Today I really was hit by the fact that I am not the only one growing up as time goes on. I have this thought of family and friends as they were when I left. It is hard to imagine that people are moving on with their lives as well-- growing and progressing in life. This hit me as I received a little more news from friends getting married, going on missions, dating, etc. I feel so far away from it all. It is a little saddening at times. However, I know that being here is where I am needed and I just need to brace myself for the stunning reality of life when I come home. :)
This was a good week for me. We were blessing with some good progress in my zone throughout this week. We had a Zone Meeting last week and set some goals for the month of April. We have a goal of 24 baptisms, consisting of six areas. The week began just so-so with the work.... just chugging on and on, always keeping the thoughts of a temple here in our minds. I had the opportunity of doing a split with my District Leader in his area of Tijuca. It is right up in the mountains (or hills) of Rio de Janeiro and is basically all jungle. We had lunch on top of an 11 story apartment building with some members, and I could see everything! It was amazing. The Mother of the family said that sometimes you can see monkeys running through the trees. Sadly, it was raining and the monkeys weren't out and about. We had an unusually good day there. We were able to find many investigators in their houses and teach lots. I was able to help him, Elder Levi, mark two baptismal dates for a family! It was amazing how easily they accepted. Truly there are people ready and waiting for this Gospel. Fast forwarding a little in the week, I was able to do the same in my area with a man that I had mentioned about a month ago. His name is Mario Fernando. He was a street contact I made back in February. He works a lot, and for that, he stopped going to his church. He was feeling very sorry for this, and took our contact as a sign that he needs to return to church. We were able to direct him to the right church. :) We visited with him once and he came to church, but then lost contact with him for a while.... until last week. We decided to visit him and found out he had time off of work this whole month due to his drivers license being expired. So we taught him and invited him to be baptized. He accepted. :) He is so ready for the Gospel... we just need to rid him of a few worldly church habits. hahah. Also, we were able to find another man, named Samuel. We taught him, quite simply, the Gospel of Jesus Christ and he accepted baptism!
This week was ended out very spiritually by a good Sunday in the church. Being the week after General Conference, it was fast Sunday. I was asked to play the piano, but it wasn't working, so I couldn't. However, it is quite strange. I am able to play almost any hymn without even looking at it before. Of course there are some mistakes, but after a verse, its good! Anyway, when the Bishop announced people can come up to bear testimonies, half the congregation got up and ran to the seats on the stand! It was amazing! I have never seen so many people want to bear their testimonies in my life. These amazing Brasilian members of the church were so grateful for the blessing of a temple here in Rio that almost none couldn't get up and not express their gratitude. The testimonies of these members was so strong that I began to tear up on some of them! The ward also had the opportunity to take a plane to the Campinas temple. If members want to attend the temple, they have two options: A caravan, 15 hours of driving; or plane, and expensive tickets. These faithful members drop everything for both of these just to spend a few hours at a temple. I cannot explain the feeling of gratitude that was left in that chapel last Sunday, and the Spirit that was there.
I hope all back in Utah can really appreciate the opportunity you have to have a temple(s) so close to you. I never realilzed how lucky I was until arriving here and not having the opportunity of attending one regularly. Take advantage of the temple. Take advantage of the blessing you can receive through regular temple attendance. It truly is something I miss dearly. Luckily, I am able to help these wonderful people here receive a temple. I have the opportunity of sharing this great joy with all who will hear. :)
Let me know how everything at home is going! I am excited to talk to you guys on May 12th too! I decided with talking to you guys on that day, and having a birthday on May 18th, that will have to be my trunky week. I will have to be very strong. :)
I love and miss you all dearly, and hope that all is well. Its finally warming up yeah? Last night was probably the coldest I have felt here. It was in the low 70s and maybe even high 60s! My feet were so cold.... Anyway, love ya! The church is true and don't forget it!
All my love,
Elder Steven Bennett