Monday, July 17, 2017

It's already been another week!

July 15th

It's already been another week!

This one was super busy, the first week of the transfer always is. On Monday we sent the "Heroes", or the returning missionaries home. This group had 2 elders that are some of my best friends that I've made on the mission, Elder Kauer and Elder Guzman, along with Elder Summers! Honestly it was a bit weird to see them go, it doesn't seem like they're actually home! There was a lot to keep track of, and because one of my responsibilities is to create the schedules for them their last few days as well as buying and keeping track of their plane tickets, there was quite a bit to balance. But, everything worked out well. Something cool to see was Elder Guzman's family who came to pick him up. It was a pretty cool moment when he saw them for the first time since he left. 

The next day we had the new missionaries get here. It was a group of 5 sisters and 3 elders, and they're all from Brazil. On the days when we get the new missionaries, the secretaries give trainings about what we do, how some of the programs on the mission work, and how to do a few things like get reimbursements, etc. Something that I've learned to really like is seeing the new missionaries meet their trainers. Seeing them reminds me of when I was in their place! There's a lot of preparation to send the old missionaries out and receive the new ones, but if you are efficient with your time then you shouldn't have too many problems.

Throughout the rest of the week though, the busy schedule didn't stop! I had a lot of missionaries call me for health stuff. I don't mark appointments for anyone during the last week of the transfer because if they're transferred to another area they won't be able to go to the appointment anyway, so I had a lot of backup from that to make up this week. There was also quite a bit of confusion with some of the police;visa stuff with some of the Hispanic missionaries. It just has to do with renewing visas and getting the right documents. A few things happened that I've never had to solve, and now that Elder Summers is gone, it was on me to figure it out! Between that and dealing with our health insurance company with another issue we had with an elder who had surgery a month or two ago, it got a bit stressful at times! But because of all this stuff going on, I'm learning a lot. Something that I've learned is the importance of writing things down. I get a bunch of random requests from President and other missionaries and if I don't write it down at the same time I hear it, I'll forget. Like I've already said, this new calling is much different than being a full time field missionary but it's a good fun experience.

I think one of the best parts is getting to work closely President Scholz. Being in the field, you only get to see president a few times per transfer. But being in the office I see him all day everyday. Whenever I have a question, I'm free to just walk into his office and ask! He's super cool, he's always joking around with the missionaries and every once in a while he'll bring us brownies of cookies that Sister Scholz made. Pretty cool! I'm learning a lot from him, and I'm super  grateful for this opportunity.

This week in the field we really buckled down and worked on finding new investigators. Thankfully we were able to have some success too! We continued to teach Adelson and his wife Edleuza (can't remember if I've talked about them or not). We taught about the Book of Mormon and it was awesome, because they led the lesson in the direction without us even trying! For example, while we were talking Edleuza said "Well, I don't follow any religion because there are so many ways to interpret the Bible! Anybody can just grab it and read a scripture and make it mean what they want!" When she said that Elder Vilas Boas and I just looked and each other with that look that says "hmmm not bad" because without us even explaining she already understood the need for the Book of Mormon! Cool lesson for sure.

We also started to use the list of less active members to find new investigators. What we do is get an address, but instead of knocking on that door we knock on both sides and across the street, asking about info of the person from the neighbors. It's a good way start up a convo, and we were able to find some people this way. 

So it was another good, busy week. Love you all!

-Elder Odom

Fatima got baptized!

July 8th

It was the last week of the transfer, so it was busy! I was pretty good at staying on top of all my stuff though so there weren’t any worries. But, first I’ll start out with the highlight of the week… Fatima got baptized!! It was awesome! We had the baptism yesterday. It was so fun to see how excited she was. Right after she was baptized, she said, “I’m baptized! I’m finally baptized! How wonderful!” I can for sure say that she is 100% ready to be baptized. With her, I’ve gotten to see the gospel in action and how it can bless the lives of everyone who chooses to live it.  She had problems with smoking, drinking coffee, etc. but now she had completely overcome these addictions. She says she’s more calm now and now and just much happier overall. Her conversion has been so fun to watch and has strengthened my own testimony in the power that the gospel has to change lives. I’m super grateful I got to be a part of her conversion process! The Lord really does prepare his children to hear the gospel.

On Wednesday, we had the family night that we planned with Guilherme’s (the recent convert) family. We had his girlfriend Maria share the message and she did a great job even though she was dying because she was so nervous! She’s going on a mission soon too! Her papers are with her stake president and they’re about to be sent to Salt Lake. We played a few games with them and then ate dinner that they made for us. Our goal is to eventually start teaching them, but like I said before it’ll be a little different because they’re super catholic. First we’re going to be friends with them, and then with Guilherme’s help they’ll get interested by themselves.

So the transfer… Because I’m in the office, I get to know the transfer early. President gave it to us on Wednesday. There’s a lot that we have to do to get ready for the news missionaries coming in, the missionaries going home, and everyone that’s switching areas. Something cool that happened was that my companion Elder Vilas Boas got called to be a district leader, along with Elder Breno who’s one of the financial secretaries. As the district leader, you have to set the example for the rest of you district. That will be a bit different working only 3 hours per day in the field, but it shows that president trusts us! It will be great opportunity to work hard and grow.

But that's it for me.  Thank you for all the support you give me. I love you guys! 

-Elder Odom

a little shopping, partying and teaching

July 1st

This week was good. Stayed busy! 
I swear, I got more calls from missionaries this week than all the other weeks combined. I was talking on the phone all day! I started to feel like you mom! 😉 

This week I worked a lot on the "hero movie" which is a video that we make each transfer for all the leaving missionaries. It has a bunch of their photos that they sent to me and some other cool stuff as well. It requires a lot of time, but it's still pretty fun to make it! I had fun doing it.

So something pretty cool. In the mall close to our apartment and the mission office, there's a Nike outlet, and they had a sale, but only for this week. If you bought 10 items, they'd take 50% off the price! There were a bunch of missionaries here in the city that took advantage to it! I went with my 2 comps and the assistants and we bought stuff. Elder Brock, one of the assistants, was nice enough to buy all of our stuff and then let us pay him back. I bought a sweet Paris Saint Germain jersey and a Brazil national team jacket. Because of the sale and dollar vs real, it ended up being 40 bucks! They're pretty sweet. 

2 funny stories that happened this week too. The first was about a package that here that we got in the office. It had Elder Vilas Boas's name on it so he assumed that it was for him. Then he saw that it was from Recife, the city where his sister is serving her mission so he got super happy! He opened it up and it had a shirt, a mini umbrella that says "Recife" and some chocolates. He was smiling and taking pics with the shirt on and with the stuff he got. Then he looked at the bottom of the box and saw a letter. He read the first line, and it said "Dear President Scholz". The box was for president and he opened it up and was using the stuff in it! We all started dying laughing even though he got his hopes up for nothing.

Here in Brazil, there's a huge holiday called Sao João, or St John. People also call it Festa Junino or June Party, mainly within the church because St. John is a "Catholic holiday" even though they do the exact same stuff, only trade the name. What they do is get a ton of people together and do a dance called Farro, which is similar to square dancing. They also dress up as farmers and rednecks and there's a lot of food that has peanuts and corn. On Thursday, there was a pretty big party for this going on at the catholic church across the street from our apartment. Elder Vilas Boas and I were talking and then the other elders got home but had a bunch of food in their hands. When we asked where they got it, they said "from the catholics across the street! Go over there and get some too!" They said that as they were getting food everyone stared at them and got away from them as if they were wild animals! We'd already changed, so we just went over there in normal clothes. We got to the door and Elder Vilas Boas said "my friend here is american and he'd like to experience a sao joão party. Can we enter:" the lady said "oh for sure go ahead!" So we walked right into the catholic church! There was a lot of food and people were nice and offering us a bunch. I also thought that this was my chance to not be noticed because i was in normal clothes, but no, people still picked me out. As we were eating, we had something funny happen. We were talking to ourselves and a group of girls passed us and started saying stuff in english to us: "hi! hi hollywood!" I don't even know how they knew i'm american. We didn't tell anyone besides the one lady at the front gate. I asked my comp how they know, and he said that I just seem american. I said that there are still people with light eyes and hair here, and he just laughed and said yeah but you just look american, it's not super hard to tell. So i guess even people who aren't familiar with the missionaries can tell me apart! But anyway, as we were leaving they kept saying hi and after a few times i turned around and said hi back and then they all flipped, it was pretty funny! Not everyday you go to a catholic party, especially as missionary. But it was funny!

Our investigator Fatima is still doing good and still hasn't smoked! She's all set to be baptized next week on friday. Super excited to see that, it'll be awesome. It's always good to see that when your investigators get baptized they're true converts and even though they don't know everything, they know that they have to try. She's a convert for sure!

There's a recent convert that my comps baptized last transfer named Guilherme who's awesome too. He's dating a member, but she's going on a mission here soon and he's 100% supportive. His family is super catholic though. It's his parents and his younger sister. They're super nice people though and will always be welcoming to us. So, we decided to visit them just to see if we could mark a family home evening with them or something. While Elder Summers was doing a split with other missionaries, Elder Vilas Boas and I went over to Guilherme's house to talk to his family. We shared a short message from the Book of Mormon about trusting in God, and it went great. I could feel the Spirit as we taught. President Scholz talks to us a lot about teaching quickly to bring the Spirit, and then once we feel it we need to leave, so that they will feel the difference of when we we're there and after we left. So we did just that! Our message was only 7 mins and then we invited them to do a family night next week and they accepted. It was a great example to me of the power of the Spirit in teaching. As missionaries, we always need to remember that it's the Spirit that teaches and not us, and that's what happened this week. It's going to be different teaching them but if we do our part in letting the Spirit teach they'll be able to get a confirmation that our message is true. 

This week I focused a lot on thoughts during my personal study. Our personal thoughts dictate a lot of how we live, and it's through our thoughts that we are able to be happy or sad with any given situation. In the October 2016 conference (my first weekend in the field) I remember something that President Nelson said: "Latter-day saints has the ability to be happy in ANY situation." I was studying a talk about thoughts by Dean L. Larsen called 'thoughts about thoughts', and something that really stuck out to me was what we can do to always have good, constructive thoughts. Here's a part from it: 

"I’ve heard counsel given with regard to devices that might be used to protect us temporarily from the effects of bad thoughts or evil thoughts. I’ve heard the suggestion that we might sing a song, a phrase from a Latter-day Saint hymn, or recite some poetry or some verses of scripture. But this, in reality, is a defensive stance. One cannot always be on defense against evil thoughts. One must assume the offense. The best way I’ve learned to achieve this is to practice sustained, constructive thinking. That’s an exercise, brothers and sisters, that requires as much training and as much conditioning as the physical endurance required to run a long-distance race. I commend to you this morning the “exercise” of sustained constructive thinking.
As a mission president I traveled great distances over the state of Texas. (You can drive a long way in the state of Texas!) I used to spend many hours traveling alone, going from one missionary meeting or one set of interviews to another in the automobile that was provided for us. There was a lot of time to think, and many thoughts come in a situation of that kind. I discovered that it was a very helpful thing for me (and later very useful) if I used that time to practice organizing talks that I could give, forming associations of scriptural ideas and principles that would be helpful to me in expressing these relationships to others. Some of the best talks you’ll never hear, I gave to myself as I drove from one place to another in southern Texas. I recommend, that process to you. In order to sustain constructive thinking, it’s necessary for us to have something worthwhile to think about, to have in reserve, as it were, some items, some problems, some challenges, to which we can turn our minds, to think our way through to a solution. I’ve discovered in my own life that that’s the best way to obtain inspiration and whatever degree of revelation we are entitled to."

 I'm grateful for this opportunity to be a missionary, and I'm starting to realize that time is going by too fast! It's already the last week of the transfer! Something that nick told me when I was pretty new in the mission is something that his first zone leader told him: that the first 6 months in the mission feel as long as the last 18. It's true! I'm doing my best to take advantage of every day I have out here! 
I love you all.
 pic 1: Me with my last comp, elder naytson

pic 2: a family home evening we did with a recent convert. it was sweet!

pic 3: elder breno, one of the financial secretaries, accidentally spilled the toner from the printer. we were all laughing pretty hard

pic 4: me and the comps!

pic 5: first reunion of the mtc district since the first day in the mission field! way fun to see sister martin and elder cleverly at the same time
I hope you have a great week!

-Elder Odom

Friday, June 30, 2017

Mission Tour- another busy week

June 24th

Okay, another week. 

It was a pretty busy one with mission tour and the interviews that President had with lots of the missionaries this week. Pretty much all of the preparation for these types of things are up to us, so we did a bunch!

We had the mission tour earlier today, which is also our p day. so sadly we pretty much didn't get one! part of the it guess. But we had an area 70 come and speak to us. He talked a lot about being true disciples of Christ and what it means to truly teach repentance. It really made me realize that I have lots to learn! He said that we can't be "part-time disciples", we have to be doing everything. As missionaries, we have the name of the Savior on our chest at all times, and how we act, talk, think, teach, serve, etc. needs to be how the Savior would do it if he were he doing it personally. I started thinking; am i doing my best and using the time I have here to do everything in my reach? There's always more we can do to improve. he said that even after we go home, we cant stop living the standards we learned as missionaries, because we've already taken upon us the name of Christ and need to always let that show through our actions. It was super good! Another really cool thing is that now I'm getting to know all the missionaries. It was my first zone conference/mission tour as the executive, and it was cool to see that I've already gotten to know most of the missionaries. For sure one of the better parts of the calling!

So with our investigator Fatima.... She's been 5 days without smoking!!! After weeks of teaching her and extorting her to do the small and simple things, she finally is making progress. After one of our lessons, she said she felt so bad for smoking that she went to the store the next day and bought nicotine patches to help her stop and they started working right off the bat. We were so pumped to see that she's doing it! She's going to get baptized on the 7th of next month. she's really a convert and understand that baptism is a sacred covenant and wants to be sure that she's ready to follow the promises she'll make once she's baptized. It will be awesome!

okay well i'm running out of time again, but have a good week! I love you guys!!

-Elder Odom

Pizza party, bball, and more secretary stuff

June 17th

Alrighty, so another week! Man the mission goes by quick. It's going by so much quicker here in the mission office too. I was worried that it wouldn't, but I just didn't imagine all the stuff that I'd have to do! I'm pretty busy, but it's good and I'm having lots of fun.

This week I learned a lot about the police stuff. I think I've already mentioned it but that's once of my responsibilities. I have to make sure that everything is in order with visas and that all the foreigners can legally be here. I went to the police station for myself actually and renewed my visa. I'm good and legalized to be here now for the rest of my mission! It's a pretty long process with a lot of steps, but I still have 4 more weeks to learn how to do it so I should be good once elder summers heads home.

This morning we played basketball. We had me, one of my comps, and one of the financial secretaries along with the assistants and president Scholz. So president played ball for BYU... He is in his late 50's but still plays way good. He literally doesn't miss when he shoots, and he's about 6'4"! Not only does he not miss but he makes hard shots too. It's way cool to see how good he still is.

So something really cool that happened this week. We went out looking for new investigators last Thursday using the list of less actives from the ward. We went to a house and it turns out the member moved a long time ago, but we started to talk with the couple that's living there now. we got to know them and then shared a quick message about the importance of being obedient using the scripture in Mosiah. They loved the message and said a bunch of times about how this was exactly what they needed. We went back on Friday and taught the restoration. Again, they really liked it. They accepted the invitation to go to church on Sunday too! Something that I thought about a lot afterward was what they kept saying about how they felt different around us, that we have a "joy" that they need to feel. They never accept visits from other religions, but they felt like they should with us. Its amazing to see how the people the the Lord prepares can feel the spirit that we carry! It also reminded me of the importance of always being worthy of the Spirit, because it was Him that  caught their attention, nothing that we did. We never know how the Lord will use us to touch the lives of others! it was a great experience this week and I'm excited to see their progress!

We did a way cool activity this week too. the ward we're in is kinda slow and the members aren't too motivated, so we decided we need to do a cool activity to get them excited again. So we thought... what does everyone like that would make them come? Well, everyone likes food! In the states we have chili cook offs, but here they don't eat much chili. so we went with pizza! We got a member to hook it up with some crusts and we got them out to people. it was a great turn out! lots of people came and everyone had fun.

This week we also went to a way fancy restaurant with president and the other secretaries. a new missionary got here that went home a year and a half ago and just came back! pretty cool he'd do that after so long! to welcome him president and sister scholz took him there. for sure there are lots of benefits of being in the mission office!

So thats my week. Have a good one and i love you guys!

-Elder Odom

In a Brazilian commercial!

June 10th

Hey everybody back at home, another week down!

This week was just more learning about my responsibilities. I stayed pretty busy! We had the leadership council this week with is when all the zone leaders in the mission come to Ribeirão Preto for a meeting. I got to see some of the other missionaries that I haven’t seen for a long time, that’s one thing that’s super cool about being executive!

Last P day was super fun too. We went to a park and passed the football and Frisbee that the parents sent. It’s been awhile since I’ve thrown a Frisbee but it looks like I still got it! So funny story while we were there. The park we went to is actually really nice and has a bunch of little ponds and stuff. There's also a cliff about 70 feet high that has a pond at the bottom with a little waterfall going off the edge. We thought it would be pretty sweet to go up there and throw the Frisbee and football off the top, so that’s what we did. The problem is when you’re on the ground it doesn’t look that high or far, but when we got up there we realized that it’s actually way farther than we thought! But, we were already up there so we decided to go for it. We had Elder Summers go first with the football. He gave it a good throw, but it didn't even make it close… and it landed right in the middle of the pond. Then it was my turn, and by that point I was kind of nervous that something would happen and I’d get my Frisbee in the water the first day I use it! But I threw it! It went pretty far, but I forgot to angle it downward and so it started to go back toward the water! Luckily, it hit the ground and stopped about 2 inches from the edge, but it didn’t go in. So that left us with the problem of the football that was still floating in the water. After standing at the edge talking about what we should do, Elder Da Cunha (one of the financial secretaries) hiked up his shorts and waded into the water to get it. I was laughing so hard watching him get it! Everyone at the park was looking at us like we were crazy, but you cant really blame them! After he got out he decided that it actually wasn’t that far to throw. He stayed at the bottom the first time the ball was thrown so he didn’t see how far it actually was. So then he went up there to throw it! He tried, but also got it right in the middle of the water which was pretty funny for me. Elder Breno, the other financial sec., went and got it the next time. After that we called it good and went back to do our shopping and stuff. But it was a pretty good first P Day on Saturday! So, I made it in a Brazilian commercial, pretty sick!  You'll see me at the beginning of the commercial throwing the Frisbee!  Click here to see Spence in the Brazilian commercial! 

One thing that is pretty time consuming that ive been doing this week is talking to other missionaries about health and marking doctors visits and stuff. Its crazy how many of those I have to do, I’d never guess! This week with our field work, we had a few good lessons. We were able to find a guy named Fernando at home that we’ve been looking for since I got here. Hes a really nice guy but has one problem that’s kinda tough. He doesn’t believe in repentance, and doesn’t feel bad for smoking or other things that he does. It was a cool lesson that we had. We talked a lot about the Atonement and explained Christ’s role in getting clean from our sins. By the end of the lesson, he actually stopped to think and started to understand why repentance is important, actually necessary. That’s something that we’ve been focusing a lot on here in the mission, teaching repentance. There’re a lot of lessons and topics that we teach as missionaries but in the end it all boils down to if a person will repent or not! If someone understands the importance of repentance, everything else will fall into place. As ive been working on teaching it more, Im starting to understand it better and better myself. One thing that I didn’t do before the mission was use the Atonement every single day, and I should’ve! I can see the difference that it’s making! Speaking of the Atonement, theres an awesome talk that I’ve been studying the last few days called “The Meaning of the word Atonement” by Cleon Skousen. I’ll put the link in here for you guys to check out too: ARTICLE LINK

Kinda cool to be able to do that kind of stuff now working in the office! But, that’s my week. I’m learning ton here and I'm grateful for the opportunity. Although we don’t always have the expected or things hoped for in life, the Lord always knows what kind of experiences we need. Have a good week everyone and enjoy the first week of summer!!

-Elder Odom

First week as mission secretary - enjoying good food

June 3rd

Alright, first week as a member of the mission staff!

It's been a pretty full week and probably was the fastest week in the mission until now. The hours fly by here!

So about my new comps. I'm in a trio right now and their names are Elder Summers and Elder Villas Boas. E. Summers is from Portland and E. Villas Boas is from the southern part of the state of Bahia. They're both really awesome and super easy to get along with. Its pretty funny, on my first day in the mission field it was Elder Summers, Elder O'Neill (my first comp/trainer), and me. He was there to watch me teach my first lesson and I'll be here to watch him teach his last! He's going home at the end of the transfer and I'll be the one to take his place.

In this past week, I've learned a lot! My schedule is much different too. Everyday we wake up, get ready and get to the mission office at 8:00 to study and plan for the day. Then from 10-6 we just work. After that, we go to our proselyting area to teach our investigators and stuff. Because the mission office is kinda far from our area, we get to eat at a restaurant everyday which is pretty sweet. There's this restaurant across the street which we just call "across the street" that we go to pretty much everyday. Its good, classic brazilian food and isn't too expensive either. But every once in a while we go to a nicer restaurant. This week we went to one that was 40 reais which is pretty expensive, but its cool because as a staff missionary you get a ton of money to eat. We had huge hamburgers and at the end I ordered brownie and ice cream. It was the first brownie that I've had since I've been here and it was so good! 

So about what I do now. There are 4 secretaries and each one has a different job; 2 financial secretaries and 2 executive secretaries. I'm executive secretary A. One of the things I do is deal with off all the health on the mission. So whenever a missionary is sick of hurt (which happens A LOT) they call me and I tell them what to do. That includes calling hospitals around the mission and scheduling appointments for them. This eats up a big chunk up my time during the day! I'm also in charge of all the foreigners and their documents. So I have to work with the federal police here and renew visas and stuff. Its a pretty complicated process... I'm glad I still have 5 more weeks to learn! On top of that, I just deal with all the random problems that happen day to day on the mission. Like Elder Summers said "If we listed all the stuff that you have to do, we'd be here all day. You can basically sum it by by saying that you fix all the problems!" So if there's any random thing that needs to be done, it's my job. I also become the official IT guy of the mission. Whenever there's a problem with any sort of technology, it's up to me to fix it. So dad, I know what you mean now when you said that google became your best friend while you were learning how to do all the stuff with computers! President said that here in 5 or 6 months the mission is going to switch out our current computers for better ones and it's going to be me that is going to have to make all that work. So, we'll see how that goes! I'll have to study up a bit before that happens! I never knew how much goes on behind the scenes of in the mission. The secretaries do a ton! There's a lot that I need to learn and I'm going to stay busy during my time here for sure.

So, there you have it. I have to cut it a bit short because I didn't use the alphasmart this week but I'll write more next week! Its super crazy that Ty is done with high school...... It seems like just a month or two ago I was in the middle of my senior year! 

-Elder Odom