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, July 27, 2011

Miracle Baptism, New personal record on Monday, and weird foods..

   I'm running behind today so it'll be a quick letter, but this past week was amazing. We were really wanting to have a baptism, so Elder Gaertner was led to a young man that'd already been to church and Brazil's version of mutual a few times. We taught him on thursday, marked his baptism for sunday, and he accepted the invite!! He's only 13 so we had to get the authorization from his dad which looked like it was slim chances cuz I guess his dad has been known as "The guy who wants to kill the missionaries." Haha. Anyways, after a TON of prayer, we taught him again on saturday, he was interviewed, and then baptized on sunday!! I've never seen anyone progress so fast and accept the gospel like he did, truly was a blessing and miracle. Then on monday we did a comp study and really swapped and mixed up the way we taught, and that along with a lot of help from the Spirit, we had an amazing work day. Last friday we taught 8 lessons, and no one accepted a date to be baptized. Monday though, we only taught 3 lessons and had SIX people accept dates!! I've never EVER had so many people accept dates like that... it is SO incredible how the Lord can bless us. Now we're just focusing on the fact that it is totally him that is doing these results, and being completely obedient 100% so that He can keep protecting these people against the bad influences that always come when someone accepts a date. Some of these 6 people are SO prepared... it is absolutely amazing the way the Lord does that.

 I also had some interesting foods these past weeks. First, I had this little dish called Dobradinha. It used to be like a dish for slaves, and I can see why. It's basically cow intestine stew... and it smells like pure dogfood. The nasty dry kind that we always buy for Luke. The taste wasn't as bad as the smell luckily, but the consistency = nasty. The pieces of intestine still had the little microscopic finger-like things (i think they're called philli or filli or something like that?) Yuck... but it was a fun experience anyways. I also went to a restaurant and had horse meat... It was in a patty like beef usually is so it wasn't that weird or bad, but just thinking that it was horse was kinda odd. Austin'll probably know what this is but I had a dessert called Sagu. It reminds me of flavorless jello, but with like a fourth of the water you'd usually add, cuz it's really really thick. Definitely one of those foods you can't explain haha. I'm enjoying all these new foods though, Brazil's fun haha.

  Well, this next week is looking really bright and I'm very excited to work. The Lord has really been blessing us a lot, and I'm excited to do my part and really put my shoulder to the wheel. Nothing like LDS puns. I love this work and things are going great out here. Thank you all for all you do and especially for your prayers. Hurrah for Israel!!]

  -Elder Ballard

Pic - This is Hugo! (pronounced ooh-goo haha)

Thursday, July 21, 2011

Nother transfer!?! Bittersweet I must say... Goodbyes and Last walk through Sete Lagoas

Boy oh boy... It never ceases to amaze me how these transfers blow past. 6 weeks used to seem like it was forever.
Well, this past week has been a great one. Like I said, today I'm already in my next area. These last few days were basically made up of saying goodbye to members and recent converts in 7 Lakes. It was kinda bitter sweet cuz I really really enjoyed that area, it was a really great place to work. That family that I talked about last week was super hard to say goodbye to, you end up making relationships based off of spirituality that end up being a LOT stronger and deeper, so it was sad saying bye to them. They're all progressing really well for baptism though, so here in a month or so I'm hoping to recieve news from Elder Da Rosa who will stay there. It was hilarious this week when you leave their house, you have to walk a mile or 2 on just loose dirt road to get back to the city. The road has a lot of cars and buses that pass, so you get super super dirty. Anyways, where a car passes and kicks up a ton of dirt we end up using our ties as breathing filters (see photo) and always get a laugh out of it. Anyways, on Saturday we realized that all the cars that were driving past were laughing at our use of ties. We looked up ahead and saw a guy walking his bike in the other direction, and even with all the dust, was pushing his bike with both hands. So me and my comp were like, "Well look at that... We must be wannies needing to cover our noses and mouths." So we were a little embarrased of our weakness, until we got up close and realized he was wearing one of those World War 2 style gas masks :D Hahaha, we about died laughing thinking that he was just toughing it out and then saw his gas mask.. Man I love Brazil.
   It sure is weird getting transferred again... I'm in an area now called Veneza (which being translated is Venice, like in Rome) and when I was explaining it to some converts they got all bummed and shocked cuz they thought I was moving to Europe :D Haha... Anyways, I don't have a whole ton else to tell about cuz we just got here today. My comp's name is Elder Gaertner, and he only has 2 transfers left. It's been interesting being with these older missionaries lately, I sure learn a lot. Anyways I'll have more about this area and the work this next week. Everything is going good here though, I'm happy, excited, safe, and plump (hopefully I can lose some weight in this area haha) I love this work and am so very grateful for the trust the Lord gives in letting us missionaries have such an amazing privilege and opportunity. This Church is True!!! One day we truly will have the opportunity of being judged by God and Christ, and I know that if we do our part we WILL one day recieve all the blessings we've earned. Hoorah for Israel!! Hoorah!
 -Elder Ballard
the dusty road we travelled down...

while using ties for gas masks...

to visit this amazing humble family!

beautiful chapel!

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Week of Traveling, and Amazingly Humble Family Found!

'Nother week already gone... It's blowing my mind how fast the time is passing recently. Seriously, the weeks are truly passing like days for me now.

  Well, this was kinda a weird week cuz we had quite a few interviews to do, so this last week was super slow with regards to the work. Seriously it was like every other day we were leaving on a bus at 10 o clock and not getting back to work till 6. It's kinda taken its toll on the work sadly, but I know the Lord isn't gunna let something like that get in the way of the salvation of his lost sheep.
 Last sunday started out kinda annoying cuz the 3 people we have to be confirmed ended up not making it to church :( It's a huge bummer cuz every week that happens it's just one more week for Satan to try and attack them. Luckily they're all strong to go this next week. When we got to chruch though we met this guy who was there visiting the church with his 6 year old daughter. We marked to go visit his house after church and found out that he lives like WAY out in the middle of nowhere, but at least there was a bus we could take to get out there close. We went there later that day and found out that he's the Dad of 5 kids, and all 7 of them (counting the mom) live in 1 ROOM in the middle of the woods basically. The place they live reminds me a lot of Moody Meadows, it's not really the normal amazon type-forest that you usually see, it's a lot more dry and dusty, so a lot more like the forests in the US. Anyways, the 5 kids are 12, 10, 6, and then they have twin 2 year olds. So we walked through the woods and arrived at the house. He was really excited to see us and it was seriously such a humbling and amazing experience meeting this family. The dad is a super hard-working guy that knows how to do about anything with construction. He built their house, dug there well (which goes down about 36 feet.... I still can't understand how he dug it.) is building their bathroom, built a bridge, just all this amazing stuff. When we got there he was chopping wood for their fire, and his 2 little two year olds were running around with just shirts, aka barefoot and pantless running around in the forest. We found out that they've already found and killed about 15 snakes close to their house... so that's the part that worries me. The little kids are all pretty dirty, except for the 6 year old that obviously took a bath so she could go to church :) While we were there the mom heated up water over a camp fire and gave the two little guys a bath. Everything was just astounding to me. They live without runnning water, without light or electricity, without a sewer (luckily the bathroom the dad's making will let them have this at least) and even with all this they are all just SO happy!!! I'll try and get a video of the two little boys, cuz while we were there they were chasing chickens around the yard, and then when a couple chickens flew/climbed up into a shrub, the two of them clumsily grabbed long sticks and tried to attack the chickens :D It was one of those things where I was laughing and almost crying just cuz of how humbling everything was. These little kids don't have toys or even electricity, but every one of them is so stinking happy with just running around playing with each other. Elder Da Rosa and me about died laughing when the two little guys realized that their sticks weren't long enough, so they ran to the other side of the yard, one picked up a brick, and the other got this tiny little 10 inch tall stool, and they both brought the stuff over to the tree to try and be taller :D Man... all this was exactly what I was needed. I had been a little discouraged because of the lack of work we had had, but just realizing how much a have to be greatful for and how happy these people are with seriously almost nothing, I realized how bad they need the gospel. After talking with them for a while about their situation and the church and all, we taught them the Restauration, and the family accepted the invite to prepare for baptism!! Sadly the parents aren't married so they won't be able to be baptized on the 24th, but either way I am so so excited to see their progress together.
  I am so grateful to have the privelege of seeing a situation like this... I've been SO humbled to see the way that some people live. Watching them understand more about the gospel and what this actually will do for them was so cool to see how much hope it gave for them. I'm praying so hard that all will go well with them and that the marriage can go through quickly so they can begin their spiritual journey and start receiving the blessing the Lord has for them. Especially with this family I'm really beginning to feel a lot more of that love that God has for each one of us. It didn't matter that that family was living in such simple and humble circumstances, it was still so obvious that they felt God's love for them and the Light of Christ was so obvious in their eyes. All I can say is I hope that with time I can develop more and more of the kind of love and charity that I know God has for all his children. I'm so grateful for this gospel and the way that it helps each and every one of us. Thank you all for your support and all that you do every day to help others. As I see the way that the members of the Chruch here help others, I know that all over the world the same simple but amazing work is going on. I love you all!!! Thank you for your prayers, I truly do feel the strength that comes from them. Hurrah for Israel!!!
   -Elder Ballard

 Bit o Brazil - With all this traveling that we've been doing, we are constantly taking buses. Near the bus stations they always have like 5 of these sketchy guys calling out destinations of where they're going. So they always shout to us "BH jovens?" Which means "Belo Horizonte (the main city that we go to usually once a week) young men?" and at first we'd just ignore them and all, but since it's just gotten more and more annoying, I will usually just say straight out to them (in English obviously) "I don't understand spanish!!!!" And it usually makes them hush up :)

Wednesday, July 6, 2011

Conferences, I'm "growing", and some weird little... sightings :)

Only good things to report this week! It's been kinda a unusual week in relation to schedule, but it's been great!

Well, this past week we had some zone meetings/trainings and conferences so it kinda interupted the normal work a little, but it's been awesome learning so much. First of all, the baptism of Gisele was wonderful!! It was awesome having Caios there to support her and enjoy the sweet spirit of baptism again already. It's such a satisfying feeling when you baptise more than one person, be it a family or be it friends like these two, you just know that they'll be there for each other to help each other in the process. It was a cool miracle that happened there at the baptism as well cuz for some reason, not even one member from the ward could make it on a wednesday night :/ So we ended up inviting another companionship of missionaries that work close to our area to come and support her too. Anyways, they ended up bringing one of their investigators, who ended up being one of Gisele's close friends that none of us even knew about :D So now it looks like that friends is progressing to be baptized in a couple weeks! So cool!!! I love the way the Lord works. The other baptism this week was Junior!! I sent the picture of him with the picture of when his parents were baptized, so this week he finally was able to join the family also! It was really amazing how things went with him, because he wasn't able to be baptized earlier because he wasn't legally married, only living with his "wife". But we realized that being married isn't the pre-requisite to being baptized, it's living the Law of Chastity. So, we invited him to seperate from his girlfriend and move in with his parents, and he accepted!!! It's incredible how much power the spirit has in conversion of these people!! I'm so excited for him... Now being all 3 of them baptized, they'll all be a huge force in helping each other progress in someday going to the temple :)
  Well, besides the work here it's been kinda a funny time lately. Here in Sete Lagoas, the members are really strong and love the missionaries, so this means that the lunches here are wonderful. Also, this is like one of the only cities in the mission that doesn't have hills... These two factors combined means... yup, I'm getting fat haha. Obviously not huge or anything, but my gut is sadly developing :/ It's really obnoxious actually because there's not a whole lot I can do haha. I'm doing excercizes and all, but when you have lunch planned every day, don't have any hills to challenge you, it just kinda happens I guess. Oh well though, I still have the next 14 months to be switched to a "skinnier" area. This week I saw some cool/crazy things as well: I saw a flock of parrots fly over me, talk about beautiful. Bright green and red, it was awesome. I also saw a beer truck that flipped over (not rolled over but literally endo'ed, back over front) and spilled glass and beer ALL over the road, it stunk so bad. I saw a lady walking down the street with a machete in one hand and 4 large steak knives in the other... who know's where she was heading :) Right after that I saw a drunk guy sitting on the curb playing one of those antelope horns (like the one grandpa Ballard had in his basement) I love Brazil so much :D
 Well, this week I've been realizing that the Lord is truly beginning to shape me, especailly internally. Not in just what I do as a missionary, but a lot of what I think and feel. I've been really focusing lately on keeping my thoughts a lot more focused on spiritual things and less on stuff like home or friends or etc. Anyways, for really long periods of time I've been able to consistently keep a hymn "playing" in my head, and the difference it's made has been incredible. I'm beginning to realize that doing this is truly changing my inner desires. One of my struggles during the mission has been trying to subdue desires to watch TV, be with friends, draw things not pertaining to the work, etc. Anyways this week I've found that I'm truly beginning to change these desires. You all know the me before the mission, insanely social, always wanting to go on dates and hang out with friends, always drawing, animating, computering, etc. Anyways, I've truly been feeling these desires die down this week. Clealy one of my greatest joys is still receiving a letter and picture from someone I haven't heard in from a while :) But the actual desire that used to be almost nagging is finally being subdued. I truly am feeling like I'm becoming clay in the Lord's hands. Before I was all dry and hard, not allowing the Lord to do what He wanted. Now though as I've focused more on subduing myself to His will rather than mine, it's been amazing the changes that are happening. Wow this letter's a big'uhn, but I love this work. I love this life, and I love being a missionary. My old companion Elder Fife goes home this next wednesday so it was weird saying goodbye to him, I can't believe how weird others ending their missions seems. I'm so grateful to still have so much time left to improve and try to become what the Lord wants. Thank you all for you love and support, hurrah for Israel and I hope the Lord is granting you all the blessings you need! You're all in my prayers. Hurrah!!!!
 -Elder Ballard