Monday, July 17, 2017

It's already been another week!

July 15th

It's already been another week!

This one was super busy, the first week of the transfer always is. On Monday we sent the "Heroes", or the returning missionaries home. This group had 2 elders that are some of my best friends that I've made on the mission, Elder Kauer and Elder Guzman, along with Elder Summers! Honestly it was a bit weird to see them go, it doesn't seem like they're actually home! There was a lot to keep track of, and because one of my responsibilities is to create the schedules for them their last few days as well as buying and keeping track of their plane tickets, there was quite a bit to balance. But, everything worked out well. Something cool to see was Elder Guzman's family who came to pick him up. It was a pretty cool moment when he saw them for the first time since he left. 

The next day we had the new missionaries get here. It was a group of 5 sisters and 3 elders, and they're all from Brazil. On the days when we get the new missionaries, the secretaries give trainings about what we do, how some of the programs on the mission work, and how to do a few things like get reimbursements, etc. Something that I've learned to really like is seeing the new missionaries meet their trainers. Seeing them reminds me of when I was in their place! There's a lot of preparation to send the old missionaries out and receive the new ones, but if you are efficient with your time then you shouldn't have too many problems.

Throughout the rest of the week though, the busy schedule didn't stop! I had a lot of missionaries call me for health stuff. I don't mark appointments for anyone during the last week of the transfer because if they're transferred to another area they won't be able to go to the appointment anyway, so I had a lot of backup from that to make up this week. There was also quite a bit of confusion with some of the police;visa stuff with some of the Hispanic missionaries. It just has to do with renewing visas and getting the right documents. A few things happened that I've never had to solve, and now that Elder Summers is gone, it was on me to figure it out! Between that and dealing with our health insurance company with another issue we had with an elder who had surgery a month or two ago, it got a bit stressful at times! But because of all this stuff going on, I'm learning a lot. Something that I've learned is the importance of writing things down. I get a bunch of random requests from President and other missionaries and if I don't write it down at the same time I hear it, I'll forget. Like I've already said, this new calling is much different than being a full time field missionary but it's a good fun experience.

I think one of the best parts is getting to work closely President Scholz. Being in the field, you only get to see president a few times per transfer. But being in the office I see him all day everyday. Whenever I have a question, I'm free to just walk into his office and ask! He's super cool, he's always joking around with the missionaries and every once in a while he'll bring us brownies of cookies that Sister Scholz made. Pretty cool! I'm learning a lot from him, and I'm super  grateful for this opportunity.

This week in the field we really buckled down and worked on finding new investigators. Thankfully we were able to have some success too! We continued to teach Adelson and his wife Edleuza (can't remember if I've talked about them or not). We taught about the Book of Mormon and it was awesome, because they led the lesson in the direction without us even trying! For example, while we were talking Edleuza said "Well, I don't follow any religion because there are so many ways to interpret the Bible! Anybody can just grab it and read a scripture and make it mean what they want!" When she said that Elder Vilas Boas and I just looked and each other with that look that says "hmmm not bad" because without us even explaining she already understood the need for the Book of Mormon! Cool lesson for sure.

We also started to use the list of less active members to find new investigators. What we do is get an address, but instead of knocking on that door we knock on both sides and across the street, asking about info of the person from the neighbors. It's a good way start up a convo, and we were able to find some people this way. 

So it was another good, busy week. Love you all!

-Elder Odom

Fatima got baptized!

July 8th

It was the last week of the transfer, so it was busy! I was pretty good at staying on top of all my stuff though so there weren’t any worries. But, first I’ll start out with the highlight of the week… Fatima got baptized!! It was awesome! We had the baptism yesterday. It was so fun to see how excited she was. Right after she was baptized, she said, “I’m baptized! I’m finally baptized! How wonderful!” I can for sure say that she is 100% ready to be baptized. With her, I’ve gotten to see the gospel in action and how it can bless the lives of everyone who chooses to live it.  She had problems with smoking, drinking coffee, etc. but now she had completely overcome these addictions. She says she’s more calm now and now and just much happier overall. Her conversion has been so fun to watch and has strengthened my own testimony in the power that the gospel has to change lives. I’m super grateful I got to be a part of her conversion process! The Lord really does prepare his children to hear the gospel.

On Wednesday, we had the family night that we planned with Guilherme’s (the recent convert) family. We had his girlfriend Maria share the message and she did a great job even though she was dying because she was so nervous! She’s going on a mission soon too! Her papers are with her stake president and they’re about to be sent to Salt Lake. We played a few games with them and then ate dinner that they made for us. Our goal is to eventually start teaching them, but like I said before it’ll be a little different because they’re super catholic. First we’re going to be friends with them, and then with Guilherme’s help they’ll get interested by themselves.

So the transfer… Because I’m in the office, I get to know the transfer early. President gave it to us on Wednesday. There’s a lot that we have to do to get ready for the news missionaries coming in, the missionaries going home, and everyone that’s switching areas. Something cool that happened was that my companion Elder Vilas Boas got called to be a district leader, along with Elder Breno who’s one of the financial secretaries. As the district leader, you have to set the example for the rest of you district. That will be a bit different working only 3 hours per day in the field, but it shows that president trusts us! It will be great opportunity to work hard and grow.

But that's it for me.  Thank you for all the support you give me. I love you guys! 

-Elder Odom

a little shopping, partying and teaching

July 1st

This week was good. Stayed busy! 
I swear, I got more calls from missionaries this week than all the other weeks combined. I was talking on the phone all day! I started to feel like you mom! 😉 

This week I worked a lot on the "hero movie" which is a video that we make each transfer for all the leaving missionaries. It has a bunch of their photos that they sent to me and some other cool stuff as well. It requires a lot of time, but it's still pretty fun to make it! I had fun doing it.

So something pretty cool. In the mall close to our apartment and the mission office, there's a Nike outlet, and they had a sale, but only for this week. If you bought 10 items, they'd take 50% off the price! There were a bunch of missionaries here in the city that took advantage to it! I went with my 2 comps and the assistants and we bought stuff. Elder Brock, one of the assistants, was nice enough to buy all of our stuff and then let us pay him back. I bought a sweet Paris Saint Germain jersey and a Brazil national team jacket. Because of the sale and dollar vs real, it ended up being 40 bucks! They're pretty sweet. 

2 funny stories that happened this week too. The first was about a package that here that we got in the office. It had Elder Vilas Boas's name on it so he assumed that it was for him. Then he saw that it was from Recife, the city where his sister is serving her mission so he got super happy! He opened it up and it had a shirt, a mini umbrella that says "Recife" and some chocolates. He was smiling and taking pics with the shirt on and with the stuff he got. Then he looked at the bottom of the box and saw a letter. He read the first line, and it said "Dear President Scholz". The box was for president and he opened it up and was using the stuff in it! We all started dying laughing even though he got his hopes up for nothing.

Here in Brazil, there's a huge holiday called Sao João, or St John. People also call it Festa Junino or June Party, mainly within the church because St. John is a "Catholic holiday" even though they do the exact same stuff, only trade the name. What they do is get a ton of people together and do a dance called Farro, which is similar to square dancing. They also dress up as farmers and rednecks and there's a lot of food that has peanuts and corn. On Thursday, there was a pretty big party for this going on at the catholic church across the street from our apartment. Elder Vilas Boas and I were talking and then the other elders got home but had a bunch of food in their hands. When we asked where they got it, they said "from the catholics across the street! Go over there and get some too!" They said that as they were getting food everyone stared at them and got away from them as if they were wild animals! We'd already changed, so we just went over there in normal clothes. We got to the door and Elder Vilas Boas said "my friend here is american and he'd like to experience a sao joão party. Can we enter:" the lady said "oh for sure go ahead!" So we walked right into the catholic church! There was a lot of food and people were nice and offering us a bunch. I also thought that this was my chance to not be noticed because i was in normal clothes, but no, people still picked me out. As we were eating, we had something funny happen. We were talking to ourselves and a group of girls passed us and started saying stuff in english to us: "hi! hi hollywood!" I don't even know how they knew i'm american. We didn't tell anyone besides the one lady at the front gate. I asked my comp how they know, and he said that I just seem american. I said that there are still people with light eyes and hair here, and he just laughed and said yeah but you just look american, it's not super hard to tell. So i guess even people who aren't familiar with the missionaries can tell me apart! But anyway, as we were leaving they kept saying hi and after a few times i turned around and said hi back and then they all flipped, it was pretty funny! Not everyday you go to a catholic party, especially as missionary. But it was funny!

Our investigator Fatima is still doing good and still hasn't smoked! She's all set to be baptized next week on friday. Super excited to see that, it'll be awesome. It's always good to see that when your investigators get baptized they're true converts and even though they don't know everything, they know that they have to try. She's a convert for sure!

There's a recent convert that my comps baptized last transfer named Guilherme who's awesome too. He's dating a member, but she's going on a mission here soon and he's 100% supportive. His family is super catholic though. It's his parents and his younger sister. They're super nice people though and will always be welcoming to us. So, we decided to visit them just to see if we could mark a family home evening with them or something. While Elder Summers was doing a split with other missionaries, Elder Vilas Boas and I went over to Guilherme's house to talk to his family. We shared a short message from the Book of Mormon about trusting in God, and it went great. I could feel the Spirit as we taught. President Scholz talks to us a lot about teaching quickly to bring the Spirit, and then once we feel it we need to leave, so that they will feel the difference of when we we're there and after we left. So we did just that! Our message was only 7 mins and then we invited them to do a family night next week and they accepted. It was a great example to me of the power of the Spirit in teaching. As missionaries, we always need to remember that it's the Spirit that teaches and not us, and that's what happened this week. It's going to be different teaching them but if we do our part in letting the Spirit teach they'll be able to get a confirmation that our message is true. 

This week I focused a lot on thoughts during my personal study. Our personal thoughts dictate a lot of how we live, and it's through our thoughts that we are able to be happy or sad with any given situation. In the October 2016 conference (my first weekend in the field) I remember something that President Nelson said: "Latter-day saints has the ability to be happy in ANY situation." I was studying a talk about thoughts by Dean L. Larsen called 'thoughts about thoughts', and something that really stuck out to me was what we can do to always have good, constructive thoughts. Here's a part from it: 

"I’ve heard counsel given with regard to devices that might be used to protect us temporarily from the effects of bad thoughts or evil thoughts. I’ve heard the suggestion that we might sing a song, a phrase from a Latter-day Saint hymn, or recite some poetry or some verses of scripture. But this, in reality, is a defensive stance. One cannot always be on defense against evil thoughts. One must assume the offense. The best way I’ve learned to achieve this is to practice sustained, constructive thinking. That’s an exercise, brothers and sisters, that requires as much training and as much conditioning as the physical endurance required to run a long-distance race. I commend to you this morning the “exercise” of sustained constructive thinking.
As a mission president I traveled great distances over the state of Texas. (You can drive a long way in the state of Texas!) I used to spend many hours traveling alone, going from one missionary meeting or one set of interviews to another in the automobile that was provided for us. There was a lot of time to think, and many thoughts come in a situation of that kind. I discovered that it was a very helpful thing for me (and later very useful) if I used that time to practice organizing talks that I could give, forming associations of scriptural ideas and principles that would be helpful to me in expressing these relationships to others. Some of the best talks you’ll never hear, I gave to myself as I drove from one place to another in southern Texas. I recommend, that process to you. In order to sustain constructive thinking, it’s necessary for us to have something worthwhile to think about, to have in reserve, as it were, some items, some problems, some challenges, to which we can turn our minds, to think our way through to a solution. I’ve discovered in my own life that that’s the best way to obtain inspiration and whatever degree of revelation we are entitled to."

 I'm grateful for this opportunity to be a missionary, and I'm starting to realize that time is going by too fast! It's already the last week of the transfer! Something that nick told me when I was pretty new in the mission is something that his first zone leader told him: that the first 6 months in the mission feel as long as the last 18. It's true! I'm doing my best to take advantage of every day I have out here! 
I love you all.
 pic 1: Me with my last comp, elder naytson

pic 2: a family home evening we did with a recent convert. it was sweet!

pic 3: elder breno, one of the financial secretaries, accidentally spilled the toner from the printer. we were all laughing pretty hard

pic 4: me and the comps!

pic 5: first reunion of the mtc district since the first day in the mission field! way fun to see sister martin and elder cleverly at the same time
I hope you have a great week!

-Elder Odom

Friday, June 30, 2017

Mission Tour- another busy week

June 24th

Okay, another week. 

It was a pretty busy one with mission tour and the interviews that President had with lots of the missionaries this week. Pretty much all of the preparation for these types of things are up to us, so we did a bunch!

We had the mission tour earlier today, which is also our p day. so sadly we pretty much didn't get one! part of the it guess. But we had an area 70 come and speak to us. He talked a lot about being true disciples of Christ and what it means to truly teach repentance. It really made me realize that I have lots to learn! He said that we can't be "part-time disciples", we have to be doing everything. As missionaries, we have the name of the Savior on our chest at all times, and how we act, talk, think, teach, serve, etc. needs to be how the Savior would do it if he were he doing it personally. I started thinking; am i doing my best and using the time I have here to do everything in my reach? There's always more we can do to improve. he said that even after we go home, we cant stop living the standards we learned as missionaries, because we've already taken upon us the name of Christ and need to always let that show through our actions. It was super good! Another really cool thing is that now I'm getting to know all the missionaries. It was my first zone conference/mission tour as the executive, and it was cool to see that I've already gotten to know most of the missionaries. For sure one of the better parts of the calling!

So with our investigator Fatima.... She's been 5 days without smoking!!! After weeks of teaching her and extorting her to do the small and simple things, she finally is making progress. After one of our lessons, she said she felt so bad for smoking that she went to the store the next day and bought nicotine patches to help her stop and they started working right off the bat. We were so pumped to see that she's doing it! She's going to get baptized on the 7th of next month. she's really a convert and understand that baptism is a sacred covenant and wants to be sure that she's ready to follow the promises she'll make once she's baptized. It will be awesome!

okay well i'm running out of time again, but have a good week! I love you guys!!

-Elder Odom

Pizza party, bball, and more secretary stuff

June 17th

Alrighty, so another week! Man the mission goes by quick. It's going by so much quicker here in the mission office too. I was worried that it wouldn't, but I just didn't imagine all the stuff that I'd have to do! I'm pretty busy, but it's good and I'm having lots of fun.

This week I learned a lot about the police stuff. I think I've already mentioned it but that's once of my responsibilities. I have to make sure that everything is in order with visas and that all the foreigners can legally be here. I went to the police station for myself actually and renewed my visa. I'm good and legalized to be here now for the rest of my mission! It's a pretty long process with a lot of steps, but I still have 4 more weeks to learn how to do it so I should be good once elder summers heads home.

This morning we played basketball. We had me, one of my comps, and one of the financial secretaries along with the assistants and president Scholz. So president played ball for BYU... He is in his late 50's but still plays way good. He literally doesn't miss when he shoots, and he's about 6'4"! Not only does he not miss but he makes hard shots too. It's way cool to see how good he still is.

So something really cool that happened this week. We went out looking for new investigators last Thursday using the list of less actives from the ward. We went to a house and it turns out the member moved a long time ago, but we started to talk with the couple that's living there now. we got to know them and then shared a quick message about the importance of being obedient using the scripture in Mosiah. They loved the message and said a bunch of times about how this was exactly what they needed. We went back on Friday and taught the restoration. Again, they really liked it. They accepted the invitation to go to church on Sunday too! Something that I thought about a lot afterward was what they kept saying about how they felt different around us, that we have a "joy" that they need to feel. They never accept visits from other religions, but they felt like they should with us. Its amazing to see how the people the the Lord prepares can feel the spirit that we carry! It also reminded me of the importance of always being worthy of the Spirit, because it was Him that  caught their attention, nothing that we did. We never know how the Lord will use us to touch the lives of others! it was a great experience this week and I'm excited to see their progress!

We did a way cool activity this week too. the ward we're in is kinda slow and the members aren't too motivated, so we decided we need to do a cool activity to get them excited again. So we thought... what does everyone like that would make them come? Well, everyone likes food! In the states we have chili cook offs, but here they don't eat much chili. so we went with pizza! We got a member to hook it up with some crusts and we got them out to people. it was a great turn out! lots of people came and everyone had fun.

This week we also went to a way fancy restaurant with president and the other secretaries. a new missionary got here that went home a year and a half ago and just came back! pretty cool he'd do that after so long! to welcome him president and sister scholz took him there. for sure there are lots of benefits of being in the mission office!

So thats my week. Have a good one and i love you guys!

-Elder Odom

In a Brazilian commercial!

June 10th

Hey everybody back at home, another week down!

This week was just more learning about my responsibilities. I stayed pretty busy! We had the leadership council this week with is when all the zone leaders in the mission come to Ribeirão Preto for a meeting. I got to see some of the other missionaries that I haven’t seen for a long time, that’s one thing that’s super cool about being executive!

Last P day was super fun too. We went to a park and passed the football and Frisbee that the parents sent. It’s been awhile since I’ve thrown a Frisbee but it looks like I still got it! So funny story while we were there. The park we went to is actually really nice and has a bunch of little ponds and stuff. There's also a cliff about 70 feet high that has a pond at the bottom with a little waterfall going off the edge. We thought it would be pretty sweet to go up there and throw the Frisbee and football off the top, so that’s what we did. The problem is when you’re on the ground it doesn’t look that high or far, but when we got up there we realized that it’s actually way farther than we thought! But, we were already up there so we decided to go for it. We had Elder Summers go first with the football. He gave it a good throw, but it didn't even make it close… and it landed right in the middle of the pond. Then it was my turn, and by that point I was kind of nervous that something would happen and I’d get my Frisbee in the water the first day I use it! But I threw it! It went pretty far, but I forgot to angle it downward and so it started to go back toward the water! Luckily, it hit the ground and stopped about 2 inches from the edge, but it didn’t go in. So that left us with the problem of the football that was still floating in the water. After standing at the edge talking about what we should do, Elder Da Cunha (one of the financial secretaries) hiked up his shorts and waded into the water to get it. I was laughing so hard watching him get it! Everyone at the park was looking at us like we were crazy, but you cant really blame them! After he got out he decided that it actually wasn’t that far to throw. He stayed at the bottom the first time the ball was thrown so he didn’t see how far it actually was. So then he went up there to throw it! He tried, but also got it right in the middle of the water which was pretty funny for me. Elder Breno, the other financial sec., went and got it the next time. After that we called it good and went back to do our shopping and stuff. But it was a pretty good first P Day on Saturday! So, I made it in a Brazilian commercial, pretty sick!  You'll see me at the beginning of the commercial throwing the Frisbee!  Click here to see Spence in the Brazilian commercial! 

One thing that is pretty time consuming that ive been doing this week is talking to other missionaries about health and marking doctors visits and stuff. Its crazy how many of those I have to do, I’d never guess! This week with our field work, we had a few good lessons. We were able to find a guy named Fernando at home that we’ve been looking for since I got here. Hes a really nice guy but has one problem that’s kinda tough. He doesn’t believe in repentance, and doesn’t feel bad for smoking or other things that he does. It was a cool lesson that we had. We talked a lot about the Atonement and explained Christ’s role in getting clean from our sins. By the end of the lesson, he actually stopped to think and started to understand why repentance is important, actually necessary. That’s something that we’ve been focusing a lot on here in the mission, teaching repentance. There’re a lot of lessons and topics that we teach as missionaries but in the end it all boils down to if a person will repent or not! If someone understands the importance of repentance, everything else will fall into place. As ive been working on teaching it more, Im starting to understand it better and better myself. One thing that I didn’t do before the mission was use the Atonement every single day, and I should’ve! I can see the difference that it’s making! Speaking of the Atonement, theres an awesome talk that I’ve been studying the last few days called “The Meaning of the word Atonement” by Cleon Skousen. I’ll put the link in here for you guys to check out too: ARTICLE LINK

Kinda cool to be able to do that kind of stuff now working in the office! But, that’s my week. I’m learning ton here and I'm grateful for the opportunity. Although we don’t always have the expected or things hoped for in life, the Lord always knows what kind of experiences we need. Have a good week everyone and enjoy the first week of summer!!

-Elder Odom

First week as mission secretary - enjoying good food

June 3rd

Alright, first week as a member of the mission staff!

It's been a pretty full week and probably was the fastest week in the mission until now. The hours fly by here!

So about my new comps. I'm in a trio right now and their names are Elder Summers and Elder Villas Boas. E. Summers is from Portland and E. Villas Boas is from the southern part of the state of Bahia. They're both really awesome and super easy to get along with. Its pretty funny, on my first day in the mission field it was Elder Summers, Elder O'Neill (my first comp/trainer), and me. He was there to watch me teach my first lesson and I'll be here to watch him teach his last! He's going home at the end of the transfer and I'll be the one to take his place.

In this past week, I've learned a lot! My schedule is much different too. Everyday we wake up, get ready and get to the mission office at 8:00 to study and plan for the day. Then from 10-6 we just work. After that, we go to our proselyting area to teach our investigators and stuff. Because the mission office is kinda far from our area, we get to eat at a restaurant everyday which is pretty sweet. There's this restaurant across the street which we just call "across the street" that we go to pretty much everyday. Its good, classic brazilian food and isn't too expensive either. But every once in a while we go to a nicer restaurant. This week we went to one that was 40 reais which is pretty expensive, but its cool because as a staff missionary you get a ton of money to eat. We had huge hamburgers and at the end I ordered brownie and ice cream. It was the first brownie that I've had since I've been here and it was so good! 

So about what I do now. There are 4 secretaries and each one has a different job; 2 financial secretaries and 2 executive secretaries. I'm executive secretary A. One of the things I do is deal with off all the health on the mission. So whenever a missionary is sick of hurt (which happens A LOT) they call me and I tell them what to do. That includes calling hospitals around the mission and scheduling appointments for them. This eats up a big chunk up my time during the day! I'm also in charge of all the foreigners and their documents. So I have to work with the federal police here and renew visas and stuff. Its a pretty complicated process... I'm glad I still have 5 more weeks to learn! On top of that, I just deal with all the random problems that happen day to day on the mission. Like Elder Summers said "If we listed all the stuff that you have to do, we'd be here all day. You can basically sum it by by saying that you fix all the problems!" So if there's any random thing that needs to be done, it's my job. I also become the official IT guy of the mission. Whenever there's a problem with any sort of technology, it's up to me to fix it. So dad, I know what you mean now when you said that google became your best friend while you were learning how to do all the stuff with computers! President said that here in 5 or 6 months the mission is going to switch out our current computers for better ones and it's going to be me that is going to have to make all that work. So, we'll see how that goes! I'll have to study up a bit before that happens! I never knew how much goes on behind the scenes of in the mission. The secretaries do a ton! There's a lot that I need to learn and I'm going to stay busy during my time here for sure.

So, there you have it. I have to cut it a bit short because I didn't use the alphasmart this week but I'll write more next week! Its super crazy that Ty is done with high school...... It seems like just a month or two ago I was in the middle of my senior year! 

-Elder Odom

Called to be the mission executive secretary!

May 29th

So first I'm gonna talk about this past week. It was a pretty good one to end the transfer!

This week we had the ward talent show, and when it was first planned the stake presidents wife asked us to participate once she learned that Elder Boldrin and I play guitar. So we participated and it was super sick. We had a sweet version of Hotel California that we played and also ended up playing Radioactive because it's a fun song that everybody has heard before. The ward loved it! It was pretty fun to get to play in front of people again, reminded me of the good times back at Rock U! I filmed the songs so I'll send them to you guys, but ill have to do it next week.

The other companionship in our ward baptized a couple and it was really cool. On saturday they had the baptism, and then at night they had their wedding ceremony. It was a pretty big thing so we were there pretty much all day helping them out. We got up early to clean the church before the baptism, then after the baptism we went to the stake presidents house for lunch which was super good, then we went straight back to the church to get ready for the wedding. It was a ton of work! But, it turned out great and they had a lot of fun which is whats important.

With Thammy, it was a good week too. She's awesome! Because of all the stuff that her mom's gone through, shes a little unstable at times. Thammy is only 8 years old (9 in june) but she's the one that takes care of her mom with lots of stuff and talks to her when she needs it. I really cant believe how she turned out so good when she has had such a hard life so far! Its super clear that Heavenly Father put her with her mom because if it wasn't for her, i'm not sure where her mom would be. She's also going to be baptized next month on her birthday which i'm super excited about.

So, for the big news... the transfer. Right now, I'm emailing from the mission office! I was called to be the missions executive secretary! I got the phone call on saturday night. We were helping clean up from the wedding when one of the assistants called me. He told me that i was being transferred to an area called Vila Virginia and that I'd be the new executive on the mission. it was a big surprise! even though i was already thinking that it was probable that i get called, by the end of this last transfer id convinced myself that i wasn't going to be the new executive. So when i got the call I was feeling both excited, sad, nervous, happy, all at the same time. I realized that what you said dad is right, the Lord will give me all the opportunities that I personally need so i don't need to worry about what i think i want, i just need to always trust the Lord will give me whats best for me. So here i am, pretty funny that dwain and i both are in the office now in our missions! It should be a great opportunity to grow. I'm already learning a lot and its only the first day! I'll have lots of responsibilities but it'll be good. 

So that's all i have time for today, I'll talk to you guys next saturday, because that's when my P Day is now! Have a good week!

-Elder Odom

Thursday, May 25, 2017

It was cold!

May 22nd

This past week we really focused on finding again. We were able to have success, but sadly it was another hard one for my companion Elder Naytson with his health. Now it's his spine that he says is hurting him. It's crazy how many problems he has, his back, knee, legs, feet, so many things hurt. We had one last doctor visit on Tuesday and they said that his legs are hurting because of his muscles, and the only thing he can do is rest which is hard if you're a missionary. I talked to President about it and he said that he just needs to take as much medicine as he needs to deal with the pain and keep working because if he rested enough to actually make a difference, maybe 2 or 3 weeks, it would be too much time away from the work. He still has 8 months until he goes home, so I don't know what he's gong to do honestly. I personally think that the cause of all of his problems is his weight. He is around 5'5" but is 213 lbs. Your body just cant carry that around all day, and because during his first year on the mission he walked even more, he's feeling the consequences now. But we were still able to find a family and a couple other people to teach, so it was good!
Something funny that happened was we were knocking doors and a guy let us in. We started to talk to him and he started to tell us how he loves Jesus and is catholic and stuff. He said "My sister sent me a video this week and I want to show it to you guys, here watch this" and pulled it up on his phone. My comp and I quickly recognized that it was one of the Bible Videos that our church makes that I've already seen a bunch of times. The only difference is that the end part where it has the church logo was cut out. He was a nice guy but was one of those that try to teach us about Christ and the gospel. I was funny how he used our video to try to do that!
On Friday I had an experience that I've never had before here on the mission. I was cold! It had been raining all day long and at night it only got worse. We were out in the streets looking for an address and the wind was blowing super hard and we were soaking wet. It was the first time I've actually been cold in 9 months! We ended up going to a members house to get out of the rain and she gave us some warm food which was nice. When I got to Brazil, I was in the hottest city in the mission during the hottest months of the year. Now, I'm in the coldest city during the coldest months. Pretty cool! I'm super grateful that I don't have to worry about the heat for at least a little bit longer.
On Saturday we had a pretty cool activity with the ward. Lately the ward has really been focusing on helping the members do their visits, so we came up with the idea to do a training for them to show how to do a good visit. We explained how to prepare, what to do during the visit, and what to do afterward. Then we did a quick demonstration. After we showed a video of President Eyring and Elder Holland talking about the Atonment and how we can't ever give up in our callings and in life because the Savior never did. It brought the Spirit really strong and helped motivate the members that were there. The video is awesome! You can find it here   It's worth watching for sure!
Sunday was pretty cool too. President and Sister Scholz came to our ward to give a fireside, and they even participated in ward council too! He talked about the tools that the members have to help in missionary work. His purpose was  to try and motivate the members a bit into doing more! He did a good job and the members really seemed to like it too. It's always fun getting to see President and Sister Scholz.
That's it though! This week is the last of the transfer, and I'll figure out what happens on Saturday! This transfer went by super fast again, especially because it's only a transfer of 5 weeks. The phrase "The days are long but the weeks fly by" that every missionary says is totally true. Time is going by quicker and quicker! But have a good week and until next week!

-Elder Odom

Zone conference, Skype and Ty's mission call

May 15th

Hey everyone back home! 
So my week was pretty good. I'll start with the beginning of the week.
On Tuesday we had Zone Conference which is always fun. President gave a training on the talk given by Gary B. Sabin "Be All In" and it was great. It really made me think, am I 'all in' with my work here on the mission: Am I doing everything I can with the time I have here? The same thing will apply to every part of my life, including after the mission. 2 things that he said that I really like are "When we're all in, we will want to do all the small things, not just do them because we're suppose to." and "We cant expect blessings if we aren't being as obedient as we can. When we aren't all in, we lose some of our greatest blessings." I always look forward to Zone Conferences, I learn a lot! Something else fun that happened is I got to se Lehi! He's the member in my last area that always is helping the missionaries, he's almost a missionary himself. Because of him, that area has baptized a ton of people and has a group of 20 or 30 people each sunday! The stake president is saying that by the end of the year, it should be a branch. Lehi's the man! It was a blast to see him again.
This week was pretty funny for lunch. Normally we eat lunch with members, but this week we only ate with a member one time and for all the rest of the days we had nothing. One of the members gave us some money for food which was good. So, we went to the store and bought food to make for the whole week. The other elders in my house can cook, which is good because I cant cook at all! We actually ate pretty well, I was impressed with the other elders. Pasta, a bunch of different types of meat, rice, etc. your typical brazilian meal but it was still good. On Friday we did splits with the district leader. My companion went with him to his area and his comp came here with me. His name is elder Sanchez, another elder from mexico. We didn't have a a ton of people to teach, so we went crazy with finding new investigators and were able to find 8 people that accepted another visit which is really good! It's been awhile since I've found that many people in one day willing to listen to us, so we were happy with our work. 
On Saturday we had a big ward activity for Mothers Day. The stake president's wife found out that Elder Boldrin and I play guitar, and so he asked us to participate and play some songs with some sisters from the ward. It was really cool! We got the church decorated with hearts and stuff and were able to play 2 songs for the ward. It was fun! At night, we went to a less active members house to share a message and invite her to church. We were walking there when the other companionship in the ward called us. There was a member in the ward who was getting on their case about visiting a referral she gave that day of another inactive member. She said that the referral needed help spiritually and mentally. When we got to the first less active members house it was already 815, so we decided that we wouldn't have enough time to visit the referral that night. But as we left the less active's house, we both felt like we should visit the referral. The problem was we didn't have the map, the address to the house, or time to visit! But we knew we needed to at least stop by. So we called another member to get the address and somehow made our way to the right house. We were let in by a girl who's about 10 years old. We went and met her mom, who was the referral that needed help. Her name is Taila, and I'm not going to get in to all the problems that she has, but I'll say that she probably has had the hardest life of anyone that I've personally met. I couldn't believe all the trials that she's had to go through! I was in shock as I was listening to her tell us about her hardships. I'm still not 100% sure how I'm going to help her, but we are for sure going to do our best.
Sunday was the highlight of the week! Mothers Day and getting to Skype the family! It was super fun to be able to see everyone again. The craziest part was when Ty read his call to me. When he was opening it, it was like I was opening my own call all over again, I was super nervous! But, for those of you who don't know yet, he's going to the Brazil Fortaleza mission!!!!! I couldn't believe it, Ty's going to Brazil too! I was so happy and I'm super proud of him. So cool that my brother and I will serve in the same country. Also shoutout to my cousin Kaylee, congrats on getting your call to Philadelphia, that's so cool!!! I'm super grateful for my family and all the the support I have from them. A big thank you to all my friends back home and serving around the world too, you guys are awesome!
That's all from me this week, I hope all you guys back home have a great week!
-Elder Odom

Companion health issues and a little guitar

May 8th

Another week down! So, what happened this week.

The first thing is about my companion, Elder Naytson. His health just isn't good. He has lots of problems in his legs and he feels a lot of pain, and from what he says it's almost constant, but especially when he's walking around a lot. As missionaries, it's kind of hard to avoid doing that! We went to the doctor to see whats wrong and they did and x-ray on his leg but still don't know why he's feeling pain. So, we need to go back on the 11th to have him do some more tests. On the mission, it really seems to take forever when you go to the doctor, so that trip wasted almost an entire day. This week he also got a pretty bad flu and was out of commission almost 2 days. His fever was high and it was tough for him. He was pretty mad about it because of all the time that we missed because of his health problems, but there's really no other choice but to let him rest because he was dying. So it's been a bit tough to work normally this week because of that, but regardless we were able to get some good lessons.

One of our lessons that was super cool was with 2 investigators, a girl named Eduarda and her mom named Fabiana. Eduarda is 17 and her mom is about 40. We found Eduarda the first week of the transfer but weren't able to find her at home until this past Saturday. We taught the Restoration and it went really good! When we found Eduarda the first week, she was sitting on a bench by herself and he felt like we should talk to her. When we did, we introduced ourselves and started to talk about our message, and she started to cry. She said she is having some problems in her life and she's been praying for help, and that's when we talked to her. Then during the lesson, both her and her mom cried. They said that the first time we found her it was in the exact moment when she needed help, and when we visited on Saturday it was the same thing, just the right moment when she was needing help. During the lesson I really felt the Spirit confirming to them that this is the path that Heavenly Father has for them, and I know that they felt the same way too. This is one of the coolest parts of the mission, to be led by the Spirit even when you don't know that you are! When we made that first contact with her, we didn't know that she was needing our help, we just felt like we should talk to her, so we did. I know that when we're making the right choices and asking for opportunities to help others, Heavenly Father will turn us into instruments in His hands, even when we don't know it. We can have a much bigger impact on the lives of others than we know!

Another thing about my companion. Sometimes he's a bit impulsive and likes to do crazy things. On Wednesday he did just that. The week before while we were at a members house eating lunch, they brought out a guitar and Elder Boldrin, another Elder, and I started to play a bit. Elder Naytson watched us and thought it was super super cool and after that he was 100% determined that he was going to learn how to play guitar. He knows that I taught guitar before the mission, so he said that I was going to teach him. The very next day he went and spent 250 reais on a used guitar so i could teach him how to play. So there's a good and a bad side to this... the good part is that I get to play more often and help my companion learn to play too, and the bad side is it's a huge temptation to play! I have to really force myself to not to play it all the time when I should be studying or something. So I made goals for myself, I'll teach Elder Naytson, but I'll only play on P Day! But it is super sweet to have a guitar again! I miss playing a ton!

There's my week though. Next sunday we get to Skype! I cant believe it! Something that my trainer Elder O'Neill said was that in between Christmas and Mother's Day time flies. It's true! It doesn't seem like that long ago that we were Skyping!  Have a great week!

Elder Odom

Monday, May 1, 2017

Another good week

May 1st
It was another good week!
My companion, elder Naytson is great. I learned a very valuable lesson that i'll never forget. Never judge someone based on what you hear from others. He's grown a lot as a person and missionary, and now He's doing just fine. Its a lesson I'll never ever forget! Hes really outgoing and wild so he's fun to be around. (some of the other elders said he would be a hard companion)
We were able to find a few new people to teach this week that are looking pretty good! Its two 15 year old boys and a 20 year old girl. We found them while contacting people on the street. They seem really interested and I'm looking forward to working with them.
My companion has some heath problems that are pretty bad, mainly because of the walking that we do. His feet are crazy, the bottoms of them are literally like rocks. I gave him one of my pairs of shoes to use because they are much more comfortable than his. I've been pretty worried all week because of his problems. i let president know in my email, so hopefully we'll get him some sort of help soon.
So good news with my Portuguese! its getting better! Both Elder Boldrin (elder in my house that I'm really good friends with) and my comp say that my accent is getting much better. I've been working really really hard with it and its starting to pay off! I have a huge testimony of whatever we ask for, in faith, we can receive. I'm so grateful for all the help i get every single day from Him.
Super cool that the Jazz moved on! I'm proud of my Jazz, already looking forward to watching them when i get home.
So as far as my guess goes for Ty's call.... stateside, I'm gonna guess somewhere in california. internationally, i think he's going to the UK. Super super anxious to hear where he goes!
I'm looking forward to the rest of this transfer. I'm already really liking elder Naytson and i think I'm going to really enjoy it. That's it for me though, sorry for the kinda short email! Have a good week!!
Love Elder Odom

transfers and saying goodbye to Elder Torres

April 24th

The last week of transfer 6 is over. It was a pretty good one!
So about transfers, there's some kinda sad news... I didn't get moved, but Elder Torres did. We are pretty sad about it! It was a super fun transfer and I cant believe it went as fast as it did. We were hoping that he'd stay one more but it didn't happen. But its just part of mission life. The comp I'm getting is named Elder Naytson and he's from Recife, so Brazilian.
This week we focused a lot on growing our teaching base again. We found a good amount of people so we should pretty good shape to start off this next transfer.
I did a split with Elder Guzman, my zone leader on Friday. I went to his area and worked with him. I always like doing splits with the zone leaders, its a good opportunity to learn. Elder Guzman and I are good friends so it was a fun day. He's also going to stay this next transfer along with my other zone leader Elder Seaman from Baltimore. The two elders I'm living with, Elder Boldrin and Elder Santana are also staying. They're super fun to be around so I was happy about that too.
btw, the weather is awesome here!  It's starting to be winter, and winter is actually the most wonderful time of the year.  These past 2 weeks its always been around 73 outside. It's so sweet!!!

But that's actually about it for this week. We're still working hard to find the elect people! But I'll talk to you guys next week.
Elder Odom

Elder Torres made awesome burritos

Rat killing adventures

April 17th

Well it's arrived yet again, can you believe it's my last email for this transfer? It was a quick 6 weeks!
This week was more of the same. We actually found people to teach, but the problem we're having is finding them at home to teach them again! But when we did splits this week, I found some people that seem pretty interested but I marked for next week, so lets hope it goes well with them.
Something cool that we did this week was the ward activity. We have 4 missionaries in the ward and so us 4 planned an activity to try to animate the ward and get them to help us out with referrals and stuff. We divided the ward into 2 teams Each person that brings a non member to the activity gets 3 points and each person they bring to sacrament gets 5. During the activity we had various activities for them to do that could win points too. It was kind of a bummer because we planned a bunch of scripture questions and games, but not very many people showed up. We're planning on doing it over the next 3 weekends too so we still have time to get the members involved!
So something super funny that happened on Friday! My comp and I were planning the ward activity with the other elders in our ward that live with us when one of them sat up a bit and pointed across the room and yelled "rat!" We all turned around and there it was, a huge rat crawling along the wall. It was about 7 or 8 inches long head to tail. We hurried and made a strategy of how we were going to get it out of the apartment and kill it without having it bleed, because it smells super bad. One of the elders snuck around quietly and shut all the doors while the rest of us got ready in our spots. I was waiting on the other side of the front door with a heavy wooden shoe while the others had pieces of wood and other things. They were able to scare it outside and when it passed me I swung at it but missed! My 3rd attempt was good and i got one of its back legs so it was going slower. Then we started hitting it back and forth as it ran around crazy. I was dying laughing the whole time, the whole situation was so funny! Eventually Elder Santana, one of the elders that lives with us, was able to get a solid hit on his head and it died. Then we put an old shirt over it and put elder Torres in charge of picking it up and putting it in a sac. It was so funny watching him because he was so grossed out he literally couldnt do it! He kept saying "Its body is so squishy and soft!!" But after a few minutes he was able to do it. I have a video of that part, Ill try to send it to you guys!
This week I was thinking about my friends and how cool it is that I have so many serving serving all around the world, literally!
I'm 1/3 of the way done with my mission now. Its weird because I still feel kind of new out here! It really does go by quick!
Other than that not much else exciting happened this week. Im looking forward to transfers to see what will happen. I love you all and thanks so much for all that you do! I can really feel the support from you guys and the rest of our family and friends. Until next week!
Love Spence

Tuesday, April 11, 2017

Over 60 doors visited!

Hello everybody! another week come and gone! This week went by pretty quick for me. The time just seems to keep going quicker and quicker!

But, as far the work is going it wasn't as fast this week. At this point we're running out of ideas of how to find new people to teach, so we decided that we're just going to visit as many inactive members as we can and try to teach non-members in their families. In the past week, we've visited over 60 addresses. It's sad to see when people don't have a desire to come back to church. We're trying our best to help them, but the problem is the same for all of them, they don't read the Book of Mormon, pray, pay tithing, etc. all the little stuff. The longer I'm out here the more I learn how important the little things are. Something that President Scholz always talks about are the "simple and basic things", because without them no doubt you'll start to lose or weaken your testimony. On the upside, we were able to find a few new people to teach because of this. Now the problem is finding them at home again when they say they'll be!

Elder Torres is still dealing with problems with his finger and also has problems in his shoulders, so he started to do physical therapy this week. Not the most fun thing in the world, but I just use the time to read. He was also super sick this week with a really bad cold or something, so on tuesday after Zone meeting, we went home and didnt go back out. Its lame we had to do that because we need to find new people to teach, but if he's sick you can't really do anything about it. That day he slept 13 hours out of 24! So like last transfer, I got a day where I studied a lot! It wasnt 10 hours like last time, but it was still a lot of time.

Now for the sad part of the week. Our investigator Dienifer that we've been working with had to be cut. We visited her 2 times this week and explained the answers she's received. On friday, we asked her "Do you believe that you received an answer during General Conference as well as other days?" she said yes. But then she said "But I decided I'm not going to go to church anymore, and I still wont be baptized." It's one of the saddest things out here on the mission for sure when someone knows what they need to do and have an answer from God but choose not to follow. We were feeling really bad about her choice, but as missionaries we did all we could and what we're suppose to, which is help her receive and answer from God. There's nothing more we can do because we can't choose for her, only she can do that. So that was a pretty rough part of the week, but we just have to keep going.

But that's all from me this week. Wasn't too exciting, just a bunch of finding different addresses. Something that I studied a lot this week was Alma 31 and 32. Those chapters are awesome! We learn about how important prayer is, and at the way that Alma explains faith is super cool. He literally says exactly what we need to do to receive a testimony and grow our faith. I'm super grateful for the scriptures and everything we learn from them. I've come to learn in the last months that every single problem we have in our lives can be answered using the Book of Mormon. Because we have it, it really shows how much God loves us.
I love all you guys, thanks for all your prayers and support, i'm super grateful for each one of you! until next week!
-Elder Odom

Drinking contest and questionable medical care

Hey everyone, another P day arrived!  This week was pretty different. I'll start with last monday.

We were playing bball and what ended up happening is Elder Torres dislocated his finger super bad and then after putting it back into place himself, it was still hurting super bad. He decided to wait a day or two to go to the doctor though in case it stopped hurting. On Wednesday, we went because it was still killing him. Let me say that the medical care here is... just not quite as good. We went to the hospital and waited and 2 hours after they said they'd "be with us soon". After that we asked what was taking so long and how much longer we'd have to wait and they said another 4 hours. So we left, pretty lame waste of time! We called the mission office and they got us an appointment at a private hospital which was better. But they just sent us to a specialist. We visited the specialist, who then told us that he had pinched a nerve in his finger super bad and now the nerve is out of place in his finger. Then, they sent us back to the private hospital again to talk to a doctor there. He wrapped his finger to help keep it steady, and then marked yet ANOTHER appointment for us to go back to get an x ray to see if he'll need surgery or not! We actually haven't gotten back to do that yet, because we were sick of wasting time. But in total, we wasted hours and hours across 3 days doing all that stuff, we lost a lot of good work time! But lets just hope that Elder Torres doesn't need surgery!
On tuesday we had Zone Conference. These past 2 conferences President Scholz has given an assigned reading in the BoM and told everyone to come prepared to give a short talk on a topic that he also assigns. This time it was repentance. He chooses 4 missionaries during the conference, we don't know who until they're called. You know when you just somehow know that you're going to be picked: I had that feeling as we were getting ready to leave, and it turns out I was right! He picked me, but the problem was that he modified the part of the BoM that we could use and the scripture I prepared was outside of that. So in 7ish mins I found another scripture and planned what I'd say as much as I can. When it was my turn to talk, I didn't really know what I was going to say exactly. But, that day I strengthened my testimony of the Spirit giving us what we need to say "in the very hour". It turned out good and I never was at a loss for words! I'm super grateful that as we do everything we can to be obedient and rely on the Spirit, we will always know exactly what to do in every situation. This is one part of General Conference that I really liked. Elder Rasband and Stevenson talked a lot about the importance of the Spirit, and this is something that everyone can use more. Elder Rasband said that as we pay attention and follow promptings of the Spirit, we'll receive more and more. What a cool promise!
So yeah, I was able to watch conference in English thankfully. I think at this point I'd be able to understand it in Portuguese, but it will always be better in my native language hearing the real voices of the prophets. Just like last General Conference, I remembered conference at home and wished that I had payed more attention, conference is awesome! Its also a bit weird that it's already been 6 months since last conference. It was my first weekend in the field! By the time next conference rolls around, I'll have a year and 2 months!
Something super funny happened on Wednesday. After lunch, my comp and I and the other companionship that lives in our house with us (we all eat lunch together at the same members house everyday) went to the all you can drink sugar cane stand, this time with a challenge to see who could drink the most. The first one of us tapped out at 6 and a half cups, right around 2 liters. Then the next one at 7 and a half. Elder Torres and I kept going. I ended up losing, but I gave a good fight. I drank 3 liters of it and I wasn't feeling too hot! This stuff is thick, its not like water or anything! The funny part is what happened to Elder Santana, the elder in the other companionship. After his 6th cup, he was bent over looking at the ground rubbing his head. We asked him what's the matter and he said he was concentrating. He was concentrating not to be sick! We, being good influences, urged him to finish just one more cup. He gave in and drank half. After 10 seconds he said. "I need to go to the bathroom in the store. I'm going to be sick!" So him and his comp hurried across the street and when he got to the bathroom he threw up! When we went over there to see how he was doing, his comp told us how he threw up and I was laughing so hard I was crying! Good times on the mission. It's super funny what keeps us entertained.
Friday we traveled to Ribeirao Preto to renew Elder Torres's documents. While we were there, we ran into Elder Mehmetof, my last zone leader. It was great to see him! He's headed home in 3 weeks, and I didn't know if Id get to see him again. We became pretty good friends this past transfer. Luckily, he has plans to study at BYU so I'll probably see him there.
The last thing I want to talk about is our investigator Dienifer. It was a rough week for her. Its just super hard for her to excersize faith. She feels like she needs to know for a fact with proof that what we are saying is true. She asked us over and over to show her that the Book of Mormon is true and that we need it using the Bible and we kept saying no. But after tons of asking, we asked her if she'd believe if we did. She said yes, and so we did. At the end of the lesson, she said "Well, you guys did it". But what happened: She still didn't believe, just like we told her! I relearned a valuable lesson- you cant receive a testimony of things based on logic and proofs. The Spirit is the only one who can give you a testimony. The other problem she has is her mom. We talked to her mom a bunch of times, and every time we ask she says that her daughter can choose to be baptized but she won't support her in her decision. Because of these things, it makes it tough for her to be baptized. The only thing we could think to do is bring her to General Conference and let the Spirit and prophets convert her. She went to the last session on sunday, and when she heard Joaquin E. Costa talk directly to investigators, we could tell that she was thinking super hard. Then even more when Elder Stevenson talked about what the Spirit does and why He is so important. She didn't say much after, but she did say that she had "a lot of questions answered". You can always depend on the general authorities and their words and testimonies to convert! We'll talk to her more this week to see what she thinks now.
So, there's my week. Talk to you guys next week!
-Elder Odom