The Work Continues

This week was good. We managed to teach first lessons to more investigators this week and our church attendance was better than last week — São João winding down definitely helped. People celebrate São João the entire month of June.  There are three different saints who have special days — Anthony, John and Peter.  All three are celebrated — and people celebrate the day before as well as the day of and sometimes the day after!  We really need to find more people to mark for baptism, but we are making plans for this week so hopefully that can happen.  Arthur went almost four days without smoking!  A miracle.  Then he had some problems and his baptism didn’t work out, but we re-marked him for this Saturday.

On Saturday he was very different — he smoked three cigarettes and was depressed.  He didn’t think he could manage to change.  We tried all sorts of things to help him but it didn’t work very well.  He was tired of not seeing his friends for a while and said he thought it would be a good idea to test himself by going to a party with lots of temptations and seeing if he broke commandments or not! He would go that evening after the ward June fest party.  We were worried about the ward party, because as missionaries we couldn’t attend. We were worried he would be all alone — we asked members to stick with him but weren’t sure if it would work. But I was hoping and praying he would go to the ward party and then choose not to go to the other party afterwards. He went to the party and enjoyed it so much that everyone in the ward commented on how he enjoyed himself. Then he didn’t go to his friends’ party! Another miracle. 


This week we had a little miracle in the middle of a not-very-productive contact. I thought the people didn’t look like people who would have a lot of potential but felt like we ought to talk to them anyway. They really  didn’t have potential but in the middle of the contact, someone else walking down the street heard the contact. They asked us if we would visit them and said they had been looking for missionaries that could stop by! I am excited to visit them and our other contacts this week!  

Paperwork!

The other thing that happened this week was interviews.  I thought that since we live in Recife we would waste a lot less time going to interviews than when I was in other areas.  Turns out that that isn’t necessarily the case!  We live much closer to the mission office, but there is so much traffic and the busses have very complicated routes sometimes, so even though we live in the same city and there were fewer people being interviewed (fewer opportunities for the interviews to run super late) we still ended up spending a looot of time not working that day— the whole day.  But we did have time to do our studies and eat lunch and visit Arthur.  I thought that it was pretty funny that it took so long even in Recife! But I don’t mind talking to the people at the mission office — they are all pretty great!  I
 also spent a little longer there because I had to sign something to get my identity card to show that I’m here legally.  It’s pretty funny — we went to the office one day the other week to do Sister Sousa’s paperwork.  They forgot I had to sign my paperwork too, so we went back the next day.  But the courier did the paperwork wrong, so I had to re-sign it during interviews!  But I was already there for interviews so it didn’t take too much more time. It’s good I’m not still in Gravatá or Palmares!  I don´t know if the missionaries there have to travel to the mission office to do this paperwork, but if so it must take a lot of time. We will probably have splits this week.  That at least should be a lot less time consuming. It will be very strange to spend less than an hour going to another area instead of the four hours it takes from Palmares or two and a half from Gravatá!

Scripture thought — 1 Peter 1 is pretty awesome.  I had heard parts of it before but read it more carefully recently:   

3 Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, which according to his abundant mercy hath begotten us again unto a lively hope by the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead,

4 To an inheritance incorruptible, and undefiled, and that fadeth not away, reserved in heaven for you,

5 Who are kept by the power of God through faith unto salvation ready to be revealed in the last time.

6 Wherein ye greatly rejoice, though now for a season, if need be, ye are in heaviness through manifold temptations:

7 That the trial of your faith, being much more precious than of gold that perisheth, though it be tried with fire, might be found unto praise and honour and glory at the appearing of Jesus Christ:

Flaxen Cords

At the mission office for interviews
Photo courtesy of Sister Lori Houseman

This week was pretty crazy. Sister Sousa had headaches and Sister Damaceno was also sick. We found out on Tuesday night that Sister Damaceno was going to fly home the next morning. We had no idea that would happen, so it was a shock. I will definitely miss her but hope she can get better at home! So now it is just Sister Sousa and me again.

We had trouble finding people at home, but we found a lot of new people to teach. Arthur ended up smoking this week — addictions are hard! But he didn’t smoke on Sunday or Monday — definitely a miracle. A member talked to him at church and apparently that helped a lot. Proactive members are a blessing, take note! You cannot go wrong offering to do specific things to help the missionaries.

We have passed a ton of references to other areas. Right now is an especially bad time to do contacts here because there is a huge park next to the church which has been having São João parties all month. Yesterday everything was closed for São João and there were bonfires in the street every few yards to celebrate! We have started doing contacts only far away from our house and that helps. Also making rules like — if someone is on the street exercising or has a dog, stop them, because they probably live here. We have to be detectives — what can we look for to know if someone is from our area or not? School shirts — usually a good clue. Shopping bags — hard to say. It is pretty funny.

We are teaching a couple, Raquel and Leandro*. Leandro went to church last week. We went to see him Sunday morning and convinced him to go — and he went! In the rain! He is blind, so he was really a trooper to go. This week a family member got sick at the last second and they couldn’t go. Sicknesses are on my hit list: Also, family members who visit without telling people, trips to the countryside, and sleepiness. They all cause problems. Raquel and Leandro have to get married in order to progress toward baptism, endure to the end, temple, etc. After much conversation we helped them get to the realization that they want to get married and know that that is what God wants for them. But they had a list of reasons they couldn’t get married soon, didn’t even want to plan the day, etc. Procrastination is a serious evil. Definitely one of the flaxen cords of the devil. But I was praying and praying for their hearts to be touched, and yesterday it happened! Raquel was even happier than usual. Sister Sousa thought about lots of creative solutions to get over the roadblocks and Raquel accepted all of them. Her engagement lunch is planned for the twentieth of next month and she promised to mark a day for her marriage yesterday night. I hope it happened!

Recife Temple with the whole zone–First chance since last December
Photo courtesy of Sister Lori Houseman

A story about language difference difficulties, even for native Brazilians: Sister Sousa was webchatting with her parents just now and said one of the other missionaries isn’t from her zone. A lady came over to whisper to tell me that we can’t say “zone” because in the Northeast it is a place where prostitutes go! Apparently we just shocked everyone in the LAN house.

Some scriptures I wanted to share with you: In the CTM I read the last few verses of Romans 8 about God´s love for us which really touched me:

35 Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or peril, or sword?

36 As it is written, For thy sake we are killed all the day long; we are accounted as sheep for the slaughter.

37 Nay, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him that loved us.

38 For I am persuaded, that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor powers, nor things present, nor things to come,

39 Nor height, nor depth, nor any other creature, shall be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord.

Yesterday I read a different scripture I don’t remember hearing before, Hebrews 4:14-16. Powerful!

14 Seeing then that we have a great high priest, that is passed into the heavens, Jesus the Son of God, let us hold fast our profession.

15 For we have not an high priest which cannot be touched with the feeling of our infirmities; but was in all points tempted like as we are, yet without sin.

16 Let us therefore come boldly unto the throne of grace, that we may obtain mercy, and find grace to help in time of need.

*All names are changed to protect the privacy of investigators.

Sister Faulconer joins yet another triumvirate, gets very, very, wet, and gets to know Casa Forte

Sister Faulconer, Sister Damaceno, Sister Sousa

I’m now in Casa Forte [near the temple in Recife]!  It is really different here.  I can see apartment buildings from all the parts of my area.  We have parts of our area that are normal Brazilian houses but also a lot of areas that are apartment buildings.  It was a serious pain to get here — two large suitcases and bumpy sidewalks, a metro and a bus.  I am not a good example of a cool, collected traveler, but I did manage to get here eventually!  I am in a trio again!  I have a companion, Sister Sousa, who is waiting for a visa to go to the Canada Edmonton mission!  That’s where my uncle lives. Hi Uncle Deryl! My other companion is Sister Damaceno, who arrived here in the same group with my trainee from the last transfer, Sister M. Ribeiro.  Both of my companions are from São Paulo, Sister Damaceno is from the city and Sister Sousa is from a small town in the interior. 

The day before the transfer Sister Ribeiro and I visited an investigator for the second time.  His sister was in the same room, listening to really loud music.  We started to read the scriptures and began to ask her questions as well and invite her to read.  Eventually she turned off the music and became engaged in the conversation.  Near the end of the lesson, she told us that her family had once been very active in their religion.  But they began to have questions that no one answered, and decided that that religion had practices that were not in line with the scriptures and the Savior’s teachings.  She said they needed a church to go to together and to have more religion at home.  She said she believed we had been sent in that moment by God to help them better follow Christ and show them the way to a church they could go to together!  That was a very special experience — I hope to receive a letter from Sister M. Ribeiro saying that they really have begun working to better follow Christ. 

Crazy thing that happened this week — our second day here it rained, and rained, and rained and rained some more.  The streets turned into lakes.  I literally could have swum part of the way to our lunch appointment — we were knee high in water!  We had to go slowly because the sidewalks and streets have big holes sometimes, and you can’t see through the water.  It rained all day.  Definitely an adventure and a cool experience, but it does make proselyting a little more difficult.  The rain is so loud it is harder to hear people and no one wants to go outside!  Also alllll the things get wet – clothes, our bags, everything.    

Wet!

We are talking to  a lot of new people because there weren’t many investigators being taught here. We need to find more people with potential. I talked to one couple the other day in a chic-y (fancy) part of town that said they were agnostic and not interested in talking about religion.  It was a weird experience — I wasn’t sure if I was in Brazil or the United States for a second!  We talk to a lot of people on the street and someone that claims to be agnostic is very rare — I think this is the third time in my mission that I’ve talked to an agnostic.  The other two were open to religion. 

We have one investigator, Arthur*, who is awesome.  He reads the Book of Mormon every day, hasn’t drunk alcohol in a month, goes to church, and is changing his life.  The only difficulty is smoking–but he didn’t smoke a single cigarette yesterday.  If he continues that streak he can be baptized this Saturday!  Please pray for him.

Also, our ward here is awesome–large, and with members who want to be actively involved in missionary work.  

Here is a cool quote from one of the twelve apostles, Elder Jeffrey R. Holland:

“If we give our heart to God, if we love the Lord Jesus Christ, if we do the best we can to live the gospel, then tomorrow—and every other day—is ultimately going to be magnificent, even if we don’t always recognize it as such. Why? Because our Heavenly Father wants it to be! He wants to bless us. A rewarding, abundant, and eternal life is the very object of His merciful plan for His children! It is a plan predicated on the truth “that all things work together for good to them that love God.”10 So keep loving. Keep trying. Keep trusting. Keep believing. Keep growing. Heaven is cheering you on today, tomorrow, and forever.

“Hast thou not known? hast thou not heard?” Isaiah cried.

“… They that wait upon [Him] shall renew their strength; they shall mount up with wings as eagles. …

“[God] giveth power to the faint; and to them that have no might he increaseth strength. …

“For … the Lord … God will hold [their] right hand, saying unto [them], Fear not; I will help thee.”11

Love you guys!

*To respect their privacy, the names of all investigators are changed.

The Book of Mormon

This week was good!  It’s transfers and I will be . . .  transferred to the heart of Recife!  It sounds like both me and my companion will be new. It’s going to be very, very different.  The Casa Forte neighborhood is full of skyscrapers and it’s super close to the mission house. I’m not going to spend any time travelling to anywhere!  We will go to the temple this transfer (finally!!!) and we won’t have to stay overnight in another apartment because we can just catch the metro and be home in twenty minutes!  I am afraid I will lose all the hill-climbing muscles I’ve built up.  Talking to people on the street should be quite different as well.  I have never lived in a huge city (that I can remember anyway) and it will definitely be a change.  I am a little nervous but also very excited.

Sister M. Ribeiro amid the São João decorations

São João/Festa Junina is in full swing.  The streets are full of colored flags, lanterns, houses are wrapped in floral fabric, there are scarecrow heads everywhere, and the streets are full of food made of corn.  There are a lot of accordions and colorful dresses and loud music.

This is canjica. In São Paulo, they call canjica “munguza” and they call canjica “koral.” This is confusing because in the Northeast where I am serving, canjica is a different thing than munguza. Canjica is a thick corn paste with sugar and cinnamon and other stuff. By contrast, munguza is coconut milk and other stuff with cinnamon and pieces of corn. I like munguza a lot!
According to Sister Faulconer, Sister M. Ribeiro was a great companion and so well prepared–a trainee who didn’t need any training. We’ll miss seeing her excellent photographs here on the blog as she will be staying in Gravatá while Sister Faulconer is transferred to Casa Forte in Recife.

We had trouble finding people at home this week, so we did a lot of contacting. In our mission we count how many times we read a scripture with someone (but it only counts once per lesson) and we did that this week more than I have ever done until now. It was good to meet a lot of new people. We met a number of old investigators. There are two families who were taught seven years ago. We went into their house and there were huge pictures of the missionaries on the wall!  Huge like 1 foot by two feet, maybe a little bigger!  We never would have known if we hadn’t decided to do a contact with them after asking for directions, because they hadn’t said. That was a miracle for sure.

It seems pretty obvious that they didn’t get baptized because they weren’t interested in switching religions and never put in the effort to ask God about what was right. So I think there is the possibility that none of them will end up progressing, but I am hoping that there will be at least one person that will progress.  It is cool to think about it from the missionaries’ point of view.  Apparently this family still talks to the missionaries on Facebook. It would be so great to find out that one of my old investigators was baptized!  Also interesting to think about where I will be in five or seven years — both of the former missionary sisters are married and have children (one has twins!).  

Recently we have been focusing on the Book of Mormon in our contacts rather than the message of the Restoration. The Restoration is essential, but it is hard for people to understand on the street.  I have noticed that a lot more people reject a visit, but this is good because it means that we don’t waste our time visiting people that wouldn’t be interested. Also, some people remember what we talked about and seem really interested in getting a book!  Sometimes we show up and they ask for a Book of Mormon before we even mention it!  We talked to one person, Carlos,* at his work.  We were trying to mark a visit with him for a different day and he said “So do you have the thing for me?”  Bystanders might have been worried that a drug deal was happening, but actually he was just excited about the Book of Mormon!  The results don’t seem to have quite gotten to the marking-for-baptism-and-having-them-show-up-to-church quite yet, but I think it will. 

Michele is reading the Book of Mormon and loving it.  She still can’t go to church because she is taking care of her aged aunt, but it was very rewarding to hear that she is recognizing that the Book of Mormon is true!  She said she feels good when she reads.  Maria Eduarda couldn’t go to church this week, but told us that since we are visiting her her life has improved 60%.  She said before we visited her she wasn’t praying and nothing went her way.  She says that now she  feels better, she is better off financially–everything is a little better!  Reminds me of the last verse of Mosiah 2.  Keeping the commandments (like pray every day and go to church) really does bless us!

This week we deep cleaned our house.  You would not believe how much dust can build up on the tops of doors, etc.  I hope my new house is clean too!  

*The names of all investigators are changed in order to protect their privacy.

Festival of São João

This week was interesting!

São João

It’s the beginning of São João, a huge festival in the Northeast, especially the not-Recife parts.  It’s a festival of corn-based foods and remembering the roots of the Northeast.  The Northeast is like the West of the US — cowboys, etc.  So funnily enough, São João has some similarities with summer fests you see in the U.S. People dance square dances, eat corn, listen to music, and dress up.  They dress up like super cartoonified versions of hicks: huge colored patches, straw hats, and  beribboned frilly dresses.  There are also lots of fireworks (you wouldn’t like it Mom: Fireworks before 6 in the morning and at any hour of the day!)  Also, lots of campfires (see above picture).

Esqueceram de mim–They forgot us

One thing that happened this week was that we had zone conference in Caruaru, but the mission bus forgot us!  Apparently the bus driver just forgot to stop.  We ended up waiting at the bus stop for over two hours and then getting a normal bus to Caruaru.  When we got there the mission secretary called an Uber to take us to the conference.  We were quite late but it was still good. 

Finally at zone conference . . .

We started teaching twins this week, Gustavo* and Diego. They don’t talk a lot, but said they were interested in learning about what we believe in our religion.  When we taught them for the second time, they said they had prayed about whether Joseph Smith was a prophet, etc., but hadn’t received an answer.  We started to teach the third lesson about faith, repentance, baptism, etc., and introduced the new baptismal calendar that our mission has.  Now when we mark someone for baptism we give them a calendar with a picture of Christ being baptized and scriptures they can read and pray about.  This helps them understand the seriousness of our invitation and also the importance of doing things — praying, reading, and going to church, in order to receive an answer from God and better follow Christ’s example.  When we gave them a calendar, we asked them what they thought about it.  Gustavo said he knew the church was true!  He said he was feeling in that moment that it was the truth.

Sister Broadbent, Sister Faulconer, and Sister M. Ribeiro at zone conference. Sister Broadbent (former companion) is now a sister training leader.

When we left, we started talking about his mother, who we had talked with a little bit.  She hadn’t wanted to listen to the lesson.  Gustavo and Diego are 18 and have been finished with school for a while, but live with their parents, and we were a little worried that they might feel upset about their decision to be baptized.  Unfortunately, we were right.  We called them on Sunday morning and they said they didn’t want any more lessons and when could they give books back? So that was sad.  But I am hoping that maybe we can talk to them and something will change.

But . . . after weeks of only one investigator at church (Danilo), we had five this week!  Maria Eduarda and her daughter Isadora, grandson Marcelo, and sister Aline went.   They walked all the way from their house to the church — quite far! And after walking all the way up the hill back to their house they still want to go next week. Isadora had been very uninterested in church or reading, praying, etc.  But after church she was telling us about how she liked it and wanted to go back.  We asked and she said she had read the Book of Mormon on Saturday and felt really good.  She had prayed as well and received an answer!  She said she felt a feeling that was something she hadn’t felt before and didn’t know how to describe, but it was really good.  She says God was telling her the Book of Mormon is true!  She was smiling so much —  it was a light in the countenance sort of moment.  It reminded me of Mosiah 13:5 in the Book of Mormon:

Now it came to pass after Abinadi had spoken these words that the people of king Noah durst not lay their hands on him, for the Spirit of the Lord was upon him; and his face shone with exceeding luster, even as Moses’ did while in the mount of Sinai, while speaking with the Lord.

Mosiah 13:5

Another Book of Mormon scripture: This is what we should all aim for!

I say unto you, can ye look up to God at that day with a pure heart and clean hands? I say unto you, can you look up, having the image of God engraven upon your countenances?

Alma 5:19

When we read the scriptures and pray we receive the image of God engraven more and more deeply upon our countenances. Isabela (Camilla’s little sister) also went to church! She is super awesome, wants to be baptized, is reading the reading the Book of Mormon every day (she’s already read to page 80!) and hasn’t drunk coffee in over a month. Emily’s daughter, Amanda, also came to church!

Cuzcuz with banana

This is cuzcuz with banana.  There are bananas — banana cumprida — here that you cook and can eat with anything — beans, by themselves, cuzcuz, etc., But not raw.  They are interesting — definitely a different flavor and texture. 

*The names of all investigators have been changed to protect their privacy.

Adding On

9 months on the mission!
(Don’t worry, no rocks were defaced in the making of this photo, it’s just dust from another rock.)

This week we had an adventure!  We did splits with the sisters of Guaranhuns but while I went to Guaranhuns, the keys to the apartment in Guaranhuns went to my apartment in Gravatá! [hours away by bus]. We ended up sleeping in a vacant apartment with sheets borrowed from the owner. 

We started teaching a new family — Marcos and Carolina, and their daughters Fernanda and Raissa.* We taught Carolina the The Restoration the other day.  She said she believed that the Book of Mormon is from God.  We could tell she understood the lesson because she told us she was sad that her baptism, something very special to her, hadn’t happened the way Christ told us it needs to  — with the proper authority.  We had the opportunity to tell her that we don’t share our message to take things away from people, but to add on to the wonderful things they already have.  She already chose to be baptized to follow Christ, and for sure she’s been blessed for that!

Bring with you all that you have of good and truth which you have received from whatever source, and come and let us see if we may add to it.

General Conference 2002, President Gordon B. Hinckley

One funny moment was when we did a contact with a Catholic lady.  People here are very loud in their devotion to Mary — it’s very common to see people with t-shirts that have Mary’s face on them.  Sometimes her face is the size of their entire chest.  This woman didn’t have a Mary shirt but she had a little Mary necklace.  We tried to tell her about the Book of Mormon, set up an appointment to talk more about the scriptures, but she was not interested.  She kept saying “you have a mother!!  You don’t just have a father in heaven, you have a mother” really loudly, because we aren’t Catholic and therefore don’t worship Mary.  It made me think of the wonderful doctrine of our Heavenly Mother.  She’s right, we have a Heavenly Father, and that seems to suggest we ought to have a Mother in Heaven as well.  And we do, and she is just as divine as our Father in Heaven.  

Capybaras are related to guinea pigs, but much larger–as big as 145 lbs! The world’s largest rodents, capybaras are herbivores, semi-aquatic mammals that live in groups near the banks of rivers and lakes.

We have zone conference this week, so we are preparing talks.  I haven’t had to talk at zone conference yet, but it could happen!  

Bolo de Chuva– Raindrop doughnuts
After this step, we rolled them in sugar.  They are supposed to be rounder but they were good.

Other cool fact: our ward had a temple trip and two recent converts went — 
Lucas and Victor!! 

We have had a lot of trouble with getting people to church and finding people at home this week, but we have a ton of new contacts and we’re excited to meet them all this week!

[*As always, names are changed to protect investigator privacy].

The Way of Happiness

The way of happiness
The living Christ–Cristo Vivo

Last week we went to Cruzeiro to see the Cristo Vivo.  You can see it from the city.  Cool fact: there is a staircase that goes up to a big cross next to Christ.  It is called the Way (Path) of Happiness.  Cool that the the Way of Happiness leads to Christ, right?  **Deeper meaning**  Wickedness never was happiness!  

I forgot to tell about a miracle we had last week.  We had a district meeting and then the car that takes us home was super late.  We needed to visit Victor to teach him some things he had to know before getting baptized.  We had moved the appointment forward an hour but we ended up leaving lunch at the time we needed to be at his house . . . and he lives 40 minutes (walking distance) away!  Just as we were talking about how late we were, we saw a member of the church in the distance.  As we walked towards her her neighbor passed by and offered to pick her up.  She invited us too!  We arrived about eight minutes later and had enough time to teach the lessons we needed to. 

Sister Ribeiro and Sister Faulconer

One awesome experience we had is teaching our investigator “Maria Eduarda.” When we met her she started saying that she didn’t believe in God.  We listened and tried to read some scriptures with her, but she was pretty upset and kept cutting us off.  But it quickly became obvious that she did believe in God — she was just upset about the situation she was in.  She didn’t understand why God lets so many people suffer so much.  She felt he didn’t listen.  But we listened, testified of our belief in God’s love for us, invited her to pray, and marked a different day to go back.  When we went back, she hadn’t prayed.  We taught her, invited her to pray again, and left. The next time we went she had prayed!  She said she felt so much better, and she knew that our visit was an answer from God.  She felt like he didn’t listen, but our presence was a sign that he cared about her.  She is reading the Book of Mormon too!  She did not go to church because of a headache but we have high hopes for next week.  This is a huge example of someone changing their life through the gospel for me.  She feels better and she is praying and reading the scriptures for the first time in a long time!

Acaraje: These brown things are fried bean balls.  Like falafel but not quite as amazing. 

Agency

This week Victor got baptized!  He is a great example to me.  When we taught him about the Word of Wisdom and the Law of Chastity he thanked God for the commandments (“which I will definitely work to keep”) in the closing prayer!  He is so happy about getting closer to the Savior, being baptized, and changing his life for the better!  His baptismal interview finished about an hour or an hour and a half before he had to be at the church to get dressed for his baptism.  We did not feel very comfortable with that time frame but everything turned out well.  The only hitch was that we filled up the baptismal font the day before the baptism, but when we got there it was empty!  I think the problem was that the pump is so slow and quiet that it got turned on and no one noticed.  We put a bucket and a kitchen pot in the bathroom and the janitor’s closet to fill up and went back and forth with them to help the baptismal font fill up faster.  Luckily it was just high enough by the time we got to the baptism part.

Sister Ribeiro, Victor, and I– my shirt is slightly wet because we were carrying buckets of water to help the font fill up faster — we had filled it up but then it emptied again! 

Another investigator, we’ll call him “João,” is being an excellent example of praying and reading the scriptures regularly.  He hasn’t gotten an answer from God yet about the truthfulness of the First Vision and the Book of Mormon, but maybe this week!  We are also having a lot of trouble with coffee right now — João and Matheus are both struggling with not drinking coffee.  But I think a testimony of Joseph Smith will definitely help João with that.

Bus travel!

Mother’s Day is popular in Brazil.  Here there are lots of “cars of sound” that drive around with loudspeakers playing ads.  This week there was a car of sound from the city congratulating all of the mothers.  Store fronts have lots of “mother” signs and balloons and it looks like the cake, chocolate, and flower shops have good business here as well.  It was good for building excitement for Sister Ribeiro and I about calling our families on Sunday!  Unfortunately, Mother’s Day is bad for taking people to church.  But we have high hopes for next week! 

We found a Subway shop.  I do not find Subway particularly exciting in the United States but it´s more exciting now that I’m here.

Hopefully Emily and her family can go to church next week.  We talked with one of her daughters, I’ll call her “Amanda,” this week.  She had prayed and asked if “that church is worth it” but said she hadn’t gotten an answer.  We asked her how she felt when she prayed and she said “Well, I felt a really good, happy feeling and I got chills/goosebumps all over.” !  That reminded me of a scripture we often read with investigators:

And it came to pass that while they were thus conversing one with another, they heard a voice as if it came out of heaven; and they cast their eyes round about, for they understood not the voice which they heard; and it was not a harsh voice, neither was it a loud voice; nevertheless, and notwithstanding it being a small voice it did pierce them that did hear to the center, insomuch that there was no part of their frame that it did not cause to quake; yea, it did pierce them to the very soul, and did cause their hearts to burn.

3 Nephi 11:3

This is how the Nephites felt God’s voice when Christ came to visit the Americas.  This is the spirit!  We asked her if she thought that feeling was from God and what He was trying to tell her.  She thought about it and said “He was telling me the church is worth it!” We told her how special it was that God had responded to her question and she couldn’t stop smiling.

Welcome to Gravatá

One thing we have been thinking about recently is agency.  We know some people who have difficult family situations — for example, living with spouses (but not legally married) who treat them quite badly.  These people have lots of faith in God, and they use this faith to pray to God about the trials they’re passing through. But they are only praying that God will make their husbands stop drinking, or shape up, or choose to get married to them. And when their spouses don’t change they feel frustrated that God isn’t hearing them, or they say they trust in His timing but are just waiting and watching to see what he’ll do.  The sad and very frustrating truth is that God can’t force people to change.  And while he can and does help us, he might want us to act as well.  It’s terrible, but the truth is that some of these people might need to choose to leave their spouses in order to follow God’s commandments (like the law of chastity) or to help their children and themselves (in cases of serious alcoholism.)  


Wherefore, men are free according to the flesh; and all things are given them which are expedient unto man. And they are free to choose liberty and eternal life, through the great Mediator of all men, or to choose captivity and death, according to the captivity and power of the devil; for he seeketh that all men might be miserable like unto himself.

2 Nephi 2:27

Sometimes this seems really really sad.  But also it can be very happy — Victor is choosing liberty and eternal life!  When we follow the commandments we’re that much closer to liberty and eternal life — and eternal joy, rest, peace, etc.  And we can always hope and pray for people.  Alma the younger was visited by an angel that appeared because of the prayers of faith from his father and friends.  He chose to repent after remembering his father’s teachings about Christ.  

Our district

Hope you all have a great week!

Miracles

We had a lot of miracles this week! One day our plans had fallen through and we decided to see a contact.  We didn’t think he had very much potential and we suspected that finding his house would be a pain, but we decided to just try it out.   As expected his house was not super easy to find (he didn’t know his house number–a common problem in our area–and the only indicator he gave us was “yellow”) so we asked a lady, whose door was open if she knew him.  She didn’t, so we were going to leave but I remembered that we should really do more contacts and decided to talk with her. “Emily” immediately invited us into her house!  We started teaching a lesson, since we didn’t have anywhere we had to be.
She said she never left her door open as she had that day, but had been about to wander around in the city for a couple hours to try and feel better. We found out that she had just gotten home from the funeral of her nephew, who had died from playing Russian Roulette.  As you can imagine, she was very sad.  She was also sad because her son is in prison, and although he has made many unwise decisions, she thinks he is innocent because he was with her in a different city when the crime was committed. 

We taught her the Plan of Salvation, and she told us that our visit was an answer to her prayers!  We gave her a Book of Mormon and she promised to read it and pray about whether it is true. We saw her another day, and she said she had prayed and felt good but hadn’t gotten an answer.  Yesterday we found her at home again (she works a lot with fluctuating hours) and she said that she prayed and read some more (1 Nephi 10!) and had a dream where God showed her the Bible and the Book of Mormon together.  She said “The Book of Mormon and the Bible are the same thing but with different people!”  Now she takes the Bible and the Book of Mormon with her everywhere she goes!  People tell her “your bag is heavy!” and she says “These are my weapons!  I need them with me!”  Some people carry guns, she carries scriptures!

Sister missionaries for the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints blowing out candles on a birthday cake.
Members in Gravata like Tamara Espindola Medeiros are taking good care of the sisters. Sister Faulconer and Sister Ribeiro both had April birthdays, so Tamara planned a birthday celebration for them during their lunch break. Happy 20th birthday sisters!

We also finally managed to see “Victor” who has been to church a few times with his girlfriend. We had a lot of trouble seeing him because he is busy and travels, but on Sunday we went again.  When we went to his girlfriend’s house her mother said she was sleeping and wouldn’t see him until nighttime (when we had to be at home).  We almost didn’t go back but I really felt like we should.  When we got there we started teaching him the Restoration and he said he had prayed and wants to be baptized! 

We are also teaching a different person in a city called Chã Grande (“Big incline” — there are lots of hills there). He is marked for baptism this week, so we are going to try and see him three times this week.  It will be an adventure because this city is half an hour away by van (the vans do not have schedules!) and then when we get there we have to walk to his house.  He gets home from school at 5:10 and the last van is at 6!  Also, we already went there three times, and twice the van passed at 6 and refused to let us get in!  Usually they just stuff people into the vans until they are totally full, but there wasn’t any space left!  Luckily we found another car that was going to Chã Grande and got home safe and sound.

Love you all!

Easter

Carrying an umbrella to block the sun is common in Brazil. This is a bridge we walk over quite often.
Look closely . . . the water is filled with turtles!

There are lots of walls with photo-op graffiti here

This week was great!  Remember, Isabela, the girl on the bicycle who wanted a Book of Mormon from from my previous post? Isabela’s family is awesome — we are teaching her family, her friend’s family, and her friends’ cousin and other friend, her other friend, her other friend and her aunt now.  Isabela, as well as Guilherme*, and Ester (both friends of Isabela’s family) went to church.  Isabela’s older sisters had to work because of the craziness that is Easter here in Gravatá but will go in two weeks with her mom. Their other friends Matheu (a young adult) and Maria Clara (a young woman) and Rafaela (little girl) went to church too!  Their sister Marcela would have gone but she stepped on a nail the night before and had to go to the hospital. 😦 Crazy things happen Saturday night.  Because of Isabela’s family and friends, the number of contacts we taught a first lesson to improved quite a lot this week.  We often have trouble with not finding people at home but they have been great!

Sister Faulconer with Isabela and her friend Guilherme

Isabela and her friend Guilherme are reading the Book of Mormon and said they prayed about it and felt really good.  Isabela told us she wants to go to church next week!  Her sister, Camilla, who had to work, prayed and has a testimony of the Book of Mormon and Joseph Smith.  Her aunt told us she said she wants to be baptized! Marcela read the Book of Mormon, prayed, and was describing to us how she felt.  She felt the spirit really strongly –“chills all over!” and really joyful.  She said she she has a testimony now!  Matheus forgot to read several times, but on Saturday he remembered!  He told us on Sunday that he had had a similar experience.  He said he started praying and had a feeling that God was there, and that they were literally having a conversation.  He asked about the truthfulness of the Book of Mormon and Joseph Smith and said he felt that God responded that they are true! He told us that he has visited several churches but never felt the spirit like that.

Their other sister, Maria Clara, didn’t recognize any response the first time she prayed but said she started to feel the spirit more as she continued reading and praying.  That is certainly more typical of my experiences — many times we don´t get an answer the first time we pray but it will come with patience and continued effort.

Anyway, finding them was a miracle for sure.  The day Isabela stopped us in the street we felt a bit frustrated because we had been searching for a contact’s address for a realllly long time and no one knew where it was.  I am so glad we didn’t find it right away — we needed to meet Isabela!

Missionaries with treats at zone conference
Formal picture with the Housemans

We also had zone conference in Caruaru this week.  It was good.   We have guides for our lessons with different topics.  We don´t have to stick to a specific script but often we present the topics in the same order — God loves us, so he sent us prophets to guide our families, the most important prophet was Christ, etc. etc.  President Houseman talked about treating our lessons like wheels rather than linear lists of events.  Present the topics in whatever order works best for the investigators!  This was a lightbulb moment for me, but now nothing is linear anymore!  It can be confusing.


I have lots of food art skills. “Soy meat” (TVP or textured vegetable protein in the US) is more popular here in non-vegetarian places than in the US. 

Several members have made some for me at lunch and they all already know how to cook it.  I have seen a few restaurants that have things like “Chicken with soy meat sauce.”  People make soy meat sometimes just for diversity´s sake.  I tried it out and it was super good!  I also discovered soy milk recently (pro tip– ask people where things are instead of assuming you know where they keep the milk — I had forgotten that they sell milk in cartons rather than in the refrigerator section here)

Happy Easter!

Easter is very popular in Gravatá.  At night there was bumper to bumper traffic on the roads. Gravatá is definitely a tourist-y city — this week the city was way way busier than usual.  There were also signs for chocolate easter eggs on all of the street corners.  People like to eat large (like ostrich-sized) eggs made of chocolate and boxes of assorted easter candies are also very popular. Sister Ribeiro wrote this on the wall in makeup — she is very creative.

I hope you all had a wonderful Easter.  When someone gets an answer to their prayer about Joseph Smith or the Book of Mormon it sometimes feels like a yes or no sort of thing — either they can say they believe or not.  What is harder to measure, but also happens, is the repentance process.  That’s the whole purpose of missionary work — we invite people to pray about the Book of Mormon and to follow its precepts — repent, be baptized (i.e., take the name of Christ upon you, promise to remember him and follow his commandments), get closer to Christ.  We tell people that Christ is the center of our message — and it’s true.  I have been reading this scripture with people all week:

But there is a resurrection, therefore the grave hath no victory, and the sting of death is swallowed up in Christ.

He is the light and the life of the world; yea, a light that is endless, that can never be darkened; yea, and also a life which is endless, that there can be no more death.


Mosiah 16:8-9

The scriptures are so beautiful! I can’t say it better than that.  I also love this Easter video: Because of Him

*Names are changed to respect investigators’ privacy.