I am going to be transferred to Goiana, the area that Sister Nogueira just left, and Sister Nogueira is also going to be transferred! We are not sure what will happen with the area yet, but hopefully everything works out. It is always hard to leave investigators, and even more so if your companion will be transferred as well, but I’m sure the next missionaries will be great.
Yesterday we had a miracle of several new investigators who went to church!! One was a young woman we met giving out cake at the Christmas activity we did. Her name is Nayara* and she is really interested in helping indigenous peoples and making art. She wasn’t sure if she believed in God. After we gave her a Book of Mormon she read 3 Nephi 11 and felt doubtful about whether what it had said really happened. Then she had a spiritual experience at some kind of religious ceremony with indigenous people and decided that everything the Book of Mormon says is true! Not something you hear every day. She also accepted a baptismal goal!
Also Vitoria and her two siblings Mary & Guilherme went to church. She had seemed very uninterested, but the other day when we were trying to teach her a lesson she suddenly asked if she could bless her baby at our church! Then she accepted a baptismal date, so that was exciting!
We also met the mom, Barbara, of a future missionary, Clara. Barbara isn’t a member but said she would pray and would be baptized if she received an answer–that’s all we ask of people! Her daughter was really excited. It was great to hear Clara’s testimony of the difference the gospel has made in her life. Bernardo’s wife also shared her testimony of the Book of Mormon. I was praying for it to touch his heart! Last we heard, he hasn’t yet prayed again to know if the Book of Mormon is true. But we have been fasting for him and hope he recognizes the answers God is sending him. Unfortunately it will probably take a while to find out because of transfers but here’s hoping! Juliana and Joao Pedro found out that they will have to pay for new certificates so Joao Pedro said he would go to the marriage office today! They are making lots of progress. Their daughter, Aléxia, a Young Woman [the Young Women are the group of female youth ages 12-18], had just gotten her temple recommend so we ended up teaching about temples again. It was a great lesson–they really want to be sealed together! I am really excited to hear about their marriage in the not-distant future!
We are teaching a man named Ibrahim, who is from Iraq. He is Muslim and very interesting. It is great to learn more about his culture and religion–I am a little sad I don’t live closer to him–I would like to be his friend after returning home! He is very knowledgeable about many, many subjects but had never heard of the Church. The first time we taught him we took a Book of Mormon in English (easier for him to read than Portuguese) but weren’t able to discover the Book of Mormon in Arabic on his phone. When we went back the second time we were all set to show him how to find it, but he had already downloaded it and started reading! He is very committed to friendly, helpful relations with people of other faiths, but believes that religion is something that doesn’t change (“We believe almost the same thing. We are like two parallel trains. They are close but never come together!” –Ibrahim). I respect him a lot. While he does not believe that it makes sense to ask God questions (“You can ask, but He will not answer!”), he does believe we can ask God for wisdom or to be shown the truth. So we invited him to ask God to show him if the Book of Mormon is true. He promised to ask God and to read the whole book (He said several times “But you have to give me time. This book is very long! I will not read it in one day!” Well, we are happy to give him all the time he wants. Anyone who is committed to reading the Book of Mormon makes us happy.
Next week, coming not-live to you from Goiana in Pernambuco, the next installment of letters from a missionary.
We’ve had a good week! Jeniffer* went to church yesterday!!! Last week we finally met the old goal we had of # of investigators at church all last transfer. She is keeping all the commandments and we are excited for her! An eight-year-old we were teaching (with her mother) went to church as well–Carla. Hopefully her mom will want to go to church in the future as well. She is very cute. I asked her what her favorite thing to do was and she said “pray.” “Do you feel like God answers your prayer?” “Yes, I asked him if he was real and He said he was!” We gave her a Book of Mormon yesterday and she said she would read it! A member from a different ward took her whole family and her non-member friend to our ward yesterday as well. That young woman gets 2000 awesome member points. Taking him to the ward where he lives was a great idea.
Juliana and Joao Pedro went to the marriage office! The office said they had to redo their documents before getting married (expensive) but we are hoping they’ll find a different route. After the spiritual experience we had with them last week, we were hoping they would progress more and they really have! We called them a few times this past week but weren’t able to visit them until this Sunday. We went to teach the Word of Wisdom and Joao Pedro said he hadn’t drank in a week (i.e., since the last lesson we taught them!) That means that after getting married they’ll be keeping all the commandments already! Eight years ago, when they first heard about the Church they lived very different lives. They were owners of a bar! This is a great example 1 Corinthians 3:5-8. Other missionaries planted the seed in their lives, many many other missionaries watered that seed for months and years, and God is giving the increase! What a blessing to be “ministers whom ( Juliana and Joao Pedro) believed.”
We’ve only seen Wesley once since the transfer started, so that was too bad. But the other day a less-active member stopped us in the street! She hasn’t been to church in years, but missionaries visited her and her family a year ago and she loved their visits. I actually met those sisters because a year ago they were at my Christmas zone conference. It’s funny to think that was a year ago already! Her three children (and a boyfriend who lives in a different area) accepted baptismal dates when we went to visit them. We aren’t sure if any of them will be able to go to church next Sunday, but we are excited.
The ward Christmas party happened this week and we met a few non-members there. We’re excited to visit them! We also went on splits with the sisters in Escada. I had never gone on splits with a sister in training before. It was different, but great! Also, I was slightly sick and spent an entire day not working in order to do a urine test at the hospital. It was a production! But I am grateful to have the missionary health plan–I really feel for the many people we meet who do not have that blessing.
How was Thanksgiving? I might buy some sweet potatoes here for a belated Thanksgiving mashed sweet potatoes. It’s funny– there isn’t any Thanksgiving here but there is Black Friday! There were lots of signs with “Black Friday” and “Black Week” “Black Month,” etc., all in English. Commercialism is international! There are also tons of Christmas lights — that has been the case for many weeks already. It is funny to be in a place with skyscrapers. I don’t remember having been in a big city at Christmas time before. People in skyscrapers decorate their own window. So all of the windows have different lights! I thought there were tons of Christmas lights, but this week on Sunday a member said there are very few lights nowadays which just goes to show the lack of belief in Christ. I guess I would have liked to see Christmas in Recife several years ago! I am always surprised at just how many people believe in Christ (and post signs and stickers proclaiming said belief on cars, houses, stores, etc.) so it was an interesting viewpoint to hear.
This week was great! We had a new investigator at church this week — Bruna.* After teaching her we found out that she had already been to church four times and has a family member who is a member. She is ten and likes to be taught. Unfortunately our other investigators mostly didn’t manage to go, but there were two long-time investigators who always go. I am grateful that they persevere! Hopefully one of them ( Juliana) went to the marriage office today to start the marriage process (or at least see what she needs to be able to start). The other one ( Daniela)’s husband had a little change of heart. When I got here she said he didn’t want any documents at all (makes it hard to get a job, let alone marry) and now he does want documents. Good first step!
My new companion is Sister Nogueira from São Paulo, Brazil. She is awesome. We actually got to the mission together. It’s funny, because when people ask us how much time we have left or when we got here we have the same answer! I’ve never had a companion who got to the mission at the same time before.
Our investigator Jeniffer is progressing a lot. She had said she was reading the scriptures but had difficulty in remembering a part that she had liked and said she was still awaiting an answer from God. This week she opened a scripture she said she especially liked the part around 2 Nephi 2:25. She had truly had a spiritual experience! Later someone randomly mentioned to her baptisms for the dead [longer, in depth discussion of baptisms for the dead] I was initially a little sad that our lesson was interrupted with that because it didn’t seem like the right moment. But it was cool to talk about baptisms for the dead after having refreshed my memory with the Come Follow Me reading of the week. It was amazing because she was initially confused about the concept and had been convinced that people don’t live in families after this life. But after talking about family history and baptisms for the dead, she started thinking about family members who had already passed that she thought ought to be baptized! She seems a lot more confident about her baptismal date as well. We are excited! She definitely felt the spirit of Elijah.
We had less time in the area this week because I was in Jardim Massangana until Wednesday but we managed to find a lot of new people to teach. Hopefully we manage to find them at home this week and they turn out to be really great! This week we will go to the Mission Leadership council. We are also going to do a division with the sisters from the city of Escada.
We are having a fun time thinking about creative things to do at Christmas — we are going to try knocking on a few doors and caroling this week. Caroling is not a tradition in Brazil but we are hoping that the general good-feeling and belief in Christ means people will appreciate it. We are also planning an activity to show people the new Christmas video “The Christ Child” (It is super great!) and give out free cake (as a lure). It sounds like the Christmas zone conferences will start pretty soon. I can’t believe it is Christmas already!
One Christmas tradition here is Panettone. It is like a cross between bread and cake. You cut it like a cake and it is quite sweet but has a bready texture. It has dried fruits or chocolate chips and is very tasty. I have only eaten it twice but liked it both times.
Davi [recently baptized] still needs prayers — we still haven’t managed to see him.
*All investigators’ names are changed for privacy.
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!
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.
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!
We met some awesome family members of an investigator in Casa Forte before I left. The dad said he knew he needed to live the law of chastity but he had proposed to his wife twice (with a ring and flowers) and she hadn’t accepted. She isn’t very religious but they all agreed to go to church this Sunday. I hope they went! When we left the dad was already sitting on the couch reading the Book of Mormon! I also got some great news from the sisters in Gravatá–one of Maria Eduarda’s* daughters got baptized! Maria Eduarda is the investigator I wrote about who didn’t believe in God. Apparently she is still praying very regularly and is grateful that we visited her and taught her to pray.
We had originally contacted this daughter and met Maria Eduarda because she was there when we tried to visit her daughter. We taught her daughter a few times and invited her to be baptized, but she was working every single weekend in a different city. It literally wasn’t possible for her to go to church, and some of the days we visited her family she was gone working. But she must not be working there anymore! Very gratifying, because until now I had only heard bad news about my former areas. Also, it sounds like Victor and David, two of Gravatá´s recent converts, are doing great.
The Transfer Saga: First, Sister Pereira (who I was traveling with) and I dragged our suitcases to the bus stop. It is close, but her suitcase was a bit broken so that was still a bit hard. Then we got on the bus going away from the metro instead of towards it, but we just got off at the next stop and got on the right bus. Stupid, but not too big of a deal. We got to the metro and our metro was just leaving. But the next one got there in 15ish minutes, so not a big deal. Everything was difficult because we had suitcases and I am a klutz, but everything worked out.
I got off the metro and onto my minibus to Candeias right on schedule. I asked the driver when I should get off and he told me he would tell me. I paid attention to the time to hopefully know about when we would get close to Candeias. After a few stops, a member of the church started talking to me. He said a few things about his mission, his ward, etc., and then asked where I was getting off. I told him, only to be informed that I had already passed my stop. Oops! I felt dumb but thought, “Wow, I am so grateful that God is sending angels to help me on transfer day. So glad I ran into that member” (cue the ominous wrong-decision music). He said the chapel was the next stop so I could get off there. I thought it was funny that our apartment wasn’t closer to the chapel, but maybe some areas are like that?
I got off at the chapel (I later discovered that at this point I was a 5-10 minute walk away from my apartment) and started walking in the direction he had indicated. When I asked for more directions, the directions-givers told me I was going the wrong direction. I turned around. I retraced my steps, asked for more directions, and they told me I needed to go the direction I had originally gone! These people seemed more trustworthy, and they agreed with the member, so I turned around again. Everyone told me it was way too far to walk with suitcases and that I should catch a bus for a few stops. People underestimate missionary walking ability, but I decided to take that advice so as not to be too late. I took a bus four stops (Four stops in the wrong direction!) and got off. Nobody knew where the road I was looking for was. Finally I found a very nice person who walked with me to the right road and helped me with one of the suitcases. He didn’t want a visit, but hey, I planted a seed and he said he would look up the Book of Mormon. It took a while, but I got there. Then I walked up the dirt road looking for the right number. I walked for a long time and got more and more perplexed because the numbers were out of order. Nobody knew where my apartment was. Finally someone who lived there told me I had already passed it (cue more ominous wrong-advice music).
I turned around, and retraced my steps for a while in the other direction without success. I began to see that there is a difference between “take the suitcases you can carry” [the advice they give prospective missionaries] and “take the suitcases you can drag up a soft dirt road on a very hot day.” I am very grateful that my suitcases are good and that it didn’t rain. The next day that same road was full of water — that would have been worse! But I continued on, only to run into the same advice-giver who told me he had gone to get his phone because he could see I was lost. He looked it up on Google maps (technology!) only to figure out that I had not passed it. In fact my apartment was farther than I had originally walked, so I had retraced my steps in vain again. He walked back up the street with me and helped me with a suitcase (blessings). We fiiinally got there, and he left. Too bad that he sent me the wrong direction, but good he was nice enough to help me afterwards.
I used the intercom to call my apartment but no one answered, so I walked up the street to borrow someone’s phone. After trying to use the ancient phone without success, I saw someone opening the apartment gate. I hurried back, and luckily she had already seen missionaries there and let me in. Apparently the intercom is broken and if you shout people hear you. Anyway, I got there more than an hour late but safe and sound. I later saw the chapel basically around the corner from my apartment — I had spent over an hour walking back (and retracing my steps only to turn around again) the four bus stops I retraced away from the chapel. But all’s well that ends well! I heartily recommend that someone make an Amazing Race challenge or a tv show that involves people who have to do missionary-style transfers with suitcases, wrong directions, and without smartphones. It would be hilarious!
I can see the beach from here! It is not as close as it was when I went to Pina, but I get to stay here! In other non-missionary-work related news, there is a Madoska ice cream store here (there was one in Gravatá too) which I plan to make use of later today!
I had been under the impression that I might be in an area with much more of a small-city vibe. Ha ha, Candeias is a neighborhood of Jaboatao dos Guararapes which is right next to Recife. Full of skyscrapers, several huge supermarkets. Not a small-town vibe! So many skyscrapers. It is much smaller than Casa Forte, which is a blessing; hopefully I will learn the area faster. When I manage to learn an area more-or-less I always think “Wow, why didn’t I just make an effort to memorize the roads faster?” But when I get to a new area I remember why–nothing is familiar! Harder to memorize. Also there are many fewer road signs here than in Casa Forte — too bad. But I have high hopes of memorizing here faster. We will see how it goes.
There is a part of town that looks a little like the less-skyscrapery Santa Isabel neighborhood in Casa Forte, but it is much smaller. We spent much more of our time in the skyscraper-y part of the city this week than I had spent in Casa Forte. A lot of very deserted roads. People come out at 5:00 to walk their dogs but before that it is pretty hard to do street contacts. We are often literally the only people I can see! It is strange. We will have to see what we do about that — the houses are a bit imposing to go door-knocking — Brazilians love gates in front of the house, and here the gates are huge walls with intercoms. It seemed like people were less interested in the street contacts here than in Casa Forte as well, but we still managed to get several new investigators. Sister Anaya said this week was better than last transfer for finding new people, so hopefully it continues that way! We also managed to find some people at home (always a struggle) and teach some first lessons as well. We marked two new people, Amanda* and Murilo, so that was great.
Davi (60ish years old) was marked for baptism last week, but when I went to meet him for the first time he opened the door very, very drunk. Then we went back to see him a different day and — still drunk. That was sad, because he had said he had given up alcohol, but it didn’t work out. He lives alone, but right next to a bar and has a lot of friends that call him to drink. But afterwards we found him sober. He said he wanted to apologize to us, so we explained that really he needed to repent and apologize to God. He understood, and said he was excited to get baptized. Ever since he has talked about how excited he is to be baptized. On Sunday he asked us why the bishop hadn’t announced his baptism — a good sign! No one else managed to go to church, but he did, which was great! The other people said they should be able to go next week. He told us that on Saturday he had been working with some friends who were drinking. They invited him many times, but he told them he didn’t want to drink because he wanted to get baptized! We fasted with him yesterday so that he could be strengthened against temptation and for everything to work out for his baptism. Hopefully everything goes well!
Interestingly, there are a lot of people from the religion Espiritismo here. I think service-oriented, tolerant, educated, better-off people are especially attracted to this religion. Because it is a big city there are a lot more well-off and highly educated people here. Espiritismo has some interesting points (some of them believe in reincarnation and things like spiritual hospitals where mediums talk to spirits to help fix your spiritual problems). One thing I admire is that many espíritas (people from this religion) are very, very charitable. They are very self-motivated to look for every service opportunity; something I would like to learn.
This reminds me of a quote from the Teachings of George Albert Smith book I read this week:
First of all, we are asking all you fine people over here to keep all the glorious truths that you have acquired in your churches, that you have absorbed from your scriptures, keep all that. . . keep all the love and the beauty that is in your heart from having lived in so beautiful and wonderful a land. … That is all a part of the gospel of Jesus Christ. Then let us sit down and share with you some of the things that have not yet come into your lives that have enriched our lives and made us happy.
We are also teaching a couple that have been investigating for a while, Rodrigo and Larissa. Ronald has a lot of questions about many different things in the church. He is worried that there are a lot of religions and he might want to receive an answer so much that he might end up deceiving himself and getting a false emotional answer. He is afraid to pray because of this. We told him about the importance of prayer and acting with faith to receive guidance.
3 Angels speak by the power of the Holy Ghost; wherefore, they speak the words of Christ. Wherefore, I said unto you, feast upon the words of Christ; for behold, the words of Christ will tell you all things what ye should do.
4 Wherefore, now after I have spoken these words, if ye cannot understand them it will be because ye ask not, neither do ye knock; wherefore, ye are not brought into the light, but must perish in the dark.
5 For behold, again I say unto you that if ye will enter in by the way, and receive the Holy Ghost, it will show unto you all things what ye should do.
. . .
8 And now, my beloved brethren, I perceive that ye ponder still in your hearts; and it grieveth me that I must speak concerning this thing. For if ye would hearken unto the Spirit which teacheth a man to pray, ye would know that ye must pray; for the evil spirit teacheth not a man to pray, but teacheth him that he must not pray.
9 But behold, I say unto you that ye must pray always, and not faint; that ye must not perform any thing unto the Lord save in the first place ye shall pray unto the Father in the name of Christ, that he will consecrate thy performance unto thee, that thy performance may be for the welfare of thy soul.
Sister Anaya read the Book of Mormon scripture about Laman and Lemuel — they complain that God hadn’t talked to them but they hadn’t asked!
Next week we are going to go to new leader training conference and the mission council. We are about two hours from the mission office (new leader training) and 3-ish from the mission home (mission council) so it will be an adventure.
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.
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!
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
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.
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!
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.
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.
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
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!
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.