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