Friday, September 22, 2017

September 16th

So to be honest, this week wasn’t too eventful. The event of the week was that all the missionaries in Ribeirão had interviews with President, but other than that it was pretty laid back.

Right now as far as my office stuff goes I’m in the process of making the Heroes Video for the missionaries heading home and organizing their plans. So actually something that has been out of the ordinary is all the stuff I’ve been having to do for health, there have really been a lot of sick missionaries this week! It’s actually harder than you’d think to mark appointments. There are a lot of small cities on the mission that don’t have very many types of doctors, especially those that accept our health plan, so it gets a bit complicated when a missionary in a city like that is having a problem. I spent a lot of hours figuring that kind of stuff out, but hey, it’s a part of the job!
So something that was pretty fun that we got to do this week was eat lunch at a members house during the week! Normally, we get money from the mission to eat at a restaurant every day because it takes too long to go all the way to our proselyting area to eat and then come back to the center. But yesterday, Friday, Elder Vilas Boas had to do a baptismal interview for some other missionaries in our area, so we just ended up sticking around and eating lunch with them at the member’s house. It’s something that doesn’t seem super cool, but because we only eat with members 1 time per week on Sunday it’s something that I appreciate! I like getting to know the members in the wards that I serve, and one thing about the office that makes that hard is that we don’t get to eat lunch with them that often, so it was cool to be able to.

My focus during my personal study this week has been listening to the Spirit. It’s one thing that still is hard for me at times! I find that we tend to get caught up thinking “is it my own head or the Spirit that’s talking to me?” In Preach My Gospel, it teaches us how to do that. Here’s an awesome part that I wanted to share with you guys: 

In answer to the question, “How do we recognize the promptings of the Spirit?” President Gordon B. Hinckley read Moroni 7:13, 16–17 and then said: “That’s the test, when all is said and done. Does it persuade one to do good, to rise, to stand tall, to do the right thing, to be kind, to be generous? Then it is of the Spirit of God. …
“If it invites to do good, it is of God. If it inviteth to do evil, it is of the devil. … And if you are doing the right thing and if you are living the right way, you will know in your heart what the Spirit is saying to you.
“You recognize the promptings of the Spirit by the fruits of the Spirit—that which enlighteneth, that which buildeth up, that which is positive and affirmative and uplifting and leads us to better thoughts and better words and better deeds is of the Spirit of God”.

So basically, if we have a thought or an urge come to our minds, and it’s something good that Heavenly Father would want us to do, then do it! In the end, it doesn’t make a huge difference if it’s from the Spirit or our own heads if it leads us to do good. I do know though, that if we constantly are trying to hear the still small voice of the Spirit and then acting on the promptings we receive, we will get more. The Holy Ghost will be there to guide us through all the challenges in life and decisions that we will have to make. I’m very grateful for the Gift of the Holy Ghost that we all have. It really is a gift!
That’s my week! I hope this next will is great for you guys, I love you! Talk to you later!

Love Elder Odom

September 9th

This week was a busy one because we had zone conferences!

So the way that it works in my mission is we have 3 of them, on Tuesday, Wednesday, and Thursday, once per transfer. We do 2 in Ribeirão Preto and the other one on the other side of the mission in another city. Not sure if I've explained them, but basically it's where a few different zones get together and we have trainings from President, the assistants, usually some zone leaders, etc. There's a lot of preparation that goes into it. Normally Sister Scholz likes to show a video as a part of her talk, and this time she showed a clip about teamwork from a  movie called Coach Carter. I looked on the internet forever to find it dubbed in Portuguese, but couldn't find it! So I ended up having to manually put subtitles on. She writes a talk and then puts it through a translator and then sends it to me because translators always have a ton of errors, so I go through and fix them. I also have to manage all the materials that get distributed, like pamphlets, pass along cards, Books of Mormon, and other things, which we give out during zone conference.

This time it was really cool, we talked about the importance of teaching pure doctrine and other teaching skills. One thing that President Scholz talked about too was Mosiah 5. He really dug into the first few verses of the chapter and talked about what real change is, when we don't have the "disposition to do evil" anymore. He taught us about the covenant that the people of King Benjamin made, and how we as missionaries also made a covenant to God to devote everything to missionary work during these 2 years. It was really cool to see how much he was able to get out of a part of the Book of Mormon that I've read so many times, but with the way that he dug into it and explained it I learned something new! It really goes to show that we can always learn more from the Book of Mormon no matter how many times we've read it. 

On Monday, I went on a split with Elder Breno (one of the financial secretaries) because our comps had to stay at the office to do stuff. We went to his area to do a family night with some of the new members. We got there and met up with other missionaries, and one of them is Elder Ross from Washington who got here at the beginning of the transfer. I was talking to him about how he's doing, what he thinks of the mission so far, etc and he was telling me that it's really tough, especially with Portuguese. Talking to him reminded me of the beginning of my mission. He said, "In school I always did really good and I was smart, and so I figured that I would be able to learn Portuguese without too much trouble, but now I'm here and I basically understand nothing that anyone says and I can't say what I want!" Man, sounds like me when I got here! I did my best to help him out and give him hope that it'll all work out. One thing that I said that I'd never do is take the language for granted, and even though I've been pretty solid with it for the past 7ish months, I am still super grateful that I can speak. I know that the only reason I can is because of the gift of tongues! So Ty, hang in there! It'll come!

Something else happened this week that made me super sad. There is a missionary in my zone that was training a brand new Elder. But lately his mom has been super sick and this week she finally passed away. His dad and his brother already have passed away too. And then his new missionary that he was training went home today just a month after starting his mission to get surgery because of problems that he has in his feet. Geez... I really have been thinking about how blessed I am in my life. We tend to forget really easily how much we actually have. It made me feel pretty dumb when I get a bit frustrated with my "probelms" that I have. That's something that I've been trying to pay attention to since the beginning of my mission, not taking stuff for granted.

But, there's a little of what happened this week. Have a great week, talk to you later! Love you guys!!

-Elder Odom
September 2nd

Another week down. It was a good one! Here's a few of the things that happened.

On Monday the zone leaders got in from around the mission for leadership council, and we always do splits with one of them. I got to go out with Elder Jones from Lehi, one of the first missionaries I met here on the mish and one of my best friends out here! I also was with Elder Hidalgo from El Salvador who's awesome. I had written down a few addresses of inactive members to visit with them. While we were walking around, I realized that we had passed one of the houses that I had written down! It was going to take a few minutes to walk back and we were already getting close to another house, but I just decided to go back and knock. When we got there, we found that the member had already moved a few years ago so we started talking to the boy that answered the door. His name is Igor and is 12 years old. We told him a bit about us and wanted to share a message with him and his family. He went and got his mom and she invited us right in! We sat down and started to talk to her. The mom's name is Maria, and she has 2 kids, Eduardo (15) and Igor. Maria told us she had just been commenting to Eduardo that they need to start going to church and making God a priority and then 5 mins later we knocked on the door. We went ahead and taught them the Restoration of the Gospel and they loved it and understoood it well. At the end of the lesson, you could really feel the Spirit. Elder Jones told them that they can receive am answer about this message for themselves through the Spirit, and the Spirit is what they are feeling right now. Maria said "I know that the Spirit is testifying to me right now that this is true" and when we invited her to give the closing prayerr, she said, "Heavenly Father, thank you for sending these missionaries to us and showing us that the true church of Christ exists on earth." How cool!! We we're truely lead by the Spirit to find this awesome family that was so ready to hear the message of the Restoration. I'm so grateful the Heavenly Father for helping us find them.

With Claudio and Elisangela, we are making progress as well. Turns out that they didn't really like the Cervada, but they stopped drinking coffee either way! We visited them yesterday on Friday and when we asked about the Word of Wisdom, they gave us some good news. They said they're already realizing that coffee is bad for you and they're seeing the benefits of stopping. Elisangla used to get bad stomach aches reagularly but since the day she stopped drinking coffee she hasn't gotten one! Claudio said that his headaches that he always gets went away as well. They both mentioned that they have more energy during the day too. How cool that the Lord is already blessing them for their efforts to keep this commandment. They are both reading the Book of Mormon regularly too. They told us all about what they read and both are really enoying the story the Book of Mormon tells! It has taken awhile to get to this point with them, but they're finally getting going! I'm  super excited to see what more progress they'll be able to make. It's been really fun to help them and see the gospel blessing them in their lives from up close. This is for sure one of the best parts of the mission, seeing the difference the gospel makes in people's lives. Being born into the gospel, I've always been around it and haven't really seen or noticed the difference it can make in the lives of those who have never had it. But here on the mission, I have this opportunity to see it everyday! I'm now more grateful than ever to have been born with everything that I have, with my family, friends, where I live, being born in the church, I have really been blessed. 

Today is Elder Breno's (one of the financial secretaries) birthday, and what he asked for was an American breakfast. We brought it up to President Scholz and he got on board with the idea real fast... I think it'll been awhile since he's had one too! So this morning at 10 we all went over to the mission home to eat the big American breakfast that Sister Scholz cooked for us. Man, it was so good! You don't realize what you've been missing until you have it! First time I ate french toast, cantaloupe, cranberry juice, and blueberry muffins in year. This is just one of the awesome things about being in the office. Working so close to President and Sister Scholz is a blessing and an honor. I really do have the best mission president and sister in the world!! 

Okay, I love you guys, thanks for all the continued support I get from you back at home! Have a great week and until next saturday!

Love Elder Odom

Monday, August 28, 2017

August 26th

The first week of the transfer went pretty good. On Monday we sent off the group of missionaries going home. It was a big group and it had a lot of really cool missionaries, including my trainer Elder O'Neill! It was kinda sad to see them all leave. It's crazy that my first comp in the field is already home though, something that we talked about when I was being trained was when Elder O'Neill goes home, I'll have more than a year! Well now he's already home! Weird how time goes by so quick.
Something that's cool though is a majority of the Americans are going to BYU after the mission, so I'll get to see a bunch of them again.

On Tuesday the new missionaries got here. It's always fun to get them because it reminds me of when I got to the field and had no idea what was going on! One of the new Elders that got here was Elder Nice, so you guys can tell his parents that he's doing good! It's always cool to see someone from the same area that I am. 

With the transfers that happened, there was a lot of changes like I said there would be. One of the things that happened is that Elder Cleverly, from my district in the MTC, got called to be a district leader and to train an american in the same transfer! He was pretty shocked and nervous, but I know that he'll be fine. 

Something fun that we did was on Thursday morning we played bball with President and his son Coleman. Coleman has been here the last 2 weeks just to visit his parents but he went home yesterday. Anyway, it was super fun to play with them. I always get impressed with how good President is! He doesn't miss when he shoots! It would be awesome to see him when he was playing at BYU. He told us the other day that when he was on his mission here in Brazil he was invited to play on the team of Para, a state in Brazil. He asked his mission president if he could but sadly he wasn't allowed to! 

So we had a cool experience with Claudio and Elisangela. Lately we actually haven't been making much progress with them because they're not super excited. Elisangela sent us a text after they didn't go to church that said "We need a lot of prayer, we are just feeling really down, I don't know what to say." That's always one message that you don't want to get! So we went to they're house after church and talked to them. We helped them realize why they are feeling like that and what they can so to get excited again. We reinforced the importance of  reading the Book of Mormon and praying daily and going to church every Sunday. We promised them that if they do their part and do these things then they will get excited again! We went back later in the week to teach the Word of Wisdom. They both have problems with coffee and Claudio also drinks and smokes. One thing that I've noticed here on the mission is if someone tries to stop doing everything all at once, it doesn't work. But if they focus on coffee first and can stop drinking it, then the other things become easier to tackle. Before the mission I'd never heard of it, but here there's this drink called Cervada that is really similar to coffee but it's natural and doesn't have caffeine or  anything. Apparently they sell it at the temple too. So as we were teaching, I had the idea to talk about Cervada with them. I brought it up and they hadn't heard about it! We explained what it is and offered to go and buy some for them. They really liked the idea of it and started to get excited about it. After we finished the lesson we went to the store and bought it then brought it back to them. They said "We're going to go make it right now to try it!" The next day we got another text from Elisangela that said "Thank you both for the friendship and the care you are showing to us. We are can feel that you really want to help us! I hope that the Cervada can help them replace coffee! 

It's really cool how the Spirit helps you whenever you need it. I believe that the Spirit helps us much more than we realize. A thought here, impression there, He's always talking. It's true that there is no way that we could do this work without the Spirit! I'm grateful for the opportunity I have to be here serving my mission, to help others and learn more everyday. I have a lot to improve, but I'm trying! That's it for me this week though, I love you and have a great week!

Love Elder Odom
August 19th

 This week was pretty busy for me, the last week of the transfer always is.
In the office, I spent a lot of time wrapping things up for the heroes (missionaries going home) and the new missionaries getting here next Tuesday. This transfer there will be a lot of changes. Like I’ve mentioned, out of the group of missionaries going home there are a lot of leaders; 11! We’re losing a lot of experienced missionaries, but at the same time this will give a bunch of others to learn and grow with new leadership callings. It should be cool to see what happens!
So something that happened this week that got me a little nervous… One of my responsibilities is to take care of all the foreigners on the mission (passports, documents, etc.) and in order to leave the country without a fine, you need to have your passport and an orange card that we get from the police. But, to not talk about the whole process to get this card, I’ll just say there are things that you need to do to get it, and those things weren’t done with one of the missionaries that are going home on Monday! So when I got to the police station to pick it up and found out that his card was in São Paulo, it was pretty stressful. I talked to a few people in São Paulo and with President Scholz and we’ll probably just end up sending him without it even though the church will have to pay a fine. I didn’t know about this process because whoever was executive secretary when this elder got on the mission didn’t do some of the necessary steps and there wasn’t any way for me to know. But now I’ve learned from it and know what to look for, so hopefully it won’t happen again! Learning from experience is something that I’ve been doing a lot recently!
My comp Elder Vilas Boas also had his bday yesterday, and his mom got ahold of one of our recent converts, Fátima, to make a cake for him and have it ready in our apartment when we got home. I’ve been talking with the other elders that live with us and we had Fátima drop it off with them and they brought it up to the apartment to get it ready. I was with him, Elder O’Neill, and Elder Seaman. So when we got home we walked in and there was the cake ready and 6 liters of Coke!! It’s funny because we aren’t drinking it anymore, but Fátima doesn’t know! We also bought 2 pizzas, goof times!
So last Thursday on the 17th I hit the 1 year mark! So crazy! Can you believe it’s already been so long? With one year down I’ve been thinking a bunch about how the first half of my mission has gone and what I’ve learned. Sometimes when I think about myself before the mission, it doesn’t even seem like I’ve changed much. But then when I pay attention to small stuff and remember things that I did while at home I can see the differences. I think one of the biggest things I’ve learned until now is how to appreciate the small blessings we receive every day and how to depend on the Lord in all parts of my life, not only with church related things. All the study we do as missionaries and seeing the gospel in action in the lives of those who didn’t know it before has really opened my eyes to how much Heavenly Father and Christ love each of us personally. They’re waiting to bless us in all we do, but we need to ask for their help and seek it out! My testimony of this has grown so much, that when we are obedient and sincerely look for the Lord’s help we’ll get it. Sometimes we don’t get the help we expected or in the way we hoped, but in the end the Lord’s way will always help us in the best way possible. Yesterday I got to do a split with my first companion and trainer, Elder O’Neill. It’s hard to believe, but he’s heading home on Monday! It made me realize how fast time has gone! It just seems like a few months ago that I was with him in Araçatuba, my first area, dying of heat and not understanding anything in Portuguese. We also realized that now I have the same amount of time on the mission that he had when he was training me. Even though it really didn’t seem like it at the beginning, time goes by super fast out here, and it’s only going faster! I’m really grateful that I have one more year to serve as a missionary. I’ve made mistakes, had success, made lots of memories, done some things I should’ve done differently, but I’m learning and I’m ready to take on this last year! The mission is great!
Love, Elder Odom

Birthday Boy

August 12th

Well, today I'm 20 years old! Wow it's weird, 20 is old! It sure doesn't feel like I'm that old. But this will most likely be my first and last birthday on the mission because of how close it is to when I left.

So, my week. To be honest, it wasn't a super good week. We did have some cool stuff happen, but for some reason I've just been feeling out of it! Hard for me to focus, etc. I guess some weeks are just like that though when you just don't feel super good. I've been trying to get back to 100% though, and I'm sure this next week will be another good one.

So with what's going on with the family we're teaching. We went back there twice this week. The only thing is lately we've only been finding the parents and their daughter at home, and the other family members are always doing something else it seems like. But we went to follow up with their reading and also to teach the Plan of Salvation, and when we got there we were super impressed! Elizangela, the mom, had read 1 Nephi 2 and when we asked what she learned or liked, she gave us a detailed summery of what happens in the chapter and she also pulled out a little notebook that she used to take notes on while she was reading. Very few times on the mission I've had an investigator read and understand so much like that! I was actually with another missionary, Elder Da Cunha, one of the financial secretaries that day. So we taught the plan to them and they understood that part as well. This family has a lot of potential, especially Elizangela! Elder Da Cunha said as we were walking home "If she keeps reading like that, she'll get an answer really fast about the gospel!" It's true! Heavenly Father will see her effort and that she's doing her part, so He'll do his. 

That leads me to what I've been thinking a lot about this week actually. We're always asking Heavenly Father for blessings and things that we need, and we know that He'll give us anything we ask for righteously, but first we need to do my part. I've been asking myself a lot this week... am I doing everything I can to deserve the blessings and answers from God that I need and want: Lots of times, I realize that I can do better. I know that when we do our part, Heavenly Father will always do His. He knows our effort and where our hearts are, and even if it sometimes seems like we're doing everything we can and nothing is happening in return, the blessings will come! It's all in the Lord's time. 

Alright, so we're entering the last week of the transfer... again! It went by super quick. The last week is a busy one. There's a lot to do to get ready for all the changes that will happen at the transfer. This transfer though a lot will happen! We have a group of 17 missionaries going home, which is a ton!! And what's interesting is pretty much all of them are leaders in the mission (district leader, zone leader, etc) so a lot of new missionaries will get called. President is a bit worried about it because there are just so many spots to fill. So we'll see how it goes!

Today so far during P day we got up and went and played volleyball. The ball we used was super super light, but it was still fun. I really like volleball here because it's something that pretty much everyone likes to play. For lunch we went to the mall and ate at a really cool restaurant that was way good. We decided we need to eat somewhere good on my bday!

Alrighty so yeah, that's how my week was! I hope everything's going good at home! For Ben and Kathryn who're starting school here in a week or so, enjoy the last week of summer! I can't believe you're already starting, it seems like you just finished school a few weeks ago! But, until next week. I love you guys!

Love Elder Odom

Wednesday, August 9, 2017

Trying new foods and more office stuff

August 5th

This week I mainly focused on preparing a few things for the missionaries going home at the end of the transfer, like the movie we show for them, their personal plans that tell them what they’ll do during the last week, organizing who’s going to be with who, where they’ll sleep, how they’ll get to Ribeirao, that type of stuff. I relearned the lesson of why it’s important to write stuff down and keep looking at the list this week as well. With doing the stuff that I mentioned, I kept forgetting to do some of the little stuff that president would ask me to do. It’s always a bad feeling when he asks me about something that I haven’t done yet just because I’ve forgotten about it! But I’m getting more and more into the swing of things, and by the end of this transfer I think I’ll have it down all the way.

So this past Sunday I had a pretty cool opportunity to go to another city on a split. It’s a city called Jaboticabal and I was there with one of my Zone Leaders, Elder Sant from Texas. He was in my first zone when I got here on the mission so it was super fun to spend a day with him! Normally we don’t do splits on Sunday, but because we’re in the mission office it’s the only day we can! We can’t be outside of the office for an entire day so president just told us to do it Sunday. I went there Saturday night and got back Sunday night pretty late. But it’s always fun to get to go to other areas and cities to meet the members and investigators that are being taught.

Another cool thing was that on Sunday Claudio, the guy that I found knocking doors, and his wife and daughter came to church! They liked it a lot, but they said it’s just super different than what they’re used to. We had a really cool lesson with them about the Book of Mormon too. They are really fun to teach because they have lots of questions and they understand the lessons well. They were able to understand what the BoM is and how they can use it to get answers. Our main issue with them is finding a day when they’re all at home at the same time. We’d like to visit them 2 or 3 times per week to teach, but until now we’ve only been able to catch them all at home once per week and one other day we just teach whoever’s at home.

So funny story that happened. Yesterday, Friday night, Elder Vilas Boas was going crazy because he found a coupon for some restaurant that serves food from Bahia, where he’s from. So he called the place and had them deliver it to our apartment and he ordered all of us a type of sandwich thing. It was some sort of bread roll thing that had a sauce and pieces of meat and other things that I don’t know what they are. To top it off it was covered in mini shrimp, and not the type of shrimp you normally think of. They’re tiny and cooked exactly the way that they’re caught, with their eyes and everything still apart of them. So I ate it, and it wasn’t the best thing I’ve ever had but I can’t say it was terrible. I think one of the hardest/funniest parts of eating it was looking at all the mini shrimp stare at me and then just eating it!

So yeah, that’s about what happened for me. Nothing too new! It’s weird to think that there are only 2 kids at home now. What’s happening right now is something that we talked about but it never seemed like it would actually come, but now it’s here! The only thing I can say is that it’ll go by way fast, it really will. When you first get on the mish you don’t believe that but now I’m seeing how quick it’s going by! It’s super cool that Ty saw Chalise. How cool! It’s super cool to see those pics of him because it just reminds me of when I did that not too long ago. Talk to you later!
-Elder Odom

Saturday, July 29, 2017

Broke an addiction?

July 29th

Hey everyone, how're you doin? This past week was pretty cool because it was Zone Conference week. We had 2 of them here in Ribeirao, and another one on the other side of the mission in a city called Sao Jose do Rio Preto. During the conferences, President Scholz had us read a talk called The Greatest Leaders are the Greatest Followers by Stephen W. Owen, and it talks about leadership. He really emphasized the point that we don't need to have the title of "District Leader" or "Zone Leader" to be leaders. We talked about what it means to be a leader in the world and what it means to be a leader in God's eyes. In it, Elder Owen says something that I really like:"If I were to ask you, “Who is the greatest leader who ever lived?”—what would you say? The answer, of course, is Jesus Christ. He sets the perfect example of every imaginable leadership quality.
But what if I were to ask you, “Who is the greatest follower who ever lived?”—wouldn’t the answer again be Jesus Christ? He is the greatest leader because He is the greatest follower—He follows His Father perfectly, in all things." 
It's true that actions speak louder than words. As a missionary now, I have to always be conscious of what type of example I'm setting, because on the mission I've learned that people really do pay attention! Members, other missionaries, investigators, people that we talk to on the street, all of them are watching to see what we are doing. Sometimes out here it feels like there's just too much to do, and that I can't do everything that's expected of me. But then I remember that it's okay if I can't do everything! What matters to Heavenly Father is our effort, He knows, and we know, how much effort we're giving, and if we're doing our best then that's what counts. It's times like this that I just have to keep trying to be obedient and depend on the Lord to pick up the slack that I can't alone. I'm grateful for the example that Christ set, He really is the greatest leader who ever lived because He's the greatest follower!

Something else that happened at Zone Conference: Every time we have one, the Executive and Financial Secretaries each give announcements for things that we need to tell all the missionaries. A few weeks ago, Sister Scholz told me about 3 things that she wanted to talk about during conference about health, and so I put it in my announcements because I work with that. The 3 things that she wanted to talk about were Coca-Cola, energy drinks, and..... Top Ramen. I'm going to be honest, I wasn't expecting the ramen! Coke and especially energy drinks make sense, but the ramen was a surprise. The reason it's so bad is because of the packet of flavor that comes with it. The noodles are fine, but the flavor packet is just a bunch of chemicals and preservatives. She wrote out a bunch of stuff that are terrible about these 3 things and had me translate them. It was super funny, when we got to those slides in my PowerPoint announcements everyone went crazy! There were a bunch of people who got super scared that they couldn't drink Coke or eat Ramen anymore (there aren't very many missionaries that drink energy drinks, but there still are some). So Sister Scholz got up and read what I translated telling everyone how bad these things are, and at the end we told them that it isn't a mission rule, we only wanted everyone to know about what these things are doing to them and let that make their own choices. So... Spencer David Odom, who was almost addicted to Coke at home and for the first part of the mission, has now stopped drinking it. It was a sad moment letting coke go but in the end it's good for me, and I'm going to be grateful for it. So no more Coke for me, or top ramen! But other than that it was just fun to talk to all the missionaries that I know that I don't see a lot because they're not in Ribeirao. Another cool thing was driving to the other city Rio Preto for conference with President. Talking with him and Sister Scholz the whole time was sweet! We talked about basketball, college, gospel stuff, our families, and other things. Once again, I'm super grateful for the opportunity I have to work close to president and learn from him. It's awesome being able to see him all day almost everyday! He really is a man inspired of God. He and Sister Scholz are great. Sister Scholz also said that that she is going to send a text or an email to Ty's mission president and his wife to keep a special eye on him and welcome him because he's my bro! 

This week we had a really cool experience with finding. Last Sunday, we were on a split and I was with another missionary. We were walking down a street and I got a little thought to go and knock on a certain door. We passed the house and then after a few more steps I stopped and said "Let's go knock on that door back there," so we did. A man answered and I started to talk to him and find out about what he thinks about God, if he goes to a church, etc. He showed that he doesn't have a lot of trust in churches because he's already been to a bunch and didn't like them that much. When I asked him why we have so many churches today in the world, he had no clue. I told him that we could explain exactly why, and he got super interested. At first he didn't believe that we had an answer, it was funny! He kept asking us to tell him but it was already late and we needed to start heading home, so we marked to go back on Wednesday. So that next Wednesday we went back and  we found him, 2 of his kids, and his brother at home! We taught them the Restoration and they all paid attention and liked the message. It's been awhile since I've found a family to teach, so I was super grateful to Heavenly Father for helping us find them! I'm excited to see where we can go with them.

Okay, that's it for me. A packed week with lots to get done but it all worked out. Shout out to my brother Tyler as he starts his mission this week in Fortaleza! I'm so proud of you, you'll do awesome!! 
Have a good one everybody!

-Elder Odom

Thursday, July 27, 2017

Discussion with President - perks of working in the office!

July 21st

This week was a lot about preparing for Zone Conferences next week. Some of the stuff I had to do was get our announcements ready, make a movie with pictures from the last 6 months, follow up with everyone studying english in the mission, get the materials that everyone will need, and other stuff.
Like I've already mentioned, I kinda do all the random stuff in the office!

We also had leadership council this week where all the Zone Leaders come in from the mission to have a meeting. Tthe night before, I went on a split with one of them, Elder Wyatt from Texas. We went to visit Adelson and Edleuza to follow up on their reading and start teaching them the Plan of Salvation, but when we got there, our plans changed. When I asked if they'd read, they said no. Turns out that they'd forgotten everything about our last lesson on the BoM... so we had to re-explain everything to them! It took over half an hour to help them understand, but once they finally did they got really interested. We read the first 6 verses of the BoM with them and explained what we were reading, line by line. By the time we left, they were saying that they were actually interested now and were going to keep reading once we left!

This week we had a miracle with an investigator. Her name is Talita. We found her last Sunday. We went out with the bishop to visit inactives in a neighborhood that's far away, and we found a woman named Dumara at home. She's super nice and welcomed us in. She hasn't been to church for the past 35 years or so, but she talked a lot about how her mom would always tell her that this was the true church. Her mom had a really strong testimony, and even though Dumara doesn't know for herself that this is the true church, she has a great example with her mom. At the beginning of our visit, before I'd said anything, she said to me, "you're American right:" and after I responded yes, she said "Oh, my daughter is American too!" I was a bit confused, but then she explained that when she was married, she moved to New Jersey for 2 years for her husbands job and while they were there her daughter was born. But 9 months after, they moved back to Brazil. Even after 2 years she doesn't speak any English though! So we had an idea to come back the next wednesday and bring president Scholz with us because Dumara loves the States and we figured she'd like to have 2 Americans in her house, so that's what we did! That wednesday when we got there, her daughter Talita was there too. She's 22 and heard her mom talk about the church before and she's been a few times as a little kid, but it's been so long she doesn't remember anything. We taught her the Restoration and it was a great lesson. It's super fun to have president there in our lessons, he doesn't do a ton of the teaching but he helps clarify things. The best part of the lesson was the First Vision. When we told it, the Spirit was there and easy to feel. At the end when we were inviting her to read and pray about the BoM and Joseph Smith, she explained how while we were talking about the First Vision she felt something powerful and calm inside her, but she didn't know how to explain it. We helped her understand that it was the Spirit testifying to her, and that when she prays, look for feelings like that. But as we were wrapping up, president looked at her and said "Remember, if you want to get an answer then you will. You have to do your part because God will do his. It all depends on you."
I've been thinking about what he said to her during the rest of this week. How often do I ask something from Heavenly Father but not do everything that I can to deserve it: Just like an investigator praying to know if this is the true church, we have to show Heavenly Father that we want it. It really does depend on us! He'll always do His part, and when we do ours, that's when we get our answers.
I'm grateful to be a missionary. Meeting new people, teaching, helping other missionaries as executive, and learning through these experiences is a blessing. Everyday I realize that I still have so much to learn and improve on, but all I can do is give it my best.

Have a great week!

-Elder Odom

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