Every Day is a Good Day

It’s hard to have a better week than general conference week!  I can’t believe it´s October general conference already. I remember watching last October’s conference in the CTM, and then watching in April with Sister M. Ribeiro.  April doesn’t seem six months ago!  Conference was great. I am excited to study the talks again! 

I was extremely excited to find out about the change to the policy on witnesses.  A tender mercy to hear about the change from my Mom in my birthday call to her (not to mention the tender mercy of being able to use webcams and call with more frequency!!).  I always hope people will progress to baptism, because it is an essential saving ordinance.  Being able to possibly witness such a baptism only adds to that hope!

There were many wonderful talks.  I especially loved the talks about the importance of joy as well as missionary work.  As a long-time fan of The Hobbit, I was also a fan of President Uchtdorf’s talk. On the subject of joy, today I read part of the book about President Hinckley as a prophet. There was a quote about how every day in missionary work is a good day. Apparently he shook his companion´s hand and said “Today will be a good day” when they left and “Today was a good day” every day when they got home.  I guess that’s true in life too — every day is a good day.

President Nelson’s talk reminded me of how many blessings we have.  What a blessing not to go hungry — and a huge responsibility to help those who are!  I thought it was interesting that he didn’t invite us to do anything as part of the talk.  But I think there was an inherent invitation to act.  Those statistics about hunger are an invitation to act!

Although we had more people than normal who said they would go to conference, we did not have a lot of actual success.  But Ana Luiza went to church!  Ana Luiza is a 12-year-old who I met a while ago with Sister Sousa.  A different missionary later saw her in his area and contacted  her.  She told him she was already being taught!  Because I ended up working in two areas and she doesn’t spend much time at home, we didn’t manage to see her for a while.  But now we are teaching her again and she went to conference!  Also, she became ecstatic upon receiving a Book of Mormon after having read part of the pamphlet of excerpts on the Book of Mormon: “I’m not managing to believe you are giving me a Book of Mormon!”

Aline did turn out to be a great investigator.  She is interested and kept all of her invitations. She didn’t go to conference and we aren’t sure why, but hopefully everything goes well this week!

We are also teaching Ana Carolina and her family.  Ana Carolina became excited about the Book of Mormon in our contact with her.  She said it would be her birthday present because we promised to give her one on our visit the day after her birthday.  We are also teaching her brother and mother.  She almost went to conference but was sick the day of.  She had some questions about how Joseph Smith could have seen God.  There is  lot of confusion about this here–people think that no one could see God.  That kind of makes sense, except that the Bible also says that Moses spoke to God face to face and that John saw God and Christ in a vision, just like Joseph Smith did. That helped her with those concerns, although she still has doubts about prophets.  But she hadn’t read the Book of Mormon yet, so I think it will help a lot.  Also we invited her to watch conference online so I hope that works out!

This week we are going to do a service project and help Monique (the missionary’s mom) paint and clean her house.

This week it has been getting hotter every day.  It is not winter anymore; not even close!  People keep telling us it will just get hotter!  Next week is transfers — I will find out if I will be in Recife in January (i.e., hot hot hot hot hot) or somewhere else!  It is inspiring to hear President Houseman talk about how he receives revelation to transfer missionaries.  I´ll go where He wants me to go —- o´er hill or beach!

Teaching that Christ Visited the Americas

Picture of Sister missionary, Sister Hannah Faulconer, videochatting with her parents

This week was great. We have a wonderful investigator that I told you about last week, Alexia.* She is an amazing example of someone who studies the gospel. She is reading all of the material we give her and asking for copies of the Pearl of Great Price and True to the Faith because she read about them in the pamphlets! She is being integrated well, which is really good. But it was a bit of a roller-coaster this week because on Sunday she didn’t go to church. She said she was sick. Alexia’s mother had said she would pray about the church. She said she prayed and received an answer that she should stay in her church.  But she also said she believes that Joseph Smith was a prophet.  So hopefully we can help her understand that if Joseph Smith was a prophet, the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints has to be Christ’s restored church. One of our other investigators, Willian, unfortunately, had to work a lot this week; we are still hoping he can be baptized.

We did not have a lot of success with teaching lessons this week, but the upside was that consequently we did a number of contacts and managed to meet a number of new investigators who seem to have a lot of potential!  We have really been trying hard to put President Nelson’s advice from his missionaries-only broadcast from Brasilia  to missionaries into practice.  He said that the most important part of the Book of Mormon is 3 Nephi 11, when Christ visits the Americas.  He said we should have people read the 3 Nephi 11 chapter heading because after reading that they wouldn’t want to put the book down!  Initially, I had been worried we weren’t doing it right because I wasn’t sure if people were understanding the chapter summary. But this week some people really seemed intrigued as they read the chapter summary.  Several people asked us how much it costs to buy a Book of Mormon before we had a chance to tell them that we would take it to their house for free

I believe Christ truly visited the Americas.  I am so grateful to know that our loving Heavenly Father wanted His children on both sides of the globe to hear His gospel.  The Book of Mormon is a blessing in my life. Did you know that the Church of Jesus Christ is publishing Book of Mormon videos?  I watched the first one today and it is cool!  Watch here.

I also saw this article by Sister Eubank** on the church website today that I really liked. It has a really great explanation about the difference the Church can make — even in the lives of great people.  Evangelical people we meet always want to tell us to go talk to someone who isn’t Christian instead of wasting our time talking to them.  But the truth is that the restored gospel has a wonderful multiplying power.  If you start as a wonderful Christian you have the potential to become an even better Christian with exponentially more opportunities to serve and bless.

“But let’s say a good woman or man encounters the restored gospel. She makes a covenant at baptism into the Church of Jesus Christ that promises her she can receive priesthood power: God’s power. Is her life and power vastly different from before? Yes! I believe her good power is greatly magnified by her covenants . . .”

We also have zone conference this week.  One downside of living in the Central Zone is that our conference is on Tuesday.  It doesn’t help with my never-yet-achieved-goal of having the 2 five-minute talks we are asked to prepare prepared well in advance!  This week the topics are Personal Conversion and the Day of Judgement.   

On Friday I am going to go to the airport to renew my visa!  That’s weird.  I have a new card to show off my legal status as well.  Other people apparently can tell that I have lost a little weight since my passport photo on entering Brazil.  On Sunday Sister Barros will turn 21!  Also, I found out that I will be flying home March 31st, arriving at home just a few days before my 21st birthday.  Weird weird weird. 

Picture from District interviews, courtesy Sister Lori Houseman

*Investigators’ names are always changed to protect their privacy

**Sister Sharon Eubank is the first counselor in the general presidency of the Relief Society, the Church’s organization for its six million female members ages 18 and over.

President Nelson’s visit

Yesterday at 10:00 p.m. we got a phone call.  Instead of spending the rest of the transfer in Madalena (until Wednesday) I ended up going back to Casa Forte today.  I am going to be here for the next two days with Sister Figueira, a STL whose companion went home already.  Then my new companion will get here on Wednesday.  I don’t trust Sunday nights anymore!  Last minute changes always happen.  

This week was another week of traveling between Casa Forte and Madalena.  The highlight was definitely hearing President Nelson speak on Friday to the missionaries and on Sunday to the church in Brazil.  I think my testimony of the leaders of the church has definitely been strengthened on the mission. In the CTM I felt the spirit so strongly during general conference, and I have felt some of that same spirit at the April conference and at the transmissions from President Nelson this week. I am working on remembering these moments — it is so easy to forget spiritual experiences!  In the missionary  broadcast, he emphasized the importance of talking about Christ’s visit to the Americas.  He said we shouldn’t let people start at 1 Nephi 1–that won’t capture their attention!  They have to start at 3 Nephi 11, when Christ visits the Americas.  It is important not to forget how monumental this is.  We have a book about Christ’s visit to the American continent! 

2 Nephi 29

Wherefore murmur ye, because that ye shall receive more of my word? Know ye not that the testimony of two nations is a witness unto you that I am God, that I remember one nation like unto another? Wherefore, I speak the same words unto one nation like unto another. And when the two nations shall run together the testimony of the two nations shall run together also.

And I do this that I may prove unto many that I am the same yesterday, today, and forever; and that I speak forth my words according to mine own pleasure. And because that I have spoken one word ye need not suppose that I cannot speak another; for my work is not yet finished; neither shall it be until the end of man, neither from that time henceforth and forever.

10 Wherefore, because that ye have a Bible ye need not suppose that it contains all my words; neither need ye suppose that I have not caused more to be written.

11 For I command all men, both in the east and in the west, and in the north, and in the south, and in the islands of the sea, that they shall write the words which I speak unto them; for out of the books which shall be written I will judge the world, every man according to their works, according to that which is written.

I have been reading the Old Testament and have really enjoyed the end of Isaiah.  There are a lot of chapters of Isaiah that seem difficult to understand or apply to your life, but there are some wonderful chapters of Isaiah.  I had already heard the most beautiful verses in church talks before, but it is more moving when you read them altogether in Isaiah!   

Isaiah 54:

10 For the mountains shall depart, and the hills be removed; but my kindness shall not depart from thee, neither shall the covenant of my peace be removed, saith the Lord that hath mercy on thee.

11 O thou afflicted, tossed with tempest, and not comforted, behold, I will lay thy stones with fair colours, and lay thy foundations with sapphires. . . .

13 And all thy children shall be taught of the Lord; and great shall be the peace of thy children.

Becoming uma Brasileira

Hannah at the CTM     Seeing all the missionaries at the airport was awesome.  We walked to the flights as a group so there was this wave of white shirt and tie elders (and me) walking around.  It really made me appreciate the size and strength of the missionary force all over the world so they can spread the gospel!  I remember going to the missionary preparation class in our Edgemont ward [congregation].  When I turned on the car to drive home to Orem, the first song on the hymns CD in our car would start playing. It was “Called to Serve,” and when the sun was shining and I was on a spiritual high from the preparation class I felt the missionary spirit so strongly.  Now I’ve experienced that feeling while seeing real missionaries in real life! The flight to Brazil felt so long, but I was counting my blessings after meeting the missionaries going to Johannesburg — they had a 16 hour flight plus all the other flying they had to do!
     I got the window seat for the Brazil flight.  The best moment of my travels by far was on the descent to São Paulo.  We had been passing over this really hilly brown country when I saw the ocean in front of us.  But it looked too white, so then I started to wonder if any of the São Paulo mountains were tall enough for snow!  It turned out to be a super thick layer of cloud.  We flew down into the cloud, and after a couple minutes the clouds suddenly cleared and São Paulo popped into view right below us.  It was gorgeous.
     It was especially great because it was so obviously different than anywhere I’ve ever been before.  Everything you can see is covered in a thick green carpet.  There are red tile roofs and silver metal roofs everywhere and the buildings are red, green, blue, pink, whatever.  It was even more fun driving through the streets.  The bus driver was very skilled at honking and maneuvering through tight turns.  We were in a narrow street when two huge gates popped open and I realized we were at the CTM!  We held up both lanes of traffic for 3-4 minutes while they guided us backwards into the parking lot.
When I got off, Sister Whitaker, my first grade teacher, was there to greet me.  She put my name tag on me!  That was exciting.  People recognize the elders, but sisters blend in, so it was exciting to get a tag that identifies me as a missionary for Christ.
     We reviewed the dedicatory prayer [for the CTM] given by President Nelson (then a member of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles).  I realized that I have always thought of the US as the land prophesied of in that scripture about Joseph Smith and the land being discovered.  But that is so silly because it could just as easily refer to the Americas as a whole!  Yes, Joseph Smith was in the US but we don’t know where the Nephites and Lamanites actually lived, so there’s no reason Brazil can’t be the promised land too.
     A funny moment happened on our first day when we put our suitcases in the elevator.  There was this loud beeping sound that wouldn’t turn off and we were worried we were over the weight limit or that the elevator had broken!  The CTM brothers didn’t know either so eventually we took everything out again. Then one of the sisters realized the beeping noise had followed us out of the elevator. It was the metronome (for playing the piano) in her luggage!
     My companion is Sister Hale.  I met her in Atlanta.  She is great — an awesome first companion.  She speaks a lot of Spanish at home (she was born in Argentina!) so she understands a lot more Portuguese than I do.  There are very few sisters here compared to elders (way way less than the percentage of sisters for all missionaries –we’re the only two in the American group that got here last week so it’s like 1 to 18 or 20 or something) and most of them speak Portuguese or Spanish.  Most of the American sisters also know some or a lot of Spanish — I’ve met maybe two other sisters who don’t speak Spanish and there are hundreds of people here.
     Learning Portuguese is difficult, of course.  On the one hand, it is amazing that I can make any Brasilieros (Brazilians) understand sentences I say in Portuguese, however broken!  I have memorized the missionary purpose (Invite others to come unto Christ . . .) and the scriptures for the first vision and some other sentences and questions in Portuguese (Somos Missionarias da Igrega de Jesus Cristo dos Santos dos Ultimos Dias.  Temos uma mensagem sobre Jesus Cristo.  Voce acredita en Deus e en Jesus Cristo? etc. etc.)  On the other hand, it’s easy to feel like you aren’t learning enough Portuguese when you’re at the CTM.  We keep hearing about people who are learning 100 words a day, memorizing two scriptures etc. etc.!  One issue is that we have a lot of things to do that aren’t memorizing our assigned vocabulary and passages for memorization.  We eat meals, we go to choir, we have devotionals, we have planning, we prepare lessons for investigators, read scriptures — it’s a lot!  They gave us a goal for memorization and learning Portuguese for the first ten days so I’ll tell you how I did next week.  I taught my first two lessons about the gospel this week.  It’s quite hard in Portuguese!
Boa noite! (we’re three hours ahead)
Sister Faulconer