Monday, April 28, 2014

Making it T-RAIN in Maricå

Hey family!
First of all, the title of my last letter was something like ´´All dry in Maricá´´. I didn´t realize until after we left the internet house that I never explained why that was the title. We passed about 4 days last week without water in our house. For whatever reason, it just stopped. Our neighbors said they knew how to fix it, and then they left on vacation for easter, so we were like... well, now what? Eventually a big water truck showed up last tuesday, and we were happy :) Back to taking showers, clean dishes, clean clothes, etc. All the little things you don´t realize that water does in your life.
This week was AWESOME, and with transfers this week, I´m happy to say that I´ll be STAYING in Maricá and I´m training again! Wooohooo I loved training Elder Acevedo back in Ramos, so I´m excited to be training again. I´m pretty dang said that Elder Evans is leaving though. Every day was a blast with him, we got along really well, and we are finally getting the gears running in this branch, so hopefully we´ll be able to continue having miracles with him on the other side of the mission. I´ll find out who my companion is tomorrow, so you all will find out next letter who it will be!
The branch here in Maricá had it´s first activity since missionaries started working here 7 months ago! Elder Evans and I planned with the help of one of our leaders a Family night last saturday night, and tons of people showed up! We were kind of worried that lots of the members would have a hard time attending since the area is pretty big and it wasn´t a sunday, but we had a good attendance of both investigators, less active members and members as well. And on sunday, we had an attendance of 42! We had 5 inactive members return to church that we had been visiting, including Zaira, Maria Parreira, Maria josé, Ana, and Gabriella! We were so happy to have them return to church.
Cremilda was able to attend church with her husband Luiz! We´ve been teaching her for maybe a month now, we had marked a baptismal date with her, but it fell through because of difficulties she had being able to come to church. Now that she visited, and she loved it, we´ll hopefully be able to involve her more with the members and teach both her and her husband so that they can prepare themselves to be baptized as a family. One great footstep on the pathway to eternal life!
Mom had some questions for me to answer, ask and ye shall receive!
What is a typical lunch for me? 
Here in Maricá, there´s no typical lunch. Not exactly, at least. About 2-3 times we´ll eat with a member and their family. Usually it´s Black beans with rice and a salad and some sort of meat, like grilled chicken or beef. People here love juice or guaraná, too, so that´s usually part of the meal. When we don´t have lunch with a member, we´ll usally just eat noodles at home with sauce and meat. Sometimes we cook stroganoff too. That stuff´s the best.
Breakfast or Dinner?
Dinner: It pretty much doesn´t exist here. At least for missionaries. We keep working. For breakfast, I like to eat a grilled ham and cheese sandwich. Sometimes I eat oatmeal too.
How are my shoes holding up?
They are doing fine. I´ve got two pairs that I periodically switch between using. They should both last together at least another 6-8 months. I´m not too worried about it for now.
Advice for the missionary class?
I´m not sure if you´ve already taught about this, but a lesson about prayer would be awesome. And invite them to do an activity where each person pairs up with another person, asks them about each member of their family, then say a prayer, guided by the spirit, directed towards the other persons family. I remember a lesson where Bro. and Sis. Jamison did that, and up until today, it has played a huge role in my mission and I remember it still today. It really helps me to truly pray with the spirit and ask to bless each family that I meet everyday.
I love you all so very much! The Lord really has blessed me here in MAricá, and I´m so excited for what he still has in store for me. Sorry this letter came late and seems a little rushed, I didn´t have much time and had a training during the day today.
Elder Braun

Monday, April 21, 2014

Marica's All Dry

Our zone leaders crashing in Maricá (Elder Van Wagenen on the left, Elder Sea on the right of me)

Dear Family,

Thank you sooooo much for the birthday emails and messages! Holidays and birthdays are very different during the mission, but your love and thoughtfulness were greatly appreciated. Parabens for Jeff for the PR!! 3:24 in the marathon! That´s incredible! He´ll totally be ready to break 3 hours when he runs down here in Rio... Ha. Mom has an iPhone.... no I´m not jealous at all. It´s not like us missionaries use a small flip phone with a limited number of credits to call people. I kid. That´s way cool news, especially with the new phone plans. I smiled when I read that :) 

As far as money goes, things got a lot better this week since the relief society president was at church and I was able to meet her and coordinate lunches with members this week. She lives super far away (2 hours by car from the church) and she was visiting her mom in Belo Horizonte who had been having health issues.Yesterday was a very difficult day for Elder Evans and I. We marked to have 17 investigators, members less-active, and recent converts to visit the church yesterday. We called the day before, visited people yesterday morning, but only one of them showed up to church. It´s a tradition here in Brasil to party the night before Easter, and we think that may have affected it. Many active members also did not show up, so the attendance was less than expected. Elder Evans and I ended up teaching the sunday school class, and we gave talks during sacrament meeting. 

After a very difficult and slightly dissapointing attendance in the branch yesterday, Elder Evans and I did some hardcore planning with the leadership to get some real results coming. Home teaching and visiting teaching here was completely non-existent, and members here have problems trusting other members because of a history of gossip and rumors, but we´ve set some goals to help everything out. With two holidays this week, we planned to visit investigators and less active members with the branch pres, the relief society president are visiting less active sisters for those two full days,and the EQ pres with a representative from the stake will visit lots of families. Elder Evans and I also have been planning a ´´Family Home Evening´´ at the church building this saturday. The first activity here since missionaries started serving in the branch 6 months ago. I´ve never planned an activity for an entire branch/ward, but the Spirit has been helping us out get everything organized and know how to help strengthen these wonderful people here.

For my birthday, our zone leaders helped us out do a weekly planning to help this branch and everyone we´ve been teaching. I got pretty overwelmed, because there´s like a bajillion things that needs to get done. We´re working on it one thing at a time, and sooner than later, Marica will explode with families to baptize, complete, and reactivate! We also visited Jaqueline and Alexandre for my birthday and they made me a cake! Pictures will certainly be included.

Goodness we found an AWESOME family on saturday. We were just done teaching an awesome lesson to a family, Willis and Ivana, and as we left the house, a guy was driving by and stopped us and said he was one of Pres Limas counselors (I didn´t even know he had them), and had just left his brother in laws house in Maricá. He showed us where this guy lived and we met Adenilson, a less active member who had never been to the church in Maricá. but moved here recently. We met his wife Adriane (sadly, they aren´t married, but have plans to do so) and their kids Gabriel, Gustavo, Isabel, and Guilerme (15, 13, 6, 3years old). We briefly taught about our families and who the gospel bless them. It was so powerful! Adenilson gave the closing prayer, and felt he felt the spirit sooo strong. He said it was like he was lost but was found again. Elder Evans and I did a Drake and Josh style ´´Hug me Brother!!!´´ after that lesson. We were so happy and hope to see them progress towards being married and sealed as a family!

I love this work! At times, my faith gets tested, but just as Ether 12:6 teaches, that is necessary for us to truly be converted in this restored gospel. Happy week of birthdays and Easter to everyone from Brasil!!!!

Elder Braun
Me and some birthday bake

PS I forgot to add that Pres Lima called me this week letting me know that a lady named Andrea that I was teaching in Ramos was baptized last week! I´m positive I talked about her in one of my letters back in February.

Monday, April 14, 2014

Twenty Times the Blessings

They were very receptive to our message of the Restoration of Jesus Christ´s Church.

Dearest family,

So I turn 20 years old this week which is cool. I remember what I was doing on my 18th and 19th birthdays still. I worked a 7 hour shift at Dairy Queen from 3 until 10 when I turned 18 and took 3 finals at BYU for my 19th birthday. So I have no doubt that this birthday here in Maricá will be great. I love it here!

Congratulations to Natalie for passing the driving test! I guess I´m the only one who didn´t pass it on the first try. Shame on me.

This week was cool. I´m excited to let yáll know how it went. Elder Evans and I were grateful to have reactivated a family here in Maricá! I wasn´t able to get a picture with them yet, I´ll get that soon. It´s a family of a mom and dad (who aren´t married yet, but we´re working on that with them) And their names are Liviane and Wescley. Liviane has two sons Lucas and Felipe who were both baptized when she lived in Fortaleza, where she joined the church. After they moved here, they kept going to church, but the members here in Maricá weren´t as friendly as they were in Fortaleza, and after they had a baby, no one visited them, which made them a bit dissapointed. But Liviane still has a big testimony of the church and the Restoration of the Gospel. They all have a huge desire to go to the temple to be sealed as a family, so we´re thrilled to have been able to meet them. Liviane has already helped us by giving us references and helping us teach some of her neighbors. Unfortunately, she lives really long away, so we can´t visit them super often. Only once or twice a week since it costs a lot to take the buses there and uses up a lot of time.

Which reminds me. Money is super tough here in Maricá. All of our district meetings and most of the people we teach that are progressing require us to get multiple buses to visit them. We also don´t receive lunch from members as often as we would in a normal ward. Only 2-3 times a week, so with the little money we have, we have to use to get buses and buy ourselves food. If there´s anyway I could receive a little bit of help while I´m still here in Maricá, it would be extremely appreciated. I don´t like to complain, but I would be super grateful for a little bit of help.

We were able to follow up with our visit that we had with Cremilda, and it was great! She said she read 2 times the chapter we left for her to read in the Book of Mormon (2 Nephi 31), and she loved it! She went to get us a cup of water really quick and Elder Evans and I did a Valerie-style happy dance for like 5 seconds. We taught her the Gospel of Jesus Christ and she accepted baptism! We´ll help her prepare to get baptized on the 3rd of May. Here in Maricá, it´s pretty uncommon to find people who are willing to dedicate themselves to a particular church. They usually just visit whatever one´s closest to them when they feel like they need more Jesus in their life, so we jump for joy when someone recognizes the importance of keeping God´s commandments and making sacred covenents with him by the proper authority. What a great birthday present!

I love you all! We have a cool lesson planned to teach Jaquline and Alexandre this friday on my birthday. My hope is that as a present for me, they´ll both return back to going to church every week while they are getting ready to be married and baptized. Elder Evans and I will be praying our brains out, that´s for sure. Have a great week full of birthdays!!! 

Elder Braun

Monday, April 7, 2014

Conferência Geral!

Steven Braun

1:03 PM (13 minutes ago)
to me
This is a photo of Elder Evans and I with quite possibly two of the greatest people I´ve met in my mission, Aguinalda and Rogério, my dear friends from Alcântara

Hey Family!

Sorry this email is coming a tad bit late. Elder Evans and I had to make a surprise trip to the mission office this morning because Elder Evans had to sign a paper for the police about his visa. So a lot of our p-day was spent doing that, spending lots of money to travel there, and we are just now having a chance to reado and write emails. But with an awesome weekend like what we just had, there´s no need to complain! This weekend was an awesome experience for me. One full of tons of inspiration and uplifting moments for me.

First of all, you all probably didn´t notice, but during the sustaining of new general authorites, in the section where they sustained the new area seventies, we all had the opportunity to sustain Elder Geraldo Lima as a new area seventy. On Friday, he was a mission president in the Rio de Janeiro Mission.... well, to be honest, he still is our mission president. I kid you not! Check it out and watch the reruns of conference! We´re all super excited for President Lima and his change of responsibilities as he finishes his time being our leader here in  Rio. In other news, I did receive a package from home. A small one, which I assume to be my birthday package, so I´ll wait to open it next Friday. I just thought you ought to know that it arrived :)

I also had the chance to watch conference in (drumroll please).... Alcântara!!! The chapel there is the only one in the stake with a satellite capable of receiving the transmission. So I was able to see all of the great members in that ward and visit them again. I watched all 5 sessions there (Priesthood session early on Sunday morning) and in English too! I think my favorite talks that really inspired me were the ones by Russell M. Nelson about faith, Dieter F. Uchtdorf about ´´Are we sleeping through the Restoration?´, and M. Russell Ballard speaking about following up, all important principles we need as missionaries. But let´s be completely honest, they were all very magnificent, and it wouldn´t make sense to state that one talk was better than another.

Mother, you asked if I had been doing tracting here in Maricá. To answer that question, I have an awesome experience to share that Elder Evans and I had. First of all, yes, we still knock doors like normal in this area. Houses here are still similar to those of other areas, in size and such, just that the city itself and streets are cleaner and safer. We were knocling some doors close to the church building. Actually, we were ´´clapping´´ doors since it´s more common down here, and an elderlyish lady answered with her daughter. Their names were Cremilda and Maria Jose, and they invited us to share a message about the Restoration of the Gospel of Jesus Christ. As we were sharing the message, they initially seemed relatively uninterested and didn´t show much desire to participate, but instead only listen and enjoy what we taught. However, as I shared the history of Joseph Smith, how he decided to pray to ask God which church on the face of the earth was true, along with the words of the first vision, they immediately opened up in tears and smiles. Maria Jose said that memorized words of the first vision that I said seemed as if God himself was talking to her. Cremilda also showed her desire to attend church, and keep our invites because this week, she was talking to her husband about the need for them to find the right direction in their life. She interpreted our visit as an answer to her prayers and asked us to visit again. So those women were a great miracle that we enjoyed and needed here in Maricá. We'll certainly revisit them soon to see how they liked the Book of Mormon. All from knocking doors.

Do you remember Marcio and his family that I mentioned last week? We had a very difficult and rather sad experience with them this week. Marcio has a strong role in another church, but was baptized in the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints about 20 years ago. When we followed up after our first visit, he was a totally different person, saying that he didn't want to change his path as of now. He said when God tells him that what we´re teaching is true, he´ll return back to the LDS Church, and wouldn´t let his family visit without that happening. We were sad, but thankfully he´s still a very nice man and invited us to visit him again. We´ll be patient with him, because we have hope that he´ll understand God sent us to him because God knew he was ready for us.

Let´s all take a wonderful opportunity to reflect on the words of our prophet and apostles and other general authorites this week. I loved how M. Russell Ballard invited ALL MEMBERS to study Preach my Gospel in their homes and in their daily/weekly studies. I don´t know how I´d do this wonderful work without such a wonderful tool as it, so if every member is a missionary, it makes sense that everyone should study that great resource. I love you all and wish you the best!

Elder Braun

All of the Elders in our zone. That´s right. No sisters here. Only madness.