14 December 2015

Wow, it´s already almost Christmas? And I´ve already been here 3 months? These three past months have seemed simultaneously like the slowest and fastest time of my life. It´s hard to explain. But yeah, I´m already a sixth of the way there!

OK, So this week was PRETTY ROUGH. My companion had some health issues going on, so we didn´t work nearly as much as I would have liked. But we have some promising investigators. Viviane is 13 and we talked to her on the street a few weeks back. We visited her again about a week ago, and to our delight, she had read the pamphlet we left, and prayed about the Restoration like we asked, and she received an answer and recognized it! She´s eager to learn and always has great questions. One time we taught her and a couple friends, and a sister, and her friend Laila is actually interested also! She wants to be baptized too, and is keeping her commitments. The caveat… We wanted to baptize them both next week, but they haven´t gone to church yet. They were both so excited to go, but then that dang opposition… Viviane was sleeping and her mom wouldn´t wake her up for us. And someone asked Laila to babysit (I think it was her neighbor who was about to have a baby)… So they can´t be baptized yet. But I like these two girls a lot.
We´ve been reading the Book of Mormon with our recent convert, Albert. He likes it a lot, and reads every day. This week the Bishop is gonna interview him, and set some goals as to when he can receive the Aaronic priesthood (the priesthood is authority from God given to men to guide the church, and to perform ordinances like baptism). He´s super great and I can tell he´s gonna stay strong in the church.
One annoying thing. Literally nothing made of tomatoes here is good. I bought prepackaged tomato sauce. Terrible. I bought diced tomatoes to make my own tomato sauce. TERRIBLE TOO. What do I do here? I need marinara sauce.
Also I´ve been craving pizza like crazy. Seriously, the pizza here with the chocolate filled crust is to die for. Mom, try making pizza for the kids one day and put pieces of chocolate or chocoalte chips in the crust. Then you´ll understand.
Also, my companion is being transferred tomorrow! There are a couple of sisters going home (they extended their missions by 2 weeks) so Presidente had to do some flip-flopping. It will be good to get the experience of a new trainer, but I´m nervous becasue now I´ll be the senior in the area, and this week I have to keep the phone on me, make plans, and show my new comp the area. Gulp. I hate answering phones. And it´s super hard to understand Portugues over the phone. Super muffled and fast. But I´ll be okay. After about a week she´ll be able to take the lead.
That´s it for now. Hope you all have a good week. Please talk to me! I´d love to hear from you!

7 December 2015

This week was TOUGH. But I learned a lot… I´ve started figuring out my mission a little bit. Here, we have a very high number to reach for new investigators per week. We´re supposed to have 21 by Thursday. And the reason for this is cultural. We have a huge turnover rate. For every probably 5 or 6 new investigators (AKA a person who agrees to let us come to their home to teach a lesson), only one will be at home when we come to teach. And then not even all of them will be all that interested. There are a lot of  “soft” people (the portugues word is moles, pronounced “mo-LESH”) the people who don´t really care.

People who aren´t all that concerned that we´re climbing hills, praying our tails off for them, practicing lessons, sweating, and just generally working very very hard to teach them about the best thing they´ll ever learn here on Earth. And last week Presidente Dalton told us that we are not to spend our time with moles. So when we find an investigator and they don´t show up or we can tell they´re not really interested, we drop them. It sounds harsh, but we are harvesters. There are people here who have been prepared by the Lord, who REALLY want to hear our message, who will be ready for baptism after we teach them. That is ultimately our purpose. To find them. That means statistically if we want to find a person who is ready, we have to talk to A LOT of people. We make street contacts, we knock on doors, we talk to friends of members, we pray, and we search, and every once in a while we find someone like Albert, who is READY.  It is very different here than the US, but I´m starting to get accustomed to it.

Also the American I live with got transferred, so I´ve basically spoken no English this week. But that´s good because I´m starting to realize what I don´t know in Portuguese…. So now I´m trying to learn the subjunctive mood, which is very hard becasue we DON´T HAVE IT in English. Ugh.
Also, I ALMOST DIED THIS WEEK. So it´s night. And rainy. And I´m crossing the street. I look both ways, and cross to the median safely. At a stop light that has been red for a good while. Then I prepare to cross the second half. The light has been red for at least 10 seconds, and I look and every vehicle has stopped. So I go. And 3 steps later, a MOTORCYCLE comes out of NOWHERE and doesn´t stop at the light, and I jump out of the way. It almost hit me!! I swear an angel pushed me or something. Then I´m running, and pass another lane, and then in the final lane, ANOTHER MOTORCYCLE nearly hits me AGAIN. What on earth???? Why on earth would you be exempt from a traffic light, huh? TEll me that. Terrible people. But I´m alive, though I did hurt my leg a little in my panicked flight.
Also some things. There are trucks and cars that drive around selling various things. Eggs, propane, tapioca, chips, and *drumroll* CHURROS. The cars are generally super annoying, but I do not mind when a churro car drives by. A little churro for one real?? Heck yes! The guy who runs the truck knows us now. They´re also filled with either chocolate sauce or doce de leite (like caramel). But I seriosly love these churros (pronounced SHOO-hohs).
Also no, I´m not losing weight here. The sisters in my ward are all great cooks, and they all say “Comi mais, Sister!!” which means “Eat more, sister!” Seriously I eat a ton and still they all think I´m anorexic or something…
A good thing this week was that we worked better with members! We had 23 lessons with a member present as opposed to our last week, in which we had TWO. Yikes.. But I had my first division with a member, which while terrifying, really helped me know what my weaknesses are. I am scared out of my wits at starting a street contact, because usually the people just stare at me all confused, like they don´t understand my accent. All I´m saying is “Boa tarde, tudo bem?” Which is NOT UNUSUAL. But so I taught the Restoration to a girl who we already marked for baptism, her sister, and 2 friends. It was rough, but the Spirit was there. And all three of the other girls said yes when I asked them to be baptized! They´re moles, so we´ll see… Gulp.
But yeah that was terrifying.
Overall the week was quick and I learned a lot.
Much love,
PS Please email me, people! I wanna hear what´s going on in your lives!

30 November 2015

So this week was busy…. And had a lot of ups and downs.

Firsty, last week our mission only baptized 14 people, the lowest week since Pres Dalton got here. So he was a bit ticked off, because a lot of people are meeting the 3 gold standards, so we should be baptizing around 40 or 50 per week. So he called a meeting of the whole mission Wednesday instead of District meeting. he talked about the kinds of missionaries (or rather qualities of missionaries) that should leave the mission. It was kind of nice but painful to have him point out observations about the behavior of his missionaries that should be changed. There were of course a couple things that I know I need to fix. But I think this week will be much better.
Also Tuesday was Reunião dos Novos (New Missionary Meeting). We got to go to breakfast at Pres. DAlton´s house without our companions! It was like a vacation! I got to talk to my friends from the CTM, and eat! We had pão de queijo, french toast, sausage, eggs, bread with jam, cake, juice (they drink a LOT of juice here), and chocolate milk. I ate so much… We don´t normally have a lot of breakfast here… Then we went back to our companions and had some talks and training about how to be better missionareis. I think it was a great day.
We had some great success this week! In the span of one hour tracting, one day, we got 4 new investigators (on the street), and marked all 4 of them for baptism! Granted none of them were in church this week (quelle surprise) but 3 of them seem REALLY solid or like they could become great investigators if we can talk to them more.
But then the success slowed down… And then my companion Sister N got sick. Saturday we went home a little early, adn Sunday we didn´t leave the house at all because she was throwing up and stuff.. But it was nice because I got to study and read old church magazines all day! Also I´m staying here next transfer, with the same companion. Transfers are tomorrow. I still have 6 weeks left training.
An interesting thing I learned about this week is the true influence of the Spirit on how we teach. There´s this girl we´ve taught a couple times, but she´s never prayed when we´ve asked her too. So this week we went back to kind of diagnose the problem. And so she´s sitting there talking, and we´re both wracking our brains, truly seeking inspiration from the Spirit on what to say to her (that´s a thing that really happens as missionaries. A lot. Every second almost.) and NOTHING. I have no idea what to say to her. But we come to the conclusion that she just doesn´t have faith, and does´t really want to. So we left it at that, and didn´t make another appointment. Just didn´t feel right. So then we left and were discussing how our teaching with her had gone, and realized that when we taught her, for whatever reason, the Spirit just wasn´t there. I couldn´t feel it. And then I realized something. When I teach, I speak Portuguese. The words flow, they make sense, I can generally get my thoughts across.Through the Spirit, I remember verbs and nouns and sentences that I´ve studied about the principles of the Gospel. And I understnad what they´re saying and they understand me. But every time we taught her, nothing. I literally could not make any sense. The words evaporated from my memory, and wouldn´t exit my mouth when I tried to get them out. I was helpless. And you know what it was? That ability I had to teach was gone because the only thing allowing me to speak was the gift of tongues that all missionaries have as servants of the Lord. It´s just like the scriptures say: when I tried to talk to her, because the Spirit wasn´t there, I had a “stupor of thought” and also of mouth… i realized how truly instrumental the Spirit is in this work. Doesn´t matter if you´re serving in Spanish, Russian, or English. Without the Spirit, as a missionary, you can do NOTHING. No one will be converted, you won´t know what your investigator´s problem is, and you won´t know how to resolve it.
I invite all of you to examine whether you are able to use and apply the gifts of the Spirit, and if not, figure out why and FIX IT. You need the Spirit as much as I do. Seriously.
Thanks for sending the brown sugar, Mom. Rumor is Walmart sells it down here but we don’t have a Walmart in our area. I’ve been wanting to make cookies so badly! I made some with the brown sugar yesterday, but our oven is crap so they all were pretty burned. Bummer. I ate them anyways.
Loving it out here in the rainy, gritty streets,
Sister Westenhaver

23 November 2015

India and Albert

All right, this week was something else.

I challenged myself to open my mouth and just TALK. And you know what happened? All the good things the scriptures and prophets promise. People listened, we found more investigators, and I felt more confident.
So that lady who showed up in the chapel last week? WE taught her this week (this time i mean we, not just Sister N) about the Restoration. And we tried a new tactic, after we talk about Joseph Smith´s first vision, we talk about the role of the Holy Spirit in testifying of truth, and we explain to the investigator that the  feelings of the Spirit are feelings of love, peace, and clarity, and point out that they are feeling that right then and there. And I can say that to them with certainty because I can feel it too.
So I had the chance to explain those things to her (we´ll call her Molly) and then I challenged her to be baptized. And she said, with tears in her eyes, a resounding YES. And then I was all teary and so was she. But then she wasn´t in church. But it´s a work in progress. She is a wonderful woman and I know she will stick to her commitment and be baptized.
On the other end of the spectrum, we visited an inactive recent convert, and asked her what was going on, why she didn´t feel like going to church anymore. A lot of it is the influence of her non-member husband, but also she had some issues with a couple points of doctrine. But I asked her if she believed that Joseph Smith was a prophet, and if therefore she believed we had a prophet on the earth now. She said that yes, of course she believed that. I explained that logically if we have a prophet who is guided by God, we don´t need to worry if we don´t understnad the doctrine, because we can KNOW that it is of God and that it is correct. God knows better. He ALWAYS does. WITHOUT exception. So hopefully she can make some steps back in the right direction.
I am starting to see what a big thing the Sabbath Day is. When we go to church, we remember Christ, we feel the Spirit, we learn about the Gospel, and we receive countless blessings. But if Satan can get us not to go, he knows that none of those things will happen. And slowly, slowly, your testimony will be GONE. You´ll look around and you won´t recognize where you are. So please, go to church. Help your friends and family members go to church.
The best part of the week was Albert´s baptism. But man, it´s almost a miracle that it occurred. We went and yelled his name to wake him up in the mornign, and he responded, and we said “We´ll be back in a bit, we have to go find another investigator”, so we left, and the other investigator didn´t come to church. Yay. But when we got back, we called Albert´s name again, with no response. And then his sister told us he wasn´t there. So we figure, oh he already left. But when we got to the church he WASN´T There. So the next hour, we went by car with our ward mission leader and his daughter to go find him. And lo and behold, ALBERT WAS STILL ASLEEP. So we got him up, he showered, dressed, and came to church. And then he was baptised. It was awesome!! He is so thoroughly converted; it´s amazing. This was my first baptism that I actively was involved in teaching, so it felt great!
This is God´s work, and he´s always at our sides willing to help; We just have to ask.
Sister West

16 November 2015

Oh my goodness. It is getting rather hot here. Like, sweat dripping down me all day kind of hot. It doesn´t help that we´re walking up and down hills all day.

We´re were supposed to have a baptism this week. The guy, whose name I think I said was Albert (not his real name, but I´m not allowed to use real names) is super super great. We´ve only been teaching him for 2 weeks, but we had to push back his baptism because last week he didn´t stay for Sacrament meeting, and it´s a church rule that every convert has to attend SAcrament meeting twice before baptism. So this Sunday for sure is gonna be his baptism!
The hardest thing with investigators here is getting them to GO TO CHURCH. I literally sometimes cannot understand why they´re not awake when we show up at their house at 8:30. Like, we literally have been visiting you every day and you´ve been telling us every day that you´re gonna go, so why didn´t you set your alarm? They´re such great people of faith here, super open to hearing our messages, but that´s the one caveat. They don´t follow through sometimes.
Have I talked about lunch? We have almoço (lunch) with a sister in our ward every day. And apparently this specific ward is better than average. Which I totally believe, because man I´ve had some great food. And the legends are true. They ALWAYS tell me to eat more. Like, I can only fit so much rice inside of my stomach. And then they always have dessert. YUM.
On the subject of food though, I am literally always hungry. I eat as much as I possibly can every day at lunch, but I´m always hungry about 2 or 3 hours later. And in the morning, I eat 3 or 4 pieces of french toast or fried eggs and yogurt, and I´m starving about an hour later even though we´ve just been studying. Our little budget, after bus passes and other stuff, doesn´t have a lot of room for tons and tons of food, so I do what I can. But this is weird, my metabolism was never like this before. Must be all the walking.
So yesterday, we were super frustrated because we only had 1 investigator in our Sacrament meeting. None of the companionships in our district had met the 5-person standard, so our district leader challenged us to find enough people in time to make it to a meeting across the area at 2pm. We tried our darndest, but couldn´t get 4 more people. It seemed like everyone was out of town or not em casa. So while we were running around, we were just praying “Heavenly Father, please give us a miracle.” And then nothing happened and we didn´t have enough people to go. But later, we were at a ward activity, and towards the end this woman came into the room. Not a member. She said she saw the light and decided to come in. She said that she was wanting to find a church that could show her how to be closer to God, and she wanted to know the answers to questions like “where will I go after this life?” She was basically describing exactly our role as missionaries. So we got her address and plan to visit her this week. She´s gonna be baptised, I can feel it. Then we went out to work, and I had this feeling we should visit a girl who we contacted on the street last week. We knocked on her door and her cousin who lives there opened the door. And he was like “Just a sec,” and went to ask his wife when we could come back. When he returned to the door, he instead invited us in, and there was the whole family there! We got to know them, talked about Jesus and what it means to really follow him, and left after scheduling to come back later this week. This is a great family. I´m excited to teach them.
So here´s my little tidbit for today. You can pray all you want, with tons of faith, but sometimes God will answer your prayers differently than you think or want. But he literally ALWAYS knows best, so we need to just trust him. We´re going to the temple this week, and I´m really excited about that.
I love you all and hope you´re doing well!
Please email me!
Sister West

12 November 2015

Oi, everyone.

So this week was very different than the first. It´s been a bit rainy, and this week the kids didn´t have school Friday, because today is Memorial Day here (?). So basically no one was at home this weekend. And if they were they were all drinking beer on their front stoops.
So there´s this girl who we were planning on baptising yesterday, but every time we visited her, her mom said she hadn´t decided if she was going to allow her to get baptized yet.. So we taught a lesson to the girl´s sister and now she´s committed for baptism. So their mom better get it together, because having two daughters wanting to join the church isn´t something you can ignore a whole lot.
I actually don´t mind tracting in the rain! Sure, my feet get all soaking, but we have umbrellas, and I like watching the rain.
I had my first experience being out during a Corinthians football game. That’s the local popular soccer team. Seriously everytime they made a goal there were legit firecrackers and people everywhere were cheering. There were some men running around our apartment complex screaming and using those weird instruments (vuvuzelas??) It was a little freaky. I wish the people would get that excited when we knock on their doors.. I mean, our message is SO MUCH BETTER than your team scoring, but they don´t know that. YET.
We finally taught that lady with the huge tumor. She had a lot to say, and had lots of questions about the Fall and Garden of Eden because she was raised Catholic. But she shows promise.
The family of four is still progressing, but the girls weren´t able to come to stake conference yesterday. My mission president came to conference though, because he was one of the speakers. And his wife brought us our mail. I received the package the ward sent. Thanks for all the food and the lovely notes, everyone!! Mail is the best thing a missionary can get. Besides a baptism or a good referral.
OH. MY. GOSH. I had pizza this week. With a chocolate filled crust. AND it was the best thing I´ve ever eaten.
This week we also had mission conference. A member of the Area 70 came and talked to us all day. My brain hurt a little by midday, but it was really nice.
My portuguese is getting a lot better!! I understand a lot, and can respond a little more rapidly, but I am a long way from fluent. I´ve been reading one chapter of the Book of Mormon in portuguese every day and that´s been helping a lot with gospel vocabulary and verb conjugation.
Guys, this work is hard hard hard. Not gonna lie. But it´s super rewarding when someone hears the message of the Restoration and you can testify to them and they feel that it´s true. It´s amazing, man. I was reading something in Preach My Gospel, that said that as long as you are testifying with the Holy Ghost, working as hard as you can, and being obedient to every commandment and mission rule, (and some other stuff) you are a successful missionary. And you should not let your key indicators (the numbers you have to report to your mission pres and other leaders) define how well you´re doing. Different places have different results, and the people are less likely to listen in some places than others. But you do your best and you plant the seed at least. And we can rest assured that if they don´t accept the Gospel in this life, they have another chance in the next. And that´s great to know. Maybe we´ll even be able to teach them again.
Lots of Love,
Sister West

9 November 2015

Hello everybody! hope you´re all doing well.

This week was very good! We taught a lot, and walked a lot.
All right, so we have this investigator, who shall be called Albert. We were trying to find his sister to teach her (she was a reference), and we met him. We gave him a pamphlet of the Restoration, and challenged him to be baptized, which he accepted. Then like a week later, we were passing by, and he called us over. He asked us to explain more about the pamphlet, which we did. Then we came back the next day and taught the Book of Mormon. He´s very excited about everything, especially to be baptized. And we´re super enthusiastic about teaching him because he seems so ready to hear the Gospel. He, much to our relief, doesn´t have any real problems with the Word of Wisdom. He takes like two puffs on a cigarette once a week. So it shouldn´t be too murderous for him to quit, he says.
We had a really cool experience this week. There´s this kid who´s 8 who comes to church on his own every week but isn´t baptized. We went to visit his house a while back and chatted with his grandma, who told us she has many difficulties in life, and cried a bit. She accepted our challenge to be baptized. Then the other day, after a couple of weeks not talking to her, we knocked on the door and she was there. Her son-in-law explained that she was in a really nervous state because she was expecting some potentially bad news. So my comp asked if we could say a prayer with her. She told us she didn´t want to and that no one could help her except God. But we stayed there silently, and waited.
She stood by the door for about 5 minutes, where we couldn´t see her. Then she told us to come in. She explained her situation a bit more, and talked about alone and lost she felt, and then we said a prayer with her, and by the end of it we were all crying. After the prayer was over, she said “I understand. I understand why you wanted to pray with me.” And she cried some more, this time I think because she felt that we actually wanted to help her. This experience was really amazing to me.
When we walk up to people on the street, sometimes we say “Hello! We´re representatives of Jesus Christ, and we have a really special message for you.” I understand that title and that responsibility a bit better now. When we are set apart as missionaries we are given the ability to act as literal representatives of Christ. He isn´t here on this earth to teach people right now, because we need to learn to develop faith in Him. But we are there to teach His Gospel to all the world. When we teach people we are given the Spirit to testify of the truth of our words and to discern what these people need to hear. But as we talked with that woman, I realized something else we can do. Through the Atonement Jesus felt every pain, sorrow, and ache we´ve ever felt. And as representatives of Christ, we could understand the tiniest part. I felt such strong empathy for this woman. I understood only about 65% of her words, but I could tell she was hurting so badly, and I KNEW the Gospel of Jesus Christ is the thing that will help her more than literally anything in this world.
You guys, I really like being a missionary. It´s so hard to walk for hours every day, to only have internet once a week for an hour and a half, and only be able to talk to my family over Skype twice a year. But when you touch someone´s heart with the message you have, and you see them start to change and become new people with the light of Christ, there´s nothing better.
Lots of Love,
Sister Westenhaver