Thursday, June 13, 2013

Final Photo Update 6/10/13

Neide's baptism! What a special one!

Monday, June 10, 2013


Well, things are winding down, but at the same time, things are picking up pace too! On Wednesday, we were able to go to the temple...what a treat. I really had some good time to reflect on my service and the lessons I've learned  these past years. I could feel an incredible peace and sense of satisfaction during my time there. 

On Thursday, I had my final interview with President Lanius....I've spoke a lot about my mission President. He is a very interesting man. He's one of the most dedicated and loyal servants of the Lord I have ever seen. He can at times, give the impression of being very serious and straightforward. There was a good time when I felt that he didn't really stop to get to know his missionaries individually, but with time, I discovered that this man is really a spiritual giant who has a heart bigger than a basketball. Sitting down with my Priesthood leader who personally guided me and oversaw my progress for two of the most incredible years of my life was an experience that surpasses all description. I don't think there's another man on this Earth who knows me so well (not just for having personally known me, but knowing and seeing what I have done, what my companions say about me, what my leaders say about me, what those I lead say about me, what the members say about me, and so could kind of say that he is like a "Big Brother" or that he has an "All seeing eye"...don't think that your mission president doesn't know who you are....).

During our conversation, I felt like I was receiving the second half of my patriarchal blessing....I knew that the Lord was acting as voice through this man's lips. After about 5 minutes, I stopped him and said, "President, do you think I could take some notes?" He gave a good hearty "Jabba the Hut" chuckle and said "Sim, Elder McKinley, Pode!!!" Just for you guys to have an idea, I usually write about a page per night in my journal....Thursday night, I scrambled to write everything down that was flying through my head....It came out to about 8.5 new pen almost ran out of ink....

I was incredibly touched and very reflective after my interview. I felt that this man had looked into my soul. He told me things about myself that I knew were true, but that I had never come around to recognize or completely acknowledge. He helped me to understand just how much potential I have as a priesthood holder and as one who has a testimony of the Gospel and desire to see the work of the Lord go forth (both in my own life and in the lives of others). I felt his love and appreciation. I knew that the Lord had foreordained this man to play an important part in my life. What a special relationship I feel that I have with this righteous man of God. 

The last week is here. I'm not "trunky", like my whole district likes to tell me and joke about....I feel bad for some of them....they are all starting their missions, and I think they are a bit confused, thinking that they'd like to be in my place. I've told them several times that they don't need to worry about clocks or calendars....they are living the best and most exciting time of their lives. 2 years passes by in a heart beat.

 I'm so grateful for everything that I was able to during these past months and years. What an incredible ride it has been. I wouldn't trade it for anything. There's nothing in my life that has personally meant as much to me as my mission. I will forever cherish it in my heart. It was a sacred privilege given to me by the Almighty. I owe him everything I am and have for what he has given me.

Once again, I turn to the Book of Mormon to better describe my feelings. Ammon, as he reflected on his missionary service, expressed much of what I myself am now feeling:

Therefore, let us glory...yea, we will rejoice, for our joy is full; yea, we will praise our God forever. Behold, who can glory too much in the Lord? Yea, who can say too much of his great power, and of his mercy, and of his long-suffering towards the children of men? Behold, I say unto you,
I cannot say the smallest part which I feel.....Now have we not reason to rejoice? Yea, I say unto you, there never were men that had so great reason to rejoice as we, since the world began; yea, and my joy is carried away, even unto boasting in my God. (Alma 26:16,35 )

Enos, as he neared the end of his life, expressed the following in regards to his ministry among our Heavenly Father's children

I must preach and prophesy unto this people, and declare the word according to the truth which is in Christ. And I have declared it in all my days, and have rejoiced in it above that of the world. (Enos 1:26)

I give my testimony to all, in addition to those which have been and will yet be given, that this work is true. The Gospel of Jesus Christ is real. Jesus is real. He lives. I have never had so much certainty of this as I do in this present moment. I have never done something as important and special as the work I have been engaged in these last two years. I have basked in every minute of my mission. I know that there is no better opportunity for a young man than a full time mission. I really just can't describe it. My joy is overflowing. It's something that you just have to feel for yourself to understand. It's worth it. It's so worth it. I feel grateful. I feel happy. I know who I am. I know what I want in this life. I know where I want to go. Could there be anything more special than this?

Thanks for tuning in!


Elder McKinley

Letter 6/5/13

Wowowow! It's soo good to be an Elder!!!! Why does it have to end!?? I really feel like the Lord has held in reserve some of his richest blessings for me in these last few weeks that I have in the field. I have been feeling the Spirit stronger than ever....I am seeing the Lord's hand more clearly and plainly than in any other time of my life. It's as if everything in my mission is turning into a big huge "replay". I'm seeing how all of this (the difficulties, the miracles, the heartaches, the stress, the prayers, the faith) ties into my Heavenly Father's plan for me. You get to a point where you look back at all the blessings of your mission, and you feel so grateful for all of the things that the Lord has done for you, that you almost want to cry with happiness and gratitude....then your perspective opens up a little bit more and you see that you've been permitted to help countless people at the same time along the way.

Shoot. If I'd have come all this way and gone through everything that I have without having been able to have helped a single person besides myself, I'd be the happiest 20 year old boy in the whole world....and then to think of all of the special, blessed people that I've been allowed to teach, serve, love, and help during these 2 years (many of whom who are in turn doing the same to others around them)....well folks, thinking about all of this, King Benjamin's words come to my mind,

"And now I ask, can ye say aught of yourselves? I answer you, Nay. Ye cannot say that ye are even as much as the dust of the earth; yet ye were created of the dust of the earth; but behold, it belongeth to him who created you. (Mosiah 2:25)

I feel so UNWORTHY of it all! My mortal mind just can't wrap around the idea...this same question repeatedly has come to my mind during these past 2 years "What did I do to deserve all of this???" I honestly don't think I do deserve it....not even a tenth of it do I deserve. It has really helped me to understand just what the Prophets meant when they teach us that "the Lord thy God is a merciful God" (Deuteronomy 4:31). It helps even more to understand just what is mercy: "Mercy is the compassionate treatment of a person greater than what is deserved" (Topical Guide). What a powerful lesson this is. The Lord is MERCIFUL. He is LOVING. He is GENEROUS. He gives us much, much, much more than we deserve. Pathetic words do nothing to describe my feelings [funny how everything as a missionary relates to the scriptures....I understand so well now what Moroni meant when he said, "And only a few have I written, because of my weakness in writing." (Ether 12:40)]. I love the Lord for everything he has done for me. Once I asked my mission president what was the most important thing I could learn on my mission. "Love God", he responded. I can say that I feel that I've take a few good steps to understand that essential and oh so important lesson. 

We had Neide's baptism this week. It was a marvelous experience for me. I saw how the Lord hand prepares his elect children to enter into his Kingdom here on earth. We did little or almost nothing in comparison to the spiritual preparation that she has been going through since long before I was born. That's what the Lord means when he says the "field is white, already for the harvest". Our job is not complicated, but is incredibly sacred and special. As she climbed the stairs out of the baptismal font, I heard her say "que água boa" or "what great water that was!". Her son is serving a mission in Campinas, Brazil. I can only imagine how he must have felt to receive the news that his mom was's going to be even better on the day that he finds out that his Dad was baptized too! Batista, Neide's husband, has been going through a transformation. It's like watching a time-lapse of Mosiah 3:19 before me eyes...

"For the natural man is an enemy to God, and has been from the fall of Adam, and will be, forever and ever, unless he yields to the enticings of the Holy Spirit, and putteth off the natural man and becometh a saint through the atonement of Christ the Lord, and becometh as a child, submissive, meek, humble, patient, full of love, willing to submit to all things which the Lord seeth fit to inflict upon him, even as a child doth submit to his father."

He said a prayer at the end of one of our lessons that almost brought me to tears. I can't believe how much these people are changing. It's all the testimony that I need that this work is true. The Lord is the Head of this work. He leads us. He changes us. We just need to do as he instructs, or in other words, we need to "submit to all things which the Lord seeth fit". The work is true. I bear my witness of it. 

Until next time, 

Elder McKinley

Tuesday, May 28, 2013

Letter 5/27/13

Well instead of using my Internet time to write reports home, I spent it looking up hotel rooms in Recife for when my parents come here....something I'm not very used to....all of this "real life" experience that I've been having lately (choosing college classes, booking hotel rooms, etc.) can be somewhat frightening. I feel like a hermit crab who feels plenty comfortable inside of his little, familiar "Elder" shell...It's time to graduate to a bigger shell soon. 

I don't have a ton of time, but I'd like to share a story about a couple we are teaching, Neide and Batista. Their son, Jonas, is a recent convert and is serving a mission in Campinas. His parents have been taught by many different missionaries, but their hearts were still quite hardened. A few members suggested that we try to go to their home and teach them. We decided to give it a try. The lesson was wonderful....we were really feeling the spirit strongly. When the moment for the baptismal invitation came up, we showed a painting of Christ's baptism....we waited a good 10 seconds for them to respond.....Neide shocked me (and even better was the look on her husband's face!) when she said"ok, I don't have any more questions or doubts about it". We worked a lot with them this week. They went to our ward conference this week....boy was it perfect for them....The ward normally has about 40-50 people present....there 150 at this conference. There was an incredible outpouring of the Spirit's just what you pray for as a missionary so that your investigators can really know and feel what the restored Church of Christ is like.

I'm super excited to help this couple enter into the church before my time here is up....Let's see if I'll have this privilege!

Until next time, 

-Elder McKinley

Tuesday, May 21, 2013

Letter 5/20/13

What did I learn this week? The scripture included above just about says it all. Learning to deal with difficulties and hardships is a life long pursuit. I think we as missionaries learn in 2 years what would take about 20 when it comes to "endurance".  I feel like I really am reaching my peak as a missionary....I've never felt so "lost" in the work....don't get me wrong, the distractions still exist, but I can really feel that my whole body, mind, and soul are consumed by this work. Everything else seems to take a back seat. 

We had some interesting events this week. Our biggest prospect for this week was a girl named Iza. She's 17 years old. We found her and family about a month ago while passing on their street. We stopped, turned back, and knocked her door to follow a spiritual prompting. We started teaching her, her mom, and her sister. They always have a ton of people in their reminded me of "Seinfeld". Every 5 minutes, someone new enters into their house (we got a lot of new investigators from them). Iza went to church 3 weeks in a row. She was well received and liked it a lot, but had a lot doubt as to whether or not she wanted to stay and become a member. We worked a lot with her...the Lord blessed this young woman quite a bit for her to be able to feel the spirit and know that what we were teaching her was true.

We offered countless prayers in her behalf. On the day of her baptismal interview, she wanted to give up. She said that she didn't feel "ready". We were able to convince that she knew absolutely everything necessary to be baptized and to follow Christ. She calmed down a bit, and said that she would be baptized. When Saturday came around, we started to worry if she would actually show up when the time came around. We had to travel to a few other cities to do baptismal interviews, and it was a little bit out of our hands. We got to the chapel, waited, prayed, waited a little longer, called her, waited a little longer, prayed, and decided to go after her to try and see what was going on....when we got to her house, no one was there....I thought "great, there goes our baptism for this week". Instead of complaining and getting depressed and upset about it, those words offered by the Lord to Joseph Smith passed through my head, "If thou endure it well, God shall exalt thee on high". I gave it a try, and kept my head up. When we got back to the chapel about 15 minutes later, we were shocked to see Iza, her sister, and her mom there waiting for us! We baptized her and had an incredibly special experience doing it!

The Lord really did come through for us! I felt grateful for having kept my head up and not "murmured" against the Lord my dark hour of despair. What a difference it makes to not only be grateful and loving towards the Lord in our hour of peace and tranquility, but also in our dark hour of despair. My testimony grows each and every day, mainly because I choose to want it to grow. If we sulk and wine and complain, having a hard heart every time that storm cloud comes our way, it would be a lot harder for the Lord to bless us with special, spiritual experiences. Keep a smile on folks. The Gospel is true. 

Until next time, 

-Elder McKinley

Monday, May 20, 2013

Letter 5/13/13

We came out the gate with a lot of energy this week. If there's one thing that excites you to get out to work as a missionary, it's being stuck at home for two days with a sick Elder. We easily made up for our lost time this week. The Lord really helped us to make up our lost ground. 

We used a bit of out p-day time to have lunch with an investigator of ours named Daiana. She is from Rio, her aunt is the relief society president here in Vitória, and she is currently living with her atheist "husband". She works a ton as a professional cook (yeah, lunch was good with her). Monday was the only time we had to meet with her. She invited not only us, but the other companionship to have lunch with her too....all four of us. We eased our way into a gospel conversation with them (Daiana is crazy to be baptized....she just needs to marry first....our lesson was more focused on her husband) Let's just say that trying to teach an atheist with 4 Elders isn't the best idea....the lesson took f-o-r-e-v-e-r. Almost 2 hours! I felt so bad for the poor guy. After the other Elders finished explaining the plan of salvation from the creation of Adam down to Adam-ondi-ahman, we left the very tired looking family in know what blew me away? When we saw Daiana later in the week, she said that her "husband" liked the lesson! How??? This church really must be true folks. 

We found several good people to teach. One lady left me with a big smile on my face....after explaining the restoration to her, she said "do you mean to say that God and Jesus Christ appeared to this boy and called him to establish the only true church of Christ here on the earth???". I love responding to a question like leave people with such a powerful thought in their minds....unfortunately not everyone understands so clearly what we teach. 

Fun side notes: A crazy guy we passed on the street this week asked us if we are those same Germans that blew up the World Trade Center....hmmm. Another lady  chastised me for not knowing "the Lord's prayer" by heart....she insisted that we say it together with her before leaving. When it rained a few weeks ago, these giant flying ants began to crash and fall all over the place....what do the people do about it? Run after them, put them into bottles, and then take them inside to fry them and eat them....I passed up that opportunity! We taught Albemar (the voo-doo-ist). He told us of how he talks and receives visits from spirits at times....I couldn't believe what I was hearing. He is starting to the light bit by bit. We made some good goals with him. I don't think I'll be around to see his baptism, but he is an incredibly good hearted man. I think it will happen one day. 

We challenged a 17 year old girl we are teaching named Isa to be baptized this Saturday. She has been to church twice already, but has cold feet in respect to a baptismal date. We talked with her for a good while, and we left her with the challenge to read a few scriptures and pray to know if she should or should not be baptized. Among the scriptures we gave her was Alma 32:16.

"Therefore, blessed are they who humble themselves without being compelled to be humble; or rather, in other words, blessed is he that believeth in the word of God, and is baptized withoutstubbornness of heart"

We were confident that she would receive an answer....when we came back, we were sadly disappointed to see that she hadn't even read or prayed....unfortunately, we had to chastise her a little bit and help her to understand just how important all of this is. I think it made a difference. She went to church again yesterday. There was a little 8 year old boy running around passing out invites to his baptism this Saturday. He gave an invite to her....when she looked at it, I think the Spirit touched her heart....she told us at the end of church "who knows, maybe I will be baptized this Saturday after all!" What a great piece of news! The Lord really can work miracles....we are going to see if we can seal the deal with her!

Elder Santana and I have been growing along together....we are really becoming more and more unified in our teaching and purpose. I couldn't imagine a better way to finish my mission that the way I am now!

Until next time, 

-Elder McKinley

Tuesday, May 7, 2013

Letter 5/6/13

It's a funny thing, because Elder Santana's parents are Pernambucanos (they are from Pernambuco)....they married and moved to São Paulo where he was born....he visited Pernambuco once before about 7 years ago and he got real sick to his stomach (maybe food poisoning or something). Since he's started his mission here, he's been sick to his stomach....In Brazil, people don't feel even the slightest uncomfortable in telling you that they have diarrhea (sp?)'s really weird....if you ask someone who looks like they are sick how they are doing, they'll respond, "oh I'm fine, I just have diarrhea today"....and then people react and respond like it were any other small conversational yeah, everyone found out that Elder Santana has had diarrhea for about 10 days was a bit difficult to work on the street when we had to stop and run to the chapel or back to our house every hour or so for him to use the bathroom. It's not his fault though. 

Tuesday at about 1:30 AM, he woke up and was having a lot of stomach pain....the other Elders got really worried and insisted that we go to the hospital. We called our branch president here in Vitória whose name is Elias. This guy is a stud. He showed up within 10 minutes in his little 1990's Volkswagen golf to give us a ride....the hospital (more like a clinic really) in Vitória didn't have the right equipment to do his exams, so we had to go to Recife, which is about a 30 minute car ride. Let me tell you something about Brazilian state highways....they aren't lighted. Let me tell you another thing about 1990's Volkswagen Golf's....their windshield wipers through some more gas on the fire, it started to rain....I was absolutely bewildered as to how our Branch President was able to the road through the rain and make it just comical, the wipers blew a circuit and stopped working all there we were, flying (Brazilians have lead feet!) on the dark Brazilian highway, in the rain, with no working windshield wipers, with my companion cradled up wincing in pain, and our branch president trying to simultaneously drive and stick his hand out the window to dry off the windshield with a dirty rag he happened to have in the back seat....yup. Let's just say that I gained a stronger testimony of prayer after this whole ordeal. The Lord protected us until we got to the hospital in Recife. Fun experience though getting there!

The exams came out looks like Elder Santana caught some kind of parasite. The doctors gave him an antibiotic that solved the problem really quick. In all, we ended up spending 2 complete days watching the wall paint peel in our apartment. It's good to get out folks. 

We had to work 2x as hard to try and make up for the time that we lost. We didn't have the same success that we'd been having in bringing investigators to church. That little boy Alex that was baptized was as happy as could when he was confirmed yesterday. You could see his happiness on his face. He ran to pick up all the hymn books after sacrament meeting was over, without even being asked. I can only imagine the happiness that I would feel if a little guy like this makes it to serve a mission...only time will tell. 

I made a few visits to the other areas in our district. I've been serving (and will finish my mission) serving as district's been fun for me so far. I'm able to apply a lot of the things that I've learned throughout my mission with these newer missionaries. They are all really eager to learn, and I'm really eager to pass what I know to them, so it's a great combo. 

There were a few people that I interviewed for baptism this week...that's always one of the highlights for me. I love seeing the desire people have to enter into the church....more often than not, the people have doubts or get cold feet right before their baptism. We really have to be in tune with the Spirit to be able to help these people to make the right decision. Sometimes it's a simple worry or concern that they have, like "what will my friends think?" or "will I be able to play soccer on Sundays?". Sometimes, it's a lot more complicated, like "I had an abortion 15 years ago and I just found out that my husband moved out on me to live with another woman and I don't have any money to buy food for my 5 children ...can you help me Elder?" That was the case on Saturday. After a good long talk, a very spiritually guided lesson, we helped this good faithful woman see how she could find peace and real stability in our Father in Heaven's Earthly Kingdom. The teachings and blessings of the Gospel are really the only thing that could help a woman like that. She courageously accepted, even in the middle of many doubts and real concerns, to be baptized. What a privilege it was to talk with this lady of such great faith. 

Even when it looks like things are going wrong, the Lord is always willing to drop us one of his tender mercies. I'm very grateful for this, and all of the wonderful experiences that I've had as a missionary up until now. Let's see if I can't have a few more before my times up!

Until next time, 

-Elder McKinley