Desire and the will of the Lord

Fun fact about Gravatá: There are lots of butterflies here. Sister Ribeiro and I joke that we feel like Disney princesses. Both Palmares and Gravatá seem to have lots of animals: there are tons of (often well-fed and well-kept) dogs and cats roaming the streets.  When I got to Palmares I was shocked several times to see dead dogs in the street — only to realize that they were actually sleeping. They like to sprawl on the ground because it’s a cooler surface, and there isn’t enough traffic in some places for them to be in much danger. 

We are seeing a lot of miracles in our area! This week a lot of our investigators went to church, including some people that I thought didn’t have much potential, but went to church all on their own.  We taught the Word of Wisdom to the families of Isabela and Matheus this week.  We were a little worried because we could tell that they would have to change their lives quite a bit to follow this commandment. I prayed a lot before our lesson with Isabela’s family that they could be prepared to hear about the Word of Wisdom.  When we showed up Camilla said she drinks coffee all day long (i.e., more than four cups of coffee a day) and wouldn’t manage to stop drinking it.  We asked her how many cups she had drunk that day and found out that she hadn’t drunk any in four days!  What an answer to prayer.  That definitely makes it easier to give up!  She said she just hadn’t felt like it. She really wanted to drink coffee right after our lesson, but we decided to take advantage of the fact she hadn’t drunk in four days. 

We walked all the way back to our house and then back to her house with some cevada (a roasted ground barley coffee substitute) a member had given us for investigators. She didn’t end up liking the cevada, but ended up buying chocolate drink powder and hasn’t drunk coffee since! Her sister, 11 yr old Isabela, immediately said she would give up coffee when we taught the Word of Wisdom and hasn’t drunken since either. She is awesome.  Their friend, Matheus, was also very reluctant to give up coffee.  We tried to explain the Word of Wisdom well, but it seemed like he didn’t really get it, and he had to leave suddenly before the end of the lesson. 


https://www.homemdaterra.com.br/

We prayed for him to feel less desire to drink coffee if that was the Lord’s will.  Then we visited him after church to help him understand better and he said he hadn’t drunk coffee that day at all!  We called him to remind him to get ready for church, and then showed up to walk with him, and it was so early that he didn’t bother making any. When he got home he planned to drink coffee but saw some juice to drink and sort of just forgot about the coffee!  At the beginning of that lesson he had a very “maybe someday” attitude about baptism but at the end he was agreeing that the Church is true, that he should get baptized here, and agreed to pray about whether now is the right time!  He is marked for baptism for this Saturday — we will see how it goes!

Many of these people also drink alcohol.  It’s a bit of a culture shock for me — one of the family members of someone we are teaching is fourteen and was basically passed out asleep one day because she had been drinking. The Word of Wisdom is a blessing!  The spiritual blessings are numerous and the physical blessings are obvious — we know a lot of people here who have family members who were shot because of drugs.

Funny moment this week — we were sort of close to Camila’s house (but not really, she lives far away) and thought “Why didn’t we mark to visit her today instead of in two days?  We should follow-up with her today since we’re already close!”  When we showed up it looked like nobody was home.  As soon as we knocked on the door we realized why hadn’t marked to go that day. They had said they couldn’t because they might go to a birthday party.  It turned out to be a surprise birthday party that was happening in their house!  We showed up about 90 seconds before the birthday boy. We were this close to ruining the surprise!  That was embarrassing but a good funny memory. 

We also had splits this week.  Sister Ribeiro went to Garanhuns — the area her dad opened on his mission thirty years ago!  Now it’s a stake (i.e., her dad taught the first members there and now it has thousands of members in a couple different congregations!)!  There weren’t any members in Gravatá before! It is so cool to see the gospel spreading and blessing the lives of thousands of people in such a short span of time.  Some cities are being opened close to us now — they could be stakes when I have children going on missions!

The Church has grown in Guaranhuns

It makes me think of this Book of Mormon scripture:


4 Behold, it has been prophesied by our fathers, that they should be kept and handed down from one generation to another, and be kept and preserved by the hand of the Lord until they should go forth unto every nation, kindred, tongue, and people, that they shall know of the mysteries contained thereon. . . .
6 Now ye may suppose that this is foolishness in me; but behold I say unto you, that by small and simple things are great things brought to pass; and small means in many instances doth confound the wise.


Alma 37:4,6

This scripture is being brought to pass today!  Something small like inviting a friend to church, or bearing your testimony about the Book of Mormon can result in great things.  Two of the people who went to church this Sunday were brought by a member!  We asked him for a reference and stopped by to talk to them. On Sunday he helped them visit church for the first time! 

Pictures!

Dried jackfruit cube in front of the cityscape of Palmares, Brazil
This is my attempt to take a picture of a piece of dried jackfruit. It tasted like dried fruit — not especially different but good. I was trying to come up with things to take pictures of! This is the view from our house.
A man working with a machine that has a large wheel. The machine makes caldo de cana, sugar cane juice.
This machine makes “caldo de cana.” You feed huge sugarcane stalks in the first hole and yellow juice comes out the second hole and goes through the strainer. It´s super cool! Unfortunately Sister Porcote [from Curitiba, Brazil] said the one we had wasn’t a good specimen of caldo de cana, but on the bright side, now I have an excuse to try it again!
A styrofoam cup filled with caldo de cana, sugarcane juice. In front of a display of bread, as at a bakery.
[Finished product?  Caldo de cana–or sugarcane juice]
Left to right: Sister Porcote, Sister Dolores, Sister Faulconer. Sister Porcote and Sister Faulconer are each holding a cup of a dark liquid that must be Cevada--some sort of substitute hot drink for coffee.
Sister Porcote and I with Sister Dolores, who got baptized my first week in Palmares. We see her a lot and she is awesome. She used to drink coffee all the time, but then she discovered Cevada, which she says is very similar (but you have to buy the right brand). It´s good.
Sister Porcote and I and people we know at "District Conference" which is like stake conference [a semi-annual meeting where several wards or church congregations meet together] but for branches [these are smaller church congregations for locales where there aren't as many church members].
Sister Porcote and I and people we know at “District Conference” which is like stake conference [a semi-annual meeting where several wards or church congregations meet together] but for branches [smaller church congregations for places where there aren’t as many members].

I know basically all the people in this photo. On my right are some boys who got baptized this year or a year and a little ago. We see them all the time because they´re doing an awesome job of teaching with us and they´re really good friends with each other. Two of them are ward missionaries! They are blessings and downsides of living in a big ward [church congregation] in Utah. I wish I had the chance to teach with the missionaries!

My companion did my hair.
Missionaries with Presidente Houseman at District Conference--November 2018
Missionaries with Presidente Houseman at District Conference–November 2018 [Photo courtesy of Sister Houseman]

Oi! Happy Thanksgiving!  Nobody celebrates Thanksgiving here, but they do celebrate Black Friday. All the shops had sales and the city center was a mad house. The gas station had a huge reduction in price and we could hear the loudspeaker from our house while we were trying to study. It’s a little sad to have Black Friday but not Thanksgiving, but on the bright side it means the Christmas decorations go up even earlier!  There are lots of fake evergreen garlands and red bows and lights: pisca-pisca [Portuguese for blink, blink]. We bought some lights for our house!  I will try to send a picture next week–I have more pics than I sent this week already and the internet is still super slow.  I am trying to make the camera work [for wifi downloads] but am having trouble.

Sister Porcote and I will be together until after Christmas. That is normal for training — you have the same companion both transfers.

In the CTM [Brazil’s missionary training center] several missionaries in my district knew someone who went to Japan and said they came back more quiet, reserved, etc.  I imagine that transition might have been a little easier for me. I am suspicious that Heavenly Father decided I needed to be more outgoing or more of a hugger or something and sent me here! But the transition hasn’t really been that hard. I’m really blessed not to be having health challenges or super hard things happening in Palmares.

You asked how often we get to eat with the members.  We have lunch planned every day but it is often money instead of actual food. Less exciting than it sounds because we keep eating at restaurants and from my perspective the restaurants all seem the same.  But the fruit is really good!  And the members make really good desserts sometimes, so I´m grateful.

This was a family home evening for a recent convert who had a birthday. He had never had a birthday celebration before and was very excited.
This was a family home evening for a recent convert who had a birthday. He had never had a birthday celebration before and was very excited.  

We have been trying to teach a young man, “Rafael” for a while, but kept having trouble actually finding him to teach because he is very busy.  He goes to seminary every day, but works before seminary and goes to school after seminary!  (School can be before lunch or after lunch or at night here).  He is awesome — super interested in religion, really wants to follow God.  The only problem is that he was reactivated in a different church a little while back and wasn’t sure if he wanted to change.  Yesterday he said he hadn’t received an answer with certainty yet.  He said he thought he wanted to get baptized but not yet because he wanted to keep participating in his other church´s youth program.  But during our lesson he started crying and said he would get baptized on the 8th!  It was wonderful to have the opportunity to see someone get an answer to prayer like that.  The promise is true — if you pray about the Book of Mormon with sincerity and a real desire to follow God’s will you will receive an answer!  Sometimes it takes time, but it comes.

Love you!