This week has been good! Giliard went to church again this week and brought two of his family members! We are excited; he is marked for baptism this week! Hopefully his parents sign his baptismal form today.
We might have a Christmas zone conference this week. It will be exciting! They don’t tell us until the last minute so it will be interesting to see what happens. We also have two splits (we will split up and work with two other sets of sisters for a day) marked for this week so we will see what actually happens. I am excited to go to the temple! At the Christmas Conference, our district of missionaries will sing part of “With Wondering Awe” and then switch to “Savior Redeemer of my Soul” (not the hymn melody).
Unfortunately, Jeniffer forgot that she had a wedding and didn’t end up going to church because of that. But hopefully this week she will! Also Maria’s family had a sudden health emergency and we haven’t been able to contact them. Hopefully they are interested in having lessons this week.
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
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.
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.