This week was great! Because Sister Acosta is the new Sister Training Leader, I got to go on an exchange this week in Pom Bal. It was cool to work in a new area for a couple days. We had a lot of awesome street tracting lessons. I also got to meet a new missionary from Georgia who just arrived from the Provo MTC [Missionary Training Center] this last transfer. He seemed really happy to have someone to speak English with, but I tried to speak with him in Portuguese as much as possible and also gave him some tips (e.g., don't flush toilet paper, don't slam car doors, always eat with your knife, know the difference between coco and cocó). He was really red (sunburnt) after going on a three hour hike with the young men the day before and not using any sunscreen. I guess he learned his lesson. I don't know why all the Elders think they are stronger than the sun.
Carnival finally ended, but Sister Acosta and I saw a Carnival parade the other day after the end of Carnival. There was a lot of blaring music and drunks walking down the street and everyone was throwing chalk at each other. On another street the same day we saw a funeral parade, which was basically the same thing without the drunks and chalk. The casket was on a large truck with speakers that had blaring music and a bunch of bright colorful lights. All the people were following the car. It was pretty strange in my opinion. I'm grateful that we can be happy during funerals because of the plan of salvation and the knowledge we have that we will see our family and friends again after death, but I think the people were a little too happy for the wrong reason. It was basically a party.
One of our investigators was baptized this week. Raila, the 11 year-old niece of recent convert Juliana, was baptized on Sunday (it took five attempts before she was finally immersed all the way in the water). She has been coming to church for a while now with her aunt and told us last week that she wanted to be baptized. So we taught her about the restored Gospel this week and she was baptized yesterday.
Everton could not be baptized this week because his parents did not give him permission to do this, but we are going to try to teach them a little more about the restored Gospel and the importance of baptism. I have found on my mission that children often lead the way for their families to be baptized. Christ said that we should all be more like children, pure and innocent, and I definitely have a testimony of this.
The members of an amazing recent convert family in our branch were all baptized at different times and the first member to be baptized was their 9 year-old son, followed by his mother who had an extreme smoking addiction, and finally by his father, who was an extreme alcoholic. Ivanholdo, the father, baptized Victor and Raila (our baptism this week) and is waiting to baptize his daughter, Julia, when she turns 8 this year. They are also waiting for the marvelous day when they will enter the temple and be sealed together forever as a family.
Sandro, one of our investigators who had a baptismal date marked for yesterday, was not baptized yesterday. Although he had already had a baptismal interview, our amazing zone leaders spoke with him yesterday. He told them that he felt he was not quite ready yet and he wanted to be baptized on Wednesday instead of yesterday.
Although this may surprise some people, I cannot tell you how relieved I was when I found out. Although I am always happy to see the people we teach enter into the waters of baptism, I feel like the missionaries here receive a lot (maybe even too much) pressure to have baptisms every week and at times this leads to people being baptized for the wrong reasons or before they are ready and truly understand what they are doing and the covenant they are making with Christ when they are baptized.
We are working with a couple of recent converts who are less active and are drinking and smoking. Sister Acosta says that they were probably baptized because they were converted to the missionaries [who taught them] and not to the church and the gospel of Jesus Christ.
The other day we met a man who started talking to us about the Church. He said he had been there before and liked it but that he didn't understand why we had another Bible and why we had a prophet before God.
We explained to him that we read and love the Bible, which was written by prophets in the Middle East, and that The Book of Mormon is Another Testament of Jesus Christ, which was written by prophets in the Americas. We explained that The Book of Mormon in no way replaces the Bible, but that they both testified of the same Gospel of Jesus Christ and support one another. We also explained that we do not believe that the prophets of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints in anyway come before God, but that they are representatives of the Lord who teach us and receive revelation for the Church about the things we can do to be better followers of the Lord, just like prophets of old (e.g., Adam, Noah, Moses)
Only after our lesson did the man tell us that he was baptized and confirmed a member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints a year ago. Wow. That was a slap in the face. We hope to meet with this man again and talk with him more about the gospel of Jesus Christ. Many people here say that our purpose here as missionaries is to baptize. I agree that baptism is a part of our purpose, but I also believe that our higher purpose is to help people become converted to the Gospel of Jesus Christ so they can endure to the end.
We played volleyball and futbol with the Elders this morning (4 on 4). There is only one word that can describe what we did and it is "Suar" (to sweat). Sister Acosta and I created a motto for our area when we first got here "SOUSA: SUAR. BATIZAR. CONFIRMAR." [“Sousa: Sweat, Baptize, Confirm”] This is what we do here.
Com Muito Amor!