Carnaval

Lots of older people here have been telling us that they are afraid of Carnaval even though it is quite small in our city.   One of our investigators, Mirelle, said: “I’m not leaving the house; everybody already dyed their hair.” I was confused — what does hair dye have to do with Carnaval?  Then over the next two days all of a sudden everyone in the street had hair dyed bright pink, red, blue, yellow, green, etc. She was saying that she knew Carnaval had already started because her neighbors already dyed their hair!  We’ve also seen a lot of people in costumes. There are little bands of boys and some adults walking around with costumes, sticks, and masks.  There are also lots of people in rainbow tutus. 

Frevo dancers holding little umbrellas and dressed in orange green and yellow neon clothing for Carnaval in Brazil

We haven´t seen much Carnaval but right before we got to this LAN house we saw some people dancing Frevo!  That was exciting.  We are hearing a lot of marching band sort of music. Our LAN house (similar to an internet cafe) was closed today but luckily there was another LAN house open.  It´s not very good — only two headsets and the computer lost power due to lightning in the middle of my video chat. 

Sister Broadbent, Sister Centeio, and Sister Faulconer, Missionaries for the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints holding small frevo umbrellas in Brazil

We had to wait for computers to be open so we went to a store where I tried on this hat:

Sister Faulconer, a missionary for the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, poses for a picture in a pretty hat.

We have had a number of investigators hiding/don´t want to answer the door this week, so that was a little sad, but we did a ton of contacts and we have found a lot of great new people to teach. We have two great families marked for baptism but we have a stake conference coming up so we will see whether we can convince them to travel to Caruaru for that or if they will have to be baptized a little later. 

We already had trouble finding people at home for the lessons we planned with them, but now with Carnaval it is getting worse.  We mark a visit with someone one day and show up the next day only to see a locked-up house. We call them and they say they´re travelling for Carnaval!

We have been talking to a lot of investigators recently about how to recognize answers to prayer.  We have shown a couple of them this video with Elder Bednar’s thoughts on receiving revelation. It reminds us that we can’t expect answers to be huge signs from God — often they are more subtle.  On my mission I’ve found a few scriptures about answers to prayer that I really love.  One is Alma 5:45-46. Here he is talking to the people and asks them how they think he received an testimony of the gospel:


45 
And this is not all. Do ye not suppose that I know of these things myself? Behold, I testify unto you that I do know that these things whereof I have spoken are true. And how do ye suppose that I know of their surety?

46 Behold, I say unto you they are made known unto me by the Holy Spirit of God. Behold, I have fasted and prayed many days that I might know these things of myself. And now I do know of myself that they are true; for the Lord God hath made them manifest unto me by his Holy Spirit; and this is the spirit of revelation which is in me.

Alma 5:45-46

This is cool because Alma saw an angel before this — but apparently that wasn’t enough to have a testimony!   He had to fast and pray — not just one time but for many days!

Sister missionaries for the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints eating acai bowls.

I have been on a mission for six months!  We ate açaí to celebrate.  I can’t believe it’s been six months already!

Prayer helps me

The miracle of video chat

It was so great to do a video chat with my parents today!  I think the sisters and I might have found the only two don’t-need-to-be-installed-webcams in the city of Gravatá.  There are three of us, so we will have to see if we can find another.   

Our investigator “Danilson” went to Recife for several days, so we couldn’t see him.  But then one day we were teaching one of our other investigators next to a small outdoor bar and Sister Centeio said “Sister, I think we’ve talked to that man before!” We went over and it turned out to be Danilson!  So we taught him and a couple of other people the Restoration of the Gospel of Jesus Christ in the middle of the bar.  He was slightly drunk but pretty lucid, so he understood what was going on.  Later in the week one of the other men from the bar, Luis, stopped us in the street and said he wanted to hear more!   

We have a couple of people that are close to baptism, so we are pretty excited about that.  One of our investigators, Mirelle, is the grandmother of some recent converts that joined the church in a different city.  She attended the church there and really wants to get baptized!  There are a couple of things she has to resolve first, including a serious addiction to tobacco.  She was using chewing tobacco so much that she couldn’t tell us exactly how many times a day she uses it.  But she said she knows it is bad for her and wants to stop. 

One thing I’ve been working on is saying little prayers during the day about things I’m thankful about and the needs of our investigators (and my family).  Praying throughout the day helps me be empathetic, keep other people and their needs in mind, forget myself, and have more inspiration about how to help others.  So I have been praying a lot that she can be free from this addiction.

The miracle of the week is that on Saturday she smoked once or twice and on Sunday she didn’t smoke at all!  I hope she can stay strong during the rest of the week!  She learns very slowly, but I can tell she loves God and wants to follow Christ and be baptized.  

Some great scriptures about prayer are in Mosiah 26:39: (About what Alma and his fellow laborers taught): “And they did admonish their brethren; and they were also admonished, every one by the word of God, according to his sins, or to the sins which he had committed, being commanded of God to pray without ceasing, and to give thanks in all things.”

And 2 Nephi 32:9: “But behold, I say unto you that ye must pray always, and not faint; that ye must not perform any thing unto the Lord save in the first place ye shall pray unto the Father in the name of Christ, that he will consecrate thy performance unto thee, that thy performance may be for the welfare of thy soul.

There is also a super great article by Elder Juan Uceda about how to pray better in the February 2019 issue of the Liahona.

We are excited to have a conference with Elder Adukaitis this week in Recife.  Next week will be Carnaval!  Carnaval isn’t crazy here in Gravatá. so we will be working normal hours, but people are putting up little decorations — lots of masks, colored umbrellas (the kind you use for Frevo), and colored streamers.  

I can’t believe it: I will celebrate my six-months-from-the-day-I-got-to-the-CTM anniversary on Friday!

Love you all so much!

Goodbye to Palmares

I’m being transferred! I’m very sad to leave Sister Arce and Palmares but a new area will be an adventure. I will be in Gravatá, which is still in the interior. Apparently it is a big touristy city — I will have to wait until after our email time to ask Sister Arce more questions. Hopefully the transfer will go smoothly — last transfer my transfer instructions had the wrong times written and the bus was slow and I ended up waiting in the bus station for several hours — it is a little crazy because you travel without a cellphone, but luckily people are willing to lend cellphones if you need to call someone.

Recently we have started hearing frevo in the streets. People are practicing for Carnaval. I do not know much about frevo but it seems to be characterized by a very strong rhythm on drums that is catchy (and quite loud — we can hear it from far away). People dress up in bear costumes and say rhymes asking for money.

Today we went to a museum housed in an old train station. It is about a famous writer and actor Hermilo Borbo Filho and the history of Palmares. Very small but cool. I learned that in Brazil, slaves lived together on the dark, crowded first floor (senzala) of the houses and the plantation owners would live on the second floor. Apparently lots of slaves escaped and would start their own communities called Quilombos. They would stop sometimes in Palmares but the big gathering place was Alagoas.

This week we had some really special experiences with the Book of Mormon. People who read the Book of Mormon receive answers to their prayers and feel the spirit a lot faster than people who don’t. We have one investigator “Mariana” who is 18-ish years old, who I met asking directions. On our second visit with her, we found out that she visited our church once a long time ago. She said she felt a special feeling there and didn’t want to leave. She told God that one day she would go back — maybe a long time in the future (the church is not close to her house) but she would go back. This week we went back and found out that she took the Book of Mormon to school with her to read. She doesn’t like reading but she loves the Book of Mormon! She said she felt like some of the verses were written just for her. One of her friends asked her about it, read part, and started crying because she said she knew it was true!

The same day we visited “Nedna” who we almost dropped because she still hadn’t prayed about whether Joseph Smith was a prophet, if the Book of Mormon is true, hadn’t read the part we left marked for her, etc. But last week she read the part we marked for her (but didn’t pray), so we didn’t drop her. But she still didn’t seem very interested, and then her granddaughter was born and we didn’t see her for two weeks, so we were planning how we could make one last attempt at explaining the importance of praying and reading the scriptures. We showed up, and everything seemed normal, but then we asked her if she had prayed. She said, “Well, I have to tell you that I got an answer!” I was surprised. Apparently she remembered to pray and read the Book of Mormon despite all the chaos with her granddaughter’s birth (a miracle — we had invited her over several visits to read and pray, and she didn’t), and then she lost her cellphone in the middle of they city and asked God to help her get it back if the Book of Mormon was true. Someone found her cell phone when her ex-husband was calling her, answered, and arranged to bring the cell phone to him. This is apparently very rare here and she said she knew it was an answer from God. Note — I do not recommend just praying to God asking for a sign to know if the Book of Mormon is true. You have to read the Book of Mormon, pray, etc., if you want an answer — you receive a testimony after the trial of your faith (Ether 12:6) and the scriptures are very clear about the perils of requiring signs from God. Also, God responds to people in different ways.

Both of those experiences happened right after we ended a fast to help our investigators receive answers — it was special. It is so important to put in effort to receive answers from God — diligently read the Book of Mormon, pray wholeheartedly and go to church! We have stopped visiting several different people because they said they didn’t feel vontade (will, the urge, inclined) to read the scriptures/pray/go to church. They all said that if God sent them a feeling of vontade one day they would go to church etc, but they weren’t feeling it then. The devil doesn’t want you to pray, read, or go to church (the evil spirit teacheth not a man to pray 2 Nephi 32:8), so if you wait for a feeling of vontade to do these things you will probably wait your whole life. We also have an investigator who is wonderful but keeps getting sucked into YouTube videos about the wonderful things the Church does instead of reading the Book of Mormon or praying. The documentaries are great, and now he has a lot of respect for church programs, but the scriptures are inspired books written by the power of God to guide us — YouTube videos are not.

Love you all!

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.]

Good Problems

Last week I said we had too many investigators — a good problem, but difficult because you don’t want to forget anyone or not follow-up with them enough! But God has been helping us out. I had been thinking that one spiritual gift I lack is the gift of discernment, and it would really be useful to have when trying to decide which investigators to prioritize. I shared this with Sister Arce and started praying specifically for the gift of discernment (read this Liahona article: “Adding Gifts of the Spirit to Your Christmas List” — it is excellent and I have been applying it to more physical things like organization as well) in my personal prayers and our companionship prayers. The day we started praying for this we suddenly had a ton of rejection.


Gifts of the Spirit–Illustration by Josh Talbot–published in The New Era, December 2018

Our problem was that everyone was happy to listen to us but not necessarily motivated to try to find out if God wants them to join the Church. That day a lot of people were unusually blunt about not wanting to see us. Partway through the day I told Sister Arce I thought God was sending us point-blank rejection to help us out with our lack of discernment. She said that He has a sense of humor and I think she’s right! We have had a lot of rejection this week — it was pretty sad, because we have people who have strong testimonies that the Book of Mormon is the word of God, Joseph Smith was a prophet of God, and that the Church of Jesus Christ is God’s church on earth — and they don’t want to follow those answers, or they won’t pray or go to church because they don’t want to have to follow the answer they might get! It’s really sad to see people choosing to live beneath their privileges, but it’s their choice.

We still have a ton of people to teach, and this week is going to be pretty difficult because we have a zone conference (one day of zero proselyting) and a division with the Sister Training leaders (one day of proselyting lost in favor of eight hours of riding the bus to and from Guaranhuns). I don’t know how we will do it but I’m working on having the faith that it can be done!


We walk on this path every day. In these photos we are walking on the train tracks to keep out of the mud. We have been doing that a lot recently. I am deliriously happy about all the rain. I love rain. It is rather inconvenient for keeping all our paper proselyting stuff dry, keeping my shoes clean, and if I am wearing a long skirt (Have you ever tried walking through mud in a soaking wet long skirt? It is hard.) But wearing a long skirt and walking through mud all day makes me feel a little like Elizabeth Bennet (but not hoping to find any Mr. Darcy’s at the moment — my heart is locked, thank you very much). I am excited for the real rainy season to start!

We are eating pitaya [dragon fruit] which is like acai but bright pink and tastes a bit different and avocado cream.
A half-eaten piece of grilled corn on the cob with many blackened kernels.
Grilled Corn

I finally got a grilled corn.  There is a lot of grilled corn.  Apparently the Northeast is known for it’s corn — vendedor de milho (corn vendor) is a well-known occupation.  The corn is strangely chewy here, like a potato. It’s weird how corn can be different — I did not expect that. There are also lots of different kinds of corn (and bananas).  I liked the grilled corn but was reminded of when I made grilled corn back home.  This corn was grilled a bit better, but was lacking the sriracha/Just Mayo/lime/cashew sauce I made.

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

Pictures!

Dried jackfruit cube in front of the cityscape of Palmares, Brazil
This is my attempt to take a picture of a piece of dried jackfruit. It tasted like dried fruit — not especially different but good. I was trying to come up with things to take pictures of! This is the view from our house.
A man working with a machine that has a large wheel. The machine makes caldo de cana, sugar cane juice.
This machine makes “caldo de cana.” You feed huge sugarcane stalks in the first hole and yellow juice comes out the second hole and goes through the strainer. It´s super cool! Unfortunately Sister Porcote [from Curitiba, Brazil] said the one we had wasn’t a good specimen of caldo de cana, but on the bright side, now I have an excuse to try it again!
A styrofoam cup filled with caldo de cana, sugarcane juice. In front of a display of bread, as at a bakery.
[Finished product?  Caldo de cana–or sugarcane juice]
Left to right: Sister Porcote, Sister Dolores, Sister Faulconer. Sister Porcote and Sister Faulconer are each holding a cup of a dark liquid that must be Cevada--some sort of substitute hot drink for coffee.
Sister Porcote and I with Sister Dolores, who got baptized my first week in Palmares. We see her a lot and she is awesome. She used to drink coffee all the time, but then she discovered Cevada, which she says is very similar (but you have to buy the right brand). It´s good.
Sister Porcote and I and people we know at "District Conference" which is like stake conference [a semi-annual meeting where several wards or church congregations meet together] but for branches [these are smaller church congregations for locales where there aren't as many church members].
Sister Porcote and I and people we know at “District Conference” which is like stake conference [a semi-annual meeting where several wards or church congregations meet together] but for branches [smaller church congregations for places where there aren’t as many members].

I know basically all the people in this photo. On my right are some boys who got baptized this year or a year and a little ago. We see them all the time because they´re doing an awesome job of teaching with us and they´re really good friends with each other. Two of them are ward missionaries! They are blessings and downsides of living in a big ward [church congregation] in Utah. I wish I had the chance to teach with the missionaries!

My companion did my hair.
Missionaries with Presidente Houseman at District Conference--November 2018
Missionaries with Presidente Houseman at District Conference–November 2018 [Photo courtesy of Sister Houseman]

Oi! Happy Thanksgiving!  Nobody celebrates Thanksgiving here, but they do celebrate Black Friday. All the shops had sales and the city center was a mad house. The gas station had a huge reduction in price and we could hear the loudspeaker from our house while we were trying to study. It’s a little sad to have Black Friday but not Thanksgiving, but on the bright side it means the Christmas decorations go up even earlier!  There are lots of fake evergreen garlands and red bows and lights: pisca-pisca [Portuguese for blink, blink]. We bought some lights for our house!  I will try to send a picture next week–I have more pics than I sent this week already and the internet is still super slow.  I am trying to make the camera work [for wifi downloads] but am having trouble.

Sister Porcote and I will be together until after Christmas. That is normal for training — you have the same companion both transfers.

In the CTM [Brazil’s missionary training center] several missionaries in my district knew someone who went to Japan and said they came back more quiet, reserved, etc.  I imagine that transition might have been a little easier for me. I am suspicious that Heavenly Father decided I needed to be more outgoing or more of a hugger or something and sent me here! But the transition hasn’t really been that hard. I’m really blessed not to be having health challenges or super hard things happening in Palmares.

You asked how often we get to eat with the members.  We have lunch planned every day but it is often money instead of actual food. Less exciting than it sounds because we keep eating at restaurants and from my perspective the restaurants all seem the same.  But the fruit is really good!  And the members make really good desserts sometimes, so I´m grateful.

This was a family home evening for a recent convert who had a birthday. He had never had a birthday celebration before and was very excited.
This was a family home evening for a recent convert who had a birthday. He had never had a birthday celebration before and was very excited.  

We have been trying to teach a young man, “Rafael” for a while, but kept having trouble actually finding him to teach because he is very busy.  He goes to seminary every day, but works before seminary and goes to school after seminary!  (School can be before lunch or after lunch or at night here).  He is awesome — super interested in religion, really wants to follow God.  The only problem is that he was reactivated in a different church a little while back and wasn’t sure if he wanted to change.  Yesterday he said he hadn’t received an answer with certainty yet.  He said he thought he wanted to get baptized but not yet because he wanted to keep participating in his other church´s youth program.  But during our lesson he started crying and said he would get baptized on the 8th!  It was wonderful to have the opportunity to see someone get an answer to prayer like that.  The promise is true — if you pray about the Book of Mormon with sincerity and a real desire to follow God’s will you will receive an answer!  Sometimes it takes time, but it comes.

Love you!

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