Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Monday, March 19, 2012

   So I traveled to my new area with my new companion Elder Mimary. It was a pretty expensive bus ride because it was so far, about 35-40 reais, but it all gets reimbursed by the mission so it's all good. The bus ride is about 2 1/2 hours from Rio. The city I’m in, Cabo Frio, is amazing! All the surrounding land looks exactly like Concord, so I feel right at home here. The only difference is we are also right next to the ocean. Our area is gigantic! In just our area alone, we have nine cities!!!! We have over 1000 people baptized in our area, but only a frequency of about 100. The problem is everyone is so spread out. With time, we will start branches in all the other cities and eventually have a stake here. It's great because there is plenty of room for growth and establishing the church here.
   Speaking of which, the ward has a chapel in the works! For years they have been meeting in a house that the church modified to serve as a chapel, but they finally got authorization to construct a chapel. The chapel is already almost done, and it's beautiful. Our first meeting in it will be at the end of this transfer, around the 24th.
  When we come back and visit the mission we have to come here. Every single missionary I talked to told me I was the luckiest missionary on the mission because Cabo Frio is the prettiest spot in the mission. Many say it's prettier than CopaCabana Beach. I've never been there yet so I don't know, but it definitely looks like it. I'm trying to take lots of pictures for you guys to see, but pictures don't really do it justice. The members here are almost all converts, so they have this fire for the work like I’ve never seen. Everyone wants to give us references and a lot of the references we receive here are baptized. The work goes on here :) One thing good about our area is its crazy windy here, and it cools it down a lot.
Anyways, the other companionship in our district is two sisters who are terminating their mission this transfer. They were switched into our area and ward boundaries to try and get as many people as we can baptized and reactivated for the new chapel. The new chapel is huge and will one day be the new Stake Center of the area, I'm sure of it.
   Now I’ll talk about how the work is going. Elder Mimary baptized almost weekly last transfer. Almost every Sunday they had at least one Baptism. We didn't have a baptism this last Sunday but Elder Mimary is a very hard worker, and follows the rules very closely just like Elder Baltazar, more in some areas. I have high hopes for this area.
   Now, our house. It's amazing! More than 1000% better than the other house in Galeão. It was originally for 6 missionaries, 3 companionships that worked in our area, but now it's just me and Elder Mimary. We have 4 bathrooms and 2 showers! It makes living a whole lot easier, but cleaning a little longer lol. But it's all good. I'll take a lot of pictures of the new house as well.
   So far the mission has been a refiner's fire for me. There have been many times where i've been tried with blisters or other things, where I could have just stayed home and made excuses not to work, but I went out instead and just pushed through it. The mission is really like no other experience I’ve had in my life, and I’m so grateful to be out here.
    Yeah that's the goal of the mission right now, to qualify for a Temple here in Rio. We are crossing our fingers that this next General Conference they will announce one! But we have yet to see. When Elder Bednar was here talking to us a missionary asked him about the temple situation. Elder Bednar is the man to answer because he heads the temple committee with another member of the 12. He said that many factors are taken into account when looking at where to place temples, but ultimately, it is wherever the Lord inspires Thomas S. Monson to put them. If he does not receive revelation to put a temple here than we won’t get one J so everyone is praying for one. Unfortunately the closest temples to us are about 6 hours away, and for the members is a weekend trip. I don't think missionaries can do weekend trips, the work would be impeded too much, so we just have to put our heads down and work until we get one of our own.
   Haha, you wanna know something funny? Only one scene from Fast Five was actually filmed in Rio. The rest were like Mexico and other countries. The scenes that were filmed there were the scenes with the favelas ;)
Well, I love you all and I hope you have another great week!
Elder Baldwin

Monday, March 12, 2012

Alright, you all probably want an explanation why this is coming so late. Here goes.
   I was transferred! A little unexpected, but not too much. The thing is this transfer isn't a normal one, otherwise I would have written you normally. My companion, Elder Baltazar, was called to train again. He has already trained once on the mission so it was a little surprising when he got the call. In general now they try and have everyone train once, but I guess if you were good they have you train again. So he will stay in my old area with his new comp and I am going to a place called Cabo Frio. Even though it has Frio in the name (which means cold) I have heard that it's pretty hot there as well. It is in the zone Macaé, and my new companion is also a distict leader, Elder Mimary. I haven't met him yet I’ll meet him tomorrow. So why was I late? Elder Baltazar has training for trainers and so he had to come today and I as his companion have to go as well. I don't do the training but I have to stay in the area. So I went with him at nine this morning and am just now getting a chance to write you guys.
   That's so cool Lara was able to go through! She was saying she wants to do a temple session with me when I get back. It will be awesome that we will be able to do that now.
   Oh and we didn't start a branch, we started what's called a group. Because a branch is like a ward but small, with a branch president presiding over the branch. A group uses the same bishop from the ward, it's just another meeting you can have later in the day. It's cool because you can join the two frequencies of each, and if their frequency is high enough for long enough they can construct their own chapel closer to the boundaries of the ward.
     This last week was devoid of many spiritual experiences. Our baptism fell through because she wants to know more about why baptism is necessary and stuff. I suspect that there is another motive that the baptism fell but I’m not sure.
   Rio does not have a temple yet. For the longest time it was the worse mission in all of Brazil and the butt of everyone’s jokes, but the past few mission presidents have turned it around to where now it's pretty successful. We are hoping to get a temple soon but probably not in my time here as a missionary. So, we do not get to go to the temple. I sorely miss it.
   Alright, I love you lots guys! I'll write all about Cabo Frio next week and my new investigators. Lots of Love! Elder Baldwin

Monday, March 5, 2012

   We unfortunately did not have a baptism this Sunday. Everything was all set for the baptism, and we had the interview Saturday night.... and she didn't pass due to some difficulties that we weren't aware of. However, we are teaching her more in relation to these difficulties and we hope to baptize her on the 11th, but the mission president will decide on that. We also have other investigators who we are trying to baptize this Sunday but I don't wanna give a 100% affirmative that we will have one. Just continue praying for the success of missionaries and I'll receive a little of the blessing of that Prayer :)
   Transfers are already next week! I can't believe it, this transfer flew by. I'm hoping to stay for another transfer with Elder Baltazar so he can teach me more in relation to missionary work and as well with the group we are starting in our area it will help so much with reactivation and baptizing. I don't know if I explained already or if you know what a group is, but when you have a lot of people baptized and not in the area of the chapel you can start a group in a member’s house in the area. It's a little different from a branch, because a branch has a separate presidency and do not count with the ward. In the case with a group, the attendance with the group will be counted towards the ward attendance. If we can have a ward attendance of more than 100 people (because right now it is hovering around 70) for more than 6 months we can build our own chapel in our own area of the work, and it will be a huge blessing to the people in Galeão. So for the group you need at least 5 people there, and some of the leadership of the ward like a member of the bishopric and those kinds of things. It will start out just being a sacrament meeting, but if it is successful we will add on other meetings as well. Also, if the group gets big enough, it can become a branch and we can have 3 wards here in Ilha do Governador. Eventually, we want a Stake of Ilha do Governador :). So the work continues and your prayers are working, thank you so much for everything!
      I am able to express myself freely in the language at this point, and understand everyone. But I still have some troubles with certain words and certain phraseology of how you translate from English to Portuguese, but it's coming :) All of the Brazilians I work with tell me my Portuguese is very good for an American, and one Elder I live with says that he thinks I will be speaking without even a hint of an accent by my one year mark. Even the mission Presidents daughter complimented me on it!
   But in terms of my favorite lesson to teach, I would have to say... I can't decide lol. Honestly all of them are essential to tie in all concepts and help the investigator really understand the importance of everything we teach. But if I had to choose it would be the commandments, lesson four in Preach My Gospel. Many people have issues with the commandments and following them at first. I love teaching them in a way that they answer their doubts for themselves. I love asking, "Why do you think God has given us this commandment?" Because it really makes them have to think, why in the world would God say something like this? And it helps them realize the importance of keeping the commandment. Usually, when people realize the importance of something like reading the scriptures or praying daily, that is when they truly repent and try to do everything right. But honestly, every single lesson is essential in helping people come unto Christ, and I love teaching every single one, because in every single one you can help people realize the importance of our doctrine, and the importance of our message for the world.
   Ah geez.... honestly I can't believe it's already a quarter done. I feel like I haven't done anything! The other day I had the experience Nic told me I would have... The feeling like the mission is passing too fast. Yep, it happened. I realized that I was reading the Book of Mormon incredibly slowly, and not even studying Preach My gospel every day. So I re-committed myself to reading only the Book of Mormon for this first year (cuz Dad gave me that challenge) and to studying PMG every day. Because I realized with PMG, it's a manual for missionaries mostly. Many things written in it have a lot of value for members and leaders in whatever calling in the church, but I only have 2 years where 100% of everything in that book was written for me. Never again will I have the opportunity to really study and apply all of the principles that book teaches. So I set a goal for myself, that by the end of the mission I would not only have read PMG many times, but study every scripture it has in there in the study section, and also do all of the personal and companion activities it has within. I want to get out of that book everything I can while here on the mission.
   Thank you so much everyone for the emails. Know that it is Summer here and very hot, though Sunday morning the dry spell was finally broken and it rained a bit! All the Brasilians said the weather is really weird right now. Normally in March it doesn't stop raining, but Sunday morning was the first rain in like 3 weeks! Also, after yesterday the clouds disappeared again, so I don't know when the next rain will be. Ah well.
   My next transfer day is next week (Already!!!) but we don't get packages those days, we get them in interviews with the president and training for leaders. I don't know when the next one will be yet. But thankyou for everything and all your prayers.
Love you guys lots!
Elder Baldwin

Monday, February 26, 2012

This week we had a baptism!!!! It was very special for me; I found her on the street, contacted her, taught her with Elder Baltazar, and I was the one who baptized her :) She cried during the ordinance. I am very happy because I honestly think that she will not only be a baptism but a firm member in the church. There was a huge problem in Rio the past few years. With the old president of the mission, Rio became #1 in baptisms per month in all of Brazil. This was amazing because it was last, #27 before him. The only problem was retention of these members was only about 40%, and Rio was #27 in retention. Now with president Lima our retention is #8 in all of Brazil, so things are getting way better. Anyways, I think she will stay with the church because she has a firm testimony in what we taught. We were supposed to have 2 baptisms but the other man who was supposed to be baptized fell through. Ah well. We should be having another baptism this coming week already, but we will see. I'll let you guys know next week :)
   Oh, our hours switched again so we jumped back an hour. The difference between us should only be 5 hours now.
   I haven't felt it too strong, that this is where I'm supposed to be, but I have had experiences in my life and other things like that that I was able to share with people and help them strengthen their testimonies. Like this one recent convert who was having testimony problems the other day. I was able to relate an experience I had which helped her out. But so far, nothing extremely powerful, other than I am a missionary and Preaching the Gospel is my job, no matter where in the world I happen to be.
   So our numbers in terms of lessons and contacts weren't too good this week. We were busy trying to firm up two baptisms and one fell through. But we had about 15 lessons this week and 7 new investigators which is pretty terrible. Normally with every investigator we teach we mark baptismal dates in the first meeting. Firmly we are teaching about 4 people, but every day we find new ones and get rid of old ones who don't want the lessons anymore or who aren't progressing. Well, I'm on my last minute and I want to send this one off. I love you all, and thank you for the scripture dad I will study 2nd Nephi 9 today.
Elder Baldwin

Monday, February 13, 2012

Alright, where to start? Lol. I guess I'll start with the work.
   I can't remember if I described my companion too much last letter. His name is Elder Baltazar and is from Belém. He was converted about two years ago, and has been on the mission a year. Doing math yet? That means he arrived on the mission after just a little over a year of being a member. His testimony is very very strong, and he knows how to teach very well. He even had the opportunity to baptize his Mom when she converted.
   In terms of investigators and such now: Do you remember the woman I talked about last week, Maria? She absolutely loved the Plan of Salvation and we have visited her and a friend of hers named Raymundo frequently this past week. She has given up coffee and has received almost all of the lessons. They were both in church yesterday! It was so exciting to actually have people come to church. Also, they both seem pretty firm on their baptisms. We are preparing them both to be baptized next Sunday, and Elder Baltazar is forcing me to perform the baptismal service with at least one of them lol. He said my trainer should have done that with my first baptism, but because he did not Elder Baltazar is making me do it now :) Pray for me not to forget the words in Portuguese lol.
   Other people we are teaching include a couple of other investigators, an old couple and the daughter of an inactive member who wants to come back. But in terms of investigators, we go through investigators really fast. We do not want to waste much time teaching people for months at a time, because here there are people who will accept and be baptized within two weeks. Literally, we are searching for the Elect. So if people do not show much interest or do not progress with reading and praying, we move on to find the people who actually want our message. It seems a little harsh I know, but Brazil is full of people ready to be baptized, already prepared to receive an answer from God about the Book of Mormon. It's really cool to find someone and watch them become firm, active members of the church in just a few weeks.
   Anyways, so I am doing PRP every day still, and I am reading in Alma 47 I think. Thanks for that on testimonies, I'll probably use that in a talk or message with a family.
 A rule on the mission is that you can only use your email to write family. Not even other missionaries, and Elder Baltazar is pretty strict on the rules, and I want to be.
   Thanks Mom a bunch for the package. It will be a blessing. Oh, and about Carnaval. The rumors I heard about missionaries being locked up and stuff are just rumors. Some areas of the mission don't even change at all. They work as normal. My area is in the city, and a little more hectic, especially because we are working Vila Juaniza, a favela. Carnaval is popular here because of the Schools of Samba, these woman who dance around in those outfits with the giant head dresses. The only problem is, in areas like ours not everyone wears those outfits. They just wear paint, and the headdresses. That's it. But they usually do not perform until the night time, so what will happen is we will probably leave our house early, like 9 or so, and work until 4 in the afternoon in Vila Juaniza. We will work in a different part of our area, that's not a favela until about 6 or 7. Then we will go back home and study until 9. We still have lunch and can buy stuff and everything normally. But it is pretty funny, the church always schedules EFY here to be exactly the days of Carnaval for the Youth. It's pretty funny. The members too travel a lot, so maybe we will not have too many people here in church for our baptisms, but we will baptize anyways. Carnaval is Saturday to Wednesday.
   Anyways, I should probably go and write other people now. I love you a lot, and thanky ou for your prayers. Until next week.
Lots of Love,
Elder Baldwin

Monday, February 6, 2012

   Well I'll start off by telling about my new companion, Elder Baltazar. Remember how you were telling me to pray and fast for a good first companion for like ever to train me good for the rest of the mission? Well I'm pretty sure it was meant to be Elder Baltazar, and God switched up somewhere ;) lol. He is a very very hard working missionary, who knows the lessons very good and how to teach them. As well, he knows what questions to ask people to determine if they need the first, second, or third lessons first and he is teaching me how to recognize and do it too. One thing the mission asks us to do is to make 10 contacts a day per person, as well as teach 20 lessons per week (per companionship). With elder Ferreira we didn't come close to either goal. With Elder Baltazar, we very nearly came close to both goals in just 5 days. Sleeping is not a problem because I am dead tired at the end of everyday…he is working me so hard. 
   Also, we are focused really hard on finding new investigators. We were able to teach and visit old investigators, and at the same time find 14 new investigators (meaning we taught them) in just 5 days, while at the same time looking for a place to live in our area so as to not pay money every day to go to our area. With Elder Ferreira, the maximum number of new investigators we got in a week was 8, and that was with us trying for new investigators, and we normally only found like 2 or 3 in a week. This is really bad for an area like ours which is teeming with people to teach. But do you see the trend? In other words, I am very very happy with Elder Baltazar. He is also very very into keeping the rules. Turns out, Elder Ferreira did not follow many of them, and even told me a couple of wrong rules.
   But anyways, all is good here and we are working very hard now to try and get baptisms this transfer. The mission is lacking 50 missionaries, so many areas are closed and if an area does not have many baptisms President will close the area. Our last baptism was in November, so maybe this transfer is the last if we don't get one. But we are working with the ward to start what's called a group in portuguese, I think it is called a District in English for the ward. It's basically a sacrament meeting held later in the day at a members house closer to Vila Juaniza. The people who show up there will be counted for attendance for the ward so it is really good to have, especially because Vila Juaniza has 48 people baptized with only about 10 active. This will also help with baptisms because our investigators can go there for church and it's alot easier and later in the day, so they can go and then be baptized the next week. This District will start in March, so until then we have to have a van picking people up in Vila Juaniza to go to church.
   In terms of investigators, I was making contacts on the street when I contacted a group of elderly ladies on the street. One lady said we could return and teach her. Yesterday we returned to teach her. We found out her husband had died of cancer, and many people were telling her that in heaven no one remembers life here on Earth. This is a popular belief here. We taught her the Plan of Salvation and that she can be with her husband again for eternity. She immediately accepted to be baptized on the 19th!! As well, like I said we found 14 new people. Some are aren’t as interested, but if we keep finding and finding we will be able to find the people like this lady, whose name is Maria. 
   In other news, the other elders are Elder L. Almeida, and he is training an American Elder named Elder Stanley, whose Portuguese is horrible! Lol. Either that or mine has really come along. But he said he was so scared to be in a situation without someone to understand him. The only problem is he is now speaking with me in English ALOT! lol. I think this week I'm gonna start speaking only in Portuguese with him.
   Other than that all is good. I'm glad to hear everything went well this week. I hope you all have another good week! :)
Love, Elder Baldwin