Greetings from Brazil!
It's true. I'm finally in Brazil. My visa came like the shock of my life, and before I could really process what that would mean for me, I was on my first international flight to a foreign country. As I fight with this keyboard in my first ever experience in an internet café, I can't help but be reminded that São Paulo is very different from Temple Square. But I'm growing more and more accustomed to it all the time.
The longer I'm here, the more I realize I desperately needed this experience. Brazil is everything I hoped it would be and so much more. After working here for only a few days, I can see in my mind what ancient Jerusalem was like--houses stacked on top on top of one another, with a maze of stairs that go in every direction that I could never navigate on my own. But add in bright colors--every shade of pink, green, blue, and brightly colored tiles in orange and purple--mixed in with crumbling cement hovels patched with old plywood. In Brazil, the rich and the poor are mixed in together completely, so there isn't a moment that goes by that I don't see both. In just a few days, I have experienced things that have broken my heart right where I stand. I have seen the poorest people of my life, and it has humbled me in ways I can't even describe.
But what has really stood out to me is the power of the message I'm carrying. It's one thing to talk about the power of the Book of Mormon in the comforts of my own hometown, in my familiar church setting where I know everyone and they understand where I come from. But to be HERE, to have a companion who speaks no English, in a place I have to work to understand and be understood, where I see things I never imagined before--to have my heart stretched, broken, changed, and stretched again--I've realized again why I did this.
Joseph Smith was a prophet. He saw God the Father and Jesus Christ. He did everything to restore Christianity to how it was when Christ Himself was on the earth. And this message has power to change people's lives, to bring a hope and a connection to God that wasn't there before. This message is the most important anyone could ever hear, and it was important enough for my Father in Heaven to send me here--to preach through the power of His Spirit the gospel of Jesus Christ.
Joseph Smith wrote what we in the Church refer to as the Standard of Truth, and it has deepened my love for Joseph Smith since I've been here because he simply could not have known how true it would be unless he was inspired. He wrote:
"The Standard of Truth has been erected; no unhallowed hand can stop the work from progressing; … the truth of God will go forth boldly, nobly, and independent, till it has penetrated every continent, visited every clime, swept every country, and sounded in every ear, till the purposes of God shall be accomplished, and the Great Jehovah shall say the work is done."
So when I climb hill after hill until my whole body aches, when I go deeper and deeper into the earth to small, one-room houses made entirely of crumbling cement, it's because what Joseph taught was true. When I struggle to express what means more to me than life itself in a language that comes in short bursts of stumbling brilliance (the brilliance being God's, the stumbling being mine)--it's because God lives and He does call us to perform miracles in His name. And when I see the change that comes over these wonderful, wonderful people whom I love more and more every day--when I see the relief that comes into their lives because God has spoken to them, I know it's because only the truth was strong enough to set them free.
I know the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is the true church of Christ on the earth today. I know that God is very actively involved int he lives of His children, and there's nothing He wouldn't do to help His children to receive this message. He has sent me here, and it has changed my life. As difficult as this is for me now, my heart will break when I leave because Brazil will change my life forever.
I love my work. I love these people. I love everything about this mission. I bear my witness that these things are true in the name of Jesus Christ. Amen.
I am, as ever, your humble servant and never-deviating friend,