Mom, math is foreign for you? Imagine a blonde in Brasil trying to do calculus problems with a mathematics genius after not studying for three years. Now that´s foreign. Ahhh I was waiting to see when Time Out for Women and Girls would be! Have fun and learn lots for me, okay? Hope everyone starts feeling better too, os bixinhos. :) So this week was exactly what you imagined--full of service, laughter, good food, but lots of tears. I still have this week to finish strong, but I´m already crying like a baby haha. I´ll be going to Maceió on Saturday and from there, home is my next stop! So this is my last e-mail to you guys as Sister Ball. During these past few days, I´ve reflected a lot on my mission, the people I´ve met, the lessons I´ve learned and the love I´ve developed for the gospel and the people I serve. These 18 months have been the best year and a half of my life until now. And I wouldn´t trade anything for them. I´m so grateful for everything I´ve been through--the laughs, the tears, the love, the pain, the joys and the sadness. One time, Dad wrote me saying how the time we serve a mission is a lifetime of experiences because we´ll never pass so much time dedicated to the Lord. So all these spiritual experiences I´ve had really do make a lifetime. So much has happened that I don´t even know where to start. I´ve learned so much and I hope that I´ll be able to apply what I´ve learned to the rest of my life. One of my favorite parts of my mission was seeing the change that happens when people live the gospel. Maybe those changes are simple, but it´s the simple things that bring the greatest joy. Nothing made me more happy during this time than seeing simple people make life-changing decisions--people who barely know how to read or write actively participating in church classes, seeing a man who decided that he never wanted to drink again receive the Aaronic Priesthood and help pass the Sacrament, seeing a woman gain a testimony of the Book of Mormon during months of reading and finally deciding to be baptized, seeing people I used to teach as investigators become active members of the church, serving faithfully in their callings and helping the missionaries, receiving a letter from a recent-convert expressing her joy for receiving her patriarchal blessing, helping youth prepare to serve missions, reminding inactive families and members why they were baptized and seeing their testimonies being rekindled, receiving endless help and love from amazing members and incredible investigators. During this year and a half, it was through the small and simple things that I was able to feel the biggest joy. I now have a testimony that it really is only through the gospel that we can experience true joy and happiness--through our Savior´s Atonement and His unconditional love. Never before have I felt so much of that love. I´m so grateful that Heavenly Father trusted in me enough to send me to the Brasil Maceió Mission to help His sons and daughters receive the restored gospel in their lives. Even though I was called to the Brasil Maceió Mission, I spent all my time, except 6 weeks, in Sergipe and I´m so grateful that I had the opportunity to love and serve these people. But as much as I may have tried to give them my best, the person who was benefited more than anyone else was me. It was them who helped me learn and change what I needed to change to become who I am today. The people I met here are people who changed my life, people for whom I will be forever grateful. Luckily I still have one more week with them and I hope that I can take advantage of every moment. I know that this work is the Lord´s work and that His plan is perfect. I know that through this plan, His children can experience all the blessings He has in store and live happily ever after as eternal families. I think that during this time, I was able to feel just a bit of that eternal happiness that He´s prepared for each one of us and, if that´s the case, I can´t imagine how incredible it will be to feel that forever. I love you all. I´m so grateful for all the suppport, the cards, the letters, the packages, the fasts, the prayers that I received during this time. I´m sad that I have to leave this mission, but I´m excited for the next chapter in my life and to continue with the friendships I´ve made while here. Thank you for everything and... até logo :).
Glad you liked the video, Mom, but I have no idea what accent you´re talking about... the only accent I have here is American haha. Tell Steven GOOD JOB with his basketball game. That´s awesome that they won! And David sounds as sweet and cute as ever. Glad you had a good birthday week too. Sounds like you were spoiled :). So Colton had to stay locked in their house for five days? Wow, I think Carnaval is worse there than here! We had to stay in too, but not for so long, and only when it was looking bad. So yeah, we didn´t get to work much. Our area had a nice little Carnaval party that didn´t let us get much done. And yes! Our leaders gave us permission to go to the Bishop´s son´s wedding! It was so fun seeing Juninho and Priscila get married, especially since the last time I was in this area, they were just starting to date. It was a beautiful wedding and I can tell that they´re going to be a fantastic couple. They already are :).
Besides this week being a huge party for all those Carnaval-lovers, we still managed to get some work done and see a few miracles. This week, we met A, a woman of faith! Friday night, we were searching for some referrals from an activity that the ward did to find new people to teach, but all the people we were trying to contact weren´t home. So, we decided to group together a bunch of snails on the side of the road, take a picture, and keep looking. And we found A! She was super happy to receive us and as we conversed with her, we discovered that her family has been through some difficulties and lost some loved ones. So it was the perfect opportunity to share the Plan of Salvation with her and the Spirit testified of what we shared. We returned there on Sunday and she had prayed about our message, saying that she felt so much peace and comfort when she prayed. We shared with her the Restoration and she gladly accepted to pray again. She, along with her cute daughter, are excited to follow the Savior´s example. It´s been great getting to know this woman and see the incredible faith that she has. She´s truly a wonderful person!
This week, there was also an incredible rain/thunder/lightning storm that spooked everyone out a bit and destroyed some parts of the city. The lightning got close! It´s been so long since I last saw a good lightning storm, so for me, it was fun :). And that´s about all I have for this week... I love you guys lots and love this gospel immensely! I hope you can all have a wonderful week!
P-Day lunch with Sister Gama, included a delicious banana and shrimp white sauce!
With Sister Gama at the wedding
With the newlyweds!
With Natalia, Amanda, e Leticia, love these girls!
Okay, so I didn't catch the bouquet, but I still had to take a picture :)
Well, this e-mail is going to be short but sweet, sorry. Tomorrow is Carnaval and everything is closed, so Presidente Gomes let us use a member´s computer super quickly. About rooming with Kayla and Hannah before I forget, I´d love to stay in the Colony! Just let me know what Kayla tells you and I´ll do what I can to help haha. And I can´t believe that Carson is going to Australia... speaking Spanish! Two things I love :). That was so sweet of David too, to give so many people cute valentines. Sounds like he´s being a great example of Christlike love :). Aaaaaand thank you, Nana, for the letter! You know exactly how I´m feeling during these last few weeks of my mission.
So like I said, tomorrow is Carnaval. And all of Brasil is super excited about that a.k.a. it´s incredibly difficult to work. This last week, the drinking and loud music already started. I don´t even want to know what tomorrow will be like. But besides being super hard to work, we still had some good moments. We´re trying to help a recent-convert´s husband feel ready to accept the gospel and it´s going super well. Their whole family already treats us like their daughters, so that helps. He loves to hear us and is super smart. He already knows what he needs to do and now, we just need to help him find the strength to live what he already knows to be true. We´re also working hard to continue finding the Lord´s prepared children. This week, it seemed as if almost everyone wanted to stop receiving our visits, but I know that our faith is just being tested and that many miracles are waiting for us. I´m so grateful that I´m still here, helping in this wonderful work. I hope you can all have a great week and know that I love you guys! And Mom, HAPPY BIRTHDAY!!!! Know that the entire country of Brasil will be celebrating tomorrow haha. Love you!
Mom, I´ve noticed that that little paragraph pops up on almost all of my e-mails that I get from other people. I don´t really know what it´s for but I don´t think you need to worry too much. Keep on keeping on with math! You´re doing great so far! It sounds like Junior´s (Fred Sharp´s) birthday was awesome. What a surprise! I have no idea what Big Hero 6 is, but glad you liked it haha. Sounds like Primary is as great as ever. I love those kids. I love 'Aunt' Jennifer too. Tell her 'hi' for me! Oh and before I forget, I don´t know if I ever thanked Abbey Simon for the letter she sent me... I got it a couple weeks ago and was so happy to hear from her! Tell her thanks for me too. So J is doing great. She was baptized this last Saturday! It took a lot of energy and effort, but it happened and everyone is happy for her. I don´t even know where to start with this week. So many great things are happening in our area and we´re seeing a ton of success in our work with our investigators. Our ward wants to split by the end of this year. Yesterday, the entire ward (and us too) did a fast to help the missionary work and we´re already seeing results. This last week, a bunch of members introduced us to their friends whom we´re now teaching and helping. One of these members met a man limping after a motorcycle accident and made friends with him after joking a bit and conversing with him. The man who suffered from the accident went to stake conference last week with his wife and we began teaching them with the irmão who introduced us to them. This couple is incredible! They are truly interested and want so badly to believe in what we have to share. They´re praying sincerely to receive an answer from God. I´m excited to see what will happen with them. Yesterday, we also went out to make a visit with an irmã. The person we were going to visit wasn´t home, but in the short 20 minutes that we were with her, she introduced us to three people with families that accepted a visit from us for later this week. And on top of all this, there is so much more happening that´s getting me super excited for the next few weeks. I´m just extremely happy with the people we´re meeting and experiences we´re having. I´m so grateful that the Lord is helping us find His children that are prepared to receive the gospel in their lives. Life is good. Love you guys and hope you all have a wonderful week! Boa semana!
Mom, Happy 5 years cancer-free!!! Goodness, that makes me so happy to know that you´re as happy and healthy as ever! And good job on the 100% on your math test! You´re a genius! :) So to be honest, I was completely shocked when I opened Cam´s e-mail talking about the Super Bowl... did it really happen this last week? I had nooooooo idea... I actually thought that it happens during Thanksgiving, but that´s the Turkey Bowl or something like that, right? Either way, it´s obvious that here, no one talks about american football and I´m okay with that haha. Taylor gets home this week! And Callie goes to Chile soon! And Katie Wiser got home last week! Time is flying by so darn quickly! Before I know it, I´ll be there to watch Steven being a stud on the basketball court. Okay, to answer questions, Sister Caetano still lives with me here. She´s training a new sister, Sister Conde from Fortaleza. She´s so sweet and there´s a girl in the Socorro 3 ward that looks just like her so everyone already loves her! :) I´m still a sister leader trainer and my new comp is... Sister Gama!!! I went on exchanges with her once and loved it, and now I get to be her companion for 6 weeks. If the next 5 weeks are anything like this last one, I´m super excited. This last week, we worked hard and had some great results. Sister Gama is a wonderful missionary who´s super dedicated and loves this work. That´s exactly what I need to maintain my focus and continue strong until the end. Lots of little miracles happened during these past few days, but one of my favorites happened yesterday. During the week, we visited one of our investigators who´s pregnant and really nascious (I don´t remember how to spell that word). For a couple weeks, she wanted to take a step back and not think about baptism or have to 'cumprir compromissos' (you´ll have to use Google translator for that one... I´m forgetting how to say these phrases in english!), so we let her. And when we returned to visit and teach her, despite not feeling well, she was extremely happy to see us and even happier to accept baptism and everything necessary to live the gospel. So we also invited her to come to church, or stake conference, on Sunday and she accepted, if she would be feeling well so early in the morning. Yesterday morning, we ran over there to go to church with her. We got there only to find her alone with three little children (one is her´s and the other two are her sisters´) and lying on the couch, feeling horrible. We conversed with her a bit to see what she was up to and, as much as she wanted to go, she didn´t feel too well and was stuck at home with three kids to take care of. But after some convincing, along with the time passing, she began to feel better and got up to take a shower and get ready. We were going to arrive there by bus with her, but because she wasn´t well, we decided that by car would be better. While she got ready, we ran to our ward mission leader´s house and asked if he could drive her. Of course, he said 'yes', we returned to her house 15 minutes later, and her and all the kids were ready for church! Wow, it was such a miracle!, especially after all that this young woman has been through. I haven´t really had the opportunity to tell her whole story, but maybe one day when I´m home I will. It´s incredible. Anyways, she loved conference and the kids were good. Other than that, we´re just trying to really get the members involved and find men and families to baptize and help so that our ward can split by the end of the year. There´s lots of work to do and I´m so happy that I can be a part of it! I hope all is well back home and love each one of you! Thank you so much Tiff and Tina for the packages/cards! Love you guys! Have a fabulous week and splendid day!
Saying goodbye to Laleska who will be serving in Manaus next week! Ahhh I'll miss that girl!
A delicious banana candy from Curitiba that Sister Gama keeps feeding me, trying to fatten me up :)
With a group of youth from another church who were doing a presentation in the Catholic church square in our area. They invited us and we invited them!
With Sister Gama, my new and wonderful companion, Sister Caetano, and Sister Conde, our cute greenie :)
Before I forget, Happy Sweet Sixteen, Kayla Fagan!!!! I seriously cannot believe you´re already that old. Wow. Can someone please tell me where the time went? And another before-I-forget, thank you, thank you, thank you to all the people who sent Christmas cards and letters and packages! Sister Geddes, the Kelly family, my dear fam bam, the Karrens (for the card and package! Ah, I was so happy to see a package from you guys! Love you!), the Fagans and the Priebes. You guys all rock. Noelle, I´m so excited for you and your new calling! You´re going to do great! It´s way better than ward greeter haha :). Glad Grand Dad had a good birthday too and that Steven enjoyed his campout. I´ll be wanting to do lots of those when I get back!
So this week was tough. It was full of laughs and tears and goodbyes. On Monday, we had family home evening with the Lima family which was incredible. Irmão Antônio Carlos amazes me with his Agent 007 skills and Irmã Marinalva with her magic touch in the kitchen. Irmão shared the message which included messages videos from our friends from the mission who already returned home (thank you Sister Silva, Sister Smith, Sister Sierras, Sister Chilson, Sister Nunes and Sister Vieira!!) and Presidente and Sister Gonzaga. We all cried seeing everyone´s faces again and reading messages they wrote. And it was followed by a delicious feast made by Marinalva. And Bruna was there to help us remanesce on all the good times we had while in Gragerú together. It was a great night! On Thursday, Irmã Nilda threw a surprise going away party for Sister Sleeman and Sister Custódio. Foi top!!! And Friday, we had to say our goodbyes. Goodness, sometimes I really dislike the fact that I´m a cry baby. We not only had to say goodbye to Sister Custódio and Sister Sleeman, but Sister Castro and Sister Ferreira too. It was pretty tough, but I know that we´ll keep in touch and continue our friendships. The following days, Sister Caetano and I paired up and worked in our areas the best we could between the two. I think my favorite part of the week was yesterday when we were at the church. We were heading to the chapel for sacrament meeting when I ran into Vanessa, a woman that I used to teach here (a few weeks ago, I mentioned how I discovered that all this time I spent away from her, she was reading the Book of Mormon) when I served in Socorro the first time. After arriving in the area again, Sister Caetano and Sister Sleeman started to teach her again, but she moved into the area of Socorro 3 soon after. And running into her yesterday, I found out that the sisters from Socorro 3 continued to teach her and she was baptized on Saturday!!!! My happiness was so great when she told me, "Sister Ball, me batizei!!!" Ahhh, I couldn´t believe it. That made up for all the sadness I was feeling after having to say goodbye to so many people this week haha. Vanessa is another proof for me that the seeds that we plant really can sprout and grow and produce fruits.
So that was my week. Now, I´m anxiously waiting to find out who will be my new companion and am happy that I´ll be 'dying' here in Socorro 1. It´s a great area with great members. I´m excited to spend my last transfer working hard and giving all I´ve got. I love you guys and hope you have a wonderful week!
With a family from Gragerú who always had FHE with us every week
Imitating a photo that Sister Custódio´s dad took with his companion on the mish
Sister Sleeman's and Sister Custodio's farewell
FHE with the Lima's
Sister Barker and the Lima's!
Tchau tchau, Sister Custodio... gonna miss this sister!
Lunch with Irmã Telma... she was my investigator the first time I was in this area and now she´s a member, making lunch for the missionaries!
Mission Christmas Conference. That's a lot of missionaries!
Mom, how´d you know that I lay on our cold tile floor to cool off? I guess some things never change :). Thanks for the coat! I don´t even want to try imagine using it right now, but I´m sure I´ll be very grateful once I get home... make sure to bring it to the airport haha. Hey, so everyone´s talking about what´s going to happen when I get home and how I have very little time left in the mission. What´s this all about? I seriously can´t believe that it´s coming to an end. Actually, I don´t want to believe that and I still don´t. I still feel that I arrived in the mission just a few months ago and am almost halfway through. The only one ending her mission here is Sister Custódio ;). But seriously, as excited as I am to get to see you guys soon, I really wish I could stay here forever doing what we do. There´s nothing as wonderful as being a missionary! I can´t believe Alyssa is already going out to serve! I´m certain that the people in Baton Rouge and the surrounding areas will love her and her crazy sense of humor. Good luck to everyone on finals and to Steven on his Klondike derby! That´ll be a blast for him. Oh and good luck with math, Mom. You´ll do great!
This week, it kind of seemed that everything exploded. Everything that was working out perfectly just a few days ago came to sudden end. But besides all that and the fact that this is my companion´s last week (a.k.a. there´s a chance that she´ll be super trunky), I´m learning so much. One thing that I´ve come to love here in the mission and especially these past few days is scripture study. It´s incredible how the scriptures have changed my life. Sadly before the mission, I didn´t really make study a priority but here in the mission, it´s the first thing we do after exercising... and taking a shower. Those two hours of study have become some of my two favorite hours of the day. I´ve come to love the Book of Mormon and the teachings of the prophets. This year at church, they´ve started studying Presidente Ezra Taft Benson´s life and teachings. What an incredible man! I´ve come to love his wife, Flora, too. She always supported him in everything he did--every job, every calling, every decision he made, she was right there alongside him to give him words of encouragement and help in any way possible. To me, she´s an example of how we should support our families and loved ones in important decisions too.
Anyways, even though we´re having a little bump in the road in our work, I´m excited to find more people who are ready and willing to hear the gospel. I know that the Lord is preparing people in this very moment to welcome us into their homes and their lives. I´m so grateful that I can be a part of this marvelous work and I hope that during these next couple months, I can give the Lord all I have. Thank you for your love, your support and your prayers. Have an excellent week and know that I love you!
With Sister Barker and my traveling scarf that Tina gave me once upon a time, saying that I needed to take it wherever I go!
With one of my favorite families in Eduardo Gomes after the baptism
Morning run with Sister Sleeman... we decided to run to a bridge that crosses a pretty part of the river in João Alves, an area nearby.
Please ignore my horrible, I'm-dying-because-I'm-way-out-of-shape face.
Sister Caetano, Sister Sleeman, Sister Custodio and I at church
While it just snows more and more there, the sun gets hotter and hotter here. Don´t be too surprised if I return home a bright red tomato! But I´m really hoping all that snow sticks around. The Lord knows how much I´m praying for this wish to come true haha. Yes Mom, I still have so much to learn, but here on the mission, I´ve learned things that I wouldn´t have discovered any way other than being a missionary. I can honestly say that I needed my mission more than anyone else. Of course, I came here to serve the Lord and His children, but the person who has been most benefited is me. I´ve learned what my strengths are, but most important, my weaknesses, and how I can change them. The mission is an incredibly eye-opening experience, one that I´d never give for anything in this world.
Noelle, thanks for the e-mail! I hope you get better... I´m proud of you for choosing to work on a church lesson over going to a fun-filled party. Woohoo! Sounds like Steven´s basketball team is going to rock! And glad that Uncle Dan is getting to spend time with Grand Dad. I´ve already written a Happy Birthday card for him, along with a bunch of other letters, but it´s just always a matter of when we´ll get around to visiting the post office. Speaking of cards and letters, tell everyone thank you so much for sending Christmas cards! I got some from you guys, from Nana and Pops, the Priebes, the Fagans, the Kelly fam aaaand the Karrens! I love you all and am super grateful that you remembered this gringa here in Brasil. You guys rock.
I guess it can be a bit hard to give talks because of our 'training', but to be honest, we don´t really have a strict way of teaching the lessons, so it´s a little easier to expand on what we want to say if necessary. I don´t really know how to say what I´m trying to say. Basically, in the CTM, they trained us to teach the lessons in a super short amount of time, if necessary, but we also learned how to teach the same lessons during a longer period of time. Giving talks isn´t too hard... I think the hardest part is just the fact that we don´t have access to all the same materials as everyone since we don´t have computers to use the church website whenever we want, or church manuals. Does that answer your question, Mom? And there are a lot more colorful houses here than there, that´s for sure! Not every house is as cool and colorful as Bispo´s, but there are a lot of red, orange, pink, blue, green, and yellow houses here :).
As for this week, we didn´t get to spend as much time in our area as usual, but the Lord blessed us and made up for the time we missed. We saw many mini miracles that happened throughout the week! We had a leadership meeting in Maceió on Tuesday with an excellent training on our desires and how we can make goals and plans to acheive those desires. Our greatest desire as the Lord´s servants (which is all of us!) should be the same as His--the 'immortality and eternal life of man'. To accomplish that desire, we need to make goals and plans to reach those goals. We talked about how God created everything spiritually before He made His creation physically and how we need to do the same; we need to create our weeks and our days spiritually by planning so that we can carry out those plans physically by actually doing. I also went on exchanges with Sister Gama this week and, even though it was to help her, I learned a ton. Through her example, I was reminded of how important it is to testify of Christ in all we say and do. At every opportunity she had, she testified of Christ and His gospel and the happiness that she has because of Him. I´m going to improve in this and hope we can all do the same. I love our Heavenly Father and our Savior, Jesus Christ. I´m so grateful that they have blessed us with the opportunity to experience true joy together with our families throughout the eternities if we simply live the gospel. I love each of you and hope you can all have an incredible week.
Ah família, I don´t have a ton of time left but I loved reading all of your e-mails. I´m hoping and praying that all this snow can stick around until March! It makes me so happy thinking about how much it´s snowing there :). Glad you all had an eventful New Year´s. Hope everyone´s adjusting well to being back in school... it´s always tough to go back, but that´s life, I guess! From the pictures, it looks like you all had a great time with Tina. Love you guys! I laughed so much about what some of the kids designed for the Primary spotlight hahaha. I love Primary! I´ve only been able to visit the Primary a few times because we usually stay in Relief Society, which is always wonderful too. Mom, thank you so much for helping those sister missionaries. I haven´t had to walk in freezing weather like they were, but I can´t tell you how happy and grateful we are when a member stops to help us or give us a ride. Missionaries walk... a lot! I hope you can continue to help out the missionaries in every way possible! Referrals, dinners, rides, FHEs with friends, making visits, etc. We love receiving help from members because that´s really how missionary work should be! Thanks again for saving those sisters´ freezing little legs haha.
So this week with the world celebrating New Year´s, our success in numbers wasn´t spectacular. But we had success in helping those who were really in need of help and serving how Christ would serve. Yesterday, we went to visit an investigator that´s a bit hard to find home. We caught her there though, and sat down to visit her. I gave the opening prayer and as soon as I finished, she told us that she wanted to introduce her to a young lady who´s been living with her and really needs help. So she called this young lady and left, saying she´d remark with us. The young lady sat down and all we had to ask was what was wrong. She began telling us everything. (This is something that amazes me as a missionary. The people tell us their lives so easily! Sometimes we don´t have to say anything... they just start talking.) Through the experiences she told us, her feelings and the Spirit, we were able to teach a lesson that was especially for her. It was so great as the Spirit led us and told us what to say and share. In the end, we gave her a Book of Mormon. She happily accepted it all and accepted to start praying, to exercise her faith in a God that she doesn´t even know really exists or not.
It´s moments like these that make my mission what it is. I´m grateful that we´re here to help others and learn together with them. I hope you´re all well and love you all so much!
P.S. I´ve received some e-mails from some friends and family and I apologize for still not managing to respond! And thank you to the Gilleys, the Kelly family, the Smidts and Tina for your Christmas cards!! Love you guys!
Here are some pictures from our NYE celebration and feast at the Bishops house, Shoveling dirt, Our Christmas decorations, drinking chimaera a specialty from Porto Alegre, churrasco (Brasilian BBQ), and poor Sister Custodio with tummy pains, but she's all better now!