Monday, November 13, 2017

Man, I never imagined myself doing this on my mission!

November 11th

Okay, so this past week. We were kept very busy here in the office with the missionaries going home and the new ones coming (like the start of every transfer).
Although this time, it seemed like everything that had potential to go wrong did! We actually had a pretty funny experience with that.
So to sum it up, all the missionaries coming from other countries get a document in São Paulo at the MTC that's really important. Without it, you're in really big trouble. So as we were giving on of our trainings as the executive secretaries I learned that one of the new Americans lost that document on the trip here... I'll just say that I got a little stressed out because of that. Something that President likes to say is that we don't have "problems" just "opportunities to learn", and this certainly was because I've never had this happen before, and it was the first time since President Scholz has been on his mission as well! After a few calls to the church in São Paulo and a few trips to the federal police we were finally able to get it sorted out and get him a new document. We were going all over the place in the city doing all the steps necessary to replace it! Something that I thought as I was going from one place to the other was "Man, I never imagined myself doing this on my mission!" And who would've thought that this would be something that I'd have to deal with? But, I know that Heavenly Father will give us the experiences that we need, even if they aren't necessarily what we expected! Something cool though is we got a new missionary, Elder Wilkey, from Draper that went to Jordan. Pretty cool to talk to someone from home! He's from Ty's grade. 

A cool experience we had this week was with a new investigator that we found named William. We were able to teach him 2 times this week, and the second time we taught him I was super impressed! On the mission (at least in my experience) it's really rare to find someone that reads the pamphlet about the lesson we taught and remembers everything in detail about what we said. He was able to understand really important principles that most new investigators have a hard time understanding, like how the church was restored through Joseph Smith, not founded by him, and that the church that Christ established on the earth when he was here had authority and that authority was lost after the death of the apostles. Elder Vilas Boas and I were surprised he remembered so much! We're excited to see what happens with him! It's really cool to see how the Lord prepares people to hear the gospel, and even if it takes longer than we hope at times, He will put those people in our paths.

My personal study this week has been focused a lot on the Book of Mormon itself. What does it mean to me? What does it mean to my investigators and to people we talk to on the streets? How can I better apply it in my own life and as a missionary? My testimony of the Book of Mormon has really grown a lot on my mission. Not that I didn't know it was true before the mission, because I've always 'known'. But the difference is that now I'm starting to see the effect that it can have in our lives and in the lives of those we love. I'm starting to understand just how important it is to study it! Like I've said in the past, I wish that I wouldn't have taken it for granted like I did at home. Our lives really will be blessed in every way though daily study of the Book of Mormon, and I should've made better use of it!

Alright, well this is Nick's last week of his mission. I can't believe he's already done! Time really flew by. I'm really grateful for him and the exemple that he has set for me. I've received a lot of strength on my own mission thinking of him and experiences that he's had on his. He's always carved the path for me in a way being a year ahead of me. In school, sports, mission, now with college! It's been so cool to be able to serve at the same time as him throughout my mission, but now he's going to be able to help me in a different way being at home I'm sure!

Alrighty, that's about it for me. Sorry that I've been so bad about taking/uploading pictures, that's something that I really need to do better with. I'll start trying to take more! But love you guys, have an awesome week!! Give Nick a big hug from me!

Elder Odom 

Wednesday, November 8, 2017

Sounds Like a Missionary

Hey everyone, this week was good. But, I honestly can’t say that a lot happened! It was a bit more uneventful than normal.

This week in the office we were just focusing on getting everything ready for the transfers. I had a few scares because I kept sending stuff to our travel agent that helps buy our tickets, but she wouldn’t respond! There was a ton of stuff too and so eventually I had to call the church offices to have someone else help us figure all the stuff out. But in the end, we were able to pull everything together even though it was a bit of a close call. I ‘m sure this isn’t the most exciting for you to read back at home, but It’s just part of life in the mission office!

Speaking of transfers though, I’ve come to the end of another. It really went by quick! When you’re working and focused, time really just goes by fast. At the beginning of my mission it was definitely harder to stay 100% focused, because missionary life was still so weird and different! But now that it’s super normal now, time just keeps going by faster and faster.

In the field, we just focused on finding more people and cutting the ones that aren’t super interested. Any missionary can tell you that there’s a lot of that, cutting. Talking to a bunch of people, marking dates to go back and teach, and then if they aren’t interested, cut them from your teaching pool and start the process again. Here in the mission, we talk a lot about finding the “elects” of the Lord. I’ve come to learn that that’s true, the Lord really does prepare people to hear! But, that doesn’t mean that everyone will be willing to listen and learn and change. Very few people actually have that desire, and as missionaries it’s not our job to teach every single person, just find those whom the Lord has prepared, because they will listen and have the desire to change.

In my personal study one day this week, I was reading in 1 Nephi 11. Something that stood out to me was how we can get answers from the Lord following the example of Nephi. He says in the first verse:
“For it came to pass that after I had desired to know the things that my father had seen, and believing that the Lord was able to make them known unto me, as I sat pondering in mine heart I was caught up in the Spirit of the Lord”

This verse is awesome! He gives us a very clear pattern of what we need to do in order to receive knowledge or answers that we need. We need to have a desire to know/receive, then believe that we can get an answer, then pondering these things in our hearts. When I read this verse, I thought to myself; “how often do I do all these things in order to receive revelation from the Lord?” This is something that I’ve learned to do much better during my time as a missionary. At home, we have so much going on; family, school, work, friends, etc. and lots of times we don’t spend as much time thinking day to day about gospel related things as we should. On the mission it’s great, we can spend all day thinking and pondering! But I know that that will change once I get home, but I don’t want to lose that habit! Because this is what we need to do when we need something from the Lord, this is what he requires of us. This is what I’m trying to do a little more each day, despite the fact that I have to worry about more ‘temporal’ things than other missionaries being in the office, I try to think about things I’ve studied or what I can teach my investigators. I know that as we do these things the Lord will bless us with the knowledge we need!

Last Sunday I had the opportunity to talk in sacrament. As I was preparing and deciding what I needed to talk about, I kept coming back to obedience. Something that I focused a lot on during my talk was the fact that there as many commandments that are small, so sometimes we think that they “won’t make that much of a difference”. I know that there really isn’t such thing as a commandment that doesn’t make a difference! Every little commandment that we choose to not follow will make a difference in our lives. A talk that I studied in preparation is “Obedience Brings Blessings” by Thomas S. Monson. It’s really good! I encourage everyone back home to read it.
Something else that happened is I was called to be a district leader this transfer. It’s a bit strange that I am being called as a secretary in the office and district leader at the same time, but it should be a good experience to grow and learn as well as try to help other missionaries! I’m looking forward to the new experiences.

That’s my week though. I hope you all have a good one! Love you guys, until next Saturday!

Elder Odom

I Just Felt Good

October 28th

This past week was a good one for sure, went by super quick! Not sure what the highlight was, other than I just felt, good, this week. Nothing specific happened to make me fell good, but I was just happy this week. I think it's because my comp Elder Vilas Boas and I are really just putting forth effort to be really obedient and do things the right way, and we were able to feel the Spirit throughout the week really good.

This week my testimony grew about how the Lord does His part when we do ours. So after the first 3 weeks in the area, we're finally starting to grow our teaching pool. We've been doing contacts with tons of people and really just trying to find those whom the Lord has prepared. This week we were able to find so many cool people! Generally, you get "rejected" and people saying "no" 90% of the time but it seemed that as we searched for people by the Spirit, we were led to those who were ready to hear the gospel. One example is last Sunday, when we did splits with other Elder's in our district. I stayed in my area and brought a missionary named Elder Acuna from Mexico, who got here 4 weeks ago, to work with me. We were going to look for new people to teach, and so we said a prayer asking the Lord to help us find those who'd accept us. Within 5 minutes of finishing, we we're walking on the street and I looked at a house and just got a feeling that we should knock on it. So we did, and it turns out we found a family who recently changed religion and were really interested! Its a couple and their young son, about 7 years old. We taught the 3rd lesson, the gospel of Christ, and marked a day to go back. We were leaving the house and then we heard "missionaries!" We turned around and saw them calling us back. They said that they'd passed the wrong address and wanted to give us the right one. Pretty cool actually, there aren't a lot of people who'd do that! Elder Vilas Boas also went to another area to help out some other missionaries during the week and also had lots of cool experiences with finding, and was led to people in the other area to people that live in our area! Super cool. I've just been really grateful to the Lord for helping us out so much. Lot's of times missionaries, everyone actually, think that they have to do things by their own efforts, But we don't need to! The Lord wants to help us, we just need to be worthy and willing to let him! If we do our parts, He'll always do His. We can depend on him for anything and we get get help. It's really comforting for me to know that I'm not alone in this work, because I know that there's no way I could do this by myself! I think this is one of the challenges we face; letting go of our own desires and needs to control our lives and just trusting in the Lord to help us out. It's something that I'm trying to learn more and more each day.

This week's been busy, like most weeks, in the office. This transfer is only 5 weeks so that just means that I have 1 less week to do stuff to prepare for the next transfer It's the last week of the transfer and I have lots to do still, so we've been working hard! Something that I found out that I like to do as I'm working is listen to the "Face to Face" things that the Church does. It's when they get famous members of the church like Lindsey Stirling, the Piano Guys, David Archuleta, Apostles, etc. and youth send in questions and they answer them. They're really cool! One that I really liked was with President Eyring and Elder Holland. They talked about 2 things that I really liked; prayer and the Atonement. It's just cool to hear them answer in real time. Talks are awesome too, but it's just different when you can hear when they say when they don't plan. You guys should watch it as a family! I think it would be really cool to talk about what you guys learned and how you can apply it as a family. I'm  grateful for living prophets in our day that will always guide us to making the best decisions. My testimony of this has grown a lot about this on the mission, the we NEED to listen to what they say!! If we do we WILL be blessed! It's impossible to listen to and put into practice their council and not see a difference in our lives!

Well, there it is. I hope that this next week is awesome for you guys!  

Elder Odom

Wednesday, October 25, 2017

President is a Super Hero

October 21st

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

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

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

Elder Odom 

The Easy Way Isn't the Best Way

October 14th

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

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

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

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

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

Elder Odom

Friday, October 13, 2017

missionaries coming and going

October 7th

This week we sent off the departing missionaries and got the incoming ones. One thing that’s good and kinda lame at the same time about being in the office is that we say bye to all the missionaries leaving. This time, 3 Elders who I got to be really good friends with, Elder Jones Campbell and Jacobsen, left. Elder Jones was one of the first missionaries I met when I got to the mission, he really helped me out with getting used to being out here!
We had a really big group get here though; 10 americans, 2 mexicans, 1 chilean, and 3 brazilians. It was a little funny for me to see all the new americans, I just remembered when I got here and understood nothing and thought about how Ty’s doing right now! It was a really packed day, we gave trainings, took the trainers to lunch, helped Sister Scholz with interviews, etc. We started at 8:30 AM and didn’t stop until 8:30 at night! There’s a lot to do with the new missionaries getting here.

Another change we’ve had in the office is that Elder Da Cunha is going to leave to go to be a “normal” missionary again so President called Elder Sánchez to take his place. He’s from Mexico and is super funny. I was in the same zone as him and have done splits with him when I was in Franca, so we already knew each other pretty good. He’s a real funny guy and definitely makes the office more exciting.

Today we played basketball and volleyball again, when we played bball, president came to join us, and that’s always a blast! We had 5 people so we played President and me versus 3 of the Brazilians in the office. Even though we won, I was super tired at the end. Man, I realized that I definitely can’t run very much without getting tired! But P Days are always fun especially when President plays with us.

In the field, we’re just getting used to the new area. We visited a few people that Elder Vilas Boas was teaching when he was here a year ago, but we still have a lot of work to do to get a good teaching pool.  Opening an area (what we calling it when you put 2 new missionaries at the same time in an area) is always a bit tricky at first, but we’re ready for the challenge and to get to work!
So General Conference this past week was awesome!! There is so much stuff that I liked from it! I think my favorite talk was The Book of Mormon: What Would Your Life Be Like Without It? From President Nelson that he gave during the Saturday afternoon session. His talk really made me think. He asked, “How precious is the Book of Mormon to you?” We saw a picture of him studying the Book of Mormon and when I saw that picture, I got a feeling of how important the BoM is. He’s an Apostle, but he still does all the small and simple things! Another thing he said that really caught my attention was “We need to feel, deep in the inmost part of our hearts, that the Book of Mormon is unequivocally the word of God. We must feel it so deeply that we would never want to live even one day without it.” Do I feel that way about the Book of Mormon? If there’s one thing I got out of General Conference this time it’s just how important this book is. If President Eyring and Nelson can act on the Prophet’s invite to study the Book of Mormon more, then all of us sure can! The promise President Nelson made is awesome. If we study the Book of Mormon every day, he said we will make better decisions, the windows of heaven will be opened, and we will be shielded from temptations. I’m going to do my best to study a little harder, think about the Book a little more, and try to understand it’s importance more and more each day. I’m so grateful for the blessing we have to have prophets here on the earth to guide us, and for scriptures to help us know how to find all the answers for the questions we might have in our lives.

I hope that you all have a great week, and remember to make the BoM a priority.  Until next time!

Elder Odom

Monday, October 2, 2017

Changing areas

September 29th

These past 6 weeks went by so fast, time just keeps going by faster and faster!

This week we just did a bunch of little things to get ready for the transfer on Monday. But about the transfer, there were a few good changes. One of them is that my comp and I are changing areas! We were in the Vila Virgina Ward, and now we're going to the Riberião Preto 1st Ward. It's kind of cool, because we've wanted to switch areas for awhile now and so we made a plan of how we'd be able to do that and it turned out that President used a lot of the ideas we gave him. Elder Vilas Boas actually started his mission in this ward that we're going to, so hes super excited to go back and see the members and investigators that he met over a year ago there. He says it's a super good ward that helps the missionaries and the work is good there too, so I'm looking forward to the change.

Although, it will be sad to leave some of the people behind in Vila Virginia. We visited our recent converts Andre and Fatima for the last time this week. It's always sad to leave people behind once you've come to love them, but it's part of the mission. I'll also miss Fabio, our ward mission leader, the bishop, and other cool members. But like I said, I think the change of area will be good. Especially because Vilas Boas has been in the same area for over 7 months!

One highlight of this week was President took us to a churrascaria, which is a Brazilian barbecue restaurant. Basically it's like Rodizio or Tucanos, although I have to say it's better here! President made a deal with one of the financial secretaries that once he found a new house in a certain city (that has been super super hard to find) he'd take us all. Finally they we're able to find one last week so we all went! It was super good food and once again made me realize how cool President Scholz is. It's not cheap to bring so many people there, but he still brought us!

Because we figure out what's going to happen in the transfer early in the week before the rest of the mission in order to prepare, we've known since Tuesday night that we were going to leave. But, we've been working really hard to find new people to teach this week for the other Elders that will stay in Vila Virginia. We've been able to find some cool people that really seem interested. But, we had an experience contacting a referral that the other missionaries gave us that made me grateful for the Spirit. As we were getting close to the address they gave us, Elder Vilas Boas said "oh you've got to be kidding me" because the address was right next door to a place that does something called Marcumba. Marcumba is a type of religion or cult here that deals with spirits and voo doo and stuff like that, it's bad news. So we entered the man's house and about 5 minutes into our lesson, we started to hear drums and other sounds coming from next door. Right as it started, you could literally feel the Spirit leave the house. It's a super weird and really uncomfortable feeling to feel an absence of the Spirit like that. We went for a minute longer and then Elder Vilas Boas looked at me and gave me the look that said let's get out of here! We cut the lesson short and told him we'd come back another day. As we walked away, the strange feeling we had started to go away the further away we got from the house. I thought a bit about the experience and how great it is that we have the Holy Ghost with us at all times in order to help us know what we need to do. One of the main things that he does is alert us to dangerous situations, and I'm grateful that he was looking out for my companions and me that day! The Spirit is always here to help us, we just need to stop and listen to what he's telling us to do.

Another thing I'm happy about is conference! I know I've already said it, but time really is going by fast. It doesn't seem like it's already been 6 months since our last general conference. But what a great opportunity we have to listen to the general authorities of the church. I didn't do a super great job of watching the Saturday sessions at home, but I wish I would've. We literally get to hear what God wants us to do specifically right now. Seriously, an awesome opportunity!

Have a great week!

Love Elder Odom

continuing the work

September 23rd

I had a good week! It was probably one of the most laid back weeks I've had here in the office actually. This week President did all of the interviews in the other cities here in the mission, so he was traveling the whole week. It was also nice that we didn't have a lot of missionaries coming in and out of the office everyday so I was able to get a lot of stuff done.

Something that's a bit different though is that we have Elder Santana living with us now. He's an Elder that I lived with when I was in my last area in the Pinhares ward in Franca, so I already know him really good. His companion went home last week and he had nobody to stay with so president put him with us. It's always a bummer to see missionaries go home early. But this week I was able to get pretty much everything ready for the next transfer as we enter the last week of this one.

This morning we all played volleyball. We had the 5 secretaries (one is being trained right now), the assistants, and President came too! It was a blast! Basketball is really fun to play too, but volleyball is a bit more competitive so that what we've been playing recently. Not sure if I've mentioned it yet but President also bought us a nice volleyball and football to play with. He's awesome! 

With our field work, we're just going. We're still following up with our 2 main invastigators, Elisangela and Claudio, and focusing a lot on getting them ready to be baptized. They're great, they've been going to church every week for the past 8 weeks. They just need to be a bit more consistant with reading the book of mormon. Claudio is also still trying to stop smoking as well. I've really learned how addicting cigarettes are on the mission. Pretty much everyone here smokes and it's just sooo hard to stop for people. Elisangela and Claudio already stopped drinking coffee and Claudio is really close to stop drinking. But as soon as he stops smoking, I really feel like they'll be prepared to be baptized. 

This week I thought about trials in our lives and why we have them. One of the most common questions we get as missionaries is "Why is life so hard? Why do I have so many problems?" A scripture that I really like in Mosiah 23 says that "the Lord seeth fit to chasten his people; yea, he trieth their patience and their faith." The people in this part of the Book of Mormon we're following the commandments and being righteous, but still had these problems. We learn that the Lord gives us trials on purpose! I know that every single trial or difficulty in our lives has a reason, and the Lord wants us to learn something from them, but we have to actively look for the things to be learned in these trials. It's all about attitude. In the next chapter, Mosiah 24, verses 13-16 it talks about what happened to these people, and how the Lord is always here to help us in all of our times of need. We'll have lots of problems throughout our lives but we can always be happy in any circumstance, like President Nelson said last general conference. I've been really trying to be grateful and positive during hard times. It's for sure not always easy, but I can feel the influence of the Lord helping me along whenever I look for and ask for it.

But that's my week. Have a good one, love you guys! 

Elder Odom

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