Monday, February 5, 2018

Finally Training Replacement

February 3rd

Another good, fast week for me. This week was the last one of the transfer, and I got some news. I'll be training another missionary here in the mission office and then I'm heading back to the field! I'll have the whole transfer to train him, and it'll end here in 6 weeks. It's crazy that I'm already going to be leaving the office soon... I got here at the end of last May, but it sure doesn't seem like it's been that long! The missionary that I'll be training is Elder McLean from Illinois. I've known him since he's arrived on the mission, so it should be a fun transfer. Another thing that happened though is that, sadly, I won't be companions with Elder Dantas anymore! President decided that he is going to have one of the financial secretaries train as well, and so instead of having 2 trios we'll have 3 groups of 2. I'll just be with Elder McLean. I only got to work with him for one transfer, but it was a good one!

In the field, our investigators are slowly progressing, in the office we just planned for the transfer, etc. Although something cool that happened is that the Sister's had a baptism and a wedding for a less-active and her husband, who was the investigator. They've been teaching him for over 4 months, and finally he was able to be baptized and get married. It was a real example of perseverance and patience to me. The wedding that they and the members put on was awesome! It was on Friday night and all the planning that went into it really payed off. I realized that it was probably a good thing that the sisters were teaching him, because if it were my companion and me that had to plan the wedding, we'd be toast! But I also had the privilege to interview this investigator. His name is Jorge. He really is an example of a convert. He just has so much faith! He told me that one of his biggest concerns was not being able to pay tithing. He doesn't make a whole lot of money and doesn't want to have to choose in between giving his baby food or paying tithing. We talked for a long time about how the Lord will bless him for his efforts, and in the end he said "okay, I'll never miss a month paying tithing, even if I don't know what's going to happen". He hadn't even been baptized, but he has that much faith! He has a stronger testimony than lots of members even have. Super cool experience!

We found a couple this week that have already been taught by missionaries a few times, and it was a really fun lesson. Their names are Jessica and Pablo, and they know a lot about the church! When we asked about what they remembered, they explained the entire Plan of Salvation and all about Joseph Smith! What's good is that even though they've researched the church a lot, they haven't gotten into any anti-mormon stuff, and if they have it seems like it hasn't effected them in any way. They just had good things to say about the church! Jessica even said that she was grateful for Joseph Smith and the vision he had (the First Vision). They even listen to church EFY music at home! But, when we talked to them about baptism, they were hesitant and said that they were already baptized in another church so they didn't see it as being something necessary... Even though they understand well, they still can't see the importance of being baptized in the right way, so there's a bit of a disconnect somewhere. Usually when people understand our messages so well like they do it becomes clear that they need to be baptized again, but we'll keep working with them to find out what's missing!
On a side note, I was able to make a cool connection with Pablo. He really loves basketball (pretty rare here in Brazil) and when I walked in I couldn't believe what I saw... He was playing NBA 2K18! I've never seen someone play NBA 2K on the mission before! It was pretty cool to talk to him a bit about the NBA too. Pretty sweet!

But, that's my week! Have another great week and until next time. 

Elder Odom

Spence upload a bunch of pics - here's a few:








A new investigator

January 27th


This week was great! Until now, we've been having a bit of a hard time with our teaching group, but we were able to make headway this week. This week we had a great experience with a new investigator. His name is Cesar and we was a referral from Leila, our investigator. We talked to him last Sunday and we were able to teach him the first lesson this past Tuesday. It was great! He is very smart and polite and can see things/think in a a logical way like so many people can't. The lessons we teach are very logical; they make a lot of sense and are simple. Because of this, he was able to understand very well the "why" of prophets, the apostasy, etc. When we invited him to pray about our message, he said that if he got an answer, he "wouldn't have any way to not follow an answer from God". And when we marked a date with him, he even asked "what time will the baptism be?" I don't think I've ever had someone except a date so easily while at the same time understanding what he was agreeing to! It's great to see the hand of the Lord in this work, with patience and perseverance the blessings will always come.

We've been having a lot of great opportunities given to us to find more people. Friends of members coming to activities, people approaching us in the street, investigators giving us referrals, it's been so cool! It doesn't always happen like this on the mission, so we are really trying to take advantage of it while we can!

Something that I've felt impressed to study more this week is about the temple. Kind of funny, because I don't have a temple on my mission! And it's here on the mission I've come to be grateful for the temple... Probably because of the fact I can't go! I was able to get my hands on a really cool book called "You can claim the blessings of the holy temple" by Boyk K. Packer. I've really started to recognize how lucky we are to have so many temples where we live. A quote I really like from it is; "Those who fail to partake of the privileges and blessings of the temple work deprive themselves of some of the choicest gifts within the keeping of the Church". Wow! That's powerful! The members here consider themselves lucky that they only need to pay 100 Reais (their money) and take a 3 hour bus ride to get to the nearest temple. Man, there are a lot of things that I think that I should've done differently at home, but going to the temple more is up there as one of the biggest. You guys should find this book and read it. It's super good!

All in all a successful week for me. It's great being a missionary! I'm always grateful for the experiences I have to learn and grow and help others. There really isn't any other time like this in my life! Love you all!

Elder Odom

A Cool Experience

January 20th

Hey!! Pretty good week for us. It was a bit harder to do stuff in the office during the first part of the week because President had interviews with the missionaries, so a bunch of missionaries from the areas here in Ribeirão Preto and close cities were here. Fun to see everyone, but it makes it a bit harder to get stuff done!

This week we had a super cool experience. On Saturday the Sister's had a baptism, and before we stopped by our investigator Leila's house to pick her up. But, we found out that her husband, Luciano, had gone out onto the street and started to argue with some neighbors, then grabbed Leila's phone and the keys to the house and just walked away super mad. Their daughter Letícia got really scared and went to a friends house to spend the night with her. So Leila explained that she really wanted to go the baptism but couldn't leave the house unlocked with nobody there because of security reasons. It was sad for us, but we just told her that we'd pass by her house to get her for church the next day. So on Sunday morning we got to her house again and went to church with her. This year the ward is starting with Quorum and Relief Society, so we left her with the other women and went to quorum. As the first block was ending, we saw the Sisters motioning for us to come in the door, so we went out to talk to them. They said that Leila got up and said she was going to get a drink, and never came back! We couldn't believe it! Until then, I'd never had an investigator leave in the middle of church without telling us... So, we went to her house to find her. We kept clapping at her door, but she nobody was coming. Then a neighbor passed by her house and threw a bag of recyclables over the wall (her and her family sell them to earn a little extra money).  We waited for a few more minutes, and then we heard some rustling, I looked through the crack in her wall and saw her getting the stuff the neighbor threw over. So then we knocked and she had to answer!

She told us that she had gotten a call from Letícia's friend's mom that she was going to drop Letícia off at their house in between 9:30 and 10:00, but she couldn't drop her off at the church because she was "embarrassed". So we decided that we'd wait with her until her daughter got back, and while we were we'd review the Restoration with her. We asked her if she'd prayed about Joseph Smith since the first time we taught the lesson, and she said that until then she hadn't. I started to say "Tonight will you pray to receive..." then I immediately remembered something that President told  us; "Why don't we invite people to pray then and there? Lots of times we say that it's the investigators that don't have faith, but it's actually you guys that need to have more faith!" and I knew that I needed to invite her to pray right then. So I asked her if she believed if God could give her an answer if she asked, and she said yes. So we invited her to pray for us. We knelt down and she said in her prayer "God, I want to know, with a sincere heart, if the things the Elders have taught me are true, and if you called Joseph Smith to be prophet. I believe that I can get an answer to these things". Wow! I'd never heard someone pray that specifically to get an answer! As she was praying, I was also praying that she'd get an answer that she could recognize. Elder Dantas and I put our trust in the Lord and we needed Him to do His part! And, he did. At the end of the prayer I started to feel the Spirit, and Leila did too. We sat in silence after the prayer for about 15 seconds, and we told her to look at the image in the pamphlet of the First Vision. Then we asked her what she was feeling. After a little pause, she said "peace". We explained that peace is one of the fruits of the Spirit, and if what we taught wasn't true God wouldn't be giving her the feeling that she had. She started to cry as we continued to talk. It was a real miracle that happened right in front of us. It was a great experience that I'll never forget, and an important lesson that when we really put our trust in God He will always do His part. What's interesting though is leading up to that point, it seemed as if everything that could've gone wrong did. And when I was inviting her to pray, I felt something that I've never felt before... I felt that Satan was actually mad at us. I can't explain it very well, but it was like a heavy feeling was in the room in the moments leading up to her prayer. Super weird, but I'm super grateful for the Lord's help and that I got to be a part of this great experience! We actually went back to church without Leila because Letícia still hasn't gotten back, but it was all worth it!

Well, I hope you have an awesome week! Love you!

Elder Odom

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