Tuesday, March 29, 2016

Week 57 Cidade Verde Natal, Brazil

Easter

On Tuesday, we had a mission zone conference, with all of the zones from the capital. It was wonderful, as always, despite the majority of my friends here being in the interior, which means I didn´t get to see them (Sister Thomson, Sister G. Nunes, etc.). 

This week was really rough in terms of finding new people to teach. It´s always hard here, but this week was especially challenging. Friday was a holiday, so pretty much everyone disappeared on FridaySaturday, andSunday. Seriously, the streets were almost empty, all day, which makes it really hard to do contacts. We talked to everyone in our path, but everyone made up some excuse not to accept a visit ("I´m never home," etc.) 

So this whole email is going to be about Rita, our celestial investigator :) On Wednesday night, we took Danielle, a sister from our ward, with us to visit Rita and teach the Plan of Salvation. A lot of Rita´s doubts have to do with the Millennium and things like that, so we answered all of her questions. On Thursday night, we took her to the integration night. On Friday night, she ordered pizza for us and we invited her to get baptized. She said she was hesitant, since she´s still not 100% sure she wants to make that commitment, but we talked a lot about faith and about the fact that God has already shown her that it´s all true. On Saturday, we took the elders there for Elder Perseu, our district leader, to do the interview. When we got there, she told us that the night before, she had looked up stuff about mormons on YouTube. She found a video that she wanted to show us made by a pastor of another church, so she put it on. It was extremely disrespectful, and told some flat-out lies. We asked her what she thought when she saw the video and she said "I just laughed because it was so ridiculous. For someone to make a video like that, they have to feel threatened because they´re losing their own church members." We were relieved by her answer. She is going to get baptized this Sunday, and she wants her 8-year-old daughter Julia to get baptized with her too :) 

Rita is amazing! Seriously, I have never felt so much love for an investigator. She is one of the most loving people I have ever met. For example, she once met a family in the interior who is extremely poor, the mom is alcoholic, the kids suffer a lot, etc. So she started up a project and is asking everyone she knows to donate clothes and toys, and she´s putting everything together to give it to them. She does things like that naturally, always reaching out to serve others, and we think that she´ll be Relief Society president for sure someday. :) She always makes dinner for us when we go to her house, and she is literally the sweetest person ever.

I´m grateful for the past week in which I was able to study more about my Savior in preparation for EasterSunday. As it says in some of my favorite hymns, "I stand all amazed at the love Jesus offers me, confused at the grace that so fully he proffers me." "I believe in Christ, so come what may." It really is "wonderful to me" that he chose to die for us so that we can become better people, so that we can have hope even in our trials. "Oh, sweet the joy this sentence gives: I know that my Redeemer lives!" I know that Jesus Christ lives. I know that He loves us, and that He knows us perfectly because He chose to take all of our sins, sufferings, sicknesses, and pains upon Him. I am so grateful for what He did. 

I hope everyone had a happy Easter! And I hope everyone has the chance to watch General Conference this weekend. We are blessed to have a living prophet and apostles!

Love,
Sister Amy Weatherford

Pictures: 

Me, Sister Gusmão, and Sister Mulberry
Me and Sister Savage








Me and Sister Muria, one of the missionaries who trained Sister Gusmão
Me and Elder Borba, who was my first district leader
Me and Sister Castilho, one of my good friends
Our zone









A tree we found that probably came straight out of Minecraft (I thought of you, Josh!)
Us and the elders, being superheroes. Teenage boys never grow up, do they? 



Wednesday, March 23, 2016

Week 56 Cidade Verde Natal, Brazil

Great Week

A lot happened this week, so be prepared for a lengthy email. First of all, we´ve been eating a lot of McDonald´s lately. Sometimes instead of making lunch for us, the members give us money to buy lunch (usually when they don´t have time to cook and invite us over, but still want to provide lunch for us). And since there´s a McD´s nearby and we have a bunch of coupons that members gave us, we´ve been having fun. :) We did have a couple of funny lunches here though, because people here sometimes get offended if you don´t eat a lot. This week I got asked "You´re not going to eat more? You didn´t like the food, did you?" and "You´re not going to eat more? You´re mad at me, aren´t you?" So I put more food on my plate even though I was already full. Brazilians are hilarious :)

I had one of the coolest experiences ever on Tuesday night. It was 8 pm, and we didn´t have anywhere to go, so we decided to do contacts. But the problem with our area is that there is almost never anyone on the street. And Sister Gusmão´s feet were hurting like crazy. She told me, "Let´s go sit in front of the chapel and wait for people to come by so we can offer them a tour. God will send someone to us." We tried to talk to a couple of people who walked by, who were extremely rude, and then while we were sitting there, a car going by stopped and the woman driving said "Are you from this church? What day do you have meetings?" We immediately jumped up answered her question, and offered to visit her in her home another day, and she gave us her address, which is on the same street as the church!

On Wednesday, we went to her house. Her name is Jane, and she lives with a guy named Cássio. It´s a little weird because Jane is like 50 and Cássio is 25, and the age difference is more than visible, but they areamazing. Jane was attending some other church but she decided to leave because the pastor wanted to see her salary and accused her of not paying enough tithing. A lot of the churches here in Brazil are absolutely shameless about robbing people´s money in God´s name. Anyway, she left that church and said she had always been curious about our church but every time she went by, it was closed. We taught them the Restoration and it was awesome. Seriously, they are eleitos. Jane especially was definitely prepared by God to find us. And she´s super cute because she randomly says "Amen" after things we say while we´re teaching. :) Unfortunately, there was a miscommunication and they didn´t come to church yesterday because they thought it was at night, not in the morning. But they´re already excited for next Sunday and have already committed to baptism. We´re going to have to do another wedding here :)

This week, we invited a guy named Márcio who works in a grocery store we always go to. We were talking to him outside the door when a creepy guy who does drugs and always hits on us walked by, and said "It´s the church next to the colégio contemporâneo!" Randomly helped us out in the contact, giving a reference point :) Then the guy we were inviting said, "That guy needs more help than I do" and the creeper responded "I already have Jesus in my life!" as he was walking away. It was funny. And, the huge surprise was that on Sunday, Márcio went!! We had even forgotten that we invited him, since we invite everybody, and got really excited when we saw him there! 

This week we met a girl (the previous Sister Vilanueva) who served here about a year and a half ago and came back with her parents to visit. She´s from Peru, and stayed in Isabel´s house since she was the one who taught and baptized Isabel´s husband. It was fun to meet them and try to communicate in Portuguese and Spanish all mixed together with her parents. 

Nilda, a recent convert in our area, gets weaker every day. She´s been sick for months now, but she´s taking such strong medicine that she pretty much sleeps all day. She´s really thin and can barely open her eyes and talk, and it´s absolutely heartbreaking. She´s one of the most loving people I´ve ever met and it hurts me to see her suffer like that. This week, when we went to visit her, we sang the hymn "Come, Come Ye Saints" for her and she loved it. She has incredible faith in God.

We also asked the elders to install a tiny wire in our shower head so we could have hot water, so I got to take the first hot shower I´ve taken in almost a year! It´s been heavenly. Despite the heat, it´s still not fun to get into ice cold water and wash your hair, so we´re grateful. :)

As for Demildes and Melo (the 98 year old man), the elders visited Aldeneide, Demildes´ member daughter), called Demildes, and scheduled to visit them on Saturday morning. We called Aldeneide before we got on the bus and she said she was on her way to her mom´s house as well. When we got there, we rang the interphone on Demildes´ house. Their driver answered and said they had gone to the doctor. We waited for Aldeneide, who showed up about 5 minutes later, and said "Do you want to hear the truth, even if it hurts, or a lie?" She told us that Demildes actually was home, but didn´t want to let us in because she was sweaty and tired and she thought the elder who had called her was annoying and insistent. So we wasted an hour and a half going there and back (since they live out of our area) for nothing. For now, we´re going to give up on them. They still go to church almost every week with Aldeneide, but if they don´t want to receive our visits, they won´t be able to get baptized. 

And another big update: Rita. We went to her house on Saturday (since her whole week was busy) and we taught the Restoration again. This time, we watched the 20-minute video and explained everything as clearly and boldly as we could. She asked us lots of questions, and we bore powerful testimony of everything. It was one of the most spiritually exhausting lessons I´ve ever taught. When we told her about how the Book of Mormon is evidence because it´s either true and therefore Joseph was telling the truth, or it´s a book that he made up, she told us "There´s no one a man could have made up this book." She told us that on theSunday she went to church with us, she felt a peaceful feeling so beyond peace and felt that the people there truly live the things they teach. She said it was something she had never felt before in any other church, not even the church she was attending, the Assembly of God, and said that she always felt like the people there were just putting on a farce. She also told us that on the day she met us, she wasn´t even going to stop and drink coconut water, but when she saw us, she felt something that told her to go talk to us. She said she knows it´s not a coincidence that we met her in the timing that we did. It was amazing. Basically every phrase she said was saying "I know it´s true." She made us dinner and then we three knelt down and she offered the most sincere prayer I´ve ever heard, asking to know if the Book of Mormon is really true. We´re excited to keep seeing her progress.

So, that was our amamzing week, full of miracles and blessings. I love being a missionary, and I love having this chance to get to know so many of God´s children. It amazes me how each person is completely unique and has their own needs and worries, and it´s so rewarding to get to know those people and try to help them. 

Love,
Sister Amy Weatherford

Pictures: Our district
Me with graffiti
Us with Enoch and Braga, two cute old guys in our ward




Tuesday, March 22, 2016

Week 55 Cidade Verde Natal, Brazil

Not transferred

Dear loved ones,

This week was transfers, but Sister Gusmão and I stayed here in Cidade Verde. So this will be my third and probably last transfer here. I hope to make the most out of it!

A few weeks ago, we knocked on someone´s door to ask for a cup of water. A young man named Mateus answered the door and gave us water. We talked to him for a while and he accepted our invitation to go to church the next day, so we arranged to pick him up. When we went to get him, we found out he had gone to the beach. So we dropped him. But this week, we were walking along when Mateus rounded the corner! He told us he had been wanting to talk to us but had no way to reach us. We talked to him for a while and told him we would come back the next day. We went, taught the gospel of Jesus Christ and invited him to get ready to get baptized. He accepted and told us that we had made him rethink his lifestyle. But unfortunately, he hasn´t been answering our phone calls, so we´re not sure what´s happening. :(

Rita unfortunately couldn´t go to church yesterday, but when we went to visit her on Saturday, she had bought salgados (delicious fried snacks) and soda. She loves us. Seriously, she gets so happy when we visit her. She still has doubts about a lot of things, like why the Sabbath day is Sunday and not Saturday, but she is amazing and wants to keep learning more.

This week I got yelled at by a crazy lady in the street who got mad at me for walking around with the Book of Mormon in my hand and "hiding" the Bible in my bag. She told me I have to teach the word of God, not "The book of the Mormons." What she doesn´t know is that the Book of Mormon is also the word of God, but she didn´t even let me try to explain that. I also tried to stop a man on the street who kept walking and said "I´m Catholic and I´m going to die Catholic." It´s been a while since I´ve heard that one. :)

Anyway, that was pretty much our week. It´s still pretty discouraging here and we don´t really have a lot of people to teach, but it´s okay. Italla and Hugo went to church and are doing great, and we are extremely blessed.

Love,
Sister Amy Weatherford

The FHE we did with Alexandre, Jane, Aninha, Lívia, e Vinícius
Starfruit!
Me and Sister Gusmão




Monday, March 7, 2016

Week 54 Cidade Verde Natal, Brazil

One Year

This week, I celebrated my one year mission anniversary. It´s crazy to think that a year ago, I was saying goodbye to everyone I love and entering the MTC in Provo. It almost feels like it was yesterday, yet it also feels so long ago. I´m so immensely grateful for this last year that I´ve spent as a missionary, which has been without a doubt the most amazing year of my life. I hope I´ve grown and changed a lot since then, and I think I have. :) I also had the great surprise on that day to receive a phone call from my "daughter," Sister G. Nunes! I love her! <3

Anyway, this week was an adventure. On Monday, I went to the mission office and then went with a few other missionaries to the police station to get our visas renewed. It was a weird flashback from my first day here in Brazil, but it was nice to be able to understand everything that was going on this time. :) We got invited to a family home evening that night with an incredible family in our ward who is just now getting active again. Their names are Alexandre, Jane, Lívia, Aninha and Vinícius. They made pesto pasta, which was delicious. 

Overall, it was actually a really hard and discouraging week. We had several days in which we walked around all day looking for people to teach. We did contacts with everybody, but nobody seemed interested, and the people who did give us their address gave us the wrong address. Everything seemed to be going wrong. When we tried to do weekly planning, it was useless because we literally didn´t have investigators to plan for. We got exhausted and were extremely thirsty, because we didn´t manage to sit down in anyone´s house.

But one thing I´ve learned this week is that when we do our part, the Lord fills in the rest. His blessings are incredible. Despite our discouragement, we worked hard all week and only saw the results on Saturday night and Sunday. Let me explain...

There´s a place in our area where we always go to buy coconut water. What they do is grab a coconut (the whole thing, with the green shell around it and everything), jab a hole in it and stick in a straw, and you drink it. It is delicious, and apparently has a lot of great vitamins that are good for people who sweat a lot. Aka, us. Plus the couple who sells the coconuts is super nice and loves us, and they always ask us about the church. While we were there, we also met a woman named Rita. She´s a member of the Assembly of God, and asked us lots of questions. She has lots of doubts about her own church, and when we talked about the Book of Mormon, she said she wanted one. We gave it to her and wrote down her address. 

She works during the week, so we went there on Saturday night. She lives in a beautiful house with her 8-year-old daughter, Julia. We taught the Restoration, and she asked lots of questions. She started crying and said "Do you want to know why I let you come to my house? Because I felt something so good when I was with you, and I saw something different in you. It´s like you were angels sent from God." Wow. After our lesson, Rita told us all about her life, the things she suffered in the past with her ex-husband, and her journey searching for truth in the Catholic church and the Assembly of God. She committed to go to church on Sunday with us. She´s amazing and I feel so strongly that she was prepared by God. 

On Sunday, we were blessed even more. Not only did Rita and Julia go to church, Aldeneide took Demildes and Melo. And the biggest surprise: remember when I talked about Nilson and Eclesiaste, the two young men who went to the activity and who are super eleitos, but who then disappeared? We had seen Nilson this week, and he seemed embarrassed to see us and made up excuses for why he didn´t go. We reminded him of the meeting on Sunday, and he said he would go with his friend, but we didn´t really believe it since they had already let us down so many times. But he went, and he took his friend, a girl named Gleiciane! I almost died of shock! 

We were amazed to see God´s blessings at the end of the week. Sometimes God blesses us even when we feel like we don´t deserve it, and it´s always a humble reminder of the deep love He has for each of us. I´m grateful that God heard my many prayers this week, pleading for help, but I´m also grateful for the hardships from this week.

Transfers are this week, so we´ll see what happens!

Love,
Sister Weatherford

We finally got the wedding pictures from Renan. Enjoy!
Us with Nilson and Gleiciane
Us with Rita
Us with Jessi and Rebecca, who are some of our best friends in the ward (they´re Paraguassu and Yusha´s daughters)
All of the sisters from our zone
Us with Vitória, a recent convert
Us with Joshua (Paraguassu and Yusha´s son), aka the cutest thing ever
More wedding pictures -- Hugo´s smiling -- it´s a miracle