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