Tuesday, October 17, 2017

Only Two Types of People in This World

Hi Everyone!

Last week we were walking in the street, already late for a meeting at church, and we passed a drunk man sitting in front of his house with his friends. He said, “Hey, stop here and talk to me”. I exchanged a look with my companion and decided to at least stop and not be rude. He said, “Just answer me one thing, if we are all children of God, why did he make you beautiful and me ugly?" We told him that he was right, we are all children of God, but if he would like we could schedule a day to come back and explain more to him, but right now we are late to a meeting. He started to yell … “Children of God don’t have meetings! If you were truly children of God you would have patience with me! But you aren’t a child of God, YOU ARE A CHILD OF THE DEVIL!!! We started laughing and said “okay sir, have a good afternoon”, and tried to shake his hand but he didn’t go for it. I love these experiences on the mission, they just add some variety to the days!

My mom has always told me that I would hear her voice in my head when I was serving here, but I never knew that it would be so haunting. Every Sunday, when we don’t have anyone who knows how to play the piano, I remember her counsel to me when I was younger taking piano lessons and wanted to quit. She always said, "One day on your mission you will be serving in a little branch, and they will have a piano with no one to play, and you will be able to invite the Spirit more strongly through playing hymns for them." EVERY SUNDAY I HEAR THIS IN MY HEAD. So this past Sunday, I had had enough, and I miserably tried to play the piano during sacrament meeting. I don’t have rhythm, and there were many notes that I miss hit, but it’s the thought that counts, right? Haha, children really never forget the words of their mothers.

We had a miracle this week! We ate lunch with the family pictured below, and usually these meals are very tense with my companion and I just trying to eat … trying not to do anything that would entice the irma to get mad … seriously, it’s tense. Haha, but this Saturday my companion and I just had nothing to lose. We started talking to them a ton and asked them about how they met, and it was one of the best meals ever! We were all laughing and they even pulled out the old family album to show us wedding pictures and everything! It was a 180° turn from the other times, and now we are best friends. If I have learned anything on my mission, it is that you can’t be afraid or insecure to talk or break down barriers with anyone, you just gotta go for it! There are truly two types of people in this world; people that you love and people that you don’t know yet! This will always be one of my fondest lunches. It was incredible and literally the miracle of the week. This family went from so cold to so hot!

This week we had a Friday the 13th. At home, my sisters and friends usually did something rowdy to celebrate, so part of me was just hoping that something WILD would happen. Haha, and so it did. We sprinted home that night because there was a huge storm! The minute we entered our apartment we heard a huge crashing noise! As we looked outside we saw that the roofing of our building fell exactly where we were only minutes before. Tile roofing was just crashing to the ground. It was a humbling experience to know that Heavenly Father looks out for His little missionaries.

Also this week, I had exchanges with Sister Varrela, a new sister from Chile! It was such a fun day. We practiced a ton talking to people in the streets … it is one of my favorite things. We helped each other get really comfortable, and like I am I usually don’t care what people think of me, she thought it was cool how I just say whatever comes to my mind. It was weird how she was just amazed at how we taught our contacts, and she was asking me for advice and tips, but I still feel so young and inexperienced! Haha! One man, Antonio, wasn’t too interested in our message and just wanted to “bible-bash” with us. But when we taught him about the Restoration of the Gospel, the Spirit was so strong. Afterward, my companion and I looked at each other and commented that we both were teaching really well and TRULY felt the Spirit. HE SHOWED UP AT CHURCH THIS SUNDAY! It was awesome and so unexpected.

I am good and happy here. I love talking to people on the streets. So many have no idea what their purpose is on earth and in this life. It is a blessing to tell them that they are children of a loving Heavenly Father (not the devil … haha), and that we one day we can have the opportunity to return to Him. But if anyone says that we are here on earth to return back to our Heavenly Father they are actually wrong. He wouldn’t just send us here to just go back the same way we left. We are here to become like Him, to develop His attributes and characteristics, and chip off our imperfections. In reality, like any father would say to his child, "I don’t want you to be like me, but I want you to be better". He wants the same for us. I know that we all can do it, and better yet, I know that HE KNOWS we are all capable.

I love you all, and please pray for my little dog. Today when I was getting ready to come here to send this blog via email, I looked at my companion and confessed that I was, "nervous to email because I felt like something was wrong with our dog or something". Well, as I logged on, I found out she has been in the hospital for two days. I am so worried and tears were shed. I told little Sadie when I left that she wasn’t allowed to run in the road or get sick, because I needed to see her when I get back. She is a part of my family. I love you Sadie! I know that everything will be alright, because all dogs go to heaven, and that little dog with go directly to the celestial kingdom.

Sister Vance

Monday, October 9, 2017

Our Sacred Moment in Gethsemane

Hi Family and Friends!

This morning I looked at my companion and asked her "wait, what happened this week?" Haha, our days are so filled and the days just go by, but so many things happen. I must say that a mission has been awesome to be able to understand more about the organization of the church and the responsibilities of every leader. The church is relatively new here in the northeast of Brazil, and sometimes things are a bit of a hot mess, but I love this experience I am having, being able to help and learn. My companion and I fasted during General Conference about how we could help our ward more. After receiving our answer, we decided that we needed to start stopping by the members’ houses more often. One night we stopped at a family’s house, and we started teaching only about the premortal life, or our life with Heavenly Father before we came to Earth. As we taught, it was one of those lessons where the Spirit was so strong. Every person that was there had their perspective completely opened. My mind has never felt so clear in my life. I felt as though the veil all of a sudden became a little sheerer and see-through for me. As my companion and I walked down the dirt road, we tried to remember some of the things we said, but we just went blank and couldn’t remember. We knew in that moment that the lesson was not taught by us, but we were only used as the mouthpiece of the Spirit.

Our fast and testimony meeting on Sunday was great. We have few members, and there was a lot of open space, so I bore my testimony. There were a ton of members looking at other members, trying to play that game of pressuring other people to go up to the pulpit. My awesome companion got up there and said, "I remember that when I was a kid, I played that pressuring game, but I am up here not because someone told me to, but because I LIKE TO BEAR MY TESTIMONY!" I gasped so loud, but then was just so proud, haha. She bore such a great testimony; so truly powerful and I am so grateful for her. We are getting along great, because she likes to be straight-up bold as well, with no messing around.

Some sad news - we visited Irma Vanuza in the hospital. She was pregnant but lost her baby this week. It was really hard for them, but it has strengthened my testimony in my Heavenly Father, that everything is in His will and timing.

This past week we had another zone conference! My goodness, I feel like I have just been in meetings these past couple of weeks! The zone leaders and my companion and I gave the training. We also learned how to help our investigators understand the importance of the sacrament. I know that when we take the sacrament we have the opportunity to be there with Christ for a moment in Gethsemane. In the beginning of my mission, I remember just being more anxious and stressed about the people visiting the church, and how they were feeling, than focusing on me and my Savior. I have put that behind me and have confidence in the Spirit, that He will work with the hearts of the people we bring, and I need those precious minutes to focus on my relationship with my Savior. It has made all the difference. The sacrament has truly become something sacred to me.

Anyway, I am happy, healthy and still happy. Haha, a big shout out to my Grandpa Vance for joining the “cripple Vance crew”, #WeakKnees. Usually you’re only invited when you have more than 3 knee surgeries, but we will let you slide, haha! The photo of him made my day … and maybe my life too. I love you so much gramps, and love all of you!

Sister Vance

Monday, October 2, 2017

Save the Shepherds

Hi Family and Friends!

I am now with my new companion, Sister Finati, and this transfer is going to be a great one! Sister Finati is awesome; I already knew her because I lived with her in Parnaiba. This whole entire week I was just looking forward to General Conference, and it didn't let me down one bit! General Conference is the best on the mission. I received answers to the questions I wrote down, and even received answers to questions I didn't even know that I had!

Last night we taught a family which was a referral from members. The lesson was so spiritual. It is so cool how we teach the same principles over and over, but we always find new and unique ways to teach individually by the Spirit.

This past week at the mission leadership meeting, President Melo was fired up! He told us that he was talking to the Area Presidency and told them he wanted to send more than 10 missionaries home (President Melo doesn't mess around). The Area President told him to take a deep breath and find ways to help those not following mission rules. It was an awesome meeting.

The theme of this council was how we as leaders could be examples and how we can help save not only the sheep, but also save the shepherds. I know that every day we are examples - either positive or negative (there is no in between). We can change lives of those in our circle of interaction. Nothing brings us closer to Christ than a desire to change and nothing can bring us greater joy than seeing true change in the lives of those around us. Have a great week … and be an example that can save another.

Love,

Sister Vance

Thursday, September 28, 2017

A Labor of Love

Hi Everyone!

This week was crazy … again! Life in the mission is never predictable. My companion, Sister Ongaro, has returned home and is already with her family. It was so sad saying goodbye to her. It is awesome having so many Brazilian companions because they are always more energetic and happy, but at the same time so sad because you never know when you will see them again.

Haha, this week I hardly feel like a missionary; not because I am breaking rules, but because I have spent so much time traveling, I didn’t have a companion for 4 days, doing exchanges with members and running all over town, was really stressful to be honest, and I broke my name badge and am on my 2nd day without it. I feel so insecure without it, you have no idea. My sleep schedule this week was ridiculous! I slept some nights on a bus (which means I didn’t sleep at all), and then when my companion was packing her suitcase I was helping her until the middle of the night. Then when I asked her what else I could help her with she said, "nothing, but just don’t sleep; I don’t want to pack my bags alone." Haha, I wanted to die ... it was funny, but painful. The next night I slept at the apartment of the other sisters and they didn’t have an extra mattress, so I literally slept on the floor … with no pillow or blanket. I said a prayer before one lesson to have energy to teach … He heard my prayer.

I love my mission. More than 5 days this week I have woken up at 4:30am to catch a bus or go to the police station for my visa and whatever. I talk about being tired and then am working in the hot 107 degree (weather today) sun all day. The sun just beats us to death. I am dead and exhausted, but man do I love my mission … even though its killing me! I have learned that with our difficulties or challenges in this life, Heavenly Father doesn’t always take the hard things off our backs, but in reality he gives us strength to endure well the things we go through.

I am happy to be writing this from Teresina, my favorite area ever! I was able to eat lunch with some members and visit some of the recent converts. They all made me cry when they started crying. When I saw Maria, she was in the dress that I gave her and she told me that she has dreams with me in them! She said so many things that just made my heart explode. As she said the closing prayer she asked Heavenly Father to bless me and didn’t ask for anything for herself. There were so many things that brought tears to my eyes. Also, Jose Raimundo was baptized! He was baptized the week after I left, and I got so happy when I heard the news.

Last week, Sister Ongaro and I were talking about our missions, and she was talking about how she was nervous to return home because she doesn’t want to lose the happiness that she feels here on the mission. She still wants to feel the Spirit and have spiritual experiences. We started talking about how we could continue after the mission. We both came to the conclusion that forgetting yourself and thinking of others first is the key to happiness. It is really why we are so happy here. We are more concerned and worried about other people’s problems than our own. I know that the people we meet may forget what we said to them, but they will never forget how we made them feel. I know we hold in our hands the happiness of more people than we can imagine.

I have felt that happiness here in Teresina as I have visited the people that I love. There truly is power in our love for others, and in our service. When we do our part, to the best of our ability, the Lord adds His power to our effort. I am so grateful for the love Heavenly Father has put into my heart. I can't describe the perfect feeling of love I have for these people that are so near and dear to my heart. I also can't begin to express the happiness I feel being here serving with these people. I will forever be in debt to these people and to Heavenly Father for giving me the opportunity to serve His children and understand more completely the love that He has for each one of us.

Love you all,

Sister Vance

Monday, September 18, 2017

We Testify of Christ

Hi Everyone!

This week we had zone conference, and President and Sister Melo made the long trek of 14 hours to come and visit the farthest zone in the mission! I just need to say that I love my mission president. He is awesome! He used to scare me a bit, being straight out of the Amazon, but I have come to love them both so much. All of the members in our area are hoping to one day have a temple, because they have to drive 30 hours away now. President Melo told the story about how, as a recent convert, he and 200 of the people in his stake in Manaus, would ride a boat once a year for 5 days and then get on a 52-hour bus ride to attend the temple. Then, through their work and every member being a missionary, they finally got a temple closer to them in 2008. I am a living witness of the modern day pioneers here in Brazil. The sacrifices they make are incredible and faith-building to me.

Today I got the news that tomorrow morning I will have to return to Teresina to resolve my visa, and then also next week we have a leadership meeting again in Teresina and I will have to travel again! I will be traveling 30 hours by bus this week and 30 hours next week as well. I asked them why I couldn’t wait until next week and just do everything at once, and I was told that if I was late handling my visa that they could put me in jail … haha. My companion and I started laughing and joking that we would miss the bus on purpose and, I don’t know why, but a part of me would just love to have that story to tell, haha, just kidding. Just kidding Mom, don’t worry, I promise I won’t miss my bus. Just to make you all nervous, it is tomorrow at 7:00 am and I don’t even remember how many times I missed the bus in middle school, but I am sure my mom remembers how many times she dropped me off at school because of it. Haha, oh my goodness, I even remember the bus driver was so used to it that she usually had pity on me and would wait in front of my house and honk the horn!

My companion Sister Ongaro is finishing her mission this week! She was baptized at 13 and is the only member in her family. She is a powerhouse and I am sure going to miss her. There might be tears … we have become the best of friends. She is my second favorite companion I have had in the mission (after my trainer).

This week we had “good times” with a bunch of our investigators starting to read anti-Mormon stuff … so that has been fun … NOT! I don’t know why people believe what they see on the internet … but it has been a cool experience to be able to talk and testify about the truth of the gospel. Sometimes we feel like we are literally fighting with the lies of Satan. I loved the quote that I read one day by Elder Holland that said "don’t bible bash with people, but if you do … WIN!", haha. It’s frustrating here because the churches have microphones and are screaming and yelling and these people believe every word, but they don’t read the Bible at all. Everything that our church believes is in the Bible. As we used the Bible this past week, we were able to help so many of our investigators. But the best tool that we used was our own testimony. At the end of all the lessons, we just looked at them and told them that they won’t know that our church isn’t true through other people, and they won’t know if it is true through our words. Only they will know, if they get on their knees and ask. We said, “If you do that, and receive an answer that what we teach isn’t true, then we won’t bother you one more minute." Our testimonies are truly the most important thing we have as missionaries.

This past week I was reading in John and in Acts. I fell in love with the story and the person of Peter. The apostles were fishing after the death of Christ and they weren’t catching anything, and then they saw a man on the beach and he called and told them to throw their nets on the other side. Then in that same minute they caught so many fish that their nets couldn’t hold them. One of them recognized the Savior and pointed it out to the other men like, "hey guys, look, its Jesus". Then Peter ripped off his jacket and just SENT IT into the ocean and started swimming frantically to be close to the Savior. When I read that, I started to laugh because he is just such a spaz sometimes, but then it really touched my heart. Peter is such an example to me of someone who truly loved the Savior. I hope that when the Savior comes again, that I will have the same spastic reaction … that I will not have any shame or embarrassment, or not be tangled up in my "nets". I am working today, and every day, to show my Savior that I am trying my best to come closer to Him. I know that this is Christ’s church, and that He is still guiding us in these latter days. This isn’t my work, or man’s work, it is the work of our Savior. I love Him and I know He loves me.

Love you all,

Sister Vance

Wednesday, September 13, 2017

The End of Learning is To Know God

Hi Everyone!

Essa semana foi loca! Nossa! There were so many things that happened this week. First thing first, I am living in Bacuri and we are finally starting to see some results of our work! We had a wedding and three baptisms this week! Marcio and Elizabeth were married in the civil building and we were so happy and they looked cute. It was a community wedding, with about 30 other people, and when I was there I just couldn't help but think, my goodness you couldn't pay me to get married outside of the temple. It felt a little like Vegas with a quick marriage and a fake cake nearby to take a picture, hahaha.

Let me just say something. Can someone please get these baptismal fonts under control? Wednesday night we got there in the afternoon to start filling up the font, and it was already filled, but I am pretty sure that water had been there for six months and had dead lizards and cockroaches in it. We tried to handle it, but the water wasn’t draining. We called our ward mission leader for help and he told us to baptize them in that water, but there was no way we were going to do that. The elders were close by and helped us drain the font, bucket by bucket. It was so funny, but just the worst! By the end of it we were all dripping in sweat and dead tired. Then we helped set up a little reception for them, and so many members came and it was a really special night. My companion and I were so tired but we both loved seeing this cute couple start on the right path. Just two weeks ago, Elizabeth was totally against getting baptized, but that night her face was just beaming and she was so happy. The gospel is truly for everyone and changes the hearts of so many people.

I remember the first week here in Bacuri, I gave a talk and I was so shocked at how there was almost no one in church. I counted 25 my first Sunday, but these past two weeks we have had over 80 people! The members here are so helpful and so awesome, and excited about the work. The Feitosa family are members and are “my family away from my family”! They have an open door policy and even a closed door policy … when the door is shut they let us walk in and drink water, and Irma Maria is always offering food. These people here take such good care of us. I feel so grateful.

Adriano was baptized Saturday night! He is the nephew of a less active married couple. He is 12 years old and so smart. Our zone leader interviewed him for baptism and said it was one of the best interviews he has ever had. My companion and I had the opportunity to sing together and bear our testimonies at the baptism, and it was so cute because the Spirit testified to me that one day not too long in the future this boy would serve a mission. When he was confirmed on Sunday, the irmao that confirmed him also said in the blessing that he would serve a full time mission! His aunt and uncle are coming back strong and are so awesome. They were baptized in 2015, but moved and lost contact with the church. But they still have that strong burning testimony that recent converts have. The aunt (Daniele) is even going to visit our investigators with us this week.

This week I have recognized how much I love to learn. I have a notebook for personal study and every day I am just hungry and thirsty to learn more. I feel the same way about the scriptures and General Conference talks as I did as a kid reading the Harry Potter books (each one 7 times). I remember my parents, having to GROUND me and take away my books because all I did with my life was read these fantasy books. I would wake up before my parents in the morning to read, and at night would sneak a flashlight into bed. Now it is the same; I just want to get my hands on as many things I can! I know that we are here in this life to learn and progress, that we will not be saved in ignorance, and it is our responsibility to gain as much knowledge as we can. I love the part in my Great Grandpa High’s patriarchal blessing that says "the end of learning is to know God." I know that as I study the teachings of Jesus Christ and of His prophets, I will more easily be able to imitate and emulate His example. I am striving every day to learn of Him and by Him. I am the Lord’s personal investigator! Knowledge is ours to obtain. No one else can gain it for me. Wherever we are, we need to develop a deep desire to learn.

Love you all,

Sister Vance

Tuesday, September 5, 2017

Have Faith in Dark Times

Hi Family and Friends!

Let me just say this … take a minute to appreciate me in your lives because I almost died this week, seriously. I got really close to the veil this weekend. Friday night, we got back to the apartment after doing an activity at the church and my legs were just killing me, and I was confused because we hadn’t walked more than usual. I took some Aleve and went to bed. At 2:00am, I woke up and felt like a got ran over by a car. Every bone in my body was in sharp pain, and lying in bed even hurt. I was dripping in sweat, but felt totally cold. I have never, ever felt more sick and in more pain in my life. There was pain from my head to the bones in my toes. I stood up, felt dizzy, and ran to the bathroom and started throwing up. I woke my companion and it was so funny because I was dying throwing up, but when I looked up at her right after throwing up, we made eye contact and I just smiled and start laughing. She said that I looked like a psychopath/joker. I don’t know why God gave me this weird sense of humor to laugh when bad things are happening, but it comes in handy sometimes. We took my temperature and I had a 101° fever. You can’t mess with fevers down here, they are really dangerous, so we called Sister Melo and woke her up in the middle of the night. She told me to take a certain medicine and to go to the hospital when it opened at 7:00am. I didn’t sleep, I just sat in bed wanting to die, waiting until 7:00am. Long story short, in the hospital they stabbed me with the needle about a million times because they never get it right, and it was the nurse’s first day on the job (poor thing), haha, and Sister Vance was all alone in the hospital room crying like a baby. They didn’t let my companion in, and I just felt all alone and I felt so sick. I didn’t know how I could feel better, but I just said a prayer asking for the comfort of the Spirit. After five minutes, I was able to miraculously fall asleep. It was cute, because I felt that was a way Heavenly Father helped me be comforted just by blocking everything out. I know Heavenly Father hears our prayers and doesn’t leave us alone.

I will spare you a lot of the details, but long story short, after a blood test and other tests, I have an infection in my intestines from the water here. I still have a fever but now I am taking antibiotics and am feeling better. Just pray for me, that I will feel better so that I will be able to work hard this week. I have been in our apartment for two days now and will go crazy if I don’t get out soon.

This week I am so excited because Wednesday we will have our first wedding! Marcio and Elizabeth will be getting married and baptized on the same day! At the start of this past week, he really had a desire to be baptized. My companion and I decided to visit them every day and read the Book of Mormon with them. After lessons where the Spirit was so strong and applying the Book of Mormon to their lives, Elizabeth decided to be baptized! Keep them in your prayers!

It was cute this week, as we were able to participate in a family home evening of a couple who have been trying to have a child for five years. The wife had received her results that she was pregnant and we played a part in surprising the husband. We had a family home evening with a lesson on families and how they can be together forever, and after she gave him the results he just started bawling. It was the cutest thing I have ever seen. They are preparing to go to the temple in February to be sealed!

Saturday morning I was in the hospital, and after that I needed to stay in my apartment. But we had one appointment that we made that was just nagging at me, and we decided that we just needed to go. I was dying and felt horrible but I couldn’t not go. We visited a couple that has been less active, but came to church last week. We taught them and their nephew, and invited him to be baptized. His name is Addriano, is 12 years old and will be baptized Saturday! It was a miracle and so worth it. We are working with the family to get them back into full activity.

Saturday is usually the day when we visit all of our investigators to help them remember to be in church on Sunday. With my problems, we couldn’t visit any of them, and nothing is worse than sitting in church with no investigators. We went to church preparing for the worst, only to see that we had so many, and I mean SO MANY, of our investigators in church … full families. I wanted to cry. I felt so blessed and loved by our Heavenly Father. I know that when we do our best, and I mean our absolute best, that He will make up the rest. It was such a tender mercy. I love my Heavenly Father; I know He is there. I know that He gives me strength to do His work and be who He wants me to be. Every difficulty or trial He throws at me, I just like to look up, maybe throw in that psycho smile of mine, and say "Heavenly Father, I understand … I know what this is, you’re trying to test me, you’re trying to make me better, and you’re trying to help me reach my potential. Thank you for trusting enough to know that I can get through this, but only with Your Help.

I love this quote: “to trust God in the light is nothing, but to trust God in the darkness - that’s faith."

Trust that Heavenly Father knows what’s best for you, find out and figure out what He wants you to do, and just do it. I promise from experience that life is easier when we do it God’s way.

Love you all,

Sister Vance