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!

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Miracle healing and met a goal on baptism!

Gerald and Maria Madalena and their son Junior

This is elder F Santos!  District leader of Austin!

Yello everyone! Great week here in 7 lakes. I've learned a ton here in this area, and the Lord is really blessing the work here.

 Well, this last week was a huge blessing. As I was leaving Itabira, I was thinking about how one of my goals for the mission was to baptize a catholic couple that's relatively old. For those of you who haven't served a mission in Brazil, older-aged catholics are almost impossible to baptize. The only strength the Catholic church has is tradition, so older people are completely locked into tradition. Anyways, last week we got a reference for an older couple, that happened to be Catholic :D Anyways, every single lesson we've taught there has been incredible guided by the Spirit, and over the last 2 weeks this couple decided to be baptized!!! The 2nd lesson we got there and the husband, Geraldo, said, "So I have a question, why is it that i need to be baptized if I was already baptized as a child?" As we read 2 Nephi 32 with him, without us even explaining for him, he said, "Ah! A baptism also involves a change of life, so I wasn't even baptized, it was my parents that "baptized me"" It's been incredible with them because they have basically taught themselves why this is all so important. They have a son as well that's been interested and the only problem he has is he's not married to his "wife", they've just been living together for 11 years :/ But, we're working with him towards baptism a little ways down the road as well.
 Two days ago we were priveleged to experience another miracle personally. Monday night I started getting really really sick. It was about 5 o clock so we still had a good 4 hours of work left, but I was getting a killer fever. One of those fevers where your muscles start to stiffen, you feel super super cold but are actually burning hot, all this along with a stomach ache and head ache, it was great haha. We had a lot to do so I just stuck it through and tried to focus on the Spirit. All went well with our lessons and stuff, but as we were heading back to the house at 9:30 I was literally like shaking from my fever. Right before bed Elder Da Rosa gave me a blessing, and I climbed into bed wearing a sweater and a big blanket cuz the chills and fever were so bad. I woke up again at midnight with the fever raging just as bad if not worse. As i got a drink and used the bathroom, I heard a voice in my head say, "Take off your sweater, and sleep without a blanket." I was dying from the fever but decided I'd better listen to the Spirit (obviously haha) Anyways I woke up yesterday morning completely fine. No aches, no chills, no fever, it was glorious. Seriously the priesthood is such an amazing power, and it is SO real. To make it even better though, last night we taught an investigator about the Word of Wisdom. He's been really addicted to cigarettes so we explained to him how he was going to need to stop and all that. We could tell he was kinda iffy still , so I explained to him about the miracle that had happened the night before. We then gave him a blessing to help his body overcome this addiction fast, and at the end of the blessing he totally felt the power of the blessing. A couple minutes later he came back into the room, handed us his package of cigarettes and threw his lighter in the trash. Absolutely amazing... I love this work!
  Well, sorry that my letter's kinda short. I hope everyone's doing well and that the summer's treating everyone well. Everything is great here in Brazil, and I am loving my mission. I'm so blessed to be a part of this amazing work, and every day the Lord's love and hand is so visible in all of this. I love this church and the things we all have the privelege of knowing and enjoying in our lives. I'm so blessed to have this opportunity, as well as such a wonderful family and friends back home. Love you all!! Hurrah for Israel!!!
  -Elder Ballard

is a capybara!! It's the biggest species of rodent in the world, and they have tons that live here in the lakes.
Bored one morning... Everyone always talks about my big smile here

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Weird connections, Strong ward, Amazing studies, and Blisters a'stewing!

Well, this area is wonderful! It's kinda fun going from a branch of 50 people to a stake center ward. The members here are super excited to help and we contantly are getting referals and everything. So like I told you last week, I talked to Elder Da Rosa more about who lives in Rexburg, and it turns out that it's his great uncle, named President Brassanini. At first this didn't ring any bells for me, but then he showed me a picture of him, and it turns out that last summer when I went to the temple with Titan and Jake Potter and were doing some sealings, I RAN INTO President Brassanini!!!! I remember vividly talking with him about Belo Horizonte and how I'd be going there and I'm 90% sure he told me about a great nephew that was serving there... What are the chances?! Pres. Brassanini was the Temple President and Porto Alegre, and now he's in Rexburg working as a sealer in the temple!!! I cannot believe how small this world is with the gospel!! Seriously... Elder Da Rosa's gunna send the house address for Pres Brassanini and a picture of us, and who knows, maybe he's already passed in the store or something before :D So cool. If this wasn't already ridiculously coincidental, when I was walking out of sacrament on sunday, a 22ish year old stopped me and said, "Elder Ballard!! As in, related to the Elder Ballard that served in Salvador?" I was already like what the heck? And it just so happens that this guy that goes to the other ward that goes to our chapel, is Elder F Santos, AKA a COMPANION of Austin!!! AHHH!!! I can't believe how cool all these connections are!! It's like the Lord just tweaks stuff to make it work out like this. I'll get a picture with Elder Santos next week and send it, but i am still in unbelief :) 
 Well, Elder Da Rosa and me have been gettting along really well. Our studies and teaching are as if we'd already been comps for a long time, so this transfer really is looking like it has some huge potential. This mixed with the great ward here is just gunna be some awesome times here. I don't have a whole lot to talk about but next week I'll send some pics of the area and explain more about it.
  Quick spiritual thought that I found this morning that I wanna share with everyone. In the scriptures it talks a lot about how God gives and shows us our weaknesses. I got thinking about this and realized something very cool. God gives all of us trials and problems to SHOW us what we need to improve on. For example, at the first of the mission, I was homesick, thought a ton about my friends, animation, family, etc. and this mission showed me that I needed to focus more on the work of the Lord. At this point in the mission, I've overcome the weakness of focusing on home, and now I have the strength of focusing more on the work here. The situation didn't change, but the Lord showed me what was a weakness, he helped me overcome it, and now the same situation isn't a trial for me because I strengthened up to the point that the Lord wanted me. This applies with every single situation. If life was just easy and we never had problems, we'd never know what our weaknesses are. The purpose of this life is to become perfect, and just like Christ, we have to pass through the crud to know what we need to do to improve, and in the end passing under and through everything will allow us to rise above everything and fulfill our potencial! I hope this makes sense haha, but man it's amazing the stuff the Gospel teaches us. Thanks for everything you all are doing for me, I hope the summer's going good. I love this gospel so much, the Book of Mormon is such a precious gift of God, and so are the Prophets. I know that my Redeemer lives and that He loves all of you, me, and every single person in the world. I LOVE this work!!! Hurrah for Israel!!!
   -Elder Ballard

p.s. sorry about the lack of pictures--he's sending them in a different form and I can't get them to post :(

Wednesday, June 8, 2011

Nother pday and another transfer! Left Itabira with a bang :)

Transfers always seem to come faster that I'm expecting... Here in this mission President Parrella always encourages us to think in months, not transfers so we don't get burned out and get lazy at the end of it, so it was weird when all the sudden the transfer ended.

Mom - Actually Mom my piano playing kinda died out with time. The Branch President plays hymns by ear and so after the branch got tired of me only being able to play hymns without flats or sharps, he offered to start playing piano again :) So sadly my piano practicing days are over for now. Itabira has a weird set up, cuz it was closed for almost 2 years, and before that (from what the members there say) the missionaries that were there were slackers, at least the majority. One member said that with missionaries they were having like 1 baptism per YEAR, and without missionaries they were having about that same number... It's really wierd. From what I know though they have about 400 inactive members here in this area which absolutely blows my mind. I have no idea how they baptised that many people and they all went inactive. Really strange huh?

 Well, last week (actually last pday after emails and all) we had an awesome baptism of a young man named Gabriel. Gabriel is the nephew of an RM here in the branch, and he'd been to church quite a few times, and just hadn't had the missionaries talk to him. So after talking to Alex (the uncle) we started teaching him, and even just being 11 years old he was super prepared from the start. We had to get authorization from his mom who doesn't live with him which ended up being suprisingly easy with God's help in the mom accepting us going to her house, and seriously everything just turned out swimmingly. It's really cool seeing someone so young get baptized because yes, it doesn't directly effect the branch's growth in regards to priesthood, but just knowing that in 8 years he'll go somewhere and serve a mission just gets me pumped up. Amazing the way the Gospel helps people regardless of age or situation.

 During the rest of the week we've been teaching Patricia (the lady who received her answer about the Book of Mormon while she was kneeling with us) and she had some doubts about how big of a covenant being baptized is and how she was scared of breaking the commandments afterwards. It was kinda frustrating cuz we'd taught everything as good as we possibly could, and it was just the matter of her putting her faith to the test and going for it. It was kinda cool though because towards the end of the week we started focusing on how the baptism would directly bless her and her situation. I can't remember if I already said, but she's 25 with 3 kids (the oldest one is already 7) and she's working and trying to raise them all at the same time, so it's pretty tough for her. Explaining how she would have the guidance of the Spirit to raise and protect her children really caught her attention, and then on saturday we got a text saying that she would be baptized on sunday :) So on sunday we had 3 confirmations and the baptism of Patricia, and the Spirit was amazing. After church we were talking with Rayandra Sabrina and Gabriel, and all of them had already had some sort of guidance of the Spirit in making some decision. Man this work is amazing.

 Well, Monday night me and Elder Fávaro were talking and saying how it looked like we were going to be sticking together for another 6 weeks, and seriously 3 minutes later we got a call from President saying that I would be transferred to a city called Sete Lagoas (being translated, Seven Lakes)!! I was kinda happy kinda sad cuz I absolutely love Itabira, but now that I'm here in Sete Lagoas I'm really excited to work here. My companion is Elder Da Rosa, and he's from Rio Grande do Sul, which is in Southern Brazil. Weirdly enough he told me that his family (or at least part of it) lives in REXBURG!!! Dad or someone look up this street: Aries Drive, cuz he says his family lives there! What a coincidence huh? Such a ridiculously small world. I'll find out more about why they're there and what they're doing and all, but how weird will it be if he can come to my homecoming or something, sheesh. Anyways, this area looks awesome. It's a really member-ful city, and even has a stake here. This will be my very first area to actually have a chapel so it'll be good having that finally. It's really weird getting so used to an area, especially one that you open like I did, but I'm stoked for this area, from what Elder Da Rosa says it's gunna be a very successful place. It's really cool recently cuz the way we're learning to teach now is helping us really help people have strong bases for their testimony. Truly understanding how to receive personal guidance through the Book of Mormon and prayer and stuff, so it's really a whole different work because it's not just, BAPTISE! BAPTISE!! but actually helping people change their lives and truly have a whole new life to look forward to. I know that this Church is true, and every day in studies or in some situation I learn even more and more how this gospel has so much power to change lives. We are constantly telling people here how this gospel and the Book of Mormon truly will help us prepare for the Second Coming, and I can testify that this is true. The Lord and Savior will come someday, and I can't even express how happy and grateful I am to spread this preparation for those other people who are looking for this happiness. I love this gospel, and I hope the Lord continues to bless all of you with whatever blessings you might be in need of. You're all in my prayers! Hurrah for Israel!!!

  -Elder Ballard

    Pictures didn't work :(

Wednesday, June 1, 2011

June.... wholly.

Really weird to think that it's already the 6th month of my black out year... (Term for the year you spend entirely on a mission) Jeesh. And even weirder that now it's winter here and summer there :)

Well, the miracle chain that happened last week gave it's fruits because Sabrina and Rayandra were baptized this sunday!!! It was kinda crazy because the two of them both had problems getting authorization from their parents to be baptized. They both told us, "My mom/grandma won't let me get baptized! Seriously don't even try talking to them... they'll just get mad." To make a long story short, we ended up "accidentally showing up" at the house of Rayandra's grandma, and after fixing some doubts about the church (such as that we are highly affiliated with the Ku Klux Klan... good heck.) she ended up authorizing Rayandra without any problems. Sabrina brought her mom to the Branch President's house, and after about and hour and a half of testifying, showing the positives of the church, asking her why she didn't want Sabrina baptized, singing hymns, the 9 year old child of the Branch Pres testifying, and a whole lot of other spiritual battles, she finally signed the form!!! Man, we got back into the house spiritually drained... but of course everything is worth it helping someone, especially a teenager in such a crucial time of life, make the decision to be baptized. It was funny cuz before getting authorization, we imagined the mom and grandma as super religious, practically scary, people that we were going to have to absolutely be perfect to get the authorization. But, as of right now, it's looking like Sabrina's mom and brother (who went to the baptism) will most likely get baptized, and Rayandra's grandma is already asking us to come back and teach another lesson. It is absolutely incredible how the Lord links all these people together to  not just help one person come unto Christ, but to bring families and friends and eventually massive groups of people unto Christ.  

 One thing that I'm learning a lot about here in Itabira, is about faith. There's not that many strong members here in this city, but seriously the faith that they have is incredible. One thing I'm realizing is that before the mission, I was completely full of doubts. Seriously, always justifying how something couldn't or wouldn't happen, but this isn't faith. The people here have told me about so so so many miracles that have happened in their lives. It seems like in the US these stories are practically unheard of, and I truly think it's just that we've gotten used to doubts. Not that I'm saying that americans are faithless or anything haha, mostly talking about myself. But seriously, a baby put his hand into a pot of boiling mashed potatoes, the mom washed his hand without looking, told the other brother to say a prayer, and she told the Lord that she wouldn't look at her baby's hand until the next day, and that she KNEW it would be fine. The next day, the baby's hand was flawless. Seriously, faith is a thing that we all can always better and improve. I'm learning so much about this as I try to never doubt that a person will get an answer, that a person will come to church, and ultimately that a person will stay strong in the gospel. Even though us missionaries are just tools in the hands of the Master, I can't express how grateful I am to be a part of this work. I know this church changes lives, and the life that's changing most of all is mine. I love this gospel and the Lord with all my heart, I encourage everyone who reads this to kneel down some night, and out loud express your love that you have for our Heavenly Father, and without doubting you will feel the Lord's love. There truly isn't a feeling more sweet and special than this. Hurrah for Israel, and may Heavenly Father bless you all as much as He's blessing me and Itabira.

  -Elder Ballard

Rayandra and Sabrina!