Coming home

On Monday morning we found out the Americans would be going home very soon.  I packed everything I could that I didn’t need to use and started cleaning the house.  I felt ready . . . then I got a phone call from President Houseman. Emergency transfer to Recife — leave as soon as possible.  It was stressful. I felt a lot less ready all of a sudden!

Sister Ribeiro II (a native Brazilian) was sent to Igarassu to meet her new companion. Sadly, we had to throw out a lot of fruits and vegetables we had bought to get us through a possible month of using food storage (i.e., only non-perishables which means very little fruits and vegetables and nothing fresh). Sister Ribeiro was sick and had to take a taxi. I took a bus to Recife with Elder Eccles from Goiana 2.

Recife seemed to be the scene of a post-apocalyptic movie. You couldn’t see anyone on the street. When we got on the bus we didn’t initially know where we were going except towards Recife — the office? another missionary apartment? the airport? But President Houseman called us on the bus and told us to go to the mission office.  We waited at a taxi stop but a few kids showed up asking for money . . . and then suddenly there were ten kids asking for money and trying to play with the suitcases. Unfortunately we don’t have anything to help with that kind of thing. We started to feel nervous and crossed the street . . . and a few guys walked past separately and also asked for money. People frequently ask for money but not thirteen people in five minutes on an empty street!  We were starting to feel like targets (two very obviously American people with suitcases in a deserted city) and ended up asking the mission to call us an Uber. It was difficult to explain where we were. Traveling without a smartphone makes everything harder. But usually missionaries in my area travel with no phone at all so I was very grateful to have a dumbphone! 

Our last evening with the Housemans

When we got the phone call I thought we might be going to the airport that night or the next morning . . . nope.  The Americans living in farther-out areas (e.g., me as well as others) stayed at a bed and breakfast for a few days. Staying at a bed and breakfast is definitely worse in terms of having things to do during quarantine, but I finished the Book of Mormon, wrote a lot of the missionaries who were staying, and talked to people there.  We thought we would leave Thursday night at 6 pm. At 5 pm, Sister Houseman arrived and said our flights had been cancelled! Recife was sealing off. But the church figured out some charter flights, so we left Friday morning.

It was sad to say goodbye to President and Sister Houseman. It felt like when I said goodbye to my parents in the SLC airport.  I couldn’t believe I wouldn’t see them again soon! Our flight got delayed, so we waited for a few hours at the airport and flew to São Paulo. São Paulo was nuts. Everyone leaving went to São Paulo. So it’s this enormous international airport . . . full of missionaries as far as the eye could see. We thought we would leave at five. Church volunteers there told us to be ready to leave at any second.  We left around midnight!

Missionaries at the São Paulo airport–as far as the eye could see!

It was a lot of hauling suitcases up one escalator, down another, bus to one terminal, then back to the first terminal again. We were very grateful to finally get to security to catch our flight. I went through security and felt lost — I was in an empty part of the airport and couldn’t see any missionaries from my mission coming behind me. Eventually I saw a few and found out that the others got held up at security!  Some of them apparently weren’t booked on the flight. There were several problems. We thought we were all on the same flight and then found out that several people held up at security were supposed to be on a plane that was leaving in five minutes! Talk about stressful! There were groups of missionaries sprinting down the terminal with suitcases. Most of them made it . . . but then 12 elders who would go on the other flight got held back because somehow it was overbooked?!  They had to sleep at the CTM [Brazilian Missionary Training Center] that night instead of flying to the U.S. That must have been difficult.  

Hummus!

We were worried about getting through security at Los Angeles–LAX (health scans? customs?) but nothing happened at all. It was super easy.  We got there at noon, waited for about an hour and a half at the baggage claim and then found ourselves on the flight lists and went to check our baggage again.  I finally got to the check baggage counter . . . and they said my flight didn’t exist. Six of us found ourselves without flights to Utah. We called Church Travel and after much waiting got a flight at 8 pm.  Shout out to the church travel workers and volunteers helping out — it must be so much work! I amused myself eating hummus, Starbucks hot chocolate with soy milk (it was sooo cold), crinkle fries, and two brands of vegan cookies I found at the airport.  It had been a long time without that stuff . . . but now I’m sure I’ll get homesick for Recife and açaí. We finally got to SLC, waited another eternity at the baggage claim and to haul everyone up to the garage and I found my parents! It was very strange to feel 40 degree temperatures again.

In order to fight the spread of Covid-19, families were supposed to send just one or two members to the airport to pick up the missionary and were then asked to wait in the parking garage. Dad was the designated luggage helper!

It was a very long journey but I was happy to get here safely!  I was released on Saturday night, my 1 year and 7 month anniversary on the mission. 

19 months

~20 umbrellas broken

8-ish pairs of shoes destroyed

1 language–Portuguese–learned

25 pounds lost

15% more tan

5 areas served in

12 companions

1 great mission

It’s funny — I was already planning to come home on Wednesday, but the things I planned to do when I got home (work and school) won’t work out well in quarantine! Life is crazy for everyone right now.  I am so grateful to have been able to serve a mission. I love Brasil, I love Pernambuco, I love Pernambucanos, and most of all I love the gospel of Jesus Christ.

Quarantine

[This blog is dated March 23rd because of when it took place, but Sister Faulconer wasn’t able to write down all the details until she returned home].

Part of our food storage

The Monday I wrote the last blog post we left to buy two more weeks of food storage.  It was seriously difficult! The hard part is taking bags of heavy things home — you underestimate transportation to the grocery store until you don’t have any!  The bags ripped several times, we stopped to take a rest a couple times, and I bruised my shins with bagged cans. But it worked out! I am very grateful to be able to do food storage and not have to worry about going hungry.  I’m sure many here don’t have that luxury — there are a lot of street vendors (popsicles, corn, tapioca) and farmer’s market sellers here. I can’t imagine Covid-19 is helping them out. We went on splits with the sisters from Olinda.  Olinda is more than two hours from Goiana. We asked the bus driver three times to tell us where to get off. He said he would but didn’t! I stayed with Sister Ascanta in Goiana. She was trained by Sister Barros! I really want to see Sister Barros — it’s been a while already!  

Splits with the Sisters serving in Olinda

We switched back Wednesday morning.  Wednesday afternoon we got new rules — no more splits, no talking to senior citizens or pregnant people.  Sad that we couldn’t follow up with our investigators that are senior citizens at all, but we would also hate to get them sick.  When the phone rang we were afraid we would have to stay in quarantine. But since there were new rules we figured it would take at least several more days to get to full-on quarantine.  Nope. Thursday the district leader [missionary leader of a group of 6 missionaries] called us with rule clarifications. He started out by joking that we would be in quarantine. We believed him but it was a lie. Literally five minutes after that the zone leader [missionary leader of the larger group–about 30 missionaries] called us to say that we really were in quarantine.  We didn’t believe it!  

Quarantine in Goiana offered a good view of the cemetery

Quarantine is crazy.  We did studies like normal in the morning but just studied for as long as we wanted (and could stand it).  We learned a lot together — I love doing companionship study with Sister Ribeiro II. We spent more time studying, cooking, more studying, talking . . . repeat times infinity. That is all there is to do! I decided to read the Book of Mormon in quarantine. If you read 100 pages per day you can finish in just over five days!  Also we called Giovanna,* who was marked for baptism that Saturday. She is awesome and really wanted to get baptized. But a few minutes before the zone leader called us about quarantine, she called to say she couldn’t leave the house. That was too bad — baptisms were still allowed that Saturday, albeit with a ton of health precautions (us, her, the person who would baptize her, the branch president — six feet apart, face masks, hand sanitizer).  But unfortunately her dad didn’t feel good about that. But she is amazing and I am sure she will get baptized when Coronavirus blows over (hopefully it will blow over enough for her to get baptized soonish!).  

It was strange to go into quarantine already knowing I would leave the mission.  I had thought I would do contacts and lessons Sunday night knowing they would be my last — and then leave Monday.  But all of a sudden I had taught my last lesson and done street contacts for the last time without knowing it! We had been teaching Pedro.* We had stopped teaching him, but during the division (splits) he stopped on the street to talk to us so we went back. I hope he reads the Book of Mormon — he has promised to many times but never gotten around to it.  You can’t say God won’t show you the truth if you never experiment just reading the Book of Mormon and praying about it! It’s not that hard, but you do have to do it.

On Sunday at 10:30 pm we got a text that said all the foreign missionaries were going to leave the country.  It was sad. I am so grateful to have been able to serve a little over a year and a half as a full-time missionary.  But sad to miss even a little bit of it! And my heart hurt to think of all the other missionaries going home. It was hard to sleep! I know it must be hard for people who are going home early, and it’s hard to see so many missionaries going home and not feel that God’s work is stopping.  But I remembered this scripture from the Doctrine and Covenants, and then President Houseman sent a text with the same verse!

49 Verily, verily, I say unto you, that when I give a commandment to any of the sons of men to do a work unto my name, and those sons of men go with all their might and with all they have to perform that work, and cease not their diligence, and their enemies come upon them and hinder them from performing that work, behold, it behooveth me to require that work no more at the hands of those sons of men, but to accept of their offerings.

D&C 124:49

God just asks that we do what he says.  Sometimes he will call us to a mission for 1.5 or 2 years and then ask us to do change our plans or do something else.  We just have to work diligently, be obedient, and he will accept our best efforts.  

The works, and the designs, and the purposes of God cannot be frustrated, neither can they come to naught.

D&C 3:1

Covid-19 isn’t more powerful than our omnipotent Heavenly Father. His work doesn’t stop, even when thousands of missionaries go home. 

*Investigators’ names are changed to protect their privacy.

Preparation

This week Bernardo* got baptized! Now their whole family has been baptized. I am super excited to see a photo of their sealing in a year! We didn’t invite anyone to the baptism because all the meetings have been cancelled. So it was him, his family, and a few members of the branch president’s family.

Bernardo and family

This week Giovanna is marked for baptism. She had been to church several times in a few different wards before we met her. Her boyfriend is a member. She said she had been to a few different churches and never felt the way she feels at church. She said she hasn’t gotten “an answer ” yet but is praying and reading the scriptures faithfully. She said she feels a confirmation (i.e., God confirming that these things are true) is coming little by little. We talked about Alma 32 and how often answers don’t come all at once. We are super excited for her! We have been so blessed this transfer to witness more personal conversions than we usually do.

People aren’t very panicked here, but the news is full of coronavirus. People have started to stop shaking hands — or to think about starting not to shake hands. We are trying to take each investigator to a different member’s house. We are in a branch [tiny congregation] here so there aren’t a lot of members. We have to plan a lot! But nowhere near as much as the branch presidents who have to coordinate all of the sacrament meetings in the wards and branches! That must be a ton of work. This week we had a number of people who said they would go to church — Mateus and Raiane, Mllena and her daughters, and Giovanna. But several people ended up being sick or having other things to do and not wanting to go, so we just took Diane to church. Diane is one of Mllena’s daughters. She is 10 and very smart.

We went shopping for food storage and medication as President Houseman had asked us to do. Food storage is pretty different in Brazil. In Recife I saw all sorts of vacuum packed pre-cooked food, but here in Goiana it’s like the rest of the interior. We have canned peas, corn, and canned peas and corn. We also bought the only three 10-1b cans of fruit in the store — but I thought the store wouldn’t have any canned fruit, so that was a victory! There are no food shortages here yet; they just don’t sell much canned food. We also bought beans, rice, cuscus, ramen, dehydrated soup, milk, pasta, sugar, salt, spices, pasta sauce, crackers, sweet crackers, oatmeal, water, toilet paper and tinned sardines.

As part of my preparation for general conference, I have been studying President Nelson’s talk: “The Book of Mormon: What Would Your Life Be Like Without It?” He listed a number of topics the Book of Mormon clarifies or expands upon, and I have been studying each in the Book of Mormon and the Bible. Recently I studied the topics doctrine of Christ, what it really means to be born again, and the gathering of scattered Israel. It has been super interesting. I have felt the illumination of the mind that Alma talks about in Alma 32 on the mission more than ever before. The Book of Mormon and the Bible complete each other so well! Christ authoritatively states in John 3:5 that we must be born again. Mosiah 5:7-12, 2 Nephi 31, and Mosiah 18 explain what it means to take Christ’s name upon ourselves, the covenants we make at baptism, and what it means to be born again — a change of nature, desire, and action.

Jesus speaking to Nicodemus–Henry Ossawa Tanner

Mosiah 27:25-26
25 And the Lord said unto me: Marvel not that all mankind, yea, men and women, all nations, kindreds, tongues and people, must be born again; yea, born of God, changed from their carnal and fallen state, to a state of righteousness, being redeemed of God, becoming his sons and daughters;

26 And thus they become new creatures; and unless they do this, they can in nowise inherit the kingdom of God.

Life is pretty crazy with all of these Covid-19 updates and scary news. It is weird to talk to people on the street and not be able to invite them to church like we normally do. We can’t really invite them to a member’s house if we’ve never taught them before. We are thinking about inviting everyone to church and giving them a card with our number to call if they end up wanting to go! But I am very grateful to be able to continue teaching the precious truths of the Restored gospel. I feel for all the missionaries who can’t do that in person any more!

[Update: Sister Faulconer wrote this March 16. On March 19th, she and her companion were asked by the mission president to stop going out and to remain in their apartment. The morning of March 23, she was asked to pack quickly and jump on a bus in order to join other American missionaries leaving Brazil. On the evening of March 27th, after multiple days of travel and many hours in airports in Recife, Sao Paulo, and Los Angeles, she returned home to Utah].

When I heard that Sacrament Meeting was cancelled, “All is Well” began to play in my head. On Sunday the branch chose that hymn to sing in all of the sacrament meetings! This scripture from D&C 101 was also brought to mind:

Joseph Smith

Revelation given to Joseph Smith the Prophet, at Kirtland, Ohio, December 16 and 17, 1833. At this time the Saints who had gathered in Missouri were suffering great persecution. Mobs had driven them from their homes in Jackson County; and some of the Saints had tried to establish themselves in Van Buren, Lafayette, and Ray Counties, but persecution followed them. The main body of the Saints was at that time in Clay County, Missouri. Threats of death against individuals of the Church were many. The Saints in Jackson County had lost household furniture, clothing, livestock, and other personal property; and many of their crops had been destroyed.

D&C 101:12-18

12 And in that day all who are found upon the watch-tower, or in other words, all mine Israel, shall be saved.

13 And they that have been scattered shall be gathered.

14 And all they who have mourned shall be comforted.

15 And all they who have given their lives for my name shall be crowned.

16 Therefore, let your hearts be comforted concerning Zion; for all flesh is in mine hands; be still and know that I am God.

17 Zion shall not be moved out of her place, notwithstanding her children are scattered.

18 They that remain, and are pure in heart, shall return, and come to their inheritances, they and their children, with songs of everlasting joy, to build up the waste places of Zion.

Blessed

Sister Faulconer and Sister Ribeiro II

This week was great.  Our investigator/friend Rafaela* was baptized and confirmed this week.  It was wonderful to see her having spiritual experiences and gaining a testimony and wanting to be baptized and confirmed.  Three-ish weeks ago I think maybe I wrote about an experience I had in the street one day.  I was praying in my heart to know who to contact because we had a few minutes  before our next appointment.  Suddenly I thought about all the people my companions and I had street contacted. How many had been baptized? I saw other people’s street contacts be baptized, and I contacted many people who had spiritual experiences, were marked for baptism, went to church, and almost got baptized.  But in terms of actual results there was one man who was a street contact that was baptized.  He didn’t go to church one of the last weeks that I was in that area (after going faithfully every Sunday!) and it sounds like he never went again and is super inactive. But I thought about it and realized that he could be reactivated someday. Also, I contacted a young woman who I later found out was baptized a few transfers later when a change of job suddenly let her go to church on Sunday.  I hope she is still strong! One soul is an accomplishment. And I know that sometimes God wants our sacrifice, not necessarily our success.  So I knew it was important to keep talking to people on the street.  But regardless, it was a pretty depressing thought in the moment–I don’t think that thought was inspired by the Holy Ghost.  I recommitted to continue working hard regardless of how other people use their agency . . . and then suddenly one of our very molle investigators we were persistent with got baptized this week!  We had stopped her on the street to admire her dog near the beginning of last transfer and did a contact.  

Rafaela’s baptism

Rafaela was very excited to be baptized.  After we taught her about the Word of Wisdom we asked her what she was going to do with her coffee and she said she would throw it out.  We were going to help her throw it out but had to leave because it was late and we forgot.  The next day she mentioned that she had thrown it out of her own volition! After being confirmed (she was confirmed on the same day because of Stake Conference [our regional meetings]) she said that she felt really good and at home.  She said when she went home she would know she wasn’t alone!

View on the way to Itambé

We have also been very blessed in terms of marcados [people marked for baptism] this week. It is amazing how different some weeks are than others.  Sometimes we have trouble marking anyone for several weeks in a row!  Last week and this week we have been blessed with many opportunities to invite people to baptism — and they have accepted!  
We are going to Itambé twice a week recently and teaching Júlia and her family.  This week we had a lesson just with Bernardo, who is Júlia’s nephew. His parents and sister were baptized in December and missionaries have been teaching all of them since June.  He almost got baptized twice and had accepted a baptismal date the other day in a group lesson.  In our lesson together we discussed his concerns and he said he feels better about baptism now. He said he really would be baptized this Saturday!  He went to Stake Conference this Saturday with his family. We are excited!  It will be interesting because there is no way to personally visit him during the week! He gets out of school at 5 or 5:30 and the last van to Goiana leaves at 5.  So we are going to call him during the week and are thinking of trying to do a video call with members.  

We are working hard to follow up with the people marked for baptism while still meeting new people.  That is a bit tricky because we want to prioritize the people marked for baptism but don’t want to neglect our responsibility to talk with new people! 

Another side note — everyone who comes to Goiana (for district council or splits or to do an interview) says “It is really hot here!” Apparently it is hotter in Goiana than in Janga or Timbauba (and Timbauba is part of our district!)  I said I wanted a t-shirt prize of “I survived the hottest area in the mission!” But then I realized that if everyone is deserving of said t-shirt it would be Sister Ribeiro II! I’m not sure if I said this the other week, but Sister Ribeiro II started her mission in Goiana 2 (the other half of the city). She often had lunch with members from Goiana 1 so she already knows a lot of people here.  After this transfer she will have spent 6 months — a third of her mission in Goiana — and she will probably spend more time here!  Those six months include two summers, so she is a trooper.  Going from Guaranhuns (cold enough to use a blanket at night!) to Goiana is a bit of a shock!

Splits (companion exchanges) with Sisters Ribeiro II, Faulconer, Chaves and Fernandes

This week we went on splits with the sisters from Janga. I spent the day with Sister Chaves — for the third time!  I hope she doesn’t get tired of me!

On Sunday we went to Stake conference [regional church meeting].  We didn’t manage to take many people, but Bernardo went!  We really wanted to take Mariana, who is 12 and was excited about going to church and being baptized, but she woke up with a very bad headache.  She got up and went to the door, but when we talked to her she went back to bed.  So that was too bad.  President  Houseman [who was a professor of entomology before he became our mission president] gave a great talk about termites and recent converts. Baby termites can’t live off wood — other termites have to feed them.  Recent converts can’t be expected to be totally self-sufficient any more than babies can. We have to help them, care for them, visit them, and share the gospel with them!  

I noticed that I had written this scripture down earlier to use in my lessons but had forgotten about it. This scripture is interesting because it says “as a lake of fire” which seems to suggest it won’t be an actual fire.  People often say that the fire and brimstone in the scriptures isn’t literal, but it is nice to see what the doctrinal source of that belief is!

Mosiah 3:24-27

24 And thus saith the Lord: They shall stand as a bright testimony against this people, at the judgment day; whereof they shall be judged, every man according to his works, whether they be good, or whether they be evil.

25 And if they be evil they are consigned to an awful view of their own guilt and abominations, which doth cause them to shrink from the presence of the Lord into a state of misery and endless torment, from whence they can no more return; therefore they have drunk damnation to their own souls.

26 Therefore, they have drunk out of the cup of the wrath of God, which justice could no more deny unto them than it could deny that Adam should fall because of his partaking of the forbidden fruit; therefore, mercy could have claim on them no more forever.

27 And their torment is as a lake of fire and brimstone, whose flames are unquenchable, and whose smoke ascendeth up forever and ever. Thus hath the Lord commanded me. Amen.

Brazilian fruit of the week: Jaboticaba.  You bite it, throw away the peel and eat the flesh surrounding the seed or the flesh and the seed.  It looks like a blueberry but is quite different. 


Yet they rejoice

This week was good.  Rafaela* came back early from the beach.  Unfortunately she wasn’t very interested in receiving a visit, so we were feeling a bit sad about that.  But she went to church on Sunday!  And then she asked Sister Ribeiro out of the blue “What hours will my baptismal service be?” She said she was trying to schedule her Saturday and wanted to know what time it would be.  Lots of people are marked for baptism but aren’t actually planning on getting baptized.  We tell them to pray about it and plan to get baptized if they get an answer. People in this situation are marked for baptism but haven’t confirmed it yet. So it was super exciting when Rafaela asked what time her baptism was because that means she is actually planning on being baptized! She has been feeling and recognizing the spirit a lot while reading the Book of Mormon and at church. Unfortunately we haven’t been able to teach her the commandments as early as we would have liked to because she was busy, but hopefully that works out. 

This week a man walked up to us on the street and said he wanted to go to church.  He said he had been taught by the Sisters and was almost baptized.  We were super excited but we didn’t find his house and when we called him he hung up when we started talking.  And he didn’t go to church. So that was too bad — life is weird sometimes! 

A number of people said they would go to church and didn’t, but more people than usual went!  Rafaela went, which was great because we thought she wouldn’t be able to go until next week.  The owner of the LAN house we are using today also went with her four young daughters.  That was cool because when we taught her she wasn’t initially very interested in going, but ended up being excited about it! We are teaching a young man called Joao Vitor who said he would go.  We thought he hadn’t made it but after the Sacrament Meeting we saw him!  He had come in late and we hadn’t seen — we were excited!  He is marked for baptism.  

We went to Itambé twice this week. You pay six reais, and everyone smashes themselves into the sardine-can-van and then we drive forty-ish minutes to Itambé.  It’s an adventure!  We went to see Júlia and her family.  The first time we met we met her son and niece.  We also said a prayer in her grandma-by-consideration (grandma of the heart –not her actual grandma but she might as well be)’s house.  The second time we got there and she said “I invited two people to hear the message, okay?” That’s more than okay!  She had invited her two friends and we met her younger son.  She’s already a great missionary!  She is reading the general conference talks that we will discuss at the next Relief Society meeting!  I think she is more involved  in the Ward Whatsapp group (Whatsapp is a text messaging and videocall app that is very popular internationally) than most members. She and her family are definitely worth going to Itambé for.  We invited her children and her sister (who is a member)’s son, Bernardo, to baptism, as well as her two friends and several of them accepted. Unfortunately, because of scheduling and transportation issues, only her sister and brother-in-law made it to church.  So that was too bad.  But hopefully they manage to go next week.  Mostly fortunately (but a little unfortunately) next week is Stake conference [a big regional church meeting held twice a year], which will happen in a different city — Paulista.  We are hoping for a miracle this week of having more success than usual at taking investigators to stake conference. 

It was a miracle this week with baptismal invitations–we managed to meet a lot more people this week who we had the opportunity and privilege to invite for baptism! And two of them went to church and stayed marked for baptism (Joao Vitor and Rafaela)!  

One interesting thing about studying the scriptures without a search engine (i.e., studying paper scriptures without a smartphone) is that there is no way to look up all the results for faith in the Book of Mormon or all the scriptures about prophets or death.  This highlights the importance of reading the scriptures straight through as part of scripture study.  If you don’t read the scriptures, you won’t find many helpful passages not included in the topical guide.  A few months ago I noticed this scripture while reading the Book of Mormon:

11 And the bodies of many thousands are laid low in the earth, while the bodies of many thousands are moldering in heaps upon the face of the earth; yea, and many thousands are mourning for the loss of their kindred, because they have reason to fear, according to the promises of the Lord, that they are consigned to a state of endless wo.

12 While many thousands of others truly mourn for the loss of their kindred, yet they rejoice and exult in the hope, and even know, according to the promises of the Lord, that they are raised to dwell at the right hand of God, in a state of never-ending happiness.

13 And thus we see how great the inequality of man is because of sin and transgression, and the power of the devil, which comes by the cunning plans which he hath devised to ensnare the hearts of men.

14 And thus we see the great call of diligence of men to labor in the vineyards of the Lord; and thus we see the great reason of sorrow, and also of rejoicing—sorrow because of death and destruction among men, and joy because of the light of Christ unto life.

Alma 28:11-14

I really like how this scripture highlights how the gospel can help us when we lose a loved one.  It also mentions the importance of diligent missionary work and that Christ is the reason for hope and joy in our lives!  It is only because of his sacrifice for us –the Atonement that we hope for a better world (Ether 12:4), the resurrection of ourselves and our loved ones, and have access to the power of repentance in our lives.  We can also know that he can comfort us because he hath borne our griefs (Isaiah 53:4 — in Portuguese it says that he took upon himself our pains) so he knows how we feel.  

The number of talks I am assigned to read per week for the missionaries who are returning home is increasing!  I think that means the end of my mission is getting closer!  The talks are very good; this week was about serving others and the welfare program in the church.

My group (We all got to Recife together . . . and we´re going to leave together this transfer!)

*Names are changed to protect privacy

All things work together for good

My new companion is Sister Ribeiro II! [She is Sis. Ribeiro II here on the blog because Sister Faulconer was previously companions with Sister M. Ribeiro (the missionary who is a wonderful photographer)]. She is from Sao Paulo, just like Sister M. Ribeiro!  Until now she was serving in the city Guaranhuns with Sister Nogueira — so she had to travel for about eight hours to get here!

Sister Ribeiro II enjoys the fast food lunch at mission leadership council while Sister Faulconer looks on.
Photo, Courtesy Sister Lori Houseman

This week is Carnaval.  Carnaval is mostly celebrated on the other half of town that isn’t our area, so we have been mostly following normal hours here.  We have seen a lot of burras [donkey costumes] and bois [oxen costumes?] in the street as well as some other costumes that are hard to remember the name of. Look up images for “burrinha carnaval Pernambuco” and you should get some good pictures.  They walk around with a few people banging on drums and occasionally people with saxophones and marching band/battle standard-like banners.  But three guys with drums sound like two entire marching bands–those drums are powerful! 

We marked our investigator Rafaela* for baptism this week, which was great!.  Last week we were excited because she went to church, read the Book of Mormon, and progressed after being molle [soft = not very interested, doesn’t keep invitations to read, go to church, etc., consistently] for a while.  Unfortunately, at the last second she ended up going to the beach with her employer for a week and wasn’t able to go to church last week or next Sunday.  So that was too bad; it’s amazing how these things always happen with marcados [people who have committed to be baptized]!  But we re-marked her for two weeks later, so hopefully it will work out in the end.  But it was too bad because although we had a number of people who said they would go to church, no one did–not even the very long-time investigator who always goes. 

It was not the first time no one has come to church, but it is always too bad.  That morning we invited some people in the street to go to church and accept visits.  No one was very interested. There was one couple who was very against eternal families–they said what everyone here says: we will all be brothers and sisters after this life. There won’t be special marriage and family relationships.  I shared that experience in the talk I gave in church that day. A brother who works at the temple with FamilySearch mentioned my talk and talked more about eternal families.  It wasn’t until later we found out that a new family that had moved in had brought their son, who has been marked for baptism but not baptized, and the mom’s sister to the meeting.  The mom’s sister had a Book of Mormon and described feeling a great desire to read more and more!  She said that she had been deeply involved in the Catholic church — she taught crisma [confirmation] classes, etc.  But she had always had a few questions about Catholic teachings–like why we won’t be able to recognize or remember our family members after this life.  So all things worked together for good!  Our negative experience that morning helped her feel the spirit and recognize the truth at church!

Here is a scripture I like.  There are lots of sayings and quotes that talk about being in trouble, persecuted, etc., but not vanquished. What I like about this one is how Paul mentions feelings.  Although the trials he went through caused negative feelings (he was perplexed) all was not lost (he was not in despair)!

8 We are troubled on every side, yet not distressed; we are perplexed, but not in despair;

9 Persecuted, but not forsaken; cast down, but not destroyed;

2 Corinthians 4:8-9

Partakers of the Consolation

There is a hammock in our apartment

This week we took a new investigator, Rafaela*, to church for the first time.  She said she had visited a number of churches and it was the only one where she felt at home.  I am excited about that!  We told her she was feeling the spirit.  We were excited when we first met her, but I had been worried that we would have to stop visiting her because it was difficult to find her at home, she wasn’t very interested in marking a specific day, and it seemed like maybe she wasn’t super focused on the lessons.  But I have been thinking about what President Houseman said about persistence — it paid off with Rafaela!  

One thing I didn’t mention last week was that I got to talk to the sisters who are in Casa Forte at the Zone Conference. Sister Barros left after the last transfer, so I didn’t get to see her, but it was cool to meet the sister she trained and hear about the area!  When I left the area I had been excited about a family we were teaching (I mentioned them in my e-mail at the time) and hoped they would progress. But I didn’t hear about them until now. We had taught the daughter maybe twice, and then we met her parents the last week I was there. I had been pretty excited about her parents, but it turns out they didn’t end up being very interested  But the daughter who I was also excited about, has been to church many times and is really integrated in the ward! She hasn’t been baptized but she is still going to church!

When I hear about old areas there is always much more bad news than good news.  That’s the nature of missionary work–we talk to lots of people and the vast (vast, vast) majority of them don’t get baptized.  And lots of people who do get baptized don’t continue going to church.  But we ought to look at missionary work through a qualitative lens rather than quantitatively.  How great shall be your joy if you bring one soul to repentance! 

Other good things that have happened in my old areas —- I found out when I went on splits the last time in Palmares that Helena (who I taught for all three transfers in Casa Forte but her mother didn’t want to let her get baptized) was baptized! She moved to Recife shortly afterwards and didn’t give her contact information to the missionaries (sad).  But she is a member of the Church and I really hope she ends up going to church in her new city.   Also I had mentioned before that Isadora, Maria Eduarda’s daughter, ended up getting baptized in Gravatá.  So good news happens!  I don’t know how Isadora is but I think I will have another opportunity to find out at the next zone conference. 

This is a scripture I like: 

Blessed be God, even the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies, and the God of all comfort;

Who comforteth us in all our tribulation, that we may be able to comfort them which are in any trouble, by the comfort wherewith we ourselves are comforted of God.

For as the sufferings of Christ abound in us, so our consolation also aboundeth by Christ.

And our hope of you is steadfast, knowing, that as ye are partakers of the sufferings, so shall ye be also of the consolation.

2 Corinthians 1:3-5, 7

Hopefully that is something I can do as a missionary — comfort others with the comfort of God.  How beautiful to think about this subject — as followers of Christ we ought to expect  sufferings  (we are taking up our cross and following him)  but as we are partakers of the sufferings we are also partakers of the consolation! Elder Holland gave a really powerful talk about missionaries being partakers of the sufferings of Christ.  The only time I heard it was in the CTM but I remember how much I liked it.  He said sometimes we might ask ourselves why the only difficulty in the mission field is not risk of pneumonia from spending so much time being wet baptizing people.  His answer (super summarized) was that if we are followers of Christ, we ought to expect to experience at least the tiniest bit of what He went through. 

I am convinced that missionary work is not easy because salvation is not a cheap experience. Salvation never was easy. We are The Church of Jesus Christ, this is the truth, and He is our Great Eternal Head. How could we believe it would be easy for us when it was never, ever easy for Him? It seems to me that missionaries and mission leaders have to spend at least a few moments in Gethsemane. Missionaries and mission leaders have to take at least a step or two toward the summit of Calvary.

Now, please don’t misunderstand. I’m not talking about anything anywhere near what Christ experienced. That would be presumptuous and sacrilegious. But I believe that missionaries and investigators, to come to the truth, to come to salvation, to know something of this price that has been paid, will have to pay a token of that same price.

Elder Jeffrey R. Holland

At one point this week I wasn’t having a super great day.  We were going to a teaching appointment and I had been praying to be led to someone we ought to do a street contact with, someone who needed to hear the gospel.  I suddenly had a rather discouraging thought (Moroni 7:13 teaches that “. . behold, that which is of God inviteth and enticeth to do good continually; wherefore, every thing which inviteth and enticeth to do good, and to love God, and to serve him, is inspired of God,” so this was probably not a God-sent thought): “How many street contacts from my mission have been baptized?” The answer is Isadora and Tiago. Tiago has not been to church for months and does not show signs of returning.  Who knows, maybe others will be baptized as well!  And of course I have no idea what other seeds will sprout. And while, until now, not many people have chosen to get baptized, street contacting has led to many, many lessons.  And teaching can be an inherent good. Not as good as the person actually progressing to make covenants with Heavenly Father, but who knows if our lessons do help them get closer to him? Maybe they will pray more, have a better relationship with God, etc. 

Fantastic Bichos and Where to Find Them

Splits with the sisters from Olinda–Pictured are Sisters Pires, Kenner, Faulconer and Marques. Sister Marques (in the sunglasses) is my mission “granddaughter” because Sister M. Ribeiro (whose trainer I was) trained her.

I forgot to look up the exact definition for the word bicho but people use it to talk about bugs and other nasty critters and animals. You can also call people bichos (namoral bicho, namoral–the young men in Palmares). But the name of the film I referenced in the title is actually Fantastic Animals Something Something in Portuguese. Last week, when I didn’t get a chance to write, we found two scorpions in two days. They were very very tiny. One was already dead, I think. I didn’t see the other, but Sister Pires killed it without too much trouble. She says the smallest scorpions are more dangerous because the venom is more concentrated. I am not sure if that is true or not (I miss Google) but at least the smaller scorpions are less frightening! I had heard all sorts of stories about the apartment in Goiana and problematic animals and had been unsure whether I was excited to see said bichos or afraid! Some kind of pest treatment had been done the transfer before I got here, which probably helped. We had seen several cockroaches but no scorpions until last week. After those two we didn’t see anymore. But on the divisions a bat entered our house! I predict that someone is wondering at this point if I touched the bat — no. Yes, I know bats are disease-ridden creatures.

A live bat in our apartment! Also, a scorpion!

Yesterday someone new went to church — Milene.* She had already been to church once before a long time ago. It turned out that she already knew a number of church members and didn’t know it, which is always nice. She said she read the Book of Mormon — yay! She doesn’t want to get baptized but we are encouraging her to pray about it. Patrick also went to church for the third time this Sunday, but he hasn’t really read the Book of Mormon yet so that is too bad. We had been pretty excited about Mateus and Raiane, but unfortunately they didn’t go to church last week or this week and Raiane feels strongly that she doesn’t want to get baptized.

We had an activity last week and this week on Wednesday. It is a gincana — a competition — that will last four weeks. It is going well — definitely the most successful activity I have had on my mission to date. By far. A member named Leandro is doing all the heavy lifting of planning and advertising the activity. Having a member in charge of an activity who is excited about said activity makes allll the difference. There are definitely people who have the spiritual gift of being good activity planners or good at inviting friends to activities or giving references to the missionaries. There are a couple people here that are really great member missionaries and I hope to be like them one day!

Sister Faulconer and Sister Pires

Last week (the other last week) we were walking on the street and a young man with the accent of a native Spanish speaker asked Sister Pires what church we were from. When we told him he said he was a member of our church! He is an immigrant from Venezuela. He was baptized there but after 6-ish years of full activity he ended up becoming less active for a couple years. There are a lot of Venezuelan immigrants in Brazil right now because of the economic difficulties. I think there are many more immigrants in other parts of Brazil than in Pernambuco. I had seen maybe two people on the street in Recife that were immigrants, but I know that other missionaries in other parts of Recife had met a number of Venezuelan immigrants. The Sunday before this Sunday he went to church. Then we met his cousin and they both went to the activity this week. And on Sunday he took his sister to church. She seems really great. Willian and Zaqueu (the cousin) were worried about going to church because of language issues, clothing, and because their lives had changed since becoming less-active and they were worried about changing back. But Willian said he read the Book of Mormon chapters we left him (on the app in Spanish — technology is cool!)

This week I was rereading some parts of 2 Corinthians and 1 Peter that I like.

5 . . . God resisteth the proud, and giveth grace to the humble.

6 Humble yourselves therefore under the mighty hand of God, that he may exalt you in due time:

7 Casting all your care upon him; for he careth for you.

1 Peter 5:5-7

I love the part about casting all your care upon him!

*Names of investigators are changed as always to protect their privacy.

Teaching

Sisters Faulconer and Pires with the elders
Photo courtesy of Sister Lori Houseman

This week was good. We went on splits with the sisters from Janga this week. Janga is a city that is half an hour from Olinda. It is a pretty big area. We have been working on the message we will be sharing in the zone conference tomorrow. We will talk about how to be a successful missionary through obedience, working effectively every day and doing all you can do, and loving people and desiring their salvation.

Our district in Goiana

Goiana is split into two branches, and each branch has some outlying cities that are part of the branch as well. The other area closed this week, and our district leader told us that the assistants told him that we could work in the other branch as well. We aren’t totally sure about what is expected of us (from Pres. Houseman, God, etc.) in terms of the other area. But we asked the other branch president and the Relief Society president if there were any investigators we ought to be teaching. They gave us a few great references! We planned to visit one of them this week already and are thinking about how to plan when to visit the others. Probably we are going to set a few days aside next week to go there. We don’t have a map, area book, or cellphone for the other branch, so we’re a bit in the dark. But we are going to keep records of the people we find and turn them over to the next missionaries when the next transfer starts.

Cuscus topped with hot sauce sent all the way from home–thanks Mom!

Mateus and Raiane, a couple we were teaching, went to church this week! Their neighbor Bruno also went! They have really managed to understand the message of the Restoration and seem interested in the church. They said they are praying and reading the Book of Mormon and searching for an answer to their questions. They don’t feel they’ve gotten an answer yet, but they are still searching!

This week we were walking down the street and I felt like I should talk to the man who was walking next to us on the sidewalk. He turned out to be an ex-seminarian who studied theology in order to be a Catholic priest but then decided he didn’t agree with the Catholic religion. He said he had always wanted to go into the church building in Caruaru but hadn’t been invited so never went. At this point I was sad because I thought that meant he would just be a reference we would have to pass on to other missionaries in the Caruaru area, but about three weeks ago he moved to Goiana! We ended up teaching him a summarized version of the Restoration and the Book of Mormon on the street and he promised to read the Book of Mormon and go to church on Sunday. We called him at night to give him the address. But then on Sunday morning we called him to ask if his map application managed to find the church building and he hung up after we said we were the missionaries. And he didn’t go to church. But hopefully when we visit him this week he ends up being interested! Who knows . . .

Patrick went to church again but doesn’t feel he has gotten an answer yet. He feels answers from God need to be law-of-physics-defying to be convincing, so we are trying to help him recognize the other ways God responds.

Moto-taxis who keep their commitments

Sister Faulconer with her new companion, Sister Pires

This week was good. The miracle of the week was Patrick. We asked Patrick for directions and did a contact with him. When we went to teach him, he wasn’t there–that’s something that happens every single day, many times a day.  His family was there so we did a contact with them and planned to go back a different day. But then on Friday night Patrick called us! He said he had researched the Church and liked what he found out about!  He said he wanted to go to church!  And he went!  Miracles.  He seems to have potential, as someone who might be interested in joining the Church!  We are excited. 

A few days earlier we had had a bit of difficulty finding people at home, when we managed to teach someone at a motorcycle taxi station. His friend, who is a moto taxi driver, also decided to listen, even though he had to turn down a ride.  When we told him about the Restoration, he repeatedly said “I have never heard about this!” That is my favorite investigator response! We went on splits this week and I stayed in Igarassu.  While I was there, Renato said he had prayed and gotten an answer! Hooray for investigators who keep their commitments! We are going to visit him tonight.

Sister Faulconer and Sister Centeio (a former companion) together at mission council this week.

We also went to mission council this week. I found out that the missionaries who followed Sister Nogueira and I in Candeias are . . . Sister M. Ribeiro (who I trained!) and her new trainee! That’s pretty funny. I have been praying for those missionaries — it turns out I was praying for someone I already knew pretty well!

The sisters go on splits
Splits with Sister Lopes

This week we will do splits with Janga.  Next week it will probably be Olinda, where Sister M. Ribeiro was training until this transfer.