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.

Prayer and the Book of Mormon

This week was interrupted a lot because of our zone conference and the travel for our division with the sister training leaders in Guaranhuns [a city several hours away by bus], but it was good. 

Zone conference for elders and sister missionaries in the Brazil Recife mission under President and Sister Houseman--January 2019.
January 2019 Zone Conference

A group of sister missionaries eating together at zone conference.
Eating together at zone conference

Miracle from this week: A little less than a year ago, our current sister training leader, Sister C. Alves was serving in Palmares.  Unbeknownst to me, she and her companion gave a Book of Mormon to the owner of a mercadinho (Mercado — market; mercadinho — tiny market, usually in the middle of houses that sells a few basics) but never managed to teach her the lessons because she wasn’t interested.  Sister C. Alves asked me about her during our division together last transfer, but I had never met her.  That changed when Sister Arce got here because, due to her love for Cremosinho, we stopped at the mercadinho to buy Cremosinho a few times and met the owner. 

Apparently, Cremosinho is a type of creamy yogurt ice cream that comes in many flavors popular in the Brazilian state of Pernambuco.
Cremosinho–a
creamsicle sort of yogurt frozen thing that comes in plastic bags.  You bite off the corner and eat it.  It’s very good.

I didn’t think she seemed very interested in being taught, but she told us how much she loved the other sisters and we decided to try teaching her a lesson.
The other day we had a little time left at the end of the day and a lot of possible pesquisadores (investigators) to visit.  We were passing the mercadinho and I said “Now is the time to say something if you are having a spiritual impression that we should visit our neighbor!” sort of joking, and Sister Arce just walked over to her and we started making conversation. 

Sister Arece standing outside near the street in front of lush tropical foliage and flowers.
Sister Arce

The owner told us that her church is the richest church in the world and we should visit, etc., etc., which wasn’t a great sign.  Then we taught her a lesson and she accepted our invitation to pray and ask God if Joseph Smith was a prophet and if the Book of Mormon is the word of God.  I was feeling like I did a pretty bad job of teaching the lesson and wishing I could express myself better when out of the blue she said “Oh, I’m reading that book the other sisters gave me every day and I’m on page 606!”  I thought she was talking about a scripture verse the sisters had left with her, because the Book of Mormon only has 529ish pages in English and what were the chances she had read the whole Book of Mormon?  You guys, she had read almost the whole Book of Mormon, day by day since she had gotten it.  
We went back the next day and she was glowing — she prayed and received a powerful witness from God!  She had to travel and of course we will teach her other lessons first, but she is already married (rare) and I think there is good reason to hope she will be baptized!

Finally, the adventures in Brazilian cooking continue:

Cuscuz e Cuscuzeira (pan for cooking couscous)! [Here is a Youtube video demonstration.]