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.
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.
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.
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.]
Last week I said we had too many investigators — a good problem, but difficult because you don’t want to forget anyone or not follow-up with them enough! But God has been helping us out. I had been thinking that one spiritual gift I lack is the gift of discernment, and it would really be useful to have when trying to decide which investigators to prioritize. I shared this with Sister Arce and started praying specifically for the gift of discernment (read this Liahona article: “Adding Gifts of the Spirit to Your Christmas List” — it is excellent and I have been applying it to more physical things like organization as well) in my personal prayers and our companionship prayers. The day we started praying for this we suddenly had a ton of rejection.
Our problem was that everyone was happy to listen to us but not necessarily motivated to try to find out if God wants them to join the Church. That day a lot of people were unusually blunt about not wanting to see us. Partway through the day I told Sister Arce I thought God was sending us point-blank rejection to help us out with our lack of discernment. She said that He has a sense of humor and I think she’s right! We have had a lot of rejection this week — it was pretty sad, because we have people who have strong testimonies that the Book of Mormonis the word of God, Joseph Smith was a prophet of God, and that the Church of Jesus Christ is God’s church on earth — and they don’t want to follow those answers, or they won’t pray or go to church because they don’t want to have to follow the answer they might get! It’s really sad to see people choosing to live beneath their privileges, but it’s their choice.
We still have a ton of people to teach, and this week is going to be pretty difficult because we have a zone conference (one day of zero proselyting) and a division with the Sister Training leaders (one day of proselyting lost in favor of eight hours of riding the bus to and from Guaranhuns). I don’t know how we will do it but I’m working on having the faith that it can be done!
We walk on this path every day. In these photos we are walking on the train tracks to keep out of the mud. We have been doing that a lot recently. I am deliriously happy about all the rain. I love rain. It is rather inconvenient for keeping all our paper proselyting stuff dry, keeping my shoes clean, and if I am wearing a long skirt (Have you ever tried walking through mud in a soaking wet long skirt? It is hard.) But wearing a long skirt and walking through mud all day makes me feel a little like Elizabeth Bennet (but not hoping to find any Mr. Darcy’s at the moment — my heart is locked, thank you very much). I am excited for the real rainy season to start!
I finally got a grilled corn. There is a lot of grilled corn. Apparently the Northeast is known for it’s corn — vendedor de milho (corn vendor) is a well-known occupation. The corn is strangely chewy here, like a potato. It’s weird how corn can be different — I did not expect that. There are also lots of different kinds of corn (and bananas). I liked the grilled corn but was reminded of when I made grilled corn back home. This corn was grilled a bit better, but was lacking the sriracha/Just Mayo/lime/cashew sauce I made.
I had a great week this week! We have a lot of people to teach and are trying to follow-up with all of them. It’s really hard to know how much time to spend with everyone and when we should stop visiting someone. This area is great because lots of people accept visits, but that makes it a little hard because if we talk to everyone all the time and visit all the people who accept visits, we end up with too many investigators! It’s hard to know at first if someone is really interested or not, and what if they don’t seem interested but really they deserve a chance?
But those are good problems to have. We are also trying to get more of our investigators to church. It is sad when people say they will go and then don’t show up, because I know how important it is for them. It’s a special opportunity to show God you are trying to remember the Savior and His atonement, learn more about the gospel, and help the other people in the community. We can take the sacrament and have our sins forgiven! If we are really trying to improve and follow the commandments, we can be completely clean from all the mistakes we have made. I know it will be easier for me to prioritize going to church when I get back from my mission. I also know it seems easier to go to church from a missionary perspective than from everyone else’s! But it’s worth it.
Miracle from this week: We were worried that none of our investigators were receiving answers to their prayers about the Church. Literally none of them felt like they had received a response. [Then] we fasted for them and some of them received answers! The ones that didn’t mostly weren’t actually praying. You have to ask to get an answer! Some of the people who received answers were people who hadn’t been acting interested at all.
It has started raining more and more and I love it. It’s not rainy season yet but we’re getting there. I have always loved rain and it’s even better when the alternative is sun that wants to burn you to a crisp!
I also experimented using pants this week. Pants are great, especially if you are walking through lots of weeds and hills and mosquitoes. I might send pictures next week.
Fun fact about jackfruit — it makes your hands terribly sticky, and the stickiness does not come off with soap! But I did not know the word sticky in Portuguese and was having trouble communicating my problems. I finally managed to explain it and a member told me you can only get it off with oil. Those of you who have good access to the internet can figure out which chemical property of jackfruit juice makes it oil but not water soluble.