Monday, November 24, 2014

Monday, November 24, 2014

Hey y'all!

This week went by so fast! Probably because we only had half the week to work in our area! After P-day until mid-day Thursday, we were traveling! We had a special conference with Elder Aidukaitis ( He is currently serving as a counselor in the South America South Area Presidency.

So after our pday, we packed up and went to the other Elder's appartment to sleep there cause it is just down the street from the bus station. Our bus left at 7 Tuesday Morning, and we were traveling until 8:30 at night! These buses are good buses though. Like the 2 story buses, with the seats that can lean back, have a bathroom, and they stop every 2-3 hours to pick up other people, but also you can get off and stretch and buy food if you want as well. But nothing really settled well for me on the way there. I was a little travel sick on the way there. So I tried to study but after about 5 minutes of studying I always just fell asleep! Mom, you were exactly right on your prediction of what I would end up doing on my ride up there, sleep. But it was good, to nap because I havenet been getting a whole lot of sleep lately. But along the way the bus picked up like 10 other missionaries too. This zone is pretty spread out, and we are the farthest south. But after about 8 hours of the trip we had all the people in our zone on the bus. We all had seats next to each other so we just talked the rest of the way up, Another American (from Washington DC) sat next to me, Elder Bearden, and it was nice to talk in English for a little while, plus my area was his last area, so it was good to talk about the area too.

But yeah, the Zone Leaders there in Porto Velho, Elder Bateman and Robinson (or as everyone calls them Batman and Robin) had rides to pick us up and take us to their apartment. we only had 3 extra beds for 6 elders, but I shared a bed with Elder Chime from Equidor (one of the other Elders in Cacoal in my district) and I didnt sleep super well but got a little sleep. But the thing that was worse about it all was that we didnt eat well that day at all. haha Just snacking all day.

But Wednesday we woke up and had plenty of time to study, and prepare for the day, and then we went and bought lunch, and headed to the chapel for the conference. President Castro was there with his wife as well as Elder Aidukaitis with about 25 of us missionaries here in the state of Rondonia. It was such a good conference. The thing was that I understood it all. Last Zone Conference was good but I didnt really understand everything, but when Elder Aidukatis spoke I understood almost every word! He is very annimated but very bold. He is really funny and had a laugh like a clown. haha

He talked to us about some things that our mission can do better. I want to share everything he said but one of the things he said was in the first lesson have the host of the family say the closing prayer, kneeling. It was something that I had not really ever done, but he spoke so pasionately about it. He took about 30 to practice it with us too. After some Elders practiced extending this invitation to Him, as he acted as the investigator, we all gave feed back and learned from it all lot. But then he asked for 2 other Elders to come up front to be the investigators and he would be the missionary to show us how it can be done, I stood up when he asked for a volenteer and my companion came with me. We sat down in the 2 chairs next to him and then he began by explaining to not be really difficult but still be like any of your investigators would be, and then said, "But remember, I am a General Authority!" hahahaha It gave everyone a good laugh. But then he began the role play. He began by imediately going down on his knees, and pleaded us to join him in a pleasent but direct way. And then explained that I as the head of the house would say the closing prayer, and then asked how I normally start my prayers....I responded "Dear God, or Lord." He responded with encouragement that it was perfect, and simply asked what else I include in my prayers,...I said"like things I am thankful for" again gave encouragement and then said "and then just closed with AMEN. Perfect, you can lead us in prayer." He then closed his eyes and bowed his head and waited for me to start. It was so simple, but so sincere and full of confidence. He showed us this way, because so many investigators dont want to pray, especially the first time, but doing it this way it give them so much confidence, and they pray how they are comfortable. He then explained afterwards, that obviously this is not a perfect prayer, but that God will hear it. And that we are to teach line upon line, precept upon precept, here a little and there a little. As they learn more we can help them pray with more exactness but always giving them what they can handle at that specific time. It was a great training. And it was so cool to sit in front of a General Authority and practice sharing the gospel with him as he looked me right in the eyes. He truely teaches with great power. It was really great.

 It sure has helped us too! We have already tried it twice and last night we did it with a family with a man that is way inactive and his family who arent members. He hant been to church or read from the book of mormon for a loongggg time. After reading in the BOM with him and his family. My companion invited him to say the prayer to close, and he refused, he said one of us would that he couldnt. But we just did what Elder Aidukaitis said to do. Imediately after he said that, I asked them to join us by kneeling, and then explained to this brother that he knows the needs of his family and he can ask for that help through prayer, and then asked him how he starts his prayers he said "Pai Celestial" and I said, "that is perfect, what do you say afterwards?" He described a few things he sometimes asks and then I concurred and explained it is really just speaking your thoughts and feelings to him and then just close with Amen, And then I invited him to pray again, and bowed my head and closed my eyes along with my companion, and just as we knew he would, he began to pray. He gave a beautiful prayer, asking for The Father to help his family be better at living his commandments, and studying the scirptures. It was so cool!

Elder Aidukaitis gave us many other cool stories from his mission and when we was serving as mission president as well. As of which was so great! My companion and I a few days ago made a list of all the comittments he had us make there and made plans to how we would complete them. I had a lot of other goals too from other things he said that I want to continue to impliment into my missionary work!

But yeah it ended about 5:00 so we went back to the zone leaders apartment and packed up and we all got rides to the bus station but it was pretty early. We had to wait there for like 4 and 1/2 hours. But I went with a few other elders and got ice cream and subway, we couldnt find the subway and it was raining a lot so everyone went back but I was determinded to find the subway so my comp was great and came with me and it was literally like just another 2 minutes walk from the ice cream station we all ate at. haha So yeah, I had been craving subway a lot and it had been quite some time since I had a sub sandwich! I will attach a picture! (pictures are working today!) The other 2 pictures are from walking to the ice cream place and I saw this grill resturant called "Texas Grill" and I was like, "I need a picture with that!" haha The other White boy with me and my companion is the other American I was talking to on the Bus, Elder Bearden.

Then we traveled all night from 10:30 pm until 10 am the next day, Thursday, then we walked back to our apartment on the other side of town and then showered and got ready for the day. And then we finally had a really meal for lunch! I love that we have lunch in the members homes every day! It is such a blessing! Especially when i hadnt really eaten much for the previous 3 days. haha But

So yeah, it was a great trip, but like I said it took a lot out of our week! We are still working with Nealton, but Satan doesnt want us to talk to his mom, we have been trying to talk to her all week and she is never there! But Nealton is still reading and praying and still wants to be baptized! So I am still excited for him. Wendy has been sick so we havent been able to follow up with her this week either, but its not looking good for her. She still lacks the desire to change. Its sad, but all we can do is keep trying and pray. But this week will be a good week of work for us.

President Castro is coming to our area to hold a conference for the members here in Vilhena. They are so far away that they dont get much attention for other leadership. But this will be really good for them. But yeah, we will also get to have our interviews with him while he is here. I am excited for that!

But yeah, thats all I have for yall today! But I am so grateful for the experiences I am having here, and the great oppertunity it is to be enstructed by so many leaders in this church! I know that we are truely led by a true prophet today that can literally talk with our Heavenly Father and his general authorities are called of God as well! Elder Aidukaitis's testimony of President Thomas S. Monson and this church was so powerful. I too know it is true, and am so blessed to be a part of it!

I sure love you all, and hope yall have a good week! :)

-Elder Swalberg

And 2 more pictures of the little b-day party we had for Elder Carmargos on his birthday in their apartment. haha 

They are fun Elders!

 These photos are of our chapel, and me trying a fruit native to brazil called Jackfruit, in english I think but everyone here calls it Jaka. I dont really like it, it has a really strong smell, and the texture is just really slimy. but there are different kinds of jaka, this one was the softer kind. But anyway a little taste of brazil! haha 

Monday, November 17, 2014

Monday, November 17th

Hey yall!

Another week, and we have had some great things happen, but at the same time I have been made more aware of how much Satan is working, especially on our investigators.

I cant remember if I talked about one of our investigators this last week, Wendy. But she is 14 years old, and has known the church for almost 5 years, and goes to church and seminary, except when she is lazy,...but really she has been taught a bunch by missionaries. And still hasnt been baptized. We have been teaching her with her older sister Breyla (17 years) who has been a member for more than 4 years. Before I got here, my comp said they really didnt teach her, only for the lesson. But there was something that was stopping her from being baptized I wanted to know what it was. So starting last week, we started meeting with her. I really didnt know where to start and neither did my companion. So I just started asking questions of what she already understood and thought of the things she learned from missionaries, church, seminary.....and I really focused on the Book of Mormon, because we all know it is the center of all conversion in this church. We found out that she is scared of baptism and in turn we think she is scared to REALLY pray, cause she knows she will get an answer. We had such a spiritual first lesson with her, and Elder Neyra shared his conversion story with her too. It was so powerful, And so was the second lesson! She hadn't gotten an answer yet, but the second lesson, after a series of questions she answered that she believed that the BOM is true, Joesph Smith was a prophet, and that this church has the proper authority to baptize and to perform all the saving ordenances that we need here in this life. But yet she said she is more "comfortable" in her other church. Thats it! Thats all thats freaking keeping her from wanting to be baptized in the true church of Christ! Yeah, you could say the Devil is working on this poor girl. The whole branch knows her, and knows of her good heart. She is so sweet and her 2 other sisters who are members are such good examples too. But other than our Heavenly Father, Satan knows of her good better than anyone! He knows how much of a strength she will be when she is  a member of this church and he is doing everything to stop it. During our lessons my companion and I have born out our heart of how sure we are that this is the true church and that Heavenly Father with answer her prayers. I started crying like 2 times during that second lesson. The spirt was so strong. And Breyla is always such a huge help, especially getting her to commit to things. But still she hasnt been to church in 2 weeks and we went back last night to bring by some brownies that I made for them, and tried to mark another day to meet and it seemed she didnt really want to. We arent giving up on her, but we will give her a little space. But she just needs a lot of prayers!

We have another investigator we are working with Nealton. He is 17 years old, and he is a cousin of 2 young men in the branch. And he has gone to church a few times already, and he really showed a lot of interest last week as we had lunch with him at Viviana and Eliezer's house. with all the youth. He has made good friends with another young man in the branch, Emerson. We got to teach him the fist lesson at Emerson's house. It was really good. And he came to church this sunday too. After church we talked with him some more at his house, and marked a day for baptism. But the mom might be some trouble. She goes to another church. We told him, we need her authorization for him to be baptized. So we had an appointment this morning to talk with her, but she wasnt  home when he said she would be. Sadly the next time we can meet with them both is Friday, becauase we are traveling tomorrow through Thursday, for a conference. (I will explain more about this next week...all of the missionaries in Rondonia will meet in Porta Velho for the conference....24 hours of traveling by bus in total for us here in Vilhena! ;p crazy right?! Just for a meeting!) So yeah that kind of sucks, but I still think he will be baptized. We are excited for him. He is a great young man!

This week we had our district meeting. We didnt reach our goal of 30 new investigators, but it was close, so I still made a little desert that I learned how to make last week, and we ate it after district meeting. But yeah, this week we talked of the power of the message of the restoration, and how strong the spirit can be when we teach this first lesson, and the great oppeertunity that we have to mark a baptismal date in the first lesson! So this week we are working on baptismal dates. We didnt have any at the begining of the week, but now we have 2!

We also had exchanges this week. I went to the other Elders area with Elder Fericim and it was a little rough, because they really didnt have anything planned. But we did a lot of finding, and ending finding a sweet family, with 3 older teen boys. The mother, was really really sweet, and I hope that it works for them to continue teaching them. But Elder Fericim really does teach well. They just lack the investigators that can really progress. they have a lot of families , but almost all of the parents arent married. That is such a huge problem here! I dont even know why! So many, I think, are just lazy. Its not even that expensive for them. Its really just another thing that Satan uses to keep so many people from joining this church. He is consistantly degrading the image and importance of marriage. But it was still really good to get to know the other Elders area to know how I can better help them.

In our branch we had 76 people at sacrament meeting! And I think we even had more during the first hour, because sacrament meeting is last in this branch! It was really cool! Part of it was because the son of our branch president, President Rui, returned home from his mission this week! He was serving in Salvador, Brazil. He is really cool. We had lunch at their house the day after he got home, and he was talking to us about how weird it is not to have a name tag, and stuff like that! haha. Its really going to be so weird to return home. Its really only 6 months away now! But I am hoping that if he stays around here, that he will be our branch mission leader, because right now we dont have one right now.

But yeah, this week will be way good, with zone conference, with a general authority of the seventy, and a bunch of appointments already set for the days we will be getting back. It should be a really exciting week. we will be sleeping at the other Elders house tonight and then get on our bus at 7 in the morning tomorrow.

I know when I see Satan at work around me, I am doing something right. I know these people are such special souls and I am so glad to be here, so far from my home, just to help them! What a privalege it is to be the Lords servent here.

Thank you so much for all your support.

I love yall so much!

-ELder Swalberg

Monday, November 10, 2014

Monday, November 10th, 2014

Well its already been another week, and I cant believe it! I don't really know what to say about this week. haha Like I said last week I wanted to get out of my comfort zone and really try to do everything I could to find more investigators and find some people that really would be able to progress. And I really had been studying a lot about this and really praying for help. I also gave a training on finding from chapter 9 of PMG for district meeting. We came up with methods of finding that have worked best for each of us. And we made a goal to find 30 new investigators, 15 in each area. we are a couple days away from our week long goal, and we still need to find 15 more as a district. But I have faith we can do it! We had some crazy miracles happen that same day we made that goal actually. 

We found a lady, Rosilleni, at the old lady, Allysi's house. She was way solid and said she would read and pray, and accepted a soft baptismal invitation too. Then we were just walking down the street and this lady comes out of a store and chased us down because it looked like she was hesitating to talk to us or not. But she chased us down saying, "Wait are yall with the mormon church?" (I dont really think they have the word "yall" in Portuguese but thats how Im choosing to remember what she said) And we were like "yeah!" She then discribed that practically all of her family is a member of the church but they are from São Paulo, and she moved into town pretty recently and she promissed her family she would visit the church to see what its like. She said she couldnt this sunday and that she was busy all week until next Sunday. So we werent able to set anything up, but we got her number and she said we could come by next week. So I am excited about that too. There were other mircale too that we received as we looked for more people to teach, and really put ourselves out there. 

The sad thing is we can't control everthing. A lot of our miracles had some sad endings already, most of which happened on Saturday. Rosilleni, we visited her again and we walked way to the end of our area, about a 40 minute walk to teach her. It was another great lesson, but we came at an hour when her husband would be home. But he didnt want to sit in. So at the end of the lesson we comitted her to be baptized in about 2 weeks. And she said she knows she wants to, but needs to feel worthy first and one is to get married first...WHAT?! She caught us by surprise because she referred to her husband in muitilpe instances like they were already married. So obviously that was fine, and we said that marrage is a great first step to baptism. Then still happy, yet a little disapointed at the new challenge ahead, the husband came out after we left and step out the gate and called out saying they know where our church is so we dont have to come back there. wasnt in a rude way, but esentially he told us not to come back. that point I knew, even though she said she would, that Rosilleni would not be at church the next day. Which turned out to be true. 

Then another family we found and were really excited to get to know better werent home at the appointed time....luckily we found the 2 kids in the street getting ice cream later that day and talked to them really quick, but they said they could come to church either, And didn't know when we could come by again. So we will just have to try again this week. But this kind of thing happened all day Saturday, even our apointment with a member giving us dinner that night fell through when we showed up, she had forgot and was really busy. It was just a rough day, and it was followed up by Sacrament meeting with only 1 investigator and he had to leave the last hour too....and he only came because we went to his house and woke him up. We had made plans for 4 other investigators to come to church and the members that were to have taken them either forgot, woke up late and didnt have time, or the investigator wasn't ready in time. Yeah...and then it rained all day! hahaha It was rough on numbers and spirits. Its just really hard when you try so hard, put yourself out of your comfort zone talking with poeple that you can't even fully understand and still end up falling on your butt, and not seeing the results you wanted to see. 

But the important part is this...I still have 4 more weeks here. And I am not giving up, if anything, Im going to just try to do more until I start to see this area change. And always remembering that I can't control everything.

We still had fun things happen this week, even with these challenges. Elder Carmargos, one of the other Elders in Vilhena, had his 20th birthday and I made brownies and we went over there to their apt. during our dinner hour and had a good time. eating and playing Uno! I have pictures, but this computer is not allowing me to attach pictures. These computer houses here in Brazil often have weird restrictions that make it really hard to upload photos. But I will try next week. 

And Also Sunday I gave a talk in Sacrament Meeting. Between district meeting and church I am getting a lot of practice at giving talks in Portuguese. Often times we teach the youth when the teacher is gone, and gospel principles. So yeah, that is good practice for me for sure. We also have a younger couple that are way cool Viviana and Eliezer. Eliezer is a recent convert of a little over a year, and she was inactive for a while until he was baptized. But they were married a few years ago, but this january will be sealed in the temple. They are pretty excited. They had us and all of the youth over for lunch after church yesterday. It was a lot of fun, and great to get to know the youth better. They like to have me say difficult words in Portuguese or tounge twisters in portuguese, like "sally sells sea shells by the sea shore". One of them was recording me try. It was pretty funny. But I only know it was funny because I had them try to say "Supercalifragilisticexpialidocious". And that was pretty funny! haha

But yeah, I know things are only rough because my father in heaven wants me to grow and learn something. And he still continually blesses me with many great things. I am so greatfull for his strength and comfort. 

Thank you all for you strength and comfort as well. 
Love yall! 

-Elder Swalberg

Saturday, November 8, 2014

Monday, November 3rd, 2014

Wow, so I have a lot ot talk about. Like I said in my last email, I am in Vilhena, Rondonia. It is literally a whole different world comparied to where I was in Manaus! 

To start off, the weather! I can honestly say, I didn't sweat for the first time I have been here in the Brazil Manaus mission! We were walking around normally like any other day, but it was all cloud cover and was sooo nice. All the members of our branch said they were cold. Like we were at a brothers house last night and normally the men dont wear shirts when they are at the house. But last night he went inside and came back out with a turtle neck shirt on! haha It was so funny! But I was just in heaven. It was like a beautiful Fall day in Texas. I have loved it here for is climate alone! But dont get me wrong this is their warmer season, so it does get hot. yesterday was a strange day. But our days still dont compare anything to what it is like in Manaus! 

The hills no longer exist! Here its just flat, just like Texas. Its been wonderful. At this point I dont care how far we have to walk because its normally nice outside and always flat. So different than my other area. I am so grateful for that! Although it does rain like everyday just after lunch. Almost without fail. But everyone here knows it just happens like this every year starting about this time until like March or april. But we bought some umprellas the other day to always keep with us, so the rain won't slow down our working hours. 

But the branch here is great! We dont have near the size of our last branch in Cidade do Leste (but like ive said that branch should be ward). Normally they have about 40 poeple in sacrament meeting. There are some good families and have a great branch president that has a daughter out on a mission right now, who will be coming home soon. We had a Holloween Party on the 30th at the church building. Halloween isnt really celebrated here, really its like everyone knows about it but only some people put on parties for it. So itsnt not like the states at all. But they decorated a room all up and they all dressed up, and had a little dance thing with sweets and snacks. we just passed by, but ended up getting to meet with the Branch President about some less actives we could pass by. It was a great little meeting we had with him. But another interesting thing here is the chapel is a lot smaller here. I did take a picture of the last chapel we had and will attach it to this email, and once I get new batteries for my camera I will take a picture of the chapel here. Its really like a side market/building with a bunch of deviders to make all of the rooms. But its a chapel nonetheless! haha We still get Almoço (lunch) everyday from the members and its great here too! We are so blessed by the members here in this mission! 

My comp has been great to work with. He knows less Portuguese than I thought, so its kind of harder than it was with Elder Aroaz.But Elder Neyra understands really well, so that is a huge blessing in our teaching and working with the members. But the hard part is the small talk for me. Especially cause he isnt really good at it either. Small talk and getting to know people for the first time, is like one of the greatest missionary skills every. Because its what gains trust and comfort of the person you are talking with. It was so easy to do in English, but has been one of my weaknesses here trying to do it Portuguese. But I guess its the lord giving me an opertunity to practice because my comp cant do it all himself. haha

But he is from a city a few hours south of Lima, in Peru. He is a convert of like 7 years. He joined the church at 14 when missionaries were looking for his less active grandmother who had been a member for quite some time andjust didnt go to church anymore. But he was the only one home when the missionaries were looking for her, and he said 2 weeks later he was baptized. He was not active for a long while but just last year (2013) he started coming back and his Bishop helped him get out on a mission. He is definately greatful for being out here. He is 21, and this is his 4th transfer. So he was trained, and then had last transfer here inthis area, and now with me. So he is pretty new. But its been good cause he is really humble. And I have been able to finally have someone to plan and study with again. Its been nice. 

But this area, has been struggling. It has only had 1 baptism in the last 2 transfers here. Only 1. Thats about what I was doing in my other mission, but the people here are so much more receptive, so that is really low! They slacked off a lot, and my comp said he couldnt really do much about it. But we really worked hard this week to do out best. I still think we can really improve, but we really didn't have more than 3 or 4 people in our teaching pool when I got here, and all of them have a stubbling block that they can't get over yet. So I have been really thinking of how we could change this area, and my thoughts have been brought back to the many hours of studying and discussing this same topic of how to find those who are prepared, in my other mission. And I was really getting the grove down of talking to everyone and seeing great results from it. And in my studies today I was really trying to understand how I can best apply what I learned there to this area here. Because despite my efforts to work really hard last week, we still dont have any baptismal dates, and our member lessons weren't that great either. ANd I want that to change more than anything. So I am going to try so hard to apply eveything that I found successful so far to this area. It is sure going to put me out of my comfort zone, but I want this more than staying comfortable. 

I will share one like miracle that I saw this week. we were walking around town on main street and it has this section in the middle of the road with a sidewalk and what not for poeple walk and ride there bikes and stay out of the road. Well we werent really doning anything and just decided to go to one of our appoinments a little early. But then we past this women carrying groceries and it seemed kind of heavy for her. I kept walking thinking that she wouldn't understand me and not accept our help. But the thought was still in my head,...and i couldnt let it go. I slowed down but kept walking, trying to think of how to say what I wanted to say in Portuguese. And then my comp noticed I was slowing down and turned around to ask me something but I then just said to him, "We need to help that lady" and I turned around to then see her bending over with the bags on the ground trying to readjust them as they were obviously too heavy for her. I went up to here and said "Exuse me, but we are Missionaries, and we aren't doing anything right now, can we please help you?" She looked suprised and hesitated at our offer to walk all the way to here home with her. But she complied and was just so grateful, and said "God is just always looking out for us, you two are such a blessing." We ended up meeting her brother who she introduced us too, and his family, and said a little prayer for him as he had broken his leg pretty badly recently. And said we could come back and so did the lady we helped. Her name is Allysi (I think thats how its spelled). But yeah, I don't know how promising those people will be as investigators, but one thing I do know. That was certainly a prompting from the Holy Ghost to stop and help that women. I am so grateful the spirit was consistant on working on me, because I know I would have regreted it later. I always think of President Monson when I think of acting on Promptings of the spirit. He is always so quick to respond, and never ignores promptings and thats how I want to be. 

In preach My Gospel is says in the begining of Chapter 4 "You will succeed in your work as you learn to receive and follow personal revelation".. I know that this applies not just to missionary work but to every phase of life. We can be successful at anything if we but learn how to receive and follow the subtle promptings of the holy ghost from our Heavenly Father strait to us. What a gift it is when we get to be an instrument in the lords hands. 

I know I still have much to learn for the Lord to trust me with more promptings, but I challenge each of you, as I too try, to continue to look for who the Lord has put in your path to touch. Its easy when we can obviously see they need help, its when we cant see it that we know we have know the spirits voice!

I look forward to working hard again this week, and thank you for your support and love! 

Love yall! 
-Elder Swalberg  

2 of these pictures are of our chapel from the front in my last area. It really was big chapel. 

the other picture is of Raquel, the young women who we were working with who's dad wouldn't let her be baptized yet. But She will be once she is 18 she said! This was the Sunday evening before I left my last area.