The front gate clicked behind the 12 of us in our district. We stood there in front of the CTM confidently facing the streets of Sao Paulo. We'd been on these streets before, but this time was different -- this time we were armed with Book of Mormons and empowered by the command, "go preach the Gospel to the people of Sao Paulo!" My companion nad I hit the streets with the hope and prayer that we'd be able to communicate our message and understand the responses of the natives. We spoke to a lot of people and I could understand the general idea of what they said, and they could mostly understand me. However, our work was difficult because the majority of people we talked to already knew about the Church or already had a Book of Mormon (these streets get covered every week). We bore our testimony to every person, but after 2 hours and 45 minutes of no success, we were both becoming discouraged. We had about 5 minutes left and we were walking back to the CTM when a man stopped us by saying, 'voces sao missionarias?' He knew some things about the Church, but said he didn't have a Book of Mormon. I told him that we would like to give him the copy we had, and he accepted it!! As we walked away, I couldn't believe what had just happened. It felt so surreal. The whole three hours we had on the streets was certainly an interesting experience. At face value, it was exactly what it sounds like; walking the streets of Brazil, taking to people in Portuguese, and being pushed WAY out of my comfort zone. The black name tag doesn't make bearing my testimony to complete strangers any easier, but it makes it possible. Throughout the rest of the day, I continued to think about my experience and waht I could learn from it. Even though we had given away a Book of Mormon, I couldn't shake the feeling that the first 2 hours and 45 minutes had been a complete failure. It was kind of disheartening. I had always thought that missionary work was mroe rewarding... However, as I continued to contemplate my experience, the words of D&C 18:10 came to my mind (forgive me if it's not exact), "The worth of souls is great in the eyes of God -- and if it so be that ye shall bring save it be one soul unto me, how great shall be your joy with him in the kingdom of my Father!" This is missionary work -- difficult, discouraging, long days; multiple rejections; stretching way out of your comfort zone; continually bearing your testimony to people who maybe are secretly mocking you or who jsut don't care; a missionary does all of this, day in and day out, and for what!? -- The salvation of save it be only one soul!! Brothers and Sisters, the worth of every soul is great in the eyes of God! In your efforts to reach out to friends or family members, to remind them of God's love and the great importance of this Gospel in their lives, don't give up when it seems as though you are having no or very little success. You don't know what success you are having or what impact you are making. Teh Lord will bless your continued, faithful efforts and I testify that someday we will all see the fruits of our labors; and how great will be our joy in the kingdom of our Father!!
Next week at this time I will be in Joao Pessoa! Some things I will miss about the CTM: counting down the minutes until 9:30 every night when we have lanche and get to eat cake, going to the Sao Paulo Temple every Tuesday, joking and laughing with my district, learning from my amazing teachers, and being constantly surrounded by wonderful missionaries!! Some things about the CTM that I might miss, but only a baby bit...going to madatory choir practice before every devotional where the entire CTM prepares to sing a song to maybe 6 people on the stand (if we're lucky), eating lunch and dinner 3 hours apart everyday and feeling like that bear in 'The Lorax' looks when he's stuffing sticks of butter down his throat, and not knowing whetherthe dessert at lunch and dinner is edible or even organic for that matter (I never eat it...that's how bad it is!)!
As the time draws near for my departure to the mission field, I find myself asking the question, "Do I feel prepared?" Well, let me describe to you how I feel. I feel as though I've spent 6 weeks swimming laps in an indoor swimming pool preparing myself to swim across the English Channel! haha :) So yes, I'm prepared; prepared to swallow a lot of water, fight frightening waves, use every different stroke I know just to keep my head above water, and trust that when I just can't go on anymore, the Lord will be there right beside me as my life boat, to strengthen me and to give me the courage to go on.