, to be honest it's been a bit tough recently... It seems like we find someone really good, but then something ends up happening and we can't find the person at home anymore, they lose the desire to learn, etc. There certainly are benefits of being in the mission office, but field work is for sure a lot more complicated with the limited time we have! But, if there is one thing that I've learned until now on the mission, it's that the Lord will always provide a way for us to do the things we are expected to do. I'm sure that all my companions and I need is patience and to continue serving and being obedient and He will provide us with success. Sometimes, in my experience, the hardest things that we have to do and deal with aren't necessarily physical or emotional trials, but continuing to be firm and endure to the end in every moment. Lots of times when we have appointments and lessons that fall through, we're left with nothing planned for the next hour and a half. After being rejected and not having a lot of success, lots of times the last thing you want to do is keep working! It's always so much easier to just go home a bit earlier, or sit down on a bench to take a break, but I believe that the Lord gives us these moments at times to test our faith. Can we really keep going, even when it seems like nothing is going our way? Do we really have the desire, willpower, and faith to keep pushing forward and endure to the end? For me, this is hard. But I know that it's in these times that the Lord really does bless us. He knows our hearts and our struggles, and he will be there to bless us and give us the strength necessary to keep going. It's after we keep pushing though with faith in these hard times that we will see the miracles in our lives. Everyday, I focus on trying to work a little bit more and continue and, as President Monson says, always "pick the harder right instead of the easier wrong."

I'm grateful for the chance I have to be a missionary and serve the Lord. I know that even though it isn't easy, serving a mission is the best choice I've ever made. Thank you Mom and Dad for all the support that I have gotten from you, both before the mission in order to be here and now as a missionary in the field! I have a great support system at home and I can't thank everyone enough!

Sorry for the short email! This next week should be really busy and there is lots to do, so let's hope everything goes smoothly. later!

Elder Odom

Monday, December 4, 2017

Trusting in Christ

December 2nd

Hi! I hope this past week for you guys was good. I had a pretty good one!

So this week I've been pretty busy with stuff in the office! Something cool that I've been working on that's different is the mission T-shirt. President and Sister Scholz want to make a custom T-shirt for all the missionaries in the mission, and President put me in charge of figuring out all the logistics of it, like the basic design of it, contacting a company to make it, etc. Just one more thing I'm doing that I didn't really imagine myself doing on the mission! It's been pretty cool working with Pres and Sister Scholz to make it though, and I think it will turn out pretty good! We should have them all done in about 2 weeks from now. President wanted to make it a shirt that we would actually use at home, not just a shirt we use to work out or sleep in! When we get the finished product, I'll send you guys a picture to see what you think.

This week we also had a missionary that needed to have surgery and one more that is preparing to get surgery next week, so that wasn't super fun to deal with all that comes with that. I've had to talk quite a bit with our insurance company and the doctors in São Paulo to get everything figured out. One of the missionaries had to get a kidney stone lasered out and the other will have to get their gallbladder removed. Dealing with all the health stuff on the mission is kind of a downer sometimes, but it really makes me grateful for the great health I've had so far, Heavenly Father has really blessed me!

This week we had a miracle with someone we found contacting last week. I was on splits with one of the zone leaders who came from another city for leadership council, and we talked to a man sitting on his front steps and taught him real quick and marked a day to go back. He said his names is Marcio. During the contact, he seemed pretty interested and showed that he had real desire to change his life. Then last Sunday, my companions (I was doing splits with another missionary in his area) went back to teach him and when they got there he said "I've been waiting for you!" He told them that he prayed to know about the things we'd taught him the first time we met him and he said that he knew that everything we said is true and that he wants to be baptized. How cool!! He told my comps that he has a problem with smoking (he smokes 30 per day) and he wants to stop. Elder Vilas Boas asked "in one week from now, next Sunday, how many cigarettes will you be smoking?" He thought for a little bit, then looked at him and said "None. I'll stop completely this week." Elder Vilas Boas couldn't believe it! The only problem we have is that he's a truck driver, and so he spends the whole week traveling and get home late on Saturday night so we can only teach him on Sunday, but we've been calling him every single day to follow up with him to see how he's doing. On Tuesday when we called, he said had only smoked 3 on Monday, and by Wednesday he had already completely stopped. He said it's super super hard for him, but he's trusting in Christ to give him strength to continue strong. From his example, my testimony has been so strengthened. If we open our hearts to Christ and give it our all, then that's when miracles in our lives can happen. He went from smoking 30 cigarettes per day for years to just stopping! I'm so grateful for Heavenly Father and how he brought Marcio to us to be able to share our message with him, and all the strength and help He is giving him as he battles against his addiction. If we put our trust in the Lord, anything is possible!

But, there you have it. I hope this next week is great for you guys!

Elder Odom