Monday, May 26, 2014

God Is My Salvation (2 Nephi 22:2)

Minha querida família!

Welcome to one more weekly letter from the Cidade Maravilhosa. This is such a marvelous city. I love the Cariocan people. Here, everyone is getting prepared for the World Cup that will be starting here in June. Everyone is buying costumes, shirts, flags, paint, etc. The streets are being painted yellow, white, green, and blue, and flags and banners are being strung in all places. I am not exactly sure what our work schedule will be like during the World Cup, but it sure will be interesting to work while the whole world is watching soccer. :) 

So what a week I had! Lots of crazy things have been happening. I am glad that I have been able to keep my journal updated, so all of my experiences are written on paper. I was able to do a mission split this last week with a new missionary in our zone, Elder Morris. He is really cool, and for only having 6 months on the mission, he speaks really well. He came to my area and we had the chance to work here. We had a pretty interesting experience as well. The night before, I was doing street contacts with my companion, and we had stopped a man named Luis. He was very receptive to our message and accepted immediately that we go to his home and leave a message with his family. We marked the next day to go over there. As we ended our conversation with him, I told Elder Amorim that he would be baptized for sure. While I was with Elder Morris, we passed his home. As we shouted for him, another man answered. His name was Fernando. He asked us who we were, and we presented ourselves. We asked for Luis. Fernando became very confused and asked us when we had spoken with Luis. We responded that we had spoken with him on the street the night before. Fernando explained to us that he has a brother named Luis, who lived here... but died more than 30 years ago. He didn't know of any other Luis that we could have been mixing him up with. We taught him a bit about the Plan of Salvation, and we will return there another day. Could it have been his brother sending a message to his family to accept the Gospel? It sure was an interesting experience. 

As an update to Raphaella, who was to be baptized this last week... Unfortunately, the baptism fell through. The 22nd arrived, and she wasn't feeling ready. We made an appointment to meet her at the chapel, and she never went. We called her and she put on some boy who prentended to be her father. We had already gone to her home, and no one was there, so when the boy said that it was her father at home, we knew he was lying to us. We were never able to speak anymore with her after this incident. It was very disappointing to us. She really was ready to be baptized. It is sad to see people so close to following our Savior Jesus Christ, and for one reason or another, Satan puts his grasp on things. Never in my mission have I realized the importance of Jesus Christ in our lives. In these days, many people have many beliefs on God and Jesus Christ. People think that God lets us worship Him in the way that we want, and that all pathways lead to salvation. Sadly, this is a lie that Satan wants everyone to believe. Jesus Christ is the path, and there only exists one path. He suffered and died for us, and only through faithfulness to ALL of the commandments that He gave us, we can be ready to return to the presence of our Heavenly Father. The Church of Jesus Christ exists in these last days. The same organization that Jesus Christ set up in the first days. It is only through His path that we are saved. This I know. How grateful I am to be a representative of Jesus Christ in this part of the world. For all those who have doubts of these things, pray to our Heavenly Father. Ask if this is true. Then, follow this answer and visit the Church that Jesus Christ organized. What a privilege it is to know that these things are true. I know that Jesus Christ lives, and that He is our Savior. I know that He restored His church on the earth through a living prophet. 

I hope you all have a wonderful week. Stay strong, and stay safe! I love you all so much!

Elder Steven Bennett

Monday, May 19, 2014

:) Felicidade‏

Hello to all,

I would like to thank all those who sent me a 'Happy Birthday' this last week. I am so grateful for having such great friends and family near me. I am bumped up to 21 years now. I really do feel old, but that is alright. I have very little time to write so please give me a couple weeks to get a reply email out to everyone. Don't worry, I haven't forgotten about you guys! I love you all so much. My birthday was a very special day. I was a bit sad to leave my last area, for I knew everyone there! I came to an area knowing no one, and passing a birthday with people you don't know is a bit sad. However, I was able to get to know many people in these first few weeks here, and my birthday was quite memorable. I will always remember those that made this day such a special one. A little bit later on in the letter, I will talk about what happened. :)

So this week was a really great one. Our President is really an inspired man. He gave us a challenge this week for each and every area to complete our weekly goal of 210 street contacts. It really isn't that hard of a goal, but lately, the mission has been having troubles doing these street contacts. Talking with people on the streets is one of the simplest ways we show our personal diligence to the Lord. In many aspects, we depend on others... for example, entering homes and teaching, teaching with members present in the lesson, receiving references, etc. However, street contacts only depend on us. It is up to us if we do them or not. This week was "the week that no one lacked 210 contacts". We kept up with our zone each and every day, motivating them to make this goal. We really saw many miracles that happened through this week. As yesterday ended, we were able to successfully complete the end of the week with the goal met in each area of our zone. :) Only 4/11 zones were able to complete this challenge. 

The week passed by very fast, and soon Sunday arrived. :) Saturday night, around 8 PM, Bishop called me and asked me to do a 15 minute talk in Sacrament meeting... what a great birthday present right? I accepted gladly, and I chose to speak on the Atonement. I have a great love and a growing understanding of the Atonement. The last few weeks, I have been studying only the Atonement, and my testimony has grown so much. I have a great love for the Atonement, and the opportunity and potential I have for what Jesus Christ suffered. I did not write a talk-- but simply wrote down a few bullet points. I used five bullet points in my talk. I believe that a talk becomes a little more personal if you aren't reading a paper. Well, the talk went great! I also was the pianist in Sacrament Meeting, so I was running all over the place. I was sure kept busy! It sure was a great meeting. In the middle of Gospel Principles, I had another present.... Julio Cesar, a young man I was teaching, came to visit me. He lives in Meier, and came to see me. He didn't know that it was my birthday, but boy was it a special present. I hadn't had the opportunity to say good-bye to him, so it was a very special moment. After church, we were privileged to have a special Birthday BBQ. We are teaching a less-active family, and after passing a few hours in their home moving some things around, they invited us to a BBQ the next day. Beyond this, they bought an amazing cake! I will send you guys some photos of all this. A little bit later, another family invited us over to sing Happy Birthday to me and their little nephew. :) I was truly blessed with an amazing birthday. Ps. I still didn't receive the package, Mom. Maybe it is in the mission office. 

To end my birthday, we also had quite an experience, but more on the spiritual side of things. We were called to help a less-active lady who was passing some very hard difficulties. I won't go into details about her difficulties, but suffice to say that she has an ex-husband who is doing some very bad things to her, as far as abuse (mental and physical). It was sad to hear her story and what has been going on in her life. Her ex-husband also is into some different spiritual traditions, and we were able to feel this as we entered her home at 8PM last night with a member. It was obvious that something was very wrong in the home. I was weighed down with a very heavy, bad feeling that lingered in the home. She told us that many other pastors and bishops of many churches had already passed to help her, and everyone said she was a lost cause. We had a very great lesson with her, and as we were led by the Spirit in our words, we were able to help her. Through the power of the Priesthood, we left her home with a completely different feeling, and even the lady expressed that she was feeling much better than she has in years. We gave her goals to help her improve her situation. I am grateful for the opportunity to be a worthy Priesthood holder, and in helping someone who was rendered "crazy" to all others that tried. She is much better now, and the member is staying up with her progress. 

Well, that is about it. I must be running. We are here in the chapel having a BBQ with the zone. :) I am so very blessed with an amazing family and friends. I love my mission. I love this Gospel. I know that it is the way of true happiness. Have a wonderful week. I love and miss you all! 

Elder Steven Bennett

Monday, May 12, 2014

Morôni 7:3‏


Well hello there once again! It seems like yesterday that I was talking to you guys!... oh wait, it was yesterday. :) How great it was to talk to you guys again. I feel that it has been a while, but at the same time, it was very fast. I know that time will continue to pass by even  faster until the day we are together again. I am so grateful for my wonderful family... My awesome dad who is such an example to me to work hard and do things with quality. I am grateful for my beautiful mom who never quits in anything. She is so diligent and does things for the love she has for others. I am grateful for Alisha who has shown her example to me by the choices she has made in her own family now. Of course, I am grateful for Wade, who is such an example of someone who respects his family and spouse... someone who also served a mission with honor. Don't forget about baby Kai, who I love so much even though I have never seen him! And last but not least, Lorks. I am so grateful for Lorks and to see her growing and developing into a wonderful and beautiful young lady. I hope she knows how much I love her and how much the Lord wants her to serve a mission. :) While I am at it, I am also very very grateful for my church leaders through the years, my friends, and other relatives who have helped me up until now. I am GRATEFUL for everyone!!! It is for this reason that I put up Moroni 7:3 as the subject, because of the love I have for all of you, and the prayers that go out to you guys from the Cidade Maravilhosa each and every night.
This was a week of much learning. I am grateful for the experiences that I have each and every day. It is these experiences that mold us into the person we want to become. The Lord gives each and every one of us certain circumstances and situations so that we can learn and grow. This week, we faced lots of fatigue and lack of excitment as we faced opposition. It was a bit challenging to keep going, but we kept strong. Things are improving here in Sulacap, but we sure have plenty of work to do in front of us. We are making goals to improve in all aspects, beginning with us. I always will remember some of the words that President Lima spoke to us in our interviews this last Tuesday: "If you want to see a difference in your zone, be the first to change, starting with yourself." It is truly this that needs to happen. We cannot change anything if we don't change ourselves. I am very excited to start this next week with lots of excitement and motivation. I am grateful for the chance to have talked with you guys yesterday. Many missionaries would become trunky talking to the family, but I don't feel that at all. My motivation to work harder has increased through talking with you guys. I have been reminded once again of my purpose here in Rio: Bring happiness to other families that my family already has. I know that through my hard work, I will bless the lives of my own family, and the lives of many others. There is no greater happiness than this-- to know that I have the chance to help others know the true, Resored Gospel of Jesus Christ, and bless my own family back at home. For that, I will stay focused and work hard until my last minute of being a missionary.
I will end with my simple testimony of the truthfulness of this Gospel. I read Elder Randall's (now being Dustin!) last letter as a full-time missionary, and exactly as he said, one of the greatest things I am gaining here on the mission is my own testimony of this Gospel. I really do know that we are part of the true church of our Savior Jesus Christ. There doesn't exist any other church that can bring us closer to Christ than through His own church. I am grateful for the Book of Mormon, and the opportunity to read its sacred pages each and every morning, and to pray to our Heavenly Father, receiving an answer of his truthfulness and divinity. I know that the Holy Ghost works with us in this work. I have grown to know its prompting and counsels. I have grown to know when He is with me and when He is guiding me. I know that there doesn't exist anything better on this earth than the opportunity to live with our families forever. Mom and Dad, for your presentation of my mission, make sure each and every person who is listening knows that the greatest thing you will gain through serving a mission is your own, personal testimony of this church... a testimony that will guide you for the eternities. A mission is difficult, but there is nothing in the world that could give you such an experience, knowledge, and development as a mission gives you. It doesn't matter how someone feels in respect to serving a mission... they need to know that they will NEVER regret for serving.
I have an immense love for you all and this work. Have a marvelous week!
Elder Steven Bennett 

Tuesday, May 6, 2014

Que semana!

Hello hello!

First off, I am writing today because yesterday, we had a Mission Counsel in Andarai, and I didn't have P-day. :) Don't think that I am a bad missionary breaking rules and entering the email when I shouldn't! Wow, what a week this has been. I feel like so much has changed. It was also one of those eternal weeks, if you know what I mean. But before I get explaining, I want to give a shout-out to my buddy Dustin who's ending his mission this week. He is such an example to me. I remember to the very first emails I wrote even when I was at home... and now to this point that he is being released. How time has passed. I love him with all my heart. Now, we will continue the next phase of our lives, still together, living up at Utah State! I am excited to see him again. But, before that happens, I still have plenty of work here in Rio. 

This was quite a week of changes. I arrived in my new area, and as any missionary would say, I was completely lost. I had never stepped foot in this Stake or this part of Rio, so everything was very new to me. I thought that I was very far from my last area, but then realized with a bus ride to Andarai, that I am only 40 minutes from Meier. The first days in a new area are always hard, especially if you loved your other area, ward, and companion. I am missing that area a lot... As I arrived here, I noticed that I will be living in the nicest house yet! It is a cute little house and has been very well-kept. From the testimony of my companion, it sounds like the other missionaries weren't too clean, but he arrived here and cleaned everything up. My companion is Elder Amorim, from Brasilia, Brasil. He is 26-- my oldest companion yet! I already knew him from my second area. We served in the same stake when he arrived on the mission. He is about to hit the one year mark. He is very excited to work and has lots of energy. He arrived in this area two weeks ago, so you can imagine how we are in this area.... we know nothing of this place, and no one of the ward! He got to know a couple of the members, and a few of the streets, but basically we are opening a new area. We will be learning together. It has been a little stressful, and we ended up walking a lot this week, for we didn't know the best routes to arrive on certain streets. As always, I arrived in an area that wasn't very organized as far as the records and Area Book. I know that I already spoke about this at the beginning of my last two areas as well. As this week went on, I did an Area Book "makeover", as I had to do in my last areas. I took the Area Book, cleaned everything, organized the records, etc. Now it is all clean and ready to be used correctly. We also focus a ton in a list of 15 families... 5 to baptize, 5 to complete, and 5 to reactivate. This list didn't exist, and so we had to start from scratch trying to find families to teach. So, as you can see, we have had plenty of work to do to get caught up with the system here in Sulacap. I got to know the ward on Sunday. It is a small ward with about 80 people in attendence. I was put as pianist the second I entered the chapel. It is good to be playing again. I have been missing the piano. I am thinking about buying a keyboard to carry with me to college. Oh, we also had a crazy experience that happened yesterday, but I will wait to tell you guys at home. It will grow the suspense, and keep you from worrying about me. :) 

Well thats about that. I am very happy to be here in Sulacap, but I have been missing Meier a lot. There doesn't exist a ward exactly like Meier. The work was so strong in that ward, and I could really connect with the members. This has been something hard to get over, leaving that area. However, as I entered my email today, I received a simple email from Mom, citing Doctrine and Covenants 100:3-8, 12. What power held this scripture as I read! I was immediately comforted that I am supposed to be here. The Lord has a purpose for me in this area. I will work with all my force to find the reason he put me here.

I have been here in the chapel all day. Since 8 AM, we had interviews with President Lima. He is so great. He gave us some messages and then left us with a training with the Assistants as he took each Elder to interview. I love talking with President one on one. You can truly feel the power that he has in his words. He is truly an authorized servant of the Lord. I believe that I received my answer as I studied the scriptures, prayed, and talked to President. I will stay here until the end. I will use each day that the Lord gave me, and what happens with college will happen. :) I have a strong testimony of this work. I am grateful for the privilege to be here in Rio. I know that there exists nothing in the world more important for me than to be here on the mission. I know that the church is true. I am grateful for such great friends and examples that helped me build my faith to get me here on the mission. I hope that I can continue to help others serve missions as well. I love you all so much, and hope all is going fantastic. I am grateful for the Atonement of our Savior Jesus Christ that gives each and everyone one of us the opportunity to be cleansed of our sins. Stay strong, and do what's right. You will never be led astray. :)
Com amor e fé,
Elder Steven Bennett