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!

Conquista

     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

Humble Boasting

     Yesterday a little girl got up in sacrament meeting to bare her testimony. She talked about how she'd won a singing contest that week and how everyone had told her she was so good at singing and she was the best one there, etc. etc. Then she closed by saying that she know she'd won because she'd prayed and asked the Lord to help her win, and that if we all ask for His help, God will always help us to win. That's what you call humble boasting.
   Now I'd like to humbly boast that Edson was baptized this past week! Yippee!!! It wasn't easy for him, but I was amazed by how much he's putting his trust in the Lord to help him. He's still super quiet and shy in a I'm-too-cool-to-care kind of way, but he actually looks us in the eyes when we talk to him now and he even smiles when he sees us. It's been really amazing to see the light creep into his eyes and his face. He took out his earrings and he tried to befriend some of the members after his baptism. Oh, how I love this kid! It's amazing how much you can come to love people here in the mission.
    This coming week will be the baptism of Lucas, a 15-year-old boy who reminds me of a mixture of all of my PHA guy friends rolled into one! He's still got some doubts, but he's been going to seminary every day for the past week and he's come to be good friends with Leonardo (one of the young men who goes out with us a lot to help us teach). They're such good pals that people in the ward, and the Elders, have come to call him "Leo's friend". We've even had people come up to us and ask if we've started teaching "Leo's friend" yet. The Elders were getting on us for not introducing ourselves to "Leo's friend" at church. Ha! We very proudly have taken to calling him "OUR-investigator-turned-Leo's-friend". That's the way it should be. Every investigator/recent convert needs good friends in the church!
    Being a member of the church isn't easy all the time. And they church itself isn't perfect because the people aren't perfect. But I have no doubts that this church is true. I know that God lives, that He is our Eternal Father, that He loves us, and that He has called a prophet in our day to lead us back to His presence. I feel His Spirit with me here in the mission, and feeling the presence of my little sister, Risa, has also strengthened my testimony of the divine nature of our Spirits. There is more to our existence that merely this life. I know it. And this knowledge was not brain-washed into me s a missionary. If the mission has done anything to my faith, it has challenged it, and it has been up to me to research and pray and discover what is true for myself.
     Get on your knees and pray!

-Sister Railee Whitaker

There's a Prophet For That

     After the first few weeks in the mission, home starts to feel like a dream-- one that is vividly remembered in detail. After the first year, all but the most important things (like family and friends) are all but forgotten. A few weeks ago I was asked to snap a picture of someone using their phone and I found myself fumbling like a bumbling blockhead trying to understand the simplicity of a touch-screen. I was grateful to be relieved of the electronic device when the task was finally accomplished. I found myself in awe at how technologically handicapped I've become. The world of youtube, facebook, and the web in general is so far removed from my memory that to say the words feels like a foreign language. I never have to bother with any of it here.
    Aside from the 1 hour a week I have to email my family, all of my communication occurs face-to-face or over the telepone (old-school style, where you don't use your thumbs). I never even ride in cars! If I want to go somewhere, I walk. If I want to communicate with someone, I talk. My world is not much bigger than the area in which I work, unless I go to the Mission Home on special occasions.
     I've forgotten what it's like to have machines waiting to make your every wish come true at the touch of a finger or the warmth of your breath. Recently the surprise-finding of an American dime at the bottom of my suitcase sent me shooting through space like Christopher Reeves (that's his name, right?) in Somewhere in Time. One of the many random things that I remembered during my phsychological time travel was a commercial on TV showing off the latest iphone perks and boasting "There's an app for that!"
     No matter what your wish may be, there's an app to make it come true. Modern technology makes life easy and comfortable. Like the fat people on Wal-E, you don't even have to exert any physical effort to get what you want exactly when you want it.
     Well, here in the mission, as I don't have a plastic screen or a silicon chip to give me the answers to convenience's every demand, I have grown in my love of the Book of Mormon for this simple fact: no matter what challenges you are facing, there's someone somewhere in the Book of Mormon who's been through something similar and who has something to say to you. Thus the title of this advertisement-disguised-as-an-email.
 
    Your siblings pick on you? See what Nephi has to say on the matter! (1 Nephi 7:16)
    Caught in a confusion of cliques? Jacob knows what that's like. (Jacob 1:13)
    Don't feel like you have much to contribute? Chemish is the one for you! (Omni 9)
     Received a scathing email blaming you for something you didn't even do?
    There's a prophet for that! (Alma 60-61)
    Rebellious kids? A nagging spouse? There's a prophet for that! (Mosiah 27:8-10, 14 and 1 Nephi 5:2-3)
    Feeling lonely? There's a prophet for that! (Mormon 8:3-5)
 
     Wherever you are in life, whatever struggles you face, I promise that you will find what you need in the pages of the Book of Mormon. This book was written for our day. The prophet-historian Mormon was led by God to know, out of thousands of records, which ones would be of most help to us today. As they watched their own nation and people kill each other off, Mormon and Moroni dedicated their days to compiling this precious book for our benefit, with the final hope that it would all be worth it in the end. Visions of our future were their last hopes.
     I often think of Moroni, sitting alone in his hiding place, wondering why he had "not yet perished", his dearest friends-- his ONLY friends-- the prophets who had written before him. I imagine the kinship he must have felt with Captain Moroni, Teancum, Helaman, Nephi, Alma and Lehi. How he must have delighted at reading about better days! How he must have cherished the sweet reassurance that every former prophet's writings gave that someday the world would read their words.
     Though I can't claim to know them as Mormon and Moroni came to, the writers of the Book of Mormon have come to be dear friends to me throughout my life and especially here in the mission. 
     Elder Richard G. Scott said that "the scriptures provide the strength and authority to our declaration when they are cited correctly. They can become stalwart friends that are not limited by geography or calendar. They are always available when needed. Their use provides a foundation of truth that can be awakened by the Holy Ghost. Learning, pondering, searching and memorizing scriptures is like filling a filing cabinet with friends, values, and truths that can be called upon any time, anywhere in the world.... To memorize a scripture is to forge a new friendship. It is like discovering a new individual who can help in time of need, give inspiration and comfort, and be a source of motivation for needed change."
    Many Brazilians believe that simply to have a Bible laying open on the table will fill their home with the Spirit and protect them from the evils of the world. Please do not be so superstitious as to believe such a thing! It is not enough to have the scriptures included in your library on the shelf, sitting beside your bedside or even in your car. You have to open them up and read them. FEAST on them! They are delicious!
    Elder Scott promised that "those who consistently read the Book of Mormon are blessed with an added measure of the Spirit of the Lord, a greater resolve to obey His commandments and a stronger testimony of the divinity of the Son of God."
 
     As a representative of Jesus Christ, I challenge all who read this email to read the Book of Mormon every day. I promise that as you do, you will be blessed with the comfort and wisdom that you are seeking.

   All my love,
Sister Whitaker

Just Stoppin' In

    The first two times I was in a trio were awkward and uncomfortable, but I'm really loving it this time around. Sister Durelli and Sister F. Santos are awesome! We had another baptism this week: a 16-year-old girl named Jaqueline who is dating one of the members here. She was a little wary at first when I talked to her and gave her a little booklet to read, but in our first visit she was completely open and said that she had loved the booklet so much that she'd made her whole family read it and they all wanted to know more! She humbly and sweetly learned and accepted all that we taught her and then was baptized and her sister and brother are next in line. Then, once her mom and step-dad get married, they'll get baptized, too.  I love watching the gospel bless families! There's really nothing like it in all the world.
     Lucas still has a few doubts that he wants to work through before his baptism, so we're going to help him this week. He's already changed so much. He said he loves the people in the church and the light that they have and he wants to be more like that, and more happy. But he's still unsure about a lot of things. I can't even believe how much I love this kid. 
     I fell down the stairs this past week (yeah, right in front of the Elders, how embarrassing) and scared everyone half to death. Elder Viera almost had a heart attack. But I didn't break anything. My hip is currently a color I only thought possible for cartoon hippos and angry unicorns, and it feels mushy when I walk (strange feeling), but I am still alive. Miracle of miracles! I swear, I'm tripping so much more these days than I used to.
    People, I LOVE this gospel! I know that it's true. I KNOW that God lives and that He loves all of us so much! 

-Sister Whitaker

Conference High

Oct 7
Oi minha família e amigos!
 
   Wasn't General Conference just the most awesome thing ever!?  I got to watch it in English this time around, so that was pretty exciting. I absolutely ADORED President Uchtdorf's talk (as always). He seemed to be speaking to the people of my area specifically. So beautiful!  I also really liked ... oh shoot, what was his name? I can't remember now, but he was one of the last speakers in the Sunday evening session and he spoke about not letting something as simple as a country drive with the family on Sunday get you to let go of the iron rod. Sabbath day observance here in Brazil is a real struggle and it makes me wonder why I ever let a single Sunday go by back home without going to church. One of the covenants we make with God at baptism is to honor the Sabbath day and keep it holy. Why is it so easy to take that commitment lightly and buy gas on Sundays or to use Sunday as a day to drive on vacations? The biggest struggle we have as missionaries is getting people to come to church. It doesn't matter if they're doing everything else right, if they don't come to church they can't be baptized and receive the saving ordinances of the gospel. Without going to church they can't progress. It's really no different after baptism. Without going to church, we can't progress.  In Preach My Gospel it talks about how the first thing to slide before the corruption of a nation is Sabbath day observance. Once people get lazy or lax with that, everything else slowly starts to become less important, too. It's heartbreaking, as a missionary, to see my investigators choose work or family traditions over Sabbath day observance. It's even worse to see the members do it and think it's ok because they're so firm in the gospel
 
     Honor the Sabbath day, folks! In the words of Forrest Gump "that's all I have to say about that."

   This past week we worked a lot with two awesome young men: Edson (whom I mentioned last week) and Lucas. We're preparing them both to get baptized this coming week. Lucas has been going to Seminary all this past week with Leonardo (our happy helper recent convert) and loving it. Edson could have been baptized this past week, but the baptismal interview freaked him out and he was nervous that he wasn't ready or worthy. So we moved the baptism back a week. Then on Saturday he was all gung-ho about baptism and feeling great! We have this new rule in the mission that you have to let at least 2 days pass between the actual baptismal interview and the baptism, and since he'd chickened out of letting the Elders give him a legit interview, we really do have to wait another week now. Kinda sad, but it'll be better now because we can actually plan a beautiful baptism and have more members there to help out.
    I'm loving my new companion, Sister F. Santos! Sister Durelli was transferred to Mussurunga for a couple of weeks to help out there while one of the sisters recovers from a knee injury, so it's been just the two of us. She reminds me SO much of myself when I first arrived-- full of love and fire and a little uptight in her determination to do everything just right. It's weird being the one who has to say, "Relax, Sister! Have fun!" That's usually what MY companions do.  I'm really loving working with her!

Well, time's up (as always).  I love you all and I LOVE THIS GOSPEL!!!! This is the best church EVER!!!!!

Sister Weezer

Trio

FAMÍLIA!!!!!
    Ok, so I tried to send pictures, but it's not working on this computer, so you'll have to wait until next week to see..... My NEW DAUGHTER!
     Sister F. Santos is from Campinas, São Paulo, as is Sister Durelli, and she is such an angel. I was kind of afraid of her at first because she looked really serious, but I got over that quickly enough. She's super mature and extremely intelligent, and she has such a strong desire to work. Our first day out she walked right up to a man at the bus stop and started sharing the Book of Mormon with him without me or Sister Durelli saying anything. I don't even have to train this girl! I'm pretty sure she's the one training me and Sister Durelli. She's also so loving and sees the good in everyone. Basically, she's everything you could ever want in a companion. How am I so blessed all the time?
   Sister Durelli is a firecracker. She's more outgoing than I or Sister F. Santos, so she keeps the trio fun and spunky, and makes people not as scared of us. I was kind of bummed to be put into a trio for the third time (aka, more than anyone else in the mission), but I'm really loving it this time around! I feel like we three make a good team and we're all pretty chill. I'm super excited for this transfer!
      
    We started out the transfer with a baptism (woot woot!). Iasmin, the younger sister of Italo (who we baptized a month or two ago), has been close to the waters of baptism for the past couple of weeks but just never had the courage to go for it. Finally our Zone Leader, Elder Mariz, counseled us to tell her that instead of praying to know if she should get baptized, we should invite her to pray for the courage to get baptized, because she already knew that she should. It worked! The moment I invited her in this way, a light went on in her eyes and she smiled and said, "Yes, I'll get baptized this Saturday!"  It was a beautiful moment! Sometimes people just need to realize that they really already have the answer they've been seeking, but they just need the courage to do what they know to be right.
    On the morning of her baptism, Sister Durelli and I tried to prepare Sister F. Santos for whatever we knew would happen to stop the baptism. Something always happens. "It could be anything," we said. "Just wait, you'll see."
    As we were finishing up our morning study, Elder Viera called to tell us that the Church building was out of water (as was half of the city) and that the baptismal font wouldn't fill. "Didn't we tell you?!" we both said to Sister F. Santos. We then pulled our faith together to come up with ideas. Everyone here has those huge blastic water jugs, so we thought we'd ask all the members to bring one to help fill the font. We even started filling two of our own and went to knock on our neighbor's door to ask for his. He's the ward mission leader, our neighbor. He scoffed at our faith and said, "That's ridiculous. It'll take you all day and a lot of work! Just get permission to baptize on the beach or in the lake."
    Ohhh yeahhh, we thought. We live by the ocean! And by a lake! Then we got all excited to have a baptism in nature and called the Elders to see if we could get permission from President Andrezzo. President didn't give us permission. He told us just to use the font of another chapel close by. Why didn't we think of that?
    So we hopped a bus with our sweet little Iasmin in toe and left the city of Salvador (ooo, how exciting!) to hold the baptism in the neighboring city of Lauro de Freitas, where Sister Durelli had previously been serving.
    The new American Elder, Elder Hall (who finally got his visa after 7 months of serving in Colorado) got to perform the baptism and no one gave the poor guy a chance to practice saying her name before they both got into the water. Iasmin da Anunciação Santos. There was a good, awkward 5 minutes or so of Elder Hall trying to get her name right while every body in the room tried to put in their two cents to help him out, which only caused more confusion. In the meantime, both Elder Hall and Iasmin were bright red from embarrassment. Ha ha ha! Oh, how ya gotta love baptisms in Brasil!
    I'm glad to say that it was all smooth sailing from there on out. We're now preparing a young man named Edson to be baptized this coming week and he is SO shy that it's hard to teach him. The only reason we even know he's actually interested is that he keeps coming to church on his own. Sister F. Santos knows exactly how to talk to him, so I'm pretty sure the Lord put her here on purpose.

 Well, that's all for now, folks!
I love you all and I LOVE this gospel! GO ON A MISSION!!!!

-Sister Weezer 

It's That Time Again

September 23, 2013
 
IIIIIIIIIIIIIIt's Transfer time! Again. And I'll be staying here in Stella Mares (woot woot!). I'll be in a trio again, and training, again. This time it'll be with Sister Durelli (a classy 19-year-old from São Paulo who speaks fluent English and who's been in the same Zone with me for the past three transfers) and tomorrow I'm going to the mission home to pick up my new greenie. I don't know who it'll be yet. We've got 16 new missionaries coming in (the biggest group I think this mission has ever seen), and 6 of those are sisters. I think. Maybe it was 5? I don't remember. The point is, you'll all get to hear all about it next week! :D
   As for my baby, Sister Mártir, she'll be going with Elder Ray down south to work in the same district with Elder Leite (who was in my district and zone, too, for the past three months). It feels like everyone is leaving together for the same place, and I'm getting left behind :(  I'm super sad, because I grew so close with this District. But at the same time, I'm really excited for this new transfer and the party that will be my new trio! We're going to have so much fun, just wait and see.
    This past week we had our Sister Training Conference thingy and it was really great. All of the sisters in the mission (20?) stayed at the mission home the entire day, eating too much and having one inspiring training session after the other. It was every Elder's nightmare, with plenty of tears shed and heart-felt testimonies full of "I love my companion"ness. Good thing the Assistants were there to keep things real with their very masculine sense of humor. It was overwhelmingly fun to see all my former companions all gathered in one place. I wanted to talk to all of them at the same time! Everyone felt that way, so it was wild. Just imagine, all of those sisters buzzing around like excited bees in a hive, trying to talk to and hug everyone at once. Good times, good times.
    I'm convinced that my mission president and his wife are the best in the world. They just are. I feel so blessed to be here in this mission with these wonderful people! Everything is so GOOD!!!
    Alright, enough of this foolishness. Let's get serious here.
    Actually, I'm out of time already (how does his HAPPEN?!).  
So, I love you all! The church is true! Know it, live it, love it!
 

-Sister Weezer 

Wednesday, September 11, 2013

Cat Got Your Tongue?

    It's September! Again! Do you know what that means? Yes, that's right, it really HAS been a year since I packed up my life and got on a plane for Brasil. If you think that's crazy, you have the smallest idea how I feel.
On the 4th of September, the one-year anniversary of the day I left home, I attended the mission farewell of one Vítor. I'd watched him open his call three months previous and relived my own 4th of September as I watched him bid his friends farewell. It's amazing how much has happened since that day. I was such a shy, timid, weakling back then. Hah! Now I'm a .... well, I guess not that much has changed.... But I AM learning! You can be sure of that.
    We had another baptism this past week! A 21-year old  man named Fernando who was just burning with desire to be baptised from the first day we invited him. He had to quit smoking first, and he was excited to do it. He'd already tried several times before, but we promised him that this time would be different, because this time he wouldn't do it alone. He said he knew the Savior would help him and on Sunday after church he was baptized! I'm super excited to have him on our team as we teach others in his street.
    
   Brasil:
 A few weeks ago we were eating lunch with a member who showed us pictures of her cats.
   "This one likes to sleep. This one likes to play. Aw, and this gorgeous fat one got eaten by my neighbors."
    "Huh?" I asked, sure that I'd misunderstood her. 
    "My neighbors ate him. He was so beautiful, too! Imagine how my heart broke!"
     It was then that I learned the truth about the barbequed skewers of meat sold on the streets here really are. That's right. Cat-kabobs.  The venders call it beef, but now I've been warned that when the meet is super red, it's actually someone's Fluffy  that was snatched.  People here really have to look out for their pets.  Now I feel disgusted every time I walk bast the churrasco (bbq) stands.  I've since heard this same story from other people who have lost their kitties to such an end. 
 The moral of the story is: Don't eat red meat on the street in Brasil. Heh heh, rhymed.

 I love you all!!!

-Sister Weezer

Angry Bird

I think every missionary, when he/she sets of on the mission, has this secret hope that he/she won't ever have to teach the law of chastity in great detail. Especially during the awkward MTC practices. But I can honestly say now that I am completely comfortable teaching this lesson now. I have no shame. You get a lot of practice here in Brasil, where no one is ever married. Seeing the results of a society that doesn't value marriage has really strengthened my testimony of the divinity of this commandment. God really knows what He's talking about. That said....

    Hey everyone! It's another week and here I am in the chique, chique lan house, trying to remember what I'd decided to write home about. I've decided that the story of the angry bird deserves to be told.
     First off, you must understand that Sister Mártir loves animals. She really does! She just doesn't understand what they like and what they don't like. She hasn't learned to read the angry signs of sur standing up on end, teeth barred, growling, hissing, hiding, or glinting eyes. To her, every reaction from an animal is funny and cute and she'll just keep right on moving towards them to pick them up, pet them, swing them around, make them dance, etc.  I try to warn her to be careful, but she always just rolls her eyes and accuses me of not understanding animals.
    Will, a few days ago we were in the house of an investigator who had a little bird that looked like a miniature green and blue falcon. Sister Mártir tried to coax it onto her hand, and when it refused, she grabbed it in her hands (amidst squawks of frightened protest) and MADE it love her. Then, despite MY protests, she pushed it onto my shoulder. He looked at me and I looked at him for a few moments. Then the investigator said, "He gives kisses!"  So I made kissy sounds and the bird pretended to be all shy and then quickly touched its beak to my cheek, imitating a kiss sound, and then turned its head quickly away with birdy-shoulders raised to hide its face. It was so cute, of course Sister Mártir wanted to try. "Let me! Let me!" she said, grabbing the bird back and holding it in front of her puckered lips.
   I'd never seen a bird look more angry in my life. It literally looked like it had eyebrows lowered, with its pupils dilated. I tried to warn her to be careful, but it was too late. As my dear companion made kissy sounds and drew the creature towards her, the bird leaned in and bit her lip! 
    It was funny for me, and a good learning experienece for her. Since that day, she's been more careful with animals. She still has a mark on her lip to remind her.

Well, that's all I got time for today, folks. Until next week! :D

-Sister Weezer

Monday, August 19, 2013

Daddy Legends




 Good news, everyone: I can finally tell stories in Português and people understand them! :D  This was discovered this past week when I briefly told the story of dad getting knifed on his mission to Sister Mártir and Leonardo (our member friend who helps us teach a lot) and they were so impressed that a few nights later they brought it up again and begged me to tell it to a group of shirtless boys on the street.
    "Hey, tell that story about your dad!" Leonardo begged. And then, before I could say anything, he animatedly began to tell the story himself. "Her dad got KNIFED on his mission!"  
     Once the story had been told, the group of young men, laughing and gasping and impressed and excited, called out to other boys on the street to come hear the story. It became more and more elaborate with every telling.
     "Yeah, and her dad is this huge guy. I mean, he's a serious wrestler, I'm telling you! So he figures he's just gonna take out the scrawny runt who stole his watch." They really like the part about dad tackling the first guy (and more fist punches and martial arts moves were added in with each telling) and the hand-off of the watch to a second robber. I bid the crowd a good night before things escalated to "it was a car full of masked ninjas that drove up with samurai swords!"
      Happy Father's Day, daddy! You're officially famous here on the streets of Agua Suja. ;)
      It was father's day yesterday, right? It was here in Brasil, anyway.

   This past week was really great! We've been teaching a super golden investigator named Kiara. She's 23 years old and lives alone with her 7-year-old son and 4-year-old daughter. We found her while knocking doors and she looked at us like angels sent from God. She said she'd undergone surgery earlier that week and had promised the Lord that she would start going to church. Then she asked for help to know which one she should join. Bing! That's when we appeared on her doorstep. She has so many questions and is so hungry to learn anything and everything about the restored gospel. She and her kids LOVED church and all last week her kids were asking her when they were going to go back. One of the most beautiful moments o my mission thus far was the day that Kiara understood what repentance really means. We'd talked about it before and she'd been confused. She didn't understand how it was possible NOT to repent. Because in Português, the word "arrependimento" is also used for "regret". She said she always regrets it when she does something wrong, so she's always following Christ, right?  We explained to her that when you truly repent, you feel so much remorse for your sins that you will truly never want to do the same wrong thing again. The sin of which you've repented will become loathsome even to think about.  
     The next day, we were really rushing to get to all of our appointments, and she wasn't home when we had time to pass by her house, so we left a little sticky note with a message and a scripture on it for her. The scripture was Alma 7:11-13, about how Christ took upon Him all of our weaknesses and infirmities so that He would know best how to succor us.  The next day when we passed by her house, she told us that she'd received an answer to her doubts, and that Jesus Christ had communicated to her through the Spirit. "It was exactly as you said it would be," she said. Then she pulled out the scripture that we'd left on the sticky note and as she read it out loud  to us, she cried and cried and hid her face with her hands. "When I read this," she said, "the Lord showed me my future-- how my life would be if I continue committing the same sins I'm committing. I saw would would happen to my children." And then she cried and cried. It was the most beautiful thing I've ever seen in my life Never have I beheld one so truly repentant. 
   Kiara is truly changing her life to be in harmony with the gospel. 

I love being a missionary so much!!!!

-Sister Whitaker

Random Titles

I know what you're thinking:  "What did last week's email have anything to do with the 90's?"

   Le' me 'splain. ... No, there iss too mush, let me sum up.  So I had this plan to explain how the dream of the 90's is alive in Bahia, but then in the whirlwind of hurry-and-write-before-your-time-runs-out-ness, I forgot. Suffice it to say, the pulling-up of short shorts and the shirts that barely touch the waistline of said shorts, the shoes, the hair, the makeup, and the way of life here in Bahia all would do the 90's proud. It sure gives Portlandia some worthy competition, if nothing else.
    On that note.... We had another baptism last week! Woo hoo!  He's a rediculously sweet boy of 14 years named Italo who had already made several visits to the church and to seminary with his member friend and who (aparently) several companionships of Sisters before us had tried to teach with no luck. But the time was just right for him this past week and he very peacefully and happilly accepted to be baptised. We'd actually been working with him the week before, too, and he'd wanted to get baptised that Saturday, but ended up having to go out of town over the weekend. His parents were very supportive of his decision and we're determined to work more with them and with Italo's sister, Yasmin. They are a beautiful family, and they are neighbors with TWO member families! :D  It was a really beautiful baptism and Italo melts my heart. 

    I've become the ward pianist. I've been so since Sister Santana left. It's pretty easy for me, considering that the piano here in Itapuã plays itself. The only reason I've been chosen to man it is because it only speaks English. :P  
    Before the Zone Conference last week, Elder Leite asked me if I could play the piano and I, thinking that he already knew about the self-playing trick, said "sure". Then, the night before the conference, he called again to ask if I could play two of the most complicated hymns in existance (which also happen to not be part of the self-playing piano's reporteour [spl?]) and as I insisted that it was impossible, he kept saying, "No, we have faith in you, Sister. You play very well!"
   That's when I realized. He thought I was actually PLAYING the piano!  He about died when I broke the news to him. The two complex hymns were already on the program and President Masagarde was going to come and we would have no piano accompaniamento. Thankfully, Elder André is a concert violinist and everything turned out ok in the end.
   But I'm finding that there's no end to the mistief that the self-playing piano is getting me into. Now I've been roped into helping with choir practice and everyone wants me to do all these fancy things, even though they KNOW that I'm not actually playing the piano. It really makes me wonder why I didn't practice more before the mission.

Well, I love you all! Thank you SO much for all the letters and emails and prayers! I promise I'm doing my best to write you all back!

-Sister Weezer

The Dream of the 90's

Bom dia, família e amigos! Como vai?!

This past week was pretty good! We worked our tails  off and were just all-around happy to be here. It occurred to me just how much I love my companion several times and that made the work even better. The Lord really knew what He was doing when He said, "go forth and preach the gospel two by two". At least, He said something like that.
 
     Speaking of putting words in the Lord's mouth, Bahianos really like to do it. Many of their favorite scriptures are nowhere to be found in the scriptures, such as, "the church is us." They like to use this to say that every individual person is the church of Christ and that attending an actual church is an idea of men. What I enjoy even more, though, is the little figurines of an open Bible with some cliché, anonymous quote in it that is made to look like a scripture so that people actually believe that it IS located somewhere in the scriptures. Last Saturday I was in the home of a member who had one of these and the son asked me if I knew where he could find the scripture that was written on the little fake Bible. I recognized it as a part of the "Footprints in the Sand" poem and had to break the sad news to him that it wasn't actually a scripture. He was heartbroken.
      
    Last Saturday was our Zone Conference and it was AWESOME! We had a counselor (?) of the Brasil Area Presidency there to speak to us and the spirit was so strong it felt like we were swimming in it. I didn't know that Area Presidencies are General Authorities before. Boy did I feel silly when I sat across the table from him during lunch and had the nerve to ask him. He was kindly patient with my lack of inteligence and helped me to understand that I was pretty much talking to an apostle. Then he asked me if I'd ever eaten at Chuck-o-Roma when I was in Utah and we all laughed and it was a grand ol' time.  After the conference was over, the chapel felt like the temple and everyone spoke in whispers, if they spoke at all. It was a wonderful spiritual boost!

    Highlights of the week:
    Yesterday we were in the home of a recent convert of the Elders who recently had a knee surgery and is unable to leave her house. So the Elders brought the sacrament to her and Sister Mártir and I taught a mini lesson. She was sitting in a rocking chair by her bedroom window, her leg propped up and a blanket across her lap. Elder Ray swatted at a mosquito with his tie and than Idassy (the RC) pulls out this huge can of heavy-duty bug spray that had been hidden at her side the whole time and sprays the tiny insect with enough poison to kill an elephant. "I always keep this by my side" she said smugly as she tucked the can away and rocked in her chair. I almost died from laughing so hard, seeing that sweet old lady with her hidden amo. I was seriously crying from laughing, and every time I thought about it I broke down into peals of laughter again. 
     On the same day, the daughter of Idassy gave Sister Mártir a dress in a bag. Sister Mártir wanted to wait until she got home to open it, but everyone insisted that she open it right then and there. Sister Mártir is tall and skinny. The dress was not. It was striped with every color imagineable and 100% without shape. As my companion held it up for all to see, I heard the voice of Donny Osmond in my head singing, "I look handsome, I look smart, I am a walking work of art..."
 

    I love you all!

-Sister Whitaker

Monday, July 15, 2013

I'm in love, I'm in love and I don't care who knows it!

This week I woke up to this simple truth: I am absolutely in love with my mission. 
   I'm in love with these people. During the week, I wanted to just take every single person by the shoulders, shake them and yell, "I LOVE YOU!!!!"  Instead I had to settle for fake-punches and fake face-slaps every now and then with appropriate sound effects. Strangely, I think this love language translates here in the feild better than it did in the CTM.
    This week started out super slow and by Thursday our numbers were so bad that I passed the point of tears and into the zone of hysterical laughter. The District and Zone Leaders had no words of advice or of comfort to give us. Then Sister Mártir and I said, "That DOES it! Let's just through tact out the window and go crazy. We've got nothing to lose." So that's what we did. We just ran around asking everyone to get baptised and then found ourselves on Friday night with good numbers and a group of super awesome investigators, 6 of whome we are preparing for baptism next week! Sweet! After two weeks of praying and working really hard with little to show for it, the Lord really blessed us this past weekend. Pray for this 6 people! Especially Paulo and José. Paulo is the grandson of two members who have been praying for him for several years to take an interest in the church and José is the father of another member who has also been praying for him for several years. Pray that they will finally be pricked in their hearts and go for it.
     I love the mission! I had one of those moments yesterday where my companion wanted to hear my life story and I got to reflect on all the events that led to my being here in Bahia doing what I'm doing. Wow, the Lord really loves me. This is the coolest thing EVER that I get to be a part of! Thank you once again to all of you friends and family who helped me to be here. I'm so grateful for all that I'm learning. I hope I'm becoming a better person than I was before, too. 
      BIRTHDAY SHOUTOUT!  Happy Birthday Rebecca Hasler and Rachel Whitaker! I wish you all the good things of life with much chocolate thrown in :D

     Guess what?  A Igraja de Jesus Cristo dos Santos dos Últimos Dias é verdadeira!

     I KNOW that Jesus Christ lives and that He LOVES us. I know this because I have felt Him by my side and He has spoken through me to people He knows and loves better than I do. This past week I was talking to a recent convert who had slipped up and made some mistakes. He felt like he was unworthy to go to church and he wept and wept and begged us to leave him alone in his misery.  I felt an overwhelming flood of love for this man and the Spirit truly took over and spoke through me. I was able to be the mouthpiece that told him it's never too late and that no one is ever unworthy of repentance. I was able to testify of the love that the Savior has for him. When he shook his head and said he didn't believe it, I said, "Why do you think we're here?! He sent us to you because He loves you!"  It was one of the most powerful testimonies I've had the priviledge of bearing on the mission.  And I know it's true for every single person. The Savior loves us all so much that He paid the price for ALL of our sins, pains, and weaknesses, even knowing that many would reject His offering.  
   Please accept His offerring. You'll be so happy! :)

I love you all!

-Sister Whitaker

Churrasco!

I hope that everyone watched that amazing missionary training broadcast last week-- it was SO GOOD! It was especially fun for we missionaries here in Itapuã, because we got to watch it in English as a zone. It was so strange to be shut up in a little room with a bunch of Americans, all speaking English shamelessly. I felt like I was sinning, and I kept looking over my shoulder to make sure there were no offended Brazilians around.
   All of the pent-up English wit that the Elders had been holding back for the past month/two years burst forth in awkward spurts of obnoxious gaiety. I felt like I was back at BYU. Especially when Elder Holland announced that Seth Bott would be the organist. In my excitement, I cried out in a strained, Brasilian-accented attempt at English, "Seth Bott!!! He -ees -my -friend!"
    I'm not forgetting English, I swear! It's just confusing to speak it here for some reason.... Yesterday, for example, I watched a video of the first missionaries in Cabo Verde and there were church leaders speaking in English with Português subtitles. For the first time ever, I realized that I was understanding both so perfectly that I couldn't even tell what was Português and what was English. Cool! I'm bilingual, Ma!

This past week was a bit of a doozy, but that's ok, because this next week is going to be AWESOME! We're going to work so hard and be happy and just love everything and everyone.  
   This new transfer, I'm going to be staying here with Sister Mártir to complete her training. We're excited. Today has been so much fun because-- guess why?  I'll tell you why.  It's because my Zone was the zone of excellence this past month! Every single dupla baptised and we exceeded our baptism goal for the month by 8 (I think?). That's never happened before as long as President Andrezzo has been president of this mission! He was so excited that he took us all out to a Churrascaria (BBQ House) and treated us to lunch. We also got to play games and stuff in the church. Spot It is always a major hit with Brazilians. They love it! Several of the Elders begged me to ask mom to send a tin of Spot It cards to them. Thanks for making me the popular kid, Mama :)
   After emailing, Sister Mártir and I are going to the dunes with Elder Leite and Elder Ray. That's funny to me only because Elder Leite doesn't usually want to do anything social, but he suggested the idea and since it was his first time suggesting such a thing, no one wanted to say no. Though we are all thinking the same thing:  "What are we going to do on a big mountain of sand?" But we're gonna go nonetheless and see what happens! I laugh in my head every time I imagine it. Elder Ray laughs when he can tell that I'm laughing in my head.

    Well, that's all for now, folks. I'll be sure to have more interesting stories next week. Love y'all!

-Sister Weezer

Missionary Moments

Sometimes while we're walking in the hot sun through the streets of Brasil, I catch a glimps of our shadows-- the wind blowing our skirts, our waist-strapped packs fully loaded with umbrella and water bottle (that look like serious amo in shaddow form), a Bookof Mormon in our hands, and I think,"We're so cool it hurts."   Then I trip on the cobblestones and the Brasilian kids pause their game of futebol to point and laugh at me.
   
Sometimes I see people who I haven't seen since my first area in the mission and we hug and smile and as we talk I think, "Oh yeah, my Português is SO much better now!"   Then the person steps back and says, "Wow, I just can't believe it. You were so much prettier before. What happened to you?"

Sometimes as I'm navigating my new greenie companion through the favelas, walking the quick and purposful pace of a missionary, I explain to my companion where we're going and what we're going to do there so she'll be well-informed and not feel too lost.   Then my companion says, "We're going to meet with who?? Sister Whitaker, she doesn't live over here, she lives on the other side of the city. Remember?" 

Sometimes, you learn to be humble, whether you want to or not.

   As I write this email, I am sitting in the safety of a member's home  (a member who lives in the same complex right across the hall from us) because all the internet cafés are closed. That can only mean one thing in Bahia: it's a holiday.
   Actually, the holiday was yesterday, but Bahianos like to drag things out for as long as possible. It's been a war zone here for the past week with all the fireworks. Elder Ray said he feels like he's in a WWII video game, and when Elder Leite (District Leader) calls at night, it really sounds like that, too as he yells over the sound of exploding bombs.  As nothing is illegal here in Brasil,just imagine the havoc that is reeked when 6-year-old boys are buying fireworks and lighting them in the streets 24-7.  The firework favorite of children here is a dreadful thing that does nothing but make an ear-splitting, heart-stopping pop that sounds like a gunshot right next to your ear. These the kids like to throw in our path as we're walking because they scare the wits out of my companion. They aslo burn holes in cats and dogs. Worry. It's more dangerous than it sounds.
   This holiday is called São João. I don't know what fireworks have to do with the death of John the Baptists, but Brasilians LOVE them.
    Last night as we dodged through a bomb war (yes, kids really through fireworks at each other, and their parents let them), I kept hearing the voice of Rhett Butler in my head "Has the war started?" and "The rebels aren't wasting any time!" Sister Mártit kept screaming and throwing her arms over her head crying,"Sheeshter! Sheeshter!"  (that's 'Sister' with a Cabo Verdian accent).
    Now're about to do it again, this time with a cake in our hands, to get to our Family Night appointment with our recent convert, Irla, and her family.  Pray for us!

   I love you all and I am LOVING the mission! 

-Sister Weezer

Monday, June 17, 2013

Out of the Frying Pan and Into the Fire

Peace! I come waving a white flag! I promise everything is alright!
    
I'm glad to say that the Dange has passed. For the most part. I'm a little tired still, but I'm back to work and happy as a cluff. Being a missionary confined to bed for a whole week is worse than all the pains in the world. I always thought that if I got sick on the mission it would be a good opportunity to read everything that I don't have enough time for normally, but with Dange I quickly learned that reading makes the nausea worse. So all I could do was lie there and be bored. *Sigh*  I'm so glad that's over! :D
    After a week in bed, the only real news I have has to do with Sister Mártir, from Cabo Verde off the coast of Africa. As I said in my last email, I was supposed to receive and train a new Sister from Africa here in Stella Mares and Sister Santana was supposed to receive and train another, and open a new area for Sisters in Itapetinga. BUT, the night before this change was to occur, we learned that my companion would no longer be serving in this mission and so Sister Santana and I are now in a trio with HER new greenie, here in Stella Mares until one of the visa-waiters in Mississippi gets her visa and can come be with me.
    Sister Mártir is tall and thin and very sleepy. I was so tired of sleeping this past week that I wanted to die, but there was nothing else for me to do and I WAS tired. But Sister Mártir, who is in perfect health, slept just as much as I did! It was strange. Poor Sister Santana had no one to talk to and went about our apartment doing good works, leaving loving notes on mirrors and under pillows, like the good fairy that she is. She also saw to it that I took my medicine and drank lots of water. God bless her! She's so pleasant and always laughing.
    And so, today was our P-day and I was feeling good enough that I even agreed to Sister Santana's P-day activity of choice: eating at McDonald's.
     Now, anyone who knows me knows my deep-rooted fear for this heart-attack factory of the U.S. But Brasilians love it and believe that it's high-quality meat. They sing praises to McDonald's and get excited when rich members will take them there for lunch. Sister Santana has been so good to me all week, I just couldn't say no to the golden arches in her big, brown eyes. 
    Having narrowly dodged a Dange Death, I willingly marched into a McMasacre. As I stared down a highly over-priced McFrightful and McDrink (orange juice?) with McFries, my stomach backed itself up against my spinal chord, crying, "No, no. nooooo!!!!" The sound of cows being butchered inhumanely filled my ears as I took a McBite. I closed my eyes in my concentrated attempt to forget the images I'd seen on "Food Inc."
     I now have a McStomachAche, and this is something I don't know if I'll survive. Mommy, I love you!
-Sister Whitaker
P.S. Thank you for all the prayers and fasting! You guys are the best!