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!
One of my favorite hymns in the mission has been “Se a Vida e Penosa” (“If the Way Be Full of Trial, Worry Not”). When someone dumps us or doesn’t show up, I often sing this song because it’s funny, and also true — in Portuguese it says “Don’t get tired of fighting, God listens to our voice, He will send rest.´” It’s true! This week we had several opportunities to sing this hymn.
If the way be full of trial, weary not; If it’s one of sore denial, weary not; If it now be one of weeping, There will come a joyous greeting, When the harvest we are reaping, weary not.
If the way be one of sorrow, weary not; Happier will be the morrow, weary not. Here we suffer tribulation; Here we must endure temptation; But there’ll come a great salvation. Weary not.
If misfortunes overtake us, weary not; Jesus never will forsake us, weary not. He will leave us never, never; From his love there’s naught can sever; Glory to the Lamb forever, weary not.
*Chorus:* Do not weary by the way, Whatever be thy lot; There awaits a brighter day, To all, to all who weary not.
One of our amazing investigators told us on Monday that she no longer wanted to be baptized and had misinterpreted all of her past answers to prayer. She thought that God had told her to be baptized in the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints but in fact she had been mistaken. Unfortunately, when she went to a ward Relief Society activity she was shocked to hear “American” rather than strictly evangelical songs. She told us this is against the Bible’s teachings (she cited the scripture in John about not being of the world).
Later we called her to follow up. She said that she had prayed about it. But she felt she had received the answer that she should stay where she is. It was sad. When we were on our way to visit her, she cancelled on us. However, we ended up doing a contact instead and the contact turned out to be super great. I have high hopes for the new contact!
Another sad things was a recent convert that we’ve spent lots of time with has decided to leave and be part of another church instead. I worry that he hasn’t had the visits from ward members that he needs. We have been trying to use the tips from the mission newsletter about helping recent converts. We are still hoping to be able to keep working with him.
My testimony in the restoration has been strengthened this week. I had been thinking about why people who seem like sincere, earnest seekers of truth don’t get answers or get answers that led them away from the truth. But this week I realized that sometimes I don’t need to worry about that too much. It is illogical to believe in the Book of Mormon and totally ignore that because you dreamed that a different church is true.
Sister Barros has a great talk called by Elder Tad R. Callister, “What is the Blueprint of Christ’s Church?” which talks about the elements of the primitive church and how our church has those same elements. Obviously, you can’t have a testimony just based on Bible verses (I imagine different interpretations are possible), but the restoration is incredible!
Two scriptures I like:
And let us not be weary in well doing: for in due season we shall reap, if we faint not.
This week was great. We have a wonderful investigator that I told you about last week, Alexia.* She is an amazing example of someone who studies the gospel. She is reading all of the material we give her and asking for copies of the Pearl of Great Price and True to the Faith because she read about them in the pamphlets! She is being integrated well, which is really good. But it was a bit of a roller-coaster this week because on Sunday she didn’t go to church. She said she was sick. Alexia’s mother had said she would pray about the church. She said she prayed and received an answer that she should stay in her church. But she also said she believes that Joseph Smith was a prophet. So hopefully we can help her understand that if Joseph Smith was a prophet, the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints has to be Christ’s restored church. One of our other investigators, Willian, unfortunately, had to work a lot this week; we are still hoping he can be baptized.
We did not have a lot of success with teaching lessons this week, but the upside was that consequently we did a number of contacts and managed to meet a number of new investigators who seem to have a lot of potential! We have really been trying hard to put President Nelson’s advice from his missionaries-only broadcast from Brasilia to missionaries into practice. He said that the most important part of the Book of Mormon is 3 Nephi 11, when Christ visits the Americas. He said we should have people read the 3 Nephi 11 chapter heading because after reading that they wouldn’t want to put the book down! Initially, I had been worried we weren’t doing it right because I wasn’t sure if people were understanding the chapter summary. But this week some people really seemed intrigued as they read the chapter summary. Several people asked us how much it costs to buy a Book of Mormon before we had a chance to tell them that we would take it to their house for free!
I believe Christ truly visited the Americas. I am so grateful to know that our loving Heavenly Father wanted His children on both sides of the globe to hear His gospel. The Book of Mormon is a blessing in my life. Did you know that the Church of Jesus Christ is publishing Book of Mormon videos? I watched the first one today and it is cool! Watch here.
I also saw this article by Sister Eubank** on the church website today that I really liked. It has a really great explanation about the difference the Church can make — even in the lives of great people. Evangelical people we meet always want to tell us to go talk to someone who isn’t Christian instead of wasting our time talking to them. But the truth is that the restored gospel has a wonderful multiplying power. If you start as a wonderful Christian you have the potential to become an even better Christian with exponentially more opportunities to serve and bless.
“But let’s say a good woman or man encounters the restored gospel. She makes a covenant at baptism into the Church of Jesus Christ that promises her she can receive priesthood power: God’s power. Is her life and power vastly different from before? Yes! I believe her good power is greatly magnified by her covenants . . .”
We also have zone conference this week. One downside of living in the Central Zone is that our conference is on Tuesday. It doesn’t help with my never-yet-achieved-goal of having the 2 five-minute talks we are asked to prepare prepared well in advance! This week the topics are Personal Conversion and the Day of Judgement.
On Friday I am going to go to the airport to renew my visa! That’s weird. I have a new card to show off my legal status as well. Other people apparently can tell that I have lost a little weight since my passport photo on entering Brazil. On Sunday Sister Barros will turn 21! Also, I found out that I will be flying home March 31st, arriving at home just a few days before my 21st birthday. Weird weird weird.
*Investigators’ names are always changed to protect their privacy
**Sister Sharon Eubank is the first counselor in the general presidency of the Relief Society, the Church’s organization for its six million female members ages 18 and over.
We visited one contact, Alexia* who had read the entire Plan of Salvation pamphlet we had left with her and all of the scriptures from the Bible in the back. She even called the number on the contact card to ask for a Book of Mormon so she could read the rest of the scriptures! We are a bit perplexed because we haven’t received her referral yet, but hopefully it happens soon; I would like to trust the pass-along card system!
When we went there she said she hadn’t known that there are three heavens (Doctrine & Covenants 76:30-113) but the Bible verse cited in the pamphlet [probably 2 Corinthians 12:2 and 1 Corinthians 15:40-42] is totally right! She also went to church this week; she said she hadn’t been baptized but was looking for a church to be baptized in! She said she´ll keep praying but thinks she will be baptized in the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints! It was very exciting. We found her when we tried to visit her grandmother. Her grandmother was not the least bit interested. She didn’t even let us in, but we started talking to Alexia and she accepted a visit! I had been feeling kind of stupid for marking a visit with her grandmother — she didn’t seem like the sort of person with a lot of potential — but God works in mysterious ways.
One of our other investigators, Willian, went to church for the second time this week. We taught him for basically 2.5 months before he could go to church. It seemed like he had so much potential but I was starting to wonder if he was just making excuses. I guess not! He has a testimony, he just needs to feel a confirmation that he ought to get baptized this Saturday. We are thinking a lot about the mission newsletter said about people preparing for baptism. Hopefully it works out!
Fun fact: Brazilian shoe stores don’t believe in shoes larger than size nine. Guess which shoe size I need? . . . not nine.
I have been drinking a lot of tea and cool juices as usual. Recently I have drunk cidreira (what is that in English? — tasty!) hibiscus, chamomile, and peppermint tea. Also eggplant, kale and lime, beet and lime, carrot ginger, and the usual variety of tasty fruit juices –ginger cinnamon passion fruit mmmm. [Apparently the answer to Sis. Faulconer’s question about cidreira is that is is either Lemongrass or Lemon balm tea–apparently “cidreira” is applied to both plants and both are used for tea].
I spent two days with Sister Figueira. On Wednesday my new companion showed up — Sister Barros! She is from a state in northern Brazil — not too far from here. Talking to her has made me realize that some things I thought were Sister Delmiro’s personality and individual voice are actually the north/northeastern accent (Sister Delmiro is from Fortaleza–also the Northeast). Sometimes when I get a new companion I think — whoa my companion has the same voice as xxxx missionary! Then I realize it’s not the personality, but that they are from the same place and therefore have some of the same mannerisms and accent. It is cool to live with people from so many different places. Sister Barros is great!
[Sister Barros is not in fact gaucha (from the South of Brazil) but this pic of Sister Barros and Sister Faulconer was featured on a Casa Forte area restaurant’s Instagram. They got the Americana part right.]
Fun fact — did you know that if you leave spices or popcorn kernels in closed containers for two weeks you might come back and find out they have mold or insects trapped inside the container when you get back? I did not. Fun facts about a humid climate! I think maybe it is safer to just leave everything in the fridge.
Other fun fact — I can understand a bit of Spanish. It is very strange, because in my head Spanish is a language I don’t know — but because I know Portuguese I can sometimes understand some things people are saying on the street! Right now we are trying to get more good investigators— several of the good people we have moved or had other problems. So we are working on finding more people this week. A member helped out and it sounds like Caroline and Luiz have a proof of residence and they are planning to go to the marriage office today to start the marriage process!
Awesome moment from the week — Wilian went to church!!! I talked about him three weeks ago. He is the only referral who has worked out for us until now. He wants to get baptized, reads the Book of Mormon, keeps the commandments. He just had to go church, but he had to help build an extra bathroom for many Sundays. Then he said he could go several times but his wife and her mom pressed him into service at the last minute a couple of times and he ended up not going. But yesterday he managed! And he is marked for baptism on the 21st of this month! Iara also went to church. I am still sad she is going through some hard things and feels that now isn’t the time for her to have lessons but it was great that she went to church this Sunday!
Unfortunately, on Tuesday night we went to visit a recent convert and discovered that he won’t go to church for a month because he is working to buy a cellphone on the weekends. Also, he is going to his mother’s church every week. We knew that, but we did not know that he considers himself a member of both churches. We explained that he can visit other churches but that he needs to know which church is teaching Christ’s doctrine correctly — which church is the restored church of Christ. He said he needed to make a choice; probably to stay with his family, united in his mother’s church. I felt really bad about that. Last Monday the weekly mission newsletter was about how to better teach and follow up with recent converts. Although I had read the journal last week and thought a lot about it throughout the week and how I could better teach recent converts, we hadn’t visited him last week because there are a lot of recent converts in Madalena and Casa Forte and I did not prioritize visiting him. So that was frustrating–I had felt like I was doing a better job of recognizing the Spirit and his inspiration for my investigators in my studies, but apparently that did not carry over to recognizing a prompting to visit our friend. Anyway, hopefully members will visit him and he will pray and think more about this. I think it will work out.
Recently i have been thinking about a couple missionary-related quotes from Paul:
For though I preach the gospel, I have nothing to glory of: for necessity is laid upon me; yea, woe is unto me, if I preach not the gospel!
Yesterday at 10:00 p.m. we got a phone call. Instead of spending the rest of the transfer in Madalena (until Wednesday) I ended up going back to Casa Forte today. I am going to be here for the next two days with Sister Figueira, a STL whose companion went home already. Then my new companion will get here on Wednesday. I don’t trust Sunday nights anymore! Last minute changes always happen.
This week was another week of traveling between Casa Forte and Madalena. The highlight was definitely hearing President Nelson speak on Friday to the missionaries and on Sunday to the church in Brazil. I think my testimony of the leaders of the church has definitely been strengthened on the mission. In the CTM I felt the spirit so strongly during general conference, and I have felt some of that same spirit at the April conference and at the transmissions from President Nelson this week. I am working on remembering these moments — it is so easy to forget spiritual experiences! In the missionary broadcast, he emphasized the importance of talking about Christ’s visit to the Americas. He said we shouldn’t let people start at 1 Nephi 1–that won’t capture their attention! They have to start at 3 Nephi 11, when Christ visits the Americas. It is important not to forget how monumental this is. We have a book about Christ’s visit to the American continent!
8 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.
9 And I do this that I may prove unto many that I am the same yesterday, today, and forever; and that I speak forth my words according to mine own pleasure. And because that I have spoken one word ye need not suppose that I cannot speak another; for my work is not yet finished; neither shall it be until the end of man, neither from that time henceforth and forever.
10 Wherefore, because that ye have a Bible ye need not suppose that it contains all my words; neither need ye suppose that I have not caused more to be written.
11 For I command all men, both in the east and in the west, and in the north, and in the south, and in the islands of the sea, that they shall write the words which I speak unto them; for out of the books which shall be written I will judge the world, every man according to their works, according to that which is written.
I have been reading the Old Testament and have really enjoyed the end of Isaiah. There are a lot of chapters of Isaiah that seem difficult to understand or apply to your life, but there are some wonderful chapters of Isaiah. I had already heard the most beautiful verses in church talks before, but it is more moving when you read them altogether in Isaiah!