Friday, October 13, 2017

missionaries coming and going

October 7th

This week we sent off the departing missionaries and got the incoming ones. One thing that’s good and kinda lame at the same time about being in the office is that we say bye to all the missionaries leaving. This time, 3 Elders who I got to be really good friends with, Elder Jones Campbell and Jacobsen, left. Elder Jones was one of the first missionaries I met when I got to the mission, he really helped me out with getting used to being out here!
We had a really big group get here though; 10 americans, 2 mexicans, 1 chilean, and 3 brazilians. It was a little funny for me to see all the new americans, I just remembered when I got here and understood nothing and thought about how Ty’s doing right now! It was a really packed day, we gave trainings, took the trainers to lunch, helped Sister Scholz with interviews, etc. We started at 8:30 AM and didn’t stop until 8:30 at night! There’s a lot to do with the new missionaries getting here.

Another change we’ve had in the office is that Elder Da Cunha is going to leave to go to be a “normal” missionary again so President called Elder Sánchez to take his place. He’s from Mexico and is super funny. I was in the same zone as him and have done splits with him when I was in Franca, so we already knew each other pretty good. He’s a real funny guy and definitely makes the office more exciting.

Today we played basketball and volleyball again, when we played bball, president came to join us, and that’s always a blast! We had 5 people so we played President and me versus 3 of the Brazilians in the office. Even though we won, I was super tired at the end. Man, I realized that I definitely can’t run very much without getting tired! But P Days are always fun especially when President plays with us.

In the field, we’re just getting used to the new area. We visited a few people that Elder Vilas Boas was teaching when he was here a year ago, but we still have a lot of work to do to get a good teaching pool.  Opening an area (what we calling it when you put 2 new missionaries at the same time in an area) is always a bit tricky at first, but we’re ready for the challenge and to get to work!
So General Conference this past week was awesome!! There is so much stuff that I liked from it! I think my favorite talk was The Book of Mormon: What Would Your Life Be Like Without It? From President Nelson that he gave during the Saturday afternoon session. His talk really made me think. He asked, “How precious is the Book of Mormon to you?” We saw a picture of him studying the Book of Mormon and when I saw that picture, I got a feeling of how important the BoM is. He’s an Apostle, but he still does all the small and simple things! Another thing he said that really caught my attention was “We need to feel, deep in the inmost part of our hearts, that the Book of Mormon is unequivocally the word of God. We must feel it so deeply that we would never want to live even one day without it.” Do I feel that way about the Book of Mormon? If there’s one thing I got out of General Conference this time it’s just how important this book is. If President Eyring and Nelson can act on the Prophet’s invite to study the Book of Mormon more, then all of us sure can! The promise President Nelson made is awesome. If we study the Book of Mormon every day, he said we will make better decisions, the windows of heaven will be opened, and we will be shielded from temptations. I’m going to do my best to study a little harder, think about the Book a little more, and try to understand it’s importance more and more each day. I’m so grateful for the blessing we have to have prophets here on the earth to guide us, and for scriptures to help us know how to find all the answers for the questions we might have in our lives.

I hope that you all have a great week, and remember to make the BoM a priority.  Until next time!

Elder Odom

Monday, October 2, 2017

Changing areas

September 29th

These past 6 weeks went by so fast, time just keeps going by faster and faster!

This week we just did a bunch of little things to get ready for the transfer on Monday. But about the transfer, there were a few good changes. One of them is that my comp and I are changing areas! We were in the Vila Virgina Ward, and now we're going to the Riberião Preto 1st Ward. It's kind of cool, because we've wanted to switch areas for awhile now and so we made a plan of how we'd be able to do that and it turned out that President used a lot of the ideas we gave him. Elder Vilas Boas actually started his mission in this ward that we're going to, so hes super excited to go back and see the members and investigators that he met over a year ago there. He says it's a super good ward that helps the missionaries and the work is good there too, so I'm looking forward to the change.

Although, it will be sad to leave some of the people behind in Vila Virginia. We visited our recent converts Andre and Fatima for the last time this week. It's always sad to leave people behind once you've come to love them, but it's part of the mission. I'll also miss Fabio, our ward mission leader, the bishop, and other cool members. But like I said, I think the change of area will be good. Especially because Vilas Boas has been in the same area for over 7 months!

One highlight of this week was President took us to a churrascaria, which is a Brazilian barbecue restaurant. Basically it's like Rodizio or Tucanos, although I have to say it's better here! President made a deal with one of the financial secretaries that once he found a new house in a certain city (that has been super super hard to find) he'd take us all. Finally they we're able to find one last week so we all went! It was super good food and once again made me realize how cool President Scholz is. It's not cheap to bring so many people there, but he still brought us!

Because we figure out what's going to happen in the transfer early in the week before the rest of the mission in order to prepare, we've known since Tuesday night that we were going to leave. But, we've been working really hard to find new people to teach this week for the other Elders that will stay in Vila Virginia. We've been able to find some cool people that really seem interested. But, we had an experience contacting a referral that the other missionaries gave us that made me grateful for the Spirit. As we were getting close to the address they gave us, Elder Vilas Boas said "oh you've got to be kidding me" because the address was right next door to a place that does something called Marcumba. Marcumba is a type of religion or cult here that deals with spirits and voo doo and stuff like that, it's bad news. So we entered the man's house and about 5 minutes into our lesson, we started to hear drums and other sounds coming from next door. Right as it started, you could literally feel the Spirit leave the house. It's a super weird and really uncomfortable feeling to feel an absence of the Spirit like that. We went for a minute longer and then Elder Vilas Boas looked at me and gave me the look that said let's get out of here! We cut the lesson short and told him we'd come back another day. As we walked away, the strange feeling we had started to go away the further away we got from the house. I thought a bit about the experience and how great it is that we have the Holy Ghost with us at all times in order to help us know what we need to do. One of the main things that he does is alert us to dangerous situations, and I'm grateful that he was looking out for my companions and me that day! The Spirit is always here to help us, we just need to stop and listen to what he's telling us to do.

Another thing I'm happy about is conference! I know I've already said it, but time really is going by fast. It doesn't seem like it's already been 6 months since our last general conference. But what a great opportunity we have to listen to the general authorities of the church. I didn't do a super great job of watching the Saturday sessions at home, but I wish I would've. We literally get to hear what God wants us to do specifically right now. Seriously, an awesome opportunity!

Have a great week!

Love Elder Odom

continuing the work

September 23rd

I had a good week! It was probably one of the most laid back weeks I've had here in the office actually. This week President did all of the interviews in the other cities here in the mission, so he was traveling the whole week. It was also nice that we didn't have a lot of missionaries coming in and out of the office everyday so I was able to get a lot of stuff done.

Something that's a bit different though is that we have Elder Santana living with us now. He's an Elder that I lived with when I was in my last area in the Pinhares ward in Franca, so I already know him really good. His companion went home last week and he had nobody to stay with so president put him with us. It's always a bummer to see missionaries go home early. But this week I was able to get pretty much everything ready for the next transfer as we enter the last week of this one.

This morning we all played volleyball. We had the 5 secretaries (one is being trained right now), the assistants, and President came too! It was a blast! Basketball is really fun to play too, but volleyball is a bit more competitive so that what we've been playing recently. Not sure if I've mentioned it yet but President also bought us a nice volleyball and football to play with. He's awesome! 

With our field work, we're just going. We're still following up with our 2 main invastigators, Elisangela and Claudio, and focusing a lot on getting them ready to be baptized. They're great, they've been going to church every week for the past 8 weeks. They just need to be a bit more consistant with reading the book of mormon. Claudio is also still trying to stop smoking as well. I've really learned how addicting cigarettes are on the mission. Pretty much everyone here smokes and it's just sooo hard to stop for people. Elisangela and Claudio already stopped drinking coffee and Claudio is really close to stop drinking. But as soon as he stops smoking, I really feel like they'll be prepared to be baptized. 

This week I thought about trials in our lives and why we have them. One of the most common questions we get as missionaries is "Why is life so hard? Why do I have so many problems?" A scripture that I really like in Mosiah 23 says that "the Lord seeth fit to chasten his people; yea, he trieth their patience and their faith." The people in this part of the Book of Mormon we're following the commandments and being righteous, but still had these problems. We learn that the Lord gives us trials on purpose! I know that every single trial or difficulty in our lives has a reason, and the Lord wants us to learn something from them, but we have to actively look for the things to be learned in these trials. It's all about attitude. In the next chapter, Mosiah 24, verses 13-16 it talks about what happened to these people, and how the Lord is always here to help us in all of our times of need. We'll have lots of problems throughout our lives but we can always be happy in any circumstance, like President Nelson said last general conference. I've been really trying to be grateful and positive during hard times. It's for sure not always easy, but I can feel the influence of the Lord helping me along whenever I look for and ask for it.

But that's my week. Have a good one, love you guys! 

Elder Odom

Friday, September 22, 2017

September 16th

So to be honest, this week wasn’t too eventful. The event of the week was that all the missionaries in Ribeirão had interviews with President, but other than that it was pretty laid back.

Right now as far as my office stuff goes I’m in the process of making the Heroes Video for the missionaries heading home and organizing their plans. So actually something that has been out of the ordinary is all the stuff I’ve been having to do for health, there have really been a lot of sick missionaries this week! It’s actually harder than you’d think to mark appointments. There are a lot of small cities on the mission that don’t have very many types of doctors, especially those that accept our health plan, so it gets a bit complicated when a missionary in a city like that is having a problem. I spent a lot of hours figuring that kind of stuff out, but hey, it’s a part of the job!
So something that was pretty fun that we got to do this week was eat lunch at a members house during the week! Normally, we get money from the mission to eat at a restaurant every day because it takes too long to go all the way to our proselyting area to eat and then come back to the center. But yesterday, Friday, Elder Vilas Boas had to do a baptismal interview for some other missionaries in our area, so we just ended up sticking around and eating lunch with them at the member’s house. It’s something that doesn’t seem super cool, but because we only eat with members 1 time per week on Sunday it’s something that I appreciate! I like getting to know the members in the wards that I serve, and one thing about the office that makes that hard is that we don’t get to eat lunch with them that often, so it was cool to be able to.

My focus during my personal study this week has been listening to the Spirit. It’s one thing that still is hard for me at times! I find that we tend to get caught up thinking “is it my own head or the Spirit that’s talking to me?” In Preach My Gospel, it teaches us how to do that. Here’s an awesome part that I wanted to share with you guys: 

In answer to the question, “How do we recognize the promptings of the Spirit?” President Gordon B. Hinckley read Moroni 7:13, 16–17 and then said: “That’s the test, when all is said and done. Does it persuade one to do good, to rise, to stand tall, to do the right thing, to be kind, to be generous? Then it is of the Spirit of God. …
“If it invites to do good, it is of God. If it inviteth to do evil, it is of the devil. … And if you are doing the right thing and if you are living the right way, you will know in your heart what the Spirit is saying to you.
“You recognize the promptings of the Spirit by the fruits of the Spirit—that which enlighteneth, that which buildeth up, that which is positive and affirmative and uplifting and leads us to better thoughts and better words and better deeds is of the Spirit of God”.

So basically, if we have a thought or an urge come to our minds, and it’s something good that Heavenly Father would want us to do, then do it! In the end, it doesn’t make a huge difference if it’s from the Spirit or our own heads if it leads us to do good. I do know though, that if we constantly are trying to hear the still small voice of the Spirit and then acting on the promptings we receive, we will get more. The Holy Ghost will be there to guide us through all the challenges in life and decisions that we will have to make. I’m very grateful for the Gift of the Holy Ghost that we all have. It really is a gift!
That’s my week! I hope this next will is great for you guys, I love you! Talk to you later!

Love Elder Odom

September 9th

This week was a busy one because we had zone conferences!

So the way that it works in my mission is we have 3 of them, on Tuesday, Wednesday, and Thursday, once per transfer. We do 2 in Ribeirão Preto and the other one on the other side of the mission in another city. Not sure if I've explained them, but basically it's where a few different zones get together and we have trainings from President, the assistants, usually some zone leaders, etc. There's a lot of preparation that goes into it. Normally Sister Scholz likes to show a video as a part of her talk, and this time she showed a clip about teamwork from a  movie called Coach Carter. I looked on the internet forever to find it dubbed in Portuguese, but couldn't find it! So I ended up having to manually put subtitles on. She writes a talk and then puts it through a translator and then sends it to me because translators always have a ton of errors, so I go through and fix them. I also have to manage all the materials that get distributed, like pamphlets, pass along cards, Books of Mormon, and other things, which we give out during zone conference.

This time it was really cool, we talked about the importance of teaching pure doctrine and other teaching skills. One thing that President Scholz talked about too was Mosiah 5. He really dug into the first few verses of the chapter and talked about what real change is, when we don't have the "disposition to do evil" anymore. He taught us about the covenant that the people of King Benjamin made, and how we as missionaries also made a covenant to God to devote everything to missionary work during these 2 years. It was really cool to see how much he was able to get out of a part of the Book of Mormon that I've read so many times, but with the way that he dug into it and explained it I learned something new! It really goes to show that we can always learn more from the Book of Mormon no matter how many times we've read it. 

On Monday, I went on a split with Elder Breno (one of the financial secretaries) because our comps had to stay at the office to do stuff. We went to his area to do a family night with some of the new members. We got there and met up with other missionaries, and one of them is Elder Ross from Washington who got here at the beginning of the transfer. I was talking to him about how he's doing, what he thinks of the mission so far, etc and he was telling me that it's really tough, especially with Portuguese. Talking to him reminded me of the beginning of my mission. He said, "In school I always did really good and I was smart, and so I figured that I would be able to learn Portuguese without too much trouble, but now I'm here and I basically understand nothing that anyone says and I can't say what I want!" Man, sounds like me when I got here! I did my best to help him out and give him hope that it'll all work out. One thing that I said that I'd never do is take the language for granted, and even though I've been pretty solid with it for the past 7ish months, I am still super grateful that I can speak. I know that the only reason I can is because of the gift of tongues! So Ty, hang in there! It'll come!

Something else happened this week that made me super sad. There is a missionary in my zone that was training a brand new Elder. But lately his mom has been super sick and this week she finally passed away. His dad and his brother already have passed away too. And then his new missionary that he was training went home today just a month after starting his mission to get surgery because of problems that he has in his feet. Geez... I really have been thinking about how blessed I am in my life. We tend to forget really easily how much we actually have. It made me feel pretty dumb when I get a bit frustrated with my "probelms" that I have. That's something that I've been trying to pay attention to since the beginning of my mission, not taking stuff for granted.

But, there's a little of what happened this week. Have a great week, talk to you later! Love you guys!!

-Elder Odom
September 2nd

Another week down. It was a good one! Here's a few of the things that happened.

On Monday the zone leaders got in from around the mission for leadership council, and we always do splits with one of them. I got to go out with Elder Jones from Lehi, one of the first missionaries I met here on the mish and one of my best friends out here! I also was with Elder Hidalgo from El Salvador who's awesome. I had written down a few addresses of inactive members to visit with them. While we were walking around, I realized that we had passed one of the houses that I had written down! It was going to take a few minutes to walk back and we were already getting close to another house, but I just decided to go back and knock. When we got there, we found that the member had already moved a few years ago so we started talking to the boy that answered the door. His name is Igor and is 12 years old. We told him a bit about us and wanted to share a message with him and his family. He went and got his mom and she invited us right in! We sat down and started to talk to her. The mom's name is Maria, and she has 2 kids, Eduardo (15) and Igor. Maria told us she had just been commenting to Eduardo that they need to start going to church and making God a priority and then 5 mins later we knocked on the door. We went ahead and taught them the Restoration of the Gospel and they loved it and understoood it well. At the end of the lesson, you could really feel the Spirit. Elder Jones told them that they can receive am answer about this message for themselves through the Spirit, and the Spirit is what they are feeling right now. Maria said "I know that the Spirit is testifying to me right now that this is true" and when we invited her to give the closing prayerr, she said, "Heavenly Father, thank you for sending these missionaries to us and showing us that the true church of Christ exists on earth." How cool!! We we're truely lead by the Spirit to find this awesome family that was so ready to hear the message of the Restoration. I'm so grateful the Heavenly Father for helping us find them.

With Claudio and Elisangela, we are making progress as well. Turns out that they didn't really like the Cervada, but they stopped drinking coffee either way! We visited them yesterday on Friday and when we asked about the Word of Wisdom, they gave us some good news. They said they're already realizing that coffee is bad for you and they're seeing the benefits of stopping. Elisangla used to get bad stomach aches reagularly but since the day she stopped drinking coffee she hasn't gotten one! Claudio said that his headaches that he always gets went away as well. They both mentioned that they have more energy during the day too. How cool that the Lord is already blessing them for their efforts to keep this commandment. They are both reading the Book of Mormon regularly too. They told us all about what they read and both are really enoying the story the Book of Mormon tells! It has taken awhile to get to this point with them, but they're finally getting going! I'm  super excited to see what more progress they'll be able to make. It's been really fun to help them and see the gospel blessing them in their lives from up close. This is for sure one of the best parts of the mission, seeing the difference the gospel makes in people's lives. Being born into the gospel, I've always been around it and haven't really seen or noticed the difference it can make in the lives of those who have never had it. But here on the mission, I have this opportunity to see it everyday! I'm now more grateful than ever to have been born with everything that I have, with my family, friends, where I live, being born in the church, I have really been blessed. 

Today is Elder Breno's (one of the financial secretaries) birthday, and what he asked for was an American breakfast. We brought it up to President Scholz and he got on board with the idea real fast... I think it'll been awhile since he's had one too! So this morning at 10 we all went over to the mission home to eat the big American breakfast that Sister Scholz cooked for us. Man, it was so good! You don't realize what you've been missing until you have it! First time I ate french toast, cantaloupe, cranberry juice, and blueberry muffins in year. This is just one of the awesome things about being in the office. Working so close to President and Sister Scholz is a blessing and an honor. I really do have the best mission president and sister in the world!! 

Okay, I love you guys, thanks for all the continued support I get from you back at home! Have a great week and until next saturday!

Love Elder Odom

Monday, August 28, 2017

August 26th

The first week of the transfer went pretty good. On Monday we sent off the group of missionaries going home. It was a big group and it had a lot of really cool missionaries, including my trainer Elder O'Neill! It was kinda sad to see them all leave. It's crazy that my first comp in the field is already home though, something that we talked about when I was being trained was when Elder O'Neill goes home, I'll have more than a year! Well now he's already home! Weird how time goes by so quick.
Something that's cool though is a majority of the Americans are going to BYU after the mission, so I'll get to see a bunch of them again.

On Tuesday the new missionaries got here. It's always fun to get them because it reminds me of when I got to the field and had no idea what was going on! One of the new Elders that got here was Elder Nice, so you guys can tell his parents that he's doing good! It's always cool to see someone from the same area that I am. 

With the transfers that happened, there was a lot of changes like I said there would be. One of the things that happened is that Elder Cleverly, from my district in the MTC, got called to be a district leader and to train an american in the same transfer! He was pretty shocked and nervous, but I know that he'll be fine. 

Something fun that we did was on Thursday morning we played bball with President and his son Coleman. Coleman has been here the last 2 weeks just to visit his parents but he went home yesterday. Anyway, it was super fun to play with them. I always get impressed with how good President is! He doesn't miss when he shoots! It would be awesome to see him when he was playing at BYU. He told us the other day that when he was on his mission here in Brazil he was invited to play on the team of Para, a state in Brazil. He asked his mission president if he could but sadly he wasn't allowed to! 

So we had a cool experience with Claudio and Elisangela. Lately we actually haven't been making much progress with them because they're not super excited. Elisangela sent us a text after they didn't go to church that said "We need a lot of prayer, we are just feeling really down, I don't know what to say." That's always one message that you don't want to get! So we went to they're house after church and talked to them. We helped them realize why they are feeling like that and what they can so to get excited again. We reinforced the importance of  reading the Book of Mormon and praying daily and going to church every Sunday. We promised them that if they do their part and do these things then they will get excited again! We went back later in the week to teach the Word of Wisdom. They both have problems with coffee and Claudio also drinks and smokes. One thing that I've noticed here on the mission is if someone tries to stop doing everything all at once, it doesn't work. But if they focus on coffee first and can stop drinking it, then the other things become easier to tackle. Before the mission I'd never heard of it, but here there's this drink called Cervada that is really similar to coffee but it's natural and doesn't have caffeine or  anything. Apparently they sell it at the temple too. So as we were teaching, I had the idea to talk about Cervada with them. I brought it up and they hadn't heard about it! We explained what it is and offered to go and buy some for them. They really liked the idea of it and started to get excited about it. After we finished the lesson we went to the store and bought it then brought it back to them. They said "We're going to go make it right now to try it!" The next day we got another text from Elisangela that said "Thank you both for the friendship and the care you are showing to us. We are can feel that you really want to help us! I hope that the Cervada can help them replace coffee! 

It's really cool how the Spirit helps you whenever you need it. I believe that the Spirit helps us much more than we realize. A thought here, impression there, He's always talking. It's true that there is no way that we could do this work without the Spirit! I'm grateful for the opportunity I have to be here serving my mission, to help others and learn more everyday. I have a lot to improve, but I'm trying! That's it for me this week though, I love you and have a great week!

Love Elder Odom