Seeing all the missionaries at the airport was awesome. We walked to the flights as a group so there was this wave of white shirt and tie elders (and me) walking around. It really made me appreciate the size and strength of the missionary force all over the world so they can spread the gospel! I remember going to the missionary preparation class in our Edgemont ward [congregation]. When I turned on the car to drive home to Orem, the first song on the hymns CD in our car would start playing. It was “Called to Serve,” and when the sun was shining and I was on a spiritual high from the preparation class I felt the missionary spirit so strongly. Now I’ve experienced that feeling while seeing real missionaries in real life! The flight to Brazil felt so long, but I was counting my blessings after meeting the missionaries going to Johannesburg — they had a 16 hour flight plus all the other flying they had to do!
I got the window seat for the Brazil flight. The best moment of my travels by far was on the descent to São Paulo. We had been passing over this really hilly brown country when I saw the ocean in front of us. But it looked too white, so then I started to wonder if any of the São Paulo mountains were tall enough for snow! It turned out to be a super thick layer of cloud. We flew down into the cloud, and after a couple minutes the clouds suddenly cleared and São Paulo popped into view right below us. It was gorgeous.
It was especially great because it was so obviously different than anywhere I’ve ever been before. Everything you can see is covered in a thick green carpet. There are red tile roofs and silver metal roofs everywhere and the buildings are red, green, blue, pink, whatever. It was even more fun driving through the streets. The bus driver was very skilled at honking and maneuvering through tight turns. We were in a narrow street when two huge gates popped open and I realized we were at the CTM! We held up both lanes of traffic for 3-4 minutes while they guided us backwards into the parking lot.
When I got off, Sister Whitaker, my first grade teacher, was there to greet me. She put my name tag on me! That was exciting. People recognize the elders, but sisters blend in, so it was exciting to get a tag that identifies me as a missionary for Christ.
We reviewed the dedicatory prayer [for the CTM] given by President Nelson (then a member of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles). I realized that I have always thought of the US as the land prophesied of in that scripture about Joseph Smith and the land being discovered. But that is so silly because it could just as easily refer to the Americas as a whole! Yes, Joseph Smith was in the US but we don’t know where the Nephites and Lamanites actually lived, so there’s no reason Brazil can’t be the promised land too.
A funny moment happened on our first day when we put our suitcases in the elevator. There was this loud beeping sound that wouldn’t turn off and we were worried we were over the weight limit or that the elevator had broken! The CTM brothers didn’t know either so eventually we took everything out again. Then one of the sisters realized the beeping noise had followed us out of the elevator. It was the metronome (for playing the piano) in her luggage!
My companion is Sister Hale. I met her in Atlanta. She is great — an awesome first companion. She speaks a lot of Spanish at home (she was born in Argentina!) so she understands a lot more Portuguese than I do. There are very few sisters here compared to elders (way way less than the percentage of sisters for all missionaries –we’re the only two in the American group that got here last week so it’s like 1 to 18 or 20 or something) and most of them speak Portuguese or Spanish. Most of the American sisters also know some or a lot of Spanish — I’ve met maybe two other sisters who don’t speak Spanish and there are hundreds of people here.
Learning Portuguese is difficult, of course. On the one hand, it is amazing that I can make any Brasilieros (Brazilians) understand sentences I say in Portuguese, however broken! I have memorized the missionary purpose (Invite others to come unto Christ . . .) and the scriptures for the first vision and some other sentences and questions in Portuguese (Somos Missionarias da Igrega de Jesus Cristo dos Santos dos Ultimos Dias. Temos uma mensagem sobre Jesus Cristo. Voce acredita en Deus e en Jesus Cristo? etc. etc.) On the other hand, it’s easy to feel like you aren’t learning enough Portuguese when you’re at the CTM. We keep hearing about people who are learning 100 words a day, memorizing two scriptures etc. etc.! One issue is that we have a lot of things to do that aren’t memorizing our assigned vocabulary and passages for memorization. We eat meals, we go to choir, we have devotionals, we have planning, we prepare lessons for investigators, read scriptures — it’s a lot! They gave us a goal for memorization and learning Portuguese for the first ten days so I’ll tell you how I did next week. I taught my first two lessons about the gospel this week. It’s quite hard in Portuguese!
Boa noite! (we’re three hours ahead)