Tuesday, February 21, 2017

Church is much different than in Sandy!

February 20th

Hello friends and family! It was a pretty good week. We did a lot of traveling again!

To start off the week, like I mentioned last time, we had a big zone party last P day, and it was super fun! We had a churrasco (brazilian barbeque) and played bball. I'm much worse at bball than i used to be. I'll need to start playing when i get home!

On Tuesday morning, we got up nice and early at 5 am and got ready to travel to Ribeirao for Zone Conference. We all got into a big van drove down there. It was super fun, I got to see a bunch of the other missionaries from my other area again. The first Zone Conference isn't that fun on the mission because you don't really know anyone. But, now they're super fun because I've met lots of the other missionaries. This Zone conference was about the new changes taking place in the world with missionary work, mainly with the schedule. For us now, we leave the house at 10 am and between 10 am and 6 pm we can choose when we want to do language study and companionship study. P day also starts at 8 am now and we don't have to plan for 30 mins at night which is nice. So really not that much changed for us here in our mission. But even though they're not huge changes they're good ones. We watched a training by the executive missionary board (or something like that) and it was awesome, it had Elder Oaks, Bednar, Anderson, and other general authorities. I love listening to the prophets, everything they say is so good!

This week we made lots of good progress with the family we're working with. Rafael is the dad, Lucilene is the mom, and Vitor and Eduardo are the 2 boys. We got the whole family to come to church with us yesterday and it was awesome! They are loving hearing our messages, and keep talking about how they're changing and receiving so many blessings because of it. We ate lunch with them after church which was fun too. The only issue with this family is they need to get married and overcome some addictions. But now that they have seen personally the blessings of the gospel, I think they will be able to do it!

We are also teaching two 14 year old boys in the other city, Marcos and Caio. They're awesome and want to be baptized and are liking our visits. We wanted to baptize them together next week, but the problem is when we asked Caio's mom for permission, she didn't give it. Her mom is super into another church and doesn't want Caio to be baptized, so we are a bit stuck. We're praying for the grandma and mom to open their hearts!

Church in Ituverava was a bit hectic this week. Normally we have it in a members house that has a nice open room, but because we didn't have a member come with us from Sao Joaquim, we had nobody to give rides to our investigators and so we did it at another members house that's closer but smaller. It was a last second thing and it was super unorganized. Lehi, the member that is always working with us and doing missionary stuff in Ituverava, has a cousin named Rodrigo that's a bit of a nut job. During the Gospel principles lesson, he is always shouting out random stuff and scriptures and cutting people off mid sentence to prove that he's smart or something. Also, during the 2nd hymn, the bed frame that people were sitting on broke and so that was fun. Between all this stuff, I just had to laugh. Church there is much different than it is in Sandy, I'll tell you that much!

 I have been really focused on faith this week. How can I grow my faith: Really studying that in the scriptures has really helped me get a better understanding of how through faith, we can actually do anything that the Lord tells us to. Sometimes it's intimidating to think about training, or being district leader someday, or any other thing, but if I can have faith and trust the Lord without fear, then everything will be okay. The Lord has already worked miracles out here for me, I have no reason to be nervous! But, it's something that I have to keep reminding myself everyday. Out here on the mission, you cant control what goes on around you very well, and that's what makes me nervous and frustrated at times. It's not super easy to always just trust the Lord but it's something that's necessary. Like President Monson says: "Remember that faith and doubt cannot exist in the same mind and the same time, for one will dispel the other. Cast out doubt. Cultivate faith." I really like this quote.

That's all for me. Until next week everyone!
-Elder Odom

Lots of Travel

February 13th

So, things are going good in my new area. My companion and I are getting along good, he's a super funny guy and it's fun to be around him. I've been super blessed with my comps!

There is a ton of traveling in my area. 2 times a week we travel to Ituverava, 45  mins away by bus. We have to travel to Franca once a week for district meeting  which is an hour and 20 away. Also, once or twice a month we go an hour away to eat lunch at a members house that lives in another city. It's a lot, but it's all good.

Sao Joaquim, our main city that we live in, is much tougher to work in than the other city. I might have mentioned last week but Ituverava is a poorer city and people are much more open to the gospel. In Sao Joaquim it's really hard to find people to teach, especially because of the complete absence of help from the members. In Ituverava, there's a member named Lehi (yeah he was born into the church) that always is helping the missionaries, he's basically a permanent missionary there. He left the church and didn't serve a mission, so when he came back he felt super bad and promised the Lord he'd do all he could to help the missionaries and further the work. He's been at it for over a year now. Super cool!!

Were teaching a family that's looking good right now. There are 2 boys (14 and 12) and the parents. the kids are liking church and everyone is really enjoying our messages, but the problem is the parents aren't married and have lots of addictions. what will probably happen is we'll need to baptize the kids first then the parents. What's disappointing though is they didn't go to church. On Saturday they promised that they'd go to church 100% but they didn't. We called them, trying to convince them to come, but they didn't. It's always sad when that happens, but everyone has their agency and we cant choose for them. If only people knew how important the gospel is! 

So I don't have any more time to write because we are traveling, but I should have more time next week.

Elder Odom

First Week in the New Area

February 6th

First week in the new area down! Its going pretty good! I'll explain how this area works.

Like I said last week, this area actually has 2 cities that we need to take care of. The first one is Sao Joaquim da Barra, where we live. Here we have a ward that has 30-50 people per week. The other is a city called Ituverava, and there only has a group of 20 people max, this week we only had 7 though. It's interesting, because in Sao Joaquim the people are hard to talk to and nobody keeps their commitments when we mark to go back and visit them. But in Ituverava it's much easier, everybody means what they say.

Wednesday was basically our first day of real work because of all the traveling we had to do. The first thing that suprised me was how many people we had to visit! In my other area, it was super hard to find more than 5 people to visit in a day. Wednesday Thursday and Saturday we worked in Sao Joaquim, and each day we had 10 or more people to visit! The bad part was that 8 of them weren't home or interested anymore each day... but, it's still looking better than what I'm used to!

On Friday we went to Ituverava to work. Something that's interesting. Remember how at the beginning of last transfer I was worried that I wouldn't know my way around the area: Well now I have to learn 2 cities, and we don't even have a map to use in Ituverava so that should be interesting to see how that goes. Anyway, because of the travel time to get there and back we only have 4 or 4 1/2 hours to work whenever we visit Ituverava which is lame. But Elder Almeida already had 5 people that we needed to visit, and everybody that we visited was home! Elder Almeida is always talking about how much better Ituverava is to work, that city is a bit poorer and the people are much more receptive. I went and met the investigators that he had, and it was good. I don't know them super well yet, but we have at least 3 that can be baptized soon which is exciting.
Oh, something funny that happened on Friday! We had lunch with a member but she called and said that she had to leave, but we could come pick up some food from her house. That morning it was raining really hard, and she lived about 50 mins away. So we got there and then realized that we wouldn't have enough time to get back and eat and make the bus to Ituverava in time, so we took the bus back to the center close to where we live. We ate and got ready to go. As we hurried out the door, it was 1:20 and the bus left at 1:30, but it's 20 mins to get to the bus station. So we pretty much ran the whole way there. This is the funny part, because I don't remember the last time I ran for more than 5 seconds, all I know is it was before the mission. When I was running, it was kinda surprising that I wasn't as tired as i felt like I should be. When we got to the bus station I wasn't breathing super heavy but my legs were so tired! My muscles are not used to doing that. We got there right as the bus was pulling out. If we had gotten there 5 seconds later we would've missed the bus. I'm still sore 3 days later!

Elder Almeida and I are getting along good, he's a really funny guy! So one of the problems that we're going to have here is with the ward. They don't trust missionaries for some reason, probably because the last few missionaries were bad or something, and on top of that the members seem to not like Americans, so it looks like I have some work to do.

Something that I studied this week is King Benjamins speech to the Nephites. After he preached to the people, they were truly converted. At the beginning of chapter 5 in Mosiah it talks about the change that the people had, and how they had no more disposition to do evil. I really thought about this part. I asked myself, "Am I converted the way that King Benjamin's people were:" We have all the tools we need to grow our testimonies. We have this part of the Book of Mormon to show that it's possible to have the testimonies to that point! One way that we can grow our testimonies is by showing our faith, believing that God will show us the right path if we put our trust in Him. That's what I've been trying to focus on this week, trusting in the Lord without becoming nervous for what comes next. It's not easy thinking about all the challenges Ill have to face out here but I know I'll be blessed if I trust in the Lord and exercise faith.

So the new area is looking good! I'm excited to have more visits and people to teach, and also have people want to hear us! I'll talk to you guys in another week, love you!

-Elder Odom 

Sunday, February 5, 2017

New Area!

Hi Everyone!
I only have a few minutes to write today.

My last week in my first area was good. We worked hard to build up a decent teaching base for Elder Mascena. Even though we talked to a bunch of people and tried our best, we didn't end up getting as many people as we wanted to. But, its part of the mission. sometimes lots of people are willing to listen, sometimes it seems like nobody is. I'm going to miss working with Elder Mascena, he's so cool and we got along so good. Its super weird that i'm already leaving my first area! Like I've said before, time is super weird. It seems so fast and so slow at the same time, but for sure it doesn't seem like i have been out 5 1/2 months.

I'm sure you've already heard, but there are some worldwide changes taking place for missions. I'm actually not sure exactly what all of them are because my mission is waiting 2 week to inform everyone whats going to happen, but we do know of a few. The mission is a lot less numbers based, its more about taking responsibility for yourself and working your best for the Lord. I'm pretty happy about that because sometimes people think more about the numbers than the people.

I'm serving in an area called Sao Joakim da Barra. This area has 2 cities, Sao Joakim da Barra and . We have to take turns working in each city, and we are going to have to manage 2 teaching pools! We also have to travel to Franca, another city, every week to  have district meeting with the other missionaries, so we're going to spend lots of time traveling. But Its funny, because Elder Macsena actually served in this area 4 transfers right before he was my comp! He talked a lot about how much he loved this area, so i'm excited!

I don't have any more time, but I'll let you guys know how my first week in the new area is next Monday!

Elder Odom

First Baptism!!

 Hey friends and family! I’ve got some good news... I got my first baptism!! It was so cool! Eunice is the one that got baptized. We found her the first day of the transfer. We had the baptismal service on Saturday. When I baptized her, we actually had to do it twice because her foot came up the first time! But, it was definitely the highlight of the week, it was so cool. It’s just awesome to think that now she can actually live with Heavenly Father someday. Something that I’ve come to learn out here is that what happens to people after this life matters to me now. We study, learn, and teach about the Plan of Salvation so much that it's really hit me out here how important it is! It's for all eternity after this life, and we only have this short time to determine what will happen forever. It's actually pretty sad to think about anybody not making it back. 
On Sunday, had her confirmation. But, at 9:15 she still wasn’t at church, and sacrament started at 9:00. We called her and she said she was walking. She lives pretty far away and she walked all the way to church! Her husband dropped her off the last two times, but the car apparently didn’t have gas, so she had to walk. I was super impressed. She’s getting a little bit of push-back from her family, mostly her husband and daughter. Her daughter is crazy and doesn’t like when Eunice leaves the house, even though she’s 40 years old. She just sits inside all day and refuses to talk to anyone. Not sure what her problem is. But, Eunice is still planning on going to church every week and said "Now that I’m baptized, I need to stay firm!" Super cool!

Something not so fun that happened this week is we lost Ingrid as an investigator. We went to her house in the morning again, but when we knocked, nobody came to the door. We knocked again and this time we heard the aunt and uncle inside and they were mad. Ingrid came to the door a few mins later and said that she wont be able to see us anymore because the aunt doesn’t want anybody knocking at their door. She also told us that the aunt made her quit her job, and that the aunt quit her own job too. Ingrid isn’t allowed to leave the house ever now, and the aunt is at home all day too. Its a super weird situation, and Elder Mascena and I are a bit worried about it. We don’t know what her aunt's reasons for doing this are. But, we think that Ingrid had a friend at her work, so we're thinking about stopping by to talk to her to find out what’s going on.

On Friday we did splits with the Zone leaders because of Eunice's baptismal interview, and I went to the Zone Leaders area with Elder Farias. It was a good day, we had some good lessons and I learned about teaching people the consequences of sin. Elder Farias isn’t afraid to tell people that they are choosing the wrong and they aren’t doing what Heavenly Father wants, so they wont be saved. It actually worked pretty well! We had a funny experience. We knocked a door that had 3 guys in it, all about 50 years old. One of them was super crazy, and started going off about Reincarnation. So we told him that we can show him that reincarnation doesn’t exist using the Bible. He said "No I don’t believe the Joseph Smith Bible you use!" 
"No we'll use your Bible. Can you get it for us?" So he went and got his Bible and we used the scripture in 1 Peter 3:19 to explain the Spirit world to him. After we showed him he got kind of quiet and said "Hmmm... makes sense..." after that he didn’t say anything bad about the church. It was super funny.

Something that I really studied this week is Jacob 5, which is about the tame and wild olive trees. One part that I really like is at the end when it talks about the servants in the vineyard. It says they were few, but they did a lot of good, and in the end they were very blessed. Verses 74 and 75 talk about the blessing that we will receive, but we need to work with all diligence. I never realized how cool this parable is until I really studied it! I’ve really learned to appreciate the scriptures out here. I wish I would’ve studied them harder at home!

So that’s it for me. Until next week everyone!

-Elder Odom