Tuesday, October 4, 2016

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

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