28 December 2012

Obedience

In light of my most recent post on the importance of the Christ-like attributes, I've decided to do a series on them. With each one, I hope to share valuable insights from my personal study as well as personal experiences from my mission, in order to SHOW what being a missionary is like as opposed to merely explaining.

First on the docket is the missionary bread and butter: Obedience

Starting with Preach My Gospel is most effective, page 122 in chapter 6:

Obedience is one of the most important principles in missionary work, and it's the principle we hear the most about. Our meetings, our training materials, our handbooks, the scriptures we study, the schedule we keep--everything we do as missionaries is carefully organized to maximize our ability to be obedient. Our obedience, more than anything else we do, will determine our success as missionaries. It is impossible to reach your full potential as a servant of Jesus Christ without obedience to the commandments and the mission rules.

To illustrate this, I remember an incident from my mission that left a lasting impression on me.

My trainer and I were scoping our some distant and unfamiliar parts of our area in order to scope out new teaching opportunities. We were on the far side of our area, trying to make sense of our map in relation to the streets around us. Paved, organized streets began to give way to favelas and pathways off the beaten track. The spirit of discovery was with me in every step, and I was genuinely happy to be seeing new places after several weeks of talking to people in familiar places all the time.

At one point, we began looking for less active members with the hopes of being able to have a quick lesson, sit down, perhaps ask for something small to eat before continuing on our way. As we approached the end of a large street, I had an odd sensation come over me. Even though we were merely at the end of a normal street, I felt as if I were approaching the edge of a cliff. The closer we came to the end of the street, the more pronounced that feeling became. I didn't know exactly where I was, and I questioned myself if we actually were coming to the end of our area. I felt embarrassed to ask my companion about it or to say anything to her because I was a new missionary--I already questioned her enough as it is. But when we came to the end of the street, my feet simply locked into place and would not go another step. I may have reached out in front of me and knocked on an actual wall, and it would not have surprised me in the slightest.

My world simply ceased to exist beyond the edge of that sidewalk.

What was in those lovely green apartment complexes across the street, or beyond them, or in any other part of São Paulo, it simply didn't matter. I realized that for the entirety of my time in Santa Teresa, they didn't exist anymore. My world was instantly reduced to the size of a piece of paper as I thought about our map. I felt confined and slightly claustrophobic. How do we, as missionaries who are still normal people, survive within such a small space? My desires to be obedient and to be independent were at the same crossroads as I was in that moment--one safe in my area, the other over the edge of cliff.

I made a decision in that moment to never go over the edge. Independent nature aside, I had a purpose to complete, a mission to accomplish. There were people who needed me HERE, the Lord would bring them HERE, and I had nothing more important to do than what was going on RIGHT HERE in this moment. When it came to obedience, I was staying in my area--and that small decision had eternal consequences on the rest of my mission.

In time, I discovered some scriptures that expressed the true spirit of obedience I needed to seek after. They're in Philippians 2:

5 Let this mind be in you, which was also in Christ Jesus:
6 Who, being in the form of God, thought it not robbery to be equal with God:
7 But made himself of no reputation, and took upon him the form of a servant, and was made in the likeness of men:
 8 And being found in fashion as a man, he humbled himself, and became obedient unto ddeath, even the death of the cross.
9 Wherefore God also hath highly exalted him, and given him a name which is above every name:
10 That at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, of things in heaven, and things in earth, and things under the earth;
11 And that every tongue should confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.

Jesus Christ was never AWOL. He was never anywhere He should not have been, doing things He should not have been doing. He was obedient. Serving Him requires that we pay the same price, with the same love and faithfulness. One of the most valuable assets we can have as we prepare to serve missions is not just a testimony--it is the sincere, heartfelt desire to be obedient. I testify that this spirit of faith and humility brings success more than anything else a missionary can seek after. This is the type of missionary the Lord can and will use to perform His miracles in the lives of His children.

I testify that Jesus Christ is the Savior and Redeemer of the world. He lives, and He is intimately involved in every aspect of our lives. He is constantly seeking to help us, and that fact is never more apparent than when we are in His service. His Church is restored again to the earth. The Book of Mormon is true. Joseph Smith truly was a prophet of God. The Lord has called His servants to do His work in His vineyard for the last time. As we go forth valiantly to bring souls unto our Father, He will bring us safely home. In the name of Jesus Christ, Amen.

23 December 2012

Mission Preparation

Sarah was sitting across the table from me at the YSA Christmas party, and she approached me with an honest question that I know a lot of Young Women and female Young Single Adults are asking right now.

"What advice would you give to someone who is preparing to serve a mission?"

I made a mental note to mention Sarah to the Sisters serving in our branch. They'll want to know about her to invite her to go teaching. This is truly one of the most valuable things you can do to prepare--make yourself available to go out teaching regularly with the missionaries in your area. But I remember when I was in her shoes not so long ago, asking the recently returned missionaries in my ward what I should do.

So I told her what I wish someone would have told me to do almost two years ago when I was finally putting in mission papers, because it has been about that long now.

"Sit down with yourself and make a personal inventory of your weaknesses and your strengths. Then make plans on how you will turn your weaknesses into strengths, and how your strengths will help you be an effective missionary."

She has a slightly shocked expression on her face. This isn't what she expected.

"Everyone is going to tell you to study Preach My Gospel, especially chapter 3 with all of the lesson material in it so you can teach effectively," I responded. "And that is important. But that's what you have the MTC for. They are going to be extremely effective on helping you with what to teach and how to teach it.

"If I could go back and do my preparation again, knowing what I know now about being a missionary, I wouldn't focus on how or what to teach. You just do the best you can with that and the Spirit makes up the difference. I botched so many lessons when I first started out, and that's when I could even speak at all in Portuguese! But the thing that made the biggest difference in my service wasn't what I knew. It was how Christ-like I genuinely was at any given moment. It doesn't make a difference what you know until you become the sort of person you should be as a missionary. So if I were you, I would focus primarily, if not completely on the Christ-like attributes for right now."

"Oh," she said. "Where are those?"

"In Preach My Gospel. It's chapter 6."

Every person's journey on the mission is totally personal. The cross to bear is unique to each of us, and is the heaviest thing that each of us will ever know. When I was struggling on my mission, chapter 6 and the Christ-like attributes were the first place of guidance I always sought out. My Portuguese copy looks like an NFL playbook--the page on Patience has absolutely no place left to write anything else in it. Studying them daily helped me to focus on what was really stopping the Book of Mormon and the principles from Preach My Gospel from leaping off the page and into the lives of the people in my area.

"When a man makes war on his own weaknesses he engages in the holiest war that mortals ever wage. The reward that comes from victory in this struggle is the most enduring, most satisfying, and the most exquisite that man ever experiences. … The power to do what we ought to do is the greatest freedom."
Bryant S. Hinckley

When we truly believe that change is possible for ourselves as we apply the Atonement of Jesus Christ in our lives, we can't help but believe that the same thing is possible for the entire human race. We are filled with love and desire to go out and find those people, to teach them, and to help them prepare to be baptized into the true Church of Jesus Christ. We are led by the Spirit. Our mouths are filled with the words we need to say. We have greater peace in our lives, an assurance that our service has made a difference, and that we have accomplished our purpose as missionaries.

When in doubt, always remember: Real problem exists between study table and chair. Had I understood that then as well as I do now, I would have prepared for my mission very differently.

But the mission doesn't end--it just changes shape. What we do with our missions afterwards is more important than what we do with it during the 18 months of wearing the badge. How that translates into our day-to-day lives depends entirely on what we do with the Christ-like attributes. My commitment to the person I become each day is the biggest responsibility I have in time, for the sake of eternity.

I know that God lives, and I know that His missionaries are called of Him by divine revelation. I know we are called by a living prophet and real apostles who possess restored priesthood authority from God. I know that my missionary service taught me everything I need to know to receive eternal life--it's up to me now to practice it, apply it, and receive the promised blessings which always come when we are faithful. I leave that testimony in the sacred name of Jesus Christ. Amen

(For more on mission preparation, especially for all of the extraordinary women who have stepped up and answered the call to serve, see this and this from the Church's website)

Homecoming

These books are in the wrong language.
(Long pause)

Well, I served my mission in the Brazil São Paulo Interlagos mission. I've been back for probably about a month now—I’m losing track of all time. I've thought for a long time about how it is that you explain a mission to somebody else who wasn't there. Or even somebody who was there. My companions don’t know what I went through on my mission. Nobody does, except the Savior. My experience on my mission was incredible. I learned a lot of things I couldn't have learned in any other way.

Sabedoria

One of the first things I had to learn, even before I got to the MTC, was that it doesn’t make a difference what you know—if you can’t use that to help somebody, it’s the same thing as if you don’t know it.

The first hard lesson I had to learn on my mission was how to admit that I didn’t know anything. Because I’ve been book smart my whole life. You give me a book and I’ll learn whatever’s in it, if you give me enough time, and if you give me a good enough teacher. I’ll be able to recite that book to your backwards and forwards.

That doesn’t do missionary work.

And that was a very loud wake up call.

That was very hard for me, because that how I do everything. That’s how I’m successful in my life. That has always worked in school. That has worked with all the jobs I’ve ever had to get.
I prove that I know something, and then I get what I want.

Missions don’t work like that, so my regular approach did not work there.

And I had to learn things that I was realizing for the first time in my life I didn’t know how to do.
I had to learn how to listen. I didn’t know how to do that. I had to learn to empathize through the Spirit. I had to understand what somebody was thinking. I had to learn to ask the right questions so they would TELL me what they were thinking. I never knew I didn’t know those things. And here I am in this environment, in this place where I not only have to do that—I have to do it in a foreign language. I have to do it in Portuguese.

O Primeiro Dia

A story I enjoy telling people was about my first full day there. My mission president did not spare me. He put me in an area with a sister who was having a lot of problems with being obedient. She was one of our more outgoing missionaries, but she just flat out did not want to be obedient—and was nearly sent home right before I got there. And he called her to train to punish her, that’s what he told her.

And everyone else around her was looking at me, as pathetic as I looked as I got off the plane—totally jetlagged—unable to even speak to these people, but very happy because I was finally in Brazil. They just looked at me and thought Ela é frita! (she’s FRIED.)

When I got there I go inside this house, and I’m looking around at my surroundings and it’s unlike anything I’ve ever seen before. They build out of concrete, and they build these concrete huts and they stick them on top of one another. You don’t really understand what’s going on or what you’re looking at, and they paint them in outrageous colors. And we pull up to our house, and it was orange. The garage on the bottom has a giant pizza painted on it because it used to be a pizza place. And I’m looking at this building and I’m thinking, “Dear God, what have I done?!”

We go upstairs, and the stairs are built on an incline like THIS. (Motions a very steep angle.) I’ve never walked up stairs that steeply in my life, and there’s a little sign on the door that says Seja bem vinda Sister (Welcome Sister) I go inside and the house is completely trashed. It’s so DIRTY! It’s SO DIRTY! There’s this weird mold growing on the wall! I look at the floor and I can tell it hasn’t been cleaned in a long time. I’m like, I thought this was a Sister’s house! We walk in and we’re in the bedroom, there are two beds there, and the mattress is about this thick (motions with fingers, about 3 inches.) I’m just looking around and she’s talking to me, and I don’t understand a thing she’s saying.

I start to explore and look around. I go into the kitchen. The floor in this place is entirely black—better to hide the dirt that way. The tiles on the wall were black and purple, so it’s very dark. It’s very dark inside this house. The only place that gets any natural sunlight is the room in the front, which is a consistent 9 million degrees because the sun that comes in through the Square comes in right through the window, and it heats that place up like a microwave. It was awful. And the rest of the house is freezing cold because it gets no direct sunlight.

I go into the kitchen and it’s worse than the bedroom, it’s awful. It’s SO DIRTY! I go looking for the bathroom and it’s this weird plastic door. There’s no shower stall, it’s just an electric shower head that sticks out of the wall, and a toilet, and a sink. That doesn't really do it justice to what it is, I’ll have to show you pictures sometime, it’s outrageous.

There were tons of mosquitoes in that house.

I’m looking around and I’m like, I don’t know how to respond to this. The thing that just completely blew my brains right out of my head was when I went out back and I saw how we were supposed to do our laundry.

They had a plastic box with a spinning wheel in it. You have to fill it up with water with a bucket, you put your clothes in it, you put soap in it, and it spins everything around. That’s all it does. You have to rinse it—drain all the water out, put clean water into it, spin it around, rinse it. You
have to do that 2 or 3 times if you actually want it to work. You have to wring it out by hand and put it all on the line. And I didn't understand that that’s what I was looking at. I go out back and all I see is a sink with a washboard thing on it, and a plastic box. And I’m like, “I’m going to DIE.”

So the first thing I want to do, I want to clean this house. And so it was within the first couple of days, as I’m trying to adjust to all of this, and I don’t understand what’s taking place at all--I’m trying to talk to my companion and I tell her I want to clean the house. But I don’t know how to say that. So I’m using lots of hand motions, trying to tell her what I want, and she stares at me.

I’m trying to ask her for a mop.

And she finally starts to understand what it is that I’m saying.

She’s like Broom?

No, I don’t want that.

She goes, AH! Entendi!

She went and brought me something they call a rodo, because I wanted to mop the floor, the floor was a mess. They walked around in flip flops in these houses, they don’t walk around barefoot at all, but I didn't even want to walk on that floor in my flip flops. She brings me—it’s a stick, and it has a squeegee on it. And I look at it, and I look at her like “What am I supposed to do with this?”

Humildade

My whole life was like that. Every single time I wanted something I would try and ask, wouldn't quite manage it, and when I did manage it they would give me something I didn't know what to do with. And I would stare at them like I was stupid, because I was. I was stupid in that environment. I had no idea what to do. I had no idea what I was doing. You know, teaching situations, it was all like that.

For the first 4 to 5 months of my mission, that’s what everything was like. I didn't know what to do. I had no idea what I was doing. I didn't know what to say. I just focused on trying to love the people as much as I could. That was the only thing I could do, and I figured, “Well, I can do THAT.” You know, I can’t do anything else but I can LOVE people!

And I did. For everything that they are, for everything that they do—I love the Brazilian people.
There would come a moment when—they talk really fast, and they talk over each other, and they have a very banterous way of talking to each other, so it’s hard to get a word in edgewise, it’s impossible. And you know, I’m an American, when we try to jump into a conversation like that, you think you’re being rude but I would sit there and I wouldn't say anything. Finally they’d want to hear from you, they’d want you to say something so they’d just all stop and look at you randomly, and you have no idea what they were just talking about. And then they’re all looking at you.

I managed to say some really useful things. When all you get in a lesson is one sentence, you have to make it count. I would do my best, and there were people that were baptized because of the one phrase that I would say. And I still don’t know how that happened.

As I learned and as I got better at talking, as I wanted to talk to these people more than I wanted anything else in the whole world, my life changed. Everything about me changed. Everything about how I see the world changed.

And the thing I think that changed me the most on my mission was just seeing how poor these people are. Their poverty broke my heart. I’ve never seen anything like that in my life.

We don’t have poverty in the United States. We don’t. I don’t believe in it, you’ll never get me to believe it, ever. Brazilians work so hard for so little, and I don’t know how they do it. I don’t know how they survive. And they’re happier than most of the people I’ve ever met in my life. They think they have everything.

I remember one of the girls that I baptized, she lived in what we call a favela. A favela is like a slum but it’s worse than any slum you can even imagine. These places have holes in their walls, they have holes in their roofs, there are dogs that run around everywhere. There are some of these houses that don’t even take up the space between this pew and the sacrament table—and that’s their house. And they have an entire family that lives in it. There are holes in the walls where rain and dog pee and all of these things come in. You’re sitting on a couch that you don’t even want to touch, and you have to teach these people about baptism.

And they don’t understand what it is that I’m saying. They don’t understand what it is I’m trying to explain to them. And in a lot of ways, I couldn't explain it to them, I just had to show it to them. If I sit there and I tell people, that’s not going to DO anything—you have to show them what you’re talking about. And I've never been stretched like that before in my life.

I didn't like baptizing children alone in their families. I didn't like doing that because it was very hard to keep them active, but sometimes you do it because you know it’s the only way this person is ever going to get out of this situation. It’s the only way that somebody with any sort of resources is going to care about this person.

One of the girls that I baptized, they were sisters that we baptized, they were 9 and 11. They were some of the most elect people I’ve ever seen. The moment that we showed up, Gilvanna was so happy. She would read the Book of Mormon like her life depended on it. She loved it. We left and she was on 1 Nephi 1, we came back and she was on 1 Nephi 16 and she tells us the entire story in detail. We talk about baptism and you see a light that comes into her face for the first time in her life. And I’m just happy for her, I’m ecstatic.

We prepare her for baptism and everything, and she gets baptized, and she’s so happy. She was so happy. And it was only after that that we started finding out just how much of a hell of a situation that she lived in. Her mother beat her. Her mother was an alcoholic, and she would get on the ground and hide under the bed from her mother. It was the worst situation I had ever seen.

I didn’t want to touch the floor with my shoes, and she’s on the floor on her stomach—hiding from her mother.

I can’t say my mission was a beautiful experience—it wasn't. In a lot of ways, my mission nearly killed me. Literally. I was in some of the most dangerous places I've ever been in my life. It was awful, and I was afraid. I’ve never been afraid like that in my life.

But the thing that I learned from that, the thing that I saw repeatedly from that, the Lord has a way when no one else has a way. When no one else has a way to fix these sorts of situations, the Lord can do it—and he does it like THAT.

Obediência


I can’t believe—I can’t understand, still, some of the things I saw on my mission. He did things with me that I didn’t know I could do. The longer that I was on my mission, the more I came to understand that you don’t need to know everything. You don’t need to know ANYTHING. You just need to do what He says. If you do what He says, everything will be OK.

I learned the power of obedience. I learned the necessity of obedience. Obedience saved my life, more than once.

In my last area, there was a huge problem in São Paulo with—it’s a war. You can’t call it anything else, it’s a war between gangs that are there, and the police. There was a night where the mission presidents all through São Paulo sent us all home early because they couldn't guarantee that we wouldn't get shot if we were in the streets. I remember just going home and thinking that was just the most normal thing in the world. It had already been my whole mission, stuff like that.

And I remember thinking, “How on earth did I get used to this? How on earth am I not freaking out right now? Had this been the beginning of my mission I’d be freaking out still.”

And I think that was when I started to realize why the Lord put me through those things—why I had to see the things that I saw. He wanted me to see that He was stronger than all of that. And when I do what He wants me to do, and I’m in the places where I’m supposed to be, He can still do His work in places like that.

We focus a lot and we talk a lot about trying to stand in holy places and be not moved, but sometimes the people that we need to help—they’re not in those places. They’re in dangerous places. And sometimes we need to have the courage to run in there and go saved them, while everyone else is running out.

I can’t present my mission like it was something out of a movie. It wasn't. But at the same time, even thinking about all that and how dangerous it was, I would still go back in a minute. I would go back right now, because I know there are people there who NEED people like us. They need our testimonies. They need what we have, we’re the only ones that can save them. We’re the only ones who can help them out of these situations. And it was a real privilege to stand beside Christ is a situation like that and see how one person who doesn't even speak this language can make that much of a difference. And the happiness these people had when they were baptized, it was worth every single moment.

I think that was the other most important thing that I learned—how much baptism really does fix everything. I feel like sometimes people don’t understand when I talk as much as I do about baptism, or why it’s so important. They don’t really understand where that comes from. They think that missionaries who serve in Brazil are just really pushy and we’re out to get numbers—and that’s why we talk so much about baptism. But that’s not why. That’s NOT why. Baptism is the only thing that can fix the situations that they’re in.

I remember there’s a quote by someone, it’s a general authority, he says that the world would fix the world by changing the circumstances, by changing the things in the world. That’s not what Christ does. He changes people, and they change their world. They change their circumstances. And that’s what I learned how to do on my mission.

I didn’t change the world. I went out there thinking that’s what I was going to do—and then I saw the world is a big place, and it has a lot of problems, it has a lot of guns. I’m not going to fix the world.
But I can help change people in it.

I can use the testimony that I have to show them that there’s something else, that there’s something better. And if they’ll just make this commitment with the Lord, everything about their life can change. I mean, that sounds crazy when you say that. That’s part of why they have such a hard time believing it.

They believe in God, and they believe in baptism, and they believe in church, and the importance of all these things—they get that. The hardest thing to get them to believe was that they could change.
And I’m really glad that I went through that because that’s something I had a hard time believing. I had a hard time believing that I could change. And I had a hard time believing that the people in my life can change.

But I believe that anything is possible now.

That’s not something that I had before my mission.

Triunfa

I remember there was this time, it was about halfway through my mission, there was a conference we had with our mission president and he was talking at a stake conference. He was trying to get the returned missionaries there to participate more in missionary work, and he asked them, If you could define your mission in one word, how would you define your mission?

And that area was the hardest area of my mission, I’m sitting there nearly in tears because I’m suffering so much, and learning so much about the Atonement in all of that. And I started thinking about it.

If I could sum up all of this in one word, what it is that I’m trying to do here, how would I do that? What's the word I would use?

And the word I decided on was Triumph.

That’s what I got from my mission. I can’t say that I went into every situation prepared for what it is that I went through. I can’t say that I made it out accomplishing what the Lord wanted me to accomplish, I had no idea.

But I survived it.

And I’m a stronger person now because of that.

And I’m not afraid of certain things anymore. And I’m really grateful that I had this opportunity to be with the Savior in the situation and to grow in the ways that I grew, and to be taught the things that I was taught. I couldn't have learned this in any other way. I wouldn't GO into the places that I would need to go, to learn the things that I learned.

And I know that if the Savior were here, He wouldn't be in the places I thought He’d be. He wouldn't just be in the temples, He wouldn't just be in the chapels, He wouldn't just be in places like this. He would be in poor places, serving poor people, and saving them from really dangerous things. And I can accept now that if that’s where my life takes me, for the rest of my life, to help people, I can accept that now.

Testemunho

I loved my mission. I loved the Brazilian people. I loved the language. And I have a very real testimony that God lives. If God didn't live, I wouldn't be here right now. I wouldn't be in this place, at this podium, talking about these things right now. I wouldn't be here.

And I want everyone to know that Jesus is the Christ. That’s why we’re all here. That’s why we go through the things that we go through every day, every single one of you. On your missions and everything, you have experiences that compare with what I went through. You’re here even though you have experiences completely different than mine. You’re here because you have a testimony of Jesus Christ. That’s why we’re all here.

I know this Church is true. It couldn't do the things it does if it wasn't true. And I’m glad that in some small way, my life could be a testimony of what Jesus Christ does. That’s the testimony I want to leave with you guys in the name of Jesus Christ, amen.

10 December 2012

Português

"So Sister Daniels called me back. She said we can go ahead and stay with them while we're out there," said my fiance (we're going to call him Noivo,) breaking a long silence. I continued to say nothing. I was listening to what he was saying, but I couldn't bring myself to be as excited about our coming trip as he was.

Perceiving that I wouldn't respond, he continued. "She said I can stay with her son down in the man-cave. He just came back from his mission to New Zealand. And you can stay in her daughter's room."

"Oh man, he must be suffering a lot," I said without thinking. I instantly realized that my response probably sounded strange because the fact that Trevor just came home from a mission wasn't the focus of the conversation.

But I served a foreign mission--I know how it feels to wonder if you'll ever see it all again. I know how it feels to be in your own house and to feel like nothing is familiar. Not only have you been gone for that long, but the language is all wrong. Old habits die hard, and it starts from the moment you wake up. How do you explain how weird you feel when you've nearly put the toilet paper in the trash can for the three millionth time instead of letting it get flushed simply because "that's how we do it in São Paulo." How do you explain the hesitation at taking a shower without flip flops on? How do you explain the confusion which carpet creates, or the incredible hunger which only strikes in the middle of the day at almoço time, with no desire whatsoever to eat at any other time, even when you're hungry? How do you explain the pain because you keep remembering it all, and the even deeper pain of not wanting to forget? It was only a few minutes later, as I sat through more conversation that I just couldn't follow (and it took me WAY too long to remember the word for beterraba) that I simply started to cry.

The great thing about the Noivo is that he doesn't expect me to be happy. He doesn't even expect me to be OK. He just asks what he can do to help me. I think to myself that he can't because he just doesn't understand. He served stateside, he just wouldn't know. With time, I'm seeing that it would be beneficial if I stop saying that to myself and to him--I don't want there to be a wall so tall around my feelings that his empathy can't scale. That will just hurt me more.

I am excited for our trip to Vegas, to visit the Noivo's mission--to meet the people whose lives he changed and whose hearts he touched. I think it will ultimately be good for me, even though it will only put my pain through another jarring paradigm shift. And seeing the Noivo struggle to know how to help me, I've asked myself a million times, what would help me? I can't afford to go back, and doubt I will be able to for some time. So how do you cope?

 I don't have the whole answer yet. I've taken to immersing myself in the language as much as possible. It gives me a way to feel like I still have a way to hold onto what I truly loved about my mission. As long as I can remember the language, I have my connection to the people. This led to a really interesting moment when I was completely lost in rush hour after putting my phone into Portuguese, and even the GPS was talking to me in my mission language--but even that was rewarding because I understood what it said. Here are some other suggestions I've found helpful:
  • Read the Book of Mormon every day in your mission language
  • Set up contact lists of members and converts on Facebook, Skype, MSN, etc. (Skype calls are the best!)
  • Do Indexing in your mission language
  • Start a blog in your mission language or about missionary work. I just started a new blog in Portuguese about my Brazilian discoveries. Check it out here
  • Learn to make the food. Be careful with that panela de pressão, they explode. (See Breakfast at Tiffany's)
  • Journal in your mission language. (I have already started this one.)
  • Explore music and find new artists (online radio stations here, Pandora has select artists, ask your companions what they like--that's how I found this, this, this, and this, then ask members what they like--that's how I found these guys)
  • I've been studying my patriarchal blessing in Portuguese because I translated it into Portuguese. It took a lot of work and editing but it was totally worth it
  • Listen to General Conference in your mission language. Random fact: Elder Scott doesn't use a translator in Portuguese, he speaks it himself.
  • Do a temple session in your mission language (where available)
  • Find books translated into Portuguese (Here are suggestions for Brazilian literature, you can also look for things like Harry Potter and Shakespeare)
  • Find movies translated into Portuguese (This is complicated because most Brazilians pirate movies and buy them in the street. Netflix Brazil appears to only operate in Brasil, but I did find this site, looks legit)
  • Get a job speaking your mission language. (Believe it or not, I may accomplish this one.)
I don't know what is harder--remembering how different everything is, or forgetting the little things I thought I'd always remember. With each passing day, I can focus on both of them less and a new person with a new perspective emerges. I will always love my mission for what it taught me and what it gave to me. But it's time to come home now, and to embrace all of the changes which come along with that.

I know the Lord would have many, many more of His children be missionaries. He would also have his returned missionaries continue to be missionaries. I have been called to participate in missionary work already, and I'm excited to have those new experiences, and to embrace the life of a returned missionary.

It's like my mission president always said, "Only eighteen months to live it, and a lifetime to remember."

Too true, Presidente Pinho. Too true.

25 November 2012

No longer Sister Doyle

It truly is the strangest feeling to be totally surrounded in the chaos of missionary work, only to find yourself in an airplane going home the very next day. I flew out like a thief in the night, covered in darkness and stars until I was eye level with them both--and I stared out into that infinite expanse for some time. I cannot explain everything that passed through my mind in that moment. It began with an overwhelming loneliness that ended with a divine gratitude that I survived and overcame everything I passed through.

Now that I'm home, I've hugged my mom, I've eaten American macaroni and cheese, and I've been released, I look out into the infinite reaches of my future and I don't have any fear or trepidation. I have absolutely no answers to the questions that people have already begun asking me--where will you work? what will you study? what will you do with the rest of your life? I simply tell them the truth--that I have no idea. My only plan is to trust in the Lord and to lean on His understanding. The next steps in my journey are no longer mine to take alone.

I used to try and explain this feeling to people when I was at Temple Square--the reassurance that comes about the future when we look through the eyes of faith. I would explain that if they would just imagine how it would be to see through God's eyes, they would understand that He isn't some distant stranger, nor are we ordinary wanderers with no purpose here on earth. When we live for God, we are literally lifted up spiritually until we can see everything. Instead of being blinded by mundane living, we see with perfect clarity. I would then take them over to this picture and say that this man is an example of this principle. His sacrifices to build the temple took him to new heights, and the same thing happens when we build our faith.

I still don't know what this man's name is. I would like to know. That lesson I learned at Temple Square changed my mission. I have to thank him by name someday.

God took me to places I couldn't imagine over my 18 months of service. More to follow on that with the Homecoming talk. But I can honestly say that I have had that vista lain before me in a way I never imagined. The view was incredible, something I can never forget.

São Paulo tornou uma parte de mim. Eu não posso negar que eu vi milagres, que eu fiz milagres juntos com o Senhor e os anjos Dele. Eu não posso negar que minha vida mudou para sempre com minha missão. Meu Presidente falou que Brasil é melhor agora por causa de mim, mas eu digo que eu sou melhor por causa de Brasil.

Eu sei que Deus vive. Eu sei que Ele tem todo o poder no céu e na Terra para salvar todos os filhos Dele que desejam ser resgatada. Isso foi minha missão. Isso foi meu propósito. Eu sei que minha missão não termina aqui, e que ainda existe, muitas almas mais para mim ajudar. É uma responsabilidade grande, mas valeu cada momento que eu servi o Senhor ao lado Dele.

Eu sei que a igreja é verdadeiro. Eu sei que o Livro de Mórmon é a palavra de Deus. Eu sei que Joseph Smith foi um profeta. Meu testemunho é simples, mas meu conhecimento destas coisa é claro e está tornando como sabedoria cada dia mais. Vai me guiar em meus passos durante o resto de minha vida. Este testemunho eu deixou em nome de Jesus Cristo, amém.

Paradox has Returned


From start...



To finish...

There is only one word to describe my mission.




Triumph.

29 October 2012

Catanduva: The Great and Final Transfer

So I was transferred. I knew I would be. I didn't believe it anymore because the Assistants didn't call that Saturday or Sunday. But then they called halfway through P-day on Monday. Elder Hardy must have been surprised when I didn't freak out on him, but it was only because I already knew I was leaving.



I've been in Catanduva with Sister Prates for about 3 weeks. I would love to hit my stride and get things going here, but by the time that happens I'll be going home. Pois é. In the meantime, we have Wandylla, who is incredible. She'll be baptized for sure. Here's to hoping for a happy ending, right?




  • After taking a ghetto bath out of a bucket, I discovered my toothbrush was full of ants. Sometimes you just have to give up, go to bed, and try again tomorrow.
  • In the United States, you go to the Police when there's a problem. In Brazil, you run AWAY from them--especially during toque de recolher.
  • The weekend your house decides to flood will of course be the weekend that President is in Salt Lake with the Prophet. Otherwise, how else would you learn what to do in a flood?
  • If you see anything in São Paulo with PCC spray painted on it, stay away from it. If you do happen to knock on a door with that painted on it, don't panic. They'll probably just laugh at you. But seriously. Don't do it again. And if God tells you to lie to them, YOU LIE.
  • There is a right way and a wrong way to take a shower out of a bucket.
  • Matthew 12: 36
  • When changing out a broken faucet, halfway through the process--when your companion is plugging the running water with her thumb--is not the time to realize you have no idea how to change a faucet.
  • Basically, I have no luck with water.
  • I can now check "Dancing to Thriller in a foreign country" off my bucket list.
  • "Hey Elder! You're just jealous because in three weeks I can listen to this music!" and "I have less days left on my mission than years of life!" are things I've waited my whole mission to say.
  • The trouble is, I don't really mean them. I just don't want anyone to see how badly I'm going to miss every moment I spent here.


24 September 2012

Educandário: Only two transfers left? Nossa!



So at this point, it's easier to count how many transfers I have left than it is to count how many I have in the mission so far. My mission was extended by two more weeks with the transfer. This means I get another Christmas AND another New Year's here in Brazil.

I'm currently in an area called Educandário, and more than a fourth of our area is the combined space of a nature reserve and a large Jewish cemetery. Life in general is good, and I find myself laughing harder and more often than I ever have in the rest of my mission. That has to be a good sign.
  • The dog inexplicably licking the wall during the Family Home Evening in which we gave the First Vision is further evidence of two realities: 1.) If something can go wrong/be funny/happen at the worst possible moment, it will always be during the First Vision, and 2.) Dogs are the stupidest creatures on the planet. 
  • Things not to sing alone before nightly planning: "Thunder, Thunder, Thunder, Thundercats!" 
  • Things not to sing in unison after nightly planning: "Who you gonna call?--GHOSTBUSTERS!" 
  • "I'm not lazy, I'm selectively active!" Me. 
  • Moments in Sacrament Meeting when I shouldn't be laughing (roughly translated): "The prophet... um... Aziro... Tafti... Benson... said we should always read the Book of Mormon. And not just the Book of Mormon, all the standard works of the Church. The Church has 3 standard works. The Book of Mormon, the Bible, the Doctrine and Covenants... oh yeah, and the Pearl of Great Price. So we have 4 standard works." (And just so you don't think I'm making fun of this guy, he was alive and a member when Ezra Taft Benson was the prophet.) I like that member. He's super old and he roams through the halls after the first hour telling everyone to go to 26. Everyone knows that this means go to Sunday school, but nobody knows why he calls it 26. I think he might be on a secret mission that nobody else knows about, and 26 is a code word.
  • There was a little boy in China who got his head stuck in his balcony. Everybody here in Brazil was laughing at him as he made international "head"lines. 
  • After a 20 minute conversation with a member about toilet paper and toilet paper-related disasters, I turned to my companion and said, "Somehow, I feel like that was all my fault."  
  • The most I have ever had to struggle NOT to laugh during the First Lesson: the five year old daughter was making out with the banister at the bottom of the stairs. 
  • Moments when when I realize I have no control over the Universe: same little girl ballet dancing in front of her mother during the First Vision. 
  • "Wait a minute... If God didn't want Adam and Eve to eat the fruit, then why did he make the tree," sassed Leticia, hands on her hips. Yeah, she's 9 and has more sense than most of the adults we teach on a regular basis.
  • Fun with Portuguese: The word for the place where you put old people that about to die is called azilo, (think asylum.) The place where you put people in straight jackets is called hospicio (think hospice.)
  • After the most recent reminder from Sister Pinho about not drying clothes, shoes, or socks in the microwave, I turned to my companion and said, "Sister, that one's about MEEE!" 
  • Upon asking Sister Pinho about the red dust in the armario I didn't want to think about in Interlagos, I discovered that it was wood dust from cupins! (Termites!)
  • "What is it?--Ge willy gonkers, Batman?" --My companion. She meant Golly gee willikers. 
  • Things you never expect your companion to say: "I like the name Charles Dickens because if you say it wrong, it's Darles Chickens." 
  • This same companion got her arm stuck in a chair, and we still can't figure out exactly how she did it. 

  • We found the pink Volkswagen!!! 
  • In the spirit of elections, there was a clown that won an election here in São Paulo. His slogan? "Vote Tiririca, because it can't get any worse!" Also, he doesn't know how to read. 

We were eating at a member's house yesterday, and she told us about how she got married at 13 when her husband was 17, and they literally started with nothing. She lives in a very comfortable home now, so looking around at everything she has and listening to her story almost gives a sort of whiplash. She talked about how she has already passed moments in her marriage where the only thing they had to eat was one packet of Ramen noodles for them and for their two children--so they ended up drinking a glass of water and going to bed hungry and letting their daughters split the Ramen.

She looked at us and said, "No one there in the Church knows this story because we had already passed through all of this before we ever joined the Church. But it happened, and I can tell you that if you want to get married, you have to be prepared. When problems set in, love it the first thing that goes out the window. And you have to decide that you're going to make it"

As I listened to her, I recognized a change in myself that took place without me even noticing it. Hearing what she said, I wasn't afraid of the future. I wasn't afraid of being married, or being poor, or passing through that same way. I've already been in that same situation dozens and dozens of times. I know what it means to go to bed hungry. I know what it means to have just received money that's supposed to last for two weeks, and it's gone in three days. I know what it feels like to pray for a miracle, and a bag of food shows up at the door. I know what that feels like. I'm not afraid of that experience anymore--I'm excited to start that part of my future. As crazy as that sounds--as crazy as that would've sounded to me at the beginning of my mission--I'm not afraid of the worst things that I can imagine anymore. I've seen for myself that they aren't the worst things that could happen.

My mission hasn't been easy. It has had its share of suffering and hardship. But it's like President Pinho always says, "the mission isn't just for the mission--the mission is for life." My mission has prepared me for life, and I'm ready to face that with courage and heart.

I know that God lives and He loves all of His children. I see Him reach out to them every day. I've seen Him reach out to me and teach me things that I never could have learned had I never served a mission. Jesus is the Christ. His Church is restored with a living prophet and the power of God again on the earth. I know that God wants to save all of His children, but the decision is ours to make if we will accept His help or not.

This is my testimony that I bear to the world, in the name of Jesus Christ, Amen.

--

I am, as ever, your humble servant and never-deviating friend,
Sister Doyle

30 July 2012

Interlagos, I lost count again


Interlagos has continued to be a challenge for us. But we've been working together with the sisters serving in Cidade Dutra, which has really lifted our spirits. We love them dearly, and hopefully this will be a sign of good things to come.

By way of update:
  • At the start of the transfer, President called me Sister Lion, and my companion Sister Tiger. We have matching mugs we got at Carrefour to remember it.
  • Creepy guys in the bar played Eye of the Tiger while we were walking in the street. We laughed all the way to our favorite less active member's house.
  • My companion wanted to take her stockings off today because it was hot, but was embarrassed by the pelo on her legs. What she wanted to say: cabelo (hair.) What she actually said: pelo (fur)
D'you like the mold on our wall? Seeeexy!


  • Doing exchanges with the others sisters in our zone, partway through the day we get a phone call. The new American with me was the one who answered the phone, and told me that her companion had fallen in the street and hit her head. After running to the other side of my area, we discovered that Sister Dacol was fine. MY companion had fallen on some sand, gashed her leg para caramba, and was sitting at a table eating ice cream. Next time, I'M answering the phone.
  • Finding yourself swearing to never let your trainee our of your sight again, and having to remind yourself that you aren't actually her mother. Until she calls you Mãe. Then you smile like an idiot for the rest of the day.
  • Large metal gate was painted yellow, with black rats running along the bottom. Over the rat hole, there was a painted sign that said Hotel do Rato (Rat Hotel.) 
My feet are wet. My feet are wet.
  • Going to the lanchonette with Sister Barboza; she returns with almost nothing on her plate. I have a solid mountain of beef, rice, beans, something that is probably organs, vegetables, and salad. "That's all you're going to eat?" I asked, because no matter how much she eats it's gonna be R$18 a plate. "Are you gonna eat ALL that?" I nodded and shoved more food in my mouth. "You let me know if you get hungry later."
  • "It's not you that's fat, you just have the Spirit of a fat person." Sister Barboza's explanation how I can eat like a man and never gain any weight.
  • Omni 1: 26 in English: offering your whole soul as an offering to him... V.S. Portuguese: uses the word dádiva, which means "gift"
  • Lesson on patience: Did you do everything you could with what you knew and what you had? Did God expect more of you? If you did your best and God is pleased, why are you upset? Just let it go. Give yourself permission to be patient.

--
I am, as ever, your humble servant and never deviating friend,
Sister Doyle

18 June 2012

Interlagos, Week 2

A silver lining at last!

Glen was baptized!!! The Glen I taught at Temple Square. he was baptized last week! Sister Clayton has kept in touch through email and she told me she went to his baptism and she has pictures! Woo hoo! Just hearing that lets me feel more than ever before that Temple Square was a part of my mission--not just to humble me, but to bless the lives of other people. I got a baptism--and a convert--at Temple Square. The sisters there did a great job of finishing what I started. It was great news!

From her email:

I attended GLEN'S BAPTISM this Sunday!!!!!!!!!!!! It's a logn story, but to make it short my current companion has taught him before and he invited us to come with the other sister that taught him a lot the last 6 months on the Square. It was really great. I'll get you some pictures soon. But I just knew that you'd want to know as soon as possible... He got confirmed this week, gets the priesthood next week, and his bishop suggested he apply for a part-time mission in the family history library.

This is the man who approached me on Temple Square, and the first time I met him I knew he had to be baptized. He just had to be! He has basically already come to that conclusion on his own and moved from Colorado to Utah, because that's where God told him he'd find his answer. He read the Bible passionately, in its original Hebrew, and it had been far too long since I had spoken to someone who knew their scripture as well as he did.

Eventually he asked me, point blank, what the Church believed. So I used an Articles of Faith card to teach him what we believe. As our conversation continued and gravitated to the subject of authority, I took him to the Priesthood monument and taught him about Joseph Smith's ordination. After explain the Aaron priesthood, he looked at me with full comprehension and asked, "So you're saying that Joseph Smith was called after the Levitical order? That would explain a lot as to why y'all don't use wine for the Sacrament."

I was floored. So I continued on and taught him about the Melchizedek Priesthood, and he got visibly excited.

"This is what I've been searching for my whole life," he told me. And I couldn't resist. I had been told not to do this on the Square, but I couldn't resist. I invited him to pray about our message, and to be baptized, and he accepted.

And now, almost a year later, he's been baptized!

Life is so good! God is so good! The Church is SO GOOD!

I can't tell you how much I needed that news. Truth be told, I'm sort of suffering here. But things will get better. They have to get better. Each day we get one day closer to the breakthrough, I have to believe that.

Until then, there's Glen!

--

I am, as ever, your humble servant and never-deviating friend,
Sister Doyle

11 June 2012

Interlagos

President closed Tatui. I'm opening an area and training a sister from Argentina who only speaks Portuguese and Spanish. She is an excellent companion. I have much to learn with her. I'm excited to see how she works when we can finally work. The whole first week of her mission has been a continual stream of not working--closing Tatui, coming back to the city, buying food and cleaning a filthy, disgusting house... but I'm getting ahead of myself.

We're in Interlagos now, an area that looks like it has never had sisters, but I can't tell. Nothing here suggests it. The area is enormous and the Elders that were here before us absolutely destroyed the place. There was rotting pizza in the stove, the bathroom has not been cleaned in at least 6 months, they left dirty clothes inside the armario covered in some strange red dust I don't want to think about, and the cleaning lady outside was mopping the courtyard with an old pair of men's garment bottoms.

We've spent the last 2 days just cleaning the house. The work here is stagnant--there hasn't been a progress record since March, and yet the Bishop still has 3 baptismal forms. And from what I'm told, all three of those new converts are inactive now. There is no map. There is no list of members. There is no teaching pool... and my new companion, poor thing, thinks I know exactly what I'm doing.




Yeah... lots to do, lots to do...

Some things to laugh at... eventually:
  • If you're a missionary, never go to the Autódromo in Interlagos. It's not a great place to find new investigators. And if you're going to go there, try not to go there with a less active laurel. But if you really, really have to go to the Autódromo with a less active laurel, try not to take a video of it with the mission cell phone.
  • Burros! adj the word President uses when you show him the video of two elders you don't know with a less active laurel at the Autódromo.
  • So the dedication of the Manaus temple was a landmark occasion... I'll never forget the sound of my companion retching in the bathroom stall, then showing me a wad of toilet paper spattered in blood from her throat... 
  • We found out today the washing machine broke a long time ago, and no one bothered to tell the mission office. Now I can tell my ancestors I've washed my clothes in a bucket before! [NOTE: What I should have done]

OK, that's enough bad news. How about some good news?

Sister is just sick, but she's NOT dying. That's beneficial.

When President saw how dirty our bathroom was, he actually called out to Sister Pinho, "Amor, you have to see this!" She answered back, "No I'm afraid!" I laugh every time I think about it.

I had a culture collision at a member's house. Mickey Mouse said "Puxa vida!" The members there still don't understand why it was so funny to me. I tried to think of a similar example, but realized that anything I said in English wouldn't make sense to them. So I just reminded them that where I came from, Mickey Mouse doesn't speak Portuguese.

Sorry, that's all I got. Maybe next week things will be better!

--
I am, as ever, your humble servant and never-deviating friend,
Sister Doyle

28 May 2012

Greetings from Avenida Paulista!



I'm in the Manhattan of São Paulo while my companion does some sort of job training before she goes home for her Great and Final Transfer. This means that we woke up at 4 a.m., took a bus to São Paulo, meandered our way through a labyrinth of various Metró, and eventually came out on Avenida Paulista. The only thing it's missing is a McDonalds and a Toys R Us with a ferris wheel, and it could be Times Square!

We're here because my companion is doing a course with the SRE, a required class for all Brazilians as they prepare to leave their missions. My companion is taking the class because she is going home... not that you can tell or anything.

Fun with Portuguese:
  • "Onde Judas perdeu a bota"--literally defined as "Where Judas lost the boot." Means somewhere really far away, nobody knows where. Derived from the Easter tradition of making a Judas doll, carrying him through the city beating the daylights out of him, taking him to some square or remote place, and setting him on fire. Eventually he loses a boot, and nobody really knows where it is.
  • "Vai tomar banho!"--liternally defined as "Go take a shower." Means "go away."
  • "Falando abobrinhas"--literally defined as "talking squash," means talking nonsense. Example: Aquela professora do Principilos do Evangelho estava falando abobrinhas quando ela falou sobre se animais têm almas. (Translated: That Gospel Doctrine teacher started talking nonsense when she talked about whether animals have souls.) (Note: This really happened.)
  • "Viajando na maionese."--literally defined as "traveling in mayonaise." Means staring off into space.
  • "Briblia"--a holy book that only exists in the Interior.
  • "Eu amo a sogra de minha esposa." Written on the back of a moving truck. (Translated: I love my wife's mother-in-law)
  • "Você tem que ajoelhar e orar por perdão por que você estava bagunsando durante a oração!" (Translated: You have to kneel and ask for forgiveness because you were making noise during the prayer!) This is our recent convert, Haury. He's 10.
  • "Burrisimo"--something that is really, REALLY stupid, the epitome of all that is stupid. My companion swears to this day that she didn't teach me this word, but I couldn't have figured this one out on my own if I tried. I would know--I use words like this and I haven't repented of this one yet.
  • "This life is Candy" a little girl's shirt. Has a strawberry responding, "Yes, Wonderful." I think they were going for This life is Sweet. Fail.
  • "Barf girls"--Sweatshirt of a girl who passed us at the bus station, written in sequins. I think they were going for Sick Girls or something like that. Double fail. When I explained this one to my companion, she said she was never buying anything in English again.



Fun with Tatuí
  • A herd of goats passed us Sunday night in the street. They were on their way to eat the garbage on the curb.
  • Purple leopard print jacket. Red sweater. Green plaid short shorts. Black high heels. Where, pray tell, is she going?
  • There was a man making motorcycle noises at us as we passed him in the street in Itapetininga. I think he was trying to say that we walk really fast.
  • It's a common occurrence to find shoes dangling from power lines here. What was new was the mangled remnants of a stroller. I still don't know how they managed to do that.
  • My trainer goes home this transfer, poor thing. She doesn't know what Angry Birds is.
  • SOMEone taught my companion that obnoxious game of punching people every time she saw a Volkswagen Beetle (fusca). This game is NOT fun in Brazil because those cars are EVERYWHERE! So in order to take control of the situation, I told her we would pick a color and only hit each other for that color.
  • Green was a bad idea because that color is open to interpretation. We actually knocked on someone's door to ask them what color their car was. Even after they said verde (green) she still refused to believe me.
  • I told her that pink would be our Holy Grail and would be worth three shots right in the arm.



These things are great, but they aren't the mission. The mission is watching the 10 year old boy be baptized, so happy he looks like he's going to cry. He waited two years to be baptized, and because of his own prayers, he brought about his own miracle. As a missionary, I could take credit for this, but it wasn't me. None of the great things that happen during the mission are me. They're all the Lord--from the 10 year old boy who was baptized, to the less active member we found when we got lost on our way here. None of it is an accident. All of it is a miracle.

Jesus Christ lives and He loves us. He died for our sins so we could be forgiven, be baptized, and live a better life than we would ever manage on our own. I love Him. I do my best to serve Him, and every day I can more honestly say that I would do anything for Him. I leave that testimony in His holy name, even Jesus Christ. Amém.

--
I am, as ever, your humble servant and never-deviating friend,
Sister Doyle

14 May 2012

Tatuí: 10 months in the mission, 6 months in Brazil, 3 weeks in the middle of Nowhere



I have been transferred to Tatuí. Does it even exist on Google Map? I have no idea, but it should. It's absolutely gorgeous. Green rolling hills, cows, horses, tons of trees, and cobblestoned streets. The key to my front door is something out of the 19th century, and my companion tells me I constantly look like an American as I'm walking because I'm always looking around and never where I'm going.


But I can't help it. When I picture heaven in my mind, it looks like Tatuí.



By form of briefest update:

  • Hot adj 1. the temperature at which your shoes melt and stick to the pavement 
  • Cold adj 1. the temperature of the water every time my companion uses my blow dryer while I'm in the shower. 
  • The last time I saw a Mercedes, it was a dump truck. 
  • Somebody decided that I was his "namolada" (girlfriend) yesterday. His name is Samuel. He's 3. Two minutes later he said he was the Hulk and he didn't love me anymore. 
  • Lesson learned from the shoe strap mark on my foot--underneath all of this tan, I am really, REALLY white.
  • With a prayer, some ingenuity, and a piece of an old coat rack, you too can repair the flood in your bathroom.


I wrapped my hand in a plastic bag to pull that out... Jussayin... In case y'all think I actually touched that.

--
I am, as ever, your humble servant and never-deviating friend,
Sister Doyle

30 April 2012

Itapetininga: A Momentary Transfer

Imagem cortesia da Prefeitura de Itapetininga
Walking in the streets of Itapetininga was like a dream painted with roses, in the shadows of Saints as we passed through the praça, listening to all the dancing tongues.

Sister Neptune and I were not companions. Itapetininga was no longer her area, and we were in no hurry to go anywhere on this P-day-meets-holiday excursion. We were missionaries, but we had not come to preach to the masses as we wandered through narrow cobblestoned streets. Instead, for a rare moment, we had come together to watch Itapetininga ebb and flow with the passing time, to look at jewelry, and to eventually meander into a sweetshop for no reason at all.

“What do you want?” Sister Neptune asked.

I looked at each doce, studied each one. There was no label on anything, and even if there were, this was Brazil—what were the odds I would understand? What words did I know that had anything to do with sweets? Creme de leite. Amendoim. That word for hazelnut I can never remember.

What are those? Sister Neptune asked the woman behind the counter. She responded. I didn’t understand anything other than morango. I never did like strawberry…

At a glance, it all looked delicious—chocolate and cherries, cakes with mounds of frosting and nuts, pudding in tiny pink plastic wine glasses, little pies with so much whipped topping you couldn’t see the filling flavor (I hoped it was lime!) All of it perfect and pristine. All of it expensive. I wanted to try all of it to know exactly what I wanted. But this wasn’t the U.S. There were no try-me spoons.

Finally I decided on a sugar-coated something with a golden walnut on top. Sister Neptune bought the thing with the strawberry and we say at a metal café table. She continued our conversation.

“I just don’t understand why President would let someone train who doesn’t keep the rules and doesn’t want to repent, but I’m doing my part to repent and I still haven’t trained.” She took a bite out of her chocolate strawberry thing. I carefully bit into my lump of sugar and discovered it had a light brown nut-flavored filling. It was good, but I couldn’t place what it was. I chewed thoughtfully.

“Not training doesn’t have to be a punishment,” I said. Sister Neptune offered me a bite of her doce and I nearly pulled the whole strawberry out with my teeth. I handed her my sugar lump and she took a small bite, avoiding the walnut.

“I know,” she said reluctantly, sorting through her own thoughts for a moment before continuing. I couldn’t blame her for her frustration, but I wanted her to feel better about herself.

“I’m not perfect,” she said finally. “I don’t pretend to be. I know I do a lot of things wrong. But I’ve already decided that I’m going to do better. I have a clear conscience about everything I’ve passed through.”

I was looking at the glass counter, wondering if I should’ve gotten the pie. If it was lime, it would’ve been worth it.

“And I’m not going to worry about how things turn out because I’ve done my part,” she said finally, finishing her strawberry.

“I think President was only thinking of you,” I said simply. “He was going to put you with Sister André were you would be the senior companion, but you still wouldn’t be happy. I think he thought about you and your situation and decided that the best was to make you happy was to leave you in the Interior, so he put you in Miracatu.”

She didn’t say anything—probably deciding if she agreed with me or not. Whether she did or not was irrelevant in almost every imaginable way. President could change his mind again, and for all I knew I could be the one going to Miracatu.

Transfers were never easy. You spend all of your time, pouring your heart and soul into an area, and into the person by your side, only to have it all disappear with one phone call. When you wanted a change you embraced it, because anything had to be better than what you were leaving behind. But when you were happy, it was like taking a beautiful piece of yourself and tucking it away in a box, or trying to catch it in a photo and put it into a journal. Plucking the love in a moment and watching it turn into a memory the second you touched it—the way a pressed flower loses its color.

I looked at Sister Neptune, and I knew I was there for a purpose. I saw the hand of God in the stretches of the in-between. We were companions in a momentary transfer and I’ll never forget the way life looked through her eyes.
* * *

I don’t know that I will ever go back to that loja de doces, but I know I can never go back to that moment with Sister Neptune. I can never trade the nut-flavored sugar lump for what I hoped was pie, creme e limão. There were no try-me spoons, and for that I was grateful. I would never have chosen to go to the Interior with an American with a strong accent. But in a moment in which life and God went against the choosing, I saw the world with rosy eyes, through the eyes and heart of another.



20 February 2012

Brazil--Transfer 3, Week 3--Santa Tereza

More Experiences Never to Be Forgotten: 


  • After sleeping through Carnaval for two days straight I'm convinced I don't really sleep anymore--I die every night and get resurrected on a daily basis.
  • Realization: The cockroaches fly, and the pigeons do not--rather, they walk up the hill on the way to district meeting as if it wasn't the most absurd thing in the world.
  • I went to the doctor's last week to have some blood work done. For the first time since I was about 6 years old, I was willing to kill someone for a Happy Meal. 
  • "Minha mãe fez PIPOCAAAA!!!" Crazy little boy in the Primary during our message about missionary work. (Translated: My mom made popcorn.)
  • Purple house. Green walls. Red Curtains. Black and White tile floor. Brazil.
  • "Let's go put some sweat on the altar."--To be said before knocking doors for 6 hours after the rest of your baptisms for the month fall through.

After about four months of being here in Brazil, my conversational skills are really beginning to take off. This is exemplified in my riveting almoço (lunch) conversation like the following:

"So why is it called an orange if it's green?"

Also, a recent conversation roughly translated

Companion: Qual é o nome do bichinio la? (What do you guys call that critter over there?)
Member's response: Hamster
(This was one of those exhausted, end-of-the-day moments where the responses to most questions more funny than they should be. And the fact that these moments continue to be funny for days afterwards--and are the memories you treasure--is one of the hallmarks of mission life.)

  • When you're in the middle of teaching the Plan of Salvation and someone starts telling you in Portuguese that a bug just went down your shirt, all you want to do is scream. 
  • When you get into the shower at the end of the day and you find a dead bug in your belly button, all you want to do is scream louder. 
  • Plastic bags from the grocery store are now illegal in São Paulo because, roughly translated, they "suffocate the planet." But after the first trash day when everyone threw their trash into the streets without a plastic bag, you can now buy them for 19 centavos if they mean that much to you. 
  • Meanwhile, we're running out of plastic bags. 

Missions are not easy. And I never imagined in my life that mine would be as difficult as it is on a day-to-day basis. But I've learned things here about the Lord and His life that I never could have learned in any other way. How much He put others before Himself, even in moments of immense pain and personal suffering--that is something you will never understand it until you've done it in His name.

Every day here is a struggle. Every moment of every day is a choice to be faithful to the Lord. I never knew I could struggle as I'm currently struggling to have faith and trust the Lord, but I know that every day I get stronger than I was when I got here. In that way, the mission is worth everything I'm doing right now.

--
I am, as ever, your humble servant and never-deviating friend,
Sister Doyle

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