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, November 30, 2011

Lows always lead to Highs! And a early Christmas Zone Conference!!!

The tables at the Conference, super exciting seeing high quality decorating like this, it's been a LONG time since I've seen this :)

This last week was super super interesting. I've been having a little bit of difficulty with taking as many people to church as I've been wanting, and the people that would get baptized have been running into a lot of problems as well. I've been super confused cuz I feel like I've been working really hard, we're teaching a lot, my companion is learning really fast and teaching really well, so I've just been confused up until now about why the results haven't been happening. Sunday was a difficult day, we had a 18 year old that was SUPER elect to be baptized, but as he was outside waiting for us to come get him and take him to church, his boss called him up and made him go to work :( He said he'd still be able to make it to sacrament meeting, but me calling every 20 mins or so and him not answering, he wasn't able to get out of work in time... It was a huge bummer cuz obviously he can be baptized this next week, but just from experience I've seen a lot of times that when someone isn't baptized on the original date that you mark, Satan puts EVERYTHING he's got into trying to stop that person from taking the step of being baptized. It's almost like the first time the investigator is always super super excited, but when something like this happens it takes a kick at their attitude and they kinda lose that original fire that they had. We're still working with him and I have total faith that he'll still be able to baptized this next week, but it's gunna be a fight for sure. But, that's what this work is all about.
  Anyways, sunday and the other days were pretty difficult, we've been running home to get there before 930, running in the rain, wind, sun, doing whatever it's needed to teach everyone we needed to and get all of our appointments done, but even with the hard work, nothing was happening. Luckily though, the first of this week was zone conference. Since we only have it every 3 months now, they did the Christmas one even though it's november. It was kinda weird having it all christmas-y this early, but it was such a welcome happiness :D It's amazing the Spirit that Christmas brings, because singing a Christmas hymn and just seeing all the decoration, I got the best pick up ever. After an amazing lunch and everything, we did a deal where each companionship would go in the front, say 2 things they liked about their comp, and then explain about the story of 1 of their baptisms from the month of November, and then stick the picture on a paper Christmas tree as a "gift" to the Lord. It was amazing seeing how even though we hear, "Yay! The mission baptized 160 people this month!" or whatever, that every single one of these people has a story. It was so cool to see how every missionary out here is having amazing experiences and stuff... So cool.

 I'd been praying really hard lately that the Lord could show me what I was missing in my work so that I could help more people be baptized, but hadn't been really getting my answer. As I was listening to the other companionships and the stories of the people that were baptized I started feeling a lot of promptings from the Spirit, and even though the words that I needed weren't being said, they were being felt. It was incredible. So with time I ended up learning exactly what I need to do, and I am SO excited for this next month of December!!  I learned and was reminded that the Lord and his Atonement apply for each and every one of us. I realized that with time I had ended up only teaching and showing this for other people, and just with the passing of time and the routine of being a missionary, it was almost like I had forgotten that this applies for ME as well. Even though I have the opportunity to be an instrument in the Lord's hands doesn't mean that passing on the Atonement for other people deprives me at all from It. I actually get to enjoy even more the blessings that it brings!! I know that the Lord loves each and every one of us, and seeing the stories of over 100 of his children that were found and returned just strengthened how I feel about all this. I love this work so much... Thanks for everything family and friends, hurrah for Israel!!!

 -- Elder Ballard

I finished making this plan of salvation diagram, turned out decent I thought

Elder Santana, my comp

I don't know how luck was so good to us, but by chance the day we had conference all 5 of us MTC groupers were in the same meeting!!! It was SO good seeing them again.

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Stuck in an elevator, Rain hasn't let up, and meet yet another one! ...And it's thanksgiving? Oh...

For crying out loud, I am so grateful that Idaho doesn't have so much rain like it does here haha :D

Elder Santana, comp #SIXTEEN!

Well, this week's been a rainy one. The weather here is kinda crazy cuz you can wake up to sunny blue skies, leave the house without an umbrella, and by 6 that night the rain is coming down in buckets :) Reminds me a little bit of the crazy days that Rexburg has but with snowing while it's sunny and all that. I can't lie, I really miss the cold. Other than weather this week has been awesome. We had a really good sunday, we brought 4 people to church and they were very very prepared to go, they all loved it and if all continues going well, we should have 2 or 3 people that will baptize this weekend! I'm praying and working so hard cuz they are super special people. Well, monday was yet again the end of another transfer, and as ridiculous as it is, my companion was transfered out haha... So, as of today I am with yet another companion, Elder Santana. He's from the northwestern part of Brazil, and he seems like he's gunna be a really good missionary. I don't even know what to think really, but man, I don't think it's all that normal to swap companions so often haha. Oh well though, like i did with the last one, guess I'll just go with it.
  Yesterday was a funny experience. Me and Elder Cavalheiro went to the airport (it's like 15 mins from our area) to get the newly arrived missionaries. There were 9 new elders and 2 new sisters. We took that back into Belo Horizonte, took them to President's house to eat lunch, (Sister Parrella already has their whole house decked out with Christmas decorations :D weird eh?) and then headed back to the office. The office here is in a skyscraper building, and the office is on the 10th floor. So, we were taking the elevator, and being excited missionaries, we thought it'd be smart to put all 11 of us elders in the same elevator. Luckily the 2 sisters had already gone up by themselves. So, we all got in like sardines, the doors shut, and then... The elevator jolted, did like a 'tried-to-pull-upward' motion, went down a little bit, and then continued to sink lower and lower.... With that the doors locked, and we were trapped. Think of that, 11 19-23 year old men in a 10x12 foot elevator, half of them wearing suits... Yeah... we tried prying the doors open, the door watcher guy tried cutting the power, we tried saying a prayer, but all in all, we were stuck in there for about 25 minutes... Haha, it was insane. I'm already used to crazy happenings so I just say there in the back corner fanning myself, but all the new elders started freaking out, "It's SOOO HOOOTT!!!!' "I'm sick... help! We need water!!!" "Someone call the fire department!" Wow, besides the heat and sweatiness, it was SO funny from my point of view. After about 15 minutes, the perspiration and 11 sets of lungs going made it so humid that the walls started to "sweat" as well, and only 1 elder who was at the front was about to open the doors about 3 inches and breath fresh air. Finally someone called a repairman and he simply pressed a button and opened it up without any problems. When we got out we found out that we'd sank like 2 feet under ground level, it was hilarious. I'll try and get the video from my new comp so that I can show how it was :)
  Well, other than that it's been a pretty normal week. I'm learning a lot through trials as well as blessings, and am really excited for these next coming days. It's weird realizing that it's thanksgivinig (I realized just now when I opened my email haha) cuz time just flies by. I'm kinda tripping out that december is almost here as well, we're already marking dates for people for the 4th, so it's really setting in fast how quick this year has gone and how many crazy and amazing experiences I've had. Thanks for everything family and friends, I'm so grateful for your love and support. I hope all you have a good thanksgiving break, miss you all but I love this work. Hurrah for Israel!!!
  -Elder Ballard

Heading to transfers
My trainer Elder Fernandes finally ended his mission today :( Kinda a sad feeling seeing them finish... He sure did an awesome work though.

Thursday, November 17, 2011

Rains came a tumblin' down, along with a good old cold :P

Done with another week already... time's slipping through the fingers honestly. The rainy season's hitting hard now, but at least it's cooling the scorching brazilian sun down a little bit.

Like I said, the rains came down. And stayed inside my shoes haha

   This week has been pretty usual for me. Lot of rain, I got a pretty bad cold that I'm finally recovering from, but luckily the Lord never ceases to bless me with happiness and enjoyment in the work, rain or shine :) The other day we headed out with sunshine and everything, but when we arrived at 9 that night, it was raining SUPER bad, and I'd forgotten my umbrella. So, we walked about 15 minutes to our house in mid-shin depth running water, and even being drenched and cold, I couldn't stop laughing. I think this was the first time my comp has passed through something like this on the mission, but he was smart and even with sunshine always leaves with an umbrella :) But it was just so funny to me for some reason, imagining what the other people on the street or in their cars were thinking. Two guys in social pants and shoes, shirt and tie, one of them without an umbrella, and the two of us still smiling and shouting "Good evening!!!" to everyone we passed. Haha, such a great work. Even having a cold as well, the sickness hasn't even bothered me. Yeah I have a dumb runny nose and I'm all congested, but we just keep on working and teaching and we just forget about it. It's amazing the amount of strength and power the Lord grants us missionaries.
   This last saturday we found an amazingly prepared couple. They aren't married legally so it'll take a little while before they'll be baptized, but holy cow, talk about prepared. We found out the Jorge (pronounced George, but the g at the first makes a jshz sound (Haha, Aust can explain that sound to you guys)) who is a truck driver, had randomly found a Book of Mormon about a year ago when he was travelling across the country when he had a tire problem. He stopped in a little run down tire shop, and as they were fixing his semi, he saw a book shoved into a hole where the wall meets with the ceiling, pulled it out and found a Book of Mormon. He read a little and thought it was weird, but had always been curious about what it was or what it meant. So as we explained it to him and explained the invite that Moroni makes, saying that he needed to read, ponder, and pray, he said, "Sure I'll do this, but I already know it's a true book! Look at all these signs I've had in the last year!!!" It was truly humbling to see how much the Lord had already worked with them. Just as amazing, there at church, their very first time, Jorge's wife, Helena, signed up to recieve the Liahona for the next THREE YEARS! The very first time of her even hearing about it and she already signed on!!! They've already said, "I can tell you, this is the church where we'll be married, and it's where we'll be baptized." Now I'm just praying that I can stay in this area long enough to see them be married and baptized. Absolutely amazing how elect some of these people are isn't it? I think this shows me how even with billions of people on earth, God is intimately involved in every one of our lives, and if we pay more attention, I think we'll all begin to realized how we're part of something way bigger than we thought. I love this plan that God had, I love this Gospel. I love my mission, it blows me away that a year ago I was already in the field in Texas... Man, I don't even know what to do with the way time is passing. This church is true everyone, and the Lord did die and suffer for everything that we pass through. Miss and love you all! Hurrah for Israel!!!

  -Elder Ballard

Monday, November 7, 2011

Another companion, another baptism, and another package!

Never ceases to amaze me how unpredictable this mission is... haha I got yet another new companion this last week. What an adventure :P

Well, last thursday we were taken off guard by a call from President saying that the mission got even more latin americans, and now we have 4 missionaries in our area. Elder Cavalheiro is now training a missionary from Uruguay, and I am training Elder Gonzales from Bolivia. They both speak portugues good already, but it's weird swapping companions around so often like this. Guess which number E. Gonzales is? 10th? Nah. 13th? Nope. 15th? You got it. Haha, I don't think i've ever heard of a missionary having so many comps... I don't even have 14 months and already have 15 comps! Adventure isn't it?

  Now I want to talk a little bit about Wellington.

When we first got to this area, we ate lunch at a sister's house, and found out the Wellington wasn't a member. He was there and was really closed and didn't really talk with us very much. He's known about the church for about 8 years, and for the 8 years every month or so he'll go to church simply to gratify his wife. We invited him to go to church that week, and he went. That week happened to be the Primary Presentation sacrament meeting, and his two kids (one's 5 and the other's 6) participated. He said that he really liked it all and felt the spirit a lot. We went back there during the week and he was TOTALLY different. WAY more open and receptive, accepting parts in the Book of Mormon to read at his work, doing his prayers, stopped drinking coffee, it was amazing. We asked him what happened to change him so much and he simply said that seeing his kids and the other primary children singing about the gospel, reciting scriptures, and showing all that they learned really touched him and made him realized that, if his kids were learning so much about the gospel, how much more could he, being the dad of the family, learn being a member of the church. It was amazing how something as simple as a primary presentation could have such a huge effect on him. We tried to mark a baptismal date with him, and even though he was much more receptive, he said he needed more time. We kept going back there and time after time he was just more and more open, until finally, not this monday but the one before, he agreed that "now was his time." So last friday we went to BH, got our new companions, came back to the area, and took them to the baptismal service of Wellington. Man, this was by far the most special baptismal service I've seen on my mission up until now... About 25 or 30 members came to watch and support, the meeting was really well planned and the messages were perfect for him. The primary kids sang the "I love to look for Rainbows" song (in Portugues obviously :P ) and Wellington even cried a little the spirit was so strong. The bishop that was released 2 weeks ago was the one who baptized him, and the Spirit was incredible. The highlight of it all was at the very end where the ward mission leader invited Wellington's wife Gleysielle to bear her testimony. She then explained how 3 years earlier she had made a personal goal with the Lord that in the next 5 years she wanted the whole family to be member of the church, and be sealed in the temple. She then tearfully explained how even with a goal of 5 years the Lord had been merciful enough to make the first step happen in just 3, and the certainty she used when talking about how here in a year they will go to the temple was amazing. It was so touching just seeing her look at her husband, the two of them crying, and just realizing that finally this family was on its way to being eternal!! Man... I can't even explain how amazing the experience was. The best feeling was when Wellington came and talked to us, told us how tons and tons of other missionaries had passed in his house, tried to teach him, etc. but that he had felt something different with us, and just simply said how grateful he was. I know that it wasn't us that did it, it was the Lord and the Spirit that made the difference. All I can say though is I am so grateful to be an instrument in the Lord's hands. It is such a blessing to be able to watch the changes that happen in these peoples lives, and to see a family finally after 8 years, start it's journy toward the temple.
  I learned (and am still learning) so much from this experience. I am SO grateful to have a family that is sealed in the temple... I am so grateful for that truth that we have that we know what we need to do to actually be a family forever. I am so grateful to be a missionary. We've had a lot of trials and difficulties in the path up until now, and I know that we will still have a TON more, but seriously, it is all absolutely worth. I love this gospel with all my heart, I am so grateful for Christ's sacrifice and for the sacrament. My testimony is growing so much every day, and I just simply love this work. Thank you all for all you do, prayers, letters, even just thoughts :) I always say thanks for this but really, it is so appreciated. Hurrah for Israel!!! Hurrah hurrah hurrah!!!

   -Elder Ballard
We ate at a rich members house and man... I miss cupboards filled with stuff like Aunt Jemima buttermilk pancake mix, Betty Crocker frosting, and Kitkats :D haha

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

New Bishop! Crazy Training week, Halloween and early Christmas presents haha :)

'Appy 'Alloween this last week! Just as you said Mom, yes it was lame, but that's alright, halloween never was the best holliday in my opinion :) As a kid, blast and a half, but now being an old 20 year old... just one more day on the mish.

  Well, this week has been super super crazy. We've been running around a lot cuz this past week has had 3 trainings... The first one was on last pday (kinda lame, but it was worth it), one on monday, and one yesterday. I sure enjoy hearing from President, he is such an inspired man. We also received a new missionary couple into the mission yesterday, and they are from Boise! Sister and Brother Gooding (if I remember right) and I think he served a mission here way way back, and she's learning portugues for the first time. Aust, you better start teaching Karen portugues now so that she'll be set to serve in brazil here in 40 or 50 years :D We also at this point have recieved missionaries from like all over the world really. Elders from Chili, Bolivia, Uruguay, Agentina, and even a Sister from Portugal. It's awesome having people from all over like that all doing the same work, really brings a cool feeling of unity.
  Last sunday, our old bishop was released and we got a new one, and it was crazy remembering way back to when Dad was called as bishop. This new bishop is SO young, I think he got back from his mission like 3 years ago, and only has a 2 year old, so he's probably 25 at the maximum. He's an awesome guy, and I'm excited to see how he does, cuz seriously, SO young. How old was Dayne when he was called as bishop? Anyways, it was kinda interesting cuz the old bishop was being put into a different ward cuz of some boundary changes, and he's been bishop for the last 2 years or so, and so like half of the ward was bawling when he was released. It was really touching though cuz the family of the old bishop (he has kids that are like 14, 9, and 6 or so) was all crying really hard and members would like get up, even though the meeting was still going on, and sit next to them and hug and cry and stuff. I think the church being smaller here lets the church be a lot more like a family. Obviously in the US it's a family as well, just in a different way. But it was really touching seeing how all these people have SO much love for one another. I'm excited about this new bishop though, it's gunna be great working with him.
  So I did another division this last week, and went to another area in Belo Horizonte. We had lunch there with this SUPER rich lady, and it was a way interesting experience. She says that her husband does something with the government about foreign affairs, so he takes a plane every single day to all over the world, so it's like me taking a bus here, except that it's a plane haha. We ate lunch in "one" of her houses, she says she's got like 7 or 8 all over brazil. In her house it reminded me a lot of Grandma and Grandpa Bratsman's house, cuz it had like a pot from China, and statue from India, a thing from Russia, etc. I remember how Grandma and Grandpa's house always had cool little trinkets from other countries on top of their tv or cupboards. Anyways, as we were leaving, I guess she liked me cuz she was like, "Here, I have a present for you." went in the other room, and came back with none other than a jar of PEANUT BUTTER!!! She said that her husband always brings a ton of it home every time he travels, and that I could have my own jar!!! I was absolutely stunned and thrilled haha, I've missed peanut butter so much. I was so lucky with the day I did that division :P

  Halloween on monday was a training, but i did fest-it-up a little bit with following Austin's example and making little jack-o-lanterns out of passion fruit. I also dressed up as a normal person with glasses (inside the house at the end of the day of course) and then ate pancakes with peanut butter and maple syrup. It wasn't THAT different of a day, but in comparison with the other days on the mish, it was decent :) I also wore an orange tie to top it off.. pfft haha.
  This next week has some awesome potential with a few people that went to church last week, I'm really excited for them and they are progressing wonderfully. I'll have a full report about them next week, but just keep them in your prayers and I know the Lord will help them enter in the gate of baptism as Mom said. Their names are Wellington and Enia (pronounced just like the Enya singer) I love this gospel and I love Brazil... This time is so amazing, and I feel like I'm growing a ton. Some days are hard, but the ends of the days when I just think about all the good things that happened, it's all worth it. Never forget that everything we pass through, IF we keep strong to the iron rod and the gospel, will be worth it in the end. Hurrah for israel!!!
  Elder Ballard