Goodbye to Palmares

I’m being transferred! I’m very sad to leave Sister Arce and Palmares but a new area will be an adventure. I will be in Gravatá, which is still in the interior. Apparently it is a big touristy city — I will have to wait until after our email time to ask Sister Arce more questions. Hopefully the transfer will go smoothly — last transfer my transfer instructions had the wrong times written and the bus was slow and I ended up waiting in the bus station for several hours — it is a little crazy because you travel without a cellphone, but luckily people are willing to lend cellphones if you need to call someone.

Recently we have started hearing frevo in the streets. People are practicing for Carnaval. I do not know much about frevo but it seems to be characterized by a very strong rhythm on drums that is catchy (and quite loud — we can hear it from far away). People dress up in bear costumes and say rhymes asking for money.

Today we went to a museum housed in an old train station. It is about a famous writer and actor Hermilo Borbo Filho and the history of Palmares. Very small but cool. I learned that in Brazil, slaves lived together on the dark, crowded first floor (senzala) of the houses and the plantation owners would live on the second floor. Apparently lots of slaves escaped and would start their own communities called Quilombos. They would stop sometimes in Palmares but the big gathering place was Alagoas.

This week we had some really special experiences with the Book of Mormon. People who read the Book of Mormon receive answers to their prayers and feel the spirit a lot faster than people who don’t. We have one investigator “Mariana” who is 18-ish years old, who I met asking directions. On our second visit with her, we found out that she visited our church once a long time ago. She said she felt a special feeling there and didn’t want to leave. She told God that one day she would go back — maybe a long time in the future (the church is not close to her house) but she would go back. This week we went back and found out that she took the Book of Mormon to school with her to read. She doesn’t like reading but she loves the Book of Mormon! She said she felt like some of the verses were written just for her. One of her friends asked her about it, read part, and started crying because she said she knew it was true!

The same day we visited “Nedna” who we almost dropped because she still hadn’t prayed about whether Joseph Smith was a prophet, if the Book of Mormon is true, hadn’t read the part we left marked for her, etc. But last week she read the part we marked for her (but didn’t pray), so we didn’t drop her. But she still didn’t seem very interested, and then her granddaughter was born and we didn’t see her for two weeks, so we were planning how we could make one last attempt at explaining the importance of praying and reading the scriptures. We showed up, and everything seemed normal, but then we asked her if she had prayed. She said, “Well, I have to tell you that I got an answer!” I was surprised. Apparently she remembered to pray and read the Book of Mormon despite all the chaos with her granddaughter’s birth (a miracle — we had invited her over several visits to read and pray, and she didn’t), and then she lost her cellphone in the middle of they city and asked God to help her get it back if the Book of Mormon was true. Someone found her cell phone when her ex-husband was calling her, answered, and arranged to bring the cell phone to him. This is apparently very rare here and she said she knew it was an answer from God. Note — I do not recommend just praying to God asking for a sign to know if the Book of Mormon is true. You have to read the Book of Mormon, pray, etc., if you want an answer — you receive a testimony after the trial of your faith (Ether 12:6) and the scriptures are very clear about the perils of requiring signs from God. Also, God responds to people in different ways.

Both of those experiences happened right after we ended a fast to help our investigators receive answers — it was special. It is so important to put in effort to receive answers from God — diligently read the Book of Mormon, pray wholeheartedly and go to church! We have stopped visiting several different people because they said they didn’t feel vontade (will, the urge, inclined) to read the scriptures/pray/go to church. They all said that if God sent them a feeling of vontade one day they would go to church etc, but they weren’t feeling it then. The devil doesn’t want you to pray, read, or go to church (the evil spirit teacheth not a man to pray 2 Nephi 32:8), so if you wait for a feeling of vontade to do these things you will probably wait your whole life. We also have an investigator who is wonderful but keeps getting sucked into YouTube videos about the wonderful things the Church does instead of reading the Book of Mormon or praying. The documentaries are great, and now he has a lot of respect for church programs, but the scriptures are inspired books written by the power of God to guide us — YouTube videos are not.

Love you all!

Progress and Willingness to Change

For months I thought a really loud child lived on our street, but this transfer I learned from Sister Arce that it was actually just this parrot.  

Unfortunately it looks like our neighbor “Stephanie” who I told you about last week believes the Book of Mormon is true but does not want to consider joining a different church.  I hope that when she finishes the Book of Mormon maybe she will be a bit more open to considering it, but we will see. Recently, we have had trouble with having lots of people to teach but not having a lot of investigators who are actually progressing (Saturday night they say they will go to church, Sunday morning we show up to take them to church and they have surprise visitors, are sick, do not want to go, are busy, etc.)  Yesterday at 9:57 it wasn’t looking very good, but three of our investigators showed up partway through the meeting! We had already been to “Caio” and “Henrique’s” houses that morning, and they weren’t there, but they both went to church by themselves. I am so excited for them — “Caio” stopped drinking last week for good — his friend offered him beer on Saturday and he said he followed our advice and left right away! He is also stopping his coffee habit.  It is amazing to see the difference in progress between people who really want to change their lives and people who don’t. I have met some people who don’t want to ask God if the Book of Mormon is true or if they ought to stop drinking coffee because they don’t want to get an answer. Or they ask, but they don’t get an answer, and then we find out that even if God did respond to them it wouldn’t change anything in their lives.

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I found brown rice!!!  I am very excited about that. The problem is that although I always want to eat when we get home I am seldom actually hungry because we eat a lot for lunch.  But I am eating brown rice today. We have to go to Recife to get a new cellphone and I will eat this on the bus. You can’t actually see the brown rice but it is under the other food.  The top left corner has sweet potato. I really miss orange sweet potatoes, but these are good too. There is also mango. Not very much mango, but I already ate a mango and a half today. A member gave us a bag of mangoes and they are delicious. There are also peas (protein-rich). The peas here are canned!  There are no fresh or frozen peas. Canned peas are very strange to me. If you heat them up and eat them with thyme and lime juice and hot sauce they are not bad (but very mushy). Lemons here are called Japanese limes and they are very rare and expensive, so I have been eating lots of lime juice. Mango with lime juice is heavenly.  I topped the dish with spicy ketchup. Ketchup is very popular here, but it is sweeter than I am used to. Spicy ketchup is also sold, but the “spicy” part is a lie.

Lunch packed for the bus on the way to Recife

Fun fact: I miss salsa.  Sister Arce [a native Spanish speaker from Argentina] had trouble understanding what I was saying when I told her that because salsa is “sauce” in Spanish.  I think I knew that but forgot.

September 2018–Sister Hales with avocado creams during our training in São Paulo.

Another thing I have been enjoying is avocado creams. Avocado is only eaten with sugar here. Here is a picture of the first “vitamina de abacate” that I drank while I was in the CTM [missionary training center in San Paulo].  It was a special moment — I had always heard Dad telling stories about the avocado shakes he drank in Brazil and then I actually got to try one! We have an avocado tree by our house but I have not actually eaten an avocado yet.