We’ve had a good week! Jeniffer* went to church yesterday!!! Last week we finally met the old goal we had of # of investigators at church all last transfer. She is keeping all the commandments and we are excited for her! An eight-year-old we were teaching (with her mother) went to church as well–Carla. Hopefully her mom will want to go to church in the future as well. She is very cute. I asked her what her favorite thing to do was and she said “pray.” “Do you feel like God answers your prayer?” “Yes, I asked him if he was real and He said he was!” We gave her a Book of Mormon yesterday and she said she would read it! A member from a different ward took her whole family and her non-member friend to our ward yesterday as well. That young woman gets 2000 awesome member points. Taking him to the ward where he lives was a great idea.
Juliana and Joao Pedro went to the marriage office! The office said they had to redo their documents before getting married (expensive) but we are hoping they’ll find a different route. After the spiritual experience we had with them last week, we were hoping they would progress more and they really have! We called them a few times this past week but weren’t able to visit them until this Sunday. We went to teach the Word of Wisdom and Joao Pedro said he hadn’t drank in a week (i.e., since the last lesson we taught them!) That means that after getting married they’ll be keeping all the commandments already! Eight years ago, when they first heard about the Church they lived very different lives. They were owners of a bar! This is a great example 1 Corinthians 3:5-8. Other missionaries planted the seed in their lives, many many other missionaries watered that seed for months and years, and God is giving the increase! What a blessing to be “ministers whom ( Juliana and Joao Pedro) believed.”
We’ve only seen Wesley once since the transfer started, so that was too bad. But the other day a less-active member stopped us in the street! She hasn’t been to church in years, but missionaries visited her and her family a year ago and she loved their visits. I actually met those sisters because a year ago they were at my Christmas zone conference. It’s funny to think that was a year ago already! Her three children (and a boyfriend who lives in a different area) accepted baptismal dates when we went to visit them. We aren’t sure if any of them will be able to go to church next Sunday, but we are excited.
The ward Christmas party happened this week and we met a few non-members there. We’re excited to visit them! We also went on splits with the sisters in Escada. I had never gone on splits with a sister in training before. It was different, but great! Also, I was slightly sick and spent an entire day not working in order to do a urine test at the hospital. It was a production! But I am grateful to have the missionary health plan–I really feel for the many people we meet who do not have that blessing.
How was Thanksgiving? I might buy some sweet potatoes here for a belated Thanksgiving mashed sweet potatoes. It’s funny– there isn’t any Thanksgiving here but there is Black Friday! There were lots of signs with “Black Friday” and “Black Week” “Black Month,” etc., all in English. Commercialism is international! There are also tons of Christmas lights — that has been the case for many weeks already. It is funny to be in a place with skyscrapers. I don’t remember having been in a big city at Christmas time before. People in skyscrapers decorate their own window. So all of the windows have different lights! I thought there were tons of Christmas lights, but this week on Sunday a member said there are very few lights nowadays which just goes to show the lack of belief in Christ. I guess I would have liked to see Christmas in Recife several years ago! I am always surprised at just how many people believe in Christ (and post signs and stickers proclaiming said belief on cars, houses, stores, etc.) so it was an interesting viewpoint to hear.
This week was great! We had a new investigator at church this week — Bruna.* After teaching her we found out that she had already been to church four times and has a family member who is a member. She is ten and likes to be taught. Unfortunately our other investigators mostly didn’t manage to go, but there were two long-time investigators who always go. I am grateful that they persevere! Hopefully one of them ( Juliana) went to the marriage office today to start the marriage process (or at least see what she needs to be able to start). The other one ( Daniela)’s husband had a little change of heart. When I got here she said he didn’t want any documents at all (makes it hard to get a job, let alone marry) and now he does want documents. Good first step!
My new companion is Sister Nogueira from São Paulo, Brazil. She is awesome. We actually got to the mission together. It’s funny, because when people ask us how much time we have left or when we got here we have the same answer! I’ve never had a companion who got to the mission at the same time before.
Our investigator Jeniffer is progressing a lot. She had said she was reading the scriptures but had difficulty in remembering a part that she had liked and said she was still awaiting an answer from God. This week she opened a scripture she said she especially liked the part around 2 Nephi 2:25. She had truly had a spiritual experience! Later someone randomly mentioned to her baptisms for the dead [longer, in depth discussion of baptisms for the dead] I was initially a little sad that our lesson was interrupted with that because it didn’t seem like the right moment. But it was cool to talk about baptisms for the dead after having refreshed my memory with the Come Follow Me reading of the week. It was amazing because she was initially confused about the concept and had been convinced that people don’t live in families after this life. But after talking about family history and baptisms for the dead, she started thinking about family members who had already passed that she thought ought to be baptized! She seems a lot more confident about her baptismal date as well. We are excited! She definitely felt the spirit of Elijah.
We had less time in the area this week because I was in Jardim Massangana until Wednesday but we managed to find a lot of new people to teach. Hopefully we manage to find them at home this week and they turn out to be really great! This week we will go to the Mission Leadership council. We are also going to do a division with the sisters from the city of Escada.
We are having a fun time thinking about creative things to do at Christmas — we are going to try knocking on a few doors and caroling this week. Caroling is not a tradition in Brazil but we are hoping that the general good-feeling and belief in Christ means people will appreciate it. We are also planning an activity to show people the new Christmas video “The Christ Child” (It is super great!) and give out free cake (as a lure). It sounds like the Christmas zone conferences will start pretty soon. I can’t believe it is Christmas already!
One Christmas tradition here is Panettone. It is like a cross between bread and cake. You cut it like a cake and it is quite sweet but has a bready texture. It has dried fruits or chocolate chips and is very tasty. I have only eaten it twice but liked it both times.
Davi [recently baptized] still needs prayers — we still haven’t managed to see him.
*All investigators’ names are changed for privacy.
This week was a whirlwind! We spent a lot of time practicing our presentation for zone conference. The topic was “the witness of two nations”– referring to 2 Nephi 29:7-9 which talks about how the Bible and the Book of Mormon work together
Know ye not that there are more nations than one? . . . Wherefore murmur ye, because that ye shall receive more of my word? Know ye not that the testimony of two nations is a witness unto you that I am God, that I remember one nation like unto another? Wherefore, I speak the same words unto one nation like unto another. And when the two nations shall run together the testimony of the two nations shall run together also.
I don’t know if I did a good job of explaining what I learned, but I truly learned a lot studying for our presentation. This talk from President Nelson was especially enlightening. This one from Elder Callister is also good. I didn’t remember hearing President Nelson’s talk until I reread it, but it is so powerful! Without the Book of Mormon, we don’t have all the truths of Christ’s gospel. The Book of Mormon confirms and clarifies the steps of His gospel, e.g., how to baptize, how to give the gift of the Holy Ghost. It especially clarifies the doctrine of the atonement. Our prophet, President Nelson said: “This important word—atonement—in any of its forms, is mentioned only once in the King James Version of the New Testament!. In the Book of Mormon, it appears 39 times!”
When I studied the scriptures in the Bible and the Book of Mormon about the atonement, I could see how they work together in harmony. The Bible teaches us that Christ’s body, blood, and sacrifice cleanse us from sin. The Book of Mormon teaches us how this works (See Alma 34:8-17 — it goes so well with Hebrews 7 from the Come, Follow Me reading from the other week!)
I had been thinking about President Nelson’s invitation this conference (and his talk a few conferences ago) to think about what the Book of Mormon adds to our lives and where we would be without it. I wanted to study more about this but was a little unsure where to start and had a hard time balancing it with the other things I was trying to study. Studying for our presentation was a heaven-sent opportunity to learn more. Without the Book of Mormon, we wouldn’t have these wonderful truths about Christ’s gospel. We also wouldn’t have this wonderful proof of God’s love for all peoples and places — God talks to people in every part of the world, and he doesn’t stop talking! That’s why we always invite people to pray and ask God if the Book of Mormon is God’s word. We know he will respond because we’ve already asked!
Almost without exception, the people we stop teaching are the people who don’t ask and don’t read the scriptures. At home I thought people didn’t join the Church of Jesus Christ because they felt they received other answers from God, or because they believe God didn’t respond. But usually (here at least) the problem is that people don’t even try to receive an answer. If we knock he will open it (i.e., the truth) unto us!
At zone conference, President and Sister Houseman told us that the Brazil Recife mission is going to split! How exciting! If I understood correctly, they are going to find 30 new apartments! Each transfer, the number of missionaries will grow and grow until the Housemans go home and the mission splits. We need to redouble our efforts to help the two missions be strong. They also changed some of the goals we track — instead of counting how many times we talk with someone new or read the scriptures, we will count how many invitations we make — to church, baptism, read the scriptures, pray, etc. It will be exciting!
After our presentation, I thought all the stressful parts of the conference were over. I said this to Sister Anaya . . . and about one minute afterwards Sister Houseman asked me if I would translate her talk for the conference! The stress was not over! But it´s not every day you get to try and develop the gift of the interpretation of tongues. I was grateful for the opportunity to be able to practice. I think I probably messed up all the genders and said “uh…” way too much, but for the most part I think it went pretty well. Except when I started translating about Sister Houseman’s great-grandchildren. Oops! They’re not old enough for that!
After zone conference I went right to Tamandaré for splits. The next day, instead of going home, I went to Jardim Massangana with Sister Pereira because our companions were both going to the temple before going home.
This Sunday, Wesley*, another new investigator, went to church! We met him last week while eating lunch at a self service. While eating, I was thinking about the Safetyzone video that instructs us to remember that we ought to act like missionaries in every circumstance. People are always watching and we need to be representatives of Christ. A few minutes later a man walked up to our table and asked which church we were from. He said he was curious about religion and wanted to know when we had church meetings so that he could visit! He apologized several times for interrupting our lunch — he didn’t need to worry about that! In case anyone is in doubt, we LOVE being interrupted by people who contact us! Feel free to interrupt any lunch I have! We had a great lesson with him this week and he actually showed up to church this Sunday! Miracles!!!
Sister Anaya got on a bus this morning to go to the mission office. I will definitely miss her! I can’t believe she’ll be in Mexico on Wednesday. It reminds me of the temporariness of my own mission–I wish I could serve two years but I will work on making good use of the three transfers I have left. Now I’m staying in Jardim Massangana for two more days with Sister Pereira. On Wednesday I’ll get a new companion (who? who?) and we will go back to Candeias. I am accepting all prayers for the gift of discernment of directions and the gift of not screwing things up!
*Names of investigators are always changed for their privacy
Update on the bananas: It turns out that bananas fresh from the bananeira (banana tree) get ripe very slowly. We left one bunch on the counter. After many days they finally turned yellow and we ate them all very quickly before the next bunches that we took out of the fridge had a chance!
This week three people went to church for the first time! We have been having a lot of difficulty with getting people to church. One of them was Renata, Davi’s daughter. Unfortunately we stopped by Davi’s house to make sure he was going to church (he doesn’t live with his daughter) and he wasn’t there. Then we heard that a member had seen him in the street drunk the other day . . . So that was pretty sad. Hopefully we manage to find him at home this week.
We also went on splits with the sisters from Escada. We called them when we got there because they hadn’t shown up yet. We explained where we were so they could meet us, but they said they didn’t know which place we were describing. That seemed weird because we were right in front of their house, but we told them we would meet them at the bridge instead. We waited and they still didn’t show up, and their phone had no signal so we couldn’t talk to them. Finally they called us — and we found out they were on the bus in a different city an hour away. ??? Apparently they thought they were supposed to go to our city! I was very grateful this happened with the sisters from Escada and not with the ones from Palmares (twice the distance!)
Sister Anaya taught me how to make refried beans. We took refried beans, ruffles, and guacamole to the District meeting (now renamed district council with the new handbook!) It turns out that making refried beans is super simple and tasty. I started missing Mexican food so much! I think something like refried beans seemed very everyday normal, tasty, but not exciting in the land of ubiquitous Mexican food. Now, after a year and a few months without eating Mexican food, eating refried beans gave me huge Mexican food cravings!
This week we are going to zone conference on Wednesday. The talk topics are joy and discipleship. Here is a great talk about joy. It is Sister Anaya’s last week in the mission!!! I can’t believe how fast this transfer flew by. I don’t know where I will be next Monday — I will drop Sister Anaya off and then probably stay two days with another missionary. Maybe Sister Pereira. Not sure if I will stay in my area or a different area. It will be an adventure. We are also going to go on splits with the sisters from Tamandare this week; I will stay here in Candeias so pray for my directional abilities!
Grandma Deleyne sent me an email today with a summary of an MTC devotional from President Uchtdorf. He said his missionary grandson is serving in a difficult area in Europe. Apparently he is grateful for lots of things — including the almosts. They almost marked a visit, they taught a great lesson and almost took a couple to church. I can relate to that! This week we almost took a lot of people to church! Unfortunately the fact that they did not go to church means we need to stop visiting several of them, but we also met a few great new people that I’m excited to teach this week. We are trying to teach Renata,* Davi’s daughter. We hope we can take her to youth activities this week and to church.
We also met a great young woman from a Spanish-speaking country (Colombia), Taynara. We taught her the Plan of Salvation and it went really well. She understood everything and accepted an invitation to baptism. I think she has a lot of potential. It was sad because we somehow forgot to mark her for baptism. I left the lesson thinking that we had marked her for baptism but then realized we actually said the day but hadn’t actually invited her because we got sidetracked inviting her to church. But I have high hopes for next week!
We had an activity about motivation to be a member missionary — and let´s just say that it did not have a lot of attendance. We ended up not doing the activity and just giving them the handout. We asked the people to write the names of their friends who weren’t members and then respond to a couple of questions about them. Would you like this friend to know about the gospel? Do they already have church materials — Book of Mormon, videos, family proclamation, etc. Then you can pray about those names and ask God which person needs an invite to a church activity, a Book of Mormon, your testimony, a verse from the Book of Mormon, etc. We also shared some counsel from President Kimball:
It is the responsibility of the members to provide the stake and full-time missionaries with the names of individuals and families to teach. Sometimes we forget that it is better to risk a little ruffling in the relationship of a friend than it is to deprive him of eternal life by keeping silent.
and a different quote about how the best-case scenario is that the members find the investigators and the missionaries teach them. There weren’t many people at the activity, but I shared a scripture about the sons of Mosiah. They were few as well, but they ended up bringing thousands of souls to Christ. You should feel free to try this activity as well! Writing down names and then praying about them with real intent is a great way to get revelation about how to do missionary work. Also see Sister Franco’s recent conference talk about missionary work — it is awesome! Lots of good suggestions.
Funny story: we were teaching Leonardo the other day. Suddenly he asked “Do you want bananas?” We said thanks, but you don’t need to give us bananas. “No no, a bunch of bananas for each of you!” “Oh, you really don’t have to, but thank you.” “No, no!” He left and started cutting bananas from his banana tree. He put two bunches of bananas in a sack and we said “thanks so much, we will have to work to eat all those bananas!” Then he got another sack of bananas. “Um, just the one grocery bag is fine. We live alone. We only manage to eat so many bananas!” He said “If you don’t take the bananas I will be sad!” Um . . . he said this several times and we ended up walking around with four huge palms of bananas!!! We wanted to give some of them to a different investigator but didn’t remember to take them to church. They were very green, so we tried cooking the green bananas like fried plantains the other day. Sister Anaya said she had done it before but they were too green for it to work out. So now we have a ton of very, very green bananas! Anyone have simple banana recipes that use lots of bananas? We are in need!
*Names of investigators are always changed to protect their privacy.
This week was a rollercoaster. We spend one day walking all over trying to teach people and nothing —- no first lessons, nobody marked for baptism, nobody at home. Then the next day we teach four people a first lesson, five people marked for baptism. That was a pretty great day! Then another day of nothing. Sometimes we struggle to find two investigators, sometimes we have a ton.
Yesterday we left the house at 10:30 — the sun is super high, it might as well be noon, there are people in the street, and . . . we were robbed right in front of our apartment. We saw the guy before he robbed us, but he looked like a normal person — on a bicycle!! He stopped right next to us, and for a second I thought he wanted to talk to us or something (hey, it happens). Sister Anaya was calling our lunch appointment and he tried to grab the phone out of her hand. She sort of reflexively moved away but then realized he was trying to rob us and gave him the phone. [For safety, missionaries are not supposed to resist in robbery situations.] It is almost a little annoying to be robbed by some guy on a bike whose only recourse is shouting “Gimme the phone! Let’s go, let’s go, let’s go!” in order to get what he wants, but on the other hand, way better than being robbed by someone who is actually scary, right? He took the phone, started leaving, came back and demanded my phone as well . . . ha ha, joke’s on him. “I don’t have a phone.” “Gimme the phone, let’s go, let’s go!” “We only have one phone! Her phone is my phone. I don’t have a phone.”(I was almost laughing because it was such a ridiculous situation at this point). He decided to give up.
Note to the wise: missionaries are easy targets because they don’t resist, but robbing missionaries = not a lucrative way of gaining a living! We were glad he only took our phone, and afterwards we marked lessons with five new investigators before lunch. After tribulation cometh the blessings? We joked that next time we will give him our bags as well so that we can help people go to Sacrament Meeting! Sister Anaya didn’t get robbed until the last month of her mission! I was hoping to go a whole mission without getting robbed, but if I had to get robbed it was definitely one of the least scary ways to get robbed.
Yesterday we had an interesting experience. We were teaching a great family. They had already been to church in the past and were interested in the lessons. But unfortunately they think it is interesting to find super crazy doubts/questions about everything but less interesting to actually read the Book of Mormon and pray. If you never knock, God may not respond! We prayed before the lesson for discernment. We retaught the restoration, and it was a spiritual lesson. But it was so obvious that we should stop teaching them — one of them kept standing up and leaving, the other one kept saying totally unrelated things . . . Sad, but we were grateful to not be confused about whether we ought to teach them or not. We have some investigators with potential who will said they would go to church next week. I think our teaching pool is improving — hopefully they really go this Sunday!
Today (for preparation day) we are going to get a new cell phone and hopefully we will get to visit the oldest synagogue in the Americas.
This morning I made mango juice —- mango season is starting! I am excited! This week was pretty different — we got home at 7:30 on Tuesday from new leader training and 7:15-ish on Wednesday from Mission Council. I learned a lot!
A couple highlights: President Houseman said that the pattern for making decisions in the Church is group revelation in councils. Lots of people say “Wow, President Nelson changed . . .” but actually these things are decided in council and prepared for and discussed ahead of time. Everything is done in order. In councils, the members receive revelation, everyone discusses, and the leader makes the final decision. People might receive conflicting inspiration, and maybe the final decision will be different than the inspiration someone had. But it is all part of the process.
There is a difference between following-up and demanding [acompanhar and cobrar in Portuguese] information. Leaders follow-up to help you make progress with the goals you set for yourself. Not-so-great leaders give you quotas and then demand the results. In Zion’s Camp, when the wagons got stuck, Joseph Smith was the first one to take off his shoes, roll up his trousers, and get in the mud to pull them. Good leaders are the first ones to go to work with others, motivating them along the way, rather than staying on the sidelines to shout orders. Even if you shout orders in a really charismatic, motivational way, that’s not enough!
Sister Houseman gave a really great talk on leadership. She had an amazing stake president who felt really inadequate when he was called. He decided to use his leadership calling as an opportunity for personal growth. At every opportunity he thought “How would a stake president act?” Running late and want to leave the shopping cart in the parking space? What would a ward member think if they saw that? A stake president would take the shopping cart back to the right spot, so he did!
Even though Sister Anaya and I had a lot less time to work than we had last week, we managed to teach first lessons with more people than last week and we have more new investigators than last week! Little miracles.
Speaking of miracles, Davi* got baptized!! He is doing great! On Monday he was fasting with us in order to be able to resist temptation and get baptized. Before lunch (when he would break his fast) he was feeling really hungry, so he left the house in order to avoid eating. He went to a relative’s house —- and the relative was drinking (alcohol) and eating. His relative repeatedly invited him to drink and eat, but he stayed strong! It’s great because it seems like the ward is doing a good job of integrating him already. One of the recent converts stopped by throughout the week to ask him how he was, read scripture verses (he can’t read), and tell him he was excited for his baptism!
Sacrament meeting attendance was less-than-stellar. Read: our recent investigators did not go to church. But I was pleasantly surprised when I got to the area and discovered that there are two couples who aren’t married but have been consistently going to church! I knew that this happened but in my past areas the plethora of people who needed to get married were not religious church-goers– maybe they went a few times but they never stayed strong. Here there are two women, Daniela and Juliana, who have children that are recent converts and are consistently going to church, going to activities, reading the scriptures, etc. Unfortunately, one of them has a husband who doesn’t want to get married and also doesn’t have documents. The other one also doesn’t have the right documents, but they just need to go to the marriage office. It is a bit difficult because of work hours, but hopefully it all works out!
Today we are going to start making horchata! I mentioned to Sister Anaya that I like it and she mentioned that she knows how to make it. This week we are also going to do a split with the sisters of Palmares. I am going to Palmares — it will be weird! Hopefully good too. Sister Anaya did a split with a sister training leader who had already served in the area once. The sister ran into an ancient investigator and found out she had separated from her husband (she hadn’t been able to get baptized before because they weren’t married. They had been deciding if they would separate or not). She got baptized! Not expecting that kind of miracle necessarily but a cool story, right?
I don’t remember if I said this before, but a lot of people here think that after you die you won’t remember anything. God will tell you how your past life was. You will see your relatives but you won’t remember they were your relatives. I respect other people’s right to choose their religion, but I am grateful to believe that families can be together forever. It’s a truth that is truly wonderful — our loving relationships continue after this life! — and also makes sense — why would you be punished for something you don’t remember? It is also a good warning — we will remember our lives on judgement day! A guilty conscience could be worse than fire and brimstone.
15 Do ye exercise faith in the redemption of him who created you? Do you look forward with an eye of faith, and view this mortal body raised in immortality, and this corruption raised in incorruption, to stand before God to be judged according to the deeds which have been done in the mortal body?
16 I say unto you, can you imagine to yourselves that ye hear the voice of the Lord, saying unto you, in that day: Come unto me ye blessed, for behold, your works have been the works of righteousness upon the face of the earth?
17 Or do ye imagine to yourselves that ye can lie unto the Lord in that day, and say—Lord, our works have been righteous works upon the face of the earth—and that he will save you?
18 Or otherwise, can ye imagine yourselves brought before the tribunal of God with your souls filled with guilt and remorse, having a remembrance of all your guilt, yea, a perfect remembrance of all your wickedness, yea, a remembrance that ye have set at defiance the commandments of God?
I would like to be the first person described, not the second!
A funny moment: I forgot to say that last Sunday I was asked to give a testimony at the last minute. I thought it went okay, but afterwards I found out that I had said I was glad to be in Carpina (a different area) instead of Candeias. You can learn the language but you can’t stop goofing up! Luckily there are worse errors that could be made. But it was funny, because I was trying to tell people how happy I was to be in their ward — except I said the wrong ward. Ooops!
We met some awesome family members of an investigator in Casa Forte before I left. The dad said he knew he needed to live the law of chastity but he had proposed to his wife twice (with a ring and flowers) and she hadn’t accepted. She isn’t very religious but they all agreed to go to church this Sunday. I hope they went! When we left the dad was already sitting on the couch reading the Book of Mormon! I also got some great news from the sisters in Gravatá–one of Maria Eduarda’s* daughters got baptized! Maria Eduarda is the investigator I wrote about who didn’t believe in God. Apparently she is still praying very regularly and is grateful that we visited her and taught her to pray.
We had originally contacted this daughter and met Maria Eduarda because she was there when we tried to visit her daughter. We taught her daughter a few times and invited her to be baptized, but she was working every single weekend in a different city. It literally wasn’t possible for her to go to church, and some of the days we visited her family she was gone working. But she must not be working there anymore! Very gratifying, because until now I had only heard bad news about my former areas. Also, it sounds like Victor and David, two of Gravatá´s recent converts, are doing great.
The Transfer Saga: First, Sister Pereira (who I was traveling with) and I dragged our suitcases to the bus stop. It is close, but her suitcase was a bit broken so that was still a bit hard. Then we got on the bus going away from the metro instead of towards it, but we just got off at the next stop and got on the right bus. Stupid, but not too big of a deal. We got to the metro and our metro was just leaving. But the next one got there in 15ish minutes, so not a big deal. Everything was difficult because we had suitcases and I am a klutz, but everything worked out.
I got off the metro and onto my minibus to Candeias right on schedule. I asked the driver when I should get off and he told me he would tell me. I paid attention to the time to hopefully know about when we would get close to Candeias. After a few stops, a member of the church started talking to me. He said a few things about his mission, his ward, etc., and then asked where I was getting off. I told him, only to be informed that I had already passed my stop. Oops! I felt dumb but thought, “Wow, I am so grateful that God is sending angels to help me on transfer day. So glad I ran into that member” (cue the ominous wrong-decision music). He said the chapel was the next stop so I could get off there. I thought it was funny that our apartment wasn’t closer to the chapel, but maybe some areas are like that?
I got off at the chapel (I later discovered that at this point I was a 5-10 minute walk away from my apartment) and started walking in the direction he had indicated. When I asked for more directions, the directions-givers told me I was going the wrong direction. I turned around. I retraced my steps, asked for more directions, and they told me I needed to go the direction I had originally gone! These people seemed more trustworthy, and they agreed with the member, so I turned around again. Everyone told me it was way too far to walk with suitcases and that I should catch a bus for a few stops. People underestimate missionary walking ability, but I decided to take that advice so as not to be too late. I took a bus four stops (Four stops in the wrong direction!) and got off. Nobody knew where the road I was looking for was. Finally I found a very nice person who walked with me to the right road and helped me with one of the suitcases. He didn’t want a visit, but hey, I planted a seed and he said he would look up the Book of Mormon. It took a while, but I got there. Then I walked up the dirt road looking for the right number. I walked for a long time and got more and more perplexed because the numbers were out of order. Nobody knew where my apartment was. Finally someone who lived there told me I had already passed it (cue more ominous wrong-advice music).
I turned around, and retraced my steps for a while in the other direction without success. I began to see that there is a difference between “take the suitcases you can carry” [the advice they give prospective missionaries] and “take the suitcases you can drag up a soft dirt road on a very hot day.” I am very grateful that my suitcases are good and that it didn’t rain. The next day that same road was full of water — that would have been worse! But I continued on, only to run into the same advice-giver who told me he had gone to get his phone because he could see I was lost. He looked it up on Google maps (technology!) only to figure out that I had not passed it. In fact my apartment was farther than I had originally walked, so I had retraced my steps in vain again. He walked back up the street with me and helped me with a suitcase (blessings). We fiiinally got there, and he left. Too bad that he sent me the wrong direction, but good he was nice enough to help me afterwards.
I used the intercom to call my apartment but no one answered, so I walked up the street to borrow someone’s phone. After trying to use the ancient phone without success, I saw someone opening the apartment gate. I hurried back, and luckily she had already seen missionaries there and let me in. Apparently the intercom is broken and if you shout people hear you. Anyway, I got there more than an hour late but safe and sound. I later saw the chapel basically around the corner from my apartment — I had spent over an hour walking back (and retracing my steps only to turn around again) the four bus stops I retraced away from the chapel. But all’s well that ends well! I heartily recommend that someone make an Amazing Race challenge or a tv show that involves people who have to do missionary-style transfers with suitcases, wrong directions, and without smartphones. It would be hilarious!
I can see the beach from here! It is not as close as it was when I went to Pina, but I get to stay here! In other non-missionary-work related news, there is a Madoska ice cream store here (there was one in Gravatá too) which I plan to make use of later today!
I had been under the impression that I might be in an area with much more of a small-city vibe. Ha ha, Candeias is a neighborhood of Jaboatao dos Guararapes which is right next to Recife. Full of skyscrapers, several huge supermarkets. Not a small-town vibe! So many skyscrapers. It is much smaller than Casa Forte, which is a blessing; hopefully I will learn the area faster. When I manage to learn an area more-or-less I always think “Wow, why didn’t I just make an effort to memorize the roads faster?” But when I get to a new area I remember why–nothing is familiar! Harder to memorize. Also there are many fewer road signs here than in Casa Forte — too bad. But I have high hopes of memorizing here faster. We will see how it goes.
There is a part of town that looks a little like the less-skyscrapery Santa Isabel neighborhood in Casa Forte, but it is much smaller. We spent much more of our time in the skyscraper-y part of the city this week than I had spent in Casa Forte. A lot of very deserted roads. People come out at 5:00 to walk their dogs but before that it is pretty hard to do street contacts. We are often literally the only people I can see! It is strange. We will have to see what we do about that — the houses are a bit imposing to go door-knocking — Brazilians love gates in front of the house, and here the gates are huge walls with intercoms. It seemed like people were less interested in the street contacts here than in Casa Forte as well, but we still managed to get several new investigators. Sister Anaya said this week was better than last transfer for finding new people, so hopefully it continues that way! We also managed to find some people at home (always a struggle) and teach some first lessons as well. We marked two new people, Amanda* and Murilo, so that was great.
Davi (60ish years old) was marked for baptism last week, but when I went to meet him for the first time he opened the door very, very drunk. Then we went back to see him a different day and — still drunk. That was sad, because he had said he had given up alcohol, but it didn’t work out. He lives alone, but right next to a bar and has a lot of friends that call him to drink. But afterwards we found him sober. He said he wanted to apologize to us, so we explained that really he needed to repent and apologize to God. He understood, and said he was excited to get baptized. Ever since he has talked about how excited he is to be baptized. On Sunday he asked us why the bishop hadn’t announced his baptism — a good sign! No one else managed to go to church, but he did, which was great! The other people said they should be able to go next week. He told us that on Saturday he had been working with some friends who were drinking. They invited him many times, but he told them he didn’t want to drink because he wanted to get baptized! We fasted with him yesterday so that he could be strengthened against temptation and for everything to work out for his baptism. Hopefully everything goes well!
Interestingly, there are a lot of people from the religion Espiritismo here. I think service-oriented, tolerant, educated, better-off people are especially attracted to this religion. Because it is a big city there are a lot more well-off and highly educated people here. Espiritismo has some interesting points (some of them believe in reincarnation and things like spiritual hospitals where mediums talk to spirits to help fix your spiritual problems). One thing I admire is that many espíritas (people from this religion) are very, very charitable. They are very self-motivated to look for every service opportunity; something I would like to learn.
This reminds me of a quote from the Teachings of George Albert Smith book I read this week:
First of all, we are asking all you fine people over here to keep all the glorious truths that you have acquired in your churches, that you have absorbed from your scriptures, keep all that. . . keep all the love and the beauty that is in your heart from having lived in so beautiful and wonderful a land. … That is all a part of the gospel of Jesus Christ. Then let us sit down and share with you some of the things that have not yet come into your lives that have enriched our lives and made us happy.
We are also teaching a couple that have been investigating for a while, Rodrigo and Larissa. Ronald has a lot of questions about many different things in the church. He is worried that there are a lot of religions and he might want to receive an answer so much that he might end up deceiving himself and getting a false emotional answer. He is afraid to pray because of this. We told him about the importance of prayer and acting with faith to receive guidance.
3 Angels speak by the power of the Holy Ghost; wherefore, they speak the words of Christ. Wherefore, I said unto you, feast upon the words of Christ; for behold, the words of Christ will tell you all things what ye should do.
4 Wherefore, now after I have spoken these words, if ye cannot understand them it will be because ye ask not, neither do ye knock; wherefore, ye are not brought into the light, but must perish in the dark.
5 For behold, again I say unto you that if ye will enter in by the way, and receive the Holy Ghost, it will show unto you all things what ye should do.
. . .
8 And now, my beloved brethren, I perceive that ye ponder still in your hearts; and it grieveth me that I must speak concerning this thing. For if ye would hearken unto the Spirit which teacheth a man to pray, ye would know that ye must pray; for the evil spirit teacheth not a man to pray, but teacheth him that he must not pray.
9 But behold, I say unto you that ye must pray always, and not faint; that ye must not perform any thing unto the Lord save in the first place ye shall pray unto the Father in the name of Christ, that he will consecrate thy performance unto thee, that thy performance may be for the welfare of thy soul.
Sister Anaya read the Book of Mormon scripture about Laman and Lemuel — they complain that God hadn’t talked to them but they hadn’t asked!
Next week we are going to go to new leader training conference and the mission council. We are about two hours from the mission office (new leader training) and 3-ish from the mission home (mission council) so it will be an adventure.
Good news: Willian* still wants to get baptized. He is reading the scriptures and praying every day! We managed to follow up with a couple more of our contacts than usual this week, which was good. Some of them seem to have potential. We also got a cool reference from the elders today — someone stopped them on the street and asked how to visit the church!
We really thought Willian would get baptized this week but it did not work out. We saw him several times, we finally managed to take a member there, and he said he was excited! He has been saying he wanted to be baptized for a while! We have been teaching him for more than three months. On Friday we got a baptismal jumpsuit and carried it around only to get a call from him. I immediately knew this was a bad sign but hoped he was just calling to double check his interview time. Nope. His mom is going through some difficulties and asked him not to get baptized. He was going to get baptized anyway, but decided to wait in order to help her out. So anyone who can offer prayers on behalf of Willian’s mom and Willian would be greatly appreciated.
We have an investigator, Erick, who went to church two weeks ago. He is from the religion “Spiritualism” or “Kardecismo” which is related to the teachings of Allan Kardec. Everyone thinks I ought to know who this is because he is American but I had never heard of him. Anyway, one thing to admire about spiritualism is that it is very focused on charity. Erick was very focused on getting answers through dreams. We tried a lot to help him understand that you could get an answer in a dream but it could also come in a variety of other ways. We thought we hadn’t had any success, but the other day he said he got an answer reading the Book of Mormon that it is true! Unfortunately he hasn’t gone to church these past two weeks because he likes to stay up late reading and then doesn’t feel like going to church until nighttime. He reads and studies a lot and is very excited about sharing his finds with us. We are working on having a balance between us sharing about the gospel and hearing about his opinions as well. Hopefully he goes to church this Sunday.
Newsy news: I am going to be a sister training leader in Candeias. It is a bairro (neighborhood) in the city of Jaboatão. I will go there this Wednesday. It is 2-3 hours from here. Apparently you can see the sea in Candeias! I am very excited. I always thought it would be super cool to see the sea! That means my companion and I will be in charge of doing divisions with a couple of companionships of sisters in the Litoral zone. Also we will present something at the zone conferences. My companion will either be Sister Anaya (Mexico) or sister Vargas (Sao Paulo). Sister Vargas trained sister Barros, so that would be funny. Probably it will be Sister Anaya because she is newer in the area, but I won’t know until Wednesday! I am sure both of them are great. Next week I will go to new leader training and afterwards the mission leadership council. I am nervous but I can do all things through Christ which strengtheneth me!
Today I said goodbye to Casa Forte at Pura Vida, the vegan shop I went to a while ago. I am going to have to figure out how to make jackfruit coxinhas at home. Tasty tasty.
Aline, the investigator I talked about the other week, has disappeared. We keep calling her and going to her house but only manage to talk to her mother! Sad, but hopefully she is just busy and it works out in the future. Also, the only person who went to church was Viviane. That was sad, but it is great that she always goes to church.
One scripture that really helped me out this week was Alma 8. Alma goes from a city where he baptizes tons of people to a city where no one is interested in the gospel. He pours out his soul praying for and caring about the people but they spit on him and cast him out of the city.
14 And it came to pass that while he was journeying thither, being weighed down with sorrow, wading through much tribulation and anguish of soul, because of the wickedness of the people who were in the city of Ammonihah, it came to pass while Alma was thus weighed down with sorrow, behold an angel of the Lord appeared unto him, saying: 15 Blessed art thou, Alma; therefore, lift up thy head and rejoice, for thou hast great cause to rejoice; for thou hast been faithful in keeping the commandments of God from the time which thou receivedst thy first message from him. Behold, I am he that delivered it unto you.
A good reminder of the importance of caring about people, praying fervently, and being obedient. Also the importance of joy — I hope I can always be joyful for the same reasons as Alma — because I have been faithful in keeping the commandments of God. Reminds me of Elder Eyring’s talk: Holiness and the Plan of Happiness. It is great! Also the Come, Follow-Me this week is wonderful and talks a lot about joy in trials as well.
It’s hard to have a better week than general conference week! I can’t believe it´s October general conference already. I remember watching last October’s conference in the CTM, and then watching in April with Sister M. Ribeiro. April doesn’t seem six months ago! Conference was great. I am excited to study the talks again!
I was extremely excited to find out about the change to the policy on witnesses. A tender mercy to hear about the change from my Mom in my birthday call to her (not to mention the tender mercy of being able to use webcams and call with more frequency!!). I always hope people will progress to baptism, because it is an essential saving ordinance. Being able to possibly witness such a baptism only adds to that hope!
There were many wonderful talks. I especially loved the talks about the importance of joy as well as missionary work. As a long-time fan of The Hobbit, I was also a fan of President Uchtdorf’s talk. On the subject of joy, today I read part of the book about President Hinckley as a prophet. There was a quote about how every day in missionary work is a good day. Apparently he shook his companion´s hand and said “Today will be a good day” when they left and “Today was a good day” every day when they got home. I guess that’s true in life too — every day is a good day.
President Nelson’s talk reminded me of how many blessings we have. What a blessing not to go hungry — and a huge responsibility to help those who are! I thought it was interesting that he didn’t invite us to do anything as part of the talk. But I think there was an inherent invitation to act. Those statistics about hunger are an invitation to act!
Although we had more people than normal who said they would go to conference, we did not have a lot of actual success. But Ana Luiza went to church! Ana Luiza is a 12-year-old who I met a while ago with Sister Sousa. A different missionary later saw her in his area and contacted her. She told him she was already being taught! Because I ended up working in two areas and she doesn’t spend much time at home, we didn’t manage to see her for a while. But now we are teaching her again and she went to conference! Also, she became ecstatic upon receiving a Book of Mormon after having read part of the pamphlet of excerpts on the Book of Mormon: “I’m not managing to believe you are giving me a Book of Mormon!”
Aline did turn out to be a great investigator. She is interested and kept all of her invitations. She didn’t go to conference and we aren’t sure why, but hopefully everything goes well this week!
We are also teaching Ana Carolina and her family. Ana Carolina became excited about the Book of Mormon in our contact with her. She said it would be her birthday present because we promised to give her one on our visit the day after her birthday. We are also teaching her brother and mother. She almost went to conference but was sick the day of. She had some questions about how Joseph Smith could have seen God. There is lot of confusion about this here–people think that no one could see God. That kind of makes sense, except that the Bible also says that Moses spoke to God face to face and that John saw God and Christ in a vision, just like Joseph Smith did. That helped her with those concerns, although she still has doubts about prophets. But she hadn’t read the Book of Mormon yet, so I think it will help a lot. Also we invited her to watch conference online so I hope that works out!
This week we are going to do a service project and help Monique (the missionary’s mom) paint and clean her house.
This week it has been getting hotter every day. It is not winter anymore; not even close! People keep telling us it will just get hotter! Next week is transfers — I will find out if I will be in Recife in January (i.e., hot hot hot hot hot) or somewhere else! It is inspiring to hear President Houseman talk about how he receives revelation to transfer missionaries. I´ll go where He wants me to go —- o´er hill or beach!