Saturday, October 5, 2013
Sunday, September 22, 2013
You know you’ve just gotten back from a mission in Brazil when eating American food gives you diarrhea, and not ‘feijao e arroz’; when 50 degree weather makes your teeth chatter; when you eat more than the guy who took you out on a date; when you accidentally throw Portuguese words like ‘também’, ‘vixe’, and ‘acho’ into your normal conversations; when you wear high heels for the first time after 18 months and just about break your foot; and when you receive 2 hugs throughout the day and feel that you were hug deprived! It’s interesting how much a person can change in such a short time. I know I’ll adjust, but I can’t help but feel a bit like a stranger on these Rexburg streets. As I walk around campus, wheezing because of the high altitude and cold, I can’t help but think to myself, “I’m not a Rexburgian, sou Paraibana!!” Yet, whether it be on the streets of Brazil or the sidewalks of Rexburg, the adventures keep coming and the life lessons keep multiplying!
My first Sunday home was fantastic! Even though I had a short time before I headed back out to school, I had time to visit my home ward. After Sacrament meeting, my Mom asked me if I would like to join her down in the primary. I happily accepted, not only to spend more of my meager ration of time with her, but also to enjoy the spontaneity of the primary children! At one point, the chorister asked the young children to introduce themselves to her. One girl raised her hand and said, “My name is Amanda, or Mandy, but I prefer to be called Amanda.” At this point, another girl sitting two chairs over, looked at ‘Amanda’ with horror in her eyes and exclaimed, “What?! You mean you don’t want me to call you ‘Mandy’?!” hahaha It’s always rough when the ‘best friend’ doesn’t get the memo on the latest name change.
Monday I flew out to school, and by Tuesday what had been my ‘life’ and ‘soul’ only a week ago (a missionary in Brazil), suddenly seemed to be but a dream. The life of a college student; classes, homework, studying, reading, work, and social life, gave me no mercy and jumped right into ‘advanced mode!’ The already hectic schedule is great for me; I have no time to think, I just kind of walk around in a daze from class to homework to work to apt, and repeat! It’s pretty much the best! My first day of work, I happened to be wearing a skirt because later that afternoon there was a campus Devotional and I wanted to be dressed up. While my new boss was training me, he stopped for a second, looked down at my skirt and said, “and just for the future, you should know that this job requires you to NOT wear a skirt!” My whole soul screamed, “wooohoooo”, and I smiled and said; “now that’s my kind of job!” Blessings from a mission, right! Not only do I have an awesome job, but it also doesn’t require a skirt!!
As I was studying my scriptures this week, I came across the story of the Anti-Nephi-Lehi’s and their resolve to bury their weapons of war to keep themselves unspotted from sin and firm in their resolve to follow Christ. Alma 24:18-19 states, “And this they did, it being in their view a testimony to God, and also to men, that they never would use weapons again for the shedding of man’s blood; and this they did, vouching and covenanting with God, that rather than shed the blood of their brethren they give up their own lives…and thus we see that, when these Lamanites were brought to believe and to know the truth, they were firm…” These Lamanites experienced a ‘change of heart’. They were truly converted, and resolved to remain so, come what may. They also understood, that this change that they had experienced would require sacrifices, courage, and diligence to maintain. Each of us has experienced a change within us. We too have also had experiences when we have become truly converted in some aspect of the Gospel. What have we resolved to do about our personal conversion? Can it be said about us, “When (insert name) was brought to believe and to know the truth, they were firm?” Maintaining our personal conversion will never be easy. It will require sacrifices, courage, and diligence, but if we resolve to be true to our personal conversion, like these faithful Lamanites, our posterity and we will be greatly blessed.
Monday, September 2, 2013
As I enter the week of 'lasts', I savor each tiny moment, smell, sound, feeling, and view; placing them securly in my memory to last for a life time. The small girls playing in front of their home, but randomly running out to hug my companion and I as we pass by. The smell of fresh fruit and vegetables as we walk pass an open market while picking up investigators on a Sunday morning. The lively forró playing loudly from the back of a car parked in the street. The love that sweeps over me as I stare out at all the members of the Bessa ward as I direct the music on Sunday. And, the sun setting behind a scene of magestic palm trees and a row of red tiled homes, lining a cobble stone street where a man returning home from work passes by on his bicycle. All these memories, and many many more, have been engraved upon my heart and will stay with me for eternity.
Monday, August 26, 2013
It was a raining, somewhat dreary day, when Sister Johnson and I were on splits. We were meandering down the cobblestone streets, catching up on the happenings of the last few months apart, and at the same time keeping an eye out for people to contact on the street. Because of the rain, there was no one on the street to contact. Naturally, the ruckus in a nearby home drew our attention. We looked at one another and instinctively headed to the front door to clap. After a few awkward moments, a young girl came to the door, took one look at us, and yelled back into the house, "As mulheres da igreja dos Mórmons estão aqui" Sister Johnson and I looked at one another a bit surprised becuase I had never knocked on this door before, much less, walked on that street. We entered the home and began to talk to the family. Come to find out, we had 'accidentally' knocked on the door of the mother-in-law and sister-in-law of a member in our ward! The Elders had taught them in the past, but the timing hadn't been right, and the family wasn't baptized. We invited them to come to church with us, and they all accepted! These past few weeks, Sister Meireles and I have been teaching this family. The mother-in-law is a woman in about her 60´s, but with more spunk and fire than most woman in their 20's! First Sunday she came to church, it was raining, but she came! She was also the first one to accept a specific date to be baptized. We tried for a week to mark a specific date for her daughter, but she was a bit more stubborn. Finally, yesterday, we stopped by to give it another shot. At one point in the lesson we were talking about how the Lord blesses us in things both temporally and spiritually. I asked a question, "what do we need to do in order to receive these blessings?" I was expecting someone to say, "keep the commandmandments", which would then lead us into talking about baptism, but our awesome investigator surprised us all with her ready response, "we need to be baptized!" I loved it!!! We didn't even have to practice ahead of time to have her say exactly what her daughter needed to her, she was perfect!! To sum it all up, we were able to mark a specific baptism date for her daughter! wooohoooo!!
I love the Gospel! I love serving a mission! I know that we are blessed as we strive to keep the commandments and remain true to the faith!
Tuesday, August 20, 2013
Sometimes you have normal weeks, and sometimes you have weeks when you end up standing in the middle of a dirt road wondering what in the world just happened. Yesterday, my companion and I left early to stop by the house of one of our investigators to take him to church. When we got to his home, he told us that he had invited one of his friends. We of course were super excited - the more the merrier!! After about 40 minutes of walking, we arrived in the road of the Church. All of a sudden, I looked back and saw our investigator walking the other direction. I shouted back at him to see what he was doing. He replied that he needed to relieve himself, and disappeared in the brush behind a building. The rest of us stopped in the street and waited for him. As the time continued to pass with no sign of our investigator, we all began to wonder if our fellow church-goer was having some kind of difficulty. So, his friend whom he had invited, said that he would go check on our investigator. When he arrived at the point where our investigator had disappeared into the brush behind the building, he looked back at us and made a gesture that clearly dictated that our investigator had literally disappeared! The friend returned to us and said, "He is gone, let's go on." We continued to the church, but when we were about to walk in the door, the friend stopped me and said, "What exactly is going on." I looked at him a bit confused and began to explain about the different classes that he would assist in the Church. He became somewhat frustrated and then said, "no, my friend told me that I was coming with him today to take some measurements in the church from some kind of work you guys are needing." My companion and I looked at each other, smiled awkwardly, and replied, "well, it appears as if your friend missinformed you, but why don't you stay to assist the meetings anyway!" He replied that he had a lot of work to do, and headed off down the street. This was the point where my companion and I found ourselves staring down the dirt road, wondering what in the world had just happened. What a bunch of crazy men!
On Wednesday, we had our Sister Leaders come to do splits with us. Sister Johnson and Sister Britez are our Sister Leaders, so naturally, Sister Johnson did splits with me. Since we are both down for a good adventure, we headed off down a random dirt road that I had never walked on before. As we made contacts, we ended up meeting a woman who told us that she knew of a family that had been baptized in our church. She gave us the usual Brazilian directions - walk of this hill, take a left, pass a bunch of storehouses, and they live in the first, white villa on your left! As much as the directions don't seem to make sense when you are listening to them, they always get you to the right place! We found this less active family, and began to talk to them. They still have strong testimonies of the Church, but the husband became super sick awhile back, and couldn't walk to church. However, their daughter who is 9 years old now, wasn't baptized when the parents were baptized. We asked them if they would like their daughter to be baptized, and they replied that they would! Amazing how the Lord can direct us to a family hidden out in the middle of no where!
Another exciting adventure that happened this week was during a normal 1st lesson. Around the corner of the house, there was a dog that was barking like crazy. All of a sudden, a chicken came flying in between us squaking and making all kinds of ruckus. Not 1 second afterwards, here comes the dog, barking and chasing after the chicken!!! hahaha Good times in Brazil!!
Tuesday, August 13, 2013
This week has been an incredible week of finding people that the Lord has prepared to receive our message. Our finding experiences weren't anything out of the ordinary; a man sitting outside of his home on a street that I had passed by almost everyday for a month and felt like I had already talked to everyone on that street, but felt the prompting to stop and talk to him - now he and his wife are seriously investigating the church; a woman passing by on the street that appeared to be someone that would just argue with us or be rude, but I felt the need to stop her and invite her to our English class -- now she is attending our English class and shared with us that she doesn't have a religion; another woman on a bicycle waiting for her son to come out of the school, and the prompting to stop and talk to her even though we were on our way to an appointment -- later we found out that she had received a Book of Mormon many years ago (7-8) and occasionally reads it; a man with a tatoo and earring sitting on the curb -- told us that he had participated a lot in the Church (and had two Books of Mormon in his home), but was never baptized; these simple experiences, and many others are a testimony to me that Heavenly Father knows His children, and He knows when they are ready to receive the Gospel. We just need to have the faith that we will be led to these people and be given what we need to say.
Another thought that I had this week was about the power of prayer. In 2 Nephi 32, there is a verse that says that the Devil teaches a man that he must not pray. As I have talked with various people on the streets, I am amazed at some of their responses. When we tell them that they need to pray and ask God if our message is true, they tell us that it is more important to read the Bible and trust in 'the word' and that prayer is not important. Truly, the Devil teaches a man that he must not pray, and I can see it happening first hand! We are children of an all-knowing and all-powerful God, and He wants to hear from us!
Monday, August 5, 2013
This week was crazy. Since Sister Meireles and I switched areas with Sister Wofley and Sister Villena, I took one day showing Sister Wofley around her new area. I already knew the streets in my new area from the time that I spent with Sister De Paula working in both areas. Sister Meireles and I also did a lot still to help with the 3 baptisms in our old area and to keep the one baptism in our new area firm for Sunday as well. Thursday and Friday we checked up on everyone and all was good for the interviews on Saturday. Of course, it is a rare baptism that everything goes smoothly. Yet, the four of us Sisters did a group fast to be more in tune with the spirit to know how to help our investigators, and to bless our investigators to have the courage and strength to follow through with their baptisms. Saturday, the four of us showed up at the church for the first interview, but our first investigator wasn't there. I called her and she said that she was buying groceries in the Center. Five minutes later she called back and said that she was sick and going to the hospital. I looked at Sister Meireles and said, "Let's go get her!" (I can't tell you how many times I have heard the excuse that a person is sick just because they want to get out of doing something. Sunday morning is incredible how many people have dor da barriga, dor da dente, dor da cabeça, dor no pé, etc. Em fim, I didn't believe that our investigator was truly sick, so we headed off, speed walking the 40 minutes to her home) When we got to her house, she truly wasn't home. At this point, I knew that there was nothing that we could do except for rely on the Lord. We said a quick pray asking that our investigator would show up to the church on her own, and that she would show up before the Elders had to return to their area. After the pray, we took off again to get another investigator. This time, we didn't have any trouble finding our investigator at home, but on the way to the church she shared with us some doubts that she had about being baptized so soon after starting to get to know the church. (This was the young woman that we had gotten the mom's signature on Tuesday night) Once more, the Lord helped Sister Meireles and I say what this young woman needed to feel more at peace with her baptism. The coolest part, was when the young woman said, "All that really matters is my faith, right? If I have enough faith, then it doesn't matter if I don't know everything right now. I remember reading something about that in the Book of Mormon!" YES!!! The Book of Mormon is true!!! While this young woman was in her interview, who showed up but our investigator who had called and said that she was sick. She walked in the door of the church, and I immediately started playing some sweet 'entrance' music for her because we were all super excited that she had actually made it! Sunday, all four were baptized!!!!
This week, in our District meeting, our District leader shared the story of when Jesus Christ called Peter, James, and John (fishermen) to follow him. As the verses say, these men left their work, left their father, and immediately followed Christ. Jesus Christ didn't spend 30 minutes teaching them who He was or why they should follow Him, He simply called, and they recognized His voice and had the courage to leave all that they had to follow. The Lord is preparing His children to receive His Gospel so that when He calls (through His servants - missionaries and others), they will recognize His voice and be willing and ready to follow. I also thought of how this story can apply in our own lives. How long do we wait to follow a prompting from the Spirit, or to obey a commandment from the Lord? Are we willing to immediately leave behind the things of the world to follow our Savior? I know that as we do all in our power to follow our Savior we will be blessed to learn and grow beyond our limited expectations.
Thursday, August 1, 2013
The purpose of a missionary is incredibly significant - to invite others to come unto Christ by helping them to receive the restored Gospel through faith in Jesus Christ and His Atonement, repentence, baptism by immersion, receive the Gift of the Holy Ghost, and endure to the end. Yet, there are times, when all your appointments fall through, few people are on the streets, and the few that are there don't want to listen, and no one answers their doors; that you feel like you are doing nothing as a missionary, just wandering the streets without purpose or direction. However, I have come to learn that whenever we are on the Lord's mission, we always have purpose and direction, we just might not recognize it until afterwards. For example, one day a member in our ward gave us a bunch of corn. My companion and I knew that we wouldn't be able to eat it all, so we decided to take some to our investigator. We both thought that corn was a strange gift to give, but figured that it couldn't hurt. When we handed our investigator the bag of corn, she looked at us a little astonished and said, "How did you guys know that I love corn?!" Another time, an investigator that had committed to be baptized needed to travel to the 'interior' to visit her brother that had become suddenly ill. She told us that she didn't know when she would return, but that she would call us as soon as she got back. During the week, we tried calling her, but the call kept falling through. Without even putting much thought into it, my companion and I decided to pass by on a certain day that week to talk with her sister to see if she knew when she would return. When we arrived at her home, there was our investigator sitting on the couch. She had arrived the night before, and had tried to get in contact with us, but hadn't been able to. Once more, we received the astonished question, "How did you know that I got back last night?" The Lord is aware of every one of His children and their needs. It doesn't matter if it is a simple act of kindness, or a small teaching or testimony that we share with someone on the street, Heavenly Father has a purpose for everything. Sometimes, we are the only people that can pass a certain message for someone in the exact moment when they need it. Perhaps that person will never visit the church, or accept our visits, but because we stopped to talk to them and share with them our testimonies, we had the opportunity to be the Lord's mouth and hands to bless the life of one of His children.
Yesterday, Sister Wofley and Sister De Paula (the two other sisters that live with Sister Meireles and I in Bessa) went to the chapel in Manaira to receive training and then to pick up their 'daughters' (new missionaries that were entering the field). However, Sister Wofley and Sister De Paula had marked a baptism for that very night. Not only would they be in Bessa to make sure that the baptism actually took place, but they hadn't been able to get the signature of the mother of the young woman that would be baptized. Sister Wofley asked Sister Meireles and I if we could just pass by the home of this young woman and try and get the mother to sign and remark the baptism for Sunday. When Sister Meireles and I passed by, the mother received us well, but told us that it was much to early for her daughter to be baptized, and that she wanted her daughter to continue to visit the church and in about 6 months or a year, then she could be baptized. I began to talk with her, asking questions, and teaching her about the importance of baptism, all with the hope that she would have a change of heart and give her permission for her daughter to be baptized. After we conversed, I asked her, "if your daughter expresses her desire to be baptized and shares with you that she truly received an answer to her prayer that this was the right path to follow, will you give your permission for her to be baptized?" The mother replied that she would. I didn't want to leave the house without the mother's signature because I knew how much Sister Wofley and Sister De Paula had gone through to get to this point, and I knew that it would be much easier for Sister Wofley and her new companion to return with everything resolved. Yet, after waiting, and waiting, the daughter never showed up. We ended up asking the mother if we could return at around 8:30 at night to see what they had decided and to get her signature. She replied that we could. At 8:30, we returned, this time it was the daughter who had some doubts and concerns about her baptism. With a lot of silent prayers, and questions, we were able to reanimate this young woman about her baptism and resolve her doubts. Even though we had to walk to whole way home in rain, we walked with smiles on our faces and the mother's signature safely in my bag! This night happened to be the night of transfers. Sister Meireles and I both figured that nothing would happen, so you can imagine our surprise with the phone rang and the Elder said, "There will be only a small change in Bessa. You and Sister Meireles are working in Bessa 1, right? Well, President wants you and Sister Meireles to switch with Sister Wofley and her companion." As I hung up the phone, I began to think, 'imagine if Sister Meireles and I hadn't fought for Sister Wofley's baptism. Imagine if we had selfishly shrugged it off and said, 'it's not our area, not our baptism; we'll just let Sister Wofley worry about it!" Last night I learned an important lesson, the Lord's work is a group effort! The success of one companionship is the success of all! We are all in this together! When we put aside our selfishness and do everything we can to build and lift others, helping them to have success and reach their potential, everyone is blessed! I love this Gospel! I know that our Heavenly Father is aware of each one of us and that He loves us more than we know!
Thursday, July 25, 2013
This week, my companion and I planned a great FHE with our recent convert, Pedro, and his family. We are trying to help his wife have more spiritual experiences so that she will have the desire to come to church with Pedro and start receiving the lessons. We gave a terrific lesson about eternal marriage and the importance of the family. It was touching to watch the 7 year old daughter of Pedro say the opening prayer with Pedro helping along when she needed it. I can't describe how much I love this family! After the lesson, Pedro and his wife invited us to stay and eat dinner with them. As we finished eating, we began to converse about the strange animals and insects that we had seen in the Paraiba. I told a story about being in someone's home when a scorpion came out from under the sofa and the member grabbed a book and smashed the scorpion. A few minutes later, Pedro pointed to the sofa where Sister Meireles and I were sitting and said with complete calmness, "barata". I figured that he was just joking with us because we were talking about insects and he wanted to startle us. I hardly believed I would see a 'barata' at my side when I looked down, but I decided to check just to make sure. I only needed less then a second to see the barata, register in my mind that Pedro was not joking, and leap of the sofa and to the other side of the room! Sister Meireles still thought that all of us were joking until the barata began to crawl up her back! hahaha! I was glad that I was on the other side of the room! hehe Em fim, we all laughed for awhile after Pedro's wife saved Sister Meireles from the barata on her back!
Monday, July 15, 2013
Even after 14 months of being in Brazil, I find it incredible that I still have adventures with the food. After we had taught a lesson, the aunt of our investigator gave us some soup that was made from beans and rice. We took the soup home, stuck it in our fridge, and forgot about it until the end of the week when all of our food was gone except for this soup. None of the other Sisters in our apartment would touch the soup, but I don't like to see food wasted (even if it has a high probability to cause something terrible to happen to my insides). Not only did I eat the soup, but I made the mistake to eat the soup for a night time snack and then for breakfast in the morning. By lunch time, I was suffering. My stomach and intestines were so full of gasses, it looked like an inflated balloon! I haven't felt this terrible since the time I went on a 'homemade refried bean' kick in college and ate burritos for about every meal for a week! hahaha
Last Sunday, I received a call from our Ward Mission Leader, "Sister, the cousin of Vitoria wants to be baptized. Can you and your companion teach her this week?" It didn't take me any time at all to answer that question! We went to the home of Vitoria Sunday night, talked with her cousin, the sweetest 11-year old girl, (Alice) and marked her baptism for the up coming Saturday! Alice had been coming to church with Vitoria every Sunday, and out of the blue today, asked what she needed to do to be baptized! During this week, as I thought about the role of the members in missionary work, I couldn't help but think about how successful missionary work would be and the retention rate, if every member truly did their part to invite their friends and family to visit with the missionaries. I love how in this past Conference, the suggestion was made that when our friends start to ask questions about the Church, we shouldn't just answer all of their questions by ourselves, but we should say, "Let's ask the missionaries, and if you want, I will be by your side the whole time!" As missionaries, not only will we be able to respond their questions, but we will be able to invite them to come unto Christ and know for themselves that this Gospel is true!! For all you faithful members out there...I have an invitation for you! This week, whether it be in person or facebook, or cell phone, invite someone to visit with the missionaries (that doesn't mean that they have to accept, but you at least have to invite!!) I promise that if you invite someone to visit with the missionaries this week, you will be filled with more vigor and excitement to take part in the Lord's great work!!
Saturday, July 13, 2013
My companion has discovered that I am very ticklish on the stomach, but I explained to her that we will be spending every minute of everyday together for 6-12 weeks, so she had better choose wisely her actions. Consequently, she promised not to tickle me, but that didn't stop her from using other methods. One of our investigators lives with his mother who is 89 years old. This dear woman is the tiniest, most fragile person that I have seen in my life, but still has good health and energy. While we were talking to her, she felt the need to hold my right hand. My companion saw the perfect opportunity to make the comment that I liked it when people touched my stomach. I tried to explain quickly to the woman that my companion was joking, and that it wouldn't be a good idea to touch my stomach, but the poor thing was hard of hearing and went ahead. When a person is ticklish, they're ticklish, and there is nothing you can do about it...let's just say that when the little old woman touched my stomach it was a good thing she was holding onto my hand because my sudden reaction almost knocked her on the ground! The old woman looked at me and in all seriousness said, "Você tem côcegas mesmo na barriga! O que você vai fazer quando um rapaz tocar sua barriga?!" Eu respondi, "não deixar!!" rsrsrs! Mas foi engraçado!
This week, my testimony and understanding of prayer has been strengthened. As I pondered about various prayers that I have given, and the different answers that I have received, I began to recognize that the prayers that were answered were the prayers that I truly had tried to seek the will of the Lord, and aline my desires and requests with the blessings that He was already willing to give me. So, this week, I made a goal to stop praying for general things, and to make more specific requests that focused on seeking the Lord's will and not my own. All this week, we have been preparing a man named Pedro to be baptized on Saturday. From the first day that we met him to this week, it has been incredible to watch how his countenance has changed and how his excitement and desire to be baptized has grown. The first part of the week, everything went well. He had managed to go from smoking 40 cigaretts a day to only one, and his wife who is firm in another church was begining to open up more and seem more supportive. Yet, Friday morning, the day of his baptismal interview, I knew from experience that our day woudn't be floating on a cloud. As we finished our companionship study, my companion and I knelt to pray. Instead of simply praying that everything would go smoothly for the interview and that Pedro would pass, I prayed that we would be blessed with the spirit to know what to say to Pedro or to his wife to resolve whatever possible problem that could arise to inhibit Pedro's baptism. At 5:45, we showed up at Pedro's house to take him to the church for his interview at 6:00. When we arrived, his daughter was playing outside with her friends. She looked at us and said, "My father called and said that he is working right now, and that he won't get home until 9:00 pm." My heart sunk. Of all the possible problems that could have arroused, I hadn't imagined this one. Pedro was super excited for his baptism, and I couldn't imagine that he would let anything interfere with it. My companion and I stood in silence looking at Pedro's daughter, neither one of us knowing what to do, and neither one of us wanting to believe that Pedro truly wasn't home at that moment to come with us to his baptismal interview. After asking a few more questions, we simply turned around and starting walking away with that heavy dread in our hearts that we wouldn't have a baptism tomorrow. When we had gone about 50 meters, I had the sudden thought, "Go back and talk with Pedro's wife." I stopped in my tracks, looked at my companion and said, "Let's go back and talk to Pedro's wife, maybe she can tell us if he is truly working right now and when he'll come home." We immediately returned to Pedro's home, and knocked on the door. Pedro's wife let us in, and we asked her if she knew when Pedro would arrive from work. We talked for a bit, and then all of a sudden she said, "Can I ask you two a question?" She then expressed to us some concerns and doubts that she had, and we were able to answer her questions and put her mind at peace. She then shared with us that ever since we had began to visit Pedro, she had seen an immense change in him. She told us that she wanted to support his baptism because he had never had this desire to be baptized before. When I mentioned to her that we would probably need to move the baptism to Sunday because Pedro would miss his interveiw, she replied with a lot of emotion, "No! Pedro is excited and ready to be baptized tomorrow, and we shouldn't postpone what we can do today until tomorrow!" My companion and I were pleasantly surprised at the support that Pedro's wife showed. As we were finishing our conversation, miracle of miracles, Pedro walked through the door!! After a quick shower and a fast pace walk to the Church, Pedro passed his interveiw to be baptized on Saturday!! As my companion and I walked home Friday night, we conversed about the day's events. If we hadn't listened to the spirit to go back and talk with Pedro's wife, we wouldn't have answered her questions and strenthened her confidence and trust in us, and most importantly, we wouldn't have been in Pedro's home when he returned home from work much earlier than we had been advised. I know that Heavenly Father hears and answers our prayers. As I read in the Liahona this month, prayer is not a business negotio with God to try and convince Him to give us something that we believe is best for us. Prayer is to understand our Father's will, and then to change our desires and hearts to follow His will and become more like Him.
Thursday, July 4, 2013
Yesterday, was the final soccer game after a series of games with various soccer teams from around the world. In the two teams that played, one was Brazil. Let me tell you what, Brazilians love their soccer, and they love it when their country is playing! At 7:00 pm, the game started, and our work moved from contacts to member visits! Even though we couldn't watch the game, it didn't matter. We knew exactly what was going one because everytime Brazil made a goal, the entire street erupted in cheers, and the city shot of a bunch of fire works. This was us in our lesson with a member, "Let's read a scripture in Moroni 10. As we learn" ---- Screams and fireworks ------ "Brazil made another goal" ----- and continuing ---- "we need to continue inviting others to learn more about the" ------ Screams and fireworks ----- "Brazil is 'show de bola'! another goal!!" hahaha :) I like to see team spirit that Brazil has when it comes to soccer.
After the missionary fireside, two Sundays ago, I spoke with our Bishop and asked him how he would like us to apply what the Prophet and Apostles had taught us. He told us that he had thought of a number of families that not all the members were baptized. He mentioned on family, in which only the daughter was baptized. We had already met the mother and other siblings because we had eaten lunch with them, but we had never met the father. Our Bishop told us that the father was a great man, who could do a lot for the Church. In our interaction with the daughter that is already a member, we had the knowledge that her family had an apartment where they lived, and that they also had a home where her father spent most of his time painting because he is a famous painter in Joao Pessoa. However, we did not know the address of this home or any reference point. In the evening of the same day that my companion and I had spoken to our Bishop of the father of this member, we were returning home at night, walking in a street that we had never walked down before. As we were walking, we passed a home with some interesting, ceramic paintings on the outer wall. I paused and examined the paintings more closely. They were the exact type of paintings that I had scene in the apartment of this family. I looked at my companion and said, "This is not a coincidence, let's knock here and see if the father is home!" We clapped our hands at the gate, and the father answered! It provided a perfect opportunity to get to know him better and have him get to know us. Just like we were taught by the 'parable of the father' in the missionary fireside, this work doesn't have a step by step guide book. We have to move forward with faith and confide in the spirit to guide us as we strive to help others come unto Christ! I LOVE missionary work! It doesn't matter who we are, what stage of life we are in, or what calling we hold in the Church, ALL of us have been called to work in the vineyard! Certainly, this work is the greatest and the most marvelous work that we can be a part of!!
Saturday, June 22, 2013
Transfers always bring a bit of excitement into our daily routine of activities, and this transfer just happened to be a little bit more exciting than normal because not only did we receive 13 new Sisters, but it was the transfer that decided which mission we would stay in; João Pessoa or Natal. Normally, if you will be training in the upcoming transfer, you receive a phone call on Monday because the new missionaries arrive on Tuesday. So, when I didn't receive a phone call on Monday, I figured that I was off the hook. However, I didn't know that there had been some complications in the flight plans of the new missionaries, and 9 of the 12 new Sisters wouldn't arrive until Wednesday morning, bem cedo. Tuesday, I was going about the normal daily activities when my cell phone rang. I answered it, and my zone leader said, "Parabens Sister Fernelius, você vai trainar!" Eu respondi, "como assim Elder?!" He just laughed and repeated, "você vai trainar, chegue na capela de Manaíra 7h30 amanha!" Pois é, and so I will be training for the third time on my mission without a break in between any of my 'daughters'! This is what happens when the Prophet lowers the age for young women to serve missions; they come in waves!!
Tuesday night, we had a slumber party in our apartment with Sister Johnson and Sister Alves, who are also training. As it happened, we had two appointments at the same time, so I went to one with Sister Johnson, and Sister Alves went to the other with Sister De Paula. Our appointment, was a referrel from a member. The referrel was a friend of his that had recently lost her father due to an automobile accident. We thought about teaching the Plan of Salvation, but prompting to teach the first lesson was much stronger. When we got to the part when Joseph Smith went to pray in the woods and saw God the Father and Jesus Christ, the woman become very atentive. As we finished reciting Joseph's experience, the woman told us that as we were telling the story and when she saw the picture of first vision, she immediately thought of her sister, who had shared with her an interesting experience. She then described to us how after her father's death, her sister had a vision where she saw her father with two people at his side. She said that the light that surrounded the three of them was like no other light that she had ever seen. When she asked her father to give her a hug, he only extended his hand, making the gesture that he could not give her a hug, and then the vision ended. The spirit was so strong, it was almost tangible. When we invited the woman to baptized, she accepted without hesitation! It was an incredible lesson! I know that the spirit is real, and that He is the true teacher. Without the spirit, our work is absolutely inútil, yet if we seek the power of the spirit in all that we do, we will become powerful instruments in the Lord's hands!
Monday, June 10, 2013
Usually, the animals of concern here in Brazil are the million dogs in the street, your occassional vicious cat, or perhaps a stray cow or goat. Never on my mission (or my life for that matter), have I been literally scared about what a turtle could do to me! My companion and I had returned to teach an investigator. While we were standing in front of his house, a large tortuse came out from the shaded corner, and approached us cautiously. All of a sudden, he picked up the speed, and charged for my companion's foot! I know that 'speed' is not a common word to use when talking about a tortuse, but this tortuse could scurry! If we took our eyes off of him for 30 seconds, he would go in for the kill, and next thing you know he's at our feet with his mouth open ready to chomp! Well, we entered the house and began to teach our lesson. The mother of our investigator arrived a little bit after, and stopped outside the door to listen. Out of no where, she let out this deafening scream. We all jumped and looked at her. The tortuse had come up behind her and bitten her foot! What the crazy tortuse!!
Just about everyday this week, we have had torrential, downpouring rain. When we showed up at another investigator's house, his mother took one look at my umbrella and said, "This is an umbrella for a baby! No wonder why you are completely soaked!" Saturday night, after all of our appointments fell through, Sister De Paula and I were soaked, cold, and hungry. We did some quick thinking and came up with a member that we could visit that we had heard always gives the missionaries food. As we were walking to her home, we passed by the home of a less active that we had always heard about, but had never visited. As we walked by her street, I had the thought that we should visit her instead of going to the member's home. Visiting this less active, we ran the risk of not getting any food, but I figured it was better to follow the prompting and worry about the food later. So, my companion and I headed down the street. As we began to talk to this dear sister, she shared with us some of the difficulties she was going through and how much she needed someone to talk to that night. After we conversered, she looked at us and said, "I made some soup and was hoping that someone would stop by to try it. Are you guys hungry?!" Wow!!! Heavenly truly knows each of His children and their needs. Because we listened to the prompting, we were able to answer the prayer of this sister who was needing someone to listen to her and strengthen her, and coincidently, she was able to answer our prayer and satisfy our hunger! I couldn't believe how perfectly the Lord had answered our prayers! It was incredible to see how He is aware of the tiniest aspects of our lives. I know that Heavenly Father hears and answers our prayers. We just need to be willing to act on the answer that He gives us, even if it isn't the answer we were expecting.
Tuesday, June 4, 2013
After one year in Brazil, I have officially tried Cevada, which is what the members here drink instead of Coffee. For one year, I have been buying Cevada for my investigators and telling them to switch it for their Coffee, but I never even knew what Cevada tasted like. To be honest, it's not all that bad! When the Irmã found out that I was trying Cevada for the first time, she became super excited, and now everytime we stop by her house, she makes Cevada for us. This week, while we were drinking Cevada in her home, she began to talk about the large snakes and other delightful critters that they had killed on top of their house or near their house. The conversation hadn't really bothered me, but I'm no fan of snakes and other critters in real life. With these stories fresh in our minds, Sister De Paula and I left to go to another appointment. As we were talking and walking on the trail leaving the member's house, we didn't pay much attention to where we were stepping. All of a sudden, I saw a black critter in the middle of the trail. Both of us screamed and leaped back at the same time. Once we composed ourselves again, we realized that it was just a little black lizard. The best part about it was that the husband of the member was watching the whole thing from the window of the house. Perfect! Now we look like a bunch of ninnies!
I'm pretty sure that missionaries would make the best FBI agents. We spend everyday tracking down people who gave us false addresses or addresses that hardly make sense. I love it when a contact in the street says, "Oh you guys will never find my house, but here it is, I'll try and describe where I live." The look on their faces when we show up on their door step is priceless! This week we made a contact with a man who said we could come back and teach his family if we managed to find his house. After asking around a bit, we found his house. Unfortunately, he wasn't home, but we began to talk to his wife. As we conversed, she told us that it had been 1 year since she had gone to her church. These past couple weeks, she had been praying for somone in her old church to stop by and invite her to come to church again. However, nobody showed up. Sister De Paula and I said nothing, but both of us were thinking the same thing. Then, to our surprise, this woman looked at us and said, "but now I'm thinking that you two are the answer to my prayer!" This Sunday, this woman came to Church with two of her four children. Her husband didn't come, but we will be working with him!! I remember a quote from Thomas S. Monson in which he states that nothing is more rewarding than to follow a prompting and be an answer to someone's prayer. Truly, there is nothing more wonderful, than to go about doing good, and end up answering the fervent prayer of a person in need. The Lord is aware of each of His children, and He hears our prayers!
Tuesday, May 28, 2013
I never was a person to stress. Perhaps it was because I always exercised a lot, ate healthy, had quick and ready access to cookies and chocolate when needed, or for whatever reason, I just had a much calmer outlook on life; but here on the mission, I stress. It isn't that type of stress that everyone can see, but it's the kind of stress that eats at my from the inside out. The kind of stress that often even I don't notice until something drastic happens, like a red light flashing in my face - "you are stressed out, you need to calm down!"
This week, we went on splits with the new Sister Leaders, Sister Britez and Sister Borges, the two Sisters with whom I arrived in the field. The three of us had a great time reminiscing about the CTM and our various experiences on the mission so far. I spent the whole day with Sister Borges, making contacts and teaching. We were out walking in the hot sun from 1:00 pm until 9:00 pm. My feet, which had various open cuts (small and insignificant) because of mosquito bites, had become slightly infected the day before. I didn't pay them any mind because normally I have a strong immune system that takes care of little things like that. Plus, I was washing them every morning and night, and soaking them in saline solution (water mixed with salt). However, by the end of the day with Sister Borges, my right foot was completely swollen, and it was difficult to walk. Sister Borges took one look at my foot and said, "Sister Fernelius, you need to get rid of the stress in your life!" I laughed and said, "That's fine coming from the girl who has some stomach disease now because of stress on the mission!" hahaha We both laughed about that, but then seriously talked about how we could remove some of the stress in our life. This past week, had been very difficult for Sister De Paula and I. We had hardly gotten into any houses, and all of our investigators stopped progredindo. Sister Borges shared a story she had heard about Pres Bednar going to give a very sick man a blessing. When Pres Bednar went to give the blessing, he asked the man, "Do you have the faith to not be healed?" Sister Borges then turned to me and said, "Sister Fernelius, do you have the faith to do everything in your power to baptize, and then not succeed, and on top of that suffer a bit more from illness or injuries?" This was a deep question. Everyone always talks about how we need to have the faith to have miracles in our life. But perhaps, the hardest faith to aquire is the faith to not receive a miracle but to continue to trust in the Lord and obey His commandments. It made me think of your State Conference notes, Mom, and the talk by Elder Gay. He was sacrificing everything, and yet he was suffering. Sometimes, it doesn't make sense, but we have to continue to trust in the Lord and stand in our rank even though it appears as if we will lose it all and that no 'back up help' is on its way. Well, I decided that I had the faith to give it my all and still 'suffer'. I took care of my feet, but continued to work, and in the last three days of our week, Sister De Paula and I received an out pouring of blessings! Truly, the Lord is looking out for us. As it says in the scriptures, the Lord will 'try the faith of His people', and if we remain faithful além de tudo, o Senhor vai nos fortalecer e tornar nossas fraquezas nossos pontos fortes!
During one of our lunches, a friend of the member who didn't know that he couldn't hug Sisters, went in to give me a hug. He kind of caught me off guard, so I just accepted the hug, but awkwardly. Afterward, the member notified him on that little rule, and he became super embarrassad! When we went to leave after lunch, he didn't even shake my hand, he just smiled and said, "Tchao, sinta você abraçada!" (consider yourself hugged!) haha
Tuesday, May 21, 2013
Everyday, I realize just how small this world is. On Tuesday, there was a leadership training in João Pessoa. The Sister Britez from Guarabira came in for the meeting, and her companion, Sister Woodland, spent the morning with us. Sister Woodland is fresh from the CTM in São Paulo and had gotten to know Cassie while she was there! Cassie had thoughtfully sent a little note with her to bring to me, not even knowing if we would see each other, but it worked out perfectly!! After we met up with her, we stopped by the store to grab a few things...primarily Nutella because it is only 5 reais in this certain store, and 10 reais or more in every other store. When the check out lady scanned the Nutella, it came up as 2 reais. I pointed it out to her and asked her if there was a problem with the computer. She asked around, and found out that because of the expiration date on the Nutella (June), they were selling it for a reduced price. Finishing off a container of Nutella before June is no sweat for me, so I went back and grabbed two more, just for good measure! haha! We had a great companionship study that morning, doing practices in between snacking on Nutella and crackers!
If someone ever needs a cheap idea of how to put more excitement and adventure in their life, I'd tell them to put aside the car for a week, and get out and walk on the streets for 7-8 hours everyday. Friday was an interesting day. First, we woke up to down pouring rain. When the rain didn't stop by lunch time, we decided to take a bus to our lunch appointment instead of walking. In our hurry to get a bus, we got on the wrong bus, and had a nice hour bus tour of João Pessoa! Then, just our luck, once we got to our correct stop, it was still raining and we had about a five minute walk to the members' home. In those few minutes of walking in the down pouring rain, I managed to arrive at the member's home completely soaked. So much for the bus keeping us dry! This member happens to be a returned missionary, so she gave me some clothes to wear during lunch while she dried me dress. It was a blessing to leave the house with dry clothes, but it didn't last too long with the continued down pour of rain. By now, the roads were filled with water, and every car that passed by my companion and I feared being sprayed with water. At one point, we were passing an abnormally large puddle when I saw a bus barrelling down the road toward us. I didn't think twice - I took off running in the weeds away from the edge of the road. The bus passed, and didn't even touch the water. My companion, who had stayed near the road began laughing at me and my insanity. At that very moment, a tiny, 5 passenger car, zipped by unnoticed, and completely drenched my companion! hahaha! I almost peed my pants I was laughing so hard. Oh the good times that happen on the streets!
Our ward mission leader is preparing to serve a mission, and full of energy. When he was called to be our leader, the first thing he told us is that he wanted to do lots of fun activities with the ward. My companion and I started brainstorming right away. This Saturday, we managed to put together an activity that is very similar to the 'minute to win it' challenges. We divided up into two teams, women vs men (always makes for good competition)! Then, we had various challenges - Eating a cookie that is on your forehead without using your hands - Sucking up small pieces of candy from one bowl and putting it in another bowl - rolling a coin to fit inbetween the prongs of a fork - and my favorite...eating a plate of spaghetti with your two hands tied to the hands of another person! All of the members adored the activity! We even had the Baptist cousion of a recent convert who came to participate and absolutely loved it! He told us that he would definitely be coming to our next activity. We invited him to come to church on Sunday, buuut he wasn't quite so sure about that. Tudo bem, at least he's converted to our fun activities. We're one step in the right direction!
During my mission, I've always been interested by the fact that one day we can meet someone who seems super excited to know more about the church, be baptized, or come to church on Sunday, and then when we return to take them to church or commit them to read the Book of Mormon or to be baptized, they have no interest at all. How can someone go from hot to cold so fast and with seemingly no reason at all? As I thought about this, I began to wonder if there was a comparison between this and how we act with Heavenly Father at times. Often, we have moments when we are 'hot'. We have a great church meeting, or a spiritual experience, and we are totally pumped up to be better and change. Then, when we return home, and the moment has come to act and put in practice what we have learned and been invited to do, we turn 'cold', and resort back to the way we have been living. As we learn in 2 Nephi, we have the power to ACT!!! When we have 'hot' moments in our life, we need to put what we learned into practice and follow the spiritual promptings that we received. I know that this Gospel is true, and that when we act and put in practice the principles of this Gospel, we will be truly blessed!
Monday, May 13, 2013
The week of transfers always tends to be busier than any other week. Sister De Paula and I had had very successful days on Monday and Tuesday, so we decided that we wanted to leave our area on Friday to help the Sisters in Cabedelo since the Sister who had stayed in Cabedelo was now training a new missionary. Everything was perfect until Sister De Paula suddenly become sick Wednesday night. We both knew that we couldn’t lose another day of work, but Sister De Paula was in no condition to walk in the sun all day. So, I started thinking of all the options we had. After numerous phone calls, I finally worked it out that Sister De Paula would stay with a member who lived in the same apartment building as us, and I would go out teaching with a young woman in the ward. This young woman is preparing to serve a mission, so the day with me doing missionary work was perfect!
Usually, when we are walking on the streets, we are moving at a pretty fast pace, but I always try to keep my eyes open, looking at each person as I pass and paying attention to how I feel. One day, as we past a man, he looked at me in the eyes. We passed him, and I felt the need to look back. As I looked back, our eyes met again, and I made a movement as if to want to start a conversation with us. I immediately stopped and began to talk to him. As it turns out, he had been visiting the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints three years ago with a friend. During this time, he lived with his girlfriend, and wasn’t baptized. Now, he lives alone, and has a great desire to start coming to Church again and be baptized! Truly, as it says in Preach My Gospel, the Lord is preparing people to receive the Gospel. There are people out on the streets every day, just waiting to receive the Gospel. We just need to believe, have faith, and open our mouths!!
Thursday, May 9, 2013
A mission is full of experiences where you do something without really knowing the reason why. Sister De Paula and I had just finished knocking at a member's home with no success, when I noticed a man standing on the other side of the street. He didn't appear too well, but I figured it wouldn't hurt to talk to him. When we began to talk to him, it was clear that he was drunk. My contacts with drunks usually go something like this, "We have a message that can help you have a better life. We are missionaries, and we help people change their lives so that they can be baptized and receive the Holy Ghost. Are you willing to stop drinking and put aside other addictions or sins in order to be baptized?" I like to make sure that they have no doubts about what our purpose is and what they are going to have to change in order to be baptized. This man thought for a moment, and agreed that he would like to have a better life, and that he was willing to stop drinking and smoking. The next question we asked him was if he was legally married. He replied that he was. Beleza!!! As we walked away, I commented to my companion, "It is way easier to help someone stop drinking and smoking than to convince someone that they need to be legally married. We began teaching this family, and were astonished by how elect they were! Within a week, the man, stopped drinking and smoking. The man and his wife both begun to pray everyday, and even though the man doesn't know how to read super well, he is reading a bit in the Book of Mormon everyday as well! This past Sunday they both came to church and loved it! During one of our lessons, the man asked us, "Have you guys noticed a change in me?" We replied, "Indubitably! Your entire countenance radiates with the righteous changes you are making in your life!" After about two weeks of visiting them, out of no where I felt prompted to ask the wife if they had truly been married legally. I pushed the thought aside, because I didn't want to believe that there was possiblity of them not being married legally. Yet, I couldn't resist the impression. Imagine my disappointment, when I asked the wife about their marriage, and she replied that they weren't married legally! NOOOO!! (remember, it is easier to help someone to stop drinking and smoking than it is to convince someone to get married) My companion and I taught a great lesson about the importance of marriage, but the very same man who easily stopped drinking and smoking in a week, is now reluctant to marry legally (even though he and his wife have lived together for 13 years)! Misericordia!! Our only hope now is to pray for a miracle! This family is too perfect to not be baptized!
Last Wednesday, Sister De Paula and I packed up everything to move to our new apartment in Bessa. When we arrived in Bessa, we found out that our washing machine and mattresses hadn't arrived yet. On top of that, the man who was renting our apartment still had not removed all of his things or cleaned the place. It didn't take us long to make the decision to return to Cabedelo and wait for a few more days. If everything goes well, we will be moving today!
This transfer, our Zone is doing an interesting thing. This month is the last month for President and Sister Hall, and everyone in the mission wants to send them home with lots of baptisms. So, our Zone has decided to be more unified and make a few more sacrifices in order to receive more blessings. Every week, our Zone leaders choose one day for all of the missionaries to leave their own areas and to come to another area to make contacts and help find prepared people in that area. This past Friday, Sister De Paula and I left Bessa for the day and went to the Center of João Pessoa to make contacts. I couldn't help but worry a bit about our area and the appointments that we were missing, and the people that we were not finding in our area, but I put these thoughts aside, decided to trust in the Lord, and went to work in the Center! Even though we basically lost an entire day of work in our area, the Lord truly blessed us. We were able to reach all of our goals, and the biggest miracle was that on Sunday, we had 8 investigators at Church!! I have a strong testimony of the importance of sacrifices. Often, the Lord simply wants us to show that we are willing to do His will, and that we trust in Him, even when His commands don't make sense. Like Abraham and Issac, the Lord didn't want Abraham to truly offer Issac as a sacrifice, He only wanted to see if Abraham trusted in Him enough to obey. Likewise, we will be asked to make certain sacrifices in our lives that don't make sense, or that seem 'too much to ask'. Yet, if we are faithful, and trust in the Lord, we will see that the Lord's blessings are far greater than the small sacrifice we are asked to make.
Monday, April 29, 2013
Well, we have officially entered the 'epoca de chuva' here in João Pessoa. Every morning, we wake up to pouring rain, and if we're lucky we get to walk in it all day as well! Early in the week, we returned home from an uneventful P-Day shopping trip to realize that we had lost the keys to our front door. Once the reality of the situation sunk in, the four of us calmly walked around to the bedroom window almost at the back of the house, pushed it open, and climbed in. For the next three days, we entered and left our apartment climbing in and out of our bedroom window! hahaha! Just imagine what a sight we made, four girls in skirts climbing in and out of a window! It's a good thing that the window is at the back of our house and no one from the street can see us!
Tuesday morning, my companion woke up throwing up, and one of the other Sisters woke up sick as well. The two of us healthy Sisters climbed out the window and headed to the Farmácia to buy some 'Dramin'. When we returned back to the house, I began to feel sick as well. So, I took some 'Dramin' and laid down to see if I could get feeling better by the afternoon to get out and work. Imagine - on a normal day I can sleep like a rock in qualquer lugar e em qualquer momento...add some medicine with a strong sleeping effect, and I sleep like a dead person. Literally, I laid down at around 9:00 am, and when I returned to conciousness, it was 7:00 pm!! Needless to say, my companion and I didn't get out to work on Tuesday. The next few days of walking in a constant state of 'soaked' because of the rain were perfect to recuperate! Yet, the Lord blessed us because of our diligence and sacrifice. On Saturday our investigator Josivan was baptized!!!