Tuesday, March 4, 2014

Travel Days!

We got a good full whoppin' TWO DAYS of work in this week in our area! Woot woot!  Gotta love being a STL (Sister training leader)! Honestly it hit me full-force this week just how hard we're gonna have to work to keep the work alive in our area while also traveling to other sisters' areas. I find it refreshingly thrilling. I wouldn't ask for anything different for these last few months of my mission. My worst fear was that I'd become one of those trunky missionaries and go home on a groggy note. Not a chance now. Who has time to think about home? I love it! It sure is a challenge.
    This week I got to do my first division with Sister Gomez and Sister Miller. They are darlings, the two of them. Known to be the sweetest and most spiritual companionship of sisters in the mission, I felt like I was really there to learn from THEM. Poor Sister Gomez got pretty sick halfway through the day and we had to leave her with a member, then Sister Miller and I went out and prepared all their amazing investigators to get baptised. It was fun getting to see another area and how other missionaries work.
      Here in our area, Sister Clark and I were so excited to baptise a woman named Áurea this weekend. Her husband is a member of the church who had been inactive for a while but just came back into activity. Áurea is so amazingly sweet! Sadly, she decided to postpone her baptism for the time being. Pray for her! She's so ready to do this!
    Ah, time's already up!
I love you all!!!

-Sister Whitaker

That's Anne Spelled with an "E"

                                       December 24, 2013

Yesterday was our amazing Christmas Conference and it was also my LAST Conference on the mission (NOOOOOO!!!!!!!!), so I had to give my dying testimony. There was not a dry eye in the room. Lots of really amazing missionaries will be going home at the same time as me.
    As I'll get the chance to talk to my family tomorrow, this email is just a quick one. I just wanted to wish everyone a MERRY CHRISTMAS!
    I absolutely adore my new area! My companion is absolutely amazing and so very funny. Yea, to exceed all funniness. SISTER CLARK! Don't let her sweet appearance fool you-- she is so crazy. She's from New Jersey and can Dougy like no one I've ever seen. Every day is a blast with her!
    We found a deaf young man named Moabe this past week who absolutely loved the booklet we gave him and he wants us to teach him more. He's started to teach us Brasilian sign language. Later on during the week, as we prayed and prayed for a way to teach him, we found a whole family of deaf people on his street-- one of whom had already been baptized and stopped going to church because no one could speak to him there. His mom hears and signs, so she's going to become our interpreter. Woo hoo! We're gonna start a deaf group here! We're the Anne Sullivans of Brasil! :D
    That is all.
  Merry Christmas!

Sister Weezer 

Jingle Bell Rock

It's beginning to look a lot like Christmas everywhere I go. Conquista understands this beautiful season much more than the tropical, beachy city of Salvador. Everyone has Christmas trees and twinkling lights are appearing everywhere on everything. I love it! My roomies/companions and I have plans to go Christmas caroling in our apartment complex to invite our neighbors to come to church. Sister J. Santos LOVES to sing and is making me teach her the words to "Jingle Bell Rock". It's so funny. 
    I promised Sister J. Santos that I would talk about her in my email home, so here goes: She is a character. She ought to lead the ABC, because the way she walks the streets and preaches the gospel could just as easily be a song about the blood of angry men. She wears her Book of Mormon on her belly, tucked into her waist strap and says, pointing at it defiantly, "Oh, isso aí!" (which is to see, "That's what I'm talkin' about!") But this valiant revolutionary quickly slips into the roll of a Broadway damsel when a catchy tune reaches her ears. The other night she danced in our living room with her blue polka-dot umbrella, making princess-worthy smiles and surprised faces at the mirror. When she learned that I can hold the alto part of music, she went crazy and wants to sing Christmas songs to the members after lunch appointments, to the ward during sacrament meeting, to President Andrezzo when he gives us rides home after interviews, and to anything else with ears willing to listen.  She loves a good joke and takes pride in how well she catches people in her pranks. On Sunday the city shook with the sound of honking car horns and victorious yells-- a common occurrence during futebol games. Sister Soares, our new Cabo Verdiana, asked "What's all the ruckus for? Is it a wedding?" 
Sister Quispe, the Peruvian, said, "No, I think it's for futebol."
"It's most likely for a funeral," Sister J. Santos said solemnly.
No one believed her until the member in whose house we were eating said, "No, it's tradition in Brasil. The more tragic the death, the louder the ruckus."
   I was in shock, thinking of all the billions of times I'd heard this ruckus throughout my mission. We were all fooled until Sister J. Santos burst out laughing and wrote a mental note in her daily planner to remember to write the moment in her journal.

    Remember that time I wrote about the drama we experienced the first time we thought our recent converts to walk to church? Well, I'm pleased to say that they get excited to walk nowadays. They think it's fun! They like to bring snacks and cookies to munch on the way. Yesterday as we walked, the friendly neighborhood dog (who all the children claim as their own, though he lives on the street) followed us all the way to the church and then sat in front of the door waiting for us to come out. I felt like I was leading the Little Rascals. It was one of those picturesque moments that I wish I could bottle up forever and keep on my shelf.  

    I love you all and I love being a missionary! Be obedient, be faithful, be happy, and seek opportunities to serve one another.

Ants on Steroids

     I remember, back in my pre-mission days, when I imagined Brasil to be a place loaded with big, ugly bugs. When I was sent to a tropical beach area, I braced myself for the worst. To my surprise, all I ever saw were butterflies the size of robins and hummingbirds the size of bluejays, only black with long, trailing tail feathers. Paradise without the bugs! Ok, so there were lots of sugar ants when we left sweet things out for too long, but that's all. Only twice in my whole mission did I see cockroaches in my house. They're always out on the street and in the houses of other people, but they stay out of mine. Funny how I had to come all the way to Conquista, the city that most resembles the US than it does the rest of Bahia, to see REAL bugs.
     It all started with the rain. On Tuesday I felt so cold that I was shivering and I finally pulled out the flimsy sweater I'd brought from home and even with it my teeth were chattering. But being the enthusiastic missionaries that we are, Sister Quispe and I plunged out into the icy downpour to find those elect children of God who were waiting for us!  Walking warmed me up well enough, but for the first time I wondered if my Chacos were the best footwear for the climate. There's a first time for everything here in Conquista. One recent convert's mother tried to offer me some close-toed shoes, but even with the cold I couldn't bear the thought. My feet have become like those of a cave woman-- tough and gnarly and resilient. They like being free. I declined the generous offer. 
      A few hours later as I was standing in front of a house, yelling a church invite over the sound of the rain to a woman leaning out her window above me, I began to feel little stringing pricks on my feet. The woman declined my invitations and I wished her a good day. Just in the nick of time, too, because the pricking at my feet was growing in intensity. As I walked away from the house, shaking my feet, the pricking grew worse and worse. Once shelter from the rain was found, I saw that my feet were covered in ants, all of whom were biting me with all their little anty might! I didn't even know that ants bite people! Oh Nelly, it hurt! Apparently I'd been standing over their home and they didn't like it. No, not one bit. I removed my shoes and managed to get them all off and thought that would be the end of it.
   I thought wrong.
   The next night I awoke to a dreadful itching in my feet. The kind of itch that spreads its way through your nerves, up your legs and arms and into your very brain. Imagine the worst mosquito bite you've ever had, multiply the itch by ten, and then imagine ten of those on each of your feet, in between the toes and on your heels. And mosquito bites usually go away after a couple of days, but these ant bites? They're here to stay, it seems. I soak my feet in hot water and treat them with tea tree oil and creams and lotions. I think the worst of it has passed. But I'm sure careful around ants now. 
    A few days after "The Attack", some long flying ants began to fall from the sky and the next day Sister Quispe and I were witnesses to a city-wide infestation of ants the size of cockroaches. I feel like I'm in a horror movie.  Sister J. Santos says that these big ants (that look like they've been injected with steroids) are a favorite snack of the country folk here in Brasil. Fried or raw, they're delicious. A part of me wants to take my revenge and bite back, but I think I'll just forgive and forget this time.

   I love you all! Hope all is well and ant-free back on the home front!

-Sister Weezer 

Monday, November 18, 2013

Brrrrr.... Cold!

     Conquista is cold. Yes, it is. I was shivering the other night and I slept with a BLANKET! I had forgotten what that feels like. I'm not sweaty all the time. My hair stays clean. I can wear makeup. My acne is gone. By golly, I LOVE this place!  
   I've had three baptisms here since I arrived (sorry, I forgot to write about the first two last week, Damaíres and Thiago). This past week we got to baptise a young man named Michael who the missionaries before us had been working with for a long time and no one ever managed to get him into the faunt. He's a smart kid, and I was super impressed the first time I talked to him. I asked him why he didn't want to get baptised and he said he told me a few of his concerns, I told him to read 1 Nephi 3:7 and follow the example of Nephi, be obedient to God's commandments and just trust that all would work out. He read the whole chapter and the next day said, "Ok, I'll get baptised!" It was a super legit baptism and I made a super dry cake for it that everyone forced down with a smile and a polite, "Wow, you MADE this? This is really something!" It was awesome.
    I'm still struggling to adjust to this study-at-night thing. Ma, I think I need glasses. For now we're just going to blaim my poor eyesight on being tired and reading in the dark.
    This week's homework for the family: read Elder Holland's talk from April of this year. Read it, study it, love it, share it. 

    I love you all more than chocolate!

Sister Whitaker

P.S. Christmas is a lot stronger here in Conquista than it is in Salvador. It must be the cold. Everyone has trees and lights up already!


     Ever since the first day in the mission home when I heard that only one area of the mission ever gets remotely cold, I wanted to serve in that area. And now, here I am! I'm fairly certain I'll be here until the end of my mission. Conquista is very different from the rest of Bahia. As in, there is NOTHING in Conquista that even close to resembles the rest of Bahia. It's a pretty calm, less-hot, wealthy area with more white folk than I've seen since leaving São Paulo. There's no loud music playing on the streets, no drunk people dancing in the streets, the sidewalks are well-kept, grass trimmed, parks filled with healthy happy families. Where am I??
    And yet, we are not working in these pretty, well-kept areas. Oh no, the group of investigators that was passed on to me from the sisters before live waaaaay up the hills in the middle of nowhere where it's barren and dangerous. I guess it's so hard to teach rich people that the missionaries before me decided it was worth the long and treaturous walk to find the more humble folk. I decided to be rebelious this last week and I told Sister Quispe, "No! Let's work close to the church like President asked us to and let's talk to these families!" So we spent a morning talking to the servants of rich people through intercoms, trying every approach we could think of to get the home owners to come talk to us. One actually let us in because when she asked, "Who is it?" I said, "It's us!" and she assumed we must be friends, so she unlocked the huge front gate by pressing a button up in her bedroom and said, "Come on in!"  We thought that was pretty cool, but we still had to be recieved by the house keeper lady first and when she saw that we were intruders she kindly accepted a booklet for herself and escorted us out.
   Well, that was a fun experience. We're going to keep trying. But at the same time we need to keep up with the humble folk up in the hills, so we go there every day and, I gotta admit, they are the most open and humble people I've ever worked with yet. They accept the gospel so easilly and they actually come to church when they say they will! It's a fun area.
    The only thing is that we have to head for home at 5:00 because it gets a little sketchy at night. So here our schedule is completely different than the rest of the mission. I'm used to studying in the morning and then going out to work for the rest of the day and not coming home until well after dark. Now we head out to work in the morning and study at night. I'm still adjusting to that. It feels like such a sin to be at home so early in the day. Weird.
    Sister Quispe is a spicy little Peruvian that is so much the Hispanic version of Reana that it makes me want to cry. She has me laughing so hard ALL THE TIME! She's got a thick Spanish accent and long hair that is always full and perfect. She has a lot of desire to work hard and she's always talking about her goals as she flips and fluffs her perfect hair and speaks very fast, slurring all her words together in a very Spanish way. More on her next time.
    Well, I am extremely happy in this area and excited to work! The Bishop here is less than thrilled with missionaries, so I'm excited to work with him and see if we can change that. My goal is to learn how to work better with ward leaders before I go home so I can be of more use to my home ward.

  I love you all!

-Sister Whitaker

Belated Happy Halloween

November 4, 2013

Boa tarde família e amigos!
   How was Halloween?! I celebrated the classic, old-school way by knocking doors of complete strangers' houses :D  Doing this as a kid, I remember the excitement (and the nerves) of eagerly waiting to see who would answer. Would they have one of those scary costumes, like the screamer with blood running down the mask? Would it be a smiley, pleasantly plump woman dressed as the tooth fairy who would give cupcakes? A happy fat guy in a Hawaiian shirt with a tourist hat that would give candy by the handfuls? An uptight witch that snaps "Only ONE!"? That sweater-wearing bloke who forgot it was Halloween and is giving out whatever random treats or brinkets he can find in his house? The health nut who gives boxes of raisons or organic fruit leathers.
    Here in the mission, the experience is only slightly different, In honor of the one day a year that it's normal to knock door-to-door, y'all get to hear about the different kinds of responses we get when we do:
The Magician:  We knock and hear a mysterious voice call out "I'm not home!"
    The Universalist: In an attempt to shut you up yells frequently, "Jesus is returning!!!"    Yes. Yes, He is.
    The Ghost: Lights are on, the smell of food cooking hangs on the air and floorboards creak, accompanied by moving shadows, but no one answers.
    The Evangelical: Says "Thank goodness you're here! Come in, I've been needing a good strong prayer. God bless you wonderful people!"
    The Couch Potato: Calls out "I'm busy!" from their cushioned throne as they watch a soap opera.
    The Saved:  "I already know Jesus!"
    The Petrified: Appears in the window and freezes in hopes that, if they don't move, you won't see them.
    The Vanisher: Slowly closes the door as you are speaking.
    The Bible Bashers: "Come on in, my dears!" (accompanied by malicious grins and fiery eyes)
And every experience packs a trick and a treat! :)

Transfers are in and I'm being kicked out of my comfortable beach house to.... Conquista! The only city in Bahia that is rumored to be "cold". We shall see about that. I think I'll be finishing the training of a new missionary from Peru, but that's not 100% certain yet.

  This week's scripture reference is the first chapter of Haggai in the Bible. It talks about the importance of the temple. My favorite part is the Lord repeating "Consider your ways". You try to do things your way and don't get the blessings you want. Consider your ways. Go to the temple! It's great. I challenge all who live within a day's journey of the temple to go at least once every week until March!

All my love,
Sister Whitaker