Monday, February 25, 2013

New Adventures

This week was a week of new adventures!  On Thursday, the four of us Sisters taught a class on how to strengthen the family using the book, "Three Ways to Help Your Family Be More Happy" (I don't know the exact translation from Portuguese to English).   We had a great turn out!  Since there are three chapters, we will be teaching three classes.  This book is terrific!  This week we taught about how valuable our time is, and how we can spend more time with our family and develop stronger relationships with each person in our family.  It made me think back to all the fun memories that I have with my family, camping trips, vacations, Sunday dinners, icecream, FHE, etc.  The time we spend with our family, no matter how insignificant it may seem in the moment, truly has a valuable impact!

On Saturday, we did a "Tree of Life" activity with the two Branches.  We wove a cord around outside and then up the emergency stairwell in the church.  The participants were then blindfolded and had to hold onto the cord with two hands all the way until they reached the "tree of life" on the top floor.  Along they way, there were people to tempt them to let go.  One of the Sisters told me that when she had done this activity, the cord they had to follow went through a swimming pool and a bunch of mud!  I thought that would've been pretty sweet, but we did the best we could with what we had.

This past week, we had the opportunity to teach the Word of Wisdom to two different investigators.  Both times, the investigators had a hard time accepting that coffee was bad for them.  When they continued to question why coffee was bad, even after our explanation, I finally said, "I'm not a doctor, but I do know one thing; Heavenly Father created our bodies and He knows what we should put in them and what we shouldn't.  Perhaps we won't understand everything, but we need to trust in our Heavenly Father."  I then invited them to pray and ask Heavenly Father if the Word of Wisdom was true because we could teach and teach and teach, but the only person that could give them a firm and true answer would be Heavenly Father.  Sometimes we won't understand the 'why' behind every commandment, but we can always be sure that Heavenly Father won't give us something that we can't do!

Thursday, February 21, 2013

A Week of Miracles

After months and months without any rain, Sousa got rain!!   It was after 9:00 and the four of us Sisters were back in our apartment when the clouds open and let loose!  With the intensity of the rain, we shut the windows to keep out the water, and went about our normal routine.  The Elders had warned us that the apartment had issues with the rain, but none of us were concerned.  About 15 minutes after the rain had started, I was sitting on my bed writing in my journal when Sister Borges walked into my room and said, "Hey, look down at your feet!"  I looked down, and saw a huge puddle of water slowing creeping out from under my bed and surrounding my feet!  I looked back at the window - completely closed - yet, somehow our room was becoming an indoor swimming pool!  We quickly moved everything off the floor and into a dry place, but other than that there wasn't much we could do except pray that our mattresses would float!  As I slopped around my room in our puddle of water, getting ready for bed, I couldn't help but think, "Yep, now this is what a mission is all about!"

As I described in my last email, we are teaching three super elect young woman right now!  This past week, we taught them the Plan of Salvation.  Everything went smoothly, and they didn't have any questions or concerns.  However, one of the girls seemed to have something on her mind.  I asked her what was bothering her, but she wouldn't open up with us. The following days, I become very preoccupied with her, and was constantly thinking about what was bothering her, and how we could help her.  One morning in particular, I prayed to know what we should teach them in our following visit.  Our current plans were to start teaching the commandments, but I wanted to know if maybe we should teach something else to better meet her needs.  After my prayer, I opened up the Book of Mormon and started to read. About a page in, I the thought, "Teach them about the Atonement," came to my mind.  This thought confused me because we had just finished teaching about the Plan of Salvation which includes the Atonement.  However, I couldn't shake the impression that we needed to teach them about the Atonement.  As I pondered about what we should focus on with the Atonement, I remembered an article that I had brought with me entitled, "His Grace is Sufficient" -Brad Wilcox.  I pulled it out, and started reading; it was perfect!  Sister Oliveira and   I planned a beautiful lesson about the Atonement and felt good about our preparation.  However, when we arrived at the girls' apartment, they all seemed perfectly fine, chipper, and not worried about a thing.  I doubted myself for a moment and wondered if we should just go on and teach them the commandments.  Yet, the impression to continue with our lesson about the Atonement was overpowering.  We began by asking them questions about what they were learning in the Church, and how they thought these things and the Gospel in general would change their lives.  I then asked them if they thought these changes would be difficult.  When I asked this question, it was as if I had opened up a flood gate.  All three of the girls began commenting on the high standards of the Church and how it would be difficult to change everything at once, e tudo isso.  It was incredible as I listened to their concerns and realized that the lesson we had planned about the Atonement would answer all of their worries and doubts!  I had them open up to 3 Nephi 12:48 and read the commandment that Christ gave us to be perfect. I explained to them that our Heavenly Father and Jesus Christ are perfect and have a fullness of joy.  Likewise, they want us to have this same level of happiness and peace in our lives, so they give us commandments and principles to follow in order to help us become more perfect.  However, I explained, we will never be perfect in this life.  We then read Mosiah 3:19    how the natural man is an enemy to God, unless he allows the Atonement to work in him and to purify him.  I then used the great example of how the Atonement relates to taking piano lessons that our parents have payed for.  Because our parents have payed for the price of the lessons, they ask us to practice.  They know that practice will never repay them, but they also know that in order for us to improve as a pianist we need to practice.  In the course of our practice we will naturally hit many wrong notes, but does this mean that we should give up? - of course not!  I explained to the three girls that right now they are looking at a very complicated or difficult piece of music.  They know that it won't be easy, and that they will probably mess up, but does that mean that they should just throw it in the bag, not even try, or begin to try but give up when they don't play it    perfectly on the first try?  I explained to them that the Savior already payed for all of our mistakes and sins.  He knows that we won't be perfect, but he also knows what will help us in the process to become perfect, and what will help us be truly happy in this life.  As we were finishing the lesson, I asked one of the girls how she felt when she learned about the Church's standards with piercings, tatoos, and clothing.  She replied, "It didn't bother me, I just remembered what you taught us about holding onto the iron rod and enduring to the end!  I'm going to hold onto the iron rod, and it doesn't matter what others say or think!"  Hearing her say those words filled me with a special kind of happiness that I have never felt before!  I love this Gospel! I am so grateful for the Spirit that guided my companion and I to teach a lesson that would answer the doubts and questions that these young girls had.  If we hadn't followed the Spirit, I don't know if these girls would have stuck with us.  This Gospel is true!  We have the power of personal revelation to guide our lives and bless our families.

Wednesday, February 13, 2013

Heart & Soul

It was the first week that Sister Oliveira and I were opening up our new area.  We had planned to have a young man in the Branch do visits with us, and when we stopped by his house, we asked him to take us to one of his friend's house that would like to hear our message.  We walked around in a circle for a while, and then finally he thought of someone.  It was a 14-year old girl that lived in an apartment with 5 other girls who were studying in Sousa.  When we showed up at the apartment, this young girl was not home.  One of her roommates asked me if we wanted to call her and talk to her on the phone.  I don't usually do things like that, especially since we had never seen her before or talked to her before, but for some reason I accepted the offer.  I talked with her for about 2 minutes, and just invited her to come to church on Sunday.  She told me that she would, and then I hung up.  For the rest of the week, I didn't think much about that phone call, but then on Sunday this young girl, and another one of her roommates showed up at church!  When we went back to their apartment to teach them, another one of her roommates wanted to listen to our message!  Now, we are teaching 3 girls, all of them super awesome!!  One of the girls started reading the Book of Mormon, and completely fell in love with it!  She started reading at the beginning, and is already in 1 Nephi 14!  In one of our lessons with them, we used an example in Lehi's dream to teach a principle.  This girl completely understood, and was explaining all of Lehi's dream to us and what each part meant!  Loved it!  Each of these three girls are fantastic!  They are completely different, but I love each of them so much.  They have incredibly strong spirits and an immense desire to learn the truth and become baptized!  And all of this began with a simple phone call to a completely random person, and an invitation to come to church..."by small and simple things, great things are brought to pass!"

On Saturday night, Sister Oliveira and I taught a lesson to a great family that we had found during the week.  Our lesson was perfect!  We had a member with us, we taught simply and clearly, and the spirit was strong.  When we invited them to read the Book of Mormon, the wife basically jumped out of her chair as she said, "I will never read that book!"  As we asked them some more questions, we found out that after we had made a contact with them, her neighbors had begun to say terrible things about the Church.  They told her that we would destroy her faith.  We talked with her for awhile, and I bore my testimony that this message would not destroy her faith, but would only increase it.  I asked her if she would at least be open to praying about the message that we had shared with her, but she rejected this invitation as well; her heart was completely shut.  As we walked away, Sister Oliveira commented to me, "I feel terrible!  When that woman told us that she wouldn't read the Book of Mormon, I felt like the earth opened up and I fell into a 10 foot hole."  I replied, "I have passed through this experience many times already on my mission, and I feel just as terrible and sad every single time.  You see, Sister Oliveira," I continued, "When you truly love these people, you will feel extremely sad when they reject the message that you know will change their life and help them be truly happy."  There was a time on my mission when I was tired of being emotionally torn apart by every rejection.  I wanted to stop putting my whole heart and soul into every contact and every lesson; but I quickly learned that I could not be a powerful missionary if I selfishly protected my heart and took it out of my work.  It was only when I freely loved every person, and put my whole heart and soul into every prayer, every lesson, every question, and every contact; that I could truly teach with power and authority to make a difference in someone's life.  I know that this Gospel is true!  It truly does have the power to change people's hearts, and lives!

Monday, February 4, 2013


Well, the week of Carnival is arriving.  Being in the middle of nowhere, I don't think I'll see much of the festivities.  The only excitement that we have had are these drum bands that play in the streets every night.  On thursday, we were having a FHE in a member's home, when all of a sudden one of these drum bands stopped in front of the house and started playing super loud for the next hour or so!  Thankfully we were already finishing up and only had the game left to do!  

So, a funny story, my companion and I were teaching a woman the first lesson.  We were sitting outside of her house, which had large glass doors in a variety of places to enter and exit the home.  The door closest to us was open, but there was another door on the other side of the room that was closed.  During the lesson, her puppy got out and started running around.  At one point, he was so full of energy, that he went tearing through the open garage at top speed, ran through the open glass door into the house, and kept right on going with the firm conviction that the next door would be wide open for him as well...a crash and a yelp told us that the poor bugger had mistaken the clear, glass door as being open, when in reality it was closed!  hahaha!  I completely lost my composure in the lesson, and burst out laughing!  I've only ever seen birds run into windows before; a dog is a first!!

As my companion and I have been working with the less-actives in our area, I have noticed a few interesting points.  First, when we stop increasing our faith and testimony, we lose it.  When we question these members about their testimony, about the Book of Mormon, or even about what they remember about the Church and what the meetings were like, it is amazing to me how much they have forgotten.  If we don't take care of what we have, and continue to progress, we will lose the very knowledge and testimony that we have gained.  Second, the Church is true, even when people make mistakes.  Like Helaman 5:12 states, we need to build our testimonies upon the rock of Christ.  Just because we see other members, or even leaders doing something wrong, we need to remember that the principles of the Gospel are still true and still valid.  Everything that is injust in this life will be corrected through the Atonement - Let us build our foundations firmly rooted upon the Atonement of Christ and the principles that He taught.  Third, inactivity in the Church will only hurt yourself and your family, not the people who offended you.  Is it hard to face people every week that said hurtful things?  Is it hard to love our enemies?  Com certeza!  But, surely the pain of seeing generations of our family without the blessings of the Gospel will be much more difficult and much more painful.  Let us be more quick to forgive and slow to take offense.  Fourth, the Lord cannot teach us something new if we have not mastered the first lesson.  There are many times when my companion and I are preparing a lesson for a less active and we look at each other and say, 'lets teach about the importance of going to church', and then one of us will respond, 'yeah, but that's what we taught the last two times', and then we both look at eachother and say, 'yep, but have they come to church yet?'  The Lord has so many wonderful things to teach us; we just need to be more humble and learn the lessons that He is trying to teach us!  This Gospel is true!  Never give up on it, because the Lord surely will never give up on us!