Tuesday, January 31, 2017

P-day 19: Day 139 - "I'm basically being bullied into being a Brazilian."

Nathanael is starting to settle in. I'm feeling much more at ease with him being so far away. He's got this!

One thing Nathanael has been feeling some stress about is how he can know he is a successful missionary. Elder Bednar addressed this very specifically in the Worldwide Missionary Broadcast this last week. I'm lucky enough that I got to watch it because I work with the team that produces it. The following is part of the email I sent to him this week that he references toward the end of his email: 

Elder Bednar was talking about how a missionary can know he or she is successful. I thought it was exactly what we have been talking about with you and his answer was just perfect. 

Elder Bednar started out by saying, “The success isn’t given to the missionary for him or her. Success is a blessing and a gift from the Lord.” Then he shared a scripture, Alma 26:22, which says, 'Yea, he that repenteth and exerciseth faith, and bringeth forth good works, and prayeth continually without ceasing—unto such it is given to know the mysteries of God; yea unto such it shall be given to reveal things which never have been revealed; yea, and it shall be given unto such to bring thousands of souls to repentance…'

Then Elder Bednar went on to say that many missionaries read this scripture and see it as a checklist. They think that if they do all those things they will baptize thousands. But he wanted to emphasize the idea that success is given as a blessing not a reward. Then he went on to read verse 27, 'Now when our hearts were depressed, and we were about to turn back, behold, the Lord comforted us, and said: Go amongst they brethren, the Lamanites, and bear with patience thine afflictions, and I will give unto you success.' And then Elder Bednar asked the most important question of all, “So I think the measure is, will a missionary do the simple things every day he or she knows he or she should do regardless of whether or not the Lord chooses to bless them with success?” I think that the person that told you that you had to be perfectly obedient in order to be successful had really good intentions, but I don’t think it’s a healthy way to look at your mission. Choose to do the simple things every day and let the rest follow. Don’t place expectations on the Lord, simply allow Him to bless you as he sees fit. You could come home not having baptized one person and still have been a very successful missionary.

Enjoy his letter!

Hey guys!

It's overall been a great week. Yesterday and Friday were very difficult for me but the rest of the days were awesome. Lots of crazy stuff has gone down, by which I mean I'm basically being bullied into being a Brazilian. (I'm mostly joking, please don't worry haha) Our house has been completely destroyed by us. I washed dishes for an hour this morning and probably got about a third of it done. The good news is that living with people who don't speak English is really helping me learn a lot of Portuguese a lot faster. 

The work this week was really slow. We knocked a whole lot of doors, worked with the area book, and talked to members. In the end I taught my record low of lessons this week and we had no one at church. Marco was progressing really well this week. He was feeling better and we visited him a couple times. We asked him what was keeping him from being baptized and he said that he feels he hasn't received a definite answer that the church is true. We felt inspired to promise him that the Spirit would touch his heart if he went to church on Sunday and prayed about it. Then we helped prepare him all week. We read Moroni 10:4 and went through the qualifications of receiving an answer to your prayers. I actually felt the Spirit testify to me that he is ready to receive an answer. We even fasted on Saturday and everything, and he didn't go to church. I guess it just comes down to the fact that people have agency. I was really, really disappointed though. 

The only glimmer of hope we had was that a less-active couple came to church. That was rad. Man, we're trying. Something I'm starting to realize, I think, is that it's really, really hard to be a representative of Jesus Christ. It's impossible to be exactly obedient, it's impossible to be perfect. Dad, when you blessed me right before my mission, you blessed me that most of all, I will learn that the Lord's grace is truly sufficient. I'm starting to wonder if that means that ultimately I will be transformed into someone who is a "good enough" missionary for the Lord. I think I came here expecting to kick up a missionary storm or something and I just never even considered that it would be so impossibly difficult to live up to the standard I had in mind. I think I need to be easier on myself. It's odd to me but when I feel like I've had the worst, most rebellious day or whatever that's always when I feel the Lord's love swoop in and comfort me. Why? How can I deserve the Lord's love when I fall so impossibly short? Anyway, these are just some thoughts. It's rough stuff!! But I have faith it will be worth it in the end.

By the way, today is 20 weeks on the mission. I'm a fifth of the way done! Can you believe it?

We got to watch the mission devotional (in English!) and Mom, I loved the part you talked about in your email. [I included part of my email above so you can know what he is referring to.] That was my favorite thing. The idea that success is a blessing, and not something that's earned, is really interesting. I think that has the power to change the focus of the work a little bit. We strive and do our best every day but remember it's all on the Lord's timing. Also, we watched that conference with the whole mission and I got to see everyone from my MTC group, which was really cool. I had a really good time on that day.

I am still struggling with feeling like my skill level is low, but I feel like I'm learning according to the Lord's time table and that everything will work out.

Love you guys. Can't wait to talk to you!
Elder Sederholm

Wednesday, January 25, 2017

P-day 18: Day 132 - "I'm becoming a Brazilian, I think."

Here is Nathanael's letter! He seems really good this week. I know there has been some discouragement but overall he feels like he is progressing. I know that when we communicate with him we can see all kinds of growth. I'm so proud of who he is and how is handling this experience.

I've included a couple of pictures.

Hey! How are you guys?

I'm becoming a Brazilian, I think.

It's been a crazy and really good week. Our house now has Elder K. Oliveira and Elder Mattos (the zone leaders), and me and Elder Guimarães. Everyone is Brazilian except for me, and they're all crazy and awesome. We've had an excellent week. The work was really tough. We knocked a lot of doors and not very many people let us in. I'm also realizing that I don't know a lot about how to teach, how to speak Portuguese, or generally how to do missionary stuff yet. I started feeling abandoned by God and really frustrated. Why? Because I've been preparing for my mission for years, I'm here for the right reasons, trying my best to be obedient and do everything right, studying and striving faithfully, and my righteous desire is to be made an effective instrument in the Lord's hands and what did I get for that? You know what I mean? But I prayed about it (and cried a little bit) and I had the thought that I'm learning what the Lord would have me learn, and that's what's important. The other stuff will come in the Lord's time. That was comforting to me. So that's been the drama this week, haha.

Our principal investigator, Marco, was hospitalized this week. Poor dude. He was having stomach problems, took a bunch of over-the-counter medicine, and got sick. 

By the way... I LOVE my new companion. He's crazy and awesome, and a really good teacher. I'm learning a lot with him. He only has 5 months on the mission but he's great, and he has a lot of energy which sometimes stresses me out honestly but it's much better than if he had no energy or desire to do anything. I'm really liking him a lot and still getting to know him. 

I love you guys. It sounds like things are well at home. I loved the pictures you guys sent me. I've passed through very severe feelings of discouragement this week, mostly related to feelings of discouragement and inadequacy in terms of fulfilling my calling. Man, no one told me it would be so hard to be a faithful missionary! People make it sound like the choice is whether or not to be exactly obedient, hardworking and so on. Obviously it's true, but what no one told me is that once you decide to try to do those things, the mission will start to systematically kick your butt and make you feel like a terrible person. This is what I've been struggling with from the beginning.

I love you guys. Sometimes I want to go home but I think I've reached the point where I feel like I'd rather be a bad missionary and stay than go home. Most of my desires to go home are related to the fact that I feel like I'm falling very far short and shouldn't even try. I think it's always better to try. Maybe the Lord will make my effort worth something. Maybe that's what I need to learn from this experience. I have always believed that the Lord's grace is sufficient. Now I need to be willing to wait to see the fruits of that principle in my own life.

This is hard, guys. But I know everything is going to be ok. I love you. Thanks for the letters and pictures as always.

Elder Sederholm

Thursday, January 19, 2017

P-day 17: Day 125 - "Unfortunately there was no monkey feeding this week..."

Okay, after this email I feel like I need to clarify my post about how much the package (which is still stuck in customs, by the way) cost to mail. Because sending it FedEx or UPS would have been $600, I went to the post office and it turned out to be $132 through the USPS. Still expensive but not $600. 

I was sad to hear that Nathanael still hasn't gotten to feed the monkeys. I hope he gets to do that before he is transferred.

I feel like Nathanael is starting to settle in to mission life. It's hard, but he's getting used to it. I'm proud of him. Enjoy!

Hey guys!!

How are you all doing? This computer doesn't have a question mark key so I had to copy a question mark from an email and now I'm using ctrl+v. Gotta love it.

I heard about the transfer, and let's just say that life is gonna get crazy!! Just kidding. I'm staying in my same area but my companion, Elder Oliveira, is getting transferred to Piracicaba. I'll be companions with Elder L. Guimarães. Not sure how to pronounce that but it should be good. It's kinda nice to stay here. I kinda wanted to get transferred and get to know a new area but it will be good to be here so on. I have faith that the transfers are inspired. I'm nervous about being the guy with the knowledge of the area but I feel more or less confident, and at the same time I'm incredibly nervous. Oh well. Nothing can be more emotionally challenging than my first transfer, right? Right? Hopefully! I don't think I can do anything like that again. Man, this mission has been so hard. I was reflecting on these first two transfers on Friday and realized that I feel like I've genuinely survived something really difficult. I joked about feeling like a POW after getting home from Trek, and I kinda feel like that now, just on a really different and more real scale. I'm scared about this next transfer. That being said, i know it'll be ok. It's always ok in the end. I really feel that.

I'm sad about the package still being in customs. Hopefully that works out. I read your email that you sent me with the blog update -- did you really spend $600 to send the package??? Mother!! I'm not going to complain but dang woman! Haha. Anyway I hope that everything works out with that. 

Dad, HAPPY BIRTHDAY this week!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! I wish I could be there to celebrate with you all but you know how it goes. Time is starting to fly by for me. Guys, I've been so homesick the last couple days. It's been rough. I've been dreaming about you guys and Eric and a bunch of people from home and it just really is the worst to be homesick like this. I'm basically not discouraged about the work or anything, I'm just sad, and I don't know how to handle it. I think the only way out is through, you know what I mean? I've been away for 4 months now and it's great, the mission is so great and I'm so happy here and everything but I just miss you guys and my friends and everyone so much. I don't know what I can do. But anyway I will be ok I think, haha. It's all good. 

Ok some funny stories. First of all, we were teaching a lesson in Santo Antonio which is a really sketchy, favela-like neighborhood in our area. (The other day we saw someone smoking crack in the street there, but that's another story!) The lesson went late and we had to walk home in the dark. We were a little nervous and jumpy and we heard this incredibly loud noise behind us. We looked behind us and this guy had crashed on his motorcycle into a big dumpster and was just lying in the road. We didn't know what to do so we just kept walking and after a couple minutes an ambulance passed us. Wow, now that I'm typing this I'm not sure if this story is funny anymore, haha. Anyway... yeah, that happened. The other story is that Marco, our investigator, is a dentist, and we've been visiting him at work to teach him. Elder Oliveira was complaining about tooth pain and he asked Marco about it, and he gave my comp a checkup and everything. Turns out he has 6 cavities.

Unfortunately there was no monkey feeding this week but hopefully soon. I'm staying in the area so it might work out some other day.

Love you guys.

Elder Sederholm

Monday, January 9, 2017

P-day 16: Day 118 - "The good news is...we're going to go do that thing where you can feed the monkeys."

Nathanael sounds really good this week. His letter is upbeat and when we messaged with him he was playful and fun. I think he is starting to understand that it's all about the journey, that the purpose for being in Brazil is to do the will of Heavenly Father, and that as long as he is doing that, he will be successful. You can't measure success by the number of people you baptize. It's about progression and the lives you are able to touch in the process of the journey.

Update on the weighted blanket package: Stuck in customs since January 4th. I think they must think I was trying to smuggle drugs in it or something. I hope he gets it...

Here is his letter. Enjoy!

Hey guys,

How are you both? I love getting your emails and was really happy to hear from you this week. I hope you had fun with grandma. It's been a good week with highs and lows.

We worked hard this week. It's been a kinda interesting week because we've been refining our teaching group, cutting investigators that haven't shown signs of progression in a while. Our teaching group shrunk a lot and we didn't have anyone at church. And man, we tried so hard this week, haha. It was disappointing. We also walked over 20 kilometers (I think it was more honestly) on Saturday and that really wore us out, and I think I'm sick, and other stuff too! So like I said, highs and lows. I had a neat experience on Thursday though. I've really been trying hard to talk more in the lessons as I've felt more and more confident in the language. Larissa, a girl we've been teaching and trying to bring to church for a while, told us she prayed and received an answer -- that her church is right and that ours is definitely wrong! (It's really annoying how often this happens.) I felt like I really wanted to say something so I told her that I am trying to understand her and respect what she feels, because our personal relationship with God is something personal, obviously, but that I know our church is true and she can know that too. I think I made sense and I felt the Spirit, so that made me really happy. I think we're going to cut her soon but we tried.

We've also been working hard with Marco, even visiting him at work (at his request) and teaching him there. He understands everything we teach and likes the message, but he keeps saying he wants a really direct and concrete answer before he'll be baptized. We're frustrated because he's already received more than one answer but we're going to keep working with him. 

Yesterday was really hard. This week was better but I woke up yesterday with no gas in the tank. I had tears in my eyes all day and stuff like that. I felt so down and depressed and like a failure and I really struggled, but I had a neat experience. When I went to say my night prayer I felt like I didn't even know what to say, so I just started to pray and then just sat there. I felt the Spirit, and then I felt the strongest and most overwhelming feeling of being loved. I know I'm not perfect but God loves me, and if that's the point He wanted me to get from yesterday then I'm on the right track. Just gotta keep trying and going. The good news is, the work is becoming more second nature and comfortable for me. I'm really nervous for the upcoming transfer because I'll almost definitely have a new companion and I won't be training anymore, and I don't feel ready, haha. (Elder Francato, the traveling assistant who was with us, even said I would likely become a senior or even a trainer next transfer. WHAT? He may not have any idea what he's talking about but the prospect of that terrifies me!! At least I know the Lord is behind all this. If that happens, I'll let you guys know.) Oh well. 

Love you guys. I think that's everything. Sorry I didn't take a lot of pictures this week. I think you guys are probably tired of selfies. But the good news is next week we're probably going to go do that thing where you can feed the monkeys and I'll be sure to take pictures of that.

Elder Sederholm

Here's his selfie of the week (of course I love getting any pictures from him)!

Wednesday, January 4, 2017

P-day 15: Day 111 - "I'm thankful to be here."

Here's the new letter from Nathanael. Even though he is still feeling some stress, I think he is starting to settle in to mission life.

I want to give a shout out to my friend Jack at the post office by my parents' house. I was trying to get a fairly heavy (17 lb) package mailed securely to Brazil and after learning that it would cost about $600 to mail it FedEx or UPS I was discouraged. I went over to the local post office and Jack was wonderful. He helped me fill out all the paperwork for customs, which is very intimidating, and helped me to understand that if you send a package through USPS by Priority Express mail (as opposed to Express mail), it gets handed off to FedEx as it leaves the country, making it a more secure experience. In addition, you can track it all the way to it's destination. It was $35 more to send it this way but it was totally worth it for my peace of mind. I walked out of the post office feeling great. Jack was a tender mercy in my life that I am very grateful for. Thank you Jack!

Enjoy Nathanael's letter!

Hey guys, 

Hope you are doing well. It's been quite the week. It sounds like you had a lot of fun in Denver. I'm jealous but I know I'm supposed to be here. I want to say thank you for the emails. You guys may have no idea but your emails and words support and sustain me throughout the week, so thank you so so much! I loved hearing from you.

Unfortunately the baptisms this week all fell through. Marco, who Elder Oliveira has been teaching since the beginning of September, was set to be baptized on Friday but now he said he wants more time to think about it. We are a little worried and frustrated but we're going to keep working with him. He and his family are awesome, we love them, and we really want these blessings for them. The good news is that we had this little old lady come to church on Sunday. She liked it a lot and actually asked us to come pick her up for church next week already. She's a Catholic but never goes to church, and I'm hoping that she can feel that this church has the full truth. 

Friday was one of the hardest days I've experienced on the mission so far, but there was a miracle too. With Elder Francato everything is a little unpredictable and there was a division on Friday -- he, my companion, and Elder K. Oliveira (one of the zone leaders) went to a nearby city called Pinhal to do a baptismal interview. I stayed in our area to work with the other zone leader, Elder Gomes. I was caught off guard, had no time or help to plan, and it was kinda crazy. We finally made some tentative plans and went to work. My stress level was 10/10 that morning and afternoon. We walked for about 35 or 40 minutes to get to the neighborhood we planned, and everything we planned fell through. We just sat on the curb for about 10 minutes, until Elder Gomes asked me to say a prayer and then we would knock doors. I prayed and said that I had no idea what I was doing and asked that we could know which street to knock doors and that we could find God's elect (a term we use a lot out here). When I finished we both had a really good feeling about a nearby street. We only knocked 3 doors and we taught 2 lessons, and one of the lessons we taught a family of 3 that accepted the invitation to be baptized! That was a miracle. Later that same day Elder Gomes had a feeling that we should stop at a certain house and we did and we taught the lady there too. I'm grateful for experiences like that.

Just wanted to say thanks for the little Portuguese hymnbook. I've been using it for personal study and language study sometimes and it's rad. 

By the way, when I was in Piracicaba I spent some time in the mission office and scooped a couple of letters -- a card from the Packers (totally rad) and the copy of my setting apart blessing you sent. Super happy about that. I read the setting apart blessing that day looking for anything that could help me feel a little better because I've been stressed and read that it says right in the beginning that I will have peace as a missionary. Clearly this is one of those blessings that will be fufilled a little later, haha, but I'm thankful for that promise.

I hope I don't sound discouraged. I'll be honest, though, I am discouraged. I don't know if it's the holidays or what, but man. I hope things will eventually get better. That being said I'm thankful to be here. I have faith that it's where I'm supposed to be and I'm doing what I'm supposed to be doing.

I saw the pictures of the heavy blanket and it looks so awesome. Thanks so much for that. I've been looking forward to it every day.

I love you guys. Talk to you soon.
Elder Sederholm