So this week was incredibly long and fantastic!!!!
To be honest, as I write my letters I seem to notice that I talk a lot about temporal experiences and things that are about me and I always have thought do not write enough about the spiritual side of the mission. Well this week was a very spiritual week.
So the week started out with a fantastic leadership training meeting with the mission president. He highlighted a ton of points that we need to improve in our district, including studying more on how to TEACH the gospel, not EXPLAIN the gospel. Yes, there is in fact a huge difference between the two. Well me and my companion have been noticing a huge difference with the people we are helping since we started implementing what we were taught. Truly, the spirit has been with us this past week and we were so blessed to help others.
Funny side note- A really cool lady in the ward, Irmã Diana, was at our lunch this week and she looked at me just before we left and asked me a funny question. Her son is always all over the place, so she quietly asked " hey, do you happen to have a chain?" I replied No and quickly asked why. She answered " So I can tie up my son." Okay, maybe it is not as funny when I write it but I assure you all it was a funny moment.
We had a family night with a wonderful family and a young couple that we are teaching, Emanuella and Nathan. They are very cool and we decided to watch "The Restoration" with them. It is a fantastic short film about the young life of Joseph Smith. When we arrived, to me horror we discovered that they had no remote for the DVD player and thus no way to change the language option. It was stuck on English!! Well, that wonderful family had the idea that I, having studied both English and Portuguese, could just act as translator. I declined saying I could not translate that fast. However I quickly remembered you do not change that mind of a Brazilian that easy. So, we decided to watch the film regardless, with me as the mediating translator. I can not claim to be fully fluent in Portuguese, but during that film, I truly felt the help of the spirit. I translated really well, really fast, and through my words those people were able to feel the truth of that message. I am blessed to be a part of this work.
I also have the responsibility to interview those who have been prepared and are wanting to be baptized. This week was very special for me. On Tuesday I had an interview with a lady named Leia (yes like Star Wars). She actually wanted to back out of the interview but I was quite persistent in talking to her. Really I just wanted to see why she had suddenly changed her mind. We began the interview at roughly 8pm. It did not end until 11pm. For 3 long, teary, heavy, and wonderful hours I was able to (I hope) help this women understand truly, the promise of the atonement of Jesus Christ in her life. She had some problems from her past life that she had yet to resolve personally and I was able to be the mouthpiece of the spirit to help reach this womans' heavy heart. It was a extremely important moment I think, for her. As it also was extremely important for me. However, she still, after 30 minutes of trying, refused the offer to pray. I felt to leave the subject and instead schedule another day that week to pass by her house.
After the interview I planned a division, or rather, a 24 hour companion swap with Elder Earl and Elder Reis. I prepared my companion in the few days before and then I left him in charge for 1 day, only having 2 weeks as a missionary under his belt. We will return to that thought shortly... Anyways, on the division I had the chance to interview 2 more people. An 8 year old and an older women. They were wonderful people with testimonies that already were glowing. Tania, the older woman was so excited that after a lifetime of trial and searching, she had been given the path of Christ. The 8 year old was Tania's granddaughter, but not by blood. Her name is Samille and she lives with her " grandma" because her real mom is not capable of taking care of her. She was such a special child who trusted so much in grandma. She spoke to me of how she believes in Christ because her of grandma's strength. When I asked her to end our interview with a prayer, I told her that she was allowed to ask God for the things she most wanted. Well, this little girl really tore my heart out. She, with a calm, quite voice, asked God to move her mom closer to grandma's house so she could see her more than once a week and so that her mom could walk her to school in the morning like the other girls. I am blessed to be a part of this work.
Later that night we went to talk to Leia again, like we had planned. We arrived and entered into the small house. It was humble but still full of all the essentials, including AC. We sat down on a stool and bench while she sat on the bed. I asked her to give the opening prayer. She declined. I asked again. She said no. At this point I was so worried for her. I was just so worried that Satan had penetrated down to her core and had taught her she was never going to be able to speak with her Eternal Father again. I saw a lot of fear in her eyes. So we read with her, "Ether 12:27" from the Book of Mormon. This scripture is a powerful teaching about the weakness of men and the purposes of God. Elder Earl spoke wonderfully about how that scripture happened to be his favorite and that he was on his mission because of it. Then there was silence. For what seemed like several minutes, we sat there studying her face as she read that verse over and over. I felt impressed to read the scripture of the Book of Mormon that most touches me, "2 Nephi 4: 19". "And when I desire to rejoice, my heart groaneth because of my sins; nevertheless, I know in whom I have trusted." She was also very touched and instantly marked that verse as well. Then, silence. 5 minutes. Nothing. Elder Earl gathered enough courage to ask her to pray again and he bowed his head. I followed suit and began to pray silently. I offered up my entire soul in this pray. I wanted nothing more in that moment that to hear her pray. For 10 minutes we said nothing. We just prayed. I honestly do not know what she was doing because my eyes were closed and I was praying. Then Elder Earl began to pray out loud. He offered a beautiful prayer, asking the Lord to help Leia. I followed suit once again and pleaded for the Lord to open her heart and mouth. Then, silence. More time past with nothing but the sound of cars faintly passing outside and the drown of the air conditioning. I then had the thought to get down and kneel. So I did; this whole time we were still praying. Ten more minutes past with the same sounds of nothing. Then I finally heard Elder Earl kneel followed by a third person kneel. The third, was faintly holding back tears as she began to udder " Pai Celestial" ( Heavenly Father). What followed was nothing less than a grand miracle from God. Leia offered the most heart-filled, loving, most warm and honest prayer and ended in the name of her Savior. After more than 30 minutes of silence and supplication unto the Lord; after tears, testimony, time had come and past, Leia prayed. I am blessed to be a part of this work.
All three of these wonderful people were baptized this week and I feel so grateful to be able to see this great and marvelous miracles of God. The rest of the week was full of spiritually uplifting lessons. My companion, on his first day in-charge, performed most admirably and because of him we already have 26 lessons planned for this week.
This week was all full of pizza. I ate an entire one all by-my-onesy (that means all by myself in pirate). I also had a Brazilian tell me a fantastic fact at lunch on Sunday. " Americans, by 5 months old already have their entire life planned out. Brazilians by 5 years old have a plan too-- DO NOTHING."
To end this letter, I wish to say I love you all so very much and if you ever wanted to know what I would want from any of you, the answer is this. Please read the Book of Mormon. There is no way to truly explain the effect on the life of the open heart that this book has. That is my testimony.
Eu vos Amo.
Elder Asa Laws