Monday, October 31, 2011

My my my,

I feel like I start every letter the same, but missions are kind of like that. This week was a little doida [crazy]. It was the last week of this transfer period, and the end of the month, so all of our goals were waiting patiently to be met. Sister de Assis and I grew even closer this week. So let me just lay it out for you; we have goals of how many lessons wére going to teach, how many new people wére going to teach during the week, and yes, we have goals for baptisms. (This may be a point of confusion or controversy, but just know that we need measures that will gauge our work, as well as motivation to change the lives of these people for the better. We decide the number according to what we feel is just, and the Lord helps us find the people that will receive the blessings of these goals.) We have been teaching some incredible people, truly, but we were looking - without much faith on my end - to see who was prepared to make this covenant with our Heavenly Father. Well, Celia and Carlos didńt get married this week (no marriage = no batismo) so we decided to visit Rodrigo and Diogo. We taught them a pretty straightforward lesson on the lei de castidade [law of chastity], and they looked rather penitent. We had a really serious and rather spiritual lesson, and decided to go by with the Elders for the .entrevista [interview]. When we got there the next morning . . . neither of them was home. (Well that was disappointing. Though it followed suit with the rest of the week. The members of this ward have been so kind to wander around with us as we fumbled to find people at home. One thing you certainly learn on a mission is humility, and overcoming embarrassment, and realizing that yoúre not perfect . . . and perserverance, and patience with yourself.)

So we decided to look for him at the internet cafe. One slight complication is that they live at the highest point in our area. It́s a little bit of a hike, but we did it twice and finally found them at home (after a few prayers, a few calls, a few tense laughs.) We had read that morning as a Mission Alma 19 - which talks about King Lamoni and how he falls to the ground because hés so overcome with the spirit, and when he comes to, he has had this INCREDIBLE change of heart. He is converted completely to follow the Lord and seek out the blessings of the Lord. We were hoping - knowing that the Lord is capable - that Rodrigo would be willing. I love this kid. Hés about six feet tall, he has earrings in both ears, a scorpion tattoo, but he has the sweetest smile you will EVER see. Ever. I love this kid. I know that batismo would change his life, that he would be different, gain the blessings that his Father in Heaven has in store for him, but he wasńt feeling prepared. Tranqüilo. But Sunday morning we hiked up to his house again, yes, he was still in bed, but we ever-so-gently woke him up, reminded him about the compromise wéd made, he even sat up in bed and talked with us. Said héd follow after us with his bike, but he didńt go.

When I got to church I accompanied the Primary in preparation for the Primary program. And there was a little drama from the husband of the Primary president who was complaining about the chorister, that she was off, speaking random English with me, and . . . making an unnecessary ruckus, taking away the sweet spirit of the kids singing. And then I got to play for Sacrament (as i usually get to) and I just didńt have a chance to really breathe and pray and settle in my head how I was feeling. And then I took the sacrament. Wow. When they started to say the prayer over the bread, I thought about the promise that we make with the Lord - that wéll remember his Son, that wéll take upon us His name, that wéll obey the commandments, and then (and THEN, in addition) Héll give us His spirit to always be with us. Do you know how much we gain with the covenant? Do you know how much happiness we have just keeping our end, without the recompensa [compensation/reward] of the Lord? Do you realize how blessed we are to know what it means to be a filho de Deus [Son/Daughter of God]? It́s everything. EVERYTHING. I get frustrated that people wońt reach just a LITTLE bit to receive these blessings in abundance. Just do a little bit, and then do a LOT. Please.

I know that Jesus Christ is our Savior and that He knows. Whatever yoúre feeling, He knows, and better yet, He can help.

(Also, it́s transfers week, Sister de Assis after 11 months in Conquista is going to Itabuna. I shall stay and train. Yup.)

love love love,
Sister Cornwall

[Excerpts of letter to Sister Cornwall's mother]

Íll be training this next transfer. yup. I am freaking out a little bit. I think the Lord tried to teach a few last minute lessons on patience this past week in preparation. Yesterday was one of the most meaningful sacrament meetings of my life. Also one of the teariest (funny how those things tend to go together.) But I learned so much about the power of the atonement to heal, not just to forgive. To take away aching and suffering. Every week we need to have lessons with members. Wéve been faulting immensely, so this week we got everything arranged for every night of the week . . . and then no one was home. We worked so hard, we exhausted ourselves, we were hoping for miracles . . . and they didńt come quite like we asked. But the Savior can take of our disappointments when investigators stay in bed instead of going to church. etc.

Also, I dońt know if I mentioned that I talked about your reverence during sacrament meeting mom. That you always indicated the speaker instead of chatting with me - and that that was the greatest lesson I could ever learn! Thank you.

To get trained to train, Ím going to Salvador tonight...

Happy Halloween.

Monday, October 24, 2011

What a week it was,

First of all, it rained, pretty much the entire week. I know what yoúre thinking - wait, shés in Brazil, and it́s approaching summer on that side of the equator, and. . . I know. But that́s Conquista. (Conquista is pretty much a county, and it́s made up of lots of large neighborhoods. yup.)

We had Conferencia de Zona [Zone Conference] this week on Wednesday, (photo of the Sisteres, and photo of our zone. I meant to have a picture with Presidente and Sister Vecchi, but my camera didńt take). So we were running around trying to make up for our lost day. We worked hard this week, trying to put in practice the things that we learned. First of all, we have to do our maximum. So often in this life we are swimming, swimming seeking the shore . . . and it gets hard, and we stop. Little did we know that we were just one stroke away from the shore. So just keep doing your best and it́ll come. This was grand advice from Presidente. The thing is, we did our best this week. We went to the cartorio [notary's office/registry]in this tiny city with a member of the ward with the couple that is waiting to get married. They entered their papers, and wére waiting (and praying, and fasting) for a date soon. Celia and Carlos have been waiting to get married . . . for a year. So your prayers would be lovely. We'́ve also been spending a lot of time with Rodrigo and Diogo, brothers that went to church last week (mostly because we helped drag them out of bed.) They are great kids . . . but they haveńt been keeping compromissos [commitments/promises]. We also taught Inis, and her niece, hoping theýd come to church. We also had the chance to talk with Poliana and Robério, and Daví their son, and we had a good talk. Also, Ramón, who we found out is the cousin once removed of a member of the church. Hés great. I love every one of these people. Love them. I want the best for their lives, but I will tell ya, my heart sorta got broken this week. Okay, our purpose as missionaries is to invite others to come unto Christ. To invite. Solely. And sometimes our invitations are accepted, but are not followed through. And that breaks my heart. I know, without a doubt that prayer and reading the scriptures and going to the church is going to make a difference. And they [the investigators] dońt [pray, read, go to church]. Oh gosh, and I cańt force them. Anyway, theré's that sad story.

But the great news is, we spoke in church yesterday. We got the invitation . . . between sociedade de socorro [Relief Society] and princípios do evangelho [Gospel Principles]. And I was accompanying the primary during the middle hour, and played during sacrament. Suffice it to say that my preparation was minimal.

Sister de Assis and I (we are becoming quite good friends. We disagree . . .frequently, but oh how I'́ve learned to deal with disagreement. we are having a grand ol time together). [We] have noticed a little lack of reverence during sacrament meeting. It́s horrible actually. Plus Sister Vecchi talked about reverence for the sacred (a talk by Elder Cristofferson) and so we laid it right out, talking about how sacrament meeting is the meeting mais importante [most important] in the church. I talked about the sacrifice of our Savior, and that we need to use the time that we have to show our reverence for that sacrifice. We kinda chastised them. But it́s for their own sake right? And for our pesquisadores [investigators] to feel the strong spirit that can be there.

We had a lot of good experiences teaching. We have improved and changed so much as a dupla, [c0mpanionship] and I feel so grateful. Our work is more effective, but wére seeing effects of the inimigo [enemy/foe]. Iniśs niece was incredible; 12 years old and she has so much faith. We passed by the next day, and the dad flat out said that he didńt want anyone talking about religion with his daughter. I hate it when that happens. But wére doing all we can to spread the joyful message of this great work. I know that the Lord expects success from us, and that it is the result of hard work on our part. So Ím just trusting in that idea and putting in everything. Therés not really anything else we can do. We talked a lot wednesday about really putting our heart into this work, having faith in the bondade of the Lord. We are trying to continue changing (that́s really all repentance is, and ím so grateful. at least if ím not perfecting, ím learning) and I know that it will affect this lovely Ward. Íll write more about it later, but Ím very grateful to be working here, despite some of the unforeseeable and inexplicable challenges we have.

Oh how I love this gospel, it is truth, that is eternal and glorious.

love love love
Sister Cornwall

A few excerpts from e-mails to Sister Cornwall's mother:

I would LOVE to hear about Halloween. A family in our ward carved a pumpkin - I sorta shrieked when I saw it. Lovely.

I love hearing about the Monrovia Ward as well. A special place.

I wanted to tell you to watch a video : National Back to Church Day. I dońt know if yoúve seen it, but it is really cool, well done and inspiring!

We got the new [History of the] Relief Society manual. I LOVE IT!!!! We were like little girls when we got home last night and wrote our names in the book and looked at all the pictures. Ím sure yoúre not surprised, but I really really loved all the old photos. Can we fashion my future temple dress after some of the officiantes from one of the photos?

Brazil is more traditional in gender roles, and it́s been interesting to be exposed to that.

Also, your package hasńt come. I may have lost hope. But others are getting packages. I dońt know what the deal is. Sorry about that.

Tell everyone to post a lot on the blog! I want to see it all . . . some day.

... one of our investigators. Theýve been waiting to get married for over a year! And this week wére hoping things will finally work out. But we were talking to him last night, about his testimony and feelings about the church. He likes the structure, good people, the leaders dońt get paid, strong principles, but he has trouble with the phrase, "I know this church is true",` signifying perhaps that all other churches are false. He doesńt have a testimony that Joseph Smith was a prophet or that the Book of Mormon is true. He wants to get baptized, he knows this is the church for him, and it́s going to happen, but Ím still a little sad that his testimony of the GOSPEL and priesthood is sort of faulting. Wére hoping that the gift of the Holy Ghost will open up and strengthen his testimony.

Our family is incredible blessed. the Church here has a lot of problems, but really, there are serious problems everywhere. I just want a simple life, and to do what is right. I realized this week that all the things/people I left behind will still be there, but this mission wońt wait. I need to just take advantage of the time I have. I feel so imperfect... sometimes, BUT - that́s why we have the atonement. Ím glad the Lord is patient.

Oh mom, there are jacaranda trees here. I think of you and Grandpa Hodgkinson.

love you, rach

Monday, October 17, 2011

Whew, this week was a full one. It was physically and emotionally pretty exhausting. We are teaching some incredible people, and hoping that they will continue to progress and feel the strength that comes with the knowledge that we have a Savior that paid the price for us, and now we´re here on the earth with a plan. There is a plan! I thought a lot about faith recently, that it is strength. I know I know, sometimes it looks like weaknesses, and sometimes I can understand that, but really, and I can only speak for myself, it is my strength. I know that there is a reason for everything. I know that our Father in Heaven doesn´t want to see us suffer, but He does want us to learn. There was a quote (from somewhere, I don´t remember) that said that as Christians we don´t obey because we´re blind, but we follow because we see. Right? It is a great gospel. And guess what, we need to renew our testimony often of the truth we know in our lives. I need to renew my convictions . . . frequently, it´s the only way to discover happiness.

This week the big news was that the postal strike ended. Yes. We can now send and receive letters. Yup.

We had 5 people at church yesterday. The bispo dropped us off at their house before church . . . and we dragged the two young men out bed (literally) and they all biked down with the step-dad and two little sons. It was great to see them there.

We had a lot of experiences this week where we really were there to mourn with those that mourn. We saw one of our investigators on the street and were so excited to see her. She let us know she´s separating from her husband. Another lady we know came up to us and cried about how her brother died (her mom´s a member of the church) and talked about how her husband who drinks is incredibly violent. We tried to just show that we cared.

I´m trying to think of other exciting things that happened in this strange land of Brazil, but you´ll have to wait until next week my friends.

love, love, love,
Sister Cornwall

Monday, October 10, 2011

Another Week!

We had a lot of blessings this week. We have been slowly changing a few things in our little dupla [duo/companionship], and I think that it is rendering some good results. We have been teaching a family that lives rather high up in the area, and they are so fun. Unfortunately the sons areńt really reading the Book of Mormon, but they have a good heart. Inis (who went to conference last week) came to church yesterday, and I daresay she liked it.

One of the highlights of the week was our Noite Familiar [Family Night] Saturday. There were about 25 single adults at the house of two sisters in our Ward. We were in charge of the message. Sister de Assis has this little experiment that she loves: to represent the power of the atonement in our lives; she puts on drop of food coloring in glass of water (to represent the stains of errors) and then you pour bleach in the glass - and the red water turns clear again. We read Isaiah 1:18 and discussed that Jesus Cristo suffered . . . everything. He felt every little thing that pains us, and bled. We talked about how when we bleed, no one benefits; when we scrape our knee, or cut open our lip - no one really gets anything. But the blood of Jesus Cristo will save us. It is the means by which we receive mercy and grace - but it is not free gente [people], we have to seek out the power. In 1 John 1:7 it talks about how we need to walk in the light. And Alma 5:33-34 we need to take the sacrament to use the love he has . . . to save us. Interesting.

I love being a missionary. It is such a beautiful privilege.

love, love, love,
Sister Cornwall

[Excerpts from note to Mom]
Oh dearest Mom,

Thanks for the update. I pray for my siblings, and just hope that what I`m praying for is still up-to-date information, so thanks for reassuring that for me. Thank you for being my little mail carrier. I do love the Monrovia Ward, and I want them to know the great effects theýve had on me....

I am inspired to get to know the Bible. It is NOT the Livro de Mormon, but it is the word of God, and it helps us to get to know the Savior/Jehovah. Thanks for being a great seminary teacher . . . though Íve realized that I need a deep review of scripture mastery scriptures. (Feel free to tell your seminary kids that the doctrine taught in those 100 scriptures are the foundation and are essential to build our testimonies.)

And now for some details:
  • This past week we were incredibly blessed. Wére working just about completely in Alto Maron, a 30-40 minute walk from our house. It́s a lot more middle class, and wére having success with families! One hard thing is that marriage is incredibly hard and completely complicated....
  • We have lunch everyday with members (but sometimes it falls through, which -to date- is the worst thing that happens).
  • We dońt really cook, and so we go to the grocery store and buy the little pre-made food in the restaurant place. It has been a tough and humbling road. [There is just a] lack of options. Today we were offered a lunch of potato lasagna with bacon and white rice. I thought today - what am I supposed to do? Refuse? So Ím just going along.
Ím trying to be good, and worthy, and most of all happy. A mission is a great thing.

Love you, Rach

Monday, October 3, 2011

Well, here we are, back after a huge week. We were seeking to work extra hard because of General Conference, and then General Conference itself ended up being slightly exhausting as well.
Everybody was together at the Stake building (which is actually within walking distance for us) Saturday and Sunday. The Stake President had mentioned that maybe there would be English for the missionaries, but that didn´t end up happening. Which is fine, because I´ll be watching in English for the rest of my life. It was a little bit harder to focus, but I was blessed to be able to understand most of what everyone was saying (and cute little Richard G. Scott dubbed his own talk.) It was a powerful two days. There were some inspired things said, and in general it was more encouragement to do what is right. The amazing thing is, the gospel of Jesus Christ doesn´t change. What is true is true, and we have a prophet that can reveal, emphasize, apply and evaluate the doctrine for us today. I feel more prepared to go out and continue teaching all these great things to the people. We had a few little pesquisadores [investigators] (one Inis, this woman we have sort of been teaching. we left a little bilhete [note] in her mailbox and she came to two sessions! another was Lara, who wants to get baptized, but here mom is espírita [?spiritualist or evangelist?] and isn´t willing to sign the form,) and Jhony were there. It was interesting to see these great men and music and words [of General Conference] from their perspective. This church is big and great and organized . . . but it also is for the individual.

I think the biggest realization I had was the emphasis on Eternal Life. As missionaries we give people these little tasks to do to help them be better and come closer to Christ. But it´s more than just a church, or a book, or a man. This gospel is about the salvation and exaltation of EVERYONE. We can´t stop when that´s what´s at risk. These men and women donate their lives to be servants of a great Master and to help us. You. Me. Everything we do here is about learning who we are, why we´re here, and what we need to return to our loving Heavenly Father. I needed to hear this. We all do.

This week was a little trickier. All I want to is to be diligent and efficient, but we need someone to let us in first. That is hard. (and potentially exhausting) but it has to be done. That´s simple. The Lord has something we need to learn. And He´s given us so many tools, and opportunities, and what are we doing with them? I hope we´re using them, I hope I´m using them to the extent I should. I´m so inspired by the glorious examples and the goodness and the hope. I love this gospel.

Love, Love, Love,
Sister Cornwall