This week we had an adventure! We did splits with the sisters of Guaranhuns but while I went to Guaranhuns, the keys to the apartment in Guaranhuns went to my apartment in Gravatá! [hours away by bus]. We ended up sleeping in a vacant apartment with sheets borrowed from the owner.
We started teaching a new family — Marcos and Carolina, and their daughters Fernanda and Raissa.* We taught Carolina the The Restoration the other day. She said she believed that the Book of Mormon is from God. We could tell she understood the lesson because she told us she was sad that her baptism, something very special to her, hadn’t happened the way Christ told us it needs to — with the proper authority. We had the opportunity to tell her that we don’t share our message to take things away from people, but to add onto the wonderful things they already have. She already chose to be baptized to follow Christ, and for sure she’s been blessed for that!
Bring with you all that you have of good and truth which you have received from whatever source, and come and let us see if we may add to it.
One funny moment was when we did a contact with a Catholic lady. People here are very loud in their devotion to Mary — it’s very common to see people with t-shirts that have Mary’s face on them. Sometimes her face is the size of their entire chest. This woman didn’t have a Mary shirt but she had a little Mary necklace. We tried to tell her about the Book of Mormon, set up an appointment to talk more about the scriptures, but she was not interested. She kept saying “you have a mother!! You don’t just have a father in heaven, you have a mother” really loudly, because we aren’t Catholic and therefore don’t worship Mary. It made me think of the wonderful doctrine of our Heavenly Mother. She’s right, we have a Heavenly Father, and that seems to suggest we ought to have a Mother in Heaven as well. And we do, and she is just as divine as our Father in Heaven.
Capybaras are related to guinea pigs, but much larger–as big as 145 lbs! The world’s largest rodents, capybaras are herbivores, semi-aquatic mammals that live in groups near the banks of rivers and lakes.
We have zone conference this week, so we are preparing talks. I haven’t had to talk at zone conference yet, but it could happen!
Other cool fact: our ward had a temple trip and two recent converts went — Lucas and Victor!!
We have had a lot of trouble with getting people to church and finding people at home this week, but we have a ton of new contacts and we’re excited to meet them all this week!
[*As always, names are changed to protect investigator privacy].
Last week we went to Cruzeiro to see the Cristo Vivo. You can see it from the city. Cool fact: there is a staircase that goes up to a big cross next to Christ. It is called the Way (Path) of Happiness. Cool that the the Way of Happiness leads to Christ, right? **Deeper meaning** Wickedness never was happiness!
I forgot to tell about a miracle we had last week. We had a district meeting and then the car that takes us home was super late. We needed to visit Victor to teach him some things he had to know before getting baptized. We had moved the appointment forward an hour but we ended up leaving lunch at the time we needed to be at his house . . . and he lives 40 minutes (walking distance) away! Just as we were talking about how late we were, we saw a member of the church in the distance. As we walked towards her her neighbor passed by and offered to pick her up. She invited us too! We arrived about eight minutes later and had enough time to teach the lessons we needed to.
One awesome experience we had is teaching our investigator “Maria Eduarda.” When we met her she started saying that she didn’t believe in God. We listened and tried to read some scriptures with her, but she was pretty upset and kept cutting us off. But it quickly became obvious that she did believe in God — she was just upset about the situation she was in. She didn’t understand why God lets so many people suffer so much. She felt he didn’t listen. But we listened, testified of our belief in God’s love for us, invited her to pray, and marked a different day to go back. When we went back, she hadn’t prayed. We taught her, invited her to pray again, and left. The next time we went she had prayed! She said she felt so much better, and she knew that our visit was an answer from God. She felt like he didn’t listen, but our presence was a sign that he cared about her. She is reading the Book of Mormon too! She did not go to church because of a headache but we have high hopes for next week. This is a huge example of someone changing their life through the gospel for me. She feels better and she is praying and reading the scriptures for the first time in a long time!
Acaraje: These brown things are fried bean balls. Like falafel but not quite as amazing.
This week Victor got baptized! He is a great example to me. When we taught him about the Word of Wisdom and the Law of Chastity he thanked God for the commandments (“which I will definitely work to keep”) in the closing prayer! He is so happy about getting closer to the Savior, being baptized, and changing his life for the better! His baptismal interview finished about an hour or an hour and a half before he had to be at the church to get dressed for his baptism. We did not feel very comfortable with that time frame but everything turned out well. The only hitch was that we filled up the baptismal font the day before the baptism, but when we got there it was empty! I think the problem was that the pump is so slow and quiet that it got turned on and no one noticed. We put a bucket and a kitchen pot in the bathroom and the janitor’s closet to fill up and went back and forth with them to help the baptismal font fill up faster. Luckily it was just high enough by the time we got to the baptism part.
Another investigator, we’ll call him “João,” is being an excellent example of praying and reading the scriptures regularly. He hasn’t gotten an answer from God yet about the truthfulness of the First Vision and the Book of Mormon, but maybe this week! We are also having a lot of trouble with coffee right now — João and Matheus are both struggling with not drinking coffee. But I think a testimony of Joseph Smith will definitely help João with that.
Mother’s Day is popular in Brazil. Here there are lots of “cars of sound” that drive around with loudspeakers playing ads. This week there was a car of sound from the city congratulating all of the mothers. Store fronts have lots of “mother” signs and balloons and it looks like the cake, chocolate, and flower shops have good business here as well. It was good for building excitement for Sister Ribeiro and I about calling our families on Sunday! Unfortunately, Mother’s Day is bad for taking people to church. But we have high hopes for next week!
Hopefully Emily and her family can go to church next week. We talked with one of her daughters, I’ll call her “Amanda,” this week. She had prayed and asked if “that church is worth it” but said she hadn’t gotten an answer. We asked her how she felt when she prayed and she said “Well, I felt a really good, happy feeling and I got chills/goosebumps all over.” ! That reminded me of a scripture we often read with investigators:
And it came to pass that while they were thus conversing one with another, they heard a voice as if it came out of heaven; and they cast their eyes round about, for they understood not the voice which they heard; and it was not a harsh voice, neither was it a loud voice; nevertheless, and notwithstanding it being a small voice it did pierce them that did hear to the center, insomuch that there was no part of their frame that it did not cause to quake; yea, it did pierce them to the very soul, and did cause their hearts to burn.
This is how the Nephites felt God’s voice when Christ came to visit the Americas. This is the spirit! We asked her if she thought that feeling was from God and what He was trying to tell her. She thought about it and said “He was telling me the church is worth it!” We told her how special it was that God had responded to her question and she couldn’t stop smiling.
One thing we have been thinking about recently is agency. We know some people who have difficult family situations — for example, living with spouses (but not legally married) who treat them quite badly. These people have lots of faith in God, and they use this faith to pray to God about the trials they’re passing through. But they are only praying that God will make their husbands stop drinking, or shape up, or choose to get married to them. And when their spouses don’t change they feel frustrated that God isn’t hearing them, or they say they trust in His timing but are just waiting and watching to see what he’ll do. The sad and very frustrating truth is that God can’t force people to change. And while he can and does help us, he might want us to act as well. It’s terrible, but the truth is that some of these people might need to choose to leave their spouses in order to follow God’s commandments (like the law of chastity) or to help their children and themselves (in cases of serious alcoholism.)
Wherefore, men are free according to the flesh; and all things are given them which are expedient unto man. And they are free to choose liberty and eternal life, through the great Mediator of all men, or to choose captivity and death, according to the captivity and power of the devil; for he seeketh that all men might be miserable like unto himself.
Sometimes this seems really really sad. But also it can be very happy — Victor is choosing liberty and eternal life! When we follow the commandments we’re that much closer to liberty and eternal life — and eternal joy, rest, peace, etc. And we can always hope and pray for people. Alma the younger was visited by an angel that appeared because of the prayers of faith from his father and friends. He chose to repent after remembering his father’s teachings about Christ.
We had a lot of miracles this week! One day our plans had fallen through and we decided to see a contact. We didn’t think he had very much potential and we suspected that finding his house would be a pain, but we decided to just try it out. As expected his house was not super easy to find (he didn’t know his house number–a common problem in our area–and the only indicator he gave us was “yellow”) so we asked a lady, whose door was open if she knew him. She didn’t, so we were going to leave but I remembered that we should really do more contacts and decided to talk with her. “Emily” immediately invited us into her house! We started teaching a lesson, since we didn’t have anywhere we had to be. She said she never left her door open as she had that day, but had been about to wander around in the city for a couple hours to try and feel better. We found out that she had just gotten home from the funeral of her nephew, who had died from playing Russian Roulette. As you can imagine, she was very sad. She was also sad because her son is in prison, and although he has made many unwise decisions, she thinks he is innocent because he was with her in a different city when the crime was committed.
We taught her the Plan of Salvation, and she told us that our visit was an answer to her prayers! We gave her a Book of Mormon and she promised to read it and pray about whether it is true. We saw her another day, and she said she had prayed and felt good but hadn’t gotten an answer. Yesterday we found her at home again (she works a lot with fluctuating hours) and she said that she prayed and read some more (1 Nephi 10!) and had a dream where God showed her the Bible and the Book of Mormon together. She said “The Book of Mormon and the Bible are the same thing but with different people!” Now she takes the Bible and the Book of Mormon with her everywhere she goes! People tell her “your bag is heavy!” and she says “These are my weapons! I need them with me!” Some people carry guns, she carries scriptures!
We also finally managed to see “Victor” who has been to church a few times with his girlfriend. We had a lot of trouble seeing him because he is busy and travels, but on Sunday we went again. When we went to his girlfriend’s house her mother said she was sleeping and wouldn’t see him until nighttime (when we had to be at home). We almost didn’t go back but I really felt like we should. When we got there we started teaching him the Restoration and he said he had prayed and wants to be baptized!
We are also teaching a different person in a city called Chã Grande (“Big incline” — there are lots of hills there). He is marked for baptism this week, so we are going to try and see him three times this week. It will be an adventure because this city is half an hour away by van (the vans do not have schedules!) and then when we get there we have to walk to his house. He gets home from school at 5:10 and the last van is at 6! Also, we already went there three times, and twice the van passed at 6 and refused to let us get in! Usually they just stuff people into the vans until they are totally full, but there wasn’t any space left! Luckily we found another car that was going to Chã Grande and got home safe and sound.
This week was great! Remember, Isabela, the girl on the bicycle who wanted a Book of Mormon from from my previous post? Isabela’s family is awesome — we are teaching her family, her friend’s family, and her friends’ cousin and other friend, her other friend, her other friend and her aunt now. Isabela, as well as Guilherme*, and Ester (both friends of Isabela’s family) went to church. Isabela’s older sisters had to work because of the craziness that is Easter here in Gravatá but will go in two weeks with her mom. Their other friends Matheu (a young adult) and Maria Clara (a young woman) and Rafaela (little girl) went to church too! Their sister Marcela would have gone but she stepped on a nail the night before and had to go to the hospital. 😦 Crazy things happen Saturday night. Because of Isabela’s family and friends, the number of contacts we taught a first lesson to improved quite a lot this week. We often have trouble with not finding people at home but they have been great!
Isabela and her friend Guilherme are reading the Book of Mormon and said they prayed about it and felt really good. Isabela told us she wants to go to church next week! Her sister, Camilla, who had to work, prayed and has a testimony of the Book of Mormon and Joseph Smith. Her aunt told us she said she wants to be baptized! Marcela read the Book of Mormon, prayed, and was describing to us how she felt. She felt the spirit really strongly –“chills all over!” and really joyful. She said she she has a testimony now! Matheus forgot to read several times, but on Saturday he remembered! He told us on Sunday that he had had a similar experience. He said he started praying and had a feeling that God was there, and that they were literally having a conversation. He asked about the truthfulness of the Book of Mormon and Joseph Smith and said he felt that God responded that they are true! He told us that he has visited several churches but never felt the spirit like that.
Their other sister, Maria Clara, didn’t recognize any response the first time she prayed but said she started to feel the spirit more as she continued reading and praying. That is certainly more typical of my experiences — many times we don´t get an answer the first time we pray but it will come with patience and continued effort.
Anyway, finding them was a miracle for sure. The day Isabela stopped us in the street we felt a bit frustrated because we had been searching for a contact’s address for a realllly long time and no one knew where it was. I am so glad we didn’t find it right away — we needed to meet Isabela!
We also had zone conference in Caruaru this week. It was good. We have guides for our lessons with different topics. We don´t have to stick to a specific script but often we present the topics in the same order — God loves us, so he sent us prophets to guide our families, the most important prophet was Christ, etc. etc. President Houseman talked about treating our lessons like wheels rather than linear lists of events. Present the topics in whatever order works best for the investigators! This was a lightbulb moment for me, but now nothing is linear anymore! It can be confusing.
Several members have made some for me at lunch and they all already know how to cook it. I have seen a few restaurants that have things like “Chicken with soy meat sauce.” People make soy meat sometimes just for diversity´s sake. I tried it out and it was super good! I also discovered soy milk recently (pro tip– ask people where things are instead of assuming you know where they keep the milk — I had forgotten that they sell milk in cartons rather than in the refrigerator section here)
Easter is very popular in Gravatá. At night there was bumper to bumper traffic on the roads. Gravatá is definitely a tourist-y city — this week the city was way way busier than usual. There were also signs for chocolate easter eggs on all of the street corners. People like to eat large (like ostrich-sized) eggs made of chocolate and boxes of assorted easter candies are also very popular. Sister Ribeiro wrote this on the wall in makeup — she is very creative.
I hope you all had a wonderful Easter. When someone gets an answer to their prayer about Joseph Smith or the Book of Mormon it sometimes feels like a yes or no sort of thing — either they can say they believe or not. What is harder to measure, but also happens, is the repentance process. That’s the whole purpose of missionary work — we invite people to pray about the Book of Mormon and to follow its precepts — repent, be baptized (i.e., take the name of Christ upon you, promise to remember him and follow his commandments), get closer to Christ. We tell people that Christ is the center of our message — and it’s true. I have been reading this scripture with people all week:
But there is a resurrection, therefore the grave hath no victory, and the sting of death is swallowed up in Christ.
He is the light and the life of the world; yea, a light that is endless, that can never be darkened; yea, and also a life which is endless, that there can be no more death.