This email will be kept relatively short since I don't have much time to write today and I want to catch up on replying to everyone's personal emails.
Things are still going quite well here in upstate New York. I still love the gospel of Jesus Christ with every fiber of my being and the capacities it has to bring families such as our own together. I don't know what or where i'd be without it.
This week was mostly spent traveling. I spent Tuesday on an exchange in Troy, NY with Elder Freeman from Lehi, UT. Troy is a very small and very old village very close to Albany. The entire city is obsessed with Uncle Sam, since he spent most of his life in Troy. There are little statues of Uncle Sam on every street corner, where he is dressed in different costumes, such as captain america and as a pirate.
Thursday night I spent the night in the Mission Home with Elder Menlove. We had a special Trainer/Trainee meeting in Utica all day Friday where we followed up on how the first transfer of the mission has been. We were trained by President Joseph B. Wirthin, jr., Sister Wirthlin, the Assistants and Senior couple missionaries. It was a great day, as dad would say.
I love you all and wish you a happy week. I'll let you know if I got my visa this transfer next week! I love you all!
Don't you like how I title my emails with something written in my assigned mission language, like what Josh does, so that the only way you can decode is by using google translate?
I give you my sincerest apology for not sending you an email yesterday, Preparation Day. If you guessed that it wasn't sent yesterday because it was Veteran's Day and the Albany Public Library was closed, you were 100% correct.
For those of you wondering, there hasn't been any snowfall here in Albany lately, but I'm 85% sure that the blustering winds of winter are soon to come. All we need is a little precipitation. Just walking here, these winds blowing on my cheeks felt as if Jack Frost was biting my face, not just nipping at my nose.
Jeff Ramos gave me permission to pet one of his dove. I named it Teancum.
This week has been by far the busiest I've had in the mission. The lord has blessed Elder Menlove and I with plenty of individuals to teach about the gospel of Jesus Christ. I have had some very spiritual experiences and several experiences where I've had to self-reflect on how I can become a better representative of our Savior.
This past week I went on my first exchange with Elder Gleue (Gloy-yay), a Zone Leader, here in downtown Albany. He and I are good pals. Since I had recently watched the Mormon Message for Brandon Flowers, and since I was excited to work with him, I sang the song "Enterlude" by the Killers to him since I deemed it was appropriate. We worked great together and taught quite a few lessons that day to some of our recent converts and less active members. I taught him a few Portuguese phrases in addition.
My eyes aren't bigger than my stomach anymore! Elder Mernlove and I ate at a small Italian Pizzeria between a couple lessons on Wednesday and the owner, who looks like the Italian chef from Lady and the Tramp, cooked up for me a giant calzone about the size of my head. I ate it all. Then I thought of all those times when Jacob and Dad tormented me for being skinny. I may come home chubby.
We had the chance to teach our investigators Justin and Christian and Maritza and their family. We taught Justin about baptism and invited him to be baptized. He agreed, but was hesitant about setting a date. He told us that he would give it some thought about when he wants to set that up. We are excited for him. Elder Gleue and I taught Christian and Maritza, our Peruvian invetigators on Friday about Tithes and Offerings. It went really really well. They committed to pay tithing after baptism. They are the sweetest people and they have to young children who are hilarious. The boy has a bull-cut, kind of like Jacob's when he was a toddler.
The other day Elder Menlove rolled his ankle playing basketball, and now it's the size of a softball. I don't know what it is, but my companions always seem to get injured. I promise I don't hurt them. Luckily President Wirthlin is sending us a car so his ankle doesn't inhibit our ability to work.
On Saturday night after teaching a recent convert family, we experienced a miracle at the bus stop going back to the apartment. We struck up a conversation with a man named Ceequan about life, just a normal conversation. He looks like Michael Vick. He was wearing a hat backwards with a buddha on it. Eventually, he asked us who we where and what we do. He asked us what made our church any different from other christian churches, so we went into living prophets, the priesthood, etc. He was extremely interested and told us that he studies all kinds of religions, but never heard of ours. Getting on the bus, he sat next to us and wanted to know more. We basically taught him briefly the entire restoration through Joseph Smith on the bus ride. I gave pulled out a Livro de Mormon I kept in my sachel with my testimony written inside and gave it to him. I told him that he can know for himself if the things we teach him are true by reading it. He gave us his number and we are meeting with him this week.
At meal with my good friend Jenaro who has taught me quite a bit of Espanol these past weeks.
Incredible things are happening here. Even though the work is very difficult here, we somehow have enough people to teach to keep us occupied. The lord shows us where to harvest his souls. I love it here.
I might be informed this week whether or not I got my visa, since the transfer is ending in 2 weeks. I would love to get it to begin really working on my Portuguese, but I love it here, and I would understand if the lord doesn't give it to me quite yet. He has a need for me here. Everything is on his time, it is just my job to accept his will.
Brother Fredette of the Albany Stake presidency spoke in our branch on Sunday. This is Jimmer Fredette's father. He is an INCREDIBLE speaker. He talked about his conversion story and taught about the importance of being spiritually nourished as much as being temporally nourished. The way he spoke just made sense. I spoke to him briefly afterwards and told him that my friends, family and I were the only poeple in the Rose Garden to cheer for his son. He chuckled.
In Alma 32 it is perfectly explained how this spiritual nourishment can develop our faith. As we continue to feed our faith with scripture study, prayer, and church attendance, our faith can become a blossoming tree that produces a sweet fruit that others can enjoy. I know this is true. As we do these things, I promise that we can increase our faith in the gospel.
Before I go on, I better give you my address before I forget for the third time.
P.O. Box 149
Whitesboro, NY 13492
There. Now feel free to send me a little something that will make my day.
I can't believe I am already in week 4 of New York! The weeks just keep flyin' by. I ate lots of Buffalo wings and pizza this week and have been working on my New Yoka accent.
The winds of winter have approached this area. The huge population of squirells is scurrying. Today it was 21 degrees outside. It is CHILLY, and I'm not talking about the grub or the country. The sun is out, but it is deceiving. Sometimes I feel tempted to go about my day in just a long sleeve shirt, but then I find myself looking like Mr. Snow from "The Year Without a Santa Clause". But don't worry about me. I haven't been ill once while I've been here. In fact, I've never felt so healthy.
On Tuesday I had my very first Zone Conference. Elder Bruce D. Porter of the Seventy addressed us for about an hour about the Savior's atonement and grace. It was definitely a talk from a general authority. It was incredible. Some of my favorite talks are about the atonement and it's immense healing capabilities. I was able to have a good little chat with him afterwards.
A couple days ago we attended the baptism of a young chap whom the zone leaders taught. Baptisms are the best. President Wirthlin was there! He gave me a gentle shoulder squeeze and made sure I was keeping up with the Portuguese. I did not let him down.
This past week was a tough one. We weren't able to teach any of our investigators, so we attempted some potential investigators and less active members. We taught a lady named Elaina Arluck who is contemplating leaving the church. She has a tough time getting out of the house. We experienced a miracle with her. She started explaining why she doesn't want to come back to church, and ended the meeting by saying she did want to come back. We showed her the talk by Uchtdorf about Doubting your doubts. We are meeting with her again tonight, and I cannot wait.
Justin has been talking to his mother about joining the church. We heard this from some of his friends in the Branch. She is not very supportive, but he is an adult. We are just excited that he is wanting to accept the gospel.
The work here in Albany has been quite tough, but most of the members in our branch are recent converts, so they love to share the gospel with their friends, it is incredible. Since the branch is so new, the members are still learning a lot about how the church is ran. It can be really funny at times. Many members who come from a baptist backgrounds repeat prayers and shout "Amen!" These members are so loving though and are following the prophet by helping with the work of salvation.
The mission has stretched me in many ways. I have been well humbled by it. Even though there is much discouragement, the miracles and spiritual experiences are what make it well worth it. Family, help the missionaries. Give them people to teach, people who may be struggling with challenges in their lives or who you feel are prepared to feel the incredible amount of joy we feel from the gospel. It is very hard to find people to teach, most of our success comes through the members. This is why the prophet is asking members and missionaries to work together. We are one. We can all feel the incredible blessings from missionary work.
It's good to email you all for the second time on this cold day here on the Eastern front. I am still safe and healthy. My New Yorker accent has improved so far. Maybe someday I will develop a New Yorker/Brazilian accent. That would be radical.
In Doctrine and Covenants 84:114 it says that if the City of Albany New York does not cry unto repentance, they are doomed. It is my vital role to help these people do so. I will not fail.
This week most of our investigators cancelled on us, so we taught a lot of less active recent converts, and invited them to come back to church. Most of them said they would, which is very exciting. If they don't, I'll just have to read to them D&C 84:114 ;)
Our Branch's old chapel. We just got a brand new one.
We managed to sneak in one lesson with our investigator, Justin. He had many questions about the Word of Wisdom and our stance on Tattoos, since he likes to drink coffee and he wants to get a tattoo. Our plan was to talk about the Plan of Salvation with him, but the subject completely changed to the Word of Wisdom. He understands why we have the Word of Wisdom, so he's going to try to quit Coffee. Justin is golden. He absolutely LOVES going to church. We played basketball with him today. Just pray that he changes his mind about getting a tattoo.
A couple days ago Elder Menlove was giving himself a haircut while I was studying. Noticing that my hair was getting long as well and quite thick, I asked to use his thinning scissors to thin my hair. That was a bad idea. I ended up nearly shaving a bald spot atop my skull. After laughing at me, my companion basically shaved my head to a buzz cut to match the damage I'd already done. So now, after vowing to never get a buzz cut in my life, I sit at this desk looking like Natalie Portman from V for Vendetta. I haven't any pictures, so I'll just let you imagine what it looks like until next week.
Missionaries aren't allowed to proselyte on Halloween night, so after 5pm, our plans are to hang out at a members house to play Settlers of Catan. Just in case you wanted to know. We can't even pass out mormon.org cards to the children. Bummer.
One of my favorite things about being a missionary is studying in the morning. You have an hour in the morning to study things in the scriptures or in the missionary reference library, looking for things that can help you with your teaching or for investigators. Since I've been in New England I've been studying the New Testament. It has been an incredible experience for me to study closely the life of the savior and his attributes. I don't know why I haven't studied the New Testament before. I invite you all to study more about Jesus Christ, the head of our church. Try to develop his attributes. Become converted to him and his gospel. In Alma 23:5-6 it says that as long as Nephites were converted to the lord, they never fell away. You all can be the same.
Eu sei que nos temos a plentitude do evangelho e eu sou muito grato para este. Eu sei que A Igreja de Jesus Cristo dos Santos dos Ultimos Dias e A verdadeira igreja de Jesus Cristo. Ele e nossos Salvador e se nos tentamos tornar-se como ele, nos podemos sentir paz e alegria eterna.
Eu amo voces MUITO! Have a wonderful week an a Feliz Dia das Bruxas (Day of the Witches ;)
First of all I'd like to thank everyone for the plethora of emails this week. It feels so good to be reminded that I have a family and friends that support me, especially at times when I feel I am alone like Moroni was at the end of the Book of Mormon. You all rock.
After saying goodbye to all the awesome friends I've made in the MTC, I began my journey to Syracuse, NY. I was the only one going to NY, I guess they didn't schedule me on the flight to Syracuse the day after, when the other MTC missionaries were travelling there. Needless to say, that was a good missionary opportunity for me. I had a good intelligent conversation with a man on the plane about religion. Who knows what he did with the Mormon.org card I gave him, but he was very friendly.
Flying into Syracuse I was amazed at how colorful the trees were. It's easy to tell here that it's autumn. It smells like maple and looks like a giant pumpkin patch. I spend the first night in the mission home with two other sisters. President Wirthlin and I interviewed for a couple hours and he fed me a mean burger. He is probably the coolest Apostle's son I've ever met.
Currently I am in the concrete jungle where dreams are made of. Not the City, in the Capital. My sphere of proselyting space is Downtown Albany NY. My companion's name is Elder Menlove. He is from Chandler, AZ and is 3 years older than me. This is his last transfer before he goes home. Even though he has so little time left, he is very obedient. I am surprised. He's a really good guy and we get along well.
The city of Albany is very old looking. The buildings and houses all look like George Washington once lived in them. There are many poor areas (ghettos) and plenty of college student who attend the local university. We don't do very much tracting here, but we do a lot of street contacting.
We are teaching 5 investigators right now. Christian and Maritza are married with two children. They are both from Peru but are here for school, where Christian learned English. I tried speaking Portuguese to them, but they don't understand, so Christian translates to Maritza for us. They both have a set baptismal date and are coming to church regularly and reading the Book of Mormon. Jeff is a recent convert from Santiago, Dominican Republic (Garth), but he is active in our Branch. He is the coolest because he understands Portuguese, but my favorite thing about him is that he has two turtle doves in a cage. He won't let me pet them yet. Nate, another investigator, is struggling with his life right now because of poor choices he's made in his past, but we've taught him that we've seen incredible changes in people through the atonement. I showed him a "I am a Mormon" video of someone who I felt related to him. He was amazed. He said it was just what he needed, and wondered if I memorized things like that to pull out for investigators in the MTC. I said no. I gave myself a pat on the back for following the Holy Ghost in that lesson. He is starting to come to church. We met a young adult named Justin just this week who wanted to start seeing us, because we played basketball with him. He is dating a girl in our Branch and she wants him to get baptized. We taught him about how to pray and the full restoration story. I gave him a Book of Mormon and bore my testimony of it. He said he felt good about the lesson, and that he would like to learn more about the pre-earth life, which is exactly what the second lesson is. He came to church, loved it, and is reading the Book of Mormon. God has prepared him to recieve the restored gospel! It's incredible to be a missionary. I cannot describe what it's like... just absolutely incredible.
We had a Baptism on Saturday! Her name is Amani Edwards. She is a student from Atlanta. The missionaries met her at a bus stop, and later began teaching her. She has a strong testimony, you can really see how the gospel has changed her life.
We are serving in a branch that is growing SO fast. So fast that a chapel was built here just 3 months ago. It still looks and smells brand new, and you don't have to turn the lights on when you walk in a room. They installed the clapper. I'll send you a picture of the old meetinghouse.
I'm not quite sure when my visa will get here. It could be here anywhere from 6 weeks to 6 months, since we can't leave in the middle of a transfer. My first transfer just began today, so I will if I got my visa in 5 weeks. There are a couple visa waiters who have been here for 5 months! Yet they still keep such a positive attitude. Don't worry, I am still studying a lot of Portuguese! I get an hour every day to read O Livro de Mormon aloud and do some other excercises. President Withlin is so good to me. :)
I have no time left, but I love you all and I will write more next week. Please don't be offended if I haven't responded personally to your letters or emails yet. I will in due time. I have a lot less time here, it can be stressful. I will write you all hand written letters in due time. Just give me your addresses if you know I don't know them. I know this gospel is true! Missionary work is the work of the lord! I feel him at my side every day!
P.S. I'm still really skinny.
P.S.S. Pictures don't work on this computer so I'll try to send some next week!