Oi Familia e amigos!
So I guess you could say that something pretty awesome happened this morning. As Elder Young and I were doing companionship study, our phone rang and it was our mission president, President Hermansen. We put him on speaker and asked how everything was going. He asked if I was around, and I said I was. He goes, "Elder Stallings! I hear Brazil is pretty nice around this time of year, and It looks like you're gonna be able to see for yourself because your visa just came in." MY VISA ARRIVED! I will be leaving for Brazil in exactly a week (next monday)! I'm so excited that I'll get to use my portuguese and meet the people of Brazil! This next monday is going to be transfers anyway, so I guess you could say this will be the biggest transfer I'll see on my mission.
Besides hearing about that this morning, this week was incredible. I received the birthday package and will make sure to send pictures when I open it! Thank you so much for that! The day before it came, we were on exchanges with the YSA elders, and this time I stayed in our area and had to be the leader. This was something that I was pretty nervous about because last time I went on exchanges, it was to another area with one of the zone leaders and I didn't have to do much leadership wise. But this time I was going to have to be in charge of planning, knowing the area, and ultimately leading out on talking with everyone. Over all though, it turned out to be an incredible experience. Really boosted my confidence as well as my appreciation for Elder Young.
During my stay here in Reno, I've really been trying to get to know the Youth. I have a huge testimony, thanks to missionaries in my home ward, that getting to know the youth and getting them excited about missionary work will only bring blessings. Apparently, the youth hadn't really been out with any missionaries or for that matter known any previous missionaries all that well. So we arranged to just meet an an IHOP one night when we didn't have a dinner appt, and just got to know them. It was just 3 priests, but they're all super awesome and good youth. Amazingly enough, someone sitting at another table paid for everyone's bill, so we were all very happy and grateful for that. We committed them to come out with us, and yesterday they actually did! Again, I had the opportunity to be a leader as I took 2 of them and Elder Young took the other 1 and we went to opposite sides of town to find and teach. We were able to teach some good quick lessons to people on the street, and I even put one of them on the spot by saying he would translate my portuguese for me. The weirdest/funniest thing that happened was we saw a guy just walking down the side walk, and asked if he knew of anyone that could use some help. He ignored us and just kept walking, which happens sometimes. I turned around and starting explaining to the youth that "yeah, that happens sometimes-" and as I was saying that, he threw his open bottle of pop at us! It hit one of the priests, Garrison's shoes and splattered everywhere. We just kind of looked in shock as the guy tried to run away. But as we looked at the pop, we all realized that not a single drop got on us. Seriously, even the shoe that it hit didn't have ANYTHING on it. I was impressed and grateful for the constant protection the Lord gives to his missionaries if they are doing the right thing. Over all, the youth left that day pretty pumped up and excited for missionary work. Having these opportunities to be a leader really shows you how much you are growing, and also how much you don't know. Both of them are essential, and it really helps you as a missionary.
I'm really going to miss being here in Reno, NV. This has become a place of spiritual growth and love for me. This ward is full of incredible people who embraced me immediately, despite my faults and weaknesses. I plan on this being one of the 1st places I visit as I return after 2 years of serving in Brazil. Reno was truly where I needed to be for this first month in the field. I love this mission so much, and I'm so grateful for all of you who sent me letters and packages while I was here. I don't know how Brazil is going to be in that regard, but know that everything that was sent to me was treasured up. I love you all so much and am very grateful to be serving the Lord at this time. His arm is truly being revealed.