Thursday, December 22, 2016

God Loves Us

Friends and Family!

I have left the CTM in Sau Paulo! I was so excited and ready to go, but also little sad. I love all my roommates and everyone there! On the last Sunday, I was asked last minute to give a talk in Portuguese, and I walked up there and somehow managed to talk about something! It was good, and then later the CTM president quoted me in a devotional … I am not sure that I said what he said, but whatever, haha. My roommates will always have my heart … they don’t have much, and so I let them all wear my clothes and on the last day we all took a picture together and it was cute because they all felt and acted so fashionable. They are beautiful people. Sister Alvis wore my watch and I decided to give it to her because she was obsessed with it and would always jangle it. One of the sisters, Sister Souza, is a little Brazilian girl that looks like Rue from “The Hunger Games”! She was crying about me leaving 3 days before I left; it was adorable. Sister Alvis will always be remembered by me. She scared me at first because she is a bigger girl and would just talk to me in Portuguese, but then she was obsessed with me and always wanted to be with me and I was the same with her! The MTC is definitely a special place and I will always look back with the fondest memories and be so grateful.

We left the CTM at 3am and flew to Teresina. As I flew into Teresina and saw the city, I just lost it. This is where I was called to serve and this is where I belong. I could see the poverty from the airplane as we got closer, and my heart just exploded with love for people I don’t even know! The minute I stepped off the plane I thought I was standing behind the engine, because it was so hot! When I met my mission president and his wife, they said it was pretty cold that day! WHAT? My mission president and his wife are awesome and powerhouses. My first interview with my President Melo was so great, and I told him that I was ready to get to work. He doesn’t speak English, so yes, it was in Portuguese! I stayed in Teresina for 3 days for meetings and for the Christmas party. It was nice, but it was also difficult, because I felt unproductive and I just wanted to work. Also, the girls I was living with were all natives and none spoke English. So yes, Sister Vance didn’t understand or talk much the first couple days, if you can even imagine me not talking! It was a trial!

I have been assigned to serve in Parnaíba. My new companion is a native from the south and doesn’t know English, which has been interesting and helpful, because I have learned a lot. Parnaíba was a 6 hour bus ride from Teresina, and is about 20 minutes from the beach! There is a nice breeze here which is nice! There are dogs everywhere and you can hear them all fighting at night. There is also a rooster right outside my window that makes noise all day and all night, and I just want to snipe it so bad. My area is exactly how you might picture Brazil. There are kids playing futbol in the streets everywhere, and I totally kick it with them. There are scooters everywhere, and there are small cars that drive around with these huge speakers on top, and men will drive with a microphone and just talk into them! It is so obnoxious and so loud. My companion is the best trainer I could have. She has been out for 4 months, and truly is a powerhouse. I am learning so much from her. In every lesson we teach, I am talking more and more. We are teaching ALL the time … in 3 days we had 7 new investigators. People are very friendly here, so it is easier, but we are also working really hard. The other night we finished a lesson and were walking home, and then we started talking to someone else, and we looked down and realized we had 10 minutes to get home in time to be obedient. It was about a 15 minute walk. Let me tell you, we ran … I was dying laughing. We were running through crowds of people, and then this huge speaker was playing "We Are the Champions" … and it was so surreal and so funny.

People are very humble here, but are so willing to share everything. I love them. In one lesson we were teaching an older woman and there was an old grandma in a hammock sleeping right next to me. I honestly wasn’t sure whether or not she was still breathing if you know what I mean, lol. People here ask me if I have oceans in my eyes, and call me Barbie girl; it is funny. We ate lunch with a member family my first day here, and she gave us 4 huge scoops of lasagna. It was so good, but I barely finished it, and was proud that I did. Then she pulled out another pan from the oven and gave us the same amount again and pulled out desert! My companion and I just looked at each other and almost cried. The hymn "Press Forward Saints" was going through my head the whole time; I was dying. Last night I was lying in bed, and there were a lot of bugs because the power was out, and I was having phantom thoughts of bugs crawling on me that actually weren’t. Then I looked up and saw something circling right above my head. It was a BAT! It was perched above my head and circling my head. I lost my cool and woke up my companion and tried to explain it, but she doesn’t know English and I didn’t know the word for bat. So I was flapping my hands like an idiot, and then she was screaming and I was screaming, and it was so funny. There is video footage.

In a lesson last night that we taught to a recent convert, she confessed to having some issues with a commandment. My companion knew her so she talked the most, but then at the end we asked her to pray and she didn’t want to because she didn’t feel worthy. I was prompted to bear my testimony. I didn’t know how to say half the things that I wanted to say, but I knew I needed to tell her that Jesus Christ always separated the sin from the sinner, and that no matter what she does, she always can talk to her Heavenly Father. I was able to help her, because I have a testimony of God’s love for us and of the Atonement. I told her that the Atonement is a gift and Heavenly Father gave it to us to use. I have a testimony of prayer and I know that He hears us. I have turned to my Heavenly Father a lot this week, about many different things that I needed help with in my life. I have prayed with my whole heart, and even with tears, and He has heard me and helped me find answers to my prayers through the scriptures … and I have felt His love through the Holy Ghost. I encourage you all to go to your Heavenly Father about small and big things. It will make all the difference. I love you all and hope you have the best Christmas ever … remember the purpose of our celebration. You all are in my prayers, some of you very specifically and for specific reasons. Pray for me as well, as I want to be able to help these people more than anything!

Please be safe and healthy,

Sister Vance

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