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!
Fun facts: This week I stepped on a piece of cement covering a sewer opening and it tipped over! I half-fell in but luckily only my calves ended up inside the hole. They got scraped up a little but, most importantly, I did not actually touch the sewer water, so that was good! I am not going to step on any more sewer covers!
Giliard didn’t get baptized this week. He ended up going to a late-night party and slept late on Sunday, so he didn’t go to church. I think it is tough — he is getting to know the church now but he has many friends who aren’t church members. It is tough. We hope he focuses on searching for God’s answers — it is so important to pray! Hopefully we manage to teach him several times this week and help him with this.
This week we did an activity. We projected the new Christmas video onto a screen in front of the church building and invited people to watch. A few people decided to watch. We asked some members to take cake to attract people. We ended up taking the cake to the street and offering free pieces with our invitation. We got the contacts of a few people, hopefully it turns out well! It was a good way to shake things up.
I have been thinking this week about the importance of the atonement in conjunction with Christmas. This week I shared a scripture, and afterwards Sister Nogueira explained it in a way that helped me understand things I hadn’t seen before. 3 Nephi 27:13-16:
13 Behold I have given unto you my gospel, and this is the gospel which I have given unto you—that I came into the world to do the will of my Father, because my Father sent me.
14 And my Father sent me that I might be lifted up upon the cross; and after that I had been lifted up upon the cross, that I might draw all men unto me, that as I have been lifted up by men even so should men be lifted up by the Father, to stand before me, to be judged of their works, whether they be good or whether they be evil—
15 And for this cause have I been lifted up; therefore, according to the power of the Father I will draw all men unto me, that they may be judged according to their works.
16 And it shall come to pass, that whoso repenteth and is baptized in my name shall be filled; and if he endureth to the end, behold, him will I hold guiltless before my Father at that day when I shall stand to judge the world.
I understood that this scripture highlights the importance of Christ’s atonement — He was born to die and sacrifice himself for us. But I didn’t know why Christ mentioned our judgement in this verse instead of salvation. Sister Nogueira explained that men judged Christ, lifting him up on a cross to crucify him. He chose to go through this so that we could be lifted up and judged by God. A meaningful parallel.
I also like this video about why we need a Savior–the reason for Christmas.
How was Thanksgiving? I might buy some sweet potatoes here for a belated Thanksgiving mashed sweet potatoes. It’s funny– there isn’t any Thanksgiving here but there is Black Friday! There were lots of signs with “Black Friday” and “Black Week” “Black Month,” etc., all in English. Commercialism is international! There are also tons of Christmas lights — that has been the case for many weeks already. It is funny to be in a place with skyscrapers. I don’t remember having been in a big city at Christmas time before. People in skyscrapers decorate their own window. So all of the windows have different lights! I thought there were tons of Christmas lights, but this week on Sunday a member said there are very few lights nowadays which just goes to show the lack of belief in Christ. I guess I would have liked to see Christmas in Recife several years ago! I am always surprised at just how many people believe in Christ (and post signs and stickers proclaiming said belief on cars, houses, stores, etc.) so it was an interesting viewpoint to hear.
This week was great! We had a new investigator at church this week — Bruna.* After teaching her we found out that she had already been to church four times and has a family member who is a member. She is ten and likes to be taught. Unfortunately our other investigators mostly didn’t manage to go, but there were two long-time investigators who always go. I am grateful that they persevere! Hopefully one of them ( Juliana) went to the marriage office today to start the marriage process (or at least see what she needs to be able to start). The other one ( Daniela)’s husband had a little change of heart. When I got here she said he didn’t want any documents at all (makes it hard to get a job, let alone marry) and now he does want documents. Good first step!
My new companion is Sister Nogueira from São Paulo, Brazil. She is awesome. We actually got to the mission together. It’s funny, because when people ask us how much time we have left or when we got here we have the same answer! I’ve never had a companion who got to the mission at the same time before.
Our investigator Jeniffer is progressing a lot. She had said she was reading the scriptures but had difficulty in remembering a part that she had liked and said she was still awaiting an answer from God. This week she opened a scripture she said she especially liked the part around 2 Nephi 2:25. She had truly had a spiritual experience! Later someone randomly mentioned to her baptisms for the dead [longer, in depth discussion of baptisms for the dead] I was initially a little sad that our lesson was interrupted with that because it didn’t seem like the right moment. But it was cool to talk about baptisms for the dead after having refreshed my memory with the Come Follow Me reading of the week. It was amazing because she was initially confused about the concept and had been convinced that people don’t live in families after this life. But after talking about family history and baptisms for the dead, she started thinking about family members who had already passed that she thought ought to be baptized! She seems a lot more confident about her baptismal date as well. We are excited! She definitely felt the spirit of Elijah.
We had less time in the area this week because I was in Jardim Massangana until Wednesday but we managed to find a lot of new people to teach. Hopefully we manage to find them at home this week and they turn out to be really great! This week we will go to the Mission Leadership council. We are also going to do a division with the sisters from the city of Escada.
We are having a fun time thinking about creative things to do at Christmas — we are going to try knocking on a few doors and caroling this week. Caroling is not a tradition in Brazil but we are hoping that the general good-feeling and belief in Christ means people will appreciate it. We are also planning an activity to show people the new Christmas video “The Christ Child” (It is super great!) and give out free cake (as a lure). It sounds like the Christmas zone conferences will start pretty soon. I can’t believe it is Christmas already!
One Christmas tradition here is Panettone. It is like a cross between bread and cake. You cut it like a cake and it is quite sweet but has a bready texture. It has dried fruits or chocolate chips and is very tasty. I have only eaten it twice but liked it both times.
Davi [recently baptized] still needs prayers — we still haven’t managed to see him.
*All investigators’ names are changed for privacy.
My skype call [with my family] was wonderful. I hope you all had a wonderful Christmas and that you enjoy New Years. This transfer, starting Wednesday I will stay in Palmares but I will get a new companion! I don´t know who it will be yet because they don’t tell us in order to reduce problems with gossip. I am super excited to get to know a new missionary and work in Palmares together! I am also super nervous about showing the area to a new missionary. I have been trying really hard to learn all the directions but it’s a struggle. I do not have much time today but will send more pictures next week! Love you all!
I’m very excited for Christmas! It’s great to be a missionary at Christmastime — we get to spend all day inviting people to be more Christmassy by coming unto Christ. It’s also fun to share the church’s Christmas program with people (Illumine o Mundo — Light the World. I remember watching videos from the church’s program other years with the missionaries and now I’m the one presenting the videos!
We had some wonderful little miracles this week with finding people. When we had a division [when you switch companions with another sister temporarily] my sister training leader and I marked a man named “Daniel” for baptism. He didn’t give us his address because he didn’t spend any time there and apparently it’s hard to describe, but he was really special and I wanted to teach him again. He said he would visit the church but wasn’t able to go on Sunday. Two weeks later our investigators (reference of a recent convert) gave us a reference of a neighbor, “Douglas.” On Sunday we took “Douglas” to church and I asked him about his family. He started talking about his siblings — and I recognized the description of one of them. “Daniel” is his brother!
I asked a different member, “Rodrigo” for a reference this week while my companion was calling someone. He thought about it and suggested we visit a less-active member of the church, “Júlia”, who I had never heard of before. He started to explain where she lived “in front of the postal office, on the side of road xxx” and at the same time my companion [on the phone] said “Ok, so your house is in front of the postal office on the side of road xxx.” She had finished her first call when she randomly had the thought to call “Júlia.” I’ve asked “Rodrigo” for references many times, and only this time he suggested “Júlia.” Clearly she needs a visit!
This is the son of a member in our ward. He is great. He is showing off his cool clothes here. It is too hot outside for that jacket! He is getting surgery right now so he can use some prayers. We are at the grocery store.
[For regular readers of this blog: it turns out there was a letter from Sister Faulconer last week that somehow didn’t get sent. I added the text to the pictures in last week’s post.]
Feliz Natal! I am very excited for Christmas. This week we had our Christmas zone conference in Recife! There are six zones, and each has a different day over two weeks, so we weren’t sure when we would get a conference. Usually I would probably want a Christmas-y thing like this as close to Christmas as possible, but I was kind of hoping that it would be a bit earlier to break up the week. But then our District leader was giving out assignments for our district meeting, and my companion was convinced this meant we would’t have it this week, because we don’t have district meetings when we have zone conferences and she figured he would know if we would have a zone conference. But then we got a text message on Tuesday during lunch saying that our zone conference would be Thursday! It was exciting.
Zone conference was awesome. I got to go to the Recife temple for the first time and loved it. It’s very beautiful, and any chance to go to the temple is special. I got to meet lots of other missionaries, which was fun.
We live several hours from Recife, and the last bus for Palmares leaves Recife at 5:30 pm, so we stayed overnight with some sisters in Imbiribeira. It was fun to get to know them. This is Sister Lima’s first transfer so she is newer in the mission than I am!
Oi! I have no time this week but hope you are all great! Here is a picture of us with a Christmas box we made. We collected food from ward members [people in the local church congregation] for a family of a recent convert that really needed help. The mother of the family has been working for the city for three months without pay — apparently this is not uncommon here.
That was a great experience because I know we were really helping them. It was a little miracle because members answered the phone and found things to donate really quickly — we made the box and gathered the donations, and did some things to help at their house house in just a few hours! Service is the true spirit of Christmas! We always have a goal of doing planned and unplanned acts of service but we have a lot of people to visit so we’ve been having a little trouble following through. One unplanned act of service this week was carrying some heavy bags for some member missionaries from a different church. That was a great experience. They were doing a service project as well and I could feel the spirit strongly talking to them — I know they are following Christ´s example through the work they are doing.
Also on display: some Christmas lights we got for our house! We are both people who really like Christmas and of course we’re very excited to talk to our families too!
It is getting closer to Christmas and there are more and more Christmas decorations up. It’s weird that it’s still so warm but I’m getting more used to the idea that Christmas is coming now. As missionaries, we’re especially excited for the church Christmas program this year! [Some have already seen it. Watch it here.]
This week had several difficult parts but I have high hopes for next week. We spent several hours one day looking for a man who was supposed to be at the church for an interview. We waited and waited and waited at the church–we walked all the way to his house with the district leader [the missionary responsible for interviewing him to see if he’s ready for baptism] and his companion, but the man wasn’t there and a family member said he had left hours before–then we walked around the streets looking for him. We finally heard several hours later that he had had some questions on the way to the church and apparently decided to take a verrry long walk instead of being interviewed! Then he didn’t show up to church. 😦 Hopefully we can figure out how to best help him next week.
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.
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.