Monday, March 24, 2014

Changes. :)

Olá minha querida família e amigos,

Hello!!! How are you guys? One more week has passed. Wow. Today is the coldest day we've had this whole year. A cold front arrived yesterday, and it has dropped to like 70 degrees... I think. So cold. I slept so good last night! It is pretty hard to sleep well in the heat. Wow, each and every week that passes, I feel that time is speeding up... and I can honestly tell you guys that I am not wanting that to happen. I have come to the point that I love everything about my mission. I love Brasil, the people, the work, the culture, the food, the traditions, the language... EVERYTHING! I love the members who live here. Some of the strongest members that I have met in my life live here, particularly here in Meier. I have never felt so good as I have here in this ward. I hope that my time is prolonged in this area and this ward. The members love the missionaries, and the missionaries love the members. There are so many strong members that help in the work. I thank my Heavenly Father for the opportunity to be here in this ward, and to get to know these members with such faith and love for our Savior Jesus Christ. 

So, as you all know, last week was a transfer, and I received word that I would continue here in Meier, Zone Andaraí. I was so happy for this. My new companion is from São Paulo. His name is Elder Medeiros. Everyone was so surprised to hear that he only has 9 months on the mission. Meier is a ward known for the amount of missionaries that end their mission here. He is the youngest missionary that has arrived in this area for quite some time. He is a great companion and we get along really great. He likes music, and has played piano as long as I have. We like many of the same things, and it is really easy to work and stay excited with him around. We are doing great, and I have some good feelings about this transfer. I hope that I can stay at least until June with him. He came from one of the most distant places in our mission, even to the point that he was closer to São Paulo than Rio de Janeiro. The trip was long and tiring, and as he arrived here, we were given a great task from the Area Seventy. All of the wards were given a list of twenty addresses of members that are less-active or that disappeared off the map in the last ten or fifteen years. The Area Seventy wanted this list contacted by Saturday, but our Bishop, being extremely efficient, wanted us to contact everyone by Wednesday. Receiving the list on Tuesday, we set out to visit everyone. We began to notice that many of the addresses were up in the favelas and communities.... very very high up. As we tried to reach some of the addresses, I began to wonder how the missionaries ever were able to baptize someone so high up on the mountain and so far away from the church. We were very, very far from the church. We were able to see all of Rio de Janeiro, for we were truly at the peak of the mountains (almost). Everything turned out well and we were able to contact everyone. Many of these people had no interest to return to church, but we were able to find some others that were humbled and ready to hear our message a second time. 

Lately, we have been teaching a man named Alex. He is 34 years old and came to church to get to see what it was like. He has been prepared to receive the Gospel as well. Immediately, he was hugged by the members and made many good friends. He expressed to us how it was so great to have such an environment to learn and live the gospel. He accepted our messages, and we began visiting him and his father. This last Wednesday, he accepted a baptismal date for this coming Saturday, and since then, we have been bringing him to lots of Family Nights, and bringing members to his home to teach with us. It was been amazing. Alex came to church yesterday and a member took him by the arm, inviting everyone to his baptism this Saturday. It will be around 11:00 our time. Pray that everything goes well! 

Because of the time, I must end. I love my mission. I wouldn't trade this knowledge and these blessings for anything. I know that Jesus Christ is my Savior. I have no doubt about this. I know that the Book of Mormon helps us draw closer to Heavenly Father, and through prayer, we can know of his truthfulness. I know that prayer is communication with our Heavenly Father. I hope that you all know these things with certainty in your hearts. If you don't, do what is necessary to receive this testimony. I love you all and miss you tons. Have a wonderful vacation, and send me photos of everything!
Elder Steven Bennett

Monday, March 17, 2014

Felicidade :)

My wonderful Family and friends,
How wonderful it is to be here on the mission, and not only to be on the mission, but to be here in Rio de Janeiro. I know that each and every missionary has a specific place where they need to be. Each and every missionary was preordained to go to this place, at a certain moment in time, to help certain people in the moment that they are needing help. This isn't just some fancy story or fable that someone made up. It is the plan of our Heavenly Father-- a complete and perfect plan. I have no doubt in my mind of the infinite power that our Heavenly Father has and He truly does use this power "to bring about immortality and eternal life to man". He uses His sons and daughters here on Earth to do His work, and I am so grateful for the chance to be one of His servants twenty-four hours a day, seven days a week. There is nothing that would bring such happiness to me at this point in my life than this.
What a week I have had. Never have I had so many things to do or to think about at one time! As I have been telling you guys for the past forever, Reinaldo and Aline finally arrived at the week of their wedding and baptismal service. We passed by each day, visiting them, and making sure that all was well and that nothing would happen to interfere with the 15th of March. Each day, we did a Family night, or brought members with us to get to know the Family and strengthen them through their testimonies. We even brought President Lima with us last Wednesday. It was quite a funny experience. We hadn't set a certain time to arrive, and when we arrived with President, Reinaldo was sleeping. His mother, who lives close, entered and woke him up. When he came out to say hi, he grabbed a massive paintball gun that was left on the sofa. He was messing around, telling us that he would shoot us, and President walked in. Until this point, he hadn't seen or heard President Lima with us, so when he walked in, you can imagine the shock and embarassment. It was hilarious! He hid the gun and sat down all nice and good-mannered. :) After our visit with President, Reinaldo asked us if we would be bringing over an Apostle or President Monson in the next visit. Reinaldo really likes President! On Friday, we headed over there with our District Leader and they were interviewed. They passed, and all was ready to go for the wedding and baptismal service. Friday night, a member wanted to take us out to a BBQ because my companion is ending his mission soon. With my luck, I caught some kind of stomach bug and you can imagine how the rest of the night went. As Saturday arrived, we were up and running to get everything ready for the wedding... calling everyone, confirming the food, cake, decorations, cleaning and organizing the chapel, cleaning and filling the baptismal font, etc. The whole day, my stomach was killing, even to the point that I couldn't walk normal. It was hard, but during lunch, a member gave me some medicine, which helped a little. As 5 PM got closer, I got more and more anxious, still feeling very sick. Luckily, the members were helping us out a ton, and this took some of the weight off my shoulders. When 5 PM arrived, the planned hour of the wedding, nobody had arrived! The first visitors arrived around 5:15 PM (Mom probably loves this part), and even at 6 PM, we were waiting for many of the visitors and Reinaldo and Aline. However, many people were arriving... many more than we expected. We had around 20-25 members present, and 75-80 visitors! I couldn't believe my eyes. It was so packed! We finally started the wedding around 7 PM. We had invited President and Sister Lima as well, and they were present to watch the wedding. It was great, and everything worked out very well. It was a very special night. :) After the ceremony, I was running around serving drinks and snacks to everyone. In the midst of all this, my stomach had stopped hurting, but a big headache had started. Elder Freitas, my old companion who helped teach Reinaldo and Aline was also present. I was very happy to see him. He was probably my favorite companion up until now. After many photos and food, we brought everyone to the chapel to start the baptismal service. President Lima left some words for the couple, as well as the people visiting. A children's choir sang "I like to look for rainbows", which brought tears to everyone's eyes. Then, Reinaldo and Aline were baptized. :) The moment that I was dreaming of since the first day we met them. I nearly started crying. My companion baptized Aline, and Elder Freitas baptized Reinaldo. It was decided like that because my companion is leaving for Argentina tomorrow, Elder Freitas isn't serving here anymore, and I will be here to continue the work with them. :) For this, I was calm and happy with everything. All of the activities ended around 9 PM, the visitors left, members helped us clean up, and by 9:45 PM, we were at home, ready to hit the hay.
The Lord hasn't stopped in doing miracles here on Earth. I am a special witness that these miracles have existed since the beginning of time, exist today, and will Always exist until the end of time. I am so grateful for the opportunity to be a part of this great work of salvation to all of the Lord's children. The time has arrived to start the work with other families, and we are already in the process of starting the process of marrying one more Family. They are a bit more reluctant, but with time, they will come to know that it is the Lord's will. Their names are Franco and Eva. :) Also, this transfer has come to an end. My companion is already packed and ready to go back to Argentina. I am glad that he was able to experience such a wonderful wedding and baptism in the last days of his mission. I am receiving another companion tomorrow. His name is Elder Merdeiro, from São Paulo. Let the work continue here in the Zone Andaraí. My zone has also become the largest zone in the mission, and also having the most Sisters (eight). Here in a little, there will only be Sisters in Rio! hahah. :)
I love you all so much. I hope that this week goes well, and that everyone is safe and healthy. I am still waiting for an email or letter from Lorks... Tell her to write me! hahah. :) Have a wonderful week! 
Elder Steven Bennett

Monday, March 10, 2014


Why hello there!

Once more, I bid all a wonderful good morning, or how I am accustomed... Bom Dia! I am happy to announce that everything is FANTASTIC here in Méier, even to the weather! As you guys begin to warm up, I am finally cooling down here in the Cidade Maravilhosa. It is still hot, but the worst has definitely passed, and we are beginning to have rain more often. This usually would be a good thing, but lately, when it rains, IT POURS. I will be showing you guys many videos after the mission. :) After the rain falls, it gets really really humid, and many times you don't know if you're wet because of the rain, or your sweat. But, all is well and I am happier than ever. I have seen the Lord work miracles in the lives of so many people, and not just investigators, but the whole ward here in Meier. How I am so greatful to be here. My former companion, Elder Frietas, called me this week and told me how he was missing Meier. The ward here is strong, and the leadership and membros help in the missionary work. This is wonderful, for many wards aren't like that. However, the Lord has blessed me with more than a year in the Stake Andaraí. First, seven months in the Andaraí ward, and about 4 months here in Meier. I have gotten to know almost the entire stake. :) I pray that the Lord keeps me here until the end of my mission. 

Well, things are beginning to speed up as we get closer to the big day of marriage and baptism for Reinaldo and Aline. This week, we got rid of their coffee and gave them "Cevada", which is translated "Barly." I'm not sure what kind of drink this is in the USA, but it is almost coffee, but different. It is kind of like that one drink Mom likes to make in the winter (Mom's drink is better. Don't tell anyone.). We had a family night with them, as well as another family that lives on the very same street. It is so very important that the new investigators get to know the members. As President Hinckley taught us some time ago, all recent converts need FRIENDS in the church, for they will help in the hard and difficult moments. They need a RESPONSIBILITY... something that helps them feel included and special. Lastly, they need to be NURTURED BY THE GOOD WORD (as it is translated from Portuguese). They need to have that continued spirit that they felt during the visits from the missionaries. This is done by continued visits from the missionaries, but more importantly, by the members and their family home teachers and visiting teachers. These three topics are essential in strengthening less actives as well. Saturday, we visited Reinaldo and Aline with the Bishop, and he explained how the process would be with the marriage and baptism. They are stronger than ever in this decision. Their marriage was announced in Sacrament Meeting yesterday... and they messed up, calling him Paulo, not Reinaldo (I thought about how Mom would react in the situation). But they corrected it. The expected turn-out is 70 people, including many non-members, and our Mission President with his family. We are so excited. :) Now, we are running in all directions making sure that everything is ready before Saturday!

This was a great week, and passed really fast. However, there are always a few moments that show you that Heavenly Father truly loves you, and that the Atonment of His Son is real. Me and my companion had a special experience in this aspect. As I have already told you guys, my companion is from Argentina. He is super cool, but we are also very, very different with different opinions. A certain night this last week, we had a difference in opinions that wasn't being resolved. This brought about many words and feelings that didn't have to happen, and us two being very arrogant people... you can imagine the situation. I pondered profundly the things that happened and were said, in repentance, and decided that to have a change in our companionship, I have to start with myself. The next day, my personal study was centered in the dangers of Arrogance and the blessings of Humility. What a marvelous hour of studying! The Spirit touched me so strong on my weaknesses, and what I am needing to change. In our Companionship Study, as a custom, we share the things that we learned. I explained my part and ended in asking forgiveness, and sharing goals that I have to change, hoping that it would touch his heart to change as well. The Spirit was with us strong... and it worked. :) In that moment, I understood and felt the process of true repentance. We cannot just leave our sins in the past and "forget!". We can't just change without confessing either. Heavenly Father established the pattern of repentance, and this process involves humility. You need to RECOGNIZE your error. You STOP and CONFESS this error to Heavenly Father, and promise to change. You make RESTITUTION for your error, including asking forgiveness. As you do these things sincerely, you will feel the Lord working in your life, and that He truly forgave you of your sin. This is the process, and there is only one process to be forgiven. All of us must take advantage of this amazing blessing in our lives in preparation for the eternities. 

I love you all so so much. I miss you all as well. I hope all is going great. Lauralee needs to write me an email and tell me about Prom. She is BEAUTIFUL! She has been changing so much lately. I didn't even realize that she will turn 18 here in a little. How life passes. Please keep praying that everything goes well with Reinaldo and Aline, and you guys will receive lots of photos of them here this next week. :) Never in my life have I felt a love for someone, beyond my family, as much as I feel for this family. I am willing to do anything to help this family be married, baptized, and stay strong in the church. This relationship will not end when I return home, but for all my life. Not only this family, but for all the people I have been blessed in helping unite with the Church of our Savior Jesus Christ. I have a strong testimony of this church. If your testimony is weak, fall on your knees, repent of your sins, and ask our Heavenly Father if these things are true. Find answers to your problems. When you receive counsels from our Heavenly Father, act on these things. As you put your faith in action, you will feel the truthfulness of this Gospel. Have a wonderful week, and know that I am safe, working hard, and very very HAPPY. :)
Elder Steven Bennett

PS. This is the last week of the mission for my companion. He is so homesick. I promise that that won't happen with me. :) Let's see what happens!

Monday, March 3, 2014

D&C 112:10‏

Hello Hello!

As you can see, I am sending an email much later than usual. If you guys didn't know, this is the week of Carnival. Carnival is usually four or five days of straight holidays! It could be compared to Christmas Day... five times in a row. :) This holiday closes down Rio de Janeiro. Really, the whole city shuts down! For this, we were having troubles finding an internet cafe that was open... and we never found one. I am in the home of a member here in Meier and she offered her laptop. For this, my time is short, and we have about 10 minutes until we have to start working. This has been a wild week, trying to work and stay far from the huge parties going on. The sisters in our zone have to be home before 6 PM every night until Wednesday. The work has been hit with much opposition, but it is okay... we already know which side will win this battle. :)

I will have to be very brief with my words, but this was a great week. Truly the Lord has been blessing us, even when we aren't worthy of such blessings. Our amazing family, Reinaldo and Aline, are stronger than ever! We marked a family home evening with them this last week, and they brought a couple to get to know the church. It is amazing that they have felt such a difference from the Gospel that they are wanting to share it with everyone they know! Never in my mission have I seen or heard of a family gain a testimony as fast and strong as they have. Just getting to know this wonderful family, my mission has been worth it. :) They were with us at church yesterday, and they are finally getting to know all the members. They are already telling everyone that they are almost members of the church! The happiness and love that I have for this family is great. Their wedding is still strong for the 15th of March, and the ward is already planning everything for us! Lets keep praying that the wedding documents will be ready on the 10th!

We are truly seeing a difference in our ward here in Meier. The ward is really getting excited to help in the work. We had the opportunity to bring some members with us to get to know our investigators, and they were so touched by the experience that they bore their testimonies of the visits. My companion got up to bear his last testimony of  the mission and I felt a desire to get up just to thank all the members for all they are doing for our investigators, meals, and help from the leadership. The ward is stronger than ever! We are finally connecting the ward with the missionary work. This next Saturday, we have a cute little girl who will be baptized, and the next week, Reinaldo and Aline!

If you noticed, I cited a scripture that helped me through some experiences this week. I have truly learned to be more humble and trust in the Lord. Because of the time, I will just say that many times, the Lord gives us experiences, good and bad, to learn where we are weak, and what we need to improve. 

Well, I must be going. I am sorry for the length of the email, but it is time to work. Today I watch the movie "Charly". If you haven't seen it,watch it! I cried like a baby. My testimony is stronger than ever, and it is strengthening everyday of the Gospel of Jesus Christ. How I am so grateful for this knowledge in my life. I am so very blessed for the life that I have. I hope all is well at home. Stay strong and firm, and never give in to opposition! The Lord is on our side. We will win this battle! I love you all so much. Have a wonderful week. :)
Com MUITO amor,
Elder Steven Bennett