Oi! Happy Thanksgiving! Nobody celebrates Thanksgiving here, but they do celebrate Black Friday. All the shops had sales and the city center was a mad house. The gas station had a huge reduction in price and we could hear the loudspeaker from our house while we were trying to study. It’s a little sad to have Black Friday but not Thanksgiving, but on the bright side it means the Christmas decorations go up even earlier! There are lots of fake evergreen garlands and red bows and lights: pisca-pisca [Portuguese for blink, blink]. We bought some lights for our house! I will try to send a picture next week–I have more pics than I sent this week already and the internet is still super slow. I am trying to make the camera work [for wifi downloads] but am having trouble.
Sister Porcote and I will be together until after Christmas. That is normal for training — you have the same companion both transfers.
In the CTM [Brazil’s missionary training center] several missionaries in my district knew someone who went to Japan and said they came back more quiet, reserved, etc. I imagine that transition might have been a little easier for me. I am suspicious that Heavenly Father decided I needed to be more outgoing or more of a hugger or something and sent me here! But the transition hasn’t really been that hard. I’m really blessed not to be having health challenges or super hard things happening in Palmares.
You asked how often we get to eat with the members. We have lunch planned every day but it is often money instead of actual food. Less exciting than it sounds because we keep eating at restaurants and from my perspective the restaurants all seem the same. But the fruit is really good! And the members make really good desserts sometimes, so I´m grateful.
We have been trying to teach a young man, “Rafael” for a while, but kept having trouble actually finding him to teach because he is very busy. He goes to seminary every day, but works before seminary and goes to school after seminary! (School can be before lunch or after lunch or at night here). He is awesome — super interested in religion, really wants to follow God. The only problem is that he was reactivated in a different church a little while back and wasn’t sure if he wanted to change. Yesterday he said he hadn’t received an answer with certainty yet. He said he thought he wanted to get baptized but not yet because he wanted to keep participating in his other church´s youth program. But during our lesson he started crying and said he would get baptized on the 8th! It was wonderful to have the opportunity to see someone get an answer to prayer like that. The promise is true — if you pray about the Book of Mormon with sincerity and a real desire to follow God’s will you will receive an answer! Sometimes it takes time, but it comes.
I’ve been in the Recife mission for an entire transfer! Other missionaries have told me that time passes quickly on a mission an uncountable number of times now. It’s really true!
Fun facts: I drank coconut juice for the first time this week. It´s interesting — not bad but not my favorite ever. It’s very popular here. Coconuts are everywhere here — the trees, street stalls, members houses, etc. They are green instead of brown and hairy!
We keep meeting really wonderful people who are super interested in the gospel on the street but we are encountering problems in actually teaching them in their houses repeatedly and helping them get to church! Still, we had another baptism last week.
We have had several investigators who know little about religion or about Jesus Christ. We have had several who struggle with learning difficulties and who learn slowly. It is hard sometimes to teach them because of their learning pace (and it’s a lot harder for me to understand and be understood by less-educated people–it makes the language barriers between us higher) but they are all awesome. They don’t have some of the worldly stumbling blocks that more-educated people have with religion (myself included). They really want to do what God wants, and they have less preoccupations about time, work, money, etc. The many scriptures about the problems richer people have in following Christ are true.
The spirit really does bring all things to people’s remembrance! It is amazing to see some people learn and remember things about the gospel despite huge learning difficulties. The gospel is for everyone!
Hope you guys have an awesome Thanksgiving and an awesome week!
This week I have been thinking a lot about how God prepares people for the gospel. It is really amazing! This week we decided to follow up on some references–addresses of people in our area that ask for a Book of Mormon, or that meet missionaries in another city. We got everything ready and went to the bus station, only to discover that no buses were leaving for Ribeirão for several hours. So we went to a different city, and returned to the bus station another day to go to Ribeirão. We had two references there, so we walked around asking people if they knew either address. Everyone said, “You have a reference point? I don’t recognize these street names!” But finally we found some people who pointed us in the right direction for one of the references.
We clapped at the door [similar to ringing the doorbell in the U.S.] and then we waited, and waited, and called again, and waited, and finally someone opened the door (We’ll call him José, pronounced Jo-zay). José is a history professor who is super interested in American history and loves to read. He read about “Mormons” (nickname for members of our church) and was intrigued by our emphasis on education, families, dressing respectably, etc. A couple years ago he found a moth-eaten Book of Mormon on a friend’s book shelf, but couldn’t read much because of the damage. Then he ran into missionaries once or twice, but could only speak to them for about two minutes. Finally, he found a little more info online, and asked for someone to send him a Book of Mormon.
And then he waited for months (Someone did not contact their references quickly. Bad missionaries!). Finally we showed up on Wednesday afternoon, the only time he’s free the entire week. The rest of the week he’s either working or studying for his doctorate, so he is literally never home except for Wednesday afternoons. Usually he doesn’t answer the door, but this time he decided to see who it was. It was amazing — he is super knowledgeable about religion, but that does not get in the way of his spiritual abilities. We gave him a picture of Joseph Smith’s first vision, and while we were explaining it he turned it over and started to read the text. Then he said, “Wow, this scripture really touches me.” It was Moroni 10:4, a scripture we often share with investigators. But he beat us to it! I invited him to follow Christ’s example and be baptized once he had received confirmation by the spirit that our message was true, and he agreed immediately — just completely nonchalantly as if it was the obvious next step. It was a miracle!
Last week I said that people don’t eat very spicy food. Really they don’t eat any spicy food, but sometimes there are bottles of hot sauce. A couple weeks ago we were having an activity at a member’s house. She had a little plastic bottle of homemade hot sauce made from whole peppers marinating in vinegar and some members (teenage boys) were daring each other to try a little drop. Some of you may know that I looove spicy food, so I put several drops on my soup and they were very worried for me: “No sister, you will die! You will die!” The hot sauce was extremely delicious, and I did not die, so I haven’t completely lost my spice tolerance yet. Later the same member gave me a little bottle of her hot sauce! I was very very happy! But it didn’t last long 🙂
Palmares has year-round fruit and vegetable carts in the city center, which is really exciting for someone from Utah where we only have farmer’s markets a couple months of the year (because ‘winter’ is a thing in Provo). I’m going to be eating very delicious pineapple and cheap mangoes while the rest of you are languishing under two feet of snow! Hopefully that will help me with the saudade I’m going to feel for Provo’s grocery stores (*sniff* Trader Joe’s *sniff*). Saudade is a noun in Portuguese that describes the feeling of homesickness or missing something. I knew food and grocery stores would be really different here, but I didn’t expect it to be quite so different!
It turns out that Brazilians don’t have canned food. Like, they have canned corn and maybe a can of pre-prepared feijoada (black beans and pork sausage) but that’s it! I really miss canned tomatoes and canned beans, especially because we’re not allowed to use pressure cookers for safety reasons, so if you want to eat beans you have to use the very slow boiling method with dried beans. I am also going to have serious saudade for sweet potatoes, cranberry sauce, pie, and So Delicious Snickerdoodle ice cream around the holidays, but I think the mangoes and pineapple will get me through it.
My companion was sick at the beginning of the week, and we also spent a day at a mission conference, so less happened. We are a little concerned about some new members and investigators who have had trouble making it to church. But we talked to some members yesterday about ways ward members can help, and I think that will be super great. Members can help so much. We had one man this week who told us that he felt really accepted at church. A young boy in a tie walked up to him his first Sunday and said “Welcome to our church!” and shook his hand, and that was a really big deal for this man. It was a good reminder for me–when I get back from my mission I want to work on doing little things to make people feel welcome–members and non-members.
It’s really great to see the people we’re teaching develop testimonies. Some people we’re teaching don’t know much about scriptures or religion (e.g., we were explaining what God does and who Christ is the other day), but they have a strong testimony that God will tell them where they should be. It is so great to hear their testimonies when they receive that witness.