This week was good. The miracle of the week was Patrick. We asked Patrick for directions and did a contact with him. When we went to teach him, he wasn’t there–that’s something that happens every single day, many times a day. His family was there so we did a contact with them and planned to go back a different day. But then on Friday night Patrick called us! He said he had researched the Church and liked what he found out about! He said he wanted to go to church! And he went! Miracles. He seems to have potential, as someone who might be interested in joining the Church! We are excited.
A few days earlier we had had a bit of difficulty finding people at home, when we managed to teach someone at a motorcycle taxi station. His friend, who is a moto taxi driver, also decided to listen, even though he had to turn down a ride. When we told him about the Restoration, he repeatedly said “I have never heard about this!” That is my favorite investigator response! We went on splits this week and I stayed in Igarassu. While I was there, Renato said he had prayed and gotten an answer! Hooray for investigators who keep their commitments! We are going to visit him tonight.
We also went to mission council this week. I found out that the missionaries who followed Sister Nogueira and I in Candeias are . . . Sister M. Ribeiro (who I trained!) and her new trainee! That’s pretty funny. I have been praying for those missionaries — it turns out I was praying for someone I already knew pretty well!
This week we will do splits with Janga. Next week it will probably be Olinda, where Sister M. Ribeiro was training until this transfer.
This week was different! Sister Nogueira and I spent a lot of time at night and before studies in the morning trying to leave lots of information for the new missionaries in Candeias. We are not sure if they are sisters or elders, but they probably are not Sister Training Leaders. We suspect they might be elders, but who knows when I will find out! On Wednesday morning we spent more time trying to leave all the information well-organized for them, and then left to get a bus. Just as I was leaving I picked up a box of trash. It had containers of soy sauce that were not put inside a trash bag. When I picked up the box to take it outside, just as we were leaving, it got soy sauce all over the floor. We tried to clean it up quickly, but I hope the new missionaries weren’t surprised by a strong soy sauce smell when they opened the door!
We left the keys in the “aquatic club” across the street and started lugging the suitcases to the bus stop. It was a production, albeit much easier than when I lugged my suitcases to Candeias two transfers ago! This time we went the short pavemented way! As we were almost to the bus stop we passed below a skyscraper where a recent convert, Camilla, lives. She ran outside to help us lug the suitcases, which was nice of her. Then we noticed that the doorman was calling us. He had Sister Nogueira’s Book of Mormon! That was a shock. Two days before she had lost her pocket Book of Mormon. We looked everywhere, but couldn’t find it, which was sad. Two minutes before getting to the bus stop he flagged us down and said that someone had left the Book of Mormon with him! It was good that Camilla ran out to help us because 1. Three people makes the task easier 2. If not, the doorman might not have noticed us! Definitely a miracle–we might have left a different way or the doorman could have been distracted when we were leaving. It was literally the last ten minutes Sister Nogueira would be in that area for the rest of her mission!
Goiana is different than Candeias. It is a busy city but does not have skyscrapers, so it’s a pretty different atmosphere. Everyone travels to the beach for two months this time of year, so it is much more deserted than usual. We split the city with another companionship of elders. We are also taking care of a few other cities, but the Sisters weren’t visiting them very often. We’ll go to one of them next week, but we’ll see how it goes. The branch here is going to turn into a ward in March. I will probably be here; it will be cool to see! Two of my companions were in Goiana before going to Candeias, and one of my other companions, Sister Arce, went to Goiana after we were companions. Pretty funny!
We have been working hard to find more investigators this week. So far we have been having some difficulty finding investigators at home, but we marked a number of investigators for next week, so hopefully that helps! It is a little bigger here than in Candeias, and quite a bit bigger if you include the other cities we take care of! One interesting thing about this area is that we have lunch with members two days a week, and the other days a week is money or pre-prepared lunches in styrofoam containers that one of the sisters in the ward makes. That is a lot less lunch with members than in my other areas!
This week we will go to mission council on Wednesday and do a transfer with the sisters from Igarassu. Today I hope to see the outdoor market. Goiana does not have big supermarkets like Casa Forte or Candeias but it does have an outdoor market open every day, so that is a plus!
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.
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!
Last week we went to Cruzeiro to see the Cristo Vivo. You can see it from the city. Cool fact: there is a staircase that goes up to a big cross next to Christ. It is called the Way (Path) of Happiness. Cool that the the Way of Happiness leads to Christ, right? **Deeper meaning** Wickedness never was happiness!
I forgot to tell about a miracle we had last week. We had a district meeting and then the car that takes us home was super late. We needed to visit Victor to teach him some things he had to know before getting baptized. We had moved the appointment forward an hour but we ended up leaving lunch at the time we needed to be at his house . . . and he lives 40 minutes (walking distance) away! Just as we were talking about how late we were, we saw a member of the church in the distance. As we walked towards her her neighbor passed by and offered to pick her up. She invited us too! We arrived about eight minutes later and had enough time to teach the lessons we needed to.
One awesome experience we had is teaching our investigator “Maria Eduarda.” When we met her she started saying that she didn’t believe in God. We listened and tried to read some scriptures with her, but she was pretty upset and kept cutting us off. But it quickly became obvious that she did believe in God — she was just upset about the situation she was in. She didn’t understand why God lets so many people suffer so much. She felt he didn’t listen. But we listened, testified of our belief in God’s love for us, invited her to pray, and marked a different day to go back. When we went back, she hadn’t prayed. We taught her, invited her to pray again, and left. The next time we went she had prayed! She said she felt so much better, and she knew that our visit was an answer from God. She felt like he didn’t listen, but our presence was a sign that he cared about her. She is reading the Book of Mormon too! She did not go to church because of a headache but we have high hopes for next week. This is a huge example of someone changing their life through the gospel for me. She feels better and she is praying and reading the scriptures for the first time in a long time!
Acaraje: These brown things are fried bean balls. Like falafel but not quite as amazing.
We had a lot of miracles this week! One day our plans had fallen through and we decided to see a contact. We didn’t think he had very much potential and we suspected that finding his house would be a pain, but we decided to just try it out. As expected his house was not super easy to find (he didn’t know his house number–a common problem in our area–and the only indicator he gave us was “yellow”) so we asked a lady, whose door was open if she knew him. She didn’t, so we were going to leave but I remembered that we should really do more contacts and decided to talk with her. “Emily” immediately invited us into her house! We started teaching a lesson, since we didn’t have anywhere we had to be. She said she never left her door open as she had that day, but had been about to wander around in the city for a couple hours to try and feel better. We found out that she had just gotten home from the funeral of her nephew, who had died from playing Russian Roulette. As you can imagine, she was very sad. She was also sad because her son is in prison, and although he has made many unwise decisions, she thinks he is innocent because he was with her in a different city when the crime was committed.
We taught her the Plan of Salvation, and she told us that our visit was an answer to her prayers! We gave her a Book of Mormon and she promised to read it and pray about whether it is true. We saw her another day, and she said she had prayed and felt good but hadn’t gotten an answer. Yesterday we found her at home again (she works a lot with fluctuating hours) and she said that she prayed and read some more (1 Nephi 10!) and had a dream where God showed her the Bible and the Book of Mormon together. She said “The Book of Mormon and the Bible are the same thing but with different people!” Now she takes the Bible and the Book of Mormon with her everywhere she goes! People tell her “your bag is heavy!” and she says “These are my weapons! I need them with me!” Some people carry guns, she carries scriptures!
We also finally managed to see “Victor” who has been to church a few times with his girlfriend. We had a lot of trouble seeing him because he is busy and travels, but on Sunday we went again. When we went to his girlfriend’s house her mother said she was sleeping and wouldn’t see him until nighttime (when we had to be at home). We almost didn’t go back but I really felt like we should. When we got there we started teaching him the Restoration and he said he had prayed and wants to be baptized!
We are also teaching a different person in a city called Chã Grande (“Big incline” — there are lots of hills there). He is marked for baptism this week, so we are going to try and see him three times this week. It will be an adventure because this city is half an hour away by van (the vans do not have schedules!) and then when we get there we have to walk to his house. He gets home from school at 5:10 and the last van is at 6! Also, we already went there three times, and twice the van passed at 6 and refused to let us get in! Usually they just stuff people into the vans until they are totally full, but there wasn’t any space left! Luckily we found another car that was going to Chã Grande and got home safe and sound.
Fun fact about Gravatá: There are lots of butterflies here. Sister Ribeiro and I joke that we feel like Disney princesses. Both Palmares and Gravatá seem to have lots of animals: there are tons of (often well-fed and well-kept) dogs and cats roaming the streets. When I got to Palmares I was shocked several times to see dead dogs in the street — only to realize that they were actually sleeping. They like to sprawl on the ground because it’s a cooler surface, and there isn’t enough traffic in some places for them to be in much danger.
We are seeing a lot of miracles in our area! This week a lot of our investigators went to church, including some people that I thought didn’t have much potential, but went to church all on their own. We taught the Word of Wisdom to the families of Isabela and Matheus this week. We were a little worried because we could tell that they would have to change their lives quite a bit to follow this commandment. I prayed a lot before our lesson with Isabela’s family that they could be prepared to hear about the Word of Wisdom. When we showed up Camilla said she drinks coffee all day long (i.e., more than four cups of coffee a day) and wouldn’t manage to stop drinking it. We asked her how many cups she had drunk that day and found out that she hadn’t drunk any in four days! What an answer to prayer. That definitely makes it easier to give up! She said she just hadn’t felt like it. She really wanted to drink coffee right after our lesson, but we decided to take advantage of the fact she hadn’t drunk in four days.
We walked all the way back to our house and then back to her house with some cevada (a roasted ground barley coffee substitute) a member had given us for investigators. She didn’t end up liking the cevada, but ended up buying chocolate drink powder and hasn’t drunk coffee since! Her sister, 11 yr old Isabela, immediately said she would give up coffee when we taught the Word of Wisdom and hasn’t drunken since either. She is awesome. Their friend, Matheus, was also very reluctant to give up coffee. We tried to explain the Word of Wisdom well, but it seemed like he didn’t really get it, and he had to leave suddenly before the end of the lesson.
We prayed for him to feel less desire to drink coffee if that was the Lord’s will. Then we visited him after church to help him understand better and he said he hadn’t drunk coffee that day at all! We called him to remind him to get ready for church, and then showed up to walk with him, and it was so early that he didn’t bother making any. When he got home he planned to drink coffee but saw some juice to drink and sort of just forgot about the coffee! At the beginning of that lesson he had a very “maybe someday” attitude about baptism but at the end he was agreeing that the Church is true, that he should get baptized here, and agreed to pray about whether now is the right time! He is marked for baptism for this Saturday — we will see how it goes!
Many of these people also drink alcohol. It’s a bit of a culture shock for me — one of the family members of someone we are teaching is fourteen and was basically passed out asleep one day because she had been drinking. The Word of Wisdom is a blessing! The spiritual blessings are numerous and the physical blessings are obvious — we know a lot of people here who have family members who were shot because of drugs.
Funny moment this week — we were sort of close to Camila’s house (but not really, she lives far away) and thought “Why didn’t we mark to visit her today instead of in two days? We should follow-up with her today since we’re already close!” When we showed up it looked like nobody was home. As soon as we knocked on the door we realized why hadn’t marked to go that day. They had said they couldn’t because they might go to a birthday party. It turned out to be a surprise birthday party that was happening in their house! We showed up about 90 seconds before the birthday boy. We were this close to ruining the surprise! That was embarrassing but a good funny memory.
We also had splits this week. Sister Ribeiro went to Garanhuns — the area her dad opened on his mission thirty years ago! Now it’s a stake (i.e., her dad taught the first members there and now it has thousands of members in a couple different congregations!)! There weren’t any members in Gravatá before! It is so cool to see the gospel spreading and blessing the lives of thousands of people in such a short span of time. Some cities are being opened close to us now — they could be stakes when I have children going on missions!
It makes me think of this Book of Mormon scripture:
4 Behold, it has been prophesied by our fathers, that they should be kept and handed down from one generation to another, and be kept and preserved by the hand of the Lord until they should go forth unto every nation, kindred, tongue, and people, that they shall know of the mysteries contained thereon. . . . 6 Now ye may suppose that this is foolishness in me; but behold I say unto you, that by small and simple things are great things brought to pass; and small means in many instances doth confound the wise.
This scripture is being brought to pass today! Something small like inviting a friend to church, or bearing your testimony about the Book of Mormon can result in great things. Two of the people who went to church this Sunday were brought by a member! We asked him for a reference and stopped by to talk to them. On Sunday he helped them visit church for the first time!
The day before transfers, Tuesday, it rained a lot. I felt the tiniest bit cold, which was a strange sensation. Sister Broadbent wanted hot chocolate, but that’s not very easy to find. Instead, we ate munguza (sweet coconut milk with pieces of corn and cinnamon on top) which people sell on the street corners. It was a cool moment — we were walking through tons of rain eating munguza. It seemed very Brazilian! Little did we know that our adventures were just beginning!
We leave at 10:30 am and return at 9 pm every day — we never return home during the day. But Sister Centeio bought a suitcase during our dinner time so we went home to leave the suitcase there. Sister Centeio walked up the stairs and said “Uh-oh, there’s water in the house Sister!” Then she walked into the room where we keep our suitcases and clothes and said “There is a lot of water!!” One day before transfers all the suitcases got wet! There was about a quarter inch of water in that room! It was a little miracle that we went home during dinner instead of waiting five more hours–it made a difference for the suitcases. One book was ruined and some papers and letters got wet as well, as well as all of my clothes, but luckily the easily ruinable things were mostly in other rooms. We had to spend some time taking all the stuff out of the room, throwing away wet boxes, and setting up the fans to try and dry out the suitcases, and using a “roda” to push all the water out the balcony. A roda is a huge squeegee that you can use to push out water or cover with a rag and use as a mop.
Luckily the suitcases were mostly dry by the next day. I rode in a car with some other people to the metro, then took the metro to a bus station, and then rode to a different road where I got off and walked to the mission office. I was late because my area is far away, and the buses and cars only leave so early. But it didn’t turn out to be a problem because some missionaries who lived super close were quite late–there was a protest with a fire and someone stole the copper cables from the metro! It didn’t end up affecting my travel but a lot of missionaries had to get taxis and figure out other ways to get to the right places. Pretty crazy for the day of transfers!
My new companion is Sister M. Ribeiro. She is awesome. She is from São Paulo, is 19 years old, and likes to take pictures. She speaks English because she spent a few months in the U.S. with her sister, so we are switching off practicing English and Portuguese pronunciation at home. Maybe I’ll get home with a Paulista accent!
Almost all of our people with dates marked for baptism had problems this week and the three baptisms we thought might happen fell through! We have a couple people who have decided to break the law of chastity even though they know it is wrong, some people who moved to other cities, some people who got new jobs and can’t go to church on Sundays, and some people who just don’t want to get baptized right now. But we are all set to have David’s baptism this coming Sunday between sessions of General Conference and it should be great! He said that after going to church for five years, he finally decided to get baptized because of a member’s testimony last Sunday. Your talks and testimonies can be powerful, folks!
I like a scripture in Alma 4:19: “And this he did that he himself might go forth among his people, or among the people of Nephi, that he might preach the word of God unto them, to stir them up in remembrance of their duty, and that he might pull down, by the word of God, all the pride and craftiness and all the contentions which were among his people, seeing no way that he might reclaim them save it were in bearing down in pure testimony against them.”
It was sad to lose people we were so excited about, but I felt the spirit in several of those lessons. Sometimes you teach with the spirit and authority but people choose not to change their lives for the better.
Wherefore, men are free according to the flesh; and all things are given them which are expedient unto man. And they are free to choose liberty and eternal life, through the great Mediator of all men, or to choose captivity and death, according to the captivity and power of the devil; for he seeketh that all men might be miserable like unto himself.
It’s sad, because sometimes you see people choosing to follow the devil and be miserable. We have one investigator who always said he wanted to be happy. He told us how happy he was when he prayed about the Book of Mormon, when he went to church, when he stopped drinking coffee. But he decided not to follow the commandments and he won’t have the chance to feel the divine happiness people can experience on the gospel path.
I’m excited for this week working with Sister Ribeiro. The good thing about when things fall through is that you have a clean slate to find lots of new people.
I am also super excited for General Conference! We have told some of our investigators that the prophet has promised that if we write down our questions before conference, and then prayerfully attend, we can receive answers to our questions and guidance for our doubts. I know this promise is true–I definitely felt that last conference. Sometimes we don’t get the answer we want–maybe the answer is “wait” or “that doesn’t matter right now”–but we will get the answers we need, and our testimonies can be strengthened. Don’t miss out this week!
Now I have two companions! I did not know I would be in a trio — it was a big surprise! Apparently there are a few trios of sisters right now. I don’t know why — President doesn’t want to open more areas right now? Lack of houses to rent to missionaries? Revelation? But it’s cool to be in a trio. I especially appreciate how much faster doing the Area Book is. The Area Book is a large binder with forms that you update for every visit with investigators. It also has forms where you write the information for every new person who wants a visit and forms we give to the Ward Mission Leader about the help our investigators/recent converts/other members need from the ward. I do not enjoy doing these forms and having three people means it’s that much faster. It is also cool just to have two people to talk to and do stuff with. It’s different teaching lessons together – I was so used to having one companion!
I really miss Sister Arce and want very much to know what is happening in Palmares (we were teaching a couple of people who were really progressing that I hope might get baptized and continue as strong members of the church). But Gravatá is great! It is a little cooler at night and I can tell that I am sleeping significantly better here . . . when I am not being eaten by mosquitoes. There are a lot of mosquitoes in our house and I am their favorite snack. My first night here I woke up unbearably itchy, covered in bug bites and my companions were untouched! I don’t know why it’s so much worse here than in Palmares. But luckily the anti-itch cream saved the day (thank you, Mom). I am going to have to go to bed wearing repellent.
It’s a ward rather than a branch here so there are a lot more members. There are a lot of great people in our ward.
I gave a talk this Sunday. It was very mais-ou-menos because I didn’t have a lot of time to prepare it and I didn’t write out all the words but it could have been a lot worse; I’m sure it was better than the testimony I gave my first month in Palmares!
Gravatá is a tourist city, so it’s a bit bigger than Palmares and has more stuff. I am anxiously awaiting the six-reais [Brazilian currency] acai I plan to eat later today. I told Sister Arce I was hoping to get blessed one day with an area with cheaper acai and I got my wish! It is a lot less hilly here and it has been raining like crazy.
We were drenched yesterday; I loved it, although it is a bit inconvenient sometimes because our stuff gets all wet, we were wearing skirts, and the streets here turn into small lakes. There were a couple of times we had to walk through some very sketchy water and I was telling my companions about how Dad always says that when crazy things happen it means you have good stories to tell. It’s an adventure! So we had an adventure to remember yesterday walking through the sheets of rain and lakes of sketchy water.
Miracle from this week — I was on the bus from Caruaru to Gravatá during the transfer. At one point, I was praying for my new area and companion (did not know I would have two!) — that we could be led to the people who were ready for the Gospel, etc. I found out later that at the same time I was praying that we could be led to the people ready for the Gospel, Sister Centeio and Sister Broadbent were walking down the street. Suddenly, a man, call him “Danilson,” yelled out to them and asked if they were selling copies of the Book of Mormon. They explained that we are happy to give free books away (click here for your own free copy). He had read online about the Book of Mormon and really wanted a copy! We will visit him today; let’s pray that he will recognize the spirit and that his heart will be open to follow its promptings.
The Book of Mormon is really special — Helaman 15:7-8 is a scripture that touched me recently about the importance of scripture study. Alma 17:2-3 has the story of people who changed their lives through their scripture study!
As you might imagine, I am super excited about the announcement this week [about a rule change allowing missionaries to contact their families on their weekly preparation days]. We called our District Leader that morning because we had marked someone for baptism and he said “Have you guys talked to any members recently? You should, you will like it!” We convinced him to tell us about it, but the cellular started having troubles with sound. We could tell something exciting happened but couldn’t hear to figure out what! Finally he started half-yelling in English — Sister Broadbent and I were stopped in the middle of the street huddled around a tiny cellphone and I was trying to translate for Sister Centeio — it was difficult because we were all so excited! It was really hard to wait until today to talk to you guys. We kept imagining what it was like at home — I bet Facebook in Utah was exploding.
I had thought about how cool it would be if the rules changed, but I didn’t expect it to actually happen! I should get to do a video call with you guys soon! I was all mentally prepared to wait until Mother’s Day. [Update: Sister Faulconer attempted a video call Monday afternoon, but the LAN house (internet cafe) didn’t have a working camera or speakers, so it was simply texting with enthusiastic waving at the camera on the part of her family at home in Utah. We hope for the miracle of sound and video in the weeks to come!].
This week was interrupted a lot because of our zone conference and the travel for our division with the sister training leaders in Guaranhuns [a city several hours away by bus], but it was good.
Miracle from this week: A little less than a year ago, our current sister training leader, Sister C. Alves was serving in Palmares. Unbeknownst to me, she and her companion gave a Book of Mormon to the owner of a mercadinho (Mercado — market; mercadinho — tiny market, usually in the middle of houses that sells a few basics) but never managed to teach her the lessons because she wasn’t interested. Sister C. Alves asked me about her during our division together last transfer, but I had never met her. That changed when Sister Arce got here because, due to her love for Cremosinho, we stopped at the mercadinho to buy Cremosinho a few times and met the owner.
I didn’t think she seemed very interested in being taught, but she told us how much she loved the other sisters and we decided to try teaching her a lesson. The other day we had a little time left at the end of the day and a lot of possible pesquisadores (investigators) to visit. We were passing the mercadinho and I said “Now is the time to say something if you are having a spiritual impression that we should visit our neighbor!” sort of joking, and Sister Arce just walked over to her and we started making conversation.
The owner told us that her church is the richest church in the world and we should visit, etc., etc., which wasn’t a great sign. Then we taught her a lesson and she accepted our invitation to pray and ask God if Joseph Smith was a prophet and if the Book of Mormon is the word of God. I was feeling like I did a pretty bad job of teaching the lesson and wishing I could express myself better when out of the blue she said “Oh, I’m reading that book the other sisters gave me every day and I’m on page 606!” I thought she was talking about a scripture verse the sisters had left with her, because the Book of Mormon only has 529ish pages in English and what were the chances she had read the whole Book of Mormon? You guys, she had read almost the whole Book of Mormon, day by day since she had gotten it. We went back the next day and she was glowing — she prayed and received a powerful witness from God! She had to travel and of course we will teach her other lessons first, but she is already married (rare) and I think there is good reason to hope she will be baptized!
Finally, the adventures in Brazilian cooking continue:
Cuscuz e Cuscuzeira (pan for cooking couscous)! [Here is a Youtube video demonstration.]