Tuesday, April 24, 2012


Sometimes I don't know if the strange things I see in São Paulo are because I'm in Brazil or because this is the first time I've 'lived' in a huge city for any length of time.  Traffic on the freeway is in a perpetual state of 'rush hour' traffic, backed up and slowly crawling from exit to exit.  The 'smart' Brazilians buy motorcycles so that they can weave in and out of the stopped cars and zip to their destinations.  The motorcyclists seem to have their own rules of the road.  Any piece of road unoccupied by a car is classified as a 'motorcycle lane'.  Estão louco!!  On P-Day we get to leave the CTM and walk around the part of São Paulo that is close to the CTM.  None of the shops have doors.  They only have three walls and then are completely open to the street.  At night they simply pull down a gate to lock their shop.  Anyway, last P-Day a few of the Elders in my district and I wanted to buy a Brazilian fruit smoothie.  One of the Elders wanted a pineapple smoothie, but didn't pronounciate the word properly and ended up ording an Abacate (avocado) smoothie instead of an Abacaxí (pineapple) smoothie! hahahah!  We all had a good laugh about that...except for the Elder with the Avocado smoothie! heehee
Every devotional we have is either translated into Portuguese or translated into English (the spanish speakers can understand the Portuguese pretty well).  Whenever we have a Brazilian speaker, I try to race the translator to see if I can understand what was said in Portuguese before I hear the translation!  It's a fun game and helps to keep me awake...most of the time anyway... ;)  Yesterday we had the opportunity to hear from Elder Cook!  Before he spoke, he shook every missionary's hand!  It was incredible to watch as the Brazilian and Hispanic missionaries shook Elder Cook's hand.  Many of them have only been members for a few years and the majority of them have never met an apostle of the Lord before and probably won't ever have an experience like this again.  The spirit was so strong!!  At the end of his talk, Elder Cook gave all the missionaries in the CTM (about 250) a remarkable promise.  He promised us that if we served a valiant and honorable mission every person in our life now and in the future would be blessed in someway!  I could only imagine what that promise meant to some of those missionaries who I knew were the only members of the Church in their families! 
In a recent devotional given by the mission President of the Interlogos mission, I was reminded of the magnitude of my call as a full-time missionary for the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.  The president stood for a moment in silence and then with a penetrating look said, "you Elders and Sisters are called to represent a God!  Think about it!  Everyday, you carry around the Savior's name on your shirt.  Do your actions, thoughts, and words epitomize a representative of a God?!"  His words had a powerful effect on me, and it somewhat intimidated me to realize the immense trust my Heavenly Father was putting in me to represent Him well.  As I thought more about this grand responsibility, I realized that full-time missionaries are not the only ones who 'take the Lord's name upon them' and become representatives for Him.  Every member of the Church who has been baptized has covenanted to 'take upon them the name of Jesus Christ, to have a determination to serve him to the end, and to truly manifest by their works that they have received the Spirit of Christ' (D&C 20:37).  Each of us - whether we are a full-time missionary, a mother, a student, an employee, a father, a sunday school teacher, a neighbor, whatever role we are currently fulfilling - each of us has covenanted to stand as witnesses of God at all times and in all things and in all places!!! (Mosiah 18:8-10)  We have covenanted to be representatives of God!!  What an incredible responsibility and opportunity we have to live a higher standard and to conduct our lives in such a way that those who see us will have no doubt that we are indeed representatives of our God, Heavenly Father, and His Son, Jesus Christ!!

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

Loving and Learning

Well, the word on the street is that I'll be getting a companion tomorrow!!! (ps - little side note - translating english lang into Portuguese doesn't usually convey the same meaning...hahaha!) I'm excited to be getting a companion, but after two weeks of being a solo sister it might take a little adjusting too...but I'm way stoked to start teaching with her! On Saturday we had our first TRC (I have no idea what that stands for...). The CTM brings in some members from the Sao Paulo area and then we get to teach them using what little Portuguese we know! I'm sure we sound ridiculous, but it was fun to talk with the members and practice teaching. I have A LOT to learn.

All three of my Brazilian roommates left for the mission field this morning. Two are going to Floranopolis and one is going to Sao Paulo Norte (this sister lives in Natal...which is part of my mission! I'm hoping that I will get to meet her family when I'm up there)! I will miss themm and their friendship immensely! They've been so patient with me and my terrible Portuguese. Last night, they told me that they all wanted to say a prayer in english because I had said all of my prayers with them in Portuguese. So, I taught them how to pray in English and then they all said a prayer in English and I of course said a prayer in Portuguese. It was a neat experience and made me really feel of their love for me! My favorite time of the day is 9:30-10:30 at night when I'm with my roommates and we have these fun, goofy conversations where we try to understand eachother usuing as much Portuguese and English that we can all understand between the four of us! I've also decided that Sundays are my most favorite day of the week. It's a nice break from my normal routine AND I can spend as much time as I want talking to people during lunch, migrating from table to table without worrying about being late to a class! (which I won't lie, happens quite a bit...they run a tight schedule here at the CTM...)

I don't know how it happens, but one week goes by like a day and yet feels like a lifetime! For various reasons, this past week was extremely difficult for me - the main reason being that I was frustrated that it was my 2nd week in the CTM and I still couldn't speak or understand Portuguese very well! (don't judge, I know I'm being impractical...heehee) Everyday I'd think to myself, "I know the Gospel very well and I know how to teach it, but I just can't do it in Portuguese!" Ahhhhh! However, as I contemplated my current situatino one evening, I realized that I had to stop thinking about what I couldn't do and start thinking about what abilities I could develop from this challenge. I realized that my personal experience here at the CTM was vastly different from a Brazilian Sister who already spoke Portuguese and only needed to be at the CTM for three weeks. The lessons she would learn during her time at the CTM would be vastly different than the lessons I would learn -- and I realized that this difference was very important. Whenever I would feel discouraged or frustrated, I began to look for the lessons I could learn from my situation. Here are a few of them!

First, kindness can be understood in all languages. Even though I can hardly communicate with the other Brazilian missionaries, I have been able to develop such strong friendships with them. A hug, a smile, a laugh, and a simple attempt to say something in Portuguese instantly breaks the language barrier and we can both understand the universal language of love. Never underestimate the power a simple gesture of kindness can have! Second, I've learned that to teach simply is to teach powerfully. I don't have the extensive vocabulary in Portuguese that I have in English to explain certain Gospel principles...BUT I have enought! My inability to say everything that I want to say in teaching me to rely more on allowing the true teacher, the Holy Ghost, to teach for me. Third, I am learning to trust and rely more in my Savior. I REALLY can't do this on my own! We will each have times in our lives when our patience and faith will be tried. We must always remember, though, that it is in life's most difficult moments when we have the greatest opportunities to accomplish things we've never done before! No, it't not easy, but the Lord has promised us that if we put our trust in him and continue in the faith, we will experience miracles in our lives. No matter your challenges, NEVER give up...NEVER!!!

Sunday, April 15, 2012

Sao Paulo Brazil, Not Shippensburg

Transcription of Courtney’s first letter from Brazil, probably written April 4, 2012.

Title: São Paulo, Brazil (not Shippensburg)

Oí Mão e Pai! (Hello, Mom and Dad)

I guess mail gets to the MTC much quicker than we expected. So, you can post this address on the board at church if you want.

Sister Courtney Lynnette Fernelius

Box #25 District #14-A Brazil MTC

Brazil João Pessoa Mission

Rua Padre Antonio D’Angelo, 121

Casa Verde, São Paulo, SP

Brazil 02516-040

And it sounds like I’ll be in the CTM for 6 weeks—the original length of time was 9 weeks…so minus 3…anyway it’ll still go by fast. As I was going through customs the lady asked me in Portuguese how long I was going to be in Brazil. I stood there stunned for awhile and then stammered, “Repita”. She asked again and I replied, “Dezioto meses.” (I had just learned numbers on the plane! hee, hee. It’s basically nothing, but I COMMUNICATED!!) Then, when all of us missionaries were standing around waiting for others to exchange their money, I walked over to the Brazilian who had been helping us out and said, “Vocé é com aeropuerto ou a igreja?” (Are you with the airport or the church?) Who knows if my grammar was correct, but he understood enough to say, “a igreja”! ha ha ha J He probably spoke English, but we left before I could ask him that in Portuguese! I really don’t know much, but babies don’t know how to say much either and they still talk—Besides, how can I share this powerful message with these wonderful people if I can’t speak their language?! Yes, the Lord uses all kinds of ways, but I WILL be speaking Portuguese in 4 months at the longest! (Goal #1J) Four other sisters ended up joining me on the flight; none going to João Pessoa. The total of missionaries traveling together was 25! The power of those elders was tremendous!! Talking to them, hearing their testimonies, feeling their excitement, and already seeing their devotion to the work was incredible. Sister missionaries have power, but elders have a sacred obligation and a duty to their priesthood—and when they act upon it and live up to their divine inheritance, their power is remarkableJ!! Three other elders are going to João Pessoa! The night plane ride felt like sleeping in a pop up camper with someone walking around all night rocking the thing back and forth—it was fantastic!...We didn’t even get to take showers when we got to the CTM! We all look great---greasy faces, greasy hair, smelly clothes…BRING IT ON BRAZIL!

Con amor,


Wednesday, April 11, 2012

The Power of Love

I LOVE Brazil! i alrady have 4 mosquito bites, i'm railey ever not sweating, i finally know how to take a luke cold shower instead of a freezing one, i got to bed every night to a chorus of dogs barking below my window, i haven't developed a taste for rice and beans, i'm in a constant state of exhaustion...AND i couln't be more happy!!! i'm a missionary for the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day saints serving the Lord and the people of Brazil! Esta muito bem!!!!
the ver first night i got to the CTM i was unpacking my bags when my roommates came in. they greeted me excitedly and i quickly found out that they were all Brazilians and could speak about as much english as i could portuguese! however, with my spanish background and the little bit of portuguese study that i had done before coming to Brazil i was able to speak enough portuguese to communicate with them. as we were kneeling down for roommate prayer that night, a cockroach cam curring out from under one of the beds! all three of my roommates started screaming and stomping at it to try and kill it! i just stood there and calmly watched - i swear it had som orange color on its back! hahaha - that cockroach probably just wanted to welcome me to Brazil! my roommates asked me if i knew how to pray in portuguese and i was happy to inform them that i could!! i was a little nervous and messed up a ton, but after i said, amem, my roommates were all like, ahhhh - i won't lie, i kind of felt like a 2-year old who had just prayed for the first time!! heehee, but i liked it! speaking portugues that first night broke the ice for me and made me even more determind to learn portuguese as quickly as i could. the CTM president on the first day encouraged us to sit with the brazilian missionaries to practice our portuguese and to learn from them. i started doing this immediately, even before i had my first official portuguese class. i began by eating breakfast, lunch, and lanche (snack) with the brazilians and dinner with my district of elders. by sunday i was eating all of my meals with brazilians!!! i can't say or understand a lot, but what i can is enough. i try, and the brazilians love me for it. yesterday a whole table of missionaries shouted excitedly at me when i came into the cafeteria! haha! i could feel the love! i spend 7 hours a day in class learning portugues, but my real learning comes during the random moments when i talk to my brazilian roommates, eat meals with brazilian missionaries, or talk with brazilians in the hallway! the only thing that i can't stand is that there is hardly enough time to talk portuguese AND eat during a meal! haha! the brazilians that i talk to have all been very impressed with how well i can speak and understand already. one elder told me that most americans can't speak as good as me until after 4 weeks of beign in the CTM!! another told me that i didn't even have an american accet! the elders in my district call me 'the wonder kid'! haha! the brazilian CTM also teaches portuguese to missionaries who are from hispanic countries but have been called to Brazilian missions. on thursday we got a bunch of issioanries from argentin, bolivi, and chile!! i sat beside a ssiter from chile and during our conversation we spoke 3 languages - english, spanish, and portuguese! it was AWESOME!!!
one night, i was feeling a little lonely (i don't have a companion yet, and i'm the only sister in my district with 8 other elders...and yes, this means i spend about 8-9 hours everyday with the same 8 elders...then, on top of this my roommates don't speak english, so i was feeling a lack of that necessary time every girl needs to simply talk with another girl)! anyway, as i was heading to my room for the night, i stopped to talk with a brazilian sister missionary who had arrived on thursday. i asked her where she was from and she said, salvador. i then asked her if she knew a Sis Petty. she got super excited and pulled out a picture of her with Sis Petty!!! i literally almost started crying it made me so happy to know that this brazilian sister knew and loved the same person that i knew and loved!! it was definitely a tender mercy there have been many times this week that the Lord has blessed me with small tender mercies that make all the difference in my day. i know that the Lord is aware of each of us and that if we look for His hand in our lives we will see it!
saturday night, all of the sister missionaries (about 30) crammed together in one of the rooms to take a picture and then to say a prayer. a brazilian sister said the prayer in portuguese, then a sister from one of the hispanic countries said a prayer in spanish, and fianlly an american sister said a prayer in english! the spirit was intense in that room and you could really feel the love that we all had fro each other. we may all come from different countries and speak different languages, but we are united in our love for the Gospel, our love for each other, and our love for our purpose - MISSIONARY WORK!!!!

Sunday, April 1, 2012

A Challenge to Become

Tomorrow I will be set apart as a missionary for the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. However, I will not become a missionary when I pin the tag that bears the name of the Church and my own name to my shirt Monday night. Becoming a missionary requires much more than a white envelope with a call or a tag pinned to my shirt. Becoming a missionary is something we each began when we first started building and strengthening our testimonies of the Gospel, and is a process that should continue throughout the rest of our lives!

As heirs to the Abrahamic covenant, each one of us has the divine responsibility to become missionaries and to carry forth this great and marvelous work! Elder Bednar described how we can each become missionaries; he said, “You can increase in your desire to serve God and you can begin to think as missionaries think, to read what missionaries read, to pray as missionaries pray, and to feel what missionaries feel. You can avoid the worldly influences that cause the Holy Ghost to withdraw, and you can grow in confidence in recognizing and responding to spiritual promptings.”

I testify that each one of us have been called to this great and marvelous work! No matter what stage of life we are in or what our circumstances are, we can each become missionaries and join the Lord’s army in bringing His restored Gospel to all the world! Missionary work is not simply an activity in which we engage for a limited time or an assignment we must complete as members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. Rather, missionary work is a manifestation of our spiritual identity and heritage. We were foreordained in the premortal existence and born into mortality to fulfill the covenant and promise God made to Abraham. We are here upon the earth at this time to magnify the priesthood and to preach the gospel. That is who we are, and that is why we are here—today and always…we have been prepared for this day to build up the kingdom of God. We are here upon the earth now to assist in this glorious work!!

As I depart for a full-time mission in João Pessoa, Brazil, I would challenge my friends and family to look for areas in their lives where they can become a missionary and take part in this GREAT AND MARVELOUS WORK!!!!