I'm officially going to get fat in this area. I just know it. It's funny, because the members don't feed us a ton here like they did in Salvador ("Sister, comer mais!"), but all the people on the streets who see us passing by every day have come to believe that we're starving and they all want to take care of us. They don't want to come to church or anything, they just want us to come into their homes and eat all their food and say pretty things about Jesus. There's one young woman, Camila (22), who always wants us to stop at her house every single day. Her house is the cool place to be, and once word spreads that we're there, the kids and teens come from up and down the road to peer through the windows or crowd into the house to be with us. I've never felt more like a celebrity in my life. They're all so proud now that they've learned to say my name (or, the Brasilian version of it, anyway) that I hear it from all directions. "Seester Weetah-kuh! Seester Weetah-kuh!" They all want to touch me and hear me speak in my dreadful American accent. Whenever we enter the house, Camila slips a few reais into the hands of a 13-year-old, gangly black boy named Mataus (who can dance exactly like Michael Jackson) and before I can untangle myself from the crowd of enamored children to protest, Mataus sets off at a run down the street, sandals slapping against the cobblestones, to buy something from the local mercado for us to eat. "No, no," I protest. "We're not hungry!" But Camila won't have it. Sometimes I think I can stop Mateus before he sets off, but Camila is a sly one and she always sends him when I least expect it. Then I have to swim my way out of the crowded house. "No. No! Stop that boy!!!" But it's no use. Whether we want it or not, Sister Ellis and I are made to sit at the table every evening and eat biscoitos with juice.
We always end up teaching several lessons while we're there, and when we finally convince Camila to let us go, we're only permitted to leave after I've sung a hymn to them (one verse in English and one in Português) and we've all knelt in a circle and had a prayer. Man, I love those guys! Only four of them have come to church so far, but we're working on it.
It's nice to be so loved. Really nice! I feel completely spoiled here. The only problem is that it's hard to tell who's actually interested in our message and who just wants us to keep coming to their house. And when we realize that it's the latter, it's hard to know how to tell them that we can't keep visiting with them, because we need to be teaching people who want to be baptized. This past week was wonderful and awful for just that reason. It's wonderful to have so many friends here and to be so loved by all the people, but it's like a knife in the heart when you have to accept that they just aren't willing to accept the restored gospel. Why, people? Why!? Don't you realize how much better your lives could be?!
I love, love, love this gospel and the effect it's had on my life. Don't you ever forget it, my friends and family: this church is true!
Thank you all so much for your letters, your emails, your prayers and your love. I promise I'm doing my best to respond to everyone!
All my love,