Monday, August 30, 2010

Loving the Work!

Hello from Brazzzziiiiilllll!!
I have some fun things to talk about this week! I would love to attach photos, but the computer USB isn’t working, so next week! I also have transfers next week, so my prep day will be on Wednesday.

So we had another baptism this week! My fourth one here in this area. I’ve been talking a little about him, his name is Francisco. He is 18 and has a strong interest in learning and being closer to God. He always has questions, and is excited to serve a mission! He was dunked in the water 3 times until the priesthood holder got the baptismal prayer right, and it was so funny! But he was really happy about his baptism. I am so glad that we´ve been able to baptize people that have strong testimonies, and that I can almost have a certainty that they will all continue on strong in the church. It´s wonderful!

Just a few culture things. I can´t tell you how popular Justin Beiber is here. Seriously, I hear the song `Baby!` almost a few times every day while walking on the street. People play it loud, are singing it, it’s so funny! It’s even funnier because they don’t know English, so they just sing jibber jabber and think they are singing in English. I love it! We also always are hearing music on the street. One thing that is so different here is the election propaganda. They pay people to drive around with huge speaker things on their cars and play musical propaganda for these governors, senators and stuff. After hearing these over and over again, day and night, you start to sing their little catchy 30 second songs! It’s actually really annoying sometimes, but so different from home!

I’ve been trying to think of cultural things to share, but I can’t think of too many. I have pictures that explain better, so I will talk about it when I can attach the pictures.

This week it has been getting hotter. I am just getting used to having sweat run down my back constantly. It´s soooo hot! You are just constantly sweaty, and there is almost no relief. I would say that the wind here is my biggest blessing on the mission. It’s the only way I can get by!

1. What is Seminary (early morning class for high school age teens) like in Brazil? - One ward I work in has it at a member´s house at night, and there are maybe 5 students. The other ward has it at the church building at 5:30 in the morning, and it isn’t close to the houses of the students. I am amazed at the strength these youth have who wake up at 4 just to get ready and walk to seminary on time. I thought 6:10am was early for me!

2. Receiving mail- I haven’t received any mail yet because of this; Just so you know what happens with the mail. Whenever anyone sends mail or packages, it goes to the mission office, which is in João Pessoa-2 hours away. I am in another city, Natal. So the mail just sits there until we have some sort of conference or meeting where elders/leaders travel there for a reason, and they bring the mail here. So the package/letters could be sitting there for a month until I get them. Make sense? Ha-ha- so it’s really hard for me to know how fast things get here, because they could arrive fast, but sit in the office and take forever to get to me! BUT- WE HAVE TRANSFERS NEXT WEEK, SO MY EMAIL/PDAY WILL BE NEXT WEDNESDAY. I will get mail then!

3. Have you baptized anyone? Yep! 4 people. Lourena- 25 yrs old and is strong in the church. She is a great friend. Alice- 72 yrs old and she makes the BEST French fries. She sells them in front of her house ever night. She has a strong testimony and tells everyone to go to the church. She is way funny and chill. Laura- 14 yrs old. She has a strong testimony and has already shared the gospel with her friends. Neat girl. Franciso- 18 yrs old. He is really funny, and always has a lot of questions. He was just baptized yesterday and can’t wait to serve a mission. He will be a good missionary. He was a reference from the girl Jaine.

4. Have you had to get new shoes yet? I haven’t had to buy new shoes yet, but I pretty much only wear my sandals every day. We´ll see how long they last. One pair of my shoes already broke!

5. Do you speak Portuguese fluently? Depends on what you think is fluent. I can understand almost everything, and can speak back to people. I have SOO much to learn still, but I can talk to people, teach people, and more. My companion says that I speak really really well for only having 5ish months on the mission.

6. Can you read in Portuguese? It´s a lot easier to read in Portuguese. Of course, there are still a lot of words I don’t know, but I can read and mostly understand. I am reading the Book of Mormon in Portuguese right now and can understand!

Anyway- I love you and thanks for your emails every week! I miss you guys, but I am really focused on the mission and am loving every minute. I can’t imagine what I would be like without my mission already, because I am learning so much. Thanks for your love and support.
Love, Stephhhherss

Monday, August 23, 2010

Does America Have Apples?

Oi everyone!
This week was a week. Nothing TOOO special happened. But I’ve been trying to think of fun things to say to keep you all entertained and still wanting to read these letters!

So we had this young man stop us in the grocery store last week saying he was really interested and had seen us always passing by. So when we visited his house, we found out that his father was a preacher. We talked a little, then set another time to come back. When we returned, his dad was there and ready to talk about the gospel. He had his other son, (a preacher/historian or something), a member of the church and this guy we already met. We talked for about an hour and a half trying to explain the gospel principles correctly and clear all the bad things they had heard about Mormons. Of course, everything we said, they had a bible scripture to go against it, but whatever. It wasn’t too tense or anything, but just straining and sad. In their opening prayer, they said `please help us find thy truth` and all this other beautiful stuff. I was thinking `We are RIGHT HERE!!!!` BY the end, I just bore my testimony and explained that if they were searching for truth, and they had faith in Jesus Christ, they should read the Book of Mormon, that ONLY testifies of Jesus and teaching his gospel. I said that because they have faith, they could pray and ask if it was true, and they could know from God that it is.

I don’t know what will happen, or if anything we said will make a difference, but I did learn one thing about myself. That I have NO DOUBT that this gospel is true. That I KNOW the Book of Mormon is true. I am NOT AFRAID of telling people, even in another language. I know that my testimony is being recorded, and I want to stand tall and tell EVERYONE that this is the right path! I think it is absolutely beautiful that people can pray to find out for themselves, and not just us. It just saddened my heart to see people so confused and set in their ways, that they don’t see the truth when it is right in front of them. But, it happened when Christ was here, and they rejected him, so Who am I to think that everyone will listen and believe me?

On the other hand- that 18 yr old Francisco I talked a little about (did I?) last week, is doing wonderful. We visited his house and started teaching his older sister. As we were teaching, he came home and had a smile on his face. He started testifying that he knew Joseph Smith was a prophet and that this gospel is true. We had huge smiles on our face as he told her these things and shared his testimony. He had read nearly all of the Principles of the Gospel manual and was just eating it up! It was so wonderful. He will be baptized this week, and he wants to serve a mission. It’s so great!! The power of prayers being answered is an incredible thing.
(there is a creeper Brazilian teenager just staring at me right now as he sits next to me. Weird.. I’m so tired of people staring! Ha-ha. He can’t read this too- he he he!)

So, some quick culture things. I’ve been writing them down this week so I remember! Because these things have just become a way of life that i don’t remember that its different.
- The buses here are crazy. They will stop for anyone, you just need to wave your hand! O what they will do for $1. The other day it was so packed too, I felt uncomfortable, but whatever. That´s life!
-We just walk on the street here. We hardly use sidewalks, because there aren't many sidewalks! It was scary at first, but now it’s just normal. It’s just easier! But cars don’t stop for you, so we are always careful.
-There are always street vendors out walking. They either are selling food or cd´s. The cd guys are always blasting music from their little cart. I’ve just gotten used to it, and am starting to think it would be a great job! You just walk all day, which is good for your health, and listen to music as you go. Who wouldn’t want that job?

Those are just a few things. I’ve been realizing more and more how many people don’t know anything about Americans. I think some people just want to talk to us because I am American. They don’t know anything about America- which is crazy because pretty much all of their movies and stuff come from there. Someone asked me if we have apples there... my goodness. Ha ha! But i am trying to take their interest from America to the gospel, and use my fairness as a tool.
Well, I hope everyone is doing well! Please keep me updated and sending letters! I am always thinking about you. The funny thing is, when you are a missionary, you are still the same person! I still remember ya´ll and wonder how you are. So please ease my mind and write!
Have a wonderful week, and keep praying and reading your scriptures. Love you all!
-Sister Gordon




Monday, August 16, 2010

Four Month Anniversary

Hey everyone!

I hope everyone had a good week! I did! They go by sooo fast- seriously. I had my 4 month anniversary this week- It was so cute. I went out to dinner, then saw a movie, after got some ice cream and walked along the beach. HAHA- I wish! Naaaa- I worked, and that’s even better.

Let’s see what happened this week. This Saturday we had Laura´s baptism. I was a little worried for a minute, because she had a friend talk bad about the church to her and prove all these crazy things that were wrong with our religion. She said she was just confused and didn’t know what to think! But we helped answer her questions, and asked her `do you think that confusion and doubts come from God?` She said no, and we challenged her to pray again to know if her decision was right. She was happily baptized and brought into the church with loving friends and a smile on her face. It was so great! The missionaries had been teaching her for about a year- crazy huh!

OOO- One thing I forgot to share with ya´ll last week was one of our new rules. They announced last week that we could only listen to Mormon Tabernacle Choir, and on Pdays we can listen to EFY music. MY HEART STOPPED. I literally had to hold back tears during the meeting... Music was one of the things keeping me sane! And if you know me, you know that I don´t like Motab (Mormon Tabernacle Choir) one bit! But- I have thought a lot about it, and decided that this is my challenge. I decided that I will not only listen to MormoTabby, but I will know EVERY WORD to EVERY motab song I have (and I have a lot because I was prepared!) I will know that the guy in the third row, 10th from the left was a half pitch off tune during the 3rd verse of my 76th song. Mmmm Hmmm... Bring it on! Ha-ha And after 2 weeks, I can tell you that I will officially be singing in an opera voice for the rest of my mission, because I have to sing along. Oh goodness, what a great time of life. :)

The mission president visited this week. One night we took him to some of our investigators and Recent Convert´s houses. He, his wife and daughter really enjoyed it, and so did our investigators! I had to teach a lesson in Portuguese in front of him, and it was so intimidating! I only have 2 months of the language, and I know I speak incorrectly a lot, but he said he was impressed with my speaking and thinks I´m doing well. His family is learning too, so it wasn’t too scary, I guess. I really like my mission president and am way excited to be serving with him this next year and 2 months.

So you wanna know more about the culture. Hm.. Well I don’t know what I have already said, so forgive me if I repeat. They don’t have HUGE stores close, like we do at home. So we buy food at little grocery stores, or little shops out of people´s homes. The kids here have school either in the morning, or in the afternoon. I think their high school ends a little earlier than ours, and they all attend `college` which is paid for by the government. There are always people sitting out in the streets, or in front of their houses. In fact it´s really weird if people aren’t outside. There are a decent amount of cars here, but only richer people have them because they are way more expensive to buy here. So people walk or take the bus. Also- technology is way expensive here too! So many people don’t have high-tech things. But of course, everyone has cell phones. Silly. I have to be careful when I want to take pictures, because I don’t want to get robbed. We also work in a somewhat dangerous area, and my companion worries about me because I am soo white and might get robbed or something. I’m not too worried, because we stay in safe places and we´re being watched over by someone pretty powerful.
I hear so many cat calls every day, or people trying to speak English to me. I am tired at being looked at like an animal, but there isn’t much I can do about it! Everyone stares at me, probably because you don’t see ANY Americans or ANY white people around. There are some days when I just want to look at people and say `Don´t look at me!` Ha-ha! But, I can’t. Probably because they don’t speak English, and you know, I´m a `loving` missionary. But it gets tiring.

I will try to think of more culture things this week. Something funny happened; this will give you a little insight to my life here. We were at a member´s house for lunch, an old lady’s home, and when she handed me my plate there were little ants running around on it. So, when she wasn’t looking, I brushed them off with the tablecloth. But, that was stupid because I then started finding them on me! So I couldn’t sit very still during lunch, because I was worried about ants in my pants! And also worried about the food... because who knows what was in it if she can´t see very well. I survived though!

I hope you enjoy our pictures. It´s sad, but sometimes taking goofy pictures is the only thing we can do for entertainment. What do you guys think of the blonde? The color is blech, but I don’t have time or resources to fix it, so O well!

I want to finish by being a smidge churchy. I have to say that I am learning and growing soo much. We were teaching an 18 yr old boy last night, and he said `I don’t understand how you guys can live far from home like this and teach people that don’t want to listen.....Sometimes, don´t you think it´s a waste of time?` I looked at him and said, `No. It´s not a waste of time. I am far from home, living a completely different and difficult life, and at times it is really hard. But, I am learning. I am learning a new language. I am learning how to teach and love people. I am learning how to be a better person and closer to my Savior. I am giving up my wants and desires for the Lord´s wants and desires, and as I do this I get more out of my time than doing anything else with my life` This is true.

I have to say to all the people preparing for missions- PLEASE READ THIS. The mission is amazing. The mission is hard. The mission isn’t about you, but at the same time it is all about you. Please, before you leave, KNOW why you will serve. KNOW that the Lord wants you there. HAVE a testimony that this is right. You don’t need to be totally ready, or perfect at anything. Just KNOW that you are supposed to be there at that time. Then when the hard times come, they are nothing, because you know why you are there.

I love serving. Every day I feel so insufficient, but If i can make someone happy, or make a small difference in my life and in Brazil, It´s worth it. I KNOW i am supposed to be here. I KNOW that my Savior loves me. I KNOW that the things I am teaching are true. And the best thing is, is that I am not here to convince people that these things are true, I am here to help them know for themselves. It´s beautiful and so simple. Please know that I love my Savior, and this Gospel. I am so happy to be here. I am SOOO Grateful for my testimony and that I have a desire to follow the Lord. So many people don’t have this- It´s incredible and sad! In fact, it´s incredibly sad! But, I hope something I said will help you recognize how special this gospel is. I love you all! Have a wonderful week!
-Seester GOrdon


Welcome to the mission life!

Laura's Baptism

American Candy

My tan marks on the tops of my feet

Monday, August 9, 2010

McDonalds...A little piece of America....

Hey ya´ll!
It´s August, can you believe it? Time really is passing fast! The harder I work, the faster time goes by. I love being a missionary and trying to enjoy every day. If time goes by this fast, I need to appreciate every day- So I am!
Let´s see- what happened this week? You get to a point in an area where things aren’t new anymore, and you run out of cool things to take pictures of, or to talk about. But I love this area! I GOT TO EAT McDonalds THIS WEEK! Hahaha! Silly, I know.. And at home I really don’t enjoy it THAT much, but here?? It´s heaven! So far it´s has been the only food that tastes like American food. (Sad, I know..) Ooo my goodness, we had a hamburger and a McFlurry, because that´s all we could afford, and just savored every tiny little molecule. It was Wonderful Mcfunderful Deeelunderful!! Ooo minha nossa- I hope I will return!

We are working hard to find more men and families to teach. Like normal, people say they will do things, but actually never do them. Sad! Too bad for them, because they are missing out on an eternity of happiness! And there is nothing I can do about it! But things are going pretty well. We have a baptism marked for next Sunday. Her name is Laura, and she is 14. She has had elders teaching her forever, and even teaches people about the gospel at school. (Did I talk about her already? I don’t remember...) Anyway, another young woman was even baptized because of her. She is truly an amazing girl, with a strong testimony, and we get the privilege to finally baptize her. I think she just needed the right timing and the right people! So I hope it all goes as planned.

Hmm... What else? I feel so boring now! Of course, the usual bug occurrences happened this week. Things here are starting to feel normal, that I don’t even realize what is so different about the culture. I LOVE eating all of the fresh, juicy, sweet fruits here. They are so cheap and so wonderful. It´s great to eat healthy, and enjoy every bite. The church members usually have freshly made juice at lunch, which is wonderful. I wish I could bring some home for you guys to try!

So after church yesterday there were two American return missionaries visiting our chapel. I was able to talk to them (in English!) for a while! They were really nice and gave me some good advice. (They also gave me some American candy- awesome!) It was so nice to talk in English! I forget how fast Americans speak! Anyway, it just felt really refreshing to be an American again. I love being an Albino Brazilian for now though :)

Well, I took a lot of pictures with my companion, but my camera died as I arrived at the internet place and I can´t upload them. Next week! Although I do think I might have some old ones, from last week. They are my hideous sis. mish photos.

Enjoy! I hope they make you laugh.

Thanks to all who are sending letters and updates. I miss you all and am glad to hear that things are going well. Keep praying, keep reading your scriptures, and keep going to church. I´m so grateful to be here- I can´t describe to you how much I have changed already. The mission teaches you things you can’t learn anywhere else, and as you give your all to the Lord, he makes you amazing. This is what I try to do- just constantly think `what is the Lord´s will? Not MY will, but the Lord´s?` When you think like this, you don’t miss home, you don’t want your old life back, you are filled with love and happiness. Don´t get me wrong, the sun is shining strong here and starting to get hot, and it´s hard! I get mad everyday because it’s hot and have sweat running down my back. But, at the end of the day it doesn’t matter. The only thing that matters is the blessings I see in my life from following the Lord. I love this work!
Have a wonderful week! Love you all!

Seeester McSteph


need i say more?

Monday, August 2, 2010

Another week going good!

Hey ya´ll!

I don’t really have too much to say about this week. I wish I did! Just one thing though- I decided to go BLONDE. Crazy, huh?? I´ve been thinking about it for a while, and finally did it! My goodness was it a lot of work! My companion and I went through good times and bad times with this experience, but I think it´s almost done! I might have a picture, but I don’t think the color is right, so don’t judge, okay? It feels weird, and I don’t know what to think. After about 5 years of having dark hair, I feel weird! But with sunshine and time, maybe it´ll look good!

Changing my hair color this week turned out to be perfect timing. Everyone at church didn’t recognize me- they thought I was a new sister or something because of transfers! We even totally faked out the Bishop and his counselor saying that I was a new sister, the twin of sister Gordon. He totally believed, introduced himself and asked if this sister plays piano too! I kept it going for a minute and said ´no, just my sister´. Ha-ha! But we told them the truth right then, and they got a good laugh out of it!

The rest of this week was normal... We have enough people listening and interested, but no one follows through with things. It´s really sad- how can we help people if they don’t want to work for it? The key is faith WITH works. As it says in James 2, Faith without Works is DEAD. So, basically our investigators can´t progress at all without doing things. So remember, it´s great to have faith, but work! Look at your life and think- In what areas do I have faith but not works? So get to work!

It´s been rainy on and off this week. Rainy days are a little frustrating, not just because you´re wet all day, but because the work stops. People are normally on the street and easy to talk to, but rainy days, no one is anywhere! It’s just kind of depressing, but o well. We just think of it as a test!

The bug update- I have something every week! Unfortunately! The bugs were gone for a while because we cleaned and bug sprayed our house like madwomen. But, last night while Sis. Pozete was packing a package, she began screaming and pointed to a nasty cockroach on the floor. It was on its back just going crazy! We have no idea how it got there, but my friends, I am getting so tired of this! I hope something can be changed soon because I am not sleeping well at all! Almost every night I have a nasty, creepy bug dream and wake up not refreshed. Ugh. So please everyone, be SOOOOOOOOO Grateful that you don’t have bugs anywhere in your lives. Be grateful that your food is safe. Be grateful that your house is safe. Ooootay?
Everything else is doing alright! Keep me in your prayers! I miss ya´ll and hope you are doing well! Love ya- Tchau!

~Sister Steph