Monday, December 7, 2015

*THE END* // *FIM*

Close your eyes for a sec. Think back to what you were doing two years ago. Where were you? Who were you with? I've been reflecting A LOT this past week. It's incredible how fast two years passed by. Two years ago I was packing a suitcase for an adventure to Rio Grande do Sul, Brasil where I would make friendships and memories that will last forever.

I'm down to the last TEN DAYS of my mission. I'll have one more Monday after this but I'm not sure how much time I'll have to email next week because of interviews, temple, etc. so I've decided to send out my last words today and to let you all know how much I've loved this mission and how much I've learned.

I remember as a kid we would have the missionaries over to eat dinner at our house and I always admired them and thought it was awesome because the best dinner of the month was when the missionaries were over. My parents hooked them up! I also remember putting on a tie and a backpack and riding around the neighborhood on my bike with my friend Scot pretending to be missionaries and it was like the coolest thing we did as kids. Eventually my rebel days came and the things of the world started to appear more attractive than the things of the Lord and my desire to serve a mission was lost. I remember fighting with my parents about serving a mission because it was going to be a "waste of time".

Fortunately my parents sent me off to BYU-Idaho for a year and a half where I learned that in order to marry an attractive girl from the church I would want to serve a mission. To be honest, the reason I came out on a mission was just to get that "RM" title to be able to date whoever I wanted at BYU. HOWEVER, having that as my base for coming out on a mission was not strong enough to keep me on a mission. I quickly learned that a mission is SUPER hard and that in order to make it through two years I would have to make up my mind and figure out what would be able to keep me on a mission.

In my first area, Águas Claras, I witnessed the true power that prayer has and was able to gain a strong relationship with my Heavenly Father. In Montanha I learned how to work hard and set high goals. When I went to São Tomé I was taught that many times God's plan for us is not the same as our plan for us and we need to accept the will of the Lord. When I went to Fátima I started to realize that it's the little things in life that bring us happiness and we need to give value to those things. In Fernando Osório I learned how to smile during hard moments (like getting robbed). Here in my last area, Lomba do Pinheiro, I've been learning how important the family really is. All these important lessons that I've learned in each of my area, along with many more, were key factors in the building up of the testimony that I have now. The testimony that I gained during these two years in Brasil was what kept me out here.

I have never seen God or Jesus Christ but I now know that they live because I feel them. I know that they have a really awesome plan for us and want us to be able to come back to their presence, better than when we were with them before this life. God calls prophets so that we don't have to wander through this life completely lost. The scriptures contain the words of the Lord and will tell us ALL things that we should do. Families are forever. There is no end to glory, there is no end to love. There is no end to being, there is no death above.

I love you all! Thank you for all your support, prayers, and whatever else you did for me!


Elder Sanok

Monday, November 30, 2015

What Once Was Two Years is Now TWO WEEKS

WHOA. Two weeks. WHAT?! Has it hit y'all that it's all coming to an end? For me I have random moments that I realize that I'm coming home soon but for the most part it hasn't hit me yet. I'm still going strong! This morning we had to miss choir practice because we had a wedding for a young couple that we've been teaching! They're relatives of a member family that has been helping us a lot and we're excited to see them taking big steps such as marriage and baptism this week! After the wedding at the courthouse we headed to a park and took pictures.

It's really been heating up here and I can't wait to head back to winter! How is it at home? Everyone thinks that because I'm from the US it snows where I live and I have to explain that it gets really cold but fortunately doesn't snow! The hills here have also been killing me. I'm so ready to not have to walk like the pioneers all day every day but roll around in a car instead when I wanna go somewhere. Kinda scared to drive again though to be honest. 

Today we had lunch at Subway and I scored a sweet Star Wars poster for buying a combo meal. I stoked to see that movie! Actually I'm really anxious to go to the cinema again. It's the little things that I miss like cinema popcorn or going to the grocery store in flip flops or having a phone to entertain me.

We had Zone Conference this week which was kinda boring for me because all we really talked about was plans and goals for 2016 so I was kinda zoned out. I thought I was gonna give my going-away-testimony but apparently we're going to have a Christmas Conference on the DAY that I'm peacing out of here so I'll be giving a sweet going-away-testimony like 2 hours before getting on my plane. 

Hope all is well back home! 
Love you guys! 

Elder Sanok

Tuesday, November 17, 2015

The One Month Range

We are officially in the ONE MONTH RANGE! 30 days... can't believe it! This past week flew by like lightning! I'm getting along great with my new comp and everyone in the district is really good friends so you can say that I'm dying happily. I don't feel any stress (except for when I think about what I wanna do with my future) and overall my health is pretty well. My comp has been helping me train so that I can come home in good shape. It's getting pretty warm but the thought of heading back to winter in four weeks helps me push through the hot and sunny days. I spent the whole week showing my comp around the area and introducing him to the members, recent converts, and investigators. I wasn't suuuuuper thrilled when I found out I'd be finishing my mission in Porto Alegre but I can honestly say that I'm dying in an awesome area! To sum everything up in a few words, I'm feelin' good!
Love you guys!
Elder Sanok

ps - sorry for not taking any pics this week. Next week y'all will see some cool pics as we already have our P-Day planned out ;)

Tuesday, November 10, 2015

Last Transfer!!!

Once again, a week flown by! I am happy and a bit freaked out to say that this is OFFICIALLY my LAST TRANSFER! FIVE WEEKS BABY!!! Bah, it's kinda crazy to think that in a little over a month I'll be home. But I can assure all of you that I'm happy being here and I'm givin it my all! My new (and last) companion is from Rio and is already a friend of mine so I'll be dying happily. This week was insanely busy as we were running around trying to marry a couple, bring a family to the see the temple, take care of the 12 families we have in our teaching pool, and prepare for transfers! You'll have to forgive me for the short update this week but know that I love you all and I'm doing great!

Elder Sanok

Tuesday, November 3, 2015

Right Around the Corner!!

Helloooooooo! So yesterday was some random holiday here meaning that yesterday was a work day and today is my Pday! The keyboard that I'm using is having problems so my email today is gonna be super short...

This week was INTENSE! So we've been working hard with this couple that we met at the beginning of the transfer and this week was their baptism. We worked HARD with them because they were pretty hesitant at first but it all worked out in the end! On Tuesday we practiced the baptismal interview with them and suggested that President Cruz would come to do their interview. Their best friend who has been helping us a lot is from Rio and has been inactive for many years but has been returning as they have been starting this journey. When he heard the name "Cruz" from Rio his jaw dropped and he started asking a bunch of questions about pres like his name, wife's name, etc. Once he got all that info he got very emotional and told us that he was his bishop in Rio many years ago and that they were great friends! We called pres right away to let him know and he couldn't believe it! When he came to do the interviews they had an awesome reunion. It was so cool to see how Heavenly Father looks out for all his children, even those lost sheep, and provides a way for them to come back. They had their interviews and the baptism was a success. President LOVES this family and grabbed their number and started planning family nights with them and everything. He then suggested an awesome idea that we take them to the temple this week to give a tour of the gardens and teach about the temple! So that's what we're gonna do today...take our recent convert family to the temple for the first time!! :D

Just wanna let y'all know that even though I'm only 43 days away, I'm working like I've never worked before!
Love you guys!

p.s. I'll be coming home NEXT MONTH!!!
Elder Sanok

Tuesday, October 27, 2015

Keep Calm and Start the Countdown!

Keep calm and start the countdown -- 51 days!!
Ok so it's starting to get scary how close to the end I am. I'm stoked to be coming home and getting back to real life but I'm also trying to really enjoy these last days. Sometimes we get so focused on counting the days that we forget to make the days count. This week I had a great experience that proved to me how great the mission really is. We had stake conference this weekend in Viamão and I had a pretty awesome and emotional experience. Not only was I able to see literally just about everyone I had come to know and work with the first year of my mission but I was also able to see the progress. Recent converts and investigators I had were being sustained in their ordination of the Melchizedek Priesthood. Some families I had worked with have already gone through the temple this past year. A couple youth converts and less-actives are now getting ready for missions. There wasn't a moment that somebody wasn't coming up to give me a hug or tell me how much I've been missed. I honestly thought that like 98% of the people had forgotten me but I was soooo wrong. I LOVE THESE GAUCHOS!!!
This week was intense as we've been getting everything set up for some end-of-the-transfer baptisms! We have some awesome families and individuals that we're working with. The work in this area is unreal it's so good! Of course we have our road bumps but we're having some great experiences and progress here in Lomba do Pinheiro!

I'm physically destroyed but somehow I'm pushing through to the end. Keep up your prayers because I honestly think that your prayers are what's getting me through each day! I've been having some challenges these past two weeks with my usual migraines but it's been a little out of the ordinary as it's been almost every day with vomiting too. Sister Cruz is currently marking some exams for me and I'll be getting checked out most likely this week in one of the nicest hospitals in Porto Alegre. Time to figure out what this is once and for all!
My comp got invited to do a solo in the Christmas choir performances that we'll be doing starting next month so while he stayed after for special practice I hit up Burger King with Chapple and his comp! Whopper, Halloween edition! 

We were walking down the road the other day and one of the biggest soccer teams in Brasil (from here in Porto Alegre), Internacional, was at a churrascaria in our area so I ran up and snapped a pic in front of the bus since it's the team I like here.

That's it for this week!
Love you guys!
Elder Sanok

Tuesday, October 20, 2015

From Two Years to Two Months

Nossa, the weeks are just going by faster and faster, huh?! What once was two years is just 2 months now! I can't wait to kick it with y'all in 8 weeks! But for now, I've still got a lot to do...
This week was INSANELY busy as we fought through the rain each day trying to get our baptisms organized. Everything went nice and smooth and I'm happy to report that two more people followed the example of Christ this week by being baptized by the priesthood power of God.
So I don't know if it's gotten to the US yet but Rio Grande do Sul is all over the news here in Brasil because of the crazy rain storms we've been having; looks like some cities are completely under water. I actually prefer the rain because it's refreshing in comparison to the scorching sun! I remember that this time last year was unbearably hot but right now it's nice and cool. We actually had a few days this week in which I rocked a sweater.
This week we'll have stake conference which I'm stoked for because I'll be able to see everyone from my first three areas in Viamão! Speaking of the stake, I've been participating in some leadership meetings with the stake and the mission about the progress of the stake and it looks like we're getting really close to dividing the stake! A lot of sweat has gone into this division so I really hope I'm here to see it. 

Random story: So this morning we had Christmas choir practice at the mission office and our ZL's forgot to tell us that we needed to wear a red tie for a picture so I come walking in with a yellow Hawaiian print tie completely standing out so I grab Elder Chapple and we hop in a taxi and fly down to the center to buy a red tie but we end up staying for almost an hour doing tie shopping. Total American move right there.
That's about all I can remember from this week..
Hope y'all had a great one!
Love you guys!
Elder Sanok

p.s. like my ride?

Wednesday, October 14, 2015

Attitude Determines Aptitude

Another week down! Bah, it's really rather mind-blowing how fast the end is coming.. Pinheiro is treating me well in terms of teaching but physically I'm dying (hills all day, every day). We have a great group of people that we're working with and we're seeing a lot of progress with these people. I'm working as hard as I possibly can and it really is rewarding! I know that there are people in this area waiting for me and needing something that I have so I can't give up quite yet. 

I read a great talk this week by President Uchtdorf about the marathons in our life and I can really relate it to the stage I'm at in my mission. In any type of race, we always start out super strong with our torch blazing bright but it's not always about how fast you finish the race but about coming across the line strong with that torch still lit. I started out my mission really strong and worked my butt off but then I got to that point where I was exhausted and thought that because I was getting close to the end I could take it a little easy here and there. Fortunately I've been able to have a change in mindset these past few weeks and I've got my torch lit bright - now it's all about bringing all I've got across that finish line!

Although it rained literally every single day this week without stopping, we threw on our rain coats, grabbed our umbrellas, and charged the streets! Like I said, we have a lot of people that are progressing and making big changes in their lives. Unfortunately, due to a lack of gas in the chapel this weekend, we weren't able to heat the baptismal font up for a baptism and the family decided it would be better to postpone for this coming week. Unfortunately, we often get these little hurdles thrown in our way but it's up to us if we're gonna overcome them with a good attitude or not. Whether I liked it or not, it rained this week and there was nothing I could do about it. Instead of moping around in the house all week, we joked about how we would be getting wife points for working in the rain and went out anyways. We could have beat our heads into the wall for having a failed baptism on Saturday but instead we realized it would give us more time to prepare the family and get a good baptismal meeting planned. Attitude determines aptitude. My middle school principal always said, "make it a great day or not, the choice is yours."

Sorry for not taking any pictures this week.. I didn't wanna risk my camera getting destroyed by the rain.

Love you guys!
Just a little more!
Elder Sanok

Tuesday, October 6, 2015

Back In Viamão.....

Well, I lied to yall. I thought I was headed to POA but I was wrong.. I'm back in Viamão! My area is like right in between Porto Alegre and Viamão but to me it's more Viamão hahaha. I'm really enjoying the new area though, we have a lot of great people to teach and I've got some energy inside of me that I haven't felt since the beginning of my mission so I have a feeling that I'll be dying working hard!

The area lives up to it's name, "Lomba do Pinheiro", which means "Pinetree Hill" but it should be "Pinetree MOUNTAIN" because it's full of mountainous hills! I'll be coming home with legs of steel.
Like I said, we have tons of people to be teaching, the majority being families! Nothing is better to a missionary than a great family to be teaching and we've got quite a few! Almost every one that we have with baptismal dates made it to one of the sessions of conference this weekend which was awesome! I'm feeling really good about this area and I know we're going to be having tons of success! 

Conference this weekend was AWESOME!!! Can't believe it was my last one.. I was thinking yesterday about my first conference in the mission when I didn't understand a thing - I've come a long way... I don't have much to say because I was overwhelmed by it's awesomeness but here are some of the things I most liked:
(sorry if it's not the same thing y'all picked out because the translation can be a little different sometimes)
"With the fruits of the gospel, we can turn our dreams into reality." -Uchtdorf
"Christ uses our weaknesses to help us learn and become stronger while Satan uses them to make us feel useless and hopeless." -Uchtdorf
"Exaltation is the objective; discipleship is the way." -Uchtdorf
"We can't get to Zion by jumping out of the boat and trying to swim ahead." -Ballard
"Our heart begins to cure when we accept the will of the Lord." -Neill F. Marriot
"The choices we make right now mold our eternal destiny." -Hales
I LOVE MY MOMMA!!! -what I got out of Holland's talk
"The small gesture of a smile has great power." -Hugo Montoya
"There is no darkness so dense or strong that cannot be illuminated by the light." -Vern P. Stanfill
"PONDERIZE!" -Devin G. Durrant
"Don't be so critical of the barriers." -Von G. Keetch
"Qualifications to be a light of the world: Be an example in word and conversation. Demonstrate charity, the pure love of Christ. Be an example in spirit and faith. Be pure." -President Monson

Love you all! Have a great week!

Monday, September 28, 2015

Olá! For the Last Time from Pelotas..

HELLO HELLO, this is the last email y'all will be getting from Pelotas as it seems that I'm headed off to Porto Alegre to finish my mission! We got the call last night that Elder Chapple and I will be getting transferred to Porto Alegre. I really loved my time in Pelotas. I spent the last 9 months here and grew to love this city but now it looks like Dan is headed off to the big city! My new area is Lomba do Pinheiro and I'll be with an elder from São Paulo and two elders from Chile and Peru - should be fun! I'm pretty excited as I will be returning to the same stake that I was in for the first year of my mission, Estaca Partenon, just in time for the division! It'll be cool seeing some of the fruits of my labor in Viamão as well as seeing so many people that I got to know while I was there as my new area borders with Viamão.

This week flew by! I kinda had a feeling that I was gonna get transferred so spent the whole week saying tchau to the people here. We had some good experiences throughout the week with the work and I was able to learn the importance of pushing through. Being the last week and having a feeling you're gonna get transferred usually doesn't push you that much and on top of that, it was pouring rain all week but we sucked it up and went out anyways. We had some awesome experiences including finding a family of 9 really receptive people who will be great for the elders that will stay here.

The mission is flying by! I can't believe I'm headed off to what will most likely be my last area. Can't wait to see you all in 2 and a half months! Make sure to check out general conference this week! We're immensely blessed to have a living prophet and apostles that will deliver us direct revelation from God!

Peace and love,
Elder Sanok