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!

Desire and the will of the Lord

Fun fact about Gravatá: There are lots of butterflies here. Sister Ribeiro and I joke that we feel like Disney princesses. Both Palmares and Gravatá seem to have lots of animals: there are tons of (often well-fed and well-kept) dogs and cats roaming the streets.  When I got to Palmares I was shocked several times to see dead dogs in the street — only to realize that they were actually sleeping. They like to sprawl on the ground because it’s a cooler surface, and there isn’t enough traffic in some places for them to be in much danger. 

We are seeing a lot of miracles in our area! This week a lot of our investigators went to church, including some people that I thought didn’t have much potential, but went to church all on their own.  We taught the Word of Wisdom to the families of Isabela and Matheus this week.  We were a little worried because we could tell that they would have to change their lives quite a bit to follow this commandment. I prayed a lot before our lesson with Isabela’s family that they could be prepared to hear about the Word of Wisdom.  When we showed up Camilla said she drinks coffee all day long (i.e., more than four cups of coffee a day) and wouldn’t manage to stop drinking it.  We asked her how many cups she had drunk that day and found out that she hadn’t drunk any in four days!  What an answer to prayer.  That definitely makes it easier to give up!  She said she just hadn’t felt like it. She really wanted to drink coffee right after our lesson, but we decided to take advantage of the fact she hadn’t drunk in four days. 

We walked all the way back to our house and then back to her house with some cevada (a roasted ground barley coffee substitute) a member had given us for investigators. She didn’t end up liking the cevada, but ended up buying chocolate drink powder and hasn’t drunk coffee since! Her sister, 11 yr old Isabela, immediately said she would give up coffee when we taught the Word of Wisdom and hasn’t drunken since either. She is awesome.  Their friend, Matheus, was also very reluctant to give up coffee.  We tried to explain the Word of Wisdom well, but it seemed like he didn’t really get it, and he had to leave suddenly before the end of the lesson. 


https://www.homemdaterra.com.br/

We prayed for him to feel less desire to drink coffee if that was the Lord’s will.  Then we visited him after church to help him understand better and he said he hadn’t drunk coffee that day at all!  We called him to remind him to get ready for church, and then showed up to walk with him, and it was so early that he didn’t bother making any. When he got home he planned to drink coffee but saw some juice to drink and sort of just forgot about the coffee!  At the beginning of that lesson he had a very “maybe someday” attitude about baptism but at the end he was agreeing that the Church is true, that he should get baptized here, and agreed to pray about whether now is the right time!  He is marked for baptism for this Saturday — we will see how it goes!

Many of these people also drink alcohol.  It’s a bit of a culture shock for me — one of the family members of someone we are teaching is fourteen and was basically passed out asleep one day because she had been drinking. The Word of Wisdom is a blessing!  The spiritual blessings are numerous and the physical blessings are obvious — we know a lot of people here who have family members who were shot because of drugs.

Funny moment this week — we were sort of close to Camila’s house (but not really, she lives far away) and thought “Why didn’t we mark to visit her today instead of in two days?  We should follow-up with her today since we’re already close!”  When we showed up it looked like nobody was home.  As soon as we knocked on the door we realized why hadn’t marked to go that day. They had said they couldn’t because they might go to a birthday party.  It turned out to be a surprise birthday party that was happening in their house!  We showed up about 90 seconds before the birthday boy. We were this close to ruining the surprise!  That was embarrassing but a good funny memory. 

We also had splits this week.  Sister Ribeiro went to Garanhuns — the area her dad opened on his mission thirty years ago!  Now it’s a stake (i.e., her dad taught the first members there and now it has thousands of members in a couple different congregations!)!  There weren’t any members in Gravatá before! It is so cool to see the gospel spreading and blessing the lives of thousands of people in such a short span of time.  Some cities are being opened close to us now — they could be stakes when I have children going on missions!

The Church has grown in Guaranhuns

It makes me think of this Book of Mormon scripture:


4 Behold, it has been prophesied by our fathers, that they should be kept and handed down from one generation to another, and be kept and preserved by the hand of the Lord until they should go forth unto every nation, kindred, tongue, and people, that they shall know of the mysteries contained thereon. . . .
6 Now ye may suppose that this is foolishness in me; but behold I say unto you, that by small and simple things are great things brought to pass; and small means in many instances doth confound the wise.


Alma 37:4,6

This scripture is being brought to pass today!  Something small like inviting a friend to church, or bearing your testimony about the Book of Mormon can result in great things.  Two of the people who went to church this Sunday were brought by a member!  We asked him for a reference and stopped by to talk to them. On Sunday he helped them visit church for the first time! 

Prayer helps me

The miracle of video chat

It was so great to do a video chat with my parents today!  I think the sisters and I might have found the only two don’t-need-to-be-installed-webcams in the city of Gravatá.  There are three of us, so we will have to see if we can find another.   

Our investigator “Danilson” went to Recife for several days, so we couldn’t see him.  But then one day we were teaching one of our other investigators next to a small outdoor bar and Sister Centeio said “Sister, I think we’ve talked to that man before!” We went over and it turned out to be Danilson!  So we taught him and a couple of other people the Restoration of the Gospel of Jesus Christ in the middle of the bar.  He was slightly drunk but pretty lucid, so he understood what was going on.  Later in the week one of the other men from the bar, Luis, stopped us in the street and said he wanted to hear more!   

We have a couple of people that are close to baptism, so we are pretty excited about that.  One of our investigators, Mirelle, is the grandmother of some recent converts that joined the church in a different city.  She attended the church there and really wants to get baptized!  There are a couple of things she has to resolve first, including a serious addiction to tobacco.  She was using chewing tobacco so much that she couldn’t tell us exactly how many times a day she uses it.  But she said she knows it is bad for her and wants to stop. 

One thing I’ve been working on is saying little prayers during the day about things I’m thankful about and the needs of our investigators (and my family).  Praying throughout the day helps me be empathetic, keep other people and their needs in mind, forget myself, and have more inspiration about how to help others.  So I have been praying a lot that she can be free from this addiction.

The miracle of the week is that on Saturday she smoked once or twice and on Sunday she didn’t smoke at all!  I hope she can stay strong during the rest of the week!  She learns very slowly, but I can tell she loves God and wants to follow Christ and be baptized.  

Some great scriptures about prayer are in Mosiah 26:39: (About what Alma and his fellow laborers taught): “And they did admonish their brethren; and they were also admonished, every one by the word of God, according to his sins, or to the sins which he had committed, being commanded of God to pray without ceasing, and to give thanks in all things.”

And 2 Nephi 32:9: “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.

There is also a super great article by Elder Juan Uceda about how to pray better in the February 2019 issue of the Liahona.

We are excited to have a conference with Elder Adukaitis this week in Recife.  Next week will be Carnaval!  Carnaval isn’t crazy here in Gravatá. so we will be working normal hours, but people are putting up little decorations — lots of masks, colored umbrellas (the kind you use for Frevo), and colored streamers.  

I can’t believe it: I will celebrate my six-months-from-the-day-I-got-to-the-CTM anniversary on Friday!

Love you all so much!

Progress and Willingness to Change

For months I thought a really loud child lived on our street, but this transfer I learned from Sister Arce that it was actually just this parrot.  

Unfortunately it looks like our neighbor “Stephanie” who I told you about last week believes the Book of Mormon is true but does not want to consider joining a different church.  I hope that when she finishes the Book of Mormon maybe she will be a bit more open to considering it, but we will see. Recently, we have had trouble with having lots of people to teach but not having a lot of investigators who are actually progressing (Saturday night they say they will go to church, Sunday morning we show up to take them to church and they have surprise visitors, are sick, do not want to go, are busy, etc.)  Yesterday at 9:57 it wasn’t looking very good, but three of our investigators showed up partway through the meeting! We had already been to “Caio” and “Henrique’s” houses that morning, and they weren’t there, but they both went to church by themselves. I am so excited for them — “Caio” stopped drinking last week for good — his friend offered him beer on Saturday and he said he followed our advice and left right away! He is also stopping his coffee habit.  It is amazing to see the difference in progress between people who really want to change their lives and people who don’t. I have met some people who don’t want to ask God if the Book of Mormon is true or if they ought to stop drinking coffee because they don’t want to get an answer. Or they ask, but they don’t get an answer, and then we find out that even if God did respond to them it wouldn’t change anything in their lives.

***

I found brown rice!!!  I am very excited about that. The problem is that although I always want to eat when we get home I am seldom actually hungry because we eat a lot for lunch.  But I am eating brown rice today. We have to go to Recife to get a new cellphone and I will eat this on the bus. You can’t actually see the brown rice but it is under the other food.  The top left corner has sweet potato. I really miss orange sweet potatoes, but these are good too. There is also mango. Not very much mango, but I already ate a mango and a half today. A member gave us a bag of mangoes and they are delicious. There are also peas (protein-rich). The peas here are canned!  There are no fresh or frozen peas. Canned peas are very strange to me. If you heat them up and eat them with thyme and lime juice and hot sauce they are not bad (but very mushy). Lemons here are called Japanese limes and they are very rare and expensive, so I have been eating lots of lime juice. Mango with lime juice is heavenly.  I topped the dish with spicy ketchup. Ketchup is very popular here, but it is sweeter than I am used to. Spicy ketchup is also sold, but the “spicy” part is a lie.

Lunch packed for the bus on the way to Recife

Fun fact: I miss salsa.  Sister Arce [a native Spanish speaker from Argentina] had trouble understanding what I was saying when I told her that because salsa is “sauce” in Spanish.  I think I knew that but forgot.

September 2018–Sister Hales with avocado creams during our training in São Paulo.

Another thing I have been enjoying is avocado creams. Avocado is only eaten with sugar here. Here is a picture of the first “vitamina de abacate” that I drank while I was in the CTM [missionary training center in San Paulo].  It was a special moment — I had always heard Dad telling stories about the avocado shakes he drank in Brazil and then I actually got to try one! We have an avocado tree by our house but I have not actually eaten an avocado yet.

New Companion: Sister Arce

Sister Arce and Sister Faulconer with the hills of Palmares in the background.

Oi!

This week has been great.  I love my new companion–Sister Arce from Argentina. She is kind and we are getting along really well.  She has the most beautiful accent.  We worked really hard this week and we are visiting a lot of people who haven’t been visited recently enough.  The other day we walked up 240 steps and a huge number of hills!  Sister Arce has disillusioned me—apparently not all the other areas in our mission have this many hills ;).  Fun fact about her: she is “viciada” [addicted] to “Cremosinho” a creamsicle sort of yogurt frozen thing that comes in plastic bags.  You bite off the corner and eat it.  It’s very good. 

Lots of miracles happened this week. I am extremely grateful that we did not get very lost and that I did not terribly mess anything up while showing Sister Arce the area [At home, Sister Faulconer has a reputation for having no sense of direction and getting lost very easily]. We went the wrong direction once or twice but not for very long.  We haven’t been lost and we got to several hard-to-remember places without a hitch!  My memory of places is mais-ou-menos [sometimes better sometimes worse] but nothing that bad has happened and it hasn’t been a big problem.  Definitely a blessing to remember some of the confusing routes to different places.

Also, one of our investigators I thought wasn’t interested said she was going to challenge herself to only smoking tobacco once today.  In the not far distant past she was smoking 28 cigars!  She really wants to change.

Sister Faulconer with new friends from the Palmares branch

I hope you all have an awesome week!  Love from Brazil!