Monday, August 26, 2013

Onward and Upward

Remember that one time we had 9 baptismal dates? That apparently was so last week because everything that could possibly go wrong in a week, went wrong this week. Let me demonstrate:

The family of Louis and Tonya. Came to church and apparently had an awful experience. No one at church asked their names, no one welcomed them, she felt like trash in Relief Society, and she now refuses to return or allow her family to be baptized. She started smoking again and doesn't want to change. There are two things you can do when you hear news like this: you can either laugh or cry. The choice for me was easy, and I cried for a good long time in the dirt on the side of the road, and ate a giant carrot because that was the only food I had. I am so ultimately sad about the situation. She has a testimony of the gospel, I know she does. We did everything in our power to make it right. Started fasting immediately, prayed like never before, brought members to lessons, had a good talk with the relief society, met with the bishop, I EVEN MADE CHOCOLATE CAKE! But the chocolate cake here isn't that good, and she still wants nothing to do with it all. 
Milane. Baptism and marriage in two weeks. Her father figure randomly showed up two days ago drunk and beat her, apparently really bad. Her kids were screaming, the police came, and she had now moved to who knows where. Her dad showed up yesterday and started losing it with my companion and I---sobbing uncontrollably in the rain and begging us to help. I felt like I was in a movie and for once was very grateful that I didn't understand a word that was being said. What an ugly situation. 

Marcilina and Cheila. We went to mark the day of their wedding this week, and because he was born in a different country, they need all this paperwork before they can get married, and thus be baptized. 

Daneilla and Fernanda. Suddenly decided they didn't want to be baptized even though they know that the church is true.

Well, apparently discouragement is a thing. It was a pretty rough week to be honest and I'm still trying to think of something wise to say about it all. I really did learn a lot about faith. The Lord values our agency more than our salvation, and sometimes no matter how much faith you have in something or how much you pray about something, people are going to choose wrong and life is going to happen. It's hard to have a lot of faith in something that falls through, or a lot of faith in 9 things that fall through. But I decided this week that there are two kinds of people, the kind who have faith that things will go their way and the kind that have faith that sometimes ``failure`` is the Lord's way, and that He will work everything out in His way and timing. What a hard lesson, my goodness! I don't like seeing people I love reject what they need, and this week I saw it every single lesson I entered. 

I'M NEVER HAVING KIDS. I've heard watching your kids make bad decisions is the same type of feeling, and I'd rather avoid that for the rest of my life. Or just have perfect kids.

Crazy child pulling out my hair

On the bright side, I found 50 cents on the side of the road this week, which is equal to a quarter in America. This was especially exciting because the mission forgot to give me money for some reason, and so I had a grand total of 31 cents to my name. It was kinda like a fun game of trying not to spend any money, except if you lose the game, you don't eat. Haha I don't know why people always forget me, but I´m getting more and more comfortable being forgotten. So family, if one of these days you feel like just not writing me, I probably won't even notice. 

Another exciting thing that happened this week: I gave a training!!! In Portuguese! About the wonderful week of finding we had 2 weeks ago!! I speak Portuguese you know!! People are starting to be able to understand me more or less, EXCEPT for when I ask the question: ``What is your name?`` Ok, that was the FIRST phrase I learned, but NO ONE understands when I ask!! I practice every single morning when I wake up. What is your name? What is YOUR name? WHAT is your NAME? Still, no one knows what I'm asking. Why? 

We taught this lady this week who was just prepared. She had just been praying for an experience to come back to God the day before we showed up. We found her on the side of the road and taught with the Spirit, and I was feeling my Spirits lifting when suddenly, AFTER THE LESSON, she remembered that she WAS was a member of a church. Haha what? Sometimes things like that slip my mind too, don't worry. 

I prayed a lot this week because let's get real, who wouldn't feel like a failure of a person and missionary after a week of a series of unfortunate events? I was asked to say the closing prayer at Tonya's house for the final lesson this week, and I thanked the Lord for our Savior Jesus Christ and just started crying again, but this time it was more out of gratitude than sadness. The Lord sees our efforts even when they are weak, and I have so much faith that He makes our weaknesses strengths when we are humble. FAITH, FAITH, FAITH! Onward and upward:):) I have a testimony that the Lord knows more than we do and that He refines us in sometimes uncomfortable ways. I love the Lord and I love sharing His gospel, and even though it at times is hard, how grateful I am for the gift of choice. 

All my love plus a little more,

Sister Brooks

PS. Everyone pray they remember to feed me

Me and some random people who wanted
a picture with an American
and thought it was the coolest thing ever that
I was serving a mission in Brazil...
Interested to learn more:)

Monday, August 19, 2013

When it "clicks"

Me and my pantry
I’m going to be very honest for a hot second here. I hated my life for the first few weeks in Brazil, and I'll admit that there have been a few pity parties I have thrown for myself. I speak like a 3 year old, I feel like a burden to my companion, I just want some warm water, and I don’t like fried food and beef on everything I eat. I’m embarrassed to admit it, but for the first two or three weeks, I really wanted to come home. I mean, not really, but kinda;) Last Tuesday I had the wonderful opportunity to run for 20 minutes and made some decisions while running in circles around my companion. I prayed very, very hard and told the Lord that today was the first day that I was going to truly unpack my bags here and give the day everything in me. I told Him that I was very sorry because let’s get real, I’ve been a little selfish, and I told Him that I love Brazil, but that I’m super lonely and I need His help a lot, a lot. I gritted my teeth and ran as hard as possible in a 10 inch radius and just made up my mind to really, really, really really serve Him. That day, my companion and I went from 2 baptismal dates to 9. We had 11 investigators at church yesterday. We have 6 baptisms this Sunday that we didn’t have a week ago.

I got to the end of the day and was so overwhelmed with the mercy and
kindness of the Lord. I tried my best to give a little bit more and I
had no doubt that day that we would see miracles, and this week was
one huge miracle. I am a psycho journal-writer, but Tuesday night I
could only write a few sentences because I was so incredibly grateful,
more than I think I ever have been in my life, for the goodness and
kindness of the Lord. He takes every opportunity we give Him to show
His love for us:) Wow, what a week.

Tonya and Luis Fernando and their family will be baptized this Sunday
if she can stop smoking. She will:) They are the MOST INCREDIBLE
family, and I love them so much. Luis Fernando got in a gang fight 2
months ago, and lost almost all of his vision. So Tonya reads the Book
of Mormon to him:) We gave their family a picture of the temple, and
I’ll never forget Luis Fernando trying to see whatever he could of it,
and asking us to describe all the details he wasn’t able to see. Tonya
hung it up on their wall the second we gave it to them:) Oh, joy!!

Every Friday our ward throws a mini little party with food and games
and lots of new people:) This week Sister Lopez and I hosted games for
the teenagers and kids. We played this game where you have to remember
the names of fruits, and I have never focused so hard in my life. It came
down to the wire with me and a 5 year old. I was at a disadvantage
because I dontt know Portuguese, and they don’t teach you fruit names
in the MTC. But I conquered and ended up winning, and I’ll be honest,
I was thrilled! It’s not every day you beat a 5 year old at a fruit
game in Portuguese you know.

I gave a full talk in church yesterday. That was an adventure!! The
language is coming, slowly slowly slowly. I got a little bit excited
yesterday because in a lesson, I suddenly realized that I understood
what was going on! This was the first time in 4 weeks!

We are planning a wedding, it is for real!! If there is one thing I
know how to do, it’s plan parties. This will be the wedding of all
weddings in Brazil:):)

I am the blonde one:)
I love Brazilian culture. I think every American should come down here and learn to chill out a little bit. I’m trying;) Everyone is just
happy to be alive and happy to talk to everyone, and everyone wants to talk my ear off about American music:) I really think this week I
started to love the work. It is hard, no doubt.  We walked 4 miles before 9 in the morning yesterday to pick up investigators for church. (It was uphill both ways in the wind and the snow.) But I can’t really sufficiently describe the feeling of when it ``clicks`` with someone
you love an incredible amount; when they realize that they have divinity in them, regardless of money or race, and when they realize that change is possible and that they can be clean every day as they try, and through the Atonement of Jesus Christ. I saw the Atonement change hearts this week, and I am so indescribably grateful for the eternal principle that when we help others, the Lord takes care of us.

I know that this is the Church of Jesus Christ. I started my talk
yesterday by saying that I may not speak well or understand the
culture, food, or people. But there is one thing that I do know, and
that one thing is big enough to overshadow the things I don’t know. I
have a testimony of this church, and I know that Jesus Christ lives.

      All my lovey lovey love!
Study time in my freezing
cold apartment

                           Sister Brooks

Making new friends wherever I go

Monday, August 12, 2013

Hungry for the Beautiful Things!!!

A telephone booth here in Brazil

This week I locked myself in a bathroom. I still do not understand how and I still get stressed out when I think about it. Here´s what happened: I went to the bathroom. I got up and tried to exit the bathroom. The door wouldn't open. So I stood there for about five minutes racking my brain for vocabulary I've learned about keys, doors, and bathroom. NOTHING!!! SO I started pounding on the door and yelling and my companion came running. The family of the house that we were in all got involved and for about 15 minutes, they were hollering at me what to do. I am so sorry but I have no earthly idea what you're talking about. Eventually I ended up chucking the key out the tiny window into the backyard weeds outside, and I was rescued! I have decided not to use bathrooms anymore in Brazil. 

I had a marvelous week. I was emergency transferred this week because of some things that happened in my last area, and I had 10 minutes to pack my life and get on a bus, wet laundry and all!! (This picture is of my zone leaders helping me onto the bus. The 60 lb suitcase also mysteriously broke, which is why he is carrying it on his head.) 

My new companion is a angel and my goal in life is to be her. She is so patient with me and the language, and tells me every day how much she loves working with me. She gives me more responsibility than most days I think I can handle, and this week made me explain the commandment ``Thou shalt not kill`` in a lesson. What? I get frustrated to the point of tears almost everyday in companion study, because she makes me practice speaking over and over and over again. She looks at me calmly and tells me to relax and follow the Spirit. She always makes me talk first to people, and we found many people to teach this week because they are interested in what an American is doing in Brazil:)
                                Why, let me tell you!!!

We found a family this week because I felt like we should knock on the door. Actually that's a lie. We found a family this week because the house was a bright color and I'm like a child who likes shiny things and got excited and ran to the door and started clapping.

My gosh, they are prepared for the gospel. I absolutely love them all, and we set a baptismal date for them in two weeks. The house is tiny and filthy and they are the kindest people in the world. I love asking people the question: What importance does God play in your life? because without fail, they sail ``Everything.`` So it is with the family of Louis Fernando and Tonya:) God is everything to them because they have nothing else. They know that everything we say is true, and they want to be baptized. I don't think I've ever felt as much joy in my life as I did when they accepted our invitation.

We taught another family. The mom was super distracted and not paying attention to anything when I recited the First Vision with all my heart. I asked her afterwards who she thought appeared to Joseph Smith, and she said she didn't know. I started to repeat the first vision and out of no where, the little 4 year old sitting next to her mom and staring at me intently said: ``Deus.`` I was overwhelmed with the Spirit. Yes, yes God did appear to Joseph Smith, you are exactly right. Everyday my testimony of the Restoration of the gospel of Jesus Christ is strengthened through the people I meet.
Just happy to be here...

We are teaching 2 other families who are ready for baptism EXCEPT the parents don't want to be married. I am so grateful I watched the Wedding Planner 25 times before I came on my mission, because me and my companion are about to plan a couple of weddings!

I asked another investigator this week if he had prayed about our message. He said no, but he had prayed about which church was the closest and had definitely received his answer. HAHAHA WHAT?! He said it so smugly, like he had discovered the mysteries of God. I burst out laughing. I am so happy that you have received the answer on which church is the closest distance to your house. 

Bringing stickers to Brazil was the best idea I've ever had. I give them to everyone, and everyone is obsessed with them. I can't speak your language, I really don't like your food very much, but have a sticker!

I seriously am in love with Brazil. My companion and I walked a lot this week, and ran when we were running behind, and talked with a lot of people. We sang hymns walking down the street and started teaching an 84 year old woman who I started talking to on the street. (She likes our church but is scared of what her friends will think if she joins. Haha darling you've got bigger things to think about. Like meeting God tomorrow.) 

Last night on our way home we ran into a man asking for money. He had no arms, and my heart just broke for him. He was crying and asking for anything, any help. I asked him if he was hungry and he said yes, and I asked him if he liked to read and he said yes. I told him that we don't have much money on missions, but we have something so very much better:) I gave him an apple and a Book of Mormon and we talked to him for a long while. He kept crying and saying ``thank you for talking, thank you, please come visit me more, please help me.`` I asked him if I could say a prayer, and it was one of the most fervent prayers I have ever said. I'm quite certain my Portuguese grammar was terrible and I don't know if it was understood. I was quiet all last night, (which is rare,) because I was so sad that people have hard lives. My favorite part of missionary work is meeting people who are broken and who are hungry for the beautiful things somehow I've been blessed enough to know. 

I love love love this work, and can't quite grasp how enormous it is. This is the work of Jesus Christ, I have no doubt of that. This is His church, and I know that it is true. 

All my love plus a little!
Sister Brooks

My First Friend in Brazil

Me on a Freaky Little Bridge
that made me feel like Indiana Jones
in a skirt:)

Monday, August 5, 2013

Fleas and Tipping Toilets!!!

Well. This week was definitely an adventure, to say the least!! I still am amazed at the language of Portuguese. I hear little kids speak it on the street and I just want to congratulate their parents for raising such genius children. Seriously. How do they know when to use the freaking future subjunctive?! GENIUS CHILDREN EVERYWHERE HERE!! The kids here think my Portuguese is hilarious and they like to teach me new words. I give them stickers and they braid my hair. Oh I adore the Brazilian people:) 

It was honestly a hard week. There are fleas in my bed. There isn't room in our apartment for me to unpack my clothes. I am super frustrated with myself and I can't express what I feel. If I survive this companionship, I will be able to survive and THRIVE in any marriage you put me in. We had to go to Curitiba to get my official documents here and were lost ALL day. I have migraines because everything is so different and then I have dreams about home and wake up with my face 6 inches from the ceiling. Yup. Still here.

As if that wasn't enough, on Saturday night I was on the toilet at someone's house and reached for the toilet paper and the toilet fell over. BOOM! And there I went with it!! I have absolutely no idea how plumbing works when the toilet isn't connected to the ground. Haha I was dying laughing in the bathroom. Who falls over on a toilet in Brazil? 

Yesterday was testimony meeting and the bishop asked me, once again, to share my testimony. I had been fasting for the gift of tongues. I marched right on up there and was able to say the things I felt and wanted to say. I talked about the Savior mostly. There are only a handful of active members in our ward, and as I was looking out at the few of them, I felt the Spirit enter me so strongly. I sat down and just cried, because the Lord indeed did bless me with the gift of tongues, I love these people, and I love Jesus Christ. That's why I'm here. I don't too much mind fleas and tipping toilets;)

After church, I started speaking and my verbs were flawless. Words I had never used and didn't know when or how to use came out and people understood. The Lord sometimes works in mysterious ways, and sometimes He very obviously blesses us:)

We found a million new investigators this week, and after every one I was THRILLED! In the states, a new investigator is like a piece of Dove Chocolate, or a brownie, or a new Jason Mraz song. EXACTLY!

Here, it is a different type of challenge, because everyone is pretty willing to listen. Very few people actually follow through, I am learning. It's more like a hershey's chocolate, a diet candy, or a Keisha song. You dig? (Ok actually it's way better than a Keisha song.)

But we did talk to some wonderful people, and even found a family. Oh, the nicest family in the world!! There are so many people here who are prepared and ready, it's just a matter of working hard enough to find them. My favorite experiences so far in Brazil revolve around my attempting to speak Portuguese, because people are surprised and have to listen hard to understand. We were on a bus this week and I started talking and everyone on the crowded bus perked up. What? She talks weird!! So I started talking a little louder and more people started paying attention. I ended up passing out the church magazine Liahona to a lot of people on that bus:)


I teach a piano class every week, and it is SO much fun! We had investigators come, and a lot of kids and teenagers. I adore teaching piano here...everyone wants to learn. And EVERYONE wants me to play and sing.

       We also started an English class this week, and I taught numbers. It was a great success because everyone in Brazil wants to learn English. We invite everyone we see and it is a marvelous way to find people who are interested in our message:)

We taught a LOT of lessons on the street this week. Someone was rude to me this week!! It was a crazy experience. She was so mean and I didn't understand what was going on, but she was talking to me with intense hate in her voice. I found out later that she was a little bit crazy, and that she had been saying I was a sinner because I was beautiful, and she apparently thought I was from satan or something. After that we talked to a drunk man carrying a gun. I had no idea what he was saying, but my companion did and we got out of there in a hurry! 

On the positive side, we taught a woman a lesson on the street this week and it was one of the most wonderful experiences I've had here in Brazil. She is abused by her husband and has had a difficult life. I read a few scriptures from the Book of Mormon to her and tried to express my testimony and my knowledge of the Lord's love for her. She cried and cried and cried, and said she knew that ``this is Jesus.`` Indeed my friend, it is:)

Everytime I see our ward mission leader, he gathers the whole fam and makes me sing Celion Dion ``My Heart Will Go On.`` I'm a rockstar here. 

The times that are hard are when I forget why I'm here and why I'm doing this. And why I'm doing this is because I just love the Lord oh so much and I love these people oh so much and I love to share what I know:) I have a testimony of this gospel, and of how involved the Lord is in our lives. That knowledge is re-affirmed to me every day, and how grateful I am for that:) 


Sister Brooks