Thursday, December 14, 2017

Man...I'm Dead!

December 9th

Hey, another quick week down!

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

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

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

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

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

Elder Odom

Monday, December 4, 2017

Trusting in Christ

December 2nd

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

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

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

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

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

Elder Odom

Friday, December 1, 2017

New Companion

November 25th

Happy Thanksgiving! I hope everyone had an awesome time celebrating it!

On Tuesday, we got our new companion! His name is Elder Dantas, he was born in the state of Rio Grande do Norte but has lived in the state of Santa Catarina since he's been 15. he's going to be trained to be the other secretary for the next 3 weeks, so we'll be in a trio until the end of the transfer, and then it'll just me him and me until I leave the office. He's really cool and we're already having a good time with him. Something else that's cool is that he has the exact same birthday as me! He has been on the mission for about 6 months now, which is funny because he was in the first group of new missionaries that came when I got called to be in the mission office. It's already been awhile! Time's going by quick for sure.

This week I'd like to talk about another really cool experience that my comp and I had. It happened last Sunday. As we were going to the different lessons we had planned, pretty much every single one of them fell through. So we sat down in a park to try to figure out what to do. we talked for a bit and then said a prayer to be led to those who need us. Then we went out and started kind of walking around without a destination in mind, like we did last week with Julie. As we were walking, we passed a girl that was just bawling and another woman trying to console her. After about 10 seconds, my comp Elder Vilas Boas stopped and asked, "Do you think that we should go talk to them?" Honestly, I'd been asking myself the same thing! I said that I didn't know. We sat there talking about if we should or not for a good 5 mins, because we were worried! We didn't want to get there and start talking to them and have them get mad and us and say "why are you talking to us? Can't you see this is a personal moment??" and be annoyed with the missionaries. It's been a pretty long time since I've been that hesitant to make a contact with someone. After thinking and talking about it, we just decided to go for it. We could literally feel the Spirit saying "go and talk to them!!" As we were walking back to them, Elder Vilas Boas said "Heavenly Father, we're doing our part and trying to be obedient, please help us!" We also noticed that 3 more people had left the house to help talk to the girl. At first, they were a bit annoyed and startled that we would even talk to them. But, we just testified of Christ and told them that He has a plan for each one of us and that through the gospel any problem we have can be overcome. We could feel the Spirit really strong as we talked to them, and I know that they did too. By the end of the conversation, they we're all excited and said that they knew that God was looking out for them by sending us to talk to them in the right moment. We marked tomorrow (Sunday) to go back to talk to them. I hope that we will be able to follow up with them and continue to teach them! Elder Vilas Boas and I reflected on that moment afterward. It would've been so easy to judge and say that it's a bad moment to talk to someone and that we didn't feel anything, but what a great experience we would've lost! We would've never known what good we could've done. My comp also mad e the comment that he's glad we listened, because on judgement day the Lord would've reminded us about this moment! This was a great testimony builder to me. Lot's of times, we have the tendency to judge and think that we know best. Lot's of times we're scared because we don't know exactly what will happen. But, the Lord always know's the best way and if we follow Him  and do our best to follow the promptings of the Spirit, we can be sure that things will turn out the right way. I'm grateful that my companion and I had the courage to follow the Spirit even though we were apprehensive and nervous about what would happen. But we did our part, and the Lord did His! The more we put our trust in the Lord, the better things will work out for us.

Sorry I didn't write a whole lot, I forgot to use the alphasmart (yeah I still use it because in the office I generally don't have enough down time to write my letters). But I'm grateful for all of you!  I've been so blessed!

Elder Odom

President Schultz played Bball at BYU! The Elders are so impressed with his skills!

Listening to the Spirit

November 18th

Wow, Nick's home! I can't believe it! All this time thinking and imagining this moment and it's finally here! Like I've already said, it's pretty weird to think that it's over for him. Although, he served a good mission!

So, a few experiences that I had this week. Something that was really cool that happened was one night both of the appointments we marked fell through and the people we were going to visit weren't home. So, we decided to look for new investigators with the time we had to spare. As we were walking, I was thinking to myself, "I have no idea where to go... Heavenly Father, please take us to someone that will accept our message or someone that we can help". We were just going up and down the streets without a destination in mind, just trying to find someone on the road that we could talk to. We passed a house that had a door open and when I looked at it, I had this very subtle feeling that was telling me to knock on that door. So, I did! And older lady walked out and we started to talk to her. Her name is Julie. For some reason also, about 5 minutes before we knocked on her door, I had the idea to talk about Christ's baptism and the example he set for us. We started talking about that and she really understood the importance of it, it was cool. She told us about a surgery that she needs on her right eye, but for some reason she needs to wait until the doctors can give it to her, so she's just waiting to get it. Then Elder Vilas Boas made a promise to her: "If you put into practice the things that we will teach you and do your part to come unto Christ, you will be able to get your surgery before the year is over." Wow! It's already late in the year and it's been awhile since she's been waiting for it! But when he said that, I felt a confirmation that his promise is true. As missionaries, at times we say things that even we don't expect! But that's what happens when we're trying to follow the Spirit, because it's not us that're teaching, it's the Holy Ghost. It was really interesting to see how quickly the Lord answered my prayer to find someone that was in need and that would listen to us. We literally had no idea where we should go, and, without realizing it until afterward, we were led by Him right to Julie's door. We don't always see or recognize all the times the Spirit is leading us or telling us what to do, but we can be sure that if we are always doing our best to follow the commandments and do what's right then he will!

This week President went to another city called Santos for the Mission Presidents Meeting with all the mission presidents in Brazil. There he got to talk to Elder Aidukaitis and his wife who said they remember me pretty well! President and Sister Scholz thought it was pretty cool too that they still go to our ward when they are in Utah. Our ward is awesome! They also talked to President and Sister Chamberlain and they said that Ty is doing a fine job. I also sent the flash drive with the music on it with Pres Scholz and he gave it to Ty's mission Pres, so he should be good to go with music now!

But other than that, we've just been busy with our normal stuff in mission office. Something interesting though is that I'll be getting a 2nd companion next week! Elder Vilas Boas has been in the office since last February and he will be leaving to go back to being a field missionary on the 18th of next month, and will train the new Elder until then. It's a bit sad, because Elder Vilas Boas is awesome! We've been together for almost 6 months and we've never even disagreed about anything! I've really enjoyed this time that I've had with him as my comp. We are so used to each other now that it's getting to the point where I know what he's going to say before he says it and stuff. It's really fun to teach with him because we always are in super good sync with each other. It's be sad to see him go, but I'm sure he has lot's of great new experiences waiting for him working in the field full time!

Sorry for the shorter email, but this week was a bit less exciting. Thank you though for all the support that I get from you guys, I really appreciate it, for real! 

Elder Odom

Monday, November 13, 2017

Man, I never imagined myself doing this on my mission!

November 11th

Okay, so this past week. We were kept very busy here in the office with the missionaries going home and the new ones coming (like the start of every transfer).
Although this time, it seemed like everything that had potential to go wrong did! We actually had a pretty funny experience with that.
So to sum it up, all the missionaries coming from other countries get a document in São Paulo at the MTC that's really important. Without it, you're in really big trouble. So as we were giving on of our trainings as the executive secretaries I learned that one of the new Americans lost that document on the trip here... I'll just say that I got a little stressed out because of that. Something that President likes to say is that we don't have "problems" just "opportunities to learn", and this certainly was because I've never had this happen before, and it was the first time since President Scholz has been on his mission as well! After a few calls to the church in São Paulo and a few trips to the federal police we were finally able to get it sorted out and get him a new document. We were going all over the place in the city doing all the steps necessary to replace it! Something that I thought as I was going from one place to the other was "Man, I never imagined myself doing this on my mission!" And who would've thought that this would be something that I'd have to deal with? But, I know that Heavenly Father will give us the experiences that we need, even if they aren't necessarily what we expected! Something cool though is we got a new missionary, Elder Wilkey, from Draper that went to Jordan. Pretty cool to talk to someone from home! He's from Ty's grade. 

A cool experience we had this week was with a new investigator that we found named William. We were able to teach him 2 times this week, and the second time we taught him I was super impressed! On the mission (at least in my experience) it's really rare to find someone that reads the pamphlet about the lesson we taught and remembers everything in detail about what we said. He was able to understand really important principles that most new investigators have a hard time understanding, like how the church was restored through Joseph Smith, not founded by him, and that the church that Christ established on the earth when he was here had authority and that authority was lost after the death of the apostles. Elder Vilas Boas and I were surprised he remembered so much! We're excited to see what happens with him! It's really cool to see how the Lord prepares people to hear the gospel, and even if it takes longer than we hope at times, He will put those people in our paths.

My personal study this week has been focused a lot on the Book of Mormon itself. What does it mean to me? What does it mean to my investigators and to people we talk to on the streets? How can I better apply it in my own life and as a missionary? My testimony of the Book of Mormon has really grown a lot on my mission. Not that I didn't know it was true before the mission, because I've always 'known'. But the difference is that now I'm starting to see the effect that it can have in our lives and in the lives of those we love. I'm starting to understand just how important it is to study it! Like I've said in the past, I wish that I wouldn't have taken it for granted like I did at home. Our lives really will be blessed in every way though daily study of the Book of Mormon, and I should've made better use of it!

Alright, well this is Nick's last week of his mission. I can't believe he's already done! Time really flew by. I'm really grateful for him and the exemple that he has set for me. I've received a lot of strength on my own mission thinking of him and experiences that he's had on his. He's always carved the path for me in a way being a year ahead of me. In school, sports, mission, now with college! It's been so cool to be able to serve at the same time as him throughout my mission, but now he's going to be able to help me in a different way being at home I'm sure!

Alrighty, that's about it for me. Sorry that I've been so bad about taking/uploading pictures, that's something that I really need to do better with. I'll start trying to take more! But love you guys, have an awesome week!! Give Nick a big hug from me!

Elder Odom 

Wednesday, November 8, 2017

Sounds Like a Missionary

Hey everyone, this week was good. But, I honestly can’t say that a lot happened! It was a bit more uneventful than normal.

This week in the office we were just focusing on getting everything ready for the transfers. I had a few scares because I kept sending stuff to our travel agent that helps buy our tickets, but she wouldn’t respond! There was a ton of stuff too and so eventually I had to call the church offices to have someone else help us figure all the stuff out. But in the end, we were able to pull everything together even though it was a bit of a close call. I ‘m sure this isn’t the most exciting for you to read back at home, but It’s just part of life in the mission office!

Speaking of transfers though, I’ve come to the end of another. It really went by quick! When you’re working and focused, time really just goes by fast. At the beginning of my mission it was definitely harder to stay 100% focused, because missionary life was still so weird and different! But now that it’s super normal now, time just keeps going by faster and faster.

In the field, we just focused on finding more people and cutting the ones that aren’t super interested. Any missionary can tell you that there’s a lot of that, cutting. Talking to a bunch of people, marking dates to go back and teach, and then if they aren’t interested, cut them from your teaching pool and start the process again. Here in the mission, we talk a lot about finding the “elects” of the Lord. I’ve come to learn that that’s true, the Lord really does prepare people to hear! But, that doesn’t mean that everyone will be willing to listen and learn and change. Very few people actually have that desire, and as missionaries it’s not our job to teach every single person, just find those whom the Lord has prepared, because they will listen and have the desire to change.

In my personal study one day this week, I was reading in 1 Nephi 11. Something that stood out to me was how we can get answers from the Lord following the example of Nephi. He says in the first verse:
“For it came to pass that after I had desired to know the things that my father had seen, and believing that the Lord was able to make them known unto me, as I sat pondering in mine heart I was caught up in the Spirit of the Lord”

This verse is awesome! He gives us a very clear pattern of what we need to do in order to receive knowledge or answers that we need. We need to have a desire to know/receive, then believe that we can get an answer, then pondering these things in our hearts. When I read this verse, I thought to myself; “how often do I do all these things in order to receive revelation from the Lord?” This is something that I’ve learned to do much better during my time as a missionary. At home, we have so much going on; family, school, work, friends, etc. and lots of times we don’t spend as much time thinking day to day about gospel related things as we should. On the mission it’s great, we can spend all day thinking and pondering! But I know that that will change once I get home, but I don’t want to lose that habit! Because this is what we need to do when we need something from the Lord, this is what he requires of us. This is what I’m trying to do a little more each day, despite the fact that I have to worry about more ‘temporal’ things than other missionaries being in the office, I try to think about things I’ve studied or what I can teach my investigators. I know that as we do these things the Lord will bless us with the knowledge we need!

Last Sunday I had the opportunity to talk in sacrament. As I was preparing and deciding what I needed to talk about, I kept coming back to obedience. Something that I focused a lot on during my talk was the fact that there as many commandments that are small, so sometimes we think that they “won’t make that much of a difference”. I know that there really isn’t such thing as a commandment that doesn’t make a difference! Every little commandment that we choose to not follow will make a difference in our lives. A talk that I studied in preparation is “Obedience Brings Blessings” by Thomas S. Monson. It’s really good! I encourage everyone back home to read it.
Something else that happened is I was called to be a district leader this transfer. It’s a bit strange that I am being called as a secretary in the office and district leader at the same time, but it should be a good experience to grow and learn as well as try to help other missionaries! I’m looking forward to the new experiences.

That’s my week though. I hope you all have a good one! Love you guys, until next Saturday!

Elder Odom

I Just Felt Good

October 28th

This past week was a good one for sure, went by super quick! Not sure what the highlight was, other than I just felt, good, this week. Nothing specific happened to make me fell good, but I was just happy this week. I think it's because my comp Elder Vilas Boas and I are really just putting forth effort to be really obedient and do things the right way, and we were able to feel the Spirit throughout the week really good.

This week my testimony grew about how the Lord does His part when we do ours. So after the first 3 weeks in the area, we're finally starting to grow our teaching pool. We've been doing contacts with tons of people and really just trying to find those whom the Lord has prepared. This week we were able to find so many cool people! Generally, you get "rejected" and people saying "no" 90% of the time but it seemed that as we searched for people by the Spirit, we were led to those who were ready to hear the gospel. One example is last Sunday, when we did splits with other Elder's in our district. I stayed in my area and brought a missionary named Elder Acuna from Mexico, who got here 4 weeks ago, to work with me. We were going to look for new people to teach, and so we said a prayer asking the Lord to help us find those who'd accept us. Within 5 minutes of finishing, we we're walking on the street and I looked at a house and just got a feeling that we should knock on it. So we did, and it turns out we found a family who recently changed religion and were really interested! Its a couple and their young son, about 7 years old. We taught the 3rd lesson, the gospel of Christ, and marked a day to go back. We were leaving the house and then we heard "missionaries!" We turned around and saw them calling us back. They said that they'd passed the wrong address and wanted to give us the right one. Pretty cool actually, there aren't a lot of people who'd do that! Elder Vilas Boas also went to another area to help out some other missionaries during the week and also had lots of cool experiences with finding, and was led to people in the other area to people that live in our area! Super cool. I've just been really grateful to the Lord for helping us out so much. Lot's of times missionaries, everyone actually, think that they have to do things by their own efforts, But we don't need to! The Lord wants to help us, we just need to be worthy and willing to let him! If we do our parts, He'll always do His. We can depend on him for anything and we get get help. It's really comforting for me to know that I'm not alone in this work, because I know that there's no way I could do this by myself! I think this is one of the challenges we face; letting go of our own desires and needs to control our lives and just trusting in the Lord to help us out. It's something that I'm trying to learn more and more each day.

This week's been busy, like most weeks, in the office. This transfer is only 5 weeks so that just means that I have 1 less week to do stuff to prepare for the next transfer It's the last week of the transfer and I have lots to do still, so we've been working hard! Something that I found out that I like to do as I'm working is listen to the "Face to Face" things that the Church does. It's when they get famous members of the church like Lindsey Stirling, the Piano Guys, David Archuleta, Apostles, etc. and youth send in questions and they answer them. They're really cool! One that I really liked was with President Eyring and Elder Holland. They talked about 2 things that I really liked; prayer and the Atonement. It's just cool to hear them answer in real time. Talks are awesome too, but it's just different when you can hear when they say when they don't plan. You guys should watch it as a family! I think it would be really cool to talk about what you guys learned and how you can apply it as a family. I'm  grateful for living prophets in our day that will always guide us to making the best decisions. My testimony of this has grown a lot about this on the mission, the we NEED to listen to what they say!! If we do we WILL be blessed! It's impossible to listen to and put into practice their council and not see a difference in our lives!

Well, there it is. I hope that this next week is awesome for you guys!  

Elder Odom