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!

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Easter sunday and Transfers come and go

Man, this mission is such a roller coaster. Such amazing times and such hard times too, but I'm finding that the ups always have a longerlasting effect than the downs :)

Well, this last week was Páscoa or Easter! And boy oh boy, strangely enough the church sure did suffer. We had about 15 people in church... and our investigators only came to the first 2 blocks and then left before sacrament :/ Kinda tough when that happens really. It was kinda hard just cuz you spend your whole week working your tail off to find new people, teach the people that you've started with, and you just do everything possible to try and help these people. But when it all comes down to it, people just get SO lazy on sundays... We had like 10 new people this last week and only 2 came to church, and 1 of them told us that it, "Isn't his "time" to be baptized in the true church." Go figure :D Ah well. So after me being all grumpy and bummed out, I decided to pray. Obviously the Lord's arms had already been out stretched, and, the Lord took away my bad feelings. It is so amazing the things the Lord can do. Even though it was so simple as something of just being kinda depressed, the Lord helped me and gave me the motivation and excitment to just go out and get more people for next week! Depression or feelings of depression is a funny thing. Our first instinct is to continue being all down and lazy, complaining or justifying why we feel this way. But, for example: In the mission field, if I'm sad cuz I don't have people to baptize people this week, which is gunna be more effective to get my people for the next week: sitting there in the house eating chocolate? or getting out in the road, knocking some doors, teaching some lessons and really going to work? I think it's obvious :) Same thing in life too; if we're depressed cuz we're getting bad grades, don't have a good job, have a cruddy relationship with someone, or whatever, what's gunna fix it? Sitting there watiching TV, hating our job now, ignoring and being offended with our "someone"? Or studying our tails off, working harder to find a new job or get a promotion, or going out of our way to serve the people around us? Once again it's obvious. Man, I am amazed at the things I'm learning in this mission that are going to help me honestly FOR EVER in my life. I love that the Lord calls us young men on missions, it is SUCH a blessing.
 So I don't have a whole ton to actually report this week, it's been kinda a slower, more normal week. This week marks the beggining of the transfer, but the day when we get transfer calls came and went without anything, so looks like me and Elder Huntsman will be staying here for the next 6 weeks. I'm stoked, we're learning every day how and what we need to do to better our work and it's been awesome. Btw, Elder Huntsman is 22 and from Las Vegas, he's a great guy and just took a little longer to get out on his mission. He's got a year and 3 months so he's an awesome elder to work with. Well, I guess now I just wanted to share an awesome thing I learned from my studies this morning. Read 2 Nephi 4:17-35 and you will hear one of the most beautiful prayers ever given in the Book of Mormon. It's really interesting because he brings up all these problems that he has, asks himself why he's so weak (remember that this is a prophet talking here) and so easily beset by such simple and stupid sins, but then talks about all that the Lord offers to do for us, and explains that we must always rely in Him if we want to truly receive success. I really think it's cool that in the same chapter, Lehi dies. So this is kinda Nephi showing us that when we lose a loved one or have whatever other problem in our lives, we need to just remember God. Just read this passage with that in mind. Well, that's about all I got here in Itabira this week. I love this work so much, and I can't believe how amazing this feeling of contentment is when you realize you're teaching the only true gospel on earth. I'm so grateful for all of you and for this amazing gospel and opportunity. Hurrah for Israel!!! Love you all!
 -Elder Ballard



Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Miracle week and the busiest sunday ever!

Pineapple here is amazing... soooo fresh
Oh man was this week amazing... But because of travel issues this week I'm just gunna have to burn out an email.

But this week has sure been an amazing one. First of all, since about the second day here in Itabira, we taught this friend of the wife of the branch president named Perpetua. She's a really emotional lady that sadly is very easy to persuade and manipulate, so other pastors and what not have really messed with her head. We tried teaching her about 2 or 3 different times that the Church of Jesus Christ is the only true church that has a truly authorized baptism. She would understand it and all but then the next visit she had been reconfused and we could tell the devil was working his head off trying to ruin her chances of joining the true church. So after those 2 or 3 visits, and a couple blessings of comfort, we felt like we had done all that we could and time would be the only thing that could make the difference needed. So that was kinda a bummer to just cut her. But, like I said last week we've been working with this awesome guy named Marcelino. He's a very simple guy but he's very sincere and really feels the spirit. Like I explained last week, he got yellow fever at 7 and his legs were amputated. Anyways, teaching him about the ressurrection was such an amazing opportunity... Man that was a sweet feeling to see him smile as he imagined running and dancing and swimming, stuff he hasn't been able to do for his entire life. After teaching all the lessons, we set up his baptismal interview for last saturday, and to our dismay the night before we called and he still wasn't home from his trip! Ah!! It's difficult in this area cuz the District Leader has to spend 50R$ and use basically his entire morning to get here, so we needed to know for absolute sure if the baptism was going to happen or not. So me and Elder Huntsman both prayed out hearts out, and at about 10:15 I called him up and he had BARELY made it home and was planning on being interviewed the next day!! OPA!!! If this wasn't good enough, Perpetua has been there at the house talking to Irmã Bel (the branch pres's wife) and out of absolutely nowhere, she told us she wanted to be interviewed the next day to get baptized!! WHAT?!
  So the next day we grabbed Marcelino, he was interviewed, and then Perpetua (who is also insanely shy) told us she wanted to get interviewed, and then be baptized that night so that she didn't have to have a lot of people watch the baptism. The only problem was that she hadn't been taught everything. So after she passed the interview (which took about an hour and a half, poor district leader) we took her to the house and did a 2 and a half HOUR long lesson, and went through everything. Super super frustrating, required a ton of patience and examples, but amazingly enough, the Spirit truly touched her and she was down for baptism! So after many many many ups and downs, we finally took her to the church and she was baptised!!! During the whole time we've taught her she's been a very nervous, anxious, and just in general timid and unhappy lady, but when she came up out of the water, she was literally laughing. Ahh.... best feeling that could possibly ever happen. So amazing. I can't believe the amazing effect that the Lord and the Spirit have on people's lives like that.

 The next day was Sunday, and wow I have never been so busy in my life. We got there to sacrament meeting, and it went like this: I played the opening hymn (btw Mom it's not a church, it's just a lower floor of a building and has a little electronic organ) with plenty of mistakes and it sounded horrible :D Then I stood in on the confirmation of Perpetua (smiling as big as ever =) ) then played the Sacrament Hymn, hopped up, sat in the front row, and then passed the sacrament. Then Elder Hunstman gave a talk, followed by a talk by me, then I played the intermediate hymn, and then the closing hymn. Haha... talk about a calling :D It was a lot of fun to do and help a lot though. I just wish I was better at piano/organ! Anyways, at the end of church, I went with Marcelino to help him get his clothes. We gave him a jumpsuit, and then just tied the legs together at the bottom. We had a really good baptismal service, and then we went to the pool (we don't have a font out here haha) and we helped him get in. I seriously can't even explain how special this was for me to get to do. We had the water really shallow just so that it came up to his neck, and then I just knelt next to him. He was really uncomfortable I could tell (just cuz the water was deep and he obviously can't swim or anything) but he was super excited to get baptised. Almost everyone in the branch came to watch, and the spirit was very strong sitting there waiting for the ok to say the prayer. After the prayer I baptised him, he struggled a little because he wasn't quite used to being in water or being dunked like that, but everything went fine and we only had to do it once luckily :) I was worried that he might have gotten a mouth full of water or something but he came up, sputtered a little bit, and then started laughing. I tell you, when they laugh after a baptism it is the best spiritual high for us missioniaries... The Spirit is just so strong after a baptism!! The branch was super welcoming, everyone shook his hand, welcomed him, or gave him a hug, and man... The Spirit was just amazing.
 It just never ceases to amaze me the power of the work that the Lord is doing out here. I thank the Lord every night for this opportunity, and everyone the reads this, every once in a while just think back to the day you were baptized. It's amazing how much the Spirit can renew those amazing feelings really every week when we take the sacrament. This church truly does change lives, and I can feel the Lord changing me every day out here, as much as I'll let Him :) I think that's one of the biggest things we can all do better on, is just submitting to the will of the Lord. He knows what's best for us, no questions asked. I love this gospel with all my heart, I'm so grateful to the Lord for what we all have, these doctrines and principles truly bring more happiness than ANYTHING else!! Hurrah for Israel! I love you my wonderful family and friends! I always keep you all in my prayers! I hope the Lord is blessing you, and thank you so much for your prayers and letters. Hurrah hurrah HURRAH!!!
 -Elder Ballard

Bit o Brazil - I don't know why or how, but here in Brazil all the dogs eat chicken bones... Seriously everyone feeds them to their dogs. I wonder if they've evolved or something to where they don't choke to death? :P
Elder Helston finally made it to Brazil!!! Him, Elder Bitner, and Elder Ison finally got here after 7 months in the states. I still haven't seen Bitner or Ison

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

First Branch Meeting, First Blessing too!

Can't believe the miracles that God helps us missionaries do out here :)

 This was a very cool week here in Itabira. This is the first area I've been in where you can't flush your toilet paper, so that's been an adventure :D Also, this was the first week of going to the branch here. Man... talk about a different experience. I counted during sacrament and there was only about 25 people, counting investigators. It was fast sunday, so seriously almost all the adults in the room shared testimonies. Then crazily enough, I played the organ for the opening and closing hymns. What the? It was so weird haha. I of course could only manage the top hand, and it was full of mistakes, but they needed help with the program so I figured I'd give it a try :D I guess I shoulda learned piano better while I had the chance. It's amazing though how faithful these members are, even with only the few that are here. The testimonies were very powerful, everything was awesome about church. It reminded me of what you were talking about Mom and Dad, how people in the church, through families, can have so much more power to face trials and live life. We have an investigator that should baptise this week named Marcelino, and he's an awesome guy. He had yellow fever when he was 7 and so ever since then he has lived life without legs! He's a great guy and we're really excited for him this sunday. Opening this area has been an amazing challenge and I've had to grow so much from it, so it's been great. I also had my first opportunity to give a blessing in Portuguese! It was so cool. It really is amazing that the power in a blessing is the spirit, and not the words. The blessing I gave was very simple, and surly was bad grammer and poorly pronounced, but the power was so strong nonethe less. I've realized that one reason we have the opportunity especiall as missionaries to do that is to get a taste of what it was like for Christ to help all those people during his ministry.
I love the people here though. The members are super excited and we're even living in a little backhouse behind the branch President. They peope here are so willing to help, with lunch, with visiting people with us, with welcoming investigators, anything. I love that this gospel applies to everyone, and that regardless of circumstances, we can all have the joy and love that this gospel offers. I'm so blessed to be a part of this work here in Brazil, and so glad that it's going on all over the world. I hope and pray everything is well back home, with all my friends, on missions or in school or whatever it might be. Thanks for all you all do for me. I love this work, and I love the Lord. Hurrah for Israel!!!
-Elder Ballard

 Sorry for no pictures, this computers throwing a fit.

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

Itabira, Opening an area, Some of Conference, and Even Another Surprise

My joy was full. As well as my sweet tooth.
Every week seems to have more and more stuff that takes me off guard. President sure keeps us on our toes haha.
Well, this week has been absolutely crazy! The new area we opened is called Itabira (Ee-tah-beer-uh) and it's about 2 hours by bus away from the main city. The drive there is beautiful and I attached a little clip of what it looks like. The city is pretty big actually, from what I can tell it's about 120,000 people. The crazier thing though, is that at one point the mission had 14 MISSIONARIES just in this area!!! So now, it's 2 missionaries covering what used to be 28 missionaries... ridiculous eh? But, this area's been closed for almost 2 years, I think the last teaching record we have is from August of 2009, so it's been shut for quite a while. Right now we're living in a little two room mini-house in the back of the Branch President's house. It's crazy small, but it's nice to live so close to the president. They are extremely welcoming and helpful, they always are giving us food for breakfast and dinner and everything. Such great people. The first few days here were based of checking out the little church building (it's like an altered garage/house thing) and some of the members. The members are absolutely exploding with excitement to help the missionaries. In this last week we've already recieved 20 referals. Just to put that in perspective the average referals per week is maybe 1 and a half :D
 So, the responsibility of being senior companion has been quite the calling. I definitely understand where the stress of a mission comes from now. Now I'm the one responsible for setting goals, making sure we're obedient, using the cell phone, calling the district leader, it's kinda crazy! It makes me realize how I was really just like coasting in comparison as a junior comp... Whew. This last weekend was definitely pretty odd. Sadly saturday we didn't even get to go to conference :( It was a huge bummer because of the situation here. We weren't making excuses or anything, but since we just opened the area, it was kinda tough since we couldn't find any investigators in 2 days and get them to take the bus to the city 40 minutes away to watch conference. Luckily though, some of the members in the ward simply brought non-members to the sunday sessions. So, thank heavens, we were able to go for those sessions. Conference sure was weird I'll have to admit. They didn't have the sessions in English anywhere in the church, and it's a rule anyways that we have to stay with the investigators to help them understand. Anyways, general conference speakers speak quite eloquently, and the talks are translated just as complicated. So, with my limited hearing capacities, it was pretty tough to understand a whole lot. Interestingly enough, I got a TON more out of the music than usual. Since that was still in english, I paid a lot more attention to the words, and learned a lot, and the Spirit really testified strongly. Amazingly enough, Elder Scott translated his own talk!!!! I had no idea that he spoke portugues! But I guess before he must have recorded his talk in Portuguese! That was SUCH a blessing just hearing his voice. The talk overlapped about 10 seconds after he had said amen live, so we have no doubt it was him. How cool huh? If anyone knows anything like where he went on a mission or something, I'd love to hear more. Last night we were called with another suprise. We recieved 7 more americans today, so my comp Elder Call, already got transferred this morning. So, I'm already with my new companion Elder Huntsman :D That was fast huh? This makes 9 companions in less than 7 months... Kinda crazy :) 
 Besides conference the language has actually been going really well. This past week I finally had my first Portugues dream!! People from highschool were in it and were speaking to me in portugues :D It was pretty awesome waking up from that I must admit. I haven't had any other full portuguese dreams, but they have had little spurts of it. I love learning this language. I'm not to the point where I can understand everything, but since I'm having to make phone calls and talk all the time in portugues, it's definitely solidifying in my head. Well, the members here are helping SO much. We already have quite a few people for this sunday, and quite a few dates set for the 17th. I learned an amazing quote right before I left Justinopolis, I'm not sure who it's from, but it's something like, "Success in life isn't earned by us, it's given by God." It applies so much for the mission. Cuz really, some of the best missionaries don't have a ton of success, some of the crappy missionaries have success, but I'm realizing that you can't measure success by lessons taught, bapisms, confirmations, or anything. You can only measure it by how much the missionary's life is changed. That's really the only thing we have total control over is ourselves and our attitudes. So, that's my focus right now, and really for the rest of my life. We all need to focus on those things we actually have effect on, and leave the rest in Gods hands. This call as senior especially is extremely humbling. It's really making me learn responsibilty, not only to my companion and this area, but ultimately to God. It's been an adventure so far, and I'm excited to see what other suprises the Lord has for me in the mission. I'm sure it'll be chuck full of them :D Thank you all for everything! I pray that the Lord will bless you all as much as He is blessing me. Thank you all for your prayers, especially this week I really have felt the power from them. Hurrah for Israel!!!
 -Elder Ballard
Elder Call, second shortest companionship so far.