Monday, April 24, 2017

The Last Miracle--Sealed with a Golden Key

Easter (last week)
Alright. I have a LOT to say this week so I better get started now. First, Operation Kindness was a smashing success. I was able to hit all of the love languages. I thought this was going to be the longest week of my life, but it flew by!

The Last Miracle (and greatest one of all) in Vila Virginia:
Last week the adversary kept putting this awful thought into my mind: "Wow, Sister Ludlam, you spent 6 whole months here and you weren't even able to help Jessica get her answer and be baptized. Maybe if you had worked a little harder...bummer." But I realized right off the bat where those thoughts were coming from. We passed her house 5 days in a row to try to invite her to be baptized with Maria, but Satan just kept messing things up, GRRR! So after many attempts to help Jessica be baptized during these 6 months, I made my final massive plan:

Zoo Trip
Wednesday we would eat lunch with her and leave a message about faith and invite her to fast with us on Thursday and go to the temple to pray (she said she wished she had had more time the last time we went because she wasn't able to just sit in the garden and pray) with Irmao Ronaldo, then be interviewed for baptism Friday night to show her THAT SHE IS TOTALLY READY and has been for like a year (she has been an investigator for almost 3 years), and then be baptized with Maria on Saturday.
Jessica's Baptism

Also, Hebert could be interviewed by Bishop since he is being reactivated and could perform the baptism on Saturday (Bishop already told us he could). But when we got there, she told us she wouldn't be able to go to the temple, and also that night was their best friend's birthday-- so Hebert wouldn't make it to the interview. I went into the bathroom to pray before my message to know if I should still go through with it. Not knowing beforehand what would happen, I just started to talk and in the end, she said she wanted to fast with us and be interviewed! WOOHOO! But she said "Yeah...I don't think this Saturday is going to work, it's too soon." But we just kept on going. We came over on Friday to see how the fast went, and it turns out I was the only one who was able to fast because a WHOLE bunch of terrible things happened (including their kitten Beast died). But she said all anxious and excited, "The interview is still tonight, right?" YES IT IS! WOOHOO! 

So Maria was interviewed first and just came out glowing, so happy and excited, and said to Jessica, "Oh, won't you get baptized with me tomorrow?" Jessica laughed nervously. "HAHAHA. I don't know about that!" But she went in and I knelt in the bathroom and prayed that she could have a celestial experience. When she came out she had the biggest smile on her face, and said that she would go home and pray and talk to Hebert. Our LD told her the interview has a 3-day validity span. ;)

We came by the next morning and she said, "Come to my room with me." So we walk in and she shows us that over night she took out ALL of the immodest clothes in her wardrobe. She said she had prayed and decided, "This is my place." And she wants to be baptized, but not yet... she wouldn't be able to make it to Maria's baptism anyway. I was a little sad and confused because I felt so strongly the night before as I was praying that she would be baptized....but more than anything I was so happy because Jessica WOULD be baptized and she is converted!! If I am there or not doesn't matter. I felt that I had done my part. :) 
Maria's Baptism

So we go to Maria's baptism--it is lovely and the Spirit was SO STRONG. Maria was sad because no one in her family supported her baptism and wouldn't come, but the talks were all about "This is right!" and "We are your family and we love you." The next day she got SUPER sick and right before church some members came over to give her a blessing. There was no way she would be able to receive the gift of the Holy Ghost. I have never seen her cry, but she did when she said she wouldn't be able to go. I felt very at peace about everything.

At church I thought I didn't see Jessica, but when I got up to give my talk about missionary work, I saw her there in the corner smiling at me! Gospel Principles class was about Jesus Christ's Church today and it was perfect for her, the Spirit was so strong. Then in Relief Society she sat next to Gilmara and Raquel, her new friends, and it was such a fun lesson, everyone laughed so much. I watched her from far away and was so happy because she was in "in her place."

BUT THEN!!!!!!!!!!!
We got up after the lesson ended and she said, "I have something to tell you.... I want to be baptized." I said woohoo thats so great! And then Sister Gomes asked when... Jessica said, "Tomorrow?" I started to shout and cry and I hugged her and couldn't stop thinking, "I KNEW IT I KNEW IT I KNEW IT!!!!!" She asked Irmao Ronaldo to baptize her. Satan didn't give up so fast, and there were many barriers we had to get over, many "you can't do this's," but I knew it was going to happen because I knew it was the Lords will.
Two very happy irmas--Sister Ludlam and Sister Lee
That night, 140 people came to "Chamados Ao Servir" all cute with their little nametag stickers. President and Sister Silcox spoke, and everyone loved it. To end the activity, everyone went to the baptismal font and Jessica was baptized. I tried to sing I'm Trying to Be Like Jesus (Eu Quero Ser Como Cristo), but I pulled an Uncle Blaine and cried through the whole thing. The only issue is that he still sings beautifully as he cries, but I wasn't able to pull it off with so much grace. Oh well :) OH YEAH. At the beginning of the activity President told me I'm going to Poa with Sister Lee! It still hasn't sunk in! The person I would most love to be companions with in the most wonderful area of the mission. MAN am I spoiled!
Ava and her Mission presidents, the Silcoxes

Everyone poured out love to me at the activity because it was the last time I will see everyone, so many things said that touched my heart. Everyone kept saying the same thing, that I was sealing my work here with a golden key. Irmao Ronaldo said as he was teaching Jessica the position for the baptism, "You do realize this is a miracle, right? The Lord is showing you He is pleased and has accepted your work here. You are sealing your work with a golden key."

Let's just say I cried a LOT yesterday. These have been the hardest 3 months of my mission, so much sacrifice and growing, but the Lord just opened up the windows of heaven and poured out all the blessings He has yesterday. I think the way I felt last night is how heaven will feel. Only difference is that I won't be saying goodbye...:)

WELL there is much more to say about this week, but this letter is already too long. I love you all! And I love my Savior!

Sister Ava

Monday, April 17, 2017

The Significance of Easter

Easter Lunch

So, basically p-day ended and the next morning was our zone meeting. I was so stressed out about a whole bunch of other issues that I COMPLETELY forgot that we were supposed to give the training the next day. Sister Gomes didn't want to participate, so I prepared that night and in the morning and it was such a wonderful experience. It was so happy because I think it really helped people, and it's what the Spirit wanted me to talk about.
Sister Ludlam and Sister Lee

From there I left the chapel with SISTER LEEEEEEEEEE (she is a Utahn that reminds me of Lolly) and I had a glorious 3-day vacation! She and I did so many contacts and taught so many wonderful people and spent SO MUCH MONEY on buses. We went to the Policia Federal for her to renew her visa. OH-- so on the metro/train system in São Paulo, people sell chocolates and chargers and drinks and a whole bunch of stuff, and just walk on and start talking. I have ALWAYS wanted to give a pass along card to everyone and this week it actually happened! Sister Lee just happened to have a TON of cards with her and the idea came back into my mind. I paced along the train car and explained who we are and about the Book of Mormon and invited them to accept a visit from the missionaries... people loved it. After I finished my speech, we started passing people one by one and talking with them. I haven't felt the Spirit that strong in a while.
Gilmara made giant Easter eggs for us! ♥

My Easter was very different. We went to church and 2 investigators came, Stefani and Ana Paula. Then we went to lunch and the wife got super super sick because she is newly pregnant. She cried and I scratched her back. Then, sister got sick and we spent the rest of the day at home. But, I understand the significance of Easter much better than I ever have--so where you are or what you are (not) doing doesn't mean you can't REJOICE just as much!

Well, this is likely my last week here, folks. If I can just keep my calm and keep responding how Heavenly Father wants me to, I know I will be victorious. 6 MORE DAYS!!! Tuesday is zone meeting, then Wednesday we will see Rosana, Thursday is Zone Conference with President in Mogi das Cruzes, Friday Maria will be interviewed for baptism, Saturday is her baptism, Sunday is Chamados ao Servir (Called to Serve), then its p-day and I am off! I WILL SPREAD MY WINGS AND FLY! I AM ALMOST THERE!

Love to all,
Sister Ludlam
Jenna rip off

Jenna: Some Brasilian saw your thumbs (photo to the right) and totally copied your style, but they thought they could get away with it all the way over here in Brasil. Little do they know ya big stista is here!!! HA!

Monday, April 10, 2017

I am a different woman

The lovely Sister Brag
This is the only picture I took this week, sorry!

It has been a year since I began my "Journey to Know Christ." I stopped giving updates a while ago, but I have been just as anxiously seeking Him ever since! And, as President Russel M. Nelson said, (I was able to catch it faintly beneath the translation) "I am a different woman."

There aren't words to describe what has changed and grown within me on this pursuit. For over a year, I have been teaching everyone that will listen about His doctrine and inviting them to come unto Him through faith, repentance, baptism, receiving the gift of His spirit, and enduring to the end. I think what I have learned over the past year can be best expressed by bearing my testimony.

Jesus Christ lives. As He performed the great atoning sacrifice, I know He actually payed the price for my sins, felt my grief, pain, loneliness, confusion, and heart break. And because of that, I have the opportunity to apply His grace and mercy and every day, trying to become more like Him. I have seen myself change, and even more so, I have seen His grace change the people I am teaching and love so dearly.

It is such a privilege and blessing to spend 18 months of my life wholly dedicated to His work. I invite everyone to find a quiet peaceful place, kneel and converse with the Lord about where you are in your own personal journey to know Christ. Ask Him for help to continue forward. I can promise you will experience a fullness of joy if you diligently seek Him.
I love you all and I love my Savior!

Sister Ludlam

Monday, April 3, 2017

General Conference with Investigators!

I got to make the design for our Zone's t- shirt, so cool!!
This week went by really fast.

Inspiration for my t-shirt design
Thursday we visited the temple grounds with Jessica, Friday we did divisions in Poa with our sister leaders, and we spent basically two days straight in the stake building for our Worldwide General Conference. Was General Conference not just the most wonderful thing ever? It is even BETTER when you are sitting next to investigators and they are loving it too!! Maria came Sunday morning and got to hear President Monson speak, and Jessica and her family came Sunday night. It was already a half an hour in and they still hadn't shown up, but FINALLY, Sister saw them come in through the back at the end of Elder Christofferson's talk. It is so cool that he records himself speaking in Portuguese. I hope my Portuguese is that good when I am his age!

Anyway, the talk after Elder Christofferson was literally directed to Jessica. My mouth almost dropped, and I kept looking at Sister as if to say, "Are you hearing what I am hearing...?" We talked with her afterwards and she said, "I realized I want this answer but I am not searching. I am going to search now." Perfect :)

Jessica at the Temple
English Class in Poa
Also, Maria told us she has always battled with depression and has been close for a while now of falling back into it, but she said ever since we came into her life, she has been stable. She is happy, she can sleep, and she feels like God is starting something grand and wonderful in her life. I nearly teared up, it touched me so much. I love her with all my heart. ♥

The picture above, on the right, is our English class in Poa (the Bishop owns the school and taught English at BYU...and he's Brasilian)!

Love to All~
Sister Ava Ludlam