Saturday, October 17, 2015

Last Post?

So this might be the last email I write.  I don't know how things will be next P-day since it will be the Saturday before I am leaving and there will be a bunch of stuff for the departing missionaries so I don't know if I will have time.  It has been very hot—around 45 degrees Celsius (113 F). Today it is only 107 though.  The city of Ribeirão Preto is extremely hot.  That is really the only thing I don't like about Brazil; it’s really hot here.  
So the last thing that I have learned on my mission that I am going to share with you all is also the most important.  That is that Jesus Christ is the Savior of the world.  Of all the testimonies that I have borne of Him, this I bear last of all, that he lives!  I know it and I love him.  Many people who I know say they love the Savior.  But that is not all he wants of us.  We have to take up our cross and walk with him.  That is a little bit harder than just saying that we love him.  Anyone who thinks that they can be a follower of Christ and won't have to suffer just a little, won't have to do hard things, won't have to be ridiculed and laughed at just every once in awhile, does not know where Christ walked.  How could we possibly follow him when his life was never easy and expect our lives to be easy.  I am not saying that my life, or that our lives will be anything even comparable with what the Savior had to go through, but if we want to be saved we have to know him and we will never know him if we've never gone through anything even anything like what he went through.  I am grateful for my mission.  I am grateful that God let me serve this mission.  I don't know if I would have chosen it to have happened exactly like it did, but I know it is the mission that I needed to serve—that God needed me to serve.  From what I have seen and heard and done, I know Jesus Christ lives, and I know he is my Savior. That is what is most important of everything that I learned on my mission.  
I hope you all have a great life.  I guess I am finishing this blog now.  I love you all.

Elder Russell  

Saturday, October 10, 2015

"indo embora mesmo"

Writing has become more and more of a chore but I will endure to the end. This week was nice.  I did some more traveling but not too much.  We only made a short trip to Franca.  For those of you who are wondering, yes, I did serve in that city.  It was nice to see it all probably for the last time in a long time, even if I didn't spend the day in the same ward that I served in because that ward only has sisters now, sadly. (Sad, because I don't have any chance of working there, not because of the sisters.)
One thing I learned on my mission is that sometimes you are going home so don't worry about it.  I know that sounds a bit trunky,  but  it is important to remember.  My companion and I were having a disagreement about policy and when I prayed about it, the answer I got was, "indo embora mesmo" (a common phrase on the mission, usually said in joking, which means "I’m leaving anyways").  Sometimes you shouldn't worry about things.  You can't control everything.  Don't worry about what doesn’t  matter and what is out of your hands.  That is really very important for a missionary because so much of what we do is out of our hands.  People in the end can decide to get baptized or not.  So don't worry about what you can't control and sometimes you're "indo embora mesmo." 

I love you all and you all have a great week!

Saturday, October 3, 2015

Patience

Well I hope you all are having/had a good conference weekend.  I am enjoying it so far.  This week we traveled quite a lot and slept on the bus and on the floor (without a mattress) quite a lot, so it is good to slow down a bit.  Conference weekend on the mission is a little bit like Christmas.  It is actually better than Christmas for me at least. No offense to my family and all, but you just can't beat a weekend  listening to prophets.
This week I would like to talk about something very important that I learned on my mission: patience.  Some missionaries are able to find people and they are super ready and just get baptized.  I never felt that things worked out for me that way.  There was always a long process of waiting for things to work out. Patience, of course, does not mean doing nothing.  I always had to do stuff, but patience has a lot to do with trusting in the Lord.  I had to trust that the promises that God has made to me and the things that I have felt would happen and not worry about the how.  They always worked out so far so I will just have to trust a little more.  I am sure my life will have many surprises when I get back, so I just have to trust in the Lord that everything will work out.  That is patience for me.  Doing my part and trusting that God will do his.  It is important.
I hope you all have a great week to come  I love you all!

Elder Russell  

Saturday, September 26, 2015

There is a Plan

I have learned on my mission that God has a plan for each one of us.  He really knows what each one of us needs.  I imagine it being like a big puzzle and Him putting all the pieces together at just the right moment.  I feel like if I gotten to choose where to serve mission, I wouldn't have chosen here.  But God knew that that was the best place for me to go.  Sometimes it is hard to see why things happen the way they do or why we have to do what God tells us.  Sometimes I worry that it won't work out.  But then I think about Moses parting the Red Sea. How would it have been if he had been worried that the waters wouldn't part?  I don't think he was thinking, "What if I look like an idiot?"  I guess you just got to do it. I guess that is what we call faith.
I hope you all have a good week! I love you all!

Elder Russell 

Saturday, September 19, 2015

Walk in the Shade

Well this week was good but it was a lot of desk work.  This week was transfers so we had to do quite a bit of stuff.  One of the financial secretaries and we had to make the whole transfer plan.  That means that we have to decide how everybody is going to get where they have to be while never being alone.  But it really isn't that complicated.  It was pretty easy this time actually.
Then we also went looking for some inactive members. It was pretty cool because we found like three families in about 20 minutes, including one that we didn't even know existed.  He was pretty drunk but seemed nice enough.  At first he didn't want to give us his address but after a while he changed his mind and told us where he lived and his phone number. The address I'm not sure about, but the phone number is correct so we are pretty sure we will be able to contact him a again.  I hope it works out.  
So on my mission I have learned that it is better to walk in the shade.  There are two ways to get to anywhere, in the sun and in the shade.  Sometimes we think it is really hot and we have to walk in the sun and we get really tired. However on the other side of the street there was shade, but we are just too stubborn or too stupid to cross the street.  It is easier to just walk in the shade.  I think that is a principle that is useful for my life.  You may not think it makes much of a difference but I can tell you here it certainly does.
I hope you all have a great week!  I love you all!

Elder Russell

Saturday, September 12, 2015

Solving Problems

This week we had zone conferences.  That is when a lot of missionaries get together and the mission president gives training.  This time the mission was divided into just two parts.  One of them was in Rio Preto and the other one was here in Ribeirão Preto.  I got to go to both and help organize everything. #PerksOfBeingAP This was my last zone conference.  That means that I got to bear my testimony because the heroes (the missionaries that are going home) always get to bear their testimonies in their last zone conference.  I am not technically a hero yet because it is not my last transfer just but this is the way the cookie crumbled.  It was nice but a bit bizarre.  I don't really feel like it is ending.  I guess just someday it will end.
So the thing that I will monologue about this week is that I learned how to solve problems. This, I learned more working in the mission office than in any other place.  My job when I was secretary was basically defined as "the stuff that no one else does."  So that means that if something new that had never been done before had to be done, I had to do it.  The first few times it was a bit nerve wracking but when it hits you that if you don't do it, no one will, it is surprising what you can accomplish.  I would say that by the end, I really surprised myself with my own abilities.  A lot of times we worry about the fact that we don't know how to do stuff when really if we just try, we will do a lot better than we think.  I realize that we are capable, as human beings, of a lot more than we think.
I love you all!  I hope you are all having a good week!


Elder Russell

Sunday, September 6, 2015

Listen

Hello to everyone.  Well I would first like to tell everyone that we had a baptism last week. It was quite nice. The daughter of the woman we baptized a few weeks ago also decided that she wanted to get baptized so we baptized her.  She was already going to church and doing Personal Progress (a church program for young women)  so I guess it was just the logical next step.
Continuing with my series of what I have learned on my mission, I have learned that communication is important.  It is actually really important to talk to people.  You can be the smartest person in the world but if you don't know how to talk to people, you will never be anything.  The phrase "the pen is mightier than the sword" has always puzzled me a bit but now I think I understand what it means.  Influential people are not the people who are able to make people do what they want, they are the people who are able to make people want to do what they want.  And this requires communication.  The most important thing in communication is listening. There is the phrase that you never really understand someone until you walk a mile in their shoes.  What many people don't understand is that does not mean that you can just put your shoes where theirs are and start walking.  The question is never what would I do in that situation?  That doesn't really matter, you are not in it.  The question is:  What will they do in this situation? And to know that. you have to listen.  Many people are never able to motivate people because they think that those people are motivated by what motivates them, but that is really dumb thinking.  That is why rich people have trouble talking to poor people. Ninety nine percent of the time, rich people are rich because they wanted to be.  They chose wealth and influence over every other thing in their lives.  Poor people are poor because often they want to be as well.  They chose other things in their lives instead of money.  It doesn't really work that well to motivate a poor person with the ability to become rich, if he doesn't want that.  You have to listen to people to work with them.
Well this week's letter got a little off track but these are important things that I learned.  I love you all!

Elder Russell

Saturday, August 29, 2015

Smile!

So I have entered in the last two months of my mission.  I have decided to talk a little bit about the stuff I learned on the mission.  I know that I still have time until my mission is over, but I have only a few emails to send and I have lots of stuff to write so I will begin now. 
The first thing that I learned is the power of a smile.  I know that sounds really cheesy but it is true.  I am not a naturally smiley person which is not helped by the fact that my facial structure naturally looks like I am frowning. I never worried much about that.  But I have learned that if you want to talk to someone, the conversation already is going to be different if you are smiling before you've said anything.  I have talked to literally thousands of people here and a lot of them didn't really want to talk to me, but if I was smiling a lot of times they smiled back without thinking.  When I see people on the street, sometimes I imagine them smiling and realize that people really are a lot better looking if they just smile. You also just feel a lot better if you smile.  "Fake it till you make it" is real.  If you smile you will be happy.  You don't have to be happy to smile.  I guess this post was really cheesy like I said, but sometimes cheesy things are true and we are just too cynical to admit it.
Well I hope you all have a good week! I love you all!

Elder Russell

Monday, August 24, 2015

Busy Week

      So this week was a bit busy.  Last Wednesday early in the morning we got on a Bus to Rio Preto and then we divided and I went and worked with one companionship of Zone leaders and my companion went to work the day with another.  The day was nice.  I ate a lot of cake; it seemed like everyone offered food.  Then Thursday we went to Birigui and we divided with the zone leaders there.  Birigui is a funny city.  There are lots of busineses with the names like birimoda (moda means fashion) and biripaes (paes means loaves of bread) and other such biri-things.  Hence we have nicknamed the zone of missionaries, "biri-zona."  Then at night we ate the biriguizao which is a sandwich that is huge as the picture shows.  It was nice since my whole mission the fame of the biriguizao has been heard and now I finally had a chance to eat one.  It was quite big. 
       Then Friday we went to Aracatuba to give a training and Friday we went back to Birigui to also give a training.  Then we got on a bus at midnight to come back to Ribeirao Preto.  We got here at 5 am, went home and slept till 6:30 am, and then got up and went to church.  It was a long week but it was quite fun and included a lot of eating.
        My Mother reminded me that I have to talk about the baptism picture.  So her name is Tatiane.  She has been going to church for months and Elder Lisot had even stopped teaching her before I got here because she didn't want to get baptized.  Then she was in sacrament meeting and just felt that she wanted to get baptized and so she was.  I guess everyone has their moment.  It isn't good to rush it.  It also isn't good to just let it go.  But it isn't good to worry about other people's choices when you can't control what they are doing.
        So I hope you have all have a good week!  I love you all!
Elder Russell 

Tuesday, August 18, 2015

Finally a New Post

           So being Assistant to the President isn't all that different from being secretary, except that now I don't have as much stuff to do in the mission office so I spend much more time proselyting.  I also have one more meeting with the mission president to talk any specific problems in the mission.  And we also do exchanges. Lots of exchanges with the whole mission.  This week on Thursday night at 10:30, we got on a bus and went 500 km to a city called Andradina, exchanged with the Elders there and then at 9:30 pm, we got back on the bus and came back. Needless to say, I am a bit tired.  Next week will be even crazier. We will go to Rio Preto and do exchanges there on Wednesday, and then we will go to Birigui on Thursday and exchange there and then we will do trainings with the missionaries in Aracatuba and Birigui on Friday and Saturday and then we will get on a bus Satuday night to come back to Ribeirao to go to church in our assigned ward.  So I can already tell you guys that I will not write on next Saturday, only afterwards. 
             Being assistant has given me a better window to see a bit how the Church works.  There is a lot of bureaocracy in the mission as in all the stuff in the Church.  Lots of numbers and we are looking for results (baptisms) and it can all seem just like a business.  But when we talk to the Mission President he is only really worrying about the missionaries and if they are well.  He sends us on exchanges with specific missionaries, sometimes just to see if they are well.  God does His work among men, one by one.  He changes the world, one by one.  He worries about us, one by one.  We are special to him, none of us are forgotten.  I know that that is true.
I love you all and hope that you have a great week! 
Elder Russell

P.S. Photos: We also had a baptism. That is a cool story that I will try and tell another day; and a wood house because there were some in Andradina which is really uncommon in Brazil.


Saturday, August 8, 2015

Transfers Again

So I will have to retract two statements that I have made to you earlier.  The first one is that I will be leaving the office next Monday to be a zone leader... that is not true anymore.  The other is that I am done with assistant stuff since I had finished those trainings I had to do.  These two statements will have to be retracted because on Monday the mission told me that I am now an assistant to the president.  For those of you who are not familiar with mission hierarchy, every mission has two (or rarely sometimes more) assistants to the president.  As the title suggests, we assist the president directly. The mission is very organized with every missionary having a leader to whom he reports with titles that have been mentioned like district leaders who report to zone leaders. The zone leaders however, report to the assistants, who report directly to the mission president.  So I just skipped the whole zone leader thing. I hope that isn't a problem.
It was kind of funny.  The office people just went into a meeting with the president and he told the other assistant (we had only one for about a week) that he and the other assistant would do something. He was confused and asked, “Who is the other assistant?”
And president just said," Oh you don't know?  Elder Russell is the new assistant." And that is how he announced it to me.  Sometimes he is funny.
He also told me afterwards that he has known since I was seven months into my mission.  It would have been nice if he had told me earlier because a lot of stuff would have made sense.  But I am excited about all this.  I think this new assignment will give me many opportunities to better myself and keep working until the end.  
I love you all!  

Elder Russell


Saturday, August 1, 2015

Hurry Up and Wait

This week I had to train some zones of missionaries with the assistant.  It was rather strange to train the zones since I was never even a zone leader.  But now I am done being assistant.  Next week will be transfer week and it will be different since I am waiting to see where I will be transferred. But I am also really not that interested to know where I will be going.  I know a lot of stuff so I have already narrowed it down to only a few options that it could be, but I think it will be nice.  There is always a chance that things will be different.

I am also doing a bunch of stuff but it is also a lot of waiting since I have to let the missionary couple do everything.  A lot of times I know what to do but I have to let them do it and they aren't always as quick as I would be.  However, I have to wait or they will never learn.  So it is a lot of waiting until there is a crisis that they can't resolve which is becoming less and less common.  I am well.  I love you all!

Elder Russell 

Monday, July 27, 2015

No P-Day so a Short Note

Hello everyone.  I know that my letter is a bit late but I had to go to Rio Preto on Saturday with the assistants because I am now what you might call the interim assistant. One of the assistants went home today in the middle of the transfer because of visa stuff, so I am the other assistant´s companion until the transfer.  I also have to give trainings to two zones with him.  So it’s all going to be fun since I am still secretary and district leader.  So it is a bit crazy.  But I love you all!  Have a great week!


Elder Russell 

Sunday, July 19, 2015

Another Miracle

Hello everyone!  So, this week I worked like normal I would say.  It was week three of the transfer and week three is always the slow week.  The transfer stuff from last transfer is all done and the stuff for next transfer doesn’t need to be started yet.  Some of you might be saying, “Well you could just do it anyway if you don’t have anything to do.” But this kind of thinking is not logical because then I wouldn’t have anything to do in week four.  It is a very measured type of thing.  There is a season for everything.  So this week I have been mostly having long discussions with Elder and Sister Hawkins to make sure they understand everything and to answer their questions. Sister Hawkins would rather I just be able to tell them everything they are going to do in detailed procedure lists but that isn’t really possible in the type of work I do.  Though I have written some procedures (reminding me of my seventh grade science class when we would write procedures for everything, and then usually not follow them; but at least we wrote them) about some things like how to navigate the hard drive to find all the stuff she is going to need. There is just a lot of stuff I ended up doing that I just had to learn how to do on the fly.  Sometimes, she will ask me how to do something and I will have no idea but I will go there and just figure it out.  She will then say that she didn’t know how to do that. I will remind her that I didn’t either.  I guess that seems a lot like bragging, but that is probably the thing that I am most proud of that I learned in the office. I learned how to learn how to do new things.  That means I am already better than a computer because computers can’t do that. Perhaps someone will tell you that their computer program can but they are lying. I believe that it is a fundamentally impossible thing for computers to do.  However, that is neither here or there.         
The other thing that changed about me in the office (and I guess on my mission overall) is that I actually like talking to people now.  I went and got my haircut and I actually preferred talking to the barber to not (by the way, barbers are way better here).  As Secretary, I actually am constantly telling everyone to call me, not to avoid calling me.  Communication is actually really important.
There was also a cool miracle that happened.  We went to visit a recent convert and she was pretty down. We just kind of were talking to her and one of the things she was down about was that her camera was broken and she couldn’t see the pictures nor take more.  My companion, Elder Kimura, offered to try to fix it so she went and got it.  He messed around with it for about 30 seconds and ended up fixing it.  She was very happy but what she didn’t tell us until later was that she had been about ready to decide that she wasn’t coming to church anymore because of all the bad and annoying stuff that was happening with her, including that her camera wasn’t working.  The day before we came there, she had said a prayer and told God that she wasn’t going back to church.  Then she saw her camera and added that she would go back to church if her camera started working again.  The next day Elder Kimura fixed it.  This is even more amazing because Elder Kimura breaks everything! He almost broke the office at least three times and he accidentally wiped his last companion’s external hard drive (which he was able to restore at some large cost), so it really was a miracle!
I guess I will end with that and with a picture of my district with some visitors (a zone leader and an assistant, there are really only three elders in the actual district) I love you all!


Elder Russell

Saturday, July 11, 2015

Testimony

One problem about when you start to be an experienced missionary is that you start to be less and less motivated to write for a blog that your Mom is keeping for you.  Or maybe that is just a personal weakness.  But nevertheless I have not missed a week yet (as far as I remember) and I don't plan to start now.  Things have been going well this week.  
Last Sunday we had an investigator who had been invited to Church a bunch of times and never went and we had basically given up on her but without warning she appeared in Sacrament meeting.  It was pretty cool.  Since it was fast and testimony meeting and a little girl got up and bore her testimony about how paying her tithing has blessed her.  Everyone thought it was cute and a cool story but this woman who had come to church, felt that testimony very strongly.  Because of that one simple testimony, she has decided to change many things about her life and wants to be baptized.  I guess you just never know how things are going to work out.  
Other than that the Mission Office continues as always.  We are entering into the lull.  I have lots of stuff to do that revolve around the transfers,  so in the middle of every transfer, the workload is very light.  But I still have the Hawkins couple to train so I think I will be busy enough.  
Well I hope you all have a great week!  I love you all!

Elder Russell

Sunday, July 5, 2015

Decisions

Today I would like to talk about decisions.  Decisions are important.  It is really quite shocking as you think about it, how much one wrong decision can change your life.  This week a missionary went home and, as usual, I had to take him to the airport. I had actually known this missionary for quite a while and he was going home basically because of one bad choice.  What he said repeatedly was that he wished he had just thought before he acted.  At times two choices are placed before us and we have the bad habit of thinking that we don't know where they will lead when in reality if we just think about it, we can usually make a pretty good guess.  But sometimes we just don't want to think about it and we make up excuses.  I know that if we just think about our choices, before we make them, things will work out a bit more.  Make goals in your life and then make the choices that will lead you there.  If we don't know where we are, and where we want to go, any path is fine. That is a lot easier but you never know where you will end up.
On another note, transfers have passed again.  I was yet again transferred.  I am now in the different ward in Ribeirão Preto but I am still in the mission office.  I am technically now companions with the Financial Secretaries, Elder Hill and Elder Kimura since Elder Aragão left the office and I can't really be companions with a senior couple.  I am also Relief Society President. By that I mean I am District leader to 3 companionships of sister missionaries.   I am accustomed to sister missionaries now so I am cool with it.  I have to deal with them a lot now anyway.  
I hope you have a great week!  I love you all!
Elder Russell


Saturday, June 27, 2015

Strange Transfer Coming



                 So today I will get the distinguished honor of baptizing someone who isn't even in the stake I am serving.  Last transfer I left Campos Elaseos (my last ward) and went to Vila Virgania. The investigator that we left in Campos is gonna get baptized and she wants me to baptize her. So we went through the bureaucratic process of getting the necessary permission. Which amounted to asking the mission president.  Sometimes people might say that the church gives too much power to a small group of men but sometimes it is really nice, like in this case.  I just had to ask him and he said okay. If this really was the crazy evil financial empire that some people think the church is, something as simple as that would have probably taken weeks to get approved. So I am very greatful for inspiration because then we don't have to worry about the corruption of men.  Some of you may be thinking that it just sounds more corrupt because all the power is in the hands of less people but if they did something contrary to God's commandments he would remove them from their position, even if it meant killing him.  I mean, he is God afterall.
                 Next week starts the next transfer and I will spend the weirdest transfer of my mission. I will basically be companions with a senior couple, I mean not offically but in reality it will be like that during the day. The Hawkins are quite a nice couple. They are definitely old and sometimes forget stuff (I think they have asked me about five times if I went to college before my mission); but they are really here to work that for sure.
I am having a good time and I am excited for this transfer.  I love you all and hope you have a good week!
Elder Russell

Saturday, June 20, 2015

More Training

So this week was interesting.  There was a lot of travelling, but mostly I just stayed in the office and held down the fort.  I have continued to train the senior couple.  Elder Hawkins is getting it quite well since he already speaks Portuguese.  He is really quite smart.  He was a major in the air force and also sold cars and did taxes after he retired so he is more used to this kind of work.  Sister Hawkins, without any real notion of the language is going a little bit slower; but I am sure she will get it with time.  Well I mean she has to get it because if she doesn't, I will never get out of here. 
I guess I am entering into the last bit of the mission.  I have come to the conclusion that I have absolutely no idea what I will do when I get back.  But I guess that will work out.  It seems like there really wasn't enough that happened for the mission to be drawing to a close.  I still feel like it was not very long when I look back.  I don't know if everyone feels like that.  I want to make it clear, I am not saying the old cliché, “It passes fast,” because I don’t really feel that way.  I am saying that looking back, it doesn't really seem like that much time has passed.  I feel like there is lots more to do but there just isn't a whole lot of time.  I guess this is all there is then because even though I wasn't perfect,  I don't regret how I worked in my areas, my conscience is clear.  
Please don't misunderstand, I am not coming home tomorrow so there is still some time to work so I hope that these will be good months.  I love you all!  I hope you all have a great week!

Elder Russell

Saturday, June 13, 2015

The Rest of My Mission Laid Before My Eyes

So my mission president told me this week what I will be doing for the rest of my mission.  So the senior couple arrived and they will be the new executive secretaries in the mission.  So I will spend the rest of this transfer with Elder Aragão and I training them and then Elder Aragão will be transferred and I will stay in trio with the other secretaries while I continue training them for a whole transfer.  Then, if the senior couple is ready,  I will leave the mission office, and I will be a zone leader for the rest of my mission (which is like 2 transfers).  It was very strange to have the mission president tell me exactly what would happen.  I think it finally hit me that I will be going home and I will not be a missionary for the rest of my life.  It’s kind of weird.  I also didn't really want to be a zone leader but the president said my calling has already been made so I guess there is no getting out of that.  
The missionary couple is very cool.  They are Elder and Sister Hawkins.  Elder Hawkins baptized President Brum when he was serving his mission in Brazil in like the sixties.  President Brum was just a kid but he remembers.  I am mostly training Sister Hawkins because she doesn't speak Portuguese so even though Elder Aragão speaks English more or less, I guess I am more suited to that task.  Sister Hawkins is very grandmotherly.  She wants to get rid of everything in the office that I don't know what it is, which isn't always the best course of action because there are other people's stuff here.  But it will all work out in the end, I am sure, and the office will end up being less cluttered, even if we do throw out somebody's stuff.  
But it is a good week.  I love you all!

Elder Russell

Saturday, June 6, 2015

Visitors

This week was a bit slow going.  The zone leaders came to have a meeting with the mission president again so we had about 18 people sleeping in our house.  That was pretty fun but I had to get up pretty early to take a shower before everyone else.  Our house where I live was planned to be like that though. It has about eight beds and an extra ten mattresses so that if elders have to stay in Ribeirão Preto over night they have a place.  It seems there are always visitors.
We also talked to a lot of people this week.  We talked to 70 people in the street or knocking on doors. Considering the fact that we only proselyte three hours a day I would say that is pretty good.  But it would have better if we had been teaching.  
This week a Senior couple will arrive in our mission.  It will be the first time that a Senior couple will work in the mission office in our mission.  They were supposed to arrive today but bad weather diverted their arrival to tomorrow.  That was quite fun because no one notified us that they wouldn't be coming, so the mission president went to the airport to meet them and they didn't arrive.  We all began to worry since who knows where they got off in the middle of Brazil. It is all taken care of now. 
So I hope you all have a great week. I love you all!

Elder Russell

Saturday, May 30, 2015

Traveling

So this week was full of travel and travel preparations.  Our mission has begun its next cycle of zone conferences. This is when the mission president goes and has a meeting with all the missionaries in their respective cities or close to them.  This time there will be four zone conferences spaced around during the month. The first one was yesterday so I got to return to Rio Preto where I spent quite a lot of time in the beginning of my mission.  I never actually served there but I served in cities that were in the same stake, so I was always there for meetings and stuff.  I have worked in almost all the wards in the city at least for one day and a majority of the cities that are in the stake.  I have slept in all of the missionary houses that have elders and one that now has sisters (because it used to have elders).  I guess maybe it seems like I am bragging but I am just saying that it was nice to go back.  
I announced all the stuff that I needed to tell the missionaries before the mission president talked and then I helped organize the stuff for lunch.  I actually got to change a bit of stuff for the better in the mission and announce the stuff that I had always wanted to change.  The things I changed were all clerical but it was still cool.  It is nice to actually make a difference.  
We also traveled today to a little town because my companion had to do an interview there.  It was rather picturesque but was not easy to get to by bus so we ended up travelling almost the whole day and lost our p-day but the interview was done and we got to see the sights a bit.  It reminded me of the times when I have worked in really small cities.  So it was nostalgia week.  
I hope you all have a good week.  I love you all!

Elder Russell 

Saturday, May 23, 2015

Pray

So I think I forgot to say that even though I am still working in the mission office I got moved to another area to work at night.  This one has a favela.  We don't actually work there though.  There is plenty of area that is a little better suited to the night work we do. 
Today for P-day we went to the Shopping Iguatemi.  For those of you who don't know, Iguatemi is a string of malls in Brasil that is absurdly luxurious.  We really just went to see what it was like, but it is situated in the rich part of Ribeirão Preto.  Ribeirão Preto is the city with the most rich people and the most poor people that I have seen in Brazil (which is, granted, a very limited array).  The difference between the rich and the poor here is really quite shocking.  It makes the protests on wall street and all the talk about the one percent just look stupid.  Many families here live on six or seven hundred reals a month (that ss about $200-250).  Obviously the poverty isn't comparable with some other places, I mean this isn't Tanzania but the standard of living for these people is a lot different than what people call poor in the US.  Actually it just makes those in the US seem like whiners.
In other news I would like to talk about prayer.  I feel it works like this: God tests you; He tests you until you can't go any further, until you have to know, understand why or what or when or some other question.  Then you have two options, give up or ask.  And if you ask. he answers because at that point you are ready to hear and follow.  That is why many people never receive an answer about the Book of Mormon or what we teach. It is because they aren't ready to hear and obey.  Most people, even those who pray, don't ask for guidance.  They give thanks and ask for stuff but not guidance.  And even fewer are ready to follow what God says and aren't just asking hypocritically.  That is what we have to do.  We have to ask being willing to obey.  And He answers.  It is really awesome too, because then all that stress and anger and curiosity and lack of understanding just disappears into tranquility.  I hope we can all feel that someday or another.
I love you all!

Elder Russell

Saturday, May 16, 2015

In Short

            So it is transfers on Monday which means I have to do a bunch of stuff.  We have to help the people who are leaving get out of here.  In a couple of days, we will help the people who are coming here.  It feels like I just did all this.  In the end, it really was only five weeks ago because this transfer was short but the transfer also passed really fast.  It seems like time passes faster in the mission office.  Well, at least it did when I first got here.  Now, it went back to normal I think.  It is going to be a lot of stuff in the end to get that all ready and I don't have a lot of time to write because of that. 
 I am doing well if you all want to know.  I love you all!  Have a great week!
Elder Russell

Saturday, May 9, 2015

Sushi

So I just ate a bunch of sushi.  I never really like sushi at home and it stayed the same in Brazil, but there are a lot of people who like it here.  There are actually a lot of Japanese here in Brazil. 
 Other than that, I also went to the zoo today. There were lots of animals that they just have here in South America that are not common in North American zoos.  There were about four types of alligators that were always in the same exhibits with the turtles (I guess they don't eat them), and lots of monkeys and parrots (who speak Portuguese here (surprise)), and lots of big rodents like anteaters which are lots bigger than I thought they were.  I don't actually know if anteaters are rodents but I think they are.  
There have been a lot of emergency transfers recently as well.  It keeps things exciting here in the office because there are a bunch of people here. For those of you who don't know, an emergency transfer is when someone changes area in the middle of a standard transfer which is when everyone changes.  Its funny how in the mission we almost have our own way of reckoning time all around transfers.  It is kind of fun when you think about it all.  
Overall I am well.  I love you all and will post some pictures from the zoo but only of the cool animals.


Elder Russell

Saturday, May 2, 2015

Announcements

Next Tuesday I have to give announcements for all the Zone leaders in the mission.  When I say announcements, that basically means I have to tell them about all the stuff they are doing wrong in regards to the clerical side.  It will be a bit weird.  For those of you who are not familiar with mission hierarchy, a zone leader is a missionary who is responsible for 15-30 missionaries.  There are 20 of them in my mission.  Throughout my whole mission I have been listening to zone leaders give me instructions.  Now I have to tell them what to do.  It is a bit weird to have sort of skipped that whole level of hierarchy.  It is a bit strange how the mission works.  
There is a whole part of the mission which is how missionaries interact with one another. They want to gain status one with another, leadership positions and advance in the mission.  It is pretty sad that a lot of them begin to worry more about their numbers and their status in the mission than that real reason they should be out here.  
This week in the escritòrio (office) I am doing a lot of stuff.  At night we are teaching.  It is a bit strange.  I know I did stuff this week, but I feel like time passes really fast.  I feel a bit like I am in the beginning of the mission again and I have lots of time to learn and grow and this will all never end.  But the reality is that it is ever coming closer and closer to ending.  
             I love you all and hope you have a good week!
Elder Russell

Saturday, April 25, 2015

A Hard Thing in the Mission Office

The depressing part of working in the mission office is that you have to take people to the airport.  At least that is one of my many jobs.  When they are going home because they finished the two years it is cool because it’s like they are returning home conquering heroes and it’s a happy moment and you know that you are the last missionary in the mission that they are going to see.  But when they are going home before their hour, it is a bit different.  You are still the last missionary they see but the feeling not very happy. For those of you who don't know, there are only two reasons that a missionary goes home before the designated time: having health problems, or they did something they shouldn't have and are being sent home for disobedience. It’s sad to see them go.  I hope they can come back but a lot of them never do.  
Other than that my week has been crazy because the mission president has been doing interviews here in the mission office, so there were always a bunch of missionaries here.  It was a bit hectic because when missionaries come here, we are the ones who have to attend them.  Actually we do a lot of stuff.
But I don't have a lot to write.  I love you all and hope you have a good week!


Elder Russell

Saturday, April 18, 2015

I Am A Grandpa!

Well I guess I will start off with the big news and go to the little ones after.  We had a baptism!  That was cool!  The younger brother of a recent convert in the ward decided that he too wanted to be baptized.  He is eight years old and his name is Victor.  We decided that he was serious about it when he came home from his dad's house early on the weekend just to go to church.  It is pretty hard to find an eight-year-old that will do that.  So even if it is difficult for him to remember what Joseph Smith did and for him to read the Book of Mormon, he has definitely felt something in the church because he is always there for almost a month now.  

On to other news. My other companion was transferred.  Everybody knew it would happen since he was the one that was training me in the office.  So basically as soon as I got here, everybody knew that he would be transferred.  It was sad to see him go but it is nice to not be in a trio anymore.  It is always a little awkward.  My companion that is staying, at least for a little bit, is Elder Aragão.  He is from Fortaleza in the Northeast of Brazil.  There is a temple being built in his home town which is cool but it probably won't be done by the time he gets back since he is going home in September one transfer before me.  
It is pretty crazy to think about how the time is passing.  I guess I will inform you all of some realities.  It looks like I will be going home on October 26th.  Since making travel arrangements for missionaries who are going home is one of my jobs, I know the exact date that everyone who will go home this year will go home and the approximate date of everyone who is in the mission.  The other reality is that since missionaries usually spend quite a bit of time in the mission office (since you have to train them and all), this is probably my last or second to last area.  It doesn't seem like it should be coming to a close but I guess you could say it is. 
 But don't worry, five transfers is still a lot of time to make a difference.  One day is enough time to make a difference.  I guess make a difference is a pretty cliche phrase.  I just want to help somebody.  If everybody just helped one other person every day, in theory everybody would get help.  But in reality some people would help the same people and some people wouldn't be helped at all, so we have to help more than one person every day because the more people everybody helps, the more likely it is that everybody is helped and everybody needs somebody.  
            I love you all and hope you have a good week.


Elder Russell


 My trainee is training this transfer. That means I am a grandpa. This is the three generation picture.

Saturday, April 11, 2015

Transfers Are Crazy

So there is a lot of stuff to do the week of transfers when you are in the mission office.  You have to make sure the people who are finishing their mission know what they are doing (all of them are here in Ribeirão already).  You have to make sure that everyone who is being transferred will get where they are going without problems.  And you have to deal with the people who are arriving right now.  So overall, it is kind of crazy.  On the up side, we get to know what will happen in the whole mission several days before everyone else.  It is kind of cool because everyone tries to get you to tell them but we can't.  So it is just a bit funny.  Everyone wants to be the secretary's friend because they think you can help them with stuff.  I guess that is just life.  But whatever,  it is fun.
Our teaching in the ward where we are working has a been a bit weird.  Some nights we don't get to our area on time because we have stuff to resolve in the office.  It is very weird that my priorities are different now. But we are still working when we can! And things are going.
I love you all and hope you all have a good week!

Elder Russell

Friday, April 3, 2015

What Does the Executive Secretary Do?

So as I said, my P-day is not a set thing.  Since there is general conference tomorrow, our p-day is today.  So that is going to be fun.  But really I am excited for general conference.
For those of you who are curious.  Now that I have been in the mission office for a week I can explain to you all a little better what it exactly is that I do now.  I am the executive secretary.  Mostly I make and edit a lot of excel documents, resolve problems for the mission president, make sure the missionaries have teaching materials, do the stuff for missionaries who are arriving and leaving the mission, and some other stuff, too.  One of the particular things that I have to do is organize the travel plans for all the missionaries who are leaving the mission which means in about a month I will buy my own plane ticket home (travel plans are made six months beforehand).  That is kind of crazy and a little bit scary.  I don't know if I am ready to go home yet.  I mean I still have time and all but it is coming up.  That is going to be crazy.
But moving on, the week was good.  We had a zone conference. So since I am now a staff elder I had to do a bunch of stuff.  It was interesting to see things from the other side.  The training the President gave was good as well.  The President’s wife showed us a clip from the movie Gladiator.  It made a lot of sense in the context of what she was talking about, but I still felt a little weird watching it since you know, missionaries don't watch movies.  
We have also been teaching.  I don't think I have ever done so much stuff in my days as now.  There is always a ton of stuff to do in the office, so we are running around the whole day and then we have so little time to work in our area that we are always going full speed at night as well.  I am enjoying it quite a bit but I don't think I have ever been quite so busy in my life.  
 I am doing well. The week is going and yours is too. I love you all!


Elder Russell

Saturday, March 28, 2015

Missão Brasil Ribeirão Preto: The Office Edition

         So I am now the executive secretary of the mission.  Last Thursday I got a call from the Mission President telling me that I was being transferred to Ribeirão Preto to work in the mission office and that I had to leave that day.  It was a bit sad because usually there is time to say goodbye to everyone when you leave an area but this time there wasn't.  I got the call at 2:00 in the afternoon and I left Franca at about 6:00.  That was a bit fast since I had to go back to our apartment, pack up all of my stuff and catch a bus all in four hours.  It was all really very fast.  I am still not completely in reality.
         My day will now go like this: I will do scripture studies as normal and then after that I will start my day in the mission office organizing stuff and doing what the president needs done until 6:00.  After that I will go and do missionary work. All of that is if there isn't any emergency.  When the president calls and says that something has to be done we have to go and do it.  Missionary work is now my secondary priority.  It’s a little bit strange to tell you the truth. My whole mission has been basically the same thing every day.  Sure, the people you are teaching are always different and where you go is often different but in the end it’s the same routine. You are always hearing that you should be doing certain things and all of the sudden all of that doesn't apply to me anymore.  It’s really strange.
         But I am excited.  There are some cool sides to it.  I won't have to walk as much now but I never really had a problem with walking.  Avoiding the heat is cool as well.  But there are lots of things that I will miss like teaching and talking to people and seeing new places and working with members.  I will still do all of the good stuff except with less focus.  But I know that I went to the mission not just to find people who want to hear me, or not just to teach those people and not even just to baptize them.  I came to do what God wants me to and if right now God wants me to be filling out excel sheets and booking travel for people and all that “officy” stuff, then I will do it.  Right from the beginning my mission call said that the mission president could modify my call as he needed, well now he did it.
          My new companion is Elder Aragão from Fortaleza, Brazil.  I am also with Elder O'Connor until the end of the transfer.  He will be training me on all the office stuff that I have to do since I will be taking his place.  I like them all quite a bit.
          I hope you all have a wonderful day. I love you all! 
Elder Russell

P.S.  My P-day is now Saturday... that is if the mission president doesn't have anything for us to do on Saturday.  If that is not the case our P-day is a different day.

Monday, March 23, 2015

He Lives

So this week we had mission tour.  This means a Seventy came and talked to us.  A Seventy is a leader in the church, if any of you are not familiar with the Mormon vocabulary.  It was very nice, the talk he gave.  He talked to us a lot about trusting in what the Mission President does and that we can´t give up.  No work is wasted.  It was interesting because a lot of the stuff that he said was almost the opposite of what the Seventy who came last year said.  At first I thought it was a little bit contradictory, but the more I thought about it, the more I realized that it would be stupid if God always said exactly the same thing.  Obviously He doesn't move, but we do.  If a father has two kids, he won't speak to them both the same way always. They are different and a good Dad will know that.  So why would God be different?  He knows us perfectly so he knows what we need to hear and when.  Sometimes he says no to one thing and we think it is forever, but really he is just saying not right now.   So the Seventy last year said what we needed to hear last year, and the seventy this year said what we needed to hear this year.  It makes sense that those things would be different. 
The rest of the week was good, too.  We didn't baptize, but the people are getting there.  I am not too sad about that, well at least not discouraged anyway.  Things happen when they are ready to happen.  I just need to work and trust in God.  And I do. 
I don't know if all of you know, but I know that God exists.  I have known that for quite a while, but I have learned on my mission that Jesus Christ really lives as well.  That is important.  He lived, suffered, died, and lives again for us.  If you don't know that, pray and ask God.  You will feel that it is true.
I love you all.


Elder Russell

Monday, March 16, 2015

Three Weeks of Baptisms

So we managed to baptize for a third week in a row.  Things are going well.  And there is more in the forecast it looks like. But that’s enough with GH.  GH stands for Gloria dos Homens (glory of men)  which is what we say when missionaries start to brag. I am not really bragging though.  I am just really happy about how things are going.
This week a man named Antonio Carlos was baptized.  He is pretty funny.  He is married to a woman who is a member.  She decided to start going to church a little while ago.  They were going to the Jehovah's Witnesses before that but decided to stop with that and come back to church. He decided to go with her and decided that he wanted to be baptized.  So he was.  It is kind of funny, he is a very nice man but when we were trying to fill out the form with all the information for his record in the church, he couldn't remember which year he was born, the birthday of his daughter, or the day he was married.  Age gets to you sometimes.

Other than that, the week was good.  However, the economy of Brazil is absolutely horrible.  The real has passed three to the dollar and there is no sign that it will stop falling.  Inflation is so high right now that it’s starting to be a problem for everyone.  If I understand it all correctly, the real has lost about 50% of its value in about 6 months.  There was some scuttlebutt that there was going to be a protest in all of Brazil to try and impeach the President. I was not excited about that.  My feelings have nothing to do with politics.  It is just that if there is a public demonstration, we missionaries have to stay in our houses which is never fun.  But thankfully nothing happened in Franca.  The city isn’t really that big after all by Brazilian standards.
Next week I think will be even better than this one.  I love you all and hope you all have a good week!


Elder Russell

Monday, March 9, 2015

Another Baptism and Cooking

So since they closed an area in the ward where I am serving (there were 4 missionaries and now there are just two) we have spent a lot of time working things out.  We have been teaching quite a lot and we saw some good fruit from that.  We had quite a few people come to church this week and we had a baptism after Sacrament Meeting.  It was quite crazy because we had five investigators that we had to keep tabs on and we had to get the baptism all ready.  But in the end, it all worked out.  She was baptized.  Her name is Ana Paula.  She was an investigator that we picked up from the other missionaries.  The first time we went there, we said the opening prayer and the first thing she said was, "I want to be baptized on Sunday." It was pretty cool. 


Today we went to the house of some other missionaries to cook the food I had gotten for Christmas.  We made cookies and pancakes and brownies and maple syrup.  It really went quite well in comparison with my other cooking experiences. The syrup was still quite runny but at least it had the taste of maple. Overall it was quite good and the other missionaries liked it too.
I love you all.  Have a good week!

Elder Russell


Monday, March 2, 2015

Transfer, Not

So the long awaited transfer came and I am staying and my companion, Elder Mendes, is as well.  I think my mission is to learn patience because I really spend a lot of time in my areas and with the same companion.  Not that I am saying that my companions are annoying because I have always had luck with that but four months with the same person 24/7 is a lot.  The other missionaries that were serving in the same ward were transferred and now it will just be us in the ward so our area just about doubled in size.  That'll be fun. 
In other news, we had a baptism.  Germina was finally baptized.  She was going to be baptized about 2 months ago but didn't feel ready, so we asked her what day she would like to be baptized and she said February 28th.  So we waited.  Her husband, who is a member of the church but only came back to the church since we found him in December, baptized her.  So that was really pretty awesome.  They have a baby daughter and are an awesome family.  They are the kind of people who know what they want to do and do it.  It was really a pleasure to see the difference the gospel is making in their lives.  Since we met them, they have only missed one sacrament meeting.  That is pretty cool. 
So it was a good week.  I love you all. 

Elder Russell 

Monday, February 23, 2015

Miracles

Miracles are a thing that is really weird.  I believe that many people would define a miracle as something that defies the laws of science.  Moses parting the Red Sea certainly defies the laws of science as we know them.  But I don't really believe that something that defies the laws of science is a good definition of a miracle.  And if science laws really are what governs the universe, God would have to obey these laws as well since he is perfect and just. If God broke a law of science he would cease to be God. Therefore, I am forced to conclude that our comprehension of science is limited.  God uses the laws of science to complete his work.  It is us that don't understand the laws yet.
I believe that miracle is a word to describe an evidence that we see in our life of God's existence. So miracles happen every day if we let them.  I have learned more and more that nothing happens just because. Everything has a purpose.  But if we don't see the hand of God in our lives, we choose to not have miracles happen.  This is all a bit of brain storming, but it is where I've gotten up until now.
This week was pretty cool because we had two people that we invited in the street to come to church, come to church.  It is hard to get the people that we know to go to church, and this time two people we didn't really know, came.  It was really cool.  One of them came mostly because she knows some people who are Mormons and she wanted to know what made them so happy.  So if you are Mormon and want to be a good example, be happy.
I love you all.  I had a good week! I hope you all do too.


Elder Russell