Mission Council

This morning I made mango juice —- mango season is starting!  I am excited!  This week was pretty different — we got home at 7:30 on Tuesday from new leader training and 7:15-ish on Wednesday from Mission Council.  I learned a lot! 

A couple highlights:  
President Houseman said that the pattern for making decisions in the Church is group revelation in councils.  Lots of people say “Wow, President Nelson changed . . .” but actually these things are decided in council and prepared for and discussed ahead of time.  Everything is done in order.  In councils, the members receive revelation, everyone discusses, and the leader makes the final decision. People might receive conflicting inspiration, and maybe the final decision will be different than the inspiration someone had.  But it is all part of the process.

There is a difference between following-up and demanding [acompanhar and cobrar in Portuguese] information.  Leaders follow-up to help you make progress with the goals you set for yourself. Not-so-great leaders give you quotas and then demand the results.  In Zion’s Camp, when the wagons got stuck, Joseph Smith was the first one to take off his shoes, roll up his trousers, and get in the mud to pull them.  Good leaders are the first ones to go to work with others, motivating them along the way, rather than staying on the sidelines to shout orders.  Even if you shout orders in a really charismatic, motivational way, that’s not enough!  

Sister Houseman gave a really great talk on leadership. She had an amazing stake president who felt really inadequate when he was called.  He decided to use his leadership calling as an opportunity for personal growth.  At every opportunity he thought “How would a stake president act?” Running late and want to leave the shopping cart in the parking space?  What would a ward member think if they saw that?  A stake president would take the shopping cart back to the right spot, so he did!  

Even though Sister Anaya and I had a lot less time to work than we had last week, we managed to teach first lessons with more people than last week and we have more new investigators than last week!  Little miracles.

Speaking of miracles, Davi* got baptized!!  He is doing great!  On Monday he was fasting with us in order to be able to resist temptation and get baptized.  Before lunch (when he would break his fast) he was feeling really hungry, so he left the house in order to avoid eating.  He went to a relative’s house —- and the relative was drinking (alcohol) and eating.  His relative repeatedly invited him to drink and eat, but he stayed strong!  It’s great because it seems like the ward is doing a good job of integrating him already.  One of the recent converts stopped by throughout the week to ask him how he was, read scripture verses (he can’t read), and tell him he was excited for his baptism! 

L to R; Sister Anaya, Sister Faulconer and Davi*

Sacrament meeting attendance was less-than-stellar. Read: our recent investigators did not go to church.  But I was pleasantly surprised when I got to the area and discovered that there are two couples who aren’t married but have been consistently going to church!  I knew that this happened but in my past areas the plethora of people who needed to get married were not religious church-goers– maybe they went a few times but they never stayed strong.  Here there are two women, Daniela and Juliana, who have children that are recent converts and are consistently going to church, going to activities, reading the scriptures, etc.  Unfortunately, one of them has a husband who doesn’t want to get married and also doesn’t have documents.  The other one also doesn’t have the right documents, but they just need to go to the marriage office.  It is a bit difficult because of work hours, but hopefully it all works out! 

Today we are going to start making horchata!  I mentioned to Sister Anaya that I like it and she mentioned that she knows how to make it.  This week we are also going to do a split with the sisters of Palmares.  I am going to Palmares — it will be weird!  Hopefully good too.  Sister Anaya did a split with a sister training leader who had already served in the area once.  The sister ran into an ancient investigator and found out she had separated from her husband (she hadn’t been able to get baptized before because they weren’t married. They had been deciding if they would separate or not).  She got baptized!  Not expecting that kind of miracle necessarily but a cool story, right? 

I don’t remember if I said this before, but a lot of people here think that after you die you won’t remember anything. God will tell you how your past life was. You will see your relatives but you won’t remember they were your relatives.  I respect other people’s right to choose their religion, but I am grateful to believe that families can be together forever. It’s a truth that is truly wonderful — our loving relationships continue after this life! — and also makes sense — why would you be punished for something you don’t remember?  It is also a good warning — we will remember our lives on judgement day!  A guilty conscience could be worse than fire and brimstone.  

Alma 5:15-18

15 Do ye exercise faith in the redemption of him who created you? Do you look forward with an eye of faith, and view this mortal body raised in immortality, and this corruption raised in incorruption, to stand before God to be judged according to the deeds which have been done in the mortal body?

16 I say unto you, can you imagine to yourselves that ye hear the voice of the Lord, saying unto you, in that day: Come unto me ye blessed, for behold, your works have been the works of righteousness upon the face of the earth?

17 Or do ye imagine to yourselves that ye can lie unto the Lord in that day, and say—Lord, our works have been righteous works upon the face of the earth—and that he will save you?

18 Or otherwise, can ye imagine yourselves brought before the tribunal of God with your souls filled with guilt and remorse, having a remembrance of all your guilt, yea, a perfect remembrance of all your wickedness, yea, a remembrance that ye have set at defiance the commandments of God?

I would like to be the first person described, not the second!

A funny moment: I forgot to say that last Sunday I was asked to give a testimony at the last minute. I thought it went okay, but afterwards I found out that I had said I was glad to be in Carpina (a different area) instead of Candeias.  You can learn the language but you can’t stop goofing up!  Luckily there are worse errors that could be made.  But it was funny, because I was trying to tell people how happy I was to be in their ward — except I said the wrong ward.  Ooops!

*Investigators names are always changed

The Plan of Salvation

Our last district in Casa Forte before transfers

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.

The perks of living in the city — I found peanut butter! Without salt, etc,. but I added some and it was not the same, but still good.

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!

Sister Sousa eating the chocolate molten cake I made, topped with peanut butter

Love you all!

*Names are changed to protect privacy