Wednesday, August 28, 2013

28 August 2013

This is Carina (Ryan's mom), I post Elder Miller's (Ryan's) weekly letters to this blog.  I have been very reflective and emotional today as exactly a year ago we said our goodbyes to Ryan (Elder Miller) at DFW Airport so I am reliving some of the emotions we had that day.

Me (Carina,Mom) Elder Miller and Jessie (sister) a few minutes before our tearful goodbyes.

I hope everyone is enjoying his blog.  When I read his letters I see how much he has grown and progressed which I knew he would but I sometimes think to myself "who are you and what have you done with my son?"  Thanks to everyone for the great support they have given to Ryan.  Here is to another great year.

26 August 2013   One Year Out

Hello Family and Friends,

I thought I would use this e-mail to just express my feelings and gratitude for the past year of missionary service. So I arrived at the, "Mountain Top" the 1 year mark of my mission. Looking back it seems that it has all passed by so quickly and I wish I could go back and relive a few moments. When I look forward it seems like the journey has just started and the greater challenge lies ahead. I have mixed feelings about the next year because on one side I want to return home as quickly as possible so I can see my family and friends and just relax for a little while. On the other side I realize how great of an opportunity I have to learn, grow and help others and I don't want to waste a minute. Of course I will have to go with the latter option which is the better choice, but the thought of another year out on mission seems like an eternity. I know that in a few months I will be wishing that I could climb back up to the top rather than make the quick descent. All the missionaries that are leaving the mission say that they wish they could trade time cards with me. To me right now this seems ridiculous, but I know I will be saying the same thing. 

You learn a lot while on the mission. This past year I learned more about God and Christ than I did my previous 19 years together. I learned that they are real. I know they are real, because I have felt their presence and I have seen my prayers answered many times. I have felt at times that his angels watching over me, keeping me safe, guiding me to the right people, putting words into my mouth that Ryan Miller is not capable of saying. I have felt his love not only for me but for others that I will never be able to deny. 

I remember a year ago saying goodbye to my parents and it being the hardest moment of my life. I could not even look at them directly in eyes because for sure I would have lost all control. I remember taking my first step on to the plane and thinking how unqualified I was to carry the name Jesus Christ over my heart, but what I have learned is that no one is ready and that He qualifies us along the journey. I remember looking over Porto Alegre while in the air and thinking that somebody out there was waiting for me, waiting to hear the Spirit through my medium so that he/she could accept the gospel of Jesus Christ and enter into the fold. I can remember vividly those extremely hot and humid days in Glória, ascending hills, sweating immensely, trying to find and teach. I remember traveling the dirt roads of Butiá with a Book of Mormon in hand, and thick forest on either side of me. And now I am on the farm land of Rio Grande do Sul, Dom Pedrito, with Gaúchos on every corner. 

I have grown a lot also this past year, mentally, spiritually, and even physically ha ha. I have grown to love the scriptures and the spiritual enlightenment and understanding that I gain by reading its many pages. I have had to grow mentally in order to take on many responsibilities and challenges. All in all I have had to overcome my weaknesses by striving to be better each and every day.

There are so many things that I am grateful for. I am grateful for more knowledge, faith, and charity. I am grateful for all the people I have met, especially our recent converts. I am grateful for the love and support that I receive from every one back home, also for the help I receive from the people I serve. I thank God for all the companions I have had, because they have all taught me life lessons that I will take with me for the rest of my life. Ultimately, I am grateful for the church in my life and the blessings I receive by being a firm member.

I am anxious to start this next year of my mission. I am certain that it will be the best year of my life. There are so many more challenges and wonderful experiences that are knocking on the door and it is now time to answer the call. I wish the best to everyone. 

Love you all,

Elder Miller  

P.S. Happy early B Day to Lucy, From your favorite cousin in the world

19 August 2013  A Better Week

Hello Family and Friends,

This week was a big improvement from last week. We taught a lot of lessons, contacted, and invited a few more people to be baptized. We have a rather large teaching group now which is always nice. With a big teaching group you always have a place to go if an appointment falls through. This helps to pass the time and remain energetic. 

This past Sunday we had 3 investigators and 2 in-actives at church. It has been awhile since Dom Pedrito last saw that many new faces in the chapel. We are teaching a lot of people, but the majority is afraid of making any kind of commitment. Our best investigator is Adriana, the 24 year old lawyer. She has been at church 3 or 4 times now. Also, we have taught her with members and she has been to one family night. She has told us that she knows the church is true and wants to join now. Her baptismal date is scheduled for the 7th of September. She said that this date she would be prepared to be baptized. We are really hoping and praying that everything will work out for this date. 

We are also teaching an in-active member, Calebe, 18 years old. He was baptized when he was 10 years old and is the only member in his family. We found him and his family through a contact in the street. His family is one of the coolest I have met on my mission. His parents absolutely love us even though they have mentioned that they will not join the church. We will start teaching them and his sister this week. Calebe went to church Sunday and liked it a lot. He is super smart and witty. He would be a great missionary.

Elder Machado and I really have been blessed these past few weeks. Our members and investigators have been inviting us to have dinner and to share messages almost every night. Dinner has never happened before in my mission. The only thing that is lacking is more references. For us the norm is 1 reference a week. Compared to other missions 1 is totally weak. In other parts of Brazil the missionaries only work with references. Why in Rio Grande do Sul is it that difficult? Until we can find a way to get members talking we will have to keep knocking doors and making street contacts the most difficult way to work. If you all have any ideas we would be grateful to hear them. And yes we have tried the family night and activities in the chapel approach which are not giving us that many results.

Other than this there is not much to say. I got really sick yesterday and last night was horrible. I think it is a minor case of the flu. I was supposed to get my flu shot a few months back but they all ran out before I could get mine. Thanks a lot Brazil! I have been shooting warm, green, snot rockets all over the city today. Elder Machado has been giving me all his meds so I should be good to go here soon. This winter has been pretty rough on me. I have not breathed through my nose for 2 months! I think I am allergic to something in this city.

Anyways I am doing fine. Keep praying for Machado and I, and especially for my investigators. Thanks for all the pictures you all have been sending me recently. I really look forward to being back on the bike with you all I am too heavy right now.


Lots of Love,

Elder Miller
12 August 2013

Hello Family and Friends,

Honestly nothing too exciting happened this past week. The weather was really cold and rainy for the majority of the week. This killed our chances of contacting people because we were the only ones in the street! We were rather discouraged during the bad weather and so we fell into a hopeless state. We did not work as hard as we could of which we are both kind of regretting now. Our district leader chewed me out on the phone a little bit last night which woke me up from my slump. We are back into full gear, I hope.

Other than last week being sort of a low point for us, we managed to find some good investigators. Nothing was going our way, appointments were falling through and nobody was interested in hearing our message, so I decided to just, "Clean the city." That is codeword for literally knocking every door in sight. We were knocking doors and one after the other was just another door slammed in our faces. After about a hour we finally were allowed in by a lady and we taught her and her two daughters. I am including this in my email because I think they have a good chance at becoming members of the church. They have already had a lot of contact with members of the church when they lived in a neighboring city, but they lost contact when they moved to Dom Pedrito. In short, the lesson went really well and we have an appointment with them this week so we will see what happens. 

Adriana, our only progressing investigator, is doing well. We taught her last night with a member and it went really well, one of the best lessons I have had on the mission. It was about tithing and the member we brought with us bore a powerful testimony on tithing. She told us that her Mother has always been a faithful tithe payer. She told us that her mother has no doubts that the Lord will provide for them if they demonstrate their faith through their honest tithe. Well a few weeks back her Mother lost all her salary from the past month while traveling home late one night. This family is rather poor so they need every dime they can get. The member went on to tell us that miraculously in the past weeks they had more food and other things in their home than any other time that she could remember. The Lord fulfilled his promise and opened the windows of Heaven and bestowed a great blessing upon them. Adriana will be baptized before this transfer ends. I do not know what date yet, but I am confident that it will happen. 

Other than this not much happened. I have been writing quite a few letters lately so keep a watch on your mailboxes. I will include some pictures of the Brazilian country side for you all. The past 7 months I having been living in countryside which has been really tranquil.


Lots of Love,

Elder Miller
5 August 2013

Hello Family and Friends,

I forgot to mention in the last e-mail that today is transfer day!!!

But do not worry because none of us were transferred. I was grateful to hear that no one was transferred, because we are all working hard and have become great friends these past six weeks. Wow, that is crazy to say that I have already been here in Dom Pedrito for six weeks! As I always say to you all, it feels like yesterday that I arrived here.

The time is passing by so quickly it is rather ridiculous. In a little while I will have 1 year on the mission. I will have reached the mountain top and from there it is only a quick descent.

So this past transfer I grew a lot as a missionary and a disciple of Christ. Being the senior companion really forced me to be better everyday. I had exercise my faith and be a leader. I pushed ourselves to the limit a lot and sometimes I thought Elder Machado would give up, but he kept on pushing on no matter what, and at the end of the day he was always grateful for the effort we gave. We both agree that we learned more about life and the gospel in this past transfer than the rest of our missions put together. We are both working together to turn our individual weaknesses into strengths.

It is funny how you learn more about yourself and God when you have to overcome great difficulties. In the moment it can seem impossible to achieve anything, but what I learnt is that God always fulfills his part when we give 100%. He is never abandons us no matter what. I learnt that you have to humble yourself and never give an excuse for anything that you did or did not do. Every night I gave an account to God of what we did that specific day, and for the most part I was able to sleep soundly afterwards. Of course there is so much we need to improve in our missionary work, but in my opinion this past transfer was a great success. We have a teaching group now that did not exist when we arrived, we have gained the confidence of the members, and we have one investigator that is being prepared to be baptized.

This area has been deemed as the area that does not baptize, but we are all in full-gear to change that. In fact it has already been changed because the other Elders baptized this past Saturday, João and Leticia, a brother and sister. And Elder Machado and I are teaching Adriana, 24 young lady, and recently graduated lawyer. She is super smart and friendly, and is searching for peace in her life. She had told us that she feels the peace that she is searching for when hearing our messages and going to church. She always has inspired questions for us which really helps us teach her well. I think this transfer she will be baptized. Also, we are always looking for families which is one of my dreams being out on the mission, teaching and baptizing a family. I want all families to feel the happiness I feel when I am with my own family, which happiness comes from living the principles and ordinances of the only true and living gospel.

So I will be in Dom Pedrito for the next six weeks with Elder Machado.

Elder Beary and Elder Carlos will be companions again also. This transfer should be a little more relaxed now that we have opened up the area and everything else. I am liking this area a lot despite the difficulties. It should be a fun transfer.

Thats all for now,

Lots of Love,

Elder Miller
29 July 2013

Hello Family and Friends, 

This week was really rewarding, because after 4 weeks of hard work we are now starting to see the blessings.

This week Elder Machado and I sat down to review our past week and then set up our new goals for the week. We were still a little shaken by the fact that after so much effort no one showed up to church. 4 weeks without anyone in the chapel. So we prayed and started planning for this week as usual. We planned everything and then started putting down what numbers we thought that we could achieve. We arrived at the portion of our agenda that says, "Investigators that attended sacrament meeting." We thought deeply and both agreed on the number 2, two persons at church Sunday. This number was much more humble than what we are used to, 7 or 8, but seeing our results from the past week it seemed possible.

Later in the week, we had to travel to Pelotas to attend a training meeting with President Castro and the other zones. There we had some very valuable training meetings, but the one that caught my attention was given by Sister Castro the spouse of Pres. Castro. She spoke about humility, and I learnt a lot about being humble from her. She mentioned that we depend on God and that we must always subject ourselves to his will. Also, she noted that in order to demonstrate our humility we need to obey all of the commandments and rules of the mission with exactness, and we always serve arduous and are grateful for every blessing that is given to us, be it big or small. It finish her training she gave us the scripture D&C 112:10, "Be thou humble; and the Lord thy God shall lead thee by the hand, and give thee answer to thy prayers." This scripture caught my attention and I pondered about it the rest of the day.

We arrived back in Dom Pedrito late Thursday night and Elder Machado and I conversed about what we had learned from the conference with Pres. Castro. In short, we made a pact to obey every little rule with exactness, for example, wake up and get out of bed 6:30 on point, no more wake up and take our time to get up and moving. It means exercising everyday, and be studying at 8:00 o clock no ifs or buts.

It means being out of the house by 10:30 and doing our 20 contacts for the day. It means being back at home 9:30 at night and always doing our daily planning for the next day. So this is what we did with exactness. In summary we worked as hard as we could, we were as obedient as was possible, and we did everything in our reach to achieve our goals this week, with goal of 2 persons at church in the back of our minds. We were confident that if we were humble, the Lord would lead us by the hand and would answer our prayer, and he did.

This week we were always in the right place at the right time. We talked with the right people everyday that are interested in the church. Really we were guided by the Lord, it was incredible. So finally we were at church and the first meeting had already passed by, (Priesthood Meeting) and no one had shown up to church. I still had a great hope that one of our investigators would come to church and I remembered that Adriana, an investigator, said that maybe she would be a little late to church, if she decided to go. I went outside the chapel and waited about 10 min anxiously. Then suddenly I saw her car coming down the street in our direction. Her car was gleaming with light from the morning sun. She parked and got out of the car and entered into the chapel with us. I could not stop smiling the whole time as much as I tried to wipe the smile off my face. She participated in the Gospel Principles class which was great. Then when we left the classroom I looked down the hall and to my amazement Glessimar, another investigator,  was conversing with some members waiting for sacrament meeting. My joy doubled in size and I quickly went to greet her. And there it was our 2 investigators that we had planned at the beginning of the week. God had answered our prayers. We had been led by his hand the entire week and it was because of our obedience and humility that put forth the entire week.

It is difficult to write this letter because I am almost breaking out into tears from the joy that we felt yesterday. I am so grateful for the answer to our prayers, the reward for our hard work these past 5 weeks. Simply, I know that our Lord lives. I know he answers our prayers. I know that sometimes blessings do not come when we want them to, but they always come to those who humble themselves and subject themselves to His will. I am so grateful for every little thing in my life, I am grateful to serve others.

Thanks you for all your prayers and support I love you all, Elder Miller
22 July 2013

Hello Friends and Family, 

It is getting cold down here in the South! The humid cold literally cuts through our clothes and digs into our bones. I basically live in a icebox in our house as well, because we are only allowed 1 hour of heating because of the costs. Welcome to the mission! Besides the cold everything is alright. We are working hard even though things are not going our way.

This week we tripled our numbers in just about everything which was cool. Like I mentioned last week, a few extra missionaries came to our area to help out a bit. I went on a division with an Elder named Dos Santos. It was a great help because he had already served 6 months in the area so he showed me everyone that he was working with when he left the area. We marked 4 baptisms in about 3 hours! He is one of the best missionaries in the mission. Right now he is the leader of a "group" of members in Bagé. A "group" is even smaller than a branch which I did not that even existed. In 4 weeks he already has enough people organized to form a branch in his area. It was pretty eye opening to work with a missionary like him, because he showed me to never have any doubts in anything that we do as missionaries, complete trust in the savior instead of in our own selves. There is a huge difference in the missionary work when you rely on your faith instead of your talent, the people begin to recognize you as a representative of Christ.

So Elder Machado and I worked a lot this week, but in the end none of our investigators showed up to church Sunday. So far on my mission it has been pretty easy to get people to go to church, but here it has been extremely difficult. Just imagine, they have to get up early in the almost unbearable cold and then have to go to a place they have never visited, and they all live miles away from the chapel. It is even harder when almost no one in the ward has a car to help out. When Elder Machado and I got home from church yesterday we both ready to burst out in tears. We have worked more in these last 4 weeks than in our entire missions and we had nothing to prove of it at the end of the week. It was really sad, especially when the other missionaries had investigators in the church, references from an awesome family in the ward. 

I think about our Savior in moments like these. Imagine the sadness he feels when we do not do what he asks. All he ever wanted to do was help people and show the way that leads to complete happiness and we destroyed him. Now imagine when we do something even worse like sinning for example. It is one more drop of blood that he has to pay for our eternal salvation, and he would suffer like this over and over again because of the incomprehensible love he has for every single one of us. I know that I will try my best to never let him down, never let him suffer more than he already has. I know that by this I will be able to show my gratefulness for everything he has done for me and will continue to do for me, no matter the price.

On Friday we had our Dessert Night activity. It was a success! There was almost more less-active members showed up than members and some of them brought non-members to the activity. We ate some excellent dessert and then shared a deep message. We took the idea for our message from a message a Utah school teacher did some time back. We handed out chocolates and Elder Beary had to do push-ups for every chocolate that the people ate. We shared a scripture that mentioned how hard the suffering that he went through for our sins. Then the people understood that for every chocolate (sins), Elder Beary had to suffer for just like our savior. It got really quiet in the room and nobody wanted to eat chocolate any more, but we the missionaries kept on eating until Elder Beary was absolutely finished. We shared another scripture and finished with our testimonies. The spirit was really strong and everyone left with a greater appreciation for our Savior. All in all it went well and we are already planning our next activity that will be huge.

Anyways that is all for now. Thanks for all the emails and letters that you send me. Pray for our success here in Dom Pedrito.

Love, Elder Miller