Tuesday, January 29, 2013

Baptism, Anyone?

Rafael got baptised on Saturday! It was so wonderfully exciting and beautiful and his girlfriend even came. She loved it, and came to church  the next day and loved it and now has a Book of Mormon of her own and we're hoping she'll be next in line. 
   After the baptism we had a ward activity called M&M Night (members and missionaries), which Sister V. Silva and I have been planning for several weeks. We've got a bit of a retention problem here in Mussurunga, largely because the members don't know how to fellowship. The church is still so young here and while everyone has the best intentions, they also get nervous when they don't know what to do and it can come off the wrong way, so for the past two transfers I've spent here I've been trying to come up with a way to help and the idea came to me in the form of a memory. A memory of that super sweet Missionary Night we had in my home ward back when I was 13 or 14, where all the youth got to do missionary activities with fake investigators.
    So, our M&M Night began with everyone being welcomed to the "CTMM" upon their arrival to the chapel and receiving a missionary name tag of red or blue before sitting in the cultural hall where 'The District' (a missionary training video) was being projected on the wall. After enough people had arrived, they were separated into District Blue and District Red and sent in companionships to knock doors in the church, behind which were members of the ward who pretended to be non-members. Everyone had 5 minutes to get into the "house" and teach about the Book of Mormon. 
    I admit I was super nervous about the activity beforehand. The other missionaries kept telling me that the members here run from anything having to do with missionary work and that they wouldn't want to participate, but we gave it a try. We also weren't sure if anyone would come, because there was big Seminary thing going on that night. As I set up a lot of chairs for the activity, the other missionaries laughed and said, "Wow, you've got a lot of faith, Sister Whitaker."
   I'm pleased to report that my faith paid off. Not only were all the chairs I set up filled, but there were even more people that came and we ended up putting up more chairs! And the activity was a real hit. Everyone LOVED it! They all got giddy and nervous about knocking doors and came out eager to swap stories. In the end, we missionaries explained to them that as members, they don't need to knock doors or talk to people in the street. They just need to be good examples and talk to their friends about the gospel.
    The highlight of the night was when Rafael raised his hand, stood up, and said for everyone, "Hi, I'm Rafael, and I was just baptized tonight. I just want to say that what these missionaries do isn't easy. It's hard. You all had fun because the people behind your doors were members of the church, but these missionaries do this all day every day with complete strangers. It's so important for all of us to help them out. We need to share the gospel with the world!" 
    Sister V. Silva and I cried, we were so proud.

    The next day, one of our investigators surprised us by coming to church all on his own, when we didn't think he would! Long story short, he asked if he can request to be baptized or if we have to select certain people only. Ha ha ha! Hopefully we'll be having another baptism this week or next.

  I love you all so much! Aunt Anne, your comments make me laugh so hard and miss you!
   Now how about that baby, Reana???

-Sister Weezer

Short And Sweet

No, no, no, it can't really be P-day AGAIN! The end of this transfer is looming closer and closer every day like an axe, ready to cut the fun short. I just KNOW I won't get another transfer with Sister Silva. She's too fun. I'm also afraid I'm probably going to be transferred to another location, now that I'm really starting to see progress here in Mussurunga. The little kids run up to hug me at church now, and I feel like I'm actually helping in the ward. Maybe I'll get one more transfer here..... But if not, tudo bem. I'm sure it would be good for me to experience another area, too. Whatever happens, the Lord knows where I'm needed, so I don't need to worry about it. For now I'm just trying to enjoy this time and work like crazy.
   Sometimes, when I pause to think about it, I'm amazed by this place. Every day, so many incredible, funny, surprising, beautiful, strange, and miraculous things happen and I'm constantly constructing letters home in my head to document these moments, but there are simply far too many to write even a 100th of them. For instance, this past week we asked for directions from a little street smart boy (a real Gavroch, or artful Dodger, right out of the movies, he seemed!) with dirt smudges on his face and clothes, and he declared that he would lead us to our desired location. Then he called out to his much older and taller friends rather chastizingly, "Well, are you coming or not? You got a problem with helping the people of God?!" Reluctantly his friends joined us and we all followed this spunky character through the streets of Mussurunga, dodging buses and puddles while he, strutting with a confidence that defied his size, conversed with us. As I watched him call out to other boys passing by on bikes every now and then during our conversation, as if he had the whole world in his hands, and as he led us through a field of boys flying kites with the thick Brasilian foliage behind him, I wished I had a camera to capture the picturesque moment. 
   The mission is just packed full of little moments like these. They can't be canned or framed. They can't be explained. They have to be experienced! And I hope that I always remember them. I love my mission! I'm so grateful I made the decision to come here.

- Sister Weezer


Monday, January 14, 2013

What Was the Name of His Other Leg?

     My favorite part of the morning is always our precious study time. It's the fastest hour ever and it seems like I can never get my fill of reading before it's over. It's an hour of serenity, when we can learn and ponder the things of God. It wasn't always that way, though. Back before we learned to turn on two fans and some church music to muffle outside sounds, our study time was always interrupted, every morning, by our neighbor across the way. He's a little old man who's always sitting on a couch on his deck beside a bucket. Every 5 minutes or so, a horrendous snorting, hacking, slurping sound that seems far too loud to come from such a frail creature, is followed by the just-as-loud spitting of a large glop of snotty saliva into the bucket. I don't know if I've ever heard anything so disgusting before. Sister Rosado and I always tried to tune it out, but sometimes it was just ridiculous and we would burst out laughing. Now, thanks to the two fans and Sister V. Silva's awesome 80's music (I discovered some more treasures this week! "The Broken Horse", "No Deposit, No Return" and "I Know Who I Am"!), we hardly notice this sound anymore.
    Well, this past week, Sister V. Silva and I decided it was time for us to meet our neighbors. So the first one we visited was this little old man who likes to spit. Carlos is his name (that's "CaH-los", as the Baihanos say it), and with him was a woman whom he called his "Secretary", but who is really more of an in-home nurse. He wears huge, thick glasses on his shriveled nose that make his eyes look bigger than they are, and he actually still has many of his teeth. As I shook his hand I couldn't help but see that the bucket at his side is half-way full of a thick, gelatinous substance. I've tried to erase this image from my mind, and since I can't, I'm going to share it with all of you now. Wahahaha! Anyway, we sat down and talked with him for a good 20 minutes or so.
   You know how people always resemble their pets (although no one has ever dared to tell me whether I look more like my cross-eyed cat or my gargoyl-faced dog)? Well, Carlos has a pet turtle (or tortoise? What's the difference? I think turtles live in water and have webbed feet, so we're gonna call this thing a tortoise) about half the size of my cat, who was hobbling around the floor the entire time. I was fascinated as I watched this tortoise, both by the way its skin resembled that of Carlos, and by the wooden stump that served as a fourth leg. A tortoise with a wooden leg. What an awesome pet! The entire time that I tried to listen to Carlos's old-man Portuguêse, I had the Mary Poppins joke running through my head. You know, about the man with a wooden leg named Smith.
    I was so distracted our whole visit, I don't know what Carlos saw in me, but he wants to get married now. To me. He's got it bad, too. Every time he sees me, he calls out to me, "Bom dia, minha boneca!" Sister V. Silva calls him my noivo (fiance).
     Unfortunately for Carlos, marriage is the farthest thing from my mind at the moment. My heart is completely lost in this work. This past week I've really been carried away, enveloped, bathed in the joy of sharing the gospel. We have an investigator named Raphael who leaves Sister V. Silva and me singing and dancing our way home!
      I've been working with Raphel for about 2 months now (which is kinda crazy for this mission), and so many times I've been ready to call it quits with him. He's 18 years old, and we met him through his dad, who I ran into a few times on the street and who asked us to come teach his son one day. We taught them both about the Restoration, and invited them to pray to know if Joseph Smith was really a prophet, and Raphael said he would. From the beginning it was clear that he had a lot of doubts. He's visited many churches, looking for the truth, and he thought we were most likely just another church. But after our first visit he said (albeit a little skeptically), "You're different from other churches I've visited. I like you guys. I'll read the booklet and see what I think."   Weeks went by and every time we stopped to see him, he said he hadn't received an answer to his prayers about Joseph Smith and as he listened to us talk, there was always a laughing, slightly-mocking gleam in his eyes. He spoke as if he wanted to learn more, but I always felt that his interest wasn't genuine. And then, on the day that Sister V. Silva was ready to call it our last visit with him, we brought the video "The Restoration" to watch with him and he wasn't home, but his dad was and his dad invited us in to watch the film with him. Right at the climax of the film, when God the Father and Jesus Christ appear to Joseph Smith, Raphael walked in. He finished the movie with us and afterwards, when Sister V. Silva asked what he thought of it, he responded, with that laughing glint in his eyes, "What do I think? I think it's a movie."
    Sister V. Silva, a little exasperated, said, "Well of course it's just a movie! But what do you think of the message? Do you think that the Lord really appeared to Joseph Smith?"
     And then it came out. "Honestly, I don't even know if I believe in God."
     In unison, my companion and I said, "Ohhhh." It all made more sense after that and we challenged him to pray to know if God existed. I promised him that if he prayed with a sincere desire to know, and not mere curiosity, that he would receive an answer.
     The next time we saw Raphael, he was like a completely different person. The mocking glint in his eyes was replaced by a happy glow and he very excitedly told us that he had received his answer very clearly that God does live, that He is his Father, and that He loves Raphel very much. This answer was followed by a dream that confirmed the same thing to him again. Ever since that day, he's been hungry for more. He hates to read, but he's been devouring the Book of Mormon like crazy, asking for more reading material, and praying always. This past week, he bore his testimony to us that he knows that Joseph Smith was a prophet, that the Book of Mormon is true, and that Thomas S. Monson is our prophet today. He said that after he gets baptized, he wants to serve a mission, too. "Everyone needs to know this!" He said, after learning about the Plan of Salvation. We were all laughing and crying and he even danced! He's so happy every time he sees us now. "You Sisters don't realize how happy I am," he said. "I went to bed one night knowing nothing and I woke up the next morning knowing everything!" He came to church yesterday and LOVED it. The Elders said he was making comments in Priesthood and participating as if he'd been a member of the church his whole life.
   This Church is true. The fulness of the Gospel of Jesus Christ has been restored through a living prophet, and if you don't know it, pray and ask God of it's true. I promise you'll get an answer!

-Sister Whitaker

Tuesday, January 8, 2013

80's EFY Music

Oi, família e amigos! Todo bem?
   I hope ya'll had a fab New Years! New Year's Eve is a bigger deal here in Brasil than Christmas is. A member invited us over for a feast and we sang more Christmas songs and then I made a vision board while Sister V. Silva worked on a 1-year anniversary gift for her boyfriend. Ha ha. It was pretty fun. Then we lay in bed and listened to a bajillion fireworks going off at midnight and people yelling in the streets. I'm glad I get to spend another New Year's Eve here, it's just way more exciting than in the U.S.  Sister V. Silva taught me a song for the holiday, too, and I sang it until she was ready to strangle me. No, not really, she kept singing it, too.
   My New Year's resolution is to write down one miracle that happened at the end of every day. So far it hasn't been hard. We've had an incredible week of miracles and awesome experiences! It's crazy, but all of a sudden people are coming up to US, or calling out to us in the street, wanting to know when they can come to church with us. Say what?! It's awesome. We've got several investigators we're super excited about.
   Today for P-day all the sisters in my zone got to go visit the Pelorina, which used to be the capitol of Brasil, back in the day. It's where the Portuguêse settlers first landed and there are tons of beautiful, old buildings. It was also a huge slave-trade post, so there are a lot of monuments. It was cool to see all that stuff. I felt like such a tourist, though. It was weird. And it was especially weird to see a bunch of pasty-white Americans walking around, snapping photos, speaking English. I hoped I didn't look like one of them. 
   We also ran into some Elders from the Salvador North mission while we were there (because the two missions each share a part of Salvador), and that was a Twilight Zone moment. We all just stopped and stared at each other in awkward puzzlement for several moments, looking at each others' name tags. "Elder?"
  Eventually we got over the weirdness of it, marveled at the excitement of talking to missionaries from another mission, then felt weird again and moved on. One of the Elders was an American from Utah (Elder Heaten?), but we didn't speak to each other in English because I think we forgot how.
          I didn't bring any music with me to Brasil, and every once in a while I regret it, but never for long, because my companions always have tons of music. It's fun to hear the different arrangements of church music that each companion has. Sister V. Silva's selection is, by far, my favorite so far. The first time she turned it on, I was thrown back in time to my childhood days in Utah, dancing in the living room on Sunday nights in my dress-up clothes. I think that might have been the last time I heard some of those songs. I don't know where she got them from, but Sister V. Silva has a ton of EFY songs (in English, mind you) from the 80's/90's! Classics such as "Do Likewise, My Friends", "Like a Lighthouse", "Every Man for Himself", and more! My favorite one to work out to in the morning is one that sounds especially 80's, with these lyrics: "I will win the race, I will fight a good fight, I will serve my God with all of my might. I will keep the faith, I will gain the prize, and I'm not giving up on the goal until the victory is mine!" It makes me want to dawn hot pink leg-warmers, a sweatband, and some poofy sweats that are gathered at the ankles. Mission mornings do not get any better than this.
Can I get the addresses of Megan Bingham and Genevieve Darrah?

I love you all!!
Until next week!

-Sister Weezer

Monday, January 7, 2013

I Dreamed a Dream

    It began with me buying some conditioner for my hair, which came in a cool, ancient, purple potions bottle with gold trim.  The sales associate realized they were all out of this conditioner in back and so she gave me the one in the locked display case.  For the rest of the dream, her boss (who resembled Stromboli from Pinocchio) was trying to get it back because, apparently that particular bottle actually contained a magic potion of some kind that people had been killing each other to get for as long as the world was!
    I, realizing that this bottle possessed great power and musn't fall into the wrong hands (like Stromboli's), buried the bottle in my backyard at home.  Bowser kept digging it up and I'd have to re-hide it, aand all the time I lived in fear of someone finding it because strange men were constantly breaking into our house in search of it.  
     One day, someone actually did get it! But when he opened it, he realized that it was only regular conditioner because Jack Sparrow had switched the bottles at some point and was sailing away with the real thing.  He was in cahoots with Carmen SanDiego, who brewed the potion and shared it with everyone who'd been trying to find it.  What the potion did, I learned, was make it possible for a person to move at lightning speed (in other words, turn into vampires).  This was important because it would save them time in finding a great buried treasure which was the real goal.  But, Carmen SanDiego let me in on a little secret - she'd given everyone watered down potion and drunk it straight herself.  Then she zoomed away faster than anyone else.  
     Somehow, in the end everyone was getting baptized and I woke up super pumped to get to work.