Friday, February 16, 2018

Just Talk To Everyone

Hi Everyone,

Another year, another sketchy carnival here in Brazil. Nothing drastic, just people running around a little more drunk and nude than usual! The real party only happens in the big cities, like Rio de Janeiro. I don’t know if I ever mentioned this, but all Brazilians seem to discriminate against the northeast of Brazil. It is known for being very poor, extremely hot, and the only good thing they have to say about the northeast is that the beaches are nice; which as missionaries doesn’t do us any good, haha. Even the “Paulistas” (sister missionaries from Sao Paolo) try to convince all of us Americans that where they live isn’t like this. Brazil is so enormous that every state is basically like another country with their own customs, so they go through somewhat of a culture shock because people here do whatever they want, haha.

This week our electricity went out, so for many days and nights nobody slept very well, not having a fan to keep cool and keep away the mosquitoes. I may or may not have taken a shower twice in the middle of the night! After a few days, an irmão from church got a desperate call from the sisters pleading dramatically to check it out. Long story short, someone had opened our electrical box outside and had cut the lines! It was done on purpose too!

But this week has been really fun and interesting. We had a leadership council in Teresina, and it is always such a spiritual experience. I always leave just feeling so pumped and excited to work even more! One of my favorite things to do is make contacts. I love just walking up to people and trying to find ways to get to know them or talk to them about the gospel, and have them feel the Spirit in those split seconds. Our taxi driver in Teresina now wants his daughter to also serve a mission like us. The woman at the bus station who was worried if they would let her take her dog with her, now knows about temples and realized that she lives within 5 minutes of one in Recife! One man started talking to us about Donald Trump, but we turned it into a conversation about religious freedom in the 1800s in America. We even recited the First Vision to him and taught him about The Book of Mormon. It is so cool! Truly I have learned how to turn any topic into a gospel principle. I love just being real and authentic with these people, but also just talking to anyone and everyone, and I love having an excuse as a missionary! We are allowed to be annoying and talk to people in whatever moment! I never want to take off this missionary badge (even though I know the power is not in the badge). I am just putting my parents’ nickname (#ChattyKathy) to good use here, and we are just really opening our mouths, and the Spirit helps us make each contact unique … unique to the specific needs of each person. I love missionary work!

Love you all!

Sister Vance

Monday, February 5, 2018

You Cannot Do Wrong and Feel Right

Hi Everyone,

Sister Freeman and I both have our first American companions, and we are just loving life. I must admit that I am feeling a little bit old right now, because I live with sisters that have only a few months in the mission. As I hit my 15 month mark this past week, I was feeling a bit like, “where in the world has all the time gone?” Once again, I swear that time in the mission goes by way faster than in “real life”.

On Sunday, Mauricelio bore his super strong and solid testimony in church. He just nailed it! But the best part was that I was able to be hear his testimony so many times when he made visits with us. We visited one “irma” named Cristina, and we have been working to get her to church, but she suffers from depression. Through the testimony of Mauricelio and the Spirit, when we passed by on Sunday morning, she was all ready to go! Miracles! We visited others, and each visit we made with Mauricelio, the people we invited were at church on Sunday! Members truly have so much power and are an essential part of missionary work.

This past week we were teaching about the gospel of Jesus Christ – more specifically about faith and repentance. In a lesson with Flavia, I was in the middle of explaining the importance of repentance, when the Spirit reminded me of a story I have long forgotten. I shared with her an experience I had during my rebellious adolescent, pre-teen years. I was doing something I should not have been doing, and I remember that I woke up one night looking for my cell phone on the bedside dresser. But I realized that it had been replaced by a refrigerator magnet that my dad left for me. It read, “You cannot do wrong and feel right”. That was like a smack in the face – but one that was needed and very true. If I remember correctly, I think I even had the audacity to go and ask him where my phone was, which surely led to another one of those frequent PPIs (personal priesthood interviews), haha. I remember his office all too well, because I spent a lot of time in it.

Anyway, I am so grateful that the Spirit brought that back to my remembrance, because that kitchen magnet is the truest thing ever. My companion and I were able to testify that repentance really is always positive; that only through repentance and righteousness can we experience JOY. Joy is the gift that comes from intentionally trying to live a righteous life. I know that any unrighteous person or worldly thing may experience any number of emotions or sensations in this life, but they will never know joy. Truly, truly … wickedness never was happiness, but I am so grateful I know that God’s greatest gift to us is the joy of trying again … repenting. Because no failure ever need be final.

Last week we met with another investigator, Jean, who we returned to teach again after a couple months break. He almost didn’t want to meet with us, because he was embarrassed of his weakness for drug use, and for not completing the invitations we gave him. But we returned, and read the parable of the Prodigal Son. As we read, we discussed the thoughts that most likely went through his head as he was preparing to go home and face his father … knowing these were some of Jean’s thoughts as well. These were thoughts of shame and embarrassment; even suicidal thoughts. As we read, I couldn’t help but get emotional. I felt the story applying not only to Jean, but to me as well. I know that repentance both puts us on the right path and keeps us there. I love the opportunity to repent, and am so grateful to my Savior for that opportunity. I am thankful not to be lost anymore, and I know “that the thing which will be of the most worth unto (me) will be to declare repentance unto this people, that (I) may bring souls unto (God), that (I) may rest with them in the kingdom of my Father” (D&C 16:6). I love that, my mission scripture, and I still have a ton of work to do!

Love you all!

Sister Vance

Wednesday, January 31, 2018

Staying in Sobral

Hello Family & Friends,

Last week we had the baptism of Mauricelio and, of course, as Satan always tries to disrupt, the power went out in the church. But that didn't stop or ruin anything! After the baptism, we asked Mauricelio how he felt, and he said, "Different". He was so happy and he is a powerhouse! I am already saying that he will be Elder M. Silva when he goes on his mission!

This week an amiga offered me what looked like a raisin, and she thought it was cute to inform me only after I ate it that it was rear-end of a giant exotic ant here! Apparently, it is really expensive, haha. This past week I was sung, “Happy Birthday” at least 30 times. It still feels awkward and I always think, “should I sing along or just dance a little with my arms or hands, or just stay quiet with that uncomfortable smile on my face?” Either way, it’s a struggle, but these members are precious. I think I felt most loved when, after telling one Irma that I was totally full, she tried to stuff dessert down my throat. I started screaming/crying and then was choking and laughing … she was way too determined!

I may or may not have prayed for rain on my birthday, just hoping that God would have mercy on me during my special day, to give me a break from the heat and the hot sun. He came through … woohoo! Another 6 weeks is up and it’s transfer time again. I will be staying in Sobral, but my lovely companion will be transferred two hours away, but still in the same district. So I will see her every week, and as a Sister Training Leader will get to talk to her on the phone every night to check in. I was so happy about this because it is her last transfer before she goes home. We have been living together and/or companions for 13 months! She saw me start my mission in the field and I will be with her to the end of her mission. I love Sister Lucas so much!

I am so happy to be here in Sobral, and I know that this is exactly where I should be! There are just so many things in my head and so many things that we still need to do here; and I am just so happy that we are always so busy! I love Brazil and we are seeing so many miracles in our ward. Our bishop said that my companion and I are the perfect companionship, and that the best time of missionary work in the ward has been now with us sisters. He hopes that President Melo keeps receiving inspiration to keep sisters here! Woohoo!

Love you all!

Sister Vance

Wednesday, January 24, 2018

Called of God

Hi Everyone,

First things first, I’m done being 20! None of you have seen me when I was 20 … haha, you missed out! Just kidding, nothing has changed; I refuse to get old! But it is kind of weird that I am growing up … life is complicated that way.

When we were in church this past Sunday, one of the sister missionaries started passing out and fainting, because she took medicine for her knee without eating anything, even though I told her that she needed to eat something. Anyway, the irmas in the ward were going nuts and we live on the same street as the church, so they helped her walk back to our house and I was nervous trying to call for Sister Melo. My companion and I were waiting at the door of our house to help her in the rest of the way, because members can’t enter our house. But then we went to walk her back to her room and I looked back and there were literally 12 irmas following behind us, all worried. They started opening our fridge saying that she needed to eat something and then they got all concerned when they opened it, because it was basically bare, except for a lemon and an orange, haha. Anyway, long story short, it was the biggest hassle carefully trying to usher them out and now the whole ward thinks that we go hungry and don't have anything to eat. I was dying.

This past week two of the sisters were sick, so Sister Johnson (the new American) and I were companions for most of the week. She speaks well for so little time here, but she is still in training. It was interesting to be hitting the streets with another gringa because I have never had an American companion!

Last week we watched the broadcast of Russell M. Nelson, and it was so cool to really feel the confirmation that he is called of God to be our prophet. I loved how he talked so much about missionaries and even about the church here in Brazil! Woohoo! I am so lucky to be a part of this work here!

I love you all, and I am grateful for this life I have been given for these 21years, to grow and to have each one of you be a part of it!

Love you!

Sister Vance

- Photo #1 - This is Mauricelio, our "eleito" investigator, at church for the 3rd week in a row!

- Photo #2 - This is the cutest girl from Mozambique, Africa that my friend sent to me for my birthday, because he knows that I am crazy obsessed with African children! So adorable!

Tuesday, January 16, 2018

Tudo Vai Dar Certo

Hi Everyone,

This past week we had exchanges with the other sisters up in the mountains in Tiangua. We are usually so excited for these exchanges because it’s chilly up there, and there is hot water to take showers! But with our luck, we got there when the water stopped working. So another week, another few bucket showers! Haha, life is a struggle.

Maurcelio is still so awesome and was back at church with us this week, attended a baptism, and attended a youth activity. He says that every time he enters the church his excitement and desire to be a member and get baptized grows! His countenance has changed so much. I will never forget when we contacted him and talked about the love that Heavenly Father has for him. He looked up at us and asked, "I'm important to him?" He is truly discovering now for himself all the God has in store for him. He always says the most shocking things; I would just like to take a minute to quote him right now.

Maurcelio: “My friends looked at me today and said that something was different about me. I told them that I am becoming a Mormon. They started laughing in my face and said that they will give me two months before I become inactive, and that they won't be friends with me anymore. I responded that, ‘it doesn’t matter if I lose you guys, because I will have Jesus Christ’”.

Maurcelio: “When you guys started walking towards me, I thought you were Jehovah’s Witness and I almost got up and started running, but God held me down. Haha, and I am so glad He did because I have never felt happier in my life”.

Maurcelio: "Serving a mission is something that I would be interested in.”

I can't even write or describe all the comments that he makes, but most of the time I just want to sprawl on the ground during the lessons because it just seems too good to be true! This kid is awesome and will be a powerhouse for sure! He will be baptized on the 27th!

This week we had companionship inventory, when we talk about our relationship with our companion and what we can do to be better. My companion, who I have known for my whole mission, looked at me and told me that she knows me well. But at the same time she feels like she doesn't know me because she says in all situations I act the same! She said she never knows if I am mad, sad or annoyed … because I am always the same. She said, “you will make a comment like, ‘man, that guy was rude’ but with a smile on your face!" Haha, I started laughing so hard because I told her that in the mission I feel like I have been in the same mood for the past year! I have just been blessed with an attitude of "tudo vai dar certo", or everything will be alright. When life is a struggle here, it just always is funny to me, and I just ALWAYS feel happy. I know that I only feel this way because I am striving to truly consecrate my life and while I am doing that, my difficulties fade away and the world just seems so much brighter and so much more hopeful. I love this work! The key to happiness is found in LIVING THE GOSPEL!

Love you!

Sister Vance

Friday, January 12, 2018

"We Touched His Heart"

Family and Friends,Family and Friends,Family and Friends,

We started talking to a guy this week that was in the streets and he explained that he was an alcoholic because his wife died. There was still some alcohol in the bottle and we told him to "throw it out". Then he said, "okay, … no, I am going to throw it IN", and just went to chug the rest of it. Then the wind picked up and blew the alcohol right into my face and mouth! When someone asks me in the future about what my experience with alcohol was like, at least I will have a good story to tell! I was dying laughing and was using my hand sanitizer as mouthwash! Haha!

On a sad note, one of our investigators passed away this week. His name was Raimundo and he was married to Luzia. They have been going to church with us and had a baptism date for this past Saturday. His blood pressure ran high and he had 3 strokes and then went into coma in the hospital. But they didn't have room for him in the unit that he needed. It was all so sudden and such a shock to us. We have been teaching them for about two months. But as sad as it was, my testimony kicked in and we had powerful, spiritual lessons about temples and how Luzia can have the opportunity to be sealed with him for time and all eternity. I would try to explain more, but I can't put it into words how special these moments were for us, testifying as his whole family was there listening to us and the Spirit that was present. His kids were shocked that he had been attending church with us because for all of his life he had refused to attend. They all started crying as they heard that when we contacted him in front of his house and talked about the plan of salvation, that HE was the one that accepted our messages and asked us to teach him and his wife, because "what we said touched his heart". I have no doubt that another set of missionaries in the spirit world are finishing our work.

Maurceilio is an 18 year old boy that we contacted sitting in the road, and then when we went to teach him in his house realized that we had already knocked on his door! But the Lord has given us and him another chance to meet! He accepted the invitation to be baptized on the 27th and was at church on Sunday! His aunt, when she saw that he was reading the BOM, said a ton of bad things about our church and even said that we don't like black people … lies. He told us that, "I shut her up and said that, in fact, one of the missionaries that visited me is black, so you're wrong". Wow! My companion and I were just ecstatic because he is already defending the church! Investigators usually get disinterested when someone starts making things up like that about our church There are so many miracles and so many changes in the lives of so many here; and in my own life as well!

Love you!

Sister Vance

p.s. Raimundo looks like a mad grumpy man in this photo, but he is the sweetest man ever!

Thursday, January 4, 2018

The Keystone of Our Religion

Happy New Year Everyone,

I can't believe 2017 is over; it was a great year filled with so many things! When I think back, I will always remember 2017 as the year I was a missionary for the entire year!

This week was so, so busy. Christmas night my companion and I traveled to Teresina for the leadership council, but we had to travel a day earlier because of the holidays. I won't lie, I wasn’t upset about it one bit, because I had the opportunity to visit my old area! It was cool because I showed up at Irmao Batisita’s and he started crying and said that he had been thinking about me that afternoon. We drank his specialty, mango juice, and I left with my mouth hurting because I was smiling so much. We also visited Irmao Gerry, a recent convert, and we went in to say hi to his mom, who I had had a few interactions with when I was there. She is very Catholic, but is grateful that we helped Gerry, and always offered food for us, but was never interested in the church. We walked in to surprise her, not thinking much of it, and when she saw us she buried her hands in her face and burst in to tears. We hugged her and then she explained that she had left her house in the hot sun many days, walking in the roads, looking for us and she had just missed us so much! I was shocked … I thought this women wouldn't even remember us. It was such a testimony builder to me of the work we are doing here. Sometimes we feel like we don't make a difference, and then go back and realize that these people are changed, and their hearts are softened through the work we do.

This week we also had zone conference, and we talked a ton about the Book of Mormon and the power that it has. It is the most powerful tool we have to bring us closer to Christ. I LOVE THAT BOOK. I have really come to realize how confused people are without the Book of Mormon. Churches that only use the Bible don’t have the complete answers about the Plan of Salvation and so many other things; we need them both … the Bible AND the Book of Mormon! Who wants to complain about God talking MORE to us through the Book of Mormon? Not me! Anyway, I could talk all day about that book, but let’s just leave it at this … it is the greatest!!!

One last thing … Irmao Barretto was baptized and married! Woohhoo!

Love you all,

Sister Vance