Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Advent Calendar

Christmas Day in the Morning!

Festa Bedju

Well, hello.

I don't really have much to say since I talked to you yesterday! Haha. That was weird.

Today we're just getting a few things done before heading to Sao Vicente and hoping the effects of our several Christmas dinners wear off before the plane ride. All I have to say is that turkey, rice, French fries, chocolate cake, pork, mandioca, more rice, more chocolate cake, pudding and a data de sumos is not exactly the way to bring peace on earth, good will toward men.

It does however bring lots of Lamanites--you know, because of all the war and contention in the stomach area. I learned that one from my companion.

But we had a great Christmas. And our Branch Christmas party was fun too. Although our little Christmas tree got knocked over so many times that the lights no longer work and, actually, the whole thing's missing. Haha. We'll just call it a donation to the branch.

Anyway, I hope your Christmas was great; I was relieved to hear that Binky the clown once again saved Christmas and I don't really want to know if that little girl's mittens are still hanging on Mr. Krueger's Christmas tree.

Oh, I guess I'll wish you all a Happy New Year! And just thought I'd throw in that 2011 was most likely the best year I've had yet. :) You can't beat spending the year teaching the gospel in Africa.

Love you all, and have a great week!

Sister Brooks

Wednesday, December 21, 2011


Sani's Baptism


Hello Family (and Friends)!

Well, let's see. We did many things this week -- un data di kuzas. I learned that this week. :) I love my companion.

Our whole district (all four of us) has sort of caught the Christmas bug. This week, the Elders put together a little choir and we went and sang Christmas hymns in a little square by the chapel. It was, of course, very embarrassing and only little kids came to hear us, but there were a few adults and I saw one woman in Church on Sunday, so that was cool. But it was fun for the members and they all went and passed out pass-along cards so it was super good.

And I didn't have to teach English class. :)

Also, this week was Sani's baptism! Sani is Artur and Eduardo's cousin. She's super smart and very sweet and looked like she was going to freeze after stepping into the water. Ha. But it was a good day. I think Artur was more excited than she was--that kid is so awesome. During church I saw President send him on a little errand to ask the priest at the back of the chapel a question. He looked so dignified--and he received the priesthood last week. Man, I love that family.

Oh, and speaking of Artur's family, it was Ana, his crazy little sister's birthday. We just stopped by with a little cupcake for her and of course they made us sit down and eat more cake. (It would have been rude to refuse.) The great thing was, all the kids had already had their cake, but of course they were hanging around, grabbing swipes of frosting, etc. Anyway, I just had a little piece left on my plate, and Ana came over, lifted the little piece, handed it to me and took my plate. I thought she was very anxious to be helpful, but then she started licking the crumbs and frosting off my plate. She then did the same with Sister Vicente's plate. Hey, it's her birthday. Haha.

I'll stick this story in the middle, because it's not a particularly happy one. We made a goal as a district to find a new less-active every week to teach (not hard), because with the focus on baptisms, all the missionaries come to the branch, baptize a million people and we create 'generations' of church members. There are little groups of recent converts/less actives from every missionary era and it just keeps cycling out so the current members hardly know the less actives baptized a few years ago. Anyway, so we learned about a man who joined the church when it first started in Sal. He was very active and served as branch president. Well, apparently, there was some error or something with the accounts of the branch and during the audit (every few years an area authority comes to help/does an audit of sort) this man got offended because there were 15 escudos missing and he felt like they were accusing him of either stealing or causing the error. (We learned this from him.) Anyway, he kept talking about these 15 escudos and how the church made a huge deal about these 15 escudos and so he asked to be released and after a little while left the church.

We were just sitting there in his house and I was praying so hard to know what to say and all that came to my mind was that we needed to be so careful. That this wasn't someone who needs one lesson and it’s going to be all fine and dandy, but seriously needs to reach down and apply the atonement to his life and remember the reason he chose to be baptized and serve in the church. Sister Vicente and I were so quiet afterwards, but it's just sad to see that 15 escudos can make someone forget they had a testimony. And that no matter what someone says or does to us; it doesn't change the fact that Joseph Smith saw God the Father and Jesus Christ. People start basing their opinions and decisions on what people say or do and then they need physical evidence to reassure them, but we teach every single day that the only way to receive spiritual truth is to humble yourself long enough to ask God in sincere prayer.

Don't let 15 escudos keep you from the Celestial Kingdom.

Okay, anyway, we had other lessons that were much better and not so sad. Cisa gave us some references. She's the best. She just marched us over to some neighbors' houses, told them to sit down and hear the word of God. Haha. But we had some good lessons with her references. It was a huge blessing too, because we've had a super hard time finding new people.

Let's see...yesterday, in church, there were 122 people in Sacrament Meeting. People had to sit up on the stand because there wasn't enough room. It was awesome.

This week I read an article in the Liahona by President Uchtdorf, about how often he would take off from a dark and stormy airport only to break through the clouds to a bright blue and clear sky. He spoke about how prayer is often our spirtitual 'lift' to be raised from dark and challenging times. I liked thinking about the way that we as missionaries have a chance to help people find the way to break through the barriers in their life with the help of the gospel.

But we also got to see a more physical kind of 'lift'. (Gosh, I'll probably be smitten for relating this to the gospel.) We were walking down the street and there was this man and woman just screaming at each other. Some neighborly argument--I couldn't understand a word of their angry Creole, but the man, in his anger, stormed out of the yard and gave this little dog and good kick on his way. The dog flew, spinning, up into the air--at least six or seven feet--landed yelping and scurried away from any other possible injuries. Gosh. Poor thing. But he's okay now.

Well, this email is really long. I'll just finish with my early Christmas present:

We walked into this little store and they must have gotten a huge shipment of American stuff because I found cake mixes and Reese's Peanut butter Cups and all sorts of good stuff. I was seriously almost crying I was so happy. And we found chocolate chips. I haven't seen chocolate chips in over a year. Goodness. I spent a lot of money, but now our stocking stuffers are all set.

Okay, love you all! MERRY CHRISTMAS! And I'll talk to you on Sunday!


Sister Brooks

You got my travel plans?!

Thursday, December 15, 2011

Alice in Wonderland

Hey Family!

The week was strange and it flew by. We went to Sao Vicente on Monday and came back Tuesday. Unfortunately, President wasn't able to get a flight at all so our training was cancelled.

I say unfortunately, but we still managed to have a good time. Sister Vicente showed me around the city and we basically got to spend the day sight-seeing. Mindelo is pretty awesome. We had a mini training with the Zone leaders (and I did get your package, Mom!) and it was a good day.

Sorry, not too informative. We also ate crepes. And did a bit of souvenir shopping. Yay.

We were reviewing the Plan of Salvation with Florindo (I hope you're seeing by now how much I love teaching in this house) and we asked him if he remembered the story of Adam and Eve. He said yes and told us:

'They were in the Garden and were really small. Then they ate the apple and got big.'

I suppose...in a way....I had to sit there quietly for a moment, because all I could think of was Alice and Wonderland and I had to compose myself before speaking. Man. I love Florindo and his family.

We (okay, I) have gone a bit Christmas crazy. We bought a little tree from the Chinese store and some decorations and we also made ourselves a cardboard fireplace with stockings. Oh, and today we attempted some cookie gingerbread houses...maybe with a lot of frosting and candy they'll look okay.

We tried out a restaurant that the Elders told us about. Apparently every day they sell the plate of the day (to missionaries) for 200 escudos. Well, the day we went happened to be fish with broth. They brought me half of a fat fish (the head half, clearly) and some broth, something else, and a cooked (stewed) banana, pineapple, potato and mandioca pieces. It wasn't bad. But we'll just have to choose our day more wisely next time.

Livi! I can't believe you broke your arm! I'm glad you didn't have to take Skele-Gro to get all your bones back like Harry did!

Well, I guess that's about it. Sal continues to be awesome, as does Sister Vicente. The branch is insane, but the best ones always are.

Oh, and it is cold! (Or I've just been in Africa too long.)

Sister Brooks

Thursday, December 8, 2011


Hey Fam, how's it going? This was a LONG week. Seriously, it feels like our Family Night last Monday was about a year ago. And I think it's just because we did SO many things! I was looking through my planner and it's just packed with lists of things we needed to do, did, and still need to do. But it was a good week. I thought the mantle of the missionary was going to push me right through the cobblestoned streets, but we made it. And, the best way to measure if we're fulfilling our purpose ('convidar as pessoas a achegarem-se a Cristo...'), Eduardo and Lavinia were successfully baptized.

Eduardo. Piece of cake. He wanted to be baptized and follow Artur's example weeks ago.

Lavinia. The little twig of a girl gave me three ulcers and a heart attack and a half.

Lavinia's smart. She attends seminary more than any other member and she's only thirteen. But she's also got an attitude. Haha. Man. The Young Women in the branch seriously might kill me. But I love 'em anyway. But Lavinia, we pass by her house to walk with her to her baptismal interview and we find out that her family has moved.

People do that here--they decide they don't like where they're living so they up and move. That very day.

So we had to track her down, walk half way across the island (exaggeration) until we found her new house. We knocked on the door and she said, 'Oh, I went to the church but no one was there so I came home.' (That's what you get for being on time!) But then we all skipped happily to the church, she had her interview, things went about as smoothly as a Hiace ride, but she was baptized (and confirmed). Yay.

And I'm tired. Haha.

But it was a good week. We ate cake twice at Artur's house (once for Renata's sixth birthday and the other for Eduardo's baptism). We might as well move in there. We teach Artur, Eduardo, help them both with reading, we're teaching another relative that lives there, Sani, and one of Soraia's sisters wants my help with English. We generally walk/run out of there with headaches, but yet I still love that family.

We also found another fun family this week. We contacted a man who was over at Bela and Tio Toi's house. He marked a date with us and Friday we went to teach him. He lives with his woman (hee hee) and two kids. We were able to teach him and his daughter with the five year old running around like a nut. Denil, the little boy is so cute. He kept bringing things in to show us. Then after the lesson they invited us for a snack. I'm not good at refusing so we sort of mumbled some sort of excuse and headed for the door, but then Denil grabbed our backpacks and hung them on a chair and made us sit. Then while Carlos was fixing the snack, we talked to Denil who told us all about preschool and his English class (which he does NOT like--though made me sing several Christmas songs in English). Then he wanted to see us without our glasses. Sister Vicente took off hers and then I lifted up my glasses. Denil's eyes got big and he pointed his little finger at me and shouted, 'TOURISTA'! Haha. I can't help that I'm white.

But they were very nice. The snack was tea and bread and cake. Sister Vicente made sure it wasn't against the word of wisdom to drink the tea (though I later wished I had had that excuse to refuse it) and he poured us some very interesting herbal tea. I couldn't tell you what flavor it was, even though I recognized the taste and smell. All I know is that it was all I could do to not plug my nose as I drank it. I don't like tea. At all.

It didn't help that as I choked down the tea, Denil was eating a bowl of chocopic. And telling us how we were both the size of high school students. Ha.

What else happened this week? Little Joao showed us to a member's house. This kid is maybe two years old and Cisa told him to show us where Zuleica's house was. He grabbed our hands and we were sure we were going to end up back where we started but he led us across the neighborhood all the way to the member's house so we could teach Florindo. Joao was even quite well behaved after he stopped trying to bit us. Ha.

I guess that's about it. We had good lessons, bad lessons, hard days, long days, crazy days and windy days. Also, everyone is now freezing. Except me. It's winter which means it's about the temperature of a morning in August at home. Though it definitely feels colder than it did when I got here last December. I've seen some Christmas lights and a few Christmas trees. S. Vicente says they don't really have much of Santa Claus here because they don't have chimneys! No wait. I asked her if they use stockings and she said no because they don't have fireplaces. So I asked how Santa Claus gets in (Grover's worry) and she said they don't really make a big deal out of Santa Claus. Yeah.

Anyway, we're been enjoying our advent calendars. Though my angels got mocked because they are UGLY! Ha.

All right. We've got a flight to Mindelo at five for a training tomorrow. Tchau!


Sister Brooks

Thursday, December 1, 2011

Advent Calendar

Txeu Kuza di Bom

Hello Family! Well, I guess I better start where I left off last week. On Tuesday I had to say goodbye to Sister Walker. Bela (our neighbor who brings us bread and is in the Relief Society presidency--Bryan's grandma) came with us to the airport and then escorted me back. I was then baby-sat for a couple hours at their house. I was fed cachupa, rice and my own little fishie. I tried to keep myself busy, but mostly I just felt awkward. Then some young women came over to keep me company. (I felt slightly like a was being comforted after losing a dear loved one--everyone got very attached to Sister Walker.) Luckily, however, the assistants called and my companion had made it to Praia and got to Sal just an hour later. Bela took me back to the airport and then we went home and out to work!

We had a great week. Djenny (our 19-year-old Primary President) was only slightly disappointed she didn't get to be a Sister for a couple days, but she helped us out a lot, teaching with us and giving us references. We were able to find some great new people this week.

Sister Vicente is amazing. I've been a member for over 16 years, attending church for another 8 years and been to seminary, institute, religion classes and two months in the MTC. She was baptized about four years ago in Fogo (by our branch president here in Sal--awesome) and she is a WAY better missionary than I am. Everyone loves her, which is good since otherwise they'd still be whining about President taking away Sister Walker. Haha.

Bryan got super confused when he saw us the other day--he came running over to give us hugs and saw that Sister Vicente was not Sister Walker and not white and he got really confused and then shy and wouldn't come out from behind his mom. Ha. But he's already used to us again and just as cute as ever.

(What? You're all talking about Lucas and the rest of the kiddos. I have to have someone to make me feel a little bit better.)

After cachupa at Bela's, the next best food event was...Thanksgiving!! You all thought you could make me jealous, but you were wrong (mostly)! Turns out I can make a pretty great Thanksgiving lunch here in Africa--even in Sal.

I made turkey (okay, it was chicken), real mashed potatoes, stuffing (all by myself!), corn, gravy and lemon tarts (lemon bars in muffin-cups). It was all very successful. I feel that I have a right to be proud of myself. I hadn't really explained to Sister Vicente what Thanksgiving was so when I started whipping out everything that I had made she was a bit surprised...'Do you eat a lot on Thanksgiving?' Yes, yes we do.

Luckily it wasn't until the next day that Cisa sat me down after our lesson and made me eat a giant plate of...you guessed it...cachupa. She gave Sister Vicente juice but said I couldn't have any because it was made with regular water....

Then we repeated the experience on Sunday. (Cisa seems to think we're too skinny.) She'd made soup. It was really good, but I snuck out my very long, stringy piece of...something...and gave it to the cat.

Let's see...what else has been happening? I got to teach my first English Class--it went over a lot better than I anticipated. I also taught piano lessons. Much harder than I had anticipated. But the ward mission leader is determined to be the ward pianist by the time the chapel is built. It's a good thing it's going to take a while.

Also, we've been making frequent visits to Artur's home to teach both him, his brother Eduardo and their relative (don't know how she's related). Their house is nuts! I don't know how so many fit in it but there are always dozens of people over. And tons of little girls! They attack us every time we come over. (Disclaimer: it's honestly not my fault the rules about children are so often broken by me. They're just so cute!) The littlest, Emily is crazy and just a tiny little stick of a thing. Her hair's usually in a ton of skinny braids but we came over one day and she just had tiny little puffs of hair sticking out around a little bunny tail. She was refusing to get her hair braided--don't blame her. It's painful. Anyway, luckily they love Sister Vicente, so I have a bit of relief but we've both had little girls wrapped around our legs all week.

It's sort of unfair that I keep getting sent to branches I love. I loved Praia 1 and I was so sad to leave it, but then I loved Praia 2 and even sadder to leave them both behind when I went to Sal! And now I love this branch. Goodness. It helps that the members seriously love the missionaries (and sisters). We walked by the door to the Primary room and all of the kids started yelling 'Sister' and waving and Valdir came and smashed his noise against the glass door. Oh man. I like it.

Amy's cookies were so popular last week that I've already had another request put in for them tonight at Family Night. We're going to watch a little missionary-made documentary about the church in Cape Verde. Did I already tell you about it? 'Islands of Faith' I think it's called. You could probably find it if you wanted. Sister Vicente and I rolled another 10 dozen cookies this morning before heading to...

It was a great week. Hope everyone is well and...EXCITED FOR CHRISTMAS! I spent a few days last transfer making an advent calendar like our nativity one and I'm very excited to use it. Well, that's all. Have fun, be good and don't forget about me. :)

Sister Brooks