Sister Faulconer joins yet another triumvirate, gets very, very, wet, and gets to know Casa Forte

Sister Faulconer, Sister Damaceno, Sister Sousa

I’m now in Casa Forte [near the temple in Recife]!  It is really different here.  I can see apartment buildings from all the parts of my area.  We have parts of our area that are normal Brazilian houses but also a lot of areas that are apartment buildings.  It was a serious pain to get here — two large suitcases and bumpy sidewalks, a metro and a bus.  I am not a good example of a cool, collected traveler, but I did manage to get here eventually!  I am in a trio again!  I have a companion, Sister Sousa, who is waiting for a visa to go to the Canada Edmonton mission!  That’s where my uncle lives. Hi Uncle Deryl! My other companion is Sister Damaceno, who arrived here in the same group with my trainee from the last transfer, Sister M. Ribeiro.  Both of my companions are from São Paulo, Sister Damaceno is from the city and Sister Sousa is from a small town in the interior. 

The day before the transfer Sister Ribeiro and I visited an investigator for the second time.  His sister was in the same room, listening to really loud music.  We started to read the scriptures and began to ask her questions as well and invite her to read.  Eventually she turned off the music and became engaged in the conversation.  Near the end of the lesson, she told us that her family had once been very active in their religion.  But they began to have questions that no one answered, and decided that that religion had practices that were not in line with the scriptures and the Savior’s teachings.  She said they needed a church to go to together and to have more religion at home.  She said she believed we had been sent in that moment by God to help them better follow Christ and show them the way to a church they could go to together!  That was a very special experience — I hope to receive a letter from Sister M. Ribeiro saying that they really have begun working to better follow Christ. 

Crazy thing that happened this week — our second day here it rained, and rained, and rained and rained some more.  The streets turned into lakes.  I literally could have swum part of the way to our lunch appointment — we were knee high in water!  We had to go slowly because the sidewalks and streets have big holes sometimes, and you can’t see through the water.  It rained all day.  Definitely an adventure and a cool experience, but it does make proselyting a little more difficult.  The rain is so loud it is harder to hear people and no one wants to go outside!  Also alllll the things get wet – clothes, our bags, everything.    

We are talking to  a lot of new people because there weren’t many investigators being taught here. We need to find more people with potential. I talked to one couple the other day in a chic-y (fancy) part of town that said they were agnostic and not interested in talking about religion.  It was a weird experience — I wasn’t sure if I was in Brazil or the United States for a second!  We talk to a lot of people on the street and someone that claims to be agnostic is very rare — I think this is the third time in my mission that I’ve talked to an agnostic.  The other two were open to religion. 

We have one investigator, Arthur*, who is awesome.  He reads the Book of Mormon every day, hasn’t drunk alcohol in a month, goes to church, and is changing his life.  The only difficulty is smoking–but he didn’t smoke a single cigarette yesterday.  If he continues that streak he can be baptized this Saturday!  Please pray for him.

Also, our ward here is awesome–large, and with members who want to be actively involved in missionary work.  

Here is a cool quote from one of the twelve apostles, Elder Jeffrey R. Holland:

“If we give our heart to God, if we love the Lord Jesus Christ, if we do the best we can to live the gospel, then tomorrow—and every other day—is ultimately going to be magnificent, even if we don’t always recognize it as such. Why? Because our Heavenly Father wants it to be! He wants to bless us. A rewarding, abundant, and eternal life is the very object of His merciful plan for His children! It is a plan predicated on the truth “that all things work together for good to them that love God.”10 So keep loving. Keep trying. Keep trusting. Keep believing. Keep growing. Heaven is cheering you on today, tomorrow, and forever.

“Hast thou not known? hast thou not heard?” Isaiah cried.

“… They that wait upon [Him] shall renew their strength; they shall mount up with wings as eagles. …

“[God] giveth power to the faint; and to them that have no might he increaseth strength. …

“For … the Lord … God will hold [their] right hand, saying unto [them], Fear not; I will help thee.”11

Love you guys!

*To respect their privacy, the names of all investigators are changed.

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