Tuesday, February 23, 2010

February 22, 2010

Howdy fam. Another way awesome week in the Praia da Vitória. I still can't believe how much more awesome this area is than my last. I can't believe how much I have been learning and how much my testimony has been growing. I really am loving my mission.

Lately, I have been realizing how many people we have been teaching. There are tons of people. It is so much easier to stay in contact with everyone here because it is such a small area. I don't know how it's going to be for me when I go back to the continent. Here we are able to pass by all of our investigators everyday. We just walk to there house and knock on the door. We don't have to deal with big apartment buildings or anything, just normal houses. It's way awesome. There are a ton of people. It's just hard to get them progressing.

I can't remember if I have written about Diana. Diana is one of our investigators. She is 19. She has lived with her boyfriend, Luís for about 7 years I think. Elder Dastrup and Elder Da Costa found her. They haven't really been progressing a whole lot. Luís isn't at all. He is sort of a "big kid." But Diana the last few weeks has shown a lot of interest. And we marked her for baptism, not really sure if she would really make it. She is marked for the 27th, this Saturday.She has made a lot of changes in her life already. She used to be on drugs, but stopped before they started teaching her. She is still quitting smoking. If she doesn't smoke at all this week, she can be baptized. She also had piercings. One on her eyebrow, 4 on each ear, and one on her naval. We taught her last week about removing them, and she sort of flipped and got mad and told us she didn't want to be baptized anymore. But we talked to her more and more, and now she has agreed to remove them. Pretty cool. Also, a couple days ago, we went there to teach her about tithing, and we were a little worried that she wouldn't be too happy about paying tithing either. She is really poor. But when we taught her, she didn't have any doubts or objections, she just said " 'ta bom, eu pago," or "alright, I'll pay." It was way cool. So we are pretty confident in her. She even got married on Friday. She is also going to take a class so she can get a job doing manicures. So she is changing her life. She still doesn't "get" everything, but we are confident in her, and are excited for the baptism this Saturday.

Claudio has been sick and busy. We were sort of worried for awhile that he didn't want to talk to us anymore, or something like that. We passed by his house a couple times, and tried to call, but we couldn't get ahold of him. We actually passed once, and his aunt answered the door, and told us he was sick. She also told us that he was trying to quit smoking! We haven't even taught him the Word of Wisdom yet! I think the Lord is still preparing him. We finally got ahold of him yesterday, and we will be teaching him tomorrow. I am way excited.

There is another dude we are teaching. His name is Rui. He is 23, I think. He is the son of one of our "excommunicated members." She was excommunicated, but still comes to church. Rui came up to us after a baptism once and told us that he wants to be baptized. So we have taught him once. He doesn't know how to read. He sort of doesn't understand everything. But we will probably be baptizing him in the next couple weeks. Hopefully he progresses.

Other cool stuff happened this week. We gave a few people blessings. One to this girl named Camila. She is a less active member, but wants to come back to church. Her mom isn't a member, and is sort of against the church. But we went there, and gave Camila a blessing. The Spirit was way strong and she cried, and we are sure her mom felt it too. We are going to try to keep on teaching her.

Everything is going way awesome with the investigators. It has actually been hard for me to keep track of them all, because we have so many.

We get our transfer calls next week. Already. It feels like this transfer went by way fast. It's because I'm enjoying it so much. Elder Da Costa and Elder Dastrup are most likely leaving. They have both been here for 3 transfers now. So it's likely that me and Elder Barbosa will be getting new companions. I am a little nervous for Elder Da Costa to leave, because that will make me in charge of the area, which I never like. There is a ton about this area that I still don't know. But whatever happens is meant to be. It will definitely be a learning experience.

So this week, our Branch President got back from the States. He has been there since before I arrived. His name is President Smith. He is cool. His Portuguese is kinda weird, because he spoke Spanish on his mission, so Spanish words slip here and there. Anyways, he got back and re-organized the Branch Presidency. So Elder Da Costa was released as 2nd Counselor, and called as 1st. I was called as 2nd Counselor, and Elder Barbosa was called as Secretary. I directed Sacrament Meeting yesterday. That was a new experience. I can't say I have every been a member of a branch presidency before, or directed a sacrament meeting. We actually had a real good turnout. 38 people in Sacrament Meeting. Supposedly that's a record, for awhile anyway. The Branch is growing. There are a few less active members that are returning, and more people that we are baptizing. It's way cool to see.

This truly is the work of the Lord. I have no doubt about that. I feel really blessed to be a part of it, and to have recieved a witness from the Holy Ghost that this is the true church of Jesus Christ. It is an awesome thing to be able to say that I KNOW that these things are true, and I love sharing my testimony with others.

I love you guys, yoo da best!! Fiquem bem!

Elder Walker

P.S. No, the volcano on this island is not active. I know there is only one active volcano in the Azores, but I forgot which one. And, no we didn't get flooded. But it poored this week. The rain here is ridiculous.

Monday, February 15, 2010

Februrary 15, 2010

Well, I was expecting a big fatty email today, but I guess you guys are just too busy to write to me. Ha ha, just kidding. I know mom is busy with the play and stuff. Então esqueçam.

This week has possibly been one of the best weeks of my entire mission. I can't believe how much I am learning. I can't believe how much more I am enjoying my mission. It is amazing to see how my testimony has really grown, and that I am learning more and more every day how to follow the guidance of the Spirit. I love bearing my testimony to people. And I love being able to see the words that Heavenly Father gives me touching the hearts of others. Although people here forget really quickly what they felt, a lot of the times I know they can't deny that they felt something.

This week, a lot of miracles happened. The best of all was on Friday. Both me and Elder da Costa have been feeling sick this week. Sort of just up and down. On Friday, both of us were feeling really sick, and decided to stay in the house for the day. We had weekly planning anyway, so we stayed and did weekly planning. Then, after, Elder da Costa said, "let's leave, I don't feel good about staying in." I was kind of disappointed, because I really wasn't feeling that great. But we left, and headed to this area called Santa Luzia to go knock some doors. We knocked a couple, without any success, and then Elder da Costa started walking toward a house that was kind of out of the way. We figured it was probably just an old couple's house, who didn't want anything. But we knocked, and a younger lady answered. She said she didn't have time, and that she was about to leave. But then we heard this voice from another room "let them in, I want to talk to them." So she let us in, and left. This younger dude came in. He said his name was Claudio and that he was 20 years old, my age, and told us we could sit down. He had to take a shower, so we waited for about 10 minutes. He came in, and started speaking perfect english to us, without even an accent. He told us he was portuguese, but had lived in the states for a few years. So we taught him the restoration, in english, which was way cool, because I can express how I feel a lot better in english. He sort of explained that his life has been really diffucult, and he has had some rough times. His dad died before he knew him, and his mom left him. He said so much stuff has happened in his life, that he began to hate God. He said he knew that he still existed, but that he hated Him. But our message really touched him.The Spirit was way strong throughout the lesson. He had a lot of awesome questions and I think he really understood the message. We even invited him to be baptized. He said "what do I have to do to be baptized?" And we told him we would like to keep teaching him, and that we wanted him to come to church. He said he couldn't this week, but promised us that he would go next week. At the end, we invited him to say the closing prayer. He wanted to, and kept trying to say "Heavenly Father..." but then stopped after a few attempts and said, "I don't feel like I should pray, because the only thing that I can think of saying, is that I already know without a doubt that all the stuff you guys told me is true, but I don't want to tell Him that without reading the Book of Mormon and finding out for myself." So I said the last prayer. It was probably to coolest thing that has happened on my mission so far. Claudio is a way cool kid, and we are sure that him being baptized is really going to strenghten the branch. We are sure he will serve a mission too. We still haven't met with him again, because he is busy this week. But we are meeting with him on Wednesday. I can't wait. He is so elect. He has been prepared by the Lord. We told him that, and he agreed. We were definitely guided to his door, there's no doubt about that. I can't even imagine what would have happened had we stayed in that day. It was definitely the Spirit that told Elder da Costa that we had to leave the house. Everything worked out that day exactly how it should have.

We also taught some other investigators this week. They are a couple that live together, but are not married, that haven't really showed a whole lot of interest named Bruno and Carla. They let us over because they had been arguing or something. We talked to them about the law of chastity, and about the greatest law, which is to love God, and the second which is to love your neighbors. Carla was crying. We asked them if they felt anything, and Bruno suddenly said "I feel something!" It was funny, but way cool. The Spirit was really strong in that lesson as well. They still didn't come to church this week. But they are a lot more receptive to us now.

Other than that, the week has just been awesome because I am just loving the work. I am loving the gospel and loving my mission. I really have developed a strong love for the people here. It's funny, there are a lot of Americans here. Me and Elder da Costa were knocking an apartment where everyone that lived there was American. I really did not like talking to them. I'll just say that I am glad I am not serving in the states. I was definitely called here for a reason. Ha ha.

Anyways, I love you all. Thanks for everything. Don't forget to write!!!

Elder Walker

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

February 8, 2010

Hey fam,
Another way awesome week in the Azores. I am really loving the area. It has probably been one of the favorite transfers of my mission so far. I am learning a ton. It is a tough area, but we are teaching a lot and having quite a bit of success. We have a lot of investigators, most of which were already investigators when I got here. It is hard helping them progress. The people here seem to be really lazy. It's hard to help people understand that we are here to help, and that we want them to be happy. Everyone here has problems with drinking or smoking or the law of chastity. But we have found some good, sincere people.

The culture is just so different. I have never seen a more Catholic based society. Even a lot of the members (which are few) still have somewhat "catholic views" on certain things. By the way, I don't think I have told you about the branch here. We have 2 branches, the Air Base 4 branch, which is the american military branch, and the Praia/Lajes branch, which is the Portuguese branch. We don't go the the American branch, but they feed us all the time and stuff. There are a lot of active members, but we don't really work with them at all. The Portuguese branch consists of about 6 or 7 active members, besides the missionaries and the branch president, who is american. There are about 120 inactive members. It is ridiculous trying to work with them. Almost every single inactive member that we have tried to work with says that in some way or another, they were offended at some point, by some other member, and never went back. Even some members that already served missions, and some that have been branch presidents. It's ridiculous. Some of them have even gone back to the Catholic church. It is way sad to see. It's hard enough to get investigators to answer the door, but it's even harder to get inactive members to open the door here. It's stressful, and makes it hard for our investigators to see that it really is the true church, I think. The active members that we have are all way awesome, but there are very few.

I really am learning a lot though. And I am gaining a really strong testimony. It is different now, when I bear my testimony. It is awesome to be able to bear it, and really feel it and know for sure that it is true. It is way cool to be able to be guided by the spirit, and I can honestly say that I have been. It's funny, one of my MTC teachers, Brother Kimball served in this same area on his mission about 5 years ago. I remember him showing us pictures and saying "this is when I became a man." It's funny, but I sort have felt the same way, in this same area. I feel like I am really learning how to work effectively and am gaining a huge testimony.

Well, I am out of time again. This internet place closes for lunch, so we usually have less time to write. I will try to send pictures next week I think. I love you!

Elder Walker

P.S. Dad, you would love being here. There are all kinds of fighter jets and military airplanes flying around all the time.

Tuesday, February 2, 2010

February 2, 2010

Querida Família,
This week was pretty tough. But at the same time, it was really good. I learned a ton. It started out good. But then, I think on Tuesday, both Elder Dastrup and Elder da Costa got really sick. Elder da Costa is my comp.So, both went to the hospital and Elder Dastrup found out that he has Pneumonia, and Elder da Costa has swine flu. So they have been sick basically all week and were both quarantined. So I had to go out and work with Elder Barbosa, who is still greeny, and I still don't know the area all that well and I don't really know all of our investigators. It was pretty tough. I got pretty stressed. Elder Barbosa is cool, but talks a ton, and has tons of questions, and really likes to sing out loud and really out of tune while we walk. Plus, there is a lot of stuff he doesn't know, because he is still being trained. He is a way good missionary though. It was just stressful teaching all of these investigators that I still didn't really know, and not knowing exactly what they had already been taught, and what there needs were and stuff.

We just got back today from Zone Conference, so that's why the email is getting sent late. We had to fly to another island called São Miguel. I think it's the biggest out of the 9 islands. I think every transfer, they switch off which island they have Zone Conference. So this transfer, it was in São Miguel. It's a lot like Terceira, but more developed. It reminds me of sort of a mix between Lisbon and Terceira, because it has both normal houses and big apartment buildings. Terceira has just normal houses, and Lisbon has almost all just big apartment buildings. But it seems like São Miguel is sort of a mixture. They also have a different accent there. A lot of missionaries say it kind of sounds like a french accent. I didn't hear a whole lot of it, but it kind of sounded like a british accent to me. It was definitely a lot easier to understand than the accent here.

The Azores are way cool. It's mostly just grass, and cows. They have all these sort of fences made from volcanic rock and cows everywhere. I will have to send some pictures.

Zone Conference was awesome! Definitely the best Zone Conference that I have had my whole mission so far. It was just 12 missionaries. President Torgan is way awesome. He is probably the most spiritually inspired man I have ever met. Everything he says just blows me away. I learned a ton of things that I needed to hear. Plus we had our interviews which were good too and he gave me a lot of good advice.

It's really good being out here in this area. The people are tough, everyone smokes........literally, and everyone already knows the elders, but I think I am enjoying it the most out of any area so far. It's especially good being here after my last transfer. I was sort of in a rut for awhile. I have a lot more motivation now. Like I said, I think Elder Dastrup is the hardest working missionary in the mission. I am learning a ton about working a lot harder than I have.

OK, to answer some of your questions. Yes, I am liking my new companions. It was the refrigerator that was broken, which has been a pain, but we just got some money from Sister Torgan at Zone Conference, so we bought one today, and they are delivering it tomorrow. You don't need to worry about the gas thing, I don't think. None of the houses in the mission are heated. We all just use portable electric plug-in heaters. The water heaters are also manual. And every house has a gas detector. So we should be fine. If you are going to send packages, it will probably be safest just to keep sending to the mission office. They bring the mail at Zone Conferences. If you want to send letters, my new address is:

Elder Greg Walker
Rua do Hospital Nº 17
9760 Praia da Vitória
Terceira, Açores

So, everything is going awesome. I am really improving I think. It is cool speaking Portuguese all the time. It is helpful not only speaking "the gopel vocabulary," but also learning new words that are useful like "ladrar" which is to bark, or "ressonar" which means to snore, instead of "pregar" which means to preach, or "orar" which means to pray.

Elder da Costa is way awesome. It's funny, when I first got on the mission, I was told that Portuguese people don't get sarcasm. But Elder da Costa is the most sarcastic person that I know.

Anways, its good to hear from y'all. I'm outta time. I love you! Boas!

Elder Walker