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!

Monday, September 3, 2012

My Joy is Now Full

Ironically, lunch fell through on my bday haha, so we made
 cuz cuz and ate cake! It was actually quite refreshing.
A member family here bought this ridiculously good cake for
my bday... Man it was perfect, members are the best.
Well my beloved family, it's finally come. After reading your final emails, and listening to your voices, I just can't believe that it's finally here. I honestly and truly can't believe it. This last week was the best last week I could have had, I can now honestly say that my joy is full. Fuller than it's ever been :)

   After over 700 days of the MTC in Provo, UT, Houston, TX, and the state of Minas Gerais in Brazil..... After 20 companions, and 11 areas not counting the MTC... After walking approximately 5,300 miles being made up of approximately 14,283,759 steps... The mission of Elder Redge Michael Ballard is finally coming to it's end. So many memories... So many miracles... It truly is a humbling experience to think of how much the Lord has allowed me to experience over these last two years. This last week was sincerely the best week I've had I feel. I'll explain more to you all in person, but sunday we were blessed with the opportunity to baptize the family of Solange, and her 3 children. This alone makes yesterday unforgettable, but besides that, Felipe once again blessed the sacrament, Ramon passed the sacrament, Maycon passed the sacrament, I was able to bear my last testimony at a Brazilian pulpit... It was an incredible experience. It was truly humbling to give that last testimony... The Spirit testified so strongly, at least to me, that my time is finally ending. I can't even believe how blessed I am to have the testimony that the Lord has given me... Truly truly blessed. I have a lot to do today with suitcases and all the annoying junk, but I just wanted to end my last missionary email home with my testimony that I've gained out here.
    I, Elder Ballard, know that this is the true church on this earth. I know that God is our Heavenly Father, and that he loves us more than we can realize. He is in control of everything that goes on in our lives, and we simply need to follow His counsels if we want to be happy. I know that His Son, Jesus Christ, is our Savior and Redeemer. He truly died and suffered for everything that we have passed through, and all that we still might pass through. It is only by Him that we may be saved, and it's only through His true church that we can serve and follow Him in the correct way. He is perfect, and He wants us to be perfect. I know that the Priesthood is a true power, and that no other power can hinder it, nor God's progress. He and His Priesthood are capable of causing miracles that we can't even imagine are possible. I know that the missionary work of His church is truly inspired. Every missionary's location, time that he or she came to this earth, and time that served a mission, is all part of God's great plan. I know that families can be forever, I have a certainty of this ever since the day that the Spirit testified of this when Brigham became an eternal part of our family. I know the Joseph Smith is a prophet, and that the Book of Mormon are true, because there is no way that the Spirit could lie about such important things, and there is no way that a 14 year old farm boy could come up with something a incredible and life changing as this gospel. I don't know if I'll ever be able to express my gratitude for this opportunity I've had these last two years to serve especially the people of Minas Gerais and Brazil. As I'm realizing that I'm finally going to go home, it truly is a sad feeling to know that I'll have to leave such an amazing people, but I know that the Lord will always continue to bless them and all of His children. I love this work, I love this Gospel, and I love our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. For the last time written in an email, I thank each and every one of you that has helped me in whatever way. Prayers, letters, emails, or even thoughts. This work is amazing, and I am so grateful to have been a part of it these last 2 years of my life. God be with all of you until we meet again, this week. I love you all from the deepest part of my heart. Hurrah for Israel!!!!!! Hurrah!! Hurrah! Hurrah!!

   -Elder Ballard
This is the family that bought me the cake, they're so awesome.
Definitely one of the families I'm gunna keep in contact with.
My district here made a cake and I made brownies to celebrate my bday-eve.
 This district was awesome. The two other americans studied at BYU-I :D

This is the incredible Rodrigues family. (Lissandra, Roberto, Jacksom,
and Solange. And me, who is destroyed haha)
 This is why my joy is full. I love these people so so so much.

Monday, August 27, 2012

Birthday again? Conference with the Area President, and Felipe blesses the Sacrament!!

There you have it folks... My last sunday in August came and went. It's kinda whacko cuz during a mission you end up with a feeling like the last few months of you mission (for me it was June, July, and August of 2012) will never arrive. And somehow they just come and go without you even realizing it, and now all the sudden I'm on my last full week here... Yeah, I'm not even able to express what I'm feeling haha, but oh well... I'll just, I dunno ignore the feeling or something :P

     Well how weird that my birthday is already this week. It's kinda funny cuz my last birthday out here was kinda a lame-o, and then with this swap in pdays, this one'll probably be another lame-o :D But, just the fact that it'll be my one-more-week mark already makes it rather memorable. That sure is crazy... I can't lie, I never felt like this part of my mission would come. Since when I was like 15 or something I always thought how un-imaginably long 2 years was, but now that it's coming to an end, 2 years doesn't seem like that long anymore. It's kinda fun now though to just think about how my mission was... I have journal entries for every single day, so that makes it even funner :) I was thinking a little bit as well, it sure is gunna be crazy to see how much I've changed. Obviously I've seen a LOT of ways that I've changed, but I feel like the end is just gunna be really easy to see the difference from that day when I got out of the car in Provo and the day I'll step off the plane in IF. It's making me realize just how perfect the Lord is though, the whole idea of sending young men on missions to make them come home as men is SUCH an inspired and perfect plan!!! I'm just so grateful for everything I've learned and all the things I've passed through. Including the trials and difficulties :)

   This last week was really great cuz I had my LAST zone conference with the Area President of Brazil, President Costa. Man, what an inspired man... He looks a little bit like the white haired 3 Amigo (wow, my brain doesn't remember much more about movies or anything haha) but wow, he taught us incredible stuff. Once again that feeling of regret that I won't be able to stick around all that long to see the results of the changes happen hit me pretty bad, but it's helping me realize that even though MY mission is coming to an end, the work of the Lord will continue and progress as never before in this wonderful country and city. I wrote my notes in english this time, so I'll have a pretty good sized "bank" of thoughts to share with you guys after :) But it sure was a great experience. I saw a couple of my groupies from the MTC, and I think all of us are kinda hitting the crazy point where none of us can believe that our missions are on their last weeks.

   Yesterday was a really special day, Felipe (the oldest son of that family that was baptized a couple weeks past) wore a white shirt and tie to church, and blessed the sacrament!!! I've already seen my recent converts pass the sacrament, but it was just something really really special to see him up there actually blessing it. His brothers will be passing the sacrament this next sunday, and it'll be an amazing sight to be my last sunday here in Brazil. Word is that he's gunna be called to be the bishop's second assistant as well... I think us missionaries begin to feel a little bit of a father's pride for a son when he receives the Priesthood cuz wow... It's so amazing seeing this family progress. Felipe has been faithfully going to seminary ever since he baptized, here it's only 2 days per week (you american kids be grateful that you get it AT school and 5 days a week! We are so lucky!) But this family is just showing more and more potential every minute :) I love them so much. Felipe is already getting more and more excited to serve a mission, so I'm just bursting with excitement.

    Well, like I said last week, this feeling is getting weirder and weirder cuz this week will be even worse with the "lasts". I can't believe it but this'll be my LAST sunday in Brazil, my LAST testimony meeting, my LAST pday (funny how today would have been my last pday if the day hadn't changed haha) my LAST district meeting... Egah, it's just uncharted territory for me. This week is going to be the best week of my mission though, and I don't say that cuz it's the last, we just have some awesome potential for the work, and I'm so grateful that the Lord is giving me these opportunites until the very last minute. This gospel is true, this Church is the only true church on the earth. This work is truly led by God, and it is the best work on earth. Thank you all for your support and prayers, it's done so much for me these last 2 years. Until next week! And from there..... Well... Ya know. ;)

   Hurrah for Israel!!!!   -Elder Ballard

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

Priesthood Triplet, Presents, and... Yeah, this whole mission thing is starting to hit home...

Incredible how this new pday thing seems to make the week pass even faster... Not exactly what I'm needing haha... But, I guess this whole time and mission arriving at the end needs to happen at some point :/ Sure is weird, but I'm just super grateful for the time I do have here. 

  Yesterday was awesome in church, cuz remember that family that was baptized two weeks ago? All three of the boys received the Aaronic Priesthood! It was so cool cuz it was a deacon, a teacher, and a priest! I love seeing families like this cuz the ward really took this family in and is really helping them stay strong. The two older ones are starting seminary, it's just awesome. I was on a division, but Elder Pereira went with some members to do an FHE with them and it sounded like it went super well. We told them all to write about their experiences in the back of their BoMs, and Angela wrote one of the most amazing testimonies I've literally ever heard my entire mission... Seriously it was incredible. I'm going to film the family talking about their experiences and then I'll bring that vid home and show you guys cuz it's such a moving story to hear their side of things and how the gospel personally blessed their lives... SO incredible. This family just keeps blowing me away, they are going to do such great things in the future.

  Well, today I basically finished up the process of buying presents for everyone haha. I've always liked buying presents for people for some reason, so now I just hope that everyone likes what I got. Some of you guys sure are difficult to know what to get haha :D Now we all just need to pray that all of it survives on the plane... Seriously I will die if something breaks or gets lost haha. I'll just make sure to pack everything up as safe as possible. All'll be ok haha. Today I passed in the mission office and talked to Elder Hilton who's from my MTC group, and he's the only one from my original group that arrived at the same time cuz of visas, and I found out that out of the 5 that came here to Belo Horizonte, he's the only one that'll keep flying with me all the way to Salt Lake. It sure was weird talking to him though... I think all of us are about whacko right now cuz the fact that the mission is actually going to end is becoming more real and hitting home harder every day ya know? I dunno... Day by day, I don't really even think about it, cuz whether you have 2 weeks left on the mission or 2 weeks in the field, a day of work is done the same way. But moments like pday and whatnot sure just drive you insane cuz I'm arriving in that state where you hit your "lasts". Last pday I sent my last letters to the US, cuz from this point on, I'll arrive before any letter I send haha. This week will be my last zone conference, just crazy stuff like that. It's a really weird feeling cuz a few months back, I was scared to finish my mission cuz I don't know what it's gunna be like, but the Lord has really blessed me with feelings of peace. At one point I was sad, which is kinda where I'm at right now, but at the same time, the Lord also testifies that I have things to be done back home. I don't even know what I'm feeling really... Super crazy. But, either way, I'll just give it my all these next two weeks. I'm getting that good motivation feeling where I can now say, "Eh, I can walk faster until my legs almost fall off, cuz it's only two more weeks of arriving at the apartment half dead." It's really cool how the Lord seems to work with me, cuz I'm just trying to find the best ways possible to really endure to the end, and He's helping me find them :) Well, if pday hadn't been moved this would be my second last email home, (holy crab...) and I'm basically out of stuff to say, but hope going back to school for everyone goes great, hope that Provo treats Aust Karen and Arlee well, and just have a great week everyone! Hurrah for Israel!!!!

     -Elder Ballard

Tuesday, August 14, 2012

The truth keeps marching on!

Oh the joys of being a missionary! It's kinda weird having a pday already, my brain has been totally locked into the Wednesday thing for like 19 months or so, so it was kinda a shocker to wake up today for a pday haha. But, it's kinda a fun change to have for these next few weeks. 

Dad - I agree about the weird feelings you're talking about... I was talking with an RM here yesterday and he talked about how on the mission you end up feeling like time never stops flying by, but also you don't feel like it'll ever end. I can't get my head around the idea of stuff like, "A month from now I'll be doing---" cuz I honestly don't feel like it'll end still haha. So weird... But oh well, like you said, I'm just working on ignoring it all, cuz it doesn't even seem like anything is gunna change. With my new president, I'll try to explain how it's been. When President Parrella arrived here 3 years ago, there was a TON of rule breaking and literally a lot of sin. President Parrella had to really bring the hammer down with really strict rules, and over the 3 years he like purged the mission of all the crud that was going on. So now that President Fortunato arrived, the mission is in a very smooth and right state of mind, so he's been able to loosen up on a few things cuz he knows that the missionaries here are at least trust worthy. The changes he's making are gunna make incredible things happen... I just hope that I can experience some of the changes while I'm still here.

 So, news from this side of the world is that President Fortunato is putting a MUCH bigger focus on working with members, and wow it's been awesome. Members always seem to ask you how much time you have on the mission, and now that everyone knows that I'm gunna end my mission here in Aeroporto, they're all... let's say honored to be the "resting place" for a missionary, and the ward here is ending up as kinda a family for me. During the rest of my mission we haven't had that big of a connection with the members and all, so it's been a lot of fun to get to know the families here. The guy who was bishop before the current one went with us to visit members that he knows who had fallen away with time, and we ended up finding this awesome couple with 2 kids who hadn't gotten baptized cuz they aren't legally married (still... dang brazilian marriage costs and hassle ><) but we "reactivated" them and they went to church this week! They have a little 2 month old daughter, and as you can guess... It made me hungry to see Arlee hahaha... She's already so ridiculously cute, and to imagine here in a few weeks? Good heavens it's exciting :) We're still learning new techniques and changing the way we work a lot, but I'm really excited to see the results.

  In all honesty it's kinda crazy cuz I'm super excited to see how much better the work will go with these new ideas and rules and stuff, but in the back of my head I know that it'll take a while for these results to happen... And that "a while" will be longer than 3 or 4 weeks... It's a really bitter sweet feeling cuz I love helping the kingdom of the Lord be more and more established here in BH, but at the same time the Spirit makes me feel and realize that after these next few weeks, my duty is going to be different. It's really weird to imagine that stuff really will change here in the future. I'm dedicated and decided to work my tail off to the very last minute, but it sure is weird to know that I'm not gunna be able to do this amazing work for THAT much longer. I'm just trying to get everything out of every minute that I can... Just as Mom has said how Aust misses Brazil, I'm certain that I'm gunna have that exact same reaction. I love this place... I'm beginning to realize stuff here that doesn't exist there, that I love... And now I'm just trying to run around and get the stuff that I want to bring home haha. Kinda hectic, but luckily on days other than pday I can forget about all the little stuff and just go to work. Thanks for all your prayers, emails, and thoughts. I'm so grateful for these last 23ish months that I've had out here... It's just incredible to me how much I've learned, and I'm certain that I'll learn a lot more these next few weeks. Love you all! Hurrah for Mighty Israel!!!

    -Elder Ballard

This is our excitement of using 2 computers at the same time!

Wednesday, August 8, 2012

Elections... with changes a-happenin', as well as miracles!

Doesn't even make sense to me how great missions are :) This week was just unbelieveable for me! So much great stuff happened, I love it!!! 

  Well, things are changing around here in Brazil as well as in the mission. Firstly, elections are coming up, and as Austin will surely remember, it's about the most annoying thing that exists. There's stupid billboards EVERYWHERE, there's flyers all of the street and shoved in everyone's mailboxes, but the worse is that here, you don't vote using the name of the candidate. You use a code, like "André Alves: 31007" (That's a real candidate and that's actually his number, I'll explain how I remember) and what they do to advertize, is they create jingles that have annoying yet catchy tunes that make the number stick in your head. It's an absolute confusion when two of these cars pass by blasting their insane music haha. Good times though, makes me annoying thinking that I'll get home right in this time for elections...

  Here in the mission, President Fortunato is opening up a few of the rules that Presdent Parrella (he was really strict btw haha) had, and today is the first day in like... 19 months that I'm able to write a long winded email guilt-free because before we had to use the computer one comp at a time. Since I usually have more emails to read and write a lot more, I always felt bad with my comps sitting there basically falling asleep as I typed away, but President allowed us now to both us comps at the same time!!! It's SO nice to finally be able to just go at my own pace haha. Also, just to advise, he's also changing our pday to be on monday instead of wednesday. So, starting next week (the 13th) you guys can write me like sunday night and I'll read and respond on monday. I'm excited for the change, it's gunna be really a lot better this way. Tomorrow we'll have a zone meeting and maybe there'll be some other changes. I'm kinda curious to see what happens. 

  As for the biggest miracle this week, it all started about 2 weeks ago when we knocked on a door and met a lady named Angela. She's a 40 year old single mom, who's husband died about 6 years ago, and lives with her 3 kids. At first we just taught her, her 14 year old son Ramon (ha-mon) and 12 year old Alan (ah-láh) They all are very very shy, but they showed desire to have better lives and accepted a baptismal date. We continued teaching, and the three of them went to church. We returned after their visit and they were a little bit doubting. They though that the baptismal date was really close, and didn't know if they'd be ready by the next sunday. We taught them more about the BoM, and promised them that receiving the answer about it being true would be the biggest help they could have. We were a little worried cuz the family is SUPER shy, so we weren't really able to read if they were excited, or uncomfortable, etc. with the conversion process. The next day we went back there, asked them how they were, and they were TOTALLY different from the day before. They were smiling a whole lot more, everyone just seemed to be getting along better. We went on to find out that all of them had read, and had felt the Spirit testify that the book is true!! It was absolutely incredible how big of a difference they had after receiving that answer! It just went to show me just how much we missionaries DON"T do, it's totally the Spirit that makes these miracles happen.

  The next day we met her other son Felipe (feh-leep-ee), who is 17. He's huge for his age, works out so is all tall and buff, and has a mohawk. We first met him and didn't know what to think, but as we talked to him, he turns out to be an extremely intelligent and awesome guy. We found out that even though we didn't say anything, he had been reading the Book of Mormon as well. We invited him to be baptized with his family, and even though he hadn't been to church or anything, he accepted as well :) One of the best moments was a few days back we asked the family, "What has changed here in your home since we've been coming here?" Angela told us how before, the boys had all been really snappy, been using swearwords and cruddy language, and there just wasn't a whole lot of unity at the house. But then explained how since they'd gone to church and had been reading tje BoM, the whole atmosphere at the house had changed. Man... it's unbelieveable what the gospel does when it's truly put into practice. All was just doing wonderfully when we talked with Angela and she embarrassedly told us that she was worried about her baptism cuz of... girl problems!! AHH!!! So awkward just cuz we don't even know like anything about this, so we tried to... offer solutions haha, but she just said that it wasn't gunna work for the date we'd marked. It was really cool though cuz even though she was worried, Elder Pereira offered that on saturday, if it was still happening, we'd give her a blessing and all would go fine.

   Saturday arrived, we got there that night, and we asked her how she was doing....(drumroll)...... It had stopped!!! It was such a great feeling!! Everyone was just so happy and excited!!! The other highlight that day was how Felipe said the closing prayer, and in his prayer said, "Thank you for letting us find the true chruch" Man... when you hear an investigator say something like that totally sincere in a prayer... It's undescrible how much the spirit testifies. The next day, we went there, everyone was all dressed and stoked to go, and we headed to church. Everyone was participating with the classes, and at the end of church, Angela and her family were baptized!!!! It's such an incredible feeling to see a family like this be baptized!!! On monday we went back to see how everyone was doing, and Felipe even said that once he finished his army duties and stuff, he wants to serve a mission :) Man... Let's just say my joy is full.

   I'm so happy to be out here, I'm so privileged to be a missionary. I love this mission, and love the Lord. Hurrah for Israel!!!!

Ramon, Felipe, Angela and Alan. Amazing family :) 
- Elder Ballard

This was Angela and her family leaving their house, heading to church for their baptism!!!
All of us right before their baptism, such an amazing feeling :)

I was able to do a baptismal interview in Itabira this week!!! I saw my old branch president, his wife, as well as an awesome RM who is now the elders quorum president! It's been over a year since I've seen all them, it was awesome seeing everybody.

Wednesday, August 1, 2012

Keep on keep on keep on (working) all through the night! (I like Aust, am also running out of subject line ideas)

Oh the pleasure of entering into August! Prolly just cuz of my birthday, but I've always liked this month. The week here was full of adventure and great experiences, nothing compares with the good old mission.

Well, the work continues to be great here! We had a few crazy adventures this week, but we're finding great people to teach, and we're just working SO hard to try and find families. Families are so so so important out here, they stay so much more firm and we're trying everything that we can to find them. I'm kinda at the point now where I feel like I'm repeating the same thing every week, so I don't have a whole lot to report. We're walking a ton and I found that old pedometer that Mom sent me like a year back, and it's been kidna interesting to track just how much we're actually walking :) Once I get a good monthly average I'll be able to estimate the distance we walked out here up until now. I dunno why but I love data, so it's been kinda fun seeing the difference each day.

The work is really good though. We're starting to work a lot more with the ward council and members, so our investigators are already a lot more firm. It makes me wonder what member/missionary work will be like in the future in Idaho, or in the places where I live in the future. Well.... I dunno why but I'm kinda speechless this time around, don't know what to talk about haha :/ But, all's great here and I'm loving the mission and am super excited! As Mom said that Aust put on facebook, feel free to be trunky, cuz I'm not haha :D Love you guys! Hurrah for Israel!!!!

-Elder B

So my other pair of shoes finally wore through, and now that it has a hole in the sole, all the dust and crud enters into my foot during the day, so this is how my left foot has been each night :D But, I found another pair of used one in the house that's just a few sizes too big, so now rather than being dirty, it's just that my toes get slammed into the front of the shoe each time I climb or descend a hill :P Love it!!!

With this new president he let us do a service project last saturday! We did what is called, "Bateu um lage" which means that we hauled a crud load of cement to the roof of a house a poured bucket after bucket so that the next level of the house could be built. Definitely will go on my acheivement list! My... umm, rear end muscle (random isn't it?) was super sore until yesterday haha

Wednesday, July 25, 2012

The pathway is now set in place!!!

There we have it folks. This monday was to be the last transfer call, and turns out that I wasn't even called, because I'm staying here in this area with my comp Elder Pereira! Kinda a trippy feeling I must admit... Really really trippy actually.   

  Well, looks like I'm officially in my last area now. No I'm not being trunky telling this joke, but I forgot to say 6 weeks ago the name of this area, it's called, "Aeroporto", which means airport. So, the next "transfer call" I'll recieve will be to be transfered for a different airport. Ha? Punny eh? Baahaha? Wow that one was dry. Anyways, it's kinda a crazy feeling to know that I'm not gunna ever meet any new companions, or see any new areas. It's really a new feeling, cuz especially with how much I've been juggled around on the mission until now, it was always a feeling to wonder what the next area or companion would be like. Even though it's weird, it's also very exciting and motivating. Me and my comp have decided that we WILL make these next 6 weeks the best we've ever had. He goes home in November, so we're just gunna punch trunkiness in the face and go to work!!! That's a pretty decent battle cry isn't it? "Punch trunkiness in the face and go to work!!!!!!" I'll see if there are any vinyl shops that can print that and I'll stick it to our wall?
  Haha, sorry for the spaziness :) For the weekly report, the work here was awesome this week. Last tuesday we were heading to our area like normal when we ran into this kid named Caio. We'd already taught him a few times, and he went to church to watch Jailda's baptism, and liked church, but told us it was really quiet for his liking. We tried to invite him to be baptized but with his 17 year old "worldliness", he said he wasn't ready. We left a BoM with him and invited him to read. Anyways, on tuesday he came up to us, called us off to the side and simply said, "Elder, I was thinking. And praying. And I want to be baptized. I want to be a memeber of the church." We literally didn't believe him at first, but then through the week he stopped drinking coffee, started fully living the law of chastity, and on sunday he was baptized!!! It was such a cool baptism, cuz it's really rare to see a youth like him actually want to do the right thing, put the worldly desires aside, and follow our Lord. The ward was super excited as well, and you can see in the picture here (left to right) the young mens counselor, Caio, Elder Pereira, the ward mission leader, me, and Wilmar who's a member that always helps out.
 Caio's awesome, and his mom (who's not legally married or would probably be baptized too) told us that Caio told her that he wants to "follow the example of the two missionaries, and someday serve a mission" I literally teared up when I hear that :) I'm so happy right now, I just love this mission. I'm really peaceful about time right now, and I have a very strong feeling that even though 6 weeks seems like it'll pass quick, there's a TON to be done. So, have an awesome week, hurrah for Israel my dear family and friends!!!!!     -Elder Ballard
Me and Caio
Caio with his friend. We're still working with him to be baptized as well :)

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

Perfect week, life is just incredible!!!

Every week from now on I'm gunna be dying to see more and more pictures of little Arlee... Totally melted my heart that one of her looking at the camera with her beautiful little eyes!!! Can't even believe it!!!

  Alrighty, this computer's keyboard is halfbroken and we have to leave to go to the hospital soon, but let me give the short version of this awesome week! Two weeks ago we were working in a neighborhood where the people just simply weren't accepting the gospel, and we were praying like crazy to find the Lord's elects. One day we were leaving our lunch appointment, and we looked up and saw a neighborhood that we'd never been to. After some more praying we felt that we needed to go there to work. The first day, we knocked at a house, and it just had a 13 year old girl with her 5 year old sister, so we just took down the address and said we'd return the next day. The next day we went to the address, and met Jailda. Jailda is a single mom who has 5 children, 4 of which live with her. The picture I sent last week is her second oldest, William. Love that kid :) Anyways, about 3 months ago, Jailda suffered a neurism, which left her with the left side of her body paralyzed. Since then she's been bed-bound, and when we met her, she told us that the trial had really humbled her and she had realized just how much she needed the Lord, had prayed and told Him that she would stop doing wrong things, and that she'd begin following the Lord. We arrived there, and she readily accepted a baptismal date. She progressed wonderfully, and even with a LOT of lies and discouragement about the church, she woke up early last sunday, and we pushed her for about 30 minutes all the way to church. Then this last week, her, her 13 year old daughter, neighbor friend and daughter, all went to church to watch her baptism!!!! Even with a bunch of complications and the both of us having to do the baptism, Jailda truly endured to the final moment and was baptized on sunday. It was so amazing to see the happiness of her finally fulfilling her promise with the Lord. She's such an amazing example of endurance and patience. It's amazing what the Lord's teaching her.

   Also this past week we've been teaching Maycon (it's pronounced like Michael, but Brazilian pronunciation is funky :D) who's dad is a member for like 8 years, but now that he's coming back to activity, Maycon was also baptized and this next week will recieve the priesthood!!! He loves the gospel and is going to be an awesome example for his family.

  Well, I'm just loving life. The Lord is just so good to me, and I"m so happy to be out here. Love you all so much, and just know that things are wonderful here!!! Hurrah for Israel!!!!
From left to right, E Pereira, me, Jailda, Naiara,
Silmara (neighbor's daughter), and Darcinéia (neighbor)

    -Elder Ballard

The joyful Jailda before her baptism :)
Maycon before his baptism!

Maycon with his parents. His mom isn't a member
 and she is SO difficult to try and teach haha

Wednesday, July 11, 2012

Met the President, a favor to ask, and I'M AN UNCLE!!!!!

Man oh man oh man what exciting news!!! AH! I can't believe it!!! Congrats firstly to Karen and Aust on being PARENTS! Dad and Mom on being GRANDPARENTS and all the bros and sisters on being UNCLES and AUNTS!!! I can't even express how exciting it is to see pictures of little Arlee!! I think the most amazing thing about families is how each child that is born is literally a new person! No one's ever met little Arlee before!!! It's such a special thing to think that God literally sent one more of His little spirit children here to earth!!!! Congratulations, I'm so so so happy to hear the news!!! 

  Well, from my part of the woods, this week we finally were able to meet President Fortunato and his family!! Monday we had a zone conference, and wow it was incredible. Even though he has less than 2 weeks as President, it was incredible to see how the mantle of the calling fell upon him so quickly. He spoke with so much motivating power and the authority of what he said was incredible. It all fell in line perfectly with what Moroni 7 had told me. He constantly was saying the phrase, "How is your faith?" And then taught us how our faith is the only limit that miracles have. If we truly believe that we'll find a family to teach today, we will find a family. If we want someone to be cured and we pray and know that it is in fact the Lord's will that the person be cured, and truly believe, it will happen. Another awesome lesson that he taught me about this was that the only true way to show what we believe, is how we act and live. It doesn't work for a missionary or a member to say to a non-member, "The restored gospel can help you obtain the peace and joy you're looking for!!!" if that person themselve isn't actually having peace and joy in their life. We can tell an investigator, "If you read and pray about the Book of Mormon, He will respond to your prayers!" if we aren't recieving answers to our own personal prayers. It was really an eye opener to realize just how important that verse in James is that explains how faith without works is dead. It really helped me understand how making miracles happen isn't just a thing where you sit there clenching and thinking, 'the miracle will happen, the miracle will happen...' No, it's going out there and doing absolutely everything that you possibly can, knowing that the Lord will help the miracle happen, and doing everything as if you already have a certainty that it will happen and turn out alright. I dunno if I'm explaining all that well, but it made sense in my head and in my study journal haha. I had my interview with President Fortunato as well and wow he is an inspired man. He has served as the director of the EFY productions here in Brazil, so he knows perfectly how to work with youth, so his counsels are already helping me in ways that I didn't even expect. I'm super excited to get to know him better and better and continue to learn with him.

   On another note, I have a favor to ask of everyone, principally Aust (now that you have a new daughter and I know that your time is gunna be way more busy haha) I recieved a letter this week from a lady in the ward of Vespasiano where I served during october until january. She's a relatively new member (like a year and a half or so since she was baptized) and was always one of the most kind and caring members in the ward in respect to making wonderful lunches (she'd always always ask our favorite food and then make it, she's great) and always helping with FHE and stuff like that. Anyways, she told me in her letter that this past month she sent her youngest son out on a mission!!! Super super exciting news, but now she's basically living alone and just from the way she wrote in the letter, you can tell it's really tough for her since she's still relatively new in the gospel. So Mom, with Aust's help to translate, could you write her a letter of support and explain for her how much the Lord has blessed the family as you've sent me and Aust out? I think your words and ideas would be perfect for her to hear, and I know it'd mean a lot just hearing from one of the missionaries' moms. I know that it'd be a huge help to excite her and help her stay strong and see the blessings that the Lord is hold for her. 
   Here's her address ->   Fátima Dias 
                                     Rua José Candido 507


                                     Vespasiano - MG



   For the rest of you guys, Fátima told me in her letter that Jorge and Helena (they're that couple that he found the Book of Mormon rolled up in a tire repare shop and were baptized in January)  are going less active cuz Helena's mom passed away a little while back, and it's been really really hard for her to take. I talked to the missionaries that are serving there and Jorge still has his strong testimony of the chruch, but Helena really really took it hard when her mom died, and she has just lost her desire to keep going to church. It kills me to hear this, but at the same time I know that the Lord can help them return. So, for everyone that'd like to, I know that you guys just writing your testimonies (once again, Aust'll have to help with the translation, thanks bro) and maybe even sending a picture of you guys (especially the kids) would be something really special for them to receive. I'll of course write them to see how I can help and try to excite them again, but it just goes to show how the devil always works hardest with the people with the most potential. Any help that you guys can give them I know the Lord will be able to testify through your testimonies, and I just feel and know that it'll help them out. Here's their address ->
                      Jorge & Helena

                      Rua Dr. Jorge Dias Oliva 810


                      Vespasiano - MG



  Well, besides that help that these two families are needing, everything is wonderful here. We have two very special people that will be baptized this weekend, and I'm just super happy. I love this mission with all of my heart, and the Lord just never stops to bless us and all his children here. I'm excited and happy to be here, and my love for this people and this gospel grows more and more every day. Hurrah for Israel!!!! and Hurrah for Arlee as well :D

    -Elder Ballard
This was how I celebrated the 4th. Remember that pack of
 cookie dough mix you sent me last year Mom?
 Yeah I finally used it haha.

And there's my little taste of America that I made.
 I did in fact hear fireworks that night, miracle idn't it?
This is William, he's the autistic son of a lady that will be baptized
 this sunday. He's so much fun and is a really special spirit.
 His prayers are so awesome to hear :)

Wednesday, July 4, 2012

New President and a new attitude!!!

Pretty insane seeing how fast a year passes when you have checkpoints like holidays... Seems like just yesterday I was looking out the window at 7 Lagoas wishing that fireworks would randomly start going off :P But oh well, glad to hear that the parade was... the parade :) Happy fireworks tonight!

The chapel here
    This week was finally the swap between President Parrella and our new President Fortunato! Gotta say that it was like one of the weirdest things ever. In this mission you don't necessarily see the president all that much unless you've got zone conference or something, but it was the weirdest thing how on Saturday when the swap happened, you could just feel like a new authority enter into the mission. The last time I talked to Pres. Parrella he seemed super sad poor guy... He was trying to act normal but you could just hear the bummed out sound in his voice. Probably is SO weird to leave the mission after 3 whole years... He was an amazing president though, it was SO inspired the way the Lord put me in this mission, largely because of him. I learned SO much during these past 18 months. With President Fortunato, he's an amazing guy as well. I've only talked to him on the phone until now, but he seems so amazing. The mission leaders passed a counsel from Pres Fortunato onto all of us to study a certain chapter in Moroni, and it was incredible how even though he's only been here a few days, the mantle of authority is already falling on his shoulders, cuz the chapter was exactly what I was needing.
   Mom you asked about how the works been going, and I'll be sincere and say that this last month or so was one of the most difficult ones since I've been out here. I think one of the things that made it so tough was that I feel like since I've had so much experiences and time to learn, that I should just be doing better and better and better, but that's not what happened. In Sion and here in this area, it was just that thing of every single time when someone was about to be baptized, or would go to church for the first time, something ALWAYS came up and ruined everything. We'd been trying to work our best and hardest, but it seemed like we were just spinning out on our "wheels" and weren't going anywhere. It was definitely a huge series of lessons, and I'm a lot lot more humble from all of it. Like I said though, President Fortunato was very inspired in his chapter that he gave us.
   Reading in chapter 7 of Moroni, I learned 2 really important lessons. 1, that miracles only cease to happen if WE don't let them happen. Miracles require faith, and without knowing I was letting my faith slip a little, which in turn was preventing the Lord to make miracles happen. Basically this taught me that it's not just a thing of luck if the work will go forth, it's something that totally depends on me, and I just made the decision that miracles will happen. Monday we found 2 new investigators, and yesterday we found another 5 :) The Lord is wonderful isn't he? My time is about to run out so I'll tell the other lesson next week, but just know that this was my turning point and that there are great and marvelous things ahead in these next few months!!! I love this mission with all my heart... I can't believe how privileged I am to be here and being part of such a marvelous work. I love you all tons, thanks for all you do and HURRAH FOR ISRAEL!!!!
    -Elder Ballard

Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Last week with President Parrella!!! Egad!!!

Loved the emails this week my dear family. So good hearing that all is well and that everyone's enjoying the summer :)
 I'm not taking a whole lot of pics lately, I feel like I've already seen everything haha :D But this is just a random picture I took after we sprinted home for a good 15 minutes or so. Haha, nothing as satisfying as arriving at the house (on time) and trying to pray as you pant and drip with sweat haha.

This week marks the last week of President Parrella here on the mission. SUCH a wierd feeling...
Crazily enough he's been my President for 18 months almost, and wow I've learned a lot. We ate lunch yesterday with a family that lives here but is good friends with Pres, and they said that when they talk to him, that even though he's his usual excited self, you can tell that he's SO sad inside. The love the President has for the mission is SO powerful, and you can just tell that he is so sad to finally finish. I must say that I think that it'll be the same way for me... Just seeing him end his mission makes me super super super scared that mine is on the last few months :( I feel like when september gets closer I will also have that kind of feeling. I'm loving this mission more and more every day, and my mind still hasn't (and I don't know when it will) accepted that it'll actually have an end. I haven't seen president for a couple weeks, but even calling him on the phone to ask him a favor, you can just hear the sadness in his voice. But, like I said a few weeks ago, this isn't my or President Parrella's work, it's the Lords. So, now it's just time to go to work.
  Sorry to not write a ton but I gotta run cuz we're finally gunna get a washing machine today (after 4 months of a cruddy "washing tank") but thanks for everything everyone, hope everyone keeps doing well. Love you all! Have an awesome week! Hurrah for Israel!!!
    -Elder Ballard

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

New area, New Temple, New body, New"s", it's a brand new day!

This is my new comp Elder Pereira, guy's great

Yeah, my new area's a little different than Varginha. This is the first
 time I'm in the true urban area since I've arrived here in Minas.

This is what the scenery is like out in Varginha. Super pretty
 landscape. (compare the difference with my new area haha)

Goodbye to Meire and her other daughter. She wrote a goodbye deal
 in Elder Leite's notebook saying, "Someday I'll make you two
 proud of who I become." Couldn't have heard a better statement as a goodbye :)

Goodbye to Vinicius. This guy's gunna do
 great things in the future,
 he was reading Alma 21 when we left

Eh, kinda a retarded subject line. Guess after 2 weeks of not writing you end up trying too hard if you know what I mean.

 Well, where to start!! Firstly, my new area is in the capitol of Minas, so now I'm in the actual CITY of Belo Horizonte, and wow is it a big change or what. As you can see in the last picture, it's just buildings and buildings and buildings as far as you can see. I actually like it cuz up until this point on the mission I've never been able to see how it is to be in the city like this. There's SO many people that live here, SO many people who need the gospel. My new companion is Elder Pereira, who's from João Pessoa, and crazily enough is from the same ward as Elder Santana that I trained last december. He was there when Elder Santana was baptized, and is also the only member in his family. We're already getting along really well and we're both excited for the work that lies ahead. It's kinda weird moving from 5 hours south (here in Brazil it's switched, so the farther south you go, the colder it gets, and north is hotter) cuz the temperature is totally different. As El Guapo always says, "It's a sweater!!!" Actually with all the running around we're doing, along with sweating more, along with a fast we did, I ended up losing something like 3 or 4 kilos in this last week (that turns into like 6 or 8 pounds maybe, and that loss was at least at the end of my fast before I ate, obviously I got a little bit back) and it actually felt so good to lose a little bit. I think a while back I was talking about weight gain, so being lighter is definitely on my to do list. I'm even starting a jello at night diet :D Haha, I'll tell you all how it goes.
  Also about this area, I'm super SUPER excited because it's in the BH East Zone. This stake is where the other areas of Itabira, as well as Vespasiano are, so if there's any type of stake conference or something, I might be able to see recent converts or something. I also am leader of the sister missionaries there in Itabira, and the other day as I was talking to them, I received some of the best news possible. As I was on the phone, she said, "Elder, do you remember a Sabrina and Alexandre from when you were here?" "Yes, I was there when they got baptized like a year ago." "Well, she told us today that they miss you a lot and hope to see you again someday." "How awesome, did you guys just talk to her in the street or something?" "No elder, we ate lunch there today." HOORAH!!!!!!! I dunno if you all will understand this (Aust will I'm sure) but when someone starts giving lunch to the missionaries, it just shows that they're actually firm. I hadn't heard anything from them since I left Itabira, so to hear that they are firm and giving lunch already?! Man, that right there is a "fullness of joy". Man, such an amazing feeling. I'm so excited to be in the area and stake, it's gunna be amazing!!!
   So, last week since I didn't get to write, not this last sunday but the other (the 10th of June) all of Brazil got to watch the Temple Dedication of the Temple of Manaus!!!! That was definitely one of the biggest spiritual highlights of my mission until now. The Manaus is the seventh temple to be dedicated, and I can't even explain how incredible it was to see the reaction of these people to FINALLY have a temple so close!!! The new temple president explained how when President Faust was in Manaus years back, that the first temple caravan was planned and executed, and it literally took them about 20 DAYS to get to São Paulo to be sealed and do their ordinances!!! They had to take several boats, several buses, and then FINALLY were able to receive that blessing of having their families sealed!!!! It made me just reflect on how much we americans take it for granted at how close we have our temple. There's SO many temples as well, and it was just such a new point of view to see the tears of joy of these people who finally had their dream come true. I think as a missionary serving in a mission that still doesn't have a temple, it really makes your gratitude for a temple grow. Before and after the dedication there were slideshows showing rooms inside various temples, and wow wow wow I miss being there. It showed a clip of a sealing room that looked a lot like, or maybe actually was the sealing room where Brig was sealed to us, and the feelings from that day all seemed to come back... And man I love this work. It was a perfect reminder to me that this work isn't just about the baptisms and confirmations, these people need to be sealed someday and need to have their families forever!!! They need to feel that same thing that our family feels.
   One of the parts that was absolutely incredible was during the dedication prayer that President Uchtdorf did, as well as his talk. He explained that every time that a temple is built and dedicated, that the literal powers of the devil are weakened, and that a greater measure of the power of the Lord is increased here on the earth. I realized just how much I don't realize about the power of these sacred buildings. During the prayer, he used his power and authority as an Apostle to bless the missionary work here in this country so that "the miracle of conversion might go forth with more speed and urgency." It's been a while since I've cried with so much joy.. Definitely one day that I will never forget.
   There's a big ol' email for you guys this week. This area had a great potential and now we're just working so that we can unlock this potential and help this ward become more and more stronger. The chapel here is so pretty, I'll send a picture next week. I'm doing super well though, I'm healthy, excited, loving the work, it's just a huge blessing. Love you all tons, thanks for your emails and prayers and all the other things you guys are doing for me and especially for the Lord. Hurrah for Israel!!!!!
   -Elder Ballard

Tuesday, June 5, 2012

Last Zone Conference w/ President Parrella = Incredible experience.

Let me just say that zone conferences are extremely inspired to happen exactly when missionaries (namely me) are needing it :) Man this week was amazing.

- The last picture with President and Sister Parrella. I sure love these guys.

This last week we had our last zone conference with President Parrella, and wow was it incredible. I'll show everyone my notes that I took some day, but I'll just share a few highlights here. Probably the biggest lesson I learned last thursday was about the nature of this mission. Lots of times with the day by day worries and schedule and all, this mission starts to be come "normal" for me. Obviously you still see miracles and love helping people, but after a while you just start getting used to the way it all works. President Parrella was talking again about that prayer he had and felt the Spirit explain, "This isn't your work, it's mine. Go to work, work until the end, and then go home." Even hearing it again it still called my attention and I started realizing what the really means. I started realizing that a lot of times, me, and other missionaries as well as our families, think of this mission as some sort of a trade off. Obviously a very righteous trade off, something like, "If I work my tail off and help a lot of people and families be baptized and stay firm, the Lord will bless me with a great wife, good studies, good work, life will be awesome!!" And yes, all these desires are awesome. But, as I was thinking about it, I'm not on this mission so that I can have a good rest of my life. I'm on my mission cuz God is allowing me to take part in this great work. There's a scripture in the new testament that says that if we don't open our mouths to teach the truth, God will send the rocks and stones to do it for Him. So I realized that just as President felt, this isn't my work, and the Lord is blessing me with this opportunity. I'm not doing Him a favor, He is blessing me with these two years. I also realized that this applies for our lives here on the earth. If we think of this life as a trade off to gain eternal life, I don't think we'll be able to get the most out of it. As I was thinking, I realized that the purpose of this life isn't to gain our own exaltation, the purpose of this life is to help others gain their exaltation. That's why missionary work, temple work, home teaching, service, the Priesthood, all of this is focused on others! It's not that we'll forget about our own personal salvation, but if we focus on helping other people gain theirs, our personal exaltation will be an automatic consequence!! It's something so simple but made such a big difference for me. So in the same way, I'm not on this mission to help myself have a better rest of my life, but focusing on helping others will automatically help me become a person that will be able to obtain the kind of life that I want. Man this gospel is so beautiful in such a simple way isn't it?
  I'm running out of time so I'll have to share some other insights next week or something, but boy was this week good. President Parrella will end his mission on the 30th of june, and during conference they showed us a video of President and Sister Fortunato getting their mission call, and explaining how excited they are to come to this mission, and they look like awesome people. I also finally got your guys's package, so thanks a ton, it's all the stuff that I was needing :) Well, I love this gospel and I love you all! I'm so happy and grateful to be on this mission, it's such a precious time for me to grow. Thanks for all your prayers and support!! Hurrah for Israel!!!
   -Elder Ballard

Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Final count down?! o.O That sure scares me...

My comp got a giant hershey kiss in his package, and I was excited as well, luckily he shared haha. I miss american chocolate, it's SO expensive here.

Loved the emails this week everyone. Now that the whole pday idea has become second nature, email's like on of the only parts that's still entertaining haha. I took an hour nap today and it's funny how now I hardly even notice the difference :) The body must do some crazy adjustments during a mission.

  Well, in relation to the title of this email, the other day as I was writing down the happenings of the day and looking at the Christmas calendar from this year, I did a quick day count, and this past monday was my... uh... 100-days-left mark.... Are you kidding me?! I about blew a gasket when I realized that!!! It scared the yeast outta me!!!! (I was gunna say heck, but yeast fits better) There's this certain attitude that I've gotten on the mission where as I grow and learn more, I always have this huge feeling of excitement and anxiousness to put everything into practice and become better and better, but I got really scared realizing this whole 100 day thing because basically I'm not gunna have 'forever' to put this stuff into practice... It's just now that I have!! Man oh man the mission is unexplainable. I'm just feeling so much urgency to help these people! I know that this work isn't mine and that the work will go on whether I'm part of it or now, but I just can't imagine what my life as a not missionary would be like. I love this mission so much... I love being able to find people who are needing the gospel and have the authority and calling to be able to help them. I don't even know exactly what I'm trying to say, but basically just that I need to work my tail off even more haha.
  We had a weird repeat week where the same thing happened, lots of people to take to church, and at the last minute a bunch of lame stuff came up. Like I was saying with this whole time deal, I just can't lose any more time haha, these people need the gospel so bad!!! But, even with this downer, we've been able to find some awesome people this week so far. People that the Lord has truly prepared and who already recognize the fact that the Gospel is what they need. I just love everything about this mission... I don't even know what to say :) We're gunna head to zone conference tomorrow, so I'm excited and anxious to learn even more and more. Sadly tomorrow is gunna be the last Zone Conference with President Parrella, but it'll surely be a good one obviously. Thanks for your support everyone, your prayers are so needed and I'm so grateful for them. Love you all! Hurrah for Israel!!!
  -Elder Ballard

I feel like I'm sending these pics every week, but this was our lunch today. If you look close, the guaraná is 3.3 liters :D It's huge. Austin'll prolly remember the delicious cachorro quentes here. Obviously it's not the same as the street vendor, but with the fried potato crisps, (batata palha) it sure hits the spot.