April 29, 2013

Hey everyone!
This week was probably the busiest week on the mission, but it was great! Elder Permann was transferred and I was sad to see him go. But now I am with Elder Albuquerque! He is one of the Brasilians that arrived in the MTC the same day I did! I couldn't believe when they said he was my comp! I was super excited and it has been nothing but great! I have learned so much from him in just a few days and am super grateful for the opportunity that the Lord blessed me with to learn from him. 
        So we had an activity planned for the youth (who are all inactive) in the branch. It was the missionary's job to get it all put together. So we walked the entire city getting the youth to promise to come and play X Box Kinect at the church and we arranged everything to have plenty of food! It was pretty fun and all, but we only had one of the young women show up and that’s because her mom was helping prepare the food. But it was all good! 
Elder Albuquerque brought some workout DVDs, called "insanity". It’s basically a bunch of plyometrics, and we did a part of a workout for two days straight. Ha-ha I could hardly walk on the third day because my legs were so sore! But thank heavens we had two members who did divisions with us the entire day, so we got to chill in the car the entire day and relax the legs and feet! I have already lost some weight and we will be starting up again tomorrow now that our muscles have gotten a wrest! 
Albuquerque does some super effective missionary work; he has such a love for the Lord. It is so good to be with a comp as excited as him. He does contacts in such crazy ways, but they work so well. The other day we were sitting on a bench on the corner of a street and he told me just to start yelling in English at everyone who passes by, and he would act like he was translating! Ha-ha it was crazy but it was super effective. We got plenty of addresses and one lady stopped and talked a lot with us. All in all we walked with her to her house and taught her. On the way there she made me ride her bike, she wanted to see an American ride a bike. And while Elder Albuquerque was talking, she cut him off and said let the American talk. It was just super weird and all, but we taught her and she came to church this week! It was pretty good! Ha-ha unfortunately she was the only investigator that came to church. But at least we had one! It is already a big improvement.
Elder Albuquerque has brought some great new ideas here to help the branch. Each time we leave a message at lunch, we ask the members to share their testimony. The first house we went to for lunch, is with an older couple who have an 18 year old daughter who fell away from the church and sadly does all the wrong the world has to offer. But Elder Albuquerque asked her to share her testimony, and she kind of wouldn't. But he asked her questions and in the end she bore her testimony. I thought he was crazy. Elder Permann and I never got her to eat at the table with us, Albuquerque got her to eat at the table, talk with us, and bare her testimony. This kid is super persistent, brave, friendly and just awesome. It is so much that I am learning from him in all situations and I just love it.
This past week was super busy, we had the activity, we had all of Thursday filled with splits with members and had to plan to fill the schedule, and then to top it all off we had to speak in church on Sunday. It all went really well though, now I am excited to keep working this week and just focus on getting our investigators to church. I am loving the mission so much and am so glad that I am where I am at and with who I am with and doing what I am doing! It has been such a blast. I am sorry that this letter was super quick. The LAN house here was having problems so we didn’t get to email until late. Now I got to run! Can't wait to tell you more about what comes this week! Thanks so much for everything! I love you all! God loves you all!
Elder Paynter

April 22, 2013

Well everyone this week was great as usual! It's the mission so of course it went great! It was a little more low key. Elder Permann has a lot of time here and it is time for this guy to get going. He is awesome and I loved every single day with him. I hope I can be a good companion for my future comps. We went to Atibaia this week for our zone/district meeting so we could say goodbye to three elders in our zone who are going home this transfer. It was pretty good and I will miss them. They were great examples and taught me a lot of things. After three bus rides we got back to Amparo and got our day planned out over a 2 liter bottle of coke. The coke here is super good. The coke in the states doesn't even compare!
We had decided that Tuesday would be the best day to head to the really far neighborhood (1& 1/2 hrs by foot) and teach a couple promising contacts there. And it all worked out! We went there and taught a guy named Gustavo. He is super great, understood everything and it was a great lesson altogether. We later found out the next investigator, Letícia, is married to an ancient less active member! And better yet he works with Gustavo! It was seriously a great strand of miracles happening! I couldn't believe my ears! Letícia was still pretty stuck on the Catholic Church and the whole saint Mary deal so we will what happens with her. We just invited her to come to church and hopefully she will feel the truthfulness of the church. She is stuck on the big marvelous worldly things that these other churches offer. But thank heavens her husband has shown that he will be pushing to get them in church, along with Gustavo! It all worked out perfectly!
The next day, Permann and I planned to head out to Serra Negra. It is a neighboring city that is technically part of our area. We had received a reference to go there and give a DVD. So we made a day activity out of it. Serra Negra is a small town of like 30 thousand but is super touristy, and super beautiful. It reminded me of California minus a beach. So Permann and I killed some curiosity and visited a couple stores. He bought a berronte. Some trumpet-ish thing made out of a bulls horn like on lord of the rings. Ha-ha it was pretty funny to see him lug it around and have people look at him funny. He didn't care; he was like a child at Christmas. We finally mugged up the courage to walk for an hour up some huge hills in Serra Negra to get to the reference's house. And it was a walk! Ha-ha we stopped in some little shack to buy a cold coke and then get back on the way to find that the person wasn't home. So we left the mother lode with them at the door! Book of Mormon, 2 different DVDs and the restoration pamphlet with our numbers and a message from us. It was a great day. We made it back home with sunburned faces and knocked on a few potential investigators to find that they really didn't want the message to close off the night. It was a great day.
The next day, we passed by the center of the city and this hippy/gypsy (we called her a "jippy") was selling some handmade bracelets from snake skin leather and whatever else. Permann had already made friends with her in previous transfers and stopped to buy something this time. We talked for a long time. She was pretty interesting, she had spent a lot of time with the Indians in the Amazon and such. She had long ratty dreads and the sides of her head were shaved. It was kind of cool to see, wouldn't want my wife to have hair like that by any means though. But she was awesome and we were able to teach her about the restoration and invited her to church. It was fun. She asked a lot about things in America too. Like whether we were fans of Obama or "the opposition" ha-ha. I wanted to say we were part of the rebellion. Ha-ha it was a fun experience.
After this we went to visit one of our mothers, Wilsy, who has been passing through some tough times lately. She gave us the whole smorgasbord of food, including my favorite, Vaca Preta. It’s basically a Coca Cola float but here they call it a black cow. Silly Brasilians. We spent some great time with her. After we talked with her, we planned on going back out to the far away neighborhood again. We couldn't get hold of our investigators and I was not super excited to walk that far to find an empty house. But we went, and while we were walking this guy stopped us. He talked with us really quick and was so happy to see us! He almost hugged us! He ran inside his house and commanded us to enter! Ha-ha we did with pleasure! He said he was a member a long time ago in Bragança Paulista and he loved the Elders there! He made juice for us and we talked until his wife and kids got home and he was super happy! We gave him the address to the church, (he thought Amparo didn’t have one) and got his info so we could come back and teach his wife! I thought about how important it was that we found him. He said his schedule is super busy, but because we decided to go to the far away neighborhood, he was able to find us, and at a time where he was home! It was super cool, and reminded me that we must always be engaged in a good cause and that the Lord works through small and simple means! I am so grateful for that experience! This guy's name is Celso. He will be awesome in the branch here and I can't wait to see what is in store with them. And no we did not find the planned investigators home! Ha-ha.
Saturday we had lunch with our other mom, Laide. She made feijoada which is a big pot of beans with all the meat you need for a Texas BBQ in it. She made so much and wanted it gone! So we ate lunch, left and worked, and came back for dinner. It was good time spent with her, and she greatly appreciates it. She guilt trips us at times for leaving her house too soon.
Sunday finally came. I wasn't too happy that morning and I didn't quite know for sure why. I just kept quiet and didn't say anything until Sacrament. We left to go get an investigator and go with her to church. When we got to her door, she said her boyfriend that lived with her doesn't like us and that she was accepting classes from the Jehovah's Witnesses too and didn’t want to be confused. My two biggest dislikes here: No one is married, but they all live with their boyfriends, and stinking Jehovoh's Witnesses. We have a saying her in Amparo, "If you don't follow up on your investigator, the Jehovah's Witnesses will." Yeah, nuff said. Just a bunch of trouble makers for us. Anyway, we got back to the church in time for sacrament meeting. The patriarch spoke in sacrament and it was so powerful. Patriarchs have a super special relationship with the spirit. It really got to me when he spoke. After the meeting block, Permann and I helped to put the sacrament away with the Patriarch. While he was doing it, I just stopped and looked at him. My heart was burning and he looked up at me and he had tears in his eyes as he looked into mine. I was tearing up a little too, and all he could say was "God bless you Elder". It was such a cool experience. I felt so much love from the Lord then. It is an honor to have the opportunity to serve these people and to be able to take care of the sacred sacrament after the meetings. I love this church! I love this place!
 We found out about transfers at about five that day, and I knew Permann would be going, I thought maybe I would be also because I was starting to feel comfortable here. Ha-ha But luckily I get to stay. It is a little nerve-wracking each transfer. This time will give me a lot of opportunities to grow, we have a lot of activities and things going on this week that we planned and my new comp is going to have to rely on the junior to get it all right. I hope it all goes well and that we can serve our Savior in a manner acceptable to Him.
Well we went and visited Laide to tell her about the changes, and she wasn't too happy. She started crying but cheered up a little later. After that we went to visit a less active member who I adore. He served a mission a while back but came home early and now he was passing some hard times with his wife. He has a strong spirit to him though. He just talked to us about his mission and about how we have the greatest time of our lives right now. That even though he came home early, he would not give up his memories of his mission for a million dollars. I loved hearing that, This is the best time of my life for sure. I can't dream of being in a better place than Amparo, Brasil right now.
 We may not be baptizing, but I have seen the true church of our Savior Jesus Christ work miracles and change lives. This place has flipped a 180 and I know that I have done what I can to help better this place. This next transfer will be great; I am so excited for the wonderful experiences ahead. I love every second here! This is the work of the Lord! This is His Church. We are His covenant people and we should be the happiest because we have nothing but happiness in store for us! I love my mission, I love these people, I love the scriptures, I love my Redeemer and I know that he lives and He loves us perfectly! I love you all! Have a wonderful week! I know I will!

Elder Paynter

P.S. Davies, Dean, fam, and friends, thanks so much for the letters and for the support! The letters are some of the greatest possessions I have! I love you all!


April 15, 2013

Hello everyone!
Yet another great week in Brasilian Europe serving the Lord! We had a tough time getting to any investigators, and our golden hope, José the vagabond, didn’t come to church again or the activity so we didn't see him or teach him. We were doing a contact with this guy one day and while we were talking to him, his neighbor came over and started saying things about the church and man I got heated fast. A lot of people here don't know much about neither the bible, nor our religion and then try to bash with us. And it is hard to fight back because they are so limited with their gospel knowledge that all the say is no in response to everything. Ha-ha it was annoying but it’s part of the work.
We finally got into an old investigators house and read from the book of Mormon with them and invited them again to say a prayer. I have been praying so much that they will somehow feel the truth and at least have the desire to know if it is true or not.
We went to Bragança Paulista on Monday night after p-day ended at six and had our district meeting in the house of the elders because Amparo has two bus times in the day to get back. It was super fun. We did practices in our pajamas and it was me and a newborn Brasilian Elder as missionaries with Permann and the other as our investigators. It was super funny and I was able to see how much I have progressed with the teaching. I loved it.  
The rest of the week went pretty slow until we got to our Multi-zone meeting which was really good. It is always a great spiritual booster and I love learning some new great things there. The night before I had remembered that President Perrotti asked everyone to study 2 Nephi 31 because he would randomly choose someone to give a forty minute lesson to the crowd at the conference. So I stayed up late and had a super awesome study session even though luckily enough, I wasn't chosen to teach. The kid who was chosen was taken quite off guard and clearly wasn't prepared. I also got my packages there and it was great! Elder Permann and I didn't get back home until 9:15 that night. He got two packages also and we both just had a huge party and colored eggs and after we enjoyed some eggs and amazing hot sauce! It was a great day! 
On Saturday we went to visit one of our "mothers" who hasn't been able to make it to church for a while because her father's health is going south and she is looking after him. When we got there she told us about a lump she has in her neck and that she would be getting some big tests done on it soon. I immediately thought of the worst. I had operated on way too many people at Huntsman with "lumps" in their necks and seen a lot of instances where it turned out to be something really bad. I immediately thought of the worst with her. She told us she would be wanting a blessing soon. She then told us some awesome experiences she has had with priesthood blessings in her life. She is like a wise old shaman and everyone loves her. She then said that a priesthood blessing depends on two people, the faith of the recipient, and the faith of the giver. It really touched me to the core when she said that. I would not have been ready to give her the right blessing at that moment because I allowed the thoughts of my own past experiences interrupt the capacity of God's power. I have since then worked so much harder to strengthen my faith so I can always be ready to give the blessing that the Lord wants me to give to those who stand in need. It truly was a humbling experience and a reality check. It is often hard to remember everything about this gospel in every moment, but I had realized that it has been a while since I have evaluated my faith.
Finally Sunday rolled around. We were almost able to get a single mother to church; she let us pass by her house quickly on Sunday to walk with her to church so she could make it to sacrament meeting. When we showed up she was all dirty and was cleaning her house so she didn't go but promised us next week. She was really sincere and we probably have the most hope in her at the moment. So we ran back to church and got there a little late, so they made the other priesthood holders pass this week. It was kind of nice to be able to sit down and think about the wonderful covenants I have made with Heavenly Father and to think of how I would improve myself this week. It was a great spirit there. At times it is hard to make Sunday feel more sacred when every day is the same for me, but the Lord blessed me that I was able to feel of His Spirit and of His love. It wasn't a profound week. But it was great. I am so grateful to be here serving the people in whichever way I can. I love this work. I love the Lord with all my heart. I know that this is his church and we have a wonderful loving prophet who guides us and leads us. I love you all and hope you had a week as great as mine. Have another good one okay?
Elder Paynter

April 8, 2013

Hello Everyone,
It has been quite a week and we had so many appointments set up but, they almost all fell through the first time we tried passing by. But we kept with the people and kept passing by their houses and we finally got in and got some great lessons in! It is pretty funny how people work down here, the majority of them say that they are busy but we can pass by another day when we do contacts. They don’t think that we will, they are just too scared to say no for some reason. So we pass by until they let us in or finally say no. Ha-ha I have learned a lot about how you have to be a little annoying to get into anyone's home here and teach them. We have been working close to one of the poor neighborhoods for the past little while. A ton of drunks and druggies just sit out in front of this little Catholic Church under some trees, and drink tequila all day long because it is super cheap. A bottle is like a dollar here. But we have made pretty good friends with basically all of them and usually have to listen to one of them talk his drunk face off for a few minutes each time we pass by.
This week a new drunk stopped us and asked how he could get our power that we have. We both just kind of laughed and tried getting some things through his head, but it wasn’t going anywhere. But he just kept bringing up that he could see our power and wanted to know how to get it. Although it was a super funny situation, it made me think about how grateful I am to be a holder of God's priesthood. I just hope that, with His help, I can develop and grow and become the warrior, the man, and the priesthood carrier that our Heavenly Father expects me to be. It is such an incredible opportunity and such a great responsibility to hold the authority of God. I hope that everyone can truly recognize the duties that God has entrusted us with. I pray every day that I can recognize the opportunities to serve and magnify my calling. Well that was one of the funny points of the week. 
We hadn't heard from our friend who came to the chapel after church was over a couple weeks ago (Jose). On Tuesday after we got back from our district meeting, we worked pretty hard and needed to finish up some contacts before we had family home evening with a member family. I will be quite honest, I wasn’t feeling too well, it was raining, and we needed to walk an hour and ten minutes to get to the family. I really considered cancelling and going home so I could get feeling better, but I said a prayer and just kept going even though my body and mind weren’t so willing. As we were walking we ran into our friend that had come to the church. It was the greatest thing ever, we found out that he had found a job, and was turning his life around. He gave us a huge hug and told us all about his progress, he thanked us so much. He said he wanted to go to church but was unable to last week, but he would for sure this week. Since it was conference we told him to meet us at the church in the morning so we could teach him, and then we would go to the branch president’s house to watch conference. He was way excited; we gave him a little bit of money to go buy dinner with and carried onto the member family's house. I was so grateful that the lord had blessed us with running into him. It made me think of how important it is to be working at all times. I almost cancelled the appointment and we would have lost an even bigger one with our investigator if I had. We ran into him again a different night, and that night he told us even better news, he told us that he was able to take a shower and was able to find a place to pay to sleep in for the night. He was just super happy, and thanked us so much for believing in him and for helping him. I felt on cloud nine after talking with him. That was what I came to the mission for, it wasn’t just to baptize and look at people as numbers, it was to HELP people, to serve my brothers and sisters here in Brasil. We went to the chapel at nine on Sunday morning, and waited, it was about ten and he finally showed up. I was so happy and after that we taught him and went to the branch president's house where we ate lunch and watched conference together. Jose loved it; he took a ton of notes, and made great friends with the branch president. He started talking to us about how after he is baptized and a member that he could be teaching or preaching at the church and stuff.
We were just on cloud nine and so grateful for the experiences this week. It has been a little tough to see how many people wouldn’t read or pray to know about the Book of Mormon, but Jose has made up for it all. We are so happy and hopefully we will see him in white soon. This week has been full of funny and great experiences. 
I want to thank everyone for the prayers, the concern, and for the letters. I have the best family, and friends, and wonderful examples back at home. I love you all so much and hope you have a wonderful week.
Elder Paynter

April 1, 2013

Well hello everyone,
What a week! It has just been so awesome! Started out a bit tougher than I would prefer, but I have learned so dang much and my love for the mission, the people, and the Lord has grown exponentially! We had a great zone meeting on Tuesday and I learned so much. I also found out that some of my Brasilian friends from the MTC are now in my zone and it was so much fun to talk with them and share ideas about different situations. I love our zone tons now. We went out to lunch with our zone and they took forever to cook it so we missed our only bus back out to Amparo, so we stayed in Bragança and did a division. I went with an elder who is finishing his mission after this transfer and it was so good to see a master go after it. I really learned a lot from him and I was super grateful that we missed our bus. So we went back spent one more night, and got up at five in the morning to catch the early bus back to Amparo. As I was half asleep on the hour and a half sketchy bus ride on the bumpy mountainside, I looked out and saw thick fog. It was a little scary because it isn’t the safest bus ride, but not five minutes later we were out of what I thought was fog, I looked back and saw a bunch of poofy clouds sitting on the hillside. It was a super beautiful sight. The Spirit just confirmed a little truth to me. Although trials at times make us blind and feel like a rough and bumpy road, we just need to keep going carefully through life, and shortly they will be gone and we will see that they were a beautiful opportunity and blessing in our lives. Just like I was so grateful to see that beautiful sight. I felt the love of our Savior at that moment, and I although I was a little sick with some things, I knew that shortly it would all be great and I would be grateful for them.

     We just started into a really rich neighborhood and nobody gave us a chance to speak until we found a worker that was painting one of the houses and we started talking with him and he said he didn’t want anything, and then his brother came out of nowhere and said "I want to know more about it!" We were so happy to finally find someone that would talk with us, and this guy was super excited! He lives way far away and was traveling for Easter so we didn’t get to start teaching him yet, but will very soon! The next day, we went back into that neighborhood because we had faith that at least one of the people there would be prepared to hear our message; we knocked, and knocked, and knocked on some of the biggest houses I have seen. They are beautiful here and have such a beautiful view. But nobody answered until this little old guy with sun glasses comes out. He looked just like a Brasilian Jack Nicholson. The first thing he said, was "hey, you are both Americans!" ha-ha. He had already had missionaries in house before and his daughters and sons-in-law live in Georgia. He has been to the states a few times. He let us in his house, gave us some water and talked with us for a bit but didn’t really want the messages. He was super nice and told us to pass by more. But he was the only guy in the entire neighborhood who we got anywhere with so we probably won’t be seeing him anymore. It was a little gem of the day. Then we went to our recent convert family's house for a nice family home evening. It was good to see how well they had progressed and the mother bore testimony about the Book of Mormon and it was super cool.
   Friday was a day we had marked to visit with one of our contacts at three in the afternoon. Her husband is in the hospital, he has been in a coma for about fifteen days now. When we went there a lot younger guy answered the door, and ordered us to enter. We were a little shocked by it but entered and started talking with this guy and asked for the lady. He said she was at the hospital and wouldn’t be back for a while. He is her son, his name is Michel. He usually works but because of Easter they were given the weekend off, including Friday. We talked more with him, and he said he was in jail but got released four and half months ago and was baptized by an evangelical church while he was in prison. He told us about his experience of changing his life from drugs and violence into God. He wanted to hear our message and we gave it to him. It was a super cool experience and he was super receptive. He accepted baptism if he got an answer. We were so excited to hear all of that! It was so good to teach him, the spirit was really strong there. And after the lesson he even said, "You guys don’t drink coffee do you?" and we said “no”. He wanted us to help him quit drinking coffee too!!! It was unreal! I was so grateful! After him, we tried some other marked appointments but they all fell through like usual. So we started walking through the neighborhood and saw a run down dirt road of a street with a bunch of little shacks for houses. I was so happy! My eyes got big and we started knocking! Every single person that answered their door wanted us to come back and teach! I couldn’t believe my ears! I was so excited! We took off from the street before it got too dark and went to Laides for another huge dinner full of laughs and love with her. It was a great day!
   Saturday we went back to visit Michel and see if he had gotten an answer yet. And his mom (the lady we marked an appointment with before) answered the door. Her name is Jurema. When we had first marked an appointment with her, she didn’t seem all that excited to have us in her house and kept changing it, but this time she was really excited to see us. She talked all about the Book of Mormon and about Michel and they had a great discussion about it! She sadly had to remark another time with us but said she was so happy and excited to see us again and couldn’t wait for the lesson. The Lord works in such great ways, and gives us opportunities to bless the lives of others and opportunities to lift where we stand. And if we take advantage of those opportunities, we will be blessed with even more trust from Him, great blessings, and greater opportunities to work with. It was so great of a miracle! After that we went back to our dirt road street to finish knocking those doors, and once again, everyone was super receptive! We marked so many appointments for this week with entire families, and I can’t wait to see what is in store. We knocked a lot of doors and got to one where nobody answered, we were just about to turn away when the owners of the house rolled up in their car, and asked us what we wanted. Immediately they let us in their house! They are a cute young couple that has so much love for one another. You could just feel how great they were by being there, and I just felt so grateful to know them and have time to talk with them. During the lesson, everything went absolutely perfect. I had never felt the spirit so strong in a lesson. They committed to baptism on the 20th of April when they receive an answer, remarked for our next appointment and told us to write down the date so they don’t forget. They almost started reading the Book of Mormon before we could even get out the door! I am so excited to meet with them again this Saturday to see how things went! I was literally on cloud nine! We went to the church to grab our Easter eggs that a member's daughter made for us, and said a prayer to thank our Father in Heaven for all of the blessings and miracles he has shown to us. After that we went to the store to grab some last second hair gel and soap and what not, when one of the cashiers who is a friend of ours said that she wanted us to go teach her and her husband and that she was looking to go to a different church now! She gave us her address and it turns out she lives far away, but pretty close to the painters that we talked with earlier that week. Again I couldn’t believe my ears. It was miracle after miracle this week. It has been a tough area but I feel like after a trial of our faith, the Lord has blessed us with all the opportunities in the world. We finally had incorporated love into our work instead of working for numbers and it has made all the difference in the world.
    No investigators came to church this week, but we will just say that’s because of Easter. We had an awesome discussion about the priesthood, and after that all the members in the ward fattened us up with great food and Easter chocolates. It was such an incredible week, thanks to the Lord for blessing us with new eyes of love and service, and with His Spirit so we work in His ways.
     I am so grateful for each and every moment I have to do this work. For every second that I get to say I am a missionary, that I am a servant of our Savior and that I have been chosen to spread the gospel by the very authority of God. I know that this the only true church on the face of the earth, that it contains the only true prophet of God, with 12 apostles, and the only church on the earth with the authority of God Himself. I am so grateful that he has trusted me with all of the opportunities and to carry his priesthood power. I am so grateful for the Sacrifice that Jesus Christ made for us. That we can be with our families forever in never-ending happiness and that because he made that sacrifice, we are never alone with any trial, thought, temptation, situation, or sickness. He knows exactly who we are, and what we need. He loves us perfectly, and allows the right trials into our lives so we can grow. He is making Gods out of us, and I pray every day that we all learn what he would have us to learn. I love this gospel. I love this work. I love my Father in Heaven and my Savior, Jesus Christ. I hope your week is as good as mine was. 
I love you all.
            Èlder Paynter