Preparation

This week Bernardo* got baptized! Now their whole family has been baptized. I am super excited to see a photo of their sealing in a year! We didn’t invite anyone to the baptism because all the meetings have been cancelled. So it was him, his family, and a few members of the branch president’s family.

Bernardo and family

This week Giovanna is marked for baptism. She had been to church several times in a few different wards before we met her. Her boyfriend is a member. She said she had been to a few different churches and never felt the way she feels at church. She said she hasn’t gotten “an answer ” yet but is praying and reading the scriptures faithfully. She said she feels a confirmation (i.e., God confirming that these things are true) is coming little by little. We talked about Alma 32 and how often answers don’t come all at once. We are super excited for her! We have been so blessed this transfer to witness more personal conversions than we usually do.

People aren’t very panicked here, but the news is full of coronavirus. People have started to stop shaking hands — or to think about starting not to shake hands. We are trying to take each investigator to a different member’s house. We are in a branch [tiny congregation] here so there aren’t a lot of members. We have to plan a lot! But nowhere near as much as the branch presidents who have to coordinate all of the sacrament meetings in the wards and branches! That must be a ton of work. This week we had a number of people who said they would go to church — Mateus and Raiane, Mllena and her daughters, and Giovanna. But several people ended up being sick or having other things to do and not wanting to go, so we just took Diane to church. Diane is one of Mllena’s daughters. She is 10 and very smart.

We went shopping for food storage and medication as President Houseman had asked us to do. Food storage is pretty different in Brazil. In Recife I saw all sorts of vacuum packed pre-cooked food, but here in Goiana it’s like the rest of the interior. We have canned peas, corn, and canned peas and corn. We also bought the only three 10-1b cans of fruit in the store — but I thought the store wouldn’t have any canned fruit, so that was a victory! There are no food shortages here yet; they just don’t sell much canned food. We also bought beans, rice, cuscus, ramen, dehydrated soup, milk, pasta, sugar, salt, spices, pasta sauce, crackers, sweet crackers, oatmeal, water, toilet paper and tinned sardines.

As part of my preparation for general conference, I have been studying President Nelson’s talk: “The Book of Mormon: What Would Your Life Be Like Without It?” He listed a number of topics the Book of Mormon clarifies or expands upon, and I have been studying each in the Book of Mormon and the Bible. Recently I studied the topics doctrine of Christ, what it really means to be born again, and the gathering of scattered Israel. It has been super interesting. I have felt the illumination of the mind that Alma talks about in Alma 32 on the mission more than ever before. The Book of Mormon and the Bible complete each other so well! Christ authoritatively states in John 3:5 that we must be born again. Mosiah 5:7-12, 2 Nephi 31, and Mosiah 18 explain what it means to take Christ’s name upon ourselves, the covenants we make at baptism, and what it means to be born again — a change of nature, desire, and action.

Jesus speaking to Nicodemus–Henry Ossawa Tanner

Mosiah 27:25-26
25 And the Lord said unto me: Marvel not that all mankind, yea, men and women, all nations, kindreds, tongues and people, must be born again; yea, born of God, changed from their carnal and fallen state, to a state of righteousness, being redeemed of God, becoming his sons and daughters;

26 And thus they become new creatures; and unless they do this, they can in nowise inherit the kingdom of God.

Life is pretty crazy with all of these Covid-19 updates and scary news. It is weird to talk to people on the street and not be able to invite them to church like we normally do. We can’t really invite them to a member’s house if we’ve never taught them before. We are thinking about inviting everyone to church and giving them a card with our number to call if they end up wanting to go! But I am very grateful to be able to continue teaching the precious truths of the Restored gospel. I feel for all the missionaries who can’t do that in person any more!

[Update: Sister Faulconer wrote this March 16. On March 19th, she and her companion were asked by the mission president to stop going out and to remain in their apartment. The morning of March 23, she was asked to pack quickly and jump on a bus in order to join other American missionaries leaving Brazil. On the evening of March 27th, after multiple days of travel and many hours in airports in Recife, Sao Paulo, and Los Angeles, she returned home to Utah].

When I heard that Sacrament Meeting was cancelled, “All is Well” began to play in my head. On Sunday the branch chose that hymn to sing in all of the sacrament meetings! This scripture from D&C 101 was also brought to mind:

Joseph Smith

Revelation given to Joseph Smith the Prophet, at Kirtland, Ohio, December 16 and 17, 1833. At this time the Saints who had gathered in Missouri were suffering great persecution. Mobs had driven them from their homes in Jackson County; and some of the Saints had tried to establish themselves in Van Buren, Lafayette, and Ray Counties, but persecution followed them. The main body of the Saints was at that time in Clay County, Missouri. Threats of death against individuals of the Church were many. The Saints in Jackson County had lost household furniture, clothing, livestock, and other personal property; and many of their crops had been destroyed.

D&C 101:12-18

12 And in that day all who are found upon the watch-tower, or in other words, all mine Israel, shall be saved.

13 And they that have been scattered shall be gathered.

14 And all they who have mourned shall be comforted.

15 And all they who have given their lives for my name shall be crowned.

16 Therefore, let your hearts be comforted concerning Zion; for all flesh is in mine hands; be still and know that I am God.

17 Zion shall not be moved out of her place, notwithstanding her children are scattered.

18 They that remain, and are pure in heart, shall return, and come to their inheritances, they and their children, with songs of everlasting joy, to build up the waste places of Zion.

Yet they rejoice

This week was good.  Rafaela* came back early from the beach.  Unfortunately she wasn’t very interested in receiving a visit, so we were feeling a bit sad about that.  But she went to church on Sunday!  And then she asked Sister Ribeiro out of the blue “What hours will my baptismal service be?” She said she was trying to schedule her Saturday and wanted to know what time it would be.  Lots of people are marked for baptism but aren’t actually planning on getting baptized.  We tell them to pray about it and plan to get baptized if they get an answer. People in this situation are marked for baptism but haven’t confirmed it yet. So it was super exciting when Rafaela asked what time her baptism was because that means she is actually planning on being baptized! She has been feeling and recognizing the spirit a lot while reading the Book of Mormon and at church. Unfortunately we haven’t been able to teach her the commandments as early as we would have liked to because she was busy, but hopefully that works out. 

This week a man walked up to us on the street and said he wanted to go to church.  He said he had been taught by the Sisters and was almost baptized.  We were super excited but we didn’t find his house and when we called him he hung up when we started talking.  And he didn’t go to church. So that was too bad — life is weird sometimes! 

A number of people said they would go to church and didn’t, but more people than usual went!  Rafaela went, which was great because we thought she wouldn’t be able to go until next week.  The owner of the LAN house we are using today also went with her four young daughters.  That was cool because when we taught her she wasn’t initially very interested in going, but ended up being excited about it! We are teaching a young man called Joao Vitor who said he would go.  We thought he hadn’t made it but after the Sacrament Meeting we saw him!  He had come in late and we hadn’t seen — we were excited!  He is marked for baptism.  

We went to Itambé twice this week. You pay six reais, and everyone smashes themselves into the sardine-can-van and then we drive forty-ish minutes to Itambé.  It’s an adventure!  We went to see Júlia and her family.  The first time we met we met her son and niece.  We also said a prayer in her grandma-by-consideration (grandma of the heart –not her actual grandma but she might as well be)’s house.  The second time we got there and she said “I invited two people to hear the message, okay?” That’s more than okay!  She had invited her two friends and we met her younger son.  She’s already a great missionary!  She is reading the general conference talks that we will discuss at the next Relief Society meeting!  I think she is more involved  in the Ward Whatsapp group (Whatsapp is a text messaging and videocall app that is very popular internationally) than most members. She and her family are definitely worth going to Itambé for.  We invited her children and her sister (who is a member)’s son, Bernardo, to baptism, as well as her two friends and several of them accepted. Unfortunately, because of scheduling and transportation issues, only her sister and brother-in-law made it to church.  So that was too bad.  But hopefully they manage to go next week.  Mostly fortunately (but a little unfortunately) next week is Stake conference [a big regional church meeting held twice a year], which will happen in a different city — Paulista.  We are hoping for a miracle this week of having more success than usual at taking investigators to stake conference. 

It was a miracle this week with baptismal invitations–we managed to meet a lot more people this week who we had the opportunity and privilege to invite for baptism! And two of them went to church and stayed marked for baptism (Joao Vitor and Rafaela)!  

One interesting thing about studying the scriptures without a search engine (i.e., studying paper scriptures without a smartphone) is that there is no way to look up all the results for faith in the Book of Mormon or all the scriptures about prophets or death.  This highlights the importance of reading the scriptures straight through as part of scripture study.  If you don’t read the scriptures, you won’t find many helpful passages not included in the topical guide.  A few months ago I noticed this scripture while reading the Book of Mormon:

11 And the bodies of many thousands are laid low in the earth, while the bodies of many thousands are moldering in heaps upon the face of the earth; yea, and many thousands are mourning for the loss of their kindred, because they have reason to fear, according to the promises of the Lord, that they are consigned to a state of endless wo.

12 While many thousands of others truly mourn for the loss of their kindred, yet they rejoice and exult in the hope, and even know, according to the promises of the Lord, that they are raised to dwell at the right hand of God, in a state of never-ending happiness.

13 And thus we see how great the inequality of man is because of sin and transgression, and the power of the devil, which comes by the cunning plans which he hath devised to ensnare the hearts of men.

14 And thus we see the great call of diligence of men to labor in the vineyards of the Lord; and thus we see the great reason of sorrow, and also of rejoicing—sorrow because of death and destruction among men, and joy because of the light of Christ unto life.

Alma 28:11-14

I really like how this scripture highlights how the gospel can help us when we lose a loved one.  It also mentions the importance of diligent missionary work and that Christ is the reason for hope and joy in our lives!  It is only because of his sacrifice for us –the Atonement that we hope for a better world (Ether 12:4), the resurrection of ourselves and our loved ones, and have access to the power of repentance in our lives.  We can also know that he can comfort us because he hath borne our griefs (Isaiah 53:4 — in Portuguese it says that he took upon himself our pains) so he knows how we feel.  

The number of talks I am assigned to read per week for the missionaries who are returning home is increasing!  I think that means the end of my mission is getting closer!  The talks are very good; this week was about serving others and the welfare program in the church.

My group (We all got to Recife together . . . and we´re going to leave together this transfer!)

*Names are changed to protect privacy

Teaching

Sisters Faulconer and Pires with the elders
Photo courtesy of Sister Lori Houseman

This week was good. We went on splits with the sisters from Janga this week. Janga is a city that is half an hour from Olinda. It is a pretty big area. We have been working on the message we will be sharing in the zone conference tomorrow. We will talk about how to be a successful missionary through obedience, working effectively every day and doing all you can do, and loving people and desiring their salvation.

Our district in Goiana

Goiana is split into two branches, and each branch has some outlying cities that are part of the branch as well. The other area closed this week, and our district leader told us that the assistants told him that we could work in the other branch as well. We aren’t totally sure about what is expected of us (from Pres. Houseman, God, etc.) in terms of the other area. But we asked the other branch president and the Relief Society president if there were any investigators we ought to be teaching. They gave us a few great references! We planned to visit one of them this week already and are thinking about how to plan when to visit the others. Probably we are going to set a few days aside next week to go there. We don’t have a map, area book, or cellphone for the other branch, so we’re a bit in the dark. But we are going to keep records of the people we find and turn them over to the next missionaries when the next transfer starts.

Cuscus topped with hot sauce sent all the way from home–thanks Mom!

Mateus and Raiane, a couple we were teaching, went to church this week! Their neighbor Bruno also went! They have really managed to understand the message of the Restoration and seem interested in the church. They said they are praying and reading the Book of Mormon and searching for an answer to their questions. They don’t feel they’ve gotten an answer yet, but they are still searching!

This week we were walking down the street and I felt like I should talk to the man who was walking next to us on the sidewalk. He turned out to be an ex-seminarian who studied theology in order to be a Catholic priest but then decided he didn’t agree with the Catholic religion. He said he had always wanted to go into the church building in Caruaru but hadn’t been invited so never went. At this point I was sad because I thought that meant he would just be a reference we would have to pass on to other missionaries in the Caruaru area, but about three weeks ago he moved to Goiana! We ended up teaching him a summarized version of the Restoration and the Book of Mormon on the street and he promised to read the Book of Mormon and go to church on Sunday. We called him at night to give him the address. But then on Sunday morning we called him to ask if his map application managed to find the church building and he hung up after we said we were the missionaries. And he didn’t go to church. But hopefully when we visit him this week he ends up being interested! Who knows . . .

Patrick went to church again but doesn’t feel he has gotten an answer yet. He feels answers from God need to be law-of-physics-defying to be convincing, so we are trying to help him recognize the other ways God responds.

Investigators at Church!

I am going to be transferred to Goiana, the area that Sister Nogueira just left, and Sister Nogueira is also going to be transferred! We are not sure what will happen with the area yet, but hopefully everything works out.  It is always hard to leave investigators, and even more so if your companion will be transferred as well, but I’m sure the next missionaries will be great.

Yesterday we had a miracle of several new investigators who went to church!! One was a young woman we met giving out cake at the Christmas activity we did.  Her name is Nayara* and she is really interested in helping indigenous peoples and making art.  She wasn’t sure if she believed in God. After we gave her a Book of Mormon she read 3 Nephi 11 and felt doubtful about whether what it had said really happened. Then she had a spiritual experience at some kind of religious ceremony with indigenous people and decided that everything the Book of Mormon says is true! Not something you hear every day.  She also accepted a baptismal goal!

Also Vitoria and her two siblings Mary & Guilherme went to church.  She had seemed very uninterested, but the other day when we were trying to teach her a lesson she suddenly asked if she could bless her baby at our church!  Then she accepted a baptismal date, so that was exciting!

We also met the mom, Barbara, of a future missionary, Clara.  Barbara isn’t a member but said she would pray and would be baptized if she received an answer–that’s all we ask  of people!  Her daughter was really excited.  It was great to hear Clara’s testimony of the difference the gospel has made in her life.  Bernardo’s wife also shared her testimony of the Book of Mormon.  I was praying for it to touch his heart!  Last we heard, he hasn’t yet prayed again to know if the Book of Mormon is true. But we have been fasting for him and hope he recognizes the answers God is sending him.  Unfortunately it will probably take a while to find out because of transfers but here’s hoping! Juliana and Joao Pedro found out that they will have to pay for new certificates so Joao Pedro said he would go to the marriage office today!  They are making lots of progress.  Their daughter, Aléxia, a Young Woman [the Young Women are the group of female youth ages 12-18],  had just gotten her temple recommend so we ended up teaching about temples again.  It was a great lesson–they really want to be sealed together! I am really excited to hear about their marriage in the not-distant future! 

We can ask God for wisdom. We can ask to be shown the truth.

We are teaching a man named Ibrahim, who is from Iraq.  He is Muslim and very interesting.  It is great to learn more about his culture and religion–I am a little sad I don’t live closer to him–I would like to be his friend after returning home!  He is very knowledgeable about many, many subjects but had never heard of the Church.  The first time we taught him we took a Book of Mormon in English (easier for him to read than Portuguese) but weren’t able to discover the Book of Mormon in Arabic on his phone.  When we went back the second time we were all set to show him how to find it, but he had already downloaded it and started reading!  He is very committed to friendly, helpful relations with people of other faiths, but believes that religion is something that doesn’t change (“We believe almost the same thing.  We are like two parallel trains.  They are close but never come together!” –Ibrahim). I respect him a lot.  While he does not believe that it makes sense to ask God questions (“You can ask, but He will not answer!”), he does believe we can ask God for wisdom or to be shown the truth. So we invited him to ask God to show him if the Book of Mormon is true.  He promised to ask God and to read the whole book (He said several times “But you have to give me time.  This book is very long! I will not read it in one day!” Well, we are happy to give him all the time he wants.  Anyone who is committed to reading the Book of Mormon makes us happy.

Next week, coming not-live to you from Goiana in Pernambuco, the next installment of letters from a missionary.

Merry Christmas!

In front of the Recife Temple during our Christmas Conference

This week was good. Christmas! Merry Christmas! Our Christmas was great. We went to an old folks’ home, visited an investigator or two, and talked with our families. Christmas was great. What a blessing to be on the mission at Christmastime — definitely helps me focus on the reason for the season. It is great to be able to share the good news at Christmastime! We went to contact someone we met at the activity we did last week. We went to call her and discovered that the number I had written down didn’t exist, so we went to her apartment building. Luana from apt. 101 came down . . . and we didn’t recognize her. Someone with the same name lives in the address this lady gave us . . . and she seemed super receptive. We started apologizing for contacting the wrong person and trying to introduce ourselves so as to do a contact. She asked if we wanted to sit in the lobby! We sang a hymn, briefly mentioned the Restoration, and gave her a Book of Mormon. She said she would read it, watch the Christmas video, and go to church this Sunday! It was very exciting. Unfortunately she did not go to church or read the Book of Mormon, and she ended up leaving with friends when we marked to see her later in the week. But I am hopeful that this week we will be able to mark an appointment.

Also we visited a sister’s nonmember husband. He has had many, many lessons but never felt he received an answer about the Book of Mormon. The lesson we had with him was pretty spiritual. He said he needed to exercise his faith more and pray with his whole soul! I am pretty excited about that.  Please pray for him!

A great talk I read and loved this week — Elder Budge’s talk from this past conference: “Consistent and Resilient Trust.” I recommend it!

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!”

© 2015 by Intellectual Reserve, Inc. All rights reserved.

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.