Tuesday, January 29, 2013

Uma Bagunça!!

As I traveled back to Sousa with my 'daughter' (yes, I am training), I thought, "How perfect!  I will return to a nice, clean apartment with members that live in the same building; I have lots of great, progressing investigators and a few potential baptisms; I already know the members well, and have a good relationship with all of them; and we will live with two other Sisters -- live couldn't be more perfect!!!"  Within only a matter of minutes, my 'perfect world' came crashing down.  The Assistents to the President called our zone leaders and told us that the Sisters and the Elders were switching areas, Branches, and apartments...Sister Oliveira (my trainee), and I arrived in Sousa at 4:00, and from 4:00 to midnight, we ran around like crazies, moving luggage, cleaning apartments, and unpacking.  The other two Sisters had already moved into our nice clean apartment, so they had to move out and move over into the Elder's apartment.  The Elders, infelizmente, moved into our apartment -- and let me just say, the Elders got the better deal.  It was a crazy night, but we four Sisters had a lot of fun!  We strung up a rope in one of the rooms to create an exterior clothes closet.  Sister Johnson spent half the night killing cockroaches with her flip flop, and the rest of us tried to find acceptable mattresses where we could sleep.  Unfortunately, we only had 3 mattresses that wouldn't kill us during the night because of the smell or the condition, so I strung up my hammock and have been sleeping in that this entire week!  To put it simply, we are having a lot of fun together, and creating a lot of memorable stories!!

The rest of the week we spent one day with the Elders getting to know our new area, one day showing the other Sisters their area, and then one day actually working in our area trying to find what investigators the Elders had, and to find new people to teach.  My trainee will be super great at making contacts - since that is all we have to do right now!  I am super excited to work in this new area, and to strengthen this branch!  

At the beginning of this week, we had the opportunity to listen to Elder Christensen.  He gave us time to ask questions, and one missionary asked if it was a bad thing to feel like he could have done more in a certain area.  Elder Christensen taught us that the Lord doesn't feel happy when we are unsatisfied with our work.  None of us are perfect, but we are all trying to do our best.  If we feel like we could have done more, than change, move forward, and be better; but don't look back and become depressed or discouraged with what you lacked.  I know that each of us have the potential to do great work in our callings, in our families, and in the Gospel.  We need to trust in the Lord, pray for His strength and help; and when our efforts fall short, we need to trust that the Atonement truly will make up the difference.

Thursday, January 24, 2013

Chicken Feet

We always eat at this one member's home, who loves to cook chicken feet.  Since transfers were coming up, I decided that I had better take advantage of this 'once-in-a-lifetime' experience and eat a chicken foot.  The Irmã wasn't so sure that I should try, but I explained to her that this might be the last opportunity I ever had in my entire life to eat a chicken foot, in Brazil, in her house.  She agreed with me, and put the chicken foot on my plate.  I picked it up, and stared at it for awhile.  The rough texture of the skin was still visible even though it was cooked, and the toenails staring back at me almost made me lose my courage; but I took a deep breath and bit down on one of the toes.  When nothing happened, the Irmã told me that I had to bite down on the joint of the toe because it was weaker there.  I was able to pull off the end of the toe with my mouth, and I began to chew.  The Irmã had explained that the chicken foot has a lot of ligaments and isn't very tender, so the crunching of the toe in my mouth didn't disturb me...that is until the Irmã looked at me kind of strangely and said, 'you know you don't have to eat the bone; normally you spit the bone out!'  Thanks!  That would have been nice to know 2 minutes ago!! hahaha!
On Friday, my companion and I planned an activity with our branch.  We taught everyone how to make cookies, and taught them how every member has an important responsibility in the Branch and that we need every single one of them; just like we need every single ingredient to make a delicious chocolate chip cookie!  I didn't know how our activity was going to turn out, but I should have known that an activity with cookies would be well attended!  We had lots of members, a couple less actives, and three investigators!  As my companion and I stood up in the front making the cookies, I felt like I was on a Paula Dean cooking show, and I wanted to say, "Welcome to another day of cooking with the Sisters!!" heehee

It is truly amazing to see how the Lord is blessing this work in Sousa.  Sister East and I have been trying to teach more simply and more powerfully over the space of 2 1/2 transfers in Sousa.  We both had the strong impression, that if we could get our investigators to understand the reality of the great apostasy and the importance of the Book of Mormon in receiving an answer, that we would have more success with our investigators!  Well, it is working!!  Right now, we are teaching a terrific family whose sons, 11 and 14, began coming to church first.  The 14 year old always rides his bike to church, and the 11 year old buys a bus ticket a week in advance to go to church.  When we began to teach the family, the father said that it was very likely that they would move soon to a city that doesn't have a church.  However, the next week, he told us that he had been praying to receive a job here in Sousa, and his prayer had been answered!!  He told us that it was like he had received a 'light' in his life, opening up the way that he should go!  Another investigator who has been investigating the church for some time now, but never accepted baptism, finally read a part in the Book of Mormon and prayed about it!!  She described her answer as a feeling of pure joy and she had the desire to cry with happiness!  It is truly incredible to watch as the spirit of the Lord works in the lives of these people!  I know that this Gospel is true!  All we need to do is 'experiment upon the word', open our hearts and minds, and follow the promptings that we receive.  Sometimes, the promptings are very subtle, but they are always clear.  For example, one day, we were making contacts in the street and nothing was going right.  All of a sudden, I had the distinct thought come to my mind, "You are in the wrong place."  My companion and I moved to a different neighborhood, and within 30 minutes we had made 3 great contacts, one of them being with a family!!!  The spirit is guiding our lives in every aspect.  If we have the faith and courage to follow, we will witness miracles, and we will have the confidence that we are doing the Lord's will!!

Tuesday, January 15, 2013


When I first arrived in Brazil, I rarely ever saw cyclist; not just people out riding a bicycle, but the hard core cyclist with the stretching shorts and clip in shoes.  Now, I feel like I see them ALL THE TIME, and everytime I see one a baby part of my heart cries out to be out there on a bicycle right alongside of them.  Até our recent convert, André has gotten into cycling and is always going on some adventurous cycling trip or coming back from one when we pass by his house.  AY!  Cycling is the best!!  And even all the way here in Brazil, the people of Sousa are discovering the love of cycling!!  Isso aí!!

André has wanted to have family home evening in his house for a long time.  This past week, his sister and brother-in-law from São Paulo arrived to visit.  He took advantage of this missionary opportunity and planned a family home evening activity for this Wednesday!  Our branch was great, and we had about 20 or so members that came to support André!  It was so fun to watch as André made sure to welcome everyone, start the lesson, assign the prayers, and then pass out the cake at the end.  The best part of the night was when we played a game called, 'O gato e o rato'!  (The cat and the mouse).  The game is played with two ties.  One tie is the mouse, and has to be tied twice around your neck before you can pass it on.  The other tie is the cat and has to be tied once around your neck before you pass it on.  If you end up with both ties, then you lose because the cat caught up with the mouse!!  When the 'cat tie' starts getting close to the 'mouse tie' everyone starts screaming and jumping up and down, trying to tie their knots as fast as they can! hahaha!  It's way fun!

This morning, I was reading the conference talk by Thomas S. Monson about recognizing our blessings.  I thought it was interesting that he said that we could find more happiness in our lives as we seek the Lord's help through prayer, and then learn to recognize the answers we receive and the many blessings we have been given.  Life is crummy sometimes, but if life was meant to be crummy why do we read in the scriptures, "Adam fell that men might be, and men are that they might have joy!"  This scripture doesn't say that Adam fell so that we could all suffer and be miserable!  No, Adam fell so that we could come to earth, receive a body, learn to trust in our Lord and Savior, and to ultimately be happy!  I testify that what our Prophet, Thomas S. Monson, taught us is true.  As we learn to 'count our blessings' and recognize that the Lord is always ready and waiting to answer our prayers and strengthen us in our moments of trial and weakness, we will find true happiness in the journey of life!!

Wednesday, January 9, 2013

Always In The Middle

"If you could have any super power, what super power would you choose?"  Whenever I was asked this question, I would quickly respond, "my own background music for every moment in my life!"  I always thought that would be the coolest thing; like a movie, having the perfect music playing for every moment in your life; the fun crazy music, the sad, thoughtful music, the heroic music, the romantic music, etc.  I never thought that one day my wish for background music would actually come true, but it has, here on the streets of Brazil!  It doesn't  matter where we are walking, there is always music playing in the streets, whether it be a store, a house, a car, or a man passing by who is selling CDs and playing music in the little cart that he is pushing.  It's awesome!  We make a contact and get rejected hard core and then the most perfect 'just keep swimming' type of music comes on - it's terrific!

One night, we were talking with one of our investigators about the Book of Mormon and whether or not he had read the part that we had left him.  As he was telling us that he hadn't read it, his mom walked in and said, "well I read it!"  She then started telling us about the part that she had read and how much she had loved it.  As we were leaving the house, she told us to wait a moment while she ran into her room to grab something that she wanted to show us.  She came out with the book, "Teachings of Heber J. Grant".  She held the book up in the air, kissed the cover, and then said, "I love this book!  I've read the whole thing many times!"  Apparently, her daughter-in-law, who is a member (less active) had given her this book.  I just thought it was the greatest thing that this Catholic woman was reading the teachings of Heber J. Grant and believed every word!

So, cool story!!  This past Sunday we baptized a man named Leonardo.  This Sunday, he brought his two sisters and a friend and the daughter of his friend to church!!  But, the coolest thing about this story, is the connection he has with a less active family.  A few weeks ago, we found a less active member when we knocked on the door of a 'false address'.  She had been baptized a long time ago, when inactive, and married a non-member.  She told us that her parents had not been baptized, and we instantly became interested, but she didn't tell us where her parents lived.  The next week, we were making contacts, and started talking to a young man who was standing in front of his house.  We found out that he was a less active as well.  While we were talking to him, his parents came out of the house and started talking to us.  Turns out, these were the parents of the less active woman that we had found one week earlier!!!  Then, the first Sunday that we were taking Leonardo to church, we stopped by to pick up these parents as well.  Their grandson, a three year old boy, wanted to come too, and apparently is the nephew of Leonardo!  This past Saturday when we were visiting all of Leonardo's brothers and sisters we went to his brothers house, which happened to be the same house as the less active woman!!!  Leonardo's brother is the husband of the less active woman!!!  Small world!!

As I was studying this week, I came across a scripture in Alma 48:7 that stuck out to me.  It says, "Now it came to pass that while Amalickiah had thus been obtaining power by fraud and deceit, Moroni, on the other hand, had been preparing the minds of the people to be faithful unto the Lord their God."  This is exactly what is happening in our world today.  Satan and his followers are trying to obtain power by fraud and deceit.  We have the same responsibility as Moroni to prepare our families, friends, wards, and stakes to be faithful to the Lord and conquer the attacks of the adversary.  We don't have to fear, we just need to prepare!!!  I know that this Gospel is true!  If we continue to plug along, doing the 'small and simple things' each day, we will not fear and we will be victorious!!