We’ve had a good week! Jeniffer* went to church yesterday!!! Last week we finally met the old goal we had of # of investigators at church all last transfer. She is keeping all the commandments and we are excited for her! An eight-year-old we were teaching (with her mother) went to church as well–Carla. Hopefully her mom will want to go to church in the future as well. She is very cute. I asked her what her favorite thing to do was and she said “pray.” “Do you feel like God answers your prayer?” “Yes, I asked him if he was real and He said he was!” We gave her a Book of Mormon yesterday and she said she would read it! A member from a different ward took her whole family and her non-member friend to our ward yesterday as well. That young woman gets 2000 awesome member points. Taking him to the ward where he lives was a great idea.
Juliana and Joao Pedro went to the marriage office! The office said they had to redo their documents before getting married (expensive) but we are hoping they’ll find a different route. After the spiritual experience we had with them last week, we were hoping they would progress more and they really have! We called them a few times this past week but weren’t able to visit them until this Sunday. We went to teach the Word of Wisdom and Joao Pedro said he hadn’t drank in a week (i.e., since the last lesson we taught them!) That means that after getting married they’ll be keeping all the commandments already! Eight years ago, when they first heard about the Church they lived very different lives. They were owners of a bar! This is a great example 1 Corinthians 3:5-8. Other missionaries planted the seed in their lives, many many other missionaries watered that seed for months and years, and God is giving the increase! What a blessing to be “ministers whom ( Juliana and Joao Pedro) believed.”
We’ve only seen Wesley once since the transfer started, so that was too bad. But the other day a less-active member stopped us in the street! She hasn’t been to church in years, but missionaries visited her and her family a year ago and she loved their visits. I actually met those sisters because a year ago they were at my Christmas zone conference. It’s funny to think that was a year ago already! Her three children (and a boyfriend who lives in a different area) accepted baptismal dates when we went to visit them. We aren’t sure if any of them will be able to go to church next Sunday, but we are excited.
The ward Christmas party happened this week and we met a few non-members there. We’re excited to visit them! We also went on splits with the sisters in Escada. I had never gone on splits with a sister in training before. It was different, but great! Also, I was slightly sick and spent an entire day not working in order to do a urine test at the hospital. It was a production! But I am grateful to have the missionary health plan–I really feel for the many people we meet who do not have that blessing.
This morning I made mango juice —- mango season is starting! I am excited! This week was pretty different — we got home at 7:30 on Tuesday from new leader training and 7:15-ish on Wednesday from Mission Council. I learned a lot!
A couple highlights: President Houseman said that the pattern for making decisions in the Church is group revelation in councils. Lots of people say “Wow, President Nelson changed . . .” but actually these things are decided in council and prepared for and discussed ahead of time. Everything is done in order. In councils, the members receive revelation, everyone discusses, and the leader makes the final decision. People might receive conflicting inspiration, and maybe the final decision will be different than the inspiration someone had. But it is all part of the process.
There is a difference between following-up and demanding [acompanhar and cobrar in Portuguese] information. Leaders follow-up to help you make progress with the goals you set for yourself. Not-so-great leaders give you quotas and then demand the results. In Zion’s Camp, when the wagons got stuck, Joseph Smith was the first one to take off his shoes, roll up his trousers, and get in the mud to pull them. Good leaders are the first ones to go to work with others, motivating them along the way, rather than staying on the sidelines to shout orders. Even if you shout orders in a really charismatic, motivational way, that’s not enough!
Sister Houseman gave a really great talk on leadership. She had an amazing stake president who felt really inadequate when he was called. He decided to use his leadership calling as an opportunity for personal growth. At every opportunity he thought “How would a stake president act?” Running late and want to leave the shopping cart in the parking space? What would a ward member think if they saw that? A stake president would take the shopping cart back to the right spot, so he did!
Even though Sister Anaya and I had a lot less time to work than we had last week, we managed to teach first lessons with more people than last week and we have more new investigators than last week! Little miracles.
Speaking of miracles, Davi* got baptized!! He is doing great! On Monday he was fasting with us in order to be able to resist temptation and get baptized. Before lunch (when he would break his fast) he was feeling really hungry, so he left the house in order to avoid eating. He went to a relative’s house —- and the relative was drinking (alcohol) and eating. His relative repeatedly invited him to drink and eat, but he stayed strong! It’s great because it seems like the ward is doing a good job of integrating him already. One of the recent converts stopped by throughout the week to ask him how he was, read scripture verses (he can’t read), and tell him he was excited for his baptism!
Sacrament meeting attendance was less-than-stellar. Read: our recent investigators did not go to church. But I was pleasantly surprised when I got to the area and discovered that there are two couples who aren’t married but have been consistently going to church! I knew that this happened but in my past areas the plethora of people who needed to get married were not religious church-goers– maybe they went a few times but they never stayed strong. Here there are two women, Daniela and Juliana, who have children that are recent converts and are consistently going to church, going to activities, reading the scriptures, etc. Unfortunately, one of them has a husband who doesn’t want to get married and also doesn’t have documents. The other one also doesn’t have the right documents, but they just need to go to the marriage office. It is a bit difficult because of work hours, but hopefully it all works out!
Today we are going to start making horchata! I mentioned to Sister Anaya that I like it and she mentioned that she knows how to make it. This week we are also going to do a split with the sisters of Palmares. I am going to Palmares — it will be weird! Hopefully good too. Sister Anaya did a split with a sister training leader who had already served in the area once. The sister ran into an ancient investigator and found out she had separated from her husband (she hadn’t been able to get baptized before because they weren’t married. They had been deciding if they would separate or not). She got baptized! Not expecting that kind of miracle necessarily but a cool story, right?
I don’t remember if I said this before, but a lot of people here think that after you die you won’t remember anything. God will tell you how your past life was. You will see your relatives but you won’t remember they were your relatives. I respect other people’s right to choose their religion, but I am grateful to believe that families can be together forever. It’s a truth that is truly wonderful — our loving relationships continue after this life! — and also makes sense — why would you be punished for something you don’t remember? It is also a good warning — we will remember our lives on judgement day! A guilty conscience could be worse than fire and brimstone.
15 Do ye exercise faith in the redemption of him who created you? Do you look forward with an eye of faith, and view this mortal body raised in immortality, and this corruption raised in incorruption, to stand before God to be judged according to the deeds which have been done in the mortal body?
16 I say unto you, can you imagine to yourselves that ye hear the voice of the Lord, saying unto you, in that day: Come unto me ye blessed, for behold, your works have been the works of righteousness upon the face of the earth?
17 Or do ye imagine to yourselves that ye can lie unto the Lord in that day, and say—Lord, our works have been righteous works upon the face of the earth—and that he will save you?
18 Or otherwise, can ye imagine yourselves brought before the tribunal of God with your souls filled with guilt and remorse, having a remembrance of all your guilt, yea, a perfect remembrance of all your wickedness, yea, a remembrance that ye have set at defiance the commandments of God?
I would like to be the first person described, not the second!
A funny moment: I forgot to say that last Sunday I was asked to give a testimony at the last minute. I thought it went okay, but afterwards I found out that I had said I was glad to be in Carpina (a different area) instead of Candeias. You can learn the language but you can’t stop goofing up! Luckily there are worse errors that could be made. But it was funny, because I was trying to tell people how happy I was to be in their ward — except I said the wrong ward. Ooops!
Iara is still marked for baptism this Saturday! Yesterday we asked her how she was feeling about baptism, and she said she didn’t know if she wanted to change. I asked her what she was afraid of changing and she said she wasn’t sure she wanted to give up drinking on the weekends. We taught her the Word of Wisdom, and though she was initially unsure (why coffee?) she accepted! I love it when people start out the Word of Wisdom lesson totally taken aback (I love coffee! I will never give it up!) but say at the end that they will start living the Word of Wisdom from then on. She says she hasn’t received an answer yet about the Book of Mormon or Joseph Smith, but we are hopeful that she will be able to recognize God´s answers this week.
Isabella decided to go to the beach instead of going to church, but she also accepted the Word of Wisdom despite being initially against it, and she hasn’t drunk coffee since, so that was a good sign. The couple who are the parents of a missionary didn’t go to church last week, but we will visit them today. Hopefully we can figure out how to see them more frequently.
Funny language mistake: in Portuguese you have to use intonation when asking questions because the sentence structure doesn’t change, so if you don’t change your voice people will think it is a declaration rather than a question. Yesterday I was trying really hard to put this into practice and consequently wound up putting the emphasis on the wrong syllable — I asked a member if she had put pieces of poop in her cake! I meant to say coconut but it didn’t quite come out right!
It is still raining here. It is going to be a shock when summer comes. The temperature now is awesome.
I made Thai curry last week and it was awesome. Not as good as Thai Drift, but it still filled a curry-shaped hole in my heart!
I would like to send photos but now my sd adapter doesn’t want to work. 😦
Today we left our house at 8:30, went straight to the bus station to go the American consulate, and didn’t get back until 3:40! We spent a very long time in front of the American consulate waiting for Sister Sousa’s interview. She got approved! The hours in the rain were worth it. She is going to pick up her passport in ten days. Nothing happened with transfers–we’re going to stay here together. Consequently I am extremely curious about what will happen when she goes to the Missionary Training Center in Provo, Utah [before beginning the English-speaking portion of her mission in Edmonton, Canada]. But we don’t know what day that will be either. Lots of unknowns!
Arthur had a recaído [relapse] this week. Anyway, it was sad, because he smoked 10 cigarettes, and that made it hard for him the rest of the week. But he is still working hard, so here’s hoping everything works out. We also had trouble with contacts – we had a running joke this week that all the elect people in contacts turn out to be from Vasco. We had so many references for Vasco. We still haven’t passed them all on. We talk to people who are sitting on porches in the middle of a little neighborhood — and it turns out the person is visiting from a different city! Another reference. The running joke got a lot funnier on Sunday. We had a miracle: the server at the luncheonette where we ate lunch one day called us to confirm the Sacrament Meeting time. We had invited him to church and read a scripture with him — but he had to leave so it was really fast. He said he would go, but I have never once seen a street contact show up at church. I always hope they will show up, but it has never happened. But he showed up! All by himself! He said it was different but he liked it and wanted to learn more. But when we introduced him to the bishop, we found out that he was actually from Vasco! That was pretty funny. And a little sad. I have faith that one day the elders from Vasco will find us someone awesome!
Caroline and Luan are going to start the marriage process tomorrow! I am super excited. We have been having lots of trouble getting into their house to teach them, because they keep cancelling on us. But this is progress! Hopefully we manage to teach them this week. We met a number of good people in contacts last week that I am excited to teach this week.
This week it has been raining quite a lot. People had been telling us that it was the least rainy, hottest winter they’ve had here in a while. After this week, I´m not sure if that’s still true!
This week was good. We have one couple, Caroline and Luan,* who we are teaching. When we arrived in this area we were very confused because we couldn’t find Caroline’s teaching record. A teaching record is a form we fill out to say what we taught people. That way if both the missionaries get transferred, or if you can’t remember what you taught, you can look at the teaching record and see what’s already been taught. I turns out that she doesn’t have a teaching record because she’s never been taught! Her daughter was taught, and she had already been to church and knew the missionaries quite well, and had already reached the Isaiah sections in the Book of Mormon, so we thought she must have been taught something already. But it turns out that she had been drinking and smoking a lot– so much that she was too nervous to sit through a lesson. The Sisters tried to teach her but she would leave. But now she sits through lessons, listens, learns, and is reading the Book of Mormon a lot! She has been to church a total of three times. She wants to get baptized and understands the importance of faith, repentance, baptism, the Holy Ghost, etc. All without ever being taught!
Caroline also really wants to get married in order to keep God’s commandments and be baptized. And our ward is helping them out! They already went to the marriage office and things are progressing! I have taught lots of people who needed to get married before, but nothing really ever worked out. Her husband Luan could use some prayers that he can find work. He seems very driven — he is really working hard to find a steady job to support his family, but now he is just doing whatever odd job he can find.
One thing I would like to remember as an ex-missionary is the importance of loving and welcoming visitors. As a missionary I am definitely better at not unrighteously judging people and focusing on encouraging them in their successes. As a member who just sees a visitor or recent convert show up to church without knowing the backstory, it is sometimes easy to think judgmental thoughts about their behavior or dress or attitude. But as a missionary I am thrilled when people show up to church! Being a missionary has definitely helped me develop more charity and empathy for people. Our investigators are very rarely accustomed to the way church members act or dress (and frequently don’t have the resources to buy church-y clothes anyway), but that is normal. We are just so happy when they show up to church, because we know it will help them get closer to Christ. There is a huge difference between people who go to church and people we teach who never visit church. There have been a couple of times when members’ feathers got a bit ruffled because of someone’s odd behavior, or because a recent convert talked about a weakness they have. That is sad because it can make that person feel unwelcome and stop their forward progress. But the majority of members are very welcoming, and we appreciate all the people who visit investigators, give car rides, and help in other ways.
We are teaching another young woman, Viviane, who has been going to church for a year but hasn’t been baptized. Her mom doesn’t want to give permission. She could use prayers as well (and for us, so we can run into her mom and know how to help!).
Arthur is still struggling with cigarettes. He has made huge progress but the last cigarette is really hard to give up. But we have high hopes for this week!
Fun fact — a while ago I sent a picture of a caju fruit. This week I bought another one to eat. It was tasty . . . and burned the side of my mouth! The first time I ate one it burned my throat a bit. My companion said I needed to buy a sweeter one. This one seemed sweeter . . . until I noticed afterwards that my lips were a bit burnt! I am starting to wonder if I have some kind of weird allergy just to caju fruit. Other fun fact — cashews are taken individually from that weird thing on top of the caju fruit! Now I know why they are so expensive — they have to remove them one by one!
I have been studying the church´s Come, Follow Me manual. This year we are studying about the New Testament. This verse really touched me:
40 And to him they agreed: and when they had called the apostles, and beaten them, they commanded that they should not speak in the name of Jesus, and let them go.
41 And they departed from the presence of the council, rejoicing that they were counted worthy to suffer shame for his name.
Here Peter and John are arrested for preaching the gospel, told not to talk about Christ, beaten, and then let go. And what do they do? They rejoice in their sufferings . . . and continue preaching about Christ, because their allegiance to God is greater than their allegiance to man. I have known about Christian virtues all my life–if someone slaps you, turn the other cheek, trials help us grow, if someone makes you walk one mile with them, walk two, etc. — Sometime it is easy to get so used to hearing these things we don’t really think about them. It is really difficult to do these things! And are we doing them? I certainly am not yet on Peter and John’s level. I haven’t gone through anything anywhere near as difficult as they did, and yet I am not as Christlike as they were. Luckily, we have this scripture from the D&C (the Doctrine and Covenants are a book of scripture that has revelations from God given to modern prophets like Joseph Smith) to guide us:
13 Ye are not able to abide the presence of God now, neither the ministering of angels; wherefore, continue in patience until ye are perfected.
Repentance is not the backup plan, it is the plan!
Hope you all have a wonderful week.
*Investigators names are always changed to protect their privacy
This week was good. We managed to teach first lessons to more investigators this week and our church attendance was better than last week — São João winding down definitely helped. People celebrate São João the entire month of June. There are three different saints who have special days — Anthony, John and Peter. All three are celebrated — and people celebrate the day before as well as the day of and sometimes the day after! We really need to find more people to mark for baptism, but we are making plans for this week so hopefully that can happen. Arthur went almost four days without smoking! A miracle. Then he had some problems and his baptism didn’t work out, but we re-marked him for this Saturday.
On Saturday he was very different — he smoked three cigarettes and was depressed. He didn’t think he could manage to change. We tried all sorts of things to help him but it didn’t work very well. He was tired of not seeing his friends for a while and said he thought it would be a good idea to test himself by going to a party with lots of temptations and seeing if he broke commandments or not! He would go that evening after the ward June fest party. We were worried about the ward party, because as missionaries we couldn’t attend. We were worried he would be all alone — we asked members to stick with him but weren’t sure if it would work. But I was hoping and praying he would go to the ward party and then choose not to go to the other party afterwards. He went to the party and enjoyed it so much that everyone in the ward commented on how he enjoyed himself. Then he didn’t go to his friends’ party! Another miracle.
This week we had a little miracle in the middle of a not-very-productive contact. I thought the people didn’t look like people who would have a lot of potential but felt like we ought to talk to them anyway. They really didn’t have potential but in the middle of the contact, someone else walking down the street heard the contact. They asked us if we would visit them and said they had been looking for missionaries that could stop by! I am excited to visit them and our other contacts this week!
The other thing that happened this week was interviews. I thought that since we live in Recife we would waste a lot less time going to interviews than when I was in other areas. Turns out that that isn’t necessarily the case! We live much closer to the mission office, but there is so much traffic and the busses have very complicated routes sometimes, so even though we live in the same city and there were fewer people being interviewed (fewer opportunities for the interviews to run super late) we still ended up spending a looot of time not working that day— the whole day. But we did have time to do our studies and eat lunch and visit Arthur. I thought that it was pretty funny that it took so long even in Recife! But I don’t mind talking to the people at the mission office — they are all pretty great! I also spent a little longer there because I had to sign something to get my identity card to show that I’m here legally. It’s pretty funny — we went to the office one day the other week to do Sister Sousa’s paperwork. They forgot I had to sign my paperwork too, so we went back the next day. But the courier did the paperwork wrong, so I had to re-sign it during interviews! But I was already there for interviews so it didn’t take too much more time. It’s good I’m not still in Gravatá or Palmares! I don´t know if the missionaries there have to travel to the mission office to do this paperwork, but if so it must take a lot of time. We will probably have splits this week. That at least should be a lot less time consuming. It will be very strange to spend less than an hour going to another area instead of the four hours it takes from Palmares or two and a half from Gravatá!
Scripture thought — 1 Peter 1 is pretty awesome. I had heard parts of it before but read it more carefully recently:
3 Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, which according to his abundant mercy hath begotten us again unto a lively hope by the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead,
4 To an inheritance incorruptible, and undefiled, and that fadeth not away, reserved in heaven for you,
5 Who are kept by the power of God through faith unto salvation ready to be revealed in the last time.
6 Wherein ye greatly rejoice, though now for a season, if need be, ye are in heaviness through manifold temptations:
7 That the trial of your faith, being much more precious than of gold that perisheth, though it be tried with fire, might be found unto praise and honour and glory at the appearing of Jesus Christ:
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.
“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.
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.
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.
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!
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.
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!
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!