Tuesday, April 30, 2013

I Made It!

Oi! Como vai? Tudo bem? I have officially made it through my first week here at the MTC. When I first got here I got a little orange dot the "dork dot" for my name tag that lets everyone know that you're new here. It's awesome. Just kidding. So all day everyone yells "Hello! Welcome to the MTC!" in their mission language so that was pretty funny. Minha companheira e Sister Empey. She's from Dallas, Texas. We are doing pretty well together but we both have strong personalities so we're still working on coming together. But I absolutely love teaching with her. She has such a strong testimony and I'm learning a lot from her. I. LOVE. PORTUGUESE. Absolutely love it. Our district has 8 elders and 4 sisters all going to Brazil but 4 of the elders are going to Campinas instead of Sao Paulo South. They're all great and it's such a great atmosphere with the spirit constantly around.
It is definitely different here though, and not what I expected. There are 1 million rules and being with the same people in class all day makes us a little stir crazy by 9:30 at night but as we focus more on our purpose and why we're here, it gets easier. This is definitely the hardest thing I have ever done. We wake up at 6 or 6:30 every day, go to breakfast, go to our classroom and do personal study for an hour, companion study for an hour, and language study for an hour then lunch. After lunch we go back to the classroom and prepare to teach our "investigator" We have now taught 3 whole lessons all in Portuguese!
Then we go to dinner and back to the classroom afterwards. It's rough. The language is coming along pretty well the more we study so that's wonderful. The food is pretty good, despite everyone's warnings. I only got a tad sick last night with a killer stomach ache so amen for pepto. I see Elder Ross every day and he is doing well! His P day is Friday for anyone who wanted to know. It's definitely an adjustment here but it's nice to see a familiar face. I have seen so many people here from BYUI too. So comforting. I'm not homesick...yet. But time doesn't feel real here. I feel like I'm in a different world, which I guess I am but it's hard to explain. Some days are great and others aren't but throughout the day prayer helps us get through. It's amazing what God can help us do. He really is my rock. Our father in Heaven knows us the best and as we put our trust in Him he will guide us.
Missionary work is NOT easy. Someone the other day said, well if Jesus were on the earth this is what He would be doing and you think that would be easy? Haha, so true. So I think that put it in perspective for all of us. The devotionals here are absolutely amazing and every time I feel like it is just for me. Yes it's hard and yes the days are extremely long but I know this is God's work and we are all called to serve him and bring his children back to Him. The spirit is so strong here. We went to the temple this morning and that really helped me remember why I wanted to serve a mission. God loves us all so much and just wants us to be happy. I can't wait to teach in Brazil! But I have tons more to learn. I would love some pictures of my beautiful niece! *cough mom and Garcias* and feel free to email me throughout the week. I can only reply on Tuesdays though. Also, Dearelder.com is a beautiful thing. So far in the district I am winning with my letter count so keep 'em coming! Still working on humility :) but letters here are like gold for missionaries. My address for the MTC is:

Sister Alyssa Lauren Cox
MTC Box #133
BRA-SPS 0603
2005 N 900 E
Provo, UT 84604

And I love handwritten letters as well! We found out that we will probably all be re-assigned to somewhere in the US because no one is getting their visas on time. I've heard of people going to Alaska, Ohio, Nebraska, and the Dakotas (oy), but I'm hoping for Cali! I know I'll love wherever I go and that I will eventually get to Brazil. Parents, I get to call you when I'm in the airport in 5 weeks! Can't wait. What I wouldn't do for a hug sometimes. But it's great and I love being a missionary already. Don't worry about me!! But keep us in your prayers that we can get this language down and be able to teach more effectively...and also stay healthy because this place spreads germs like none other. I hope you're all doing well. Love and miss you all so much!

Sister Cox

(They will pronounce my name Sister Koosh in Brazil)



Sunday, April 21, 2013

This is it! Ate logo :)

Farewell talk

Good morning everyone! Today I was asked to speak on Doctrine & Covenants Section 4 and relate this to my missionary service. I want to start by talking a little about why I want to serve a mission and then go into applying these scriptures to what I’ll be doing there. Ever since I was in Young Women’s missions always fascinated me. I don’t come from an 8 generation family in the church whose relatives all served missions, so all that I learned about them, I learned here. I always thought about what it would be like to serve and if I could really do it. I was 50/50 whenever I entertained the idea. I thought about if I could be away from my family for that long or if I would ever know enough to serve. All of these worries subsided the more I studied and prayed for my answer. I want to serve a mission for many reasons but the first reason is that I really love this gospel. I’ve always loved sharing my knowledge of the gospel, as little as it may be, with my friends and family and always wanted them to learn more. I know how much it has blessed my life and I want others to have that same joy.
So, this past summer and beginning of last fall semester I had been praying really hard to find out if this was what I needed to do. I always think that answers to my prayers will come in these overwhelming spiritual moments, but not this time. It was the week before October’s General Conference and I was sitting in one of my business classes zoning out, as tends to happen in college. I was thinking of working on my papers, receiving my call, preparing to go to the MTC and I felt peace. I felt strongly impressed that I needed to go. I prayed about this revelation over and over because surely this couldn’t be it after months of praying. But it was. And it was right. I planned on finishing out the school year and leaving sometime this summer. But… I didn’t feel right about any of the internships I was pursuing and none of them seemed to be working out. I finally got my answer why. When I heard the announcement from President Monson that all “able, worthy, young women who have the desire to serve may be recommended for missionary service beginning at age 19 instead of age 21” my jaw dropped and I immediately yelled “I’m going on a mission” and may have scared my rooommates a bit, then I felt instant peace again. Now, I’m almost 21 anyway so I’m really only using this age change to my advantage by one month, but I was excited nonetheless that I could serve even sooner and I started working on my papers soon after that.
The first verse of D&C Section 4 says,
1 Now behold, a amarvelous work is about to come forth among the children of men.
 2 Therefore, O ye that embark in the aservice of God, see that ye bserve him with all your heart, might, mind and strength, that ye may stand cblameless before God at the last day.
The first thing I thought of as it says a Marvelous work is about to come forth was the age change in missionaries because thousands of missionaries have answered the call and I was so thrilled to hear in conference that by the end of the year we will have 91,000 missionaries in the field which is close to double than we had serving in 2012, it’s amazing.
These are such powerful scriptures to me because I know that I don’t have any time to waste on my mission. I chose to go and do and now I have to do just that. When I gave my talk in the single’s branch a few weeks ago on discipleship I quoted Elder Merrill J. Bateman’s talk “Becoming a Disciple of Christ” and he says, “The command to serve God with all your heart, might, mind, and strength should leave one exhausted at the end of life, not midway through the journey.” I mentioned that I couldn’t imagine going through life and the energy it must take to serve with all my heart, might, mind, and strength that I will literally be exhausted at the end of this life. But this is what we choose to do, to follow the teachings of Jesus Christ and become better each day. This is even magnified on a mission as we are servants and literally taking His name upon on us and teaching in His name. No pressure, right? Furthermore on this point, Brother Wengler described this time of our lives as a pressure cooker. There is so much to learn and do and grow from in this small amount of time that we have to make the most of every moment of every day. I’m exhausted just thinking about it, but in the end I know it will all be worth it.
In verses 3-5 it reads,
 3 Therefore, if ye have desires to serve God ye are acalled to the work;
4 For behold the afield is white already to bharvest; and lo, he that thrusteth in his sickle with his might, the same layeth up in cstore that he perisheth not, but bringeth salvation to his soul;
 5 And afaith, bhope, ccharity and dlove, with an eeye single to the fglory of God, gqualify him for the work.
I quickly got over my feelings of inadequacy as I spoke with many of you on how I just don’t feel like I know enough. But God doesn’t call the qualified, he qualifies the called, and I know that to be true. I was talking to a few friends at school before I had even put my papers in and one of my best friends told me, “Alyssa, there are people in Brazil waiting for you to teach them. There are those who only you can touch. It’s your smile and your testimony that are going to change lives.” And at first I’m thinking no way is that true. Anyone could go and do the same thing I’m doing and be just as effective. But I know that mission calls are personal and special, and that I was called to the Sao Paulo South mission to do the work there that I was designed to do. There are so many people waiting to hear the message that we have to share, especially in Brazil where the church is growing so rapidly so I love where it says, “The field is white already to harvest.”
Verse 6 says,
 6 Remember faith, avirtue, knowledge, btemperance, cpatience, dbrotherly ekindness, fgodliness, charity, ghumility, hdiligence.
All of these qualities will be needed throughout my whole mission I’m sure. There’s a reason why all of these are grouped together in the section on missionary work. I know that as I teach that I will have to remind myself of these things so that I can become the missionary that I’ve always wanted to be. In this past general conference Elder D. Todd Christofferson said, “Inasmuch as we follow Christ, we seek to participate in and further His redemptive work. The greatest service we can provide to others in this life, beginning with those of our own family, is to bring them to Christ through faith and repentance so they may experience His Redemption—peace and joy now and immortality and eternal life in the world to come. The work of our missionaries is a magnificent expression of the Lord’s redeeming love. As His authorized messengers, they offer the incomparable blessings of faith in Jesus Christ, repentance, baptism, and the gift of the Holy Ghost, opening the way to spiritual rebirth and redemption.
I know that it is ultimately up to me to be the missionary that I want to be. In “The Fourth missionary” by Lawrence E. Corbridge he says in a section titled What manner of men ought ye to be?
“Jesus asked a similar question. He said: "What manner of men ought ye to be?" On this particular occasion he was speaking to his Nephite disciples and so he spoke in the male gender, but the question applies to us all, and so, He asks of you: "What manner of men and women ought ye to be?" Then answering His own question he said, "Even as I am."
Jesus Christ not only came to atone for our sins; He also came to show us the way. He is the Way. You not only may become like Him; everything is stacked in your favor to become like Him.
Think of this life as a path on which you never stand still. As you move forward, you incorporate into your being the characteristics and qualities of God. As you move backward you assimilate the qualities of Satan.
Every challenge you face, every hard thing you confront, every bad thing that happens to you, every unfairness, every conflict, every sadness, tragedy, every disappointment and heartache, every temptation and every opposition happens for one purpose only: to give you opportunity to respond by applying in your life the teachings of Jesus. As you do so you are changed to become more like Him.”
I just love that because this is exactly what I’ll be teaching, and this is the missionary that I want to be, inviting others to come unto Christ.
The last verse of D&C 4 says,
 aAsk, and ye shall receive; bknock, and it shall be opened unto you. Amen.
Prayer has been such a guide for me throughout my life, but especially the past four months after I had my call and started preparing to go. This is how we ask, as it says in this last verse. We can always turn to our father in heaven for peace and comfort, which I am so grateful for. There is great power in prayer and I know he hears and answers them all. I am also grateful for the scriptures. This is how we receive. We may not always hear the still small voice of the Holy Ghost but as we turn to the scriptures, this is where we will receive our answers. One of my favorite parts of this gospel is the fact that we can never stop learning. It really is line upon line, precept upon precept. And I’m so grateful for prayer and the scriptures because they are what I will turn to on my mission as I seek for answers and comfort.
In Carlos E. Asay’s 1976 october conference talk titled “The Spirit of Missionary Work” he said, A few years ago, in a mission presidents seminar, President Hugh B. Brown said: “If God would grant me one wish—just one—it would be this: that each missionary felt and enjoyed the spirit of his calling.” He also stated that if all missionaries were blessed to feel this spirit, miraculous things would occur in the world. My stake president at BYU—Idaho told us in mission prep “Obedience brings blessings but perfect obedience brings miracles.”
There were so many times I questioned whether I was doing the right thing and putting everything on hold to go and serve a mission and in the end I kept getting the answer that yes, I needed to go, even when I was scared and knew it would be so easy to just stay. But I realized this work is so much bigger than me. It really has nothing to do with me at all. This is God’s work and I am just an instrument in His hands. Satan has been working hard against me and trying to make me doubt the answer that I already had. But through consistent prayer I was able to be at peace with my choice.
I recently read a quote that said “Don’t put a question mark where God has already put a period.” And I was doing exactly that, questioning an answer that I had already received. I thought time would drag and that April 24th would never come and here I am 3 days before I report to the MTC. I am so thankful for personal revelation and how we can each receive answers to our prayers if we are worthy and ready to listen to the promptings of the Holy Ghost. 
Many people have told me the waiting period is the worst. And I also know that’s true. The past four months waiting to leave at times were unbearable as doubt sometimes crept in and I didn’t think that I could do it. But I can. I know I can because anything is possible through our faith in God. He is always there. He will never leave us alone. One of the things I’m looking forward to the most is to be able to strengthen my relationship with my Heavenly Father and fully trust in Him because that’s who we have to lean on in times of trouble.
One of my best friends and roommates from school, her Dad passed away just 2 months ago so unexpectedly. She has been a member her whole life, everyone in her family is a member and they are sealed together for time and all eternity. This has been the hardest thing for her to go through in her entire life, and though I wasn’t there, I knew she was hurting, but I couldn’t even begin to imagine the pain she was feeling. It was at this time that her family had to choose to either lean on God and trust in Him to know that He has a plan for us or they could have turned the other way, turning their backs on the Lord out of frustration or even anger. They chose to follow whatever God had in store for them and it was such a blessing and a comfort to her to know that she will see her Dad again.
Now I’ve heard these stories again and again but never with a friend so close to me. It was amazing to hear how her family came together and really strengthened one another, even when it was so hard and at the same time, were preparing to send her brother on his mission to Canada the very next week. I can’t wait to share this message of the plan of salvation to families in Brazil so that they will be at peace and know that through this church, we can be with our families forever. We will see our loved ones again and we can eventually feel at peace with these tragic events that sometimes occur.

This road preparing to go on my mission has been anything but ideal, with delays with multiple things, including my visa which is why I am now reporting to the Provo MTC. I felt like nothing went right and nothing ever went according to my own plan. It’s been really humbling to know that I am not in full control of my life. I can control parts of it, but for the most part it’s up to Heavenly Father and I have to accept whatever he has in store for me. In Matthew chapter 26 Jesus knelt down and offered up a prayer to God right before he suffered in Gethsemane. In verse 39 it says “And he went a little further, and fell on his face, and aprayed, saying, O my bFather, if it be possible, let this ccup pass from me: nevertheless not as I dwill, but as ethou fwilt.” This has taught me such a great lesson on the Lord’s will being done and not my own. Now my situation isn’t to the extent where my life is in jeopardy but it has been extremely humbling and a great learning experience. It’s been challenging to realize but I know everything happens for a reason and as long as we are doing what is right, we will never be left empty-handed.

I am so excited to serve the people of Brazil. Through all of this waiting I have learned so much that I know has prepared me to be a better missionary. Great things come with patience. I want to bear testimony that Joseph Smith restored the true church on this earth. The Book of Mormon is the word of God and our lives will be blessed as we turn our thoughts and actions to Him.
I am so grateful for my mom and her faith to know that this church was true 19 years ago. Without her I wouldn’t be standing here today about to serve a mission. I will forever be grateful for those two missionaries who continued to teach my family and didn’t give up, even with a move from New York to Pennsylvania in between. Her decision to follow the spirit and be baptized along with my brothers changed my life, the lives of our family to come, and hopefully many people in Brazil.
I know that my Heavenly Father loves me and has a plan for me. I know that I was called to serve in Brazil because that’s where I am needed and where I can be the most effective. Thomas S. Monson is a true prophet of God and he leads and directs this church. I’m thankful for all of the many lessons that so many of you have taught me and for your support in various ways from just a smile in the hallway to giving me advice on how to be the best missionary. I love you all and just want to close with a poem and no, I did not write this, though I would love to take credit for it.

Answering The Call

"The day has come,
My dream is coming true,
Now it is my time,
For me to go and do.

I am answering the call,
Turning my life over to the Lord,
I am being sent out upon the earth,
To share life’s greatest reward.

My journey will not be easy,
And at times it will be long,
But never fear, for the Lord is sending me,
Truly where I belong.

The next 18 months of my life,
I shall bear his holy name,
Going forth with my duty,
To ignite in others the gospel flame.

I will do the Lord’s work,
Helping his children to learn,
And when my time ends,
With honor I shall return.

I leave my family shortly,
So that others can be with theirs forever,
For I know that when I return,
I will have no regret, whatsoever.

The time has now come,
For me to be set apart,
As a missionary I will be,
Forever kept in the Lord’s Heart.

A Sister Missionary is who I am,
Now a tool in the Lord’s hand,
With this I say farewell,
For I have flocks to bring to the promise land."

And I say these things in the name of Jesus Christ. Amen.

Tuesday, April 16, 2013

Time is running out!

I have 8 days until I report to the Provo MTC. I found out on Saturday that my visa to Brazil will not be here in time for me to go straight to the Brazil MTC and I was sad at first, thinking I did something wrong, but quickly remembered that I can't get cupcakes sent to me in Brazil so I gotta soak this up!! ;) Anyway, these past four months have flown by but I realized how many lessons that I needed to learn before it was my time to leave. God has a plan for all of us. I've come to know this as I've seen His hand working double-time in my life lately. I know that the temple is the best place to be in times of trouble or when seeking comfort. I have now been there five times to five different temples and it truly is the house of the Lord. His presence is felt each and every time.

I am so grateful for this time I've had at home to spend with my family and for the knowledge I've gained over and over again that I have only some control of what happens in my life. I have learned to be patient and that everything happens for a reason. God does know what He's doing and we just have to put our trust in Him! He will not leave us empty-handed or lead us astray. As nervous and scared as I am, I know that I am in good hands. This is the right thing for me to be doing with my life right now and I cannot wait to get out there and teach and love and serve the people of São Paulo, Brazil!

 Washington DC
 Manhattan, New York
 Atlanta, Georgia
 Salt Lake City, Utah
Rexburg, Idaho