Wednesday, May 10, 2017

Joy to the World

Hello Everyone!

The highlight of my week definitely was seeing a full grown goat on the back of a moto taxi! I almost fell to the ground laughing, and was so tempted to start kissing the Brazilian soil, because this is why I love Brazil! Haha, yes you read it right, they have motorcycle taxis here and it is easily the biggest temptation for me! This week we also had lunch with one of the members, and she cooked the most delicious food with a natural fruit juice called maracujá. After a few glasses, I started to feel a little dizzy, and then she pulled out maracujá pie! It was perfect, but after that I started to feel the walls closing in on me, as they then realized that, for Americans unaccustomed to this passion fruit, it works as a sedative and makes you drowsy and slows down your heart rate a bit! Hahaha, I was dying … the food coma was real! I had been drugged by one of the irmas (sisters) in our branch! It was hilarious, but definitely a struggle. Speaking of woman here, I don’t know why but they always like to sniff us, especially the older women! We hug them and they cling to us and sniff our necks and stuff! It is so funny and definitely a little uncomfortable, but so perfect too, haha.

We had exchanges this week and I was with Sister Saunche. It’s always an adventure with her. We had to sprint for 20 minutes to make it back to our apartment by 9pm, and we saw the other sisters way ahead and it turned it into a race. Most of you know how competitive I am … we were definitely going to beat them! Sister Saunche was not able to really breathe, but we had to keep going! I grabbed her bag and kept on keeping on! I looked like an NFL running back with two huge bags in my arms. When we got to our apartment she couldn’t find the keys right away, and I couldn’t stay on my feet for one more second (you can see the photo of me flat on my back below)! I am sure we scared all of Parnaiba when they saw four woman sprinting through the city at night. I love those kind of adventures!

Last night we were walking and my companion and I were discussing where we should go. She wanted to stay in the same area where we were, but I told her that I want to find a man that we made contact with previously in the other part of our area. We decided to walk extra long to the other part of our area at 8:00pm. As we walk in the streets, we see so many people and always greet them with “bom dia”, “boa tarde”, or “boa noite”. I was in the middle of telling my companion a story (I know, I am always talking), when we passed a teenage girl sitting outside her house. I said “boa noite” and continued walking. Four steps later and still rambling on with my story, I stopped right in my tracks as I felt a distinct prompting to turn around and talk to that girl. Before even saying anything to my companion I did that awkward turnaround and introduced myself to the girl. As soon as I started talking, tears welled up in her eyes. In my head I thought “wow, I can’t count how many times this has happened to me”. It has been at least 6 times that I have done the same thing and the person starts to cry. She opened up to us, and told me about some difficulties through her tears. Some of the things she said were things I have already gone through in my life and struggled with personally. Through my experience and through our testimonies, we were able to remind her of the love that our Heavenly Father has for her, and that Jesus Christ suffered for this exact thing that she was going through in her life. She then told us that minutes before, she was sitting inside her house, but something told her to go sit outside. Now I was the one crying. This was such a testimony to me, about how much our Father in Heaven truly cares about “the one”, and will send someone and do whatever to minister to the one. I know that Heavenly Father directs our work here, specifically to those that are in need. I am so grateful for the Gift of the Holy Ghost. Listening to the promptings of the Holy Ghost truly makes all the difference here in the work. We didn’t even have time to visit the other man, but that wasn’t the plan of the Lord. I attached the picture of our new friend Laura below. There are no coincidences in the Lord’s work!

The great part about being in the same area for a while is that you get to see the progress that the recent converts and the less active members are making. Jose Eugenio is the most faithful man I know. He has already given about 5 talks in church and told me that he already has 16 other talks ready to go! I just about screamed! I feel like such a proud mom, as I have watched him go from being baptized to now blessing the sacrament, and watching this past Sunday as four of our investigators partook of the sacrament that he blessed! His calling in the church is to clean the building every Saturday, and let me tell you, that church has never looked so spick and span! He is participating in ward council with us, and often works with us and helps us teach our investigators. His testimony is so strong, and I have attached a picture of him below helping our investigator read The Book of Mormon. It is so awesome! This is what the gospel does; it truly changes and molds us into the best versions of ourselves and the person God has prepared us to be! When I came into the mission field, Parnaiba was known as the pit of the mission. We have 4 branches that make up a district, not a stake, and our mission president was really concerned about the church here. I remember our first zone conference in January, he came down on us a bit. But in the mission conference last month, he turned to the missionaries in Parnaiba and asked us what we were doing different there, and told us that we were the example zone in the mission! It was so cool, and he was so excited. I started to think about what we had changed. We had started planning activities and getting all the members involved, and we have started showing more love and being happier. It all clicked when the president of our branch sat us down and told us that he was so grateful for the excitement and happiness we bring to the branch! He told us that we are the angels that the Lord sent to Parnaiba, and when he looks at us he sees the salvation of Parnaiba! I then realized how far a little happiness and joy can really go … and that it is so contagious! In life, we can’t wait for our circumstances to make us happy. Instead, we need to find the joy in every day. There are so many reasons to be grateful, happy and excited; and look forward to what tomorrow brings. Happiness is not "out there", it is "in you". Be happy not because everything is good, but because you can see the good in everything. When we can see beyond the speed bumps, hills or even mountains sometimes, and remember the much grander view of an eternal perspective, just about anything could go wrong and you could still find joy. We have every reason to be happy when we are keeping the commandments and relying fully on our Heavenly Father’s plan for us!

I used to get homesick when I would sleep over at friend’s house just a few years ago. It’s funny, I wrote my family last week and told them that I don’t know how it is even possible that I have been away from home for 6 months. I not only don’t feel homesick or sad, but all I feel is complete and perfect joy. Why? Because what I am living and teaching is the true gospel of Jesus Christ, and I am here sharing a message and a path to true and lasting happiness. People see our joy and our happiness and they want it too! Well, they are in luck, because all I want to do for the next year (and for the rest of my life) is share that happiness with others. I love you all, and in case you didn’t get the message, remember to be happy!

Sister Vance

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