Goodbye to Palmares

I’m being transferred! I’m very sad to leave Sister Arce and Palmares but a new area will be an adventure. I will be in Gravatá, which is still in the interior. Apparently it is a big touristy city — I will have to wait until after our email time to ask Sister Arce more questions. Hopefully the transfer will go smoothly — last transfer my transfer instructions had the wrong times written and the bus was slow and I ended up waiting in the bus station for several hours — it is a little crazy because you travel without a cellphone, but luckily people are willing to lend cellphones if you need to call someone.

Recently we have started hearing frevo in the streets. People are practicing for Carnaval. I do not know much about frevo but it seems to be characterized by a very strong rhythm on drums that is catchy (and quite loud — we can hear it from far away). People dress up in bear costumes and say rhymes asking for money.

Today we went to a museum housed in an old train station. It is about a famous writer and actor Hermilo Borbo Filho and the history of Palmares. Very small but cool. I learned that in Brazil, slaves lived together on the dark, crowded first floor (senzala) of the houses and the plantation owners would live on the second floor. Apparently lots of slaves escaped and would start their own communities called Quilombos. They would stop sometimes in Palmares but the big gathering place was Alagoas.

This week we had some really special experiences with the Book of Mormon. People who read the Book of Mormon receive answers to their prayers and feel the spirit a lot faster than people who don’t. We have one investigator “Mariana” who is 18-ish years old, who I met asking directions. On our second visit with her, we found out that she visited our church once a long time ago. She said she felt a special feeling there and didn’t want to leave. She told God that one day she would go back — maybe a long time in the future (the church is not close to her house) but she would go back. This week we went back and found out that she took the Book of Mormon to school with her to read. She doesn’t like reading but she loves the Book of Mormon! She said she felt like some of the verses were written just for her. One of her friends asked her about it, read part, and started crying because she said she knew it was true!

The same day we visited “Nedna” who we almost dropped because she still hadn’t prayed about whether Joseph Smith was a prophet, if the Book of Mormon is true, hadn’t read the part we left marked for her, etc. But last week she read the part we marked for her (but didn’t pray), so we didn’t drop her. But she still didn’t seem very interested, and then her granddaughter was born and we didn’t see her for two weeks, so we were planning how we could make one last attempt at explaining the importance of praying and reading the scriptures. We showed up, and everything seemed normal, but then we asked her if she had prayed. She said, “Well, I have to tell you that I got an answer!” I was surprised. Apparently she remembered to pray and read the Book of Mormon despite all the chaos with her granddaughter’s birth (a miracle — we had invited her over several visits to read and pray, and she didn’t), and then she lost her cellphone in the middle of they city and asked God to help her get it back if the Book of Mormon was true. Someone found her cell phone when her ex-husband was calling her, answered, and arranged to bring the cell phone to him. This is apparently very rare here and she said she knew it was an answer from God. Note — I do not recommend just praying to God asking for a sign to know if the Book of Mormon is true. You have to read the Book of Mormon, pray, etc., if you want an answer — you receive a testimony after the trial of your faith (Ether 12:6) and the scriptures are very clear about the perils of requiring signs from God. Also, God responds to people in different ways.

Both of those experiences happened right after we ended a fast to help our investigators receive answers — it was special. It is so important to put in effort to receive answers from God — diligently read the Book of Mormon, pray wholeheartedly and go to church! We have stopped visiting several different people because they said they didn’t feel vontade (will, the urge, inclined) to read the scriptures/pray/go to church. They all said that if God sent them a feeling of vontade one day they would go to church etc, but they weren’t feeling it then. The devil doesn’t want you to pray, read, or go to church (the evil spirit teacheth not a man to pray 2 Nephi 32:8), so if you wait for a feeling of vontade to do these things you will probably wait your whole life. We also have an investigator who is wonderful but keeps getting sucked into YouTube videos about the wonderful things the Church does instead of reading the Book of Mormon or praying. The documentaries are great, and now he has a lot of respect for church programs, but the scriptures are inspired books written by the power of God to guide us — YouTube videos are not.

Love you all!

Progress and Willingness to Change

For months I thought a really loud child lived on our street, but this transfer I learned from Sister Arce that it was actually just this parrot.  

Unfortunately it looks like our neighbor “Stephanie” who I told you about last week believes the Book of Mormon is true but does not want to consider joining a different church.  I hope that when she finishes the Book of Mormon maybe she will be a bit more open to considering it, but we will see. Recently, we have had trouble with having lots of people to teach but not having a lot of investigators who are actually progressing (Saturday night they say they will go to church, Sunday morning we show up to take them to church and they have surprise visitors, are sick, do not want to go, are busy, etc.)  Yesterday at 9:57 it wasn’t looking very good, but three of our investigators showed up partway through the meeting! We had already been to “Caio” and “Henrique’s” houses that morning, and they weren’t there, but they both went to church by themselves. I am so excited for them — “Caio” stopped drinking last week for good — his friend offered him beer on Saturday and he said he followed our advice and left right away! He is also stopping his coffee habit.  It is amazing to see the difference in progress between people who really want to change their lives and people who don’t. I have met some people who don’t want to ask God if the Book of Mormon is true or if they ought to stop drinking coffee because they don’t want to get an answer. Or they ask, but they don’t get an answer, and then we find out that even if God did respond to them it wouldn’t change anything in their lives.

***

I found brown rice!!!  I am very excited about that. The problem is that although I always want to eat when we get home I am seldom actually hungry because we eat a lot for lunch.  But I am eating brown rice today. We have to go to Recife to get a new cellphone and I will eat this on the bus. You can’t actually see the brown rice but it is under the other food.  The top left corner has sweet potato. I really miss orange sweet potatoes, but these are good too. There is also mango. Not very much mango, but I already ate a mango and a half today. A member gave us a bag of mangoes and they are delicious. There are also peas (protein-rich). The peas here are canned!  There are no fresh or frozen peas. Canned peas are very strange to me. If you heat them up and eat them with thyme and lime juice and hot sauce they are not bad (but very mushy). Lemons here are called Japanese limes and they are very rare and expensive, so I have been eating lots of lime juice. Mango with lime juice is heavenly.  I topped the dish with spicy ketchup. Ketchup is very popular here, but it is sweeter than I am used to. Spicy ketchup is also sold, but the “spicy” part is a lie.

Lunch packed for the bus on the way to Recife

Fun fact: I miss salsa.  Sister Arce [a native Spanish speaker from Argentina] had trouble understanding what I was saying when I told her that because salsa is “sauce” in Spanish.  I think I knew that but forgot.

September 2018–Sister Hales with avocado creams during our training in São Paulo.

Another thing I have been enjoying is avocado creams. Avocado is only eaten with sugar here. Here is a picture of the first “vitamina de abacate” that I drank while I was in the CTM [missionary training center in San Paulo].  It was a special moment — I had always heard Dad telling stories about the avocado shakes he drank in Brazil and then I actually got to try one! We have an avocado tree by our house but I have not actually eaten an avocado yet.

Prayer and the Book of Mormon

This week was interrupted a lot because of our zone conference and the travel for our division with the sister training leaders in Guaranhuns [a city several hours away by bus], but it was good. 

Zone conference for elders and sister missionaries in the Brazil Recife mission under President and Sister Houseman--January 2019.
January 2019 Zone Conference

A group of sister missionaries eating together at zone conference.
Eating together at zone conference

Miracle from this week: A little less than a year ago, our current sister training leader, Sister C. Alves was serving in Palmares.  Unbeknownst to me, she and her companion gave a Book of Mormon to the owner of a mercadinho (Mercado — market; mercadinho — tiny market, usually in the middle of houses that sells a few basics) but never managed to teach her the lessons because she wasn’t interested.  Sister C. Alves asked me about her during our division together last transfer, but I had never met her.  That changed when Sister Arce got here because, due to her love for Cremosinho, we stopped at the mercadinho to buy Cremosinho a few times and met the owner. 

Apparently, Cremosinho is a type of creamy yogurt ice cream that comes in many flavors popular in the Brazilian state of Pernambuco.
Cremosinho–a
creamsicle sort of yogurt frozen thing that comes in plastic bags.  You bite off the corner and eat it.  It’s very good.

I didn’t think she seemed very interested in being taught, but she told us how much she loved the other sisters and we decided to try teaching her a lesson.
The other day we had a little time left at the end of the day and a lot of possible pesquisadores (investigators) to visit.  We were passing the mercadinho and I said “Now is the time to say something if you are having a spiritual impression that we should visit our neighbor!” sort of joking, and Sister Arce just walked over to her and we started making conversation. 

Sister Arece standing outside near the street in front of lush tropical foliage and flowers.
Sister Arce

The owner told us that her church is the richest church in the world and we should visit, etc., etc., which wasn’t a great sign.  Then we taught her a lesson and she accepted our invitation to pray and ask God if Joseph Smith was a prophet and if the Book of Mormon is the word of God.  I was feeling like I did a pretty bad job of teaching the lesson and wishing I could express myself better when out of the blue she said “Oh, I’m reading that book the other sisters gave me every day and I’m on page 606!”  I thought she was talking about a scripture verse the sisters had left with her, because the Book of Mormon only has 529ish pages in English and what were the chances she had read the whole Book of Mormon?  You guys, she had read almost the whole Book of Mormon, day by day since she had gotten it.  
We went back the next day and she was glowing — she prayed and received a powerful witness from God!  She had to travel and of course we will teach her other lessons first, but she is already married (rare) and I think there is good reason to hope she will be baptized!

Finally, the adventures in Brazilian cooking continue:

Cuscuz e Cuscuzeira (pan for cooking couscous)! [Here is a Youtube video demonstration.]

Good Problems

Last week I said we had too many investigators — a good problem, but difficult because you don’t want to forget anyone or not follow-up with them enough! But God has been helping us out. I had been thinking that one spiritual gift I lack is the gift of discernment, and it would really be useful to have when trying to decide which investigators to prioritize. I shared this with Sister Arce and started praying specifically for the gift of discernment (read this Liahona article: “Adding Gifts of the Spirit to Your Christmas List” — it is excellent and I have been applying it to more physical things like organization as well) in my personal prayers and our companionship prayers. The day we started praying for this we suddenly had a ton of rejection.


Gifts of the Spirit–Illustration by Josh Talbot–published in The New Era, December 2018

Our problem was that everyone was happy to listen to us but not necessarily motivated to try to find out if God wants them to join the Church. That day a lot of people were unusually blunt about not wanting to see us. Partway through the day I told Sister Arce I thought God was sending us point-blank rejection to help us out with our lack of discernment. She said that He has a sense of humor and I think she’s right! We have had a lot of rejection this week — it was pretty sad, because we have people who have strong testimonies that the Book of Mormon is the word of God, Joseph Smith was a prophet of God, and that the Church of Jesus Christ is God’s church on earth — and they don’t want to follow those answers, or they won’t pray or go to church because they don’t want to have to follow the answer they might get! It’s really sad to see people choosing to live beneath their privileges, but it’s their choice.

We still have a ton of people to teach, and this week is going to be pretty difficult because we have a zone conference (one day of zero proselyting) and a division with the Sister Training leaders (one day of proselyting lost in favor of eight hours of riding the bus to and from Guaranhuns). I don’t know how we will do it but I’m working on having the faith that it can be done!


We walk on this path every day. In these photos we are walking on the train tracks to keep out of the mud. We have been doing that a lot recently. I am deliriously happy about all the rain. I love rain. It is rather inconvenient for keeping all our paper proselyting stuff dry, keeping my shoes clean, and if I am wearing a long skirt (Have you ever tried walking through mud in a soaking wet long skirt? It is hard.) But wearing a long skirt and walking through mud all day makes me feel a little like Elizabeth Bennet (but not hoping to find any Mr. Darcy’s at the moment — my heart is locked, thank you very much). I am excited for the real rainy season to start!

We are eating pitaya [dragon fruit] which is like acai but bright pink and tastes a bit different and avocado cream.
A half-eaten piece of grilled corn on the cob with many blackened kernels.
Grilled Corn

I finally got a grilled corn.  There is a lot of grilled corn.  Apparently the Northeast is known for it’s corn — vendedor de milho (corn vendor) is a well-known occupation.  The corn is strangely chewy here, like a potato. It’s weird how corn can be different — I did not expect that. There are also lots of different kinds of corn (and bananas).  I liked the grilled corn but was reminded of when I made grilled corn back home.  This corn was grilled a bit better, but was lacking the sriracha/Just Mayo/lime/cashew sauce I made.

Fruits of Brazil and Proselyting Priorities

Wise men and women still seek him! The counselor to the Branch President is a sculptor of this plasticky-y material. He restored a creche for the city center. 

I had a great week this week!  We have a lot of people to teach and are trying to follow-up with all of them. It’s really hard to know how much time to spend with everyone and when we should stop visiting someone.  This area is great because lots of people accept visits, but that makes it a little hard because if we talk to everyone all the time and visit all the people who accept visits, we end up with too many investigators!  It’s hard to know at first if someone is really interested or not, and what if they don’t seem interested but really they deserve a chance?  


But those are good problems to have.  We are also trying to get more of our investigators to church.  It is sad when people say they will go and then don’t show up, because I know how important it is for them.  It’s a special opportunity to show God you are trying to remember the Savior and His atonement, learn more about the gospel, and help the other people in the community.  We can take the sacrament and have our sins forgiven!  If we are really trying to improve and follow the commandments, we can be completely clean from all the mistakes we have made.  I know it will be  easier for me to prioritize going to church when I get back from my mission.  I also know it seems easier to go to church from a missionary perspective than from everyone else’s!  But it’s worth it. 

The caju [cashew apple]. Lots of people eat this by sucking out the juice and not eating the flesh because if it’s not super ripe it burns your throat a little when you swallow it. I learned that the hard way! https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cashew#Cashew_apple

More about Caju

Wikipedia: “Cashew apples”

Miracle from this week: We were worried that none of our investigators were receiving answers to their prayers about the Church.  Literally none of them felt like they had received a response. [Then] we fasted for them and some of them received answers!  The ones that didn’t mostly weren’t actually praying.  You have to ask to get an answer! Some of the people who received answers were people who hadn’t been acting interested at all. 

Sister Faulconer poses with a blue glass plate with a white cylinder of rolled-up tapioca on it.
First tapioca! The texture is much thicker than a crepe and chewy. You put the flour in a pan, press it down, and wait, then flip it. You roll it kind of like a crepe and fill with similar fillings. We have been eating lots of tapioca with banana.

It has started raining more and more and I love it.  It’s not rainy season yet but we’re getting there.  I have always loved rain and it’s even better when the alternative is sun that wants to burn you to a crisp!

I also experimented using pants this week.  Pants are great, especially if you are walking through lots of weeds and hills and mosquitoes.  I might send pictures next week. 


We bought a jackfruit!!! At first I wasn’t sure if  I liked it but then I decided I do.  The yellow parts are seed pockets. You rip them out, remove the seeds and eat them.  I was very excited to finally eat jackfruit and now I really like it. 

Fun fact about jackfruit — it makes your hands terribly sticky, and the stickiness does not come off with soap!  But I did not know the word sticky in Portuguese and was having trouble communicating my problems.  I finally managed to explain it and a member told me you can only get it off with oil.  Those of you who have good access to the internet can figure out which chemical property of jackfruit juice makes it oil but not water soluble.  

Sister Arce with a sonho (“dream”) which is similar to a donut. It has filling — goiaba [guava] or carmel-y stuff and is fried and has sugar on the outside. It’s very good.

More about sonho

New Companion: Sister Arce

Sister Arce and Sister Faulconer with the hills of Palmares in the background.

Oi!

This week has been great.  I love my new companion–Sister Arce from Argentina. She is kind and we are getting along really well.  She has the most beautiful accent.  We worked really hard this week and we are visiting a lot of people who haven’t been visited recently enough.  The other day we walked up 240 steps and a huge number of hills!  Sister Arce has disillusioned me—apparently not all the other areas in our mission have this many hills ;).  Fun fact about her: she is “viciada” [addicted] to “Cremosinho” a creamsicle sort of yogurt frozen thing that comes in plastic bags.  You bite off the corner and eat it.  It’s very good. 

Lots of miracles happened this week. I am extremely grateful that we did not get very lost and that I did not terribly mess anything up while showing Sister Arce the area [At home, Sister Faulconer has a reputation for having no sense of direction and getting lost very easily]. We went the wrong direction once or twice but not for very long.  We haven’t been lost and we got to several hard-to-remember places without a hitch!  My memory of places is mais-ou-menos [sometimes better sometimes worse] but nothing that bad has happened and it hasn’t been a big problem.  Definitely a blessing to remember some of the confusing routes to different places.

Also, one of our investigators I thought wasn’t interested said she was going to challenge herself to only smoking tobacco once today.  In the not far distant past she was smoking 28 cigars!  She really wants to change.

Sister Faulconer with new friends from the Palmares branch

I hope you all have an awesome week!  Love from Brazil!

Merry Christmas Happy New Year!

Merry Christmas!

My skype call [with my family] was wonderful.  I hope you all had a wonderful Christmas and that you enjoy New Years.  This transfer, starting Wednesday I will stay in Palmares but I will get a new companion!  I don´t know who it will be yet because they don’t tell us in order to reduce problems with gossip.  I am super excited to get to know a new missionary and work in Palmares together!  I am also super nervous about showing the area to a new missionary.  I have been trying really hard to learn all the directions but it’s a struggle.  I do not have much time today but will send more pictures next week!
Love you all!

Sis. Faulconer’s family waiting for 2018’s most anticipated call

Tomorrow is Christmas

I’m very excited for Christmas! It’s great to be a missionary at Christmastime — we get to spend all day inviting people to be more Christmassy by coming unto Christ.  It’s also fun to share the church’s Christmas program with people (Illumine o Mundo Light the World.  I remember watching videos from the church’s program other years with the missionaries and now I’m the one presenting the videos!

We had some wonderful little miracles this week with finding people.  When we had a division [when you switch companions with another sister temporarily] my sister training leader and I marked a man named “Daniel” for baptism.  He didn’t give us his address because he didn’t spend any time there and apparently it’s hard to describe, but he was really special and I wanted to teach him again.  He said he would visit the church but wasn’t able to go on Sunday.  Two weeks later our investigators (reference of a recent convert) gave us a reference of a neighbor, “Douglas.”  On Sunday we took “Douglas” to church and I asked him about his family.  He started talking about his siblings — and I recognized the description of one of them.  “Daniel” is his brother!  


I asked a different member, “Rodrigo” for a reference this week while my companion was calling someone.  He thought about it and suggested we visit a less-active member of the church, “Júlia”, who I had never heard of before.  He started to explain where she lived “in front of the postal office, on the side of road xxx” and at the same time my companion [on the phone] said “Ok, so your house is in front of the postal office on the side of road xxx.”  She had finished her first call when she randomly had the thought to call “Júlia.” I’ve asked “Rodrigo” for references many times, and only this time he suggested “Júlia.” Clearly she needs a visit!

This is the son of a member in our ward.  He is great. He is showing off his cool clothes here.  It is too hot outside for that jacket!  He is getting surgery right now so he can use some prayers.  We are at the grocery store.

[For regular readers of this blog: it turns out there was a letter from Sister Faulconer last week that somehow didn’t get sent. I added the text to the pictures in last week’s post.]

Conferência de Natal

Feliz Natal!  I am very excited for Christmas.  This week we had our Christmas zone conference in Recife!  There are six zones, and each has a different day over two weeks, so we weren’t sure when we would get a conference.  Usually I would probably want a Christmas-y thing like this as close to Christmas as possible, but I was kind of hoping that it would be a bit earlier to break up the week.  But then our District leader was giving out assignments for our district meeting, and my companion was convinced this meant we would’t have it this week, because we don’t have district meetings when we have zone conferences and she figured he would know if we would have a zone conference.  But then we got a text message on Tuesday during lunch saying that our zone conference would be Thursday!  It was exciting.

Zone conference was awesome.  I got to go to the Recife temple for the first time and loved it.  It’s very beautiful, and any chance to go to the temple is special.  I got to meet lots of other missionaries, which was fun. 


[To see a video of Sister Faulconer singing at the Christmas zone conference click on the Facebook link below and then play the video on the top right.] https://www.facebook.com/lorihouseman/videos/10156974456052431/?t


Us with the sisters from Imbiribeira

We live several hours from Recife, and the last bus for Palmares leaves Recife at 5:30 pm, so we stayed overnight with some sisters in Imbiribeira.  It was fun to get to know them.   This is Sister Lima’s first transfer so she is newer in the mission than I am! 

Eating customs & 8 hours on the bus!

Boa tarde!

A sister training leader and Sister Faulconer, two sister missionaries sitting on a bus bound for Guarahuns
A sister training leader and Sister Faulconer on the long bus ride to Guarahuns

I hope you all are great. We had a division this week. In divisions, one companion stays in the area with a sister training leader, and the other companion works in the sister training leaders’ area. Our sister training leaders work in Guaranhuns — four hours away by bus! Divisions last 24 hours and missionaries have to have a companion the whole time so it can get pretty crazy. I stayed in Palmares this time, but I had to travel four hours to Guaranhuns to get Sister Porcote and drop off our sister training leader, then we waited an hour and a half and got back on the bus for another four hour bus ride. The busses shake and bump a lot, so after eight hours of driving I felt a bit sick. The first time we had a division, last transfer, I remember being grateful I knew the word “shake” in Portuguese. I memorized it in a list of vocab words in the [missionary training center] even though I thought it seemed like a less important word to memorize — and it turned out to be useful! Anyway, I sympathize with easily-carsick people who have to go to Guaranhuns.

Sister Porcote, "Rafael," and sister Faulconer. The two sisters, each on one side of Rafael, are showing their thumbs up signs. Rafael is dressed in white baptismal clothing. The sisters are each wearing their church dresses.
Sister Porcote, future missionary Rafael, and Sister Faulconer

“Rafael” got baptized this week! [Click here to read Sister Faulconer’s earlier post about him]. He insisted on coming to our weekly ward missionaries and full-time missionaries meeting because he said he wants to be a member missionary and get ready to serve a mission. He is awesome!

A piece of cocada (coconut sweet) and the evidence of fries eaten the Brazilian way. 

The above photo is what you get when you can’t take your camera very many places (robbery=serious problem) and you don’t do a lot of photogenic things. The brown thing is cocada, a popular sweet made from coconut. It is crumbly and pretty good. It is on top of the remains of some fries that I bought. On display is a toothpick you get with all fry orders here. This is so that your fingers do not have to touch the fries. Then they usually squirt mayonnaise and ketchup on top of all the fries. There are things people eat with their hands here, but actually touching the food with your hands is less common — usually you get lots of napkins or a paper package or a toothpick.