My new companion is Sister Ribeiro II! [She is Sis. Ribeiro II here on the blog because Sister Faulconer was previously companions with Sister M. Ribeiro (the missionary who is a wonderful photographer)]. She is from Sao Paulo, just like Sister M. Ribeiro! Until now she was serving in the city Guaranhuns with Sister Nogueira — so she had to travel for about eight hours to get here!
This week is Carnaval. Carnaval is mostly celebrated on the other half of town that isn’t our area, so we have been mostly following normal hours here. We have seen a lot of burras [donkey costumes] and bois [oxen costumes?] in the street as well as some other costumes that are hard to remember the name of. Look up images for “burrinha carnaval Pernambuco” and you should get some good pictures. They walk around with a few people banging on drums and occasionally people with saxophones and marching band/battle standard-like banners. But three guys with drums sound like two entire marching bands–those drums are powerful!
We marked our investigator Rafaela* for baptism this week, which was great!. Last week we were excited because she went to church, read the Book of Mormon, and progressed after being molle [soft = not very interested, doesn’t keep invitations to read, go to church, etc., consistently] for a while. Unfortunately, at the last second she ended up going to the beach with her employer for a week and wasn’t able to go to church last week or next Sunday. So that was too bad; it’s amazing how these things always happen with marcados [people who have committed to be baptized]! But we re-marked her for two weeks later, so hopefully it will work out in the end. But it was too bad because although we had a number of people who said they would go to church, no one did–not even the very long-time investigator who always goes.
It was not the first time no one has come to church, but it is always too bad. That morning we invited some people in the street to go to church and accept visits. No one was very interested. There was one couple who was very against eternal families–they said what everyone here says: we will all be brothers and sisters after this life. There won’t be special marriage and family relationships. I shared that experience in the talk I gave in church that day. A brother who works at the temple with FamilySearch mentioned my talk and talked more about eternal families. It wasn’t until later we found out that a new family that had moved in had brought their son, who has been marked for baptism but not baptized, and the mom’s sister to the meeting. The mom’s sister had a Book of Mormon and described feeling a great desire to read more and more! She said that she had been deeply involved in the Catholic church — she taught crisma [confirmation] classes, etc. But she had always had a few questions about Catholic teachings–like why we won’t be able to recognize or remember our family members after this life. So all things worked together for good! Our negative experience that morning helped her feel the spirit and recognize the truth at church!
Here is a scripture I like. There are lots of sayings and quotes that talk about being in trouble, persecuted, etc., but not vanquished. What I like about this one is how Paul mentions feelings. Although the trials he went through caused negative feelings (he was perplexed) all was not lost (he was not in despair)!
8 We are troubled on every side, yet not distressed; we are perplexed, but not in despair;
9 Persecuted, but not forsaken; cast down, but not destroyed;
This week has been super rainy. Sometimes they are tiny raindrops, but sometimes it rains so hard that in about a minute it looks like you jumped in a swimming pool! Everyone who can manage it stays inside. But we are enjoying the rain on the street! It´s cool, because it’s rainy and not as hot. The downside is that everything gets wet and stays wet, but we have to have opposition in all things.
Arthur is still struggling with the last cigarette. But he managed to do a 12-hour fast last week and we are hoping that this week a brother from our ward will show him around the temple grounds. I love living in the area of the temple. We don’t pass it super often, but when we do walk past we are always excited. Living near the temple is a blessing!
Caroline and Luan went to start their marriage documents this past week but unfortunately they were missing one, and then the rain kept things from progressing. Also, they did not go to church again this week, which was sad. We talked to them Saturday night, but then on Sunday morning we called and called. We shouted outside their house for a while — we could hear the cellphone ringing on the inside but no one ever answered! But the cool part was that we marked both of their daughters for baptism on the third. One of them, Ana, had already been marked for baptism but then it fell through the day of. The other, Beatriz, hadn’t been interested. But she went to church once and liked it. Then we taught her the Restoration, she remembered a lot of it from the sisters’ other visits and even had a Book of Mormon but had never read or prayed about it. She said she would and she did! She hasn’t gotten an answer yet but I believe she will. We taught the Plan of Salvation to her family this week. Beatriz thought it was so interesting she took a picture of our little visual representation of the plan.
Lots of times we teach the plan of salvation and people don’t really pay attention. But when they do pay attention it reminds me of how special this is. Lots of people don’t have this wonderful knowledge. Caroline’s family thought that the only options after death are heaven or hell, and that people who don’t hear the gospel will go straight to hell after death. How wonderful to know that isn’t the case! People who don’t have a real opportunity to hear the gospel will hear it in the life to come. And the vast majority of people will live in a good place after this life, even those who didn’t fully follow God. Families can be together forever! Lots of people here think that in heaven we won’t be able to remember anything or recognize our family members. I am so grateful for an eternal family.
We have another investigator, Cristina, who has many difficulties. Her daughter has cancer and is very, very sick. Her husband shows signs of Alzheimer’s and can’t be left alone. A member introduced us to her without knowing this backstory. When we met her she was crying and asking why God punishes people with things like this. We taught her the Plan of Salvation and testified of God’s love and support in our lives, as well as the truth that she and her daughter would have eternities together after this life. She asked us several times if it was really true. Now she has prayed about it and believes! Every time we see her she has a little more trust in God and seems a little happier, even though her situation hasn’t really improved. I know Alma 7:12 tells the truth — Christ knows what we suffer because he has felt all of the things we go through. He suffered all that in order to know how to succor us!