I had a great week this week! We have a lot of people to teach and are trying to follow-up with all of them. It’s really hard to know how much time to spend with everyone and when we should stop visiting someone. This area is great because lots of people accept visits, but that makes it a little hard because if we talk to everyone all the time and visit all the people who accept visits, we end up with too many investigators! It’s hard to know at first if someone is really interested or not, and what if they don’t seem interested but really they deserve a chance?
But those are good problems to have. We are also trying to get more of our investigators to church. It is sad when people say they will go and then don’t show up, because I know how important it is for them. It’s a special opportunity to show God you are trying to remember the Savior and His atonement, learn more about the gospel, and help the other people in the community. We can take the sacrament and have our sins forgiven! If we are really trying to improve and follow the commandments, we can be completely clean from all the mistakes we have made. I know it will be easier for me to prioritize going to church when I get back from my mission. I also know it seems easier to go to church from a missionary perspective than from everyone else’s! But it’s worth it.
Miracle from this week: We were worried that none of our investigators were receiving answers to their prayers about the Church. Literally none of them felt like they had received a response. [Then] we fasted for them and some of them received answers! The ones that didn’t mostly weren’t actually praying. You have to ask to get an answer! Some of the people who received answers were people who hadn’t been acting interested at all.
It has started raining more and more and I love it. It’s not rainy season yet but we’re getting there. I have always loved rain and it’s even better when the alternative is sun that wants to burn you to a crisp!
I also experimented using pants this week. Pants are great, especially if you are walking through lots of weeds and hills and mosquitoes. I might send pictures next week.
Fun fact about jackfruit — it makes your hands terribly sticky, and the stickiness does not come off with soap! But I did not know the word sticky in Portuguese and was having trouble communicating my problems. I finally managed to explain it and a member told me you can only get it off with oil. Those of you who have good access to the internet can figure out which chemical property of jackfruit juice makes it oil but not water soluble.
Oi! Happy Thanksgiving! Nobody celebrates Thanksgiving here, but they do celebrate Black Friday. All the shops had sales and the city center was a mad house. The gas station had a huge reduction in price and we could hear the loudspeaker from our house while we were trying to study. It’s a little sad to have Black Friday but not Thanksgiving, but on the bright side it means the Christmas decorations go up even earlier! There are lots of fake evergreen garlands and red bows and lights: pisca-pisca [Portuguese for blink, blink]. We bought some lights for our house! I will try to send a picture next week–I have more pics than I sent this week already and the internet is still super slow. I am trying to make the camera work [for wifi downloads] but am having trouble.
Sister Porcote and I will be together until after Christmas. That is normal for training — you have the same companion both transfers.
In the CTM [Brazil’s missionary training center] several missionaries in my district knew someone who went to Japan and said they came back more quiet, reserved, etc. I imagine that transition might have been a little easier for me. I am suspicious that Heavenly Father decided I needed to be more outgoing or more of a hugger or something and sent me here! But the transition hasn’t really been that hard. I’m really blessed not to be having health challenges or super hard things happening in Palmares.
You asked how often we get to eat with the members. We have lunch planned every day but it is often money instead of actual food. Less exciting than it sounds because we keep eating at restaurants and from my perspective the restaurants all seem the same. But the fruit is really good! And the members make really good desserts sometimes, so I´m grateful.
We have been trying to teach a young man, “Rafael” for a while, but kept having trouble actually finding him to teach because he is very busy. He goes to seminary every day, but works before seminary and goes to school after seminary! (School can be before lunch or after lunch or at night here). He is awesome — super interested in religion, really wants to follow God. The only problem is that he was reactivated in a different church a little while back and wasn’t sure if he wanted to change. Yesterday he said he hadn’t received an answer with certainty yet. He said he thought he wanted to get baptized but not yet because he wanted to keep participating in his other church´s youth program. But during our lesson he started crying and said he would get baptized on the 8th! It was wonderful to have the opportunity to see someone get an answer to prayer like that. The promise is true — if you pray about the Book of Mormon with sincerity and a real desire to follow God’s will you will receive an answer! Sometimes it takes time, but it comes.
Typical food at a member’s house for our lunch (lunch is the main meal here)
beans (sometimes with squash, kale, or meat, but often just beans)
spaghetti with a little bit of tomato sauce
one or two kinds of meat, often chicken
(frequently without sauce, but sometimes with)
vegetable salad/some cooked kale/a plate of sliced tomatoes/possibly fruit
Fruit juice and/or soda. (It´s not normal here to drink water or milk with dinner. Coca-cola is very popular — I’ve had a lot more Coke so far than Guarana. Lemon-lime and orange soda are also popular. The fruit juices are amazing. )
Cake or pudding for dessert!
The food here is good. Most people don´t eat very spicy food.
The pineapple here is amazing! It is less yellow and more translucent here, super sweet, and extremely delicious. Papaya and mango are also possible. There are lots of fruit vendors with carts in the city center. They have bananas (often green and sweeter), mangoes, grapes, watermelon, coconuts, pineapple, papaya, sometimes nuts, corn, and several fruits I don´t know the name of (graveola, aceola?, etc). I also tried a jackfruit otter pop/popsicle-ish thing the other day. That was super fun. I use shredded canned unripe jackfruit at home to make barbecue-style tacos, but I’ve never tried a ripe, sweet jackfruit. It didn’t taste super strongly of anything, but it was good.
This week was very special. We met the mother of the young woman I told you about last week (parents forbid her to see us, come to church, get baptized) on the street. She lifted all the restrictions, said it was a misunderstanding and she didn’t have anything against us, and apologized. Then her daughter came to the baptisms we had this week and went to the dance afterwards! So it looks like we’re going to be able to teach her again. Our prayers that her parents’ hearts would be softened were answered!
I didn’t go to the dance of course (not really a missionary-approved activity! We´re supposed to listen to church and classical music and eschew all romance-related activities so we can focus on helping people get closer to our Savior), but some less-active members, investigators, and recent converts did and everybody was excited about it. Hopefully we can figure out how to have those dances more often.
Right after we met the first mother on the street we met a mother of one of our other investigators. The day before she said he couldn’t get baptized last week because he needed to be 18 and spend many months learning about the church before making that decision. We were concerned — he has a strong testimony, has learned all the lessons we’ve given him by heart, and we felt strongly that he should be baptized on the date we had chosen. The discussion was going badly when I suddenly had the idea to share the story of Peter and the other fishermen who immediately left their nets and followed Christ’s invitation “follow me” (Matthew 4:18-22). It was a little tough because I couldn’t remember the exact word for fisherman and “follow me´´ is a little hard to conjugate on the fly! But I got close enough that my companion could correct me, and I think the sister understood. Then she agreed to allow him to get baptized! It was a little miracle. The other young man who got baptized this week also had trouble with parents’ permission and we were worried he wouldn’t be able to make it to sacrament meeting to receive the gift of the Holy Ghost, but everything worked out in the end.