Monday, November 26, 2012

A Brazilian Thanksgiving!!

With the Petries in Sousa our Thanksgiving dinner (lunch) was pretty darn close to the real deal!  I was going to make home made rolls, but President and Sister Hall ended up coming to Sousa to do some training on Thanksgiving day, so I didn't have any time...darn, but Sister Petrie made some bomb mashed potatoes and gravy, a roast, pumpkin bars with cream cheese  frosting, AND real box brownies from the US!!  I've made some brownies while I've been here in Brazil, and I thought they were delicious, but when I put a bite of real brownies in my mouth I thought for sure I'd die of pure brownie goodness!  Since we had training with the Halls, our whole zone was together for our Thanksgiving meal, which made it all the more fun.  While we were washing dishes after the meal, all of the American missionaries started singing Christmas songs!  We're all feeling the holiday spirit, even if there isn't frost or snow.

Saturday was filled with craziness.  At 2:00 we had some men from the Branch show up to help us move apartments!  We just moved across the street, so it wasn't too complicated...but then again our new apartment is on the third floor, so those men got a good work out!  Sister East and I helped where we could, and stepped out of the way when our help didn't appear to be very helpful (heehee).  The difference between our old apartment and our new apartment is like the difference between a bitter carrot and a sweet carrot.  They're both the same thing, a missionary apartment, but one fills you with disappointment and disgust, and the other fills you with happiness and energy.  Even climbing the extra 3 flights of stairs is a bonus - more exercise!  No longer will Sister East and I return home at night to a dark, stuffy, apartment.  It's amazing how your environment truly effects how you feel.  These past few mornings I've woken up with a grin on my face and a ray of sun in my heart! 

We finished the move in two hours, and then Sister East and I headed to the Chapel to set up for our activity with the members.  We are doing a month long activity where each member will earn points for their organization when they do something to help missionary work.  For example, they earn points if they: bring a friend to church, bring a friend to an activity, give a reference to the missionaries, sit beside one of our investigators, go on splits with the missionaries, have FHE in their home and share a message, etc.  Our activity on Saturday was to get them excited about this competition.  We played a variety of games, and whoever won earned points for their organization.  I didn't know how this activity would work out, but Brazilians like a competition!  On Sunday we had a couple investigators at church, and I don't think a single meeting went by that a member wasn't sitting beside our investigators!  Then, in the morning as we were out passing by people's houses to take them to church, we passed by three of the young men from our Branch out trying to get their friends to come to church too!  haha!  I love it!!

I've been thinking a lot this week about our potential.  Often, we set limits for ourselves whether conciously or unconciously.  We look at other people and say that they are different, or the circumstances were different, and we can't accomplish the same things now.  However, that is not true.  Why can't we be as spiritually  powerful as Nephi or Moroni.  Why can't we be missionaries as effective as Alma and Ammon?  Why can't we raise children as firm as the Sons of Helaman?  Why can't we have wards and families as unified as the people of Enoch?  The only barrier we have is ourselves!  We can accomplish great things, we just need to believe - AND most importantly, trust in the Lord!!

Monday, November 19, 2012


I can't resist giving a shout out to my sister, Cassie, who just received her mission call to Fortaleza, Brazil!!!!!!!!  WOOOOOHOOOOOO  Missions are the BEST, but Brazil has a special place in my heart with cookies, ice cream, and everything else wonderful in life!!  

This morning, Sister East and I left our apartment at 10:30 to start our P-Day activities.  Before we can get out on the street, we have to unlock a big gate in front of our apartment.  The lock always gives us trouble, but today it was impossible!  We asked one of our neighbors to try and unlock the gate, but she couldn't.  We called the owner of the apartment, but he couldn't come until 1:00.  Sister East and I aren't the kind of people to just sit around, especially after a long week of missionary work.  One tiny little lock wasn't going to keep us prisioners in our own apartment.  We did a quick scout along the fence and found a spot that looked easy to climb up and over.  Then, with skirts and all, we pulled ourselves up and then jumped over!  Freedom!!!  The people of Sousa already think we're crazy for running every morning, so jumping over fences will just reaffirm to them our strangeness.  

As a missionary, I hear all kinds of excuses...all kinds!  Sometimes I get weary of hearing the excuses, and I just want to say, "só diga logo a verdade" (just tell us the truth!)  Yet, other times, the excuses can get pretty funny.  This past week, Sister East and I  were talking to three people.  Each of them lived in a different house.  We invited one of them to come to church and she replied that she couldn't because she would be moving houses on Sunday.  Tudo bem, on to the next person.  However, the next person replied that he would also be moving on Sunday (riiiiiiiiight *winky face*)  Sister East then turned to the third person and said, "and let me guess, you're going to be moving on Sunday, too?"  hahaha!  If you're going to make an excuse, at least make an effort to be original!

One of my favorite parts of serving a mission, is recognizing the countless miracles we are blessed with everyday.  Even a miracle as small as commenting to my companion that I would love a certain kind of juice, and then we show up at a member's house for lunch and they have made the exact juice that I was craving!  It's something small, but truly is a testimony ot me that Heavenly Father is aware of our lives to the tiniest detail.  He wants to bless us, strengthen us, and raise our spirits!  

I was studying this week in Alma about the antichrist, Korihor.  Korihor led away many Nephites to commit sins and lose their faith.  However, when Korihor tried to destory the testimonies of the people of Jershon and the people of Gideon he did not have any success.  What was the difference?  The people of Jershon and the people of Gideon didn't let Korihor stay among them and preach; they tied him up and threw him out!  We need to do the same thing with Satan in our lives.  Satan will try to enter our lives and our homes in whatever way possible; movies, internet, cell phones, TV, books, crazy schedules, pride, etc.  He will find our weak point and do what he can to tear us down.  Yet, we are more powerful than Satan.  We do not have to let him have success in our lives and homes.  We need to recognize the methods that Satan is using to weaken our testimonies, and then do as the people of Jershon and Gideon, 'tie it up, and throw it out'!!!  I know that this Gospel is true!  We have the power to choose eternal life and happiness!  Daily prayer and scripture study will strengthen our testimonies!!  Stay strong and keep enduring!

Monday, November 12, 2012

Brazilian Baking

I've been doing a lot more baking lately because I find great pleasure in taking cookies to members and watching them take that first bite into a chocolate chip, oatmeal, peanut butter cookie (I use some strange, but delicious peanut candy that is basically dried peanut butter to give my cookies a peanut butter taste).  I love watching as their faces transform and are filled with the joy that can only come from eating a chocolate chip, oatmeal, peanut butter cookie!!  Brazilians don't use measuring cups to cook, so I've developed the talent of 'eyeballing it'.  Surprisingly, I haven't ruined any recipes yet, I just have 20 different types of banana bread that all come from the same recipe!! heehee!

This past week, we had an appointment to teach a family that was a reference from a member.  During our planning the night before, Sister East and I decided to do some contacting in a neighborhood that was quite a long ways from our apartment.  As we were walking there, Sister East made the comment that perhaps our planning hadn't been that good because we were going to end up walking a lot for what appeared to be little success.  However, as we were nearing the neighborhood, we heard someone call out our names.  We turned around and saw the wife of the family we had marked to teach that night.  She told us that she had to pick up her son from a meeting and that she would be 30 minutes late for our appointment.  She then told us that she had found out about this meeting yesterday night, and was worried all day that she wouldn't be able to tell us about the change of times and that we would pass by and assume that she had forgotten.  A coincidence that Sister East and I planned to make contacts that neighborhood near this woman's work?...I think not!  Later that night, after we had taught our lesson, I was writing something in my planner when the husband asked me if he could see the picture that I had taped on the front of my planner.  It was the picture of Jesus stepping out of the tomb on the pass along cards.  The husband then told us that he had found a picture identical to this picture when he was in São Paulo.  He had brought the picture home with him and had put it on their refridgerator!  A coincidence that I chose to tape this picture to my planner, the same picture that this man had found in São Paulo?...I think not!  It is incredible to see how the Lord is guiding our lives!  As I thought about these experiences, I remembered a talk by Elder Bednar.  He made the comment that many people worry about the question, 'how can you know when the spirit is guiding you?'  His answer was, 'Stop worrying about it, and just be a good boy, or a good girl!'  It seems too simple, but it's true.  If we are being righteous and obedient, then the Lord is going to guide our lives.  We will be instruments in his hands to comfort those who are in need of comfort, to strengthen someone's faith, to answer someone's prayer, and to take the Gospel to all the world! 

Monday, November 5, 2012

November 5, 2012

During the past 7 months, I have worked with a lot of people who desire to change something in their lives -- improve a marriage, stop drinking, stop smoking, be more happy, etc.  It has been amazing to watch as some of these people have succeeded because of the Atonement of Jesus Christ and the application of Gospel principles.  For others, I have been saddened as I've watched them have success for a little while, but then give in to their old habits.  In my own life, I've noticed things about me that I desire to change as well.  I too have moments of strength when I'm doing everything right to help me make this permanent change and implement a correct principle in my life; yet, I also have moments when I give in to my old weaknesses.  So, what's the difference?  How can we make a permanent change in our life?  How can we come to the point where we can say, "because of the Spirit of the Lord Omnipotent, which has wrought a mighty change in us, or in our hearts, that we have no more disposition to do evil, but to do good continually!" (Mosiah 5:2) 

Developing Christ-like attributes and 'putting off the natural man' aren't easy things to accomplish.  Even Nephi exclaimed, "And why should I yield to sin, because of my flesh?  Yea, why should I give way to temptations, that the evil one have place in my heart to destroy my peace and afflict my soul?...Awake, my soul!  No longer droop in sin.  Rejoice, O my heart, and give place no more for the enemy of my soul!" (2 Nephi 4:27-28)  As Nephi declares, we too must have this determination to conquer the natural man and become more like our Savior.  These Christ-like attributes are gifts from God, and we can only develop these qualities through the power of the Atonement.  So, how to we apply the power of the Atonement into our lives?  The Book of Mormon teaches us three basic principles: scripture study, prayer, and fasting.  In Alma 17:2-3 we learn that the sons of Mosiah remained firm in the faith through diligent scripture study and much prayer and fasting.  Also, in Helaman 3:28-29,35, we are taught again that it is the 'word of God', or scripture study, that will help us combat the temptations of the devil, to fight against our old desires and habits.  Then, fasting and prayer will strengthen our faith and humility, ultimately purifying our hearts and helping us to put off the natural man and become Saints! 

Change isn't easy, but through the power of the Atonement, and through the application of the principles of the Gospel, it is possible!!  Our purpose in this life is to become like our Savior, "that when he shall appear we shall be like him, for we shall see him as he is; that we may have this hope; that we may be purified even as he is pure. Amen." (Moroni 7:48)  Let us each strive to apply the Atonement in our lives; diligently study the scriptures, fast and pray intently, and repent daily.  I know that each of us can have this mighty change of heart!  Each of us can receive the image of God in our countenances and truly become like our savior!

As I've probably mentioned before, there are a lot of wild dogs on the streets of Brazil.  Sister East and I have made it a game to give each dog a nick name as we walk by.  So far we've come up with names like, 'puddle-licker', 'fufu', 'dung beetle', etc.  We just say whatever is the first word that comes to our mind!  It's ridiculous, but it keeps us sane.  Another game that we like to play is when we ask people who would they like to pray.  Usually people don't like to pick and they say, 'tanto faz' (it doesn't matter), or, 'qualquer um' (whichever one).  These two phrases are so common for people to say to us, that Sister East decided to be 'qualquer um' and I am 'tanto faz'.  So, when we ask someone which of the two of us can pray and they say, 'oh, qualquer um', Sister East prays; and if they say, 'tanto faz', then I pray!  hahaha!  Oh the things we do to keep our lives from turning into humdrum, boring scum!