Sunday, December 7, 2008

December 2, 2008

Dear Family:

PARABÊNS FOR THE WHOLE FAMILY!!!! It is so great to hear everybody's wonderful news and know that everybody is growing and learning and doing great things while I'm far, far away. I don't know if it's just because I just hear the good stuff, but it seems like everybody's just incredible. Mom going back to work... Dad figuring out how to deal with stress and rocking his job and life in general... April going back to school and working good jobs... Ethan getting ready to go to school... Emily ace-ing school and everything else she tries... and Kevin turning into a powerhouse missionary in a single transfer. I'm so proud to be a part of this family. I love you all. So much. I'm so greatful that we're all in this life together. I know that every one of us is part of this family for a reason. We are here to teach each other and to grow together so that we can all go home together in the end.

I love that life is so perfect. Kevin's letter was just what I was ready to hear. I have a goal to be able to recognize and follow the Spirit better. And I've been letting stuff get too complicated recently. And I was thinking this week that things need to be more simple... but Kevin's letter confirmed and clarified what I need to do. The Spirit can testify to pure and simple truths. It has to be simple. I'm gonna do that. I should've already figured it out. It's what Kamilla had to do. She's only 12. (even though she looks at least Emily's age...) But she's super smart and she wanted to understand all the doctrine and wanted everything to make sense. And she met the missionaries over a year ago. It was only when she finally simplified that she got her answer. When she simplified her question to just ask if the Book of Mormon was true or not. And if she should be baptized or not. And she was finally baptized!! I also love that Kevin and I are sharing some cultural experiences here in Brazil. All the Christmas lights and the 95 degree weather are freaking me out, too. And goodness sakes... family's just keep visiting on Sundays!!

Love you all!!
Tchao!
Whitney

Kamilla's Baptism


November 25, 2008

Dear Family

Sorry my letters have been short. I would love to respond with a super, pages-long email with all the gory details of my awesomly incredibly life here in Brazil. However, today we had to go up to São Paulo (2 1/2 hour trip) to practice for the Christmas Program that I'm going to sing in (4 hour practice)... and then we came back down (2 1/2 hour trip). So my 8 hour P-Day went out the window... and then some. But you can write a lovely thank-you note to Sister Richardson (the wife of the mission president) who authorized me to be writing to you now.

The Christmas Program is going to be absolutely amazing. We have a choir of 12. 6 elders, 2 sisters, 1 mission president's wife, and 3 women-members which makes for a 12 voice choir with 3 on each part. We sound freaking awesome on For Unto Us a Child is Born. I'm also singing a solo: What Child is This. I will be accompanied by a flute and a recorder. All of the musical numbers are also accompanied by an visual power point presentation of all the most beautiful pictures of christ and clips from church movies that just make you want to weep. So that was my P-Day.

To answer your questions: Boa Esperança means Good Hope and is the name of the ward where I'm working. Snail Mail IN ADDITION to email would be good. I would spend more time writing y'all for sure. I could make a goal to write every other p-day a snail mail if you'd like that. I think I could do that.

Love you all!! Time's up!
Whitney

November 18, 2008

Dear Family:

Luis was baptized!! He is totally converted. And he is great. I’m really happy about that. The lesson from Boa Esperança(my ward): The gospel is true no matter your education or intelligence.

Case in point #1: Our ward is super simple. The people give talks that sometimes just make me really nervous. Because they just tell stories and talk about very little doctrine and they don’t really get everything... But when they bear testimony it is fervent and clear that they know what they’re talking about. I need to relax and go with the flow so that I can feel the spirit better and stuff.

Case in point #2: The gospel is just as true for Luis. Who knows basically everything about everything.

Love,
Whitney

Luis the "Brilliant" is Baptised!


November 11, 2008

Dear Family:

There was really just one sacred moment this week. We taught Luis again this week and he went to church on Sunday. And when we taught him again after church on Sunday we were witnesses when he received his answer. He knows that it's true and will be baptized. Thank you for your prayers.

I've also got a new vision of the Ward Mission. Our mission president just got back from a weekend get-away for training for new mission presidents and Boyd K. Packer and Henry B. Eyring taught them all about how the key to success is working with the members. And he gave a training in our stake for the bishops and LMA's (Ward Mission Leaders) and us and made me see that the Ward Mission could and should be more active than the Mission in and of itself. The Ward Mission should have goals and plans and everyone working together... and the full-time missionaries are just extra man-power to get it all done. Instead of all the incentive and goals and plans coming from the mission and all of the effort coming from just a few missionaries instead of from all the members. We fasted with our bishop and LMA to get ideas for how to motivate the ward and create a ward mission plan that will revolutionize our ward and the world. I'll let you know what comes of that.

I'm excited.I'm having an awesomely amazing time here in Boa Esperança. Christmas is coming soon!

Love,
Whitney

November 4, 2008

Dear Family

This week I want to tell you about Luis. Luis is a mystic/catholic. He did 7 years of catholic seminary and has spent his life on a religious quest to figure out the universe. He loves to read and has recently entered into mysticism as he has become a bit disenchanted with the organized religion bit. But he has meditated and read and thought a lot about God and life. And he has all kinds of faith in Christ. And almost all of the things that he has figured out are actually true. They fit into the gospel perfectly. But he talks a lot. He explained a lot of his views on life instead of letting us teach the same old lesson.

After our first few visits I had to go home and read the section in Chapter 10 of Preach My Gospel about Listening. Because it's not always easy. It's actually harder to listen than to teach. But if you listen first and then teach, your teaching is a hundred million times better. After our fist visit we left the 3 parts of the book of mormon that you always leave... Introduction, 3 Nefi 11, and Moroni 10:3-5. When we went back he had read. So we talked about the reading assignment and he talked a lot... a lot about all of his doubts and philosophies and complaints about religion... and we didn't get to say much. But the thing that I remember that I said was that we agree with what he said... and that all of his ideas and beliefs "encaixar" or fit in the gospel. I testified of that. And we said that in our next visit we would teach about the Plan of Salvation. We left him with the little booklet about the Plan of Salvation and marked ALL the chapters in the Book of Mormon that are recommended in Preach My Gospel about the Plan of Salvation. And we left.

We came back a few days later and he'd read it all and thought about it all. And it all made sense to him... but all his life things have been so complicated... And he just started talking and talking about all his ideas and going off on tangents about angels and baptism and faith and life after and before death and the fall and I don't even remember what else... But after a long time I finally said: So... you've read a lot of the Book of Mormon, but have you prayed to know if it's true? And he started to say that he didn't need too, because it's "The Gospel" and it's explaining everything right and he knows that it's good and everything that's good comes from God, etc. So I said, ok, just a second. The Book of Mormon was written on plates of gold and buried in the Earth for hundreds of years and found by a young man with little formal education and translated by the power of God. And this young man claimed to be a prophet called of God and to have received the authority of God on the Earth to reestablish the kingdom of God on the Earth. A church with the authority of God to act for the salvation of all humanity--to perfect the saints, preach the gospel, and redeem the dead. If you don't have the courage to say that Joseph Smith was a prophet of God and that the Kingdom of God is here on the Earth again, you have to ask God if the Book of Mormon is true. Because all of this comes together. If the Book of Mormon is true, he was a prophet and the Church is the only true church on earth. We are inviting you to know that these things are true. To be a part of the Kingdom of God here on earth. To be baptised and receive the priesthood of God and act for the salvation of all humanity. And I said a lot more. I've never said things like that before. I've never taught anyone who could see the big picture. I have never been so bold. And he accepted the invitation to ask God. And he said that it could be true. A lot of things are "encaixando" (fitting together). He said that maybe he would be able to tell his children what church they should go to... and he's never been able to say that before in his life. It could be true.

In that moment I was a missionary.

I know that he already has a testimony of the Book of Mormon. He's already felt it. He already knows that it's true. Now he just has to get the courage to admit it. Admit that he's come to the end of a life-long search. That there is an answer. I'm praying really hard for him to be able to admit it. I am so grateful to know that armed with the truth and the Spirit I can teach people who are much more intelligent and educated than I am.

Love,
Whitney

Oct. 28, 2008

Dear Family,

I got transferred on Saturday. I am one island over from where I was before. Our mission is divided into three geographical zones and it seems that I'm going to stay in Baixada my whole mission. :)

My companion is now Sister De Souza. :) And she is lovely. Both me and Sister F. Souza were transferred on Saturday and we left our poor ward to be opened again by two sisters who don't know what's going on. Cuitadas. But now I'm on the island of Guarujá serving in the ward Boa Esperança--Good Hope. And things are looking up. The sister who was here before, Sister Rocha (who is now in Embaré...), is amazing. She baptized 9 people while she was here. And these people are already making a huge difference in the ward. One is already in the Relief Society Presidency. Another is serving in the Primary. And a family (mom, dad, and 2 kids) were baptized last Thursday. And they're super strong and will make a huge difference, too. So the ward is super excited about missionary work. And my area is more humble and the members are more open and welcoming and perfect.

The only thing that isn't perfect in the ward yet is the missionary's relationship with the bishop. He's a bit difficult but he's a good guy. He's super excited to have me in the ward so I can help with music. So my goal is to win over the bishop. And I've already got some great plans. I'll keep you posted. Since I got here we've found 2 awesome families! Two couples with 5 kids each (at least eight of the ten over the age of eight). And 5 kids is a lot here. People don't usually have that many kids. And they both seemed really interested. It is so wonderful to be able to focus on the work. Sister de Souza and I want to learn the same things and I'm really happy to be with her. We're going to learn a ton and do great things. I'm sorry my reports have been so short recently... but I should be better now.
I love you all.

Whitney

Sisters Rocha, Todd, de Souza


Hello to My New Companion; Sister de Souza


Goodbye to the "Old Zone"


Oct. 21, 2008

Dear Family:

Thanks for writing again. I love to hear everything that's going on. I want to see some Homecoming pictures, too.

This week has been good too... but not as good as the last one. I really need to work on Perseverar até o Fim (Endure to the End). But we finally taught some new people that I think are actually going to progress! So that's encouraging. Transfers this Saturday...

Saturday night we had a musical fireside in one of the wards in our stake. Me and Elder Presença sang three songs with only rehearsing for a half hour before... it wasn't perfect, but it was still a good time. In the picture of my district, it's E. Presença, E. A. Ribeiro, E. Medeiros, and E. R. Pereira. Elder Presença is a singer and we always end up singing together. He's been my District Leader for 4 transfers. Elder A. Ribeiro has been his companion for 3 transfers. The others are newer. But they're great kids and even better missionaries.

Love,
Whitney

Our District: Elders Presença, Ribeiro, Medeiros, Pereira. Sisters Souza, Todd


Oct. 14, 2008

Dear Family,

I love the temple! I love the prophets of the Lord! I love my life. These couple of weeks have been incredibly spiritually rejuvenating. It was wonderful to see Kevin and get to hug a boy. And going to the temple... I never want to go that long without going again in my life. I don't know how Kevin's gonna handle it. Kev, you should probably start remembering what happens there... take some time out once a week and just think about it. Otherwise you'll forget. Or maybe not. You don't forget as easily as I do... but with just 6 months without going things started to get fuzzy. And the power of the memory was gone.

I loved all of the talks in General Conference, but one that I want to mention here is the one about Christian Courage. I've been learning that the hardest parts of the gospel to live are the most simple. "The Gospel" that Jesus taught... turn the other cheek. bless them that curse you. go the second mile. You know. The basics. We've promised to do these things... at baptism and in the temple. And how many of us do them? Not me. And I think not most. But with Christian Courage we're gonna make it. We can live the gospel in it's fulness and simplicity. We just have to choose to follow Christ... show our intelligence. Any other choice is madness, right? That talk by Elder Corbridge was awesome, too. And so were all the others. I've gotta go. Kevin, welcome to the real mission! You're gonna do great.
Love you all.

Whitney

How Great Shall be Your Joy - Baptism


Brother and Sister Temple Reunion!


Kevin and Whitney at São Paulo Temple


Brother and Sister at the Sao Paulo Temple!


Sao Paulo So Meets Florianopolis


September 30, 2008

Family,

Temple visit got put off till next Wednesday... I'm going to move my P-Day till Wednesday and catch a ride up to Sao Paulo. Hopefully it will work out then...

But thanks for all you thoughts and prayers and fasts. I'm really doing just fine here. It's not always easy, but it's not supposed to be. And I'm not despairing or getting discouraged or depressed. And it's getting easier. So don't be so worried. I know that the Lord is teaching me and encouraging me and giving me strength. I'm giving all that we can. So stop worrying!

Sister Richardson (wife of the mission president) is planning an awesome Christmas musical extravaganza and I'm invited! We're going to do three shows/firesides on three different nights in the three different regions of our mission about Christmas/The Book of Mormon. We're going to sing. I'm not sure exactly what it's going to be like, but it's kind of a big deal. And it's by invitation only (because you can't have all the missionaries from the whole mission going three different nights in three different regions when they're supposed to be working) and I got invited. I fun that singing and playing the piano is not a common talent down here. I feel like I have something to contribute. And it makes me happy, too. I'll keep you all posted. And General Conference is coming! I want to hear what was everybody's favorite talk next week! Don't forget to prepare your questions so that you can receive revelation!

Love,
Sister Todd

September 23, 2008

Dear Family:

I really need to take a picture of all the irmãs in my ward. One of the great blessings of being here so long has been getting to know and love the members. They are such great examples. There are some women that I just adore and take good care of me and treat me really well and are great examples to me about what I want to be when I'm a regular adult member of the church.

I got great advice from President Teixeira that after we get a blessing we should run and write down the things that we heard so that we don't forget. I'm glad that you're getting so many wonderful blessings. I'm really excited about General Conference coming up! And we're coming up on interviews with the mission president and a meeting with the Stake President and Zone Conference all in the next two weeks... and a visit with Kevin at the temple... if we can get the date sorted out. It should be a great couple weeks. I don't really have any more updates for now. Just want to share a new favorite scripture: Lucas 9:23 "E dizia a todos: Se alguém quer vir após mim, negue-se a si mesmo, e tome cada dia a sua cruz, e siga-me."Time is short today. Gotta go.

Love,
Whitney

September 16, 2008

Dear Family,

I'm going to get to go to São Paulo and see Kevin on September 30! I'm so excited. 6 months is a really long time to not go to the temple. And 2 1/2 years is a really long time to not see your brother. I love my mission president. And the CTM president.

We currently have one investigator who is progressing: Nelsiana. She is a lovely woman who is the neighbor of one of the strongest families in our ward/stake (the Ginattos). One day she came crying to the matriarch of the Ginatto clan that she needed something in her life and then she came to church. She is studying and reading the Book of Mormon and she has the beginnings of a testimony. I think she'll be baptized in the next couple of weeks.

As to spiritual experiences, I loved that you had one with fasting, because I've had some great fasting experiences recently. Sometimes when I can't do anything else, I just fast. And things always get better. And just like Dad, it doesn't always stay as better as it was during the fast... but baby steps in the right direction. If you haven't guessed, things have been a little tricky these last weeks. But it's given me many opportunities to grow. On fast Sunday I made a list of the things that I'm better at because of her. I'm more selfless, obedient, patient, deliberate, humble, forgiving, loving, calm, and controlled, among a wealth of others. I am only praying now to be able to return the favor and help her improve, too. If you want to join me in praying for my companion, I'd welcome that. And that's the extent of my adventures in the great bairro or Embaré for another week.

Thanks for your prayers. And thanks for sending your testimony, Dad. It always makes me feel good.You are all lovely. Miss and love you.

Love,
Whitney

September 9, 2008

Dear Family:

I had an awesome birthday. Happy Anniversary coming up, Mom and Dad! Paulo da Pizza shared his birthday cake with me and Sister Tittelfitz gave me earrings and a hair flower and made me pancackes for breakfast (we were on splits that day). and Sister F. Souza gave me chocolates and our District Leader gave me and my companion a chocolate for my birthday but another Elder in our district got jealous so I gave it to him. And I opened the last of my packages on my birthday. it was all quite exciting.

Anyone remember a clean well-lighted place by Ernest Hemingway? And the Hemingway hero? I met a Hemingway hero this week. In some apartment buildings they have a porteiro and you have to identify yourself to him and he calls up to the apartment and then lets you know if you can go in or not. he opens doors and moves cars around, too. So, I met the best porteiro in the world. he knows everybody's name and life story and not because he's a busybody either. he's totally warm and caring and never forgets anybody. he even knows the names of all the friends of people in the building that visit semi-regularly. and he knows the missionaries. it's always awesome when we get a reference for that building because he'll tell us what's up with that person and how we can help them and when would be best to visit them. Hemingway hero right there. I'll have to write a famous short story about my friend, the porteiro someday.

I thought about Dad in fast and testimony meeting yesterday. I wrote down all the names and themes of the testimonies and it became a really special experience. And then I shared that experience as a message at lunch. We have lunch every day with member, by the way. Dinners we're on our own... but I usually just snack on something. One big meal per day is enough. : ) Anyway... Mosiah 18 when Alma is organizing the church and it talks about the purpose of being in congregations and sharing together. fast and testimony meeting is really a special opportunity to knit your hearts together and become united as is says in Mosiah 18:21-22. I liked it.

I loved dad's last letter. I'm even going to print it out. And mom, thanks for the update on your exciting adventures. I love and miss you all.

You're in my prayers.
Whitney

August 26, 2008

Dear Family:

We have zone conference this week!! I love zone conference. and Sister Richardson (mission president's wife) is going to go proselyting with us quinta-feira... that'd be Thursday. So I should have a lot to report next week.

But I love that we can change through the atonement. I’ve been leaving that message in our lunches this week. That we can really, really change anything about who we are if we just recognize what we want to change and rely on the lord. And being willing to change our character is what makes us worthy to go to the celestial kingdom. Because if we don't want to change and accept ourselves the way we are (I'm not patient, I'm not loving, I'm not generous or longsuffering or diligent or obedient or humble or whatever) then there's know way that we're going to become celestial. and i want to become celestial. so try to change! It's for your own good! But don't try to do it alone--because you're not going to make it.

You're in my prayers.
Love,
Sister Todd

August 19, 2008

Dear Family:

So yesterday we had a Reunião das Sisteres in which all the sisters in the mission (22 in total) got together in the Mission Home and had a meeting and ate lunch and all sorts of fun things. Usually whenever new missionaries arrive they go straight to the Mission Home--which is actually the home of the mission president and his family--but when I arrive the Presidente Teixeira was in Salt Lake to get called as a general authority, so it was the first time I got to see the Mission Home. It has carpet! and you have to take off your shoes to walk on it! So I got to walk on carpet in stocking-ed feet. It was absolutely luxurious. I didn't know that I was missing carpet until yesterday, but I am. I'm totally going to have carpet in my house when I grow up. At least a little bit so that I can just dig my toes into it. It's so soft and cushy. Maravilha. The meeting was really good, too. I got to be Sister Richardson's official translater. Because there are only 4 American sisters in our mission and 1 has 8 months, 2 have 6 1/2 months and 1 has 2 1/2 months. So I'm the best sister at the language for now. But the sister that only has 2 weeks in the field is amazing! She's gonna pass me up real fast.

I got my package yesterday! It took all the strength in the arms and backs of many sisters to get my package home. One sister said "If this is a measure of the weight of their love, then that's saying something." I've already broken into the Sour Patch Kids and poured over the pictures (Kevin's looking really GQ in his senior pictures) and looked at the music (I liked that I now have the Reverie that dad always plays on the clarinet) and got really happy. I haven't opened up the wrapped stuff yet... Surprises yet to come!! I don't think I'll make it till my birthday, but I didn't want to have all my joy in only one day, I'm gonna spread it out a little bit more.

Anyway... time's up. Love you all. Welcome to Brazil, Kevin! Thanks for all the presents.

Whitney

August 12, 2008

Dear Family,

Thanks to Dad for sharing a bit of your wonderful weekend. I might have cried a little bit. I'm so excited to have Kevin more or less here with me. I really need to ask my mission president if I can visit Kevin in the temple one of these days. (Note: My Planejamento is my Missionary Planner here in the field. We get a new one every six weeks and I cut out pictures from the Ensign/Liahona and use contact paper to make 'em stick to the covers of the planner. It protects and beautifies!!)

My new companion is already providing wonderful opportunities for growth. On the day of transfers all the missionaries in the mission that are transferring get together in a metro station and switch it up and chat a bit. Last week was the first time that I went, because the other day another Sister went to pick up Sister Christensen for me. So anyway, when we got there all the sisters were asking me who my companion was gonna be and every time I said Sister F. Souza there was a moment of shock and fear on their faces. I got a little bit nervous. She has quite a reputation in the mission. So when I met her I was walking on eggshells... what about this sister is so terrifying? She is quite pleasant and chatted a lot on the way back to our area and she started working right away. So in the course of the last week I have come to understand why it is that lots of people have had a hard time with my dear companion, but I have also gained a strong testimony that she is in the right place at the right time and both our area and I need Sister F. Souza. I know that the Lord is minutely involved in the organization of this missionary work. Nothing is done by chance. So if Kevin ever gets this letter or any other future missionary of the family, always remember that you are here to learn and grow and as my mommy once said "you can't climb a glass mountain." You need challenges to grow. And the Lord knows what he's doing. So you just gotta step it up.

A little bit about my companion. She is a great missionary. She teaches at every opportunity. She has seized many opportunities to teach that I would have let slide right by. Especially in the houses of members when they have friends over. Usually I would just have left a sweet little message about love or hope or Christ or some such fiddle faddle. She teaches a First Discussion of Power. That friend leaves the visit knowing all about the Restoration of the Gospel of Jesus Christ. Sister F. Souza also has a gift for organization. When she arrived in our area she put our home in order and our Area Book in order and our Investigators in order. She knows how to organize. I am now living in the cleanest house that I've ever lived in. And I am helping to maintain this cleanliness! So she has a lot to teach me. Remember my motto? Powerful, Patient, Persistant servant of the Lord? She is teaching me Power by example. She is also teaching me Organization and Cleanliness by example. I am also learning Patience. Remember how I am a Red-Blue personality? And how I never really wanted to be Red and so I've been trying to control my Red? The Lord knows this. He has now given me the opportunity to conquer my Red once and for all. Sister F. Souza is the Reddest person I've ever met in my life. Maybe that's an exaggeration, but she is quite red. So I am adopting a White attitude. I have to choose my moments to present a contrary opinion with care. And I'm succeeding!! She is also a bit negative. Ok, maybe a lot. But Sister Christensen was such a saint and completely positive that the Lord has prepared me with the tools I need to be positive and try to share this positive. So anway, I love my companion. She is lovely. She is really red, but it's not her fault. And she's having a hard time because she's trying to control a life that is impossible to control completely. You can't really control the mission. You have to let go a little bit. You can control many things but you can't control everything... But anyway. She is trying really, really hard. And she's doing great things. And our area is already getting better because of her. And I am already getting better and learning a ton because of her.

I love the mission! I love that the Lord is perfect! I love challenges! SWAT to the Rescue!! I love you all, too. Thanks for helping Kevin prepare for the mission. It seems like my mission is flying! Just a year left! I have so much to learn! I've got to take advantage of every moment.I love my family.I'm praying for you all. Don't cry too much. It'll be worth missing Kevin when you see how much he grows. Not to mention the people he'll help.I'm really going to stop writing this time.

Love,
Sister Whitney Amber Todd

August 5, 2008

Mom,

Thanks for your letter. It's always so great to hear that everybody's doing well.

This last Sunday we finally did our Special Musical Presentation. And it was rocking awesome. A full half-hour of songs and inspirational quotes... It was awesomely wonderful. Elder Presença, my District Leader, put it all together. And I am the best pianist in the Zone so I was running from the piano to the microphone and back again and I may or may not have forgotten the end of the scripture I was supposed to say. but I singing went well. Overall it was awesome. Then the Mission President spoke to our Stake about Our Purpose. I don't know if you've read preach my gospel, but our purpose is to invite people to come unto Christ. He talked about how that should be our purpose throughout our life. But the best part was that at the end of it all, the Stake President got up and invited/challenged each of the 150 people in the congregation to find 2 people to be baptized in the next 150 days till the end of the year. So our ward better step it up. Our stake is waking up to missionary work!

I got a new companion! Her name is Sister F. Souza and she's from Minas Gerais--I think it's in Brazil somewhere--and has 14 months in the mission and this is her 7th area. That's about all I know about her for now. I'll send a picture, too. I saw Sister de Jesus at the Transfers and she gave me the earrings and necklace that I'm wearing in the picture. And Sister Christensen went to meet her parents! They'll be stopping by the apartment with my presents this week! I made my new Planejamento for this transfer and I put all the pictures I could find of Mary Magdelene when she sees Christ. Recently I've been feeling like I know what I'm teaching is true... logically. But now I'm going to figure out how to feel that everything is true. You can see that Mary is feeling a lot. I'm going to have such love, faith, and hope.

Love you all. Until next week when Kevin's in Brazil!!
Whitney

My New Companion Sister F Souza!


July 29, 2008

Dear Family,

It has come to my attention that I need not only a cool name (SWAT) but a tag-line--or motto, if you will. Sister Christensen has a motto and I want to be like her. Hers tagline goes as follows "I want to be a happy, humble servant of the Lord." I don't know if it's technically a tag-line, but you get the idea. So now I've been working on mine. Since hers had some h's going on, I wanted to have some alliteration... so I settled on the letter P. I'm trying to come up with words that start with P in both Portuguese and English. So far I've got POWERFUL--PODEROSA, PATIENT--PACIENTE, and PERSISTANT--PERSISTENTE. How does "I want to be a powerful, patient, persistent servant of the Lord" sound to you guys? Any other P words you can think of?

We had some more baptisms. First was Alex then Geraldo. We've been working really hard and seeing a lot of little miracles, it's pretty great. It's been such a long time I don't really know what to write... Sister Christensen is going home in one week. Her mom got my birthday package. I'm already hearing rumors that it's HUGE. I'm pretty dang excited. Hamilton is doing great. It's Érika that's having a hard time now... Alex and Geraldo are really strong, too.

Love,
Sister SWAT

Geraldo's Baptism


Alex's Baptism


SWAT in Guaruja


July 15, 2008

Dear Family:

I noticed something really cool this week. Or maybe it was last week. But I am now SWAT. My initials, that is. Way cooler than WAT. SWAT to the rescue!! That might be the only update for the week. It was a good week. We had a fireside (serão) with one of the Presidents of the First Quorum of the 70. He's from our stake here. He and his wife gave really awesome talks and it was really great because I got to go and just sit there. I remember when it was a pain to go to firesides... now it's like the highlight of my week. That and church... you go and sit (for 3 entire hours!) and other people teach! It's way relaxing.

But back to the topic at hand... Elder Costa. He talked a lot about a lot of things... but the thing that really struck home to me was how much the gospel is a part of his life. Down to every little detail. And he talked about how our life's goal should be to know Christ. (and this is life eternal, that they might know thee, the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom thou hast sent) and we are commanded to be perfect and like Christ (sermon on the mount) and the lord doesn't give commandments save he shall prepare a way (1 néfi 3:7)... so this life is organized as the way to teach us how to be perfect and like Christ! (organization of life=organization of celestial kingdom D&C 132:?) and Elder Costa is really taking advantage of the day of this life (2 Néfi 9?).

And I leave this message/note in the name of Jesus Christ, amen.

With love,
Whitney
a.k.a. SWAT

July 8, 2008

Dear Family:

This week we met our new mission president and his wife. They are adorable. And American. Sister Richardson is trying really hard to speak Portuguese. She uses a lot of gestures. President Richardson speaks quite well... but it's still a pretty dramatic change from the Portugal-Portuguese accent. We had a Zone Conference with them this past week. We're now trying to take this mission to the next level. I like changes because everybody gets reanimated and wants to get better.

I'm figuring out how to pray. I think that that may be the lesson of my mission. When I went to the temple I felt like I learned how to pray. And ever since then I keep learning new ways about how to pray and each time I feel like now I understand how to pray... but it's really exciting. Because I never was very good at praying. I'm learning! I loved Ether 3 this week. (I finished the Book of Mormon in Portuguese! Sister Teixeira in my Nova Força meeting challenged us to read it in 60 days. I finished today. Day 56. I might have read the Isaiah chapters of 2nd Nephi in English... But the rest was Portuguese!) But about Ether 3. It's the Brother of Jared when he sees the finger of God... and always when I read that story before I thought "oh, what a nice story. He had faith and found out that the Lord had a body." But I didn't really apply it to me.

So I read it a couple of nights ago before bed and realized that there had to be more to it than that... so I prayed asking help to understand what more there was... and in the morning I read it again and it all made sense! So this is what I learned... I want to be like the stones that were touched by God and shone. I want to teach by the Spirit and reflect the spirit. And how many stones were there per boat? Two. One pair. Like a pair of missionaries. That light up the boat of our area. And what were the stones like to be prepared for this change? They were pure and white. So I have to pure. But also I want to be helping other people be these stones and be touched by God. So in another sense it's like we're the Brother of Jared. He went to the mountain (temple...and if you don't have a temple you make where you are a pure place...). And he prayed. Like we need to pray. And verses 2-5 have his prayer. First he acknowledged his unworthiness to pray, but he knew that it's a commandment to pray. Then he expressed his heartfelt, soulful desire that his brethren not be permitted to cross the deep without light. So as missionaries we need to be humble before God, recognize that we can't do the work alone. And have our only desire be that our brethren not be permitted to go through this life without the light of the gospel. And we need to have faith that God has the power to give this light. And THEN we can see the finger of God making the difference in our lives. And that is the greatest miracle... recognizing the power of God. That the Brother of Jared saw how the miracle was wrought. And we as missionaries will be blessed to reconize how the Lord is helping us do his work. That's what I want. And so I need to pray in Faith to recieve this spirit. There's a part of Preach My Gospel that talks about this Pray in Faith in Chapter 4. The only way we will have the spirit is if we pray in faith. And the Brother of Jared gave us an example of this. He also had a specific plan for the Lord. That's another part of the Prayer of Faith. That we think a lot about what needs to change to solve our problems and we promise that we will do our part if God will just make our part effective...That's the part of the prayer that Elder Bednar taught. I'm so excited by what I learned!

And time is up.

Love,
Whitney

Hamilton's Baptism


Saturday, December 6, 2008

July 1, 2008

Dear Family:

So, I learned an important lesson this week about cleanliness. You have to be clean. Filth can sap your desire to live.

We received a referral to visit and teach a young-ish man and his aged mother. We stopped by to find out about them and they weren't home... or at least the son wasn't home. We met the neighbors and they all complained about the stench. And it stank. We returned another day and found them at home and it was just horrid. They have 2 dogs and 2 cats and the son wasn't taking care of anybody or anything. His mom, Dona Maria, is 79 years old. The first time we went in she could barely talk. She was laying on the couch wrapped up in a blanket. She looked mostly dead. She couldn't sit up by herself... eat or drink by herself... she was using diapers. So... to make a long story short, we got some Irmãs in our ward to come help us clean the house, and we rid the house of the wretched stench. Mostly, anyway. We killed millions of daddy long-legs and chased down some cock-roaches. It was really quite horrid. Then the Irmãs went back the next day and dyed Dona Maria's hair and painted her fingernails and gave her a hair cut.

Yesterday we went back to finally teach them about the Restoration and stuff, and Dona Maria is completely different. She was sitting on the couch. She can't stop chatting. She held and patted our hands. She was walking with a little bit of help and even went to the bathroom all by herself. You have to learn how to clean. I may not know how to clean very well, yet, but my desire to learn is growing. I will not live in filth. Clutter, perhaps. But not filth.

We felt so good all day yesterday to know that we made a difference in someone's life. And I have renewed desire to serve when I get home. 4 Irmãs helped us clean the house. They dropped everything and helped for 6 hours one day, all day the next day, and the following day returned for a birthday party. And went back the next week. They were so willing to serve. It's amazing. I want to grow up to be like them.

Love,
Whitney

Sisters Tittlefitz and Todd


June 24, 2008

Dear Family:

Sister Teixeira's parting words. From the door of her car. She was in the car when she stood up and called to me--in English, which she doesn't speak all that well--'Sister Todd! You are new, but you are great!'

So, I love Sister Teixeira. And President Teixeira. But mostly Sister Teixeira. I don't know why or how, but they both make me feel so loved. They've both told me that I'll be a great asset to the next Mission President. I hope I can handle the pressure. Our district had interviews with the President this week. Our last chance to meet with them before they leave the country. Before I had my interview I was thinking that I needed to tell Presidente Teixeira all about me and what I've been doing and how I've been doing so that he would know what to do with me in transfers and everything. But when I got in there he said he wanted to give me a blessing and asked if I had any questions or anything to report and all of the sudden I knew that I didn't need to tell him anything, because it's not him that decides. And so he just gave me an awesome blessing and said goodbye. And on Sunday I found out that I'm going to stay in Embaré with Sister Christensen. And probably stay here for the next transfer, too, because Sister Christensen goes home at the end of this transfer... and you gotta maintain some kind of consistancy.

So, about the people we are teaching.

Érika.She's began the discussions a while back, but when I came to the area, Sister de Jesus and I started teaching everything again because she wasn't really progressing, when it all finally clicked and she understood the purpose of the commandments and read the scriptures every day and wanted to get baptized! So she did.

Hamilton.He's a 50-year-old man and he's probably going to get baptized this week. Maybe. He was a Pesquisador Antigo (Old Investigator) which means that previous sisters had taught him... and stopped teaching him because he didn't progress. But they left a progress record and we stopped by to see if now was the time. We taught the 1st Discussion with the Restoration film, because he likes movies. He seemed really receptive. We left a Book of Mormon with him and scheduled the next visit. When we went back (this time with Sister Christensen) he returned the book of Mormon and said he didn't want it. Then 2 Sundays later he showed up in Church. And now we've taught him a few more times and he is just really excited to get baptized. He is a little inconsistent, so we're visiting him almost every day to make sure this is really what he wants.

Paulo and Lucas. Paulo is my new favorite. We just taught him for the first time last night. He wants to know everything. He wouldn't let us leave he kept asking so many questions. I really think he's going to progress. His brother is Lucas. He listened mostly, but he said he's going to read and pray, too. We've got some other people progressing, too.

I really want to see this area turn into a high-baptizing area. There are so many great people. The Stake President of the Santos Stake really wants the stake to grow. He wants to help us make a difference. And the entire stake has not been growing very much at all. But last transfers almost all the missionaries changed in the Stake and now everyone is staying. I think they're trying to change the attitude of the missionaries and the members in the stake. Get rid of the attitude that it's a low-baptizing area... Our ward had had 3 baptisms in the first 6 months of the year. We set our goal for 18 more by the end of the year. I really want to help this happen. But we need to teach more and teach better and work harder and do our part so the Lord can work the miracle. Even though I'm already really tired of the streets in our tiny area, it'll be really neat to see this change happen in the stake. If we can manage it.

Companionship Study: We studied about what exactly is Hell today. Mostly because we have to teach the Plan of Salvation to Paulo and Lucas the day after tomorrow and we know that they'll have lots of questions. And the thing that I didn't know how to explain about the Plan of Salvation is why does it talk about eternal damnation throughout the bible and book of mormon if there are only a few Sons of Perdition. So here's what we think now... I'd like to know what you guys think next week. If you're a really evil person who never repents of your sins this is what's going to happen to you. You go to Spirit Prison where you have a lot of chances to repent. Lots and lots. And while in Spirit Prison you are suffering for you own sins--damnation and suffering that is eternal in degree not eternal in duration (see bible dictionary Hell and D&C 19:6, which makes more sense in Portuguese than in English...não está escrito que não haverá fim para esse tormento, mas está escrito tormento infinito. it is not writing that there will not be an end to this torment, but it is written infinate torment.) And then you go to the Telestial Kingdom where you will not continue to suffer, but you will not be cleansed of your sins because you never repented, and so you can never be in the presence of God because no impure thing can abide in his presence. I think this might actually be accurate. I never thought of it this way before. It makes a lot more sense. We also read True to the Faith--Atonement. And the Atonement and Spirit World sections of Lesson 2 in Preach My Gospel. I feel really good about what we learned. Thought I'd share.

Gotta go.Love you!

Whitney

Sisters Christensen, Franca, Tittlefitz, Todd


June 17, 2008

Dear Family:

So this week was also great. I may have cried once. I think it was a combination of stress and exhaustion. But it was the first time that I cried in the field. I like how I subconsciously deal with stress. I don't even feel stressed out until all of the sudden I hit crying stage. And I have nothing specific to cry about so I look for something to cry about. Then I cry. And then I'm all better.

If this only happens once every two transfers I think I'll be a happy camper. Transfers next week! We'll find out on Sunday if anything is changing. So if for some reason I don't get to a computer next week, no freaking out. But even if I do get transferred I should still have time to email. I kind of want to be transferred and I kind of don't. I guess I'll just wait for someone to tell me what's going to happen. No use fretting when you have nothing to say about it. Right? ... Right?? :)

We're getting a new Mission President next week, too. President Richardson. He's American. And Presidente and Sister Teixeira are off to Germany to arrange stuff at home (10 days), then Portugal to visit family (10 days) and within the month they'll be living in Sandy, Utah. They apparently have a house there. They don't know where... but they have one. They are a great example of people who truly dedicated everything to the Lord... they started out being called on a three-year mission. Without holidays. Living in a foreign country. You only get to go home in three years. And then in the middle of the 3-year mission they get called on a lifelong mission. With only a 3 week break between the two. (Whoops... I said three years away from home? I meant you can never go home!) And they are so excited to be serving. How can I even think about complaining about a year and a half? I think last week I used up all of my clever writing-ness... I'll work on being better next week. But time's about up. I am loving the mission. And I'm figuring out every day how much I need to improve... and I feel like I'm improving all the time. It's really rewarding. And I love the scriptures and the gospel and my companion and our investigators and Santos and the food and the adventures and the scary fruits and scary meats and wonderful families in the ward and my leaders and hymns... and I could go on and on. I love it all.

Beijos,
Whitney

June 10, 2008

Dear My Family,

Érika got baptized this week and we had a blessed week of awesome numbers. We taught a lot of lessons and there were a lot of people that came to church and it was just all-around exhausting and great.

The Brazilian Bicycle Minivan

So, you know how there in the US young mothers with multiple children purchase and utilize a mini-van. Typical Soccer-Mom style-y. Here in Brazil Mom's purchas and utilize a bicycle. Put some extra seats on 'er and you've got a mini-van! We saw a young mother and three children on a bicycle. And this is not a "bicycle made for two" bicycle... this is a bicycle made for one. It was pretty amazing.

The Mystery of the Dirty Ankles

So, I started noticing a while back that at the end of each day my inner-ankle bones were dirty. Hmm, I thought. Where did that come from? What am I doing to make my inner-ankle-bones dirty? I would then clean my inner-ankle-bones and go about my business forgetting the inner-ankle-bone mystery until the next night when they would be dirty again and the process would begin all over again. Rinse and Repeat. Finally the day came when I said to myself, "Self, it is not acceptable that this mystery remain a mystery!! This mystery is too bizarre! We will get to the bottom of this or die trying!" That day I dedicated my energies to finding the ankle-dirtying-device. And I realized, as I was walking calmly down the street that as I was walking I was kicking myself in the ankle bones! How bizarre! And not just once a day, quite regularly! I then decided that this must stop. I realized just yesterday that, with minimal to no conscious effort, I stopped kicking myself in the ankle bones. The key to changing the behavior was to realize what I was doing. So then I got to thinking again about how this lesson that I learned to be applied in a spiritual lesson. And here's what I learned, sometimes when we realize that we have a problem, we must simply recognize what we are doing to cause the problem--for example, losing the Spirit. And sometimes the biggest part of the battle is realizing what it is that is causing the problem. And once you realize what it is, it's relatively easy to change the behavior. And it is next to impossible to change the results without recognizing the causes. Can't stop from having dirty ankles until you know what you're doing to make them dirty. The end.

What My District Leader Taught Me About Prayer

I don't know if y'all remember the talk by Elder David A. Bednar, but he talked about Prayer as Sacred Communication and Consacrated Action. My District Leader taught us about this, and I've been musing on it this week. I finally figured it out enough to share it in some lessons, and everyone that hears about it gets kind of excited. So I thought I'd share. So, how do you usually pray? Address Heavenly Father, give thanks, ask for blessings, in the name of Jesus Christ, Amen. This is how we teach people to pray. But I've been realizing that there are really two more steps, after Ask For Blessings, I need to recieve inspiration as to what I need to do for these blessings to come to pass, and THEN I need to PROMISE the Lord that I'm going to that thing, and ask him to BLESS my action that it will have the desired results. Example A: You know that someone in the ward is having a hard time, you pray that that person gets better. Then you can think about that person and think of something that you can do to help that person... it could be a phone call, a cake, a visit, or whatever. Then you're going to promise the Lord that you're going to do that thing for that person and then you ask the Lord to bless this action that it will really help that person. Then you have to do it. Because you promised the Lord. No going back now. Example B: You're not feeling the Spirit, you want to go spiritually. You think about what you are doing and what you are not doing that can be preventing you from growing. You promise the Lord that you're going to do one small thing today to help you grow... read the scriptures for 10 minutes, think about the Atonement during the day, sing some hymns when you're feeling bad. Then you promise the Lord that you will do it. Then you ask him to bless that action. Then you do it. Elder Bednar said in his talk that when you keep the promises you made in your prayers, those actions are CONSECRATED to the Lord. And it seems to me that consecrated actions are going to have more effect than just random human actions.So here's how I put this in practice this week. My District Leader taught about this, and I decided to consecrate my street contacts to the Lord. Never again in the mission would I skip doing my 10 contacts per day. And every day I would promise to do them. My companion has been praying a lot to invite more people to be baptized. So this week I did my contacts every day and Sister Christensen invited someone to be baptized. And on Sunday, investigators flocked to Sacrament meeting. I know that we were blessed. That our consecrated actions helped us be more effective.

So I'm going to keep working on consecrating more and more of my actions to the Lord, to resolve very specific concerns and problems that I have. I'd like to invite each of you to use this week to consecrate something to the Lord. Some action. Then let me know if it worked? This week I'm going to work on having virtuous thoughts... Because sometimes the things I think drive the Spirit away... so I'm going to work on having the Spirit more and promise the Lord that I'm going to drive away bad thoughts when I have them. Wish me luck! Sorry I talked so much about that, but I'm just so excited about it. Life just makes more sense now. I love the gospel!

The Saga Continues... Check back next week for the next installment of the Life and Adventures of an American Girl lost in Brazil and trying to speak Portuguese and teach the gospel.

Love,
You're in my prayers,
Whitney

Erika's Baptism


June 3, 2008

Dear Dad and Family,

Not too much to report this week. I like my new District... we have District Meeting once a week to have some training and some practice and learn from each other, and they're all really cool elders with different teaching styles and examples for me to learn from. Usually only a few people move in a district at a time, but of 6 missionaries in the district, 4 are new... our district leader is opening an area and training at the same time (you open an area when both of the missionaries who were there are transfered, so you come in knowing nothing... usually you can't even find your own house, much less all your investigators, and you don't know what to teach anyone, etc... and you train when you get someone fresh from the CTM).

We had a week with really low numbers, but we taught 5 lessons yesterday, so maybe this week will be better. We're finding new people all the time and I'm really excited to teach some of them. All of them, but some expecially because they show lots of promise.We got to watch a temple dedication on Sunday!! It was awesome. The fifth temple in Brazil (Curitiba) was dedicated. President Monson and Elder Nelson were there. I love the temple! Kevin, are you going to the temple soon? You probably should cuz you don't have a temple in your mission... don't want to forget, so I would recommend going lots of times nowish. Make Mom and Dad take you every day. Or a couple times a week.

Love,
Whitney

May 27, 2008

Dear Family:

Who knew? I certainly didn't. I knew there was a lot of beach... I just didn't know how much. You will find attached a photo of me and my companion, Sister Christensen. (You guys should maybe send some pictures it was really exciting to get a picture of Kevin... he looks older-ish.)Sister Christiensen has one year and one week more mission than I do. She is on her second to last transfer. She'll be going home August 2008, and I'm going home August 2009. She has 1 sister and 8 brothers, 2 moms and 2 dads. She's from Utah, but her mom moved to Wisconsin since she's been in Brazil... so she will go home to a new home.

This week has been awesomely wonderful. It's been a big challenge because Sister de Jesus left me in the lurch. I never had to plan who to visit or what to do or how to find people's houses or what we need to teach them or who all the member's are, because she knew everything and I just kind of followed. But all of the sudden I was in charge. I had to make Plan A, B, and C for every hour of every day (you need lots of plans because they always fall through). I had to call people on the phone (yikes!) because she hadn't met any of them. And I had to decide what we would teach people because she didn't know any of them. And she didn't know where anything was in our area. So I was a little bit stressed. However, I am so grateful now that I had this experience because I had to rely on the Lord and learn really fast and I got to experience miracles. All of the sudden, with no conscious effort on my part, I started recognizing roads and how to get from place to place, I lost all fear of the telephone, and Portuguese has gotten noticeably easier. I am so grateful for miracles and the support of the Lord in this work.

Sister Christensen is a wonderful example. She is completely different than Sister de Jesus. She is much more reserved and quiet... so it's a transition for the investigators... but she just emanates love and joy in the gospel. She's bears fervent, joyful testimony. I've learned a lot about how to interact with Brazilians without speaking perfect Portuguese. With Sister de Jesus I didn't know how to have casual conversations, because I never knew what to talk about... and they talked about things that I knew nothing about and didn't have enough vocabulary to talk about. But Sister Christensen just asks basic questions and we can talk to Brazilians!! Questions like "How has your week been?" "Can I look at your pictures? Can you explain them?" "What are you going to do today?" It works! It's great. Sister Christensen is also trying really hard to endure to the end. She's so close and sometimes she just wants to go home or take a day off, but she does not stop walking and working and loving and giving her all. I hope I can grow up to be like her.

Love and miss you all,
Hugs and kisses,
Whitney

Sisters Christensen and Todd


Island of Santos


Beach on Santos Island


May 20, 2008

Dear Family,

I have a new companion!! So I have to teach her about the area... all the stuff that I hardly know. Like how to get places and who needs to learn what and where all the Irmães in the ward live and the names of everybody... So I'll have to keep you updated on how that goes. Her name is Sister Christensen. She's American. There are currently four american sisters in the mission and about 30 brazileiras, and they put two of us together! Sister Christensen will go home in August... she's only got 2 transfers left. She's really a sweetie. She is calm and loving and I can already tell she has a very profound testimony. I have so much to learn from her. We also had Nova Força and Interviews with the President this week. In Nova Força I learned that it isn't good enough just to make goals, you have to make specific plans. This is something that we hadn't done before. Already it's starting to make a difference in our work. We always have a purpose and a fall-back plan. And we know why we're doing things.I taught an exciting lesson this past week. We had an investigator who we had high hopes for. She went to church twice with her kids and she enjoyed it and she understood the message... but she wasn't reading or praying. So we went to have a talk with her and she said she wouldn't read or pray. That she didn't need to. That she had lots of faith and that she had a plan for God to help her better her life and lots of other stuff. All of the sudden I had tons to say to her. I testified that she may have a plan for God, but God has a plan for her that is so much greater than her plan. He wants to give her eternal purpose and perspective... etc. etc. I don't remember exactly what I said, but at the time I knew what I should say. And I said it. At the end of my impassioned plea, I challenged her to read and discover the purpose that God has for her... and she said no. It was the saddest and best thing. I knew that it made no apparent difference, but I know that I taught what I ought. I knew I was guided by the spirit... because on my own I couldn't have spoken so boldly or so much portuguese.

Love always,
Whitney

May 13, 2008

Dear Family:

It was so great to talk to all of you on Sunday! I was reminded that you all have regular lives that consist of sometimes doing nothing at all and other times doing stuff just for fun. Weird. I went on splits this week! I forgot to tell you on the phone, but I went on splits with someone who didn't know the lessons, and I taught lessons. And invited someone to be baptized. They said no, but it was still pretty cool. I think they even understood what I said. I forgot to tell you another big difference between here and there: everybody has a gate--in front of the dwelling. If it's a house then usually it has a doorbell inside the gate. You are thus required to stick your hand through the bars and place your fingers in jeopardy of being eaten by the dog. And there most certainly is a dog. I think there are more dogs than people in this country. If it's a regular apartment building, outside the gate is a little intercom thing and a bunch of buttons to call each of the apartments. You push the apartment number they say "who is it?" You identify yourself. They push a button. The gate unlocks. You enter. Then next to the door to the apartment building there's another intercom. Repeat process as described above... Door unlocks. You enter. You walk up stairs. The door to the apartment has been open in anticipation of your arrival and the dog is coming down the stairs to meet you. (I don't like dogs. Sister de Jesus adores them. And cats. She gets excited any time she meets a pet. It's inexhaustable. I'm really impressed by this.) If it's an upperclass apartment building, there's an intercom by the gate with a single button... to alert the doorkeeper. But you usually don't have to use it because the doorkeeper is watching. He pushes a button and you enter. You walk up to greet the doorkeeper who lives in a little shack watching security cameras and the soccer game or the current telenovela. He asks who you want to see, he calls them, tells them who's here to see them, and lets you in.Then sometimes there are gates without intercoms or doorbells. Then you clap or yell.This is what I know about getting into gates. Always an adventures. And sometimes life-threatening. Even more exciting.

Love,
Whitney

May 6, 2008

Dear Family,

It's been a pretty great week. Especially hearing from all y'all down in Mexico. Sounds like you're having a blast. We're just trudging along down here. I'm excited to talk to y'all next week!! I don't feel like I have a ton to write about this week... Except we had Zone Conference! My first Zone Conference. It was pretty exciting. Especially since Sister Tittlefitz was there. I'm sending a picture of us, Her companion sounds intense. They fast once a week and they don't do awesome stuff like go to the acquarium on p-days. BTW, I went to the Acquarium last p-day. I met the cast of Finding Nemo. Dori and Nemo's dad were hanging out. It was pretty cool.We are hopefully going to have a baptism on Saturday. Jéssica. She's fifteen. I don't know what I've mentioned about her before. But she is incredible. She goes to Seminary every day and loves everything about the church. We're going to talk to her mom today... get permission. Pray for us! Love you all.
Whitney

April 29, 2008

Dear Family:

Mother's Day is coming up! I'm going to ask the President if I can call on Monday so I can talk to April and Kevin. But I'll email you next week.

We had a really cool fireside by Pres. and Sister Texeira about how Preach My Gospel is Modern Scripture for all people. It has awesome chapters that you guys could really learn from, if you wanted to start studying it. Like chapter 4: How can I recognize the Spirit. and a lot of others.

What I never knew about being a missionary.You're not just a teacher of the gospel, you are much, much more. Consider, for example, the following, non-exclusive list:Skirt-Finders, Match-Makers, Health-Advisers, Wedding-Planners, Marathon-walkers, Health-Advisers, Miracle-Enablers, Hunger-Relievers, and All-Around-Problem-SolversPaulo and Andrea, two of our old investigators (remember them , are now engaged, thanks to Sister de Jesus. They are to be married on June 7th. We picked the date for them. And Sister de Jesus told Paulo when and how to propose. They were kind of languishing, without working really hard to get married so they could get baptized, so we decided they need a baptismal date. So we prepared and taught several lessons about love and families, and after the one this week, Sister de Jesus asked Paulo if he would accept June 7th as a date for his wedding and baptism. He said yes. Sister de Jesus then asked Paulo to ask Andrea if she accepted this date, so he started to say, "Andrea, do you accept June 7th as the date of your baptism and marriage." But Sister de Jesus said "no, no, no, Paulo... on your knees, with this plastic flower plant, and we're not really here." And so he proposed, and she said yes.Érica, another of our investigators, is young and single, and trying to stop drinking coffee, so we taught a lesson about Law of Chastity and Word of Wisdom. Our ward mission leader had given us a bottle of the Postum-equivalent that they have here, so we gave it to her. We called the mission leader about something or other and he said "There's been a misunderstanding, my mom wants to tell you something." Sister de Jesus was really concerned... that maybe we'd done something to offend his mother or something... But she (not a member) had tossed out the postum and replaced it with COFFEE! And we gave it to Èrica. Que vergonha. Luckily she hadn't drunken it yet.And the examples go on and on... we do all sorts of things. It's kind of fun, usually. And always an adventure.

Love you, miss you,
Whitney

The Orquidario


The Orquidario


April 22, 2008

Dear Family,

We live in an apartment that may or may not be falling apart. The bathroom sink leaks out the bottom... so i'm not sure what's going on with the plumbing. Our oven doesn't work. The floor is tiled, but a lot of the tiles are loose, so if you don't lift up your feet enough, you trip and the tile goes flying. There are some messages from other missionaries under some of the tiles. I should go on a hunt and see what they say. But it's comfy enough. I've got a bed and a desk all to my own. And we have a fan in our bedroom so I'm not too hot... and it's already cooling down here, so that's been nice. We have to line dry our clothes and our dishwashers are our hands, but we do have a washing machine. Every apartment in the mission has one, thanks to our dear President Texeira (who I have yet to meet)... so I won't be washing any clothes by hand. It's interesting how little things are different here. No one has dishwashers, and their sinks are wider and more shallow, so the water splashes all over everything, and everyone has a little squeegie (sp?) by the sink so when they're done washing they just squeegie the counter around the sink. They all have the same kind of dish detergent which is different than our detergent, and they all use the same kind of sponges. They all have gas stoves, and hardly anyone has clothes dryers... so you see clothes line drying everywhere you go. Also, we--and lots of other people--don't have shower curtains or doors... so you just let the water splash all over the bathroom and then use a nifty squeegie on a stick to sweep all the water into the drain on the floor.

Sister de Jesus is a little bit loony and lots of fun. She can't carry a tune in a bucket and she is always spilling food on her clothes. But she teaches by the Spirit and makes everyone feel comfortable--including me. She's a great example for me... I have a long way to grow. The language is coming. It's hard every day, but I'm not translating anymore, I'm just speaking... And it doesn't wear me out to speak it like it did in Chile. And I understand almost everything that people say. My vocabulary is just really limited, and if I have to conjugate a word in an unusual tense it totally trips me up. So I'm working on fluency with what I have (so it doesn't seem like I have a speach impediment) and vocabulary! I am absolutely way farther than I was when I left Chile. I can teach pretty well depending on the topic. I can give a rocking awesome first short lesson (the restoration in 3-5 minutes) and I'm really good at the second half of the first complete lesson (apostasy, restoration, book of mormon, and pray to know it's true). The other lessons and anything else I have to talk about it just slower and sometimes I get completely stuck on a word and have to work around it. But I know that I am being blessed.The ward is relatively old and strong. More women than men, but about 130 active. So it's fully staffed. My awful blisters are gone completely and now I just have some little ones in less painful places. And my feet are getting used to supporting me in my hours and hours of walking each day... and I'm working on losing weight so they'll have less to support.

We found 14 new investigators last week. This is a world record. A new investigator is someone who receives one lesson and schedules a return visit. Our new investigators are the following: Jessica, Edvaldo, Osvaldo and Marta and Andrea, Antonio, Beth, Rita and Carlos, Iolande and two children over 8, Isabele, Edna. Some were more interested than others, but we'll see how it goes. Our group of investigators is mostly really new because before I got here the Sisters went through the area book (where we record everything about everybody so the work can continue when we're transfered) and said goodbye to a lot of old investigators who weren't progressing... we had two baptisms. And the rest of our old investigators have testimonies but can't get baptised cuz they're not married... and that takes a long time to resolve. Small Miracles: The Lord helps you find people. I know I said that last week when we'd found Beth, but I have two more examples. One is Jessica. We were going to a member's house because she'd had a miscarriage and we appeared right as her father-in-law, who runs a used book store in the garage, was giving a book of mormon to Jessica and they were talking about us when we appeared. Second is we'd lost the apartment number of a refferal, but Sister de Jesus knew which building it was. As we walked up she said a little prayer asking for help to find the person. Shen we got to the building, there were a couple of people sitting outside with some kids... one of them was the person we were looking for: Rita (pronounced Hita). Goals: Figure out how to follow the Spirit in WHAT I teach, not just to have the Spirit when I testify. Ask better/more questions during lessons, so we're not just teaching. I'll report on my progress next week.

Love,
Whitney

April 15, 2008

Dear Family:

PLEASE!! If you love me, can you search through all the boxes I left to find my chacos and send them to me? I can wear sandals! And I want to!

The interesting things I learned recently…...

1. Portuguese is hard.

2. The People of Brazil. They are different than the people of the United States. They're not just Americans who speak Portuguese and kiss a lot. Case in point: We prepared a FHE activity for a family we're teaching. It was for the 3rd lesson which is about the gospel of Jesus Christ which includes the five steps that you have to fulfill to return to live with heavenly father forever (faith, repentance, baptism, gift of the holy ghost, endure to the end) so we cut feet out of colored paper and wrote the steps on them and cut out a house and wrote "live with god" on it. The game was as follows: you place the first foot on the ground and put the house on the ground... far away. And then invite the person to attempt to reach the house while standing on the first foot. Fun, right? For maybe a 5-year-old. And the family we were going to teach had a 5-year-old, so I thought it was a great idea. However, the family cancelled and so we went looking for other people to teach. We ended up visiting Paulo and Andrea, a couple with an infant. Sister De Jesus said we should teach them our game... I thought she was crazy. But she is my trainer. And she speaks Portuguese. So I let her. So she lays out the first foot and the house and invites Paulo to try to reach the house of God from faith. He tried his hardest. He stood on that foot and he thought and he thought. He didn't try any mammoth leaps... but he tried hopping. And then his wife tried. And then he got back on the foot... and as we taught and set down the feet, he excitedly would move to the next foot. He loved it. After the lesson, I asked Sister De Jesus if anyone would've behaved that way. She said almost everyone. Unless they were super "chato" (the all-purpose word for uncool/annoying). Even power-house business men. Can you imagine how that game would go over in our house? We would all look at the feet and say... "yeah. I get it. what are the other steps. what am I, a five-year-old?" So that's different. And I like it.

3. Poverty. Everyone here is less well of than most people I have ever know in the states. Most people live in apartments--many of them very comfortable and nice... but some really old and shabby. And if they live in houses they're old and run down. The most "chique-chique" places are nice apartments. However, they also have people living in one-room shacks with a bed and a nice TV and nothing else. But everybody has a TV. It's interesting to interact with people like that... realize that they're just normal and nice.

4. The Work. We work hard. We walk all day. And we do all this work and a lot of it goes nowhere. But then, out of nowhere, you'll be surprised with great success. Case in point: Yesterday--Monday--we had appointments schedules for every hour of the day--And getting a day full of appointments is the work of several days hard work contacting on the street.-- Every single one of the appointments fell through. I got really disappointed. However, Sister De Jesus called Paulo and Andrea (old, stand-by investigators who can't get baptized because she's still legally married to someone else and is waiting for the divorce to come through) and on our way to that appointment, Sister De Jesus started talking to someone who was golden. She let us come to her house after our appointment with Paulo and Andrea and teach her. She has been looking for something for a long time. She's a single parent of 2 young adults. She decided all on her own recently to stop drinking and smoking and to live the law of chastity. she has been trying to learn about the bible and attending a variety of churches. and she has great faith in Christ. When we taught her about the first vision and invited her to pray if Joseph Smith was a prophet of God she said she would. And she asked us to write down his name so she wouldn't forget. She was really excited to come to church with us. It made Monday a great day. And that bit of magic did not come from any other work that we had done. All of the rest of our work got us nowhere... except it put us in the right place at the right time to talk to Beth (pronounced betchie). I'll keep you updated.

5. Walking makes my feet hurt. But if you pray for your blisters they get better. But your feet still hurt because you're wearing Sunday shoes and not chacos. :)

Love,

Sister Whitney

Sister De Jesus and Sister Todd


Sister De Jesus April 2008


Claudia and Lev - April 2008


The Passage April 2008


Sunday, November 30, 2008

April 8, 2008

Dear Family:

I'm in the mission!! And guess where my first area is? THE BEACH! It is absolutely gorgeous. Especially after being trapped in the CTM for 9 weeks. It was really hard to say goodbye to my district and my compies. I'm worried about them. But I've just got to have some faith. They'll learn. I feel so blessed to have so much language experience behind me. My first few weeks will include a lot fewer tears than the rest of them, I think. I can understand my companion almost always. And so far (the first 5 hours) she seems awesome. She's only been on her mission since November. That's four months. She went from being a Junior Companion to training an American. She says she was so nervous that she woke up at 4 am and couldn't go back to sleep... I slept like a baby last night... but when I woke up I couldn't eat anything and felt like I was going to vomit for a number of hours... So here's how it went down. Sister Tittelfitz and I bade farewell to our dear Sister Martin at 7:15 am and then showered and finished packing and caught our van at 8:15. We went straight to our mission. There were 7 new Americans and 8 new Brazileiros. We arrived at the chapel closest to the mission home at 10ish. We were briefed by the assistant to the mission president. Normally we would've met our mission president... but he was out of the country. I don't know if you attended General Conference or not, but my mission president was called to be a Seventy. In the First Quorum of the Seventy. So he's still in Salt Lake. I'll meet him someday... I think. So we just heard mission stories from some elders, met our new compies, ate lunch, and headed out.

My new compy is lovely. Her name is Sister De Jesus. She's from the Northeast of Brazil and has 14 brothers and sisters... not all from the same parents. and 30-something nieces and nephews. She's the youngest. She's been a member for 7 years and is the only member in her family.So, heading out entailed dragging our maletas (suitcases) along sidewalks and down some stairs to the subway--which is beautifully maintained and looks like the DC metro--and riding the subway to the end of the line. Dragging our maletas up lots more stairs, buying a 15 $R bus ticket, and riding a bus for an hour and a half. Possibly the most beautiful hour and a half of my life. We passed through some city... with houses stacked up on top of each other... but then we passed into beautiful green-coated hills. There is a small mountain ridge between São Paulo and the coast, so we went over these mountains to get here. It was all foggy and georgeous. You could see down into these gorges that were full of trees... everything was covered in green. And then as we rounded the top of the ridge, you could see through the fog and down this mountain a glowing city. It is gorgeous. It was sunny in my town, so it was just glowing. I've never seen a more amazing vista. And as we passed into the town, all the houses were well maintained and colorful. And we got off the beach and walked along a sidewalk ON THE BEACH. If I had taken two steps to my right, I would've been in the sand. But that would be illegal. We're not allowed to be on the sand. But my compy's going to ask if we can go jogging on the beach for our morning exercises. So cross your fingers for me. She's all about health... and she's lost 10 kilos (22 pounds) since getting here... so I better start losing, too. I stayed even in the CTM, by the way. Which was a feat of strength.

My area is lovely. And we're going to visit some investigators in a few minutes. We have someone getting baptized on Saturday! And we're teaching 4-ish families... But apparently my area, although beautiful, is hard because people are more wealthy and less receptive. So we'll see how it goes. Wish me luck.My mission has a website, apparently : www.sulcesso.blogspot.com

Thanks for your recap of general conference talks. I don't know if this was the best general conference that ever happened, or if I was just more receptive... i bet it was a combination of the two. My Branch President suggested we go to conference with some specific questions in mind and promised that we'd find answers. And I did. It was amazing. I also asked for a reconfirmation that the organization of the church was true and that President Monson was a prophet. And it's amazing what you can get just for asking. Even if it's something that you should already know... you can still ask. And he's more than willing to answer you. I loved the solemn assembly. The spirit was so strong. And I loved how President Monson opened up even more so that we could all love him. It was perfect. And I got other answers to my questions, too. I could go on forever. But we have an appointment in 25 minutes. Crap. That's soon. I particularly loved the part of Elder Bednar's talk in which he said that members were full-time finders. I don't know if you noticed. You guys should take his challenge and find some people. Ready... Go!! Don't be afraid... It only hurts for a while. If I can do it in Portuguese, you can do it in English. I loved his whole talk on prayer... I am learning so much about prayer. I love it. And we're teaching two people about prayer tonight. It's a good thing I have a testimony of it.

Love you all,Sister Todd

April 2, 2008

Dear Family,

Thanks for sharing all your stories with me. I love hearing about everything... it reminds me that there is life out of the ctm. i think that's healthy. does kevin have his call yet? It is now my last p-day. The end is in sight. I probably won't be able to email next week because i'll be transferring and moving in and teaching people the gospel... so don't be concerned if you don't hear from me. but you might, so still write, kay? And I didn't actually send the letter that I told you about until last week... so it still might be a few days out. but it's coming!Last week we made a full exploration of the area that we can explore around the CTM: our district walked the perimeter. It was interesting to see all the different types of housing and stuff that's around. It really is quite different from the states. I'm excited to be out in it every day. But on our excursion, we ran into a farmer's market. it was full of delicious fruit. they cut us off pieces of sample mango. i love mango. it's my favorite. And there was this one booth where they were frying up these delicious pastery things with meat in them. at least they looked delicious. as soon as we finish emailing today we're going to go buy some. i'm excited. but as we rounded this booth a cop car came plowing into the field and the two cops jumped out of the car with their guns unholstered and arrested some young-ish kids... it was exciting. and it inspired a nightmare about how i was responsible for some innocent by-stander getting shot by cops because i was listening to music in a tennis court outside of the ctm at night... i rewired the lights in the tennis court to play music... and it was supposed to play it soft, but then it blasted it. and then cops came to arrest me, but they got the wrong person... dreams are crazy. i don't know why i'm sharing that. maybe because it's funny. and maybe because i've been having more bizarre dreams here than in the my entire life. i've also probably made my bed more times then in my entire life. and eaten the most rice and beans... and mopped the floor 8 times. that's another most, probably. fun stuff.

We went proselyting again this week. it was our best proselyting ever. we went to 'praza ramos' (if you want to say ramos right, the r is a glottal h sound and the a is super nasal so you basically have to honk out the ramos. try it. it's fun.) it had this big opera house and a park and a strip mall... and not very many people would talk to us, but we had some awesome conversations with people who were totally interested. it was great. our first positive contact was Alexandre. We talked to him for maybe 20 minutes. he said he used to be a drunk but finding christ had changed his life... but he was still looking for something more. we basically gave him an entire first discussion (the restoration) and he asked a lot of questions and we gave him a book of mormon and told him which parts to read and he even asked how he could get somebody to tell him more about it. i am so excited to be on the streets. if i were a real missionary, i could have set up a follow-up appointment right there! We even had some more awesome contacts. At one point we were all out of cards, but we still had a Book of Mormon left, and it's hard to make contacts without cards... because if they're not too interested, you don't want to give them your book of mormon, but you don't want to walk away without giving them something... so we said a prayer to find the right person. and then sister martin though we should cross this one street that we hadn't crossed before... and then the second or third person we tried to talk to was really interested. so we talked to him for a while. and then on our way back to the bus, this guy stopped us (amazing!) to ask us about our chuch. We answered some questions, but then we didn't have anything to give him cuz we'd given out all our stuff... so we asked him to wait while we dashed back to our elders at the bus to get a book of mormon and a card. And we went back and talked to him for a few minutes and then our teacher came up (because we were late for the bus) and got his address and phone number so the missionaries could come talk to him. So, to sum up, the Lord answers prayers. I love it.

Oh, one more thing. My comps had a kind of hard week last week. Sister Martin on Monday/Tuesday and Sister Tittelfitz on Friday/Saturday. Nothing serious... just the i've-been-in-the-ctm-my-whole-life-blues. So anyway, after some hard times, Sister Martin opened up with some of the things that she had worked through and it was exactly what Sister Tittelfitz needed to hear. And what I needed to hear too... It basically amounted to whenever you most don't want to work is when you have to work hardest. because those feelings of laziness and ornery-ness are really, trully from the devil. and you have to exorcize him. by working. so because we were all ornery and lazy, we have now enacted a stringent schedule of memorization and hard work this week. and it's really made a difference. so being a good companion sometimes means laying down the law and sometimes means being supportive... and it takes spiritual guidance to know when to do what and how to be a good companion. i am excited to have new companions and work with them and learn from them. it's awesome how companionships are awesome. Awesome.I love this work and the gospel.

I love you all.whitney

March 26, 2008

I have eight minutes to write today... I want to take advantageof it... I've been singing a lot in the MTC. We have a choir sing in the devotionals on Sunday and Tuesday, and we practice the hour before the devotional for the song we're going to sing that day. One day at dinner the choir director came up to me and told me he'd like me to sing one verse of the song as a solo. So the choir sang averse and then I sang a verse and then the choir sang another verse. It wasa little bit terrifying seeing as how I didn't have any practice time...but it was still fun. I do love singing. But I don't always love the awkward attention of having everybody recognize you in the halls for a couple days... but that was a while back. It all blew over pretty quickly.My entire district is pretty musical. We sing in our district at least 4hymns a day... often more. It's really fun cuz we're accappella andeverybody's singing a lot of parts. And there's always Elder Hancock the opera major making it pretty even if no one else knows the song well enoughto sing parts. it's a good time. we prepared a special musical number forsacrament meeting once. we sang Lead Kindly Light in four parts accappella and the second verse me and elder hancock sang sop and tenor while everyoneelse oohed their parts. and then the guys sang half a verse. and then thesisters sang a line. and then we all came together for the grand finale. itwas quite a performance for 9 randomly selected missionaries with noprerequisites for musical genious. it's fun.i also spoke in sacrament meeting on sunday. it was on the ressurrection so i talked about how our purpose as missionaries is to teach and preach of christ. i quoted the first little part of that talk you sent me. Then I talked about how the book of mormon andbible work together to testify of christ and how much my testimony of thathas grown. and then i talked about how the sting of death is swallowed upin Christ (1 corinthians 15:21-22 and mosiah 16:7-10) Abinidi and Paultestifying the same amazing thing--different time periods. one before andone after christ. And now we get to share that message with the world. Ilove my Savior and I love the scriptures.That's my ten minutes. I'll be more interesting when I get in the field anddon't do the same thing with the same people every day of my life for aslong as i can remember. 13 days!

Love you. Thanks for writing. I love hearing from you always.Whitney

Mum,

Thanks for sharing your scripture study. I wrote down the scriptures youloved and i'm gonna read them today.Easter in the CTM was pretty great.

I had to speak in Sacrament. A three minute talk. Every week here we're given a talk and we're all supposed tohave a ten minute talk prepared and be ready to condense it into 3 minutes.And then for Sacrament Meeting, the Branch President gets up and just callsrandom missionaries. And you have to talk. So I've prepared some talkswhile I've been here. And Sunday I finally got asked to speak. It's ourlast speaking sunday in the MTC because next week is fast sunday and theweek after that is general conference and then we're out (i still have onemore P-day after this...)

So sacrament was good. But Relief Society was incredible. I love being here, because teachers can just open it up fordiscussion, and people actually discuss. And they say awesome things. TheMTC president's wife gave the lesson on the atonement. And then told thishear-wrenching story about her granddaughter who died of cancer at the ageof 9. And before she died she asked her Mom how she would feel if she wentto see Jesus and her mom said that she'd be okay if she just came back tolet her mom know that she was okay. And the girl said "good, because I'm soexcited to meet him." And then people just shared spiritual experienceswhen they really understood the atonement. And at the end we watched this10 minute slide show of paintings of christ's life set to this wonderfulmusic. It was really powerful. The spirit in the MTC is incredible. Youguys should look for this one picture that I've never seen before. Maybeyou know all about it, but it was Mary teaching Christ how to pray. He wasmaybe 5 and he was kneeling over her lap. Can you even imagine teachingChrist to pray? There were a bunch of pictures of women interacting withChrist. And his love for them. And theirs for him. That was reallytouching to me. And after chuch we just got a lot of chocolate. There was amassive ice cream bar with lots of toppings in the cafeteria. I ate myweight in chocolate ice cream and chocolate syrup and nuts and sprinkles.It was awesome. And apparently the easter tradition in Brazil is to eatfish. So we ate fish.I wish I had more things to write about... life is pretty much the sameevery day... that'll change soon enough though! 13 days till I'm a reallymissionary! I'm terrified and really excited all at the same time.

Love and Miss you,Whitney