My new home & new sisters: Gravatá

On the left, Sister Centeio from Cape Verde, in the middle, Sister Faulconer from Provo, Utah, on the right, Sister Broadbent from Ogden, Utah. In the background, the very rainy streets of
Gravatá, Pernambuco, Brazil. [courtesy Amy Dawson Broadbent]

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!

Sister Centeio and Sister Broadbent [courtesy Amy Dawson Broadbent]


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.  

My new district


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. 

Drenched! Dad always says that when crazy things happen it means you have good stories to tell. It’s an adventure! [Photo, courtesy Amy Dawson Broadbent]

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.  

The streets of Gravatá. But it is only the beginning of the rainy season!

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.  

Yes, an avocado!

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!].

Pancakes for Valentines day — I made these with self-rising flour and something that might be baking powder or baking soda and chocolate drink mix and some other stuff!  Topped with fresh coconut from a member. 

Prayer and the Book of Mormon

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. 

Zone conference for elders and sister missionaries in the Brazil Recife mission under President and Sister Houseman--January 2019.
January 2019 Zone Conference

A group of sister missionaries eating together at zone conference.
Eating together at zone conference

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. 

Apparently, Cremosinho is a type of creamy yogurt ice cream that comes in many flavors popular in the Brazilian state of Pernambuco.
Cremosinho–a
creamsicle sort of yogurt frozen thing that comes in plastic bags.  You bite off the corner and eat it.  It’s very good.

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. 

Sister Arece standing outside near the street in front of lush tropical foliage and flowers.
Sister Arce

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.]

Fruits of Brazil and Proselyting Priorities

Wise men and women still seek him! The counselor to the Branch President is a sculptor of this plasticky-y material. He restored a creche for the city center. 

I had a great week this week!  We have a lot of people to teach and are trying to follow-up with all of them. It’s really hard to know how much time to spend with everyone and when we should stop visiting someone.  This area is great because lots of people accept visits, but that makes it a little hard because if we talk to everyone all the time and visit all the people who accept visits, we end up with too many investigators!  It’s hard to know at first if someone is really interested or not, and what if they don’t seem interested but really they deserve a chance?  


But those are good problems to have.  We are also trying to get more of our investigators to church.  It is sad when people say they will go and then don’t show up, because I know how important it is for them.  It’s a special opportunity to show God you are trying to remember the Savior and His atonement, learn more about the gospel, and help the other people in the community.  We can take the sacrament and have our sins forgiven!  If we are really trying to improve and follow the commandments, we can be completely clean from all the mistakes we have made.  I know it will be  easier for me to prioritize going to church when I get back from my mission.  I also know it seems easier to go to church from a missionary perspective than from everyone else’s!  But it’s worth it. 

The caju [cashew apple]. Lots of people eat this by sucking out the juice and not eating the flesh because if it’s not super ripe it burns your throat a little when you swallow it. I learned that the hard way! https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cashew#Cashew_apple

More about Caju

Wikipedia: “Cashew apples”

Miracle from this week: We were worried that none of our investigators were receiving answers to their prayers about the Church.  Literally none of them felt like they had received a response. [Then] we fasted for them and some of them received answers!  The ones that didn’t mostly weren’t actually praying.  You have to ask to get an answer! Some of the people who received answers were people who hadn’t been acting interested at all. 

Sister Faulconer poses with a blue glass plate with a white cylinder of rolled-up tapioca on it.
First tapioca! The texture is much thicker than a crepe and chewy. You put the flour in a pan, press it down, and wait, then flip it. You roll it kind of like a crepe and fill with similar fillings. We have been eating lots of tapioca with banana.

It has started raining more and more and I love it.  It’s not rainy season yet but we’re getting there.  I have always loved rain and it’s even better when the alternative is sun that wants to burn you to a crisp!

I also experimented using pants this week.  Pants are great, especially if you are walking through lots of weeds and hills and mosquitoes.  I might send pictures next week. 


We bought a jackfruit!!! At first I wasn’t sure if  I liked it but then I decided I do.  The yellow parts are seed pockets. You rip them out, remove the seeds and eat them.  I was very excited to finally eat jackfruit and now I really like it. 

Fun fact about jackfruit — it makes your hands terribly sticky, and the stickiness does not come off with soap!  But I did not know the word sticky in Portuguese and was having trouble communicating my problems.  I finally managed to explain it and a member told me you can only get it off with oil.  Those of you who have good access to the internet can figure out which chemical property of jackfruit juice makes it oil but not water soluble.  

Sister Arce with a sonho (“dream”) which is similar to a donut. It has filling — goiaba [guava] or carmel-y stuff and is fried and has sugar on the outside. It’s very good.

More about sonho

New Companion: Sister Arce

Sister Arce and Sister Faulconer with the hills of Palmares in the background.

Oi!

This week has been great.  I love my new companion–Sister Arce from Argentina. She is kind and we are getting along really well.  She has the most beautiful accent.  We worked really hard this week and we are visiting a lot of people who haven’t been visited recently enough.  The other day we walked up 240 steps and a huge number of hills!  Sister Arce has disillusioned me—apparently not all the other areas in our mission have this many hills ;).  Fun fact about her: she is “viciada” [addicted] to “Cremosinho” a creamsicle sort of yogurt frozen thing that comes in plastic bags.  You bite off the corner and eat it.  It’s very good. 

Lots of miracles happened this week. I am extremely grateful that we did not get very lost and that I did not terribly mess anything up while showing Sister Arce the area [At home, Sister Faulconer has a reputation for having no sense of direction and getting lost very easily]. We went the wrong direction once or twice but not for very long.  We haven’t been lost and we got to several hard-to-remember places without a hitch!  My memory of places is mais-ou-menos [sometimes better sometimes worse] but nothing that bad has happened and it hasn’t been a big problem.  Definitely a blessing to remember some of the confusing routes to different places.

Also, one of our investigators I thought wasn’t interested said she was going to challenge herself to only smoking tobacco once today.  In the not far distant past she was smoking 28 cigars!  She really wants to change.

Sister Faulconer with new friends from the Palmares branch

I hope you all have an awesome week!  Love from Brazil!

Tomorrow is Christmas

I’m very excited for Christmas! It’s great to be a missionary at Christmastime — we get to spend all day inviting people to be more Christmassy by coming unto Christ.  It’s also fun to share the church’s Christmas program with people (Illumine o Mundo Light the World.  I remember watching videos from the church’s program other years with the missionaries and now I’m the one presenting the videos!

We had some wonderful little miracles this week with finding people.  When we had a division [when you switch companions with another sister temporarily] my sister training leader and I marked a man named “Daniel” for baptism.  He didn’t give us his address because he didn’t spend any time there and apparently it’s hard to describe, but he was really special and I wanted to teach him again.  He said he would visit the church but wasn’t able to go on Sunday.  Two weeks later our investigators (reference of a recent convert) gave us a reference of a neighbor, “Douglas.”  On Sunday we took “Douglas” to church and I asked him about his family.  He started talking about his siblings — and I recognized the description of one of them.  “Daniel” is his brother!  


I asked a different member, “Rodrigo” for a reference this week while my companion was calling someone.  He thought about it and suggested we visit a less-active member of the church, “Júlia”, who I had never heard of before.  He started to explain where she lived “in front of the postal office, on the side of road xxx” and at the same time my companion [on the phone] said “Ok, so your house is in front of the postal office on the side of road xxx.”  She had finished her first call when she randomly had the thought to call “Júlia.” I’ve asked “Rodrigo” for references many times, and only this time he suggested “Júlia.” Clearly she needs a visit!

This is the son of a member in our ward.  He is great. He is showing off his cool clothes here.  It is too hot outside for that jacket!  He is getting surgery right now so he can use some prayers.  We are at the grocery store.

[For regular readers of this blog: it turns out there was a letter from Sister Faulconer last week that somehow didn’t get sent. I added the text to the pictures in last week’s post.]

Prepared by God

This week I have been thinking a lot about how God prepares people for the gospel.  It is really amazing!  This week we decided to follow up on some references–addresses of people in our area that ask for a Book of Mormon, or that meet missionaries in another city.  We got everything ready and went to the bus station, only to discover that no buses were leaving for Ribeirão for several hours.  So we went to a different city, and returned to the bus station another day to go to Ribeirão. We had two references there, so we walked around asking people if they knew either address.  Everyone said, “You have a reference point?  I don’t recognize these street names!” But finally we found some people who pointed us in the right direction for one of the references.

Zone Conference 2018-10-30 Turka Feira Sisters Faulconer and Porcote improvedWe clapped at the door [similar to ringing the doorbell in the U.S.] and then we waited, and waited, and called again, and waited, and finally someone opened the door (We’ll call him José, pronounced Jo-zay).  José is a history professor who is super interested in American history and loves to read.  He read about “Mormons” (nickname for members of our church) and was intrigued by our emphasis on education, families, dressing respectably, etc.   A couple years ago he found a moth-eaten Book of Mormon on a friend’s book shelf, but couldn’t read much because of the damage. Then he ran into missionaries once or twice, but could only speak to them for about two minutes.  Finally, he found a little more info online, and asked for someone to send him a Book of Mormon.

And then he waited for months (Someone did not contact their references quickly.  Bad missionaries!).  Finally we showed up on Wednesday afternoon, the only time he’s free the entire week.  The rest of the week he’s either working or studying for his doctorate, so he is literally never home except for Wednesday afternoons.  Usually he doesn’t answer the door, but this time he decided to see who it was.  It was amazing — he is super knowledgeable about religion, but that does not get in the way of his spiritual abilities.  We gave him a picture of Joseph Smith’s first vision, and while we were explaining it he turned it over and started to read the text.  Then he said, “Wow, this scripture really touches me.” It was Moroni 10:4, a scripture we often share with investigators.  But he beat us to it!  I invited him to follow Christ’s example and be baptized once he had received confirmation by the spirit that our message was true, and he agreed immediately — just completely nonchalantly as if it was the obvious next step.   It was a miracle!

Love you guys!  Hope you all have an awesome week!

Lunching in Palmares, apartment pics, and the story of the fishermen

Oi!

Typical food at a member’s house for our lunch (lunch is the main meal here)

white rice
beans (sometimes with squash, kale, or meat, but often just beans)
spaghetti with a little bit of tomato sauce
one or two kinds of meat, often chicken
(frequently without sauce, but sometimes with)
vegetable salad/some cooked kale/a plate of sliced tomatoes/possibly fruit
Fruit juice and/or soda.  (It´s not normal here to drink water or milk with dinner. Coca-cola is very popular — I’ve had a lot more Coke so far than Guarana.  Lemon-lime and orange soda are also popular.  The fruit juices are amazing. )
Cake or pudding for dessert!
The food here is good.  Most people don´t eat very spicy food.
The pineapple here is amazing!  It is less yellow and more translucent here, super sweet, and extremely delicious. Papaya and mango are also possible. There are lots of fruit vendors with carts in the city center.  They have bananas (often green and sweeter), mangoes, grapes, watermelon, coconuts, pineapple, papaya, sometimes nuts, corn, and  several fruits I don´t know the name of (graveola, aceola?, etc).  I also tried a jackfruit otter pop/popsicle-ish thing the other day.  That was super fun.  I use shredded canned unripe jackfruit at home to make barbecue-style tacos, but I’ve never tried a ripe, sweet jackfruit.  It didn’t taste super strongly of anything, but it was good.

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This week was very special.  We met the mother of the young woman I told you about last week (parents forbid her to see us, come to church, get baptized) on the street.  She lifted all the restrictions, said it was a misunderstanding and she didn’t have anything against us, and apologized.  Then her daughter came to the baptisms we had this week and went to the dance afterwards!  So it looks like we’re going to be able to teach her again.  Our prayers that her parents’ hearts would be softened were answered!

I didn’t go to the dance of course (not really a missionary-approved activity! We´re supposed to listen to church and classical music and eschew all romance-related activities so we can focus on helping people get closer to our Savior), but some less-active members, investigators, and recent converts did and everybody was excited about it.  Hopefully we can figure out how to have those dances more often.
Right after we met the first mother on the street we met a mother of one of our other investigators.  The day before she said he couldn’t get baptized last week because he needed to be 18 and spend many months learning about the church before making that decision.  We were concerned — he has a strong testimony, has learned all the lessons we’ve given him by heart, and we felt strongly that he should be baptized on the date we had chosen.  The discussion was going badly when I suddenly had the idea to share the story of Peter and the other fishermen who immediately left their nets and followed Christ’s invitation “follow me” (Matthew 4:18-22). It was a little tough because I couldn’t remember the exact word for fisherman and  “follow me´´ is a little hard to conjugate on the fly!  But I got close enough that my companion could correct me, and I think the sister understood.  Then she agreed to allow him to get baptized!  It was a little miracle.  The other young man who got baptized this week also had trouble with parents’ permission and we were worried he wouldn’t be able to make it to sacrament meeting to receive the gift of the Holy Ghost, but everything worked out in the end.
Love you!

Mission life–Different than expected!

Oi!
     We had a good week this week!  People in Palmares are really open to hearing about the gospel.  Of course lots of people don´t want to change churches, but they´re open to hearing our message in the street or listening to a scripture. People are definitely more religious and more open to talking about religion here than in most of the US.  There are scriptures stamped on walls, cars, signs, shops, houses, etc.  There are also cars with loud speakers that go around playing religious messages.
     Our investigators so far have been very open to our message and willing to act on it.  We had a baptism last week and another one this week.  I´m so happy for them!  It´s really great to see someone developing a testimony, learning about the gospel, and being blessed.

Baptism edited
Sister Porcote, a newly baptized member, and Sister Faulconer

     Something really sad happened with one of our teenage investigators who was planning on being baptized.  She has a really strong testimony and her faith is inspiring.  She was excited to be baptized and convinced that it was the right step. One of her parents had agreed to sign the baptismal form.  Unfortunately someone told him that the Church was a cult/sect, etc. and her parents decided she wasn’t allowed to go to church or have any visits from the missionaries!  We had been praying for her so much, hoping that her parents’ hearts would be softened, and on Sunday she showed up at church with an older sibling!  It was amazing.  We´re still not allowed to see her and don´t know what the future will hold, but that was a little miracle.
     So far missionary work here has been pretty different than what I expected.  We have a lot of recent converts and less-active members that need to be visited, but our branch [small local church congregation] is small, so we do the vast majority of visits.  So one or two days we did more work with members than with investigators! Consequently it´s been pretty tough to do any street contacting at all, because we always have more people to visit than we have time for, and no time to teach more investigators!  But we´re going to focus more on finding new investigators this week.
     I’ve had serious trouble with being understood this week. It´s a little sad because I remember all the right words, use the right grammar, manage to express myself in Portuguese well, and then the person doesn’t understand me!  Some people can’t seem to understand a single sentence I say — one person even said  I was speaking English! That was a really bad sign!  My American accent is just too thick, but I´m working on that.
     Hope you all have a great week!

Palmares!!!

Oi!
     I am having trouble with the computer today in several diferente (!) ways.  It is trying to fix my spelling so if you see a random Portuguese word — that´s why.  Also, Google Drive isn´t working and I have less time than I expected, so blame any oddities in this email on that!
     My first almost-a-week has been great.  There are so many things I want to tell you guys!  You actually can feel the humidity the second you step out of the airport.  It´s so diferente (I can´t fix it!)  If I make my hand a fist it will be covered in watery sweat after a few minutes. My first area is a small city called Palmares. It´s very hilly, like San Francisco, except that there aren´t any trolleys to take you up the hills, so we do a lot of walking!  There is lots of greenery and a big river. It is hot, but there are clouds and a nice breeze.  The flowers are beautiful, the weather is great, the fruit is awesome, and the bugs are not bad.  It would be paradise if I didn’t need so much sunscreen!
     First area Palmares2Speaking of which, so far a couple diferente Brazilians every single day have said something like “You are very white.  Use sunscreen!”  I got a very mild sunburn my first day from walking to the Palmares bus stop in Recife (we waited for the bus for 3.5 hours!  It’s two-ish hours from Recife to Palmares.) but I´m making a serious effort to keep the sunscreen manufacturers happy.

     I have a very clear memory of someone in the CTM [MTC] saying that their instructor was praying they would get trainers who didn´t speak English so their Portuguese would progress faster.  For some reason, I thought that seemed super unlikely, because how could you possibly function if your companion didn´t speak English?!  Guess what . . . my companion is Sister Porcote.

Sister Faulconer and Sister Porcote
Sister Faulconer and Sister Porcote

She´s super awesome, she´s from Curitiba, she´s been on a mission for six months, and . . . we only speak Portuguese.  She learned some English her first two months here but not enough that speaking English helps us communicate better.  I understand enough Portuguese that we can talk about everything we need to talk about.  Obviously I ask her to explain lots of words, but not so much that communicating feels super laborious.  So that´s cool!

     I can understand other missionaries pretty well too, but understanding and speaking to Palmares-ians here is a lot harder.  Church talks and lessons are super easy to understand.  Outside of that, sometimes I understand enough to participate in conversations, and sometimes I only kind of know what´s happening.  The accent is very diferente, so hopefully as I keep listening I´ll start to understand better.
     My favorite thing about the past two weeks was General Conference.  I think maybe one reason I started my mission so late was because I needed to be in the CTM [MTC] during conference.  We got to watch all the sessions in English, whereas lots of missionaries in the field didn´t get to see all the sessions.  I felt the spirit so strongly, and I felt very clearly that the announcements and talks were inspired.  At one point, [Elder] Rasband said something about how if we are faithful and diligente our questions will be answered or we will be able to put them aside for now.  That resonated with me.
     2-3 weeks ago we had a devotional broadcast from the MTC with Elder Cook (I think).  He started off by saying that he had given lots of talks to missionaries in his lifetime but he had never talked about his current topic before, but that he felt inspired to talk about it that day.  Then he started talking about the very thing I had been praying about for weeks.  I had been praying especially fervently that day, and I really believe that talk was an answer to my (and others) prayers.  It was a little miracle from God for me. He didn´t actually answer any of my factual questions about the subject (why is this like this, etc;) but he answered all of my spiritual ones (why do I feel like this, shouldn´t I feel differently, is this right, what can I do to find answers to my questions).  The same thing happened at General Conference.  Some questions were answered, but mostly I just felt a profound sense of peace — that I was doing the right thing, that what the apostles were saying was true.  If you haven´t watched it [yet] you definitely should!
Love,
Sister Faulconer