Monday, February 25, 2013

The Lost and Forgotten

Jequié is quite the adventure, let me tell ya!  
   Here, there is no rhyme or reason to the numbers on the houses, so when we have only the address of a person to go off of, it's basically the same as having nothing. At first I found this frustrating, but it's actually turned out to be great for meeting new people! All we do is wander around the streets, asking people if they know who "Maria da Carma" is and where she lives and before we know it we've got 5 new investigators! The people here are extremely friendly. Even more so than the people in Mussurunga! They all are eager to help you find whatever you're looking for and will drop whatever they're doing to lead you to your destination if they know where it is. We've even had a guy jump in his car and chase us down to let us know that we'd walked right past the house he'd directed us to. He knew because he'd been watching us from the top of the hill to make sure we didn't make any wrong turns. 
   Yesterday as we were walking down the street, a young woman yelled from her porch in very enthusiastic broken English, "Hi! I love you!" And then she insisted that we come meet all her relatives and eat churrasco (Brasilian BBQ) with them. How could we refuse? Needless to say, we have a lot of new friends on that street. 
   Highlights of the week:
   - A man who looked like an Abercrombie model tried to kiss me (don't worry, I gave the standard awkward missionary cower and apologetic squeal of protest)
   - A super evangelic woman drove us from house to house, with her arms gesticulating in a gospel passion, to heal the sick of the neighborhood (don't worry, we explained to her that we don't have the priesthood, which has been restored in these latter days through a living prophet, but that we can always pray and be healed according to our faith. We have a very promising new investigator from that experience).
This area is SUPER "crente" (evangelical). Everyone's always trying to tell us that we're prophets (despite our constant protests that missionaries are not prophets) and saying "Walk with God, my daughter! Amen!"  They believe that everyone's a prophet and whatever you want to believe is true. They all "love to hear the word of God" and will eagerly invite you into their home with hallelujahs, anticipating a wild spiritual adventure of yelling at devils to leave and Jesus to save and peace and love and praise be! Then they're confused by the calmness of our message (sometimes disappointed) and aren't sure what to think of us. 

    Because of the confusion of house addresses (you always have to go by landmarks here, not addresses), we spend a lot of time getting lost and I'm coming to appreciate the beauty of what it means to lose yourself, or forget yourself, in the work. Here I've come to see that to forget myself means to forget that I don't speak Português well and just start talking. It means to forget what I like or don't like and try things out. When I'm really focused on the work and the people here, every once in a while I'll realize I'm eating something atrocious and something will say, "Hey, you don't like that!" And I'll think, "Oh, I forgot. But you know... now that I'm eating it, it's not so bad..." Or sometimes I'll be chatting away with someone as easily as walking and then I'll realize, "Hey, you don't speak Português!"  "I don't? Huh, I forgot." And then I keep speaking.
   It truly is in losing yourself that you find yourself. It's scary at first, to let go of who you think you are and always have been, but once you do, you start to find new things about you that you never knew you had. Then it's just downright exciting!

   A challenge for you all: This week, go out and do something that you think you don't like. It'll be so fun!

  I love, love, LOVE this work and this Gospel! I know it's true with all my heart and I'm seeing miracles every single day here.

-Sister Whitaker

Monday, February 18, 2013

Sendin' a Rowdy Howdy from Jequié

Well, I'm relieved to report that I didn't get on the wrong bus and end up in Rio de Janeiro (I told Sister V. Silva I most likely would). Rafael and Carol, the coolest recent converts ever, threw me a going-away party (missionary-style, of course) and escorted me to the bus station with Carol's mom (who isn't a member but who will do anything short of, well, nothing, to help us missionaries). They three of them, with Sister V. Silva made quite a fuss about carrying all my things for me and making sure I got on the right bus. It was actually very funny, watching them all dash about in different directions to ask different people about the buses, talking over each other, calling out instructions to me, etc. They even hopped the gate (I don't know how they got away with that) to walk up to the door of the bus itself with me. It was rough, saying goodbye to them, let me tell you.
    I slept the whole way there (very awkwardly, I might add, as I was alone for the first time in months and sitting next to a boy who was also trying to sleep). When the bus arrived in Conquitsa, President Andrezzo was waiting for me in plain sight and everything went very smoothly. Don't worry, mama!

   Now here I am in Jequié and let me tell you... It's nothing like Salvador. In fact, many times during the day I find myself thinking of how much it looks like the more podunk towns of Utah. Of course, it's definitely Brasil, NOT Utah, but the mountains that surround Jequié resemble Utah's mountains, I think.

  So, Jequié, where do I begin?....

   Several times throughout my first few days here, I found myself thinking of a movie line from "Return to Me". It's that part where the heroine realizes that during her heart transplant she'd been given the heart of her new boyfriend's dead wife and, while sobbing in the arms of her friend she yells, "What was God thinking?!"
   I've found myself feeling that way. No, not like I have the heart of my boyfriend's dead wife, but the desire to cry out to the skies, "What was God thinking?!"

  When I first met Sister Ellis (my Senior companion), I was surprised to find that she speaks even less Português than I do. We live in a house smaller than the one I was living in before and there's another companionship living with us in the same house (Sister C. Silva, who was in my district in Salvador first transfer, and Sister Freitas, a newbie). It's strange to have a companionship of Brasileiras and a companionship of Americanas living together. But wait, the fun doesn't end there! When we got to this tiny house, I learned that Sister Ellis has only been in this area for 2 weeks and doesn't know it very well yet, that we don't have a single active member of the church living in the bounds of our area, and that we're basically opening this area. Whewy!
   Needless to say, we're expecting a lot of miracles here and I've already seen more than I can say. The first miracle is that I'm speaking Português a TON more now. The second is that people are actually understanding me. Every day we see a million miracles.
  And so, what was God thinking? Whatever it was, I'm sure it had something to do with the fact that this area needs miracles. Miracles that only come from those who are relying heavily on faith because they have absolutely nothing else. That's me and Sister Ellis alright. I'm constantly amazed by the faith of that woman. I feel honored to work with her! Y'all get to hear more about her next week, because I'm out of time now. For now I'll just say that she's a cowgirl with a Treemon'in Utah accent that thickly carries over into her Português.

   I have a testimony of this work. I KNOW that the Lord is very much aware of His children and their needs throughout the world. Miracles are born of faith.

  I love you all!!!

-Sister Whitaker

P.S. HAPPY BIRTHDAY to Renee Borage!

Daddy, I read this joke on a Laffy Taffy wrapper (thanks Grandma and Grandpa Gurney) that made me think of you and laugh and laugh:
What do you call a Dinosaur who lost his glasses?

..... A Doyouthinkhesaurus

Monday, February 11, 2013

Emehjency, ehverybody to get from street!

I was ecstatic two weeks ago during transfer time when I learned that I would get to spend another transfer in Mussurunga with Sister V. Silva, and these past two weeks with her have been awesome! We really went to town, working hard and with new enthusiasm, finding really great people. Then, on Friday of this past week we were really on fire! I was talking to everyone without even thinking about how bad my Português is and we were committing everyone to baptism like crazy. And then came a phone call from the Zone Leaders, right as I was talking to someone on their doorstep. In the background I could hear Sister V. Silva's mournful cries of, "Não! Por que!!!"
    Long story short... I'm being emergency transferred. No, there's no scandalous story behind it. There are a lot of Brasilians who serve mini missions of a few weeks to a few months and one of them finished hers in Jequié, about 10 hours South of Salvador. Another mini-mission-er is beginning her mission and she's going to train with Sister V. Silva. And so... tomorrow night I'm taking a bus (all by myself) 10 hours to Vitoria da Conquista, where there will be a Zone Conference, and from there I'll take another bus (the next day, think) to Jequié. And who will be my new companion} (that's a question mark, because I can't figure out how to use it on this computer).... Sister Ellis. An American!!! Say what}} Just when it's so important for my Português to improve-- right before I start training new missionaries! I'm just trusting that the Lord is in charge and that somehow it will be a good thing for me to work with an American. Who'd have thought I'd ever be nervous to work with someone who speaks English}

    I almost didn't get to email today. It's Carnival time here in Brasil and Salvador is Brasil's party capitol, so Carnival is super strong here. People in the CTM were certain I would have to stay inside during the week of Carnlval, but no. It's so strong here that everyone goes to the beach to celebrate and here in Mussurunga NO ONE is left. It's a ghost town. The most exciting thing I've seen in two days is a cockroach chasing a lizard (yes you read that correctly. Weird). My legs were extremely sore yesterday from trying a new workout routine and I was walking like a cowboy. That, coupled with the empty streets and dead silence where normally there is booming music, made me feel like I was in an old western film and Sister V. Silva and I practiced our best cowboy hootin' and hollerin'. 
   Today everything is closed. Yesterday only a lot of things were closed. Today it's everything. That includes all the internet houses. So we got special permission to use computers in a member's home. We're lucky. If I ever don't email one week, it's not because I died. It's because there's a party going on and everything is closed. Just remember that.

    In other news, my fiance readjusted the wooden leg of his turtle, so now it's shorter and makes a loud thumping sound as the little guy hobbled around. We can hear it all the way up in our apartment. This thumping inspired my very own version of "The Highwayman", to be read Anne of Green Gables-style:

The moon was a ghostly lantern
   Hanging o'er the trees.
My hair was a sweaty rat's nest
   Tustled by the breeze.
And the turtle's leg was thumping,
   Thumping, thumping!
The turtle's leg was thumping
   As I fumbled for my keys.

"Hurry, Sister Whitaker,"
   My companion did implore.
"I'm tired and I'm hungry
   And my feet are oh, so sore."
Digging 'round the pamphlets,
   The books and hand-out-cards,
Had the depths of my black bulsa
   Turned from inches into yards}

"I'm hungry too," I said aloud,
   "And my feet are also sore.
"Don't fret, my dear companion,
   "The keys are here, I'm sure..."
Then we heard the old man hacking,
   Hacking, hacking!
We heard the old man hacking
   From the house next door.

"Good evening, my buneca,"
   We heard old Carlos say.
My key-hunt became more urgent
   As I waved and said, "Oh, hey!"
Sister Silva, too, began to search
   The pockets of her pouch
When she saw old Carlos rise
   From the comfort of his couch.

"A word, my bonny sweatheart}
   "I've waited here all day."
He'd looked for me by moonlight,
    He'd watched for me by moonlight
To come to him by moonlight.
    He knew we'd pass this way.

My companion jumped like a madman,
   Raising her voice to the sky:
"I have the keys, afterall!"
   And she raised the chaves high.

Snow white were the tiles of our apartment.
   Beet red was the face of old Carlos
As he stood on his porch in the moonlight,
   Stood like a dog in the moonlight,
And he spat at the ground in the moonlight
   With a bunch of white hairs at his throat.


I love you all!!!!

Sister Weezer