Monday, December 30, 2013

2 Nephi 22 :)

Hello my wonderful family and friends,
My heart is very full during this time of year. I love you all so very much. This time of year was already my favorite time of the year, but it has taken a whole new meaning since I arrived here on the mission. These last two Christmas' that I have passed have given me some of the most sacred and spiritual experiences of my entire life. I would also like to thank everyone who sent me letters and emails wishing me a Merry Christmas and New Year, and for all that I haven't responded, email or letter, you have my word that I am getting on that. My time is short, but I wish to make good use of it to write you all back. :) Also, it was so amazing to talk to my family again... all you cuties! I loved it. I am so happy that I was allowed to talk to everyone this time. I love you all so much! Ah, this is just a wonderful time for me. Life truly is amazing. The family is doing pretty well, I had the chance to talk to you guys, and here on the mission, we are having some success. Many things have changed, as I was able to explain very briefly in the last letter and through Skype this week. However, I will try to give you guys a good update of what is going on.
So in these last few weeks, as I have said before many times, my mission completely changed. Receiving word of the transfer, I was saddened, but happy to return to Andaraí. I was saddened by the thought of leaving behind the wonderful people that I was teaching, and the great ward that I had gotten to know. I had the chance to give a talk in the last Sacrament Meeting there, and while I hadn't prepared a thing, the Holy Ghost guided my words and it became a very spiritual and touching moment for me. Leaving Curicica, I received a calming confirmation that all would be well, and that I would be able to find the same success in my new area, Méier. Méier is a great area. It has a strong ward, great members, and amazing people that live in that area. It is a little bit more humble than Andaraí, making it a little bit more easy to find people ready for the Gospel. I had the chance to come to Méier while I was serving in Andaraí in mission splits and baptismal interviews, so I already knew a little bit about the area, ward, and people. I have already had some great experiences of running into members that I know here in Méier and also in Andaraí. I am seeing people that I once taught now baptized and members of the church. I am seeing others that are still being taught, and now I have the chance to help them out a second time. For example, these last few week, I met a young man who is a recent convert, Jean. After having this strange feeling that I knew him, we realized that I was present in the very first lesson that was taught to him. I was there on a mission split. Now, he is a strong member, dating the bishop's daughter, and planning to go on a mission. This last week in Andaraí, I had the chance to do a baptismal interview of an investigator that I taught many months ago. These experiences are priceless. Even to the moment of seeing the Bishop of Andaraí and giving him a big hug.... seeing Celso, a man I baptized that is planning to go to the temple.... seeing the Ward Secretary on the street and even being far from him, he still recognized me and called me by name... these experiences bring a very big joy to you, for you really feel that people got to know you, and they didn't forget about you. Really, experiences that make your mission worth it. :) For these moments, and just for the sheer fact of being back in this zone, I thank my Heavenly Father each and every day.
My first week, I had the opportunity to continue the work of many missionaries in the past, and help teach and plan the wedding/baptism of a family, Felipe and Geciane. It was a very hurried week, and we were always running from one place to the other getting things together, calling people, and setting everything up perfectly. It got to the point where a lady from the ward called us and said that it wouldn't be possible to get flowers and decorations for the wedding. We were stuck in a crisis. No one knew somebody that could help with such little time until the wedding. It was in that moment that I began to realize that Heavenly Father knows all things. He knows what people we are to teach, baptize, and help, in such a moment that only you can be that person to help. It was in this moment that a very special person came into my head... someone who also loved decorations and flowers.... Celso, the man that I baptized back in June in Andaraí. We found his number and gave him a call. He was so happy to hear from me! We told him that we needed his help, and he immediately dropped everything to help us out. He helped us pick flowers, and carry everything to the chapel on the very day of the wedding. No one else could of helped us in this occasion. We were so grateful for him and his help. Truly, Heavenly Father knows all things. :) So, two Saturdays ago (the 21st?), this wonderful family had a beautiful wedding in the chapel, and was followed by their baptism that night. Everything worked out perfectly. The next day, we had the chance to complete a family, baptizing Rodrigo. Rodrigo is a wonderful guy, and very focused on the family. He was a Jehovah Witness in the past, and even to the point of being a missionary for them. He went inactive and got married to a member of the church, thus starting his conversion story. He is great, and he bore a powerful testimony after his baptism.
Really, I have had so many great experiences these last few weeks. I feel my connection to Heavenly Father, His son Jesus Christ, and the Holy Ghost strengthening through each and everyday. I am so very grateful for the things I am learning here on the mission. I truly know, without doubt, that this is the Church of Jesus Christ, the church with His proper authority to save all mankind. I know that Heavenly Father loves each and every one of us. He invites all to come unto HIm and partake in the happiness that He has in store for us. As a goal for this New Year, do exactly this... come unto our Heavenly Father and partake in this happiness and His blessings. It is only through Him that we can stay together with our families forever in the presence of Him. Make a goal to know Him even more this coming year. Make this the best year of your lives. I know that I am. :) I love you all so much and I miss you all tons. I hope you all have a wonderful New Years 2014!!! Make it a year of miracles!
Elder Steven Bennett

Monday, December 23, 2013

Merry Christmas!

Hello all!
I am writing a quick email to you all to wish each and every one of you a VERY MERRY CHRISTMAS!!! I hope all is well and that happiness is with each and every one of you. I am so sorry that I don't have time to write more this week. Next week's letter will be extra huge, for I have so much to tell you guys. I have truly seen the Lord work miracles in my mission. I will send a photo of a recently married and baptized Family from this last week... truly a miracle that happened. But next week,  I will write much much more. I am loving the new área and my companion, Elder Freitas. The stories behind these things as well are very interesting. Expect a nice email next week. :) I love and miss you all, and I will talk to you guys this week on Christmas! Be ready for that. :) Thanks to all who sent me a Merry Christmas email as well. I love you all and hope the best with all. Have a wonderful week! 
Elder Steven Bennett

Monday, December 16, 2013

"Faith is things which are hoped for and not seen; wherefore, dispute not because ye see not, for ye receive no witness until after the trial of your faith." Ether 12 :)

Hello my wonderful Utahns,
I am sorry that this letter won't be extremely long, for today is a very rushed day... It is a transfer day! I found out that I will be transferred back to my loved zone, Andaraí. I will be in an area that is just to the side of Andaraí, called Meier. It is a pretty cool area from what I have heard. I already have served a little there in mission splits, so I am excited to go there. I was also called to be the Zone Leader for the Zone Andaraí. :) I am excited and not as nervous as I thought I would be, but we will see what happens! I am really having mixed feelings about the transfer, and based on the things that I write now, you will see why.
This was such an amazing week. I have never seen so many miracles in one week in my entire mission! It was truly manifested by our faith and our works, and the loving hand of our Heavenly Father. Really, the week went by as a normal week until Friday. I scheduled a mission split for our district. I would stay in my area, and Elder Weight, a new American that arrived in Brasil this transfer, would come to my area to work. As we worked, he had been feeling a bit sick (and ended up going to the hospital Saturday, but this is just extra information...) and a little out of it, but he was able to work. As the day was ending, we visited a street contact we had made two weeks ago. He lives in a Villa with six other homes. We called on the interphone to his home. He wasn't home, and we talked to his daughter. What we didn't know (but later found out) was that there was a man who had been outside listening to our conversation on the interphone. He looked and saw that we were missionaries... the missionaries that one of his study buddies in college had told him about some months before. He was curious to talk to us because he had never seen us so close, always far away walking/running somewhere. He knew that we talk to people, so he put himself where he thought we could see so that we would talk to him. Sadly, we never saw him, and we turned to leave! He saw this as a chance being wasted, so he decided to talk to us! In our perspective, we were turning to leave, and we heard a man say.. "would you guys like a glass of water?". Seeing this as an opportunity, we accepted and entered his home. His name is Guilherme, and his wife is Elaine. They are 29 years old, and studying in college. They live very comfortably, and have a religious background. They know another couple that attends the ward next to ours. They are the perfect family... truly the most perfect family I have ever met on my mission! They love Americans, and by chance, I had been on a split with another American. They are studying English, and their buddy, who is a member, speaks English fluently. They are wonderful, and we instantly clicked with them. They were open to our message, and they absolutely love us just as much as we love them. We said bye and walked home that night. In the middle of that moonlight street, I jumped and cheered like never before... feeling the most happy of happiness that can be felt in the mortal body. As we got  home, I hugged Elder Weight and we both were almost crying because of this wonderful blessing given to us.
Skip to Sunday. We had a Christmas activity planned for Sunday night in the chapel. We worked so hard to invite everyone we could, and to encourage the members to bring their family and friends. In the meetings Sunday morning, our attendence was 74, with one investigator at church. That night, miracles happened. The chapel was filled to the brink! 167 people came to watch the Christmas theater act and choir (showing the birth of Jesus Christ and Christmas in the Americas), 23 being visitors that we brought, or that the members brought. There were so many people that we were not even able to talk to everyone. These numbers could be higher. This wonderful family, Guilherme and Elaine, was there, as well as 4 other families that we are teaching. It was such a blessing. Everyone left with a wonderful, calm feeling, and not a single person rejected our invitation to visit them in their home. Never in my mission, have I seen such success as that. We were so blessed.
So, as you can see, I am leaving at a rather sad time. With such success, I am really sad to be leaving, especially with Guilherme and Elaine. However, they will always be a part of my life from here on out, whether I teach them or not. I am so grateful for the blessings of the Lord here in Curicica, and I hope that I can be privileged to do the same in my next area. Have a wonderful week, and I love you all deeply. :) 
Elder Steven Bennett

Monday, December 9, 2013

"When ye are in the service of your fellow beings ye are only in the service of your God" Mosiah 2:17 :)

Hello my frosty friends!
How is that nice cold weather treating you guys? I am not sure exactly how cold it is... for the computer does everything in Celcius, but it is showing -17 in Ogden, and -24 in Logan.... That is cold! From what I remember, I think that -22C is around -10F. If so, you guys are nice and toasty. :) This was a rather crazy week as far as weather is concerned. Here in Rio, the temperature started nice and cool last Monday, maybe in the 70s. As the week went on it got gradually hotter, and Thursday was truly a day I will never forget on the mission. We awoke that morning and it was already very, very hot, and not a single cloud in the sky.... however, it was unusually hot. That day BAKED us alive. It was well over 100F, and the sun's rays were very very strong. Many of our appointments that day had fallen through, keeping us stuck on the street the entire day. Oh, it was so hard to keep going... At about 8 PM, we finally were able to visit a family that was home. It was still pretty hot... even without the sun, it was up in the 90s. We had entered at 8 PM, seeing just some small clouds in the skies. As we got ready to head home around 9 PM, we noticed some raindrops falling. In the short span of time, huge storm clouds formed and DUMPED tons of rain on Rio de Janeiro. It was so much so fast that the streets turned to rivers. Sinkholes opened up everywhere. The thunder and lightning were extremely strong. The wind was breaking trees. I truly thought there was a hurricane passing by. Luckily, we had been close to home and safe in a member's home. We weren't able to leave until 9:30 PM because the rain was so strong. Even running home, the rain continued very strong. As we got home, we received tons of phone calls from the mission seeing if everyone was at home, if anyone was still on the streets, and if everyone was accounted for. It was quite scary. In Rio, two people died... but all the missionaries were accounted for, and by the gracious blessing of the Lord, none of the four of us that live in Curicica even got wet. :)
I really liked this week, and it even ended with a really good Sunday. We have been trying really hard to serve the members more. We try to pass at least one family each day or every other day. The members have been really closed to the missionary work in the last few years because they have lost that good realationship that existed between the members and missionaries many years ago. We are trying to bring that back, and some of the members have begun to take notice of that. This week, we were able to help one member move and organize the front part of his home. In response to that great storm that happened on Thursday, many homes flooded, and many members lost items in their homes. We were able to help clean up one of the homes that was hit pretty hard. In the midst of all this, we pass by real quick some of the members just to see how they are and talk a bit. We are really starting to wake up this ward to the missionary work. I am so grateful for the chance to serve these amazing people here in Rio. They are so great. Some days, we didn't even have the chance to teach anyone, but we were in the service of members, which brought us that great feeling that we are doing the work of the Lord. At church this Sunday, our attendence went up, as it has been doing these last few Sundays, and many members were coming up to us, saying hi to us, and talking about people they want us to meet. This is how missionary work should be! Working together with the members to bring about these miracles. However, nothing happens until they have your trust, and this trust comes through service.
I am grateful for this week and all that I learned. We are on the break of many good things, and I am so glad to be here helping this ward strengthen. I have such a great testimony of this Gospel. I hope all is really well and that you are keeping up with that cool weather. We are actually being really blessed here with warm weather, but not too warm. :) Stay happy, stay healthy, and I will be talking to you guys face to face here in a little. I sure do love this time of year. Have a wonderful week! 
Elder Steven Bennett

Monday, December 2, 2013

By small and simple things are great things brought to pass‏

Hello my fellow Utahns!
I hope that everyone is "chilling" out, having a good old time during this nice Christmas season. This truly is the greatest time of year-- the time that people are the most happy, most generous, and most charitable. Although I love a nice Brasilian Christmas, it does not compare to a nice, cold, wintery Christmas in Utah. For me, it just feels like something is missing... and for sure it is the snow. Christmas can't be Christmas if there isn't a blizzard outside, and if you're not snuggled up inside by the fire, listening to Christmas songs. However, these are the physical aspects of Christmas. Looking to the spiritual aspects of Christmas, nothing will ever compare to these two Christmases here on the mission. I have already passed one, and boy, it seems like that didn't happen that long ago! Now, I am already on the countdown to talk to you guys again! Can you believe it? I can see the time literally flying by my eyes. It is so important for you to use this time wisely. I can't express that enough. As I see these two amazing years passing by, I realize the importance of the continual habit of doing these things here on the mission... pray, read the scriptures, develop the attributes of Christ, follow the Spirit, and endure to the end. They are such small things, but make all the difference. As we read in Alma 37:6-7, by small things, great things are brought about. These great things are brought about by our small actions and decisions day by day, hour by hour, minute by minute, and second by second. Many times, we make goals on how we can change. We begin working with these goals, but it seems as if we aren't changing at all. However, as we look back a few weeks, months, or maybe a year ago, we see that great difference. But why didn't we see that change day by day? Because it was by the small actions and decisions-- the decision that didn't even catch our attention-- that were changing us. Always remember this. Wow, I really went off in my thoughts there for a moment. Anyway, Christmas here on the mission is really great. I remember last year, and how Strong the Spirit was all the time. Truly, this is the time that we celebrate the true meanings of Christmas-- all of the spiritual aspects of it. The Christmas hymns, stories, activities, testimonies, etc. Everything is so great! We are visiting our investigators, singing hymns, and talking about the true meaning of Christmas. We sing at our lunch appointments, and pass the members to see what everyone is needing. Truly, giving 110% of yourself during the Christmas season is something that you can't explain. The feelings of helping others is undescribable. I will never, ever forget these wonderful times. I invite you all to try to help and serve someone (or many people!) during this great Christmas Season. Bake some cookies for the neighbors you don't recognize. Shovel the sidewalks of someone without asking, or help someone carry groceries at the supermarket. There are so many ways to help others. I hope that each of you can open your eyes to these precious opportunities to help someone during this time of year. :)
So this was a great week, and like I say a lot, it passed by really fast. I have seen the miracles of the Lord in our work, and also learned some great lessons. We found one of the Lord's elects this last week-- really, the Lord blessed us, placing this man in our pathway. His name is Deroncio, and he is about 26 years old. He lives close to the church, and he came to watch the meetings on his own! He accepted our visit and said that he had been invited to church in a street contact, by the missionaries in São Paulo. He accepted to go to church, and went! The missionaries got his address, but never were able to find him at home. His work schedule is very crazy. He then moved to Rio to work as well. We took down his address as well, and were never able to find him at home. On the 6th try passing his home, we found him! We got to know him a little more, and that he works with events. He sets up concerts, fairs, carnivals, etc. He had a very big interest in the church since the first time he saw the name. He expressed his confusion as far as religion is concerned, and in the midst of so many churches, he found one with the true name of our Savior Jesus Christ... We taught him the Restoration and the Book of Mormon, and he understood everything so well. He said the last prayer and expressed to us that he was already feeling in his heart the truthfulness of the message. He accepted baptism on the spot. We were never able to find him again until this last Saturday. He had been reading the Book of Mormon and understood everything! He knew that these things were true. He only had one problem--- his work. He works in very bad situations, and he has a very big desire to serve the Lord. Deroncio wants to leave this work and live with his Family again-- have a life more calm and where he can do what is right. He says that he will be baptized, and he will be when the Lord wants him to. I have strengthened my testimony so much on the power of the Holy Ghost in the conversion of people. He was so ready to receive the Gospel-- he just had to hear it. He is making plans to quit and go back to his home in Bahia. I don't know if he will be baptized here, but I know that we were able to plant that seed and see it grow. :) For just that, my mission has been worth it.
There is no other work like this work, and there never will be. I am so grateful for this Gospel in my life, and I hope you all are able to see the importance of it in your life. Our loving Father in Heaven has shown us the way, and we are to follow if we want to be happy. Truly, it is as simple as that. Have faith; repent of your sins daily; be baptized and receive the Holy Ghost; then, endure to the end in all things! No, it's not easy, but it's worth it. Oh it sure is worth it. :)  I love you and miss you all. My fasting and prayers are to you all, for your safety and health. Have a wonderful week and stay happy! :) 

MUITO amor,
Elder Steven Bennett