It has been a CRAZY couple of weeks! But first, I have to apologize for the late email. Monday (our usual P-day) we had a meeting with Elder Gudouy, Elder Costa and Elder Bednar, so our P-day got moved to 3a feira, which turns out to be a holiday. So we decided to email today!
Here’s the skinny on where I am.
I am in an area called Castelo, which includes Castelo and Palmeiras II (more on that place later). We live in a house with 3 other companionships, which is crazy! Our house is in the Fortaleza area, so we walk about 15 minutes to our area.
My companion is Elder Baltazar, he is from Sao Paulo (the Sao Paulo Sul mission). He speaks a tiny bit of English but not a lot, so it is pretty much straight Portuguese with us.
Our first day in the area, we tried to go around and get to now members since we were both new to the area, but it turns out pretty much everyone was gone to Recife for a temple trip. We finally got to meet them all on Sunday the ward is about 70 people... they just split the two wards here into four)
Our second day, we pretty much just went around and met the investigators and followed up on some references, so we got about 4 lessons in the afternoon/night.
A little more about this area, in Ceara, people would rather have a big fancy car than a nice home, and so that’s what they have. Just like pretty much everywhere in Brasil, it looks ghetto just because the infrastructure here is so old, but all of the people here (at least in Castelo) have money. It’s probably a lot like San Felipe, some dirt roads, some paved roads and some rock roads. Palmeiras though is just all old. I think it’s the more poorer parts of this area, but there are still areas where people have money and nice houses, but generally the people that live there are pretty poor. There is pretty much no crime here though. Unless you have a big fancy watch and you are walking around at night in Palmeiras, no one will try to steal from you. It’s a real nice area. We are also far enough away from the ocean that there isn’t a lot of humidity (compared to downtown... we are about 45 minutes away).
The members here are AWESOME! They all love the missionaries and love to have them over for Lunch (they do lunch appointments here, and we rarely eat dinner during the afternoon). A lot of the people are part member families, so we can teach lessons with members more, which is really a blessing. My companion's family joined the church when he was about 5, but mostly everyone here is a convert, so they really know how to relate with the investigators. Also, the average age of the Bishopric is probably about 29. I know Bispo Paulo is 28 and Manuel (another awesome family, his wife is just plain ol awesome) is probably about 30 as well. The ward members are just like they are in the U.S., they are really supportive of the missionaries, they always invite us in and they try to help whenever they can.
Now about the teaching... I have already had my first lesson with a Jehovah's witness. He was about 18 and he firmly believed that only 144,000 people would be saved because it said so in the bible, and my companion was talking with him about that (I was just trying to keep up, they have a different accent here... like porcchtugees). At the end, my companion asked if I had anything to add and I bore testimony to him that I knew that if everyone would come unto Christ everyone would be saved because that’s the nature of his atonement... it could be that only 144,000 truly accept Christ (which is unlikely) but the power of the atonement is infinite. In my companion’s words, I bore my testimony that that just doesn't make sense, which to me it doesn’t, that’s what our message is all about! Everybody has the opportunity, and it can work for everybody!
Since we just got here, we don't really have a lot of progressing investigators, but there was a family that came to church, but the Father of the household doesn't like missionaries, so our plan is to teach them at church. WE have another family that is a reference through the son, Jean. We get a lot of references through a weekly soccer game at the church, which is kind of awesome, but we can't play soccer, mission rules. Anyways, we taught his parents last night and we have committed the whole family to pray about the truth of the restoration and do what they need to do when they receive n answer. The Mother really loves just listening and learning, and I think the Dad just ponders on what we say. We just have to do our best and do as Elder Bednar said and “get out of the way of the Lord.”
As for people who need prayers, we taught a mother and son, and they were very receptive to it. The mother is Catholic but she affirmed that if Pedro felt good about it, it was his choice and he should do what he thinks is right. Unfortunately, we think she ended up talking to her pastor about it because the next night she was very hostile towards us and didn't want us to speak to her son. We just have to pray and hope the Lord can soften her heart and let the spirit work through her.
AS for the meeting with Elder Bednar, there is only a few things that HE taught us. The main thing was how we should learn in all things pertaining to church. He said sometimes we try so hard to copy down word for word what people say in General Conference and we don't end up actually listening to what people say. The way he put it was, these are in essence, your large plates. And I thought to myself, well what worth are the Large plates to us today? Most of it was abridged anyhow! Elder Bednar asked us not to write what he said, but to write what we felt through the spirit, so that we could truly learn, and our notes would truly be revelation, and our own small plates, just like Nephi was commanded to create. The way the meeting went was that we had two talks of his to read, and then he stood up and asked for volunteers to share what they learned, and he asked questions about that. It was incredible because he didn’t stand and talk for 3 hours straight, but he taught us the whole time.
AS for other things, my companion has requested peanut butter, and he would like a BYU shirt of some sort. I guess that could be a present or something. Other than that, a photo album with pictures of family would be AWESOME. Other than that, I don't have anything else I can think of. Oh! My oil vial... I haven't been able to find any in SP or here, so that would be awesome.
That’s all for now! Love you all!