Monday, April 28, 2014

Continue Your Journey And Let Your Heart Rejoice (Doctrine and Covenants 100:3-6, 12)‏

Dear Family,

Well, the time has come and one more transfer has ended. Many of the missionaries that I knew since I arrived in Rio have almost all returned home. It is hard to get to know all the newbies arriving. I lost a few more buddies at the end of this transfer, but I know they are going to start the new chapter of theirs lives at home. I received a phone call last night, and the Secretaries told me that I am being transferred to Sulacap, Madureira. I became a bit sad with this news. I really have loved my time here in Meier. I feel closer to this ward than any other ward, and this stake is like my literal home. However, I know that the Lord knows what is best, and He needs me in Sulacap. I don't know very much about Madureira, but it is more in the interior of Rio. It is still the literal city of Rio, but more in the hot valleys. Madureira holds one of the hottest areas in Rio, and in all of Brasil. Luckily, I won't be smack dab in that valley, but I will be close. Thank heavens the hottest part of the year already passed. Anyways, I will spend the day packing up my bags once again and go to the Rodoviaria early tomorrow morning. I am thinking it will be my last area on the mission.

With the transfer ending and being transferred, I have been reflecting on my time here in Meier. It is truly my favorite area in my whole mission. Since I arrived there, I have had wonderful companions and for that, the ward as well has been wonderful. The members here have been so excited to help us out in the work. I got to know this ward very fast. I think that I have almost the whole ward memorized by name. Even to the youth, I have made a good friendship with them all. I will miss this ward a lot. In this ward, I have a "twin" sister and an uncle (There is a member here who looks like Uncle Paul!). When I see him, I call him Uncle. :) I really have loved my time here, and I hope that I can create this kind of connection with the ward there in Sulacap as well. I was privileged with an extra special last Sunday here in Meier. Reinaldo, who recently was baptized, blessed the Sacrament for the first time. Also, Alex, who is a recent convert, passed the Sacrament to me. I began to remember the first moment that I met these great people. They didn't even know that this church existed. With time and some visits, they got to know the true Church of Jesus Christ, and now are serving the Sacrament, and with callings in the church. I was so happy. It is a happiness that you can't find at home, hanging out with your friends. Only through the work of the Lord, we find this type of happiness.
Today, I will be saying goodbye to maybe people, and probably my heart will be broken... again! This always happens when I'm transferred... But, I need to continue on with this work. I am trying to work harder than ever. I am noticing a fatigue that I never had at the beginning of the mission, and at times, it is hard to fight through it. However, I will succeed. I am sorry that this letter is quite short as well, but I love and miss you all. I hope that all is well at home, and that peace and health can be with you all. I have a few interesting days here ahead of me. :) I really know that this is the work of the Lord. I know that this church is true. I have no doubts of this truth.
Have a wonderful week!!!
Elder Steven Bennett

Monday, April 21, 2014

Hold Up Your Light That It May Shine Unto The World (3 Nephi 18:24)

Olá Família!

When I entered my email today and saw 18 new messages, I had two thoughts: One, everyone loves me; or Two, Mom signed me up at USU. It was the second. :) I won't lie, things are changing, and it is a little stressful to think about going home. After so much time of preaching the gospel, it becomes your way of life. Now that my life here in a few months will be different than my life right now, it is a bit saddening. However, it will be good. I hope that I was able to help you guys with some questions, and thank you for the help.

Basically all my time on the computer went to studying these emails, so I don't have much time to write. This email will be a bit short. This was one more fast week, but it was definitely a hard week. Lately, we have been having some difficulties finding new investigators and investigators that are progressing. It was a hard and hot week, walking in the sun, and being rejected quite a bit. In the midst of this, I was battling fatigue and five canker sores in my mouth. It was a little hard to stay excited, and at times, I felt like the time would never pass. However, the end of the week brought some relief. These last couple of days, we were blessed with some new investigators, and a new family! Douglas and Diara were a street contact that accepted us very well. We marked a day to visit them, and never found them at home. We passed a couple times and never found them. Saturday, as we visited another family, they passed us on the street, and stopped to talk to us. Douglas said "hey, do you remember me?? Come to my house when you finish with this appointment!" We entered our appointment, and as we left about 30 minutes later, we FORGOT about Douglas and Diara. We remembered as we arrived at home... However, we passed their home yesterday and they were home! We taught them the Restoration, and Douglas told us how his life has been a bit difficult (he was in prision for a while), and now he is trying to improve his quality of life. They live in the favela, but they are MARRIED!!! It is a miracle. :) They accepted our baptismal invitation, and now we are in the process of bringing them to church. My canker sores are finally leaving and after a hard week, we are ready to start this week off right. We made some mistakes this last week, but for this, we can repent and do better. :) 

I love this Gospel. Every time I teach the Restoration, I feel the truthfulness of this Gospel in the midst of such spiritual confusion in these last days. We are bringing the light to the world, the light of salvation. How grateful I am for this privilege to bring this message to the Cariocan people. I love you all so much. Keep strong in what you know is right, and never forget the privilege we have to be a part of the Church of our Savior Jesus Christ.
Elder Steven Bennett

Monday, April 14, 2014

I Will Shew Wonders In The Heavens (Joel 2:30-31)

My family and friends,

Last week, two of my letters were posted on my blog.

On this nice cold rainy day, I am writing to you guys. How is everyone? I have glad that the trip went well and that you guys returned home in safety. How is the family there in Arizona? I really liked the photos as well. Lauralee looks so much older now. What happened to the little "eighth grader"? ;) hahaha just kidding. Here, everything is all wet and cold, but it only started yesterday. This whole week was pretty hot. Actually, the "hot" now is much cooler than before. Instead of 100+ degrees, we are getting 90+ degrees. Now, it is down in the 70s or 80s I think. I hope it stays like this. The weather looks like it won't clear up until the end of the week, so I won't be able to see that Blood Moon Eclipse. We are still planning on waking up to see it! Lets see what happens. 

Wow, this week flew by. I am seeing these weeks fly by like nothing! Everyone likes to kid with me now that I have passed the 1 year and 7 month point. I try to tell everyone that I am still not ready to go home, and they think I am lying. It's great, huh? Anyway, things are going really well. I have to ask you guys a question.... Does the news there in the USA talk about Rio de Janeiro on a frequent basis? I am curious to know with all the crazy things that happen here. If the answer is no, don't bother on asking 'Why?" because you will just have to wait until after the mission to hear all the crazy stories. :) 

So, to give you guys a follow-up on the progress here in Meier, yesterday, Reinaldo and Alex received the Aaronic Priesthood. What a great moment it was to see these two, and even Aline (wife of Reinaldo) asking about the Priesthood, authority, and all the subjects that pertain to this. It is amazing to see these recent-converts so strong in the church. Reinaldo and Aline, and Alex haven't missed a single Sunday, and even watched General Conference. If you guys remember Celso, from Andaraí, he was there in the Stake Center to watch all the sessions, even to the Priesthood Session. These people have such a strong testimony of the Gospel. Lucas, another recent-convert from my time in Andaraí, who is preparing to serve a mission, is leaving with the Sisters to teach other investigators, AND is helping his parents get married, so that they as well can be baptized. It is for this reason that this work will continue to grow forever. You plant one seed, and many others have the opportunity to get to know the Gospel through that seed. I had a special experience this last Saturday as we began visiting our appointments. Nothing was working out. Everyone wasn't home, or they were rejecting our visits. After four hours of walking with little success, I was a bit bummed, annoyed, and sunburned. We tried one last appointment... and it didn't work out. In that moment, I remembered that we were close to Reinaldo and Aline. We decided to visit them. As we arrived, they were about to start a Family Home Evening with a neighbor of theirs. They invited us in and they were about to show some youtube videos of the church to this neighbor. I forgot her name, but this neighbor was from another religion, and one that doesn't like "the Mormons". As Reinaldo and Aline began telling her about the true facts of the church, she began to open up and ask more questions. My companion and I hardly said a word the whole time! Reinaldo and Aline were teaching her, not us. Aline said a prayer in the beginning that almost blew me away. It has been two weeks since we were able to find her at home, but based on the prayer that she said and the Spirit that touched my heart, I knew that she is truly progressing. At the end, this neighbor left with a new vision of the church. I am grateful that the Lord led us to their home (we hadn't planned to visit them that day) at that moment to build our own testimonies along with theirs and of this neighbor. Reinaldo and Aline are sharing the gospel with everyone! They arrived at church Sunday morning, and told us that they were "evangelizing" until 4 am! They are two very special people, and a very special family. 

Well, that is some of the cool things going on in the Cidade Maravilhosa. I am loving each and every minute that passes. My time has ended so I need to run. Mom, start looking into the school stuff! Sadly, that time is getting nearer. I have a strong testimony of this work and of the Church. I know that this is the Church of Jesus Christ. I love and miss you all. I hope you all have an amazing week. Give a solid "HEY!" to everyone in the ward. :)

Elder Steven Bennett

Monday, April 7, 2014

Be Ye Doers Of The Word, And Not Hearers Only (James 1:22)

Caro Família Querida,

Two letters have been posted today on my blog, one from last week (3-31-14), and one from today (4-7-14), so make sure you read them both!

Wow, what a wild week! It sure passed by really fast as well. I hope all is well at home. Was this last weekend Easter? I am so lost on the US Holidays. It will be super weird to return to the USA with all the cultures there. I can truly say that I have grown to love the Brasilian people very much. Even more than that, the Cariocan people (Those of Rio de Janeiro). Things are very different here, but I have noticed that as I speak, I think more that here is my home, and that now the USA is the strange place with strange traditions! Ha! Sorry about that family. I feel that I will return home and the first few purchases I will make will be rice and beans. I have come to love every aspect of my mission and even to my areas. I truly feel that I had to be in the areas that I passed, and that it would not work out any other way. I can relate to the members, and get along with them. I really feel that I have a family here. Everyone treats you so well. Did I already tell you guys that I have a twin here in Meier? The entire stake asks me if we are siblings. I believe that it is on facebook, but if not, I will snap a photo to show you guys. It is very strange! But this stake has truly helped me so much. I have now been serving here for a year. Many would be tired of the same zone or area for such a long time, but for me, I am willing to stay here until the very last minute. 

So how was General Conference this weekend? Did you guys get a chance to watch it all? Boy, was it amazing. I watched it in English. I understand everything in Portuguese, but I like to here the actual voices of the speakers, and the emotions they use. This is something that the translators can't mimic. I don't know if you guys noticed, but my mission president, Geraldo Lima, was called an Area Seventy. If you want, look back in the Second Session: Saturday Afternoon. We went wild! I also really liked that many of the messages are being focused to the youth. This is very important, for we are in the last days. We have no doubt about this! The signs are happening and we know the Second Coming is near. We need to be prepared, and the youth need the most preparation. The Lord was really wanting the youth to know of the preparation they are needing. Many talks were centered on the dangers of the world, addictions, spending time and money in useless things, being blinded of our eternal potential. It is so very important that the youth know these things (Yes, Lauralee! Listen up!). The first session of conference was chocked-full of these youth-centered messages. If you didn't have the chance to watch... WATCH! As Neil L. Anderson said in the Saturday Morning session, the youth of today are the last preparations for the return of the Lord. I really liked what President Monson said at the very beginning of conference. He said that we need to HEAR the messages that will be presented and LEARN from these things. To learn, we need to be taking notes and see what things we need to change in our lives. Learn requires ACTION on our part. Without action, we learned nothing. As James in the New Testement said, we need to be "Doers" of the word. I was so happy to spend these last two days in Andaraí as a stake. So many faces that I now recognize, and others that I am still getting to know. Many people came to welcome me back to the stake, and even to the point that the youth wanted to take some photos with us. I am so grateful for the time I have had in this stake. I am grateful for the friendships that I have made. I know that the 28th of August will not be the last day I walk in Rio de Janeiro. :) 

This week, my companion and I had a very good experience of "change". We started the week having a Counsel with President Lima and the other Zone Leaders to discuss and learn what we could do to have a wonderful month. Many good teachings were passed to us, and we then passed these teachings to our zone the next day in our Zone Training. It was great to see the goals that our zone was setting to change our performance. I am very pleased with this zone. Never have I seen missionaries as dedicated as these. The Sisters work so hard (much more than the Elders!), and for this, my companion and I had a very high goal to reach. One of our most important goals that reflects our dedication to the work is our street contacts. We have a goal to stop at least 210 people and talk about the church and invite them to hear our messages. This goal is 15 people per day, per missionary. We have been having some hard times reaching this goal, and it has been some time since we have reached 210. However, Saturday arrived, and we only had around 80. We needed to be better examples for our zone, and for this, we chose to meet our goal this week. It took so much effort, especially because of General Conference. However, Saturday and Sunday, we were able to reach our goal, and we ended the week with 212 contacts. The feelings of success on our part were marvelous, and beyond this, we found some amazing families that are ready to receive the Gospel of Jesus Christ in its fulness. Now, I can say that we are being examples for our zone, and now the work repeats. We are now starting a new week, and it is our responsibility to do it again! :) I hope that I can be a better example to this zone so that the missionaries can meet their own potential. 

I love this work. I can't say anything more. I love my mission. I love the people and I love Brasil. I love my Savior Jesus Christ, and for the privilege to serve and represent Him in these last days. As Jacob teaches in the Book of Mormon, we are working in the vineyard of the Lord for the last time. I hope that I can do my part to the fullest to continue this great work in these great last days. I love General Conference. I love President Thomas S. Monson, and I know he is the authorized prophet of God here on earth. I invite you all to study more fully these talks, as well as Preach My Gospel like M. Russell Ballard spoke. My family doesn't have any excuses, for I left a Preach My Gospel in my room. :) I love and I miss you all. Stay strong and stay happy. :)

Elder Steven Bennett

Helaman 5:18‏

Hello hello!

Here in the beautiful Cidade Maravilhosa, the weather has finally started to cool down. We caught a bunch of rain at the beginning of this week, and I even had to use a blanket to sleep a few of the nights. Now, the rain has passed, and the temperature hasn't risen as much like before. I believe that the worst has already passed. So, as you guys warm up, we are cooling down now. :) How is everyone doing? I am not trunky... and definitely not counting down, but seeing that I am the oldest missionary living in our home (there are three others living with me... all Brasilians!), the others like to give me a hard time that I have less than five months until I get home. As I entered my email this morning, my buddy Colton had sent a photo of all the guys who have returned home up until now. More than half are home now! I did not believe my eyes! It is crazy how time is flying. Dustin sent me an email this week talking about how he is down to less than a transfer (six weeks). That blew my mind! He will be home before we know it. I can't even believe how two years has passed so quickly. 

This has been a great week, and not only for me, but for all the missionaries in our zone. Each and every day, I thank my Heavenly Father for putting me in this certain part of Rio de Janeiro. Many missionaries would say that it is a hard area, that no one wants to hear our message, and many other things, but looking past the difficulties, This stake has the highest retention of recent converts and is ready to do some splitting and construction of more chapels. I can also relate to many of the members here. I haven't always had this on the mission. I look back to February of 2013, when I very first arrived in Andaraí. Yes, it was EXTREMELY hard in the beginning. However, the progess that Andaraí has made since that point is marvelous, and I am grateful for the opportunity I had to serve in the area, and now to still be here helping all the missionaries in this area. When I was in Andaraí, the normal attendance in a Sacrament Meeting was 140. Lately, the normal attendance is 180-200. Yesterday, the Sisters, together with the ward did an activity, and the attendance bumped up to 366. It was UNBELIEVABLE. The ward basically doubled this last Sunday. 

Saturday, Alex was baptized, and boy was it a special moment. :) We continued to pass the whole week, and he was prepared to be baptized. His father, who has been passing many health problems and was bed-ridden for weeks, miraculously was able to walk and see his son be baptized. The Lord truly helped him be there. Alex bore a strong testimony at the end of the service, and I could truly feel the truthfulness of the church through his simple words. How I am so grateful to be here on the mission. Nothing compares to these experiences.

Because of the time, I must go. However, I love you all sooooooooo much! I hope all is well, and that the vacation went well. Send me photos of it all! I will be expecting these photos. I have no doubt of the truthfulness of this church, and I will make good use of this little time I have left. :)
Com muito amor e saudades,
Elder Steven Bennett