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!

Sunday, May 29, 2011

Solid week, diving in the font, and biggest change i've seen so far in an investigator...

Super good week, the people we're teaching are blowing me away with the changes that are happening... It's incredible.

 Well, this week we have had the awesome opportunity to teach a lady named Gisele, and her friend Caios. We'd been teaching Gisele for a couple weeks, and Caios had just been at the house every once in a while, but he started getting interested so we'd been teaching the two of them along with Gisele's mom and family. The two of them a while back, had been basically totally lost in their lives, messing with drugs, drinking, you name it. Amazingly though, they've somehow been prepared by the Lord to start having an interest in changing their lives and Elder Da Rosa found them a while back. Anyways, after a lot of teaching and a lot of helping them, they've overcome basically all of their addictions and old problems, and this Sunday Caios was baptized!! I seriously am in awe every time at the power that the atonement has. These people seriously change SO much, and there's no way anything else besides the atonement can have that power. Because of a health problem on sunday, Gisele will be baptised tonight after p-day, but it's just been the coolest thing ever seeing them progress and grow and change their lives so drastically. I'm so excited to see them continue their journey after the baptism... I love it. It was kinda funny in Caios's baptism because someone forgot to turn off the font, so when we opened the doors the font was literally filled to the BRIM. So, when Elder Da Rosa and Caios stepped in, it started overflowing into the hallway. Luckily Brazilian chapels are all tile, but we were all worried about the water. When he was baptized, it splashed a wave into the baptismal room, and it was all just really funny. After Caios had left to go get changed, we realized that the plug of the drain had broken, so Elder Da Rosa had to like dive to the bottom and try to pull it out. It was so weird realizing that it's been about 9 and a half months since I've been submerged in water... Haha Elder Da Rosa has a year and 10 months so it was even more weird for him.
 This has been a week where I've truly just realized how much I love this work. Being a missionary is seriously the most amazing call. I've been really digging deep into my studies especially of Doctrine and Covenants, and it's amazing how the true purpose of this life and of this church is "to bring to pass the immortality and eternal life of ALL man". This is God's purpose and glory, so this should be our work and glory if we want to become like Him. I'm learning a lot about how the Lord helps us be missionaries in whatever situation we're in or will be in, and I'm just loving the opportunity to serve here.
 Well, this letter was kinda short, but the work is wonderful. The Lord is blessing his lost sheep so much. Like I said, I am so excited to just keep heading forward with this work. I love being  a missionary and I love this gospel. I love you all, thank you all for your letters thoughts and prayers! Hurrah for Israel!!
-Elder Ballard

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Chain of Miracles and 1 year since my call?!

Well, insanely enough it was basically an entire year ago when I opened my mission call!! I still remember watching my buddies graduate, taking pics and giving hugs afterwards, having everyone ask me why I wasn't home opening my call, and just being anxious beyond all reason for Dad to get home to open it. And then having Taylor, Stina, Jenna, Hannah, and the family there at the house, the yelling that we all did when I read Brazil :D Amazing memory. And then watching thief and the cobbler afterwards hahaha. Man... it's so weird to think in years. Thinking at all the growing and preparation I've gone through in these last 8 months sure is amazing. 
  Anyways, I wanna share an amazing chain of miracles that happened this week in Itabira. So last week, we had an appointment at about 11 that fell, and the hour of 11 to noon is HORRIBLE for missionary work because everyone and their parrot is preparing lunch. So we just decided to do street contacts for an hour. One guy we talked to was a drunk fellow named Sebastião. He told us where he lived, and we set up a day to pass by the next day. So the next day we went by and, suprise, he wasn't there. Probably forgot. Anyways, we decided to just knock doors on that street. We didn't have much success, but then we got to a house where we could see an old lady in the yard washing clothes. We knocked and she told us to go away and that she wasn't interested. As we walked to the next house, we ran into a 15 year old named Sabrina who was leaving to go to school. We talked to her and since she was leaving we just invited her to go to chuch. She asked for our number and a pamphlet and said she'd call if she could go. The next saturday, she called us and said she'd invited 2 friends to come to church too! We got to the church and they weren't there so we were a little worried. Sabrina and her friend ended up coming a while late and when the went in, all the class doors were closed. They left and waited outside cuz they didn't know if it was the right time or place (remember it's a branch building) and Sabrina told her friend Patricia that they should leave. Right then, the branch president who was in a class, felt he should go outside, and just then he got a phonecall, so he stepped outside and saw the 2 of them. He invited them in, and they ended up loving church and even watched Sabrina and Alexandre get baptized. Over the next week, Sabrina invited another friend, Raiandra, to receive lessons. Those two already have received answers about the Book of Mormon and Joseph Smith. Sabrina is already super strong, said she cried a ton the night when she prayed for an answer. Then last night, we had an appointment marked at 8 o clock. It was supposed to be the 3 of them, but Patricia didn't show up cuz she "needed to wash clothes" or some silly excuse. Me and Elder Fávaro ran to her house to try and convince her otherwise, and succeeded in bringing her to the lesson. On the way over she said, "Boy, you guys are annoying." Elder Fávaro told her that she'd thank us some day for being so persistant :) Anyways, at the end of the lesson, Patricia was kinda frustrated cuz Sabrina and Raiandra already received answers, and she still hasn't. She explained that she's been reading and praying with faith, but still hadn't gotten an answer. So, Elder Fávaro invited her to give the closing prayer, and to simply ask directly to know if it was true, and promised in the name of Christ that she'd receive one. So we all knelt in a circle, and Patricia gave a very simple but very heartfelt prayer. After asking about the Book of Mormon, she closed the prayer. We were worried she had forgotten that she needed to wait, but luckily everyone stayed with eyes closed and heads bowed. After about 10 seconds of silence and me praying my heart out that the Lord would give her and answer, she literally jumped and said, "Nossa! Que estranho!" (Wow!! How weird!!) And started rubbing her neck and the top of her shirt, and it was truly because she felt a "burning in the bossom", and I don't think she'd ever felt anything like that before :) The Spirit was SO strong, and she put her hand on the Book of Mormon and said that she knew it was true now. Her voice was just full of relief and it was such a special moment... So amazing how the Lord works. When we don't doubt, the Lord will respond and give us what we ask for. Anyways, looking back on all this, it is incredible to me how much the Lord's hand was in this. If that appointment hadn't fallen that day, if we hadn't contacted that drunk guy, if we hadn't passed by his house, if that old lady had invited us to come in, if we hadn't invited Sabrina come to church, if President Bazilio hadn't gotten that phone call, if we hadn't gone to Patricia's house and been "annoying", NONE of this would have happened. Just as D&C always says, the work of God WILL go forward. Seriously, God know's exactly what he'd doing. We hardly ever see the bigger plan, but God is always always always working for the blessing of his children. My testimony is growing so much in this aspect. I'm realizing that truly nothing is coincidence, and truly God is guiding all of our paths.
 Regardless of what might be going on in our lives, never forget that the Lord is in it. If we are trying to do our best, and clearly we'll have mistakes and will have our moments or weakness, the Lord will guide us to do what we need to do. The Lord truly does know and love each and every one of us. This week I was praying out loud and I had a huge testimony given to me that the Lord truly does me, and all of us. If anyone ever has any doubt in this, pray and truly speak with the Lord. Express the love you have for him, and He will express his love for you. This church is so true, every day I learn more and more why this gospel is so important and why we're here doing what we're doing. I'm so grateful for this life that I have, and for these past 8 months on the mission. I'm so excited for the next 2/3 of this amazing opportunity. I love you all, thank you for everything. I can't say thank you enough. The Book of Mormon is true and Joseph Smith truly saw God and Christ. This IS the true church on the earth!!! I have no doubt whatsoever about this. Hurrah for Israel!!!

  -Elder Ballard

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Zone Conference, Baptismal Interview, and First Couple Baptism!!

   So a phrase that has always stuck out to me in my patriarchal blessing is something like, "You will learn that you are part of a plan much bigger than you ever though possible." And is that 100% true or what... This mission is seriously incredible. This past week I did my first baptismal interview, and that was a really special experience. I didn't know what it was going to be like so I was praying and studying really hard to try and know what I needed to do and how I could prepare. We got to the other Elders' church and it was a guy named Victor, about 21. So it was good that he was right there at my age and we could talk comfortably. Anyways, the interview ended up being an extremely spiritual experience. The spirit of discernment was so prominent, as I asked the questions it felt like the Spirit was magnifying the meaning of them so that the investigator would understand how important this stuff was. Even though I didn't see this guy before the process of conversion, it was amazing seeing someone that hadn't been baptized yet share such a strong testimony. It's so cool to me how the Gospel of Jesus Christ benifits EVERYONE involved. I simply was giving a little interview to see if this guy was ready for baptism and I ended up gaining a stronger testimony of the gifts of the Spirit! So amazing.
  Well, this past week we were trying really hard to prepare our investigators to go to church, and a couple of them to get baptized. The baptism was looking fine, but the other people to go to church all had problems come up. We were kinda distressed and bummed out a bit cuz we know that we always need to have new people coming to church if we want the work to continue. So on Sunday we went to the houses and walked with a few investigators to church. Our main people we took to chruch are all in a family together. Alexandre is the dad, Sabrina the mom, and they have 3 kids (Vinicius 7, Alex 5, and Miguel 3 months) and the changes we've seen in them are absolutely amazing. Sabrina has been elect since the day we met her. Alexandre used to be truly just kinda a couch potato, going to the bar every once in a while, coming home, sleeping, going to work, sleeping, etc. Sabrina is only 23 and had her first kid when she was 15, so even with the young age of 23 they've already had a lot of marriage time to have problems and experiences. Sabrina's told us that their marriage has had a TON of problems. Alexandre staying out with friends until 9 the next morning, never helping around the house, that kinda stuff. But since we've introduced them to the gospel, without us even saying anything Alexandre has started helping with the baby, comes home at like 9 at night. The Spirit does all the work in things like that and it feels like us missionaries just sit there and watch with dropped jaws :) Anyways, church was amazing for those two, and as it got closer to their baptism you could just see their excitement building. The baptism was amazing.... I baptized Alexandre and Elder Fávaro baptized Sabrina. As we walked back into the chapel after changing the two of them sat down on the bench and started holding hands. Up until then that was the first time I'd seen them show any affection like that... It was definitely a sweet moment. Funnily enough as well, when we were all sitting up in the front, Vinicius and Alex ran up and sat down on the chairs behind the sacrament table. Even though their parents motioned for them to come down, I leaned over to Elder Fávaro and said, "In eleven years, that's where they'll be sitting." Seriously such an amazing feeling to think about what will happen to these people in the future. 
  If that baptism wasn't good enough, somehow the Lord worked miracles to where we had 4 new investigators at church!! This girl we invited in the street came with her friend, a member brought a nephew, and an old investigator showed up too! We didn't do anything at all, and the Lord just placed that desire in their hearts to come and see what chruch was like. We started working with all these people, and it is just absolutely amazing what the Lord is doing. We always say that the field is white already to harvest, but I never imagined the reality of this. Sure there's a lot of tares in this white field, the the wheat is being led to the fold by the Lord Himself. I'm so blessed to be a part of this work... I can't believe how fast it's already going, but I love every minute here. I know the Lord lives and that he guides his church through The Prophet, and the other leaders of the church. The Book of Mormon truly is the foundation of this wonderful church, and I know Joseph Smith truly saw God and Jesus Christ. We are all so blessed to live and be a part of this great Church. Thank you all for you love and support, I truly have been feeling the power of all your prayers. Thank you those who have sent letters or packages or anything, you can't imagine the help it gives us missionaries. Hurrah for Israel!! This church is TRUE!
 -Elder Ballard

- I thought this was interesting. This is a brazilian cemetery, they all have like big marble or stone coffins and don't really bury the people underground.

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Wondrous Phone Call, Super Firm Baptism, and time is not slowing down...

Well firstly, calling home was a great and terrible experience :D That first call where we thought we were gunna have to wait or something was absolutely horrible!! Before sunday I hadn't really thought at all about what I was going to say or anything, so when Sunday finally came I could barely believe we were actually going to be calling and talking with each other. Especially since we arrived at the member's house a little late, it was ridiculously frustrating. It was kinda humorous Mom, after I talked to you for like 2 minutes and we had to say bye, my brain got really sad. I knew that we'd get it figured out, but it was like my subconscious mind was thinking, "Noooo!!! I'll never get to talk to Mom again!!" and my face got all weirdly bent into a frown, my voice got all cracky, and my lip even started quivering. Haha, I was trying to explain to my companion that he could go ahead and call home and that I'd try later, and trying to talk in Portugues while my subconscious was in a state of distress, let's just say it was a little difficult to explain myself. I'm just super glad that my president is such a great guy and let us go past 5 or I would have died! It was kinda interesting, Elder Fávaro only talked to his mom for about 15 minutes cuz he's only been in the field for like 2 weeks, so they didn't have a whole lot to talk about. That call was so great though, finally getting everything to go through was SUCH a relief. It was weird hearing so many English voices again... Cuz the only english I ever hear here is just other american elders, so just male 19 20 and 21 year olds. Hearing girls, kids, all that in English was crazy. I can't imagine what the last phone call is going to be like :D The call was pretty cool though because that morning and the night before and stuff, I had been praying REALLY hard that the phone call would be a motivation, not a distraction. Even though I lost it at the end there (looking back that was kinda funny as well, I wonder if you guys could even understand what I was trying to say :D ) after the call I pulled everything back together, and we went back to work. Not even a trace of added homesickness or anything like that! It's not that I like forgot everything we talked about or anything either, it was just that the Lord helped me channel all the feelings into gratitude for my family, and the desire to share that happiness and gratitude with our investigators!! The Lord truly is perfect in everything, even missionary phone calls home :) A weird thing that I'm realizing though, is I've been out for 8 months and this was my second call. It's about 8 months until the next phone call at Christmas, but by that time... I will only have 8 months left!!! And then it'll be 4 months to the next call, and then only 4 months till I get home!!! AHHH!!! I can't believe that!! It does not even feel close to that long that I've been out!! I can't believe how fast all this time is going.
   So, this past week has been awesome. We had a leadership training meeting where especially Elder Favaro and I really gained testimonies of the authority that missionaries have, and the truthfulness of the First Vision and the power it has in conversion. Our President did some examples for us and it was AMAZING the amount of authority and faith he used. And just cuz he's the mission president doesn't mean that he has more power to testify about this church. Anyways, that added faith to our testimonies is really helping in our work. Elder Huntsman and I found a lady named Cristiane a couple weeks ago, she's 29, and then Elder Fávaro and me have been teaching her ever since. She loved church last week, and with time became very excited to be baptised. One of the last times we were there before her baptism, she told us a little bit about a sin that had been weighing on her for about 9 years, and it was one of the most beautiful things I've ever seen to see here truly experience the cleansing power of the Atonement. She was crying as she felt the guilt for it, but as we showed her the scripture in D and C that talks about the intensity of the Lord's suffering, she truly realized why the Lord had to feel that. It was the coolest feeling being able to say that she would truly be free of this guilt and weight she was feeling that Sunday with her baptism. Her baptism this sunday was wonderful. She wanted the two of us to do the baptism together cuz she was afraid of getting dropped :D I don't know what it is about this area, but as she came up outta the water she laughed!! Just like Marcelino and Perpetua!! It was so cool!! As we've passed back at her house this week, she's already digging in on the Book of Mormon, and she even gave a little testimony at a FHE where she said she knew that this is where God wants her to be, and this is where she's going to stay. Regardless of what other people say or what other people want her to do. It is one of the coolest feelings ever to watch someone grow like she has. The first visit she told us she didn't believe in God, and here she is now testifying of His will in her life. The power of this gospel never ceases to amaze me.
  To finish off I wanted to share a little insight I learned a while back in Jesus the Christ that talks about trials. Talking about what Christ said, it says, "He compared their then present and prospective state to that of a woman in travail, who in the after joy of blessed motherhood forgets her anguish. The happiness that awaited them would be boyond the power of men to take away." I obviously don't know the whole process of labor and motherhood first hand, but we can all get the idea of what Christ was saying. It doesn't matter how bleak, how painful or how hard our circumstances appear right now, the reward of enduring it well WILL come. For us missionaries with difficult investigators, for the trials in school, work, family, or relationships, all of it reflects back to the power God has to give us rewards. I'm realizing a lot that one of the key parts of faith in our lives is the part it plays with agency. One of God's laws is that if we do good things, we'll get good rewards. If we do bad things, we get bad consequences. EVERY good thing we do will bring good consequences. The role that faith plays, is that these rewards, good and bad, don't come instantly. If we paid our tithing and the next day a check for 5000$ showed up in the mail, clearly everyone would pay their tithing. If the second you smoked a cigarrette your lungs started on fire, not very many people would be smoking. God puts this delay of consequences in the process to give us the opportunity for us to exercise our faith and trust in God. I know that God won't neccessarily give me 5000$ for paying my tithing, but I know that He will provide for my family and my neccessities that my family needs. All in all, the biggest good consequence is eventually eternal life. NOTHING can interfere with this reward. No one knows how long it'll take for us to recieve this reward, but it IS the reward we'll get. Now we all just need to show and excercise our faith in Christ and Heavenly Father now by following the commandments now, and recieving our reward in the next life. I love the simplicity of this gospel. I know that Christ did die for us, and that every one of us has the opportunity to accept this sacrifice and one day recieve this eternal happiness. I love the Lord and am so grateful for the opportunity to serve with his name over my heart every day. Hurrah for Israel!!! 
  -Elder Ballard
TENTH companion- Elder Favaro

fish eyes from the eye medicine

Cristiane's baptism!

locked out of the members house where the phone call was planned...