Monday, December 29, 2014

Look for the Miracles

A Merry (late) Christmas to all! and a Happy New year this week! 
Click here to watch video of Elder Pierce singing "The First Noel" in his mission language of Portuguese

Already 2015... crazy how time flies by. I loved getting to see everybody at the Christmas Skype session although it always feels so short. We'll see how we are going to celebrate the New Year, we don't really have set plans but I'm sure something will work out. 

It's been 2 weeks now that I'm here in São Pedro. Just a couple of little details that make here very different than my other areas: The entire city is ours. This is kind of cool because anyone we talk with in the street is free game, haha. We live in the downtown which means all the stores we need are close and our "chapel" (house) is on our same street. There is an elderly sister in our branch who is one of the only people authorized to enter into the residency of missionaries and once or twice a week cleans our apartment and such... (it's a bit weird to be honest and it's like a treasure hunt finding where she puts all your stuff afterward). 

Anyway in the short time that I've been here I've seen many miracles that testify to me that the Lord is really helping us out in the work. Really it's the little things that make a difference like saying a prayer while walking in the street then getting to teach a lesson. Or going to visit a member and we end up going to visit their friends and end up with a ton of lessons (5 to be exact). Or having the sister who was scheduled to give us lunch travel and 2 families offer lunch at the last minute. Or getting asked to give a talk in sacrament meeting 10 minutes before and I just happened to have the Liahona that I had used to give the elder's quorum lesson and having the spirit help me out to give a good talk reading and explaining one of the General Conference talks on the spot. And a really cool miracle was also at church when the class was about tithing. Afterward our investigators leaned to me and asked "So how do we start paying our tithing?" and (leaping for joy in my mind) I said that that was a commandment that you started after you are baptized so he said " well let's get baptized then!" Yea! so we will visit them this week and set a date for their wedding and baptism hopefully by the end of this upcoming month. (Prayers always welcome)

I'm doing great, trying not to get burned too bad, and loving to serve the Lord. Love you all and know that you're in my prayers :)

Elder Pierce

*Working out problems with the computer in the new area so pictures of the area will be coming soon.

                                                 CHRISTMAS SKYPE WITH THE FAMILY:

Monday, December 15, 2014

Samuel the Lamanite

"Feliz Natal" Merry Christmas with the tree that's in the chapel


Well here comes the news *drum roll*... I will be transferred to São Pedro do Sul (a small city about 40 mins from Santa Maria) this Tuesday. My new companion will be Elder Alvarenga (I haven't seen it spelled but I think its like that) another Brasilian who appears to have been in São Pedro for a good time now so that's a relief that we won't be totally lost. But actually I've already been to São Pedro once before. The missionaries there were (and still are) in the same district as the missionaries in the ward where I first served. One day I went on a division to the area so I've already seen the apartment, the place where the branch (oh yea and it's a branch there) meets, and met some people (not that I remember how to get anywhere though haha). And because I'll be in the same district as where I was back in Urlândia we will have District meetings back in my old chapel there. And certainly that means I will eat lunch with and see some of the good old friends of the ward which will be cool. 

In my studies I recently read the story of Samuel the Lamanite in Helaman 13-15. Being here on the mission as I read, I saw the story in a different light. So Samuel was transferred to his new area in Zarahemla where he was received awfully by the now wicked Nephites. Samuel did exactly what God commanded him to do, preach repentance unto the people and the coming of Christ. But it could have appeared to him that he had little to no visible success or fruits of his efforts. We can tell that Samuel was a good missionary and well prepared, listening to the spirit and courageously returning to the city and was even protected from the arrows by the Lord. But sadly, the majority of the people still rejected him and he had to flee from the city. I wonder what Samuel was thinking as he walked back to his home land. "Wow that was a huge waste of time! Why didn't they change?, Did I do everything that I could have?" Samuel had a special purpose (as with all of us) where we are called to serve. Samuel certainly wasn't held back from blessings or miracles and in Helaman 16 we learn that there were few who believed in the words of Samuel who sought out Nephi and were baptized. Samuel left his area better than when he arrived even though he never baptized anyone personally, even though he could have thought it should have worked out differently, he did his part and the Lord surely accepted his work and sacrifice. As Elder Araújo and I were teaching a lesson to one of our investigators and I saw the change in his face and the desire in his eyes as he asked "what do I need to do to prepare to be baptized?" I felt the spirit confirm to me that I have left my area here in Cruz Alta better than when I arrived. And that's when I remembered Samuel and wanted to share that with y'all. We even had surprise interviews with President Parrela this past week and I asked him if the difficulties and the work that I have done here were the will of the Lord. And he said "Elder Pierce, if you are obedient and diligent in the work it is the Lord's will. You are an excellent missionary and I confide in you. Never let numbers or competitiveness distract you from seeing what really matters." 
The chapel in Cruz Alta

So I leave here in Cruz Alta with many new friends and many experiences. A bit sad that my time wasn't a little longer and having to say goodbye to all the wonderful people here. But it wont do to get choked up when I have to sing as my last message for all the investigators and members and in Sacrament meeting haha. And I'm headed to São Pedro with great hope and I can't wait to see what the Lord has it store next.

Loves to everybody! and best wishes with all the holiday preparations and concerts and all that good stuff! Just a bit more until Christmas and skype!!!

Elder Pierce
nós comendo sorvete
This was our district with 12 elders so we are" the District of the Twelve" haha like quorum of the 12 and we all stood in our order of mission time, haha. I was in the place of Holland.
This is a family of investigators that I told you about- they were the hardest to say good bye to
(the mom still says that shes "gonna get" Pres Parrela).
 They made us a mini churrasco as a farewell dinner for me.
                            Funny, here in Cruz Alta there are lots of VW bugs, including these...

Monday, December 8, 2014

Miracle Cake

My joy at finding the package!
This week we find out about transfers... (I'm not excited). I will have 4 months here in Cruz Alta on Friday so the chances are high that changes could be happening. I have really come to love here amidst all the ups and downs and I still feel like there is so much for me to do, but all in the Lord's time. Haha- we were even talking with a family that we are teaching about the possible transfers and the mom was all "Oh no! They cant do that! I won't let them... I won't go to church anymore! I´ll bang pots and pans in front of Bishop for you to stay..." haha and on and on, it was super funny (but I made sure it was a joke that she wouldn't go to church anymore). Oh and good news, Christmas Package arrived last week! So now we don't have to worry about any transfer related complications about that. 

We recently had a treinamento (training session) where they used the example that you need ingredients to bake a cake and it works the same way with God and miracles. We have to give him the ingredients so that he can work the miracles in our lives. Ingredients such as faith, prayer, fasting, diligence, obedience, and so on. So Elder Araújo and I have been calling this though process the "Bolo de Milagres" (Miracle Cake) and are trying to put in as many ingredients as we can so that God can work miracles in our area. (side note with more ingredients God can bake a bigger cake hence the power of collective prayer and fasting)

Anyway, so as an answer to our prayers for a possible miracle Thursday morning we got a call from the Traveling Assistants in our mission that they would be coming that day to have a division with us. So after a good stressed hour and a half of re-doing our plans for the day to make 2 different schedules the assistants arrived and after lunch Elder Araújo went with one and I went with the other to get as much work done in our area as possible. Everything started out fine with my plans and all but as the day went on the plans got thinner and everything was falling through and we were reduced to putting our faith into knocking doors (well actually we clap our hands at the front gate). Not that it was my fault or lack of planning or anything but it was still frustrating to have that happen the day that the assistant happens to be there. But we just kept on going keeping up the good attitude and trying our best. Then when we got back home Elder Araújo and the other assistant had an awesome day and found 7 new investigators and taught 9 lessons and were telling us all these miracles that had happened. So I came to the conclusion that we, through our diligence that day, supplied the ingredients for the miracle cake with the other Elders, haha.

I pray that all of you are well and have a great week! Oh and I only had to open a few of the Christmas presents early due to necessity, thanks for that family! Love you all!!!

Elder Pierce                              Christmas Package from the family!
Opening the package
Taking out the guts
The loot...
that I won't open until Christmas...
except for a few things :P

Monday, December 1, 2014

Thanksgiving Substitute

Here we are in front of the Church
Remembering Thanksgiving in my planner.
It hit me this morning that it's December... wow... I know that eventually time passes and all, but December already?! Just a little bit more and I'll be coming down the mountain. (after one year you start to count time you have left) And whether I felt like it or not we've now passed Thanksgiving too, crazy. But as a Thanksgiving Substitute our ward had their monthly Noite Familiar (family home evening) activity which was fun. I have many many things to be grateful for here on the mission. I don't think I could express sufficiently the gratitude I feel for this opportunity and all of the blessings to be here in Brasil serving the Lord. And my thanks to all of you back home who I know send me so much love and prayers. 

The Feast

Anyway changing the subject, I have never been so nervous to go to church than I have been on the mission. Explanation: We as missionaries promise so much to our investigators that going to church will help them answer their questions and they will feel the special spirit there during the meetings and such. So we anxiously pray every week that all of the classes and speakers will be inspired and that our investigators can feel welcomed and have a good experience there and all. But when you're at church it's a whole other deal than because almost nothing depends on us. Example: when someone makes a negative comment, maybe about marriage "you're stuck with them forever!" (and your investigators need to get married). Or a comment that could be inadvertently judgmental and totally wrong like "if you're passing through financial difficulty you're not keeping the commandments" (when listening ears may be in humble situations). And for the love of Pete if you don't know how to play the piano don't volunteer to play for the primary program at the last minute!! (I cringed a bit (A LOT OF BIT) and felt very sad for the little children having to put up with that...) Anyway we just have to rely on the Lord and have the faith that he will do his part in the end :) (and do some damage control along the way, haha

So please everyone just be aware that if someone is coming to church for the first time, make them feel loved and at home, I'm just asking for you to have another friend. And don't do anything crazy!

Love y'all!

Elder Pierce                                       
                                                             Our walk home one night:
(just remember not to put your camera on old ladies' trash cans* to take pictures or they will want to call the police on you...)
*here in Brasil they have a metal cage thing on a stand on the sidewalk (in front of the house outside of the gate) that they put all of their trash bags in and this is what I refer to as a "trash can".

 The churrasco bem bagual (really good) we had for lunch on Sunday. yea meat on a sword!

Monday, November 24, 2014

Bom Dia from Brasil!!

Elder Pierce's desk-  about the work of Salvation
Bom dia! from down here in Brasil. It's not even summer yet but it's been getting hotter down here, the holidays will be super weird switching climates like that. In all of the Christmas advertisements there are people in t-shirts and shorts and stuff, wrong. And Thanksgiving this week! Its called Dia de Ação de Graça (Day of Free Acts)(dee-a dee assao dee grassa) in Portuguese and it isn't really a thing here so it´ll be a bit sem graça (without grace, or not the same)(sen grassa) this Thursday, but eat a bit more turkey for me! 

I really enjoy working with Elder Araújo he is a great missionary and I feel like we are just working together. No one is just along for the ride and we don't have to force one another to do what we should and that means the spirit is right along with us, yea! But it's funny because I have an English mode and a Portuguese mode. When we start speaking in English it takes about 20 minutes to stop starting phrases inadvertently in Portuguese rather than English and then when we make a contact or something in the street (and have to switch into Portuguese mode again) it makes for some funny language moments. But maybe this practice of switching language modes will make it less difficult come Christmas skype time (t-minus 1 month!). 

This week we had some great teaching experiences and even met a family that we are starting to teach who are awesome! We had actually already received the reference to go visit this family a month or so ago but the husband made it very clear that us visiting his family was against his religion- which was no religion. But they have gone through some difficulties these past weeks and have moved into another house and the mother told her friend (member of our ward) that she and the two kids were going to look into the church whether the husband wanted to or not and when she brought it up with him he said... yea, alright let's look into it. So that was super awesome and we had a great lesson with them about the restoration. I really was able to see the literal difference in the man that I had met before and the man who we taught. The power of Christ to change the hearts of men is true and can apply to everyone. And the mom went to church on Sunday!!! which is a miracle because the parents of the husband came to visit Saturday night from another city.  That's why he didn't come but it would have been so much easier for them just not to come, but they came!  And she had a great experience and they will come to a ward family home evening this week and the kids will already participate in the primary program next week, woohoo!  

I know the Lord answers our prayers and that this really is His work that I have the privilege to take a part of.

Love you all so much and have a great week and Thanksgiving back home!

Elder Pierce
This is our neighborhood behind me.
That's our apartment building in the middle/top. We are the 2nd floor on the right.
We switched rooms in our apartment because it turns out that missionaries a couple transfers back switched, so its a bit weird after 3 months of sleeping in the other room.

Monday, November 17, 2014

New Companion and New Responsibilities

My new companion and I after Stake Conference this weekend.

First week of the new transfer! To start things off here's the story about getting my new companion. They told us that he would get here 10:30 pm on Tuesday night, a bit weird but whatever. So Tuesday morning Elder Gois and Elder Rocha Martins were packing up all their stuff and we were cleaning the house a bit. Around 11:00 am we get a call from a Sister in our ward saying that she found an Elder waiting there at the Rodo Viaria (bus station?) an Elder Araújo so we were a sort of caught off guard and ran down to the bus station to pick up my companion. Another thing, in our mission we have an Elder Santos Araújo, Elder Araújo Souza, Elder Araújo Lima, and just Elder Araújo (the last name is pretty common here in Brasil). So who we thought was coming was Elder Santos Araújo who Elder Gois knows and is "my age", but who they told us was coming was Elder Araújo Souza (they mixed up the names on the transfers list) and who it actually came was just Elder Araújo. So he isn't the Elder that I explained to y'all last week.

Elder Araújo is from Brasilia, funny enough the same ward that Elder Fávero my first companion is from. He will have 5 months on the mission this week and this Saturday makes 10 months for me, kind of crazy. So the day went on and we had to pick up other Elders at the bus stop so they wouldn't be alone and dropped others off and Elder Gois said some last good byes to people until it was finally time for him to be off for Santa Maria. It was a bit sad to send of Elder Gois who became my good friend for the past 13 weeks together but I can already tell that Elder Araújo and I get along great and we will work awesome together

So this week has been a bit different for me with a new companion and that feeling when we start to plan... and now what?... haha but with time I'm sure it´ll get easier. We are going to have to do a lot of work finding new investigators and following the spirit especially because this transfer is only 5 weeks and that means just 4 more to go, wow. Elder Araújo has great energy and isn't afraid to talk with everybody that we see so I know we will have success. And a cool bit, he actually worked as an English teacher so for language study we have just been conversing in English and reading the Book of Mormon out loud in English. He is practically fluent (but he wont tell you that haha). 

Anyway so many stories to tell and never enough time! Love you all hand I hope you enjoy the pictures this week!

Elder Pierce

There's a big cuia (koo-e-ya) statue here in the city that Elder Gois and I took pictures with
(cuia traditional cup thing that gauchos drink Chimarrao from)

Pics from a Noite Familiar (Family Home Evening) we had as a farewell 
for Elders Gois and Rocha Martins:

We sang I am a Child of God together.
 Here are pics of a game we played at the Noite Familiar (family home evening) where one tie is rat and one is a cat and when you get the rat tie you have to make 2 knots and pass it on but when the cat tie comes to you you only do 1 knot and then whoever gets caught by the cat while they are still tying the rat is out, super fun!

Action shot!
Rocha Martins and I seeing who was actually out ( he tried to pass me the rat before he finished , haha). 
The new crowd in the house (two Americans now). :)

Monday, November 10, 2014

The Lord Giveth and The Lord Taketh Away

Farewell to Elder Gois (for now)
As expected the time for Elder Gois here in Cruz Alta as my companion has come to an end. This week he will be transferred to Santa Maria and I will have a new companion Elder Araujo from São Paulo capital. A bit funny because Elder Araujo is from the same group as Elder Gois and so we have the same amount of time on the mission and we will probably leave the mission at the same time too. It's not too, too common to have a companion your "same age" but now I'll have two, interesting. So Tuesday all the moving and traveling will happen and the rest of the week will be helping Elder Araujo get to know the new area. 

I have felt so blessed to have served with Elder Gois for these past 3 months and it'll be a bit sad to see him go (especially now that we have a new rule in the mission that we can't email any other missionary in our mission... no personal comment) But I'm sure that the work will go on and that we will get to see each other again at a zone conference or something and at least when we are returning home. 

This past Saturday we (Elders Rocha Martins, Rios, Gois and I) had the awesome opportunity to be on the Cruz Alta radio! There's a radio station that people from the community can sign up and just talk on the radio for an hour and the missionaries have been putting on a program for a good time now and so this time it was our turn. We prepared an awesome message with the theme "O que esta faltando em sua vida?" ("What's missing in your life?") and we used the lesson "The Gospel" that we as missionaries learn in PMG Ch3 ( click here to read more ) with the 5 points Faith, Repentance, Baptism, Gift of the Holy Ghost, and Endure to the End to answer the question. It worked out really well and we divided all the topics and played it out as a conversation between us. My part to explain was about baptism and I talked about the baptism of Christ and sang the primary song "Baptism" and half way scared the radio attendant guy who was on the controls because it was kind of loud and he wasn't expecting that, haha. 
Radio Station sign
Putting on the radio show
Me singing "Baptism"

Anyway I am looking forward to working with Elder Araujo and finding many for new investigators! (As the subject states the missionary work here has been much of the Lord giving and a bit sadly taking away through free agency.)

Anyway love you all and have a great week! 

Elder Pierce
All of us with our Bishop and his family ( Elder R* tall Elder* was transferred too).