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
August 19th

 This week was pretty busy for me, the last week of the transfer always is.
In the office, I spent a lot of time wrapping things up for the heroes (missionaries going home) and the new missionaries getting here next Tuesday. This transfer there will be a lot of changes. Like I’ve mentioned, out of the group of missionaries going home there are a lot of leaders; 11! We’re losing a lot of experienced missionaries, but at the same time this will give a bunch of others to learn and grow with new leadership callings. It should be cool to see what happens!
So something that happened this week that got me a little nervous… One of my responsibilities is to take care of all the foreigners on the mission (passports, documents, etc.) and in order to leave the country without a fine, you need to have your passport and an orange card that we get from the police. But, to not talk about the whole process to get this card, I’ll just say there are things that you need to do to get it, and those things weren’t done with one of the missionaries that are going home on Monday! So when I got to the police station to pick it up and found out that his card was in São Paulo, it was pretty stressful. I talked to a few people in São Paulo and with President Scholz and we’ll probably just end up sending him without it even though the church will have to pay a fine. I didn’t know about this process because whoever was executive secretary when this elder got on the mission didn’t do some of the necessary steps and there wasn’t any way for me to know. But now I’ve learned from it and know what to look for, so hopefully it won’t happen again! Learning from experience is something that I’ve been doing a lot recently!
My comp Elder Vilas Boas also had his bday yesterday, and his mom got ahold of one of our recent converts, Fátima, to make a cake for him and have it ready in our apartment when we got home. I’ve been talking with the other elders that live with us and we had Fátima drop it off with them and they brought it up to the apartment to get it ready. I was with him, Elder O’Neill, and Elder Seaman. So when we got home we walked in and there was the cake ready and 6 liters of Coke!! It’s funny because we aren’t drinking it anymore, but Fátima doesn’t know! We also bought 2 pizzas, goof times!
So last Thursday on the 17th I hit the 1 year mark! So crazy! Can you believe it’s already been so long? With one year down I’ve been thinking a bunch about how the first half of my mission has gone and what I’ve learned. Sometimes when I think about myself before the mission, it doesn’t even seem like I’ve changed much. But then when I pay attention to small stuff and remember things that I did while at home I can see the differences. I think one of the biggest things I’ve learned until now is how to appreciate the small blessings we receive every day and how to depend on the Lord in all parts of my life, not only with church related things. All the study we do as missionaries and seeing the gospel in action in the lives of those who didn’t know it before has really opened my eyes to how much Heavenly Father and Christ love each of us personally. They’re waiting to bless us in all we do, but we need to ask for their help and seek it out! My testimony of this has grown so much, that when we are obedient and sincerely look for the Lord’s help we’ll get it. Sometimes we don’t get the help we expected or in the way we hoped, but in the end the Lord’s way will always help us in the best way possible. Yesterday I got to do a split with my first companion and trainer, Elder O’Neill. It’s hard to believe, but he’s heading home on Monday! It made me realize how fast time has gone! It just seems like a few months ago that I was with him in Araçatuba, my first area, dying of heat and not understanding anything in Portuguese. We also realized that now I have the same amount of time on the mission that he had when he was training me. Even though it really didn’t seem like it at the beginning, time goes by super fast out here, and it’s only going faster! I’m really grateful that I have one more year to serve as a missionary. I’ve made mistakes, had success, made lots of memories, done some things I should’ve done differently, but I’m learning and I’m ready to take on this last year! The mission is great!
Love, Elder Odom

Birthday Boy

August 12th

Well, today I'm 20 years old! Wow it's weird, 20 is old! It sure doesn't feel like I'm that old. But this will most likely be my first and last birthday on the mission because of how close it is to when I left.

So, my week. To be honest, it wasn't a super good week. We did have some cool stuff happen, but for some reason I've just been feeling out of it! Hard for me to focus, etc. I guess some weeks are just like that though when you just don't feel super good. I've been trying to get back to 100% though, and I'm sure this next week will be another good one.

So with what's going on with the family we're teaching. We went back there twice this week. The only thing is lately we've only been finding the parents and their daughter at home, and the other family members are always doing something else it seems like. But we went to follow up with their reading and also to teach the Plan of Salvation, and when we got there we were super impressed! Elizangela, the mom, had read 1 Nephi 2 and when we asked what she learned or liked, she gave us a detailed summery of what happens in the chapter and she also pulled out a little notebook that she used to take notes on while she was reading. Very few times on the mission I've had an investigator read and understand so much like that! I was actually with another missionary, Elder Da Cunha, one of the financial secretaries that day. So we taught the plan to them and they understood that part as well. This family has a lot of potential, especially Elizangela! Elder Da Cunha said as we were walking home "If she keeps reading like that, she'll get an answer really fast about the gospel!" It's true! Heavenly Father will see her effort and that she's doing her part, so He'll do his. 

That leads me to what I've been thinking a lot about this week actually. We're always asking Heavenly Father for blessings and things that we need, and we know that He'll give us anything we ask for righteously, but first we need to do my part. I've been asking myself a lot this week... am I doing everything I can to deserve the blessings and answers from God that I need and want: Lots of times, I realize that I can do better. I know that when we do our part, Heavenly Father will always do His. He knows our effort and where our hearts are, and even if it sometimes seems like we're doing everything we can and nothing is happening in return, the blessings will come! It's all in the Lord's time. 

Alright, so we're entering the last week of the transfer... again! It went by super quick. The last week is a busy one. There's a lot to do to get ready for all the changes that will happen at the transfer. This transfer though a lot will happen! We have a group of 17 missionaries going home, which is a ton!! And what's interesting is pretty much all of them are leaders in the mission (district leader, zone leader, etc) so a lot of new missionaries will get called. President is a bit worried about it because there are just so many spots to fill. So we'll see how it goes!

Today so far during P day we got up and went and played volleyball. The ball we used was super super light, but it was still fun. I really like volleball here because it's something that pretty much everyone likes to play. For lunch we went to the mall and ate at a really cool restaurant that was way good. We decided we need to eat somewhere good on my bday!

Alrighty so yeah, that's how my week was! I hope everything's going good at home! For Ben and Kathryn who're starting school here in a week or so, enjoy the last week of summer! I can't believe you're already starting, it seems like you just finished school a few weeks ago! But, until next week. I love you guys!

Love Elder Odom

Wednesday, August 9, 2017

Trying new foods and more office stuff

August 5th

This week I mainly focused on preparing a few things for the missionaries going home at the end of the transfer, like the movie we show for them, their personal plans that tell them what they’ll do during the last week, organizing who’s going to be with who, where they’ll sleep, how they’ll get to Ribeirao, that type of stuff. I relearned the lesson of why it’s important to write stuff down and keep looking at the list this week as well. With doing the stuff that I mentioned, I kept forgetting to do some of the little stuff that president would ask me to do. It’s always a bad feeling when he asks me about something that I haven’t done yet just because I’ve forgotten about it! But I’m getting more and more into the swing of things, and by the end of this transfer I think I’ll have it down all the way.

So this past Sunday I had a pretty cool opportunity to go to another city on a split. It’s a city called Jaboticabal and I was there with one of my Zone Leaders, Elder Sant from Texas. He was in my first zone when I got here on the mission so it was super fun to spend a day with him! Normally we don’t do splits on Sunday, but because we’re in the mission office it’s the only day we can! We can’t be outside of the office for an entire day so president just told us to do it Sunday. I went there Saturday night and got back Sunday night pretty late. But it’s always fun to get to go to other areas and cities to meet the members and investigators that are being taught.

Another cool thing was that on Sunday Claudio, the guy that I found knocking doors, and his wife and daughter came to church! They liked it a lot, but they said it’s just super different than what they’re used to. We had a really cool lesson with them about the Book of Mormon too. They are really fun to teach because they have lots of questions and they understand the lessons well. They were able to understand what the BoM is and how they can use it to get answers. Our main issue with them is finding a day when they’re all at home at the same time. We’d like to visit them 2 or 3 times per week to teach, but until now we’ve only been able to catch them all at home once per week and one other day we just teach whoever’s at home.

So funny story that happened. Yesterday, Friday night, Elder Vilas Boas was going crazy because he found a coupon for some restaurant that serves food from Bahia, where he’s from. So he called the place and had them deliver it to our apartment and he ordered all of us a type of sandwich thing. It was some sort of bread roll thing that had a sauce and pieces of meat and other things that I don’t know what they are. To top it off it was covered in mini shrimp, and not the type of shrimp you normally think of. They’re tiny and cooked exactly the way that they’re caught, with their eyes and everything still apart of them. So I ate it, and it wasn’t the best thing I’ve ever had but I can’t say it was terrible. I think one of the hardest/funniest parts of eating it was looking at all the mini shrimp stare at me and then just eating it!

So yeah, that’s about what happened for me. Nothing too new! It’s weird to think that there are only 2 kids at home now. What’s happening right now is something that we talked about but it never seemed like it would actually come, but now it’s here! The only thing I can say is that it’ll go by way fast, it really will. When you first get on the mish you don’t believe that but now I’m seeing how quick it’s going by! It’s super cool that Ty saw Chalise. How cool! It’s super cool to see those pics of him because it just reminds me of when I did that not too long ago. Talk to you later!
-Elder Odom