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 

Monday, April 13, 2015

Rayane and Tiago's Baptism

Well hey there,

I have to be embarassingly honest with everyone: I kindof forgot that it´s my birthday this week :) But, luckily, to help me remember, I loved the many birthday emails that many of you sent to me this week! I would love to be able to write you all back, Holly, Valerie, Natalie, but I just don´t have enough time and my fingers can only type so fast. Just know that Elder Braun sends his gratitude. Also, I received the Easter/Birthday box from Mom last Thursday, and because I couldn´t wait, I opened it all! Haha I loved the package, loved it so much, mmhmm. Especially the tie that was in it. My comp, Elder Neuman has the exact same tie #twinners. And the easter candy was splendid as well. Easter traditions in Brazil aren´t a whole lot different from in the states. Unlike back at home, there´s no easter egg hunt for the kids here, but the easter bunny leaves a giant chocolate egg. Usually it´s like a kinder egg or something with a toy inside. It´s fun to hear what the kiddos here told us the easter bunny left them.

Hey, so I realized that I´m gonna be home in less than 2 months now (holy heck what?), and some things to remind you, Mom, that I´ll need to get taken care of is a trip to the DOL to get my license renewed as well as a visit with the eye doctor since I´m down to my last pairs of contacts. 

So yeah, like the title of the email says, Rayane and Tiago were baptized on Saturday! It was such a special baptismal meeting. I´m so grateful to my Father in Heaven for the inspiration we had to visit Tiagos parents, Manoel and Maria, and challenge them to return back into full activity in the church. We´re so happy to see them at church every week, and for being able to help their son Tiago become a member of this great church.

Also, Rayane and her Grandma, Rose, have been such wonderful miracles for us ever since we found them in our Area book shortly after I arrived here. I must be honest, leaving Maricá after only 2 and a half weeks back there to come to this area made me super dissapointed and discouraged, but This family were some of the first people we taught that started to progress, and to see them all as wonderfully progressing members makes me super grateful for the success that my Father in Heaven has blessed me with here. Rayane said she wants to be a missionary like us when she turns 19 in 2 and a half years, and she´s set a goal with Rose to read the entire Book of Mormon before the end of the year. They´ve been giving us many references of people to teach who have been showing interest in the church, and who they have brought to church by themselves. 

Elder Neuman and I had an incredibly special experience with another family who we´ve recently started working with. Lucimar is a member of the church who recently married a man named Paulo, who has been devoutly Catholic his whole life. Ever since their wedding 4 weeks ago, he´s been with her at church every week, but hasn´t showed much desire to leave the Catholic church and be baptized. Last Monday, Elder Neuman and I were heading to visit an investigators house, and we happened to pass in front of Paulo and Lucimar´s house. I didn´t know why, but I felt the impression to briefly visit them, even though we hadn´t planned to do so. When we walked in, we asked to say a prayer, and afterwards, Lucimar started to cry and told us about how she has been having many leg pains and been needing a health blessing for a few days. We offered her a blessing and let her know that the spirit sent us to help her at that time of need, and in Gospel Principles yesterday, we learned about the Priesthood and how great it is to have a worthy priesthood holder in our families to be able to bless us when we need it. She shared with the class this experience we had, and Paulo showed a great desire to receive the preisthood that way he can exercise it when his family needs. This week, we´re hoping to bring him closer towards following Christ´s example through baptism.

I´m really grateful for all of your prayers from back at home. I can feel them motivating me to be more diligent and more obedient that way I can truly finish my mission shining and with honor. I love you all so much, and can´t wait to see you all soon!

Elder Braun

Me, Bishop Bira, Rayane, and Elder Neuman

Manoel and Maria´s family for Tiago´s Baptism

The supportive members of the Bento Ribeiro ward

Monday, April 6, 2015

Resfriado for Conference!

Hey Guys!

First off, no Mom, I haven´t received any birthday/Easter package yet. I did, however, receive a birthday card from Grandma Pannone this week. I loved it! and I´m super excited to have her home for the short time that I´ll be with the family.

I love Conference! I was lucky enough to have been able to attend all sessions of conference (including a re-broadcast of Priesthood 8:00 sunday morning at the chapel), and I was truly touched by the presence of the Holy Ghost during this conference. I loved both talks by Dieter F. Uchtdorf, M. Russell Ballard, and without a doubt, Jeffery R. Hollands talk on the Ressurection and Atonement of Jesus Christ. I can´t wait to study these talks in the future and aplly them these last two months of my mission that way I can continue strengthening my testimony of Christ. I was able to watch the sessions in English as well. Usually, all the american elders/sisters in the same zone watch the english transmission together. Since Elder Neuman and I are the only americans in our zone, it was just us two watching, but we had the presence of other Brazillians who understand and wanted to watch in English with us.

Unfortunately, I´ve been attacked with a nasty cold for over 4 weeks now, with a nasty cough. Last tuesday, while at luch at a member´s house, I was having breathing problems after a sort of "cough-attack", and with Sister Cabral´s permission, I ended up going to a doctor´s office to see if it´s anything serious like pnemonia. I took x-rays and he said there was nothing serious, but that it must just be allergies with the change in temperature and season. They gave me some medicine, which has kept the cold symptoms controlled, but still not non-existent.

In our English class, Elder Neuman and I decided we´d teach our students how to pray in English, something a little more spiritual than we had been accostumed to do in our english class, but DANG it was way better than we expected. At the beginning and end of each class, elder Neuman and I pray in english to start and end class. We wanted to give them a chance to do so as well. It gave us a chance to teach both English, and the principle that we have a loving Father in Heaven who has invited us to pray when we would like to thank him or ask for help or guidance. They seemed to love it, and we invited them all to attend conference later that day in the chapel. Everyone but one student ended up coming to conference! (Keep in mind that all but Luciano, the young man who was baptized last week, aren´t members of the church). English classes WORK!! Preaching the gospel through service brings miracles.

Rayane is still progressing very well! She has plans to stop working at Mcdonalds next friday, and with Saturday night and all of Sunday free, we´re preparing her for baptism this saturday, the 11th! Rose is super happy with the decidion Rayane has made to become a member of the church, and we´re always thanking ur Father in Heaven for having found them in the Area Book a couple of months ago.

Shortly after we arrived in Bento Ribeiro, I asked bishop for less-active families that we could visit and help. He gave us an address of a family who had recently moved from Brasilia and still hadn´t been coming to church. We visited Manoel, Maria, and their 4 kids, and since that visit in February, they´ve been to church every week, and we´re helping their son Tiago prepare for baptism this saturday!

I´ve lost track of time, and I truly feel myself "getting lost in the work" with all the planning and teaching we´ve been doing recently. Hopefully, I´ll be able to have this same satisfaction I´m been having up until the last day of my mission. I love you all back at home, I can feel your prayers blessing me while Serving our ressurected Savior and preaching his gospel to all people.

Elder Braun