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.

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!

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.

The Right Place

This week we had splits, so I went to Guaranhuns one day with the Sister Training Leaders.  We also had stake conference in Caruaru. It’s an hour away, so this week was pretty crazy because we were following up with a lot of people about whether they could go, how it would be, etc.  There were a lot of people who we hoped would go that didn’t make it, but we had a couple of very special people who did.

We have one investigator, call him “Tiago,” who is older and likes to talk a lot about his life.  In the contact we did with him we weren’t sure if he was really interested in learning or not, but he accepted a baptismal date (in the middle of the road!) so we went back to visit him.  Lots of times we aren’t sure if he is paying attention or really interested, but then there are moments that we can see him progressing a lot. This week we were at stake conference with him and the stake president gave a talk about the importance of reading the Book of Mormon every day.  (See President Monson’s last talk about the Book of Mormonhere) I was inwardly very excited about this talk because we always tell this to our investigators but sometimes they need a second witness for the importance of the Book of Mormon to sink in. After the conference Tiago mentioned the talk and said “I am going to read this book at morning and at night every day!”  That was a very special moment.

Mission President and Missionaries pose for photograph at stake conference in Caruaru

I also wanted to share a story about a woman who went to church this week, call her “Natália.” She had been less active for years, and hadn’t been to church in quite a while.  But her son’s girlfriend, call her “Giovana,” is a member of the church. She always invites Natália and her grandchildren who live with her to church, but they pretty much never went.  One day Giovana invited Natália to church. When Natália said she couldn’t go because she had to make lunch, Giovana didn’t give up. She helped her make lunch and helped Natália until all of her housework was done. They showed up at church quite late, but they made it.  Natália felt a really strong feeling of peace and comfort, like the church was where she ought to be. After the church meetings, Natália found out that one of her children had died. Her family members were worried that this would devastate her. But Natália told us that because of the peaceful feeling she had from church, she knew that everything would be okay.

Later we taught her granddaughter the Restoration.  When we told about Joseph Smith’s first vision, Natália felt a prompting from the spirit that the feeling she had at church was like a first vision for her — an answer to prayer and a witness that the church was true.  Now she goes to church every week, and her granddaughter is progressing towards baptism!

I know all of us can have spiritual experiences like Natália´s.  Sometimes we have to be in the right place to recognize the promptings of the spirit — it was only once she went to church, after so many years of inactivity, that she received an answer!  We can also receive answers through the Book of Mormon, as President Monson promised in his talk, and through prayer. It is so special to be here on a mission seeing people receiving answers to their prayers.

My new home & new sisters: Gravatá

On the left, Sister Centeio from Cape Verde, in the middle, Sister Faulconer from Provo, Utah, on the right, Sister Broadbent from Ogden, Utah. In the background, the very rainy streets of
Gravatá, Pernambuco, Brazil. [courtesy Amy Dawson Broadbent]

Now I have two companions!  I did not know I would be in a trio — it was a big surprise!  Apparently there are a few trios of sisters right now.  I don’t know why — President doesn’t want to open more areas right now?  Lack of houses to rent to missionaries? Revelation?  But it’s cool to be  in a trio.  I especially appreciate how much faster doing the Area Book is.  The Area Book is a large binder with forms that you update for every visit with investigators.  It also has forms where you write the information for every new person who wants a visit and forms we give to the Ward Mission Leader about the help our investigators/recent converts/other members need from the ward.  I do not enjoy doing these forms and having three people means it’s that much faster.  It is also cool just to have two people to talk to and do stuff with.  It’s different teaching lessons together – I was so used to having one companion!

Sister Centeio and Sister Broadbent [courtesy Amy Dawson Broadbent]


I really miss Sister Arce and want very much to know what is happening in Palmares (we were teaching a couple of people who were really progressing that I hope might get baptized and continue as strong members of the church).  But Gravatá is great!  It is a little cooler at night and I can tell that I am sleeping significantly better here . . . when I am not being eaten by mosquitoes.  There are a lot of mosquitoes in our house and I am their favorite snack.  My first night here I woke up unbearably itchy, covered in bug bites and my companions were untouched!  I don’t know why it’s so much worse here than in Palmares.  But luckily the anti-itch cream saved the day (thank you, Mom).  I am going to have to go to bed wearing repellent.  

My new district


It’s a ward rather than a branch here so there are a lot more members.  There are a lot of great people in our ward.  

I gave a talk this Sunday.  It was very mais-ou-menos because I didn’t have a lot of time to prepare it and I didn’t write out all the words but it could have been a lot worse;  I’m sure it was better than the testimony I gave my first month in Palmares! 

Gravatá is a tourist city, so it’s a bit bigger than Palmares and has more stuff.  I am anxiously awaiting the six-reais [Brazilian currency] acai I plan to eat later today.  I told Sister Arce I was hoping to get blessed one day with an area with cheaper acai and I got my wish!  It is a lot less hilly here and it has been raining like crazy. 

Drenched! Dad always says that when crazy things happen it means you have good stories to tell. It’s an adventure! [Photo, courtesy Amy Dawson Broadbent]

We were drenched yesterday;  I loved it, although it is a bit inconvenient sometimes because our stuff gets all wet, we were wearing skirts, and the streets here turn into small lakes.  There were a couple of times we had to walk through some very sketchy water and I was telling my companions about how Dad always says that when crazy things happen it means you have good stories to tell.  It’s an adventure!  So we had an adventure to remember yesterday walking through the sheets of rain and lakes of sketchy water.  

The streets of Gravatá. But it is only the beginning of the rainy season!

Miracle from this week — I was on the bus from Caruaru to Gravatá during the transfer.  At one point, I was praying for my new area and companion (did not know I would have two!) — that we could be led to the people who were ready for the Gospel, etc.  I found out later that at the same time I was praying that we could be led to the people ready for the Gospel, Sister Centeio and Sister Broadbent were walking down the street.  Suddenly, a man, call him “Danilson,” yelled out to them and asked if they were selling copies of the Book of Mormon.  They explained that we are happy to give free books away (click here for your own free copy).  He had read online about the Book of Mormon and really wanted a copy!  We will visit him today; let’s pray that he will recognize the spirit and that his heart will be open to follow its promptings.  

The Book of Mormon is really special — Helaman 15:7-8 is a scripture that touched me recently about the importance of scripture study. Alma 17:2-3 has the story of people who changed their lives through their scripture study!

As you might imagine, I am super excited about the announcement this week [about a rule change allowing missionaries to contact their families on their weekly preparation days].  We called our District Leader that morning because we had marked someone for baptism and he said “Have you guys talked to any members recently?  You should, you will like it!”  We convinced him to tell us about it, but the cellular started having troubles with sound.  We could tell something exciting happened but couldn’t hear to figure out what!  Finally he started half-yelling in English — Sister Broadbent and I were stopped in the middle of the street huddled around a tiny cellphone and I was trying to translate for Sister Centeio — it was difficult because we were all so excited!  It was really hard to wait until today to talk to you guys.  We kept imagining what it was like at home — I bet Facebook in Utah was exploding.  

Yes, an avocado!

I had thought about how cool it would be if the rules changed, but I didn’t expect it to actually happen!  I should get to do a video call with you guys soon!  I was all mentally prepared to wait until Mother’s Day.  [Update: Sister Faulconer attempted a video call Monday afternoon, but the LAN house (internet cafe) didn’t have a working camera or speakers, so it was simply texting with enthusiastic waving at the camera on the part of her family at home in Utah. We hope for the miracle of sound and video in the weeks to come!].

Pancakes for Valentines day — I made these with self-rising flour and something that might be baking powder or baking soda and chocolate drink mix and some other stuff!  Topped with fresh coconut from a member. 

Goodbye to Palmares

I’m being transferred! I’m very sad to leave Sister Arce and Palmares but a new area will be an adventure. I will be in Gravatá, which is still in the interior. Apparently it is a big touristy city — I will have to wait until after our email time to ask Sister Arce more questions. Hopefully the transfer will go smoothly — last transfer my transfer instructions had the wrong times written and the bus was slow and I ended up waiting in the bus station for several hours — it is a little crazy because you travel without a cellphone, but luckily people are willing to lend cellphones if you need to call someone.

Recently we have started hearing frevo in the streets. People are practicing for Carnaval. I do not know much about frevo but it seems to be characterized by a very strong rhythm on drums that is catchy (and quite loud — we can hear it from far away). People dress up in bear costumes and say rhymes asking for money.

Today we went to a museum housed in an old train station. It is about a famous writer and actor Hermilo Borbo Filho and the history of Palmares. Very small but cool. I learned that in Brazil, slaves lived together on the dark, crowded first floor (senzala) of the houses and the plantation owners would live on the second floor. Apparently lots of slaves escaped and would start their own communities called Quilombos. They would stop sometimes in Palmares but the big gathering place was Alagoas.

This week we had some really special experiences with the Book of Mormon. People who read the Book of Mormon receive answers to their prayers and feel the spirit a lot faster than people who don’t. We have one investigator “Mariana” who is 18-ish years old, who I met asking directions. On our second visit with her, we found out that she visited our church once a long time ago. She said she felt a special feeling there and didn’t want to leave. She told God that one day she would go back — maybe a long time in the future (the church is not close to her house) but she would go back. This week we went back and found out that she took the Book of Mormon to school with her to read. She doesn’t like reading but she loves the Book of Mormon! She said she felt like some of the verses were written just for her. One of her friends asked her about it, read part, and started crying because she said she knew it was true!

The same day we visited “Nedna” who we almost dropped because she still hadn’t prayed about whether Joseph Smith was a prophet, if the Book of Mormon is true, hadn’t read the part we left marked for her, etc. But last week she read the part we marked for her (but didn’t pray), so we didn’t drop her. But she still didn’t seem very interested, and then her granddaughter was born and we didn’t see her for two weeks, so we were planning how we could make one last attempt at explaining the importance of praying and reading the scriptures. We showed up, and everything seemed normal, but then we asked her if she had prayed. She said, “Well, I have to tell you that I got an answer!” I was surprised. Apparently she remembered to pray and read the Book of Mormon despite all the chaos with her granddaughter’s birth (a miracle — we had invited her over several visits to read and pray, and she didn’t), and then she lost her cellphone in the middle of they city and asked God to help her get it back if the Book of Mormon was true. Someone found her cell phone when her ex-husband was calling her, answered, and arranged to bring the cell phone to him. This is apparently very rare here and she said she knew it was an answer from God. Note — I do not recommend just praying to God asking for a sign to know if the Book of Mormon is true. You have to read the Book of Mormon, pray, etc., if you want an answer — you receive a testimony after the trial of your faith (Ether 12:6) and the scriptures are very clear about the perils of requiring signs from God. Also, God responds to people in different ways.

Both of those experiences happened right after we ended a fast to help our investigators receive answers — it was special. It is so important to put in effort to receive answers from God — diligently read the Book of Mormon, pray wholeheartedly and go to church! We have stopped visiting several different people because they said they didn’t feel vontade (will, the urge, inclined) to read the scriptures/pray/go to church. They all said that if God sent them a feeling of vontade one day they would go to church etc, but they weren’t feeling it then. The devil doesn’t want you to pray, read, or go to church (the evil spirit teacheth not a man to pray 2 Nephi 32:8), so if you wait for a feeling of vontade to do these things you will probably wait your whole life. We also have an investigator who is wonderful but keeps getting sucked into YouTube videos about the wonderful things the Church does instead of reading the Book of Mormon or praying. The documentaries are great, and now he has a lot of respect for church programs, but the scriptures are inspired books written by the power of God to guide us — YouTube videos are not.

Love you all!

Progress and Willingness to Change

For months I thought a really loud child lived on our street, but this transfer I learned from Sister Arce that it was actually just this parrot.  

Unfortunately it looks like our neighbor “Stephanie” who I told you about last week believes the Book of Mormon is true but does not want to consider joining a different church.  I hope that when she finishes the Book of Mormon maybe she will be a bit more open to considering it, but we will see. Recently, we have had trouble with having lots of people to teach but not having a lot of investigators who are actually progressing (Saturday night they say they will go to church, Sunday morning we show up to take them to church and they have surprise visitors, are sick, do not want to go, are busy, etc.)  Yesterday at 9:57 it wasn’t looking very good, but three of our investigators showed up partway through the meeting! We had already been to “Caio” and “Henrique’s” houses that morning, and they weren’t there, but they both went to church by themselves. I am so excited for them — “Caio” stopped drinking last week for good — his friend offered him beer on Saturday and he said he followed our advice and left right away! He is also stopping his coffee habit.  It is amazing to see the difference in progress between people who really want to change their lives and people who don’t. I have met some people who don’t want to ask God if the Book of Mormon is true or if they ought to stop drinking coffee because they don’t want to get an answer. Or they ask, but they don’t get an answer, and then we find out that even if God did respond to them it wouldn’t change anything in their lives.

***

I found brown rice!!!  I am very excited about that. The problem is that although I always want to eat when we get home I am seldom actually hungry because we eat a lot for lunch.  But I am eating brown rice today. We have to go to Recife to get a new cellphone and I will eat this on the bus. You can’t actually see the brown rice but it is under the other food.  The top left corner has sweet potato. I really miss orange sweet potatoes, but these are good too. There is also mango. Not very much mango, but I already ate a mango and a half today. A member gave us a bag of mangoes and they are delicious. There are also peas (protein-rich). The peas here are canned!  There are no fresh or frozen peas. Canned peas are very strange to me. If you heat them up and eat them with thyme and lime juice and hot sauce they are not bad (but very mushy). Lemons here are called Japanese limes and they are very rare and expensive, so I have been eating lots of lime juice. Mango with lime juice is heavenly.  I topped the dish with spicy ketchup. Ketchup is very popular here, but it is sweeter than I am used to. Spicy ketchup is also sold, but the “spicy” part is a lie.

Lunch packed for the bus on the way to Recife

Fun fact: I miss salsa.  Sister Arce [a native Spanish speaker from Argentina] had trouble understanding what I was saying when I told her that because salsa is “sauce” in Spanish.  I think I knew that but forgot.

September 2018–Sister Hales with avocado creams during our training in São Paulo.

Another thing I have been enjoying is avocado creams. Avocado is only eaten with sugar here. Here is a picture of the first “vitamina de abacate” that I drank while I was in the CTM [missionary training center in San Paulo].  It was a special moment — I had always heard Dad telling stories about the avocado shakes he drank in Brazil and then I actually got to try one! We have an avocado tree by our house but I have not actually eaten an avocado yet.