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.
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!
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.
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!