Monday, June 30, 2014

The Trek Continues

Hello my dear friends and family--

The first full week of training was a little more difficult than the golden first two days (something that seems ironically backward but whatevs). I don't have all that much to update on actually. But here's the Lord's hand in my life. In the past 1.5 weeks,
-my ability to follow the Spirit and find those who are waiting is way stronger
-my language ability has gone way up (at least according to Elder Miller and others)
-my preoccupation with my head and the lyme stuff has gone way down. 

Those big three are not insignificant. They are the three biggest stresses of my mission so far and the Lord is healing them. Or like Alma's people, he's making them bearable. I'm living Mosiah 24 right now and it feels... good. 

Had to spend a day and a half inside due to intense abdominal pain-- at first we thought it might be appendicitis, but by the second day it was going away and Elder Miller cleared me. He said it might have been an infection in my appendix but not appendicitis, which was relieving. They did a follow up blood test for white cell count when i was at Mass Gen this week and said all was normal, so no worries with that.

We've got four people - Jose, Raymond, Tony and Luisa - marked for baptism in the month of July, and its gonna take all we have to make it happen. I'd love your prayers pweeeez.

My biggest goal right now came from a discussion we had with Elder Miller last night. I mentioned I was worried about doing the things I need to do on my mission in order to change my nature for the man/leader I need to be after the mission. And he responded that if I keep focusing on that I may not get there. He said the key to become a fully consecrated church member is not focusing on yourself, but losing it all in your love and service of the Lord. Its been hard-- I've focused more on myself than I wanted to on my mission because of the medical stuff and trying to not let it stop me. But now it'll change. I've got a companion who needs my help and direction and an area that needs my every thought. So I'll give all I can to the Lord, and not worry about things I can't control... like what I'll end up being after the mission.  Time to get to work!

Elder Jackson

Monday, June 23, 2014

First week of being a dad

My son has arrived! Carried by the stork from Utah to Boston and dropped into my waiting arms. A little awkward because he's the same size as me. But hey.... like father like son.

This week has been pretty nuts. Or rather the past 3 days, since when I went to transfer meeting on Wednesday my greenie wasn't there!!! (my missionary life never goes according to plan). So that night I couldn't go home alone with the sisters, so I slept at the APs apartment and spent the next day in the mission home with all the missionaries that were going home! TRUNKY FEST! I even heard all of President's "marriage and dating" advice. So useful for me right now. 

Anyways, turns out he was still in Utah because after the MTC he had to go back to his home in west jordan to take an american citizenship test. Because.... he's BRAZILIAN! and his name?

Elder Lopes.

I thought when I watch Lopinho #1 drive away I would be Lopes-free for a good long while, but this new guy just wanted otherwise. So here's his story:

Elder Thiago Lopes, born in Sao Paulo to part member parents, moved to utah at 4 years old, after several years and sets of missionaries his mom joined the church and is now stalwart. Lived in Sugarhouse (the homeland of my mother for those who don't know) and then moved to West Jordan. Went to Westminster college in Utah to play soccer. He's fluent in portuguese and even more fluent in english, aka perfect for brockton. He's got ears like satellites and is just a really relaxed and happy guy-- something I need with my tendency to overstress the little things. It's gonna be good stuff here.

Our first day as real life missionaries was Friday, Sexta, and his very first lesson (unplanned but prompted while walking the street) was someone we contacted on the street a few weeks ago. He took us in and talked about his dissatisfaction with religion and how the concept of confession to a priest didn't make sense to him. We talked about the true nature of repentance and left him Alma 22 and 36 to read-- he held the Book of Mormon/Livro de Mormon with tenderness I haven't seen very often here in Brockton. Good first experience for Elder Lopes, neh?

We were driving to another appointment when I felt like we should turn around-- we stopped by Niquinha's house where our long-lost friend Malique happened to be inside. Were able to teach quickly from Matthew 24:9 and figure out the family issues that are keeping him from being baptized.

Our next lesson was Jesse. Before we went in I decided to share Mosiah 24 and talk about how the Lord can relieve our burdens without taking them away. When we talked to him he was down... and at the end of the lesson said that he had been thinking of leaving the church until his family situation improved. He said that we showed up and shared exactly what he needed, and he wasn't gonna leave. Elder Lopes thought that was totally sweet...

Another tender mercy: Elder Lopes 2.0 loves dragon ball z. so our Epic Dragon Ball Z Moments of History can continue with william unabated!!! good thing too because I know absolutely nothing 

Then at the very end of the day we decided to stop by Jose de Barros, who we haven't been able to meet two weeks. Talked about the gospel of Jesus Christ and how in order to be baptized he would have to give up some things. Good thing E. Lopes can speak Portuguese because he picked my mess up off the floor after I tried to explain an overview of the law of chastity.... I had him lead the discussion with Jose and his did fantastic. He's a natural teacher. All he needs is the scriptural resources and he'll be a complete package. The Lord's going easy on me with this one.

And I'll end with the most exciting news, which actually happened before Lopes 2.0 arrived and before Lopinho packed and left Brockton. Last Monday night, after I emailed you guys, we went over to Raymond and Djara's house so Lopinho could say goodbye. And when we got there, Ray hit us with a surprise... he's decided to get baptized! After many sets of missionaries and probably 2 years of teaching, he received the answer he was waiting for. It came through a recent convert that I sent to go talk to him in church before sacrament. I don't know all of what he said to Raymond, but he decided right then he would do it. All his many doubts and fears, about the priesthood and joseph smith and everything else, have been gradually answered or soothed. He's ready. Language can't express what I felt when he told us that. On Lopes' last night with them here in Brockton. 

The Lord loves us and he chastens and lifts and surprises us every day. Even when we don't know it. Especially when we don't think we deserve it. I've felt it firsthand here in my "extremities". See you all next week!

Elder Jackson

p.s. i realized that this email makes training sound really easy but don't worry, it's the hardest thing I've ever done 
p.p.s. lopinho with raymond and fam after he told us,
america, cape verde, canada and brasil


Monday, June 16, 2014

um pouco mais de verde‏

First things first friends and family, I love you all. I pray for you, not always by name but in my heart. I hope those prayers make a difference. Because you all know that prayers from a missionary are worth like 10% more than normal prayers. JUST KIDDING! (no respector of persons)

This week was spent doing many things, finding many people, but the most focused efforts were spent preparing those who were just baptized to go to the temple with family names. This is a mission goal. Statistically there's a much higher retention among those that go to the temple within a month after they are baptized into this church. Which makes sense-- preparing to, and being, baptized in the Church of Jesus Christ is like a spiritual nitro boost but what a lot of people experience is spiritual whiplash when that nitro seems to run out. But in reality, our spiritual progression is not meant to end the sunday after we get baptized. It is a ladder upward and each step fills us more. That's why going to the temple soon after baptism matters so much for these converts. It means everything to them. So this week we made it happen.

On Saturday, after waking up at 4:50am and helping William to get up too, we took William, Socorro, Luigi and Carlos to the Boston temple. They LOVED it (see picture above. Some cape verdeans really don't know how to smile in pictures but I promise you they are smiling on the inside). William and Socorro especially had really powerful experiences there. our mission president, president packard, was there with President Haight as well. Socorro said that when President Packard saw Carlos he got really emotional and took him personally to go get changed into white. Not sure why but it touched her heart nonetheless.

And with that I will give you the exciting/terrifying news of the week:

Lopes is transferred to Ashford, CT.

I am training!!!!!

I spent Friday and Saturday terrified for 4 reasons:
1) I've never taken over an area before and of all places Brockton has the most people to keep track of 
2) The greenie will arrive so I will take on like 80% of the work for the next while 
3) My brain fog and fatigue are still affecting my proselyting ability and annoying the heck out of me
4) I'll have to do it all in Portuguese. 

So I was honestly like sick with worry about all these things Saturday night... but Sunday kinda saved me. Elder Lopes spent most of his time saying goodbye to people so the burden of the most stressful day of the week, ironically Sunday #dayofnorest, fell on my shoulders. And I conseguir'd. It worked out. I was awkward on the phone (still can't understand 80% of portuguese over the phone) but it was alright. I made lots of mistakes, but no one minded. And considering I'm not exactly immersed, the fact that people understand me is miraculous.

I'm still super nervous. But two scriptures help me a ton when I think of the pattern by which God calls and qualifies in the midst of affliction:

"And I will also ease the burdens which are put upon your shoulders, that even you cannot feel them upon your backs, even while you are in bondage; and this will I do that ye may stand as witnesses for me hereafter, and that ye may know of a surety that I, the Lord God, do visit my people in their afflictions.
And now it came to pass that the burdens which were laid upon Alma and his brethren were made light; yea, the Lord did strengthen them that they could bear up their burdens with ease, and they did submit cheerfully and with patience to all the will of the Lord.
And it came to pass that so great was their faith and their patience that the voice of the Lord came unto them again, saying: Be of good comfort, for on the morrow I will deliver you out of bondage." -- Mosiah 24:14-16; see also Jeremiah 1:5-9

The Lord doesn't always take away our burdens when we ask him to (sometimes not his prerogative, but ours... see D&C 101), BUT he will so often strengthen us that with time, the same burden which "encompassed us about" (2 Nephi 4) is just made easy to bear. 
So here's my prediction. 
The Lord will not magically make me fluent without hard work and study, but maybe he'll make me less embarrassed with my mistakes and the people I teach able to understand and not be critical. The Lord will not magically make me wake up feeling 100% one day, but maybe he'll give me the most incredibly prepared greenie of all time who will be able to pull his weight right from the start. LOLJK. I know I'm dreaming with that one. But who knows!!!

I can't tell you what to think, or what to believe. My testimony isn't eloquent in Portuguese, but here's the jist of what I teach here in Brockton. 

I know God lives. I have known it for a long time, but I know it now also. I know His son, Jesus Christ, is our living Savior. I know it is through Him that we can have eternal life. I know that Joseph Smith was a prophet, and my testimony of him comes from the Book of Mormon, which I know is true. This is the one true church of Jesus Christ on the earth, but you don't have to take my word for it. Come and see.

Elder Jackson

Monday, June 9, 2014

The heat begins

June 9, 2014
So I have 4 minutes and 12 seconds on this computer--- lets see what I can do.
Socorro, Luigi and Carlos are progressing towards the temple. Luigi is now a deacon, Carlos a teacher, and Socorro a primary teacher. So legit.
William passed the sacrament and will be in the temple on Saturday. He's probably going to be an apostle.
We found a bunch of new people to teach, only a few of which have problems with weed
Transfers in 2 weeks. Will I train?Will I survive? Anyone's guess....
You guys are the best.
Elder Jackson

Monday, June 2, 2014

Not only are we fishers of men.... we are also fishers of fish

June 2, 2014

Hey all, only have about 5 minutes to rocket out a masterpiece but I will do my best.

This week was sweet. 

We went to the beach last p-day in Hull. I got to play ultimate and throw some delicious flicks that turned into points. It was so nice.

The Hamptons (family, not rich people place) committed to live the word of wisdom and Raymond said he would stop drinking. So legit considering when we got there we had NO idea we'd end up teaching about that...

I had my first "discussion" with an adventist lady about prophets. Well mostly elder Lopes did the talking since I couldn't explain it in portuguese. 'twas brillig...

We had a SPECTACULAR lesson about the temple and family history, put on by elder and sister miller (the senior couple missionaries in the branch) and Socorro and Carlos were both interviewed for the temple yesterday. They now have recommends and Socorro's already planning to do the temple work for her grandparents who raised her. It blows my mind how much they get it. 
William was interviewed and received the priesthood and is now a deacon and all he wants is to buy a white shirt and pass the sacrament. This kid.... 

Also our zone went on a frenzy to try to talk to/find as many prepared people as we could, and ended up breaking the record for any zone in the past two years by like 40. That sounds very numbers-focused, but honestly it was incredibly motivating and led to us finding a family and two sisters who all want to know more. Milagres.

My favorite scripture right now is Moroni 7:48: 
48. Wherefore, my beloved brethren, pray unto the Father with all the energy of heart, that ye may be filled with this love, which he hath bestowed upon all who are true followers of his Son, Jesus Christ; that ye may become the sons of God; that when he shall appear we shall be like him, for we shall see him as he is; that we may have this hope; that we may be purified even as he is pure. Amen.
Elder Jackson

Sunday, June 1, 2014

Come to the Edge

Its pitiful how little time I have to email today, considering this was one of the best weeks of my mission so far. Miraculous things are happening in Brockton and we can't take credit for what the Lord is doing. But to be His hands.... it is humbling, sobering, and incredibly rewarding. and REALLY COOL.
I will resort to bullet points:
-This week we contacted a referral, the son of someone the sisters in Dorchester are teaching. His name is Jose. He is 30 years old (shoutout to Darren, I totally told him in my flawless portuguese that he was the same age as my brother who lives in New York) and was deeply moved by the message of the Restoration. And he came to church on Sunday without us having to wake him up. Which in Brockton.... is a MIRACLE :)
-William progressed towards baptism, and his interview was a sweet experience. We brought the Young Men's secretary for the ward with us (he's kind of taken william under his wing) and he was spectacular at talking to Angela (will's mom) about how ready he was. He was ready! He's smarter than I am! He told us his IQ is 122! Anyways, when Elder Carvalho came out of the baptismal interview, he said, "I'm pretty sure he knows more of the gospel than I do." Mission accomplished.
-On Friday....
Elder Jeffrey R. Holland came to our mission. And talked to us for 3 hours. For those on this email who aren't aware, Elder Holland is an Apostle of Jesus Christ, one of 12 of this planet. Plus he's just the best speaker of all time, plus he spoke at my mom's mission farewell, plus he shook every missionary's hand in the mission and pronounced an Apostolic blessing on us that shook us to the core. Can't really explain how it felt. But it was a profound experience that marked my soul forever. No joke. 
-On Saturday, after having a spiritual feast with Elder Holland,
we had 7 of our brothers and sisters enter the waters of baptism.
Yup. Amilcar, Veninha, Joana, Nuria, Orlando, Julio and William were baptized on Saturday night. In our last mission webex, President asked the whole mission to pray for Brockton that this crazy thing we had planned could occur, that these people would be ready and that they would do it. And they did. It was something like I've never seen before. All of them, lined up in white in the front, from all different age groups and stories and lives, all joined together by their testimony of the truth. And, as Tomas said in branch council later, it was a "special group of people." All ready, all diligent, all brilliant and prepared. Something that's never happened in Brockton before.
-On Sunday, we had 9 converts confirmed as members of the church and received the gift of the Holy Ghost. Its cheesy to write it out like that but SERIOUSLY IT WAS SO COOL. I was able to confirm Luigi and promise him some legit blessings. 
So in general, I'd say this week was pretty good.
My last thought: my prayers these past two weeks have changed. Before I prayed that the Lord would take away my sickness, heal my brain and my blood, just make it all better. But I changed. I pray now that the Lord will not let my affliction hold us back, hold the work of salvation here from bringing people to the Savior. He answered me. It'll all be okay.
Elder Jackson
Brenton has found a way to continue one of his passions: plants!