Monday, June 27, 2011

Olá todo mundo! [Hello everyone/world!]

My friends, This week was . . . miraculous. I´m fumbling a bit for words, because we were just so blessed.

First of all, our first baptism, we´ll just start there. It was quite a day. I learned a lot. Mostly I learned that God is merciful, and I hope he has a sense of humor. I will now relate the events of the day. First, we got to the chapel early to fill the font. Unfortunately we had not really received any orientation, and all of the signs were in Portuguese with vocabulary words we do not know, so we were filling the font for about 4 hours with . . . the drain open. Yup. But we got that all worked out. We had a quick lesson before we were going to pass by the girls´house to walk to the church with them. They were just about ready, when Ivinildo (Yasmim´s dad) muttered unhappily something about sandals. Apparently Yasmim didn´t have sandals and was unhappily wearing a pair of bright purple crocs. She was crying and didn´t really want to go anywhere. Fortunately . . . I have small feet. That´s right, I took off my sandals, strapped them to her feet, and thereafter put on the aforementioned purple crocs. But Yasmim was still crying. We said a prayer with her and tried to hurry ourselves along, but her dad wasn´t going to let her go. There had been some conflict earlier and he just kept saying - another day, another day. Yasmim´s crying, and then, yes, I started crying. I begged him, and I know that the Lord touched his heart because he just said, "Go Yasmim, go" We´re running to the church. Meanwhile we realize the Bishop can´t come, and we don´t have anybody to be witnesses. And the Elders had just gotten on a bus to the other side of the area. I don´t know I´ve ever been so stressed. Sister Denson and I offered a humble prayer, very humble, and then took pictures with the girls, and Ivinildo, the dad. He came. It was miraculous and frightening. Eventually the Elders arrived, Alef (who was going to do the baptizing) arrived, and it happened. Our two beautiful moças [?]were baptized. All of this drama and silliness for me really just strengthened my testimony of so many things. First of all, the fact that the Inimigo [Enemy] does NOT want baptism to happen. He knows how important it is, and all he needs is a silly pair of sandals to blow everything. Second, the power of the priesthood. Yes, sometimes it is inconvenient and stressful to have the right authority to get everything done, but that´s the point. This isn´t just a happy dip in the water, this is the power given from God to man to do his work upon the earth. This is a big deal. Third, you have got to be prepared. Fortunately Sister Denson and I had prepared well for our little musical number - a Child´s prayer (Sarah-Lehn I was missing you like none other) and we both were rather teary as we recognized that we really are children of our Heavenly Father (pai celestial) and that he really does hear our prayers. They were both confirmed yesterday, and were just beaming.

The family.
Alexsandra (taller) is the cousin of Yasmim.
Her family didn´t come to the baptism,
but she is incredible. She had a little bag
with everything ready to go. She gets it. I love her.

This whole week was pretty much like this. Sister Denson and I were determined to follow through and get all our goals in line, and the Lord blessed us immensely. Every day, several times a day there were times where we just laughed because the miracles were so incredibly apparent; we found the street of a referral we were unable to find earlier, we bumped into a contact who´s telephone number hadn´t worked, we found people to teach that were very much desiring and searching for this gospel. Holy mackerel friends, God is good. He . . . He must just laugh sometimes at how incapable His little children are, but fortunately, He loves us enough to help us out. I know that there are plenty of forces working against us (plenty I tell you) but I also know that it´s absolutely nothing compared to what we´ve got going for us - truth, light, happiness! We talked to a few people yesterday that simply aren´t doing the things that they know are right, and they look so sad. That´s the thing with this gospel, it is happiness.

At church on Sunday with Adriele and Fernanday

On a mission you feel this happiness, and you also feel every other emotion . . . daily. Your heart is just so invested in the lives of these people, and you have so many hopes for them, and sometimes you´re disappointed, and it´s hard because you know what they´re missing.
Yesterday we were able to feel the elation of being a missionary at church, both during the confirmations, and as we greeted 4 men at church yesterday! It was incredible. We walked one to class, and another came in. We walked him to class, and turned around to find another. We also have Marcos, who´s in a wheelchair, and he is incredible. He knows the Bible and recognizes the truth. We wheeled him into the Gospel Principles class, and it was a good thing he brought his own chair because there was not an extra seat in the room. And the members were so good and helped out. It makes me so happy to see these members helping out our little pesquisadores [investigators]. Incredible.
This one´s just kind of silly, and you don´t need to put it on the blog,
but it´s for São João. everybody dresses up with pigtails and little freckles . . .
and Sister Denson and I didn´t want to be left out.
(it´s funny in that in reminds me very much of Centre Stage days . . .)

Also, this week was São João. It was a normal day for us, but we also got to eat more cake and other delicacies. And so many bombas! [firecrackers/bombs] It´s like the fourth of july . . . only with no laws. I pretty much went deaf. And for those of you who know how much I love the Fourth of July (especially as a child) you´ll know my feelings on that aspect of the holiday. But it was fun to see parties in Brazil.

I love this gospel, I LOVE being a missionary. After the slightly stressful baptism, we just went out and kept working. It was great!

OH YEAH - I´m getting transferred to Itapuã. It´s about 20 minutes from here, and I´m stoked. I´ll stay with Sister Denson, and we´re going to do great things. And my first transfer is over. Weird.

This message is one of happiness, and I´m so grateful for it!

Love, Sister Cornwall

São João at a members house. We´re so cute.

The view from our apartment - the other direction.

Zone Conference

Monday, June 20, 2011

Well hello hello,
I am grinning knowing that I get to tell you about all the INCREDIBLE things that happened this week (Sister Denson said I use that word a lot, so beware.)

This week was just . . . pretty much a string of miracles. Every day I write one miracle that happened, and one day in my journal I simply wrote `the whole day.´ It was incredible that we found many people to teach, and that the people we taught really needed and wanted this message. I realized that the first couple of weeks the people we were working with let us in, but they weren´t really desiring this message. But several times this week either we thought or they thought/said that God had sent us, that it was a miracle we came, and that they were looking for something like this. Right? Amazing.

Every week, or day rather, I just think - I am learning and discovering so much. This life is so much more than we can even imagine presently; God´s hand is guiding our lives more than we can even muster to understand, and I am so grateful. Even things before this mission I am starting to recognize as having been guided by the Lord - I´m just trying to accept his will. That was a little bit tough yesterday. We were fasting for our little investigators to come to church and feel how gREAT it is, and our two goldens did not come. (We had four others there, so we were still so blessed) but I was heartbroken. And slightly nauseous. It was hard. I understand that life happens, and that we all have the ability to choose, but that doesn´t make it any less disheartening. But we are going to baptize Alixandra and Yasmim this week - they are incredible. We were making contacts and decided to go the the praça [square, plaza] to talk with people, and there was Alixandra - who had´nt been home earlier. That happened a half dozen times this week; we´re walking along, and voila - the person we need to talk to. Wow.

This week we are aiming for zona de exelencia. That means our zone is going to meet every goal we have as a zone, and work EXTREMELY hard to all get there together. It is going to [take] work, but hey - that´s what I´m here for right? But happily, this weekend is São João, [a.k.a. Festa Junina] a holiday that we do not have in the US, nor anything remotely similar. I don´t know that I can even explain it here, so go on Google and look it up. It is going to be CRAZY. But I love it. All the little kids are dressed up and it is so fun. Brazil is so funny. Sometimes I feel like it´s a third world country pretending to be something else. They´ve got nice cars, and a huge economy, but then there are donkeys pulling carts in the road and women carrying groceries on their heads. And it is SO green - have I mentioned that? It is gorgeous and tropical. And yes, I AM learning the difference between a coconut tree and a banana tree, in case you were wondering. There is so much fruit and flavors that I am trying and becoming accustomed to. I am in love with this place. It´s a blessing to be here.
Another thing I thought a lot about this week was prayer. At the end of the lesson, we always ask if they will pray about these things. If we need to know something, we may as well ask somebody who knows everything, and who won´t lie: God. And people agree that yes, they will. But then when we get to the prayer at the end of the lesson, and we ask them to pray, they are at a loss. EVERYONE has pai nosso/the Lord´s Prayer memorized. Even babies. But when it comes to their own prayer - nothing. My heart is always so sad when they don´t know that prayer is simply speaking with their Father in Heaven - their own words mesmo [even. yet]! But then . . . then when they get it, when they start their own prayer and say the words ´Pai Celestial´[Heavenly Father] and they offer up their heart to God - oh my, I just want to weep and yelp and . . . you know. It is great. And amazing that these souls are just learning how to pray, and how it blesses their lives, and that for me - it STILL blesses my life. Oh how I need prayer. It is the best.

I feel like things just started clicking this week. I felt so much more of an instrument in the Lord´s hands. We´re teaching Aristedes, who reads the Bible everyday, and has loads of questions. But he´s not reading the Book of Mormon and he´s not praying about these things. But I was able to just testify with all of my heart about the Book of Mormon being true, about the priesthood being the most powerful force on the earth, and that Jesus Christ - oh he is my Savior. It was a powerful moment for me as a daughter of God. I feel his love so strongly everyday, even if I´m a little tough to love sometimes (due to little reclamações [complaints] etc.) But it´s true, and that´s what matters. And it´s real. It is real.

I am in love with this Gospel, and in the love with the opportunity I have to share it. If there´s somebody on the street, or a house that looks cool, I can just go up to it and strike up a conversation. It is the best. Certainly there are things I´m missing, but it´s getting to the point where I can´t imagine my life without Alef, Dagmar, Marhdel, Tuã, Noeme, and my companions (and no, I did not just pick the people with the coolest names.)

This work is completely in the hands of the Lord, thank heavens . . . literally. I love you so dearly, and I hope you know how blessed you are. And thank you for your prayers on behalf of these people . . . I daresay they´re working.


Sister Cornwall

Monday, June 13, 2011

Hi guys,

This week was . . . marvelous, and exhausting. We started off the week with Zone Conference in Salvador. We were there pretty early, and the beach was gorgeous (we´re about a 40 minute bus ride from Salvador, it´s the big city around here, so lots of people work there, commute etc.) Sometimes I feel slightly spoiled to be in such a beautiful place. I didn´t really know what to expect with a Zone Conference, but it was wonderful. I can´t help but love being surrounded by others who are involved in the same work, having the same difficulties and same joys that I am. It is kind of an amazing thing. I personally was able to refocus on where my priorities should be, and adjust the focus of of myself a little more. I was able to fall more in love with President and Sister Vecchi, and the food was wonderful.

Speaking of food, I figured I´d let you know that I think this past week I´ve eaten more meat than probably 6 months worth of non-Brazil life. I´m not a huge meat eater, but they have meat here you wouldn´t believe, and . . . it´s just so good. Also, the doces, or sweets, are delicious - don´t worry, I´m taking notes so I can impress all my friends with geladinha, and brigadeira. Rest assured.

We went to one house this week in Portão that was very much the Brazil I think I´d been imagining; dirt roads, huge palm leaves, etc etc. As we approached the house I was preparing myself for a little pile of beans and rice - NOPE! It was probably the best meal we´ve had. The people here are so sweet to us. I love to walk on the street and have someone call out ´sisteres!`and they run up to give us a hug. Especially kids. Yup, they love us.

We are teaching these four little kids who are all cousins, and we walked them to church . . . plus we were accompanied by four member kids, so Sister Denson and I were like little pied pipers. We also invited those four kids to the baptism the other Sisters had on Saturday, when we arrived they all rolled out clean and fresh and all dressed up. I could have died. It was one of the best feelings in the world to see them make an effort and be SO excited to see you. Little Yasmim just wanted to hold my hand all the way to and from the church, and in her other hand was her copy of the Book of Mormon. They are beautiful, if not a little rowdy at times. The nine and eight year old brothers sat between Sister Denson and me during Sacrament Meeting, and it was a bit of an experience entertaining them.

I have discovered that being a missionary is ever more being a child and a parent. We watch over these kids, follow up, we chastise old men who drink too much, we tell people they should change their lives - all things a good parent would do; yet we have to be in bed by 10:30, we ALWAYS use the buddy system, and we have no idea what´s going on in the world around us (which I´m still sorta adjusting to.) But it´s the greatest. I feel very blessed to have this time to just let things go and focus on the people and each sweet moment here.

The Brazilians certainly know how to enjoy their life. They say `tudo bem` constantly, which literally means everything´s good. They have simple solutions for everything, I tell you. Oh you want to sell your house, and you don´t have a For Sale sign? Tudo bem, just write on the wall of your house `se vende esta casa.` Oh you want to transport three people or three gas tanks, or a couple of chairs and you don´t have a car? Tudo bem, just put it on your bicycle. Seriously friends, it´s been done. Oh you want to get rid of your trash? Tudo bem, just leave 20 little plastic bags of lixo on the sidewalk, somebod´ll pick it up. Oh you want to add on three extra rooms to your house? Tudo bem, just buy some bricks and sand and do it! It´s hilarious. Life is very simple, which is simultaneously blissful and frustrating. Sometimes we talk about the `falta de inteligencia` [lack of, schooling, intelligence] in Bahia, but it just makes the people all the more lovable I daresay.

Portuguese is coming along fine. I feel incredibly blessed to be able to express myself and feel respected by these people. In fact, a couple of times this week people asked me if Í´d been here much longer than my companion - nope, she arrived a month and a half before I did. But we´re a good team she and I. We have fun everyday, and we really do have some incredible people. One guy we contacted and taught Saturday night at 8:30 came to church! It was incredible! Some of our dear pesquisadores [investigators, researchers] did not come to church yesterday, which broke our hearts a little. We were literally running around for two hours before and during church trying to gather in our little sheep, but we know very well the role of agency in the lives of all people. The ability to choose is one of the greatest blessings we have in our lives. I have thought a lot about the role of the Lord in humbling His people, how sometimes he needs to chastise those he loves in order to help us. Yet through it all we still have the ability to choose. We can get our own selves to a position of meekness where we can receive the impressions of the Lord. I have realized more and more everyday how much I need the spirit in this work. There are tons of people with many problems and I do NOT have the answers for them. But, fortunately, I can help them find the answers they want and need.

There are lot of churches here in Lauro, and many people are very set in what they´re doing in their lives religiously, but there´s such a subtle difference that they have to be receptive to the espírito santo, and we have to bring it. That is our role. We have to be at the peak everyday because these people NEED us. Certainly there are plenty of people that don´t care one bit about what we´re doing, but we´re not here for those people. As I study the incredible doctrine and truths of this gospel, I just ache to give it someone who will recognize how wonderful it is. It´s so much more than church on Sunday friends, it is everything. We need to be becoming something here . . . and I only hope that we can all get to where we need to be.

I have been overwhelmed once more this fine week by how blessed I am. Everything. I am only able to take in so much everyday, but that´s where things like patience and diligence come into play. Oh friends, I hope with my whole heart that you´re doing what you KNOW you should be. We all know, for the most part, if our actions are what they should be or not. Sometimes we need a silly little missionary to come along and tell us, but there´s even a better way. On our knees we can pour out our hearts and receive . . . whatever it is we need. I´m learning about some of the gaps in my understanding here, but I am so grateful I am here, doing only this right now, in order to fill some of those gaps in order to help others.

Friends, I know that this gospel is the truth. I know it. Somedays I know it more fully or with more conviction than others, but regardless I still know I can wake up in the morning and give it my all because it´s good and right. I love ya.

Sister Cornwall

Mom and Dad! Oh my! I got your letters [the Z.L.s pick up letters at the Mission Office +/- monthly] and it was divine! Thank you so so much.

I love you and feel privileged to be a missionary just to receive your letters.

You can send packages to the office and I´ll get it. Promise. You´re the best,


Monday, June 6, 2011

Well hello there,

I daresay this past week went by even faster than the one before. And yes, there are pictures attached. I´ll explain those in a bit.

I figured I´d start out with the top 3 things Brazilians love:

1) Their stereo system. It´s hilarious. They sell speakers in every other store. They carry around these little boomboxes. Their car trunks can´t close because they´re loaded with the latest and greatest. Sometimes we have to cross the street because somebody is blasting their speakers and my sensitive little ears can´t take it. Also, for advertisement, these trucks just drive around BLASTING these annoying ads. When you´re trying to teach people about the restored gospel of Jesus Christ, that can be oh-so-incredibly perturbing. Oh well.

2) Babies. There are, sort of, babies everywhere. I feel that Brazilians probably have babies, and they´re probably more willing to just truck them around in public. And like I mentioned, the babies are beautiful.

3) Jesus. No seriously. Whatever missionaries came before us certainly did a marvelous job. There are stickers on every bus and little shack that say Jesus is my strength. Trust in Jesus. Etc. It´s incredible the love people have for their Savior. They love faith, and LOVE the Bible. In fact, I had my first interaction with a Jehovah´s Witness. She was such a beautiful, intelligent, nice-looking woman. Suffice it to say that I didn´t feel much desire to linger and that I am glad I´m where I am, doing what I´m doing.

Here are the runners-up for the top three: Soccer (every street has boys playing barefoot, it´s so cool. it´s just what everybody does. And the old men play dominos. they just set up tables and play all night. Little boys also play marbles and bottle caps in the street. This place is certainly a bit different.) TV. Everybody´s got a tv, and it´s just about always on. I´ve been compiling a list of things my future family will/will not do, and watch TV is on the 'will not do' list. It´s so interesting to be a missionary and observe very closely how other people live their lives. I adore it. Sometimes we just enter a house and it count my lucky stars for the privilege it is to be trusted by these people to enter their homes, and essentially ask them to change their lives.

I also figured I´d let you know that most people think I´m Italian. I´m always something else before I´m American. Believe me, I´m always incredibly flattered. I think it´s my dark hair that picks me out as Italiana, I think.

Also, our mssion´s goal was to have 100 baptisms this month - and we got SO close . . . 97. Unfortunately I did not contribute to any of those numbers, but it´s still a good thing. I am grateful that I´m in a mission where work happens, and that I´m around people that are here to help others change their lives through making covenants with the Lord.

I thought a lot this week about the nature of the work. Sometimes it feels a bit . . . slow. We work with people one by one, and I confess there are moments where I think - there has GOT to be a better way. Nope. Certainly there are faster ways, or easier ways, but this is the way it needs to be. Every person matters so much, each of them has needs that need to be met on an individual basis. Sometimes I walk around the city and think that - this is impossible. It isn´t, but it is going to take work and effort and talvez[*] a few rough days. But I love it. I was thinking about how it´s very much a ´harvesting´of sorts. There are people that are mature and ready and prepared to receive this message, while other people simply take a bit more time to be ready. And so as missionaries we go and talk to as many people as we can - as individuals- and provide others with the opportunity to accept, or not.

We go around and do contacts (I had about 80 this past week if you were wondering) and we invite people to join us at church on Sunday. But several times we get in these deep conversations with people about religion - it´s wonderful. They love us because we´re weird Americans who talk funny, but regardless, I can testify of what I know to be true and I just laugh and laugh with these (usually) men.

And we had plenty of miracles this week. One was with Noemi. We had contacted her nephew, and talked with her mother before, and we offered to leave her with a message. We were teaching the lesson and found out that her son had died the week before. She´s a beautiful black lady and she said that she believes we were sent to her. We were all a little teary during the lesson, but it was glorious to bring hope to this woman who had suffered such a loss. Then it was a miracle that we were able to find her house. And last night - we got back from this family history conference and it was pouring. Like, torrents my friends, like up to your ankles. We decided that we´d pass by the house of a sister we´d invited to church - she wasn´t there, but amidst all the rain, our two other little friends were out on the street and we were able to talk to them. Then we trucked it back to our apartment - all the while carrying a blue plastic bag with two little roaster chickens a member had given us. Hilarious. My life is wonderful.

And now the photos (i´m hoping they work)

1. Sister Denson and Sister Cornwall in front of the church. This was yesterday while we were waiting for our investigators to come to church (which none did, it was heartbreaking.) But she is hilarious. She is so good and diligent.2. The bishop and the view of the city from the church. This is just looking out over the river and the big apartment buildings. Most of the city isn´t just buildings like that, but there are still plenty of them.3. The farol! The lighthouse in Salvador was wonderful. We (unsuccessfully) did a jumping picture in front, but it was so cool to go to Salvador. I LOVE it. We´re about 40 minutes outside of the main city, and it was a glorious bus ride. We travel everywhere by bus (everywhere that´s outside our area at least) and I adore it. There is nothing I like more than seeing a new beautiful city by public transportation. It gives me a good opportunity to fall ever more in love with Brazil.
4. Drinking from a coco verde! This lady with a machete cuts it open and sticks a straw in it. It was divine. The coast is so beautiful and I felt so incredibly at peace on the Brazilian coast.
5. And there´s a picture of the 4 of us that live together: me, Sis D, Sister Jones (she´s a hilarious gal from Utah with BIG hair.), and Sister Moraes (native Brazilian.) I´ve learned so much from Sister Moraes as well, she´s been here 13 months and she always does what is good.
6. That´s our little sink/washer.
7. The view from our kitchen window. It felt so nice today in our apartment as we cleaned. It´s been nice and cool and windy.
Well, I´m slowing realizing how little I know, and how grateful I am for the time I have to try and figure out how this all works effectively. But I feel happy. I´m finally feeling adjusted and now it´s starting to seem like I always lived here. I have been so incredibly blessed with the work. There are people here that are so good and want this message - it just might take talking to a good number of other people before we find them. But I know this message is good and true and my testimony is constantly fortified as I learn more about the incredible plan that God has for us. I am grateful every moment for my relationship with Heavenly Father. He is my strength - especially here.

I love you all and hope all´s well,

Sister Cornwall

[* talvez = perhaps, maybe]