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!
Elder Steven Bennett