Tuesday, December 28, 2010

The First Few Days

December 27, 2010

Tudo bem? EVERYONE says that. All the time. Tudo bem? Tudo bem. Tudo bom? Tudo bom. Tudo bem? Tudo direito. And so on.

Merry Christmas!!

I'm finally here! I think that's what you call a miracle.

Let's see...well, we got here on Thursday, really early in the morning, slept for a few hours and then went to the Christmas party at the mission home. I was really, really tired! But it was nice to meet some of the missionaries and President Neves and Sister Neves. Then on Friday we had some orientation things and our interview with President. I guess that was Christmas Eve, so we had to be home at 6. But we met with a couple people and talked a little about Christ's birth. I really can't say a whole lot and I understand approximately...nothing! Everyone speaks Creole here and it makes no sense to me. Then add that to the fact that I really don't know Portuguese yet. Agh. But I can still pray and bear my testimony, which I've already done a lot.

Then Christmas Day! We had an awesome breakfast/party at Elder and Sister Adam´s home and I got to play UNO! I felt right at home. Then we pretty much just hung out at home until the Christmas choir concert at the chapel. The chapel is sweet. It´s orange and green and yellow and I never would have guessed it was our church, but it's really nice.

We had church on Sunday in the church near our house, though. And it's just a basement floor of a building. Church was good. There's almost more missionaries than members, but I understood a little bit and it was cool. They have one investigator who's going to be baptized in January and he came. The rest of Sunday was pretty cool. We walked all over and taught a few people.

Ah. Also. Ironically, I´ve never been kissed so much in my life. (The mission is not what I expected!! Haha.) All the women greet each other by kissing each other on each cheek. It will take some getting used to. :) And for some reason I think there are other causes for sicknesses than the water or food. Haha.

Okay. Now what you really want to know about: Cabo Verde! It´s incredible. I don't think I even need to say that I've never been anywhere like it in my life. There are animals everywhere: chickens, dogs, cats, cows, and goats. I've never seen so many scrawny dogs walking around and barking on roofs. Well, I've never actually seen any dogs on roofs before now, but here it happens a lot.

There are some pretty nice places here and all the houses are painted cool colors, but we visited a few houses that were built of cinderblocks and concrete and that's it. It was interesting going in there though, because they still have leather furniture, china, and TVs. And posters of Allen Iverson. But not all of them. There are many people here with very little.

Let's see...well, we´ve taken a lot of taxis and buses (which smell bad) and walked a bit along some very bumpy roads. We also climbed a mountain to get to part of our area. A mountain with steps all the way up it. It was pretty steep, but not too bad. But there are women who have to climb it several times a week and with giant tubs of water on their heads.

So the place where I've been staying isn't my area. Just this afternoon, I barely moved to my new area: Terra Branca. Still near/in the city of Praia. My companions are Sister Almeida from Brazil and Sister Pinto from Angola--yup, you guessed it. Neither of them speak English. Which will be really good for me! Our house/apartment is actually really nice, by Cabo Verde standards. And it's purple. Which is awesome.

I'll have to take/send a lot of pictures when I get my camera cord. Which is in my suitcase. Which still hasn´t arrived. But it really is amazing here. There is an absolutely incredible view of the ocean and the lighthouse which I'll have to send. And then there are the hillsides covered in tiny concrete houses and the cobblestone roads and everything else.

Okay. Here are some words for you all to learn:

fofo (foh-foo) = fluffy
tubarao - the second 'a' has a tilde over it. (too-bar-ow) = shark
ladrar = to bark
fixe (feesh) = cool/awesome, etc. (I think it might actually be Creole)

I love you all! I´ll try to think of more to say and tell you about now that I´m officially in my area and ready to get to work (and learn the language).

Fica fixe,
Sister Emma Brooks

Also, you better have watched the “Doctor Who” Christmas special!

The Arrival...sort of

December 22, 2010


Well, I´m here in the mission office of my mission...oh wait, no I´m not! I am in the mission office, but it´s the mission office of the Portugal Lisbon Mission! I can give you the details when I call on Christmas (and, hopefully, I will be in Cape Verde by that time), but the basics are these: Our flight was so delayed from Salt Lake to Paris that we missed our connection to Lisbon, waited in several lines for several hours and then eventually (after many, many difficult phone calls to President Neves) ended up in a little Parisian hotel for the night. Just kidding. It was this lame little Park Inn--pretty much an American place. But I got to stay the night in Paris!! And then we flew to Lisbon and actually met up with our whole district, which was/is awesome! And now we´re with them and we´re just going to have lunch and then get a flight (hopefully) tonight to Cabo Verde! Estamos animados!

OK. Well, I´ll tell you more about it when I talk to you on Saturday. But I´m safe and alive. And very sick of airplane food. Love you all!

-Sister Brooks

PS George Clooney is even famous in Europe. :)

"Sister Brooks...standing on a chair"

December 17, 2010


Well, in case you've forgotten, I fly out on Monday! In less than 72 hours! And, yes, I am excited. This past week has been pretty bizarre since we've all been thinking about travel plans and other such things. Luckily we've been keeping busy enough that I haven't had time to go insane thinking about flying for 24 hours or trying to pack 18 months’ worth of stuff into less than 55 pounds.

But it's been a great week. Our progressive investigator was 'baptized' on Saturday! Woo-hoo! And then we met the real "Garrett" on Sunday. Turns out Garrett...is a girl! And, no, her name's not Garrett. But she's the friend of one of our teachers and we got to meet her and hear her tell her story and it was awesome. And she was actually baptized for real in September, so it was really exciting.

And that's what I was doing, Mom and Dad--waiting for her and Irmão to show up--when you happened to drive by the temple. :) I was really glad to see you and my district and I haven't been able to stop talking about it. I'm not sure if you were crying, Mom, because you were happy to see me, or if you were just upset to see how fat I've gotten! :) I wish I could have introduced everyone to you, too. That would have been great. It was pretty funny, though, and Elder Spurlock commented: "I can't believe it! She follows all the rules and she still gets to see her family!" We call it a tender mercy.

We were lucky enough to hear from Sister Christofferson (Elder Christofferson's wife) in Relief Society. She gave a wonderful talk about the Christmas story, but best of all, she played a little video of her four- and two-year-old grandsons reciting Luke 2. It was pretty amazing and adorable and really funny. It's very cute hearing a four-year-old use words like "espoused" and "multitudes"!

Our Sunday Fireside was so great! It was a musical fireside given by the BYU Men's Chorus. They sang lots of Christmas songs and I didn't have to take any notes! :)

We did a little mini TRC with another Portuguese speaking district and Sister Laimana and I got to teach Sister Brooks and Sister Fisher. You should send me the names of Grandpa Brooks' family members because I really think Sister Brooks and I could be related. Do we have cousins in Pleasant Grove? :) And they're awesome. It was so much fun to have another opportunity to teach in Portuguese. (Yes, I realize I'll have plenty opportunities in about five days.)

Our Tuesday Devotion was Paul B. Pieper and it was, of course, wonderful. As our last time in the choir, we sang a really nice arrangement of “Away in a Manger.” I'm really going to miss choir and devotionals and firesides and temple walks!

We got to go to the temple for our LAST TIME for 16 months! Crazy! It's really given us the perspective of all those around the world who don't have a temple in their backyard. We're so blessed. Our district is planning our reunion to the Lisbon Portugal Temple when it opens in a few years. Even though I'm not going to Portugal, I can't help but get choked up hearing about that temple. If you want, go find the last conference when President Monson announces the Portugal temple and listen to it in Portuguese. It will make you cry! The translator is so emotional and it really just testifies to me what a blessing it is to have the temple and all the ordinances performed within it.

Guess what! Our friend district (the district that came in the same day as us and is [supposed to be] going to Brazil) got their reassignments! Three of them are going to the Salt Lake City Mission and the rest to Nashville, Tennessee! I felt like I could connect with them since they'll be much closer to my little ones than I'll be. Both in Salt Lake and in Nashville! Crazy.

Oh, and we got to host again on Wednesday, for the last time! I saw another sister who I worked with at Aspen Grove and got to talk to her a bit and a really nice sister who gets to go to the MTC in Guatemala in three weeks.

Okay, subject line: I feel like I might have already told you this, but probably not. So for some reason our district likes to have our teacher guess whose handwriting is whose, so we all wrote a sentence on the board and had him guess. I wrote mine as high as I could reach and so when he identified it he named me but then added the condition: "standing on a chair." Apparently I'm very short. :)

I wish I could describe our district to you. In one word though: CRAZY. I haven't told you even a percent of the funny things that are said and done lest you think we're not focused on the work, but I have never laughed so hard in my life. Our elders are just all very quick-witted and hilarious and the sisters have fun too (though in a much more quiet and dignified manner, of course). Anyway, just know that we're awesome and I'm going to miss them SO much! At least I get to take Sister Laimana and Elder Cuestas with me.

I love you all! I love this work and I love my Savior and His gospel! Keep doing what is right and serve someone this Holiday Season! Be good!


Sister Brooks

The Travel Plans

December 12, 2010

Bom Dia!

So is anyone else flying to Paris at 5 PM on Monday the 20th? No? WELL, I AM! Yes. We received our travel plans and it was really, really exciting. I'll probably send you a real letter and tell you what our schedule is since we get to call from the airport! Anyway. The basics are we fly directly from Salt Lake to Paris! A very long flight. Then right on a plane to Lisbon (we get to be in our district's mission before they do!) and a seven-hour layover until our flight to Cape Verde. Wow. I'm so excited. And it's only 10 days from now. Ah!

Yeah. That's pretty much the most exciting thing that happened, but I have tons to talk about this week, so here it goes.

I saw Lisa yesterday in the cafeteria! It was awesome. I heard this familiar "Excuse me, Sister" and there was Weecha! And even better, she told me about Andy's mission call!! Oh my goodness! Andy, I'm so excited for you! I hope you know that's where I wanted to go (before I realized I wanted to go to Cape Verde) so I'm really jealous and super excited! When do you leave? Agh. I hope you can talk about “Doctor Who” with people. Anyway...

Our progressive investigator is getting baptized tomorrow! And, yes, it's just pretend. But it's really exciting. Hopefully we'll get to meet "Garrett" for real before we leave. (And make sure he really is going to get baptized.)

On Saturday night we were in class and I'd just had an interview with Irmão Owen. He'd been looking at my planner and admiring my penmanship. (I don't know why.) Anyway, in class, the Portuguese tutor came in and sang with us and Irmão Owen made me show him my planner so he could see my handwriting. It was really embarrassing. Sort of. I just say that both my sisters have better handwriting than I do, so it's all right. I can't believe I just wasted time telling that story.

Mission Conference again on Sunday! I've been here for two Fast Sundays. Crazy. It was really great and there was an amazing musical number by several Elders who sang "Mary, Did You Know?" Then Sister Clegg talked quite a bit about Mary's life and it was really interesting and inspiring. We received a lot of good counsel from all the speakers.

I also got to give the closing prayer (in Portuguese) in our Sacrament meeting. Yup.

One of our Branch Presidency members was released on Sunday and even though we'll be leaving in a week, it was kind of sad. And it made me realize that I'm going to meet so many people who I'll learn to love so much and then I'll be TRANSFERRED! It's going to be hard. I don't even want to think about that dreaded day in 2012 when I'll have to leave Cabo Verde forever (or a little while at least).

We had a really cool experience on Sunday. On our temple walk, we noticed a man and his son standing just outside the fence on the sidewalk and my so-much-bolder-and-better-than-me companion suggested we share our testimony in Portuguese with them. We did (and translated it throughout) and then talked to them a little while. They asked if we could teach them a little about fasting and we did. Then we talked a little bit more and it turns out the father was out trying to help his son understand fasting and tithing and we got to help out a little bit. It was neat. And it was all through the temple fence, so it was extra cool.

Hey! We got to see the same devotional on Sunday! I absolutely loved the Christmas Devotional and I thought it was an absolutely perfect way to begin the Christmas season. I'm sorry I won't be able to be home with everyone at Christmas, but I feel so blessed (and excited) to be in Cape Verde helping people understand what's so wonderful about the birth of our Savior and what we have to look forward to! I'm so lucky!

So on Tuesday, we got to go into Babylon (aka Provo outside the MTC boundaries)! Sister Laimana just had a doctor's appointment and I actually got to sit in the waiting room of Dr. Donaldson's office where I've sat many times. I was just waiting for Mom to come in for an appointment or something. And I also learned that if you don't cut your hair for five years, it will grow three feet. Cool, right?

Our Tuesday Devotional was Elder and Sister Zwick and it was a fantastic devotional, as usual. They spoke a lot about how inadequate we can feel at times and how frightening some of our tasks can be. They shared a bit about their individual missions and their time as mission presidents. One thing I really loved is what Sister Zwick said. She said she felt completely overwhelmed as a mission president's wife and her nine-year-old son told her: "Mom, don't worry. Heavenly Father will help you." I'll just repeat that. Whatever you're going through, no matter who you are, no matter what it is: Don't worry. Heavenly Father will help you.

On Wednesday, we were hosts for new missionaries. Let that sink in. Me. Sister Brooks. Who came into the MTC and was whisked in and out of rooms and buildings with absolutely no hope of remembering how to get back to them, had a black name tag (with an orange dot) clipped on my new dress and plopped into a classroom with eleven other brand-new missionaries--she showed missionaries around on their first day.

I got to see Bishop/President Jenkins last night! It was so fun. I saw Sister Jenkins a couple Sundays ago and I'm glad I got to see them both before I leave. I love our ward and stake.

Oh, and I've been having a lot of fun playing volleyball, but I'm going to try not to break my finger like Anziano Schwinn and get stuck here for another six weeks.

We taught the Plan of Salvation in Portuguese on Thursday and it went quite a bit better than last week. It helped that our pesquisadores didn't talk too much so we didn't have to worry about not understanding them. :) No, it actually was quite a bit better.

Thank you so much for all you do! I love you all!

Ate Sexta-feira (que vem)!

Sister (Irma) Brooks

Monday, December 27, 2010

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

The Week After Thanksgiving

December 3, 2010

Hello! Well, it's probably a good thing that you're getting two emails this week since this past week hasn't been too exciting. Plus I just used up a fifth of my time getting the email from last week sent! :) Anyway, enjoy:

Well, since the last time I wrote we've taught twice in Portuguese! Last Friday we had a makeshift TRC and taught members of our own District. It was quite good. I really enjoyed it. In fact, I was actually feeling pretty confident about our Portuguese skills...until yesterday when we taught in the actual TRC. First of all, we had to go contact people in a store. We had three investigators who spoke very quickly and with Brazilian accents. And they wouldn't stop talking! This would have been great except I didn't understand anything they were saying! I think I did buy a nice saia preta and got some free guarda-chuvas. Anyway. Then when we actually “tried” to teach them the first lesson, we found out they didn't believe in God or Christ and one was Buddhist. Phoo. So we spent the whole time trying to explain why we believed in Christ. At one point I was trying to get across the need for the atonement and I said we were subject to both sickness and sin in this life. Well! The woman had told us she was a little sick so when I said "doenca," I pointed to her. So, then I said "pecado" and, without thinking, pointed to the man sitting next to her. That’s when we just started laughing. It was kind of a disaster, but pretty funny. Anyway. Just be happy I'm still here. :) I have a lot of work to do.

Okay. Outras coisas. We had a great Fireside from Bro. Allen, who spoke to us our first Sunday here. He spoke about replacing fear with faith, which is something I really need to work on. He also stressed the importance of loving and serving others. He quoted someone saying that for many of us, our greatest test and challenge in this life will just be learning how to love others. I know that is most definitely something I'm striving for. Along those lines, Irmão Owen gave a sweet lesson on Enoch and his people. We focused on how Enoch sees Christ weeping for the wicked. At first Enoch can't understand it, but we see that our Savior really does love all of His brothers and sisters and Heavenly Father loves all His children. It reminded me of when Christ says that the whole have no need of a physician, but the sick do. Christ did so much for us, but He truly atoned for our sins and He desperately wants each of us (sinners) to come unto Him. I love this gospel.

Sister Beck spoke at the Tuesday Devotional! They announced it while we were at choir practice and all the sisters started freaking out. Que vergonha. It was an awesome talk though. She shared a lot of experiences about when she was growing up in Brazil, since her dad was a mission president. She really focused on just how much she loves missionary work. She told a cute story about how they would 'play missionary' and go contact the missionaries in the mission home. She said her father had to put a stop to it when her brothers tried to baptize her two-year-old sister in the font. :)

At the Devotional we sang “O Love that Glorifies the Son.” It was beautiful. I think it's hymn #295 in English.

Oh! We started singing Christmas hymns! Hinos de Natal! I love it. Portuguese is awesome and it's so fun singing in Portuguese. Though if you take a dozen young men and women who don't sing so wonderfully to begin with and ask them to sing in a different language...well, let's just say we close our door when we sing. Jota-cao.

Um...I've actually been running! We're allowed to get up half an hour early and go to the gym, so I've been getting up and running a few miles on the square; 10 lap equals a mile track. Not the most fun I've ever had, but hopefully it will keep me from getting (too) fat.

Everyone thinks I'm obsessed with floss. I lost my 18-month supply of floss (I think it was stolen from me!) so I made a little sign, which I will probably be sending home to you, in order to find it. Anyway, it didn't show up. But the other day, Sister Thayer came in with a present for me: a little container of floss. It totally made my day. Maybe I am obsessed with floss.

I'm sorry to hear the cold season is in full swing. It happens about every three weeks here. Luckily I haven't been sick since my second week. But I still have a couple more weeks for round two to begin.

Speaking of only having a little over two weeks left in the MTC (!), I would suggest that any who love me, send me some letters. :) Especially since it's cheaper and easier now.

Oh. I've really started to be glad that we'll be "Sisters" in Cabo Verde because when our teachers use "Irma" for us, it totally throws me off, since, when said quickly, Irma sounds similar to Emma. And I always look to see if they're talking to me.

I think that's about it. I love this work. I know it is God's work, and we're going out to find and teach God's children about the truth and gospel of God's Son Jesus Christ. I know that if we do His work in His way, we cannot fail! I love that! I'm really trying to put all my faith and trust in Him. He's done it all before and I know I can succeed with His help.

I love you all so much! I'm so grateful for you! Have a fantastic week!


-Sister Brooks

PS Also, the place where we like to study has four pictures of some of the Whites’ sons. Awesome! Sis. Laimana and I are determined to have a picture of us in Cape Verde up on those walls!

A Dia de Acao de Gracas

December 3, 2010


Happy Thanksgiving! Well, I'm sure you're all dying to know how my Thanksgiving was, so I'll just start with that! It was AWESOME! It was really such a good day. Here's sort of how our schedule went: Breakfast, MDT, Morning Devotional, Lunch (Thanksgiving Dinner), Humanitarian Program, Dinner, Humanitarian Project and then a Fireside.

Are you excited? Because guess who spoke at the Morning Devotional! Elder Holland! It was so amazing. I love Elder Holland. And we had great seats. :) He started out by saying the Hollands are our family today. And it was really sweet. He had all his grandchildren and children there and their grandkids all got up and sang "I Know Heavenly Father Loves Me." It was SO cute! One little Holland got right up to the microphone so you could only hear his voice. Unfortunately, he started with the wrong words. It was so cute. Elder Holland also had four missionaries come up and bear their testimonies. I wish I could just have you all feel the spirit that was there. And then Elder Holland and Sister Holland spoke and it was incredible. Elder Holland spoke, of course, about gratitude and about the Savior and about missionary work. There were some strong words about being our very best because so many people are looking to us. He said if the Church had a 'symbol,' it would probably be a pair of missionaries knocking on a door or walking down the street. Anyway, I obviously don't have time to write everything he said, but you should definitely be jealous. :)

The humanitarian project was a lot of fun and I could tell they wanted to keep all the missionaries busy to avoid a bout of homesickness. It worked for me! We spent several hours putting together parts for schoolbags that will go to children around the world. Sis. Laimana and I won't be surprised if we see some of these same bags in Cape Verde.

Oh, and the food: pretty gross, but I guess nothing would compare to what I usually eat on Thanksgiving. I did have my annual slice of pumpkin pie, which was good (or as good as pumpkin pie gets -- haha).

All right, moving on:

Our district sang “E Tarde a Noite Logo Vem” in Sacrament meeting (“Abide with Me, Tis Eventide”) and we didn't sound half bad. And I'm glad that's over with.

On Friday night our companionship taught our progressive investigator, which was a little nerve-racking, but since that's what I'll be doing for the next 17 months, it was good to practice. We teach him in front of the whole class, which is probably why I got nervous. And it's just Irmão Matheson pretending to be someone he knows. Anyway.

I met my twin! Sister Brooks going to Brazil. Our tags are identical, so I stuck a sticker on the back of mine so we won't get them mixed up in gym. She's much more fashionable than me. Elder Gunter met another Elder Gunter and ran up to him, hugged him and said, "Brother! Mother told me I'd find you here!" I wasn't quite so outgoing when I finally met Sister Brooks. :)

We had a great MTC Fireside on Sunday and I'll just share one thing: A miracle is when, after you've done all that you can, God steps in a makes up the difference. I really liked that.

Per G. Malm of the Seventy was our speaker at the Tuesday Devotional and it was so good! He was really funny and he and his wife are both from Sweden. He started out by saying, "We come from Sveden, the land of Ikea!" It was awesome. And we sang an arrangement of “Come Thou Fount” in choir.

Cousins! Thank you so much for the letter! It was the best letter I've ever gotten!

Andy: I can't wait to hear about your call to Australia. :)

Matt: Dingo Babies!

Lisa & Stasia: Oh hesh! And: Voces ja estao casadas?

The other day in class, a couple Elders were late so they had to do a 'door contact.' Irmão Owen looked at me and said, "Sister Brooks. Do you want to take care of this one for me?" Basically, that meant I had to answer the door and be contacted -- in Portuguese. Yup. I'm practically a native Portuguese speaker now -- not!

We had a super cold, snowy temple walk last week. I'll send some sweet pictures some day.

There are at least three Elders here who I knew from Aspen Grove! It's a lot of fun seeing them around, though I've had to learn some of their last names and I hear my first name every once in awhile, which is bizarre after going, like, five weeks without hearing it.

Okay. Here's your assignment for the weekend: Go to LDS.org and watch the Mormon Message called “Lessons I Learned as a Boy” from President Hinckley. Maybe you've already seen it, but watch it. It's SO cute and it will make you cry. I feel like I've been crying a lot this week. :)

Oh, and a couple of my new favorite scriptures are Alma 29: 9-10.

We're teaching the first lesson in Portuguese tonight! Tenho medo. E estou animada.

Oh yeah. I broke my first glass in the cafeteria. Que vergonha!

Well, I think that's about it. I just wanted to take the last few minutes I have left on the computer to say how grateful I am for all of you! I'm grateful to have been raised in a good family with good friends. I'm so grateful for the restored gospel and that Joseph Smith asked Heavenly Father which Church was true and that his prayer was answered. I'm indescribably grateful for my Savior and His atoning sacrifice. I'm grateful that I know Heavenly Father loves me and ALL HIS CHILDREN! I'm grateful that I have this opportunity to serve a mission and that God knows where I'm most needed (and I'm grateful it's on a nice, warm group of islands). Ah! I'm so grateful for this life and this world! I hope all of us with the knowledge of the truth will do all that we know we should. This life is WAY too short not to act on the things we believe. I love you all!


Sister Brooks/Sister Squeam