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