Mission Council

This morning I made mango juice —- mango season is starting!  I am excited!  This week was pretty different — we got home at 7:30 on Tuesday from new leader training and 7:15-ish on Wednesday from Mission Council.  I learned a lot! 

A couple highlights:  
President Houseman said that the pattern for making decisions in the Church is group revelation in councils.  Lots of people say “Wow, President Nelson changed . . .” but actually these things are decided in council and prepared for and discussed ahead of time.  Everything is done in order.  In councils, the members receive revelation, everyone discusses, and the leader makes the final decision. People might receive conflicting inspiration, and maybe the final decision will be different than the inspiration someone had.  But it is all part of the process.

There is a difference between following-up and demanding [acompanhar and cobrar in Portuguese] information.  Leaders follow-up to help you make progress with the goals you set for yourself. Not-so-great leaders give you quotas and then demand the results.  In Zion’s Camp, when the wagons got stuck, Joseph Smith was the first one to take off his shoes, roll up his trousers, and get in the mud to pull them.  Good leaders are the first ones to go to work with others, motivating them along the way, rather than staying on the sidelines to shout orders.  Even if you shout orders in a really charismatic, motivational way, that’s not enough!  

Sister Houseman gave a really great talk on leadership. She had an amazing stake president who felt really inadequate when he was called.  He decided to use his leadership calling as an opportunity for personal growth.  At every opportunity he thought “How would a stake president act?” Running late and want to leave the shopping cart in the parking space?  What would a ward member think if they saw that?  A stake president would take the shopping cart back to the right spot, so he did!  

Even though Sister Anaya and I had a lot less time to work than we had last week, we managed to teach first lessons with more people than last week and we have more new investigators than last week!  Little miracles.

Speaking of miracles, Davi* got baptized!!  He is doing great!  On Monday he was fasting with us in order to be able to resist temptation and get baptized.  Before lunch (when he would break his fast) he was feeling really hungry, so he left the house in order to avoid eating.  He went to a relative’s house —- and the relative was drinking (alcohol) and eating.  His relative repeatedly invited him to drink and eat, but he stayed strong!  It’s great because it seems like the ward is doing a good job of integrating him already.  One of the recent converts stopped by throughout the week to ask him how he was, read scripture verses (he can’t read), and tell him he was excited for his baptism! 

L to R; Sister Anaya, Sister Faulconer and Davi*

Sacrament meeting attendance was less-than-stellar. Read: our recent investigators did not go to church.  But I was pleasantly surprised when I got to the area and discovered that there are two couples who aren’t married but have been consistently going to church!  I knew that this happened but in my past areas the plethora of people who needed to get married were not religious church-goers– maybe they went a few times but they never stayed strong.  Here there are two women, Daniela and Juliana, who have children that are recent converts and are consistently going to church, going to activities, reading the scriptures, etc.  Unfortunately, one of them has a husband who doesn’t want to get married and also doesn’t have documents.  The other one also doesn’t have the right documents, but they just need to go to the marriage office.  It is a bit difficult because of work hours, but hopefully it all works out! 

Today we are going to start making horchata!  I mentioned to Sister Anaya that I like it and she mentioned that she knows how to make it.  This week we are also going to do a split with the sisters of Palmares.  I am going to Palmares — it will be weird!  Hopefully good too.  Sister Anaya did a split with a sister training leader who had already served in the area once.  The sister ran into an ancient investigator and found out she had separated from her husband (she hadn’t been able to get baptized before because they weren’t married. They had been deciding if they would separate or not).  She got baptized!  Not expecting that kind of miracle necessarily but a cool story, right? 

I don’t remember if I said this before, but a lot of people here think that after you die you won’t remember anything. God will tell you how your past life was. You will see your relatives but you won’t remember they were your relatives.  I respect other people’s right to choose their religion, but I am grateful to believe that families can be together forever. It’s a truth that is truly wonderful — our loving relationships continue after this life! — and also makes sense — why would you be punished for something you don’t remember?  It is also a good warning — we will remember our lives on judgement day!  A guilty conscience could be worse than fire and brimstone.  

Alma 5:15-18

15 Do ye exercise faith in the redemption of him who created you? Do you look forward with an eye of faith, and view this mortal body raised in immortality, and this corruption raised in incorruption, to stand before God to be judged according to the deeds which have been done in the mortal body?

16 I say unto you, can you imagine to yourselves that ye hear the voice of the Lord, saying unto you, in that day: Come unto me ye blessed, for behold, your works have been the works of righteousness upon the face of the earth?

17 Or do ye imagine to yourselves that ye can lie unto the Lord in that day, and say—Lord, our works have been righteous works upon the face of the earth—and that he will save you?

18 Or otherwise, can ye imagine yourselves brought before the tribunal of God with your souls filled with guilt and remorse, having a remembrance of all your guilt, yea, a perfect remembrance of all your wickedness, yea, a remembrance that ye have set at defiance the commandments of God?

I would like to be the first person described, not the second!

A funny moment: I forgot to say that last Sunday I was asked to give a testimony at the last minute. I thought it went okay, but afterwards I found out that I had said I was glad to be in Carpina (a different area) instead of Candeias.  You can learn the language but you can’t stop goofing up!  Luckily there are worse errors that could be made.  But it was funny, because I was trying to tell people how happy I was to be in their ward — except I said the wrong ward.  Ooops!

*Investigators names are always changed

God Gives the Increase

This week has been crazy!  We have spent 120 reais [about $29] going back and forth between Casa Forte and Madalena this week!  The problem is that in theory it would be more effective to just pick a few days where we only work in Madalena and a few days where we only work in Casa Forte.  But in practice you can’t just neatly plan out the investigators on the preferred days — they all have their individual schedules, etc.  So we actually did a better job of following up with people in Casa Forte, going there almost every single day. Crazy, but way better than just leaving Casa Forte without missionaries for two weeks.

This week we had three baptisms in Madalena!  It was eventful. Things were a bit stressful, but it all worked out!

Baptism of Thais*

I have an Alma-ish (probably misguided) wish to find people and teach them and then have them get baptized so that I can feel like someone got baptized just because of me, but that doesn’t happen very often. This week I suddenly thought of the New Testament scripture 1 Cor 3:6-7 that happens to be part of the Come Follow Me readings this week about how one person plants, another waters, but God gives the increase. You get the crown based on your work not the watering. Paul says he was not called to baptize but to preach (1 Cor 1:17). I was thinking about other investigators that weren’t my contacts who I wished I had been the one to initially make contact. Then afterwards I realized this was especially applicable for this week. I haven’t had a huge part in these three baptisms but it is a privilege to see them and have a little part in them.

One of the people baptized this week was Vitor.* He first met the sisters in 2015! He didn’t believe in God. But he has been learning and strengthening his testimony a little more each day. Before I got here, the sisters had used an excellent metaphor of a staircase. He said he started at 0 — not believing anything. This past week he was still having a few moments of doubt even though he had progressed a lot. He said he wasn’t sure if Christ really was the Savior, had done miracles, etc. But after our lesson he said he was half a stair step higher on the staircase — at 2.9 (instead of 0)! We could see his testimony growing more and more each day this week, and when he got baptized, he said he was at step infinity! We told him he can now start climbing staircase 2.0. He really looked like the sort of person who was starting a new life.

Baptism of Vitor*

Unfortunately, one of the young men who was baptized on Saturday overslept and didn’t get confirmed on Sunday. I felt very bad about that. This prophetic quote was playing over and over again in my head:

You might as well baptize a bag of sand as a man, if not done in view of the remission of sins and getting of the Holy Ghost. Baptism by water is but half a baptism, and is good for nothing without the other half—that is, the baptism of the Holy Ghost.”

Teachings of Presidents of the Church: Joseph Smith (2007), p. 95

Fortunately, I think João Pedro* really will end up getting confirmed next week. 

Splitting their time between Casa Forte and Madalena–Sisters Faulconer, M. Ribeiro, and Delmiro

Funny thing that happened the other day it was raining as usual (winter in Recife) and we saw rain falling on the other side of the street — but we were dry. As we were watching, the rain got closer until we got wet, and then it went away down the street!  This happened about four times– we saw the rain coming, it rained on us, and then we saw it going away down the street!  It was so funny; I thought that only happened in movies. It reminded me of Harry Potter or Flubber 2 where there are magical (or science-induced) rain clouds for specific people.  We joked that maybe someone was praying for rain and we were watching God send it to them!

Sad thing that happened– Iara* doesn’t want more visits.  She is going through some personal struggles she didn’t feel comfortable enough to share and doesn’t feel she can focus on reading the scriptures and praying right now.  But she said she wants to continue going to church, so I hope that her heart will be touched eventually.  It was frustrating that we couldn’t go to church in Casa Forte so that we could see her (We were in the Madalena ward), but next week. It is sad when this sort of thing happens.  We were so unsure afterwards if we should have been more insistent or persistent or said things other than what we said . . . But hopefully we can see her at church in Casa Forte next week.

Recife to Provo to Edmonton!

Farewell Sister Sousa! Best wishes learning English in Provo and teaching in Edmonton

Yesterday, just as Sister Sousa and I were finishing a weekly planning session and had put something important in every single hour of the week, we got a phone call.  It was our mission president, President Houseman. Sister Sousa got on a plane to Provo to the Missionary Training Center this morning!  After waiting such a long time, she will finally be able to study English and then finish her mission in Edmonton, Canada, where she was originally called.

I am now in my third trio of the mission . . . with Sister M. Ribeiro and Sister Delmiro! I trained Sister M. Ribeiro and am happy to be with her again! They are serving in the Madalena area of Recife, and have four people marked for baptism this week and one marked next week and think they all have potential to actually be baptized.  So that is crazy!  Sister Sousa and I also had a few good people who need to be followed-up with in the Casa Forte area. So, our new trio will work in both areas.  It will be an adventure.  I am excited to work hard and help all these people.  It will be hard to figure out where to go and what to do but it will work out! 

Sister M. Ribeiro and Sister Delmiro are the two sisters on the right–Sis. Faulconer is not pictured
Photo courtesy of Sister Lori Houseman

Iara* did not get baptized this Saturday but she is marked for two weeks from now.  Please pray for her!  She is great and went to church this week.  It can be scary and different to change and decide to get baptized but I believe it will work out for her! 

We have been teaching Willian for a while–He is 19 and wants to get baptized!  He is great but hasn’t been able to go to church yet.  It was another week in which he reallly wanted to go to church, we realllly wanted him to go to church . . . but his mother asked him to help with something at the last second and he couldn’t go.  I sure hope he can go next week.

Funny moments: the other week one of our investigators told us that some ladies that we taught once were talking badly about us.  We asked what they were saying and she said “they said that you guys are huge gossips!” That was hilarious, because you could accuse us of all sorts of things that are true or rooted in truth that could sound bad (“They think their church is the only true church” “really pushy´” “annoying”)  but we are definitely not guilty of being gossipers! We don´t know anything about those women to gossip about!

Here is a cool scripture — On the mission and in my life I want to be like Nephi:

2 And it came to pass that Nephi went his way towards his own house, pondering upon the things which the Lord had shown unto him.
3 And it came to pass as he was thus pondering—being much cast down because of the wickedness of the people of the Nephites, their secret works of darkness, and their murderings, and their plunderings, and all manner of iniquities—and it came to pass as he was thus pondering in his heart, behold, a voice came unto him saying:
4 Blessed art thou, Nephi, for those things which thou hast done; for I have beheld how thou hast with unwearyingness declared the word, which I have given unto thee, unto this people. And thou hast not feared them, and hast not sought thine own life, but hast sought my will, and to keep my commandments.
5 And now, because thou hast done this with such unwearyingness, behold, I will bless thee forever; and I will make thee mighty in word and in deed, in faith and in works; yea, even that all things shall be done unto thee according to thy word, for thou shalt not ask that which is contrary to my will.
6 Behold, thou art Nephi, and I am God.

Helaman 10:2-6

*Names of investigators are always changed

Arthur got baptized!

Sister Sousa, Arthur, Sister Faulconer
Photo Credit: Elder Richard and Sister Sandy Tidwell

Arthur* got baptized!!!  We had been visiting him basically every day for more than a transfer, so we have been praying and hoping for this baptism for a very long time! It seems like he decided to change his life all of a sudden, and that’s made all the difference! One day we went to visit him and found out that he had gone to a friend’s house after leaving church early.  This was a bad sign, so we showed up to his work thinking about ultimatums.  E.g., you need to do x thing —we like you, but we can’t continue to visit people who don’t try to change, but then we found out that he hadn’t smoked in two days! We taught him about Christ and the rich young man. I was going to explain the parable but he started explaining it! He said that for him, smoking was like the young man’s riches! It was very special. Two weeks later he still hasn’t smoked!  We are so excited for him.

Caroline still really wants to get baptized.  She bore a great testimony yesterday!  Unfortunately she and Luan are having serious troubles with their proof of residence, without which you cannot get married.  Her niece, Ana (from last week’s post), did not get baptized this week, which was too bad. But we are in hopes of helping the young women integrate her a bit more — I think befriending other young women will help a lot. 

Two people stopped us in the street this week to ask to be visited.  Isabella told us she wanted to get baptized but her parents hadn’t let her.  She was taught two years ago and went to church five times  Later we met her father, who said he has also been to church and loves the Book of Mormon! It was a miracle. Unfortunately they and a lot of our other investigators who were all set to go to church had a variety of disasters Sunday morning. The power in their whole house burned out and they couldn’t go! That was too bad, but hopefully next week works out better. Although a lot of investigators did not go to church, a few investigators did manage to go, which was great.  Caroline and Ana went, as well as two awesome new investigators who are member references and a couple that are the parents of a missionary from Casa Forte!

The missionary’s mother has started reading the Book of Mormon every day and praying about it! We hadn’t seen them for a few days, and when we showed up they said they were really wanting to go to church! She said she wants to go to the Church of Jesus Christ every week now! A miracle — her husband had been taught for a while without any progress but apparently she hadn’t really been to church or been taught before. She says she hasn’t received an answer yet, but I think she must be feeling the spirit!

Iara was one of the member references. We have been trying hard to invite all the members to pray about references. Then we follow up to see if they have prayed and thought of anyone.  It worked! Sister Andressa took her friend to church on Sunday and then we taught her a lesson afterwards! It was overall a great lesson.  Andressa bore her testimony and I think everyone felt the spirit.  

It has been raining every day for the last two weeks!  It’s funny; I read my Grandpa Trent’s missionary letters the other day.  HE said the same thing! Tomorrow we are going to get Sister Sousa’s passport and then go to interviews at the mission office. Fun fact — we are reimbursed for the travel we do to district meetings, splits, interviews, etc.  Our reimbursement here is less than a tenth of our reimbursement in Gravatá!

Sister Faulconer, Sister Sousa, Sister Houseman, and the Houseman’s daughter
Courtesy of Lori Houseman

Last week we traveled for visa things for the third week in a row, so today our plans include staying at home.  I am going to make Thai curry!  Brazil has many wonderful foods (this week I ate at a vegan shop that had the most heavenly Brazilian vegan food) but it is seriously curry-deprived!
Love you all!  

The Come, Follow Me manual is great.  I am inspired by Paul’s missionary efforts and his faithful attitude.  It seems like every verse of the New Testament is packed with meaning.  

This verse from Romans 1 is a classic

For I am not ashamed of the gospel of Christ: for it is the power of God unto salvation to every one that believeth; to the Jew first, and also to the Greek.

Romans 1:16

Thanks for your prayers! Like Paul, I am praying for all of you!

For God is my witness, whom I serve with my spirit in the gospel of his Son, that without ceasing I make mention of you always in my prayers . . .

Romans 1:9

*As always, names of investigators are changed to protect their privacy.

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!

The Spirit of Elijah

At Zone Conference, Courtesy Sister Lori Houseman

We had an interesting lesson this week: We met with a woman, call her “Mllena,” who has a testimony of the Book of Mormon and Joseph Smith, but she didn’t want to leave her current church, so she said she wouldn’t get baptized.  We invited her to pray about whether it was God’s will.  Then I asked her if Christ were there and he invited her to get baptized if she would (I wanted to help her develop real intent — to decide that if God answered her prayer she would follow his will and get baptized).  She said “No, I would say ‘Sorry God, I want to die in the Catholic church!'” That was a bit of a shock to me.  Later she said she would do whatever God told her to do — I think she responded that way in the moment because she was feeling a lot of fear about change.  We were unsure about how to help her after that, but we wanted to give it one more try.  She is one of the precious souls who really want to be righteous and do the right things, so we really wanted to help her. 

We decided to give a lesson about temples and how her family can be together forever (some of her family members are members already).  This is such a special message!  (I love the new church website that emphasizes how special this message is: temples.churchofjesuschrist.org.)  She was touched.  She has a son who died at 24-ish and definitely wants to live with him and her husband after this life.  She and her husband were married only for this life, but she said she wants to be with him forever! I asked her if she would like to be sealed in the temple in the future and she said yes! 

Sister Ribeiro asked her what she thought she needed to do to get ready for that and after a pause she said “Well, I need to get baptized.”  She wanted to think more before actually committing to baptism but I know the spirit touched her heart!  This is the spirit of Elijah and it is real. Russell M. Nelson, now our prophet, taught that the spirit of Elijah is “a manifestation of the Holy Ghost bearing witness of the divine nature of the family.” Elijah, the Old Testament prophet, returned to earth, bringing keys of priesthood authority. Elder Nelson explained that “Elijah came . . . to enabl[e] families to be eternally linked beyond the bounds of mortality.” Today we are going to visit Mllena with the ward family history consultant to help her start her family history.  I am praying that she will have the courage to be baptized!  She needs the blessings waiting for her in the temple. 

Tiago’s baptism

Tiago* got baptized this week! We were worried that something would happen to call it off or postpone it one or two days before his baptism like the other weeks, but he stayed firm until the end!  David got confirmed with Tiago on Sunday, and Lucas, who got baptized two weeks before David, got a calling and received the Aaronic priesthood!

Ward mission leaders and Tiago

A couple people stopped us in the street this week, which is every missionary’s dream.  We met some church members who haven’t been to church in a while, but want to return.  One of them was drinking and smoking and said “I felt so happy in the church; I don’t know why I left.” I hope he can return.  We also talked to a man who isn’t a member but wants a visit!  That was very special. 

Another special moment happened on Sunday.  You know the little kid in The Incredibles who is riding a bike and staring at Mr. Incredible while he lifts up his car with super-strength?  A  little while ago we were doing a street contact when a little girl started driving around us in circles, staring at us just like the little kid in The Incredibles.  When we started talking to her she said she wanted the book we gave to our contact (the Book of Mormon).  Later some of her friends walked up with their dad, Renan, and started pleading for a Book of Mormon too!  It was very cute. 

The tricycle kid from The Incredibles

When we returned to that neighborhood, we could not find her house, but then we saw her in the street!  That was a miracle, because she lives in a tiny alleyway we never would have found. The little girl, “Isabela,” had already read the part we marked in the Book of Mormon (something many adults fail to do).  We said we would visit her at five on Thursday, and she said “Ok, I’ll wait in the street starting at four!  Do you promise to come?”  We promised, but when we showed up she was not there, so we planned to visit her some day this week.

On Sunday we decided to visit another investigator we hadn’t been able to visit with over conference weekend when we had planned.  Partway there I started feeling like going there was very stupid and a waste of time, because we didn’t have tons of information about exactly where he lived, his house number was twenty and we were seeing numbers in the 500s, and he lives far away so I figured we would just spend a lot of time wandering around but not doing anything.  But at that point we were almost to Isabela’s alley anyway so we decided to see if maybe he had said his street name wrong and actually lived on the same street.  We found his house, but he wasn’t at home, so we went to visit Isabela. She was there with her two sisters and three friends.  All of them were excited to hear our message!  Her sister “Camila” said she had been waiting to find the right church to get baptized.  They all accepted our invitation to read the Book of Mormon and pray about whether it is true and if Joseph Smith was a prophet. Then they accepted our invitation to get baptized if they receive an answer that it is!  They said they would go to an activity we have at church this week and visit church on Sunday!  We asked Camila to give the closing prayer and after some gentle prodding and encouragement she did, and started crying when she thanked God for our visit.  It was a very special, spiritual lesson.

Love you all! 

*Names are changed to ensure investigator and new members’ privacy is respected.

Sense of Urgency

We had a great week!  My new companion, Sister Ribeiro, is awesome — she doesn’t really need a trainer but we’re learning lots of things together. 

Sister Faulconer & Sister Ribeiro

I loved General Conference; it is such a good opportunity to feel the spirit and receive personal revelation.  If you haven’t watched it yet, watch it now!  Our investigator, let’s call her “Emanuelle,” went to conference Saturday night.  We were super excited because she had had trouble going to church for many Sundays in a row, but she made it to conference!  She brought questions to ponder during the meeting and said she liked it a lot. 

During that session Elder Mathias Held told about his conversion story — he spent a lot of time looking at the church through rational eyes.  He saw a lot of wonderful things — service, hard work, family-centered worship, etc.  But he and his wife never felt totally ready to get baptized.  But when they realized they needed to use their spiritual eyes as well as the cold-hard-facts-rational eyes, they recognized that they needed to progress towards baptism because it was the Lord’s will for them.  He read a scripture (I think it was in this talk) that I love and have used with several investigators.

Mosiah 18:8-10:

8 And it came to pass that he said unto them: Behold, here are the waters of Mormon (for thus were they called) and now, as ye are desirous to come into the fold of God, and to be called his people, and are willing to bear one another’s burdens, that they may be light;

Yea, and are willing to mourn with those that mourn; yea, and comfort those that stand in need of comfort, and to stand as witnesses of God at all times and in all things, and in all places that ye may be in, even until death, that ye may be redeemed of God, and be numbered with those of the first resurrection, that ye may have eternal life—

10 Now I say unto you, if this be the desire of your hearts, what have you against being baptized in the name of the Lord, as a witness before him that ye have entered into a covenant with him, that ye will serve him and keep his commandments, that he may pour out his Spirit more abundantly upon you?

David with his family and Sister Ribeiro and I. He was baptized this weekend!

If we are ready to try to follow Christ’s example, helping those who are in need and being witnesses of God, baptism is the logical next step!  Some times things in the church (patriarchal blessings, receiving a temple endowment) seem like huge commitments and we feel that we have to be practically perfect or super committed or have perfect certainty before committing.  But if we are worthy to participate in these covenants, and we have received a testimony that doing so is God’s will for us, we shouldn’t let fear hold us back!  God is just waiting to fulfill his side of the covenant, to pour out his spirit more abundantly upon us, to cleanse us from our sins, and help us progress towards eternal life.  For those of us who have already made these covenants, we can apply the same principles to repentance and following the counsel we find in the scriptures and general conference.  As President Nelson said, time is running out!  We have to prepare for the second coming today.  Now is the time and the day of our salvation, we need to act now so that God can immediately bless us with the Atonement (Alma 34). 


Acai, vegan strawberry and vegan pitanga at Madoska, an ice cream shop in
Gravatá to celebrate my 20th birthday. It was very tasty.

I felt that sense of urgency this week because I turned twenty!  I can’t believe it.  I also have 7.5 months in the mission field. It’s pretty crazy. On my birthday we went to Caruaru for our weekly district meeting and interviews with President Houseman.  We got back so late we ate lunch for dinner, but it was good.  We also taught a lesson to “Ramon,” the nephew of one of our members.  He was invited to church the other week and loved it.  We hope everything will go well!

I also experimented with making macaxeira [cassava] fries.  Macaxeira is like a potato but not.  Through much trial and error I learned that you need to boil them before frying them, that you need to cut large fries, that our kitchen knife is very dull, and that you need to boil them in salted water. 


The view from our windows. We go up that hill several times a week — occasionally twice in one day!

This week we are hoping to mark Emanuelle for baptism. We are also hoping that Ramon’s mother will get baptized, as well as Tiago!  Tiago has had some bumps in the road on his way to baptism, including things other people said to him, but we told him to pray about it.  It’s God’s opinion that counts!  He said “Whoa, my heart is beating really fast!” It was special — he is very sensitive to the Spirit and wants to do God’s will.

This is a picture of Tiago and I with my my companions from a few weeks ago.

Extra miracle: We thought at one point that we had lost our keys in the road.  We almost called a locksmith, but I felt like we should check the chapel first.  We wrote down the locksmith´s number, went to the chapel and . . . they were there on the bench. It was a blessing.

Triumvirate Travels Apart: Transfers are Trying

Sister Faulconer and Sister Broadbent: Excited about jackfruit

The day before transfers, Tuesday, it rained a lot.  I felt the tiniest bit cold, which was a strange sensation.  Sister Broadbent wanted hot chocolate, but that’s not very easy to find.  Instead, we ate munguza (sweet coconut milk with pieces of corn and cinnamon on top) which people sell on the street corners.  It was a cool moment — we were walking through tons of rain eating munguza.  It seemed very Brazilian!  Little did we know that our adventures were just beginning!

We leave at 10:30 am and return at 9 pm every day — we never return home during the day.  But Sister Centeio bought a suitcase during our dinner time so we went home to leave the suitcase there. Sister Centeio walked up the stairs and said “Uh-oh, there’s water in the house Sister!” Then she walked into the room where we keep our suitcases and clothes and said “There is a lot of water!!”  One day before transfers all the suitcases got wet!  There was about a quarter inch of water in that room!  It was a little miracle that we went home during dinner instead of waiting five more hours–it made a difference for the suitcases.  One book was ruined and some papers and letters got wet as well, as well as all of my clothes, but luckily the easily ruinable things were mostly in other rooms.  We had to spend some time taking all the stuff out of the room, throwing away wet boxes, and setting up the fans to try and dry out the suitcases, and using a “roda” to push all the water out the balcony.  A roda is a huge squeegee that you can use to push out water or cover with a rag and use as a mop.

Luckily the suitcases were mostly dry by the next day.  I rode in a car with some other people to the metro, then took the metro to a bus station, and then rode to a different road where I got off and walked to the mission office.  I was late because my area is far away, and the buses and cars only leave so early.  But it didn’t turn out to be a problem because some missionaries who lived super close were quite late–there was a protest with a fire and someone stole the copper cables from the metro!  It didn’t end up affecting my travel but a lot of missionaries had to get taxis and figure out other ways to get to the right places.  Pretty crazy for the day of transfers! 

My new companion is Sister M. Ribeiro.  She is awesome.  She is from
São Paulo, is 19 years old, and likes to take pictures. She speaks English because she spent a few months in the U.S. with her sister, so we are switching off practicing English and Portuguese pronunciation at home.  Maybe I’ll get home with a Paulista accent! 

First pic of new companionship: Sister M. Ribeiro [Hi-BEAR-o] and Sister Faulconer

Almost all of our people with dates marked for baptism had problems this week and the three baptisms we thought might happen fell through!  We have a couple people who have decided to break the law of chastity even though they know it is wrong, some people who moved to other cities, some people who got new jobs and can’t go to church on Sundays, and some people who just don’t want to get baptized right now. But we are all set to have David’s baptism this coming Sunday between sessions of General Conference and it should be great! He said that after going to church for five years, he finally decided to get baptized because of a member’s testimony last Sunday. Your talks and testimonies can be powerful, folks!

I like a scripture in Alma 4:19: “And this he did that he himself might go forth among his people, or among the people of Nephi, that he might preach the word of God unto them, to stir them up in remembrance of their duty, and that he might pull down, by the word of God, all the pride and craftiness and all the contentions which were among his people, seeing no way that he might reclaim them save it were in bearing down in pure testimony against them.”

It was sad to lose people we were so excited about, but I felt the spirit in several of those lessons. Sometimes you teach with the spirit and authority but people choose not to change their lives for the better.

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

2 Nephi 2:27

It’s sad, because sometimes you see people choosing to follow the devil and be miserable. We have one investigator who always said he wanted to be happy. He told us how happy he was when he prayed about the Book of Mormon, when he went to church, when he stopped drinking coffee. But he decided not to follow the commandments and he won’t have the chance to feel the divine happiness people can experience on the gospel path.

I’m excited for this week working with Sister Ribeiro.  The good thing about when things fall through is that you have a clean slate to find lots of new people. 

I am also super excited for General Conference! We have told some of our investigators that the prophet has promised that if we write down our questions before conference, and then prayerfully attend, we can receive answers to our questions and guidance for our doubts. I know this promise is true–I definitely felt that last conference. Sometimes we don’t get the answer we want–maybe the answer is “wait” or “that doesn’t matter right now”–but we will get the answers we need, and our testimonies can be strengthened. Don’t miss out this week!

I will trust in thee forever

It’s transfers already!!  We were studying this morning when President Houseman called–I’m going to train someone!  I feel pretty nervous about that but I know that with God all things are possible. I have been thinking a lot about 2 Nephi 4:34:

O Lord, I have trusted in thee, and I will trust in thee forever. 

I thought a lot about this scripture last transfer when I had to show Palmares to Sister Arce.  I know God is someone we can always trust in.  

Photos of Gravatá

We had a wonderful experience this Sunday.  A young man we didn’t know, call him “David,” showed up to church this Sunday.  We found out that he had been going to church for five years but isn’t baptized!  He said he just wasn’t sure he wanted to be baptized.  Usually we don’t randomly have time to schedule visits with people same-day, but this Sunday we did, so we visited him after church.  We found out that his dad has been less-active for 25 years.   At the beginning of the lesson he said he was waiting for God to touch him–he wanted some kind of answer from God about when he should go back to church.

We started teaching a lesson about faith, repentance, and baptism.  When we got to baptism we invited David to get baptized next Saturday.  When we invited him he looked at the ground and mumbled, “Yeah, I think I’ve thought long enough.” We weren’t sure if we heard him right, but he really is ready to get baptized next Saturday!  Then I started to invite his Dad to go back to church and I said “We’d like to invite you . . .” and he cut me off and said he would call the Bishop to return to full activity that very evening!  We were so happy for them.  That was really a miracle. 

Next we went to see Tiago, whose baptism had fallen through.  We thought he wouldn’t be able to get baptized because of family problems, but when we showed up he said everything had been resolved and he is going to get baptized this Saturday! 

We also had a baptism this past Saturday:  “Lucas” is a very special young man.  On Wednesday he said he hadn’t got an answer to his prayer yet, but we did a fast with him and he said that the next day he felt the spirit strongly all day.  He got an answer and got baptized Saturday!  I think one day he will be a missionary. 

Exploring the foods of Brazil:

Fries (Batata frita) are very popular here.  But the ketchup and mustard here taste different — sometimes you can see in the ingredient list that the mustard has corn puree.  This is hilarious because the northeast part of Brazil is known for its love of corn.  Apparently they even put it in the mustard!

The red fruit, jambo, seriously tastes like roses!

Pipoca, puffed corn, is sold on all of the corners and in all of the busstops and the busses and the metros.  There is a large part of Gravatá which has a factory that makes pipoca and there is a super strong smell of margarine in the air for blocks!  It reminds me strongly of packing peanuts but it is tasty in a not-popcorn-but-sort-of kind of way. [To read more about pipoca de isopor click here.]

The green fruit is an ubu. Like many fruits in Brazil you don´t eat the pit or the skin, just the inside fruit.

Love you all!  Hope you have a great week! 

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.