Monday, July 29, 2013

My First Week in Brazil!!!

At the San Francisco Airport...
ready to do this thing...

Last day in the USA

Holy smokes what a week it has been. I'm still alive, so that's news!!:) I got off the plane in Curitiba, Brazil, after traveling by myself for 30 hours, (yay for plane delays,) and my mission president was waiting with a smile and without a word of English:) I am 1 of 2 missionaries who received their visas this week, anddddd the only girl. The first day, not a single person in the group could communicate with me. We ate dinner at the President's house, and there were about 15 women talking and laughing and I had absolutely no idea what was going on. NO IDEA! I'd kinda laugh when they laughed and got serious when they got serious, and take a 50/50 chance and either say "nao" or "sim" when I was asked a question. 

When we were paired with a companion that night, I was paired with the one girl who spoke not a word of english; not a word. Her name is Sister Lima and she is a darling Brazilian who does not understand that I don't understand anything she says. She says something SUPERRRERR fast and then stares blankly at me and waits for me to respond. I laugh a lot and take a stab at it.Ummmm....sim???:) 

PORTUGUESE LEARNED THIS WEEK: Sister. Nao entendi ;) (I do not understand!) 

She hates to run, so I didn't run last week, not once!! It was an interesting experience. I learned a whole lot about reactions this week. I was faced with the choice this week about a trillion times to either freak out about what was going on or laugh at myself. I have laughed at myself a lotttt this week;) I have no idea how people who take themselves seriously serve foreign speaking missions. 

For example: I live in a basement with 4 girls meant for about 1. We walked in the door that first night and there was a bunk bed shoved in the corner. I was nominated to sleep on the top, about a foot from the ceiling.
HAHAHA what an ordeal it is to get in and out of bed. It definitely is motivation to be skinny, otherwise I'm sleeping on the tile!! No houses here have heating and I have never been as cold as I was the first few days here. I learned to laugh at that too:) I am so grateful for my mother who thinks of everything and sent me with an rei sleeping bag, because I live in that thing. The Brazilians call me a worm because I hop around our apartment all bundled up in it:) I have many new talents. One of them is moving swiftly while in a sleeping bag. Another is washing my face quickly with freezing cold water while in a sleeping bag. Who knew?

I'm honestly obsessed with Brazil. The people here have nothing and are more happy than most Americans I know. Not a single person was rude to us this week. I decided to be fearless with the language, so I walk up to everyone and declare: I am an American. We are missionaries. Can we share a message with you about Jesus Christ? (I think that's what I'm saying...)

No one here has anything better to do than talk to other people, and that's what I love most about Brazil. Sure, people are busy with work and school and everything else. But no matter who you are, they are interested in you! They want to talk to you! They want you to come in and talk to them. I want to develop the skill of always putting people first, no matter what else is going on. I also tell everyone I meet that I am an American trying to become a Brazilian. True story.

As for the language, it is a difficult language. I just decided a few days ago to believe I will learn it and not to be afraid. I jump in every lesson and do my best to communicate how I feel, and I think sometimes I butcher it. And by sometimes I mean most of the time;) But I feel the Spirit when I try, and I surely hope they do too, and I'm trying my best. The people here think I'm hilarious and ask me to say their names in English and then die laughing when I do. People here laugh a lot, a lot:) Everyone is laid back and is more concerned about other people than themselves. When the ward heard there was a new American sister, they all gathered their worn and beat up clothes and gave them to me to stay warm. I feel so grateful that I don't even know what to say!! Literally though!! 

This week I asked someone if they wanted to be baptized on Sunday. She said yes, and then it fell through. But we taught her again yesterday and I felt so strongly that we needed to read something in the Book of Mormon with her. So, sorry companion but we're going to have a change of plans for a second! We read a story and laughed and talked about it and I asked her if she would kneel with us right then and pray about it. Oh the Spirit was so strong:) I have great faith that she will be baptized very soon! Her name is Angela:)

Yesterday in church I was asked to bear my testimony and also teach part of a lesson. What an adventure!!! I told everyone how much I love them and how I can't speak Portuguese, but I do know that this church is the Church of Jesus Christ!!! They all just smiled and nodded. What a gringa!

 Highlight of the week: The ward mission leader sang some Celine Dion for me. It's his favorite American song and he wanted to share...

I absolutely adore one of the girls we're living with named Sister Soares. I told her this week that when she comes to BYU to study English, she can live with me!! (In the house I´m planning on purchasing...) But the words live and die are very similar and hard for me to remember. So I actually told her when she came to the United States, she is going to die with me! She appreciated that. 

This week was the most humbling of my life.I no longer have the skill of communication that I've always had. I have prayed so fervently for the Spirit, to be able to discern the needs of the investigators. This language and cultural difference has helped me rely on the Lord that much more. It's been a difficult week, but I am so grateful to be the new girl and the one who knows nothing and tried to talk with everyone, because the Lord is teaching me humility and love. Oh I love these people, everyone of them. That crosses cultures.

I bore my testimony this week about the Book of Mormon to one of our investigators this week in Portuguese, and for some reason got all emotional and struggled to get through it. I know that the Book of Mormon is the word of God, and I never feel alone when I have it. I can't feel alone. I know that Heavenly Father loves us, and that He answers our prayers. This is the Church of Jesus Christ; every day as I feel the Lord help me a little more as I become more humble, I learn again and again how involved He is in this wonderful work.

Oh, I love you all:)

Sister Brooks. (Brook--eees in Portuguese, because no one can pronounce my name.I love it here:):):)

Me and a Sister in the ward.
I am now teaching a piano class at the
church every week.
She is one of my students.
Also, I am now the ward pianist:)

Tuesday, July 16, 2013


Well, I am going to Brazil in ONE WEEK!!!!!!!!!! Talk about a surprise! I was just boppin around, teaching the people in San Francisco, when President Meredith called and told me that I would be leaving in less than two weeks. I AM SO EXCITED!!!! Also, minorly terrified. That's normal, right?

So, the next email will probably be from me in Brazil. I probably will be maybe a little bit overwhelmed. That's normal, right?

But really, I'm freaking out with excitment inside of me! I have lost Portuguese, if I ever had Portuguese. Next adventure, here we come!!!!!!!!!!!!:)

My week was marvelous! Remember that one guy I promised would see an incredible miracle when he paid a full tithe. Well, he has been making more money at work than he ever has in his life, starting from about the day he turned in his full tithing. Mysterious? I think not! The Lord is so good to all of us, so so so very good.

I even wrote a poem about it yesterday! Here it is:
The Perfect Heart
Savior and Friend, the King of the one--
builder of sinners, rebuker of none. 
He struggles with you and He suffers with me.
He feels our hearts' secrets; His love makes us free.
The flaws marked deep in the soul that we hide 
He gently erases as we kneel free of pride.
He cries for the woman abused from age three;
He takes her worn hand--her rescue He'll be.
He knew we'd be wrong, stubborn and hard
and still, He bowed to the mocks of the guard.
Still He knelt and He writhed for our sin;
He endured all hell that our souls He might win.
He faces our walls by our side every day, 
but when we can't climb, He pleads: I will pay.
The Grand Master of life, perfect Son from on High;
my Support, yes, my brother--my Friend always nigh.

-By, me:)

So anyways, John told us this week that he knows the Book of Mormon is true and Joseph Smith was a prophet called of God, but that he would rather be Krishna so he could chant downtown with his friends. I am so ultimately confused about him. I mean, I told him maybe he could chant with his Krishna friends and also be baptized, but he said he'd rather not. I am very sad. He knows that our unique message about Jesus Christ is true, but isn't willing to act on his answer. I was very discouraged, but am trying to have faith that his heart will be softened. I appreciate very much that the Lord respects and protects our agency, but sometimes it's hard.

The woman we talked to on the street who is dying with cancer, (Debbie,) is now an investigator. She is too afraid to meet in her house, so we meet her on a street corner a few times a week and teach her about the gospel of Jesus Christ:) I love it. 
It's incredible how many people in the world are suffering, and how many people need what we have been blessed enough to have. This week at one of our meetings, Debbie gave Sister Olsen and I jewlery. I think it was from a garage sale:) It is the most beautiful bracelet I've ever received, and I wear it every day.

Service is my favorite thing ever. This week we helped a few people move. (I think they are always a little shocked when they ask for help from missionaries and two girls show up in skirts.) Well, I was put in charge of packing the top of someone's car with more stuff than at first it appeared could fit. I crawled on top of the car in my skirt and was shoving stuff in corners and hollering at my companion to toss more stuff up and hollering at the owners while I was at it. My mother taught me well:)

Also, for dinner my companion and I went to McDonalds for dinner, just to buy the kids toys. No, we did not purchase any food! The little kiddy toys are MINIONS and they laugh and say "WHAAAAA???" when you push the button. Oh my, it was thrilling.

 I have a very strong testimony in the power of fasting. This week, my companion and I decided to fast and pray for specific people and their specific needs. It is hard to fast as a missionary, because you don't get breaks ever for anything. No four hour afternoon naps, which for me has always been the secret to success;) But we helped each other through the day and prayed fervently for these wonderful people we have grown to love. We met with one of the men we had been fasting for that night right after breaking our fast. He has been trying to quit smoking. Addictions are so hard and I desire him very sincerely to turn to the Atonement of our Lord for strength and help. We listened to him talk for a while about how difficult quitting is and I was completely overcome by the Spirit as he talked. I opened my mouth and made him promises that weren't from me, and testified words that were not my own. We also fasted for Adam to be able to come to church, and his foster mom got up early to take him. We are working on setting a date with the Enriquez family. Miracles everywhere these days:) 

So the stalker situation got to the point of where we had to involve the ward mission leader and the elders andddd the mission president. Yay:) I think it will be okay now. I'm going out of the country, see you never!

The Lord is so merciful and kind. I know that He is aware of us, and I know that His gospel is true and perfect. I know that the Book of Mormon is the word of God, and I know these wonderful things through the Spirit of the Lord.

Pray for missionary experiences:) It makes a difference!

See you in Brazil????? WHAAA????

:) Sister Brooks       

Tuesday, July 9, 2013

Learning a Bit About Faith

This week was insane times twenty. Sister Olsen and I have started to take turns "enforcing," meaning: we need to leave this lesson at 1:40 to get to this one at 2 and we need to leave this one at 2:25 to get to this one at 2:30. We taught about 30 lessons this week. The Lord has been preparing people in this area to listen to our message, and He has been way too kind, (always!) in blessing us.

Unfortunately, John is going out of town for 3 weeks. I'm legitimately slightly depressed about this, because we had some great lessons with him and he is just SO close to committing. I told him not to go see his family on the east coast, but he did not like that idea. We had a dinner with him and some members this week, and he brought a head of lettuce. Him and his hot yoga and lettuce.

THE ENRIQUEZ FAMILY!! This week we taught them a lesson on the Plan of Happiness, and the Spirit was incredible. After the lesson, Sister Olsen started crying on our way home because she was so happy. I was too tired to cry, but I was definitely smiling:) The parents randomly came out and told us that this is the direction that God wants them to go and that in other religions, there has been a hole; there has been something missing. When they said that, I was trying not to burst out laughing and hyperventilating at the same time. That would have been awkward. But seriously, HELLO WE'VE GOT THE DIRT FOR THAT HOLE!!! It was incredible to hear someone just up and ask what it is they are missing, and be willing to act on what we teach! They came to church in their jeans on Sunday. The whole family walks in late, and my heart was full. So full:) The whole 3 hours of church was centered around families, which was perfect for what this wonderful family needs. The Lord's hand is intimately involved in helping individuals in this wonderful work! 

They were fellowshipped by our ward SO well, and the youngest one had 20 new best friends after primary. He also "was a very good singer." I absolutely agreed. They are coming again next week, and I have a feeling that they will never miss again:) I'm the happiest girl in the world.

This week a few sisters got in a bad car accident. The president called us in a panic to go to the ER and help them with anything they needed. Well. Naturally my companion and I had just been hiking/running up a mountain, (it was p-day,) and so I'm in my shorts and t-shirt and totally sweaty. We showed up to the hospital, and about 6 elders had just arrived there as well. What the heck, Sister Brooks, why are you dressed like that? Oh, and I'm also in my running shoes that have so many holes that I have duct tape covering them. I look 100% homeless, and I'm trying to lift up this other sister to help her off the hospital bed, all the while having the elders trying to figure out why in the world I was running on my p-day. 

Sister Olsen just laughs and assures me that I will be known forever and always as the complete psycho-runner. I think everyone at the hospital went home that night thinking: Wow. Mormons are weird. I'M SORRY, I JUST LIKE TO RUN OK! 
So. About the boy we raced up the hill! He allowed us to come over and teach him and his family, (with special permission from the Zone Leaders because this family is Muslim.) I had absolutely no idea what I was marching into, and about the middle of the lesson I was really wishing I had Tyler Holle on one side of me and Kramer Holle on the other. I feel like they would have known better than me how to handle the situation! It's difficult to teach people who are very opposed to the idea of Jesus Christ being the Son of God. They were shouting questions left and right and I was sweating trying to keep up and trying to slow things down so the Spirit could be there. The extended family had also been invited to listen to us as well, so it was a party! They fed us Iraqui food and prayed in Arabic for us. They have so many questions about the Book of Mormon, but a lot of the questions they have are the unanswerable type. The type where all I can really say is: I have no earthly idea. Ask God.

Really, the answer to most questions is to ask God. He knows, and I don't. It's an interesting and difficult situation.

The fourth of July was indeed a celebration. I made a red/white/blue cake and brought it to zone meeting. I was so proud! I also wore blue bows in my hair like I was 2 years old. Success on all accounts.

 Well, my stalker continues to stalk. That's all I'll say about it.

I learned a really important lesson this week about faith. First off, I realized how truly little faith I have. I have faith for the things I want to have faith in, like in other people progressing in the gospel or in being led by the Spirit, but I have very little faith when it comes to other things. So here is my analogy on faith:

Faith is taking a step into the dark. Faith is ALWAYS dark for a second before it turns light, because the Lord requires vulnerability as we learn to submit our stubborn will to His. Sometimes it's dark for a long while, because God is the only One who can turn on the light for us. The light inevitably always comes on, but most of us are super uncomfortable for that time in the dark that we are tested. I learned this week that my whole life when I've stood in the dark about something, I've tried to turn on the light myself. I've tried to control the situation and I've searched frantically for the lightswitch. I get myself all up in a frenzy about not knowing what's around me and what exactly is going to happen with my life. And what a faithless way to live! I think the key to life is learning how to party in the dark:) We don't have control. I don't have control at this point about most everything in my life, including when I go to Brazil, what I eat, or how I spend my time. CONTROL GONE. So here I stand in the dark, trying to figure it all out instead of trusting that although I'm in the dark and sometimes I feel alone, God really is in complete control of what's going on. So what does it matter if I understand? Kaylee, LET IT GO! Enjoy the dark. 

I know that when God wants me to understand the "why" of something, I will. I know the light will come on about a lot of things I've struggled with if I trust Him. I know it will be in His timing. I like to kick and scream and be stubborn and proud, and I think God probably just kind-of watches and waits for me to calm down. Then He starts talking to me, once I realize that being in the dark is maybe and probably exactly where He wants me. I'm afraid of the dark, I'm terrified of it! But He has been teaching me one thing at a time how to relax and trust His love. It's SO much easier for me to kick and scream about what I DON'T KNOW. But He is very patient with my silly mind. And I'm learning how to smile in the dark and stand there calmly, listening always for His voice in the darkness to make sure He's still right there with me. I know He is.

I love my Heavenly Father and my Savior Jesus Christ. I know that there is nothing outside the reach of His Atonement. I know that God listens to us when we pray. I also know that He doesn't do things for us that we can learn to do for ourselves, generally. I'm grateful for that:) I talk to Heavenly Father all day every day, and I love Him so much for being my Father and my Friend. I know that this is Jesus Christ's gospel on Earth today, because He allows me to feel its truthfulness everyday. I'm quite determined to be a missionary for the rest of forever. There is so much joy to bring and to feel:) Have a great great great week and remember how precious every soul is to our Heavenly Father:)

Sister Brooks

Adam and Me holding a Skunk!!!
My favorite couple that I play the piano for
every Saturday night!

This was in our mission letter...
That's right...
My mission encourages running...
I'm just being obedient!!!

Monday, July 1, 2013

So Many People to Love!!!

Me, Very Sickly:(
This week, I got the flu or some strange San Franciscan disease, and was barfing up anything in my poor little tummy between lessons. I got 2 hours of sleep one night because I was getting weird bloody noses, and by Saturday night I was so weak that I could hardly walk up the stairs to my apartment because I couldn't eat all week. It was very interesting. I decided to never be sick again. My companion got a little frustrated with me, because I refused to stay inside. Hello. There are people to teach.

Regardless, this week was just oh so wonderful. I'll start with John:) We taught him four lessons this week AND he came to church again, which makes me so so happy! He came to the Visitors Center in Oakland with us and cried during the Joseph Smith movie. We had the most amazing lesson with him while sitting on a cement block in some random park because his car was getting fixed:) Oh, missionary work. We taught him a lesson about obedience. My wonderful companion asked him: John, have you been praying about if you should be baptized on July 27th?
At the Visitor's Center

We have been praying a lot to know what his concern is, and how we can help him. He believes everything we say, he just won't commit. So we decided to get to the bottom of it this lesson! He laughed and said he hadn't prayed about it. I was so overwhelmed by the Spirit and I opened my mouth and out it came! Out came his concern, right out of my mouth!

"John, and you afraid to pray because you know what the answer will be?"

He was a little bit surprised, but said: "Yeah, yeah I think that is it."

Sister Olsen: "John, will you pray right now to know if you need to be baptized on July 27th? Ask God specifically, He will answer you." 

So there we knelt on the cement, and John offered up maybe the most sincere prayer I've ever heard: "Lord, help me understand. Lord, help me know. Should I be baptized on July 27th?"

It was silent for a very long time, even minutes. The Spirit was strong, and I was almost in tears by the end of it. He finally said "amen" quietly. He knows what his answer is, I think. He just is scared, which I understand. We have been praying every prayer that we say that the Lord will help him feel at peace about the things he is learning.

There is a wonderful family in our ward who doesn't come too often anymore due to their two children, both who have severe muscular dystrophy. This week I decided to ask if they would like me to come over and help the sweet girl play the piano. So now I'm teaching her piano a little bit every week, before we leave them with a message about the peace of Jesus Christ:) It was one of the best parts of my week.  
My new favorite piano student!!!
Adam is a very special kid. He is intelligent and extremely in tune to the Spirit. This week he told us that he was trying and trying to open a jar of jelly, but he couldn't because it was too tight. He said a silent prayer and the next time he tried, the jar cap was so loose that it just came off:) You know, I wish I had faith like him. 

We are still teaching the Enriquez family! They are one of a kind, and all six of them are interested:) They are coming to church on Sunday, and I have faith that they will never miss again.

San Francisco is extremely hilly, for all those of you who haven't seen "The Princess Diaries." We were driving up a huge hill/mountain this week and came to a stop sign. There was a young man about our age running up it who arrived at the stop sign at about the same time we did. He looked at us and smiled and got in race start position. We rolled the window down, one, two, three GO, and our race began. Car versus sprinter, we were laughing and laughing. (He was dying and sweating and I kinda wanted to get out and actually race him, but remembered that I wear skirts every day of my life.) We waited for him at the top of the hill, and we are actually going to teach him tonight:) He is fron Bagdad and has never heard of mormons. I'm thrilled about it all:) Finding people is so fun.

This week we realized from a very awkward confrontation that a former investigator really wasn't interested at all in the church, but in me. I WAS SO MAD. He has called us about 20 times in the last three days. STALKER #2. I honestly haven't been this upset at someone in a really long time. He was extremely rude to my companion. Don't you dare talk to her that way. I had to seriously bite my tongue, because he was cornering me, the twit! People.

Saturday was exhausting, and I was struggling through having no food and still puking up any water that was in me. We had seven lessons to teach that day. But, my day was absolutely made by our new friend Betty. We knocked on only one door on this street before going to our next appointment, and this big black lady answers the door. She grew up the preacher's daughter, and sings in a gospel choir. She said that she never answers the door, but when she heard us knock, something told her: "It's ok, go get the door." She talked about her husband passing and cried to us and laughed with us. We talked about eternal families. She was loud and her laugh is enough to make ANYONE'S day. She told us: "WELL MY GOSH YOU GIRLS BETTA COME BACK! Anytime I see my lil girls on my porch, I'll be answerin this door! OHHHHHHHHH just look at you and your cute lil smilin faces!!!!!! YOU GIRLS JUST DONE MADE MY DAY!!" I smiled for a solid half hour after leaving her house:)

I have a deep respect for other religions. I believe that God hears all the prayers of His children, and I believe that it really comes down to what is in our individual hearts. Betty has a good heart. Betty has a golden heart. She knows all her neighbors and prays for them all and just, just loves people. She made me want to be better, and I can hardly wait to go see her again:)

We found 2 new investigators this week and continue to teach over 20 lessons a week. It is very fun, and very busy. One of the investigators is from a part-member family. He expressed to us that someone, (years ago,) had said something that offended him, and that he's been walking with a thorn in his foot since then. I said: "Josue, we would like to invite you to bend over and take out that thorn. That has GOT to be getting seriously old. We're going to come teach you if you don't mind." NEW INVESTIGATOR, YES!

Yesterday we were talking to an appointment when we came across a woman, 50 or so, with her head down. We stopped and asked her how she was. We were a little persistent, and she started crying. "Girls, I have cancer. I've got cancer. I found out Friday and I can't tell my husband and I don't know what to do."

This woman has been abused since age 4, on her own since age 8. Seriously, she told us things that made me cringe. (I was praying for forgiveness for being a weenie about having an upset stomach.) She told us that she couldn't remember the last time she actually talked to someone. We sat down, one of us on each side of her, and put our arms around her and just listened. She kept telling us how beautiful we were and she just kept saying: "Thank you, thank you, thank you. I'm just a little scared. Just don't know what to do." We read her John 16:33 about Christ overcoming the world and I prayed for her, fervently. Please bless our new friend, dear Lord.

And I really really meant that prayer. She said she couldn't remember the last time she had a friend. We told her now she had two, and that she always had the Lord. She just hugged us and cried and said: "I love you, I love you girls, I love you." She is hopefully coming to dinner with us tonight. Oh, I love her.  

I have a testimony of this gospel, of the Book of Mormon, and of Jesus Christ as our Savior. He is doing this work by our side.


Sister Brooks:)
Me and Diet Coke. Sorry. It was two for $3.50
Just couldn't walk by:)