Friday, October 28, 2011

Elders, Sister Walker, Leidymara and Irmao Goncalves

The Year

Happy Birthday (yesterday) Miranda! I hope you had fantastic (or maybe pinkalicious) day!

The week went way too fast and Sister Walker and I are getting a lot done. I'm feeling pretty good about my knowledge of the area and I keep meeting new people and trying to remember who they are. But it's been really great to see how much the members here want to help us and love to give us references! I honestly don't know if I've done a single street contact or knocked a door yet. Weird.

But it was a good week. We got to really test out President's challenge of being "Watchmen on the Tower" this week, which was one of the themes from last Zone Conference. He encouraged us to be especially diligent the week of an investigator's baptism, since that's when things tend to get crazy. Well, this week we talked to Leidymara on Sunday and she came to Family Night on Monday. She was SO excited for baptism. She was talking to everyone about it and she was even practicing her baptism with the branch mission leader. Ha.

Then Tuesday, we went to teach her and she said she wasn't ready. That she needed to learn more and that it was just much too soon to be baptized (we think maybe her member sister-in-"law" talked to her--and it took her almost a year to be baptized so we can only imagine what she might have said). Anyway, we talked to her and told her that we wanted her to feel ready before baptism, but that she didn't have to be perfect or know everything beforehand. It was a couple of stressful days, but by Thursday, she was pretty excited again. Well, then we showed up on Friday to go with her to her baptismal interview and she wasn't home. Her sister-in-law had told her about a job opportunity so she'd gone out to look at it and we just missed her. We were pretty frustrated because just the day before she was excited again, so we were kind of confused. But just a little bit later she gets home, breathing kind of hard saying how she already had been to the church but no one was there and now she didn't know if she could be baptized. Well, 'No worries,' we said and gave the Elders a call (they have to do what we ask since we're the only four missionaries on the island) and we all met at the church and she was just as ready as we knew she would be.

And then Saturday she got baptized and it was awesome. A little bit cloudy and cold (Sal doesn't have a baptismal font so all the baptisms are in the ocean) but she was super happy and excited.

Wooh. I'm out of breath.

The rest of the week was quite good as well. Sister Walker and I were experimenting in the kitchen and have discovered that pizza pockets are possible in Cabo Verde. shouldn't let the dough continue rising during District Meeting because it will explode and get dough all over the only bug-safe area (the oven).

And Sister Walker also made me brownies for my one year mark. And yes, realizing I've been a missionary for a whole year was extremely weird and awesome.

I probably shouldn't have told you about our water and electricity status because this week we ran out of water, power and gas. Ha-ha. But it's okay. We're still alive.

I've decided that Sal is not the Cabo Verde I know, but it's probably the Cabo Verde I always imagined. It really is quite pretty. Today we went to the tourist city, Santa Maria, that's sort of on the other side of the island, but only like fifteen minutes away, and I saw some extremely pretty beaches and very white people. So weird. But Sal is kind of amazing and in the distance you can see Sao Nicalau, so that was cool, too. Sigh. I really don't think I'm ever coming home. Sorry.

Thanks for the emails and I hope you all have a fantastic week. I'm glad the Dirty Devil was a success and that no one got eaten.

Oh! I almost forgot. Do you remember Domingos? Okay, I'm sure you don't, but he's Mane's brother in Praia 1 and possibly one of my all-time favorite investigators. But he's lazy. He's the one who said he knew Joseph Smith was a prophet because a man couldn't have written the Book of Mormon and he'd always get all his clothes ready Saturday night but just never woke up to go to church. Well. He's finally come to his senses and he's baptizing this Saturday!! Sister Laimana called to tell me and I was so excited and then I had to call Sister Turnbow to talk to her about it and basically the whole mission's excited. Ha-ha.

And I talked to the sisters in Praia 2 and Helder's still been coming to church! I LOVE BEING A MISSIONARY!!

Sister Brooks

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

View from our roof

Wallsburg, West Africa

Greetings from the Island of Sal!

Well, I'm officially off the island of Santiago. I about cried as I watched its shores disappear from the airplane, but then I fell asleep (I must have been tired since it was only about a thirty minute flight) and woke up in time to see the very clean, very clear waters of the Sal!

By the way, not only was it my first flight since coming in from Portugal, but it was also the first time I've been without a companion for almost an entire year. It was very bizarre waiting in the airport by myself and then carrying my scripture-stuffed carry-on all by myself. Luckily the guy sitting next to me helped me hoist it into the thingie (what's it called?) because that's where all my weight was. I was very excited that I didn't have to pay any overage fees for my suitcase. What? I was living in the same city as Sucupira for a long time!

Anyway, Sal is pretty amazing. It's also about the exact opposite of Praia. Praia is crazy, loud, dangerous, dirty and smelly. Sal is calm, quiet, clean and smells fairly good. I told Sister Walker it reminded me of Wallsburg. She asked what in the world that meant. But it seriously reminds me of Wallsburg. Its super quiet and you can walk through the streets in the middle of the afternoon and not see a single person around.

Also, it's flat. From our house you can see the three little hills that I think they'd call mountains in the distance and in the other direction one end of the island. Beach! I really, really like it. It's strange and slightly depressing to not have a lady selling candy, pork sandwiches or clothing every ten feet on the side of the road, but on my first day here I ate a fresquinha and a donut, so that helped calm my anxiety.

don't know, as much as I love Praia and miss its craziness and its people very much, I'm loving Sal. Here are a few tender mercies the Lord has put in Sal to make me less heartsick for Praia and Sucupira:

Brian and Evelyn - my two favorite little people so far. Brian is ADORABLE. He's the branch mission leader's son and he's SO cute. His mom leads the music in Sacrament meeting and afterwards Brian (who can't be more than 1 or 2) showed me his conducting skills. He waves his tiny finger in the air and says 'Alleluia'! It's so cute. Okay. And Evelyn is another cute little kid who's the sister of a member and we bonded at the branch's integration night. During our lessons (we teach an investigator at their house) she comes to the door and yells 'Sishter!' until someone lets her in.

Hot bread - we have neighbors around the corner who are all members and all incredible. Bro. Ramos is the Elder's quorum president, their daughter works with the young women, their son-in-law is the mission leader and they're just incredible. Sis. Ramos is so nice--they're the grandparents of Brian (and Debi who's super cute too and doesn't stop talking to us when we come over). But they make and sell bread and every morning they bring bread over to our house and we buy it. :) It's delicious.

Sister Walker - is awesome. She's really incredible. She only has a transfer and a half left but we've been working hard this week. Thank goodness! It's so nice to be able to go to work with a companion who's ready to work, too. She teaches piano lessons and English class and she's the second counselor in the Young Women's...basically we have a lot to do here in the branch. I'd say there are about 50 active members in the one branch here in Sal and the missionaries are a big part of it. But Sal's been growing so much that they announced a chapel here too! Awesome. Anyway, Sister Walker is great.

My bed is also very comfortable and we haven't run out of water (yet) and the power hasn't gone out once.

Also, basically all of Sal is a beach. We mostly walk around in sand. There are some cobblestone roads, but mostly just sandy/dusty roads. I love it.

This week I've basically just been trying to learn my way around the area (I think the two main towns/cities in our area are Espargos (Asparagus) and Hortela (Mint)) and trying to remember people's names and faces. I love it. I really do. We're teaching some really great people right now. Leidymara who will be baptized this week, Edson (who had an awesome Afro, but now it's braided), Artur (who's a sweetheart and I'll probably be telling you more about him soon), Cicita and others. We're also teaching Ciza and Augusto and their son Florindo. Ciza and Augusto need to get married but they're hilarious and super fun to teach.

I love the gospel (even though this week I'll admit I was distracted a bit by the change of scenery) and I LOVE being a missionary. It really is SO great. I love you all! Hope everyone's doing great!


Sister Brooks

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Andre, Maisa, Mayra and Friend

Fernanda and Family - look at Helder's white shirt and tie!!!

Bitter-sweet...and Salty?

Hello Family....Well. I'm a little frazzled today because transfers came! I was so sure I was staying in Praia 2 (wishful thinking I guess) but they finally kicked me off the island! I'm going to SAL!! (My flight's in a couple hours.) Look it up on the map. I'm going to be serving with Sister Walker who was Sister Turnbow's companion in the MTC which means it's going to be AWESOME! I'm really excited, but I'm also SO sad to leave Praia. It actually hasn't really sunk in yet. But yesterday I had to say goodbye and it was really hard. I've been serving in this branch for three months but I've known almost everyone for about 10 months! Agh. So hard. But Sal is going to be great.

Hmm...I had to say good-bye to Denilson earlier in the week because he went to Portugal to study. That was hard. Man, we taught a lot of lessons in that house. But as long as he gets in contact with the church there, it's all good. Just one more person I'm going to miss for the rest of my life.

Also we had a great lesson with Andre and Maisa about eternal marriage. Oh goodness, it was funny. Andre asked if you could still have a honeymoon with an eternal marriage and Maisa made reference to the fact that we don't have padres at our weddings like those "false churches." I was just laughing the whole time.

Oh, and Andre's little sister came home from the hospital. I didn't actually understand what they said about her little bump (my medical Portuguese vocab isn't great) but she's absolutely adorable with an extra little lump at the base of her neck. We were able to give her this really cute baby blanket that the mission nurse had received to give out. Oh man, I like babies.

We've been talking to Helder more about serving a mission and had a really good lesson with him this week--and we set goals with him, things he can be doing now to prepare. He went to Institute on Thursday and then during church on Sunday, I was sitting at the piano and I looked over when the door opened and in he walked, in a white shirt and tie! I think I started crying right there on the piano bench, I was so happy. Anyway, that was about the best way to end a week. I talked a LOT about Sunhana last week...haha. I think maybe I jinxed things. We were having a great week, teaching him every day, he was reading the Book of Mormon every day and then we reviewed the baptismal interview questions with him and there were...issues. It was just one of the absolutely horrible moments where you wonder just what exactly you did wrong, but...yeah. So we had to schedule an interview with President and we went to the church and waited...and waited...and waited. And Sunhana never showed up. So we went looking for him, couldn't find him. Yup. So Saturday came around (day of his baptism) and we went by early so he could still have time for an interview if it was at all possible and they told us he was in Tarrafal (other side of the island) and he'd be there all week for work! Stab in the heart. So we really have no idea what happened, but when he gets back, I'll make sure the new sisters in this area teach him. It was really disappointing though. And really confusing and there were a whole lot of new things that I've never had to deal with until this point in my mission. But I did gain an even greater testimony of the atonement and its cleansing power and the importance and blessing of baptism.

Hmm...we made pepperoni pizza this week (and by pepperoni pizza, I mean sliced linguica pizza). But it was good. And I've also introduced ranch pizza to Africa. We also celebrated Sister Lord's birthday and said good-bye to her and our district leader Elder Rodrigues who are both heading home. Needless to say, we finished the transfer of cake with more cake.

Okay, well I've got to hurry so I can eat at Segunda's one last time. Hopefully I can get a picture with her. Oh man! I love Praia! But I'm excited for Sal and I'll tell you all about it next week!

Love you all!
-Sister Brooks

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

Conference Cake! (From the future.)

A Sunny Day in Africa


So, I'm writing a little late because we haven't had electricity (during business hours) for two days! Ha-ha. Seriously, yesterday, right as we left to write (since we couldn't write on P-day) the power went out and it didn't come back until sometime into the night. So, I'm writing today.

This past week, we've been enjoying some blistering heat, accompanied by a whole lot of sweat. Sure you all wanted to know that. But, the nice thing is that when we're all nice and sweaty, the slightest breeze feels wonderful! Ha-ha. But the week was very good, especially since it ended with General Conference!! Which was awesome. We saw almost all of it (the power went out during the last session so we only saw about the last hour of it) and I loved it. I loved the focus on the scriptures, and I'm grateful that I now have a really good habit of scripture study. I also decided I'm more inspired than I think, because almost every scripture story in the Bible that was mentioned, I've studied in the past two transfers.

And I totally agree, "to hearken is better than the fat of rams.'

I love the Old Testament. I really do.

Hmm...but I also loved Elder Clayton's (?) talk about the growth of the Church. I felt a strong impression that I'm so lucky to have my very short period of time to be part of the Church's growth here in Cabo Verde. It was a really cool thing to be sitting, surrounded by Sisters and Elders as I listened to the Conference. Goodness! Missionaries are so awesome! I can't handle how lucky I am to be serving here in Praia.

Also, I loved the announcement of the second Provo Temple. I'll be honest, I was sitting there day dreaming about the day the Prophet announces a temple in Cabo Verde that it took a second for the news to set in, but I'm so excited.

Let's see, I won't bore you all with the rest of my thoughts about Conference, but I'm glad that the Brooks Home was so full of people for the weekend. I definitely do a better job paying attention here on the mission. (Even when the Elders start citing scriptures about women keeping silent in church when members of the Relief Society or Young Women's presidency speak. Ha-ha.)

Our best lessons this week were all with our investigator Sunhana! Did I tell you about him last week? Well, he's awesome. He's been loving (and actually reading) the Book of Mormon! After he read the story about Nephi killing Laban, he was so confused! (Which made me happy because it means he's actually studying and trying to understand.) I'm really waiting for the day that an investigator starts freaking out when we teach the lesson of the Restoration and the First Vision. "Wait! You're saying that a 14 year-old-boy saw God and His Son Jesus Christ?! That's incredible!" Our message is just so unique and wonderful I wish people would always see just how life-changing it is. Sigh.) But Sunhana's great. After we talked about it and explained it, he really liked the story and then added that the fact that Laban was drunk when he was killed is a pretty good reason to keep the Word of Wisdom! So true! Man, we've really had some amazing lessons with him. And they're all out in a little dirty patch by his house, sitting on rocks or plastic stools. His house looks more than a little bit abandoned, and he lives with a bunch of other men from Guinea so it's better to teach outside. But I love those lessons.

We've also been working a lot with Helder, Fernanda's son. He's even invited a couple of his friends over to study with us and has been teaching a couple times a week with us. I plan on seeing that boy serve a mission if it's the last thing I do. He's so funny too. Half the time he says something, I just look at him then look at Sister Gomes and we both say 'Huh?', because his Krioulu is crazy! Ha-ha. I love it. And it means I get my fill of pig parts for the week.

We also had a great lesson with Maisa and Andre about missionary work. One of their little neighbor friends was over at the house and as we were talking about how they could share things they learn in primary with their friends or invite others to church, their little neighbor Alecio piped up, 'Maisa! Invite me!' It was so cute. And so Maisa and Andre both hurried to invite him to church. I love that family.

It's also very sweet to hear Andre pray for his new little sister who was born last week with a little tumor on her neck. The mom and baby are still in the hospital and hopefully everything will turn out okay.

Hey, remember the man who gave me 30 escudos? Well, this week he gave me two crackers. (I'm not exactly sure it was the same guy, but it makes a better story if it is.) He just came over to us and put two crackers in my hand and I couldn't really think of anything to do but say thank you. I couldn't exactly put those in my journal though, so I just showed them to Sister Lords and then threw them away. (No, I didn't eat them.)

Well, I hope you're all well. Sister Gomes and I got our birthday cards this week! Thank you! (Sister Gomes was really excited too.) I think my favorite part was the back: "Curse you Perry the Platypus! And you too Birthday Person!' Oh man. I'm so immature.

I love you all! Tchau!

Sister Brooks