Monday, July 21, 2014

Brasileiros Bem-vindo!

Gostaríamos de saudar todos os novos seguidores brasileiros e dar um grito especial para os mais novos membros do ramo Socorro! Parabéns por ter sido batizado!

E obrigado a todos aqueles que tomaram cuidado tão bem de Elder Welch - ele ama servindo em Socorro!

A família Welch

"Are You from Germany??"

I seriously can´t tell you how many times I´ve been questioned the past two weeks if I was from Germany. Haha it's crazy. Brasil is still so embarrassed about what happened during the World Cup. Haha even if I was German, I wouldn´t tell anyone because I seriously wouldn´t make it home alive. Anyway, Dad wrote me about Germany´s team and how they´ve been preparing for 16 years for this World Cup. I liked the twist he put on it and how he related it to the Gospel.

Last week I wrote about how tired I was. How was that a prophecy... Haha this week by far was the most tiring week on the mission. We had two baptisms that got moved an HOUR BEFORE the baptism to another city, one hour away. Because we´re a Branch here, our baptismal font is a swimming pool outside. And let me tell ya, if I didn´t have such a strong desire to baptize down here, I would stop teaching all of our investigators. It´s seriously Antartica! Haha and because they were kids that were baptized this week, we went all the way to the capella in ´´Bragança´´ in order to have the baptism inside.
It was a baptism never to be forgotten. We baptized Giovanna (the third Giovanna we´ve baptized in 6 weeks!) who was a daughter of a less active member. We found her trying to reactivate her grandpa, ``Dino´´, who speaks 10 LANGUAGES! Yes, 10. Haha he´s the smartest man alive. His memory is literally a computer. Anyway, we found out that Dino´s wife isn´t a member also! Samira, Dino´s wife, will follow the example of her granddaughter we hope this Saturday. It´s been three days since she´s stopped smoking. What a miracle because she was smoking like it was her job two weeks ago.

The other baptism was a baptism for the Branch. João Paulo, if you can remember by his face, was the man who was rubbing his stomach in the background of our skype call during Mother´s day. Haha the one that wouldn´t put his shirt down and was messing around with Matt. Anyway, he´s the dad of the little girl (Maria Erika) that was baptized. He and his family asked me almost two months ago that they wanted me to baptize her. In that moment I was so excited - who wouldn´t be?! João Paulo was less active but he, along with his wife, desired that their daughter was baptized. The Spirit told me however to gently decline his invitation and invite him to perform the baptism. ´´I´m honored that you guys chose me, but families are meant to be eternal. João Paulo, eternal life for Maria won´t be the same if you´re not there with her.´´ He was silent for a really long time. To make an incredible, miracle story short (and after a lot of tears shed by his wife), he straightened up his act, worked with the Branch President, and baptized his daughter! YEAAAHHHHHH!! I love me some FAM-A-LEEEES!!!

However, about these miracle stories, one has still ceased to happen. 4 in a half months ago, one of the sisters in the Branch looked at me in the eyes and said, ´´Finally! Finally the missionary has arrived. Finally the missionary is here to baptize Afonso.´´
Afonso is the husband of this sister. He´s been taught and taught and taught for 14 stinkin´ years! Yesterday we received the transfer call and guess who´s staying.... OH YEAHH BABYY!!! Unfortunately, Elder Amancio is leaving, but the good news is, I´ll be training again. ´´Buuurrrrrrrnnn baby burrrrnnnnn´´ (with greenie fire).
Anyway, the weight that´s on my shoulders about Afonso seriously haunts me! Ive taught him everything! He´s felt the spirit and knows everything is true. He comes to church every Sunday. The members invite him to be baptized.... Haha seriously, send me some ideas. Pray for him. Fast for him. Do what ever you can to help him out because it´s seriously so heavy on my shoulders... I know the Lord will provide the way however.

Love you all! Send me your Preach my Gospel thoughts please!

Monday, July 14, 2014

"It is Finished" (psyche!)

Holy smokes! Okay, it hit me. I may be feeling a little bit trunky right now. Wow how in the world did Mom find that beach?! The family pictures Brittany sent me were awesome. Wow! Our family is goooooood looookin´. Congratulations Mom and Dad.  ANNNNDDDDD, drum roll please.... BOSTON WAS BAPTIZED!!! YEAHHHHHHHHH. I´m so pumped to get a copy of his talk and hear (hopefully) from him on how it was, what he felt, etc. One thing I wish I would´ve done when I was baptized was write a journal entry of how I felt. I have each Priesthood advancement in my journal (deacon, teacher, priest - and the first times I participated in each of these Preisthood responsibilities), first time at the temple, receiving my mission call, etc. Practically everything but my baptism. And man do I want to know how I was feeling way back 12 years ago (oh yeah baby... I'm 20 now). Haha so, if he hasn't done that yet, tell him that this is my invitation to him. I hope to get a copy of his journal entry!
On another note, I saw a Playstation 4!! Haha WHAT?! When did that come out? Haha seriously, one of the families we are teaching has it and I stared at it for a full minute. It was more than a shock than anything. I thought to myself, ´´Wow, it´s now been a year since I´ve left home...´´ Crazy to think about.

I'm loving my Preach My Gospel studies everyday. I learn more and more as I continue to reread it´s chapters. It's really helping me to change and become a better missionary. I hear sometimes about your "Preach My Gospel Family Nights" but I never get a report about them... Vamos família. Let´s heed the mighty counsel of Elder Ballard and talk some more and more about PMG.
This week I studied a little bit about converts that have "fallen" in chapter 10. Unfortunately, one of the recent converts I taught and baptized isn't coming to church. I'm sad to admit it but at first I was really frustrated at her. I felt like she "lied" to me throughout the course of teaching her. After a good study, I realized that they could be feeling guilt for falling back in to a habit (smoking for example). It says in this chapter that a recent convert that quickly stops to attend church is most likely dealing with this type of situation. I repented after this and recommitted to helping her receive all of the incredible blessings of the atonement in her life - through the sacrament.
This week was crazy. We spent Sunday until Wednesday night in Campinas with meetings, returning only Thursday and Saturday to work in Zion (Socorro) because Friday I was on a division with another Elder. Everything really wiped me out. I think I was more tired than when I first arrived in Brasil - back when I was falling asleep while eating food... Haha but I was thinking to myself, ´´Seriously, I don´t know if I´m going to be able to make it two years. Not that I want to go home, but I won´t make it home. I´m going to die of exhaustion.´´
I then had the thought President Eyring coined. "When I'm tired and think that I can´t go on, I think about the Savior and His example. Even when The Savior Himself said, ´It is Finished,´ He went and preached some more in the Spirit World."
Ohhh baby. I read a part in my journal while I was in the MTC and I saw a talk Elder Holland gave. He said, "Bring in the thunder and let somebody feel it!"

Haha, so here it comes. Year number 2, here I come! In my mortal ministry and quest to become more like The Savior, this to is now my desire. I´m seriously so tired, my eyes want to go to sleep as I write this, but I´m working until I drop. And if I die, you´ll know what I´ll be doing... Preaching the Gospel to your Grandma!

Love you all!
Elder Welch

Tuesday, July 8, 2014

"Our Message"

Wow, yesterday at church one of the young woman in our Branch got her mission call. She decided to open it at church after Sacrament Meeting. The hymn right before she opened it was, ´´God Be With You Until We Meet Again.´´ It was the second time I´ve cried here in Brasil because of a song. I couldn´t help it thinking about the mission call and the memories I had. This was the last hymn we sang at my farewell and I remember seeing mom crying. Whooo! It was a good feeling Sunday. I felt so grateful for our awesome family.
I hope you enjoyed the family vacation. It seems like it was awesome. Dustin sent me 3 small pictures of the trip. If you can, please send me some next pday. I'm seriously starting to forget what the family looks like! Haha all I have is my pillow case with the family picture on the Goodson farm and Boston and Reese´s school pictures. 
HAPPY BIRTHDAY TO MATT AND BOSTON!! I love you guys. I hope your birthday was as awesome as mine!

Yesterday morning we had a leadership meeting here in Campinas. Because Monday´s are usually pday, we had to switch it to Tuesday - hence the email today. But I saw President Perrotti yesterday and gave him a hug. I put my arm around him and asked him the same question dad used to always ask me, ``Presidente! ... Está feliz?`` I never liked that question of, ``Are you happy?`` because it never made much sense to me. But the more I think about the good examples in my life, the more profound this question becomes.
He responded and then asked me the same question. I always responded to dad´s question with a yes, but for the first time in my life yesterday, I think I finally responded honestly. ``Yes President. I´m a happy man.``

This week I woke up with probably the worst dreams Ive had on the entire mission. I returned home from the mission, gave a farewell talk, and was at home in Powell with the family. I realized after a couple of days that I returned the same type of person I was when I left. The only difference that I noticed, and that others noticed was my accent (which was kind of funny because that's still how people recognize me as an American here).
I woke up alone, before the alarm went off and thought a lot about the dream I had. After conversing a lot with Heavenly Father, I realized the importance of change in my life. I was incredibly sad because I returned home the same way I was before the mission. No one noticed a difference, I didn't feel a difference... I returned back to the same activities, speaking casually and dressing the same, lounging around the house watching TV... Mom didn't say anything but I realized that she was sad. I completed 2 years of service, helped a lot of people come unto Christ, but me... nothing changed.

I was incredibly happy this week. Although it was my first birthday away from the family, the members really knocked it out of the park. We had investigators and members surprise me TWICE, in the same day, with a brasilian BBQ, with pictures and letters of memories, soccer jersey, cakes (one of them with a bunch of PEANUTS!! haha), pens, hat, key chains, bathroom supplies (kind of strange but funny... maybe I smell now??), and much more. I seriously felt like a hundred bucks. I don't know how to accurately describe how I felt. Seriously, I was so happy. The second surprise ´´party´´ was at 7 o´clock at night where we entered a members home to teach an investigator... Not what I expected. Haha it was awesome.
At the end of the night, the Relief Society President started crying and told me that I will never understand what I did to her family and the branch. Her husband called the Mission President the day before and asked if I could stay at least one more transfer here in Socorro. I hope I can too.

I have thought a lot about this and the type of experience we will have after this life as we ´´return´´ back home. What our Heavenly Parents will think and how they will feel. Maybe we helped a lot of people with their problems, did a lot of good, but didn't ´´become´´ anything. Like Elder Oaks has said, this is the very essence of the gospel. To change and become something.
I'm here to Preach the Gospel. But I think Ive still lost a little bit of my identity as a child of God as a missionary. I need to stop thinking about teaching the gospel, and just ´´live´´ it.
This week I caught myself telling people that ´´OUR message will bless your life... OUR message will help your family repair fights and misunderstandings... OUR message will give you a sense of identity.´´ I thought to myself, ´´Why do I say that? it´s not MY message, but The Lord´s.``
After thinking and studying this week, I´ve come to realize that as I do what He would do, or do things that would please him (John 8),  ``His message`` starts to become``My message.`` And therefore, it´s ``Our Message.``
Happiness is coming to a realization of the way things really are and how they really will be. I´m His child and will return back to His presence one day. I look forward more this week of becoming more like Him, so that ´´His message´´ becomes more and more ``Our Message.``

As President Monson said two conferences ago, ``I´m a happy (20 year old) MAN!``

Love you all!
Elder Welch

This couple... wow, words cant describe it. They were less active members with seriously Lamanite hearts. I was always so sad because I was never able to connect with them. I never felt on the same page with them. I never knew what I could do to help them. They came to us crying a month ago with problems... With a lot of prayer, The Lord changed their heart and they finally decided to get married. They are a part of the family of the Relief Society President. They used one of the pens I got for my birthday to sign the papers. It was a privilege for them to use my pen... Haha.

Vamo´ Lá! [6/30/14]

Wow, where to start?? This week will be a little bit ´´lighter.´´ Hopefully you´ll get a few laughs in on vacation (during my birthday) with the family.
First, my companion got Dear Johned... Haha seriously, I didn't know how to act. He and his girlfriend bought some pretty expensive promise rings to wear that he took off last week. I made him a nice Mexican meal however when we got back to the house (Mexican food still is my favorite - btw, dad I still eat it before the General Priesthood Conference session! haha) to help soothe the pain. We had hot sauce that we loaded on top of the food... We kept putting more and more on joking around, saying that he doesn't feel any more pain. Not sure how he felt the next day in the bathroom... I was afraid to ask.

World Cup update. Seriously, Brasil is killing me. I'm trying to save the world down here with baptisms but they keep winning. We have to stay in our house during the games because the entire population is drinking and it could get pretty dangerous. Its funny because we don´t watch the games but we always know the score. When Brasil scores, fireworks and noisemakers go off for about 10 minutes straight... And when the other team scores, it´s ghost town. Seriously. More silent then the Celestial room in the temple. Anyway, last Saturday we had the baptism of Catarina scheduled for 5 pm, but didn't happen until 6pm! The stinkin´ game went into penalty kicks and delayed everything! Haha it´s fun being down here though because everything is different. The roads are decorated, houses and stores, practically all of the cars have a Brasilian flag waving in the air... even the TREES are decorated. I love the pride the Brasilians have.

The baptism of Luzinete and her family was delayed because of her boyfriend. Man, its a really complicated situation. She has EIGHT kids, four of them that live with her. The eight kids have two different fathers, and she´s pregnant with one more (yep, that makes nine!) with another man. He´s addicted to drugs and alcohol. Shes trying to get rid of him but its hard because he´s the father of this child on the way (two more months and he´ll be born). It was especially sad because he showed up to church yesterday drunk. My companion and I with a returning member kicked him out of church because of the words he was saying. The returning member is a policeman who called his co-workers to come and get him. The man got scared and walked out on his own. About 50 yards from the church, he collapsed on the ground and went to sleep in the middle of a sidewalk. It made me so sad for various reasons. He´s impeding this family from joining the church and Satan has complete control over him and his body.

However, Catarina and Giovana were baptized this week! Catarina investigating the church 5 years ago but stopped because her entire family are members of Jehovah Witness. We followed up with her this week about her reading in The Book of Mormon where she told us she didn't read. I about died I was so sad, but I felt the spirit to open up with a prayer. I felt impressed to ask Heavenly Father to give us another confirmation that the Book is true - guess what happened. Every received a testimony or confirmation. Catarina and our member who was present, as well as me and my companion. She tossed out the coffee and cigarettes and was baptized. Yeah yeah yeah!

Vanderlei, the one that wanted to follow Christ´s example exactly by being baptized in the (FREEZING) river, was called yesterday as the President of the Young Men. Wow. One month after his baptism, he is already meeting with us in ward counsel. I talked with him and his wife yesterday and they told me, ´´We love you Elder Welch! We are so close to the Savior and feel so important now!´´ It made me happy to know that I played a small part in their conversion. The Lord has been preparing them for a really long time. I also realized how important it is to give recent converts callings in the church. They´re on ´´greenie fire´´ mode! Why not give them a calling? They, like Vanderlei and Claudete felt, will 1.feel really important and 2. elevate the faith in other members.

I spent a lot of time this week studying Christ and how to start a lesson. I realized a promise Chapter 10 has. ´´When you share spiritual experiences in the first visit, they will recognize you as a servant of the Lord.´´ Because Chapter 9 talks about ´´finding those that will receive you´´ this was an answer to my prayers. I need these people to recognize who I am and why I'm visiting them. Para batize-se até o pó!

Boston... Happy birthday man! Love ya! I loved the pictures Ashley sent me of him with Reese and Nixon.

Love you all family! Have a good vacation!

Livin the dream!
Elder Welch