Woe is me if I preach not the gospel

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!

1 Corinthians 9:16

  
We have to share what we know!

President Nelson’s visit

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! 

2 Nephi 29

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.

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!   

Isaiah 54:

10 For the mountains shall depart, and the hills be removed; but my kindness shall not depart from thee, neither shall the covenant of my peace be removed, saith the Lord that hath mercy on thee.

11 O thou afflicted, tossed with tempest, and not comforted, behold, I will lay thy stones with fair colours, and lay thy foundations with sapphires. . . .

13 And all thy children shall be taught of the Lord; and great shall be the peace of thy children.

God Gives the Increase

This week has been crazy!  We have spent 120 reais [about $29] going back and forth between Casa Forte and Madalena this week!  The problem is that in theory it would be more effective to just pick a few days where we only work in Madalena and a few days where we only work in Casa Forte.  But in practice you can’t just neatly plan out the investigators on the preferred days — they all have their individual schedules, etc.  So we actually did a better job of following up with people in Casa Forte, going there almost every single day. Crazy, but way better than just leaving Casa Forte without missionaries for two weeks.

This week we had three baptisms in Madalena!  It was eventful. Things were a bit stressful, but it all worked out!

Baptism of Thais*

I have an Alma-ish (probably misguided) wish to find people and teach them and then have them get baptized so that I can feel like someone got baptized just because of me, but that doesn’t happen very often. This week I suddenly thought of the New Testament scripture 1 Cor 3:6-7 that happens to be part of the Come Follow Me readings this week about how one person plants, another waters, but God gives the increase. You get the crown based on your work not the watering. Paul says he was not called to baptize but to preach (1 Cor 1:17). I was thinking about other investigators that weren’t my contacts who I wished I had been the one to initially make contact. Then afterwards I realized this was especially applicable for this week. I haven’t had a huge part in these three baptisms but it is a privilege to see them and have a little part in them.

One of the people baptized this week was Vitor.* He first met the sisters in 2015! He didn’t believe in God. But he has been learning and strengthening his testimony a little more each day. Before I got here, the sisters had used an excellent metaphor of a staircase. He said he started at 0 — not believing anything. This past week he was still having a few moments of doubt even though he had progressed a lot. He said he wasn’t sure if Christ really was the Savior, had done miracles, etc. But after our lesson he said he was half a stair step higher on the staircase — at 2.9 (instead of 0)! We could see his testimony growing more and more each day this week, and when he got baptized, he said he was at step infinity! We told him he can now start climbing staircase 2.0. He really looked like the sort of person who was starting a new life.

Baptism of Vitor*

Unfortunately, one of the young men who was baptized on Saturday overslept and didn’t get confirmed on Sunday. I felt very bad about that. This prophetic quote was playing over and over again in my head:

You might as well baptize a bag of sand as a man, if not done in view of the remission of sins and getting of the Holy Ghost. Baptism by water is but half a baptism, and is good for nothing without the other half—that is, the baptism of the Holy Ghost.”

Teachings of Presidents of the Church: Joseph Smith (2007), p. 95

Fortunately, I think João Pedro* really will end up getting confirmed next week. 

Splitting their time between Casa Forte and Madalena–Sisters Faulconer, M. Ribeiro, and Delmiro

Funny thing that happened the other day it was raining as usual (winter in Recife) and we saw rain falling on the other side of the street — but we were dry. As we were watching, the rain got closer until we got wet, and then it went away down the street!  This happened about four times– we saw the rain coming, it rained on us, and then we saw it going away down the street!  It was so funny; I thought that only happened in movies. It reminded me of Harry Potter or Flubber 2 where there are magical (or science-induced) rain clouds for specific people.  We joked that maybe someone was praying for rain and we were watching God send it to them!

Sad thing that happened– Iara* doesn’t want more visits.  She is going through some personal struggles she didn’t feel comfortable enough to share and doesn’t feel she can focus on reading the scriptures and praying right now.  But she said she wants to continue going to church, so I hope that her heart will be touched eventually.  It was frustrating that we couldn’t go to church in Casa Forte so that we could see her (We were in the Madalena ward), but next week. It is sad when this sort of thing happens.  We were so unsure afterwards if we should have been more insistent or persistent or said things other than what we said . . . But hopefully we can see her at church in Casa Forte next week.

Recife to Provo to Edmonton!

Farewell Sister Sousa! Best wishes learning English in Provo and teaching in Edmonton

Yesterday, just as Sister Sousa and I were finishing a weekly planning session and had put something important in every single hour of the week, we got a phone call.  It was our mission president, President Houseman. Sister Sousa got on a plane to Provo to the Missionary Training Center this morning!  After waiting such a long time, she will finally be able to study English and then finish her mission in Edmonton, Canada, where she was originally called.

I am now in my third trio of the mission . . . with Sister M. Ribeiro and Sister Delmiro! I trained Sister M. Ribeiro and am happy to be with her again! They are serving in the Madalena area of Recife, and have four people marked for baptism this week and one marked next week and think they all have potential to actually be baptized.  So that is crazy!  Sister Sousa and I also had a few good people who need to be followed-up with in the Casa Forte area. So, our new trio will work in both areas.  It will be an adventure.  I am excited to work hard and help all these people.  It will be hard to figure out where to go and what to do but it will work out! 

Sister M. Ribeiro and Sister Delmiro are the two sisters on the right–Sis. Faulconer is not pictured
Photo courtesy of Sister Lori Houseman

Iara* did not get baptized this Saturday but she is marked for two weeks from now.  Please pray for her!  She is great and went to church this week.  It can be scary and different to change and decide to get baptized but I believe it will work out for her! 

We have been teaching Willian for a while–He is 19 and wants to get baptized!  He is great but hasn’t been able to go to church yet.  It was another week in which he reallly wanted to go to church, we realllly wanted him to go to church . . . but his mother asked him to help with something at the last second and he couldn’t go.  I sure hope he can go next week.

Funny moments: the other week one of our investigators told us that some ladies that we taught once were talking badly about us.  We asked what they were saying and she said “they said that you guys are huge gossips!” That was hilarious, because you could accuse us of all sorts of things that are true or rooted in truth that could sound bad (“They think their church is the only true church” “really pushy´” “annoying”)  but we are definitely not guilty of being gossipers! We don´t know anything about those women to gossip about!

Here is a cool scripture — On the mission and in my life I want to be like Nephi:

2 And it came to pass that Nephi went his way towards his own house, pondering upon the things which the Lord had shown unto him.
3 And it came to pass as he was thus pondering—being much cast down because of the wickedness of the people of the Nephites, their secret works of darkness, and their murderings, and their plunderings, and all manner of iniquities—and it came to pass as he was thus pondering in his heart, behold, a voice came unto him saying:
4 Blessed art thou, Nephi, for those things which thou hast done; for I have beheld how thou hast with unwearyingness declared the word, which I have given unto thee, unto this people. And thou hast not feared them, and hast not sought thine own life, but hast sought my will, and to keep my commandments.
5 And now, because thou hast done this with such unwearyingness, behold, I will bless thee forever; and I will make thee mighty in word and in deed, in faith and in works; yea, even that all things shall be done unto thee according to thy word, for thou shalt not ask that which is contrary to my will.
6 Behold, thou art Nephi, and I am God.

Helaman 10:2-6

*Names of investigators are always changed

Teaching the Word of Wisdom, Making Language Mistakes, Eating Curry

August 2019 Zone Conference
Photo courtesy of Sister Lori Houseman

Iara is still marked for baptism this Saturday!  Yesterday we asked her how she was feeling about baptism, and she said she didn’t know if she wanted to change.  I asked her what she was afraid of changing and she said she wasn’t sure she wanted to give up drinking on the weekends.  We taught her the Word of Wisdom, and though she was initially unsure (why coffee?)  she accepted!  I love it when people start out the Word of Wisdom lesson totally taken aback (I love coffee!  I will never give it up!) but say at the end that they will start living the Word of Wisdom from then on.  She says she hasn’t received an answer yet about the Book of Mormon or Joseph Smith, but we are hopeful that she will be able to recognize God´s answers this week.  

Isabella decided to go to the beach instead of going to church, but she also accepted the Word of Wisdom despite being initially against it, and she hasn’t drunk coffee since, so that was a good sign.  The couple who are the parents of a missionary didn’t go to church last week, but we will visit them today. Hopefully we can figure out how to see them more frequently.

Sister Faulconer and Sister Sousa (far right) help clean up at zone conference
Photo courtesy of Sister Lori Houseman

Funny language mistake: in Portuguese you have to use intonation when asking questions because the sentence structure doesn’t change, so if you don’t change your voice people will think it is a declaration rather than a question.  Yesterday I was trying really hard to put this into practice and consequently wound up putting the emphasis on the wrong syllable — I asked a member if she had put pieces of poop in her cake!  I meant to say coconut but it didn’t quite come out right!

It is still raining here.  It is going to be a shock when summer comes.  The temperature now is awesome.  

Thai curry–Made by Sister Faulconer in Brazil

I made Thai curry last week and it was awesome.  Not as good as Thai Drift, but it still filled a curry-shaped hole in my heart! 

I would like to send photos but now my sd adapter doesn’t want to work. 😦 


Love you all!

Arthur got baptized!

Sister Sousa, Arthur, Sister Faulconer
Photo Credit: Elder Richard and Sister Sandy Tidwell

Arthur* got baptized!!!  We had been visiting him basically every day for more than a transfer, so we have been praying and hoping for this baptism for a very long time! It seems like he decided to change his life all of a sudden, and that’s made all the difference! One day we went to visit him and found out that he had gone to a friend’s house after leaving church early.  This was a bad sign, so we showed up to his work thinking about ultimatums.  E.g., you need to do x thing —we like you, but we can’t continue to visit people who don’t try to change, but then we found out that he hadn’t smoked in two days! We taught him about Christ and the rich young man. I was going to explain the parable but he started explaining it! He said that for him, smoking was like the young man’s riches! It was very special. Two weeks later he still hasn’t smoked!  We are so excited for him.

Caroline still really wants to get baptized.  She bore a great testimony yesterday!  Unfortunately she and Luan are having serious troubles with their proof of residence, without which you cannot get married.  Her niece, Ana (from last week’s post), did not get baptized this week, which was too bad. But we are in hopes of helping the young women integrate her a bit more — I think befriending other young women will help a lot. 

Two people stopped us in the street this week to ask to be visited.  Isabella told us she wanted to get baptized but her parents hadn’t let her.  She was taught two years ago and went to church five times  Later we met her father, who said he has also been to church and loves the Book of Mormon! It was a miracle. Unfortunately they and a lot of our other investigators who were all set to go to church had a variety of disasters Sunday morning. The power in their whole house burned out and they couldn’t go! That was too bad, but hopefully next week works out better. Although a lot of investigators did not go to church, a few investigators did manage to go, which was great.  Caroline and Ana went, as well as two awesome new investigators who are member references and a couple that are the parents of a missionary from Casa Forte!

The missionary’s mother has started reading the Book of Mormon every day and praying about it! We hadn’t seen them for a few days, and when we showed up they said they were really wanting to go to church! She said she wants to go to the Church of Jesus Christ every week now! A miracle — her husband had been taught for a while without any progress but apparently she hadn’t really been to church or been taught before. She says she hasn’t received an answer yet, but I think she must be feeling the spirit!

Iara was one of the member references. We have been trying hard to invite all the members to pray about references. Then we follow up to see if they have prayed and thought of anyone.  It worked! Sister Andressa took her friend to church on Sunday and then we taught her a lesson afterwards! It was overall a great lesson.  Andressa bore her testimony and I think everyone felt the spirit.  

It has been raining every day for the last two weeks!  It’s funny; I read my Grandpa Trent’s missionary letters the other day.  HE said the same thing! Tomorrow we are going to get Sister Sousa’s passport and then go to interviews at the mission office. Fun fact — we are reimbursed for the travel we do to district meetings, splits, interviews, etc.  Our reimbursement here is less than a tenth of our reimbursement in Gravatá!

Sister Faulconer, Sister Sousa, Sister Houseman, and the Houseman’s daughter
Courtesy of Lori Houseman

Last week we traveled for visa things for the third week in a row, so today our plans include staying at home.  I am going to make Thai curry!  Brazil has many wonderful foods (this week I ate at a vegan shop that had the most heavenly Brazilian vegan food) but it is seriously curry-deprived!
Love you all!  

The Come, Follow Me manual is great.  I am inspired by Paul’s missionary efforts and his faithful attitude.  It seems like every verse of the New Testament is packed with meaning.  

This verse from Romans 1 is a classic

For I am not ashamed of the gospel of Christ: for it is the power of God unto salvation to every one that believeth; to the Jew first, and also to the Greek.

Romans 1:16

Thanks for your prayers! Like Paul, I am praying for all of you!

For God is my witness, whom I serve with my spirit in the gospel of his Son, that without ceasing I make mention of you always in my prayers . . .

Romans 1:9

*As always, names of investigators are changed to protect their privacy.

The Plan of Salvation

Our last district in Casa Forte before transfers

This week has been super rainy.  Sometimes they are tiny raindrops, but sometimes it rains so hard that in about a minute it looks like you jumped in a swimming pool!  Everyone who can manage it stays inside.  But we are enjoying the rain on the street!  It´s cool, because it’s rainy and not as hot.  The downside is that everything gets wet and stays wet, but we have to have opposition in all things.

The perks of living in the city — I found peanut butter! Without salt, etc,. but I added some and it was not the same, but still good.

Arthur is still struggling with the last cigarette.  But he managed to do a 12-hour fast last week and we are hoping that this week a brother from our ward will show him around the temple grounds.  I love living in the area of the temple.  We don’t pass it super often, but when we do  walk past we are always excited.  Living near the temple is a blessing!  

Caroline and Luan went to start their marriage documents this past week but unfortunately they were missing one, and then the rain kept things from progressing.  Also, they did not go to church again this week, which was sad.  We talked to them Saturday night, but then on Sunday morning we called and called.  We shouted outside their house for a while — we could hear the cellphone ringing on the inside but no one ever answered!  But the cool part was that we marked both of their daughters for baptism on the third.  One of them, Ana, had already been marked for baptism but then it fell through the day of.  The other, 
Beatriz, hadn’t been interested.  But she went to church once and liked it.  Then we taught her the Restoration, she remembered a lot of it from the sisters’ other visits and even had a Book of Mormon but had never read or prayed about it.  She said she would and she did!  She hasn’t gotten an answer yet but I believe she will.  We taught the Plan of Salvation to her family this week.  Beatriz thought it was so interesting she took a picture of our little visual representation of the plan. 

Lots of times we teach the plan of salvation and people don’t really pay attention. But when they do pay attention it reminds me of how special this is. Lots of people don’t have this wonderful knowledge.  Caroline’s family thought that the only options after death are heaven or hell, and that people who don’t hear the gospel will go straight to hell after death.  How wonderful to know that isn’t the case!  People who don’t have a real opportunity to hear the gospel will hear it in the life to come.  And the vast majority of people will live in a good place after this life, even those who didn’t fully follow God.  Families can be together forever!  Lots of people here think that in heaven we won’t be able to remember anything or recognize our family members.  I am so grateful for an eternal family.

We have another investigator, Cristina, who has many difficulties. Her daughter has cancer and is very, very sick.  Her husband shows signs of Alzheimer’s and can’t be left alone. A member introduced us to her without knowing this backstory.  When we met her she was crying and asking why God punishes people with things like this.  We taught her the Plan of Salvation and testified of God’s love and support in our lives, as well as the truth that she and her daughter would have eternities together after this life.  She asked us several times if it was really true.  Now she has prayed about it and believes!  Every time we see her she has a little more trust in God and seems a little happier, even though her situation hasn’t really improved.   I know Alma 7:12 tells the truth — Christ knows what we suffer because he has felt all of the things we go through.  He suffered all that in order to know how to succor us!

Sister Sousa eating the chocolate molten cake I made, topped with peanut butter

Love you all!

*Names are changed to protect privacy

Everyone is from Vasco!

On the bus to the consulate, already wet

Today we left our house at 8:30, went straight to the bus station to go the American consulate, and didn’t get back until 3:40!  We spent a very long time in front of the American consulate waiting for Sister Sousa’s interview.  She got approved!  The hours in the rain were worth it. She is going to pick up her passport in ten days.  Nothing happened with transfers–we’re going to stay here together.  Consequently I am extremely curious about what will happen when she goes to the Missionary Training Center in Provo, Utah [before beginning the English-speaking portion of her mission in Edmonton, Canada].  But we don’t know what day that will be either.  Lots of unknowns!  

Arthur had a recaído [relapse] this week. Anyway, it was sad, because he smoked 10 cigarettes, and that made it hard for him the rest of the week.  But he is still working hard, so here’s hoping everything works out. We also had trouble with contacts – we had a running joke this week that all the elect people in contacts turn out to be from Vasco.  We had so many references for Vasco.  We still haven’t passed them all on.  We talk to people who are sitting on porches in the middle of a little neighborhood — and it turns out the person is visiting from a different city!  Another reference.  The running joke got a lot funnier on Sunday. We had a miracle: the server at the luncheonette where we ate lunch one day called us to confirm the Sacrament Meeting time. We had invited him to church and read a scripture with him — but he had to leave so it was really fast. He said he would go, but I have never once seen a street contact show up at church. I always hope they will show up, but it has never happened. But he showed up!  All by himself!  He said it was different but he liked it and wanted to learn more. But when we introduced him to the bishop, we found out that he was actually from Vasco! That was pretty funny. And a little sad. I have faith that one day the elders from Vasco will find us someone awesome!

Caroline and Luan are going to start the marriage process tomorrow!  I am super excited. We have been having lots of trouble getting into their house to teach them, because they keep cancelling on us.  But this is progress!  Hopefully we manage to teach them this week.  We met a number of good people in contacts last week that I am excited to teach this week.

This week it has been raining quite a lot.  People had been telling us that it was the least rainy, hottest winter they’ve had here in a while.  After this week, I´m not sure if that’s still true!

This Week in Recife

This week was good!  We managed to teach a lot more first lessons this week and we finally have more investigators in our teaching pool.  Caroline and Luan* are going to officially start the getting-married process here!  Unfortunately, this is not Las Vegas and you can’t get married in one day–it could take two months for the papers to get through! In other updates, Arthur is still working on dropping the last cigarette.  He is working hard, so I am sure it will work out eventually. 

Unfortunately, none of our new investigators went to church — it was another Sunday of sudden illnesses, rain, a death in the family!, sudden work opportunities, and general busyness and flakiness.  But Luan and Caroline went to church again, as well as Arthur and Viviane. Viviane is an awesome young woman who has been wanting to get baptized for the last year.  Unfortunately, her mom won’t let her.  But she is persevering  admirably and a very active member in the ward.  The only thing that is missing is the water! (and confirmation).  She is going to ask her mom again this week — please pray that her mom’s heart is softened.  

Cool story — we are teaching a Hare Krishna who stopped us in the street!  He wanted to hear about the temple, which apparently is built in a place an old Hare Krishna temple used to be.  He also wanted to know about meat, because Hare Krishnas are vegetarian, and he talked with a vegan member of the church who told him that our scriptures said something about not eating meat.  So that is pretty crazy, because I am vegetarian and was vegan before my mission because of those exact scriptures. [However, it should be noted that the majority of members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints are not vegetarian].  And I have been to a Hare Krishna temple before and read a little bit about the religion because I think it’s interesting. Weird. We focused on the more important doctrine of the Restoration and his questions about that instead of talking about meat, but I thought that was a funny coincidence. 

He called to cancel our second lesson because something came up but said he had been on the church’s website ComeuntoChrist.org and was loving everything.  He was talking about how the church is such a great example of service, teaching children, etc., etc.  He said he would go to church this Sunday and wanted us to preach him the Bible!  . . . And then on Saturday he called to say he had  been called to go on a mission for a week as a Hare Krishna and didn’t need more visits.  So that was bad timing.  But we told him that we had found a member who had already been to the Hare Krishna temple and would visit him when he got back.

Today we went to get Sister Sousa’s fingerprints taken.  Next week (the day we find out about transfers!) she is going to do her interview at the American (embassy? consulate? don´t know).  Her Canadian visa went through a week after the interview, so if she gets lucky she might be going to Canada really soon!  Who knows if we will be in a trio this next transfer again or if I will end up getting transferred to another place when she leaves . . . or just receive a different companion. I´m not sure. 

We stopped by the beach.  Oh, how I love the sea.  And lakes, and rivers, and ponds. . .  It was picture perfect–yellow sand, blue sky, picturesque clouds.  We did not go to the beach, obviously, but I admired it from a distance!  The water was a little dirty because of the rain, but the benefit of not being allowed to walk on the beach is that it’s harder to see that it is dirty!

Love you all!

*All names are changed to protect the privacy of the investigators

Loving and Welcoming Visitors

This week was good. We have one couple, Caroline and Luan,* who we are teaching.  When we arrived in this area we were very confused because we couldn’t find Caroline’s teaching record.  A teaching record is a form we fill out to say what we taught people.  That way if both the missionaries get transferred, or if you can’t remember what you taught, you can look at the teaching record and see what’s already been taught. I turns out that she doesn’t have a teaching record because she’s never been taught! Her daughter was taught, and she had already been to church and knew the missionaries quite well, and had already reached the Isaiah sections in the Book of Mormon, so we thought she must have been taught something already. But it turns out that she had been drinking and smoking a lot– so much that she was too nervous to sit through a lesson.  The Sisters tried to teach her but she would leave.  But now she sits through lessons, listens, learns, and is reading the Book of Mormon a lot!  She has been to church a total of three times. She wants to get baptized and understands the importance of faith, repentance, baptism, the Holy Ghost, etc.  All without ever being taught!  

Caroline also really wants to get married in order to keep God’s commandments and be baptized. And our ward is helping them out!  They already went to the marriage office and things are progressing!  I have taught lots of people who needed to get married before, but nothing really ever worked out.  Her husband Luan could use some prayers that he can find work.  He seems very driven — he is really working hard to find a steady job to support his family, but now he is just doing whatever odd job he can find.  

Recife Temple
Courtesy of ChurchofJesusChrist.org

One thing I would like to remember as an ex-missionary is the importance of loving and welcoming visitors.  As a missionary I am definitely better at not unrighteously judging people and focusing on encouraging them in their successes. As a member who just sees a visitor or recent convert show up to church without knowing the backstory, it is sometimes easy  to think judgmental thoughts about their behavior or dress or attitude.  But as a missionary I am thrilled when people show up to church!  Being a missionary has definitely helped me develop more charity and empathy for people.  Our investigators are very rarely accustomed to the way church members act or dress (and frequently don’t have the resources to buy church-y clothes anyway), but that is normal.  We are just so happy when they show up to church, because we know it will help them get closer to Christ.  There is a huge difference between people who go to church and people we teach who never visit church.  There have been a couple of times when members’ feathers got a bit ruffled because of someone’s odd behavior, or because a recent convert talked about a weakness they have.  That is sad because it can make that person feel unwelcome and stop their forward progress.  But the majority of members are very welcoming, and we appreciate all the people who visit investigators, give car rides, and help in other ways.  

We are teaching another young woman, Viviane, who has been going to church for a year but hasn’t been baptized. Her mom doesn’t want to give permission.  She could use prayers as well (and for us, so we can run into her mom and know how to help!).

Arthur is still struggling with cigarettes.  He has made huge progress but the last cigarette is really hard to give up.  But we have high hopes for this week!  

Caju fruit
Photo Credit: Victoria Rachitzky Hoch, Flickr

Fun fact — a while ago I sent a picture of a caju fruit.  This week I bought another one to eat.  It was tasty . . . and burned the side of my mouth!  The first time I ate one it burned my throat a bit.  My companion said I needed to buy a sweeter one.  This one seemed sweeter . . . until I noticed afterwards that my lips were a bit burnt!  I am starting to wonder if I have some kind of weird allergy just to caju fruit.  Other fun fact — cashews are taken individually from that weird thing on top of the caju fruit!  Now I know why they are so expensive — they have to remove them one by one!  

I have been studying the church´s Come, Follow Me manual. This year we are studying about the New Testament. This verse really touched me: 

40 And to him they agreed: and when they had called the apostles, and beaten them, they commanded that they should not speak in the name of Jesus, and let them go.

41 And they departed from the presence of the council, rejoicing that they were counted worthy to suffer shame for his name.

Acts 5:40-41

Here Peter and John are arrested for preaching the gospel, told not to talk about Christ, beaten, and then let go.  And what do they do? They rejoice in their sufferings . . . and continue preaching about Christ, because their allegiance to God is greater than their allegiance to man.  I  have known about Christian virtues all my life–if someone slaps you, turn the other cheek, trials help us grow, if someone makes you walk one mile with them, walk two, etc. — Sometime it is easy to get so used to hearing these things we don’t really think about them.  It is really difficult to do these things!  And are we doing them?  I certainly am not yet on Peter and John’s level.  I haven’t gone through anything anywhere near as difficult as they did, and yet I am not as Christlike as they were.  Luckily, we have this scripture from the D&C (the Doctrine and Covenants are a book of scripture that has revelations from God given to modern prophets like Joseph Smith) to guide us:

13 Ye are not able to abide the presence of God now, neither the ministering of angels; wherefore, continue in patience until ye are perfected.

D&C 67:13

Repentance is not the backup plan, it is the plan!

Hope you all have a wonderful week.

*Investigators names are always changed to protect their privacy