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

Wednesday, October 25, 2017

President is a Super Hero

October 21st

This week was great! It was a busy one with 3 Zone Conferences in the mission. This time, it was my turn to go to the other side of the mission to participate. We always have 2 conferences here in Ribeirão Preto and another one in another city called São José do Rio Preto. A talk that President Scholz had us read in preparation is "And This Is Life Eternal" by Elder C. Scott Grow. It's from the April General Conference of this year. It's a really good talk that you should for sure check out. It give us specific things that we need to do in order to get to know the Savior better.  I've already mentioned this, but I really love the simplicity of the gospel! This talk is an example. Something specific that we can do with a specific promise of what will happen. 

This week President had a pretty rough one. On Wednesday night I got a phone call from Sister Scholz, and she asked if we would be able to stop by the mission home on the way home to give President a blessing. My first thought was 'uh oh' because I know he wouldn't ask for one unless it was really bad. So when we got there, I walked in and immediately could tell that pres wasn't good. Turns out, he has a kidney stone and he'd been feeling pain from it for almost a week but he didn't show any signs of it. We're around him all day too! So I gave him a blessing, in English (which was hard but I managed) and president said that during the blessing his mind was opened and he realized that he needed to go to the hospital, even though he really didn't want to. So as we left his house he told me "see you at 6:30 tomorrow morning for conference". That night he went to the hospital and didn't get home until 3:30 in the morning, and still drove 2 hours and gave an awesome conference even though he was feeling so much pain. He's so tough, the other Elder's in the office and I couldn't believe how he did it. He really is such a good example of perseverance and faith. Even though he said at the hospital he was "thinking about the spirit world" because of all the pain haha he didn't have any doubts that he would be healed enough to be able to go to the conference the next day. Once again, I'm so grateful  for the President that I have and everything I learn from him!

So this email will be a bit shorter because I didn't have time to use the Alphasmart this week, but this is what I wanted to share with you guys. But I hope that you guys all have a great week! 

Elder Odom 

The Easy Way Isn't the Best Way

October 14th

Okay, so about my week. Last Sunday was my first official Sunday in the ward, and I’m really liking it! The leadership in the ward is pretty young and the bishop got called 4 months ago and he’s really excited about missionary work. He gives lots of ideas and he’s ready to help us out. It helps sooo much when you have a ward that supports the missionaries and are willing to do their part! Our ward mission leader, Carlos, is awesome too. He’s about 55 years old and he’s super crazy! He’s constantly making us laugh. For example, on Sunday we had a ward lunch where every family brought something and we all ate together, he went up to a brother in the ward and kissed him on the bald spot on his head, then grabbed his fork and started feeding him. Elder Vilas Boas and I were dying! Carlos is always doing stuff like that. Not only is it entertaining to be around him, but he also likes to help the missionaries out a lot.

This week Elder Vilas Boas and I focused on and studied about the importance of talking to everyone. Lots of times, you see someone on the street and think to yourself “no, that person wouldn’t except our message” so you just pass him. But in reality, it’s our job as missionaries to give them the opportunity to use their free agency to either accept or not. We can’t decide for anyone what they’ll do! This week we had a pretty cool experience with this. We were walking to an appointment and saw 3 guys sitting in front of a store when I got a nudge to go and talk to them. Then the thought came to my head that said “you don’t need to talk to them, these type of people never want to listen to you!” but I looked at my comp and saw that he also got a nudge to go and talk with them, so we did. At first, they weren’t really paying attention to what we were saying until we started to talk about the Book of Mormon. Then one of the guys looked at us and said, “wait, Book of Mormon? This isn’t the Bible!” and started to challenge us a bit! He started to ask a ton of questions about the Book of Mormon and what we believe. But we just calmly answered all his questions and kept talking to him, and at the end of the conversation he was joking around with us and we were able to mark a day to teach him at his house. One thing that I noticed while I was talking to him was that what I needed to say kept popping into my head right as I needed it! The promise from D&C 100: 5-6 is real. If we just go out and talk to people, we will know what we need to say! I’m glad that my companion and I were able to talk to them, even if we were a bit hesitant at first. If we had decided to just keep walking, which is the much easier thing to do, we wouldn’t have had the experience we did! This is one thing I’ve learned on my mission, is that lots of times the easy way isn’t the best way. Lots of times stepping outside of our comfort zone is necessary!

The focus of my study this week was faith. I’ve been thinking; what does it actually mean to have faith? How can I trust more in Heavenly Father and Christ? Preach My Gospel has a part that I love about how we can grow our faith: “Your faith will increase through diligent studyprayerdedicated service, and obedience to the promptings of the Holy Ghost and the commandments.
Your faith in Jesus Christ grows as you become better acquainted with Him and His teachings. As you explore the scriptures and search them, you learn of His ways, His love for all people, and His commandments.”

This is an awesome promise, super direct and simple. If we want to increase our faith, we need to do these 4 simple things. I love how simple to gospel is! One well known chapter about faith that I decided to study this week is Ether 12. Everyone should check it out, I promise that you’ll get some better insight about faith out of it!

Well, that’s it. I’m grateful for all the experiences I’m having out here as a missionary, it seems like I’m liking my mission more and more everyday! Have a good week!

Elder Odom

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