Monday, August 26, 2013

No Age Limits!

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

Dogs, chickens, and run away investigators

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

Faith to Find

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

As Águas do Batismo!

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

Purpose to Everything

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!