Monday, April 15, 2013


I awoke early this morning to thunder so loud that it shook our
apartment, rattling the windows. It actually rolled, like a gigantic
boulder down the side of a canyon. The sky was an angry, murky red
and the rain was falling so hard that it broke through our roof in
places, oozing down the walls and creating a mini river in our
hallway. In my dazed, half-awake state, I was positive that it was the
second coming and I was trying to decide what we missionaries would
need to do here in Jequié. But the more I thought about it, the more I
remembered that the second coming can't happen quite yet because there
are still countries not open to missionary work. So I rolled over and
went back to sleep.
   I did hear a rumor, though, that the first Stake has been organized
in Saudi Arabia? Is that true, or just another missionary myth? If it
is true, I'm sure the second coming isn't too far off now! Here in
Jequié, sometimes I feel like we're right at the threshold. Yesterday
we had to drag a young woman out of the way of oncoming traffic
because she felt like she was done with living in this world. It was
very sad. What's even more sad is that such an occurrance is so normal
here. People's hearts are failing them and many are living in fear.
The most common reason that people say they can't come to church is
because if they leave their house, they know that things will have
been stolen by the time they get home. Most of the people here make
sure that there's always someone in the family guarding the house. It
reminds me of how at the end of the Book of Mormon people were
sleeping on their goods and their weapons so they wouldn't get
    How perfect it is that come June, there will be more missionaries
serving in the world than ever  before in the history of the church!
There's certainly work to be done. The forces of darkness will shrink
under the light of so many warriors of light! It's going to be
amazing, and I feel so blessed to be a part of it!

    This past weekend Marina was baptized. I hardly had a chance to
even write home about her, she was converted so fast! For pretty much
the entire time I've been here in Jequié, Sister Ellis and I have been
concentrating our efforts mainly on one long road, because there's
never a lack of work to be done and people to meet there, but no one
has even come close to being baptized. Every time Sister Ellis and I
prayed about moving on to another area, something always kept us on
that one road, Senhor do Bonfim. As we struggled to teach and help the
people there, little 12-year-old Marina slipped into our group of
investigators silently and almost imperceptibly. She joined a group of
other people who we brought to church and I, hardly thinking anything
of it, gave her a booklet to read and continue focusing on the older
members of the group, who professed to love the church experience but
had no interest in reading the Book of Mormon or being baptized.
Whenever we talked to them in their houses or on the street, Marina
always appeared to watch in silence. I routinely asked her if she'd
read the booklet I'd given to her and was surprised when she nodded
her head yes. I didn't get too excited, though. Lots of people say yes
just to please us. "Cool," I said. "And what did you understand?"
    I'm sure my jaw dropped almost to the floor when she proceeded to
explain the first principles and ordinances of the gospel with the
matter-of-factness of one who'd been raised in the church. Here in
Jequié, even the people who actually do read have a hard time
understanding the booklets we give them. We invited her to be baptized
and she accepted the invitation without hesitation. She read everything
we gave her and repeated back what she understood every time with
perfection. She even read to her mother. Her mother is very devoted to
her Pentecostal church, but she supported Marina through the whole
process of preparing for baptism and sat in on the lessons with her.
Then she got all dressed up and came to watch the baptism.  Marina is
such a strong young woman. I always used to be afraid of baptizing
children, but I'm not at all worried about Marina. In the days leading
up to her baptism, she was bullied by the other kids on the street for
her decision and heard numerous rumors about the evils of Mormonism,
but she firmly stood her ground and testified to everyone that she'd
received a witness from the Holy Ghost that the church is true and
boldly invited them to visit the church and see for themselves. She
even walked home from school all by herself rather than take the bus
because the kids were teasing her so bad. Her mother very lovingly
reminded her that we missionaries had warned her that the adversary
would try to stop her from being baptized. I think that woman knows
the church is true, too. I'm praying that she'll be willing to accept
it some day.

Well, out of time now. I love you all! The church is true, and no
matter how dark the world may appear at times, we can be the army of
the Lord, blazing trails of light! Go out there and shine!

-Sister Railee

P.S. Heed the council of the prophets! Be smart with your money and
have a good food storage. Storm's a' bruin'.

Monday, April 1, 2013

Feliz Páscoa

, todo mundo! Espero que foi ótimo.

Here in Brasil, I only knew Easter was coming because of all the "ovos de Páscoa" (Easter Eggs) in the grocery store. There were no fluffy bunny cartoons, no peeps, no jelly beans. Just big, chocolate eggs  with a prize inside, all wrapped up in shiny paper. They're expensive, too. On Friday night, we stopped at our favorite little mercedinho for bananas and the owner MADE us eat a feast of super expensive fish with him (he tried to offer us wine, too, but we escaped that one), and then he MADE us accept a little ovo de Páscoa. God bless that man. He's always giving us free food and water. We were super excited about the easter egg and took a picture with it. I realized that I'll only have one Páscoa in the mission! How strange....
   Sister Freitas, the one who was attacked by a dog last week, is from Porto Alegre. She wants to know if Ryan remembers Elders Wadsworth, Cocks, or Oliveira, because they taught and baptized her during Ryan's time in the mission.
My Português is coming along. Improving day by day. People tell me that I have an accent still, but the strange part is that they all think I'm from Argentina. After I speak, people always, always are confused about where I'm from. Sometimes they think I'm from Rio Grande do Sul (where Ryan served), and other times they think I'm from Argentina. It's rare now for people to assume I'm an American after hearing me speak. Strange, huh? I'll take it! I don't know how I developed such a warped accent-- I try so hard to speak like the Bahianos-- but it's better than an American accent! I was especially delighted this past week when Sister Freitas called me on the phone, sounded super confused about who she was talking to, and later in the day told me that I sounded like a Brasilian on the phone. Yes! Progress at last!

    As far as the work goes.... Well, I'm sure we're doing some good here. There are 5 people who were formerly inactive members who are now coming to church every Sunday. So that's good! Maybe if we can keep this up, the work will start to progress more rapidly.

    I was reading about the temple the other day in True to the Faith and I was very impressed by this statement: "Only the home compares to the temple in sacredness."
    Wow. What does that tell you about the importance of the home and family? This week's challenge for y'all is to ask yourself: How is your home like the temple?
I had a very powerful hour of study going off of that one thought. It sure clarifies why the leaders of the church are always stressing the importance of the family, and why the adversary is attacking it so ruthlessly. I'm surrounded every day here by broken families and let me tell you, it all begins with the choice to live together before you get married. You don't have to be religious to see that here. It's just a fact. All of Brasil's problems as a nation can be traced back to broken families, and broken families can be traced back to the fact that marriage is not important to these people. "It's expensive and unnecessary," they say. Then come children born out of wedlock, being raised by their grandparents, aunts, uncles, one parent, a sibling, or gangs, then having children themselves out of wedlock and the cycle goes on and on. Here in my area, about half (or more) of the people we teach are illiterate. When the people are illiterate, government is easily and quickly corrupted. It's a fast downward spiral in a nation when marriage, home, and family are not a priority.
   I have a testimony of the Family. I have a testimony that, truly, the only way to change the world is to preach the gospel of repentance. I love that I get to do this every day!

-Sister Railee

Extra! Extra!

I have always wanted to have a neighbor
   Just-- like-- you!
I've always wanted to live in this neighborhood
   With you, so,
Let's make the most of this beautiful day!
   Since we're together,
   Might as well say:
Would you be mine? Could you be mine?
    Won't you be my neighbor?

Hello, neighbors! It's another sunny day in good ol' Jequié and the air is rich with the sweet fragrance of garbage, horse manure, and acarajé.
   Speaking of Mr. Rogers, there's a little white boy here with a long bowlish haircut who looks just like Rebecca in her Mr. Rogers stage of life, complete with gapped teeth and goofy energy. I'm determined to teach him and his family tomorrow!

   This week's headlines include such themes as "Jequié's Well Runs Dry!", "Sister Attacked By Dog!" and "New Beginnings!"  We'll take this email one headline at a time.

1. Jequié's Well Runs Dry!
    After a long day of sweating under the scorching sun, having dirt and who-knows-what-else blown over us, braving unsanitary "bathrooms" and playing with the dogs of our investigators, we Sisters made our way home Tuesday night in our usual itchy, grimy, smelly state anticipating a cold shower and the relief of soap to brake up the shell that was suffocating our flesh. The Brasilians were the first to shower. Their showers were short and when the last of them emerged, clean and fresh, she apologetically announced to us, "Agua acabou," (the water ran out)! Ran out? What do you mean it ran out? We turned every faucet in the apartment. Nothing. Not a single drop to ease our caked skin.  And so we slept in our grime. 
    For several days, Jequiézinho (the barro in which we live) was without water. The Elders gave us some keys to the church so we could fill up some water bottles there and have something with which to at least wash our dishes. The next night, we learned that the woman who lives at the bottom of our apartment building had water, so we filled up some pots, pans, water bottles and buckets and hefted them up the 4 flights of stairs to our apartment to bathe with. I couldn't help thinking of Rebekah  in the Bible, hastening up and down the stairs of the well to draw enough water to satisfy several camels. Oh, it felt heavenly to pour a bucket of water over my head after 48 hours! Thankfully, we were blessed with three days of rain after that and our water is back to normal (we hope).

2. Sister Attacked By Dog!
    Poor Sister Freitas, one of our Brasilian roommates, hobbled home with blood dripping down her legs on Friday night after several hours of hopping from one hospital to another in search of a vaccine that no one claimed to have. She was attacked in the home of an investigator when she went out back to use their latrine. The dog bit both of her legs before the owner pulled him off and the bites, though small, are deep and didn't stop bleeding until Sunday morning! Sister Freitas and Sister C. Silva took several pictures, excited by the mission experience, but also super nervous about infection. Sister Freitas is on the mend now, ready to get back to work tomorrow, and I think the investigator came to church on Sunday.

3. New Beginnings!
     Sister Ellis has a gift for drawing, and this gift was put to use in designing a huge temple to decorate the wall for the Young Women's New Beginnings activity. We got to help prepare for the event and oh, how it made me miss my YW days! It's so fascinating to see that some things are the same, despite where you are in the world or what language you're speaking.  The Young Women here are super strong, and many of them are the only members of the church in their families. It was so fun to work with them for three nights in a row!

Well, that's all folks. I hope y'all are well, happy and healthy!

-Sister Whitaker