Monday, February 24, 2014

2 Nephi 32:5‏

Ola tudo bem!

Oh my wonderful friends and family at home. Boy, I love you guys. I say this every week, and I will probably continue saying this until the end of my mission. If there is one thing that you learn above the other things... it is love... Amor! Love for our Heavenly Father, and for everyone around us. For, isn't that the greatest commandment? I hope this week was a good week for you all. It is strange to think about you guys having a nice, slow, and normal week, while I am here and the days pass like hours! Really, this week passed as if there were only two or three days. I remember Monday... Thursday... and Sunday! Everything in-between just kind of disappeared. :) However, I was able to learn lots from this week in many aspects, and strengthen my testimony even more.

First off, I would like to give you guys the updates on Reinaldo and Aline. They are doing wonderful! Earlier, we had been a bit nervous about Aline, because she wasn't progressing like Reinaldo. She didn't always participate in our messages, and she never liked to read or say prayers. This week, we found out that they are both reading the Book of Mormon (she is reading more than him!), and they say a family prayer at the end of each day. Monday night, they found the movie "Joseph Smith: Prophet of the Restoration" on YouTube, and they watched it together at like 2AM. As we visited them last Saturday, we taught them how to have a Family Night, and they are already inviting other friends to participate! They told us that they are already converted to the Gospel, even to the point that they want to share it with all their friends and family. :) What greater miracle exists on all the face of the earth? I began thinking back to the first time we knocked on their door and saw them, and now to what has happened. Miracles from our Heavenly Father exist. Sadly, they couldn't be at church yesterday, for Reinaldo was taking a shower, and a certain bug crawled out of the drain and bit his leg... he got sick. But he is good, and already is getting better. Here on out, I am keeping an eye on the drain as I take a shower. Anyway, they are still strong for March 15, and please pray that all works out! They are wanting to bring some of the family that lives a bit far, and they are not sure if these family members will be able to make it on this date. I believe that this is the only aspect that could move the date of their wedding/baptism... however, let's pray that all works out! 

This week, I have learned a lot about the Holy Ghost and his role in our work and in our lives. On Thursday, we had a Zone Conference, and in preparation for the Conference, I studied up on Revelation, and Reverence. As I studied, I came to know much more about how we can receive personal revelation in our lives. There is a requirement to receive this revelation... We must be living the teachings of our Savior Jesus Christ. When we are doing these things, the Spirit will touch us and guide us in all things. Before the Conference, I had written down four questions that I wanted answered during the Conference. Through the words that were spoken, and personal revelation, all four of these questions were ansewered. My testimony grew so much on the Holy Ghost! I believe that I am finally understanding how to recognize Him in my life and how He personally guides me. My companion and I had an experience this week that helped us to recognize the Spirit in our work. Yesterday night, we had finished an appointment, and we had some down time before our next appointment. We remembered a family that we had planned to visit the other day, but hadn't worked out, so we decided to go there and see if they were at home. The sun had already gone down, and there wasn't a single cloud in the sky. This family lived in a favela, and the area was supposed to be rather safe. However, as we arrived closer to the favela, I began to hear some guys talking. Immediately, I had realized that there were some "secret tradings" going on, if you know what I mean. I began to feel a bit weird, so I asked my companion how he felt about still visiting this family. He, not feeling anything, said that it was fine to enter. So we began to enter. At that moment, a lady who was sitting in front of the entrance stopped us and began asking about the church. We had the chance to teach her a little bit about the Restoration there at the entrance. We left her with a prayer, and I said the prayer. As we finished, my companion said that he was finally feeling that we should leave. I quickly agreed with him and we left that area. As we left, he told me that during the prayer, he had felt that we should leave. Looking back on the experience, I could see that the Spirit had touched me, telling me that we should not enter. I had recognized the warning, but not followed completely. For this, the Lord prepared a special person to be in our path to stop us from entering, and with this, warned my companion that we should not enter. The second time, we followed and we left. 

I am grateful for the guidance that our Heavenly Father gives us in this work. He is above all, and He loves us so much. He wants us to be safe and protected. I strengthen my testimony in the whisperings of the Holy Ghost. I know that as we listen to the Spirit, we will be guided in all things. We will be living our lives in the way our Heavenly Father wants. I hope you all have a wonderful week, and that the snow starts to melt finally. :) Stay safe and happy! Always do what is right. I love you all SO MUCH!!
Elder Steven Bennett

Monday, February 17, 2014

Só milagres!

Minha querida família,

Oí, tudo bem? Que saudades e amor tenho para vocês! Wow, I cannot imagine the day that I return to the USA and speak English again. It has come to be easier to write and think in Portuguese than English. Would you ever believe that? How is everyone doing?! Boy, what a week it was. It passed by very quickly. After a very hot week, we were blessed with a rain storm yesterday. It was the first time that it has rained in more than a month! You can imagine what kind of downpour it made after not raining for so long. Luckily, I had my umbrella. We left a family home evening around 8:45 PM, and got home at 9:30 PM. The rain sounded like a train passing over our heads, and we walked in RIVERS, flooding the streets up to our shins. But, now it is much cooler and comfortable. :) 

This was quite a week. I learned quite a bit through some spiritual and difficult experiences. As my companion and I get used to being together, we have had some difficulties in the differences in our cultures, customs, and words. This is one of the many blessings of a mission. Missionaries return home professional in adapting to almost anyone. In what other moment of your life would you be living with Brazilians, Argentines, or Paraguans?! A mission is a once in a lifetime opportunity. :) Really, it is awesome having this opportunity, but it doesn't mean that each and every moment is a walk in the park. This week, I learned a valuable lesson that I will carry with me for my entire life. As companions, we have to work together in unison, teaching in "one voice". It is in this manner that the Spirit testifies of our words. If we are having problems, the Spirit doesn't work with us, and we are only two young men in white shirts and ties walking and sweating on the street. As this transfer began, my companion and I began working, and as all missionaries, you get used to the different styles and ways that others work. However, between us, we weren't talking openly in how we could improve and work more in unison. We stuck to our own ways, and we were not willing to adapt to our companionship. This created some problems between us. I am grateful to our Heavenly Father that He works in such a perfect way that everything fits perfect in His plan. Last Friday in particular, we began working and these small problems between us were not solved. This entire day we did not have the Spirit with us, and every appointment we had fell through. It was at the end of the day that we realized something was wrong. We were both a bit stressed because of the day we had, and we began to resolve the problems between us. He spoke his part, and I spoke my part, and after half an hour, we were able to resolve all the problems between us. At the end, we hugged, and as real as a breeze through your hair, the Spirit descended upon us once again. It wasn't until that moment that I realized the Spirit truly wasn't with us that whole day. The difference from that moment until now has been miraculous. 

Now is the time to give the updates on Reinaldo and Aline. They are doing wonderful! Monday, everything was worked out, and the marriage documents are in the process. Now, we are in the countdown of 30 days until they are able to get married. Saturday, we visited them and left them a very special message on Eternal Families, and the importance of the things they are doing.  We watched a video with them of Jeffery R. Holland, and his testimony of the Book of Mormon. I have it on my USB, but for some reason, the USB wasn't working. We went to YouTube, and watched the video. When it ended, another video automatically started, that talked about a bishop, and how he gained a testimony of the Book of Mormon, and what is the Book of Mormon. What an amazing and unplanned video! The Spirit touched strong and I knew that it was for this very reason that my USB didn't work... they needed to watch this video. Afterwards, both of them said that they truly feel that the Book of Mormon is true, and that their lives are moving in the way the Lord wants. We invited them to be married and baptized on the same night, March 15, 2014, and they accepted. :) What a special family they are. Never in my life have I felt a happiness like what I feel here on my mission, helping families just like Reinaldo and Aline come together and build an eternal family. Truly, the Lord put us in front of their home, for they were prepared to receive the gospel... all of this because of a wrong address given to us by someone on the street. 

Saturday night, we were off to Andaraí (my beloved 2nd area!) to watch a session of Stake Conference. This session is a bit different-- it is interactive, not just listening to speakers. As we were there, the time arrived for Sister Lima (wife of Presidente Lima) to speak. In her talk, she called me and my companion to the front. Instantly, my heart began beating super fast! As I went to the front, there were some people in the congregation that had mixed expressions. Many didn't know that I had returned to the Stake, and since I served in that very chapel for seven months, many recognized me. Sister Lima asked us to talk about a special family that we have that will go to the general session of Stake Conference. In that moment, every member present in the session got to know Reinaldo and Aline. The whole stake repeated the names of this family and we said a prayer for them. Sister Lima then called our Ward Mission Leader to the front and he had to account for this family as well! It was an interesting experience. That night, everyone was passing me and saying "Hi!" and "Welcome back!" I felt at home. :) Boy, I love this stake. 
Sunday morning, we arrived at the Conference and Reinaldo and Aline had a space reserved on the front row right in the center. It was as if they were famous! When they arrived, everyone began complimenting them and Reinaldo and Aline couldn't hold back the smiles on their faces. They LOVED the Conference. The Spirit was so strong. They left stronger than ever in their promise to the Lord to be married and baptized on March 15. 

My mission is something I will never forget. I love each and every moment and experience. Yes, there are many more hardships than happiness, but the happiness makes everything worth it. My testimony is strong, and each day I become more and more converted to the Gospel of Jesus Christ. I love and miss you all immensely, but know that there is still much work to do until my time is finished. Keep strong, stay happy, and do what is right, and you have the blessing of the Lord on your side. Have an amazing week!!! 

Elder Steven Bennett

Monday, February 10, 2014

Ether 12:27‏

My family and friends,

Hello hello! One more week in the lovely Rio de Janeiro has passed, and boy was it a wild week. It was a week to learn quite a bit, as well as a bit stressful. It has also been around three or four weeks that it hasn't rained, so we are still up on top of our house sleeping with the twinkling stars above our heads. I don't know if I have ever told you guys this, but lately, the sky, moon, and stars have been really fascinating to me. I am thinking about returning home and doing some kind of major with that kind of stuff. But until I have to think about that stuff, I will leave it to the future and focus on the mission. But I really do like sleeping up there and falling asleep thinking. It is amazing to think about the amazing miracles that our Heavenly Father performs. Just looking to the stars in the heavens is a plain fact that nothing was created out of luck or by some great explosion. I have no doubt that all was made for the happiness of man by a loving Heavenly Father. 

Anyhow, this week was quite the week. As I told you guys last week, we had a transfer and I am still here in Meier. I am hoping that I will stay here until the end of my mission. I don't know if it is likely, but it is possible! So my buddy Elder Freitas left me, and I am here with Elder D. Ferreyra. He is a great missionary! He is from Argentina and has a sweet accent. He looks American, so everyone thinks we are two "gringos" walking down the street. He only has about five more weeks in his mission... so this means I will "kill" him (I am his last companion before returning home). This area, Meier, is famous for "killing" missionaries. Elder Freitas stayed here 7 months and served with three missionaries who ended their mission here. Now, he has left and I am here. I am starting to end out these missionaries! It sure is an interesting situation to live with a missionary who is ending pretty soon. They are whether really trunky, or they are really excited to work until they drop. Luckily, my companion wants to work until he drops. We will definitely have success here. :) So Tuesday, it was off to the Rodoviaria to grab the new companion and leave my old companion. There were tons of missionaries there, including each of the missionaries that arrived in Rio with me. We took another photo, for Sister Harrison will be going home this next transfer. I cannot believe that that time has already arrived. As I grabbed Elder Ferreyra, it was back to our area to get off to work! It always is a little weird getting used to someone you don't know... especially someone who is from a different country than you, but I think I have gotten used to it. We got off to work and at first it was a little rough getting used to the new style of things. Being the leader in the area, I have to remember all the streets, where to go, what we'll do, etc. These last fews days were pretty stressful with all of this in mind. The Assistants are always calling and checking up on the news in the zone, what is happening, etc. It is just the first week, so I know it is a bit rough-- it'll improve with time. We also have responsibilities to perform interviews for the people being baptized, visit our missionaries in the District Meetings, etc., so we were always running around Rio to help our missionaries. This cuts our time to work in our own area, but you are still expected to be an example of results in your zone!

In almost every letter, I have been updating you guys about a wonderful family we are teaching, Renaldo and Aline. They are such an amazing family! It was such a miracle in finding them, and since that day, they have been progressing really fast. We have been visiting them since the beginning of the last transfer, so about two months. We finally were able to start the process of marriage with them, in preparation for their baptism and goal to go to the temple and seal their family for time and all eternity. :) Thursday, we were off to Tijuca with the family to start the paperwork. We found a method of marriage that cuts all the taxes, and it is faster than all the other methods... 30 days. Because of time constraints, we didn't have time to take the documents to the marriage registry. This morning, after many obstacles, we were able to arrive there at the registry, with our testimonies. It was hard marking a day with everyone, and getting everything planned, but we finally succeeded in going there this morning. When we arrived, the workers told us that the power was out! REALLY! Satan really is working to stop this family from getting married! However, the power company arrived and we waited and the power returned. As our turn arrived, we were told that because of his address,  we had to go to another registry that is a bit far from here. We were with a Sister in our ward, Val, and she is very in to missionary work. We took the family to this other registry to get everything worked out! She rocks! She was even passing out pass-along cards to everyone telling them to get married and visit the church... ;) So, it looks like all is well for now, and in 30 days, we will perform the marriage and baptism in the chapel.

I am loving my mission and all the experiences I am passing. This week was stressful, and in the midst of all this, I was pretty sick. I won't get into details, but I am sure I have a virus. But all is well, my spirit is high and happy, and I am doing just fine. Miracles are happening all around us, and I am very happy to be a part of this work. Stay strong, stay happy, and have a wonderful week! I love and miss you all. :)

Elder Steven Bennett

Monday, February 3, 2014

"I Am A God Of Miracles" 2 Nephi 27:23

My dear family and friends,

Boy, I love and miss you guys so much. I hope all is going well with you all. Utah is probably starting to warm up? Not yet? Come on over to Rio de Janeiro. Here, about 6,000 miles from you guys, we are toasting out in the sun. I walked past a temperature gauge yesterday that read 44C.... or 111F? Yeah, it's a bit spicy. We are still sleeping on the deck of our home, for the home is truly unbearable inside! I don't even think I have seen a single cloud in the sky this last week. The summer heat is hitting hard. As for the news back at home, Mom wrote me an email explaining a bit about the funeral service for Grandpa. I could feel the Spirit just reading the email. I know without a doubt that Grandpa was there, happy and well, along with all of our relatives that have passed on. I really miss Grandpa, and now as the reality of it hits me, I try to stay focused on the work. The Lord actually helped me out in this aspect, for today was a transfer day. As you all know I was called to be a Zone Leader, and with only one transfer of training, I am now responsible to train my companion who was called for the first time. I am a bit stressed... I don't feel ready to teach another missionary things that I barely know! I know that the Lord put His trust in me, and for this, I will do everything possible to honor this calling. In the meantime, my prayers go out to you guys at home. I love you all so much.

My time is quite short, but I would like to share with you some of the miracles that happened this week. I will attach a photo for you guys as well. A few Sundays ago, during lunch with a member, she told us of her neice that lives in Belo Horizonte, a city far from Rio. She wanted the missionaries to go there and teach her neice. We took down the name (Mariana) and address of her neice and passed it to the missionaries there. They began teaching her, and she really liked it, even to the point where she went to church a few times. With some events that happened in her life, she ended up moving to Rio to live with this very aunt, where we had lunch. Two Sundays ago, she came to church and we were presented to Mariana. She was really cool, and already looked like a member of the church. She is 27 years old and most of her family is a member of the church. That very Sunday, we went to her home with a bunch of family members and taught her the Restoration. She really liked the message. She expressed to us how she has had some very hard times in her life, and when she was truly feeling the worst, the missionaries knocked on her door. As we ended the message, the Spirit was strong, and we felt impressed to invite her to be baptized this last Saturday, Februrary 1. With the invite, she rejected and started to talk about some problems she has with the church, that she isn't ready, she feels pressed, etc. In that very night, she expressed that she is opposed to tithing and NEVER will pay. She passed many hard experiences growing up, and she lost all faith that Heavenly Father watched over her and loved her. We sat quietly until she expressed all of her doubts and we began to work through them. In the midst of all of these doubts, we promised her that if she read the Book of Mormon and said a prayer, asking if it is true, she will receive an answer from Heavenly Father, telling her what she must do. We visited her Tuesday, and she had read a certain chapter in the Book of Mormon five times... and prayed five times! She felt nothing, except the last time... a strange feeling. We also visited her Wednesday-- dedicated just to read the Book of Mormon and help her through her doubts. Then, Thursday arrived. I was on a split in another neighboorhood, and our district leader went to my area. We had marked to teach her, together with some of the single youth in the ward. They went to the chapel and the power was out on the entire street! Elder Freitas got one of the member's car and turned on the headlights. They put chairs in the light, and began teaching. During this meeting, they taught the Gospel of Jesus Christ, focusing on faith, one of her neccessities. With this, she began to express her feelings. She began to talk about how grateful she was for all the time we had spent teaching her, but that this would probably be our last visit with her. When she said this, they began to think that she was going to cut them, and that she didn't want to keep learning about the church. However, she said that it was because she wanted to be baptized this Saturday.... she had received an answer exactly how we had promised! She thought our visits ended with her baptism. :) I was sad that I wasn't there in that moment to see her reaction, but that night as my companion told me the story through the phone, I was jumping and screaming in happiness! Friday arrived, I returned to Meier, and we taught her the commandments again, including tithing. With the answer she had received, she accepted tithing and all the other commandments immediately... a complete miracle. Saturday morning, at 11:30 AM, she was baptized by her cousin, Daniel, who will be leaving on his mission on Wednesday. :)
My testimony grew so much this week. We truly saw the Lord working miracles in the life of Mariana. Also, we had the chance to teach our amazing family, Renaldo and Aline. We taught them the Plan of Salvation, and eternal marriage. They accepted our help to get married, be baptized, and start in the process of going to the temple. This coming Wednesday, we will be going to the "Catorio" to start the wedding documents. :) Sadly, Elder Freitas was transferred, so he won't be able to help me more in the process of this family, but he will surely be blessed in his next area for the work he did here. He was a great companion. 

I know that the church is true. I have no doubt. I know. I have seen the Lord work miracles with His children here on Earth. He works through our faith. I am truly happy for the opportunity to be His instrument. Now, I will be trusting even more in Him. I will need His help in leading a zone and training a Zone Leader. Yikes! Well, here we go. Have a wonderful week. I love you all so so so so much! I pray constantly for you all.
Elder Steven Bennett