Sunday, December 24, 2017

Thick with the Spirit

December 23rd

Surprise! President decided to give us our normal Pday on saturday! So we'll get to email today and Skype on Christmas!

This week was pretty cool. We're starting a new transfer, and this time it's without my old comp Elder Vilas Boas. We were comps for 6 months and never had a single problem! I'll for sure miss him a bit but I'm glad we got the chance to learn and grow together for the last 6 months. he left as a zone leader in a city called Birigui. Now it's just Elder Dantas and I, but it should be a great transfer! Not sure if I've already mentioned it or not, but he was in the first group of missionaries that got to the mission when I got to the mission office. It's already been 7 months! Time really does fly.

Today we woke up, cleaned the apartment, went and played volleyball, and then we were blessed with another super super good brunch that Sister Scholz made. 2 of their kids are here for Christmas and so Sister Scholz wanted to have us over again to eat. I love her, she's so awesome! I'm positive that you can't have a cooler mission president and sister than I have. We had french toast, bacon, scrambled eggs, cantaloupe (I've only seen it at the mission home!), banana bread, blueberry muffins, all kinda stuff. 

I'm also looking forward to this transfer with work in the field. We had a bunch of changes moving around areas in between districts, new leaders, etc and in my district I got Vila Virgina, my last area! Now I'll be able to do splits there and see the members and old investigators that I knew. Also, in the the ward/area I'm serving in (Ribeirão Preto Ala 1) we share the area with sisters, and this transfer I'm going to have 2 sister training leaders in my district! Usually President separates them, but this time he put 2 together. They are Sister Magleby from California and Sister Zêni from Rio de Janeiro. They're both really cool and work hard, so it should be a good transfer!

This week, we had a great experience with the Spirit that really strengthened my testimony of the power of the Holy Ghost. We have an investigator named Leila, and she found the church because of one of the invites we passed out for Ward Conference. She wrote down her information and gave it to a member and asked to let the missionaries pass by her house. Pretty cool! So after a few times of trying to find her at home, we were able to talk to her last Tuesday. She has lots of problems in her family. She has 2 kids, ages 10 and 12, and a husband. But her husband has been drinking since he's been 8 years old and this has really taken a huge toll on his health, both physically and mentally. He was in the hospital being treated, but snuck out on his own and now the hospital can't let him back in unless he has someone in his family to keep an eye on him there 24/7. And, the only one that would be able to do that is Leila, but she can't because she has to watch her kids. So at this point, she doesn't really know what to to do, and we didn't either as she was explaining this to us. We were trying our best to listen to her and to the Spirit to know what to say, but there were kids walking in and out of the room the whole time and her husband kept shouting random stuff. We were about to get up and leave, thinking "this isn't working. We'll come back another day" But then we started to talk about church and the Savior and the blessings it would bring if she and her family would start trying to follow Him, and as we did she started to cry. Then, everyone stopped and started to pay really close attention to what we were saying. I can't remember exactly what I said and neither can Elder Dantas, but what most impressed on me was the feeling that came into the room. It was thick with the Spirit! As I was speaking, I got an idea that popped into my head, "say a kneeling prayer with everyone right now". So, that's what we did. As I said the prayer, Leila,her husband Luciano,  and her kids (who had been joking around before) were all crying. The Spirit touched the hearts of each one, and they were all able to feel that what we said was true. I've never had an experience quite like that on my mission, and I'm extremely grateful for the chance that the Lord gave me to be a part of it.
We will continue to work with her and her family in the best way we can. We still don't know exactly what we will be able to do to help her, but all we can do is rely on the Lord and He will provide a way!

Well, there you have it for this past week.

Love, Elder Odom

New opportunities to learn

December 16th

Okay, this week was pretty busy!

It seems like this whole week I've been scrambling to get stuff done. This week we had zone conferences and it was the last week of the transfer, so there was a lot to do! Planning announcements, organizing how and when the missionaries will get to the conferences, missionaries  losing documents the day before they go home, finishing up the t-shirts (turned out pretty good! Ill send a pic of them to the Sync this week), getting the returning missionaries' plans ready,  buying tickets, etc. But, busy weeks are good weeks!

Monday should be a pretty packed day as well. Normally, we send the returning missionaries home on Monday and get the new missionaries on Tuesday, but for some reason with Christmas being close the MTC decided to send the new missionaries on Monday as well. The group going home will be the biggest group that President Scholz sends on his mission! We're all a bit anxious to see how it'll go. Yesterday I also got an email from the church in São Paulo that didn't have super good news. Brazil came out with a new law with registering foreigners in the country a few weeks ago, but the problem is that they didn't tell anyone what it means or how to use it.... so pretty much all the federal police stations in the country are sitting around not knowing what to do, and they're all scared that if they renew a visa or something the wrong way they'll get in trouble, so they just decided that they won't renew visas until they know what's going on. Doesn't make a lot of sense, but that's the situation. So, because I'm in charge of making sure that all the foreigners are legal to stay this causes me a few problems. The email that I got said that one of the missionaries that we will get on Monday wasn't able to get registered at the MTC, to they're going to send some documents with him so that we can try to register him here. He has 30 days since the day he got into the country to get registered and he got here on the 21 of November so he's running out of time quick! I've never had to do a full registration of someone before, so... we'll see how it goes I guess!

This week I rediscovered BYU talks. When I first got into the office I was listening to them a bunch as I was working, but for some reason I stopped! But Elder Dwain reminded me in an email to start listening to them again! He told me about a really good one, called "A Law of Increasing Returns" by Henry B. Eyring. It talks about how many times, it seems like we work super hard and try to be obedient but it doesn't seem to pay off and the promised blessing don't come. It's awesome and you guys should check it out! 

We're starting a new transfer, I'll have a new district, and new opportunities to learn. Looking forward to what it brings! Thanks for the support that I always get from you guys, and have a great week! Love you!

Elder Odom

Thursday, December 14, 2017

Man...I'm Dead!

December 9th

Hey, another quick week down!

Well, not much happened this week. It was super busy, but with stuff in the office. Buying tickets for missionaries going home, doing health stuff, planning for the last week of the transfer, etc. I stayed busy but just with stuff that isn't super interesting to you guys.

But, I did have a pretty interesting experience this week. There is a Sister, from São Paulo, that's here in our mission serving as a temporary missionary waiting for her visa. She was called to the Fort Lauderdale mission. A few weeks ago, she was able to get it, and so this week she had to travel to São Paulo to do an interview at the American Consulate. The church sent us her flight plans and she was leaving on thursday at 6:00 AM, so that means we had  to get a taxi to get to the airport at 5:00. President was traveling doing interviews and the assistents we doing splits, so it was my responsibility to get everything sorted out for her. I set my alarm on my watch and phone for 4:15 AMso I'd have lots of time to get ready. Then on Thursday morning, I woke up with a start. I looked at my watch... and it was 5:00 AM!! Both my companions and I had slept through the alarms! We through on our clothes as fast as we could and called the taxi. The Sister's apartment is only 2 roads down from ours, and we were out in front of it waiting for the taxi at 5:07. I've never gotten ready that fast before! The sisters were ready to go as well. So it was Elder Dantas, Sister Abdo (the one who was going to São Paulo), Sister Behner (her comp), and me heading to the airport. Once we got there we rushed inside and went to talk to the people at the counter. It was 5:40 by this time, and as you can probably imagine I was pretty stressed out and nervous. But as Sister Abdo was talking to the people, one of the workers shook his head... it was too late. It was at that moment that I thought that my life was finished.... We tried to get him to let her on, but he wouldn't, and the next flight wasn't until 10:00. I wasn't quite sure what to do, but the only option we had was to head back to the center of the city where the office/apartments are and then go back to the airport to trade her ticket in for the 10:00 flight. The only thing I could think during that drive back was "Man... I'm dead!" Honestly I don't know if I've been as stressed as I was during my mission! So Elder Dantas and I went back to the mission office and the first thing I did was get ahold of the church in São Paulo to let them know what happened. The guy that works for the church travel office was pretty stressed out as well, but he said that we should just send her on the next flight and he'll see what he can do. Then I called President to let him know. But, he wasn't too worried as I had already talked with São Paulo and had a backup plan to get Sister Abdo there. So we went back, got the ticket traded (without a fee!) and got her on the plane. Phew! In the end, it all worked out, but I learned a valueable lesson to never let myself sleep in again, because wow that was a stressful experience!

As far as work in the field goes, to be honest it's been a bit tough recently... It seems like we find someone really good, but then something ends up happening and we can't find the person at home anymore, they lose the desire to learn, etc. There certainly are benefits of being in the mission office, but field work is for sure a lot more complicated with the limited time we have! But, if there is one thing that I've learned until now on the mission, it's that the Lord will always provide a way for us to do the things we are expected to do. I'm sure that all my companions and I need is patience and to continue serving and being obedient and He will provide us with success. Sometimes, in my experience, the hardest things that we have to do and deal with aren't necessarily physical or emotional trials, but continuing to be firm and endure to the end in every moment. Lots of times when we have appointments and lessons that fall through, we're left with nothing planned for the next hour and a half. After being rejected and not having a lot of success, lots of times the last thing you want to do is keep working! It's always so much easier to just go home a bit earlier, or sit down on a bench to take a break, but I believe that the Lord gives us these moments at times to test our faith. Can we really keep going, even when it seems like nothing is going our way? Do we really have the desire, willpower, and faith to keep pushing forward and endure to the end? For me, this is hard. But I know that it's in these times that the Lord really does bless us. He knows our hearts and our struggles, and he will be there to bless us and give us the strength necessary to keep going. It's after we keep pushing though with faith in these hard times that we will see the miracles in our lives. Everyday, I focus on trying to work a little bit more and continue and, as President Monson says, always "pick the harder right instead of the easier wrong."

I'm grateful for the chance I have to be a missionary and serve the Lord. I know that even though it isn't easy, serving a mission is the best choice I've ever made. Thank you Mom and Dad for all the support that I have gotten from you, both before the mission in order to be here and now as a missionary in the field! I have a great support system at home and I can't thank everyone enough!

Sorry for the short email! This next week should be really busy and there is lots to do, so let's hope everything goes smoothly. later!

Elder Odom

Monday, December 4, 2017

Trusting in Christ

December 2nd

Hi! I hope this past week for you guys was good. I had a pretty good one!

So this week I've been pretty busy with stuff in the office! Something cool that I've been working on that's different is the mission T-shirt. President and Sister Scholz want to make a custom T-shirt for all the missionaries in the mission, and President put me in charge of figuring out all the logistics of it, like the basic design of it, contacting a company to make it, etc. Just one more thing I'm doing that I didn't really imagine myself doing on the mission! It's been pretty cool working with Pres and Sister Scholz to make it though, and I think it will turn out pretty good! We should have them all done in about 2 weeks from now. President wanted to make it a shirt that we would actually use at home, not just a shirt we use to work out or sleep in! When we get the finished product, I'll send you guys a picture to see what you think.

This week we also had a missionary that needed to have surgery and one more that is preparing to get surgery next week, so that wasn't super fun to deal with all that comes with that. I've had to talk quite a bit with our insurance company and the doctors in São Paulo to get everything figured out. One of the missionaries had to get a kidney stone lasered out and the other will have to get their gallbladder removed. Dealing with all the health stuff on the mission is kind of a downer sometimes, but it really makes me grateful for the great health I've had so far, Heavenly Father has really blessed me!

This week we had a miracle with someone we found contacting last week. I was on splits with one of the zone leaders who came from another city for leadership council, and we talked to a man sitting on his front steps and taught him real quick and marked a day to go back. He said his names is Marcio. During the contact, he seemed pretty interested and showed that he had real desire to change his life. Then last Sunday, my companions (I was doing splits with another missionary in his area) went back to teach him and when they got there he said "I've been waiting for you!" He told them that he prayed to know about the things we'd taught him the first time we met him and he said that he knew that everything we said is true and that he wants to be baptized. How cool!! He told my comps that he has a problem with smoking (he smokes 30 per day) and he wants to stop. Elder Vilas Boas asked "in one week from now, next Sunday, how many cigarettes will you be smoking?" He thought for a little bit, then looked at him and said "None. I'll stop completely this week." Elder Vilas Boas couldn't believe it! The only problem we have is that he's a truck driver, and so he spends the whole week traveling and get home late on Saturday night so we can only teach him on Sunday, but we've been calling him every single day to follow up with him to see how he's doing. On Tuesday when we called, he said had only smoked 3 on Monday, and by Wednesday he had already completely stopped. He said it's super super hard for him, but he's trusting in Christ to give him strength to continue strong. From his example, my testimony has been so strengthened. If we open our hearts to Christ and give it our all, then that's when miracles in our lives can happen. He went from smoking 30 cigarettes per day for years to just stopping! I'm so grateful for Heavenly Father and how he brought Marcio to us to be able to share our message with him, and all the strength and help He is giving him as he battles against his addiction. If we put our trust in the Lord, anything is possible!

But, there you have it. I hope this next week is great for you guys!

Elder Odom

Friday, December 1, 2017

New Companion

November 25th

Happy Thanksgiving! I hope everyone had an awesome time celebrating it!

On Tuesday, we got our new companion! His name is Elder Dantas, he was born in the state of Rio Grande do Norte but has lived in the state of Santa Catarina since he's been 15. he's going to be trained to be the other secretary for the next 3 weeks, so we'll be in a trio until the end of the transfer, and then it'll just me him and me until I leave the office. He's really cool and we're already having a good time with him. Something else that's cool is that he has the exact same birthday as me! He has been on the mission for about 6 months now, which is funny because he was in the first group of new missionaries that came when I got called to be in the mission office. It's already been awhile! Time's going by quick for sure.

This week I'd like to talk about another really cool experience that my comp and I had. It happened last Sunday. As we were going to the different lessons we had planned, pretty much every single one of them fell through. So we sat down in a park to try to figure out what to do. we talked for a bit and then said a prayer to be led to those who need us. Then we went out and started kind of walking around without a destination in mind, like we did last week with Julie. As we were walking, we passed a girl that was just bawling and another woman trying to console her. After about 10 seconds, my comp Elder Vilas Boas stopped and asked, "Do you think that we should go talk to them?" Honestly, I'd been asking myself the same thing! I said that I didn't know. We sat there talking about if we should or not for a good 5 mins, because we were worried! We didn't want to get there and start talking to them and have them get mad and us and say "why are you talking to us? Can't you see this is a personal moment??" and be annoyed with the missionaries. It's been a pretty long time since I've been that hesitant to make a contact with someone. After thinking and talking about it, we just decided to go for it. We could literally feel the Spirit saying "go and talk to them!!" As we were walking back to them, Elder Vilas Boas said "Heavenly Father, we're doing our part and trying to be obedient, please help us!" We also noticed that 3 more people had left the house to help talk to the girl. At first, they were a bit annoyed and startled that we would even talk to them. But, we just testified of Christ and told them that He has a plan for each one of us and that through the gospel any problem we have can be overcome. We could feel the Spirit really strong as we talked to them, and I know that they did too. By the end of the conversation, they we're all excited and said that they knew that God was looking out for them by sending us to talk to them in the right moment. We marked tomorrow (Sunday) to go back to talk to them. I hope that we will be able to follow up with them and continue to teach them! Elder Vilas Boas and I reflected on that moment afterward. It would've been so easy to judge and say that it's a bad moment to talk to someone and that we didn't feel anything, but what a great experience we would've lost! We would've never known what good we could've done. My comp also mad e the comment that he's glad we listened, because on judgement day the Lord would've reminded us about this moment! This was a great testimony builder to me. Lot's of times, we have the tendency to judge and think that we know best. Lot's of times we're scared because we don't know exactly what will happen. But, the Lord always know's the best way and if we follow Him  and do our best to follow the promptings of the Spirit, we can be sure that things will turn out the right way. I'm grateful that my companion and I had the courage to follow the Spirit even though we were apprehensive and nervous about what would happen. But we did our part, and the Lord did His! The more we put our trust in the Lord, the better things will work out for us.

Sorry I didn't write a whole lot, I forgot to use the alphasmart (yeah I still use it because in the office I generally don't have enough down time to write my letters). But I'm grateful for all of you!  I've been so blessed!

Elder Odom

President Schultz played Bball at BYU! The Elders are so impressed with his skills!

Listening to the Spirit

November 18th

Wow, Nick's home! I can't believe it! All this time thinking and imagining this moment and it's finally here! Like I've already said, it's pretty weird to think that it's over for him. Although, he served a good mission!

So, a few experiences that I had this week. Something that was really cool that happened was one night both of the appointments we marked fell through and the people we were going to visit weren't home. So, we decided to look for new investigators with the time we had to spare. As we were walking, I was thinking to myself, "I have no idea where to go... Heavenly Father, please take us to someone that will accept our message or someone that we can help". We were just going up and down the streets without a destination in mind, just trying to find someone on the road that we could talk to. We passed a house that had a door open and when I looked at it, I had this very subtle feeling that was telling me to knock on that door. So, I did! And older lady walked out and we started to talk to her. Her name is Julie. For some reason also, about 5 minutes before we knocked on her door, I had the idea to talk about Christ's baptism and the example he set for us. We started talking about that and she really understood the importance of it, it was cool. She told us about a surgery that she needs on her right eye, but for some reason she needs to wait until the doctors can give it to her, so she's just waiting to get it. Then Elder Vilas Boas made a promise to her: "If you put into practice the things that we will teach you and do your part to come unto Christ, you will be able to get your surgery before the year is over." Wow! It's already late in the year and it's been awhile since she's been waiting for it! But when he said that, I felt a confirmation that his promise is true. As missionaries, at times we say things that even we don't expect! But that's what happens when we're trying to follow the Spirit, because it's not us that're teaching, it's the Holy Ghost. It was really interesting to see how quickly the Lord answered my prayer to find someone that was in need and that would listen to us. We literally had no idea where we should go, and, without realizing it until afterward, we were led by Him right to Julie's door. We don't always see or recognize all the times the Spirit is leading us or telling us what to do, but we can be sure that if we are always doing our best to follow the commandments and do what's right then he will!

This week President went to another city called Santos for the Mission Presidents Meeting with all the mission presidents in Brazil. There he got to talk to Elder Aidukaitis and his wife who said they remember me pretty well! President and Sister Scholz thought it was pretty cool too that they still go to our ward when they are in Utah. Our ward is awesome! They also talked to President and Sister Chamberlain and they said that Ty is doing a fine job. I also sent the flash drive with the music on it with Pres Scholz and he gave it to Ty's mission Pres, so he should be good to go with music now!

But other than that, we've just been busy with our normal stuff in mission office. Something interesting though is that I'll be getting a 2nd companion next week! Elder Vilas Boas has been in the office since last February and he will be leaving to go back to being a field missionary on the 18th of next month, and will train the new Elder until then. It's a bit sad, because Elder Vilas Boas is awesome! We've been together for almost 6 months and we've never even disagreed about anything! I've really enjoyed this time that I've had with him as my comp. We are so used to each other now that it's getting to the point where I know what he's going to say before he says it and stuff. It's really fun to teach with him because we always are in super good sync with each other. It's be sad to see him go, but I'm sure he has lot's of great new experiences waiting for him working in the field full time!

Sorry for the shorter email, but this week was a bit less exciting. Thank you though for all the support that I get from you guys, I really appreciate it, for real! 

Elder Odom

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