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

26 October, 2015

Well here I am! I am in the zone Guarapiranga, in the area of Chácara Santana. My companion and I live in the tiniest apartment with 2 other sisters. There´s about 1 foot of clearance above my head when I lay down in my bunk bed. The shower is in the corner of the bathroom on the same surface. I have no shelves on which to put things, only a clothes rack and my suitcases stacked up.
India's 1st Apartment Living Room
Our kitchen is TINY and the appliances are ancient. We get our water by tipping 5 gallon bottles on their side and holding a cup out next to it. Haven´t done laundry yet, but we have a washer and a very small space to hang the stuff to dry.
Indias 1st Apartment kitchen
There are lots of hills and lots of weird houses that are just sort of mixtures of concrete and bricks and everything else. It´s not the poorest, but not super nice either. I feel safe here though. It´s not a favela. There are so many feral dogs and cats here. It´s a struggle not to pet them all, but then I notice them all scratching themselves because pests. Gross. Poor things.

My companion is nice and very patient with me, but she´s from the north of Brazil so when I imitate the words she says I´m speaking with the wrong accent… She pronounces some of her r´s like French, and s´s like a shh sound.

Some things I´ve noticed about Brazilians. They don´t understand cats. They just pick them up and force them to sit in their laps and pet them kind of violently. I feel sorry for them. Also don´t ever cry in front of a Brazilian. all they´ll do is say “BE HAPPY.” And touch your arms and stuff. Like, please just let me cry and don´t touch me. Thanks. Also they don´t sell tissues in the grocery store here. Which is a problem because the mold in our house is killing me. So I use gross one-ply toilet paper. You have to throw the toilet paper into a bin here; you can´t flush it. That´s fun. I´m used to all that now for the most part.

Also the school bells here no joke sound like London bomb sirens.

IT´s pretty chilly right now, although today so far is a bit warmer. I wore tights when we went tracting last night.

Okay, some significant things. I had my first baptism yesterday! This girl, G, is the child of some less-active members, and since she´s 9 and hadn´t been baptized yet, it was our job to teach her! She´s super goofy and my companion had to actually grab her hand to get her to hug here afterwards. Our “padrões de ouro” or patterns we need to keep weekly here are 21 new investigators, 15 with a baptismal date marked, and 5 in Sacrament meeting on Sunday. That last one is actually the hardest. These people are great and will listen to you and promise whatever, but they´re a little flakey. We ended up getting enough investigators to church yesterday, but 4 of them either didn´t get out of bed, or just left before we came to get them.

Oh man though, we found this family of 4, and they´re perfect! We taught them the Restoration (Well I at least tried to help… I talked about prophets and nodded my head a lot) and they all said they´d be baptized. The dad, J, wouldn´t commit to a date and neither would the mom, which was frustrating. BUT THEN as we were leaving, Sister N (my comp) said “Oh, what´s your family name so we can write it in our planners) and they were like, “Oh we´re not legally married”. WHAT. You have two teenage daughters and a house together and you didn´t just bother to sign a piece of paper? I was warned that this was a problem here but I see it more now. But this week we´re gonna teach them the Plan of Salvation and about eternal families, and I have a lot of faith that their hearts will change, and they´ll be willing to get married and be baptized on the 15th with their daughters.

We also taught this lady, whose name I can´t remember, on the street. she talked forever about her family so we gave her a Plan of Salvation pamplet and set an appointment. We went back yesterday and she showed us (I don´t know how i didn´t notice before) a HUGE TUMOR the size of a softball, protruding from the front of her belly. WHAT EVEN. She told us she´s afraid of doctors but not of dying (she´s 77) so that´s that. She´ll get baptized, I know it.

Yesterday we marked 3 people for baptism on the same street. But again Brazilians are flakey so we´ll see. JK they´re all gonna get baptized, I know it.

This is incredibly hard work. My legs are killing me, and I don´t understnad about 60% of what they´re saying because they talk so fast. Therefore I don´t really know how to respond. But i know as I exercise more faith and try reaaaallllly hard to understnad, this week will be much better. It´s just frustrating because I don´t really have the ability to say what I´m thinking yet. PLus I´m just scared. I don´t like talking to people in English, let alone in a brand-new language. But hey, it´s worth it when these few golden people get found and converted. And let me tell you right now, I would have gone home already if I didn´t know beyond a doubt that these things are true. Joseph Smith was a prophet and the Gospel was restored through him. Jesus Christ is our savior. He felt every pain, sorrow, sin, and other awful things, and through repentance we can be cleansed and healed. I know that! This is all true, people! YOu just have to open your mouth, and I know someone will listen eventually.

Love you all!

Sister Westenhaver

20 October 2015

India and Daltons

I only have a couple minutes to write you guys, and I didn´t get to read anything. But just so you know I´m alive, and not too freaked out yet. Well I was and then I felt good and then I was afraid again. It´s SO HARD to understand these people when they talk at normal speed. Presidente Dalton said that these first 2 transfers (the first 12 weeks) will be the hardest of my mission and possibly of my life. Prayers would be appreciated. I think I´ll be okay! My companion seems very sweet so far! She only has 4 months left on her mission. I hope she´ll be a good trainer. Hope everything is going well at home or wherever you are as this email reaches you! Love you all! Talk to you next Monday, if I´m still alive.

India and comp

16 October 2015

India and Hoolandsworth

(Here is a picture of India with her companion, Sister Hollandsworth)

Hi Family,

We leave on Tuesday for o campo missionario!! We only have 2 more lessons to teach tomorrow, and then we have to have orientation, pack, and do a whole bunch of other stuff. I don´t know too much about what´ll be going on, but yeah.

India at Mr. Cheneys

I really like sitting next to York at breakfast. He still exaggerates things as much as usual. He hasn´t changed much. But he´s nicer, at least.
It´s starting to get hot here. GREEEEEAAT. I´ll survive.
I´m really gonna miss my comp. We get along so well.  Also speaking English is nice, and I don´t really get to speak any after Tuesday.
On Sunday I had to give a spontaneous talk in Sacrament meeting. They pick 2 elders and 2 sisters to speak and they announce them after the Sacrament, and luckily I actually wrote a talk this week. Phew! It was good though, I talked about faith.
I´m a bit nervous to go out into the field. I´m not good at talking to new people, let alone in Portugues, and I´m not sure how my back is gonna hold up. But I knew through faith, obedience, and hard work, I can do anything out here. I´m excited to start teaching new people and bringing them the Gospel that I love so much. I know there are so many people out here just waiting for us to reach out and tell them. the Gospel changes lives, and I can´t wait to show people.
The longer I´m here the more I realize that there are some central elements to the Gospel, and to a strong testimony. The first, obviously, is Jesus Christ. He literally is the center of our faith. With his Atonement we can be clean from sin, understand the necessity of hard things in life, overcome pain and sad things, get through trials, and be worthy to hear the Spirit speaking to you. That is so critical, not just as a missionary, but in general. The other thing is the Love of God. Because God loves us, He gave us the things he has: the ability to repent, the Book of Mormon, the Bible, the priesthood, the Plan of Salvation, a prophet today, families, everything. Literally everything we have in this life is because of the love our Heavenly Father has for us. Beyond a doubt I know He is our loving Heavenly Father, and he wants nothing more than for us to return to his presence. That´s why I´m here. Because I know I can help people get there.
Love always, Sister West

9 October, 2015

SAM_0132Hello!!!  General Conference was awesome! We watched conference in portugues but the English speakers had headphones to listen in English. It was great! I especially liked Larry Lawrence´s talk about making small changes to your life. I decided that this week I was going to work on complaining less and finding more joy in my life. And I have! Ít’s really cool to make an effort to see the world in a more positive light, and I plan to keep continuing doing that. I also liked Elder Christofferson, Nelson, and Eyring’s talks.

We had the best lunch a couple of days ago! Nachos made with Doritos! And there was salsa and
avocado on the side. SO GOOD. The food really is hit or miss here….



Here’s something significant! In case you can´t tell from the pictures I´ve been sending, I´ve actually dropped some weight since I´ve gotten here. About 6 or 7 pounds, actually! Amazing what 45 minutes of exercise can do for you, 5 times a week. I love exercise time actually. Afterwards we get time to shower with way fewer people than normal, and we all just sing in the showers. Mostly Disney songs.

My companion and I have been sitting by York and his district at meals quite frequently. It´s so cool having him here! He´s a funny guy.

We only have 1.5 weeks left until the field. I can’t believe it!

Teaching is getting easier as we learn the lessons better. Some of them we don´t really know yet, but we´re getting there. Portuguese is going all right. We´re learning verb tenses which is great, but I feel like I´m limited to a certain pool of words and I wish my vocabulary were bigger. That will come with time though, I know. We have this cool thing we´re doing where we pick a person (a non-member) we know and pretend to be an investigator being taught by other people in our district. It´s really eye-opening to see things from the perspective of someone who isn´t familiar with the Gospel or the church, and try and understand how I can help them out better with understanding.

Missionaries sure pray a lot. I should count how many times a day…

We got two new roommates. One is Brazilian and lives in York´s mission, and the other is Latina. They seem nice, and quiet. And they don´t complain when we leave the window open and the fan on at night. Which is great because it gets very hot in that room! Some of our lessons are recorded and we watch them the next day. I wish I could send you guys the video so you could be all impressed with the amount of Portuguese I can speak. All right that´s all for now!!! I love you guys. Keep me posted.

2 October, 2015

Hi Everyone!
The craziest part of this week was definitely proselyting. We got on a bus with four copies of the Book of Mormon each, and got off at a huge bus and metro stop. Our instructor, Irmao A. was with us. My companion and I were so terrified of going up and talking to people that our instructor had to walk up with us. But then after that first time, we weren´t so terrified. We gave away our 8 copies in an hour. It was so loud we couldn´t hear a lot of people and sometimes we just plain couldn´t understnad them, and they could tell we didn´t really speak Portuguese, but we only got rejected 3 times! People here are nice and everyone we talked to believes in God and Christ. It was cool and THE LITERAL most terrifying experience of my life. Seriously.
It did hurt a little when some of them told us they only understood a little bit of what we were saying. But oh well. But also I didn´t realize I have no idea how to make small talk. What do you ask people about themselves??? Neither of us really have any idea.
My companion and I are getting a lot better at speaking in sentences with conjugate verbs and everything, but it´s still a struggle. It´s going to be tough for the first few months, I can tell.
I see York pretty often but not a ton. He seems like he´s doing well and the elders in his district are really cool.
We got a new sister in our district this week. She’s really cool and is super tall. But it meant that the 3 of them had to move out of our room. Now Sister H. and I have a room all to ourselves, which is awesome, but also means we keep staying up too late talking. Oops.
Yeah, about the porridge York keeps talking about? I don´t eat it. It´s gross.
Also our MTC president and his wife are awesome! They´re american, and they speak English and Portuguese to us. It just depends. The devotionals are in Portuguese though. Also I loved the funeral for Elder Scott. It was really nice, and I´m glad we got to watch it.
We went to the temple today, and it was awesome sitting in the celestial room. I was praying and I realized that what I want most is to be able to serve these people with my whole heart. I don´t want to be scared and reluctant. So that´s what I´m going to try and work on. Ugh. It´s going to difficult. It´s hard not to revert to my introverted self when I don´t even speak the language. But I know it will be okay with daily help from Heavenly Father.
Love you all! Hope you´re doing great.
Sister West

25 Sept. 2015

Dear Everyone,

This week I´m starting to finally get into the swing of things.

The Portuguese is coming more easily, and our lessons get better every day. Right now we´re teaching this “investigator” named Vinicius (who is actually just our instructor pretending to be an investigator) and he´d already committed to being baptized, but yesterday he told us he prayed about the church and Joseph Smith and knows it´s all true. I wanted to cry even though he isn´t a real investigator. And he understood the Plan of Salvation when we taught it to him, and he didn´t seem to have any problems. I´m worried some bad thing is gonna happen, like we´re going to discover that he has some kind of problem with the Word of Wisdom or that he asks weird questions about polygamy or something.

We also started TRC, where we have 30 minutes to chat with and teach a lesson to a member. It´s a little stressful, but it gets easier once you get in the room. But the next day we have to watch the video recording of it and fill out a paper about what we could do better.

The food is all right, despite what York will tell you. It´s honestly a little strange sometimes. They seem to only eat jello products for dessert.

It poured rain today on the way back from the temple.

OKAY. The WORST THING. Our rooms are not air conditioned. We have to open the window and turn on the ratchet fan that we have in there. And it´s still like 80 degrees in there so I sleep  without any sheets or anything covering my body and still wake up all sweaty.  I’m so glad to get two hot summers in a row: first Texas and now South America!

India’s District


It´s really strange because sometimes time feels like it´s going so slowly during class, but then it´s the end of a day before you realize it. It´s already been 2 weeks??? Weird.
My favorite part of the day is when we have physical activity. I ran 3 straight laps around the track the other day! And I´ve been doing those exercises that Brother Winward told me to do. I´ve never had sore muscles on my hips. I don´t think I even knew I had muscles there. Hopefully they´ll help me out.

India doing her exercises to keep her hips and knees strong.

My companion is the one with brown hair. It´s actually about the same shade as mine, but it looks darker in pictures. She´s awesome and we get along really well. She´s super weird (in a good way) and is also very friendly.

All right that´s all I have to say for now.

Letter from India on 18 Sept. 2015


Hi!!! I´m sorry, I had no idea that my P day would be so long after my arrival. These 10 days have been CRAZY.

Alright, so a typical day goes like this:
     I wake up at 6:30, take a shower, get dressed, and put on makeup all in that time. Then at 7 I sit on my bed and wait for Sister Hollandsworth to finish putting her makeup on. Then we have personal study until 8:30, with a half hour for breakfast in the middle. We then have to teach a lesson around 9 or 9:30, study until 12:15, eat lunch (almoço) and then have language study with our teacher, Irmão A. until 5:15, which is dinner (jantar). Then we have more studying until 9, when we plan, have a snack, and go to our rooms at 9:45 and have to get into our rooms for bed by 10. I have 2 roommates who aren´t Americans. One is Brazilian and TINY named Sister S., and one is an exuberant Argentinian named Sister V. They´re nice but there´s a big language barrier still.
     So much work!!! The first few days I actually was actually a little sad and homesick. Being on a mission is nothing like what I expected. But now I´m getting along well with my companion, my district is awesome, and we get to have physical exercise time to break up the endless studying. We have two new “investigators” and one of them we haven´t taught, so that will be good.
India CTM roomates
       My companheira is Sister H., who speaks French but has never learned a foreign language. (She learned French from her mother as she was growing up). She had A REALLY hard time with the language for the first few days. She couldn´t remember words, didn´t understand how to conjugate, and just sounded French when she spoke.  She was getting so frustrated.
One day in class our teacher came over and talked to me. He basically told me that a mission is super hard, but that my Portuguese was doing great. Then he said something that really stuck with me. He told me (in Portuguese, because then my companion couldn´t understand) that my first mission while I´m here is to help my companion learn Portuguese. That it was my responsibility to help her. And I just kind of realized that he could be totally right. Because if I don´t help her learn português, she might not ever learn it. And then her whole mission could be ridden with mistunderstanding and frustration, and maybe some of the people she was supposed to find and teach wouldn´t be able to be understood.
     And from that moment I just started praying for her to learn, and for me to have the insight and patience to help her do it. And you know what happened? The next day, I made her translate her whole lesson into português by herself without me just telling her what every word means, and she learned. She could have a conversation. She can say a prayer, and she understands what the teacher says to her WAY MORE that she could on Thursday. It turned my whole week around! We work so well together and get along well. The dom das linguas (gift of tongues) is SO REAL. In one week I know generally how to teach someone about our church and understand about half their words. And when I teach them, words come to mind that I haven´t said or practiced in days. It´s a milagre (miracle).
I love my district a lot. There´s four elders and four sisters, and they´re all hilarious. Sometimes that means we don´t focus as much as we should, but their humor basically keeps me sane.
India CTM district
I love you guys a lot. Hope you´re doing well.
Muito amor,
Sister West

A Letter From the MTC President

After India arrived at the MTC we received a picture and letter to help us parents feel assured that we have turned our children over to safe hands.

Dear Parents,

Sister Swensen and I are very happy to let you know that your missionary has arrived safely at the Brazil Missionary Training Center.  What a great joy and privilege it is to greet each missionary as they begin their missionary experiences with us. We will surely take good care of your missionary.                                                                                                     

The missionaries now have companions and are settled into their rooms.  They are assigned to a district with capable and caring instructors for language and lesson study.  Their branch presidents and wives, will meet them this Sunday.  These wonderful couples are richly blessed as they work with, motivate, and interview the missionaries assigned to their branch.

The MTC has a full-time live-in physician to care for their health needs.  He is assisted by his able wife who is a nurse. We are also happy to report that the cafeteria food is plentiful, healthy and very good.

Your missionary will be able to e-mail home on Preparation Day after a morning at the Temple.  This will be either Wednesday or Friday, depending on individual assignments.

Your missionary is about to make an eternal difference in the lives of many others. President Lorenzo Snow said: “There is no mortal man that is as interested in the success of an elder when he is preaching the Gospel as is the Lord who sent him to preach to the people who are the Lord’s children”.  We love these missionaries as if they were our own.  We will watch over them carefully to ensure they are ready for a wonderful missionary experience after the rewarding time they will have in the MTC.

We thank you for preparing such a wonderful representative of the Lord.

President Robert Swensen and Sister Julie Swensen

Brazil MTC Group Photo

India’s First Letter Home

A few hours after India arrived at the MTC, they had a little rest, got unpacked and got to send the first email home. Nothing has ever made me so happy to receive!

Ola, Mae e Pai! I´m here in the CTM safe and sound, and all unpacked. But I can´t find one of my towels. I saw it earlier though in one of my suitcases. It´s pretty here and very cool right now. My companion is Sister H., the same girl I sat by on the flight down here. We had a couple hours to get settled, shower, and rest a little bit. I share a room with one other companionship so far.

We don´t have a lot of time to email. But I´m okay, so is York, and I will be fine once I get busy learning portugues. Also thanks for the birthday presents. I´m going to love opening them tomorrow. My roommate Sister G. brought streamers and she said they´re going to sing to me… yay…

Another thing, We can´t send pictures from the CTM. It´s a weird rule, but there you go…. Kinda annoying.