Tuesday, December 5, 2017

Family and Friends,

This past week went by so fast! We had zone conference with President Melo and his wife and, as usual, it was so inspiring! Earlier in the week, we ate lunch at an older irma’s house and she made us such good food, but then said she was going to take a shower and asked us if it would be okay. We obviously responded that it was, until we realized that the shower was in the kitchen, so we had dinner AND A SHOW! The things we see here are hilarious.

We taught Irma Virlene this week, and we have been working with her for a couple weeks now. She is the mom of a little boy and lives with a man that uses drugs. She suffers and wants God to help her. She reads the Book of Mormon daily, and loves going to church. In order to be baptized, she can't be living with a man unmarried. We have cried with her and tried so many things. She prays and tells us that she wants God to change her life. This week she received an invitation to go to Sao Paulo to live with her mom, but she said the house there is small and some other things. In the last lesson, she said "I just want God to set me free to change my life, and take me somewhere far from here." I just told her, "Irma, far away is Sao Paulo! He is offering you this right now!” It just is really hard as missionaries sometimes, because we see the way that God is opening doors for these people, but they aren't willing to walk through and recognize that God works in simple ways. They want their lives to change without exercising their agency, and they want God to do all the work! It doesn't work that way folks! I liked what President Melo said this week; "the blessings or miracles come after the trial/test of your faith. And what is a trial or a test? It’s work; it’s your own effort.”

Tuesday was the craziest day ever! We had an appointment set with a young guy named Wesley, and we were so pumped for this lesson. We planned out perfectly how the lesson would go. We were teaching about the Restoration and it was going so well (we were teaching him in the house of a recent convert), and right after that we taught him about the First Vision. The mom of the recent convert busted in and interrupted us, and just started yelling a ton of things that weren't true about the Church. We answered some of her fire and the doubts that she had, but the Spirit was already gone so fast, so we wrapped up the lesson and left. My companion and I were raging a bit walking down the streets, upset about what had just happened. Then, to top it all off, as we left we realized that our skirts were both soaked, because the kid that was jumping all over on the couch peed all over us. I was just thinking, “come on”, you have GOT to be kidding me! Haha, these things only happen to me, I swear! Anyway, my companion and I started murmuring like Laman and Lemual … about how back in those days missionary work was so different. People always saw huge miracles and people would have these spectacular dreams and revelations. That afternoon we were walking to an appointment, and the woman was in her house asleep, so that fell through. But if you have been reading my blogs, do you remember Neide? She is the woman that was super Catholic, and we contacted her and it was the wrong house but she started crying because she was really needing the message? We had returned a couple times, but she was never home. As we were walking back that day, I saw her sliding into her house and I just yelled "IRMÃ!!" She turned around with the biggest smile on her face. She welcomed us in and sat us down and told us that the two huge family problems that she was having were completely resolved (her son who left his wife returned home, and her depressed daughter that wouldn't talk to her invited her over). She said that when these things happened, she had felt right away in her heart that we were REALLY praying for her. She tried to track us down at the church one Saturday night but we weren't there, and then that night she had a dream with us in it. We had come back and were at her door in her dream, and when she woke up she knew that God would touch our hearts and bring us back into her life. I almost fell out of my chair! I wanted to scream and cry at the same time. We had an awesome spiritual lesson with her and she accepted the invitation to be baptized, but she needs to get married first. When we tried to set a date for December 23rd, she heard the 3rd of December by mistake, and even accepted that date. I love her so much. I am so thankful for the Lord’s involvement in the small details of our lives. It was as if He was saying to me, "don't forget how involved I am in MY work; I’ve got my fingerprints all over it." This story has touched my heart … miracles still exist, even and especially in times like today. I love this work; it’s addicting!

Love you all!

Sister Vance

Friday, December 1, 2017

Working and Running for Miracles

Family and Friends,

This past week was one where is seems EVERYTHING happens, and it made for such spiritual and funny week. We went to Tiangua for divisions with the sisters, and as sister training leaders we are supposed to be examples and help them with training, etc. But this area is up in the mountains, and we got to travel there and it was so chilly! I was so happy about that, and we even had warm water to take showers. My companion and I were dying from happiness. Anyway, I was with Sister Frietas and it is basically a rule of the universe that something strange always happens during the division. There was an old man that we were talking to and out of nowhere he just started yelling, and then was totally hitting on us and he asked me to talk to him with my eyes closed because he couldn't handle looking into my blue eyes. Haha, he said so many other things that are written in my journal that made me cry from laughing. Then to make things worse, my skirt totally flew up in the air because of the wind and he just screamed "ahhhh, your legs are so beautiful!" Haha, we left shortly after. But my favorite moment was when we were walking home and we saw a man sitting on a bench, and Sister Frietas looked at me and said, “Sister Vance, I feel like we should talk to that man, but I want you to make the contact”. I accepted, and as I walked toward him, I was feeling pressure and trying to be prepared to finish off the day by having an example of a good contact. I said hello to the 25-year-old guy, and then reached for his hand that was closed on his lap. He opened his hand and I jumped back and let out a scream! I had come face to face with “Wolverine”! He had yellow fingernails, the size of rulers! I then apologized, and was still giggling, but was also so scared and I shook his hand and his nails passed on my arm. I apologized but couldn't talk anymore because I was still in a state of shock. My companion finished the contact and then we walked away. It wasn't so much the nails that creeped me out, but it was that it was so unexpected and he opened his hand so fast and it literally looked like “Wolverine”! Anyway, I was dying and wasn't the best example, but come on, it was ridiculous! But the day was filled with miracles as well, and we set four baptism dates that day! Truly miracles!

This past week my companion and I started going hard on exercises, and we got a little too excited about it and a little carried away. Because of it, the next two days we looked like weirdos limping around while proselyting, haha.

This week we had two divisions and Sunday rolled around and we weren't even close to the goals we had set for the week. We were lacking 11 new investigators. Sunday is also the worst day for missionary work because everyone just stays inside and is feeling lazy or hungover. Sister Lucas and I just went to work … and we started running! Haha, we said that we wouldn't come home until we completed our goal. We prayed and prayed … and miracles started appearing everywhere! We found 12 new people to teach on Sunday. It was awesome and there is truly no better feeling here in the field than when you are walking home and you can't even think or hardly walk anymore because you just worked and talked to everyone. It was just awesome. I am so grateful to know, not only how important faith is, but how crucial our works and efforts are in God’s plan. Sometimes we want things so badly and ask Heavenly Father to work miracles in our lives, but we aren't willing to work for it and do our part. But if we combine our work and power, with the overwhelming love and power of the Lord’s, we are unstoppable!

Have a great week and I hope Thanksgiving was awesome! We ate pancakes and dipped them in the drops of maple that an elder gave us. Haha, it was perfect!

Love you all!

Sister Vance

Monday, November 20, 2017

Buckets of Blessings

Hi Everyone,

I hardly have energy to type this right now, because I never feel like my words do my experiences justice! But I am loving Sobral. I love it here because it has been the first time in a year that I have seen mountains; they are so beautiful. I must confess that two times this week I got ready to go proselyting and my companion looked at me and said, “I am not going to go outside with you dressed like that!” Haha, I know I am a representative of Christ and all, but I have just lost all motivation and I just throw on whatever skirt that is the least hot and walk out the door. I just started laughing so hard. It has been hilarious how I just don't care anymore and it’s too hot here to even care! I am grateful for my companion, we are such good friends.

This past week we asked a member to make visits with us and she called us and asked if she could bring her 17 year-old friend along with her. We told her sure, of course, and we came to find out that her friend wasn't even a member! Haha, it was the coolest thing because our first lesson we taught was the Plan of Salvation, and the second lesson was on the Restoration. When we would leave every lesson she just was so curious and asked questions and became so interested in the gospel. She went to church the next day; it was a first here on the mission, but it was so cool!

My companion and I were praying together last week, and while we prayed, we specifically asked to be an answer to someone’s prayer that day. It is the hope and wish of every missionary, every day, but something felt different that day as we specifically asked. That day we ran into so many people that, when we talked and before we left, said that we were an answer to their prayers, and every time it touched my heart to know that our prayers were answered as well.

It was cute because Sister Johnson is new here, and is asking me a bunch of tips about things. It’s just funny because she asks and a lot of my answers are so not helpful because I just say, “give it time, have patience and everything will start to change for the better”. I got to thinking and I am so grateful that I had to learn a new language, and even a new culture, because I have had to learn so, so, so much patience. I have learned to just be positive in the moment, with hope for the future … it makes all the difference. So many things to say and so little time … I simply love you all and wish you a Happy Thanksgiving (we don't celebrate it here, but I am still remembering to be grateful every day for all that I have been given). Be thankful for running water because the water went out again this morning and we are back to bucket showers! Hahaha … I love my mission.

Love you all!

Sister Vance

Tuesday, November 14, 2017

It Was Actually the Right House

Hi Everyone,

This week has been so fun. I am with Sister Lucas, who is awesome, and we have already knew each other as we lived together for 6 months earlier in my mission! It has been fun because a new American sister missionary arrived this week, Sister Johnson! She is so cute, and it has brought me back to how it was my first couple weeks in the field.

For the past two weeks the house has been out of water, so on Sister Johnson’s first day she had the privilege of taking a buckets shower! Haha, I felt so bad for her, but I must say that my hair never looked better than after the bucket shower. I recommend it, seriously. She looked at me and asked me how long it took me to get accustomed to life here. I asked, "Oh the language?" and she said no, everything! I started laughing because I forget how different it is here. But it’s been fun speaking a little English with her; usually I start in English and then the end of the sentence comes out Portuguese.

This week we were walking home from a baptismal interview with the elders and, as we were saying goodbye in front of our house. We turned and, right in front of us in the intersection, a motorcycle came speeding and a car came speeding from the other direction and just nailed the motorcyclist. He flipped about 5 times in the air and landed on the curb right in front of us. He started seizing for about 15 seconds and then just stopped, like he was dead, and I bent over and almost threw up because I was so nervous and couldn’t do anything. Because you can't ask them to get up or anything when they have had a serious injury you just have to leave them laying there to not cause more damage. It was just us in the road and two other people. I just froze and my companion and I got so freaked out. The other people called an ambulance and we had to run into the church on the corner to grab an irmao that was a doctor. The ambulance took about 15 minutes to come, and my goodness it was traumatic. These people aren’t even careful with motorcycles. They ride with flip flops with their whole family on the back. It was so freaky because death just looked like it was so easy, so fast, and could happen at any moment. It just struck me that anyone can die at any moment. My companion and I could hardly sleep that night and just felt so sick to our stomachs. But we included him and his family in our prayers. I hope he is alright.

Last Monday I said goodbye to the city of Bacuri, and it just hit me hard that I would never really see them again. I love that place. We had a family home evening and I was able to say goodbye to a lot of people. Agosto and Daniele, who were less active, and we baptized their nephew, came as well. We bought them white business shirts to use in church to be able to pass the sacrament. It was so cute because Irmao Agosto started crying as I was bearing my testimony and then said, "I didn’t even cry when the elder that baptized me was transferred. I love Sister Vance, she never seems to have a difficult day." He said a lot of things but that just shocked me, because I was thinking wow, I DO have difficult days. But the mission has taught me to turn out and to not think about my own problems and difficulties. It hit me hard when he said that, and I started to cry as well. But before I left, I gave a pep talk to each one telling them to always stay firm and help Adrianno go on a mission in a few short years. I was sad, but at the same time my excitement and my determination grows with every goodbye I say to people that have touched my life. One day I will make it to the celestial kingdom with each one of them. I am determined, and I know with each area and people that I meet, my kingdom is being more and more prepared, and one day when we all return, it will be a place so much happier with ALL the people that I hold dear to my heart!

Everaldo was baptized and was just so happy! My favorite part of the baptism was when one member came up to us and said, "do you both know that I worked with Everaldo for 15 years and I never imagined that one day he would be baptized?" That hit me hard, as I realized that we can’t and aren’t allowed to judge or question who will accept the gospel, because Christ works miracles in the lives of so many.

My favorite thing that happened this week was one contact that we made. It was with a woman and we clapped at her door and asked her about her daughter and said we had received a referral for her. It turns out it was the wrong house and she was a little cold with us, and said straightforward that she is Catholic. She was eyeing our name tags hardcore and really suspicious. We started to talk to her and she got a little more comfortable and we asked about her family. She started talking about her daughter and the problems she has in her life. She started rambling a bit and we were losing a bit of the topic. My companion spoke a bit, and I thought that maybe it would be good if I testified, but something just told me to be quiet and to just listen. She talked and talked … and we listened and listened. Then, at the right moment, I just started to testify … not teach about the plan of salvation, but just testify about the things that I know. I testified that we are daughters of a living Heavenly Father and that He has a plan for us and all our difficulties. She just started to bawl. She asked us if we could come back another day and for asked for our phone number. As we hugged, she looked at me and said, "This morning I woke up happy, because God knew that I would receive this special visit.” My companion and I left with chills up and down our spines in the 100 degree weather. It was awesome.

The Spirit is working with us here and I am so grateful because I would be one hot mess of a missionary without it. I love this work, and I love my Savior more and more with each passing day. I am working hard to get to know Him better and be His hands here.

Love you all!

Sister Vance

Thursday, November 9, 2017

A Testimony Transformed

Family & Friends,

To my sincerest displeasure, I am being transferred! The tears have already been shed, because I am really sad about this one. Two transfers in one place just isn't enough. I will be transferred to another state here in Brazil; I will be going to Sobral, Ceara! My companion will be Sister Lucas, whom I love and it will be fun!

This week we had a celestial lesson with Tatiani, a young single mom. We taught her about the Plan of Salvation, and at the end of the lesson, we usually invite them to pray to know if EVERYTHING we taught was true. I felt inspired to say, "Tatiani, if you forget about Adam and Eve and what we taught about them, I won't even mad about it, I just want to leave here knowing that you know one thing … that your Heavenly Father loves YOU. We would like to invite you to pray today and just only ask Heavenly Father ‘do you love me?’” When I was saying these words, I just felt the love of HIM running through my bones. I felt the love that He has for me, but I just felt the overwhelming love that He has for her. We taught this on my one year mark of being on the mission, and my mind was drawn back to my patriarchal blessing, in the paragraph that talks about my mission, and how I am serving her to help people come to know the love that our Heavenly Father has for them. That moment was sacred to me.

This past week on was on exchanges with a new sister that is in training. President Melo called, and like every new missionary, she almost peed her pants answering the phone. She chatted with President Melo, and then the minute she hung up, just wiped out in the road in a huge mud pile. I asked her if she was okay before I laughed my head off, haha, (usually it is other way around, the biggest change I have had on my mission). One important fact that you all need to know is that here the sewers are open in the road, haha. I helped her up and started walking by her side. I just couldn’t take it! She was just rotting with the smell of raw sewage! I was just dying and I telling her I am sorry, I love you so much Sister, but walking next to you just isn't going to work right now. Every time the wind blew, I just got a huge fog in my face of that awful smell! It was hilarious.

We contacted a man in the streets and tried to talk to him about the church, and he tried to convince us that we aren't really Mormons. He looked at me, pointed his big finger in my face and said, "No, you are a Catholic". Haha, we tried to explain but he didn’t let us, so I shook his hand and said, "Senhor, have a good afternoon, and I’m not Catholic and neither is my companion, BYE!" Haha, it was crazy. Also we had two different days of exchanges with the new sisters. In their house they have a shower outside, of course knowing me, I was all for a good cold shower under the stars (don't worry had a wall)! Haha, come to find out the old granny that lives above made a comment, "oh, I see that you are liking the outdoor shower, eh?" Haha, I wanted to scream!

I was with Sister Semy during exchanges and we knocked on the door of an old investigator and she said that she probably wouldn’t be home because she never is. As she came to the door, I had the biggest déjà vu of the same situation. I walked into the house, eyes wide open, with just the strangest sensation. We started talking to her and she just started balling. We were able to help her … I know I am meeting and finding the people that are needing our message.

This past week was a little stressful; we had some problems to resolve with our zone and some sisters. Our hair is falling out and we were just really stressed this week. I have learned that I get more worried about how others are doing, and those that I am responsible for, than myself. As we were talking about some of the problems with the zone leaders, I was talking normal and then I just got really worried and stressed about the situation and didn’t know how I could help. I looked at them and said, getting choked up, "I don't know what to do, and I love these sisters so much and pray for them multiple times every day." I feel Christ expanding my heart to love so many people.

Fransica was at church again this week, and will be getting baptized. Unfortunately, I won’t be there to see it all go down. It was cute because, before we taught her about the Word of Wisdom, she looked at us and said that she would quit smoking because she wants to be baptized pure and feel pure. I know that in the gospel, when we truly are becoming converted, all of our decisions in life are based on what Jesus Christ would do. The right things to do just seem like the right things to do. She was talking to one irmao at church yesterday and he asked if Fransica was liking the messages and everything. She grabbed onto me and said, "I love this girl right here; up there in heaven when I am there I will search for her and thank her and tell everybody that she was the one that saved me." It was special experience for me and became even more special when I received the news that I will be transferred and won't be at the baptism. But that I was able to help my amazing friend Fransica. She is my favorite person! You all need to meet her.

This past week an inspired friend of mine wrote me an email. He asked me about how I was and what changes I have seen in myself this year. He asked so many profound questions that my head started spinning and this week was full of reflection. I can't even describe the ways I have changed because at this point I don't remember who I was before my mission. That person has become a stranger to me. My testimony hasn’t just grown, but it has been transformed. There is no going back now. I am obsessed and love my mission with all my heart. Sometimes my heart feels like it will burst, as there are too many things I want to say to describe my feelings, but I just don't have the words.

Love you all!

Sister Vance

Monday, October 30, 2017

Crazy in Brazil

Hi Everyone!

This week I will hit my year mark, and to be honest, the weird things have just become way too normal! I follow my companions around the house and I feel bad for them because they have to hear me talk nonstop, and usually at night we are chatting and then it is 10:30pm, lights out. It’s "goodnight companion, love ya’”, two minutes of silent me, then, "wait, just one more thing", and then I never stop talking, even in my sleep. Poor things.

The worst thing on the mission is when irmas give dessert that you don't even like, but you have to eat it, and you get fat from it.

After a year, I have officially forgotten how to walk like a normal person. My companion gets so mad at me because we aren't even in a rush sometimes and she's says, "Sister Vance, slow down … we don't need to be running right now!" Haha, then I realize that I am sprint-walking. The time has gone by so fast, because the season never changes here … it goes from summer to hot weather, summer, sometimes even hotter weather, and then boiling rain sometimes. I just feel like I have been here for one three month season … summer!

My favorite thing that happened this week was when Fransica (woman in the pictures from church last week) was in our Gospel Principles class. She is a little rough around the edges and has that rough smoker voice - but is an absolute angel! The class was about eternal marriage (a missionary’s favorite topic … NOT!), haha. She just started to understand about BEING SEALED and she blurts out, "wait, but my husband died before we were sealed, oh no, I lost my chance! Well, looks like I gotta go find me another man”! I just lost it. One of the speakers in sacrament meeting asked a rhetorical question in his talk; she knew the answer and just belted it out. I was so happy about it. Haha, she’s great.

Antonio is so awesome. We mark chapters for him in the Book of Mormon and he reads the same chapter 3 times to make sure he understands! That is completely unheard of here! Also, one morning during planning, my companion and I looked at each other and said, "Today let’s do something different, something exciting, and something CRAZY”! Haha we ended up going to the Centro and trying to contact people in different places. My favorite one was a woman who I passed and she was talking on the phone. I felt like I needed to talk with her, and so I chased (followed and maybe stalked) her for five blocks, and the minute she hung up I tried to talk to her. She looked at me, then looked away. I asked her what her name was; she heard me but gave me the HARD CORE IGNORE. I got uncomfortable, grabbed my companion and just said "run", haha. It was so funny because I just totally felt that I needed to talk to her and was so determined to baptize this woman, but that was the outcome! Haha, sometimes I feel like the Holy Ghost just messes with me and is trying to test me to see if I will be obedient. Or maybe one day when she tries to complain to God that she never had a chance to hear the gospel, I will be close by and remind her, "no, I CHASED AFTER YOU!" Life here is filled with crazy and sacred experiences, and I am so grateful for both.

Love you all!

Sister Vance

Monday, October 23, 2017

Families Can Be Together Forever

Hi Everyone!

This week I have officially hit some low points in my life. Haha, I can't believe I have stooped so low, but this past week I was eating lunch at a member’s house, having a good conversation, and I just kept eyeing the carpet rug they had. Then I just COULDN’T TAKE IT ANYMORE. I said, “Excuse me irmã, I have a favor to ask. Can I please just sprawl on your carpet right now; it’s been forever since I have felt carpet." I lost my dignity in that moment, but have never been happier. I am such an embarrassment, haha. We also saw a motorcycle accident yesterday … it was tense and scary as it ran into a car; and also last week a family was riding on a bike (a man, a woman and a baby) with no protection and a car hit them. They were okay, but needed to go to the hospital … I hate seeing these things!

My companion and I sang in sacrament meeting; yeah, you read that right. We have been discussing how we can help our ward, and one of the things was making sacrament meeting more spiritual. So we called the bishop and we just went for it. We were both a little nervous, our voices were a little shaky, but the 20 members that were there cried and thought it was the "prettiest thing they have ever heard, voices of angels and what not." We were happy to share our "talent", hoping that maybe God would improve on our talent, haha. Anyway, it was interesting but it was just funny, because in the mission I always feeling like I am throwing myself into situations like this, where I don’t know what I am doing or why, but I just know that I gotta go for it!

I am struggling a bit here with the heat recently. I have two fans blowing in my face at night but that just still doesn’t cut it. Last night, before going to bed and again in the middle of the night, I woke up and just chucked a huge bucket of cold water on my bed to be able to sleep. Also, and this is the worst part and my goodness I am embarrassed to admit this, but I keep a frozen popsicle in the freezer so that when I wake up in the middle of the night sweating I can open up the freezer and rub the popsicle up and down my arms and legs to cool off! Hahaha, I am so dumb but it is just so hot here!!!

Antonio came to church again and we are teaching his brother-in-law! Joã was being difficult and saying he was too tired to go to church, that it was his day off and so on, but we taught him about our Savior, and asked him what he was willing to do for the Savior. He responded by saying, “anything”. So I told him, okay, then we will see you at church tomorrow. He started laughing, but at 8:30am on Sunday he was there. Woohoo!

This week went by so fast and so many things happened. We had a family home evening with 4 families, and taught them how to have a family home evening, because for many of them it was their first. It was great as we talked about the importance of families. I was able to share some experiences of when I was a kid and how I was raised. It was cute how I just felt so much love for my parents and the many things they have taught me, and the way they helped me prepare to serve. I shared experiences about my dad and the impact he had on my life; how when I was younger he had to travel a ton, but every night he would call us on the home phone and follow up with us to see how our day was and sometimes to reinforce the discipline that my mom had to give me. I remember numerous PPIs (personal priesthood interviews), haha, with my dad where he sat me down and set me straight … but with the love only a father has. I talked about how every night we had family prayer, with my dad usually on speaker phone, but still there. I remember my parents always being on the same level and always pushing us out of our comfort zone. I am so grateful for families and the role that the gospel plays in our families. I know that some of our greatest opportunities to demonstrate love, charity and service are within the walls of our own homes. I love my family and the way that I was blessed by a loving Heavenly Father. I know that God is literally my Heavenly Father, that He misses me and every one of us. It is my hope on my mission that, through being away from my family for a bit, I can help others have their families for eternity.

Love you all!

Sister Vance