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

This Week in Recife

This week was good!  We managed to teach a lot more first lessons this week and we finally have more investigators in our teaching pool.  Caroline and Luan* are going to officially start the getting-married process here!  Unfortunately, this is not Las Vegas and you can’t get married in one day–it could take two months for the papers to get through! In other updates, Arthur is still working on dropping the last cigarette.  He is working hard, so I am sure it will work out eventually. 

Unfortunately, none of our new investigators went to church — it was another Sunday of sudden illnesses, rain, a death in the family!, sudden work opportunities, and general busyness and flakiness.  But Luan and Caroline went to church again, as well as Arthur and Viviane. Viviane is an awesome young woman who has been wanting to get baptized for the last year.  Unfortunately, her mom won’t let her.  But she is persevering  admirably and a very active member in the ward.  The only thing that is missing is the water! (and confirmation).  She is going to ask her mom again this week — please pray that her mom’s heart is softened.  

Cool story — we are teaching a Hare Krishna who stopped us in the street!  He wanted to hear about the temple, which apparently is built in a place an old Hare Krishna temple used to be.  He also wanted to know about meat, because Hare Krishnas are vegetarian, and he talked with a vegan member of the church who told him that our scriptures said something about not eating meat.  So that is pretty crazy, because I am vegetarian and was vegan before my mission because of those exact scriptures. [However, it should be noted that the majority of members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints are not vegetarian].  And I have been to a Hare Krishna temple before and read a little bit about the religion because I think it’s interesting. Weird. We focused on the more important doctrine of the Restoration and his questions about that instead of talking about meat, but I thought that was a funny coincidence. 

He called to cancel our second lesson because something came up but said he had been on the church’s website ComeuntoChrist.org and was loving everything.  He was talking about how the church is such a great example of service, teaching children, etc., etc.  He said he would go to church this Sunday and wanted us to preach him the Bible!  . . . And then on Saturday he called to say he had  been called to go on a mission for a week as a Hare Krishna and didn’t need more visits.  So that was bad timing.  But we told him that we had found a member who had already been to the Hare Krishna temple and would visit him when he got back.

Today we went to get Sister Sousa’s fingerprints taken.  Next week (the day we find out about transfers!) she is going to do her interview at the American (embassy? consulate? don´t know).  Her Canadian visa went through a week after the interview, so if she gets lucky she might be going to Canada really soon!  Who knows if we will be in a trio this next transfer again or if I will end up getting transferred to another place when she leaves . . . or just receive a different companion. I´m not sure. 

We stopped by the beach.  Oh, how I love the sea.  And lakes, and rivers, and ponds. . .  It was picture perfect–yellow sand, blue sky, picturesque clouds.  We did not go to the beach, obviously, but I admired it from a distance!  The water was a little dirty because of the rain, but the benefit of not being allowed to walk on the beach is that it’s harder to see that it is dirty!

Love you all!

*All names are changed to protect the privacy of the investigators

Loving and Welcoming Visitors

This week was good. We have one couple, Caroline and Luan,* who we are teaching.  When we arrived in this area we were very confused because we couldn’t find Caroline’s teaching record.  A teaching record is a form we fill out to say what we taught people.  That way if both the missionaries get transferred, or if you can’t remember what you taught, you can look at the teaching record and see what’s already been taught. I turns out that she doesn’t have a teaching record because she’s never been taught! Her daughter was taught, and she had already been to church and knew the missionaries quite well, and had already reached the Isaiah sections in the Book of Mormon, so we thought she must have been taught something already. But it turns out that she had been drinking and smoking a lot– so much that she was too nervous to sit through a lesson.  The Sisters tried to teach her but she would leave.  But now she sits through lessons, listens, learns, and is reading the Book of Mormon a lot!  She has been to church a total of three times. She wants to get baptized and understands the importance of faith, repentance, baptism, the Holy Ghost, etc.  All without ever being taught!  

Caroline also really wants to get married in order to keep God’s commandments and be baptized. And our ward is helping them out!  They already went to the marriage office and things are progressing!  I have taught lots of people who needed to get married before, but nothing really ever worked out.  Her husband Luan could use some prayers that he can find work.  He seems very driven — he is really working hard to find a steady job to support his family, but now he is just doing whatever odd job he can find.  

Recife Temple
Courtesy of ChurchofJesusChrist.org

One thing I would like to remember as an ex-missionary is the importance of loving and welcoming visitors.  As a missionary I am definitely better at not unrighteously judging people and focusing on encouraging them in their successes. As a member who just sees a visitor or recent convert show up to church without knowing the backstory, it is sometimes easy  to think judgmental thoughts about their behavior or dress or attitude.  But as a missionary I am thrilled when people show up to church!  Being a missionary has definitely helped me develop more charity and empathy for people.  Our investigators are very rarely accustomed to the way church members act or dress (and frequently don’t have the resources to buy church-y clothes anyway), but that is normal.  We are just so happy when they show up to church, because we know it will help them get closer to Christ.  There is a huge difference between people who go to church and people we teach who never visit church.  There have been a couple of times when members’ feathers got a bit ruffled because of someone’s odd behavior, or because a recent convert talked about a weakness they have.  That is sad because it can make that person feel unwelcome and stop their forward progress.  But the majority of members are very welcoming, and we appreciate all the people who visit investigators, give car rides, and help in other ways.  

We are teaching another young woman, Viviane, who has been going to church for a year but hasn’t been baptized. Her mom doesn’t want to give permission.  She could use prayers as well (and for us, so we can run into her mom and know how to help!).

Arthur is still struggling with cigarettes.  He has made huge progress but the last cigarette is really hard to give up.  But we have high hopes for this week!  

Caju fruit
Photo Credit: Victoria Rachitzky Hoch, Flickr

Fun fact — a while ago I sent a picture of a caju fruit.  This week I bought another one to eat.  It was tasty . . . and burned the side of my mouth!  The first time I ate one it burned my throat a bit.  My companion said I needed to buy a sweeter one.  This one seemed sweeter . . . until I noticed afterwards that my lips were a bit burnt!  I am starting to wonder if I have some kind of weird allergy just to caju fruit.  Other fun fact — cashews are taken individually from that weird thing on top of the caju fruit!  Now I know why they are so expensive — they have to remove them one by one!  

I have been studying the church´s Come, Follow Me manual. This year we are studying about the New Testament. This verse really touched me: 

40 And to him they agreed: and when they had called the apostles, and beaten them, they commanded that they should not speak in the name of Jesus, and let them go.

41 And they departed from the presence of the council, rejoicing that they were counted worthy to suffer shame for his name.

Acts 5:40-41

Here Peter and John are arrested for preaching the gospel, told not to talk about Christ, beaten, and then let go.  And what do they do? They rejoice in their sufferings . . . and continue preaching about Christ, because their allegiance to God is greater than their allegiance to man.  I  have known about Christian virtues all my life–if someone slaps you, turn the other cheek, trials help us grow, if someone makes you walk one mile with them, walk two, etc. — Sometime it is easy to get so used to hearing these things we don’t really think about them.  It is really difficult to do these things!  And are we doing them?  I certainly am not yet on Peter and John’s level.  I haven’t gone through anything anywhere near as difficult as they did, and yet I am not as Christlike as they were.  Luckily, we have this scripture from the D&C (the Doctrine and Covenants are a book of scripture that has revelations from God given to modern prophets like Joseph Smith) to guide us:

13 Ye are not able to abide the presence of God now, neither the ministering of angels; wherefore, continue in patience until ye are perfected.

D&C 67:13

Repentance is not the backup plan, it is the plan!

Hope you all have a wonderful week.

*Investigators names are always changed to protect their privacy

Flaxen Cords

At the mission office for interviews
Photo courtesy of Sister Lori Houseman

This week was pretty crazy. Sister Sousa had headaches and Sister Damaceno was also sick. We found out on Tuesday night that Sister Damaceno was going to fly home the next morning. We had no idea that would happen, so it was a shock. I will definitely miss her but hope she can get better at home! So now it is just Sister Sousa and me again.

We had trouble finding people at home, but we found a lot of new people to teach. Arthur ended up smoking this week — addictions are hard! But he didn’t smoke on Sunday or Monday — definitely a miracle. A member talked to him at church and apparently that helped a lot. Proactive members are a blessing, take note! You cannot go wrong offering to do specific things to help the missionaries.

We have passed a ton of references to other areas. Right now is an especially bad time to do contacts here because there is a huge park next to the church which has been having São João parties all month. Yesterday everything was closed for São João and there were bonfires in the street every few yards to celebrate! We have started doing contacts only far away from our house and that helps. Also making rules like — if someone is on the street exercising or has a dog, stop them, because they probably live here. We have to be detectives — what can we look for to know if someone is from our area or not? School shirts — usually a good clue. Shopping bags — hard to say. It is pretty funny.

We are teaching a couple, Raquel and Leandro*. Leandro went to church last week. We went to see him Sunday morning and convinced him to go — and he went! In the rain! He is blind, so he was really a trooper to go. This week a family member got sick at the last second and they couldn’t go. Sicknesses are on my hit list: Also, family members who visit without telling people, trips to the countryside, and sleepiness. They all cause problems. Raquel and Leandro have to get married in order to progress toward baptism, endure to the end, temple, etc. After much conversation we helped them get to the realization that they want to get married and know that that is what God wants for them. But they had a list of reasons they couldn’t get married soon, didn’t even want to plan the day, etc. Procrastination is a serious evil. Definitely one of the flaxen cords of the devil. But I was praying and praying for their hearts to be touched, and yesterday it happened! Raquel was even happier than usual. Sister Sousa thought about lots of creative solutions to get over the roadblocks and Raquel accepted all of them. Her engagement lunch is planned for the twentieth of next month and she promised to mark a day for her marriage yesterday night. I hope it happened!

Recife Temple with the whole zone–First chance since last December
Photo courtesy of Sister Lori Houseman

A story about language difference difficulties, even for native Brazilians: Sister Sousa was webchatting with her parents just now and said one of the other missionaries isn’t from her zone. A lady came over to whisper to tell me that we can’t say “zone” because in the Northeast it is a place where prostitutes go! Apparently we just shocked everyone in the LAN house.

Some scriptures I wanted to share with you: In the CTM I read the last few verses of Romans 8 about God´s love for us which really touched me:

35 Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or peril, or sword?

36 As it is written, For thy sake we are killed all the day long; we are accounted as sheep for the slaughter.

37 Nay, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him that loved us.

38 For I am persuaded, that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor powers, nor things present, nor things to come,

39 Nor height, nor depth, nor any other creature, shall be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord.

Yesterday I read a different scripture I don’t remember hearing before, Hebrews 4:14-16. Powerful!

14 Seeing then that we have a great high priest, that is passed into the heavens, Jesus the Son of God, let us hold fast our profession.

15 For we have not an high priest which cannot be touched with the feeling of our infirmities; but was in all points tempted like as we are, yet without sin.

16 Let us therefore come boldly unto the throne of grace, that we may obtain mercy, and find grace to help in time of need.

*All names are changed to protect the privacy of investigators.