Monday, December 31, 2012

Happy New Years 2013

How was your Christmas?
Really good! We did a cool little family night after we talked, then slept - haha. 

Did you get any packages besides grandma's and grandma & grandpa's?
Not yet. Someone is bringing the stuff in Rosario to me on Friday. 

How many miles do you & your companion's new area cover?
I would guess it´s about 5-6 square miles. Not huge, but still pretty big. 

How are the families in the ward there in Santa Maria, do you have some ward mamas?
They are good. I haven´t spent a lot of time getting to know members yet, so those things will come within the next few weeks. 

Are there horses there or just cars?
There are horses too, but not near as many as Rosario. Mostly cars. 

Do you guys have anything planned for New Years?
Teaching! We have to be home by 9:30. Everyone here will be drinking for New Year’s haha. 

How is the new companion?
He´s pretty good. We´ve got some people that could be baptized already. So the month of January is looking good. 
How is the new ward?   Do you have many lessons set up? Are members helpful?
It´s a lot more active than the other wards I´ve served in. We have some pretty good investigators already. It´s like sales, the KEY is to get in the door! That´s what I´m really trying to focus with my companion on. The members are helpful.  . We´re working on a few ideas to get them more involved though. We´re working on a game where families gain points when they help us, and when they hit a certain amount of points, they get a prize from the missionaries (like cookies, or some kind of treat).

Hello Family!
Happy New Years!  It´s 2013 tomorrow. That is so crazy! I will be out for 9 months on Friday. Time has absolutely flown by. Sorry today will be short because i am organizing my camera card to send it home to you and nothing really exciting happened this week, just Christmas. We didn´t have any investigators in church today, but we´ll for sure have some next week. 

I love all of you! I´ll write a lot more next week! Have a great week!


Elder Shepherd

Monday, December 24, 2012

Transferred to Santa Maria, Baptism of Eduardo

Nativity Scene in Santa Maria, Carson looking over the Baby Jesus

How was your week?
Really confusing and hectic. but now it´s just perfect because i know the Lord works in mysterious ways. I´ll explain everything that is going on below.

What are your plans for Christmas (besides Skyping us)?
We are going to be eating with a lot of other missionaries. Then we will be visiting some less-active members and playing some basketball.

Can you email us back your Skype account user name & password ?
I honestly have no idea what it is. I´ll have to figure it out tomorrow. if anything I´ll just make a new account.

Did you have a Christmas Program yesterday for church?
Kind of. Just the little kids got up and sang a song, then the bishop gave the final talk on Christmas.

Did you get packages (2 flat ones from us, 1 big box later from us, 1 from Grandma Frome and 1 from Grandma Shepherd)?
I got a package from Grandma Frome and Grandma Shepherd.

Hello Family!
Okay so today will be fairly short, but I will explain what´s going on. On Wednesday we had our zone conference for my area in Rosario do Sul. After the training President talked with me and asked me if I would be willing to transfer to Santa Maria. He told me he needed me here. I was kinda bummed, but I said okay. The crazy part was that I was supposed to pick up a bus the next morning to come here, so I had literally no time to say goodbye to anyone - ( I picked up a new missionary. He is from Santiago, Chile. He speaks like 80 percent Spanish. His full name is Italo Benjamin Gula Chacoff. I really like him though and we are getting along really well. We live with the assistants.... I am pretty sure that´s why President had me come here. Because I have been doing divisions with them, and I`ve been the senior companion?
We all went and played basketball this morning, so that was like the highlight of my time since I´ve been here. Elder Gula got transferred here last week too, so we are basically opening this area. The elder´s that left here had a baptism marked for Saturday, so I baptized my first weekend here! haha. it was really sad leaving Rosario, especially after watching that area grow so much. I got there with 45-50 people at church and left there with 70-75. I really wanted to see the area get to 100. Oh well, I did my part and the lord will now take care of the rest! They will have baptisms all throughout January now. Sorry today is going to be really short. I´ll attach a photo of the young man we baptized on Saturday. His name is Eduardo. He´s 14, a way cool kid. He´ll be really good in the young men´s program. 
Eduardo's Baptism,  In Santa Maria December 22, 2012
 I went from one of the smallest branch's in the mission to the strongest ward. There were about 130 people at church yesterday. I´m in the middle of Santa Maria, so it´s way different with huge buildings all around and people everywhere to talk to.  But..... lunches have been amazing!!!! I´ll be able to describe it all to you tomorrow.
I´ll still be calling you around noon your time.  

I love you all! Merry Christmas!

Elder Shepherd

Thursday, December 20, 2012

I Left with a Sack of Tobacco

Missionaries on a bridge above the Rio Santa Maria
 Did you get any of the packages I sent yet?  I sent 2 flat type packages a couple weeks ago.
No I didn´t get them this week. For some reason things are taking a lot longer to get in this area than my last area. 

How was the week?
Very good. I actually had a lot of fun this week and we got a lot of things done. 

Will you be emailing us next Monday?
Yes i will. Maybe it will be shorter since I´ll be talking to you the next day.

Do you know what time for sure you are Skyping? 
I´ll be calling you around 12 Noon your time. 

Baptisms - any this week?
Yes we had one! A young woman named Suelen. I attached a photo.
Baptism of Suelen December 15, 2012

Do the cowboys there smoke or chew tobacco? 
Everyone in this entire city smokes. That isn´t even a joke. Very few people chew, because it is so expensive here. There is a lot of contraband cigarettes here, so everyone smokes them. 

Whats the hardest thing outside of marriage that you are dealing with investigators?  Have many of them heard of the church?
A large problem is just that people say that they are born into the Catholic Church (or another) and all of their families were part of that church. They say that they don´t want to move churches because then maybe it would have an impact on if they´ll be with the rest of their families again. It´s hard to explain the Temple in our first lesson, but usually the Plan of Salvation lesson can really help them out. Most of the people in this city have heard of the term Mormons, but they don´t know anything about our church for the most part. Some have a book of Mormon given to them by friends; others just have friends who they know have been baptized. I´d say about 90 percent of the time we find people, they have a general idea of the church, but they don´t know the teachings or the doctrine for the most part. 

How do most discussions start.. what do you start talking about the restoration or other?  
Almost always we will start off by teaching the Restoration. That is the key message for people to understand, because all of the keys to the priesthood were restored through Joseph Smith. There are a lot of people here who practice Masonry. Their church has a lot of doctrine and teachings that are similar to ours, and we have a lot of days where we will teach someone familiar with their doctrines. Sometimes we will teach the plan of salvation first if the spirit directs to do so, or if they have questions about life or have had a recent death in the family that is really bothering them. 

What is the most "impactful" discussion?
The Restoration. When people really focus on what we are saying AND they understand it, you can see their facial expressions change. They realize that the only way God´s church can be on the Earth is if it´s our church. Then it just comes down to them doing a simple prayer to find out if it´s our church. I always end with this statement: ``Our message is simple, because I don´t want to convince you that these things are true. All over the world we have pastors and other preachers opening churches, asking for money and promising blessings, and trying to convince people. I don´t want to do that here. Now you have the information and you have felt the spirit here with us. My invite to you is to pray tonight to feel these same feelings. When you feel these things again, you will know with absolute certainty that these things are true. Then, and only then, you can believe and trust in our message.” With saying that right there, I have found a lot of success in this area. People see that we´re not here to convince, but to share Christ´s message and show people the only way to truly come unto Christ.

Hello Family!

So like I said above, we had a baptism for Suelen on Saturday! My companion baptized her. It was a way awesome experience, and the spirit was very strong. We are getting close to our goal of 80 people in church by the end of the year. I forgot to get a count of heads yesterday. We had some investigators there as well, so I was happy with that. We have a baptism coming up next week for Vanderlei and Mari. I am so excited for them. We did a service project for them for a few hours on Friday and built these closets for them. He bought the materials and we threw them up. I hope they stay up haha. We had two huge wind storms this past week! They were crazy! The Lord protected my area, and none of our members had any serious damage. There were trees down everywhere and roofs ripped right off of a lot of homes. We went a day without water and electricity too, I´ll tell you right now how fun that was. We had no electricity for the fans during the night, so it was just bug bites and sweating all night. Loved it. Elder Avelar is becoming a really awesome missionary. He is still a little scared teaching bigger groups of people, but he´s getting the hang of it. 

Yesterday we had an awesome experience. After church we went down to our lunch a ways away and had a great meal. I played some weird game on the playstation with the little boy of the family haha. 9 months without playing video games will make you pretty rusty Tay! ha! After that I just had some random feeling that we needed to pass this members´ home who lives nearby. The dad is not a member, but the mom and 6 children are. Tereza (the mom) and her kids were all baptized about 15 years ago. At the time, the dad was taking the messages, but then decided not to go along with it. He hasn´t accepted the missionary talks since then. Two of his kids have served missions and they all still live in the city. Yesterday we sat there with them and just started a friendly and simple conversation. We joked around with him for quite a while. He has a lot of health problem, and he smokes and drinks. He lit up a self-made cigarette right in front of us. When he started smoking he blew the smoke out and the wind blew it right into his wife´s face. She got ticked off and picked her chair up and moved away from him. 
Then I had a feeling to start a spiritual part. I asked him why he smoked. All he responded was that he liked it. I told him that the smoking isn´t only affecting him, but it´s also hurting Tereza´s health as well. The conversation turned very serious from there. I don´t think anyone has really stood up to him like that, but I said it very boldly and bluntly. I asked him if he wanted to see his last daughter get married. He said yes. I asked him if he wanted to see Cleber (his son) have children and see them grow up too. He said yes. Then I just straight-up told him that he won´t see that if he keeps smoking. He is a very, very big guy, just keep that in mind. But then he got all teary eyed. I just let the conversation sit quietly while the spirit worked on him. My companion was too scared to talk this whole time pretty much. My companion asked him if he knew about the Temple. He said yes, but very little. Tereza has already been through for herself. I told him that if he wants to be with her forever, he has to stop smoking NOW. He slowly gave in. It took a lot of work but we worked and worked on him. I left there with a sack of tobacco and little cigarette casings in my hand. I asked him if he could stop and he said yes. Then just told him that he needed to give me the stuff. So he just gave it to me. Then I assigned Mosiah 27 for him to read, and he said they would both read it tonight. I wrote my phone number on the chapter and told him to call me when he had a desire to smoke. He still hasn´t called, so I am sure that the Lord is blessing him through his prayers and reading. We´ll see what happens! My goal for him is to be baptized the first week of January. I know that he can do it, especially after the spirit worked on him so hard.

The rest of the week was just teaching and helping our investigators move along. No one else is really progressing; because they still don´t have any desire to get married. They will though, I just know it. We will give them a message that will touch their hearts, just like Vanderlei and Mari. They investigated for 17 years, and only now agreed to be married and to be baptized because of the message we gave my first week in the area. Everyone has a time, and we cannot give up on those that are still not quite here. We all know people like this! God will touch their hearts through our prayers, fasting, and our diligence! Whether they have already been baptized and are waiting to come back, or if they aren´t quite members of the church yet, they will have their time. We can´t give up on anyone. Let´s all think of someone right now, and we will do a fast for them next week after we talk on Skype. Be thinking of names, and we will do it! I know that we can all find happiness and comfort inside this gospel. Sometimes we deny it because things aren´t going perfectly, but God will always manifest these special blessings inside his true church. Remember: Faith, Hope, Charity, Love. If we show these 4 simple things for these people, they will be back!

On Christmas things... I will be calling at 12 noon your time next Tuesday. I will email you on Monday.   I want my alone time to talk to each of you on Tuesday from 12-1. Somewhere in there I need time to talk to Sammie. Then when the family gets there I can talk to whoever wants to talk to me. Invite Grandma and Grandpa down please! I would love to talk to them. 

Well, if I missed anything please put it in there for next week! Good job on your talk [in church] and in swim Tay! The hard work is going to pay off buddy, just keep it going. A lot of it is mental too! So keep your head right in there with ya. And Hailey good job in dance! Sounds like your body is starting to get a lot more flexibility! That´s so exciting! I’m happy for you!

I love all of you! Remember what this time is about, and that this is the season of Giving! Do lots of service this week! Have a great week.

Elder Shepherd

PS.  the other picture is on the bridge that overlooks the river! (Rio Santa Maria)