Monday, February 29, 2016

Week 53 Cidade Verde Natal, Brazil

Wedding <3

What a fantastic week! Saturday was probably the best day of my whole mission. I know I´ve said that several times, but it really was amazing. We studied and then went to the chapel to decorate, with the help of several members. Then we ate lunch at Isabel´s house and went back to finish decorating. Then Raimunda gave us and Italla a ride to Aline´s house, where Aline did Italla´s hair and makeup. And our makeup too. :) Then all of us went to the chapel and got there at about 6:30 (we had scheduled the wedding for 6...but the bride always has to get there late, right?). Renan, a member of our ward who has a professional camera, took a bunch of pictures of Italla before she went in. Italla was sooooo beautiful. She looked like a princess. She borrowed the dress of a member of our ward, Raissa, and looked so gorgeous. 

The wedding finally started at about 7:20. When Italla walked in, everyone was entranced. Especially Hugo, who basically froze in place staring at her. I might have cried a little bit when she came in. :) Bishop Paulo gave them lots of great advice, pronounced them man and wife, and they kissed and exchanged rings. Afterwards, they immediately got changed into jumpsuits and we took pictures. Elder De Jesus baptized both of them and miraculously, Italla´s makeup and hair stayed in place. They got changed back into their wedding attire and we went back to the gym to dance and eat cake (which was made by a very talented member of our ward) and salgadinhos (which were made by another member of our ward). Renato, our ward mission leader, plays guitar and sings and provided us with some live music :)

Lots of people from Italla and Hugo´s families came for the wedding from the interior of the state, and they thought it was all very carefully put together and thought out and that everything turned out beautifully. Hugo even did some missionary work with his aunt who was asking about the church and marked his favorite part of the Book of Mormon and gave it to her. I´m so proud! :) 

The wedding turned out perfectly. I´m so immensely grateful for all of the members who pitched in their help to make it all possible. It was an incredible experience, and I´m so happy for Italla and Hugo and for this step they´re taking in their lives. I´m so grateful to have met them! 

That was the main occurrence from the week, so I don´t have much else to say. I´m extremely happy <3

I´ll send more pictures of everything in a week or two, when Renan gives us the pictures he took. But for the meanwhile, here are some pictures from my camera. 

Sister Weatherford

(Italla walked in with her little brother who is 14 years old)

The kiss

(Hugo doesn´t like to smile in pictures haha, but I promise he´s not mad)

Batismo  :)

Us with Isabel

Saturday, February 27, 2016

Week 52 Cidade Verde Natal, Brazil

Rough Week

This week was rough because Sister Gusmão got super sick and we spent a lot of time at home. On Tuesday, she had an allergic reaction and her hands swelled up. On Wednesday, she woke up unable to speak and with a super sore throat. Sister Soares encouraged us to go to the hospital, so we went there (a member of our ward gave us a ride) and Sister Gusmão had to get an extremely painful shot in her butt. Poor thing. On Thursday, she woke up with a runny nose and a fever. Luckily, our sister training leaders are in a trio, training a new missionary, so it´s easy for them to go on exchanges, and one of them came to our area and helped me out. We left Sister Gusmão in the house of a sister from our ward and me and Sister Gonçalves went out to work. On Friday, we went on an exchange: Sister Gonçalves with Sister Gusmão, and me with Monaliza, a returned missionary from our ward. And on Saturday, Sister Gusmão was still really sick, so we spent most of the day at home.

Even though it was a rough and slightly stressful week, it was great to work with Sister Gonçalves. She is 32 years old, she´s from Goiania, and she is an incredible person and missionary. During the two short days she was here, I learned a ton from her example and was very grateful for her help and her friendship.

Italla and Hugo are doing great. Italla tried on our Relief Society president´s wedding dress and fell in love with it, which made us super happy. Italla and Hugo are reading the Book of Mormon and praying together every day. They had a small smoking relapse this week, but they are trying so hard. We shared the story of the anti-nephi-lehites (Alma 24), who repented and buried their weapons of war so that they would never again commit the same sin. Italla, all by herself, made the connection to their fight to give up smoking and said that she knows that they´ll be able to stop, they just need to make the firm decision never to smoke again. They are absolutely incredible and have so much faith. 

As for Demildes and Melo, we haven´t even been able to get in touch with them because Aldeneide (Demildes´ daughter) has been making up excuses that they´re too busy, etc. for us to go visit them. So she hasn´t been helping us out. And Aldeneide was going to pick up Demildes for church on Sunday, but canceled on her because it was raining. Bummer.

That´s pretty much my only news from this week, since it was fairly uneventful. But this Saturday is Italla and Hugo´s wedding and baptism, and we are unbelievably excited! Expect lots of pictures next week :) 

Sister Weatherford 

Me, Sister Gusmão and Sister Gonçalves
Me and Sister Gusmão with Jailton, a member of the other ward that meets in our chapel. He´s totally crazy and hilarious, and he works for FBI Brazil. Apparently he´s already worked in the Secret Service with George W. Bush. He´s great and helps us out a lot.
My nametag with the Book of Mormon :)

Monday, February 15, 2016

Week 51 Cidade Verde Natal, Brazil

This week started off perfectly. Remember Eclesiaste and Nilson? Well, on Tuesday, we walked by the little park that we also walk by, and guess who was there? Eclesiaste! We ran over to talk to him, and he explained that they had misunderstood and thought that church started at 8:30 pm. He said he´s been reading the Book of Mormon every day, and we set up an appointment to teach them in the church on Wednesday night. Then on Wednesday night...they didn´t show up. I do not know what is going on with them. I really don´t think they´re lying to us, because the way we met them was way too inspired and they are great guys. So I´m a little discouraged, but who knows? Maybe we´ll find them again. 

Ítalla and Hugo are doing great! They got priesthood blessings this week to help them out as they give up smoking, and they said they felt a huge difference. They didn´t smoke at all this past week, and I´m so proud of their effort. Ítalla also bore her testimony at a small integration activity that we had on Friday, and talked about how she knows that Christ lives, that the church is true, and that the Book of Mormon is true. It was so beautiful <3 They´re getting excited for their wedding, and we´re working hard to get everything put together with the help of the ward members. 

Vitória, the 15 year old recent convert we visit, made huge progress this week. She said she looked in the mirror one day and had the strongest feeling that she really is a daughter of God. She´s working hard to dress more modestly because she told us that she knows the Spirit isn´t with her when she dresses immodestly. It was amazing to see how much she´s grown.

On Thursday night, Isabel hosted a family home evening in her apartment and invited Ítalla and Hugo. We watched several Mormon messages, one of which was about the Book of Mormon, and afterwards, everyone bore their testimony of the book. It was really powerful. Ítalla and Hugo are reading the Book of Mormon together and separately every day, and I know that´s what is making such a huge difference in their conversion. The Book of Mormon truly has power to change our lives and it is the key to a lasting conversion.

Isabel also gave me the greatest compliment ever this week! She said "Sister, have I ever told you that you speak Portuguese perfectly?" She called me this week when she was at work, and apparently her coworkers heard me speaking on the speaker phone and thought I was Brazilian :) I love Isabel, and her family is the cutest thing ever. I´m going to attach a picture of them.

Oh, and we started teaching Demildes and Melo this week. Demildes is the mom of a member who got baptized about a year and a half ago (Aldeneide) and Melo is Demildes´ husband. They don´t live in our area, but President Soares gave us permission to take the bus there and teach them, since they´re going to attend our ward with Aldeneide after they get baptized. Demildes is 74 and Melo is 97, but they´re both super healthy and energetic. They´re extremely rich, and I got totally thrown off when we went to their house to teach them. The people here are generally more poor and humble, so I´ve gotten used to teaching in small, poor houses, and I got freaked out teaching in a huge house with air conditioning :) 

So that was my week. I hope everyone is doing well and had a happy Valentine´s Day! 

Sister Amy Weatherford

Sister Gusmão, Maxwell (Isabel´s husband), Isadora and Mateus (their kids), Isabel, and me

Me and Ítalla and her adorable baby, Júlia

Thursday, February 11, 2016

Week 50 Cidade Verde Brazil

For those of you who have heard of Carnaval, the Brazilian holiday, know that it is pretty inconvenient for us missionaries. Starting on Saturday, our area was pretty much dead since everyone went out of town to celebrate Carnaval. And it won´t be over until Wednesday. But we had a good week, regardless. It started off on Monday night with an awesome family home evening at Paraguassu and Yusha´s house. We took Ítalla and Hugo, and Painho (Paraguassu) gave a message about John Tanner, one of the early church members who sacrificed everything he had and donated everything to the church. It was an amazing message, and I think it really helped Ítalla and Hugo, who are also making sacrifices (giving up smoking, etc) to become members of the church. I was also very grateful that the ward members are helping integrate Ítalla and Hugo. Plus, I love Paraguassu and Yusha´s family. They are all so loving and they remind me a lot of my wonderful family :)

We also managed to find a wedding dress for Ítalla! Isabel, one of our good friends in the ward, who actually hasn´t been super active since she usually goes to her mom´s ward and not to hers, talked to her sister, who´s going to lend us her beautiful wedding dress! She´s going to bring the dress from Recife this week, so hopefully it fits Ítalla. Plus Isabel went to our ward this week for the first time since I´ve been here! We love her!

The sad news from this week is that Renata, who got baptized a few weeks ago, still hasn´t been confirmed. We haven´t been able to find her at home, and it seems like she´s avoiding us :( I´m really sad about it and want to know what´s going on. I´m pretty sure a friend of hers spoke bad about the church. 

There´s a new American sister in our district named Sister Sutton, and I got to talk with her several times this week. We spoke quite a bit of English, since she´s in that phase where it´s hard to understand and everything is overwhelming. I remember how hard it was for me when I got here, so I want to help her as much as possible. 

A funny story from this week: we´ve started doing our daily exercises at a little free outdoor gym that´s really close to our apartment. And I´m pretty sure we´re the only people who go there who are less than 60 years old. Sister Gusmão struck up a conversation with a few of the old ladies there one morning and ended up teaching them the Law of Chastity, which I thought was hilarious. We´re going to make friends with all of the old ladies :)

Anyway, that was our week. It was a little bit hard, since we´ve had to drop several investigators (Francisco, unfortunately, is not progressing, and neither is Brena, who we were teaching) and we had a hard time finding new ones because of Carnaval, but this week will be better! Sorry for this super random, cluttered email :)

All my love,
Sister Amy Weatherford

Pictures: our family home evening; me, Sister Gusmão, and Sister Castilho; our zone

Me doing exercises with the old ladies

Me and my companion, Sister Gusmão

So, donuts don´t exist in Brazil, but I found something similar today and I got happy :)

Monday, February 1, 2016

Week 49 Cidade Verde Natal, Brazil

This week was great! It started off Monday night with a perfect lesson with Ìtalla and Hugo. Renato, our ward mission leader, went with us, and Hugo told us that Sunday when he was watching the speakers in sacrament meeting, he saw himself up there in a white shirt and tie one day. He told us that he´s becoming a different person and that it all started when he said that first prayer. He said he´s seen a huge difference in his life and attitude since he started reading the Book of Mormon. They both accepted a baptismal date for after their wedding. We felt like we were on The District. :)

Transfers were this week, and Sister Gusmão and I both stayed here in this area. The only change is that Elder Carpenter got transferred and we got a new district leader. His name is Elder Perseu and he´s from Curitiba. There´s also a brand new American sister in our district, Sister Sutton, that I´m excited to get to know.

We also had a huge surprise on Friday when two young men that we had invited last Sunday, Eclesiaste and Nilson, showed up at our integration night! We were shocked that they remembered and actually came. We taught them the Restoration on Saturday night in the chapel, and they both accepted a baptismal date. But unfortunately, they didn´t come on Sunday, and we´re not sure why. They´re here in the city on contract, selling water purifiers, and they live in a house with all of the other workers and can´t give us their address, so it´s a little complicated to get in touch with them. But we know that it was God who put them in our path and that He can do it again this week. :) We met two young woman who are doing the same work that Eclesiaste and Nilson are doing. Their names are Aninha and Rose, and they told us that God sent us in their path and that our smiles made them a lot happier. They seemed really interested in visiting the church, but didn´t come on Sunday, so who knows? Either way, it´s always nice to meet people like them.

On Saturday, Neto (a member from Santarém) was here in our area and he took us out for pizza. It was fun to catch up with him and remember my good times in Santarém. On Sunday, I got to speak English with our ward mission leader, who is doing a course from BYU called Pathway. He speaks super fluently and is an English teacher here. 

This week, I also felt a huge love and admiration for the church members here in Brazil. Their faith is absolutely incredible, and sometimes I have moments where I stop and think about how amazing it is that the church has grown so immensely here. I love these people who have made so many sacrifices to be members of the church. They are a powerful example to me, and it´s a testament to me of how the Lord´s work is moving forward. 

All my love,
Sister Weatherford

With some girls from the ward. 

A super cute picture of Hugo reading the Book of Mormon with his daughter, Júlia, on his lap.

And Renato, our ward mission leader, serenading Hugo and Ítalla while we were waiting to go to the cartório to get them all signed up for their wedding. Renato was a saint and took us there and helped us out with everything.