Monday, October 24, 2016

Another week

Okay, another week! So I'll go through some of the big stuff that happened.

On tuesday, we did splits with the ward mission leader and one of the secretaries in the ward. Elder ONeill and the secretary went to our appointments, while the ward mission leader, Andre, and I went knocking doors. He gave us some ideas for contacting and a small lesson we could teach in ten mins, and we did super good! we got 6 lessons in 2 and a half hours! It was a good learning experience, and since tuesday Elder ONeill and I have been using that lesson plan to get lots of lessons. Its a really good way to determine who is going to be willing and ready to hear our message and who isnt.

I know I keep saying this, but this week was hot. On wednesday my comp and i thought we might pass away from dehydration and heat stroke. One of the things about Aracatuba is there never are any clouds, so were always in direct sunlight. you can see us going from side to side in the road wherever there is shade! Anyway, we were walking and we passed by something beautiful: A little stand that sold cold coconut water. nothing in the world coulve been as good as that coconut water was. my companion is one of the people who doesnt like it, so he chugged a little more than half of his and gave the rest to me because he couldn't drink the rest. Definitely a highlight for me!

So a little update on Portuguese. This week was good! During a lesson with a new investigator, I was actually able to understand everything that he was saying, and I was able to have a normal conversation with him, it was so fun! I am slowly able to understand and speak more. But one thing that's interesting is that somedays are better than others. For example, Saturday was worse with the language. For some reason I couldn't really understand anybody that well! I guess that's just a part for learning, somedays i can understand better and others I cant. I just need to keep reminding myself that someday Ill get it, and Ill be able to speak with everyone! 

So with Mourilo (that's how to spell his name I figured out), he has a testimony and likes to read and pray, but he has family that was baptized and I don't know if they're active anymore. Because of this, I'm pretty sure hes being told by more than one person that the church isn't worth the time. Because of this, its been pretty much impossible to get him to church. He always has other things that he needs to do. We even got a member to pick him up! But he still hasn't come yet and I don't know if he will. Alex is pretty much dropped, we've tried to visit him 10 or so times and he never comes to the door. Super sad, they both could totally use the gospel but I guess they just aren't ready right now. Were going to keep trying for Mourilo, but I'm not sure whats going to happen with him. But, this week we did have a really fun good lesson! I cant remember if I've talked about Juliana or not, but shes an investigator that's been taking missionary discussions for almost 6 months, and wont be baptized. Shes the hardest and most stressful investigator Elder ONeill has had on his mission. About 2 months ago she has going to be baptized, and then a day before she decided not to go through with it. She keeps saying that she hasnt recieved an answer, but we know she has. Shes been told about all her answers but she still ignores them. So, this week we taught her about prayer. She thinks God doesn't answer prayers. Out here on the mission I've discovered that I actually enjoy planning lessons, and during planning Ill go on a roll and rant for minutes at a time talking to my companion about what we could teach. Its funny because when we plan ideas just come to my mind and I know what to say. But here's the problem... I cant speak Portuguese good, so I cant give the lesson the way I want to! So i just wrote down everything I was thinking and we formed a lesson plan then I figured out ahead of time how to say the things that I needed to. The best part of this lesson is that, Im sure through the Spirit, knew exactly how she was going to respond to every single question we asked, and which direction the lesson would go. So, we were able to plan exactly what we needed to say. So during the first part of the lesson we read Helaman 3:35. What happens when we pray: Then we read 3 Nephi 18:19-20. To receive answers to our prayers we need to have a righteous reason, and believe that we will receive an answer. Elder ONeill talked about this, and eventually he said "So what you're telling me is that you don't have enough faith" then she said "Êxactly" with the smirk on her face. She thought "ah ha! I got them! Ill never get an answer because I don't have enough faith!" But then she looked at me and I had an even bigger smirk, because we knew this would happen. So I asked her if she remembered the last scripture we just read. She didn't so she read it again. He face was priceless.  She says shes scared of praying and being baptized because she only sees unhappy religious people, and if she starts to do these things then something bad will happen to her kids, or something like that. She is living a pretty bad lifestyle, and even though she knows its true she wishes it wasn't, because it means she has to change and she doesn't want to. So that's our guess at why shes not praying or coming to church. Shes stressful, but all we can do is keep trying our best and if that's not enough then maybe it isn't her time to join. Through this lesson I was taught about the importance of having the Spirit when we plan. We knew what she was going to say, and which scriptures to use, because of the Spirit! Its so cool to know that we have an actual member of the Godhead with us wherever we go to help us out with anything we need.

But that's pretty much it for me, nothing super exciting! Have a good one!!

 -Elder Odom

Monday, October 17, 2016

Rain, Teaching English and Hard Work

Hey family and friends! Another week down in Brazil. So, this week was pretty good! I had a few cool things happen this week.

First is about my investigator Mourilho, We taught him again, adn he is just eating it up. everything we teach he loves. we asked him how he felt when he read the Book of Mormon and prayed. He said he felt peaceful and happy, so i explained that thats the Holy Ghost speaking to him that the gospel is true! Toward the end of the lesson, i asked him to be baptized, and he said yes to the 5th of November! Its awesome. Then when we talked about the Book of Mormon and asked him what he thinks, he siad that its true, straight up. Its way cool to have an investigator like him, its almost too good to be true! As of now I think hes our only investigator who is making progress, but on saturday when we had a member call him to make sure he was still good to go for church, he said that he couldnt go, which was a bummer. I was really looking forward to having him there! But anyway, Elder ONeill and i have plans to help out our other ones.

2 days this week it rained super hard! The first day we were in a memebers house, and i heard the loudest thunder of my life! it was crazy how loud, it hurt my ears! on friday the rain poured down for 2 hours, making the streets all turn into full on rivers! After it was done raining, the sun came out and it was a beautiful day. Funny how much it changed in so little time! 

This week we had the cool opprotunity to go teach english at a school near our house! a member in our ward is a teacher there, and so we told her we would help her out. So we just went there and answered questions, explained how to pronounce certain words, etc. then at the end I gave an overveiw of why were here. Like why would we spend 2 years without seeing our families, and being able to listen to music or watch movies, go to a new country and learn a language, etc. Its because we know that our message is true! Then i talked a little bit about what we believe in, invited them all to church and handed out cards with a number they could call to get a BoM and learn more. We ended up getting at least 5 people that were interested which is super awesome! We have plans to go to 2 other english schools this upcoming week, it was a great fun way to share the gospel!

This week I was actully able to see some progress with Portuguese which is super exciting! I am continuing to learn to speak better, and understanding has been better the past few days than it has ever before. With some people I am actually able to get the idea of what theyre saying, but only at times, not all the time. Church was still hard becuase I didnt really understand anything there, but I have gotten to the point where I know that I cant do it on my own and I am working hard to learn, and that is all that God asks of me, so I need to is wait with patience and hope. Hope is what I have been thinking about a lot this week. There are a few awesome scriptures I found that have to do with hope, Romans 8:24-25 and Hebrews 6:10-20, Moroni 7:40-48 is also super good. I know that I will recieve all the blessings and promises that God hasa given me. One of these is the Gift of Tongues and Interpretation of Tongues, and that with these I will be able to fulfill my purpose as a missionary!

So, thats about it for all the exciting stuff this week, not a ton of lessons, etc but Elder Oneill and I are working on new ways to find and new lesson plans that we could use to get more people interested. Well, thats it from me, have a great week everyone!

 -Elder Odom

Tuesday, October 11, 2016

Adjusting to Mission Life!

Hey everybody!  So, second P day in the field!

Lets start with the language. So far, it is still pretty tough! I am a little bit different than most missionaries, I can speak Portuguese better than I can understand it. But, thats not to say Im good at speaking yet! I can bear my testimony, pray, talk about myself, teach lots of gospel topics, etc. But once someone asks me a question, I just turn and look at my companion for help. Its frustrating at times, but its not too bad. I know this is something that all missionaries learning a language go through, its not suppose to be easy to learn! Im improving more and more every week, and i know its only a matter of time before I get the hang of it!

My companion is Elder ONeill from North Carolina, and he is awesome. we get along so well with everything. He is a hard worker and is doing a great job training me. Im actually his first American companion and he has been out over a year! But im glad i got put with him, hes great. also, his little brother left on his mission the same day as me, and he is serving in the Salt Lake City South mission (Spanish speaking), my home mission! So for everyone back home, look for an Elder ONeill!

So, a couple of things about the mission field so far. My first area is the Santana area in Aracatuba, in the state of Sao Paulo. First, it is always so hot here. I am constantly sweating, and we have to walk a lot out here! I have the east side of the city, and so we have some rural areas. But, at least it is pretty dry here unlike other part of Brazil, so I am grateful for that. My typical meal schedule out here is for breakfast, I have crackers and milk, then around noon I go to a members house and have lunch, which is always good. Brazilian food is awesome! Then for dinner I have top ramen type stuff, just the Brazilian brand of it. The area I am in is apparently one of the hardest areas to be in the whole mission as far as teaching lessons, getting baptisms, stuff like that. So we do a lot of street contacting and clapping doors.

So this week we got 2 awesome investigators from doing this! Both are around my age, they are Alex and Mourilho. Alexs mom passed away 3 months ago, and Mourilho has big physical problems, because he was shot 7 times! Because of that, his right leg is shorter than his left so he can barely walk. When we met him he said that he is just starting from scratch. Both of their first lessons went good, my companion and I decided to start teaching them the Plan of Salvation to start. The Spirit was definitely there during the lessons, and we could see that they had an interest afterward. Although both of them have had these super bad things happen to them, Im so excited to continue to teach them and see the difference the gospel can make in their lives.

That's about it for me. Just adjusting to missionary life in general and still trying to get into the swing of things, but I like it out here! Have a great week everyone!!

 -Elder Odom 

Tuesday, October 4, 2016

Pics from the mission president when Spence arrived

Week 1 in the rear view mirror

Hey Everyone! So my first week in the mission field is down, and I already have some interesting experiences... So, my first day after I got my new companion and got everything like that figured out, I went on splits with one of the Elders that works in the mission offices (Elder Summers). Right off the bat I go to teach a real lesson. I got onto the most crowded bus I’ve ever been on, and flew through the streets with sharp turns, hard stops, everything! Once we got there, I was told that they wanted me to teach about faith in lesson 3 of PMG. Okay, I’ve been practicing in the CTM, I think I can do it. so I start speaking during the lesson and the words just aren’t flowing. I talked myself into a corner where I didn’t know how to say something so I just had to crap shoot my way out of whatever I was trying to say! Throughout the lesson, elder Summers kept throwing questions at me to explain and teach. Not going to lie, a bit scary! But, the more I talked, the more I remembered what I learned to teach about over the past 6 weeks. So by the end, it was alright! On the way back my comp and elder summers said that I did good, and that I was already doing better than they were on their first day! So then we just went back to the assistant’s apartment and got ready for bed.

Day 2:   I went to the police station to get my visa validated and after, went contacting for the first time, we went to a square area. It was one of those interesting experiences I was talking about! The first lady we talked to we actually got a referral, so that was good! The next guy called us over and started rambling on and on about who knows what, because I can’t understand anything right now. Anyway, 40 mins later 2 of his hobo friends come up to him and start beating him up with a roll of a bunch of newspapers. So, on to the next person. We started talking, and he immediately started ripping on us and saying the Book of Mormon isn’t true, only the bible. Apparently he read in a book written by some guy that Mormon was a false prophet, although he wouldn’t say which book or who wrote it. Then we got rejected by a hardcore catholic. After that elder O’Neill got a feeling we should leave, so we went back to the offices. Now time for more splits, this time I went with the assistants, both Brazilian. one of them could speak a good amount of English (apparently he had been asking president Scholz to train me for weeks, and me specifically: don’t know why!). we went to 4 lessons in 2 and a half hours, all of which were weird. But I did have a cool experience in one of them. So, for the first lesson they wanted me to share my testimony of the Book of Mormon, so I agreed. When I started sharing, even though my vocab is limited, I could feel the spirit. Once I was about done, the investigators (a 15-year-old girl) phone rang and the spirit left. It was a good lesson on how important the Spirit is during a lesson. So while she was on the phone, both assistants leaned over to me and told me that I needed to ask her to be baptized. My first reaction was what!! It’s my 2nd day here how can I do that: they told me I could. So, I asked if she receives an answer about the BoM and our message, will she be baptized: she said that she would! It was a really cool experience! Then we went to the favelas and taught other people. One lady they’re teaching has a hole in her throat from smoking and has to talk super hoarse. Also she thinks she’s a prophetess and that the 2 assistants went on dates last week, she’s positive. Super funny! (By the way, the only reason I know what they said was because the elder who can speak a little bit of English told me after the lesson). So, then we went to a few more houses and then headed back to the apartment. Soon after, my companion, Elder O’Neill, and I were on a bus heading to Aracatuba, my first zone. The exact area I’m in is Santana. We arrived at our house here at 4:30 and then slept for 2 hours, then got to work. I really like the area here, especially the east part of it, because there aren’t a lot of buildings and it’s a lot more countryside. Just seeing the countryside actually helps me relax. Only a few funny; crazy things have happened since I’ve arrived. One was the first lesson I taught in my area was to a guy named Florencio. We started teaching him the 1st lesson, the Restoration, and when we got to prophets he went off about how only the bible has prophets. He also said he went to a big temple one day and saw Jesus. When E. O’Neill asked him to pray he stood up and put a hand on each of our heads and said this super weird prayer. So yeah, welcome to the mission field Elder Odom! 

So other stuff about my first week. It is sooo hot here! So hot! I need to get one of those rags that uncle mark was talking about to wipe away the sweat. Also, out in the countryside, or more rural area, there are lots of stray animals... and not just dogs and cats. there are dogs, cats, pigs, chickens, cows, horses, and more. yes, stray, wild horses, I’ve seen a few. Rural Brazil is a different place, but I really like my area! I can’t imagine knowing where everything is like my companion does. I’m not great with directions, especially with areas I’m not familiar with, and my area is pretty big!

Alright, so the language and other things. I have to say, the first week was tough. The language is super challenging. I have a headache because I can’t understand anything, like pretty much at all. it’s very rare if I understand what someone is trying to say. It’s hot, I walk a ton, I’m hungry most of the time (unlike the CTM), but all that is a piece of cake.  I can deal with all the physical aspects of a mission pretty easily. The language though!! I want to be able to talk to the members that feed us lunch, I want to actively participate in lessons and answer questions, but I can’t understand anything. I can speak better than I can understand. Tell me to talk about baptism, faith, the book of Mormon, myself, my family, where I live, you got it. The second they talk back though, nothing. I can’t understand anything! It’s hard not to get frustrated at times, but I’m actually doing a good job at staying positive! Just like the first week or 2 at the MTC, I’m an adjustment stage right now. The busier I am the better. I just need to believe that the language will come in time, and I’ll be able to understand people in time. 

So, my companion. Elder O’Neill and I get along great! He’s been out a little over a year, and a great guy. We found out we have quite a few little similarities and connections. for example, his little brother left on his mission the same day as me, going to the Salt Lake City South mission.  He’s going to BYU after his mission. It’s great to have an English speaking trainer. I’ve been able to have him explain things to me that there’s no was a Brazilian could. Super great blessing. 

Okay, so now for everyday mission stuff. So for food, I normally eat crackers and milk for breakfast, and then go to a member’s house for a good lunch, then for dinner at 9:30 eat a pack of top ramen type food, basically the same thing. My companion said that’s going to be very normal for the next 2 years, so good thing I don’t care a lot about food! So real mission life is good. I’m super glad I got to watch conference my first weekend here, I needed to see it! there was so much good stuff. I loved how they focused so much on the basics of the gospel. A few of my favorite parts:
 “Saints can be happy under any circumstance. we can be happy any time. our happiness has little to do with circumstance”-Russell M. Nelson
“we must not assume that because something is unexplainable to us, it is unexplainable”-M. Russell Ballard
“As we depend fully on Him, He’ll enlarge our ability to serve”-David A. Bednar
 “As you faithfully live the gospel of Christ and abide by its teachings, your testimony will be protected”-Ronald A. Rasband
“Trials won’t allow us to grow unless we become deliberately involved in the process of growth. Even the darkest nights turn into morning for the faithful”-Evan A. Schnutz
“Nobody diligently reads the Book of Mormon every day and loses their testimony”-K. Brett Nattress

I’m sure you guys already knew a bunch of those, but it was all so good! I was able to get so much out of it. I wish I would’ve paid more attention to conference at home!
So, 1 week in the field in the rear-view mirror. I know that I’m not alone out here. I have the Lord with me wherever I go, and is there anybody better to have at my side: I know he’ll be right alongside all my family at home to. I know this church is true, I’ve had to really find out for sure since I’ve been here, and I know that it is. Keep continuing to grow closer to Christ every single day, I love you guys!!

Love, Spence

Spence and his companion, Elder ONeill
Elder Scowcroft, Spencer's comp in both the Provo and Brazil MTC