God Gives the Increase

This week has been crazy!  We have spent 120 reais [about $29] going back and forth between Casa Forte and Madalena this week!  The problem is that in theory it would be more effective to just pick a few days where we only work in Madalena and a few days where we only work in Casa Forte.  But in practice you can’t just neatly plan out the investigators on the preferred days — they all have their individual schedules, etc.  So we actually did a better job of following up with people in Casa Forte, going there almost every single day. Crazy, but way better than just leaving Casa Forte without missionaries for two weeks.

This week we had three baptisms in Madalena!  It was eventful. Things were a bit stressful, but it all worked out!

Baptism of Thais*

I have an Alma-ish (probably misguided) wish to find people and teach them and then have them get baptized so that I can feel like someone got baptized just because of me, but that doesn’t happen very often. This week I suddenly thought of the New Testament scripture 1 Cor 3:6-7 that happens to be part of the Come Follow Me readings this week about how one person plants, another waters, but God gives the increase. You get the crown based on your work not the watering. Paul says he was not called to baptize but to preach (1 Cor 1:17). I was thinking about other investigators that weren’t my contacts who I wished I had been the one to initially make contact. Then afterwards I realized this was especially applicable for this week. I haven’t had a huge part in these three baptisms but it is a privilege to see them and have a little part in them.

One of the people baptized this week was Vitor.* He first met the sisters in 2015! He didn’t believe in God. But he has been learning and strengthening his testimony a little more each day. Before I got here, the sisters had used an excellent metaphor of a staircase. He said he started at 0 — not believing anything. This past week he was still having a few moments of doubt even though he had progressed a lot. He said he wasn’t sure if Christ really was the Savior, had done miracles, etc. But after our lesson he said he was half a stair step higher on the staircase — at 2.9 (instead of 0)! We could see his testimony growing more and more each day this week, and when he got baptized, he said he was at step infinity! We told him he can now start climbing staircase 2.0. He really looked like the sort of person who was starting a new life.

Baptism of Vitor*

Unfortunately, one of the young men who was baptized on Saturday overslept and didn’t get confirmed on Sunday. I felt very bad about that. This prophetic quote was playing over and over again in my head:

You might as well baptize a bag of sand as a man, if not done in view of the remission of sins and getting of the Holy Ghost. Baptism by water is but half a baptism, and is good for nothing without the other half—that is, the baptism of the Holy Ghost.”

Teachings of Presidents of the Church: Joseph Smith (2007), p. 95

Fortunately, I think João Pedro* really will end up getting confirmed next week. 

Splitting their time between Casa Forte and Madalena–Sisters Faulconer, M. Ribeiro, and Delmiro

Funny thing that happened the other day it was raining as usual (winter in Recife) and we saw rain falling on the other side of the street — but we were dry. As we were watching, the rain got closer until we got wet, and then it went away down the street!  This happened about four times– we saw the rain coming, it rained on us, and then we saw it going away down the street!  It was so funny; I thought that only happened in movies. It reminded me of Harry Potter or Flubber 2 where there are magical (or science-induced) rain clouds for specific people.  We joked that maybe someone was praying for rain and we were watching God send it to them!

Sad thing that happened– Iara* doesn’t want more visits.  She is going through some personal struggles she didn’t feel comfortable enough to share and doesn’t feel she can focus on reading the scriptures and praying right now.  But she said she wants to continue going to church, so I hope that her heart will be touched eventually.  It was frustrating that we couldn’t go to church in Casa Forte so that we could see her (We were in the Madalena ward), but next week. It is sad when this sort of thing happens.  We were so unsure afterwards if we should have been more insistent or persistent or said things other than what we said . . . But hopefully we can see her at church in Casa Forte next week.

Agency

This week Victor got baptized!  He is a great example to me.  When we taught him about the Word of Wisdom and the Law of Chastity he thanked God for the commandments (“which I will definitely work to keep”) in the closing prayer!  He is so happy about getting closer to the Savior, being baptized, and changing his life for the better!  His baptismal interview finished about an hour or an hour and a half before he had to be at the church to get dressed for his baptism.  We did not feel very comfortable with that time frame but everything turned out well.  The only hitch was that we filled up the baptismal font the day before the baptism, but when we got there it was empty!  I think the problem was that the pump is so slow and quiet that it got turned on and no one noticed.  We put a bucket and a kitchen pot in the bathroom and the janitor’s closet to fill up and went back and forth with them to help the baptismal font fill up faster.  Luckily it was just high enough by the time we got to the baptism part.

Sister Ribeiro, Victor, and I– my shirt is slightly wet because we were carrying buckets of water to help the font fill up faster — we had filled it up but then it emptied again! 

Another investigator, we’ll call him “João,” is being an excellent example of praying and reading the scriptures regularly.  He hasn’t gotten an answer from God yet about the truthfulness of the First Vision and the Book of Mormon, but maybe this week!  We are also having a lot of trouble with coffee right now — João and Matheus are both struggling with not drinking coffee.  But I think a testimony of Joseph Smith will definitely help João with that.

Bus travel!

Mother’s Day is popular in Brazil.  Here there are lots of “cars of sound” that drive around with loudspeakers playing ads.  This week there was a car of sound from the city congratulating all of the mothers.  Store fronts have lots of “mother” signs and balloons and it looks like the cake, chocolate, and flower shops have good business here as well.  It was good for building excitement for Sister Ribeiro and I about calling our families on Sunday!  Unfortunately, Mother’s Day is bad for taking people to church.  But we have high hopes for next week! 

We found a Subway shop.  I do not find Subway particularly exciting in the United States but it´s more exciting now that I’m here.

Hopefully Emily and her family can go to church next week.  We talked with one of her daughters, I’ll call her “Amanda,” this week.  She had prayed and asked if “that church is worth it” but said she hadn’t gotten an answer.  We asked her how she felt when she prayed and she said “Well, I felt a really good, happy feeling and I got chills/goosebumps all over.” !  That reminded me of a scripture we often read with investigators:

And it came to pass that while they were thus conversing one with another, they heard a voice as if it came out of heaven; and they cast their eyes round about, for they understood not the voice which they heard; and it was not a harsh voice, neither was it a loud voice; nevertheless, and notwithstanding it being a small voice it did pierce them that did hear to the center, insomuch that there was no part of their frame that it did not cause to quake; yea, it did pierce them to the very soul, and did cause their hearts to burn.

3 Nephi 11:3

This is how the Nephites felt God’s voice when Christ came to visit the Americas.  This is the spirit!  We asked her if she thought that feeling was from God and what He was trying to tell her.  She thought about it and said “He was telling me the church is worth it!” We told her how special it was that God had responded to her question and she couldn’t stop smiling.

Welcome to Gravatá

One thing we have been thinking about recently is agency.  We know some people who have difficult family situations — for example, living with spouses (but not legally married) who treat them quite badly.  These people have lots of faith in God, and they use this faith to pray to God about the trials they’re passing through. But they are only praying that God will make their husbands stop drinking, or shape up, or choose to get married to them. And when their spouses don’t change they feel frustrated that God isn’t hearing them, or they say they trust in His timing but are just waiting and watching to see what he’ll do.  The sad and very frustrating truth is that God can’t force people to change.  And while he can and does help us, he might want us to act as well.  It’s terrible, but the truth is that some of these people might need to choose to leave their spouses in order to follow God’s commandments (like the law of chastity) or to help their children and themselves (in cases of serious alcoholism.)  


Wherefore, men are free according to the flesh; and all things are given them which are expedient unto man. And they are free to choose liberty and eternal life, through the great Mediator of all men, or to choose captivity and death, according to the captivity and power of the devil; for he seeketh that all men might be miserable like unto himself.

2 Nephi 2:27

Sometimes this seems really really sad.  But also it can be very happy — Victor is choosing liberty and eternal life!  When we follow the commandments we’re that much closer to liberty and eternal life — and eternal joy, rest, peace, etc.  And we can always hope and pray for people.  Alma the younger was visited by an angel that appeared because of the prayers of faith from his father and friends.  He chose to repent after remembering his father’s teachings about Christ.  

Our district

Hope you all have a great week!

Miracles

We had a lot of miracles this week! One day our plans had fallen through and we decided to see a contact.  We didn’t think he had very much potential and we suspected that finding his house would be a pain, but we decided to just try it out.   As expected his house was not super easy to find (he didn’t know his house number–a common problem in our area–and the only indicator he gave us was “yellow”) so we asked a lady, whose door was open if she knew him.  She didn’t, so we were going to leave but I remembered that we should really do more contacts and decided to talk with her. “Emily” immediately invited us into her house!  We started teaching a lesson, since we didn’t have anywhere we had to be.
She said she never left her door open as she had that day, but had been about to wander around in the city for a couple hours to try and feel better. We found out that she had just gotten home from the funeral of her nephew, who had died from playing Russian Roulette.  As you can imagine, she was very sad.  She was also sad because her son is in prison, and although he has made many unwise decisions, she thinks he is innocent because he was with her in a different city when the crime was committed. 

We taught her the Plan of Salvation, and she told us that our visit was an answer to her prayers!  We gave her a Book of Mormon and she promised to read it and pray about whether it is true. We saw her another day, and she said she had prayed and felt good but hadn’t gotten an answer.  Yesterday we found her at home again (she works a lot with fluctuating hours) and she said that she prayed and read some more (1 Nephi 10!) and had a dream where God showed her the Bible and the Book of Mormon together.  She said “The Book of Mormon and the Bible are the same thing but with different people!”  Now she takes the Bible and the Book of Mormon with her everywhere she goes!  People tell her “your bag is heavy!” and she says “These are my weapons!  I need them with me!”  Some people carry guns, she carries scriptures!

Sister missionaries for the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints blowing out candles on a birthday cake.
Members in Gravata like Tamara Espindola Medeiros are taking good care of the sisters. Sister Faulconer and Sister Ribeiro both had April birthdays, so Tamara planned a birthday celebration for them during their lunch break. Happy 20th birthday sisters!

We also finally managed to see “Victor” who has been to church a few times with his girlfriend. We had a lot of trouble seeing him because he is busy and travels, but on Sunday we went again.  When we went to his girlfriend’s house her mother said she was sleeping and wouldn’t see him until nighttime (when we had to be at home).  We almost didn’t go back but I really felt like we should.  When we got there we started teaching him the Restoration and he said he had prayed and wants to be baptized! 

We are also teaching a different person in a city called Chã Grande (“Big incline” — there are lots of hills there). He is marked for baptism this week, so we are going to try and see him three times this week.  It will be an adventure because this city is half an hour away by van (the vans do not have schedules!) and then when we get there we have to walk to his house.  He gets home from school at 5:10 and the last van is at 6!  Also, we already went there three times, and twice the van passed at 6 and refused to let us get in!  Usually they just stuff people into the vans until they are totally full, but there wasn’t any space left!  Luckily we found another car that was going to Chã Grande and got home safe and sound.

Love you all!

Eating customs & 8 hours on the bus!

Boa tarde!

A sister training leader and Sister Faulconer, two sister missionaries sitting on a bus bound for Guarahuns
A sister training leader and Sister Faulconer on the long bus ride to Guarahuns

I hope you all are great. We had a division this week. In divisions, one companion stays in the area with a sister training leader, and the other companion works in the sister training leaders’ area. Our sister training leaders work in Guaranhuns — four hours away by bus! Divisions last 24 hours and missionaries have to have a companion the whole time so it can get pretty crazy. I stayed in Palmares this time, but I had to travel four hours to Guaranhuns to get Sister Porcote and drop off our sister training leader, then we waited an hour and a half and got back on the bus for another four hour bus ride. The busses shake and bump a lot, so after eight hours of driving I felt a bit sick. The first time we had a division, last transfer, I remember being grateful I knew the word “shake” in Portuguese. I memorized it in a list of vocab words in the [missionary training center] even though I thought it seemed like a less important word to memorize — and it turned out to be useful! Anyway, I sympathize with easily-carsick people who have to go to Guaranhuns.

Sister Porcote, "Rafael," and sister Faulconer. The two sisters, each on one side of Rafael, are showing their thumbs up signs. Rafael is dressed in white baptismal clothing. The sisters are each wearing their church dresses.
Sister Porcote, future missionary Rafael, and Sister Faulconer

“Rafael” got baptized this week! [Click here to read Sister Faulconer’s earlier post about him]. He insisted on coming to our weekly ward missionaries and full-time missionaries meeting because he said he wants to be a member missionary and get ready to serve a mission. He is awesome!

A piece of cocada (coconut sweet) and the evidence of fries eaten the Brazilian way. 

The above photo is what you get when you can’t take your camera very many places (robbery=serious problem) and you don’t do a lot of photogenic things. The brown thing is cocada, a popular sweet made from coconut. It is crumbly and pretty good. It is on top of the remains of some fries that I bought. On display is a toothpick you get with all fry orders here. This is so that your fingers do not have to touch the fries. Then they usually squirt mayonnaise and ketchup on top of all the fries. There are things people eat with their hands here, but actually touching the food with your hands is less common — usually you get lots of napkins or a paper package or a toothpick.

Knight Bus to the São Paulo Temple

Oi familiares e amigos!

I have so much to say this week and less time than usual!  I wasn’t sick for long and I’m totally fine now, so that was a blessing.  This is also the last time I’ll be emailing from the CTM! I’ll be leaving super early Tuesday morning (likely between 2 and 5:45!), driving to the airport, and flying a couple hours to Recife.  I will probably be able to send a very short message when I arrive, but I’ll have to wait until Recife P-day (I don’t know when it is) to read emails and send a real weekly one.

Enlightened Hannah at Mr Cheneys
Sister Faulconer

Things I’m excited for:

1. Teaching the gospel

2. Serving the Lord and the Recife-ans

3. Seeing Recife

4. Speaking Portuguese

5. The possibility of occasionally using a kitchen (instead of cafeteria food)

6. Never playing another game of volleyball

Most days we have 50 minutes for physical activity. I’ve played so much volleyball at the CTM, but it’s still languishing at #2 on the Sports I Dislike Most list after kickball. The CTM has an adequate gym with lovely exercise bikes but unfortunately it is never open.

Reasons I don’t want to leave the CTM yet:

1. I will miss my companion (she’s going to Natal)

2. Portuguese

3. Also Portuguese

4. Portuguese (and teaching real live people)

Hannah and Sister Hale at Mr Cheneys--October 3
Sister Faulconer and Sister Hale

It’s difficult to see my progress in Portuguese sometimes, because I constantly hear myself making mistakes.  But I know progress is happening. On August 28th, I knew about 20 Portuguese words and Portuguese was utterly indecipherable.  Today (thanks be to God) I know a few thousand words, I can sorta have conversations, kinda teach missionary lessons, and Portuguese is sometimes mostly understandable and sometimes only partly indecipherable.  That may change with the Recife-ish accent, but God willing, I know I will understand it eventually. Right now having conversations in Portuguese is thrilling — it’s so exciting to be able to communicate in a different language! Sometimes I understand the words people say but don’t interpret the tenses correctly or get confused by words with multiple meanings.

This week our pretend investigator asked if me and my companion would baptize and I said yes!  I thought he asked if we had been baptized. Hopefully now that I’ve made that mistake here I won’t make it in real life in Recife!

In other news, one of our two instructors was abruptly reassigned, (they needed his language skills for the Help Desk) so we got a new instructor for our last week.  We were all sad because our old instructor was great. We spend about 3 hours a day with each instructor, so we get to know them a little bit. Our new instructor seems nice.

Aboard the Knight Bus
Sister Faulconer imagines a possible ride on the Knight Bus in Leavesden, England four years ago.

See the Knight Bus in action on YouTube

For you Harry Potter fans out there, I strongly recommend Brazilian traffic for a taste of The Knight Bus experience. Last week we drove to the São Paulo Temple in a van, and it was so similar to the Knight Bus that I expected the cross + rosary hanging from the van’s mirror to become a shrunken head at any moment. We zoomed around, stopping centimeters behind bumpers, driving on the wrong side of the road to pass, accelerating through tiny gaps, rapidly switching lanes and swerving around semis in bumper-to-bumper traffic — it was an experience. Dad, your right foot will get a lot of exercise on the invisible brake here. Mom, I hope you visit Brazil; you will love it. But find a good TV show to watch so you never look out a car window!

Hannah at the São Paulo temple
Sister Faulconer (second from left) with her mission district at the São Paulo temple.

*Easily nauseated people, skip the following paragraph*

One of the elders in our van threw up during the van ride! He was slightly sick to begin with, but the swerves definitely exacerbated his problems. Another nauseating moment happened yesterday. One day after the MTC President said “leave childhood things outside” about twenty times in different meetings, two elders had a jello-eating contest, complete with cheering crowd. The winner ate 22. The loser ate 20 and threw up (purple) right outside the cafeteria door!