Loving and Welcoming Visitors

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.  

Recife Temple
Courtesy of ChurchofJesusChrist.org

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!  

Caju fruit
Photo Credit: Victoria Rachitzky Hoch, Flickr

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.

Acts 5:40-41

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.

D&C 67:13

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

Easter

Carrying an umbrella to block the sun is common in Brazil. This is a bridge we walk over quite often.
Look closely . . . the water is filled with turtles!

There are lots of walls with photo-op graffiti here

This week was great!  Remember, Isabela, the girl on the bicycle who wanted a Book of Mormon from from my previous post? Isabela’s family is awesome — we are teaching her family, her friend’s family, and her friends’ cousin and other friend, her other friend, her other friend and her aunt now.  Isabela, as well as Guilherme*, and Ester (both friends of Isabela’s family) went to church.  Isabela’s older sisters had to work because of the craziness that is Easter here in Gravatá but will go in two weeks with her mom. Their other friends Matheu (a young adult) and Maria Clara (a young woman) and Rafaela (little girl) went to church too!  Their sister Marcela would have gone but she stepped on a nail the night before and had to go to the hospital. 😦 Crazy things happen Saturday night.  Because of Isabela’s family and friends, the number of contacts we taught a first lesson to improved quite a lot this week.  We often have trouble with not finding people at home but they have been great!

Sister Faulconer with Isabela and her friend Guilherme

Isabela and her friend Guilherme are reading the Book of Mormon and said they prayed about it and felt really good.  Isabela told us she wants to go to church next week!  Her sister, Camilla, who had to work, prayed and has a testimony of the Book of Mormon and Joseph Smith.  Her aunt told us she said she wants to be baptized! Marcela read the Book of Mormon, prayed, and was describing to us how she felt.  She felt the spirit really strongly –“chills all over!” and really joyful.  She said she she has a testimony now!  Matheus forgot to read several times, but on Saturday he remembered!  He told us on Sunday that he had had a similar experience.  He said he started praying and had a feeling that God was there, and that they were literally having a conversation.  He asked about the truthfulness of the Book of Mormon and Joseph Smith and said he felt that God responded that they are true! He told us that he has visited several churches but never felt the spirit like that.

Their other sister, Maria Clara, didn’t recognize any response the first time she prayed but said she started to feel the spirit more as she continued reading and praying.  That is certainly more typical of my experiences — many times we don´t get an answer the first time we pray but it will come with patience and continued effort.

Anyway, finding them was a miracle for sure.  The day Isabela stopped us in the street we felt a bit frustrated because we had been searching for a contact’s address for a realllly long time and no one knew where it was.  I am so glad we didn’t find it right away — we needed to meet Isabela!

Missionaries with treats at zone conference
Formal picture with the Housemans

We also had zone conference in Caruaru this week.  It was good.   We have guides for our lessons with different topics.  We don´t have to stick to a specific script but often we present the topics in the same order — God loves us, so he sent us prophets to guide our families, the most important prophet was Christ, etc. etc.  President Houseman talked about treating our lessons like wheels rather than linear lists of events.  Present the topics in whatever order works best for the investigators!  This was a lightbulb moment for me, but now nothing is linear anymore!  It can be confusing.


I have lots of food art skills. “Soy meat” (TVP or textured vegetable protein in the US) is more popular here in non-vegetarian places than in the US. 

Several members have made some for me at lunch and they all already know how to cook it.  I have seen a few restaurants that have things like “Chicken with soy meat sauce.”  People make soy meat sometimes just for diversity´s sake.  I tried it out and it was super good!  I also discovered soy milk recently (pro tip– ask people where things are instead of assuming you know where they keep the milk — I had forgotten that they sell milk in cartons rather than in the refrigerator section here)

Happy Easter!

Easter is very popular in Gravatá.  At night there was bumper to bumper traffic on the roads. Gravatá is definitely a tourist-y city — this week the city was way way busier than usual.  There were also signs for chocolate easter eggs on all of the street corners.  People like to eat large (like ostrich-sized) eggs made of chocolate and boxes of assorted easter candies are also very popular. Sister Ribeiro wrote this on the wall in makeup — she is very creative.

I hope you all had a wonderful Easter.  When someone gets an answer to their prayer about Joseph Smith or the Book of Mormon it sometimes feels like a yes or no sort of thing — either they can say they believe or not.  What is harder to measure, but also happens, is the repentance process.  That’s the whole purpose of missionary work — we invite people to pray about the Book of Mormon and to follow its precepts — repent, be baptized (i.e., take the name of Christ upon you, promise to remember him and follow his commandments), get closer to Christ.  We tell people that Christ is the center of our message — and it’s true.  I have been reading this scripture with people all week:

But there is a resurrection, therefore the grave hath no victory, and the sting of death is swallowed up in Christ.

He is the light and the life of the world; yea, a light that is endless, that can never be darkened; yea, and also a life which is endless, that there can be no more death.


Mosiah 16:8-9

The scriptures are so beautiful! I can’t say it better than that.  I also love this Easter video: Because of Him

*Names are changed to respect investigators’ privacy.