Monday, February 25, 2013

Patience In Afflictions

Hellooooo. :)

This was quite the week. I subjected the email this week as "Patience in Afflictions" because this is exactly what I was learning all week. In Preach My Gospel, we have a section called "Christ-like Attributes". At the end of the section, there is a guide to help you apply these attributes in your life and strengthen them. One of these ways is to pray and ask for experiences in your life associated with living these principles. I found myself studying about Patience and Love earlier in the week. Starting with last Monday, I began to notice many instances in my life that were given to help me become more patient and loving. I will describe some of these events, but first, I would like to say that I am not complaining that I had these, but that I am grateful!
Starting last Monday, P-day right? I am very excited for this day because we had had a hard week, and I was very tired. I was so happy to finally rest. We ran off to email family, buy groceries, and then returned to the house. Now our house is literally a death-trap. Its very old, and nothing works really. I am sure the roof will collapse on us some day. Anyway, as we arrived to the house, I tried unlocking the door.... wouldn't unlock... We tried many ways to get in, but it was no use. We arrived at about 3 PM, and P-day ends at 6 PM. We tried for about an hour to get in but it was no use... It was somewhere close to 100 F and we had no shade to sit in and all our food was getting all warm and gross. So much for resting! We tried calling a person to come open it for us, but nothing was working! Finally, one guy said he could, but it'll be about 30 more minutes. He arrived at 5:30 PM and opened it in like 2 minutes. There was part of the lock that wasn't functioning properly. He then proceeded to take 50 reals from us just for that little incident. So, after 2 1/2 hours of sitting and sweating in the sun, it was time to end P-day and go to work. I was so tired, sweaty, and truthfully angry. I wanted to rest and i needed to wash clothes. I didn't have time for either.
Tuesday, I woke up and tried to wash some clothes real quick... but we had no water... Our home is very old and the water shuts off at times. So i couldn't wash any clothes, and we had to take showers with a bucket of water from a well underneath our home (we have been doing this for two weeks up until today, the day I'm writing this email.). We then spent the whole day searching for people to teach, but none of our plans were successful and we ended the day bummed out.
Wednesday, the day was spent very similar to Tuesday with not a whole lot of success. Our street contacts were almost completely rejections. After lunch, we began a fast for a Family, Luciana and Alexandre. We wanted to set a date of marriage for them, so that they can also be baptized. Here in Brazil, many people "live together" but aren't married. To be baptized, they have to get married first, so a date of marriage is a huge step. They had been talking about the end of the year, but we wanted to change that. So, the weather was hot all day and we were walking a lot... sweating a lot... I was very thirsty even after two or three hours into the fast. We ended the night out and got ready for bed. I went to bed still sweating and with a dry mouth. That night was difficult. I didn't sleep much, and it was extremely hot. I couldn't swallow and many times I got up to get water... but something always kept me back and didn't let me drink water. I knew this was a test. I had to show God that I am willing to suffer this night, and that was what kept me from drinking water. All night, I sweated. I don't even know where the sweat was coming from because there was zero water in my body. We woke the next morning weak, tired, and thirsty. We continued to our study time. I prayed for inspiration and a clear head, even though my mind was foggy and dizzy. Astonishingly, I found that I could think really well as we planned our big lesson for the family. After we planned out our lesson for them, we needed to pick a marriage date to invite them. We said a prayer, and then for about 5 minutes, we each stared at a calendar and thought about which date it would be. Afterwards, Elder Cheshire said.... alright, tell me your date. I thought a little bit more... and said March 23. He was very quiet. I stared at him waiting to hear what he had to say. He then looked at me and had tears in his eyes. He then said... that was the date I was thinking too. The Spirit testified to us that this was truly inspired. Fast forward to the end of the night, the lesson went really well. The Bishop came with us as well. The Spirit was strong as we talked about marriage and temples. We ended it by inviting them to be married on that date. Alexandre, who is usually quiet and looks like he isn't listening, he accepted immediately, and right after, Luciana accepted and began to cry. The Spirit was INSANELY STRONG! They held hands and kissed and all that yucky stuff, and we finished up the lesson. It was amazing. We truly reaped the blessing of our patience in afflictions!
I have gained a firm testimony that if we do our part, and be patient in all, God will do His part. Sometimes, His timeline is a little different than ours. We must always be patient. Alma 34:41 helped me so much this week. Patience in afflictions. Have a hope that one day, we will rest from our afflictions. That night, Elder Cheshire and I rested from our afflictions. But as with missionary work in general, the next day brought its new challenges, and we are right back to being patient. :)
I am grateful for this experience. Sometimes, it's hard to stay positive and always see the happy side of life. I know that 2 weeks of showering with just a bucket of water and getting eaten by mosquitoes every night is pretty annoying, but after this experience, I will live like that for the rest of my mission just to have another experience like this one. As with everything, we have the choice to stay patient, or harden our hearts. I was studying a scripture today that helped me clearly understand the consequences of hardening our hearts: Alma 12:36. If you harden your heart, you won't enter the rest of God. You can't be more clear than that!
Wow that was really long, and I know that I could never exactly describe the event through email, but I testify that we have a loving Heavenly Father. He is waiting to pour out blessings on each one of us. However, sometimes He wants us to show a little faith first. I never truly understood this until now. Patience in afflictions. Always be happy. Love everyone! These are the attributes of our Loving Savior. These are the things we need to apply in our lives.
I hope that everyone at home is happy and safe and healthy. :) I love and miss you all very much! Thanks for the letters and the updates from home. I sure feel loved when I receive mail! Do you guys still have snow, or is it warming up yet? Finally, I think its going to start cooling down here soon. FINALLY!
Oh some crazy news about this week. One, The Brazil Rio de Janeiro Mission will be divided and the new mission will be called Brazil Juiz de Fora Mission. This will take place July 1. Because I will have about 10 months in the mission, I may be transferred to that mission and be training new missionaries. But who knows. We will see. :) Oh and yesterday, I gave a 20 minute talk on getting the ward excited about Missionary work. I had some people come up and say that they understood my Portuguese really well. However, I had one person tell me: "I didn't understand a word you said, but good job anyway!" She was like 85 years old, so I'm guessing the problem was her and not me. Hahaha. :)
Much love,
Elder Steven Bennett

Monday, February 18, 2013


Hello hello!

This was quite the week! Many interesting things have been happening. I hope I can remember them all. I will start off by saying that I am a bit sunburned.... Yikes this entire week was BLAZING hot. One member said the temperature range this week was 37 C - 41 C. I dont remember exactly, but I think that is like 98-105 F. Sunscreen is basically useless here because after you apply it and go outside, you instantly sweat it all off. You cant reapply it because you're basically soaked. The only saving grace right now is that many streets are tree-lined, so I am able to stick to the shade a lot. Nights aren't very pleasant either. The sun goes down, but its still just as hot. We have some fans we use, so that's another saving grace for us. :)
Carnival finished up this week.... I think Wednesday. Our Zone Leaders received word from Presient Lima that we are to continue working unless we feel that we need to return to our houses. My thoughts of Carnival were definately different than what I was expecting. I always thought every street was going to be a party and people everywhere dressed with almost nothing and wearing funny costumes like in the movie "Rio". Most of that was correct, but there are specific areas that have parties, and everyone in the city gathers in these places. They have these areas all over Rio, but the craziest ones are in Copacabana and Ipanema... aka the area that is represented in the movie Rio. In our area, we had about three or four of these spots, so we just had to stick far from them and we were fine for the most part. The city, normally very busy, was a ghost town during carnival. We were lucky to talk to 10 people on the streets in a day! Everyone was at these other locations, drunk, or sleeping. It was quite the adventure finding new ways to use our time. Many investigators were travelling or at these parties, unfortunately. Wednesday night was the craziest night of all. Up until Wednesday, these different party locations have competitions of who has the craziest parties. Wednesday night, a member called us up to give a blessing, so we ran off to their apartment. We gave the blessing on a 7th story balcony overlooking all of Rio. While up there, it struck me once again that I am in Rio de Janeiro serving a mission. How awesome is that? I felt the Spirit testify to me strongly that I am here for a reason. The blessing went well and afterwards we ate a little snack on the balcony. It was night, and the sights up there were amazing. You could see the lighted areas of each of these parties. The member explained to us that Brasil stops during carnival. Literally stops. And he was right. All week, every store, shop, pharmacy, etc. was closed. We returned to our home and got ready for bed. I woke up in the middle of night to the sound of drums coming from a party just down the street from us. It was an interesting week!
After Carnival, all went back to normal. Shops opened back up and people began living and working normally again. The work began to progress a little more. We have been having problems finding new investigators, but the people we have right now are really great. They are so nice. It reminds me that there still is friendly, warm people here (But really though, i love the people here! They are pretty cold sometimes, but it always is an adventure talking to them.) We have been teaching a young lady whose parents were recently baptized. She is really great. She went to a church retreat (Intent to take all the young members of the church to a safer, cleaner place during carnival) and she made some good friends in the ward. She is reading the Book of Mormon also. We also have been teaching a man who is living at a construction site. He misses his family a lot, which gave way to the Plan of Salvation just nicely. We are hoping to baptize him soon. :) We are also looking forward to teaching many families this week. We have a list of 15 families that we are looking to Baptize, Complete, or Reactivate.
We had a Zone Conference in Andaraí Thursday. It was really good. The president and his wife spoke to us about having more love for the people here. I needed their message so bad! Sometimes I am tempted to feel angry towards some of the people that reject us or are mean to us. I have been doing much better with that lately. Also with my companions, I have been trying to apply this with them. We have been having some problems with some of the missionaries we live with. Its been interesting for sure. But, with the Zone Conference, I was asked to learn Called to Serve for it, as well as play prelude, and the other hymns they chose. In the middle of the Conference, we had a musical number, and I was asked to play a hymn I didnt know about. Luckily, I knew the song alright, so it was fine. I am grateful for my experience with piano for sure, and I really miss it some days. Each P-day, I go to the church and play a little, and I am teaching Elder Cheshire how to play as well.
Yesterday I was supposed to give a talk during Sacrament Meeting. I planned this sweet 20 minute talk, but then we arrived and he had four speakers assigned. He said I had to cut it to ten minutes. The third speaker clearly wanted to continue speaking over her time limit, and at 11:55 she finished. Bishop moved me to next week. I will be speaking on getting the ward excited to help in the Missionary Work. It'll be awesome. :) Oh, sunday, the clocks moved behind one hour. We didnt know and arrived at the church at 7:30 AM... The only day in the year that missionaries can sleep an extra hour.... and we missed it... bleh. But it was good because Bishop randomly assigned us to teach the Gospel Principles class, so we had a little bit of time to prepare.
Well that is about it for this week. I hope everything is well at home and the weather is warming up a bit. If you guys want, you can take some of the heat from here... :) Oh..... CONGRATULATIONS LISH!!!! BABY BOY! Ah, I knew it'd be a boy. That's so great! And I am so trunky right now because of this news! :) I am glad to hear that he is doing well and that everyone else is well. Thursday, I received all the letters from Dec., Jan., and Feb. up until now. I am grateful for all the friends that wrote me and the news from home! Dad, you have an Iphone5???!!! I am jealous. Get a screen protector for it and a case! The screens are glass and will shatter if you drop it! With a screen protector, it will hold all the pieces together and still function if you drop it.
Also, for the ward:
Thank you for all the letters I received, as well as the scripture highlighter. I felt very loved with these gifts and that I am remembered 6,000 miles away! I love and miss you all, and hope that everyone is doing well and living faithful and worthy to the ward and their callings. Continue strong! The Church is true!
I love and miss you all. :)
Elder Steven Bennett

Monday, February 11, 2013

Happy Carnival!


First off, I'd like to wish everyone a Happy Carnival and that Babylon is raging here in Brasil. Also, I hope that you are finally beginning to warm up a little bit as Spring comes nearer and nearer. Wow, this week has felt like a year. This week passed very very slow. Many good and bad things happened that helped me become a better missionary.
So, as I said in the last letter, I was being transferred from Rio das Ostras (which I will now refer to as the "Utah" or "Bubble" for missionaries serving in RJ) to Andaraí. Andaraí is an area in Rio de Janeiro. The city of RJ is massive and covers quite a bit of space. I am in a part that is more inland and is snuggled up near the mountains. If you go to the outskirts of my area, you can see the Christ Statue.
After I found out about the news of the transfer, Elder Fernandez and I went home and I spent the day packing and cleaning up all my stuff. I see why missionaries live out of their suitcases during a mission... its really annoying packing! Tuesday night, we visited different people in the ward and said good-bye. We also visited Vania and Family. Everyone was shocked that I was the one to leave. Elder Fernandez has 6 months in that area, and usually you dont stay much longer than that in one area. I also found out just before leaving that some of the Young Women were in love with my eyes. Apparently, the whole ward knew.... except the missionaries... Yikes. Wednesday morning, we headed to the bus station at about 5:45 AM and waited for our 6 AM bus to Rio. As we sat, Vania and Daniella (daughter) appeared and wanted to say good-bye to me one more time! They woke up early and walked to the bus station just to say bye to me! I felt very loved. :) They are so great and I will miss them. I snapped a photo with them and headed off. 4 hours and 20 minutes later, we arrived in Rio de Janeiro! We met up with the other 40 missionaries and talked a little, and I met my new companion, Elder Cheshire. He is my age and left on the mission in May. We are almost the same age, and he is from Layton! He speaks Portuguese really well and I am slightly grateful that i have someone to communicate with in English now! We are living with two others as well.... Elder Levi and Elder Mademan. Mademan is Brasilian, and Levi is American. Its quite fun. :) So, we arrived home and unloaded all of our stuff. Boy this home is pretty bad. The roofs leak water super bad and its filled with mosquitos! The whole house is super run down, but its alright since we only use it to sleep and study. After we put our bags away, we planned a little and headed out for the day. This area is definitely different. People are very closed here and dont like to talk as much. People yell and curse at us and reject us a lot. It was hard at first because I was used to the people of Rio das Ostras who will talk to you all day, any day. That first day of contacts was hard. That night (Wed. Night), a massive rain storm rolled in. We werent ready for it and got drenched. We continued to try to enter a house to pass the rain and teach a lesson, but no one let us in. I was tired, unmotivated, and wet. Just before going home that night, the power was knocked out on our street. As we were about to enter, Elder Cheshire stopped and was a little hesitant. He then said "Alright, once we enter this street, walk fast and dont stop." I was scared to death... what is he talking about?! Once we arrived in our house safe and sound, he told me that when the power goes out, people hide in the shadows and rob people. It was quite a scary moment. So we arrived in our house safe and sound, and began planning out the next day by candle-light. It was then as well, that I found out that my backpack was completely drenched.... as well as everything inside. I was carrying my new Portuguese Book of Mormon and Bible. As I reached in and pulled them out, I was devastated. They were soaked. We finished planning, unpacked, and I did what i could to help them get dry as quick as possible. However, its very humid here... even now they are still a bit wet. I didnt sleep that night as well. That sums up my first day in Andaraí. The good news is that everyday got better from there. :) Now, its actually quite fun making street contacts. You never know what somebody will say or do to you! I knocked on a door a couple days ago, and all these dogs started barking inside. I was then chewed out by an old guy about bothering him. I didnt understand anything he said, but Elder Cheshire said that he was using some pretty bad language with me. During our study time, we've been thinking and practicing different ways to improve our contacting skills. We found that with most people here, we need to speak very direct and harsh.
I have learned many things through this week. I have learned to endure afflictions better, and to be more positive even when everything around you is falling down. I found that I can teach better than i thought... all i had to do was open my mouth a little bit more. :)
I am expecting this week to fly by a little more quickly, but I am also ready to work hard, all day, everyday.
I love you all and miss you all dearly! Let me know how everybody and everything is back at home. :) Have a wonderful week!
Much love,
Elder Steven Bennett

Monday, February 4, 2013

Changes. BIG changes.

Hellooooo. :)
The subject of this weekly email is "Changes. BIG changes." This is because almost everything is changing or about to change. To start off, I am no longer a "greenie" missionary! I have finished my first 12 weeks in which I am trained by another missionary. Now it is time to put all this to the test, refine my skills, and become the best missionary possible! With this change, companionship study is reduced to 1 hour (instead of 2 hours), and I have more of a responsiblity to uphold. I am a bit nervous because I still feel that I dont know a whole lot, and everything is still pretty rusty. Along with this, I will be saying goodbye to my beloved first area, Rio das Ostras.... I am a bit sad for this. This area is very beautiful, and the people are so nice and friendly. The members are strong and help a lot in the missionary work. We have wonderful lunches with members, and sometimes, members bring us food.
Tomorrow I am being transferred to an area called Andaraí. It's basically in the middle of Rio de Janeiro. My zone (Zona Andaraí) is the zone that has the Cristus Statue. I am excited for this, but also nervous. My new zone contains the Assistants to the President, the President, and the Secretaries of the Mission. This area is very fancy from what i'm told, but also parts are a bit of a favela. Truthfully, this area will be a bit harder than Rio das Ostras. The people aren't as nice, and its a tad bit more dangerous (Mom, don't worry too much about me.. :)..). My new companion will be Elder Cheshire. He is American. I hope my Português will still increase rapidly. Hahah my Português is a bit messed up. First, I learned with a São Paulo accent. Next, got thrown into the Rio-Carioca Accent, and my first companion was Chilean, so there is a little spanish accent mixed in as well. I dont know if this is a good thing, but I understand a surprising amount of Spanish as well... Anyway, these are the new changes. Here I go. :)
Here in Rio das Ostras, we've had some changes as well. We've been having trouble having baptisms in this area, but lately, we've had lots of progress. We have about six investigators that are really progressing. One in particular is a girl that is 13 years old (However, she looks 16.). She is independently looking for a religion... at 13! We met her during the open-house of the chapel. This week we taught her the Restoration, and during our return visit, she had read the booklet we left her about the Restoration, the chapter in the Book of Mormon we left her, as well as studied more, and understood everything almost exactly! She went farther than that and got her whole family involved and they are going to come to church. She went one more step farther, and invited friends to come to church as well, AND receive the missionaries! Truly, she is ready for baptism already.
We also have been teaching Newton, a 60 year old man, with diabetes. He is really cool! We've been meeting with him almost everyday. He is reading the Book of Mormon everyday, following through with every challenge we give him, and is progressing in his fight to quit smoking. He smokes a pack of 20 cigarettes a day, and right now he is down to less than 5 a day. He is coming to church as well. He is just about ready for baptism as well!
It is people like these that makes it sad to leave this area. I hope that they will continue strong and be baptized. I won't be around to see if it really happens. I was telling Elder Fernández that he better baptize them. :)
Well that's about it for this week. Tomorrow, my new home will be Rio de Janeiro. Do you know what that means? Carnival is Friday.... Im being transferred to the heart of Rio just before Carnival. This will be interesting! Looks like I will be staying inside for an entire week straight.
Love you and miss you all! I pray for you always. Have a wonderful week. :)
All my love and more,
Elder Steven Bennett