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.
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!
This week we will do splits with Janga. Next week it will probably be Olinda, where Sister M. Ribeiro was training until this transfer.
This week was different! Sister Nogueira and I spent a lot of time at night and before studies in the morning trying to leave lots of information for the new missionaries in Candeias. We are not sure if they are sisters or elders, but they probably are not Sister Training Leaders. We suspect they might be elders, but who knows when I will find out! On Wednesday morning we spent more time trying to leave all the information well-organized for them, and then left to get a bus. Just as I was leaving I picked up a box of trash. It had containers of soy sauce that were not put inside a trash bag. When I picked up the box to take it outside, just as we were leaving, it got soy sauce all over the floor. We tried to clean it up quickly, but I hope the new missionaries weren’t surprised by a strong soy sauce smell when they opened the door!
We left the keys in the “aquatic club” across the street and started lugging the suitcases to the bus stop. It was a production, albeit much easier than when I lugged my suitcases to Candeias two transfers ago! This time we went the short pavemented way! As we were almost to the bus stop we passed below a skyscraper where a recent convert, Camilla, lives. She ran outside to help us lug the suitcases, which was nice of her. Then we noticed that the doorman was calling us. He had Sister Nogueira’s Book of Mormon! That was a shock. Two days before she had lost her pocket Book of Mormon. We looked everywhere, but couldn’t find it, which was sad. Two minutes before getting to the bus stop he flagged us down and said that someone had left the Book of Mormon with him! It was good that Camilla ran out to help us because 1. Three people makes the task easier 2. If not, the doorman might not have noticed us! Definitely a miracle–we might have left a different way or the doorman could have been distracted when we were leaving. It was literally the last ten minutes Sister Nogueira would be in that area for the rest of her mission!
Goiana is different than Candeias. It is a busy city but does not have skyscrapers, so it’s a pretty different atmosphere. Everyone travels to the beach for two months this time of year, so it is much more deserted than usual. We split the city with another companionship of elders. We are also taking care of a few other cities, but the Sisters weren’t visiting them very often. We’ll go to one of them next week, but we’ll see how it goes. The branch here is going to turn into a ward in March. I will probably be here; it will be cool to see! Two of my companions were in Goiana before going to Candeias, and one of my other companions, Sister Arce, went to Goiana after we were companions. Pretty funny!
We have been working hard to find more investigators this week. So far we have been having some difficulty finding investigators at home, but we marked a number of investigators for next week, so hopefully that helps! It is a little bigger here than in Candeias, and quite a bit bigger if you include the other cities we take care of! One interesting thing about this area is that we have lunch with members two days a week, and the other days a week is money or pre-prepared lunches in styrofoam containers that one of the sisters in the ward makes. That is a lot less lunch with members than in my other areas!
This week we will go to mission council on Wednesday and do a transfer with the sisters from Igarassu. Today I hope to see the outdoor market. Goiana does not have big supermarkets like Casa Forte or Candeias but it does have an outdoor market open every day, so that is a plus!
I am going to be transferred to Goiana, the area that Sister Nogueira just left, and Sister Nogueira is also going to be transferred! We are not sure what will happen with the area yet, but hopefully everything works out. It is always hard to leave investigators, and even more so if your companion will be transferred as well, but I’m sure the next missionaries will be great.
Yesterday we had a miracle of several new investigators who went to church!! One was a young woman we met giving out cake at the Christmas activity we did. Her name is Nayara* and she is really interested in helping indigenous peoples and making art. She wasn’t sure if she believed in God. After we gave her a Book of Mormon she read 3 Nephi 11 and felt doubtful about whether what it had said really happened. Then she had a spiritual experience at some kind of religious ceremony with indigenous people and decided that everything the Book of Mormon says is true! Not something you hear every day. She also accepted a baptismal goal!
Also Vitoria and her two siblings Mary & Guilherme went to church. She had seemed very uninterested, but the other day when we were trying to teach her a lesson she suddenly asked if she could bless her baby at our church! Then she accepted a baptismal date, so that was exciting!
We also met the mom, Barbara, of a future missionary, Clara. Barbara isn’t a member but said she would pray and would be baptized if she received an answer–that’s all we ask of people! Her daughter was really excited. It was great to hear Clara’s testimony of the difference the gospel has made in her life. Bernardo’s wife also shared her testimony of the Book of Mormon. I was praying for it to touch his heart! Last we heard, he hasn’t yet prayed again to know if the Book of Mormon is true. But we have been fasting for him and hope he recognizes the answers God is sending him. Unfortunately it will probably take a while to find out because of transfers but here’s hoping! Juliana and Joao Pedro found out that they will have to pay for new certificates so Joao Pedro said he would go to the marriage office today! They are making lots of progress. Their daughter, Aléxia, a Young Woman [the Young Women are the group of female youth ages 12-18], had just gotten her temple recommend so we ended up teaching about temples again. It was a great lesson–they really want to be sealed together! I am really excited to hear about their marriage in the not-distant future!
We are teaching a man named Ibrahim, who is from Iraq. He is Muslim and very interesting. It is great to learn more about his culture and religion–I am a little sad I don’t live closer to him–I would like to be his friend after returning home! He is very knowledgeable about many, many subjects but had never heard of the Church. The first time we taught him we took a Book of Mormon in English (easier for him to read than Portuguese) but weren’t able to discover the Book of Mormon in Arabic on his phone. When we went back the second time we were all set to show him how to find it, but he had already downloaded it and started reading! He is very committed to friendly, helpful relations with people of other faiths, but believes that religion is something that doesn’t change (“We believe almost the same thing. We are like two parallel trains. They are close but never come together!” –Ibrahim). I respect him a lot. While he does not believe that it makes sense to ask God questions (“You can ask, but He will not answer!”), he does believe we can ask God for wisdom or to be shown the truth. So we invited him to ask God to show him if the Book of Mormon is true. He promised to ask God and to read the whole book (He said several times “But you have to give me time. This book is very long! I will not read it in one day!” Well, we are happy to give him all the time he wants. Anyone who is committed to reading the Book of Mormon makes us happy.
Next week, coming not-live to you from Goiana in Pernambuco, the next installment of letters from a missionary.
This week was good. Christmas! Merry Christmas! Our Christmas was great. We went to an old folks’ home, visited an investigator or two, and talked with our families. Christmas was great. What a blessing to be on the mission at Christmastime — definitely helps me focus on the reason for the season. It is great to be able to share the good news at Christmastime! We went to contact someone we met at the activity we did last week. We went to call her and discovered that the number I had written down didn’t exist, so we went to her apartment building. Luana from apt. 101 came down . . . and we didn’t recognize her. Someone with the same name lives in the address this lady gave us . . . and she seemed super receptive. We started apologizing for contacting the wrong person and trying to introduce ourselves so as to do a contact. She asked if we wanted to sit in the lobby! We sang a hymn, briefly mentioned the Restoration, and gave her a Book of Mormon. She said she would read it, watch the Christmas video, and go to church this Sunday! It was very exciting. Unfortunately she did not go to church or read the Book of Mormon, and she ended up leaving with friends when we marked to see her later in the week. But I am hopeful that this week we will be able to mark an appointment.
Also we visited a sister’s nonmember husband. He has had many, many lessons but never felt he received an answer about the Book of Mormon. The lesson we had with him was pretty spiritual. He said he needed to exercise his faith more and pray with his whole soul! I am pretty excited about that. Please pray for him!
Fun facts: This week I stepped on a piece of cement covering a sewer opening and it tipped over! I half-fell in but luckily only my calves ended up inside the hole. They got scraped up a little but, most importantly, I did not actually touch the sewer water, so that was good! I am not going to step on any more sewer covers!
Giliard didn’t get baptized this week. He ended up going to a late-night party and slept late on Sunday, so he didn’t go to church. I think it is tough — he is getting to know the church now but he has many friends who aren’t church members. It is tough. We hope he focuses on searching for God’s answers — it is so important to pray! Hopefully we manage to teach him several times this week and help him with this.
This week we did an activity. We projected the new Christmas video onto a screen in front of the church building and invited people to watch. A few people decided to watch. We asked some members to take cake to attract people. We ended up taking the cake to the street and offering free pieces with our invitation. We got the contacts of a few people, hopefully it turns out well! It was a good way to shake things up.
I have been thinking this week about the importance of the atonement in conjunction with Christmas. This week I shared a scripture, and afterwards Sister Nogueira explained it in a way that helped me understand things I hadn’t seen before. 3 Nephi 27:13-16:
13 Behold I have given unto you my gospel, and this is the gospel which I have given unto you—that I came into the world to do the will of my Father, because my Father sent me.
14 And my Father sent me that I might be lifted up upon the cross; and after that I had been lifted up upon the cross, that I might draw all men unto me, that as I have been lifted up by men even so should men be lifted up by the Father, to stand before me, to be judged of their works, whether they be good or whether they be evil—
15 And for this cause have I been lifted up; therefore, according to the power of the Father I will draw all men unto me, that they may be judged according to their works.
16 And it shall come to pass, that whoso repenteth and is baptized in my name shall be filled; and if he endureth to the end, behold, him will I hold guiltless before my Father at that day when I shall stand to judge the world.
I understood that this scripture highlights the importance of Christ’s atonement — He was born to die and sacrifice himself for us. But I didn’t know why Christ mentioned our judgement in this verse instead of salvation. Sister Nogueira explained that men judged Christ, lifting him up on a cross to crucify him. He chose to go through this so that we could be lifted up and judged by God. A meaningful parallel.
I also like this video about why we need a Savior–the reason for Christmas.
This week has been good! Giliard went to church again this week and brought two of his family members! We are excited; he is marked for baptism this week! Hopefully his parents sign his baptismal form today.
We might have a Christmas zone conference this week. It will be exciting! They don’t tell us until the last minute so it will be interesting to see what happens. We also have two splits (we will split up and work with two other sets of sisters for a day) marked for this week so we will see what actually happens. I am excited to go to the temple! At the Christmas Conference, our district of missionaries will sing part of “With Wondering Awe” and then switch to “Savior Redeemer of my Soul” (not the hymn melody).
Unfortunately, Jeniffer forgot that she had a wedding and didn’t end up going to church because of that. But hopefully this week she will! Also Maria’s family had a sudden health emergency and we haven’t been able to contact them. Hopefully they are interested in having lessons this week.
We’ve had a good week! Jeniffer* went to church yesterday!!! Last week we finally met the old goal we had of # of investigators at church all last transfer. She is keeping all the commandments and we are excited for her! An eight-year-old we were teaching (with her mother) went to church as well–Carla. Hopefully her mom will want to go to church in the future as well. She is very cute. I asked her what her favorite thing to do was and she said “pray.” “Do you feel like God answers your prayer?” “Yes, I asked him if he was real and He said he was!” We gave her a Book of Mormon yesterday and she said she would read it! A member from a different ward took her whole family and her non-member friend to our ward yesterday as well. That young woman gets 2000 awesome member points. Taking him to the ward where he lives was a great idea.
Juliana and Joao Pedro went to the marriage office! The office said they had to redo their documents before getting married (expensive) but we are hoping they’ll find a different route. After the spiritual experience we had with them last week, we were hoping they would progress more and they really have! We called them a few times this past week but weren’t able to visit them until this Sunday. We went to teach the Word of Wisdom and Joao Pedro said he hadn’t drank in a week (i.e., since the last lesson we taught them!) That means that after getting married they’ll be keeping all the commandments already! Eight years ago, when they first heard about the Church they lived very different lives. They were owners of a bar! This is a great example 1 Corinthians 3:5-8. Other missionaries planted the seed in their lives, many many other missionaries watered that seed for months and years, and God is giving the increase! What a blessing to be “ministers whom ( Juliana and Joao Pedro) believed.”
We’ve only seen Wesley once since the transfer started, so that was too bad. But the other day a less-active member stopped us in the street! She hasn’t been to church in years, but missionaries visited her and her family a year ago and she loved their visits. I actually met those sisters because a year ago they were at my Christmas zone conference. It’s funny to think that was a year ago already! Her three children (and a boyfriend who lives in a different area) accepted baptismal dates when we went to visit them. We aren’t sure if any of them will be able to go to church next Sunday, but we are excited.
The ward Christmas party happened this week and we met a few non-members there. We’re excited to visit them! We also went on splits with the sisters in Escada. I had never gone on splits with a sister in training before. It was different, but great! Also, I was slightly sick and spent an entire day not working in order to do a urine test at the hospital. It was a production! But I am grateful to have the missionary health plan–I really feel for the many people we meet who do not have that blessing.
How was Thanksgiving? I might buy some sweet potatoes here for a belated Thanksgiving mashed sweet potatoes. It’s funny– there isn’t any Thanksgiving here but there is Black Friday! There were lots of signs with “Black Friday” and “Black Week” “Black Month,” etc., all in English. Commercialism is international! There are also tons of Christmas lights — that has been the case for many weeks already. It is funny to be in a place with skyscrapers. I don’t remember having been in a big city at Christmas time before. People in skyscrapers decorate their own window. So all of the windows have different lights! I thought there were tons of Christmas lights, but this week on Sunday a member said there are very few lights nowadays which just goes to show the lack of belief in Christ. I guess I would have liked to see Christmas in Recife several years ago! I am always surprised at just how many people believe in Christ (and post signs and stickers proclaiming said belief on cars, houses, stores, etc.) so it was an interesting viewpoint to hear.
This week was great! We had a new investigator at church this week — Bruna.* After teaching her we found out that she had already been to church four times and has a family member who is a member. She is ten and likes to be taught. Unfortunately our other investigators mostly didn’t manage to go, but there were two long-time investigators who always go. I am grateful that they persevere! Hopefully one of them ( Juliana) went to the marriage office today to start the marriage process (or at least see what she needs to be able to start). The other one ( Daniela)’s husband had a little change of heart. When I got here she said he didn’t want any documents at all (makes it hard to get a job, let alone marry) and now he does want documents. Good first step!
My new companion is Sister Nogueira from São Paulo, Brazil. She is awesome. We actually got to the mission together. It’s funny, because when people ask us how much time we have left or when we got here we have the same answer! I’ve never had a companion who got to the mission at the same time before.
Our investigator Jeniffer is progressing a lot. She had said she was reading the scriptures but had difficulty in remembering a part that she had liked and said she was still awaiting an answer from God. This week she opened a scripture she said she especially liked the part around 2 Nephi 2:25. She had truly had a spiritual experience! Later someone randomly mentioned to her baptisms for the dead [longer, in depth discussion of baptisms for the dead] I was initially a little sad that our lesson was interrupted with that because it didn’t seem like the right moment. But it was cool to talk about baptisms for the dead after having refreshed my memory with the Come Follow Me reading of the week. It was amazing because she was initially confused about the concept and had been convinced that people don’t live in families after this life. But after talking about family history and baptisms for the dead, she started thinking about family members who had already passed that she thought ought to be baptized! She seems a lot more confident about her baptismal date as well. We are excited! She definitely felt the spirit of Elijah.
We had less time in the area this week because I was in Jardim Massangana until Wednesday but we managed to find a lot of new people to teach. Hopefully we manage to find them at home this week and they turn out to be really great! This week we will go to the Mission Leadership council. We are also going to do a division with the sisters from the city of Escada.
We are having a fun time thinking about creative things to do at Christmas — we are going to try knocking on a few doors and caroling this week. Caroling is not a tradition in Brazil but we are hoping that the general good-feeling and belief in Christ means people will appreciate it. We are also planning an activity to show people the new Christmas video “The Christ Child” (It is super great!) and give out free cake (as a lure). It sounds like the Christmas zone conferences will start pretty soon. I can’t believe it is Christmas already!
One Christmas tradition here is Panettone. It is like a cross between bread and cake. You cut it like a cake and it is quite sweet but has a bready texture. It has dried fruits or chocolate chips and is very tasty. I have only eaten it twice but liked it both times.
Davi [recently baptized] still needs prayers — we still haven’t managed to see him.
*All investigators’ names are changed for privacy.
This week was a whirlwind! We spent a lot of time practicing our presentation for zone conference. The topic was “the witness of two nations”– referring to 2 Nephi 29:7-9 which talks about how the Bible and the Book of Mormon work together
Know ye not that there are more nations than one? . . . Wherefore murmur ye, because that ye shall receive more of my word? Know ye not that the testimony of two nations is a witness unto you that I am God, that I remember one nation like unto another? Wherefore, I speak the same words unto one nation like unto another. And when the two nations shall run together the testimony of the two nations shall run together also.
I don’t know if I did a good job of explaining what I learned, but I truly learned a lot studying for our presentation. This talk from President Nelson was especially enlightening. This one from Elder Callister is also good. I didn’t remember hearing President Nelson’s talk until I reread it, but it is so powerful! Without the Book of Mormon, we don’t have all the truths of Christ’s gospel. The Book of Mormon confirms and clarifies the steps of His gospel, e.g., how to baptize, how to give the gift of the Holy Ghost. It especially clarifies the doctrine of the atonement. Our prophet, President Nelson said: “This important word—atonement—in any of its forms, is mentioned only once in the King James Version of the New Testament!. In the Book of Mormon, it appears 39 times!”
When I studied the scriptures in the Bible and the Book of Mormon about the atonement, I could see how they work together in harmony. The Bible teaches us that Christ’s body, blood, and sacrifice cleanse us from sin. The Book of Mormon teaches us how this works (See Alma 34:8-17 — it goes so well with Hebrews 7 from the Come, Follow Me reading from the other week!)
I had been thinking about President Nelson’s invitation this conference (and his talk a few conferences ago) to think about what the Book of Mormon adds to our lives and where we would be without it. I wanted to study more about this but was a little unsure where to start and had a hard time balancing it with the other things I was trying to study. Studying for our presentation was a heaven-sent opportunity to learn more. Without the Book of Mormon, we wouldn’t have these wonderful truths about Christ’s gospel. We also wouldn’t have this wonderful proof of God’s love for all peoples and places — God talks to people in every part of the world, and he doesn’t stop talking! That’s why we always invite people to pray and ask God if the Book of Mormon is God’s word. We know he will respond because we’ve already asked!
Almost without exception, the people we stop teaching are the people who don’t ask and don’t read the scriptures. At home I thought people didn’t join the Church of Jesus Christ because they felt they received other answers from God, or because they believe God didn’t respond. But usually (here at least) the problem is that people don’t even try to receive an answer. If we knock he will open it (i.e., the truth) unto us!
At zone conference, President and Sister Houseman told us that the Brazil Recife mission is going to split! How exciting! If I understood correctly, they are going to find 30 new apartments! Each transfer, the number of missionaries will grow and grow until the Housemans go home and the mission splits. We need to redouble our efforts to help the two missions be strong. They also changed some of the goals we track — instead of counting how many times we talk with someone new or read the scriptures, we will count how many invitations we make — to church, baptism, read the scriptures, pray, etc. It will be exciting!
After our presentation, I thought all the stressful parts of the conference were over. I said this to Sister Anaya . . . and about one minute afterwards Sister Houseman asked me if I would translate her talk for the conference! The stress was not over! But it´s not every day you get to try and develop the gift of the interpretation of tongues. I was grateful for the opportunity to be able to practice. I think I probably messed up all the genders and said “uh…” way too much, but for the most part I think it went pretty well. Except when I started translating about Sister Houseman’s great-grandchildren. Oops! They’re not old enough for that!
After zone conference I went right to Tamandaré for splits. The next day, instead of going home, I went to Jardim Massangana with Sister Pereira because our companions were both going to the temple before going home.
This Sunday, Wesley*, another new investigator, went to church! We met him last week while eating lunch at a self service. While eating, I was thinking about the Safetyzone video that instructs us to remember that we ought to act like missionaries in every circumstance. People are always watching and we need to be representatives of Christ. A few minutes later a man walked up to our table and asked which church we were from. He said he was curious about religion and wanted to know when we had church meetings so that he could visit! He apologized several times for interrupting our lunch — he didn’t need to worry about that! In case anyone is in doubt, we LOVE being interrupted by people who contact us! Feel free to interrupt any lunch I have! We had a great lesson with him this week and he actually showed up to church this Sunday! Miracles!!!
Sister Anaya got on a bus this morning to go to the mission office. I will definitely miss her! I can’t believe she’ll be in Mexico on Wednesday. It reminds me of the temporariness of my own mission–I wish I could serve two years but I will work on making good use of the three transfers I have left. Now I’m staying in Jardim Massangana for two more days with Sister Pereira. On Wednesday I’ll get a new companion (who? who?) and we will go back to Candeias. I am accepting all prayers for the gift of discernment of directions and the gift of not screwing things up!
*Names of investigators are always changed for their privacy
Update on the bananas: It turns out that bananas fresh from the bananeira (banana tree) get ripe very slowly. We left one bunch on the counter. After many days they finally turned yellow and we ate them all very quickly before the next bunches that we took out of the fridge had a chance!
This week three people went to church for the first time! We have been having a lot of difficulty with getting people to church. One of them was Renata, Davi’s daughter. Unfortunately we stopped by Davi’s house to make sure he was going to church (he doesn’t live with his daughter) and he wasn’t there. Then we heard that a member had seen him in the street drunk the other day . . . So that was pretty sad. Hopefully we manage to find him at home this week.
We also went on splits with the sisters from Escada. We called them when we got there because they hadn’t shown up yet. We explained where we were so they could meet us, but they said they didn’t know which place we were describing. That seemed weird because we were right in front of their house, but we told them we would meet them at the bridge instead. We waited and they still didn’t show up, and their phone had no signal so we couldn’t talk to them. Finally they called us — and we found out they were on the bus in a different city an hour away. ??? Apparently they thought they were supposed to go to our city! I was very grateful this happened with the sisters from Escada and not with the ones from Palmares (twice the distance!)
Sister Anaya taught me how to make refried beans. We took refried beans, ruffles, and guacamole to the District meeting (now renamed district council with the new handbook!) It turns out that making refried beans is super simple and tasty. I started missing Mexican food so much! I think something like refried beans seemed very everyday normal, tasty, but not exciting in the land of ubiquitous Mexican food. Now, after a year and a few months without eating Mexican food, eating refried beans gave me huge Mexican food cravings!
This week we are going to zone conference on Wednesday. The talk topics are joy and discipleship. Here is a great talk about joy. It is Sister Anaya’s last week in the mission!!! I can’t believe how fast this transfer flew by. I don’t know where I will be next Monday — I will drop Sister Anaya off and then probably stay two days with another missionary. Maybe Sister Pereira. Not sure if I will stay in my area or a different area. It will be an adventure. We are also going to go on splits with the sisters from Tamandare this week; I will stay here in Candeias so pray for my directional abilities!