Thursday, September 20, 2012

Election Rallies...Brazilian Style

This week has been pretty exciting with the elections in Guarabira!  The actual day of voting is October 7th, but the people are already getting pumped up.  Every week, the two main candidates have one day where they can basically have a big party/riot in the streets to increase their number of supporters.  Friday night, the four of us missionaries had a family home evening activity at the church.  Sister Blanco and I brought four of our investigators (four kids 12, 11, 11, and 9), so naturally we needed to walk them back home after the activity.  It was just a normal walk on the streets of Guarabira until we turned a corner and saw a mass of people running through the streets!!  The four kids got really excited and started running too.  Luckily the Elders had come with us, so each of us grabbed a kid by the hand and merged in with the crazy, swarm of singing, shouting, jumping, running people in the street.  Mixed in with the crowd of people were the cars and trucks that blare their candidates music.  People were on the top of these cars singing and jumping as well.  It was quite the experience, and I was glad when we got the kids to their house safely.  Apparently the actual day of elections is even more wild!!  I can't wait!... 

The other week, I was thinking about the mission and how we really are in a war!   As missionaries, we are on the front lines of the battle.  We are literally fighting against Satan and 1/3 of the hosts of heaven!  (And for this reason I think the mission can be so bipolar as vezes.  One moment you couldn't be more happy, and the next moment you courldn't be more sad and discouraged.)  If the missionaries are the active troops in battle that means that the members are the reserve troops.  The members get called into active duty when we ask them to help us or they do member missionary work with friends and family members.  Then, the Lord's angels are our back up troops.  When we've done all we can on the front lines, but seem to be fighting a loosing battle, that's when we call in the reserve troops!  (in reality, the reserve troops are always fighting at our side)!  Yet, it gives me great courage and comfort to know that ultimately, this battle has already been won, through the Atonement of Jesus Christ.  As Shirley Temple would say, 'oh goody, we're on the winning team already!!'

Monday, September 10, 2012

Family Home Evenings in Brazil

Ramo Guarabira has some of the best family home evenings that I've participated in!!  Every Sunday, we all meet in a different members home. Someone teaches a lesson, we play a game, and then of course we eat food (it wouldn't be FHE without the treat)!!  Yesterday, we had FHE on a member's farm.  The Elders and Sister Blanco and I rode the 15 minutes out to the farm in the back of a member's truck!  Then, when we got to the farm they had wooden benches set up outside so that we could have the lesson outside!  It felt a lot like girls camp, and I had the urge to start singing camp songs...and I may or may not have actually sang a few! heehee ;)  As I was sitting on a wooden bench, surrounded by faithful Brazilian members, dogs curled up in the dirt at my side, and the dark nigh sky cheio de estrellas above my head, I couldn't help but realize how important these moments are.  We need to create positive experiences and spiritual moments for our children, for our families, and for our ward families.  It's those memories that are made with FHE, youth activities, ward activities, and other creative activies that we'll remember and will strengthen us when the going gets rough.  It's always worth the effort to create such spiritual and positive experiences to strengthen our testimonies and the testimonies of those we love!

As Sister Blanco and I were leaving an appointment this week, I made the comment, "the responsibility to save the souls of men is difficult when the souls of men don't want to be saved!" After I made this comment, I began to think about agency.  Satan promised that he would save every soul, but no one would have their agency to choose.  Helaman 14:30-31 talks about how we each have the power to choose, and that the Lord has given us the knowledge and the power.  But, many people in today's world "are kept from the truth because they know not where to find it" (D&C 123:12-16).  Our responsibility as members and missionaries, is to show people where they can find the truth.  Often, it takes more than one invitation to break through the clouds of confusion, deception, and life-long traditions, but by small and simple things the Lord bringeth to pass the salvation of many souls. An invitation as simple as coming to a church activity, or coming to a church meeting could be all that someone needs to find the truth!  Even if someone rejects your invitation, never stop inviting!  Sometimes it takes more than one invitation to break throught those clouds of darkness!  I know that this Gospel is true!!  The Lord is pouring out blessings upon us everyday.  He wants us to be happy and He wants us to be the best that we can be.  If we trust in Him, we will never go astray! 

Monday, September 3, 2012

Beans & Blessings

For some time now, I've been suffering from a bloated stomach every single day.  At first I fust figured it was the large quantity of food that we eat for lunch and then walking in the hot sun.  Yet, after I complained enough about 'just wanting to feel like a normal human being again' my companin told me to try and stop eating the beans during lunch.  This entire week I have only eaten rice, noodles, lettuce, and chicken.  Surprisingly, it worked!  I should have remembered that my stomach has a thing against beans after I went on a homemade refried bean kick and ate my own refried beans with tortillas everyday and just about destroyed my intestines...buuut I guess it takes me a few more bloated stomachs to learn that no matter how badly my head wants to love and eat beans, my stomach and intestines are not willing to make a compromise on this one! heehee

Question: How is it that my companion and I can find people at home, make an initial contact with them, and schedule a time to return and teach them more, but everytime we return we can never seem to find them at home again?'s strange how people's lives just all of sudden become so busy.  My favorite response is when a family member tells us, 'it was just good luck that you caught him home that one time because normally he's never home'...suuuuuuuuuurrrrrrrrrreee :)

Saturday had been a day full of these kinds of experiences.  All of our teaching appointments fell through and we had numerous rejections in our street contacting.  We had literally passed by the house of every possible investigator and walked the length of our whole area twice by the time it was
7:30.  At this point in the night, my companion and I had just left the house of an investiator who had made up some excuse not to talk to us, and we were aimlessly walking down the street.  Finally, I just stopped in the middle of the street and said, 'Sister, I don't know where we're going or what we're doing; can we say a prayer?'  We moved away from the center of the street and said a short prayer.  After the prayer we both scoped out our various options of streets, paying attention to how we felt as we looked in each direction.  Almost at the same exact moment, we both looked at the street in front of us and said, 'that way, we need to walk down that street.'  The feeling was so strong that we needed to go that direction, that I got shivers.  Someone who needed our message was waiting for us, and the Lord was going to lead us to them.  As we walked down the street, the member who was with us commented that a woman who came to our English class one time lived nearby.  We decided that it wouldn't hurt to pass by her home.  When we arrived, Sister Blanco and I recognized it as the home of a woman who we've tried to teach, but she works a lot and never came to church.  I almost didn't want to knock on the door, but as I looked through the window, I saw her husband sitting on the couch.  'We've never talked to him before', I thought.  The husband came to the door and started talking to us.  He was really unreceptive, and we were on the verge of just leaving when I decided to ask one more question, 'What importance does religion have in your life?'  He responded that he didn't think religion played a very big role in his life because it was too difficult to know which one was correct, and he felt deceived by all religions.  Needless to say, he let us in his house, and we continued talking.  As we listened and asked more questions, this man shared  with us his desires to follow the Savior, and his frustrations with how confusing religion is in today's world.  Sister Blanco and I both felt prompted to share the story of Joseph Smith's frustrations and search for the truth.  After we had recounted the whole story, the man asked with total sincerity, 'Do you think God would answer my prayer if I asked the same question?'  (It's so hard to stay cool, calm, and collected when you're actually teaching someone with desires to know the truth!  I can control my outside expressions, but on the inside you can bet there's a mini festa going on with a pinata and Forró music!!)  We left a Book of Mormon with him and the invitation to read and pray.  As we left, the man commented, 'who knows, maybe your lives are a part of the answer to my prayers.'  The first few moments after we left the man's home were silent, and then my companion asked, 'What just happened?'  I smiled and replied, 'A miracle!'  Like Nephi, we had been led by the spirit, not knowing beforehand where we should go, and because we followed the spirit, we were led to this man who was honestly seeking for the truth!!

As I've pondered the importance of baptism in our lives, I've come to realize that it is through baptism that we can 'apply the atoning blood of Christ' and 'become a saint through the Atonement of Jesus Christ.'  Our purpose in this life is to become like our Heavenly Father; to reach our full potentioal of becoming gods and goddesses.  Covenants (the first of these being baptism) are what help us to reach this potential.  When we make a covenant with God, we promise to either stop doing certain things or start doing certain things in order to live a higher standardç a more God-like standard.  The baptismal covenant is outlined in a variety of scriptures, Mosiah 5:2,5,8; Mosiah 18:8-10; and D&C
20:37.  Something that I found very interesting is that each of these scriptures mention something about enduring to the end.  When we are baptized, we promise the Lord that we will stick with Him through thick and thin, the good times and the bad times.  In return, the Lord promises to bless us with His spirit, the refining fire that will help us take those experiences in our lives and help us become more like our Savior.  The process of 'becoming a saint' won't be a ride through chocolate world, but if we stick with it to the very end the free chocolate (or eternal life and salvation) is a guarantee!!!  'I say unto you, he that should put his trust in the Lord, and should be diligent in keeping his commandments, and continue in the faith even unto the end of his life...I say, that this is the man who receiveth salvation.' (Mosiah 4:6-7)