This week was good. Christmas! Merry Christmas! Our Christmas was great. We went to an old folks’ home, visited an investigator or two, and talked with our families. Christmas was great. What a blessing to be on the mission at Christmastime — definitely helps me focus on the reason for the season. It is great to be able to share the good news at Christmastime! We went to contact someone we met at the activity we did last week. We went to call her and discovered that the number I had written down didn’t exist, so we went to her apartment building. Luana from apt. 101 came down . . . and we didn’t recognize her. Someone with the same name lives in the address this lady gave us . . . and she seemed super receptive. We started apologizing for contacting the wrong person and trying to introduce ourselves so as to do a contact. She asked if we wanted to sit in the lobby! We sang a hymn, briefly mentioned the Restoration, and gave her a Book of Mormon. She said she would read it, watch the Christmas video, and go to church this Sunday! It was very exciting. Unfortunately she did not go to church or read the Book of Mormon, and she ended up leaving with friends when we marked to see her later in the week. But I am hopeful that this week we will be able to mark an appointment.
Also we visited a sister’s nonmember husband. He has had many, many lessons but never felt he received an answer about the Book of Mormon. The lesson we had with him was pretty spiritual. He said he needed to exercise his faith more and pray with his whole soul! I am pretty excited about that. Please pray for him!
Fun facts: This week I stepped on a piece of cement covering a sewer opening and it tipped over! I half-fell in but luckily only my calves ended up inside the hole. They got scraped up a little but, most importantly, I did not actually touch the sewer water, so that was good! I am not going to step on any more sewer covers!
Giliard didn’t get baptized this week. He ended up going to a late-night party and slept late on Sunday, so he didn’t go to church. I think it is tough — he is getting to know the church now but he has many friends who aren’t church members. It is tough. We hope he focuses on searching for God’s answers — it is so important to pray! Hopefully we manage to teach him several times this week and help him with this.
This week we did an activity. We projected the new Christmas video onto a screen in front of the church building and invited people to watch. A few people decided to watch. We asked some members to take cake to attract people. We ended up taking the cake to the street and offering free pieces with our invitation. We got the contacts of a few people, hopefully it turns out well! It was a good way to shake things up.
I have been thinking this week about the importance of the atonement in conjunction with Christmas. This week I shared a scripture, and afterwards Sister Nogueira explained it in a way that helped me understand things I hadn’t seen before. 3 Nephi 27:13-16:
13 Behold I have given unto you my gospel, and this is the gospel which I have given unto you—that I came into the world to do the will of my Father, because my Father sent me.
14 And my Father sent me that I might be lifted up upon the cross; and after that I had been lifted up upon the cross, that I might draw all men unto me, that as I have been lifted up by men even so should men be lifted up by the Father, to stand before me, to be judged of their works, whether they be good or whether they be evil—
15 And for this cause have I been lifted up; therefore, according to the power of the Father I will draw all men unto me, that they may be judged according to their works.
16 And it shall come to pass, that whoso repenteth and is baptized in my name shall be filled; and if he endureth to the end, behold, him will I hold guiltless before my Father at that day when I shall stand to judge the world.
I understood that this scripture highlights the importance of Christ’s atonement — He was born to die and sacrifice himself for us. But I didn’t know why Christ mentioned our judgement in this verse instead of salvation. Sister Nogueira explained that men judged Christ, lifting him up on a cross to crucify him. He chose to go through this so that we could be lifted up and judged by God. A meaningful parallel.
I also like this video about why we need a Savior–the reason for Christmas.
This week has been good! Giliard went to church again this week and brought two of his family members! We are excited; he is marked for baptism this week! Hopefully his parents sign his baptismal form today.
We might have a Christmas zone conference this week. It will be exciting! They don’t tell us until the last minute so it will be interesting to see what happens. We also have two splits (we will split up and work with two other sets of sisters for a day) marked for this week so we will see what actually happens. I am excited to go to the temple! At the Christmas Conference, our district of missionaries will sing part of “With Wondering Awe” and then switch to “Savior Redeemer of my Soul” (not the hymn melody).
Unfortunately, Jeniffer forgot that she had a wedding and didn’t end up going to church because of that. But hopefully this week she will! Also Maria’s family had a sudden health emergency and we haven’t been able to contact them. Hopefully they are interested in having lessons this week.
We’ve had a good week! Jeniffer* went to church yesterday!!! Last week we finally met the old goal we had of # of investigators at church all last transfer. She is keeping all the commandments and we are excited for her! An eight-year-old we were teaching (with her mother) went to church as well–Carla. Hopefully her mom will want to go to church in the future as well. She is very cute. I asked her what her favorite thing to do was and she said “pray.” “Do you feel like God answers your prayer?” “Yes, I asked him if he was real and He said he was!” We gave her a Book of Mormon yesterday and she said she would read it! A member from a different ward took her whole family and her non-member friend to our ward yesterday as well. That young woman gets 2000 awesome member points. Taking him to the ward where he lives was a great idea.
Juliana and Joao Pedro went to the marriage office! The office said they had to redo their documents before getting married (expensive) but we are hoping they’ll find a different route. After the spiritual experience we had with them last week, we were hoping they would progress more and they really have! We called them a few times this past week but weren’t able to visit them until this Sunday. We went to teach the Word of Wisdom and Joao Pedro said he hadn’t drank in a week (i.e., since the last lesson we taught them!) That means that after getting married they’ll be keeping all the commandments already! Eight years ago, when they first heard about the Church they lived very different lives. They were owners of a bar! This is a great example 1 Corinthians 3:5-8. Other missionaries planted the seed in their lives, many many other missionaries watered that seed for months and years, and God is giving the increase! What a blessing to be “ministers whom ( Juliana and Joao Pedro) believed.”
We’ve only seen Wesley once since the transfer started, so that was too bad. But the other day a less-active member stopped us in the street! She hasn’t been to church in years, but missionaries visited her and her family a year ago and she loved their visits. I actually met those sisters because a year ago they were at my Christmas zone conference. It’s funny to think that was a year ago already! Her three children (and a boyfriend who lives in a different area) accepted baptismal dates when we went to visit them. We aren’t sure if any of them will be able to go to church next Sunday, but we are excited.
The ward Christmas party happened this week and we met a few non-members there. We’re excited to visit them! We also went on splits with the sisters in Escada. I had never gone on splits with a sister in training before. It was different, but great! Also, I was slightly sick and spent an entire day not working in order to do a urine test at the hospital. It was a production! But I am grateful to have the missionary health plan–I really feel for the many people we meet who do not have that blessing.
How was Thanksgiving? I might buy some sweet potatoes here for a belated Thanksgiving mashed sweet potatoes. It’s funny– there isn’t any Thanksgiving here but there is Black Friday! There were lots of signs with “Black Friday” and “Black Week” “Black Month,” etc., all in English. Commercialism is international! There are also tons of Christmas lights — that has been the case for many weeks already. It is funny to be in a place with skyscrapers. I don’t remember having been in a big city at Christmas time before. People in skyscrapers decorate their own window. So all of the windows have different lights! I thought there were tons of Christmas lights, but this week on Sunday a member said there are very few lights nowadays which just goes to show the lack of belief in Christ. I guess I would have liked to see Christmas in Recife several years ago! I am always surprised at just how many people believe in Christ (and post signs and stickers proclaiming said belief on cars, houses, stores, etc.) so it was an interesting viewpoint to hear.
This week was great! We had a new investigator at church this week — Bruna.* After teaching her we found out that she had already been to church four times and has a family member who is a member. She is ten and likes to be taught. Unfortunately our other investigators mostly didn’t manage to go, but there were two long-time investigators who always go. I am grateful that they persevere! Hopefully one of them ( Juliana) went to the marriage office today to start the marriage process (or at least see what she needs to be able to start). The other one ( Daniela)’s husband had a little change of heart. When I got here she said he didn’t want any documents at all (makes it hard to get a job, let alone marry) and now he does want documents. Good first step!
My new companion is Sister Nogueira from São Paulo, Brazil. She is awesome. We actually got to the mission together. It’s funny, because when people ask us how much time we have left or when we got here we have the same answer! I’ve never had a companion who got to the mission at the same time before.
Our investigator Jeniffer is progressing a lot. She had said she was reading the scriptures but had difficulty in remembering a part that she had liked and said she was still awaiting an answer from God. This week she opened a scripture she said she especially liked the part around 2 Nephi 2:25. She had truly had a spiritual experience! Later someone randomly mentioned to her baptisms for the dead [longer, in depth discussion of baptisms for the dead] I was initially a little sad that our lesson was interrupted with that because it didn’t seem like the right moment. But it was cool to talk about baptisms for the dead after having refreshed my memory with the Come Follow Me reading of the week. It was amazing because she was initially confused about the concept and had been convinced that people don’t live in families after this life. But after talking about family history and baptisms for the dead, she started thinking about family members who had already passed that she thought ought to be baptized! She seems a lot more confident about her baptismal date as well. We are excited! She definitely felt the spirit of Elijah.
We had less time in the area this week because I was in Jardim Massangana until Wednesday but we managed to find a lot of new people to teach. Hopefully we manage to find them at home this week and they turn out to be really great! This week we will go to the Mission Leadership council. We are also going to do a division with the sisters from the city of Escada.
We are having a fun time thinking about creative things to do at Christmas — we are going to try knocking on a few doors and caroling this week. Caroling is not a tradition in Brazil but we are hoping that the general good-feeling and belief in Christ means people will appreciate it. We are also planning an activity to show people the new Christmas video “The Christ Child” (It is super great!) and give out free cake (as a lure). It sounds like the Christmas zone conferences will start pretty soon. I can’t believe it is Christmas already!
One Christmas tradition here is Panettone. It is like a cross between bread and cake. You cut it like a cake and it is quite sweet but has a bready texture. It has dried fruits or chocolate chips and is very tasty. I have only eaten it twice but liked it both times.
Davi [recently baptized] still needs prayers — we still haven’t managed to see him.
*All investigators’ names are changed for privacy.