Sister Hannah Faulconer is serving a mission for the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. She trained at the Centro de Treinamento Missionario (CTM) in São Paulo, Brazil during Fall 2018. She has been called to the Brazil Recife mission, and is currently serving in the city of Gravatá in the Brazilian state of Pernambuco. This is her second area so far. Her letters home are published here on the website by Angela Faulconer, who also adds relevant links, pictures, and tags.
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.
Fun fact about Gravatá: There are lots of butterflies here. Sister Ribeiro and I joke that we feel like Disney princesses. Both Palmares and Gravatá seem to have lots of animals: there are tons of (often well-fed and well-kept) dogs and cats roaming the streets. When I got to Palmares I was shocked several times to see dead dogs in the street — only to realize that they were actually sleeping. They like to sprawl on the ground because it’s a cooler surface, and there isn’t enough traffic in some places for them to be in much danger.
We are seeing a lot of miracles in our area! This week a lot of our investigators went to church, including some people that I thought didn’t have much potential, but went to church all on their own. We taught the Word of Wisdom to the families of Isabela and Matheus this week. We were a little worried because we could tell that they would have to change their lives quite a bit to follow this commandment. I prayed a lot before our lesson with Isabela’s family that they could be prepared to hear about the Word of Wisdom. When we showed up Camilla said she drinks coffee all day long (i.e., more than four cups of coffee a day) and wouldn’t manage to stop drinking it. We asked her how many cups she had drunk that day and found out that she hadn’t drunk any in four days! What an answer to prayer. That definitely makes it easier to give up! She said she just hadn’t felt like it. She really wanted to drink coffee right after our lesson, but we decided to take advantage of the fact she hadn’t drunk in four days.
We walked all the way back to our house and then back to her house with some cevada (a roasted ground barley coffee substitute) a member had given us for investigators. She didn’t end up liking the cevada, but ended up buying chocolate drink powder and hasn’t drunk coffee since! Her sister, 11 yr old Isabela, immediately said she would give up coffee when we taught the Word of Wisdom and hasn’t drunken since either. She is awesome. Their friend, Matheus, was also very reluctant to give up coffee. We tried to explain the Word of Wisdom well, but it seemed like he didn’t really get it, and he had to leave suddenly before the end of the lesson.
We prayed for him to feel less desire to drink coffee if that was the Lord’s will. Then we visited him after church to help him understand better and he said he hadn’t drunk coffee that day at all! We called him to remind him to get ready for church, and then showed up to walk with him, and it was so early that he didn’t bother making any. When he got home he planned to drink coffee but saw some juice to drink and sort of just forgot about the coffee! At the beginning of that lesson he had a very “maybe someday” attitude about baptism but at the end he was agreeing that the Church is true, that he should get baptized here, and agreed to pray about whether now is the right time! He is marked for baptism for this Saturday — we will see how it goes!
Many of these people also drink alcohol. It’s a bit of a culture shock for me — one of the family members of someone we are teaching is fourteen and was basically passed out asleep one day because she had been drinking. The Word of Wisdom is a blessing! The spiritual blessings are numerous and the physical blessings are obvious — we know a lot of people here who have family members who were shot because of drugs.
Funny moment this week — we were sort of close to Camila’s house (but not really, she lives far away) and thought “Why didn’t we mark to visit her today instead of in two days? We should follow-up with her today since we’re already close!” When we showed up it looked like nobody was home. As soon as we knocked on the door we realized why hadn’t marked to go that day. They had said they couldn’t because they might go to a birthday party. It turned out to be a surprise birthday party that was happening in their house! We showed up about 90 seconds before the birthday boy. We were this close to ruining the surprise! That was embarrassing but a good funny memory.
We also had splits this week. Sister Ribeiro went to Garanhuns — the area her dad opened on his mission thirty years ago! Now it’s a stake (i.e., her dad taught the first members there and now it has thousands of members in a couple different congregations!)! There weren’t any members in Gravatá before! It is so cool to see the gospel spreading and blessing the lives of thousands of people in such a short span of time. Some cities are being opened close to us now — they could be stakes when I have children going on missions!
It makes me think of this Book of Mormon scripture:
4 Behold, it has been prophesied by our fathers, that they should be kept and handed down from one generation to another, and be kept and preserved by the hand of the Lord until they should go forth unto every nation, kindred, tongue, and people, that they shall know of the mysteries contained thereon. . . . 6 Now ye may suppose that this is foolishness in me; but behold I say unto you, that by small and simple things are great things brought to pass; and small means in many instances doth confound the wise.
This scripture is being brought to pass today! Something small like inviting a friend to church, or bearing your testimony about the Book of Mormon can result in great things. Two of the people who went to church this Sunday were brought by a member! We asked him for a reference and stopped by to talk to them. On Sunday he helped them visit church for the first time!
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.
We had an interesting lesson this week: We met with a woman, call her “Mllena,” who has a testimony of the Book of Mormon and Joseph Smith, but she didn’t want to leave her current church, so she said she wouldn’t get baptized. We invited her to pray about whether it was God’s will. Then I asked her if Christ were there and he invited her to get baptized if she would (I wanted to help her develop real intent — to decide that if God answered her prayer she would follow his will and get baptized). She said “No, I would say ‘Sorry God, I want to die in the Catholic church!'” That was a bit of a shock to me. Later she said she would do whatever God told her to do — I think she responded that way in the moment because she was feeling a lot of fear about change. We were unsure about how to help her after that, but we wanted to give it one more try. She is one of the precious souls who really want to be righteous and do the right things, so we really wanted to help her.
We decided to give a lesson about temples and how her family can be together forever (some of her family members are members already). This is such a special message! (I love the new church website that emphasizes how special this message is: temples.churchofjesuschrist.org.) She was touched. She has a son who died at 24-ish and definitely wants to live with him and her husband after this life. She and her husband were married only for this life, but she said she wants to be with him forever! I asked her if she would like to be sealed in the temple in the future and she said yes!
Sister Ribeiro asked her what she thought she needed to do to get ready for that and after a pause she said “Well, I need to get baptized.” She wanted to think more before actually committing to baptism but I know the spirit touched her heart! This is the spirit of Elijah and it is real. Russell M. Nelson, now our prophet, taught that the spirit of Elijah is “a manifestation of the Holy Ghost bearing witness of the divine nature of the family.” Elijah, the Old Testament prophet, returned to earth, bringing keys of priesthood authority. Elder Nelson explained that “Elijah came . . . to enabl[e] families to be eternally linked beyond the bounds of mortality.” Today we are going to visit Mllena with the ward family history consultant to help her start her family history. I am praying that she will have the courage to be baptized! She needs the blessings waiting for her in the temple.
Tiago* got baptized this week! We were worried that something would happen to call it off or postpone it one or two days before his baptism like the other weeks, but he stayed firm until the end! David got confirmed with Tiago on Sunday, and Lucas, who got baptized two weeks before David, got a calling and received the Aaronic priesthood!
A couple people stopped us in the street this week, which is every missionary’s dream. We met some church members who haven’t been to church in a while, but want to return. One of them was drinking and smoking and said “I felt so happy in the church; I don’t know why I left.” I hope he can return. We also talked to a man who isn’t a member but wants a visit! That was very special.
Another special moment happened on Sunday. You know the little kid in The Incredibles who is riding a bike and staring at Mr. Incredible while he lifts up his car with super-strength? A little while ago we were doing a street contact when a little girl started driving around us in circles, staring at us just like the little kid in The Incredibles. When we started talking to her she said she wanted the book we gave to our contact (the Book of Mormon). Later some of her friends walked up with their dad, Renan, and started pleading for a Book of Mormon too! It was very cute.
When we returned to that neighborhood, we could not find her house, but then we saw her in the street! That was a miracle, because she lives in a tiny alleyway we never would have found. The little girl, “Isabela,” had already read the part we marked in the Book of Mormon (something many adults fail to do). We said we would visit her at five on Thursday, and she said “Ok, I’ll wait in the street starting at four! Do you promise to come?” We promised, but when we showed up she was not there, so we planned to visit her some day this week.
On Sunday we decided to visit another investigator we hadn’t been able to visit with over conference weekend when we had planned. Partway there I started feeling like going there was very stupid and a waste of time, because we didn’t have tons of information about exactly where he lived, his house number was twenty and we were seeing numbers in the 500s, and he lives far away so I figured we would just spend a lot of time wandering around but not doing anything. But at that point we were almost to Isabela’s alley anyway so we decided to see if maybe he had said his street name wrong and actually lived on the same street. We found his house, but he wasn’t at home, so we went to visit Isabela. She was there with her two sisters and three friends. All of them were excited to hear our message! Her sister “Camila” said she had been waiting to find the right church to get baptized. They all accepted our invitation to read the Book of Mormon and pray about whether it is true and if Joseph Smith was a prophet. Then they accepted our invitation to get baptized if they receive an answer that it is! They said they would go to an activity we have at church this week and visit church on Sunday! We asked Camila to give the closing prayer and after some gentle prodding and encouragement she did, and started crying when she thanked God for our visit. It was a very special, spiritual lesson.
Love you all!
*Names are changed to ensure investigator and new members’ privacy is respected.
We had a great week! My new companion, Sister Ribeiro, is awesome — she doesn’t really need a trainer but we’re learning lots of things together.
I loved General Conference; it is such a good opportunity to feel the spirit and receive personal revelation. If you haven’t watched it yet, watch it now! Our investigator, let’s call her “Emanuelle,” went to conference Saturday night. We were super excited because she had had trouble going to church for many Sundays in a row, but she made it to conference! She brought questions to ponder during the meeting and said she liked it a lot.
During that session Elder Mathias Held told about his conversion story — he spent a lot of time looking at the church through rational eyes. He saw a lot of wonderful things — service, hard work, family-centered worship, etc. But he and his wife never felt totally ready to get baptized. But when they realized they needed to use their spiritual eyes as well as the cold-hard-facts-rational eyes, they recognized that they needed to progress towards baptism because it was the Lord’s will for them. He read a scripture (I think it was in this talk) that I love and have used with several investigators.
8 And it came to pass that he said unto them: Behold, here are the waters of Mormon (for thus were they called) and now, as ye are desirous to come into the fold of God, and to be called his people, and are willing to bear one another’s burdens, that they may be light;
9 Yea, and are willing to mourn with those that mourn; yea, and comfort those that stand in need of comfort, and to stand as witnesses of God at all times and in all things, and in all places that ye may be in, even until death, that ye may be redeemed of God, and be numbered with those of the first resurrection, that ye may have eternal life—
10 Now I say unto you, if this be the desire of your hearts, what have you against being baptized in the name of the Lord, as a witness before him that ye have entered into a covenant with him, that ye will serve him and keep his commandments, that he may pour out his Spirit more abundantly upon you?
If we are ready to try to follow Christ’s example, helping those who are in need and being witnesses of God, baptism is the logical next step! Some times things in the church (patriarchal blessings, receiving a temple endowment) seem like huge commitments and we feel that we have to be practically perfect or super committed or have perfect certainty before committing. But if we are worthy to participate in these covenants, and we have received a testimony that doing so is God’s will for us, we shouldn’t let fear hold us back! God is just waiting to fulfill his side of the covenant, to pour out his spirit more abundantly upon us, to cleanse us from our sins, and help us progress towards eternal life. For those of us who have already made these covenants, we can apply the same principles to repentance and following the counsel we find in the scriptures and general conference. As President Nelson said, time is running out! We have to prepare for the second coming today. Now is the time and the day of our salvation, we need to act now so that God can immediately bless us with the Atonement (Alma 34).
I felt that sense of urgency this week because I turned twenty! I can’t believe it. I also have 7.5 months in the mission field. It’s pretty crazy. On my birthday we went to Caruaru for our weekly district meeting and interviews with President Houseman. We got back so late we ate lunch for dinner, but it was good. We also taught a lesson to “Ramon,” the nephew of one of our members. He was invited to church the other week and loved it. We hope everything will go well!
I also experimented with making macaxeira [cassava] fries. Macaxeira is like a potato but not. Through much trial and error I learned that you need to boil them before frying them, that you need to cut large fries, that our kitchen knife is very dull, and that you need to boil them in salted water.
This week we are hoping to mark Emanuelle for baptism. We are also hoping that Ramon’s mother will get baptized, as well as Tiago! Tiago has had some bumps in the road on his way to baptism, including things other people said to him, but we told him to pray about it. It’s God’s opinion that counts! He said “Whoa, my heart is beating really fast!” It was special — he is very sensitive to the Spirit and wants to do God’s will.
Extra miracle: We thought at one point that we had lost our keys in the road. We almost called a locksmith, but I felt like we should check the chapel first. We wrote down the locksmith´s number, went to the chapel and . . . they were there on the bench. It was a blessing.
The day before transfers, Tuesday, it rained a lot. I felt the tiniest bit cold, which was a strange sensation. Sister Broadbent wanted hot chocolate, but that’s not very easy to find. Instead, we ate munguza (sweet coconut milk with pieces of corn and cinnamon on top) which people sell on the street corners. It was a cool moment — we were walking through tons of rain eating munguza. It seemed very Brazilian! Little did we know that our adventures were just beginning!
We leave at 10:30 am and return at 9 pm every day — we never return home during the day. But Sister Centeio bought a suitcase during our dinner time so we went home to leave the suitcase there. Sister Centeio walked up the stairs and said “Uh-oh, there’s water in the house Sister!” Then she walked into the room where we keep our suitcases and clothes and said “There is a lot of water!!” One day before transfers all the suitcases got wet! There was about a quarter inch of water in that room! It was a little miracle that we went home during dinner instead of waiting five more hours–it made a difference for the suitcases. One book was ruined and some papers and letters got wet as well, as well as all of my clothes, but luckily the easily ruinable things were mostly in other rooms. We had to spend some time taking all the stuff out of the room, throwing away wet boxes, and setting up the fans to try and dry out the suitcases, and using a “roda” to push all the water out the balcony. A roda is a huge squeegee that you can use to push out water or cover with a rag and use as a mop.
Luckily the suitcases were mostly dry by the next day. I rode in a car with some other people to the metro, then took the metro to a bus station, and then rode to a different road where I got off and walked to the mission office. I was late because my area is far away, and the buses and cars only leave so early. But it didn’t turn out to be a problem because some missionaries who lived super close were quite late–there was a protest with a fire and someone stole the copper cables from the metro! It didn’t end up affecting my travel but a lot of missionaries had to get taxis and figure out other ways to get to the right places. Pretty crazy for the day of transfers!
My new companion is Sister M. Ribeiro. She is awesome. She is from São Paulo, is 19 years old, and likes to take pictures. She speaks English because she spent a few months in the U.S. with her sister, so we are switching off practicing English and Portuguese pronunciation at home. Maybe I’ll get home with a Paulista accent!
Almost all of our people with dates marked for baptism had problems this week and the three baptisms we thought might happen fell through! We have a couple people who have decided to break the law of chastity even though they know it is wrong, some people who moved to other cities, some people who got new jobs and can’t go to church on Sundays, and some people who just don’t want to get baptized right now. But we are all set to have David’s baptism this coming Sunday between sessions of General Conference and it should be great! He said that after going to church for five years, he finally decided to get baptized because of a member’s testimony last Sunday. Your talks and testimonies can be powerful, folks!
I like a scripture in Alma 4:19: “And this he did that he himself might go forth among his people, or among the people of Nephi, that he might preach the word of God unto them, to stir them up in remembrance of their duty, and that he might pull down, by the word of God, all the pride and craftiness and all the contentions which were among his people, seeing no way that he might reclaim them save it were in bearing down in pure testimony against them.”
It was sad to lose people we were so excited about, but I felt the spirit in several of those lessons. Sometimes you teach with the spirit and authority but people choose not to change their lives for the better.
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.
It’s sad, because sometimes you see people choosing to follow the devil and be miserable. We have one investigator who always said he wanted to be happy. He told us how happy he was when he prayed about the Book of Mormon, when he went to church, when he stopped drinking coffee. But he decided not to follow the commandments and he won’t have the chance to feel the divine happiness people can experience on the gospel path.
I’m excited for this week working with Sister Ribeiro. The good thing about when things fall through is that you have a clean slate to find lots of new people.
I am also super excited for General Conference! We have told some of our investigators that the prophet has promised that if we write down our questions before conference, and then prayerfully attend, we can receive answers to our questions and guidance for our doubts. I know this promise is true–I definitely felt that last conference. Sometimes we don’t get the answer we want–maybe the answer is “wait” or “that doesn’t matter right now”–but we will get the answers we need, and our testimonies can be strengthened. Don’t miss out this week!
It’s transfers already!! We were studying this morning when President Houseman called–I’m going to train someone! I feel pretty nervous about that but I know that with God all things are possible. I have been thinking a lot about 2 Nephi 4:34:
O Lord, I have trusted in thee, and I will trust in thee forever.
I thought a lot about this scripture last transfer when I had to show Palmares to Sister Arce. I know God is someone we can always trust in.
We had a wonderful experience this Sunday. A young man we didn’t know, call him “David,” showed up to church this Sunday. We found out that he had been going to church for five years but isn’t baptized! He said he just wasn’t sure he wanted to be baptized. Usually we don’t randomly have time to schedule visits with people same-day, but this Sunday we did, so we visited him after church. We found out that his dad has been less-active for 25 years. At the beginning of the lesson he said he was waiting for God to touch him–he wanted some kind of answer from God about when he should go back to church.
We started teaching a lesson about faith, repentance, and baptism. When we got to baptism we invited David to get baptized next Saturday. When we invited him he looked at the ground and mumbled, “Yeah, I think I’ve thought long enough.” We weren’t sure if we heard him right, but he really is ready to get baptized next Saturday! Then I started to invite his Dad to go back to church and I said “We’d like to invite you . . .” and he cut me off and said he would call the Bishop to return to full activity that very evening! We were so happy for them. That was really a miracle.
Next we went to see Tiago, whose baptism had fallen through. We thought he wouldn’t be able to get baptized because of family problems, but when we showed up he said everything had been resolved and he is going to get baptized this Saturday!
We also had a baptism this past Saturday: “Lucas” is a very special young man. On Wednesday he said he hadn’t got an answer to his prayer yet, but we did a fast with him and he said that the next day he felt the spirit strongly all day. He got an answer and got baptized Saturday! I think one day he will be a missionary.
Exploring the foods of Brazil:
Fries (Batata frita) are very popular here. But the ketchup and mustard here taste different — sometimes you can see in the ingredient list that the mustard has corn puree. This is hilarious because the northeast part of Brazil is known for its love of corn. Apparently they even put it in the mustard!
The red fruit, jambo, seriously tastes like roses!
Pipoca, puffed corn, is sold on all of the corners and in all of the busstops and the busses and the metros. There is a large part of Gravatá which has a factory that makes pipoca and there is a super strong smell of margarine in the air for blocks! It reminds me strongly of packing peanuts but it is tasty in a not-popcorn-but-sort-of kind of way. [To read more about pipoca de isoporclick here.]
The green fruit is an ubu. Like many fruits in Brazil you don´t eat the pit or the skin, just the inside fruit.
This week we had splits, so I went to Guaranhuns one day with the Sister Training Leaders. We also had stake conference in Caruaru. It’s an hour away, so this week was pretty crazy because we were following up with a lot of people about whether they could go, how it would be, etc. There were a lot of people who we hoped would go that didn’t make it, but we had a couple of very special people who did.
We have one investigator, call him “Tiago,” who is older and likes to talk a lot about his life. In the contact we did with him we weren’t sure if he was really interested in learning or not, but he accepted a baptismal date (in the middle of the road!) so we went back to visit him. Lots of times we aren’t sure if he is paying attention or really interested, but then there are moments that we can see him progressing a lot. This week we were at stake conference with him and the stake president gave a talk about the importance of reading the Book of Mormon every day. (See President Monson’s last talk about the Book of Mormonhere) I was inwardly very excited about this talk because we always tell this to our investigators but sometimes they need a second witness for the importance of the Book of Mormon to sink in. After the conference Tiago mentioned the talk and said “I am going to read this book at morning and at night every day!” That was a very special moment.
I also wanted to share a story about a woman who went to church this week, call her “Natália.” She had been less active for years, and hadn’t been to church in quite a while. But her son’s girlfriend, call her “Giovana,” is a member of the church. She always invites Natália and her grandchildren who live with her to church, but they pretty much never went. One day Giovana invited Natália to church. When Natália said she couldn’t go because she had to make lunch, Giovana didn’t give up. She helped her make lunch and helped Natália until all of her housework was done. They showed up at church quite late, but they made it. Natália felt a really strong feeling of peace and comfort, like the church was where she ought to be. After the church meetings, Natália found out that one of her children had died. Her family members were worried that this would devastate her. But Natália told us that because of the peaceful feeling she had from church, she knew that everything would be okay.
Later we taught her granddaughter the Restoration. When we told about Joseph Smith’s first vision, Natália felt a prompting from the spirit that the feeling she had at church was like a first vision for her — an answer to prayer and a witness that the church was true. Now she goes to church every week, and her granddaughter is progressing towards baptism!
I know all of us can have spiritual experiences like Natália´s. Sometimes we have to be in the right place to recognize the promptings of the spirit — it was only once she went to church, after so many years of inactivity, that she received an answer! We can also receive answers through the Book of Mormon, as President Monson promised in his talk, and through prayer. It is so special to be here on a mission seeing people receiving answers to their prayers.