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 referrals–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 referrals 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 referrals.

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 referrals 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