Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Caldas da Rainha!!

Hello everybody!

Life is great!! So Thursday I arrived at the mission office, received some letters, and headed off to Caldas da Rainha with Elder Flint, my new companion, and the senior missionary couple, Elder and Irmã Parker. They´re all amazing and awesome! Caldas da Rainha (Hot Springs of the Queen) is great, big, and beautiful!!

Elder Spencer Paul Flint is from Layton (sp?) Utah, and he´s a great companion. And yes, he has a great first name, too! ;) The Parkers are from Rexburg Idaho, I believe, and Elder Parker served his mission back when he was a younger man in the Brazil mission, around Curitiba, around the same time as Dad served. Que coisa boa, e mundo pequeno!

Well all those prophecies of Mom saying I needed to learn piano so I could play on my mission are in full force here in Caldas. I am now the piano player, since Elder Flint doesn´t feel his simplified hymns is good enough. But it is great to be of service! We have a nice branch that encompasses a large area. We have English classes on Thursday evenings, service at a soup kitchen on Friday afternoons ... life is great!

It is great to hear from ya´ll! Thanks for putting me on blog update lists and whatnot. I love my family!! Oh, and the new and improved mailing address for here in Caldas, complete with zip code, is here:

Rua Fonte do Pinheiro
2500-203 Caldas da Rainha

Well it has been a full week. Lots of fun getting to know a new area. Monday night we had a neat experience contacting a reference that lived a floor above a family that is currently part member. Francisco is a member, Brasilian, not yet married to Sandra, Portuguese, who is marked to be baptized on May 2 (or something like that), and they have a cute baby girl named Beatriz. We had shared a lesson with them on reading the Book of Mormon consistently to steadily increase our knowledge and faith, testimony and conversion. After that Elder Flint and I went upstairs to try and contact their neighbor. At first she wouldnt open the door for us, then she opened the door and was trying to politely say Thanks but No Thanks. Then Francisco walked up and said ´Hello neighbor! You should listen to these young men. They have a good and important message about Christ to share with people. It is so important that they have left home and family for 2 years to come here to Portugal and talk about Christ with everyone.´ Then Sandra came up holding Beatriz (about 6 months old?) and said similar nice things. Then they mostly kept on talking and we ended up being late for an appointment, so we mentioned some principles of the Restoration and gave her a Restoration pamphlet and invited her to read and pray about it so we could talk about it with her and Franc and Sandra another time. Haha, I love being a missionary!

Well, I love all of you! Tchau!
--Elder Ellis V

PS -- Mom and Dad, I mailed my camera memory card to ya´ll with a letter, will ya´ll let me know when it arrives(d)? Thanks, tchauzinho!

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Elder Bednar is one of my heros!

Hey Hey Hey Greatest Family!!!

This has been such an amazing week. Needless to say, Elder David A. Bednar´s visit was certainly the highlight – it was amazing to learn from an Apostle of our Lord Jesus Christ and through the Holy Ghost! But I´ll get to that in a bit. Building upwards, it´s been a great week! God´s work is moving on! Friday we found a young man of 19 from San Tomaine named Presley who has been interested in English classes. He was our lone student that evening, and we were able to get to know him a little bit and work on some English things, mainly pronunciation and vocabulary. Valentine´s Day, or Single Awareness Day as I´ve always liked to think of it as, also went well. Elder Corry and I finally went running that morning! We ran to the train station and back, a good 12 minute run or so, and I think we covered about a mile and a half….? Valentine´s/Single Awareness was all the sweeter having two packages of goodies to enjoy! Mmm!

Mom, Dad, and Em – I received the letters (and that awesome drawing Em!!) on Monday and the box of chocolate cookies yesterday. Thanks!!

Joy – Congradz on joining the Facebook club! Just so you know, Emily is my internet and email stewardess while I am gone, and my facebook account is on my hotmail email account. I´m honored to be your friend!! ;)

Aup – Thanks for putting me on your blog email list thing. Keep me on and keep the updates and pictures coming!

Kit and Kev – Thank you sooo much for those wonderful pictures of ´baby Eden`!! I am so happy to know everything is wonderful – just as they should be!

Uncle Kelly – Thanks for the update about Aunt Becky. My prayers are with ya´ll!

Alrighty, without further ado, I will share some of the things about Elder Bednar´s visit to the Portugal Lisbon Mission! It was wonderful! Our God is merciful and miraculous! Our investigators Osvaldo and Daniel (father and son) said they were going to the ´fireside´ in Oeiras Sunday night, and we told them they´d be able to get a ride with the ward members who were going if they met them at the chapel at 5pm. We had a lunch appointment after church and then an appointment with a young man named Tino, and then we hurried to the train station to start our trek over there. We called a member to check if Osvaldo had gotten a ride but he had said he hadn´t seen him. Another member called us to say that she hadn´t seen him either. We were worried that he hadn´t gotten a ride, and possibly none of us would be able to go, but we called Osvaldo ourselves and he said everything was a-ok, he was in another car with another member. Members are great!! The stake center in Oeiras was packed, in every sense of the word. The chapel, extension / cultural hall was filled, everyone was crammed into seats and benches, and standing in every other possible spot where they could. Even then, there were still hundreds of people in the other rooms of the stake center, in the hallways/foyer, and even sitting or standing in the bathrooms so they could hear what an Apostle of the Lord said, thanks be to technology and intercom systems. In total there was about 1000 people jammed inside. Had we been in the US, we probably would have had trouble with a fire marshal, since we were definitely breaking safety codes. But it was worth it! Sunday evening was a question and answer theme. What was really wonderful was that there were so many good and even great questions. And what was greater that Elder Bednar, along with Sis. Bednar and Elder and Sister Kopishke (first counselor and wife in the European Area Presidency, I think), would answer the questions not just with a simple answer but they would go deeper and teach the principle behind the question, along with giving the appropriate and correct answer, along with examples and scriptures here and there. One point that came up often throughout all three meetings that Elder Bednar taught was that there is no such thing as ´free agency´. The scriptures only talk about moral agency. Agency is not an excuse for disobedience, but rather we have agency for the purpose of us being obedient, choosing God and loving and serving Him and our fellow beings. Sorry, but I don´t have time to include everything, so I can only hit on a few things. (I have a better understanding for Mormon and Moroni now about how they couldn´t include everything they could in the Book of Mormon.) Monday morning we arrived promptly with the other missionaries in time for the meeting to start about fifteen minutes early! Monday was similar, but modified for us as full time missionaries. Sister Kopishke shared her testimony, as well as Sister Bednar, and then Elder Bednar directed most of the meeting first in us talking about things we noticed and can apply in our teaching for our investigators – asking good questions that help interact, provoke thought and action, and invite. Then we were able to ask our own questions, and he would answer like he did the previous evening, teaching the principle with giving the answer, and checking on us to see what we know, etc. There was much more, but I will simply say it was wonderful! After our meeting was done, Elder Corry and I headed back, had lunch, did some finding, and then were blessed with the miracle of being able to come back for the Young Single Adult one. One of our investigators, who we have had a hard time getting a hold of, has a good member friend that informed us she was bringing our investigator to the meeting, so we could go for the third time to hear and listen to Elder Bednar! It was a wonderful spirit filled two days. I can tell ya´ll more about it all when I come home I guess.

And here´s the final bit of news – I am being transferred to Caldas da Rainha (a bit north and west of Lisbon). So stop the packages and letters! Just send them to the office address! I don’t have the zip code for the apartment address in Caldas yet, but I´ll give it to ya´ll anyway.

Rua Fonte do Pinheiro --------------
Caldas da Rainha
(Good luck on finding the zip code on your own!)

Well I love ya´ll and hope everything is going as well as possible for ya´ll!! Love,
--Elder Ellis V

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

Hello Dearest Family!!

Once again it is absolutely great to hear from ya´ll!! Thanks for the news, the updates, and well wishes. Thanks Uncle Kelly for the update on Aunt Becky, ya´ll are in my prayers!! By the way, it turns out there is an Irmã (Sister) Andrus who is from ya´ll´s home ward!! Small world, isn´t it??

Well life is great. We marked Osvaldo and his son Daniel to be baptized on February 28, and I am super happy and excited for them! My hope is that I do not get transferred on the 19th, but God is in control and this is His work, and all will be well. Monday Osvaldo and Daniel came to another family night we had at Irmã Joaquina´s house. Elder Corry and I were in charge of the game, and we did this game called Nine Books and another called Zip-Bong. (Nine Books is where you have nine books set up in a 3 by 3 ´box´ on a table, and you have someone go out of the room while everyone else chooses a book. The person walks back in and ´guesses` which book was chosen while another person points to the books with a stick/ruler. There´s a secret on how to do it though… Zip-Bong is a funny game where everyone is in a circle and you have to talk with your lips over your teeth, kind of like a toothless person. You say zip to the person next to you and they continue until someone says bong and you have to talk in the opposite direction. If you mess up, or if you show your teeth, you´re out!) I also brought some of those awesome cookies of Sister Andrew´s recipe (are they still in São Paulo?) and they were well enjoyed and a bunch of people asked for the recipe. I´ll have to translate it and get back to them later.

Well I am really looking forward to hearing Elder Bednar Sunday and Monday. We´re going to try and get some investigators and less-actives to go with us in order for us to go to the firesides on Sunday and Monday evening. Yee haw!

Well life is great and I love all of ya´ll. You´re in my prayers and I hope ya´ll have a great week! Fica firme!

--Elder Ellis V
PS – Happy Valentine´s / Single Awareness Day!
PSS – I´m looking forward to see some pictures of little chunky Eden. Hint hint…. Tchau!

Wednesday, February 4, 2009

Hello Dearest Family!!

It is great to hear from all ya´ll! I am happy to know that ya´ll are doing well and the Lord is watching over you. With babies raining down from heaven and life being wonderful, all I can say is praise be to the Lord Almighty!!

Rachel/Sister Ellis III – sounds like Elder Cook´s visit was fun and uplifting. Speaking of Apostles and visits, Elder Bednar is coming to Lisbon! He will be giving 3 firesides, one just for full time missionaries, and the others for members in general and then single adults. We (the missionaries) can go to the other two firesides if we can bring an investigator or less active member with us (of appropriate ages, like for the Single Adult one). Exciting!! So Elder Bednar and his wife will be coming and giving these firesides on the 15th and 16th of February.

This week has gone well. We had a good lesson with Osvaldo and Daniel about faith, repentance, and a little bit on baptism, with the young men´s president with us, and Osvaldo and even 13 year old Daniel expressed interest and desire of being baptized. Daniel is a funny kid, it´s hard to think he´s only two years older than Warren. It is so great to see the Lord´s work progress!

Tuesday was my first normal interview with President Terry. It was great to see that he truly is a man called of God to direct the Lord´s work for the Portugal Lisbon Mission. The first thing he said to me was asking how I was feeling, since I looked `a bit under the weather´ thanks to a small cold I started having on Monday. Anyways, during the interview he gave me (and all of the missionaries) some advice on immediately teaching while we are finding, whether it is talking to people on the street or at their doorstep. Not using the obscure ´we have a message we´d like to share´ but rather something more like ´we are here to talk about how Jesus Christ has restored His Church through a modern prophet…´. Then when asking about when we could later meet with them, we should be sweetly bold (haha, I love that term) in not leaving ´no´ as an option, such as `would it be better for us to pass by during the week or weekend? Afternoon or evening? …` Great stuff. So when Elder Corry and I were contacting and knocking that evening, we applied President Terry´s advice and immediately we had better results in having potential investigators and having better conversations with people on the street. I love being a missionary!!

I noticed this morning in my personal studies that I would like to share with ya´ll. Our Heavenly Father wants us to become like Him, and we can only do that His way, on His terms, and on His timetable. Looking at the example of Mahonri and Alma´s comparison in Alma 32, we develop our faith gradually into perfect knowledge, line upon line, as we attend to our faith. That is the Lord´s way, and when we gain knowledge His way it will be ´sweet and delicious´. But when we don´t do things the Lord´s way, we will taste bitterness. Adam and Eve partook of the fruit of knowledge at Satan´s tempting persuasion, when they had been commanded by God to not eat. Their experience was sudden, nearly all at once / instantaneous, instead of God´s line upon line. And in 2 Nephi 2:15 (I think) Lehi compares the fruit of life, which was sweet, with the fruit of knowledge, which was bitter (because they partook in transgression). Anyways, that was just something I wanted to share with ya´ll. I love all of you and hope you can have a great week! Fica firme!

--Elder Ellis V