Elder Matthew Nielsen

"You are assigned to labor in the Brazil Fortaleza East mission"

The Parable of the Prodigal Son

Hello Family and Friends!

I had an amazing week! It began with a mission conference where the guest speakers were President and Sister Swenson. President Swenson is the current President of the MTC in São Paulo, Brazil. He was also President Fusco’s Mission President 29 years ago in Curitiba, Brazil! I loved their talks. President Swenson focused most of his talk on the Preach My Gospel handbook. He said that Preach My Gospel is not just a great tool in the mission field, but it is also a tool for life. President Fusco also spoke. I especially loved his remarks about the parable of the Prodigal Son. We read these verses first, “And the son said unto him, Father, I have sinned against heaven, and in thy sight, and am no more worthy to be called thy son. But the father said to his servants, Bring forth the best robe, and put it on him; and put a ring on his hand, and shoes on his feet: And bring hither the fatted calf, and kill it: and let us eat, and be merry: For this my son was dead, and is alive again: he was lost, and is found.” (Luke 15:21-24). He then told us that on the wall next to his front door in his house, he has a picture of Christ hugging a youth. He said that whenever his children make bad choices, they will always know that they are still loved and that they will always be lovingly held no matter the sin. He said that those who have lost their way will always need a safe haven. He then said that this gospel will always give you opportunities to change and  repent and that it is never too late to change and bring your life around. The story of the Prodigal Son is also one of my absolute favorites. I cry almost every time I read it. I remember someone once said to me that we are all like that son who was lost. This is such a true statement. We all sin and would be forever separated from God, if it wasn’t for the atoning sacrifice of Jesus Christ. I am grateful that I have parents, exactly like President Fusco, that when I messed up as a kid and lost sight of who I was, that they always had the door opened for me and always looked to help me return to the path again. I have extreme respect for each of them, for everything they did to help me. I am who I am because of them.

During this last week, we also continued to see growth with the work here in Russas. We made a huge effort this last week to teach families. We had a lot of success as a result. One of these families is an extremely wealthy family that lives in the center of Russas. Ginardi is the husband and Marlu is his wife. They received us really well the first time that we knocked on their door. Ginardi works in a pharmacy and Marlu is a lawyer. Most of their children live in Fortaleza. They are both about 50 years old. And they are both practicing Catholics, but are willing to take the lessons and follow through with our invitations. They have loved each lesson that we taught so far. I look forward to teaching them more and watching them progress in the gospel.

We are also working with a friend of Ronaldo’s (a young man that I taught and baptized some weeks ago). His name is Carlos Eduardo. The first time we taught him, we later learned that his mom is a less active member of the church and that his mom´s family are almost all members of the church and that he used to go to church when he was younger in Fortaleza, but they stopped going when they moved to Russas years ago. We taught him and he went to church this last Sunday and we taught him again yesterday and he expressed his desire to be baptized in the church. We were thinking of having his friend Ronaldo baptize him. This would be awesome because it would be the first person that Ronaldo would baptize as a new member of the church. Carlos’s mom is also returning back into church activity after more than 10 years!

Some cool news is that both Ronaldo and Marcos, who are both 18 years old and people that I had taught here in Russas, have decided to go on missions next year! Wow! They love visiting the people that we are teaching and inviting their friends to take the discussions as well.

Impressions of Brazil:

  1. Almost no one has a purebred dog. They are super expensive here. So there are lots of mutts running around!
  2. As we were walking to church on Sunday, we noticed that the outer gate of the chapel was open and that a herd of goats had entered onto the grounds of the church and started to eat everything, so we ran and grabbed sticks and made a ton of sound and that got the goats scared and they ran into the street again. Success!

I was thinking about that song “Bring him Home” from the play Les Miserables. And I remembered a part of the lyrics that said that he was willing to die in order for that young man to live: “You can take, you can give. Let him be, let him live. If I die, let me die. Let him live. Bring him home.” This part of the music is extremely symbolic. The man who offers his life is the Savior of mankind and we are the dying younger man who is needing the help of someone in order to live. I testify that we can live because he died for us. I am so grateful for his sacrifice.

Love you!

Elder Nielsen

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