Monday, May 26, 2014

Bia's Miracle

Schools out for summer, eh? Congratulations Michael- graduation this week! YOU ARE A ROCKSTAR- I knew you would do it! Conner, when is nationals? To all of you teachers and students- just go hard and finish strong. You´ve got this!
This week was great. We had 2 baptisms: Bia and Italo. Bia is a teenager - the last in a family that was baptized a month ago. Hahaha even the rebellious come around eventually. She is just the cutest girl. Love her. See below to hear about her miracle story. Italo is a 12-year-old boy who decided immediately after visiting last Sunday that he wanted to be baptized and the best news is that his mom is hopefully going to be baptized this week too! Families!
With my new calling, I got to go on splits this week (actually I go on splits every week, but this week was AWESOME! I went out with my daughter! Aka, my ex-companion that I trained- Sister Bassi. She is so great! I LOVED working with her again; it is so funny to me that she is with my most recent companion working in my area now. I am kind of thinking Bassi and I worked a lot together before this world began, if you know what I mean. Ah.... soul sisters. Haha I feel that way about all of my companions- love every single one of them to death! The trick is teaching them to deal with ME! Haha :D
So this 40-day fast I am doing is changing my mission. I am feeling the spirit much more strongly than I have in a long time- its like a part of my greenie fire is coming back. Testifying brings tears these days and I feel every word I am saying to these people. Accompanied with that desire is a really proud love for each of my investigators. Its SO cool. Speaking of the 40-day-fast... I guess its a talk or story related by Elder Gene R. Cook called purification or sanctification. Try googling it on the internet and it should bring up this 40-day-challenge. You are invited to try it with me. And, speaking of the challenge, I wanted to share a few quotes I read this morning about sacrifice. The first 2 are by Neal A. Maxwell.
“Real, personal sacrifice never was placing an animal on the altar. Instead, it is a willingness to put the animal in us on the altar and letting it be consumed!”
“The submission of one´s will is placing on God’s altar the only uniquely personal thing one has to place there. The many other things we ``give`` are actually the things He has already given or loaned to us.”
“sacrifice is the key. The Lord will not deal with you on any other basis. It is the key to controlling the powers of Heaven.” - Hartman Rector Jr. 
Then, 2 quotes from the talk itself, ``there is no limit to what you can do if you and the Lord believe that you can. If you look to Him for your strength and are willing to make the sacrifice, all things are possible.”
``You will find that as your spirituality increases, you will be literally impelled to overcome your ´failings.´”

Loved the message. Give it a shot. You will be amazed at the miracles Heavenly Father will work in your life.
And.... how does this week look? Well, tomorrow we have a mission tour again. YES. ONE. OF. THE. BEST. THINGS. THAT. HAPPEN. HERE. I will let you know how it goes. And...more splits. Should be good. I love going back to Guarabira to work with the sisters there. Tomorrow makes 14 months. Geeesh. Getting old, aren't I?
Ok. I promised to write about Bia´s miracle. So, Bia initially had no desire whatsoever to be baptized. So, we watched the restoration with her. I was a little worried when the audio stopped working and she was hardly paying attention while doing her sisters hair. But, we stuck with our plans and I began to read the subtitles to her- which allowed for discussion as the movie continued to play. I believe it turned out better that way, to be honest. Then at the end, we asked her if she believed it, that Joseph Smith was a true prophet of God. She said yes. We then asked her if she knew that this meant that this is the only true church. Again, she said yes. We asked her then what it is exactly that makes her not want to be baptized... she kept quiet for a long time. She had talked earlier about being tired of getting baptized because she´d already been twice before in different churches. (This was the reason for hitting hard on the first lesson). After a long silence I said, ``Its because you haven't prayed yet, isn't it...`` She nodded and we invited her to pray with us that minute to close up the lesson. She refused to pray for about 6 or 7 minutes. We talked to her, testifying of how much her father in heaven wants to hear her and finally, she agreed to pray using a ``missionary speak, investigator repeat pattern``. When it came time for her to thank and ask for blessings, she did so alone, but she didn't ask for an answer... So, I told her in the prayed to ask if Joseph Smith was a prophet. She kept quiet for a long time. I changed the question, telling her to ask for the strength to be baptized Sunday. Again, she wouldn't speak. After a long pause, we knew she was done- she wouldn't say anything else. So, we closed the prayer and standing up, I asked her why she wouldn't speak.... and asked her if she knew these things were true... She looked at me with eyes seriously sparkling as she said, I know its true. I asked her how she felt during the prayer and she said, ``Its funny, because I really didn't want to be baptized but when you told me to ask those questions, I felt something.`` I asked her if she knew that God wanted her to be baptized. She said yes. I asked her, ``So, are you going to be baptized...``She asked if she could give me an answer next week when her sister (recent convert) shouted out, ``Oh woman just get baptized already!`` I looked at her sister, shocked really, and said, ``you really want her to get baptized don't you...`` Her sister responded, ``Yes, and I know she will, the day i was baptized i dreamed that bia got baptized the same way i did.`` And in that moment, when her sister testified like that, Bia jumped for joy, grinning from ear to ear and said, ``I will!`` And then everyone was hugging and laughing and honestly, I walked out of there just wanting to cry. Folks, THAT is the power of prayer. This is God´s work, and He gives His children answers- it was another testimony to me of the power of prayer and a testimony that the Spirit converts God´s children- He speaks to them. He really does. That is the power of prayer, and that is the power of love (love between 2 sisters that may or may not have made me think of my own. Shout out to Katie).

Anyways, I hope the story made sense, as you know, I am always in a hurry. But I LOVE this work. I love this Gospel. I love being a missionary- this is my life- the best I have ever lived it. Its everything I never knew I needed.

Have a wonderful week- proud of you all. Love you all. Thinking of you all. Sorry, still don't have pics- I will fix that. 

Monday, May 19, 2014

Loving Mamanguape

Loving Mamanguape. The only problem: the mosquitoes do too.... So my legs look like I have the chicken pox- all the time hahaha oh the joys of living in a jungle. 

We had a baptism yesterday- Izac. It was really cool. Other cool news: Maria´s (recent convert) daughter, Tieli was baptized yesterday!!! She is a girl I was teaching when I left. YES!

Bad news: I don't know what is wrong with my camera cord... I cant seem to upload pics anymore. I am trying to work something out but I think I am just going to have to buy an card adapter to just upload directly from the memory card instead of using the cord. We will see. But, that means, no pictures, again. Not my best news either because I have some pretty great pics I am dying to send home. 

This was a great week. We worked HARD! We had a leadership training Friday and I was feeling really stressed about that- but I know Heavenly Father fits us to every calling to which He calls us. We are never left in our own strength while in the Lord´s service. 

I love my companion. She is super chic! She is from Chile, and is 19. Shes an only child- her parents both served missions and we get along really well. This transfer is just going to be great, I can tell. As for my area, its basically Guarabira, but without hills. Score. I am liking my new branch too- everyone here is really nice. 

I got 2 packages this week. HUGE SHOUT OUT TO MOM AND KIM! Thank you. I also got some pretty great letters. Thank you so much. In one of Kim´s letters, she shared a scripture that I LOVED and wanted to share with you all today. Isaiah 25:8-9 : “He will swallow up death in victory and the Lord God will wipe away tears from off all the faces and the rebuke of his people shall he take away from off all the earth: for the Lord hath spoken it. And it shall be said in that day, Lo, this is our God; and we have waited for him and he will save us: this is the Lord, we have waited for him, we will be glad and rejoice in his salvation.”

Waiting is a really interesting idea- one we as members of the church have a greater understanding of that than the rest of the world. That is a privilege. May we not forget that waiting and patience do not mean giving up on the righteous desires of your heart; it only means working with all your might, and accepting not only the Lords will, but His timing.  That is the way the Lord works miracles- through our faith, patience, prayers, and diligence.

I read a quote this morning by Neil L. Andersen, “Miracles are not always so immediate. At times, we thoughtfully wonder why the miracle we have so earnestly prayed for does not happen here and now. But as we trust in the savior, promised miracles will occur. Whether in this life or the next, all will be made right. The savior declares: ``Let not your heart be troubled neither let it be afraid.” “In the world ye shall have much tribulation: but be of good cheer, I have overcome the world`` (John 16:33). I testify that as you love Him, trust Him, believe Him, and follow Him, you will feel His love and approval. As you ask, “What Christ thinks of me?” you will know that you are His disciple, you are His friend. By His grace He will do for you what you cannot do for yourself. 

“In a future day, every knee will bow and every tongue confess that He is the Christ. On that day, our concern will not be, `Do others consider me Christian?’ At that time our eyes will be fixed on Him, and our souls will be riveted on the question, ‘What Christ thinks of me?’”

Perhaps the greatest miracle of my week was an idea that my district leader shared with us on Thursday. It is a 40-day fast. Obviously not of food and water.... but of behaviors. My invitation to each of you is that you participate, because I can already see a difference in my life and in my work. If you would like to participate, here is what you do:

You start with a regular fast (the 24 hour without food) asking during those 24 hours that Heavenly Father shows you 10 things you need to change to become more Christ-like, It could be things you do, things you don't, fears you have... etc. After your fast, you make a covenant with Heavenly father that you are going to change, according to these 10 ``commandments`` He gave you. You begin your 40-day fast by saying this prayer, making this covenant, and in return, you ask for NOTHING. Don't ask for special blessings or more success... etc. Just ask for the strength to change according to His will. This is your purification/ sanctification process. 

I absolutely loved the idea. I don't know if I explained it well enough, but I hope it made sense. It is only an invitation, and if you decide to do so, I would love to know! I promise you that you will see miracles- ones you weren't expecting or asking for but ones Heavenly Father wants to give you. Good luck. 

That's about it for today... I love you all so much, thank you for your support. Be safe, have a wonderful week! :)

Wednesday, May 14, 2014

This week was NUTS!

Wow. Yep, thats where we are going to start today. This week was NUTS. First of all, it was SO GREAT to talk to you all on Mother´s day, and I hope it was fabulous for all you rockstar moms out there! Birthday shout out to my beautiful mom and my darling cousin Lauren! Growing up so fast, my friend. Thanks for driving down Kim, and of course I was SO thrilled to talk to my sweet grandparents. I have the cutest family...
So this week we had a wedding- it was an investigator and recent convert of our district leader. The sisters decorated the whole event and made cakes. It was really fun. Best part of the evening: the bouquet toss. I caught it! No... I am joking. BUT! My investigator, Carol, did! Which is hilarious, because we are working with her right now to get married this month or the next. AWESOME! She was so excited. I am definitely taking it as a sign. :)

Miracle of the week- Marinezio and Iranette. Maurinezio was a street contact 2 weeks ago. We were looking for a less-active and saw M working out front. I wasn’t even going to talk to him... he looked like the type that didnt want ``commitment to religion``... the type that will say they will go to church but will hide behind the couch when you show up at the door to take them Sunday morning (yes, I have seen a LOT of that... haha). Anyways, I dont remember what I said in that moment, but he did! On our way to church with him Sunday morning, he told me that since that day he hasnt smoked or gotten drunk. (uhhhh miracle). I asked him why and he said, ``Because you told me not to,`` he then told us the story of that morning. That only minutes before he found us that day, he had been talking to a neighbor that told him to quit smoking and join a church. He said within minutes I stopped him to invite him to ours and he took that as a sign that this is “his path”. It was AWESOME. Even cooler might be his sister.... that Saturday before church we showed to remind him what time we would be passing by. Maurinezio and his sister were there, so we taught the first vision on the spot and invited them to pray about our message. His sister said, `´Oh, I already know your church is true``... I asked how and she said she has ALREADY prayed about it and received her answer. And since that day has decided to stop smoking. MY MIND WAS BLOWN. It was a miracle. Anyways, she is going to church Sunday, too. To have someone pray before they are asked or invited was one of the coolest experiences of my mission so far. I still dont know if I believe it.

But...nonetheless I was transferred.  Thats right! I am as surprised as you are. But, I am in the same zone/stake. My new area is Mamanguape and I am with Sister Chaparro (my first hispanic companion- whoot!!!) I already love her and I am excited to work here! 
Other news... I was called to be a Sister Training Leader. Hope you know what that is? So I get to take care of all the sisters in my zone now! COOL, right? I am so blessed to have this opportunity and hope to fulfill my calling to the best of my ability. I am so excited for this transfer! Its going to be AWESOME!!!!! 

It was sad to let Guarabira go- it went by so fast, but I am so grateful for every lesson I learn here and know there is much to be learned in Mamanguape. I know for sure this is where I am supposed to be and I cant wait to figure out why! 
Anyways, thats about it. This week was stellar, hope yours was too. LOVE YOU ALL SO SO SO SO much! I have pics, but this computer isnt uploading them, so until next week I guess.


Sister M. Seal

Monday, May 5, 2014

Miracle of Member Reactivation

This was a good week! I saw the miracle of member reactivation and the fulfillment of the promise that Claudio Costa made us last August that every time we reactivate a family in the church, we will baptize. We found a family this week, a really special one, too. 2 sisters and all of their kids, which is a lot. *SIDE NOTE: The sisters remind me a lot of Katie and I, they even have only 1 year difference in ages. Maybe I really can live with Katie for the rest of my life???

Anyways, their names are Cleide and Neide and they were baptized a few years ago, but we quickly learned that only one of the kids was baptized with them, and that the rest of the kids very much wanted to be! So.... we have been working with them, and Saturday told them that we would swing by 8:30 Sunday morning to take them to church. Tudo bem. Problem: Sunday morning we show up (late) and they are gone, everything is shut up, locked up, and now we are praying someone shows up. We began to pray and then a neighbor walked out next door and said, Cleide left! We asked if she knew where she went and she said, “I dont know... she was saying she was going to baptize her sons.” I cannot begin to describe the gratitude I felt in that moment. I immediately called a friend of mine at church to see if indeed the family was there. And sure enough, this family is AMAZING! They went to church alone. And, just FYI, that never happens here- sometimes we have to pass by the houses of members to remind them to come to church... So Eduardo and Duvan were baptized! It was really cool!

Cute story this week comes from Nadja, a 4-year-old doll face that I would adopt if she didnt have a mother. She is Maria´s (recent convert) niece, and she comes to church with us every Sunday. Someone was trying to get my attention, and she put her arm around me and said, “NO. This is MY Sister (Missionary)”. Its so cute the way they say ``sister`` they dont know what it means, but its cute that they try anyway. Love that girl.

That just about sums up this week. The next week is looking great! I am stoked to talk to y’all on Sunday. And then.... its transfers already. (This was a 5-week transfer). So I will be emailing again next Wednesday. 

So, this morning I have been thinking about a phrase I heard the other day, “Faith is more than a belief, and charity is more than a feeling.” Think about that. One thing I understood was that faith is not merely believing,for when we truly believe, we ACT. Likewise, charity is not merely loving, for when we truly love, we ACT. We serve, we´re humble, we FORGIVE. 

Lately, I have been doing a lot of study on leadership. Whoever we are, wherever we are and whatever do, leadership is always your example- not your calling or position. James E. Faust defines a leader as someone who “must cause things to happen and lives to be affected. Something should move and change. He must see that those under him do not fail. But it should be done in the Lord´s way. He should be the instrument in the hands of the almighty for changing lives. He needs to know where he is now, where he is going, and how he is going to get there.” 

If you think about it, as members of the church, we are all leaders- and our call is to ``lead, guide and direct” the rest of God´s children back to Him. The task may not be easy, but there isnt anything more important. 

Yesterday, we went to a devotional to commemorate 3 years of having a chapel here in Guarabira. The district president shared an interesting story. He said on his mission, he and his companions, along with a few members, took a bus one day to get to the church. As they approached the chapel, it was time to hit the button or pull the cord overhead to inform the bus driver that they wanted to get off/ stop the bus. For whatever reason, one elder thought, “I dont need to do it, because surely my companion will”.... He didnt realize that his companion was thinking the same thing! And all the members sat to, perhaps thinking the elders would tell the driver, “Someone else will do it, it doesnt have to be me...” Well, no one informed the driver, and they missed the stop and consequently had to backtrack nearly 2 miles when they could have arrived at the front gate of the church. He likened the idea to missionary work. And as Elder Holland would say, This story really isnt any more about bus passengers and the bystander effect than any of the other parables are about sheeps are goats...This is real.  We as members oftentimes think, “No, no, I dont have to be a missionary- the missionaries will do that!” Or bishop will do it! Or, of course the elders quorum president will do it or Brother and Sister Smith... or someone. Surely SOMEONE will do it- it doesnt have to be me. It is disheartening to think that many of us have though this way from time to time in relation to the work of salvation. When we do this, we forget whose team we are on. 

We are not a ``starters and benchwarmers`` team. Lets leave basketball on the sidelines. This is God´s team, and on the Lord´s team, everyone pitches in. 

We all have work to do- lets be leaders in this work through example and effort. Do what you can... and then do a little more and wait and see how the Lord is anxiously willing to bless you.

Just before the devotional, we went to a less- actives house to give them food. C. was doing laundry when we showed up and my companion and I quickly went to work to help her out. After opening a few cupboards and seeing a few shelves, I quickly realized they have nothing. Their kitchen is full of empty glasses... the broken sink was full of dishes. In the panty they have bags and bags of powder to make cuzcuz (ground up dry corn almost that people eat with beans and rice). But thats all they have... they dont have food. I was grateful that we were able to bring them food yesterday because I had NO idea how badly they needed it or how little they had. They use newspaper and notebook paper instead of toilet paper and sleep 7 people to 2 beds. I cried as I mopped the cement floors in the house they call a home....

And the greatest part... they are happy. They smile, they laugh, they dont complain, and they eat the food they have. I wept as I thought of how ungrateful I am.... and I wept as I realized, once again, how much I have been given. 

Truly even in the bitterest and bleakest of circumstances, we still have so very much to be grateful for...

Anyways, I love my mission. I see so many miracles here every single day and my mission is changing my life in every way- its like they say, ``The best 1.5 years`` some say ``OF my life`` others say ```FOR my life``. I say BOTH. 

I love you all and am excited to see you Sunday afternoon. Until then, have a great week. 

Love, Sister M. Seal

Photos: baptism