Monday, December 30, 2013

Happy New Year!

(Brianna LOVED the video that the counselor asked us to send to surprise her with Christmas Eve. I wish we could have recorded everyone she loves, but there was a time limit!)

Glad you hear you enjoyed lots and lots of meat this Christmas... sounds like you spent it at the Brasil CTM! haha Again, I can´t tell you how good it was to see each of your faces and hear your voices. SO good! Christmas here was great! Honestly, we basically just ate. Before talking with all of you, we went to a family´s home in the ward (they are absolutely amazing) and we helped prepare Christmas lunch. We talked, looked at pictures of their son on a mission and played some games involving Christmas presents. I got a "Baby Hits" cd of Brasilian kid songs. Best gift ever. Then I talked with my beautiful family and returned to the same house afterwards to resume where we left off eating. So it was a pretty relaxed day! I definitely felt sick and extremely tired afterwards, but it was enjoyable nonetheless. For New Year´s, another family invited us to spend it with them, so we´re excited for that. I have no idea what it´s going to be like here, but judging by Sister Ferreira´s and Sister Custódio´s excitement, it should be pretty special!
I can´t believe Steven´s such a stud. Tell that boy parabens for me. I wish I could be there to watch all his games, but I know he´s kicking bootay out on the field. Good for him! I definitely haven´t gotten a package from Nana yet, but that´s okay! It will come with time :). And I´m excited for Aunt Michelle´s too. Why is my family so awesome? I got an e-mail from Uncle Dan, so good to hear from him!

This past week, thanks to Christmas, was a bit lacking in lessons and work. No one was home and if they were, they were too busy to receive us. But miracles still happened and this last weekend, I finally got to see one of our pesquisadores get baptized. BAPTISM!!!! It was so amazing. And I´m beyond happy for him. I know I´ve learned more from him already than he has from us and I can´t wait to see where he goes in this gospel.

Other than that grande miracle, we taught some lessons and have faith that two more of our investigators will be baptized this weekend. They said they would if they got an answer through prayer that they need to, so we´re going to spend every day with them, helping them prepare for one of the greatest experiences of their lives.

what are the missionaries like in our ward? Take good care of them for me! It means so much to missionaries when the members show concern for them and treat them like their own. Trust me, I know ;).

And that was my week, mais ou menos. I love this gospel with all my heart and the blessings that come from it. The joy I have in this work is beyond description. I´m learning so much! I know that this is the work of God and that with Him, all things are possible. He´s constanly placing miracles in our lives every day. All we need to do is look. I love each of you and hope you have a wonderful New Year´s. May 2014 be a brighter and better year for you, full of the Savior´s love. Feliz ano novo e boa semana!!!!

Sister Ball
 Lake at a park we spent the day at on P-day
 Elder F showed me a new setting on my camera so now I can take pictures like this!  Our view from our apartment!
 Christmas Eve with the Lima Family
 Loving our cute Christmas socks!  Thanks Mom!
 Natal with one of our ward families
 Opening presents they gave us!  Sister Barker's face!
Thank You for the Christmas presents!

Monday, December 23, 2013

Just Photos today!

Just pictures this week!  Since we get to Skype on Christmas, she only had a short amount of time on the computer to communicate plans for Christmas day.  She knows I LOVE pictures, so she added a few to make my week!  

I found my home - CDA!

Sister Custodio made progress today in getting closer to a horse!

P-day lunch at McDonalds

Downtown on P-day

 My and Sister Custodio

With my "family", trainers

Saturday, December 21, 2013

Feliz Natal!

(I know I'm late in getting this out.  I was feeling like a failure after my email this week to her did not go through and I didn't know until after she had written and was no longer on line.  Nothing worse than feeling like you've failed your daughter!  Thank you to all who write and email her.  It is truly the highlight of her week!)

Happy Birthday Will, Kim and Ashley!! One year older and wiser too--so true! I love you guys and wish you the happiest of days!!

Also, this week, our elders brought us letters. I was beyond happy to get letters from Dad, Mom, Noelle, Cam, Steven, David, the awesome Gilley family, Tina and Garth, and Sydney. Thank you so much, you guys! Words can´t describe the excitement I had and I already started writing back!!

This week was wonderful! It started on Monday with a feast for FHE with one of our pesquisadores and her family (I´ve never felt so close to explosion, but she kept shoveling food on my plate) and ended with the Christmas devotional in SLC. This weekend, I had the privilege of meeting a Sister Huffaker who was in Elder James Griffitts´ district in the CTM. So that was pretty neat! Sister Custódio and I also made plans for her to visit the U.S. after the mission. She wants to pass a Christmas in the U.S. with snow, so our hopes are high! On Tuesday, we had lunch at our stake president´s house. He told us stories of his mission that were so inspiring!!  And he told us that the trick was to simply believe. Have faith. I know this is definitely something that I´ve needed to improve, so this week, we all focused on developing our faith. And I can feel that the Lord is strengthening us more and more each day! On Friday, we had what I´ve been calling a Day of Miracles. The temperature was crazy--39 degrees celsius at one point--but we didn´t even notice the heat! Sister Custódio and I decided to just follow the Spirit. Our appointments for the day had fallen through so we just followed the Spirit down roads we´d never walked. And with ever person we talked, we found an elect. The Spirit was so strong in every lesson we taught and my testimony was incredibly strengthened! It was a fabulous day. This weekend, we also had stake conference. The choir was made up of the youth but they might as well have been the Mormon Tabernacle Choir. They sounded so great!!! Every single talk was about missionary work. Every single one! I realized once again that sharing the gospel with others really is a part of our duty as members. It´s part of the covenants we make at baptism and it should be one of our primary focuses as members of the church of Jesus Christ. On Sunday, the session was a broadcast wih Elder Ballard which was wonderful. He too talked about missionary work and gave simple advice about how we can improve ourselves. It was ótimo.
I´m sorry this letter isn´t very detailed but I´m just about out of time! I hope all is well at home and in the U.S. and everywhere else in the world. I love you all so much and wish you the merriest of Christmases! It really is the most wonderful time of the year, getting to ponder on the humble birth of our Savior and enjoying the kind spirit that accompanies every child of God. Merry Christmas and Happy New Year!!!

Com amor,
Sister Ball

Monday, December 9, 2013

I Still Have My Hair

 I know you aren´t enjoying the frigid air too much, but boy do I miss it during this time of year. The heat is nice... sometimes. I honestly don´t pay too much attention to it, but sometimes I wish so badly that I had snow and cold air and hot chocolate and a Christmas movie to watch. This time of year feels so strange without the cold! Can you do a favor for me? Watch Eloise at Christmastime... I really miss that cute movie! But life is so good here! I´m starting to get some great tan lines and am sweating. Always. We take at least two showers a day here. That´s just the norm in Brasil haha.  We do a lot of work with the ward which is awesome. Getting lessons in with members is a tad bit difficult, but other than that, they´re SO supportive! And we didn´t make it to the coast yet. We were going to go today, but I don´t think we will. We were going to go if one of us got transferred tomorrow, but last night, after hours of freaking out, we found out that we´re all staying together. Que bênção!!!!! I am so so so happy that we´re all going to be together for Christmas, the New Year, one more transfer, everything! The Lord is very mindful of us! 
As for this week, like I said, it´s been hot demais! So one day, Sister Custódio made a quick stop for ice cream. As we were waiting there for our cones, a lady came up and Sister Custódio made a suggestion to her for a flavor. The suggestion turned into a conversation about who we were, the lady´s beliefs and, by the end of the discussion, we had an appointment with her for the next day in her home/salon. When we visited her the next day, her friend/co-worker was there as well for the lesson. Before starting, we found out that she was willing to buy my hair to make a wig for about 300 dollars. Wow! And then we taught the lesson. It was so good! We taught about the Restoration and the First Vision. Helen, the lady, loved it all and said that our message felt familiar. She said that she was able to understand everything I said too and I told her that it was definitely the Spirit helping her to realize the truthfulness of our message. It was a great lesson and we walked about from it feeling very uplifted! This week, Giane, the lady who ran away from us at first, had us visit her and her daughter and niece. She made us each eat three Brazilian-style hot dogs before letting us teach the lesson.  But they come to church, all the activities, and they love everything about the gospel. 
This weekend, we had our ward Christmas party and the next day, a talent show. Lots of our investigators came to both and it was great. It´s fun to see that the church is the same all over the world. Sure, the language was a bit more confusing than the language at our home ward Christmas parties and maybe the food is a little different, but it still felt like home! One thing that really amazes me here is the youth program. The youth here are so strong! And not only are they strong, but they are willing to do anything. They´re so impressive! When we bring an investigator to church who is a youth, everyone gladly accepts them and sincerely tries to be their friend. But then again, that´s how the whole ward is. They´re awesome.
The other day, we were at a member´s home for lunch and we saw that they had the General Conference Liahona. As Sister Custódio flipped through the pages, I was surprised and beyond excited when I saw that there were pictures of Emmalee, Johnny and Toria in there. How neat! I may have teared up a bit from excitement at seeing their faces. It was a good moment.
This weekend, we also had a slightly difficult experience that helped me grow as a missionary. We came the closest we´ve come yet to having a baptism. On Saturday, Sister Custódio and I arrived to the church with our investigator and met the elders in our district there. While our district leader interviewed our pesquisador... for three hours!, Sister Custódio and I cleaned the baptismal font and prepared everything for her baptism. We were so excited! Anxious but excited! Then three hours later, they came out of the interview and announced that they decided it would be better if she was baptized before church Sunday morning. So yesterday morning came around. We all got there a little before 8am to wait for our pesquisador. We called her after a few minutes and were very disappointed with the news. She told us that she had searched the Internet last night and read some things that she didn´t like about the church, so she wasn´t going to be baptized. My heart broke. This woman was so prepared for baptism. I am not lying when I say that I´ve never seen anyone so ready for the gospel and for baptism. She was such an elect! Sister Custódio and I were devastated. Ah just thinking about it now is making me sad! But a wonderful member of our bishopric took us into his office and talked with us. He made us feel a lot better and reminded us of our purpose as missionaries. He was a comfort to us and got our spirits back up for church where I got to speak in sacrament meeting! I think I like giving talks in English better, but it was still a great experience! My testimony of prayer, my topic, was strengthened so much!
And last night, a miracle happened. Mom, I french-braided. Me! It was great. I have pictures. I also got Grand Dad´s Christmas card this week. Tell him thank you sooooooo much! It made me so happy to hear from him!!! And Happy Birthday, Katie!!!! I hope you have a beautiful day!
I love you and am so grateful for this time here in the mission. I learn so much every day and truly am happy to be here. Sometimes, it´s difficult, but that´s life. And all the miracles and good times completely outweigh the hardships. I LOVE this gospel! I love our Father in heaven and I love our Savior, Jesus Christ. How grateful I am for His example and love for us! I hope your week is wonderful and you can feel His love and see His hand in your life this week. I love you and am praying for you! Always! 

Com amor,
Sister Ball

Our Zone


Enjoying our apartment!

Cleaning the baptismal font

Gift of chocolate & nail polish from a sister

I can finally french braid!!!

Monday, December 2, 2013

Mission Life

As for the mission, life is good. To answer your question, we´re kind of almost on the coast. . . we were actually going to go to the coast today (with permission from the President), but I think we´ll go next week now. And yes, I´m getting plenty of sleep. Well, it´s never enough, but it´s enough to keep me functioning during the day--10:30pm to 6:30 am cada dia :). Honestly, the last couple of weeks have been really disappointing, but I´m trying to keep my head up and look for the lessons in each experience. And I´ve been learning a lot--about missionary work and about myself. We haven´t had any baptisms, all of our investigators begin showing interest and then something bizarre happens and they don´t want to be baptized, and nobody new seems to be receiving us. We´re doing all we can to find new people and try to strengthen our investigators, but it´s tough. Everyday I have to remind myself that we´re doing our part and our people still have their agency to choose whichever path they want. I can only hope that they´ll start choosing the gospel soon! But nonetheless, the mission is still good! When life gets difficult, I just have to remember to look around a bit and then I realize how truly blessed I am. Seriously. The Lord has blessed me so much! The least I can do is be grateful for what He has given me.
We actually have been having success with one of our pesquisadores and her daughter and niece. We met Giane one night while she was walking her dog and we taught her the First Vision. She was intrigued by it all and said she would come to church, but never came. And she didn´t want to give us her address or number, so we thought we had lost her for good. Then the other week, we were walking along one day and I saw her in the distance. She made eye contact with us and then began running away, haha! But Sister Custódio called out and she stopped and came back to us. We joked with her and taught her another lesson, along with her friend she was with. She said she´d come to church that following Sunday, and she did! With her daughter and niece. We said we would visit her the following Wednesday, but Wednesday came and we got stuck in a meeting during the time that we were going to visit her (we got her address, but not her number). We felt horrible. Absolutely horrible. The next day rolled around and Sister Custódio and I were walking when a little girl began called for our attention. We looked and saw that it was Giane´s daughter. They called us over to learn more and we rescheduled for the following night to visit them. The next night, we retaught the Restauration to her, her daughter, niece and a friend and the Spirit was so strong. They came to church yesterday, and we´re planning on baptizing them this Saturday. Giane has been such an example to me. She has gone to show me that what might start out as a grain of sand, can easily turn into a pearl when worked on by the Spirit. She´s awesome!
This week, we also ran out of filtered water. We usually buy it, but we ran out on Saturday night, too late for anyone to deliver water. So what do we do? We went to the church with lots of water bottles, and filled up there! Haha it was funny, but we need our water!
This week, Sister Barker and I also helped Sister Custódio and Sister Ferreira celebrate their first Thanksgiving. And they helped us! For breakfast, I made them french toast with whipped cream and strawberries. They fell in love and said that when they get home from their missions, it´s the first thing they´re making for their families. (I also made them a trifle the other week and they loved it! It definitely wasn´t the same because Brasil doesn´t have pudding like we do, but I improvised and it still turned out pretty good!) Then for dinner, Sister Ferreira and Sister Custódio didn´t want us to go without a Thanksgiving dinner, so they prepared pretty much all the food we had and made a giant feast for us. It was so so sweet! And watching their excitement was so cute! We had lots of fun :).
My final "this week"... this week, we had Zone Conference! And I met the Geddes´ nephew, Elder Christensen, crazy! I did not recognize him at first. All the new missionaries got to bear their testimonies for everyone else, so that was fun and a bit frightening. But mostly fun! We learned so much about how to be better missionaries and I soaked up every word. And at the end, we received letters! I was so overly joyful to see that I had gotten letters from Elder Fore, Sister Granados, Sister Ropke, MY FAMILY, and Olivia Howard! Olivia, thank you so much for your sweet card and the cute pictures! I was so so happy to hear from you. And I still have my friendship bracelet here in Brasil ;). Family, thank you for the letters and postcard of Cam and Grand Dad! Hearing from each of you (well, almost each of you!) made my heart leap with joy. I can´t express to you how important letters are to missionaries! I always thought they were important before, but I never knew how important. So thank you, thank you, thank you.

One thing that I really have learned over the past several days is the importance of church members in missionary work. I know that the members have lives outside of missionary work and what not, but missionaries really need members! We´ve been struggling getting members to help us recently and it has made our work a lot harder. My testimony of "every member a missionary" has grown so much. I´m so grateful for the help we do receive and the love of our ward. I am so blessed to be serving in the ward Grageru 1. The members are wonderful and so loving. I´m grateful to be here in Aracajú, serving with all my heart, might, mind and strength. I´m grateful for this gospel and for my family and my friends and all things good in this world. The love you all show for me gives me hope and I truly feel your prayers every day. I love you all and pray for you as well. Have a fabulous week and until next time, tchau tchau! Hurrah for Israel!

Com amor,
Sister Ball

P.S. Shout out to Alyssa, Steven, Jacqualine and Kendall. I hope you all had/are having/will have an incredible birthday! I love each of you and feel so blessed to call you my friends, and family. Te amo!

Feliz Natal!

President & Sister Gonzaga

Us sisters at Zone Conference

Me and my District
We found an abandoned photo frame so of course, we took pictures. As you can see, Sister Barker loves Mouri the troll.
Sister Custódio loves the game slug bug, but here, it´s fusca [color of bug]. So in this case, FUSCA BRANCO!
Filling up on lots of water at the church :)
Ready to feast on our delicious Thankgiving dinner so graciously prepared by Sister Ferreira and Sister Custódio. It consisted of the equivalent of top ramen, eggs, pão com queijo, more eggs, LOTS of fruit, fresh mango juice and more fruit
-Posing with the flag of Sergipe!
Me with Sister Barra, the sister trainer I did a division with a couple weeks ago. She reminds me so much of Kayla Wright! It made me miss her!
The clouds on this particular day were beautiful and it reminded me of all the times Mom almost crashed trying to take pictures of the clouds with her iPhone back home :).