Baptisms and Conversions

First off, Happy Halloween! They don’t have Halloween here, but there is a holiday a few weeks before it called Children’s day. Everyone buys presents for their kids and it’s a work holiday too so people take their kids to do fun things. All the same, people here see halloween and trick or treating in movies and wish they had it here too.

I ate a cacão fruit the other day. Irma Raimunda gave it to me because she has a cacão tree. It looked like a bumpy little ovel squash. When I cut it open, it was full of what looked like (and tasted like) white cotton balls. They were a little bit sweet but also tasted a little bit like mayonais. The little coco seeds in the middle of the cotton balls are like bitter, waxy peanuts (imagine eatiing crayons) and usually people spit them out and just suck on the outside white part. How people ever thought to make chocolate out of those little seeds is a mystery to me, but it was fun trying something new.

And now for the neat story I promised. This week we baptized Juliana, her cousin Silvio and their neighbor Isabel. It was a lovely service, lots of people were there and we all walked home together joking and smiling.

A month or so ago, Sister Prado and I were in the market buying wafer cookies when we ran into Juliana (age 17) and her mom Rosi. She gave Sister Prado a big hug and asked her why she had stopped visiting. Sister Prado, looking a bit taken aback, was quick to mark a day to visist her again. After they left, Sister Prado explained that she and her previous companion had recieved Julie’s address as a referrence from the mission office (when people call and ask for free church DVDs of Christ and such, we get their addresses from the office so we can personally deliver the items). When they arived at Julie’s house it was a complete surprise and mystery because Julie didn’t know how they had ended up with her address. They had visited Julie a few times and then for some reason she was never home when they tried to visit so they had to drop her.

Around this same time we ran into them in the market, Sister Prado recieved Julie’s address from the office again! (This is unusual because they usually discard the addresses after they pass them to us) We visited her and found out that although she hadn’t been reading the Book of Mornon, (Sister Prado had left her one after the first visit), her cousin Silvio (age 23) was reading and explaining it to her and had almost read the whole thing! We decided that we needed to meet this cousin.

The whole extended family runs a little market and lives on the level above it so we visited them again at night after the Market closed and were able to meet more of her cousins and specifically Silvio. We met with him back in the grain Storage room with our mission leader and his wife and he set up some chairs for us. The smell of good clean Farinha grain was very strong. He had a lot to say. He said he had just finished reading the Book of Mormon and felt the desire to cry when he was reading it. He said that it answered a lot of the questions he had. He accepted a baptism date.

The next day, we were waiting for Isabel to teach her when Silvio called us to the house. We entered and it looked like he was reuniting everyone for some kind of meeting. He was agitated and rambling and Julie was in the middle of this bunch of friends and family, all standing in the awkward little entry way. He was telling her that now she had five witneesses, five people to prove that God really does exist, he was shaking a little and seemed very distraught. We were very confused. He told Julie that she tried to flee us but that now we were there and she had to admit that God exists. Then she fainted. Silvio started crying. We were horrified, naturally.

But here Mom was quick to hold her in her lap and she revived. She was crying and nobody said anything for some dreadful, suspensful, awkward moments. Then I knelt down and patted her on the back and said it’s all good, we love you. She looked at me and said she was sorry and asked our forgiveness. We comforted her a little more and then descretley left the familly to itself. All the aunts and family there gave Julie a hug one by one and wispered words of comfort in her ear.

That night, we returned to teach Silvio and we learned the whole story from Rosi. Julie’s Dad bought a farm from some shady people two years ago and started to have close calls with people in the streets. At first, he was able to escape, but then he was killed. Assassinated. Julie decided in this moment that God didn’t exist. She went through some very dark times, playing with Satanic symbols and being with friends that were not good at all. After Sister Prado visited her the first time, Julie really was trying to avoid her and was purposley evading the missionaries. It was this that she was appoligizing for after she fainted. Rosi, although she is very Catholic, asked for us to keep coming back because she said that we were the only church group Julie recieved.

The next morning, we visited Julie and she was her same cheerful self again. I had made an origami box for her and put a picture of Jesus holding a black lamb inside it (which I cut out of the liahona magazine) and written her name above the sheep. I explained as I blew on the box to fill it out that our faith fills us up in the same way so that we can see the love Jesus has for us and see that God exists. When she looked in the box she teared up and said that she had always only cried for herself before but that now she was crying because she was happy. She said that now she was a different person and since the night before, she believed that God existed. She accepted a baptism date.

It was a mirale that the mission office had her name. It was a miracle that we ran into her in the market (when we were slacking and buying snacks) and a miracle that we started visiting her again just as Silvio finished reading the Book of Mormon. Because of this experience I have a testimony that God really is the master Chess Player. He not only compensates for our weaknesses but uses them in his strategy to bring about good. He knows us personally, inside and out. He knows our weaknesses and our strenghts so well that he knows what we will do next, where we will excell, were we will fall and He’s made a way that if we are always doing our best to turn to him and repent, everything will work out for our good.

The Story of Isabel (age 20) is beautiful as well. Her neighbor Blenda (age 14) invited her to church so we met her and gave her a Book of Mormon. The look of joy and surprise on her face as she accepted The Book of Mormon and said “Oh, for me?!” sent a thrill of joy into my heart beause she was the first person to accept The Book Of Momon with such sincerity and it was during a time when we were having a very rough time helping our other investigators progress.

Our hearts dropped when we found out that she needed to be divorced to be baptized. We almost dropped her because breaking her family to baptize her seemed all sorts of wrong. She was separated from her husband of 4 years and had a little two year old girl (Camilia) and was living with her brother’s family. We thought maybe there was a chance they could reconcile things and get back togerther.. Beacuse she was separated from her husband, the case needed to be resolved before she could be baptized because if she were to start dating someone new while still being legally married to someone else, it would be a serious sin.

Then one day in church, she came up to us, told us that she was divorced and that she wanted to be Baptized. She is one of the priettiest, most sweet tempered, solft natured and delicate women I have met and I don’t know where her future will lead her but it was so lovely to see her joy after she was baptized. She was so nervous for the Baptismal Interview but everything worked out just fine and the Baptism was lovely.

I love you all! I The more we pray to feel God’s love and trust the Spirit, the more he will heal us spiritually of our fears and stresses. I’ve learned that gratitude and counting blessings is a cure for feelings of inadequacy and stress. I know miracles still exist.

May this week be a blessed one!

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