Wednesday, June 27, 2012


My first transfers were today.  It is expected that for the first 2 or 3 transfers you will stay with your trainer, learning the language, learning how to teach, and just accustomating to missionary work.  So, my trainer and I were quite sure that nothing would happen in our apartment for this transfer, especially since this is her very last transfer before she goes home.  We were so certain of this that we had even planned out what we wanted to do for our next 6 P-Days in her final transfer.  Imagine our surprise when the Elders called us last night and told us that Sister Araújo was being transferred to Mossoró and I was being transferred to Guarabira!  It is strange to just pack up and leave all our investigators and especially Orlanda.  Sister Araújo and I hadn't officially said goodbye to anyone because we figured that we would be staying...what a strange feeling to realize how much I had grown to care about these people in such a short time and now I will probably never see them again, but I guess this sort of thing happens a lot on the mission.  It just made me realize the importance of not waiting until 'tomorrow' to do what you can do 'today'.

Natal was a wonderful city to begin my mission.  The ward was warm and welcoming.  The days were hot, windy, and rainy; and the açaí was cheap!  The rainy days were some of my favorite because we always got the best responses from people when we would knock/clap at their houses.  *Picture this*  Two sister missionaries standing in the rain in front of a house, skirts soaked, wind blowing.  Person pokes their head out the window, 'Quem é?'  Missionaries respond, 'Somos missionárias, podemos entrar e fazer um oração com sua família?'  Person looks at us for a moment and then makes this remarkable statement, 'It's raining."  No, you don't say! -- And we're standing out in it!  hahahah!  Good times in Natal. As we made contacts with numerous people everyday, it was incredible to see how the Lord provided countless opportunities for His children to accept the Gospel.  Everyone we spoke to either already had a Book of Mormon, lived near a chapel, had family or friends that were members, had already had the missionaries in their home, or had heard about the Church in someway.  What was sad, was that even with so many contacts with the Gospel these people still couldn't recognize the need for it in their lives.  We entered the home of one family whose son was a member of the Church, served a mission in São Paulo, and had married a returned missionary in the temple.  This family had also had the missionaries in their home every Wednesday for quite some time in the past.  We taught them a brief lesson and invited them to come to church this Sunday, but sadly they rejected the offer once more.  The Lord never gives up on us.  He is constantly working in our lives, standing at our door knocking -- but do we take the time to recognize His influence in our life; do we take the time to answer the door?  Another man who we came into contact could recognize the Lord's hand in his life.  Sister Araújo and I first made a contact with his grandson.  When we returned to teach the grandson, we ended up teaching his son.  Then, when we returned to follow up with his son we found him, Iran!  We spoke with him for a short while and invited him to come to church with us on Sunday.  He came and loved it!  He said that he felt much lighter and happier after attending our church.  We immediately began teaching him and invited him to be baptized the following Sunday!  Just like Orlanda, he immediately became enthralled with the Book of Mormon.  Everything we taught him made sense to him and he easily accepted the commitments we extended.  After one lesson he made the comment, 'you came here to teach my son and grandson, but I was really the one who needed to hear your message."  It was incredible to watch as the Gospel light filled Iran's soul and began to bring a joy and peace into his life that he hadn't had for a long time.  The Gospel is true!  The Gospel has the power to change your life, but you have to choose to let it.  I testify that the Lord is working in our lives everyday.  He is guiding us and blessing us; let us not be blind and deaf to His influence in our life, but rather let us open the door wide for His power and mercy that will bring us a peace and happiness we never imagined was possible!

Monday, June 18, 2012

After the Manner of Happiness

We (the four sisters who work in the Ponta Negra area) had three baptisms scheduled for this Sunday.  The other two sisters had a teenage boy and a middle aged man, and we had our dear Orlanda.  Naturally, nothing went as planned!  Saturday night, we received a call saying that a Bishop in one of the wards in our Stake had passed away and that the viewing would be tomorrow morning.  Therefore, ALL church meetings were canceled for the morning, but sacrament meeting would be rescheduled for 5:00 pm.  Our baptisms were going to take place at 12:00 after the original meetings, but now they would have to happen at 6:00 pm.  The four of us sisters spent the morning running around to our different investigators that we had invited to Church and our three investigators that were going to be baptized, and informed them of the changes.  Thankfully, all three were fine with the changes and at 6:00 we had a marvelous baptismal service! 

I had never witnessed a 79 year old woman being baptized before, and to be quite honest I was terrified that something catastrophic might occur.  One brother who was already in the baptismal font helped Orlanda down the steps.  Then, I turned to our Bishop, who was also dressed in white to baptize the young teenager, and asked, "are you going to help Orlanda too?"  He replied, "No, I'm going to start praying!"  He then bowed his head right then and started praying silently to himself!  hahaha!  Believe me, I was praying too!  Everything went smoothly for Orlanda, and she came out of the font just beaming with joy!  When I asked her if she was happy, she replied that I didn't even know how happy she was at that moment!  It truly is miraculous to see the joy that the Gospel brings into our lives.  Everyday I have the opportunity to interact with a variety of different people.  All of them have one thing in common; all want to have peace and happiness in this life - but unfortunately very few know where to find this true happiness.  In 2 Nephi
2:25 we learn that the purpose of this life is for us to have joy.  Adam didn't fall so that we could all come to this earth and suffer and be miserable!  So then why do so many people suffer?  How can we have true happiness despite the fact that we live in a fallen world?  The answer is simple - through the Gospel of Jesus Christ!  We have the power to 'choose liberty and eternal life through the great Mediator of all men'.  We have the opportunity to apply the atoning blood of Christ in our lives that we may receive a forgiveness of our sins and that our hearts may be purified!  And, as King Benjamin so beautifully put it, "and moreover, I would desire that ye should consider on the blessed and happy state of those that keep the commandments of God.  For behold, they are blessed in all things, both temporal and spiritual; and if they hold out faithful to the end they are received into heaven, that thereby they may dwell with God in a state of neverending happiness!" (Mosiah 2:41)  We may not be able to control the world around us, but we always have the power to 'act for ourselves and not to be acted upon.'  By keeping the commandments and living faithful to the covenants that we have made with the Lord, we will be able to truly 'live after the manner of happiness' - true happiness - the kind of happiness that makes a 79 year old women as giddy and animated as an 8 year old girl!

Tuesday, June 12, 2012

The Lord's Elect!

A friend of mine who is also serving in Brazil right now wrote this to me, "The people who have been prepared by the Lord to receive you will be truly interested in the Book of Mormon.  Some will be absolutely captivated by it.  These are the elect of the Lord."  This past week we have been teaching Orlanda, the elderly woman who we found through a man who was painting her home.  From the moment we gave her the Book of Mormon, she has been truly captivated by it!  One day we showed up to teach and she told us that she had spent the whole day reading!  This 79 year old daughter of God is incredible!  We teach her a new principle and then ask her if she will commit to live it and she replies "com certeza!"  One night, she commented to us that she remembered her father telling her about 'another Bible'.  She also told us that she remembered him telling her stories that were very similar to the ones that she was now reading in the Book of Mormon!  Wow!  As soon as Orlanda is baptized this Sunday, my companion and I will begin to teach her about geneology and how she can start preparing names in her family to have their work done for them.  I'm sure she has a lot of family anxiously waiting to receive the Gospel.

During lunch with some members, the wife commented on how strong I looked and then the husband told my companion that she had better be careful.  I replied that I wouldn't kill a fly.  The wife looked at me and said, "you wouldn't have to kill the fly, it'd die of fright first!" hahaha!  As with most things in my life, I don't like to do things at a 'normal level'; the more adrenaline, the better!  Of course, a mission has it's limits, but I've figured out how to take a normal street contact to the next level of excitement!  A normal street contact consists of talking about the person's family, the Book of Mormon, and the living prophets.  Preach My Gospel suggested that we can make a street contact using any principle of the Gospel and than refer it quickly back to the Restoration in some way.  I decided that I wanted to try making a street contact using the word of wisdom.  Here is how it companion and I were walking down the street and I saw a man who was smoking approaching us.  I thought to myself, 'now here is someone who could really benefit from the principles found within the word of wisdom.'  We approached him and I said, "Hello, we're missionaries and we teach people about the Gospel of Jesus Christ that was restored throught a living prophet.  One of the truths that we received through this prophet is called the Word of Wisdom, which teaches us how we can take care of our bodies.  What things are you doing now to keep your body healthy?" (at this point I'm sweating buckets and the adrenaline is pumping)  He said something about exercising (I think) and then I replied, "perfect, that is good for your body, but we also need to not drink, do drugs, drink coffee, and not smoke" (at this point I gestured to his cigarette that he was holding and become even slightly more nervous, but continued to smile confidently at him).  He replied that he knew smoking was bad for him and that he had tried to stop, but that it was difficult.  We asked him if he still had the desire to stop and that we would be willing to help him.  Unfortunately, he didn't have the desire to stop...but we did our part.  Besides street contacts, we also 'bate porta', which is either clapping at someone's gate in front of their house or ringing their buzzer/intercome on the outside of their gate.  The Elder's in our district told us to simply tell the people that we are missionaries and then ask if we can come in and offer a prayer for their family.  It's amazing, but 50-75% of the time it works and we get in!  It's still weird to walk into the home of a complete stranger and start talking to them like you've known them forever, but the people here have the gift of gab, so all we have to do is ask a good question and then they'll start talking (sometimes so much we can't get them to stop)!  However, I read a great quote in Preach My Gospel that helps me to feel less weird.  "Missionary work is but home teaching to those who are not now members of the Church, and home teaching is nothing more or less than missionary work to Church members."  Basically, I am a full-time visting teacher right now!  Thinking of missionary work like visiting teaching somehow makes it seem less scary.  These people are just normal people, with normal families, with normal lives and challenges, and the same need to be nurished by the word of God.  Likewise, when we switch it around and remember, 'every member a missionary' it's easy to see that Home Teaching and Visiting teaching truly are magnificent ways that members can be missionaries.  Home Teaching and Visiting Teaching are so essential to this Gospel!  We don't need to make our HT or VT into some huge, complicated project; simply serve and simply love.  We all need to be constantly lifted and encouraged by the word of God and by the testimonies of others.  When we sacrifice just a small portion of our time to serve others the blessings we receive will be far greater than the blessings we impart to others. 

Monday, June 4, 2012

The Painter

As my sister Janette mentioned in one of her letters, a mission is 90% awkward and 10% miracle.  Hahahaha!  I have never said so many prayers on the street with strangers before in my life!  One day, we were saying a prayer with a man and his neighbor yelled out, 'bon dia'.  Right in the middle of our prayer the guy yelled back, 'bon dia, tudo bem!?' haha!  Another time, we were teaching a family and after our lesson we invited the father to say the prayer.  While he was praying, his mother and sister started making suggestions for things he should pray for.  It was a fun little group prayer, everyone contributing! heehee! Oh gosh, you gotta love the awkwardness. 

Sunday is certainly a 'day of rest' for the Brazilians.  Everyone is sitting outside or lounging in hammocks with the best chillin', beach party music (think Colbie Calliet 'Brighter than the Sun' type of music) blaring from their houses or cars!  It takes all the self-control that I have to not grab my own hammock and enjoy the Sunday afternoon under the sun!  After a lunch of rice, beans, spaghetti, and some sort of casserole or potato salad it's hard to stay awake in those first few hours in the afternoon.  (but I'm grateful that I have the whole rest of the day to walk off the calories!)

Saturday night my companion and I witness the 10% part of a mission that's a miracle!  All week long, we had endured rejections, false addresses, and no progressing investigators.  It was
6:00 at night and we were walking through a neighborhood where we had spoken to a guy who was a painter for a family who lived there.  We had give the guy a pamphlet about the restoration and had come back once to see if we could teach him, but since he didn't actually live at the house, it was kind of difficult.  As we walked by the house, my companion and I decided to try talking to him one more time.  We buzzed the intercom and a woman's voice asked us what we wanted.  We replied that we were looking for José.  After a few moments, the metal gate slid open and the light from the garage flooded out onto the street.  Standing in the driveway was a very elderly woman.  We introduced ourselves and asked again if José was there.  She simply replied, 'come closer'.  My companion and I stepped through the entryway and approached the woman.  She then motioned for us to come into her house.  As we sat down, she began to tell us that she had been reading her scriptures and praying when we rang the bell.  She then got chocked up and started to cry.  She related to us that her husband had passed away some years ago, and she missed him immensely.  I looked into her eyes and bore my testimony that I knew she would be able to see her husband again and that she would live with him and her family again one day.  As I bore my testimony, I could feel the spirit so strongly I almost started to cry.  The elderly woman got up after I finished talking and walked back to her room.  When she returned, she was holding the pamphlet about the Restoration that we had given the painter who works in her home!  She told us that she had read the pamphlet and believed that it was true!  We didn't have a lot of time to visit with her because we had another appointment at 7:00, but we briefly reviewed the pamphlet with her, invited her to come to church the next day, and committed her to be baptized!  It was incredible!  As we left her home, I thought back on the night when we had first contacted the painter.  He was the only man in the street, and I almost passed him by, but felt that I should stop and talk to him.  When I learned that he didn't even live in that house I didn't understand why I would've felt the need to stop and talk to him when we would probably never have the chance to teach him.  Yet, now I could look back on all those tiny steps and see how the Lord was preparing the way for this elderly woman to receive the Gospel!  I want to bear testimony that I KNOW our Heavenly Father is in control!  When your life feels like all you're doing is sporadically slopping paint onto a canvas with no purpose or direction, remember who is guiding the paint to fall exactly where it should.  'Consider the lilies of the field, how they grow.'  God in all His infinite power cares for and nurtures even such an infinitesimal creation as the lilies of the field -- How much more do you think that He cares for you and guides your life, you who are His child!  As a friend of mine said, 'you can't see the whole picture now, and every brush stroke you make may seem dull and worthless, but be not weary in well doing, for you are laying the foundation of a great work!'