Baptisms and Blessings in Portugal

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April 18, 2016 Matosinhos, Portugal

Hey Family!

This week was all over the place. The other Elders had a baptism, so I was helping them quite a bit with that, interviewed the investigator Sunday morning and she was baptized Sunday night.

So, Elder S_ has this gift which is talking on the phone with people. I haven’t figured it out yet, but when he talks on the phone with people they just really like him, enjoy talking to him and mark appointments with him. We’ve been trying to use that to our advantage and he has been calling every number we can find, but we haven’t had too much success with it yet. We’ve made quite a few appointments with people, but they normally end up falling through. Hopefully, this week all the people that didn’t work out last week will be able to find a few minutes to listen to our message. That is the plan 🙂

So, we had an amazing miracle with our elect Brazilian investigator. She works literally every Sunday in a mall but we were able to make things happen and she came to sacrament meeting this week and loved it! Normally, people have to come to at least 2 sacrament meetings before they can be baptized, but we talked to President Amorim and he said she can be baptized; he wants to interview her! We met her husband too, but he didn’t want to attend church with us. We’ll get him next time for sure. So, this Friday she’s off of work and we’re gonna have a game night at the chapel. We’ll meet with her a little early and mark her baptismal date. She is the most elect lady I have ever taught.

We also had a zone conference with President Amorim on Thursday. He gave us a review training on finding investigators’ problems, and not just their excuses. Almost always, the investigator’s real doubt is NOT the first answer they give when they decide not to be baptized. Our job as missionaries is to look beyond the first excuse, and ask them what else is bothering them and then keep quiet. A lot of times, it is not the 2nd answer they give either. So, we have to acknowledge the second problem, but tell them we feel there is something other than that that is bothering them. Only stop when you have reached the real problem. If the investigator says they can’t be baptized because they can’t quit smoking, but their real problem is living the law of chastity, creating a plan to help them quit smoking isn’t going to help at all, and the investigator won’t be listening anyway. It was a great training. It also works in other applications in the real world–interviews, parenting, relationships, etc.

Anyway, I don’t have too much else. The weeks just fly by. Thank you for all of your love and support and prayers. You guys are the best.

Love you tons,

Elder Zwahlen

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Missionary Work in Matosinhos, Portugal

April 11 2016 Matosinhos, Portugal

Hey Mom and Dad!

So This week I’ve been really trying to finish reading the Book of Mormon in Portuguese and Preach my Gospel because I’ve never read either of them cover to cover and I need to finish them both before I leave!

So here’s some more about the awesome life in Matosinhos:

Almost every morning we get up half an hour early, put on our running shoes and we go run across the beach. It is soooo cool! Portuguese people don’t wake up before 8:00 so there is rarely anyone there and it’s really nice weather now. We’ve found it’s a good way to relieve stress and ponder a little bit.

Because Matosinhos is on the coast, the city gets a lot of money from rich tourists, but I haven’t run into any yet. There are a lot of really fancy sea food restaurants and expensive cars. (We’ve seen Ferraris, corvettes, Lamborghinis, and all kinds of cool cars). The city of Matosinhos in which we live is actually the Sisters missionaries’ area. Our area covers some smaller cities such as Leça, Lavra, Cabo de Mundo, and Anjeiras. There are tons of really big rich houses. It’s quite different from most of the other, poorer areas that I’ve served in. There are also quite a few people walking around on the streets for us to talk to, so that’s really exciting. Oh, and I almost forgot, that big round red thing that you guys saw on the internet is actually an enormous fishing net hung out right in front of the beach! There are tons of huge fishing boats that pass by here every day. We have to cross a huge folding bridge to get to our area and it’s sooooo cool! Every time we walk on it I just can’t help but imagine what would happen if it started folding up with me on still on it!!!!! 😨

We have some really cool people to teach here, one of whom actually showed up at church. The rest of them flaked out and I don’t know what happened to them, but we’ll get them to church this week. The ward is apparently one of the strongest wards in Portugal. There are about 70 active members and the sacrament hall is pretty full. We have a really good ward mission leader and bishop. I’m still trying to learn all of the members’ names, but I’ve only seen them once. With 6 missionaries always changing and so many members, it’s slightly more difficulty to create strong friendships with the members. About 90% of them live within the city of Matosinhos.

It also rains quite a bit here, which is kind of annoying because my shoes are far from waterproof, but it’s not too bad. We’ve actually been having some success with contacts in the rain.

Elder S_ has just finished training: this is his 3rd transfer. But, he served for 21 days in Brazil, waiting for his VISA where he baptized 5 people! 5 people in 21 days!!! He LOVES math. He is planning on studying to be a Mechatronic Engineer. I didn’t even know what that was until he explained it has to do with designing and programing robots! Super cool! Anyway, he loves to read anything he can get his hands on and likes numbers, haha! He’s a really hard worker too!

We’re pretty much just trying to find more new investigators and get the ones we already got to start progressing!

Anyway, life’s just real swell and passing real fast! Thanks for all your support. CONGRATULATIONS MOM on GRADUATING!!!!!!

Love,

Elder Zwahlen

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Street Contacting With a New Companion

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April 4, 2016 Matosinhos, Portugal

Hey Mom and Dad!!!

So, BIG NEWS! I actually got transferred out of Portalegre!!! It’s way cool, but I’m really sad because neither the members nor I were expecting it. All the members were pretty sad to see me go, as was I…. The members and missionaries were so close in Portalegre. It really felt like family.

But now I’m here in MATOSINHOS! It’s a very large ward with 4 Elders and 2 Sisters. Wow! I’ve never experienced anything quite like it. It’s a very different feeling than my last área. So, Matosinhos is part of Porto and there are LOTS of people! More than in any other área in which I have served. For that I’m very, very grateful. And the people are so cool here! We’re having quite a bit of success in our contacts and my new companion, Elder S, and I teach really well together. He’s from Recife, Brazil and he’s really cool. It’s going to be good transfer.

We have a Brazilian investigator and she is sooooo elect. We finished teaching her everything this week and she was really excited to pay tithing. What a great example, I thought, for all of us as we remember why we pay tithing. The Lord doesn’t need our money; he wants our humility and our whole souls. He wants to bless us.

So, here in Matosinhos we’ve been having fun while contacting. We were walking on the sidewalk right above the beach and we saw some guy sleeping on the sand about 10 feet below. We thought, “Why not?” So, we looked over the edge of the railing and tried to talk to the man. He was asleep and didn’t wake up. So, we started yelling at him until he woke up, haha! We introduced ourselves from up above and he ended up telling us his number from his laying down position! It was hilarious too because he was like upside down to us, so just watching his mouth move made me laugh! We called him up afterwards and we actually marked an appointment with him for this week! It’s been a lot of fun.

The president told me to leave my mark on this ward here, so I should end up finishing my mission in this area. It’ll great to give my all here in this last area.

I love you Mom and Dad!

Elder Zwahlen

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The Enabling Power of Christ’s Atonement

March 28, 2016 Portalegre, Portugal

Hello Mom and Dad!

Happy Easter! The Easter traditions here are essentially the same as at home, but people don’t seem to celebrate it to the same extent. We were able find some cool people yesterday by talking about Easter though!

One funny thing that happened this week was, we were standing in the street talking to a less-active couple at night and these 2 drunk guys came up to us and started messing with us. Luckily, we were able to calm them down and nothing happened, but I almost had to use my satchel like a mace; it’s pretty heavy 🙂

We heard about the bombing in Belgium on the first day it happened. Lots of people are talking about it here. It’s super sad. Elder M is a little scared because he’ll be flying on 3 planes in about 1 week, haha!

On Sunday I talked about the enabling power of the Atonement, as taught by Elder Bednar in his talk, “The Atonement and the Journey of Mortality.” It’s a really, really, good talk. You should read it. Most of the time we remember and use the cleansing power of the Atonement, which is incredible and necessary, but we forget about the enabling power we can attain. As we learn to use this function of Christ’s Atonement, we learn how to gain strength to change our circumstances and see the Lord’s hand in our trials instead of complaining and praying that our challenges will be removed from us. I particularly enjoyed talking about this subject because it is a principle that I have come to love on the mission. The more we discover how to use it in our lives, the more we will find ourselves doing things we never thought we were able to do. Mom, thanks for being an awesome example of this, by achieving your academic goals. You might be a little older than the median age in your accounting classes, but you know how to control your time and use the gifts God has given you. And, when you have done all that you can do, I know you pray for the Lord’s help and guidance and he gives it to you. Thanks Mom. I love you.

So, the city of Portalegre takes many more holidays than it should and so the library is closed again today….. We were forced to use a member’s computer, so I don’t want to spend too long here. Thanks for everything. Love you all!

Love,

Elder Zwahlen

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Act in Faith; Miracles Result

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March 21, 2016 Portalegre, Portugal

Mom and Dad!

M_ finally got BAPTIZED!!! It was such a great experience! I think the greatest miracle definitely happened before the baptism. Seeing M_’s attitude change, his ideas about God, church, life, even coffee, was so cool. I think one of the most effective things we did was act in faith. When M_ accepted a baptismal date, we acted immediately and informed all of the members. They started talking to him about baptism and made plans to get there. He couldn’t back out then, haha! He quit all his addictions and followed the Savior’s example by being baptized. This week, we’re going to help him be ready to receive the priesthood, so we can have TWO priesthood holders in the group, YEAH!!!

The actual baptism went really well. The 19th of March was actually Father’s Day here (Happy Portuguese Father’s Day, Dad!) and there were a bunch of activities going on at the same time. There was a bunch of food too! 😉 Some wonderful sisters there sat us all down, fed us, and congratulated M_. During the Baptismal service, I had the feeling that I had no idea how we had made it to that point. Everything just kind of fell into place! It was a sublime reminder to me that the Lord knows whom he wants in His church. We are called to labor in his vineyard and do his work for his children. Also, my companion’s whole family came to see our baptism. His dad actually presided, because our Branch President wasn’t able to be there! But Elder M is leaving in a couple of weeks for Boston. He’s going to enter the MTC with a baptism already under his belt. I wondered how cool it would have been to have you and Dad here with me at the baptism, like Elder M’s parents… It’d be really cool. But then again, it’d be difficult to see you guys leave again afterwards. Mom would probably cry 😉

I don’t have too much more to say this week other than talk about M_’s baptism. It was a really serene moment for me and all the members of Portalegre. I’ll never forget it.

I love you all sooooo much. Thanks for all of your prayers. I know they helped M_ to be baptized.

Love,

Elder Zwahlen

Hey Dad!

It’s so cool to hear about your family history adventures. Sounds like you’ve become somewhat of a genealogy guru by now. You’ll really have to get me hooked up when I get back. I have no time to do any kind of indexing right now, but the Portuguese names look super cool. If the people are Portuguese, they should be really easy because it’s illegal to name your kids something if the name is not on this big old list. Pretty much everyone here is named João, Luis, Carlos, or António.

The way you received inspiration on your family history work is so cool! There are definitely no coincidences there. I got slightly lost in your description of names, dates, places and family relations, but it sounds like a really incredible experience!

That’s really cool that you got to use that new software training in your work. It’s always good to learn new skills and how to use new programs. It’s crazy to think how much technology has changed in just my lifetime. Remember using dial-up internet? Ha!

Love you Dad,

Elder Zwahlen

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Life is a lot like those Old Rubber Boots

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March 14, 2016 Portalegre, Portugal

Hey Mom and Dad!

This week was pretty good. We’ve been working a ton with M_ and he’s still on track to be baptized this Saturday. All the members are super excited for him. He’s been to church almost 15 times since we found him and the members accepted him well. I guess next week you’ll all find out how it went!!! Pray for M_!

Other cool things from the week: We met up with a super awesome inactive member last week who lives like 40 minutes out of town by car. He’s a young guy and he has a super cool family. The wife isn’t a member, yet 😉 He also practices Jujitsu so he told us to bring some clothes to train in. I expected that there would be some kind of gym or at least a wrestling mat or something, but nope, there was just itchy grass :/ …. So, I came out of there with some jujitsu moves, a new hatred for grass, and some major back pain. But it was a lot of fun, and he was really happy we went out there to see him.

So, last week I told you that Elder M went down to Lisbon for his US Visa interview. Everything went well; he was not apprehended by our beloved America and he got his Visa. It looks like he’ll be headed out to the Provo MTC at the end of this transfer. I think serving here in his own country…. like 2 hours from his house, has been good for him. He’ll probably understand a little better how to help the church here when he gets back from Boston. I just LOVE America 🙂

I gave my talk in church this week on the topic of “Why the gospel is important to me.” The gospel is just so cooool, that’s why!!!! No, that’s not what I actually said (but it is!). What I said was that the Gospel is so important to me because it makes me happy. I talked about how the gospel is perfect, flawless, and fits every person, every circumstance. As members of the church we have an understanding that there will be justice for all of the misdeeds, sorrows, loneliness, and misfortunes the world has to throw at us. It will work out in the end. DON’T GIVE UP! I mentioned how King Benjamin was such a good king. He worked hard, every day. He didn’t live off of the people or rob the poor; he lived off the money he worked for. I imagine him as a farmer, working alongside his countrymen, trying to save money and being frugal. I imagine him as a person who would give to others even if he had little himself – selfless, loving, kind, obedient, humble; a great example. At the end of his life, with all of his beloved people around him, he talks to them, tells them to keep the commandments, to love and serve one another as he had humbly tried to do. He told them:

“Even I, myself, have labored with mine own hands that I might serve you…Yet, my brethren, I have not done these things that I might boast, neither do I tell these things that thereby I might accuse you; but I tell you these things that ye may know that I can answer a clear conscience before God this day.” (Mosiah 2:14-15) (He’s soooo cool!)

He tells the people of a blessing of following God’s counsel, one that I think is one of the most amazing blessings of the gospel, which is: “a clear conscience before God.” He felt no guilt, not because he was a perfect king. I’m sure he probably lost his temper here and there, or made a bad judgement every once in a while. But whatever it was, he used the Atonement, repented, was forgiven and felt the peace of mind that money can’t buy.

You’ll be happy to know, Mom, that I used another ranch story to illustrate my point:

When I worked on the ranch, one of my most important responsibilities was to move hand pipe, or sprinkler lines. (Mom, you already know this 😉 This includes picking up one 40 ft pipe by the middle, walking 48 even-sized steps, setting it down, and hooking the pipe up with the one before it, in a straight line. Then, walk back to the previous line, pick up the next pipe and repeat the process. Sounds pretty easy right? Well, some of the challenges were the muddy ground and the tall, wet hay, and it was soooo cold!!!

When I started on the ranch I didn’t have my own boots so I used borrowed boots I would find in the “boot graveyard” located in the basement. There were lots of boots, but somehow all of them seemed to be either too big or too small (I don’t know how it was possible!) Eventually, I would find a pair that looked suitable and I would go out to work. Everything looked great until water started getting into my boots–holes–awesome. Every step I took, more water entered my boots. They started to get heavier and heavier and weighed me down. Eventually I ended up with little swimming pools in each boot. Slish, slosh, slish, slosh…the works. I marveled at the fact that water could so easily enter my boots, but it never left through the same holes from which it came. There must have been some kind of one-way-valve action going on, I don’t know….. Anyway, this would happen until I couldn’t take it anymore and I would stop, remove one boot at a time, dump all of the water out, and continue working and accumulating more water.

Life is a lot like my experience with the old rubber boots. There are always experiences or choices we make that weigh us down. We can sometimes end up feeling like victims to so much bad luck. Little by little, more water enters our boots and we have a hard time picking our feet up again. We become so weighed down that we become stuck in the wet mud and lost in the tall hay. The only way to remove the water from our boots is through repentance. There are millions of people in the world who are seeking a way to have that “clear conscience before God” that King Benjamin talked about, but they don’t know where to find it. BUT WE DO! The gospel is so important because we can be clean again no matter what we have done or how far we have strayed. We can stop what we are doing, repent, dump out all of the sins that weigh us down and start over again. Happiness comes through a peace of mind, knowing that we are forgiven. That is how the gospel makes me happy and why it is so important to me. Oh, and for the record, I bought my own boots after the first summer–without holes 😉

Well, that’s all I got for today. Have a wonderful week. Stay warm. Keep cool.

Love,

Elder Zwahlen

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Planning a Baptism

Portalegre011816p7SMALLMarch 7, 2016 Portalegre, Portugal

Hey Mom and Dad!

No, I haven’t even seen a temple since I left the MTC. It’ll be really great to be able to visit the temple more often back home (even though the IF temple is closed right now.) A 40 minute drive is nothing when I see so many faithful members here planning a year in advance to travel to Madrid, Spain so they can go to the temple. It’s both humbling and inspiring. The temple in Lisbon should be done in 2 or 3 years.

Good job, Dad! Keep up the good work and reactivate as many members as possible! Even in Idaho Falls, missionary work and reactivation (which is the same thing) is still just as important. I’m sure Dad felt just awesome seeing them back in church. There is a wonderful feeling about helping someone step out of their comfort zone so they can become even more happy. If we are to help others return to the path, we ourselves must also be willing to go the extra mile and leave our own comfort zones. Hence the popular saying “There is no growth in the comfort zone and no comfort in the growth zone.” We must be ready to extend invitations, follow-up, and love without judging. You’re awesome, Dad. Thanks for your great example to me and all the kids.

We haven’t been able to get back to J_ this week because we’ve been super busy, but we’ll head over there again this week.

Good news! We marked M_ for the 19th of March (for baptism)! Whoohoo! We’re pretty excited and so are the members. We told all the members about the date he accepted and they’re all giving him support. He’s currently drinking only 1 cup of coffee every other day, according to the plan we made with him. We decided that he didn’t have a lot of confidence in himself and his capacity to quit so we had him go one day on and one day off for the whole week. He has already gained a lot self confidence and trust in the Lord. And, if he can go 1 day without coffee, why not 2? And, if 2 days, why not 3, or a week, or until baptism, or drop it completely? This Wednesday, he’s going to drop it completely. With his nicotine and his electric cigarette, he just needs to decrease the nicotine until 0.0 and he’ll be there. We have to do A LOT of follow-up but it’ll be worth it.

The weather back home sounds just fabulous. It’s also getting warmer here but it changes all the time. It’ll be nice to walk around without a big jacket here soon. I’m glad to hear that you and Dad are going to start biking again. About a month ago an old man invited us in to talk to him while it was raining and he turned out to be 92. He still drives around in his little car and does everything. Very impressive. We asked him how he has such good health and he told us it’s because he biked around everywhere when he was younger; every day, many long rides. So, he is proof that biking is good for you. It’s also good quality time for you and dad.

We have a lesson with JP and his son today. JP is just awesome. He’s reading the Book of Mormon so well with real interest and intent. In the last lesson he said something pretty spontaneous. He said, “It’s a little hard to believe that the Book of Mormon is what it proposes to be.” We haven’t even had time to talk about how he can receive an answer yet! But he really wants to know, so we’re pretty excited. All we have to do now is show him how he can recognize his answer when it comes and have faith that God will tell him in his “mind and in [his] heart, by the Holy Ghost.” (D&C 8:2) We’re going to watch the Restoration with them tonight and reemphasize how important it is that they ask in faith, believing they shall receive. It’ll be great!

Oh, I had two other name tags I got a couple months ago that I was saving. The other day I put one on. New name tag, new day. It was a good feeling. But then my comp looked at it and asked me if my name was spelled wrong. I thought he was just messing with me but when I looked down it said ELDER ZWALHEN (instead of Zwahlen) on it…..sad day….

Today I’m with another Elder because Elder M had to go down to Lisbon to have an interview for his VISA in the American consulate, and Elder B’s companion, Elder G had to go down there to do some things, so they went together. If you remember, I trained Elder G, so 2 of my “sons” are currently on a road trip and didn’t even bring me along….That’s what happens when you get old…. hahaha!

Mom, good work on your classes! Only 5 weeks left! You’ll do great!

Love,
Elder Zwahlen

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