Welcome to the blog of Elder Redge Ballard!

Redge has gone from planning to fly to the Brazil MTC, to driving to the Provo MTC, to the Houston Texas Mission, and now finally he has arrived in Belo Horizonte, Brazil. We hope you'll enjoy following his adventures in sharing the restored Gospel to those he meets!

Monday, January 17, 2011

First letter from the MTC

Minutes before drop off at the MTC!!
Hello Family!! Sept. 18, 2010
My apologies for using this email address, for some reason my mind went blank and I can't remember the main one you guys use. Well, first of all let me just say that I cannot believe I've only been here for three and a half days or whatever it turns out to be... The time passes in such a weird way here. I've heard a lot of Elders use the saying the days pass like weeks and weeks pass like days. I haven't been in a whole week so I don't quite know if that part is accurate :P
Firstly, my companion is Elder Alexandre from North Carolina. It's kinda funny because he reminds me a TON of my old roommate Devin. Strange how that works out. At first I thought things between us might be a little awkward but after about five minutes of being around each other and having the "just met" feeling wear off, we've become very close and comfortable with each other. I live in a dorm room with another companionship, Elder Hansen from New Mexico, and Elder Christensen from here in Utah. My district consists of 12 people, 10 elders and 2 sisters. Most people are going to Curitiba, a couple others to Belo Horizonte, and one sister to Menaous (not sure how that's spelled.) It's such a small world here because when Aunt Holly called me the day before I left she told me that a sister from her ward was reporting on the same day and was in a similar situation where she was going to Brazil but was starting in the Provo MTC. I couldn't really remember her name but when one of the sisters was saying where she was from, lo and behold she was from Houston Texas, Sister Hammaker. I asked her and the second I said Sister Bratsman she lit up said how she was super close to her and everything. So crazy how that works. Just in these four days here I've seen about ten elders from either Rexburg or from my Provo ward. So crazy how that works... It's been a lot of fun seeing everyone and finding out how spread out everyone is going to be all over the world.
Portuguese is going amazing!!! Yesterday especially I honestly did feel the effects of the Gift of Tongues. As we first started learning the language I was initially super excited, then about half way through I started getting discouraged because learning a language is not something I've EVER done, but towards the end I thought to myself, "What are you doing Elder Ballard? You're in the Lord's care now, you've been blessed with the ability to receive the gift of tongues, let's get going!" And from then on the language has been going SO well. The first day we learned it Irma Gonzolez taught us how to pray. She'd ask us what we would normally say in a prayer and then translate and we'd write it down to remember later. The first night none of us even tried it because we were still overwhelmed. Last night though, Elder Alexandre and me had about an hour of language study. At first I didn't think about it but after taking a step back and realizing what we had talked about and learned... And we had gone SO far in that short hour. We had specifically focused on memorizing a short prayer, and towards the end decided to actually pray rather than just memorize and repeat. We timidly looked at each other and decided on folding our arms, Elder Alexandre offered his first, and I followed. I'm guessing Austin might be the only one that really knows what the feeling was after doing that but the Spirit was SO strong during those short and simple prayers. We didn't say much more than thank thee for a single thing, and asked that we could feel the Spirit, but it was surely answered. That same day we sang I Know That My Redeemer Lives in Portuguese, and it was a total crash course. But about half way through I attempted to sing another part and the beauty and power in all that slurred and stuttered singing was astounding. The Spirit is SO strong here, everything we do here has so much power in it.
Lastly I just want to say how much I've learned here. Since the moment I've got here, basically everything we've done has been focusing or directing us somehow towards the Lord. Elder Alexandre and I have had such amazing experiences in just the most simple things like studying Preach My Gospel together during companion study. We've realized that the rules that apply to us as companions should also apply to the Holy Ghost himself. Everytime I say a rule just thing "The Spirit" instead of companion. Always stay with your companion. Grow close and comfortable to your companion. Never let your companion leave your sight or hearing. Constantly talk and grow a relationship with your companion. I am amazed to think that even the guidelines set to us missionaries have symbolism like this embeded in them. I feel like I've been here for weeks already just because of how much I've grown in these few days. Don't take this the wrong way, but I haven't even really thought about home yet. I will have thoughts of fondness and memories of home, but I know this is where I am supposed to be. At first I was a little bummed out that I couldn't go straight to Sao Paulo, but I have no doubt in my mind that the Lord knew I needed to be here and to feel the Spirit in this place. I've learned so much about myself and who I am, what potential I have and what my true purpose as a missionary is. I can't wait to learn more and become closer to the Lord. I can't even begin to imagine the amount of growth I will have if I've come this far in only 4 days and I am supposed to be in the MTC for 9 weeks... I cannot wait!!
Thank you all for your prayers! I can definitely feel their power. I pray for you all every night. Just know that I love you, that I love the Lord, and that I am striving to give my entire heart, might, mind, and soul to this work. Sorry if I sound scatter brained at all, I have a minute and ten seconds left :P
Love you all!!! Tchao!

-Elder Ballard

PS. Sorry if i mispelled anything Austin :P

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