Saturday, October 5, 2013
Sunday, September 22, 2013
You know you’ve just gotten back from a mission in Brazil when eating American food gives you diarrhea, and not ‘feijao e arroz’; when 50 degree weather makes your teeth chatter; when you eat more than the guy who took you out on a date; when you accidentally throw Portuguese words like ‘também’, ‘vixe’, and ‘acho’ into your normal conversations; when you wear high heels for the first time after 18 months and just about break your foot; and when you receive 2 hugs throughout the day and feel that you were hug deprived! It’s interesting how much a person can change in such a short time. I know I’ll adjust, but I can’t help but feel a bit like a stranger on these Rexburg streets. As I walk around campus, wheezing because of the high altitude and cold, I can’t help but think to myself, “I’m not a Rexburgian, sou Paraibana!!” Yet, whether it be on the streets of Brazil or the sidewalks of Rexburg, the adventures keep coming and the life lessons keep multiplying!
My first Sunday home was fantastic! Even though I had a short time before I headed back out to school, I had time to visit my home ward. After Sacrament meeting, my Mom asked me if I would like to join her down in the primary. I happily accepted, not only to spend more of my meager ration of time with her, but also to enjoy the spontaneity of the primary children! At one point, the chorister asked the young children to introduce themselves to her. One girl raised her hand and said, “My name is Amanda, or Mandy, but I prefer to be called Amanda.” At this point, another girl sitting two chairs over, looked at ‘Amanda’ with horror in her eyes and exclaimed, “What?! You mean you don’t want me to call you ‘Mandy’?!” hahaha It’s always rough when the ‘best friend’ doesn’t get the memo on the latest name change.
Monday I flew out to school, and by Tuesday what had been my ‘life’ and ‘soul’ only a week ago (a missionary in Brazil), suddenly seemed to be but a dream. The life of a college student; classes, homework, studying, reading, work, and social life, gave me no mercy and jumped right into ‘advanced mode!’ The already hectic schedule is great for me; I have no time to think, I just kind of walk around in a daze from class to homework to work to apt, and repeat! It’s pretty much the best! My first day of work, I happened to be wearing a skirt because later that afternoon there was a campus Devotional and I wanted to be dressed up. While my new boss was training me, he stopped for a second, looked down at my skirt and said, “and just for the future, you should know that this job requires you to NOT wear a skirt!” My whole soul screamed, “wooohoooo”, and I smiled and said; “now that’s my kind of job!” Blessings from a mission, right! Not only do I have an awesome job, but it also doesn’t require a skirt!!
As I was studying my scriptures this week, I came across the story of the Anti-Nephi-Lehi’s and their resolve to bury their weapons of war to keep themselves unspotted from sin and firm in their resolve to follow Christ. Alma 24:18-19 states, “And this they did, it being in their view a testimony to God, and also to men, that they never would use weapons again for the shedding of man’s blood; and this they did, vouching and covenanting with God, that rather than shed the blood of their brethren they give up their own lives…and thus we see that, when these Lamanites were brought to believe and to know the truth, they were firm…” These Lamanites experienced a ‘change of heart’. They were truly converted, and resolved to remain so, come what may. They also understood, that this change that they had experienced would require sacrifices, courage, and diligence to maintain. Each of us has experienced a change within us. We too have also had experiences when we have become truly converted in some aspect of the Gospel. What have we resolved to do about our personal conversion? Can it be said about us, “When (insert name) was brought to believe and to know the truth, they were firm?” Maintaining our personal conversion will never be easy. It will require sacrifices, courage, and diligence, but if we resolve to be true to our personal conversion, like these faithful Lamanites, our posterity and we will be greatly blessed.
Monday, September 2, 2013
As I enter the week of 'lasts', I savor each tiny moment, smell, sound, feeling, and view; placing them securly in my memory to last for a life time. The small girls playing in front of their home, but randomly running out to hug my companion and I as we pass by. The smell of fresh fruit and vegetables as we walk pass an open market while picking up investigators on a Sunday morning. The lively forró playing loudly from the back of a car parked in the street. The love that sweeps over me as I stare out at all the members of the Bessa ward as I direct the music on Sunday. And, the sun setting behind a scene of magestic palm trees and a row of red tiled homes, lining a cobble stone street where a man returning home from work passes by on his bicycle. All these memories, and many many more, have been engraved upon my heart and will stay with me for eternity.
Monday, August 26, 2013
It was a raining, somewhat dreary day, when Sister Johnson and I were on splits. We were meandering down the cobblestone streets, catching up on the happenings of the last few months apart, and at the same time keeping an eye out for people to contact on the street. Because of the rain, there was no one on the street to contact. Naturally, the ruckus in a nearby home drew our attention. We looked at one another and instinctively headed to the front door to clap. After a few awkward moments, a young girl came to the door, took one look at us, and yelled back into the house, "As mulheres da igreja dos Mórmons estão aqui" Sister Johnson and I looked at one another a bit surprised becuase I had never knocked on this door before, much less, walked on that street. We entered the home and began to talk to the family. Come to find out, we had 'accidentally' knocked on the door of the mother-in-law and sister-in-law of a member in our ward! The Elders had taught them in the past, but the timing hadn't been right, and the family wasn't baptized. We invited them to come to church with us, and they all accepted! These past few weeks, Sister Meireles and I have been teaching this family. The mother-in-law is a woman in about her 60´s, but with more spunk and fire than most woman in their 20's! First Sunday she came to church, it was raining, but she came! She was also the first one to accept a specific date to be baptized. We tried for a week to mark a specific date for her daughter, but she was a bit more stubborn. Finally, yesterday, we stopped by to give it another shot. At one point in the lesson we were talking about how the Lord blesses us in things both temporally and spiritually. I asked a question, "what do we need to do in order to receive these blessings?" I was expecting someone to say, "keep the commandmandments", which would then lead us into talking about baptism, but our awesome investigator surprised us all with her ready response, "we need to be baptized!" I loved it!!! We didn't even have to practice ahead of time to have her say exactly what her daughter needed to her, she was perfect!! To sum it all up, we were able to mark a specific baptism date for her daughter! wooohoooo!!
I love the Gospel! I love serving a mission! I know that we are blessed as we strive to keep the commandments and remain true to the faith!
Tuesday, August 20, 2013
Sometimes you have normal weeks, and sometimes you have weeks when you end up standing in the middle of a dirt road wondering what in the world just happened. Yesterday, my companion and I left early to stop by the house of one of our investigators to take him to church. When we got to his home, he told us that he had invited one of his friends. We of course were super excited - the more the merrier!! After about 40 minutes of walking, we arrived in the road of the Church. All of a sudden, I looked back and saw our investigator walking the other direction. I shouted back at him to see what he was doing. He replied that he needed to relieve himself, and disappeared in the brush behind a building. The rest of us stopped in the street and waited for him. As the time continued to pass with no sign of our investigator, we all began to wonder if our fellow church-goer was having some kind of difficulty. So, his friend whom he had invited, said that he would go check on our investigator. When he arrived at the point where our investigator had disappeared into the brush behind the building, he looked back at us and made a gesture that clearly dictated that our investigator had literally disappeared! The friend returned to us and said, "He is gone, let's go on." We continued to the church, but when we were about to walk in the door, the friend stopped me and said, "What exactly is going on." I looked at him a bit confused and began to explain about the different classes that he would assist in the Church. He became somewhat frustrated and then said, "no, my friend told me that I was coming with him today to take some measurements in the church from some kind of work you guys are needing." My companion and I looked at each other, smiled awkwardly, and replied, "well, it appears as if your friend missinformed you, but why don't you stay to assist the meetings anyway!" He replied that he had a lot of work to do, and headed off down the street. This was the point where my companion and I found ourselves staring down the dirt road, wondering what in the world had just happened. What a bunch of crazy men!
On Wednesday, we had our Sister Leaders come to do splits with us. Sister Johnson and Sister Britez are our Sister Leaders, so naturally, Sister Johnson did splits with me. Since we are both down for a good adventure, we headed off down a random dirt road that I had never walked on before. As we made contacts, we ended up meeting a woman who told us that she knew of a family that had been baptized in our church. She gave us the usual Brazilian directions - walk of this hill, take a left, pass a bunch of storehouses, and they live in the first, white villa on your left! As much as the directions don't seem to make sense when you are listening to them, they always get you to the right place! We found this less active family, and began to talk to them. They still have strong testimonies of the Church, but the husband became super sick awhile back, and couldn't walk to church. However, their daughter who is 9 years old now, wasn't baptized when the parents were baptized. We asked them if they would like their daughter to be baptized, and they replied that they would! Amazing how the Lord can direct us to a family hidden out in the middle of no where!
Another exciting adventure that happened this week was during a normal 1st lesson. Around the corner of the house, there was a dog that was barking like crazy. All of a sudden, a chicken came flying in between us squaking and making all kinds of ruckus. Not 1 second afterwards, here comes the dog, barking and chasing after the chicken!!! hahaha Good times in Brazil!!
Tuesday, August 13, 2013
This week has been an incredible week of finding people that the Lord has prepared to receive our message. Our finding experiences weren't anything out of the ordinary; a man sitting outside of his home on a street that I had passed by almost everyday for a month and felt like I had already talked to everyone on that street, but felt the prompting to stop and talk to him - now he and his wife are seriously investigating the church; a woman passing by on the street that appeared to be someone that would just argue with us or be rude, but I felt the need to stop her and invite her to our English class -- now she is attending our English class and shared with us that she doesn't have a religion; another woman on a bicycle waiting for her son to come out of the school, and the prompting to stop and talk to her even though we were on our way to an appointment -- later we found out that she had received a Book of Mormon many years ago (7-8) and occasionally reads it; a man with a tatoo and earring sitting on the curb -- told us that he had participated a lot in the Church (and had two Books of Mormon in his home), but was never baptized; these simple experiences, and many others are a testimony to me that Heavenly Father knows His children, and He knows when they are ready to receive the Gospel. We just need to have the faith that we will be led to these people and be given what we need to say.
Another thought that I had this week was about the power of prayer. In 2 Nephi 32, there is a verse that says that the Devil teaches a man that he must not pray. As I have talked with various people on the streets, I am amazed at some of their responses. When we tell them that they need to pray and ask God if our message is true, they tell us that it is more important to read the Bible and trust in 'the word' and that prayer is not important. Truly, the Devil teaches a man that he must not pray, and I can see it happening first hand! We are children of an all-knowing and all-powerful God, and He wants to hear from us!
Monday, August 5, 2013
This week was crazy. Since Sister Meireles and I switched areas with Sister Wofley and Sister Villena, I took one day showing Sister Wofley around her new area. I already knew the streets in my new area from the time that I spent with Sister De Paula working in both areas. Sister Meireles and I also did a lot still to help with the 3 baptisms in our old area and to keep the one baptism in our new area firm for Sunday as well. Thursday and Friday we checked up on everyone and all was good for the interviews on Saturday. Of course, it is a rare baptism that everything goes smoothly. Yet, the four of us Sisters did a group fast to be more in tune with the spirit to know how to help our investigators, and to bless our investigators to have the courage and strength to follow through with their baptisms. Saturday, the four of us showed up at the church for the first interview, but our first investigator wasn't there. I called her and she said that she was buying groceries in the Center. Five minutes later she called back and said that she was sick and going to the hospital. I looked at Sister Meireles and said, "Let's go get her!" (I can't tell you how many times I have heard the excuse that a person is sick just because they want to get out of doing something. Sunday morning is incredible how many people have dor da barriga, dor da dente, dor da cabeça, dor no pé, etc. Em fim, I didn't believe that our investigator was truly sick, so we headed off, speed walking the 40 minutes to her home) When we got to her house, she truly wasn't home. At this point, I knew that there was nothing that we could do except for rely on the Lord. We said a quick pray asking that our investigator would show up to the church on her own, and that she would show up before the Elders had to return to their area. After the pray, we took off again to get another investigator. This time, we didn't have any trouble finding our investigator at home, but on the way to the church she shared with us some doubts that she had about being baptized so soon after starting to get to know the church. (This was the young woman that we had gotten the mom's signature on Tuesday night) Once more, the Lord helped Sister Meireles and I say what this young woman needed to feel more at peace with her baptism. The coolest part, was when the young woman said, "All that really matters is my faith, right? If I have enough faith, then it doesn't matter if I don't know everything right now. I remember reading something about that in the Book of Mormon!" YES!!! The Book of Mormon is true!!! While this young woman was in her interview, who showed up but our investigator who had called and said that she was sick. She walked in the door of the church, and I immediately started playing some sweet 'entrance' music for her because we were all super excited that she had actually made it! Sunday, all four were baptized!!!!
This week, in our District meeting, our District leader shared the story of when Jesus Christ called Peter, James, and John (fishermen) to follow him. As the verses say, these men left their work, left their father, and immediately followed Christ. Jesus Christ didn't spend 30 minutes teaching them who He was or why they should follow Him, He simply called, and they recognized His voice and had the courage to leave all that they had to follow. The Lord is preparing His children to receive His Gospel so that when He calls (through His servants - missionaries and others), they will recognize His voice and be willing and ready to follow. I also thought of how this story can apply in our own lives. How long do we wait to follow a prompting from the Spirit, or to obey a commandment from the Lord? Are we willing to immediately leave behind the things of the world to follow our Savior? I know that as we do all in our power to follow our Savior we will be blessed to learn and grow beyond our limited expectations.