Monday, June 1, 2015

.....Última Carta

Hey guysss,

So I guess the time has come to write the last email of the mission. I´m not gonna lie, it´s super strange, sometimes it starts sinking in at random moments, but I don´t think I´ve completely felt it yet. I guess that´s a good thing that way I stay focused up until the last day. Thanks for sending the photos of everyone at the funeral to me. It gives me a chance to see how much everyone has changed, and dang have they changed a lot. I saw tons of babies and I´m not even sure whose is whose. Either way, I can´t wait to see everybody when I get home!

This week was really hard, but for really good reasons. Before I get there, we had a surprise emergency transfer last Friday. As we were finishing up our weekly planning, we got a call from the assistant saying that we had to go to the mission office as soon as possible, and that Elder Neuman and I would be in a triple companionship. They probably did this because I´ll be going to the mission office tomorrow night, where I´ll stay until I get my flight on Friday. So, that way our area doesn´t just stop until the end of the transfer, President sent Elder Weight, an American from New Jersey to serve with us, show him around the area a bit, and continue teaching our investigators. He´s a very cool guy, I´ve liked the pást couple days we have serving together, he´s very experienced as well (Goes home in July with Elder Neuman).

It was a very happy, and sad sunday for me yesterday. Well, more gratifying I guess. Having to say good bye to some of my converts, reactivated members, as well as other members was tough. Nothing makes me happier than hearing their gratitude for the work and sacrifice they saw us do. The Bishop invited me to bear my testimony one more time in the ward, and although I´ve never been one to cry, it was tough not to get a little emotional for having to leave this wonderful ward. Seeing people like Luciano, Rose and Rayane, our investigator Souza and many others cry as I left the church yesterday was really tender and spiritual for me. I´m so happy that technology makes communication between countries so much easier.

I´ve learned a lot about the importance of members and missionaries working together united to strengthen our Heavenly Father´s kingdom and bring souls to Christ. It´s not my work, it´s not even the mission´s work, it´s what the Lord expects of us as his followers. I hope that even after I finish my full-time mission, I can still continue to be a missionary no matter where I end up in life.

Let everyone back at home know that I love them so much and that I can´t wait to hug you all this Saturday!

One Last Time, Love,
Elder Braun

Monday, May 25, 2015

Edgars Baptism and the Power of the Book of Mormon

Dearest Family,

Well I have to say, the news that I received in mom´s letter was certainly not was I was expecting. I remember very clearly the last day I saw Grandpa when we left the family Reunion of 2013, giving him one last hug and not having certainty whatsoever if I´d have the chance to hug him again after I came home. I remember that it wasn´t until after saying goodbye to him that I started crying a bit as well, as I did just right now while reading the email mom sent. I´m so grateful that his exit was peaceful, calm, and with his loved ones around him singing his favorite songs. I can´t think of any better way for his passing to happen. I know he´s in a better place now, and that he´ll always be my grandpa. I´m also happy to know that Justin has grandpa´s sweet presence with him as we anxiously wait for the coming of our Savior here on Earth.

I´m also very happy to say that this week went VERY well for Elder Neuman and I. We had many miracles, both spiritual and physical. Edgar had the priveledge to be baptized, and his service was very special. His baptism is a perfect example of how important it is for us as members of the church to sacrifice a little so that others can enjoy the blessings of the restored gospel. Ever since Edgar´s adopted siblings Juliana, Geovanna, and Jean moved to our area almost two years ago, the bishop has given them a ride to church every sunday. Keep in mind that this family lives very far away, probably about 25 to 30 minuts from the bishops house by car, and another 20 minutes to the church building. By doing this weekly act of service, these kids have been able to be a better influence to their parents than their parents have been for them, and in doing so, has given Edgar the chance to come to church weekly for the past 3 months. I hope that I´ll have many opportunities like that after my mission to help others enjoy the many blessings of this church.

We had a very interesting, slightly freightening, but nonetheless interesting experience on saturday. As we were walking to the church at about 7 at night to get some materials for Edgar´s baptism, we we walking on the sidewalk of a busy, yet dimly lit street. As Elder Neuman and I were walking, two strange men walking in the opposite direction suddenly asked us to stop and not go any further. At first I kept walking a bit trying to ignore them, but when I noticed that both had a bag and each of the men had one of their hands in the bag they were holding, my nerves went up a bit, because they could have had a gun or knife. They told us to give them our cell phones, and I told them that we were missionaries and didn´t any cell phone to give them. One of them asked us where we were from, and Elder Neuman, way smarter than me, said "We´re from the church, we´re misionaries". When they saw the Book of Mormon that we were both holding in our hands, they looked at each other and decided to keep walking, as did we without looking back. What was awesome about this experience was the fact that these men completely gave up the moment they saw we were holding the Book of Mormon in our hands. I´m certain that if we hadn´t been holding it at that moment, they would have haggled (is that a word?) a bit more than they did.

We´ve been teaching Janaina and Ricardo´s family some more, as well as their 3 kids, and everyone but Ricardo came to church on Sunday! Because of their very different religious backgrounds, their progress might be a bit slower than most people, but Janaina and her kids seemed to like church, especially Nathan, their 10 year old son. He wants the primary songs on cd so that he can learn them.

Since this sunday is my last sunday on the mission, the Primary presidency asked me to prepare a sharing time lesson about baptism, confirmation, and my mission experience. I´m pretty happy to be able to teach the kiddos more about these important principles in my life, and to be able to teach while 3 of my converts are present makes it even more gratifying.

I love this gospel and love the peace it brings to me. Knowing that my family will be forever is a knowledge without price.

Elder Braun

Monday, May 18, 2015

Mission Counsel and Home Stretch

Hey Family,

It sure sounds like Bryan and Holly are taking over the primary in Dayton. Way to go! Last week on Mother´s Day, the Primary President in the Bento Ribeiro Ward asked me to play the piano for a special musical number that the primary kids sang. It was pretty cool, and I´m just been so grateful for the opportunities I´ve had on my mission to improve and magnify my talents playing the piano. I´m still not perfect, but I´ve loved being able to serve in that way. I´m usually playing in Sacrament meeting since the normal player has a stake calling and isin the ward maybe once a month.

Well, the time is flying by too fast, and The Lord truly is testing me with MANY opportunities to work these last few weeks. Elder Neuman and I have had many miracles and through planning and hard work and diligence, I´m hoping to end my last few weeks with many reactivations and baptisms. After over 5 years without coming to church, we were able to help out Suelane come back! I think I talked about her family a couple of weeks ago. This upcoming Sunday, we´re expecting her husband Marcio to be at church as well. I´ve learned to love that family a lot, and although they´ve been away from the fold for a while, I´m happy to play a part in helping their family return.

Last tuesday, we had mission counsel with all the zone leaders and district leaders in the mission. I had the oportunity to see some familiar faces, including Elder Evans, one of my past comps who´ll be coming home with me. The mission was able to have 108 baptisms in the month of April, the most in a long time, and since there´s 5 weeks in May, we´re working hard as an entire mission to teach more effectively, more boldly, and spiritually that way we can bring more souls to Christ.

We have been teaching Edgar and had been preparing him for Baptism last saturday, but his mom wanted to give him one more week that way she could invite other members of his family to be present. Edgar has been progressing really well, and we found out he has a sister, Alice, who has become interested in the church as well!

Also, we visited Souza a few times this week and he has become more and more humbled by the teachings in the book of mormon. He has a huge love for his wife who is very sick and going in and out of the hospital, but always feels comfort in reading the Book of Mormon and receiving Elder Neuman and I. We challenged him for baptism on the 23rd, this saturday, and he accepted. What´s great is that his birthday is on the 24th, and when we told him he´d receive the gift of the Holy Ghost on that day, he started to cry and was really emotional.

We´re also teaching a lady named Adriana who has been progressing really well. She was a reference from a less-active lady who since we´ve started teaching Adriana, is now coming back to church! Adriana came to church yesterday and loved it! She already considers herself a member of the church, and we´re preparing her for the 30th for baptism. We´re hoping it all works out!

So here I am, in the home stretch with less than 3 weeks to go and MAKING THE MOST OF IT! I love my mission, each and every minute of it, and I´m so happy of the person I´ve become. I love you all and wish you the best this week!

Elder Braun

Monday, May 11, 2015

Happy Mother's Day!


I loved being able to talk to everyone yesterday! I don´t have much more news to share since what I told you all yesterday, but here we go!

Elder Neuman and I are still teaching Edgar, a nine year old boy who has been coming to church and said he wanted to get baptized last week! His mom, who isn´t a member of the church, although has nothing against it, wants Edgar to prepare a little bit more before being baptized. We had originally marked for him to be baptized this saturday, but depending on his mom, we might have to reschedule.

Paulo has been progressing really well, too. Although he still hasn´t comitted to baptism, he has been supporting his wife, Lucimar, more and more as he has learned more about the church. Now, he´s always there with her, and is even attending Temple Prep, learning more about temples and eternal families. He had always been saying when we taught him that the Catholic church and Mormons were alike in many ways, and now he´s having the opportunity to see the differences which makes us more happy to see his interest increase.

Souza has also been pretty good. He loves Elder Neuman and I so much, since he has worked as the Brazillian consolate for the US, and he´s a fan of 'Merica. He has been reading the Book of Mormon a lot lately and has received an answer about it´s truthfulness. His wife has been having lots of health problems, though, but he hasn´t let his faith become weak.

The members in Bento Ribeiro have been showing lots of gratitude for the work we´ve been doing, and many have invited us over to have family home evening, and even inviting their non-member friends! It´s so wonderful when their desire to share the gospel grows by seeing our example, and them not having to be compelled to do what we ask them to do. It reminds me of Chapter 32 of Alma, and how we must be humbled to excercise our faith, rather than compelled or forced to. I just love the person I have become and hope that I can make these last few weeks count.

I love you all so much!!!!!! Thansk for the wonderful support I have received serving this people that I have learned to love so much. You are all my heroes, and I hope all of your wildest dreams come true.

Elder Braun

Monday, May 4, 2015

Última Transferência!

Hey Family!

Well, this week was stinkin awesome. We had tons of miracles and blessings, and to top it all off, Elder Neuman and I are staying together another transfer! That´s right, Elder Neuman and I will keep working in Bento Ribeiro together, and by the look of it, I´ll stay in Bento Ribeiro until the last day of the mission. I´m really happy about that because of the progress we´ve been having, and Elder Neuman and I seem to work really well together.
Mother's day is this week! And by the look of it, I´ll be using Google Plus again that way all those back at home can, in different locations, participate. I think I´ll try to call between 2 and 3 here in Brasil, which will be between 10 and 11 in Spokane, that way you can all make it to church afterwords. I have an hour to talk to yall, I´m still not really sure what to talk about since I´ll be home in about a month (electronic high-five).

This past week, We had some funny experiences we received a list of inactive members to visit in our area that the church found and asked for the missionaries to visit. One of them lived in a community that is called a "favela", maybe I´ve talked about them in the past. Usually they´re on the slopes of hills where a bunch of brick houses are built, and they´re protected by the drug lords. As we were walking up the street and steep slope, we saw a few guys holding guns, and another guy with a bag full of ammunition. They asked us if we were gringos, I told him that we were missionaries from the church going to visit a less-active man from our church... They let us pass, but boy was it weird continuing up the hill, knowing that there were men with guns behind my back.

Yesterday at church, I bore my testimony, since it was my last fast sunday in the mission. It was a very spiritual sacrament meeting for me, since the new ward mission leader (still not knowing if I´d still be serving in the ward with transfers the following day) thanked me during his testimony for the work that I´ve been doing in that ward. A young man and young woman in the ward also bore their testimonies and said that hearing mine about my mission and the difference it has made in my life made them truly decide to serve one as well. Also, a 9 year old boy named Edgar (who I didn´t know hasn´t been baptized) who has been coming to church every week said he wants to get baptized! There are 3 other members who the bishop brings to church every week since their parents aren´t members, and Edgar lives with them. Bishop has been bringing him every week for a while, and these next couple of weeks, we´re gonna teach him and get him ready for the 16th of May to be baptized.

I mean, It was cool, I was happy to be there. I´m happy, and I like being here.

I hope everyone has a good week! I´ll pray that you get better, mom. Just remember that I love you all a ton and can´t wait to talk to everybody this Sunday!

Elder Braun

Monday, April 27, 2015

Sheep Searching

Hey Guysz,

As always, it was another wonderful week for Elder Neuman and I! We´ve got one more week in this transfer to work together. Next week, we´ll have transfers again, and it´ll be my last one before I get transferred to Spokane.... whoaaa. I´d be surprised if Elder Neuman and I end up staying together, which makes me pretty sad because we get along super well, and we´ve been able to make a big difference in this ward that was having very little succes with respect to Missionary work before I got here.

Question: On one of those balloons you sent me (you know, the ones with the messages written on them), one said "A=L+SE". I know it´s been a while since I´ve done math, and it happens to be my favorite subject, but I couldn´t figure what it means! Help me out? Also, on a completely unrelated subject, I was wondering how much money I have in my checking account. If you could let me know by next week, that, too, would be fantastic!
GOOD NEWS! We have a new ward mission leader! I think the bishop was getting pretty overwelmed with all the responsibilities he had in the ward. Other than his duties as bishop, he took over as the young mens president and in charge of the ward missionary effort. He has definitely got to be the most dedicated bishop I´ve worked with in all the wards I´ve served in during my mission, but we´re happy with the new brother who has been called. He lives on the house on top of ours... literally! so having a meeting with him requires nothing more than us yelling "AIRTON!!!!". We´ve been given a list of 20 names from the area presidency of inactive members whose location had been lost, but now they´re found. Together, Elder Neuman and I with Airton, we´re sheep searching, bringing that one lost sheep to join us in our fold of 99. (Interesting how our attendance at church was 99).

The very first family I taught when I arrived in Bento Ribeiro was a slightly elderly couple, Roberto and Eulalia. After teaching them many times without them being able to come to church, we decided to leave them in our area book. A few weeks, months passed, and they stopped us in the street and wanted to know why it had been so long since we visited them. We were honest with them, and said we didn´t feel they were progressing any more, but they said they´d do better. Yesterday, with the help of a member, we were able to bring them to church! They also offered to make us lunch on our p-day today! We´re so happy that they didn´t give up on searching the truth, and we´re hoping that we can help them prepare for marriage, that way they can take the next step closer to a life headed towards salvation.

We also found another family this week that is SHOW. Their names are Suelane and Marcio, and they're inactive, together with their 3 daughters. All three of their daughters are married now, to men outside the church, and when we visited them they received us super well. We taught them about enduring to the end, and they felt sad for not having endured after their baptism. One of the daughters' husbands, Thiago, said that he had much desire to visit the church as well! Unfortunately, although we´re not sure why, they didn´t come yesterday, but we´ll definitely follow-up this week to see what happened. They seemed really happy when they said that they´re needing help painting their house and we offered to help them. Hopefully within the next couple of weeks, we´ll be painting their house!

I also gave a talk yesterday in Sacrament meeting about enduring to the end with respect to Missionary work. I used the example running a marathon. After trying and trying to do missionary work as a member, at times it feels as if we´ve hit a wall, and there´s nothing more we can do. Jeff, Bryan, and Mike can probably relate with this metaphorical "wall" you hit during a race. But nothing beats the pride and joy of crossing the finish line, knowing you surpassed that wall and kept on trying. The same will be for us on the day of our ressurrection. How great shall be our joy in heaven when we see the fruits of our missionary work and seed sowing, and constant perserverance in sharing the gospel with everyone, even though it feels like at times we´ve hit a wall.

I love you all so much! I hate how fast the time seems to be passing, and I´m doing my best to end my mission shining. I know that when we pray and fast with faith, Heavenly Father will bless us with opportunities to share our Lord´s Gospel with those who are being prepared in his hands to receive it.

Elder Braun

Monday, April 20, 2015

Vinte e Um

What´s up, Family,

Thank you so much everyone for the birthday messages this past week! I love you all, I love your support. Valerie mentioned to me that now that I´m 21, I can drink legally, but I couldn´t help but mention that in Brazil, the drinking age is 18, so I guess for about 21 months, I´ve already been legal :) Haha I loved the balloon messages that you sent in the last package as well. They have filled our house and made our home nice and colorful.

I have to say, having a birthday on the mission is always super strange. It feels just like any other day of work, but luckily, I have a pretty cool companion. Elder Neuman gave me a tie I had been eyeballing for weeks, and took over for me in the english class, which took a lot of weight off my shoulder. He´s such a good guy, he really tries to do whatever possible to make me have a good day and be less stressed out with some of the responsibilities I have as a leader. On my birthday, we had a family night at Rose and Rayane´s house, we shared a cool message with them about the Gospel, they made me fried fish and a cake as well. It was way cool, and another family in the ward also made me cake and dinner yesterday, and gave us an awesome referral of a friend who wants to find out more about the church! Now that´s a good present every missionary loves to receive!

I had a division with an old companion of mine this week, Elder Heidenreich. It was pretty cool talking about Maricá with him while working together in Bento Ribeiro. We had a few good lessons, and it was cool to take a fly down memory lane.

This week, we weren´t able to get all the miracles we were hoping for. It looks like the investigators we were preparing for baptism will need some more preparation and faith, but we´re earnestly praying that we may continue helping them all become closer to Christ and that we may be instruments in the Lord´s hands to help them all. I guess every week can´t go exactly how you plan like last week was for us.

However, we were able to visit, after a while being able to, Souza, an elderly man/artist who used to live in the United States who LOVES US. I think he might be more interested in our visits because of the fact that we´re from the United States, but he has become more and more receptive as time has passed. Yesterday, he was able to attend church with us, and it turns out there´s a member of the ward that he knows! Souza has a wife who is passing through many health problems, and he loves her so much. It´s absolutely precious how much he loves her, even after over 50 years being married. When we told him that God´s plan was that family could be eternal, his heart really opened up and he started to cry. It was a spiritual confirmation for me of the truthfulness of the Restoration of this great Gospel. I can´t imagine a loving Heavenly Father who wouldn´t want our familes to be together forever.

Did you know that I love this work? Well, I do. I´m gonna make these next 6 weeks count, and I´m loving the man I´m becoming. Mother´s day next month! Invite yo kids, invite yo grandkids, cuz I be hanging out wit erybody in da famly. I love you all so much!

Elder Braun