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, 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