This week was different! Sister Nogueira and I spent a lot of time at night and before studies in the morning trying to leave lots of information for the new missionaries in Candeias. We are not sure if they are sisters or elders, but they probably are not Sister Training Leaders. We suspect they might be elders, but who knows when I will find out! On Wednesday morning we spent more time trying to leave all the information well-organized for them, and then left to get a bus. Just as I was leaving I picked up a box of trash. It had containers of soy sauce that were not put inside a trash bag. When I picked up the box to take it outside, just as we were leaving, it got soy sauce all over the floor. We tried to clean it up quickly, but I hope the new missionaries weren’t surprised by a strong soy sauce smell when they opened the door!
We left the keys in the “aquatic club” across the street and started lugging the suitcases to the bus stop. It was a production, albeit much easier than when I lugged my suitcases to Candeias two transfers ago! This time we went the short pavemented way! As we were almost to the bus stop we passed below a skyscraper where a recent convert, Camilla, lives. She ran outside to help us lug the suitcases, which was nice of her. Then we noticed that the doorman was calling us. He had Sister Nogueira’s Book of Mormon! That was a shock. Two days before she had lost her pocket Book of Mormon. We looked everywhere, but couldn’t find it, which was sad. Two minutes before getting to the bus stop he flagged us down and said that someone had left the Book of Mormon with him! It was good that Camilla ran out to help us because 1. Three people makes the task easier 2. If not, the doorman might not have noticed us! Definitely a miracle–we might have left a different way or the doorman could have been distracted when we were leaving. It was literally the last ten minutes Sister Nogueira would be in that area for the rest of her mission!
Goiana is different than Candeias. It is a busy city but does not have skyscrapers, so it’s a pretty different atmosphere. Everyone travels to the beach for two months this time of year, so it is much more deserted than usual. We split the city with another companionship of elders. We are also taking care of a few other cities, but the Sisters weren’t visiting them very often. We’ll go to one of them next week, but we’ll see how it goes. The branch here is going to turn into a ward in March. I will probably be here; it will be cool to see! Two of my companions were in Goiana before going to Candeias, and one of my other companions, Sister Arce, went to Goiana after we were companions. Pretty funny!
We have been working hard to find more investigators this week. So far we have been having some difficulty finding investigators at home, but we marked a number of investigators for next week, so hopefully that helps! It is a little bigger here than in Candeias, and quite a bit bigger if you include the other cities we take care of! One interesting thing about this area is that we have lunch with members two days a week, and the other days a week is money or pre-prepared lunches in styrofoam containers that one of the sisters in the ward makes. That is a lot less lunch with members than in my other areas!
This week we will go to mission council on Wednesday and do a transfer with the sisters from Igarassu. Today I hope to see the outdoor market. Goiana does not have big supermarkets like Casa Forte or Candeias but it does have an outdoor market open every day, so that is a plus!
We met some awesome family members of an investigator in Casa Forte before I left. The dad said he knew he needed to live the law of chastity but he had proposed to his wife twice (with a ring and flowers) and she hadn’t accepted. She isn’t very religious but they all agreed to go to church this Sunday. I hope they went! When we left the dad was already sitting on the couch reading the Book of Mormon! I also got some great news from the sisters in Gravatá–one of Maria Eduarda’s* daughters got baptized! Maria Eduarda is the investigator I wrote about who didn’t believe in God. Apparently she is still praying very regularly and is grateful that we visited her and taught her to pray.
We had originally contacted this daughter and met Maria Eduarda because she was there when we tried to visit her daughter. We taught her daughter a few times and invited her to be baptized, but she was working every single weekend in a different city. It literally wasn’t possible for her to go to church, and some of the days we visited her family she was gone working. But she must not be working there anymore! Very gratifying, because until now I had only heard bad news about my former areas. Also, it sounds like Victor and David, two of Gravatá´s recent converts, are doing great.
The Transfer Saga: First, Sister Pereira (who I was traveling with) and I dragged our suitcases to the bus stop. It is close, but her suitcase was a bit broken so that was still a bit hard. Then we got on the bus going away from the metro instead of towards it, but we just got off at the next stop and got on the right bus. Stupid, but not too big of a deal. We got to the metro and our metro was just leaving. But the next one got there in 15ish minutes, so not a big deal. Everything was difficult because we had suitcases and I am a klutz, but everything worked out.
I got off the metro and onto my minibus to Candeias right on schedule. I asked the driver when I should get off and he told me he would tell me. I paid attention to the time to hopefully know about when we would get close to Candeias. After a few stops, a member of the church started talking to me. He said a few things about his mission, his ward, etc., and then asked where I was getting off. I told him, only to be informed that I had already passed my stop. Oops! I felt dumb but thought, “Wow, I am so grateful that God is sending angels to help me on transfer day. So glad I ran into that member” (cue the ominous wrong-decision music). He said the chapel was the next stop so I could get off there. I thought it was funny that our apartment wasn’t closer to the chapel, but maybe some areas are like that?
I got off at the chapel (I later discovered that at this point I was a 5-10 minute walk away from my apartment) and started walking in the direction he had indicated. When I asked for more directions, the directions-givers told me I was going the wrong direction. I turned around. I retraced my steps, asked for more directions, and they told me I needed to go the direction I had originally gone! These people seemed more trustworthy, and they agreed with the member, so I turned around again. Everyone told me it was way too far to walk with suitcases and that I should catch a bus for a few stops. People underestimate missionary walking ability, but I decided to take that advice so as not to be too late. I took a bus four stops (Four stops in the wrong direction!) and got off. Nobody knew where the road I was looking for was. Finally I found a very nice person who walked with me to the right road and helped me with one of the suitcases. He didn’t want a visit, but hey, I planted a seed and he said he would look up the Book of Mormon. It took a while, but I got there. Then I walked up the dirt road looking for the right number. I walked for a long time and got more and more perplexed because the numbers were out of order. Nobody knew where my apartment was. Finally someone who lived there told me I had already passed it (cue more ominous wrong-advice music).
I turned around, and retraced my steps for a while in the other direction without success. I began to see that there is a difference between “take the suitcases you can carry” [the advice they give prospective missionaries] and “take the suitcases you can drag up a soft dirt road on a very hot day.” I am very grateful that my suitcases are good and that it didn’t rain. The next day that same road was full of water — that would have been worse! But I continued on, only to run into the same advice-giver who told me he had gone to get his phone because he could see I was lost. He looked it up on Google maps (technology!) only to figure out that I had not passed it. In fact my apartment was farther than I had originally walked, so I had retraced my steps in vain again. He walked back up the street with me and helped me with a suitcase (blessings). We fiiinally got there, and he left. Too bad that he sent me the wrong direction, but good he was nice enough to help me afterwards.
I used the intercom to call my apartment but no one answered, so I walked up the street to borrow someone’s phone. After trying to use the ancient phone without success, I saw someone opening the apartment gate. I hurried back, and luckily she had already seen missionaries there and let me in. Apparently the intercom is broken and if you shout people hear you. Anyway, I got there more than an hour late but safe and sound. I later saw the chapel basically around the corner from my apartment — I had spent over an hour walking back (and retracing my steps only to turn around again) the four bus stops I retraced away from the chapel. But all’s well that ends well! I heartily recommend that someone make an Amazing Race challenge or a tv show that involves people who have to do missionary-style transfers with suitcases, wrong directions, and without smartphones. It would be hilarious!
I can see the beach from here! It is not as close as it was when I went to Pina, but I get to stay here! In other non-missionary-work related news, there is a Madoska ice cream store here (there was one in Gravatá too) which I plan to make use of later today!
I had been under the impression that I might be in an area with much more of a small-city vibe. Ha ha, Candeias is a neighborhood of Jaboatao dos Guararapes which is right next to Recife. Full of skyscrapers, several huge supermarkets. Not a small-town vibe! So many skyscrapers. It is much smaller than Casa Forte, which is a blessing; hopefully I will learn the area faster. When I manage to learn an area more-or-less I always think “Wow, why didn’t I just make an effort to memorize the roads faster?” But when I get to a new area I remember why–nothing is familiar! Harder to memorize. Also there are many fewer road signs here than in Casa Forte — too bad. But I have high hopes of memorizing here faster. We will see how it goes.
There is a part of town that looks a little like the less-skyscrapery Santa Isabel neighborhood in Casa Forte, but it is much smaller. We spent much more of our time in the skyscraper-y part of the city this week than I had spent in Casa Forte. A lot of very deserted roads. People come out at 5:00 to walk their dogs but before that it is pretty hard to do street contacts. We are often literally the only people I can see! It is strange. We will have to see what we do about that — the houses are a bit imposing to go door-knocking — Brazilians love gates in front of the house, and here the gates are huge walls with intercoms. It seemed like people were less interested in the street contacts here than in Casa Forte as well, but we still managed to get several new investigators. Sister Anaya said this week was better than last transfer for finding new people, so hopefully it continues that way! We also managed to find some people at home (always a struggle) and teach some first lessons as well. We marked two new people, Amanda* and Murilo, so that was great.
Davi (60ish years old) was marked for baptism last week, but when I went to meet him for the first time he opened the door very, very drunk. Then we went back to see him a different day and — still drunk. That was sad, because he had said he had given up alcohol, but it didn’t work out. He lives alone, but right next to a bar and has a lot of friends that call him to drink. But afterwards we found him sober. He said he wanted to apologize to us, so we explained that really he needed to repent and apologize to God. He understood, and said he was excited to get baptized. Ever since he has talked about how excited he is to be baptized. On Sunday he asked us why the bishop hadn’t announced his baptism — a good sign! No one else managed to go to church, but he did, which was great! The other people said they should be able to go next week. He told us that on Saturday he had been working with some friends who were drinking. They invited him many times, but he told them he didn’t want to drink because he wanted to get baptized! We fasted with him yesterday so that he could be strengthened against temptation and for everything to work out for his baptism. Hopefully everything goes well!
Interestingly, there are a lot of people from the religion Espiritismo here. I think service-oriented, tolerant, educated, better-off people are especially attracted to this religion. Because it is a big city there are a lot more well-off and highly educated people here. Espiritismo has some interesting points (some of them believe in reincarnation and things like spiritual hospitals where mediums talk to spirits to help fix your spiritual problems). One thing I admire is that many espíritas (people from this religion) are very, very charitable. They are very self-motivated to look for every service opportunity; something I would like to learn.
This reminds me of a quote from the Teachings of George Albert Smith book I read this week:
First of all, we are asking all you fine people over here to keep all the glorious truths that you have acquired in your churches, that you have absorbed from your scriptures, keep all that. . . keep all the love and the beauty that is in your heart from having lived in so beautiful and wonderful a land. … That is all a part of the gospel of Jesus Christ. Then let us sit down and share with you some of the things that have not yet come into your lives that have enriched our lives and made us happy.
We are also teaching a couple that have been investigating for a while, Rodrigo and Larissa. Ronald has a lot of questions about many different things in the church. He is worried that there are a lot of religions and he might want to receive an answer so much that he might end up deceiving himself and getting a false emotional answer. He is afraid to pray because of this. We told him about the importance of prayer and acting with faith to receive guidance.
3 Angels speak by the power of the Holy Ghost; wherefore, they speak the words of Christ. Wherefore, I said unto you, feast upon the words of Christ; for behold, the words of Christ will tell you all things what ye should do.
4 Wherefore, now after I have spoken these words, if ye cannot understand them it will be because ye ask not, neither do ye knock; wherefore, ye are not brought into the light, but must perish in the dark.
5 For behold, again I say unto you that if ye will enter in by the way, and receive the Holy Ghost, it will show unto you all things what ye should do.
. . .
8 And now, my beloved brethren, I perceive that ye ponder still in your hearts; and it grieveth me that I must speak concerning this thing. For if ye would hearken unto the Spirit which teacheth a man to pray, ye would know that ye must pray; for the evil spirit teacheth not a man to pray, but teacheth him that he must not pray.
9 But behold, I say unto you that ye must pray always, and not faint; that ye must not perform any thing unto the Lord save in the first place ye shall pray unto the Father in the name of Christ, that he will consecrate thy performance unto thee, that thy performance may be for the welfare of thy soul.
Sister Anaya read the Book of Mormon scripture about Laman and Lemuel — they complain that God hadn’t talked to them but they hadn’t asked!
Next week we are going to go to new leader training conference and the mission council. We are about two hours from the mission office (new leader training) and 3-ish from the mission home (mission council) so it will be an adventure.
This week was good! We managed to teach a lot more first lessons this week and we finally have more investigators in our teaching pool. Caroline and Luan* are going to officially start the getting-married process here! Unfortunately, this is not Las Vegas and you can’t get married in one day–it could take two months for the papers to get through! In other updates, Arthur is still working on dropping the last cigarette. He is working hard, so I am sure it will work out eventually.
Unfortunately, none of our new investigators went to church — it was another Sunday of sudden illnesses, rain, a death in the family!, sudden work opportunities, and general busyness and flakiness. But Luan and Caroline went to church again, as well as Arthur and Viviane. Viviane is an awesome young woman who has been wanting to get baptized for the last year. Unfortunately, her mom won’t let her. But she is persevering admirably and a very active member in the ward. The only thing that is missing is the water! (and confirmation). She is going to ask her mom again this week — please pray that her mom’s heart is softened.
Cool story — we are teaching a Hare Krishna who stopped us in the street! He wanted to hear about the temple, which apparently is built in a place an old Hare Krishna temple used to be. He also wanted to know about meat, because Hare Krishnas are vegetarian, and he talked with a vegan member of the church who told him that our scriptures said something about not eating meat. So that is pretty crazy, because I am vegetarian and was vegan before my mission because of those exact scriptures. [However, it should be noted that the majority of members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints are not vegetarian]. And I have been to a Hare Krishna temple before and read a little bit about the religion because I think it’s interesting. Weird. We focused on the more important doctrine of the Restoration and his questions about that instead of talking about meat, but I thought that was a funny coincidence.
He called to cancel our second lesson because something came up but said he had been on the church’s website ComeuntoChrist.org and was loving everything. He was talking about how the church is such a great example of service, teaching children, etc., etc. He said he would go to church this Sunday and wanted us to preach him the Bible! . . . And then on Saturday he called to say he had been called to go on a mission for a week as a Hare Krishna and didn’t need more visits. So that was bad timing. But we told him that we had found a member who had already been to the Hare Krishna temple and would visit him when he got back.
Today we went to get Sister Sousa’s fingerprints taken. Next week (the day we find out about transfers!) she is going to do her interview at the American (embassy? consulate? don´t know). Her Canadian visa went through a week after the interview, so if she gets lucky she might be going to Canada really soon! Who knows if we will be in a trio this next transfer again or if I will end up getting transferred to another place when she leaves . . . or just receive a different companion. I´m not sure.
We stopped by the beach. Oh, how I love the sea. And lakes, and rivers, and ponds. . . It was picture perfect–yellow sand, blue sky, picturesque clouds. We did not go to the beach, obviously, but I admired it from a distance! The water was a little dirty because of the rain, but the benefit of not being allowed to walk on the beach is that it’s harder to see that it is dirty!
Love you all!
*All names are changed to protect the privacy of the investigators