Monday, March 25, 2013

Tugging Along In My Best Two Years. :)

Hello all!
I feel like every week I start my letters exactly the same, so I hope they aren't getting boring to read! However, just up front, I would like to say thank you for telling me you are going to St. George.... NOT! Wow, I am going to be so trunky this week thinking of the adventures you guys will have! Just kidding, I barely have time to think about home anymore. All my thoughts are going towards finding/saving souls na Cidade Maravilhosa de Rio de Janeiro. :) Oh, I guess I could write a quick update on my Portuguese skills-- I haven't done that for a while! So good 'ol Portuguese. I am basically in love with the language. I will be so sad when two years is up, and I won't have a whole city of people to talk to in Portuguese. So heads up all you Portuguese speakers out there.... you guys won't be allowed to speak English to me! I will only accept Portuguese. Anyway, I have progressed a lot. I wouldn't say that I am fluent, but I can talk to anyone, and understand 90% of the things they are saying. I can speak without thinking about it for the most part as well. Portuguese has moved to one of the lowest things I am worried/stressing about, so I feel that is good. I still study lots of vocab and words everyday, because Preach my Gospel (Chapter 7 I believe) states that the better you progress in the language, the more people will focus on the things you're saying and not how or what you're trying to say. The Spirit will then testify to them stronger. I always remember this when I feel too lazy to study the language. My companion is one that doesn't like to study the language, and usually grabs a book and tries to read it until he falls asleep. We were teaching a family this last week, and after I talked for a little, they asked me how much more time I had in the mission than my companion. It got awkward when I said I had less time than him. I thought it was funny, but held in my laughter and smiling because I knew my companion didn't like the comment. He has 11 months in the mission. It really grew my testimony on the power of studying and diligence.
So this week was a big learning experience for me. Well really, every week on my mission has been a huge learning experience. However, each week seems to be a different level of difficulty, and the things I learn is always something different. This week, I learned SO MUCH about being more like Christ, and applying the Christ-like Attributes (Preach My Gospel Chapter 6) in my missionary work and in my life. With the problems our zone has been having lately, we have had some tensions and problems going around in our home, as well as in our separate companionship's. Me and my companion had quite the heated disagreement last Wednesday. As always, we were both a little unmotivated, stressed, tired... times like these, you need to be very careful. Satan works very strong to create contention. Of course, the smallest spark lit the bonfire. We began debating about something very small and very dumb. It became an argument that lasted for quite some time. To resolve the conflict, we had to return home for a bit of time and talk it out before going back on the streets. We both were very prideful in our hearts and said many dumb things. It ended in my companion saying some very personal things as well as with everything that's been happening, he was thinking of calling up President and going home. He said he didn't feel like a missionary. He said he wanted to call President, but the day before this, he broke our cell phone and the screen was broken. He couldn't find Presidents names in the contacts. It was then that the Spirit just punched me very hard and said "end it here and don't say anything more." I did just that, and the Spirit began Spiritually burning the both of us. We both began to cry, and we each went to a room to pray and repent for the things we said. It was then that I realized it was time to make a change. I never want to have a situation like that in my mission, or life, again. So, I began studying the Christ-like attributes, applying them in my day, and fervently praying for opportunities to work on these attributes. Each day, I studied a different one, and had different experiences that helped me to improve in each one. The day after studying "Charity and Love", we had a very hard day. The next morning, my companion didn't get out of bed. I had the thought to make him breakfast and iron his shirt, so I did. He was very happy for it, and thanked me. The whole day, we had peace and love between us, and our day was smooth and successful. This is just one of the many attributes I studied, and I had experiences with each one. I am grateful for the things I have learned, and I believe that with continued practice in these things, I will return home being quite a different person. Someone more happy, more loving, more kind, more charitable, more peace-keeping, more respectful, more patient. More like Christ.
My testimony was strenghtened even more this week through experiences good and bad. I am so so so so grateful for every little moment of my mission. In six months, I feel that I have progressed more in almost every aspect of life physically, emotionally, and spiritually, than in my entire life. :) I am very happy that I still have a year and a half to solidify these things in my life, and bring even more people to a knowledge of our loving Savior Jesus Christ.
I hope all is well, and to my family, be safe on the drive to and from St. George. Tell everyone hi for me, and that I love them all very much (especially the ones that have or will send me letters.... :) ). I love and miss you all very much, and I hope Utah is finally warming up. I think Rio is finally cooling off! Yay! Choose the Right!
Ser Mórmon, é ser feliz!
Much love,
Elder Steven Bennett

Monday, March 18, 2013

"...I Am With You Alway..." Matthew 28:19-20

Hello. :)

So I will say sorry up front-- I don't have a whole lot of time this week. The computer i am using is being very slow, and I gotta get going here soon. For this, I will quickly write the feeling in my heart and what comes to mind.

I know that I write this a lot, but this week was very difficult for me. Yes, everything in a mission is hard, but this week was especially rough on me, like last week. However, I have begun to see a pattern that occurs in almost any situation here on my mission. When things get the hardest, and I feel the worst, God always extends his loving arms to me and shows me everything is alright. I truly have a testimony of this. Even outside of missionary work. If you are doing what you should be doing-- making a real effort to do what is right-- God will always help you out when you are at that point of giving up.

This week was a week of not much success. These last few weeks have been quite rough. Each day, we walk and walk visiting each and every person we have planned for in the day. Usually none are home. We become very happy if we find one of them home. Because we aren't able to teach a lot of people, we fill our time doing street contacts. These usually end in almost no success. Each day we come home fatigued and with sore feet, ready to just lie down and hope the next day is better. Elder Cheshire and I have had some serious talks about why our work isn't progressing. We are good missionaries and we're following the rules! We are working hard and being diligent. We are praying hard, and fasting lots. What more can we do? Each day this week was exactly like this. Up until Saturday night.

Saturday night was especially hard as we returned home from a long day and small results. As we sat quite discouraged, it came to my attention that the Elders we live with also were feeling the same way. Our Zone Leaders as well. It wasn't just our area that was suffering, it was our entire Districts! This made me feel a bit better, but I was still feeling pretty bad. Later that night, we found that our water pump broke again... no more water... again.. hahah. Boy, was that a sight to be seen! The four of us were miserable. That night I prayed long and hard.

Sunday came after a rather sleepless night. However, Sunday is always a wonderful day because of the fact that we see the members all happy and positive! We had to teach the Principles of the Gospel class again, except when we got there, we only had one person there! As we began the lesson a little disappointed, we began to have more of our investigators come in! We began to be very happy. As Sacrament came, we had a speaker who was speaking on the way God answers our prayers. In a very spiritual ironic way, he was answering a prayer with his words. I left the church feeling more comforted and happy. As we began working, we found some really great people through contacts. We were able to enter the house of a reference from the ward, and it went well. The more the day went on, I felt that the Lord was guiding us and showing us that He was still there with us.

I am so grateful for my mission. The things I am learning couldn't be learned anywhere else. My testimony has grown, and is growing, strong through good times and bad. I know that our Heavenly Father is always looking over us. He is there to help when we are at our lowest. We just have to have the humility to get on our knees and ask Him for help. I know He is helping us in the work. Yes, it is going by slowly, and we are having difficulties, but He is watching over us and helping us.

I hope everything is going well at home. :) I am happy and loving my mission more and more everyday. I love and miss you all so very much!

Much love,

Elder Steven Bennett

Monday, March 11, 2013

6 Months??

Oi Família, tudo bem?
Oh my word... tomorrow is six months in my mission! 25 percent! The big 1/4 mark. It sure is weird to think about it like that. On one hand, I feel like I just got here on the mission, and on the other hand, I feel like this is all I know how to do-- that my life has only consisted of waking up at 6:30 AM, preaching the gospel until 9 PM, and going to bed. Everything that was life before the mission seems to be some dream. Yesterday, I was reminded of a fond memory as I said goodbye to a good buddy I had made, Elder Salviano. He is leaving for home tomorrow. When I very first arrived in the field November 14, he and Elder Kirkpatrick (from Montana) were there to greet us greenies and help us get to where we needed to be. My first glance at them was of extreme respect. Here are these two missionaries, perfect in the language, nice and experienced in the field. They were so nice and everything they did made me want to be a better missionary. They were happy, excited, and so full of energy and life. This was very helpful for me, since I was arriving very tired, stressed out, overwhelmed, and hardly able to understand a word anyone said. These two missionaries were my first friends in the field. Fast forward through time, I was able to work a little with them as they visited Rio das Ostras a couple times. I was able to spend a day making street contacts with Elder Kirkpatrick. I got to know him a lot. Also, with Elder Salviano, I was able to be in his Zone for this last Transfer. Elder Kirpatrick left one transfer ago, and this transfer (tomorrow), Elder Salviano will leave. What happened to the time?! They were so great. Rio de Janeiro lost some of the best missionaries these last couple of transfers. It makes me sad that they left, but I also know that as long as I work my hardest, I can someday be that missionary that the fresh little greenies will look up to. :)
This was a very hard week for me. I was thinking about how I could explain this week simply, and I realized that the best way to relate is..... a hike. I felt like everyday, I woke up, hiked until 9 PM, go to bed. Wake up, Hike until 9 PM, Go to bed. However, we had the special opportunity of doing this in 90-105 F heat and wearing some of the most comfortable clothes on the planet: White shirt, tie, dark pants, and church shoes. ;) Everyday was very much the same. Almost every plan we had fell through, and except for some of our close investigator friends, we were not able to enter any houses and teach. For this, we just continued trying-- visiting people, making contacts, and walking lots. Two days ago (Saturday), was probably the most difficult day. We ended up walking to almost every boundary of our area trying to contact references, and none were home. I don't have a pedometer, but I am certain we walked more than 10 or 12 miles that day. I am grateful for my companion and that he was able to continue being happy during the day. Many times, I became frustrated with the heat, fatigue, people, and lack of food and water (We were fasting as well. Family and friends can definately tell you how I get a little wild when i'm hungry!). Elder Cheshire was suffering just as much as me, but he was able to stay strong and happy. This example led me to repentance and a great exertion to be better.
In the midst of all these afflictions, I was able to strengthen my testimony even more on the power of prayer. I have two stories. The first happened last Wednesday. We had a Family Night at the church with a family we are trying to complete. All the kids are baptized, but the parents need to be married before they can be baptized. The husband is not extremely interested in either... Anyway, we had a great lesson planned. It was planned to begin at 7 PM. About 6:45, we ran to the house and grabbed a cake, and headed to the church. As we got closer to the church, we saw some clouds in the distance with some lightning. We got everything ready and started the family night. As we sang the opening hymn, we heard thunder and it began to rain. As we prayed and started the message, it got harder. A lot harder. We began a video we had, but it was cut short about a minute in because the power was knocked out. We had an emergency light turn on, so we continued teaching as one of the strongest storms I have probably ever heard was going wild outside. As we shared a scripture, I noticed that the sound of the water seemed like it was inside, but I brushed it off. About five minutes later, we heard it stronger and looked in the corner of the room (it was dark, so we hadn't seen it before) and it was flooding! The rain was coming through the roof as if there was no roof! The room began to flood, so we got the workers to start cleaning it up. We finished up the family night real quick, ate cake, and said sorry for the fail of a meeting. They said it was fine and we marked for another day to share the message fully. As we looked outside, it was absolutely insane. I have never seen it raining as hard as it was. There was lightning and thunder directly above us and was sounding and flashing without end. There wasn't a single second of silence-- lightning and thunder without end. It was so bizzare. All the streets began flooding. There is a drainage system that runs down the middle of the street on the road of the church. It is about 12 feet deep, but as we looked out on the street, the water covered the street, reaching to both ends, making it seem that there was no system in the middle of the street. Completely filled. The rain continued, and it was getting close to 9 PM. Elder Cheshire and I decided we'd arm ourselves with lots of plastic bags (tie up our legs, body, over our heads, etc.) and get going for home. Our house is only like five minutes up the street next to the church, so we thought it would be best to get home before 9. We readied ourselves and started the journey for home in the rain, lightning, thunder, and wind. We had bags on our legs to protect us from the water. The water is very gross-- mixed with trash, poop, sewage, bacteria, etc. For about 20 feet, the water was up to our ankles and the bags were fine, but as we got a little ways from the church, the water got deeper, and instantly the bags left our feet, and I felt the water instantly soak me up to the middle of my shins. We were already a third of the way home, so we just decided we had to run and hope for the best. The water deepened. We were walking in water above our knees. People were yelling at us from their house saying to get inside. I was so grossed out thinking about the water we were walking in... dirty black water, trash floating past, etc. About half way home, a huge bolt of lightning struck somewhere close, and Elder Cheshire said he was terrified and stopped walking. I stopped with him and we said a quick prayer there in the water. After I finished, the weather seemed to calm down and the water disappeared almost completely in the next 20 feet or so. We hurried to our home to find parts of our house flooded as well, but nothing damaged. Just some wet shoes. :) I know the Lord helped calm the storm just long enough for us to get to safety.
The second happened Friday. We had been walking for almost the entire day. All our plans fell through, and we were trying to finish up our street contacts before the night ended. We had almost no success getting people to accept our visits. Just before the night ended, I said a small prayer. I said that we are tired and sad. Please show us that you're here helping us. Help us find someone special. I finished the prayer just as we turned a corner and entered a new street. I had the impression to cross the street. We crossed the street. As we looked down the street, there was one family that had just stopped under a street lamp. I knew that was them! We hurried to them, and they listened and accepted a visit from us! It was such a blessing.
I have little time, so i need to finish up, but I am so grateful for the experiences I am having.
I love and miss you all, and I hope all is well at home. :)
Ps. Sorry for the rushed end!
Much love,
Elder Steven Bennett

Monday, March 4, 2013


Hello Family!
This week was a very fast week! I am thinking that this is because we are working very very hard out here. It was a bit easier to work because we have been having lots of storms come through. Storms mean clouds, and clouds mean cooler weather! Yay! We definately made good use of the time while we had it, because now its back to being really hot and sunny. This week was a bit slow in terms of crazy things that happened. As I told you last week, we had a family accept a marriage date. We learned a bit later, that the legal system is a bit slow, and to be married legally, takes about 30 to 40 days. This made it so we had to change the marriage date. They will now be married April 20th, the day they began living together 20 years ago! It is crazy to see the change that has taken place in the hearts of this family. They are all so much happier and are more close to each other. There is Alexander and Luciana, with two kids, Fernando (22) and Gostavo (7). Fernando is a bit of a partier and drinker, so he has been a little bit harder to work with than the others. They are beginning to come to church a lot and become more involved in the ward, and making friends.
Other than them, we have been working really hard to strengthen the ward and gain their trust. This has really been progressing since the lesson with Luciana and Alexandre when they accepted marriage. Bishop was at that lesson, so we gained his trust immediately! He has been much more helpful and is making plans with the counselors to progress the work and involve members more. My talk also got some of the members excited, so I hope we will start seeing more success with them. This last sunday, we had the highest attendance for quite some time :173. Usually, this is about 140, or 150. We were able to bring in some new investigators, as well as some less-actives or inactives! I really believe we are gaining the trust of the ward now. Its been a working progress for sure. Members aren't giving us very many references, but we are optimistic for this coming week.
This week, I had the opportunity of having a Split with the other elders we live with. I was the Senior Companion in my area. It was a great experience as I got to know my area better, as well as using my own decisions to guide us through the day. We were able to teach a part-member family, and I for once, was able to take the lead on the lesson, and do all the work almost! It was really fun actually. The elder i was with is an interesting one for sure. He has been giving us some problems back at the house, so I was a little scared to work with him all day. He doesnt like to work a lot, and gets angry easy. However, the day of the split, he was perfectly fine and when I gave him instructions, he listened and we were able to work together really well. He worked really hard, and to seal this good friendship we had made through the day, I offered to buy him açai before we returned home for the night. It was a great learning experience, as well as feeling the Spirit really guide me through the day with what to say and what to do.
Yesterday was Elder Cheshire's birthday, and he was spoiled with many treats, cakes, and presents from members and investigators. I, being the companion, was able to partake in all these festivities, as well as help him eat all the good stuff. :) The family who accepted marriage, Alexandre and Luciana, they are very rich. They bought us Outback Steakhouse food early in the week, gave him a giant cake, 4 big pretzels with different toppings, 2 liters of juice, as well as a t-shirt, flip-flops, a book about Rio, and a tie. I was a little jealous... But oh well. I still got to eat all his stuff. :)
Well that about wraps up this week. Not a whole lot happened. However, I did make a contact with a man last week, and we visited him this week. He was very excited to see us (almost as excited as we were to finally have someone accept us into their house!). We taught him the Restoration, and he threw a bunch of scriptures at us in Revelations... aka the part of the Bible people love to throw at us the most... We explained a few scriptures he gave us, and he accepted what we said surprisingly easy! He accepted to come to church Sunday, and at church, he was very attentive and participated a lot. The Gospel principles teacher didnt come again, and so we had to teach again. During the lesson, he was very helpful and read lots, and ended up telling us his feelings. He called us "angels". Through his words, the Spirit became very strong in the room, and I knew many people were feeling His influence. For me, my testimony was being strengthened on the fact that we are where we're needed, and at the time we're needed. This work that we do is so amazing, and sometimes I forget about that fact. We are here to change lives. As he continued to speak, I pictured this man being a Bishop, or a Stake President... maybe even more. All I know is, I love him so much, and I want the best for him. I want to protect him from all the evil in the world. I want to baptize him. He is truly prepared in his heart to receive the true Gospel, and I believe that he will be baptized soon. We are going to meet with him again tomorrow. I pray all is well with him and that my prayers for him are being answered.
Oh, Sunday, I gave a visitor a blessing. He was from Argentina. He spoke English and Spanish, and parts of Portuguese. It was really cool because I was able to understand his Spanish. I am thinking that I will learn Spanish when I get home and become trilingual! Wooo!
Time is flying by fast. I barely have time to think about home. I know that is the way it should be, but at times I still miss you guys a lot. Can you believe I already have almost 6 months?! That is half of HALF of my mission. Okay, that makes it seem a bit longer, but you get the point. :)
Funny things that happened this week: I accidentally ran into a phone booth. A lady laughed at me. Also, we cleaned out the fridge this morning. It was worse than my college fridge! Yuck... Lots of moldy food.
I love and miss you all lots.

Elder Steven Bennett