Yet they rejoice

This week was good.  Rafaela* came back early from the beach.  Unfortunately she wasn’t very interested in receiving a visit, so we were feeling a bit sad about that.  But she went to church on Sunday!  And then she asked Sister Ribeiro out of the blue “What hours will my baptismal service be?” She said she was trying to schedule her Saturday and wanted to know what time it would be.  Lots of people are marked for baptism but aren’t actually planning on getting baptized.  We tell them to pray about it and plan to get baptized if they get an answer. People in this situation are marked for baptism but haven’t confirmed it yet. So it was super exciting when Rafaela asked what time her baptism was because that means she is actually planning on being baptized! She has been feeling and recognizing the spirit a lot while reading the Book of Mormon and at church. Unfortunately we haven’t been able to teach her the commandments as early as we would have liked to because she was busy, but hopefully that works out. 

This week a man walked up to us on the street and said he wanted to go to church.  He said he had been taught by the Sisters and was almost baptized.  We were super excited but we didn’t find his house and when we called him he hung up when we started talking.  And he didn’t go to church. So that was too bad — life is weird sometimes! 

A number of people said they would go to church and didn’t, but more people than usual went!  Rafaela went, which was great because we thought she wouldn’t be able to go until next week.  The owner of the LAN house we are using today also went with her four young daughters.  That was cool because when we taught her she wasn’t initially very interested in going, but ended up being excited about it! We are teaching a young man called Joao Vitor who said he would go.  We thought he hadn’t made it but after the Sacrament Meeting we saw him!  He had come in late and we hadn’t seen — we were excited!  He is marked for baptism.  

We went to Itambé twice this week. You pay six reais, and everyone smashes themselves into the sardine-can-van and then we drive forty-ish minutes to Itambé.  It’s an adventure!  We went to see Júlia and her family.  The first time we met we met her son and niece.  We also said a prayer in her grandma-by-consideration (grandma of the heart –not her actual grandma but she might as well be)’s house.  The second time we got there and she said “I invited two people to hear the message, okay?” That’s more than okay!  She had invited her two friends and we met her younger son.  She’s already a great missionary!  She is reading the general conference talks that we will discuss at the next Relief Society meeting!  I think she is more involved  in the Ward Whatsapp group (Whatsapp is a text messaging and videocall app that is very popular internationally) than most members. She and her family are definitely worth going to Itambé for.  We invited her children and her sister (who is a member)’s son, Bernardo, to baptism, as well as her two friends and several of them accepted. Unfortunately, because of scheduling and transportation issues, only her sister and brother-in-law made it to church.  So that was too bad.  But hopefully they manage to go next week.  Mostly fortunately (but a little unfortunately) next week is Stake conference [a big regional church meeting held twice a year], which will happen in a different city — Paulista.  We are hoping for a miracle this week of having more success than usual at taking investigators to stake conference. 

It was a miracle this week with baptismal invitations–we managed to meet a lot more people this week who we had the opportunity and privilege to invite for baptism! And two of them went to church and stayed marked for baptism (Joao Vitor and Rafaela)!  

One interesting thing about studying the scriptures without a search engine (i.e., studying paper scriptures without a smartphone) is that there is no way to look up all the results for faith in the Book of Mormon or all the scriptures about prophets or death.  This highlights the importance of reading the scriptures straight through as part of scripture study.  If you don’t read the scriptures, you won’t find many helpful passages not included in the topical guide.  A few months ago I noticed this scripture while reading the Book of Mormon:

11 And the bodies of many thousands are laid low in the earth, while the bodies of many thousands are moldering in heaps upon the face of the earth; yea, and many thousands are mourning for the loss of their kindred, because they have reason to fear, according to the promises of the Lord, that they are consigned to a state of endless wo.

12 While many thousands of others truly mourn for the loss of their kindred, yet they rejoice and exult in the hope, and even know, according to the promises of the Lord, that they are raised to dwell at the right hand of God, in a state of never-ending happiness.

13 And thus we see how great the inequality of man is because of sin and transgression, and the power of the devil, which comes by the cunning plans which he hath devised to ensnare the hearts of men.

14 And thus we see the great call of diligence of men to labor in the vineyards of the Lord; and thus we see the great reason of sorrow, and also of rejoicing—sorrow because of death and destruction among men, and joy because of the light of Christ unto life.

Alma 28:11-14

I really like how this scripture highlights how the gospel can help us when we lose a loved one.  It also mentions the importance of diligent missionary work and that Christ is the reason for hope and joy in our lives!  It is only because of his sacrifice for us –the Atonement that we hope for a better world (Ether 12:4), the resurrection of ourselves and our loved ones, and have access to the power of repentance in our lives.  We can also know that he can comfort us because he hath borne our griefs (Isaiah 53:4 — in Portuguese it says that he took upon himself our pains) so he knows how we feel.  

The number of talks I am assigned to read per week for the missionaries who are returning home is increasing!  I think that means the end of my mission is getting closer!  The talks are very good; this week was about serving others and the welfare program in the church.

My group (We all got to Recife together . . . and we´re going to leave together this transfer!)

*Names are changed to protect privacy

All things work together for good

My new companion is Sister Ribeiro II! [She is Sis. Ribeiro II here on the blog because Sister Faulconer was previously companions with Sister M. Ribeiro (the missionary who is a wonderful photographer)]. She is from Sao Paulo, just like Sister M. Ribeiro!  Until now she was serving in the city Guaranhuns with Sister Nogueira — so she had to travel for about eight hours to get here!

Sister Ribeiro II enjoys the fast food lunch at mission leadership council while Sister Faulconer looks on.
Photo, Courtesy Sister Lori Houseman

This week is Carnaval.  Carnaval is mostly celebrated on the other half of town that isn’t our area, so we have been mostly following normal hours here.  We have seen a lot of burras [donkey costumes] and bois [oxen costumes?] in the street as well as some other costumes that are hard to remember the name of. Look up images for “burrinha carnaval Pernambuco” and you should get some good pictures.  They walk around with a few people banging on drums and occasionally people with saxophones and marching band/battle standard-like banners.  But three guys with drums sound like two entire marching bands–those drums are powerful! 

We marked our investigator Rafaela* for baptism this week, which was great!.  Last week we were excited because she went to church, read the Book of Mormon, and progressed after being molle [soft = not very interested, doesn’t keep invitations to read, go to church, etc., consistently] for a while.  Unfortunately, at the last second she ended up going to the beach with her employer for a week and wasn’t able to go to church last week or next Sunday.  So that was too bad; it’s amazing how these things always happen with marcados [people who have committed to be baptized]!  But we re-marked her for two weeks later, so hopefully it will work out in the end.  But it was too bad because although we had a number of people who said they would go to church, no one did–not even the very long-time investigator who always goes. 

It was not the first time no one has come to church, but it is always too bad.  That morning we invited some people in the street to go to church and accept visits.  No one was very interested. There was one couple who was very against eternal families–they said what everyone here says: we will all be brothers and sisters after this life. There won’t be special marriage and family relationships.  I shared that experience in the talk I gave in church that day. A brother who works at the temple with FamilySearch mentioned my talk and talked more about eternal families.  It wasn’t until later we found out that a new family that had moved in had brought their son, who has been marked for baptism but not baptized, and the mom’s sister to the meeting.  The mom’s sister had a Book of Mormon and described feeling a great desire to read more and more!  She said that she had been deeply involved in the Catholic church — she taught crisma [confirmation] classes, etc.  But she had always had a few questions about Catholic teachings–like why we won’t be able to recognize or remember our family members after this life.  So all things worked together for good!  Our negative experience that morning helped her feel the spirit and recognize the truth at church!

Here is a scripture I like.  There are lots of sayings and quotes that talk about being in trouble, persecuted, etc., but not vanquished. What I like about this one is how Paul mentions feelings.  Although the trials he went through caused negative feelings (he was perplexed) all was not lost (he was not in despair)!

8 We are troubled on every side, yet not distressed; we are perplexed, but not in despair;

9 Persecuted, but not forsaken; cast down, but not destroyed;

2 Corinthians 4:8-9

Partakers of the Consolation

There is a hammock in our apartment

This week we took a new investigator, Rafaela*, to church for the first time.  She said she had visited a number of churches and it was the only one where she felt at home.  I am excited about that!  We told her she was feeling the spirit.  We were excited when we first met her, but I had been worried that we would have to stop visiting her because it was difficult to find her at home, she wasn’t very interested in marking a specific day, and it seemed like maybe she wasn’t super focused on the lessons.  But I have been thinking about what President Houseman said about persistence — it paid off with Rafaela!  

One thing I didn’t mention last week was that I got to talk to the sisters who are in Casa Forte at the Zone Conference. Sister Barros left after the last transfer, so I didn’t get to see her, but it was cool to meet the sister she trained and hear about the area!  When I left the area I had been excited about a family we were teaching (I mentioned them in my e-mail at the time) and hoped they would progress. But I didn’t hear about them until now. We had taught the daughter maybe twice, and then we met her parents the last week I was there. I had been pretty excited about her parents, but it turns out they didn’t end up being very interested  But the daughter who I was also excited about, has been to church many times and is really integrated in the ward! She hasn’t been baptized but she is still going to church!

When I hear about old areas there is always much more bad news than good news.  That’s the nature of missionary work–we talk to lots of people and the vast (vast, vast) majority of them don’t get baptized.  And lots of people who do get baptized don’t continue going to church.  But we ought to look at missionary work through a qualitative lens rather than quantitatively.  How great shall be your joy if you bring one soul to repentance! 

Other good things that have happened in my old areas —- I found out when I went on splits the last time in Palmares that Helena (who I taught for all three transfers in Casa Forte but her mother didn’t want to let her get baptized) was baptized! She moved to Recife shortly afterwards and didn’t give her contact information to the missionaries (sad).  But she is a member of the Church and I really hope she ends up going to church in her new city.   Also I had mentioned before that Isadora, Maria Eduarda’s daughter, ended up getting baptized in Gravatá.  So good news happens!  I don’t know how Isadora is but I think I will have another opportunity to find out at the next zone conference. 

This is a scripture I like: 

Blessed be God, even the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies, and the God of all comfort;

Who comforteth us in all our tribulation, that we may be able to comfort them which are in any trouble, by the comfort wherewith we ourselves are comforted of God.

For as the sufferings of Christ abound in us, so our consolation also aboundeth by Christ.

And our hope of you is steadfast, knowing, that as ye are partakers of the sufferings, so shall ye be also of the consolation.

2 Corinthians 1:3-5, 7

Hopefully that is something I can do as a missionary — comfort others with the comfort of God.  How beautiful to think about this subject — as followers of Christ we ought to expect  sufferings  (we are taking up our cross and following him)  but as we are partakers of the sufferings we are also partakers of the consolation! Elder Holland gave a really powerful talk about missionaries being partakers of the sufferings of Christ.  The only time I heard it was in the CTM but I remember how much I liked it.  He said sometimes we might ask ourselves why the only difficulty in the mission field is not risk of pneumonia from spending so much time being wet baptizing people.  His answer (super summarized) was that if we are followers of Christ, we ought to expect to experience at least the tiniest bit of what He went through. 

I am convinced that missionary work is not easy because salvation is not a cheap experience. Salvation never was easy. We are The Church of Jesus Christ, this is the truth, and He is our Great Eternal Head. How could we believe it would be easy for us when it was never, ever easy for Him? It seems to me that missionaries and mission leaders have to spend at least a few moments in Gethsemane. Missionaries and mission leaders have to take at least a step or two toward the summit of Calvary.

Now, please don’t misunderstand. I’m not talking about anything anywhere near what Christ experienced. That would be presumptuous and sacrilegious. But I believe that missionaries and investigators, to come to the truth, to come to salvation, to know something of this price that has been paid, will have to pay a token of that same price.

Elder Jeffrey R. Holland

At one point this week I wasn’t having a super great day.  We were going to a teaching appointment and I had been praying to be led to someone we ought to do a street contact with, someone who needed to hear the gospel.  I suddenly had a rather discouraging thought (Moroni 7:13 teaches that “. . behold, that which is of God inviteth and enticeth to do good continually; wherefore, every thing which inviteth and enticeth to do good, and to love God, and to serve him, is inspired of God,” so this was probably not a God-sent thought): “How many street contacts from my mission have been baptized?” The answer is Isadora and Tiago. Tiago has not been to church for months and does not show signs of returning.  Who knows, maybe others will be baptized as well!  And of course I have no idea what other seeds will sprout. And while, until now, not many people have chosen to get baptized, street contacting has led to many, many lessons.  And teaching can be an inherent good. Not as good as the person actually progressing to make covenants with Heavenly Father, but who knows if our lessons do help them get closer to him? Maybe they will pray more, have a better relationship with God, etc. 

Fantastic Bichos and Where to Find Them

Splits with the sisters from Olinda–Pictured are Sisters Pires, Kenner, Faulconer and Marques. Sister Marques (in the sunglasses) is my mission “granddaughter” because Sister M. Ribeiro (whose trainer I was) trained her.

I forgot to look up the exact definition for the word bicho but people use it to talk about bugs and other nasty critters and animals. You can also call people bichos (namoral bicho, namoral–the young men in Palmares). But the name of the film I referenced in the title is actually Fantastic Animals Something Something in Portuguese. Last week, when I didn’t get a chance to write, we found two scorpions in two days. They were very very tiny. One was already dead, I think. I didn’t see the other, but Sister Pires killed it without too much trouble. She says the smallest scorpions are more dangerous because the venom is more concentrated. I am not sure if that is true or not (I miss Google) but at least the smaller scorpions are less frightening! I had heard all sorts of stories about the apartment in Goiana and problematic animals and had been unsure whether I was excited to see said bichos or afraid! Some kind of pest treatment had been done the transfer before I got here, which probably helped. We had seen several cockroaches but no scorpions until last week. After those two we didn’t see anymore. But on the divisions a bat entered our house! I predict that someone is wondering at this point if I touched the bat — no. Yes, I know bats are disease-ridden creatures.

A live bat in our apartment! Also, a scorpion!

Yesterday someone new went to church — Milene.* She had already been to church once before a long time ago. It turned out that she already knew a number of church members and didn’t know it, which is always nice. She said she read the Book of Mormon — yay! She doesn’t want to get baptized but we are encouraging her to pray about it. Patrick also went to church for the third time this Sunday, but he hasn’t really read the Book of Mormon yet so that is too bad. We had been pretty excited about Mateus and Raiane, but unfortunately they didn’t go to church last week or this week and Raiane feels strongly that she doesn’t want to get baptized.

We had an activity last week and this week on Wednesday. It is a gincana — a competition — that will last four weeks. It is going well — definitely the most successful activity I have had on my mission to date. By far. A member named Leandro is doing all the heavy lifting of planning and advertising the activity. Having a member in charge of an activity who is excited about said activity makes allll the difference. There are definitely people who have the spiritual gift of being good activity planners or good at inviting friends to activities or giving references to the missionaries. There are a couple people here that are really great member missionaries and I hope to be like them one day!

Sister Faulconer and Sister Pires

Last week (the other last week) we were walking on the street and a young man with the accent of a native Spanish speaker asked Sister Pires what church we were from. When we told him he said he was a member of our church! He is an immigrant from Venezuela. He was baptized there but after 6-ish years of full activity he ended up becoming less active for a couple years. There are a lot of Venezuelan immigrants in Brazil right now because of the economic difficulties. I think there are many more immigrants in other parts of Brazil than in Pernambuco. I had seen maybe two people on the street in Recife that were immigrants, but I know that other missionaries in other parts of Recife had met a number of Venezuelan immigrants. The Sunday before this Sunday he went to church. Then we met his cousin and they both went to the activity this week. And on Sunday he took his sister to church. She seems really great. Willian and Zaqueu (the cousin) were worried about going to church because of language issues, clothing, and because their lives had changed since becoming less-active and they were worried about changing back. But Willian said he read the Book of Mormon chapters we left him (on the app in Spanish — technology is cool!)

This week I was rereading some parts of 2 Corinthians and 1 Peter that I like.

5 . . . God resisteth the proud, and giveth grace to the humble.

6 Humble yourselves therefore under the mighty hand of God, that he may exalt you in due time:

7 Casting all your care upon him; for he careth for you.

1 Peter 5:5-7

I love the part about casting all your care upon him!

*Names of investigators are changed as always to protect their privacy.

Teaching

Sisters Faulconer and Pires with the elders
Photo courtesy of Sister Lori Houseman

This week was good. We went on splits with the sisters from Janga this week. Janga is a city that is half an hour from Olinda. It is a pretty big area. We have been working on the message we will be sharing in the zone conference tomorrow. We will talk about how to be a successful missionary through obedience, working effectively every day and doing all you can do, and loving people and desiring their salvation.

Our district in Goiana

Goiana is split into two branches, and each branch has some outlying cities that are part of the branch as well. The other area closed this week, and our district leader told us that the assistants told him that we could work in the other branch as well. We aren’t totally sure about what is expected of us (from Pres. Houseman, God, etc.) in terms of the other area. But we asked the other branch president and the Relief Society president if there were any investigators we ought to be teaching. They gave us a few great references! We planned to visit one of them this week already and are thinking about how to plan when to visit the others. Probably we are going to set a few days aside next week to go there. We don’t have a map, area book, or cellphone for the other branch, so we’re a bit in the dark. But we are going to keep records of the people we find and turn them over to the next missionaries when the next transfer starts.

Cuscus topped with hot sauce sent all the way from home–thanks Mom!

Mateus and Raiane, a couple we were teaching, went to church this week! Their neighbor Bruno also went! They have really managed to understand the message of the Restoration and seem interested in the church. They said they are praying and reading the Book of Mormon and searching for an answer to their questions. They don’t feel they’ve gotten an answer yet, but they are still searching!

This week we were walking down the street and I felt like I should talk to the man who was walking next to us on the sidewalk. He turned out to be an ex-seminarian who studied theology in order to be a Catholic priest but then decided he didn’t agree with the Catholic religion. He said he had always wanted to go into the church building in Caruaru but hadn’t been invited so never went. At this point I was sad because I thought that meant he would just be a reference we would have to pass on to other missionaries in the Caruaru area, but about three weeks ago he moved to Goiana! We ended up teaching him a summarized version of the Restoration and the Book of Mormon on the street and he promised to read the Book of Mormon and go to church on Sunday. We called him at night to give him the address. But then on Sunday morning we called him to ask if his map application managed to find the church building and he hung up after we said we were the missionaries. And he didn’t go to church. But hopefully when we visit him this week he ends up being interested! Who knows . . .

Patrick went to church again but doesn’t feel he has gotten an answer yet. He feels answers from God need to be law-of-physics-defying to be convincing, so we are trying to help him recognize the other ways God responds.

Moto-taxis who keep their commitments

Sister Faulconer with her new companion, Sister Pires

This week was good. The miracle of the week was Patrick. We asked Patrick for directions and did a contact with him. When we went to teach him, he wasn’t there–that’s something that happens every single day, many times a day.  His family was there so we did a contact with them and planned to go back a different day. But then on Friday night Patrick called us! He said he had researched the Church and liked what he found out about!  He said he wanted to go to church!  And he went!  Miracles.  He seems to have potential, as someone who might be interested in joining the Church!  We are excited. 

A few days earlier we had had a bit of difficulty finding people at home, when we managed to teach someone at a motorcycle taxi station. His friend, who is a moto taxi driver, also decided to listen, even though he had to turn down a ride.  When we told him about the Restoration, he repeatedly said “I have never heard about this!” That is my favorite investigator response! We went on splits this week and I stayed in Igarassu.  While I was there, Renato said he had prayed and gotten an answer! Hooray for investigators who keep their commitments! We are going to visit him tonight.

Sister Faulconer and Sister Centeio (a former companion) together at mission council this week.

We also went to mission council this week. I found out that the missionaries who followed Sister Nogueira and I in Candeias are . . . Sister M. Ribeiro (who I trained!) and her new trainee! That’s pretty funny. I have been praying for those missionaries — it turns out I was praying for someone I already knew pretty well!

The sisters go on splits
Splits with Sister Lopes

This week we will do splits with Janga.  Next week it will probably be Olinda, where Sister M. Ribeiro was training until this transfer. 

Preparing to transfer

Centro Goiana
Downtown Goiana
Photo credit: Rilson @ Wikimedia Commons

This week was different! Sister Nogueira and I spent a lot of time at night and before studies in the morning trying to leave lots of information for the new missionaries in Candeias.  We are not sure if they are sisters or elders, but they probably are not Sister Training Leaders.  We suspect they might be elders, but who knows when I will find out!  On Wednesday morning we spent more time trying to leave all the information well-organized for them, and then left to get a bus.  Just as I was leaving I picked up a box of trash.  It had containers of soy sauce that were not put inside a trash bag.  When I picked up the box to take it outside, just as we were leaving, it got soy sauce all over the floor. We tried to clean it up quickly, but I hope the new missionaries weren’t surprised by a strong soy sauce smell when they opened the door! 

We left the keys in the “aquatic club” across the street and  started lugging the suitcases to the bus stop.  It was a production, albeit much easier than when I lugged my suitcases to Candeias two transfers ago!  This time we went the short pavemented way! As we were almost to the bus stop we passed below a skyscraper where a recent convert, Camilla, lives.  She ran outside to help us lug the suitcases, which was nice of her.  Then we noticed that the doorman was calling us.  He had Sister Nogueira’s Book of Mormon! That was a shock.  Two days before she had lost her pocket Book of Mormon.  We looked everywhere, but couldn’t find it, which was sad.  Two minutes before getting to the bus stop he flagged us down and said that someone had left the Book of Mormon with him!  It was good that Camilla ran out to help us because 1. Three people makes the task easier 2. If not, the doorman might not have noticed us!  Definitely a miracle–we might have left a different way or the doorman could have been distracted when we were leaving.  It was literally the last ten minutes Sister Nogueira would be in that area for the rest of her mission!

Goiana is different than Candeias. It is a busy city but does not have skyscrapers, so it’s a pretty different atmosphere. Everyone travels to the beach for two months this time of year, so it is much more deserted than usual.  We split the city with another companionship of elders. We are also taking care of a few other cities, but the Sisters weren’t visiting them very often.  We’ll go to one of them next week, but we’ll see how it goes.  The branch here is going to turn into a ward in March.  I will probably be here; it will be cool to see!  Two of my companions were in Goiana before going to Candeias, and one of my other companions, Sister Arce, went to Goiana after we were companions.  Pretty funny!  

We have been working hard to find more investigators this week.  So far we have been having some difficulty finding investigators at home, but we marked a number of investigators for next week, so hopefully that helps!  It is a little bigger here than in Candeias, and quite a bit bigger if you include the other cities we take care of! One interesting thing about this area is that we have lunch with members two days a week, and the other days a week is money or pre-prepared lunches in styrofoam containers that one of the sisters in the ward makes.  That is a lot less lunch with members than in my other areas! 

This week we will go to mission council on Wednesday and do a transfer with the sisters from Igarassu.  Today I hope to see the outdoor market.  Goiana does not have big supermarkets like Casa Forte or Candeias but it does have an outdoor market open every day, so that is a plus!

Investigators at Church!

I am going to be transferred to Goiana, the area that Sister Nogueira just left, and Sister Nogueira is also going to be transferred! We are not sure what will happen with the area yet, but hopefully everything works out.  It is always hard to leave investigators, and even more so if your companion will be transferred as well, but I’m sure the next missionaries will be great.

Yesterday we had a miracle of several new investigators who went to church!! One was a young woman we met giving out cake at the Christmas activity we did.  Her name is Nayara* and she is really interested in helping indigenous peoples and making art.  She wasn’t sure if she believed in God. After we gave her a Book of Mormon she read 3 Nephi 11 and felt doubtful about whether what it had said really happened. Then she had a spiritual experience at some kind of religious ceremony with indigenous people and decided that everything the Book of Mormon says is true! Not something you hear every day.  She also accepted a baptismal goal!

Also Vitoria and her two siblings Mary & Guilherme went to church.  She had seemed very uninterested, but the other day when we were trying to teach her a lesson she suddenly asked if she could bless her baby at our church!  Then she accepted a baptismal date, so that was exciting!

We also met the mom, Barbara, of a future missionary, Clara.  Barbara isn’t a member but said she would pray and would be baptized if she received an answer–that’s all we ask  of people!  Her daughter was really excited.  It was great to hear Clara’s testimony of the difference the gospel has made in her life.  Bernardo’s wife also shared her testimony of the Book of Mormon.  I was praying for it to touch his heart!  Last we heard, he hasn’t yet prayed again to know if the Book of Mormon is true. But we have been fasting for him and hope he recognizes the answers God is sending him.  Unfortunately it will probably take a while to find out because of transfers but here’s hoping! Juliana and Joao Pedro found out that they will have to pay for new certificates so Joao Pedro said he would go to the marriage office today!  They are making lots of progress.  Their daughter, Aléxia, a Young Woman [the Young Women are the group of female youth ages 12-18],  had just gotten her temple recommend so we ended up teaching about temples again.  It was a great lesson–they really want to be sealed together! I am really excited to hear about their marriage in the not-distant future! 

We can ask God for wisdom. We can ask to be shown the truth.

We are teaching a man named Ibrahim, who is from Iraq.  He is Muslim and very interesting.  It is great to learn more about his culture and religion–I am a little sad I don’t live closer to him–I would like to be his friend after returning home!  He is very knowledgeable about many, many subjects but had never heard of the Church.  The first time we taught him we took a Book of Mormon in English (easier for him to read than Portuguese) but weren’t able to discover the Book of Mormon in Arabic on his phone.  When we went back the second time we were all set to show him how to find it, but he had already downloaded it and started reading!  He is very committed to friendly, helpful relations with people of other faiths, but believes that religion is something that doesn’t change (“We believe almost the same thing.  We are like two parallel trains.  They are close but never come together!” –Ibrahim). I respect him a lot.  While he does not believe that it makes sense to ask God questions (“You can ask, but He will not answer!”), he does believe we can ask God for wisdom or to be shown the truth. So we invited him to ask God to show him if the Book of Mormon is true.  He promised to ask God and to read the whole book (He said several times “But you have to give me time.  This book is very long! I will not read it in one day!” Well, we are happy to give him all the time he wants.  Anyone who is committed to reading the Book of Mormon makes us happy.

Next week, coming not-live to you from Goiana in Pernambuco, the next installment of letters from a missionary.

Merry Christmas!

In front of the Recife Temple during our Christmas Conference

This week was good. Christmas! Merry Christmas! Our Christmas was great. We went to an old folks’ home, visited an investigator or two, and talked with our families. Christmas was great. What a blessing to be on the mission at Christmastime — definitely helps me focus on the reason for the season. It is great to be able to share the good news at Christmastime! We went to contact someone we met at the activity we did last week. We went to call her and discovered that the number I had written down didn’t exist, so we went to her apartment building. Luana from apt. 101 came down . . . and we didn’t recognize her. Someone with the same name lives in the address this lady gave us . . . and she seemed super receptive. We started apologizing for contacting the wrong person and trying to introduce ourselves so as to do a contact. She asked if we wanted to sit in the lobby! We sang a hymn, briefly mentioned the Restoration, and gave her a Book of Mormon. She said she would read it, watch the Christmas video, and go to church this Sunday! It was very exciting. Unfortunately she did not go to church or read the Book of Mormon, and she ended up leaving with friends when we marked to see her later in the week. But I am hopeful that this week we will be able to mark an appointment.

Also we visited a sister’s nonmember husband. He has had many, many lessons but never felt he received an answer about the Book of Mormon. The lesson we had with him was pretty spiritual. He said he needed to exercise his faith more and pray with his whole soul! I am pretty excited about that.  Please pray for him!

A great talk I read and loved this week — Elder Budge’s talk from this past conference: “Consistent and Resilient Trust.” I recommend it!

Christmas and the Atonement

Christmas Conference–Visiting the temple in Recife with our zone

Fun facts: This week I stepped on a piece of cement covering a sewer opening and it tipped over!  I half-fell in but luckily only my calves ended up inside the hole.  They got scraped up a little but, most importantly, I did not actually touch the sewer water, so that was good!  I am not going to step on any more sewer covers! 

Giliard didn’t get baptized this week.  He ended up going to a late-night party and slept late on Sunday, so he didn’t go to church.   I think it is tough — he is getting to know the church now but he has many friends who aren’t church members.  It is tough.  We hope he focuses on searching for God’s answers — it is so important to pray!  Hopefully we manage to teach him several times this week and help him with this.

This week we did an activity.  We projected the new Christmas video onto a screen in front of the church building and invited people to watch.  A few people decided to watch.  We asked some members to take cake to attract people.  We ended up taking the cake to the street and offering free pieces with our invitation.  We got the contacts of a few people, hopefully it turns out well!  It was a good way to shake things up.

I have been thinking this week about the importance of the atonement in conjunction with Christmas. This week I shared a scripture, and afterwards Sister Nogueira explained it in a way that helped me understand things I hadn’t seen before.  3 Nephi 27:13-16:

13 Behold I have given unto you my gospel, and this is the gospel which I have given unto you—that I came into the world to do the will of my Father, because my Father sent me.

14 And my Father sent me that I might be lifted up upon the cross; and after that I had been lifted up upon the cross, that I might draw all men unto me, that as I have been lifted up by men even so should men be lifted up by the Father, to stand before me, to be judged of their works, whether they be good or whether they be evil—

15 And for this cause have I been lifted up; therefore, according to the power of the Father I will draw all men unto me, that they may be judged according to their works.

16 And it shall come to pass, that whoso repenteth and is baptized in my name shall be filled; and if he endureth to the end, behold, him will I hold guiltless before my Father at that day when I shall stand to judge the world.

I understood that this scripture highlights the importance of Christ’s atonement — He was born to die and sacrifice himself for us.  But I didn’t know why Christ mentioned our judgement in this verse instead of salvation.  Sister Nogueira explained that men judged Christ, lifting him up on a cross to crucify him.  He chose to go through this so that we could be lifted up and judged by God.  A meaningful parallel.  

I also like this video about why we need a Savior–the reason for Christmas.

Merry Christmas!