What I learned

This week was a whirlwind!  We spent a lot of time practicing our presentation for zone conference.  The topic was “the witness of two nations”– referring to 2 Nephi 29:7-9 which talks about how the Bible and the Book of Mormon work together

Know ye not that there are more nations than one? . . . Wherefore murmur ye, because that ye shall receive more of my word? Know ye not that the testimony of two nations is a witness unto you that I am God, that I remember one nation like unto another? Wherefore, I speak the same words unto one nation like unto another. And when the two nations shall run together the testimony of the two nations shall run together also.

Sister Anaya and Sister Faulconer teaching at Zone Conference

I don’t know if I did a good job of explaining what I learned, but I truly learned a lot studying for our presentation.  This talk from President Nelson was especially enlightening. This one from Elder Callister is also good.  I didn’t remember hearing President Nelson’s talk until I reread it, but it is so powerful!  Without the Book of Mormon, we don’t have all the truths of Christ’s gospel.  The Book of Mormon confirms and clarifies the steps of His gospel, e.g., how to baptize, how to give the gift of the Holy Ghost.  It especially clarifies the doctrine of the atonement.  Our prophet, President Nelson said:  “This important word—atonement—in any of its forms, is mentioned only once in the King James Version of the New Testament!. In the Book of Mormon, it appears 39 times!”

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When I studied the scriptures in the Bible and the Book of Mormon about the atonement, I could see how they work together in harmony.  The Bible teaches us that Christ’s body, blood, and sacrifice cleanse us from sin.  The Book of Mormon teaches us how this works (See Alma 34:8-17 — it goes so well with Hebrews 7 from the Come, Follow Me reading from the other  week!)

I had been thinking about President Nelson’s invitation this conference (and his talk a few conferences ago) to think about what the Book of Mormon adds to our lives and where we would be without it.  I wanted to study more about this but was a little unsure where to start and had a hard time balancing it with the other things I was trying to study.  Studying for our presentation was a heaven-sent opportunity to learn more.  Without the Book of Mormon, we wouldn’t have these wonderful truths about Christ’s gospel.  We also wouldn’t have this wonderful proof of God’s love for all peoples and places — God talks to people in every part of the world, and he doesn’t stop talking!  That’s why we always invite people to pray and ask God if the Book of Mormon is God’s word.  We know he will respond because we’ve already asked! 

Almost without exception, the people we stop teaching are the people who don’t ask and don’t read the scriptures.  At home I thought people didn’t join the Church of Jesus Christ because they felt they received other answers from God, or because they believe God didn’t respond.  But usually (here at least) the problem is that people don’t even try to receive an answer.  If we knock he will open it (i.e., the truth) unto us! 

At zone conference, President and Sister Houseman told us that the Brazil Recife mission is going to split!  How exciting!  If I understood correctly, they are going to find 30 new apartments!  Each transfer, the number of missionaries will grow and grow until the Housemans go home and the mission splits.  We need to redouble our efforts to help the two missions be strong.  They also changed some of the goals we track — instead of counting how many times we talk with someone new or read the scriptures, we will count how many invitations we make — to church, baptism, read the scriptures, pray, etc.  It will be exciting!  

President and Sister Houseman

After our presentation, I thought all the stressful parts of the conference were over.  I said this to Sister Anaya . . . and about one minute afterwards Sister Houseman asked me if I would translate her talk for the conference!  The stress was not over!  But it´s not every day you get to try and develop the gift of the interpretation of tongues.  I was grateful for the opportunity to be able to practice.  I think I probably messed up all the genders and said “uh…” way too much, but for the most part I think it went pretty well.  Except when I started translating about Sister Houseman’s great-grandchildren.  Oops!  They’re not old enough for that!

After zone conference I went right to Tamandaré for splits.  The next day, instead of going home, I went to Jardim Massangana with Sister Pereira because our companions were both going to the temple before going home. 

This Sunday, Wesley*, another new investigator, went to church! We met him last week while eating lunch at a self service.  While eating, I was thinking about the Safetyzone video that instructs us to remember that we ought to act like missionaries in every circumstance.  People are always watching and we need to be representatives of Christ.  A few minutes later a man walked up to our table and asked which church we were from.  He said he was curious about religion and wanted to know when we had church meetings so that he could visit!  He apologized several times for interrupting our lunch — he didn’t need to worry about that!  In case anyone is in doubt, we LOVE being interrupted by people who contact us!  Feel free to interrupt any lunch I have!  We had a great lesson with him this week and he actually showed up to church this Sunday!  Miracles!!!   

Sister Anaya got on a bus this morning to go to the mission office.  I will definitely miss her!  I can’t believe she’ll be in Mexico on Wednesday.  It reminds me of the temporariness of my own mission–I wish I could serve two years but I will work on making good use of the three transfers I have left.  Now I’m staying in Jardim Massangana for two more days with Sister Pereira.  On Wednesday I’ll get a new companion (who? who?) and we will go back to Candeias.  I am accepting all prayers for the gift of discernment of directions and the gift of not screwing things up!

*Names of investigators are always changed for their privacy

Robbed–annoying, not scary!

The horchata Sister Anaya made was very good.

This week was a rollercoaster.  We spend one day walking  all over trying to teach people and nothing —- no first lessons, nobody marked for baptism, nobody at home.  Then the next day we teach four people a first lesson, five people marked for baptism.  That was a pretty great day!  Then another day of nothing.  Sometimes we struggle to find two investigators, sometimes we have a ton. 

Yesterday we left the house at 10:30 — the sun is super high, it might as well be noon, there are people in the street, and . . . we were robbed right in front of our apartment.  We saw the guy before he robbed us, but he looked like a normal person — on a bicycle!!  He stopped right next to us, and for a second I thought he wanted to talk to us or something (hey, it happens).  Sister Anaya was calling our lunch appointment and he tried to grab the phone out of her hand.  She sort of reflexively moved away but then realized he was trying to rob us and gave him the phone. [For safety, missionaries are not supposed to resist in robbery situations.] It is almost a little annoying to be robbed by some guy on a bike whose only recourse is shouting “Gimme the phone! Let’s go, let’s go, let’s go!” in order to get what he wants, but on the other hand, way better than being robbed by someone who is actually scary, right?  He took the phone, started leaving, came back and demanded my phone as well . . . ha ha, joke’s on him. “I don’t have a phone.” “Gimme the phone, let’s go, let’s go!” “We only have one phone! Her phone is my phone.  I don’t have a phone.”(I was almost laughing because it was such a ridiculous situation at this point).  He decided to give up. 

Note to the wise: missionaries are easy targets because they don’t resist, but robbing missionaries = not a lucrative way of gaining a living! We were glad he only took our phone, and afterwards we marked lessons with five new investigators before lunch.  After tribulation cometh the blessings?  We joked that next time we will give him our bags as well so that we can help people go to Sacrament Meeting!   Sister Anaya didn’t get robbed until the last month of her mission!  I was hoping to go a whole mission without getting robbed, but if I had to get robbed it was definitely one of the least scary ways to get robbed.

Yesterday we had an interesting experience. We were teaching a great family.  They had already been to church in the past and were interested in the lessons.  But unfortunately they think it is interesting to find super crazy doubts/questions about everything but less interesting to actually read the Book of Mormon and pray.  If you never knock, God may not respond!  We prayed before the lesson for discernment.  We retaught the restoration, and it was a spiritual lesson. But it was so obvious that we should stop teaching them — one of them kept standing up and leaving, the other one kept saying totally unrelated things . . . Sad, but we were grateful to not be confused about whether we ought to teach them or not.  We have some investigators with potential who will said they would go to church next week.  I think our teaching pool is improving — hopefully they really go this Sunday!

Broa is a northeastern specialty — it is a lightly flavored biscuit-sort of thing. Although it looks like a donut, sadly it otherwise has very little resemblance to one. Okay with milk.

Today (for preparation day) we are going to get a new cell phone and hopefully we will get to visit the oldest synagogue in the Americas.

Every Day is a Good Day

It’s hard to have a better week than general conference week!  I can’t believe it´s October general conference already. I remember watching last October’s conference in the CTM, and then watching in April with Sister M. Ribeiro.  April doesn’t seem six months ago!  Conference was great. I am excited to study the talks again! 

I was extremely excited to find out about the change to the policy on witnesses.  A tender mercy to hear about the change from my Mom in my birthday call to her (not to mention the tender mercy of being able to use webcams and call with more frequency!!).  I always hope people will progress to baptism, because it is an essential saving ordinance.  Being able to possibly witness such a baptism only adds to that hope!

There were many wonderful talks.  I especially loved the talks about the importance of joy as well as missionary work.  As a long-time fan of The Hobbit, I was also a fan of President Uchtdorf’s talk. On the subject of joy, today I read part of the book about President Hinckley as a prophet. There was a quote about how every day in missionary work is a good day. Apparently he shook his companion´s hand and said “Today will be a good day” when they left and “Today was a good day” every day when they got home.  I guess that’s true in life too — every day is a good day.

President Nelson’s talk reminded me of how many blessings we have.  What a blessing not to go hungry — and a huge responsibility to help those who are!  I thought it was interesting that he didn’t invite us to do anything as part of the talk.  But I think there was an inherent invitation to act.  Those statistics about hunger are an invitation to act!

Although we had more people than normal who said they would go to conference, we did not have a lot of actual success.  But Ana Luiza went to church!  Ana Luiza is a 12-year-old who I met a while ago with Sister Sousa.  A different missionary later saw her in his area and contacted  her.  She told him she was already being taught!  Because I ended up working in two areas and she doesn’t spend much time at home, we didn’t manage to see her for a while.  But now we are teaching her again and she went to conference!  Also, she became ecstatic upon receiving a Book of Mormon after having read part of the pamphlet of excerpts on the Book of Mormon: “I’m not managing to believe you are giving me a Book of Mormon!”

Aline did turn out to be a great investigator.  She is interested and kept all of her invitations. She didn’t go to conference and we aren’t sure why, but hopefully everything goes well this week!

We are also teaching Ana Carolina and her family.  Ana Carolina became excited about the Book of Mormon in our contact with her.  She said it would be her birthday present because we promised to give her one on our visit the day after her birthday.  We are also teaching her brother and mother.  She almost went to conference but was sick the day of.  She had some questions about how Joseph Smith could have seen God.  There is  lot of confusion about this here–people think that no one could see God.  That kind of makes sense, except that the Bible also says that Moses spoke to God face to face and that John saw God and Christ in a vision, just like Joseph Smith did. That helped her with those concerns, although she still has doubts about prophets.  But she hadn’t read the Book of Mormon yet, so I think it will help a lot.  Also we invited her to watch conference online so I hope that works out!

This week we are going to do a service project and help Monique (the missionary’s mom) paint and clean her house.

This week it has been getting hotter every day.  It is not winter anymore; not even close!  People keep telling us it will just get hotter!  Next week is transfers — I will find out if I will be in Recife in January (i.e., hot hot hot hot hot) or somewhere else!  It is inspiring to hear President Houseman talk about how he receives revelation to transfer missionaries.  I´ll go where He wants me to go —- o´er hill or beach!

Teaching that Christ Visited the Americas

Picture of Sister missionary, Sister Hannah Faulconer, videochatting with her parents

This week was great. We have a wonderful investigator that I told you about last week, Alexia.* She is an amazing example of someone who studies the gospel. She is reading all of the material we give her and asking for copies of the Pearl of Great Price and True to the Faith because she read about them in the pamphlets! She is being integrated well, which is really good. But it was a bit of a roller-coaster this week because on Sunday she didn’t go to church. She said she was sick. Alexia’s mother had said she would pray about the church. She said she prayed and received an answer that she should stay in her church.  But she also said she believes that Joseph Smith was a prophet.  So hopefully we can help her understand that if Joseph Smith was a prophet, the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints has to be Christ’s restored church. One of our other investigators, Willian, unfortunately, had to work a lot this week; we are still hoping he can be baptized.

We did not have a lot of success with teaching lessons this week, but the upside was that consequently we did a number of contacts and managed to meet a number of new investigators who seem to have a lot of potential!  We have really been trying hard to put President Nelson’s advice from his missionaries-only broadcast from Brasilia  to missionaries into practice.  He said that the most important part of the Book of Mormon is 3 Nephi 11, when Christ visits the Americas.  He said we should have people read the 3 Nephi 11 chapter heading because after reading that they wouldn’t want to put the book down!  Initially, I had been worried we weren’t doing it right because I wasn’t sure if people were understanding the chapter summary. But this week some people really seemed intrigued as they read the chapter summary.  Several people asked us how much it costs to buy a Book of Mormon before we had a chance to tell them that we would take it to their house for free

I believe Christ truly visited the Americas.  I am so grateful to know that our loving Heavenly Father wanted His children on both sides of the globe to hear His gospel.  The Book of Mormon is a blessing in my life. Did you know that the Church of Jesus Christ is publishing Book of Mormon videos?  I watched the first one today and it is cool!  Watch here.

I also saw this article by Sister Eubank** on the church website today that I really liked. It has a really great explanation about the difference the Church can make — even in the lives of great people.  Evangelical people we meet always want to tell us to go talk to someone who isn’t Christian instead of wasting our time talking to them.  But the truth is that the restored gospel has a wonderful multiplying power.  If you start as a wonderful Christian you have the potential to become an even better Christian with exponentially more opportunities to serve and bless.

“But let’s say a good woman or man encounters the restored gospel. She makes a covenant at baptism into the Church of Jesus Christ that promises her she can receive priesthood power: God’s power. Is her life and power vastly different from before? Yes! I believe her good power is greatly magnified by her covenants . . .”

We also have zone conference this week.  One downside of living in the Central Zone is that our conference is on Tuesday.  It doesn’t help with my never-yet-achieved-goal of having the 2 five-minute talks we are asked to prepare prepared well in advance!  This week the topics are Personal Conversion and the Day of Judgement.   

On Friday I am going to go to the airport to renew my visa!  That’s weird.  I have a new card to show off my legal status as well.  Other people apparently can tell that I have lost a little weight since my passport photo on entering Brazil.  On Sunday Sister Barros will turn 21!  Also, I found out that I will be flying home March 31st, arriving at home just a few days before my 21st birthday.  Weird weird weird. 

Picture from District interviews, courtesy Sister Lori Houseman

*Investigators’ names are always changed to protect their privacy

**Sister Sharon Eubank is the first counselor in the general presidency of the Relief Society, the Church’s organization for its six million female members ages 18 and over.

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].

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.

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.