Monday, March 4, 2013

Tender Mercies

I must say that I stand all amazed at all of the tender mercies that the Lord has given me this last week. We finally received the documents for the weddings that we are planning--yay! So now we can mark them. One is marked for March 23rd (let's pray that tomorrow we can mark the other one for little bit sooner :) And we already had a trip planned to São Paulo, so it all worked out. Another neat experience, we stopped by a member's house that we had never visited that I had always wanted to and the irmã offered to give her wedding dress to J, so we planned to bring her over the next day. The irmão shared stories of their own baptism and wedding and sealing and I could feel the spirit really strong, even though he is inactive. The next day we brought J over to try on the dress and make the necessary adjustments (she's all super happy) and decided to leave a message with them. We felt inspired to share President Monson's latest conference talk on "Think of the Blessings". The Spirit was super strong as we read President Monson's advice to do an inventory of our life's blessings instead of focusing on the negative. The family is going through a difficult time, and I felt the Spirit testify that this message was meant for them. After we finished, the irmão told his wife he had received an answer to what he had so long been praying for. He then bore a super powerful testimony of the Gospel and power of the restored priesthood and how he need to come back because of the doctrine and not worry about what the leaders are doing wrong. It was really a special moment that I'll never forget--to see the Spirit teach and touch. 
I have such a strong testimony that all of our prayers are heard and answered and that Heavenly Father really does love and know each and every one of us. Usually here on the mission I get to be those answers to those prayers, but will the passing away of my dear grandmother, Heavenly Father answered one of mine. I'd been praying my whole mission that I would be able to see Grandma B again before she died. In a strange sense, my prayers were answered and I was able to see her one last time. What tender mercies: I was able to talk with and see her through skype, I was at the church when President called, and someone had a laptop and wi-fi, our students for english class had gotten lost on the way, that I had time to be able to talk, for all this modern day technology--all wonderful blessings! And to top it off, I was able to go the very next day to the temple to witness my first baptism be sealed. They were my mission "grandparents" and it was such a touching experience! I know that families are eternal! I'm so grateful for the restored gospel and temples and priesthood. Grandma B was the greatest woman that I've ever known. I wouldn't be who I am today, and I especially wouldn't be the missionary that I am today if it wasn't for her. There hardly ever was  a life better lived--of love and service an dedication to the Lord--and there is nothing more beautiful than one who has really endured to the end well. I love her so much, I'm so grateful for her example and life. I hope to follow in her footsteps and walk in the light back to Heavenly Father's presence. I want to dedicate my life to the Lord. I hope to be half the woman that she was--what a wonderful life to celebrate! 
D&C 130:2

Monday, February 25, 2013

We're preparing the TERRENA!!!

So this week we had a special 2 day sister's training in São Paulo, that was MARAVILHOSA! Really! Complete with a general authority, Elder Soares and everything. Well president started off with the scripture D&C 88:73 :"Behold, I will ahasten my work in its time."
Well the Lord sure is hastening His work here...with the new mission SANTOS!!! Well do I sure feel privileged to be a part of this special time. We are working hard here in Santos and I know that this is exactly what it needs to really fortify the Kingdom of God here. Wow. Amazing! All the sisters must prepare to be trainers, because most of them will need to be. So we had this two day conference, preparing everyone for these new changes! Wow, how I wished I could have had this conference at the beginning of my mission. Most of us "older" sisters were asked to give special trainings. I was super nervous, but with Sister M's help all went well. It really is something special.
Other news of the week....R was baptized! And what a sweet spirit she is! She's a super strong young women, there's nothing better than a 15 year old with a testimony. And it's amazing to see how the ward has just brought her in under her wings. A shout out to all you young women leaders (especially those that I had, including you, Mom :) THANKS! Keep leading and guiding us! They are the future!
Keep serving, keep growing, keep striving to be better...there's nothing more important than the Lord's work!

Monday, February 18, 2013

Blessings are pouring from heaven! (along with the nightly thunderstorms)

Wow, can I just say that Heavenly Father is Amazing! Really He is just leading and guiding this work right along. Yesterday we had 10 investigators at church! The members are great here, they are bringing their friends and family! And we have and are finding some really great investigators! We are fasting and praying that all goes well for 3 of our investigators to get married so that they can get baptized before the transfer is over. Tick tock tick tock...ah! The problem is that you have to have a new (within 6 months) birth certificate just to mark the wedding (30days in advance...eita.) And some didn't have conditions to pay for the documents because they are in another state and it costs a lot to send them here. Well we fasted and prayed, and out of the blue a member came up to us yesterday and gave us the money saying that they heard that they were needing it...what a blessing! The relief society president is already working on quite the party :) So we're all praying here that all works out for the documents to arrive and mark the wedding for March 16th.... cross your fingers!
It seems that just as people are getting close to the truth, the adversary really tries to work hard...but he can't succeed. "If God is with us, who can be against us?" It's been amazing to see how the Lord is working miracles here in this area. He really knows and loves all His children. This really is His work. 
J and J are pretty much the cutest couple ever. We are trying our best to help them see how the Gospel will help them improve their family. We took them to a family night and when they told the irmão that they were planning on getting married so they could get baptized he asked J if she loved him. And she said "of course!" It was super cute...he said he loved her too:) They are staying really firm, they were bombarded with a whole bunch of anti-mormon comments but they both stayed strong saying they know that it is true and they know what they want. Yeah! The Spirit is strong!

Monday, February 11, 2013

Um instrumento nas mãos do Senhor

Oh how there is little that I love more than being an instrument in the hands of the Lord. There's nothing more gratifying than to show up at someone's hous after following an impression to go there and discover that you are an answer to their prayers. The other day we woke up and felt impressed to bake J a cake and take it to her. We had just seen her the day before, but we went over there anyway and it was a for sure the direction of the Spirit. She said we were an answer to her prayers and that she almost called us this morning but didn't want to bother us. She said we were sent by God, and I know we were! I have such a strong testimony that Heavenly Father really does know each and everyone of us and He hears and answers all of our prayers--many times through others. So I want to challenge you all to step up to Elder Ballard's challenge and pray each day to know how you can be a blessing in someone's life. I know you're already great at it :)
We had another experience this week with this. We were in a road that the appointments always fall through, but we always just left right after. Well our appointments fell through again and I thought, "There must be someone in this road that is needing the Gospel." So we started knocking. And we found her:  I know we were sent to her. It feels so good to be an instrument in the Lord's hands.
Other news, this really is God's true church. I know it. I am amazed everytime someone comes to church and then they feel something different, the Spirit, and start to change. J was a  little hesitant to go last week, but he loved it. He said he felt so light inside the Church--like  whole bunch of bad stuff was lifted off his chest. He said he felt so good that he didn't want to drink at the family party later that day--how wonderful is the Spirit! And the sisters that came to church last week, both want to get baptized this month! R went to the girl's camp this weekend and they are just blessings that fell from Heaven!
Let's all strive to be a little more positive, a little more giving, a little more loving this week! We can and will make a difference!

Monday, February 4, 2013

Do you wanna marry me?

Wahoo! Always an adventure here on the mission! In the last week, we've been to the aquarium, to São Paulo (brrrr!), and all over our area. We fasted as a district this week to have miracle in the last few weeks of the transfer. One of which was investigators at church....well the Lord has blessed us again! We planned on quite a few, but only two of the planned went, but we ended up with 7 in total! Wow, members are great! Bring your friends to church! :)
Other great news...our investigators are engaged! (oh and my best friend, shout out to Emilee :) parabéns!) So we are teaching the cutest couple. We went and taught them  about the importance of families and invited her to talk to J about getting married. In the meantime we discovered where the cartorio (where you get married) is and had to walk over an hour to the area of the zone leaders just to get the information on what we needed to do.  Well we came back a couple days later and she hadn't talked to him yet, but she wanted us to talk to him. They've been together about 6 years and have the most adorable little girl. So we taught again about families and God's commandments and invited them to pray together. And then we invited them to get married, and he said, "What, you mean in the cartorio?" "Yeah." "Well I don't even know if she wants to marry me..." he responded. "Well you have to ask her," I said. So he looked over at her: "Tu quer casar comigo?" (You wanna marry me?) "Claro!" (Of course!) She said and they both looked at each other all shy and then smiled at us. Oh my goodness, it was the cutest thing ever! So here we are...the wedding planners :)

Monday, January 28, 2013

Weather warning for Santos: If it's ridiculously hot and sunny, prepare. Real soon it will dump a rainstorm!

Come listen to an apostle's voice!! This week my life was permenantly changed! We had a special conference with Elder Bednar on tuesday and is was AMAZING! He really is a living apostle called of God. We fasted, read his talks, and were really prepared for his visit. We woke up at 4:20am (yikes!) to get to São Paulo for the conference. For 4 hours straight we just soaked up pure Spirit. The way he taught was so radically different--completely by the Spirit. He told us to get rid of the bad "traditions of our fathers," including avoiding the impulse to write down every word that he said (that would be the large plates of Nephi) but to just write what we learned by the Spirit (the small plates of Nephi). Yeah, pretty sure my large plates are pretty large all these years..but my small plates sure got filled! It's amazing to me how we can all go with questions different, but we all receive very specific answers. The Holy Ghost is amazing! I have a lot to change and improve. But I'm here to serve and just bless others! Here we go!
Other amazing news....miracle baptism! We were able to teach R and witness her baptism and confirmation on Saturday. It was really beautiful. She laughed at how quickly it passed by. She said she thought that the bishop would hold her under water a while to really wash away her sins. We all laughed, but for me, this is a symbolism of the love and forgiveness that Heavenly Father has for us. It doesn't matter what we've done, how many sins or how serious they are--the moment we decide to repent and we start to follow His plan (partaking of the ordinances of the Gospel like baptism and the Sacrament), he forgives us. Just like that! It's quick. It's real. It's beautiful.
So pretty sure that Heavenly Father's lesson for me this transfer is PATIENCE. And the more I try to be patient, the more opportunities Heavenly Father gives me to "practice" :) Until yesterday. We were in a lesson and at the beginning she gave us a huge glass full of juice of maracujá. Well they sure are talkers and not even half way through the lesson I was in desperate need of a bathroom! Oh dear, talk about test of concentration! Alright, but on the serious, I'm really grateful that I have such a patient companion and all that I am learning here.
We played Indiana Jones adventure trying to get to another appointment this week. We went all the way across town in the pouring rain to teach a recent convert. Well the closer we got, the more  flooded the road became. I would have just trekked through it, but Sister M says it's not safe. So we strategized like two mad chess players, and miraculously made it!
Remember everyone, FAITH IS ACTION. I hope that all of you are praying with faith and acting on your prayers. I know he hears and answers, if we are willing to follow His Spirit.

Monday, January 21, 2013

Fast blessings? Consider fasting!

Time after time I am amazed and grateful at how quickly and abundantly the Lord responds to our righteous fasting and prayers. Once again He responded as we prayed, fasted, and worked. 14 new investigators! I know that He wants to prove our faith (through our actions) before He can bless us. I hope to keep exercising my faith and working hard so that He can bless this area. We had really neat experiences this week in finding new investigators. I'm really trying to follow the Spirit and open my mouth and take advantage of all opportunities. For everything there is a reason. For this, the Lord really blesses us, but it takes faith every time! We were also bless with a miracle this week. After sacrament meeting, Bishop called us into his office with a couple (a less active and non member) who had just gotten married a few weeks ago. We had visited them on Monday to get to know them and they came to church. R informed us that she wants to mark a date for her baptism! She has been taught by the elders since May 2012, but was held back by the marriage. Well, we marked her baptism for Saturday and are now in the process of making sure that she's been taught everything and is qualified for this special moment. The sisters of Ponta da Praia found a very special woman for us as well. She has 4 kids and came to church with two of them. She's really ready to accept the gospel and is really special. She just has a problem with marriage. We hope to be worthy of these wonderful blessings the Lord is giving us. 

Monday, January 14, 2013

Faith is ACTION

So what happened this week, it poured rain, and more rain, and more rain--what a blessing from Heavenly Father, because we've only had two sunny days and I'm already super dark and blonde! Yesterday we were talking to a couple and the man asked me a question, he said "now you can be honest, there aren't any "gringos" here, just brazillians. You talk funny, but you're brazilian."  He thought that I was brazillian and was surprise when we said I was American. How about that? I'm brazillian, gente. It's official.
Sister M and I try to convince people all the time that she's from New York (she actually speaks english really well) and that I'm from her city. Everyone believes her, but only one person has believed me until now because M has a very strong accent, but Sister Melo doesn't have can I learn it if she doesn't speak it? It's quite the joke. I'm so blessed to have Sister M as a companion, we're already best of friends and that makes it so great to interact with everyone else. Lots of stories and jokes and laughs. 
We've started teaching a great couple, C and B, that are really great! They came to church yesterday with their two little girls and they seem to be very interested, especially C. He really is searching for truth. He said he had the opportunity to get baptized in 3 other churches, but hasn't found the right one yet...I know that the Lord has lead us there. It was the elders that had taught him the first time a few months ago, but never again. They were impressed by our organization that we were coming to continue teaching him.

We've discovered that Satan works in all sorts of ways to try and stop this work, but he can't! Our first week here we were walking in the road and all of the sudden, a girl jumped out in front of us and started talking to us. She put out her hand in front of me and I thought "Oh no, we're being robbed." I didn't dare look down to see if she had a gun, until my companion said, shake her hand. Ha ha oh ok. Well she started complimenting everything about me...eyes, skirt, etc. and putting sacks of things in our hands. Turns out she was trying to sell little goody baggies for $6 (or 3 for $15)--way expensive! And we talked with her for a bit and invited her to church and went on our way... Well we were in such a shock from the experience that we became very timid to talk to people in the road...and for some reason it seems like we are walking on eggshells here, we have to be careful of everything that we say. Well we walked around like that for a few days. As you can guess, not much happened. And you know when you haven't done something for a while it's that much harder to do it again the next time.  Well that's how we felt. But we discovered that that was just the enemy's way of trying to frustrate this work, because both President T and I receive revelation that Sister M and I were to be together in this area at this time. Com certeza for a reason, so we can't let anything get in between us and that purpose. We have people to find, souls to save (or help), and lives to change. So we finally overcame our shyness and miracles await! 
I know that this is the Lord's work. I know that everything happens for a reason. I know that all things are possible through faith, and that our faith is measured by our ACTIONS. May you all find the faith and courage to ACT this week on inspired promptings to do good. You can and will be an instrument in the Lord's hand, just remember to ASK WITH FAITH and ACT!
Love you all!

Monday, January 7, 2013

When Grandma's are nearing the end of life, they go on vacation with the grandkids!

Alright, who's excited for this brand new year?! I am!! So we got the news of transfers Monday afternoon, went around town saying goodbye to everyone and early Tuesday morning, we went to transfers. I always felt like I would go to the coast at the end of my mission. We discovered that there was way more sisters going to the baixada than there was areas, so I also felt like I would open an area. I also felt really strongly that I would be companions with Sister M. Well Heavenly Father sure knows us, that's exactly what happened! Sister B finished training Sister M, so now we joke that she's hanging out with grandma ha ha. The drive to Santos was gorgeous, I didn't know that there was green here! Turns out Santos is actually an island? News to me. And it's hot! Our first lunch told us that it never rains in Santos, shortly after it started pouring rain for the next 4 days and at times we had water up to our knees! But when it's not raining, it's HOT. And it's all flat (no hills!) and LOTS of apartment buildings. Our area isn't too big. And the members are great! Everyone is super excited to have sisters :) And we're super excited to be here!

I feel like I have a lot of things to report and funny stories to tell, but it's been so long since I've had time to write in my journal, that I'm not remembering any! But overall, I feel completely renewed and excited and happy. I spent 5 months in Santo André and had a lot of success and learned a lot of lessons. And now I'm excited to put them all in practice. I'm excited to be myself and enjoy my time here and really make a difference. Sister M and I are so alike, it's creepy. She jokes that I'm just her imaginary friend that's all in her head. We are just absolutely loving our time together. One dangerous thing...we like to make cooking experiments. Needless to say, we made a running goal.

I really feel like Heavenly Father watches out for me, takes care of me, leads me, guides me, teaches me, chastens me, and above all else--blesses me. I'm so grateful for that. I'm so grateful for the opportunity I have to share His Gospel, (even if it is to a whole bunch of people with bikinis and surf boards;). But really, I couldn't be happier! Opening and area isn't easy, but I have the certainty that it's the Lord's will and the best thing for all of us. We're going to bring even more sunshine to sunny santos!