Tuesday, June 30, 2015

Week 18 Sousa, Brazil

Miracles

This past week was incredible, definitely the best week of my mission so far. I don´t know why, but this week, I felt more love for everything here than ever before: the members, our investigators, the random people on the street, this crazy town, and my mission in general. One night, Sister Coelho and I were just reminiscing about all of the funny experiences we´ve had together here in Sousa and laughing. I couldn´t always say this, but now I can truly and honestly say that I love this crazy little town. :) Transfers are this Wednesday, and it´s almost certain that either Sister Coelho or I, if not both of us, will be transferred. Stay tuned for big news next week.

The most exciting news is that Fábio got baptized on Sunday! He is absolutely incredible. His baptism started out a fiasco when we discovered the baptismal font completely empty and dirty, when it was supposed to already have been filled. We were going to have to postpone the baptism, but tons of members immediately volunteered to help us fill the font using buckets to speed up the long process. Fábio was able to get baptized and everything was perfect. A young man who just got home from his mission baptized him and immediately befriended him, for which we were really grateful. And I really can´t describe adequately how wonderful Fábio is. We feel so much love for him and feel so blessed to have found him. He is elect. 

We also saw a miracle with Mariana this week. She went to the young women´s activity on Saturday and church on Sunday, for the 3rd time. Even though she immediately became friends with the other young women there, all along, she´s been hesitant about baptism. However, on Sunday, she told us she wants to get baptized, and she wants it to be before either of us gets transferred. If everything works out, she´ll get baptized tomorrow. I absolutely adore her. (I´m going to send pictures of her and Fábio)

Cilene and Daniel are also still progressing wonderfully. I feel so much love for them and they are just the cutest little family. They have so much faith and are so kind. I wish I was eloquent enough to express how great they are, but you´ll just have to trust me. They´re amazing. :)

Other good news from this week is that I talked in my sleep -- in PORTUGUESE. The only thing I said was "Eu não sei" ("I don´t know"), but hey, it counts. :) I also am starting to be able to give people attitude in Portuguese, which makes me really happy. Overall, I´m just feeling more capable of contributing to conversations and understanding people´s jokes and plays on words, and I´m really grateful. This week, I also got to see a quadrilha, or a traditional Northeastern Brazilian dance that they do during the month of June. They wear super big frilly dresses and colorful clothes and it´s super cool. I´ll send pictures of that too. 

I want to share a quote from a talk I studied this week by President Uchtdorf: "Being able to see ourselves clearly is essential to our spiritual growth and well-being. If our weaknesses and shortcomings remain obscured in the shadows, then the redeeming power of the Savior cannot heal them and make them strengths...We must approach our Eternal Father with broken hearts and teachable minds. We must be willing to learn and to change. And, oh, how much we gain by committing to live the life our Heavenly Father intends for us." I´m trying to stop judging others and instead focus on myself and turning myself into who my Father in Heaven wants me to be. I love this quote and know that even though it´s not fun to look at our weaknesses, that God will help us to improve them if we´re willing to be humble. 

Everything is awesome and I feel so incredible grateful to be here, more than ever before. I always felt blessed to be here on a mission, but I felt it this week more strongly than ever. I´m starting to feel that deep love for my mission that I´ve always heard about, and I´m truly seeing miracles here in Sousa, a town that I didn´t even used to know existed. Being a missionary is wonderful :) 

The pictures are of me and Sister Coelho at Subway, us with the quadrilha dancers, us with Edna (a young woman in our branch who is awesome), me with Cilene and Mariana, and us with Elder Baccarin and Elder J. Santos, taking a selfie in the elevator at their apartment complex. I´m going to send more in a following email :)

The next 3 pictures are of us filling buckets and dragging them to the font, then of us with Fábio and Vitor in front of the church, then of Fábio and Vitor in the font (Fábio is the one on the left -- I don´t know why, but Brazilians don´t like to smile in photos), then of a random guy with a parrot who showed up while we were eating lunch :) 

Love,
Sister Amy Weatherford













Wednesday, June 24, 2015

Week 17 Sousa, Brazil



This past P-day, our whole zone came here to Sousa and we had a barbecue and played games. One of the games we played was beer pong (with Coca-Cola, not to worry) and it was super fun. Usually in that game, you have to drink when you lose and its considered a bad thing, but there were so many of us playing that we rarely got to drink and we were all dying for Coke and therefore hoping to lose. One elder said he had never wanted to lose a game so much :)

This week, we ate lunch at a member´s house one day, and she asked her 4 year old daughter to take the cats outside. The little girl picked up the cats one by one and literally threw them out the door like footballs. It was hilarious. And today we saw a herd of goats walking alongside the cars. I love this crazy place :)

I also love the recent converts here. Sister Coelho and I shared a spiritual thought about Peter the apostle walking on the water with Christ, but the man we were teaching, Cosmo (who has about 10 months in the church) kept getting confused with the story of Moses parting the Red Sea. We got absolutely nowhere with our message, but it was really funny. I also love the Gospel Principles class on Sundays, because it´s full of people who have very little time in the Church and still don´t know very much. They´re like babies in the gospel and it´s really cute :)

I fall more in love with Brazilian food every day. Here on the streets, they sell "salgados," or various pastries stuffed with chicken and beef and cheese and other stuff. They´re super cheap and delicious. They also have this drink called guaraná da amazonas that basically has the consistency of a milkshake and the flavor of peanut butter, and it is so good. I never thought I would love Brazilian food as much as I do. I even still love rice, beans, pasta, and chicken, even though it´s what we have for lunch literally every day.

As for investigators, we taught Marinalva this week and she told us that she wants to continue in the Catholic church, since she was raised with that tradition. The same thing happened with Maria and Tatiane, new investigators we found this week. People here are very Catholic and it´s often difficult for them to want to leave that tradition behind, even when they feel that the things we teach are true. However, Fábio is still progressing really well. During one lesson, Sister Coelho asked him to read a scripture and then asked him a question afterward. He looked up at us with the most stumped facial expression in the world and I was holding in the urge to laugh during the rest of the lesson. That seems to happen to me a lot :) We found a new investigator, a 13-year-old girl named Marianna. She´s actually the niece of Cilene, our other investigator, and she´s come to church for two weeks now. She is unsure about baptism right now, but she is a sweetheart and we adore her. 

Cilene and Daniel are absolutely amazing. They are progressing so well and are planning their wedding and baptism. They´re going to get married on July 15 so that they can get baptized. They are so willing to exercise their faith and do anything they need to to become members of the church. I love seeing them at church and seeing how much the gospel is already blessing their lives and how much it will continue to bless them and their daughter in the future. Teaching them makes all of the other rejection worth it :) 

Also, every day I am in awe of the selflessness of these people. Almost everyone here is extremely poor, and right now the majority of people are without water in their houses, but they are always so willing and happy to give away whatever they have. They are so quick to share, and it makes me want to be more selfless. I feel so grateful to be here learning from these incredible people. 

All my love,
Sister Amy Weatherford

The first picture is of Andressa, Cilene and Daniel´s daughter, and the daughter of Cilene´s sister. We were joking that Andressa is like a mini Sister Coelho, because they´re both morena, and the other little girl is like a mini me, since we´re both super white. So we put our nametags on them and took a picture :)

The second picture is of me and Sister Coelho with the collage I made for her to celebrate her mission anniversary.

The other pictures are from our Zone P-day :)






Friday, June 19, 2015

Week 16 Sousa, Brazil

Chicungunha

Bom dia! This week was a little crazy, because I caught some weird sickness that is most likely something by the name of chicungunha, though I don´t know for sure. I started having a fever on Wednesday night and I had a fever all day on Thursday along with headache and body aches and "bolinhas," or little red dots, all over my skin. On Friday, I was feeling a lot better and the fever had disappeared, but because I still had bolinhas, I couldn´t go out in the sun. Because of that, we didn´t get any work done on Thursday and less than usual on Friday and Saturday because we could only work when the sun had gone down. I´m feeling back to normal now though, so don´t worry, Mom :) 

The other big thing that happened this week is that we had an emergency transfer in our zone and we got a new zone leader. The zone leader, Elder Meirelles, had been in my district and we were sad to lose him. In his place, we got an American though, so I´m happy to have a buddy here. 

Besides the mystery Brazilian disease, it was a really good week. We had some quality lessons with people and several of our investigators did a good job of keeping our commitments with them. We taught a man who is probably in his early 20´s or so, named Fábio. We had left a Book of Mormon with him about a week ago and I had been the one to explain what the Book of Mormon is and I did a terrible job. So I was super happy to hear when we visited him this week that he had read not only the part we left with him, but also started it from the beginning. He seems super interested and we´re excited to keep working with him. The sad news from the week is that José, after 4 days straight without drinking, got drunk. We went to visit him and saw him passed out on the floor. I wanted to cry, because he has so much potential for his future and he knows that. 

We also worked a lot with Cilene and Daniel, her...esposo (they´re not legally married) this week. Daniel especially is progressing a lot and reading the things we leave with them and praying. He knows that the Church is true. We had an experience with Cilene this week in which she told us she was going to return to the church she was attending before. We talked to her for a long time and discovered her concerns and helped her with them. She has received so many answers to her prayers already, and all we had to do was remind her of that. She knows that the Church is true, she´s just afraid to leave her comfort zone and do something that´s so new and a little bit scary. The experience with her made me realize how Heavenly Father feels about me and about all of us. We all have moments in which we doubt what we once knew and we want to give up. I felt so sad to hear Cilene thinking about giving up on the Church in the face of her fears and doubts, and Heavenly Father feels the same way about us. It renewed my determination to stay faithful to the things I know to be true and to the answers I´ve received to my prayers, even when I face doubts or fears. Anyway, the happy ending about Cilene is that she, Daniel, and their beautiful 2 year old daughter Andressa all went to church together, commented a lot in Gospel Principles, and seemed so happy. It made my day to see the three of them sitting together during sacrament meeting (I was up on the stand playing piano, which also made my day :) 

All in all, a good but crazy week. I hope everyone is doing well! Sending my love from Brazil!
Sister Amy Weatherford







Tuesday, June 9, 2015

Week 15 Sousa, Brazil

Liver, drunk people, and roosters

The subject line basically sums up the weird parts of my week. I tried liver for the first time without knowing what it was (I learned the word for liver, "figado," after lunch). We talked to several drunk guys who were hilarious. Several of them kissed our hands, one of them denied that he had been drinking and then proceeded to attempt to sit in a chair and fell over sideways, knocking over a table in the process, and another was riding on a bike (an absolutely terrible idea) and swerving and barely missing getting run over by cars and motorcycles. And we taught a lesson this week in which a guy randomly walked through the kitchen holding a screaming rooster by the neck. I love Brazil :)

As for more normal news, we were in a trio with another sister for a day, Sister Leal, while her companion was in Natal for a leadership meeting. It was way fun and the three of us walked around singing pop songs. We bought a ton of fresh fruit for 9 reáis, or the equivalent of 3 US dollars, and while I was marveling at what a good deal that was, the other sisters complained that it was expensive. Again, I love Brazil :) We had a zone meeting on Wednesday and it was great. I´m no longer the only American in our zone, which makes me happy. On Thursday, we did a companion exchange and I spent the day with Sister Leal in her area. Everyone we talked to that day was super crazy for some reason, and we taught one lady named Rita who is almost deaf. Sister Leal gave the opening prayer, but Rita didn´t hear that she had finished and she was still sitting there with her eyes closed, so Sister Leal repeated "Amém" super loudly and it was really funny for some reason. That in addition to her cat that was pulling on my skirt resulted in me trying to hold in laughter during the entire lesson. 

While I was in the Provo MTC, Sister Thomson and I taught member volunteers once a week during TRC. One of the girls we taught, Patricia, told us that her mom lives in the Brazil Natal mission. This week, I met Patricia´s mom! It was really cool to have that connection with her. It really is a small world. 

The craziest experience of the week was on Friday. There was a guy from India who somehow got put on the wrong bus and ended up in Sousa rather than the city he was supposed to go to. He didn´t speak a word of Portuguese, so Sister Coelho and I had to go help him, since I´m the only English speaker here. The whole thing was a disaster, because he didn´t have any money and didn´t speak English very well and was pretty rude. We spent 3 hours trying to get him where he needed to go. The whole thing was really tiring and frustrating, and it consumed pretty much our entire day. 

On Saturday, we taught a 22-year-old guy named José. He drinks a lot, but he wants to change his life. He promised he would stop drinking and get baptized. Our lesson with him on Saturday was great, because he seemed to have a real desire to turn his life around. However, on Sunday, he didn´t come to church because he was embarrassed about his clothes. I was really disappointed, but I hope we can continue to work with him and help him. We met lots of great new people this week and I´m excited to work with and teach them. People here are crazy, but I love them. :)

I´m already getting really tan, and I´ve officially been a missionary for more than 3 months now. I can´t believe it. Even though it´s hard sometimes, I feel really lucky to be here and to be learning so much from this experience. :) 

Love,
Sister Amy Weatherford




Monday, June 1, 2015

Week 14 Sousa, Brazil

Interior Zones Conference

This week, we had a fantastic conference with half of the mission (all of the missionaries in the interior zones) and we got to hear from Elder Mazagardi of the Quorum of the 70. Not only were the talks inspiring, I also got to see Sister Thomson, my wonderful MTC companion, and Sister Savage, another girl I met at the MTC who arrived at the same time as Sister Thomson. It was so nice to talk with Americans again, since I´ve been surrounded by Brazilians for 6 weeks :) It was also nice to be able to tell them that things are going to get easier, since I remember how overwhelming everything was at the beginning. 
We have two elders in my district who are going home after this transfer and they are unbelievably trunky. In our district meeting, we sang a hymn called Bela Sião, which talks about the "belas portas de Sião" (beautiful doors of Zion...hmm, that doesn´t make sense, but that´s what it means). Anyway, they replaced "de Sião" with "da avião" (of the airplane). They are ridiculous.
This week was honestly kind of hard. Sebastião has absolutely no faith in himself that he can quit smoking, and he hasn´t been coming to church. We both love him and he´s hilarious, but I think we´re going to have to stop teaching him since he´s not progressing. We had a lesson with Cilene this week about the law of chastity (yeah, awkward) that was so great and she was excited about living the gospel, but when we visited her the next day, she was totally discouraged because her husband doesn´t want to get married right now and she said she feels like she can´t come to church if she´s breaking that commandment. We tried to tell her that she needs to come to church and that no one there is perfect, but she didn´t want to come. No one wanted to come to church this week; everyone either complains that it´s too far away or they have something else to do, and I just wished we had people here who are willing to make sacrifices. I also realized this week through a variety of experiences that I have a lot of things I need to improve, and I felt inadequate. It´s a good thing I have 15 months left to learn what I need to and become the person I want to be. It was a good week, though. We visited a recent convert named Luzia who I absolutely adore. She gives the best hugs and always calls us "princesa" or "amor" or "linda" and she is just so sweet and made the whole week better.
Also, I survived my first sacrament meeting talk in Brazil. I´m sure I said lots of stupid things and probably no one understood me, but no one was laughing, so that´s good. :) I also got to play the piano again and it made me happy.
Our conference with Elder Mazagardi this week talked a lot about using our time wisely and serving with all of our heart, might, mind and strength. President Soares talked about how we´re more than just cool young people who share pretty words about Jesus Christ; we´re literal representatives of Him. Elder Mazagardi highlighted the fact that in 2 Nephi, it says "take away the sins of the world" rather than just "forgive the sins of the world." I also read a scripture about how Jesus Christ, when He visited the Nephites in the Americas, cured all their sick and did all manner of cures among them. Both of those things made me realize that the Atonement really does cover everything. It not only forgives our sins, it completely takes them away. The sacrifice Christ made for us is infinite, and I´m so grateful for Him. I´m grateful that through Him, I can be forgiven of my faults and I can overcome my weaknesses.
I hope everyone had a lovely week :)
Love,
Sister Amy Weatherford