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!