On Monday morning we found out the Americans would be going home very soon. I packed everything I could that I didn’t need to use and started cleaning the house. I felt ready . . . then I got a phone call from President Houseman. Emergency transfer to Recife — leave as soon as possible. It was stressful. I felt a lot less ready all of a sudden!
Sister Ribeiro II (a native Brazilian) was sent to Igarassu to meet her new companion. Sadly, we had to throw out a lot of fruits and vegetables we had bought to get us through a possible month of using food storage (i.e., only non-perishables which means very little fruits and vegetables and nothing fresh). Sister Ribeiro was sick and had to take a taxi. I took a bus to Recife with Elder Eccles from Goiana 2.
Recife seemed to be the scene of a post-apocalyptic movie. You couldn’t see anyone on the street. When we got on the bus we didn’t initially know where we were going except towards Recife — the office? another missionary apartment? the airport? But President Houseman called us on the bus and told us to go to the mission office. We waited at a taxi stop but a few kids showed up asking for money . . . and then suddenly there were ten kids asking for money and trying to play with the suitcases. Unfortunately we don’t have anything to help with that kind of thing. We started to feel nervous and crossed the street . . . and a few guys walked past separately and also asked for money. People frequently ask for money but not thirteen people in five minutes on an empty street! We were starting to feel like targets (two very obviously American people with suitcases in a deserted city) and ended up asking the mission to call us an Uber. It was difficult to explain where we were. Traveling without a smartphone makes everything harder. But usually missionaries in my area travel with no phone at all so I was very grateful to have a dumbphone!
When we got the phone call I thought we might be going to the airport that night or the next morning . . . nope. The Americans living in farther-out areas (e.g., me as well as others) stayed at a bed and breakfast for a few days. Staying at a bed and breakfast is definitely worse in terms of having things to do during quarantine, but I finished the Book of Mormon, wrote a lot of the missionaries who were staying, and talked to people there. We thought we would leave Thursday night at 6 pm. At 5 pm, Sister Houseman arrived and said our flights had been cancelled! Recife was sealing off. But the church figured out some charter flights, so we left Friday morning.
It was sad to say goodbye to President and Sister Houseman. It felt like when I said goodbye to my parents in the SLC airport. I couldn’t believe I wouldn’t see them again soon! Our flight got delayed, so we waited for a few hours at the airport and flew to São Paulo. São Paulo was nuts. Everyone leaving went to São Paulo. So it’s this enormous international airport . . . full of missionaries as far as the eye could see. We thought we would leave at five. Church volunteers there told us to be ready to leave at any second. We left around midnight!
It was a lot of hauling suitcases up one escalator, down another, bus to one terminal, then back to the first terminal again. We were very grateful to finally get to security to catch our flight. I went through security and felt lost — I was in an empty part of the airport and couldn’t see any missionaries from my mission coming behind me. Eventually I saw a few and found out that the others got held up at security! Some of them apparently weren’t booked on the flight. There were several problems. We thought we were all on the same flight and then found out that several people held up at security were supposed to be on a plane that was leaving in five minutes! Talk about stressful! There were groups of missionaries sprinting down the terminal with suitcases. Most of them made it . . . but then 12 elders who would go on the other flight got held back because somehow it was overbooked?! They had to sleep at the CTM [Brazilian Missionary Training Center] that night instead of flying to the U.S. That must have been difficult.
We were worried about getting through security at Los Angeles–LAX (health scans? customs?) but nothing happened at all. It was super easy. We got there at noon, waited for about an hour and a half at the baggage claim and then found ourselves on the flight lists and went to check our baggage again. I finally got to the check baggage counter . . . and they said my flight didn’t exist. Six of us found ourselves without flights to Utah. We called Church Travel and after much waiting got a flight at 8 pm. Shout out to the church travel workers and volunteers helping out — it must be so much work! I amused myself eating hummus, Starbucks hot chocolate with soy milk (it was sooo cold), crinkle fries, and two brands of vegan cookies I found at the airport. It had been a long time without that stuff . . . but now I’m sure I’ll get homesick for Recife and açaí. We finally got to SLC, waited another eternity at the baggage claim and to haul everyone up to the garage and I found my parents! It was very strange to feel 40 degree temperatures again.
It was a very long journey but I was happy to get here safely! I was released on Saturday night, my 1 year and 7 month anniversary on the mission.
~20 umbrellas broken
8-ish pairs of shoes destroyed
25 pounds lost
15% more tan
5 areas served in
1 great mission
It’s funny — I was already planning to come home on Wednesday, but the things I planned to do when I got home (work and school) won’t work out well in quarantine! Life is crazy for everyone right now. I am so grateful to have been able to serve a mission. I love Brasil, I love Pernambuco, I love Pernambucanos, and most of all I love the gospel of Jesus Christ.
This week was good. Rafaela* came back early from the beach. Unfortunately she wasn’t very interested in receiving a visit, so we were feeling a bit sad about that. But she went to church on Sunday! And then she asked Sister Ribeiro out of the blue “What hours will my baptismal service be?” She said she was trying to schedule her Saturday and wanted to know what time it would be. Lots of people are marked for baptism but aren’t actually planning on getting baptized. We tell them to pray about it and plan to get baptized if they get an answer. People in this situation are marked for baptism but haven’t confirmed it yet. So it was super exciting when Rafaela asked what time her baptism was because that means she is actually planning on being baptized! She has been feeling and recognizing the spirit a lot while reading the Book of Mormon and at church. Unfortunately we haven’t been able to teach her the commandments as early as we would have liked to because she was busy, but hopefully that works out.
This week a man walked up to us on the street and said he wanted to go to church. He said he had been taught by the Sisters and was almost baptized. We were super excited but we didn’t find his house and when we called him he hung up when we started talking. And he didn’t go to church. So that was too bad — life is weird sometimes!
A number of people said they would go to church and didn’t, but more people than usual went! Rafaela went, which was great because we thought she wouldn’t be able to go until next week. The owner of the LAN house we are using today also went with her four young daughters. That was cool because when we taught her she wasn’t initially very interested in going, but ended up being excited about it! We are teaching a young man called Joao Vitor who said he would go. We thought he hadn’t made it but after the Sacrament Meeting we saw him! He had come in late and we hadn’t seen — we were excited! He is marked for baptism.
We went to Itambé twice this week. You pay six reais, and everyone smashes themselves into the sardine-can-van and then we drive forty-ish minutes to Itambé. It’s an adventure! We went to see Júlia and her family. The first time we met we met her son and niece. We also said a prayer in her grandma-by-consideration (grandma of the heart –not her actual grandma but she might as well be)’s house. The second time we got there and she said “I invited two people to hear the message, okay?” That’s more than okay! She had invited her two friends and we met her younger son. She’s already a great missionary! She is reading the general conference talks that we will discuss at the next Relief Society meeting! I think she is more involved in the Ward Whatsapp group (Whatsapp is a text messaging and videocall app that is very popular internationally) than most members. She and her family are definitely worth going to Itambé for. We invited her children and her sister (who is a member)’s son, Bernardo, to baptism, as well as her two friends and several of them accepted. Unfortunately, because of scheduling and transportation issues, only her sister and brother-in-law made it to church. So that was too bad. But hopefully they manage to go next week. Mostly fortunately (but a little unfortunately) next week is Stake conference [a big regional church meeting held twice a year], which will happen in a different city — Paulista. We are hoping for a miracle this week of having more success than usual at taking investigators to stake conference.
It was a miracle this week with baptismal invitations–we managed to meet a lot more people this week who we had the opportunity and privilege to invite for baptism! And two of them went to church and stayed marked for baptism (Joao Vitor and Rafaela)!
One interesting thing about studying the scriptures without a search engine (i.e., studying paper scriptures without a smartphone) is that there is no way to look up all the results for faith in the Book of Mormon or all the scriptures about prophets or death. This highlights the importance of reading the scriptures straight through as part of scripture study. If you don’t read the scriptures, you won’t find many helpful passages not included in the topical guide. A few months ago I noticed this scripture while reading the Book of Mormon:
11 And the bodies of many thousands are laid low in the earth, while the bodies of many thousands are moldering in heaps upon the face of the earth; yea, and many thousands are mourning for the loss of their kindred, because they have reason to fear, according to the promises of the Lord, that they are consigned to a state of endless wo.
12 While many thousands of others truly mourn for the loss of their kindred, yet they rejoice and exult in the hope, and even know, according to the promises of the Lord, that they are raised to dwell at the right hand of God, in a state of never-ending happiness.
13 And thus we see how great the inequality of man is because of sin and transgression, and the power of the devil, which comes by the cunning plans which he hath devised to ensnare the hearts of men.
14 And thus we see the great call of diligence of men to labor in the vineyards of the Lord; and thus we see the great reason of sorrow, and also of rejoicing—sorrow because of death and destruction among men, and joy because of the light of Christ unto life.
I really like how this scripture highlights how the gospel can help us when we lose a loved one. It also mentions the importance of diligent missionary work and that Christ is the reason for hope and joy in our lives! It is only because of his sacrifice for us –the Atonement that we hope for a better world (Ether 12:4), the resurrection of ourselves and our loved ones, and have access to the power of repentance in our lives. We can also know that he can comfort us because he hath borne our griefs (Isaiah 53:4 — in Portuguese it says that he took upon himself our pains) so he knows how we feel.
The number of talks I am assigned to read per week for the missionaries who are returning home is increasing! I think that means the end of my mission is getting closer! The talks are very good; this week was about serving others and the welfare program in the church.
We met some awesome family members of an investigator in Casa Forte before I left. The dad said he knew he needed to live the law of chastity but he had proposed to his wife twice (with a ring and flowers) and she hadn’t accepted. She isn’t very religious but they all agreed to go to church this Sunday. I hope they went! When we left the dad was already sitting on the couch reading the Book of Mormon! I also got some great news from the sisters in Gravatá–one of Maria Eduarda’s* daughters got baptized! Maria Eduarda is the investigator I wrote about who didn’t believe in God. Apparently she is still praying very regularly and is grateful that we visited her and taught her to pray.
We had originally contacted this daughter and met Maria Eduarda because she was there when we tried to visit her daughter. We taught her daughter a few times and invited her to be baptized, but she was working every single weekend in a different city. It literally wasn’t possible for her to go to church, and some of the days we visited her family she was gone working. But she must not be working there anymore! Very gratifying, because until now I had only heard bad news about my former areas. Also, it sounds like Victor and David, two of Gravatá´s recent converts, are doing great.
The Transfer Saga: First, Sister Pereira (who I was traveling with) and I dragged our suitcases to the bus stop. It is close, but her suitcase was a bit broken so that was still a bit hard. Then we got on the bus going away from the metro instead of towards it, but we just got off at the next stop and got on the right bus. Stupid, but not too big of a deal. We got to the metro and our metro was just leaving. But the next one got there in 15ish minutes, so not a big deal. Everything was difficult because we had suitcases and I am a klutz, but everything worked out.
I got off the metro and onto my minibus to Candeias right on schedule. I asked the driver when I should get off and he told me he would tell me. I paid attention to the time to hopefully know about when we would get close to Candeias. After a few stops, a member of the church started talking to me. He said a few things about his mission, his ward, etc., and then asked where I was getting off. I told him, only to be informed that I had already passed my stop. Oops! I felt dumb but thought, “Wow, I am so grateful that God is sending angels to help me on transfer day. So glad I ran into that member” (cue the ominous wrong-decision music). He said the chapel was the next stop so I could get off there. I thought it was funny that our apartment wasn’t closer to the chapel, but maybe some areas are like that?
I got off at the chapel (I later discovered that at this point I was a 5-10 minute walk away from my apartment) and started walking in the direction he had indicated. When I asked for more directions, the directions-givers told me I was going the wrong direction. I turned around. I retraced my steps, asked for more directions, and they told me I needed to go the direction I had originally gone! These people seemed more trustworthy, and they agreed with the member, so I turned around again. Everyone told me it was way too far to walk with suitcases and that I should catch a bus for a few stops. People underestimate missionary walking ability, but I decided to take that advice so as not to be too late. I took a bus four stops (Four stops in the wrong direction!) and got off. Nobody knew where the road I was looking for was. Finally I found a very nice person who walked with me to the right road and helped me with one of the suitcases. He didn’t want a visit, but hey, I planted a seed and he said he would look up the Book of Mormon. It took a while, but I got there. Then I walked up the dirt road looking for the right number. I walked for a long time and got more and more perplexed because the numbers were out of order. Nobody knew where my apartment was. Finally someone who lived there told me I had already passed it (cue more ominous wrong-advice music).
I turned around, and retraced my steps for a while in the other direction without success. I began to see that there is a difference between “take the suitcases you can carry” [the advice they give prospective missionaries] and “take the suitcases you can drag up a soft dirt road on a very hot day.” I am very grateful that my suitcases are good and that it didn’t rain. The next day that same road was full of water — that would have been worse! But I continued on, only to run into the same advice-giver who told me he had gone to get his phone because he could see I was lost. He looked it up on Google maps (technology!) only to figure out that I had not passed it. In fact my apartment was farther than I had originally walked, so I had retraced my steps in vain again. He walked back up the street with me and helped me with a suitcase (blessings). We fiiinally got there, and he left. Too bad that he sent me the wrong direction, but good he was nice enough to help me afterwards.
I used the intercom to call my apartment but no one answered, so I walked up the street to borrow someone’s phone. After trying to use the ancient phone without success, I saw someone opening the apartment gate. I hurried back, and luckily she had already seen missionaries there and let me in. Apparently the intercom is broken and if you shout people hear you. Anyway, I got there more than an hour late but safe and sound. I later saw the chapel basically around the corner from my apartment — I had spent over an hour walking back (and retracing my steps only to turn around again) the four bus stops I retraced away from the chapel. But all’s well that ends well! I heartily recommend that someone make an Amazing Race challenge or a tv show that involves people who have to do missionary-style transfers with suitcases, wrong directions, and without smartphones. It would be hilarious!
I can see the beach from here! It is not as close as it was when I went to Pina, but I get to stay here! In other non-missionary-work related news, there is a Madoska ice cream store here (there was one in Gravatá too) which I plan to make use of later today!
I had been under the impression that I might be in an area with much more of a small-city vibe. Ha ha, Candeias is a neighborhood of Jaboatao dos Guararapes which is right next to Recife. Full of skyscrapers, several huge supermarkets. Not a small-town vibe! So many skyscrapers. It is much smaller than Casa Forte, which is a blessing; hopefully I will learn the area faster. When I manage to learn an area more-or-less I always think “Wow, why didn’t I just make an effort to memorize the roads faster?” But when I get to a new area I remember why–nothing is familiar! Harder to memorize. Also there are many fewer road signs here than in Casa Forte — too bad. But I have high hopes of memorizing here faster. We will see how it goes.
There is a part of town that looks a little like the less-skyscrapery Santa Isabel neighborhood in Casa Forte, but it is much smaller. We spent much more of our time in the skyscraper-y part of the city this week than I had spent in Casa Forte. A lot of very deserted roads. People come out at 5:00 to walk their dogs but before that it is pretty hard to do street contacts. We are often literally the only people I can see! It is strange. We will have to see what we do about that — the houses are a bit imposing to go door-knocking — Brazilians love gates in front of the house, and here the gates are huge walls with intercoms. It seemed like people were less interested in the street contacts here than in Casa Forte as well, but we still managed to get several new investigators. Sister Anaya said this week was better than last transfer for finding new people, so hopefully it continues that way! We also managed to find some people at home (always a struggle) and teach some first lessons as well. We marked two new people, Amanda* and Murilo, so that was great.
Davi (60ish years old) was marked for baptism last week, but when I went to meet him for the first time he opened the door very, very drunk. Then we went back to see him a different day and — still drunk. That was sad, because he had said he had given up alcohol, but it didn’t work out. He lives alone, but right next to a bar and has a lot of friends that call him to drink. But afterwards we found him sober. He said he wanted to apologize to us, so we explained that really he needed to repent and apologize to God. He understood, and said he was excited to get baptized. Ever since he has talked about how excited he is to be baptized. On Sunday he asked us why the bishop hadn’t announced his baptism — a good sign! No one else managed to go to church, but he did, which was great! The other people said they should be able to go next week. He told us that on Saturday he had been working with some friends who were drinking. They invited him many times, but he told them he didn’t want to drink because he wanted to get baptized! We fasted with him yesterday so that he could be strengthened against temptation and for everything to work out for his baptism. Hopefully everything goes well!
Interestingly, there are a lot of people from the religion Espiritismo here. I think service-oriented, tolerant, educated, better-off people are especially attracted to this religion. Because it is a big city there are a lot more well-off and highly educated people here. Espiritismo has some interesting points (some of them believe in reincarnation and things like spiritual hospitals where mediums talk to spirits to help fix your spiritual problems). One thing I admire is that many espíritas (people from this religion) are very, very charitable. They are very self-motivated to look for every service opportunity; something I would like to learn.
This reminds me of a quote from the Teachings of George Albert Smith book I read this week:
First of all, we are asking all you fine people over here to keep all the glorious truths that you have acquired in your churches, that you have absorbed from your scriptures, keep all that. . . keep all the love and the beauty that is in your heart from having lived in so beautiful and wonderful a land. … That is all a part of the gospel of Jesus Christ. Then let us sit down and share with you some of the things that have not yet come into your lives that have enriched our lives and made us happy.
We are also teaching a couple that have been investigating for a while, Rodrigo and Larissa. Ronald has a lot of questions about many different things in the church. He is worried that there are a lot of religions and he might want to receive an answer so much that he might end up deceiving himself and getting a false emotional answer. He is afraid to pray because of this. We told him about the importance of prayer and acting with faith to receive guidance.
3 Angels speak by the power of the Holy Ghost; wherefore, they speak the words of Christ. Wherefore, I said unto you, feast upon the words of Christ; for behold, the words of Christ will tell you all things what ye should do.
4 Wherefore, now after I have spoken these words, if ye cannot understand them it will be because ye ask not, neither do ye knock; wherefore, ye are not brought into the light, but must perish in the dark.
5 For behold, again I say unto you that if ye will enter in by the way, and receive the Holy Ghost, it will show unto you all things what ye should do.
. . .
8 And now, my beloved brethren, I perceive that ye ponder still in your hearts; and it grieveth me that I must speak concerning this thing. For if ye would hearken unto the Spirit which teacheth a man to pray, ye would know that ye must pray; for the evil spirit teacheth not a man to pray, but teacheth him that he must not pray.
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.
Sister Anaya read the Book of Mormon scripture about Laman and Lemuel — they complain that God hadn’t talked to them but they hadn’t asked!
Next week we are going to go to new leader training conference and the mission council. We are about two hours from the mission office (new leader training) and 3-ish from the mission home (mission council) so it will be an adventure.
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!
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.
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.”
Fortunately, I think João Pedro* really will end up getting confirmed next week.
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.
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.
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.
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!
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.
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.
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.
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.
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!
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.
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.
“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!
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.
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.
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)
3. Also Portuguese
4. Portuguese (and teaching real live people)
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.
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!
*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!