Tuesday, August 27, 2013

Petrolina Oeste

Good morning, my beautiful family and wonderful friends! 

I hope you are all doing well. Thank you for the emails and the pictures. I am glad the week was good. 

My week was good here too. We worked hard and I learned that sun "block" literally blocks the sun. I always have it in my bag and when I forget to put it on in the morning and begin to feel the sun burning, I just put it on and it is instant relief. Sun block is a blessing. I also learned that when you take your shoes to a shoe repair place to fix the sole, they just put tire on the bottom of your shoe. But it was cheap and the shoes are good again. "Crusty" and ready to work. Good stuff. 

This week we were blessed with the miracle of the baptism of Samuel! He is 9 years old and is the grandson of a recent convert -- Valdenícia. Valdenícia is the one I think I already wrote about. She doesn't hear and reads lips. We have been teaching Samuel for a few weeks. He learns fast and already had lots of friends and an aunt in the church. He stopped drinking coffee with the help of his grandmother. He really just has a pure heart. Of course, he still is a little boy and loves to play and run and yell, haha. But it's all good because really he is humble and willing to follow the Savior. There were a lot of primary children at the baptism as well as some other children who are being taught by the other Sisters here. Valdenícia was soooooo happy and she is very happy as well that this week other members in our ward will go to the temple and do the baptism for her son that passed away. Valdenícia really just glows with the joy of the gospel and is helping many people come to the truth as well. She really is an example that many should follow. 

Sabrina (10) continues to come to church with her neighbors. She wore a beautiful white dress to church yesterday. First time she wore a dress to church! She really is learning and growing. She is always so humble and patient and kind. Especially with her mother who has not given permission yet that she can be baptized. We really want to work a lot with the mom this week that she will give permission and maybe be baptized soon as well. 

This week Sister Costa and I did divisions with the sisters who work in Petrolina Central. I worked with Sister Yopan from Santa Catarina there in the center of the city. The area was a lot more busy -- an environment that I am more used too. I enjoyed the day. I didn't really know what I was supposed to be doing, but I just prayed a lot and tried to help the Sister with what she was needing help with. The Lord showed me and directed me in a little bit of the work there, even though I knew nothing about the people and the city there. We worked a lot on baptism invitations and a recently new key indicator that we have in the mission called "challenges". This key indicator is that we challenge people who have already visited the church to be baptised that very Sunday. When I first heard about this new change, I was hesitant. But with my experiences, I have gained a testimony of this. It really works when you act in faith. We challenged several people to be batized that Sunday. One of them was a woman that we met on the street who had visited the church several times 13 years ago. She stoped going because her brother who was a member passed away. We got to know her a little bit, taught her and challenged her right there on the street. and she accepted a baptismal interview and baptism if they tell her that she is ready. I don't know exactly what happened after but I think the sisters will continue to work with her that she can be baptized in just a little more time.

The calling of a missionary and the authority that a missionary has is truly real. I would never in my life invite and challenge someone that I had just met on the street 30 minutes before to be baptized in just a few days. But when we act in faith and with authority and with the Spirit, we really can see miracles. 

I love being a missionary. It truly is awesome. I love how I feel the Savior so near and can see His hand in our days all the day long. I love The Book of Mormon. It truly is amazing and I would love to just spend the day reading it! Well, as a missionary I can't, but it's interesting that I never felt that desire before, as much as I knew it was true and was grateful for it. Read it! 

I love you all very much. I always pray for you. I wish you a safe and healthy and fun week. Keep choosing the right and be examples to those around you and talk about the gospel with people! 

Much love!

Até mais,

Sister Lauren Olivia Villaroman

Monday, February 25, 2013

Joy in Abrantes

Oi, minha familia e amigos!

Eu amo voces muito!

Guess what? Nilson was baptized yesterday! It was so cool to see. We had stake conference yesterday in Camaçari and two other companionships in my district had baptisms too. We did them all in the same meeting after the conference. Three baptisms for our district this week. It was really cool. We visited Nilson every day this past week to teach him and he always just accepted everything with such faith. He was nervous to be baptized, but he did it. He was baptized by his brother and he actually almost hit his head when he went down into the water. But he said he felt goosebumps after. So cool. He left such a hard life. He already did a lot on his own to change his life, but the gospel I know will help him to continue and be an even better person. What a miracle! I was talking with Sister K after the baptism yesterday and even though I know it is a miracle, it just seems so normal to me that he is baptized. Like it's something I have known for a long time. Interesting. We and the elders made cake for the baptism to make it a little more of a special day. All I can say is, Brazilians like their bolo (cake). 

We have more possibilities so I hope and pray that we can help them develop the faith to change their lives and be baptized too. The branch needs I believe 5 more men before the branch can become a ward and the chapel to start being built. These past couple of weeks they have been building another little building on the church site of the sítio for us to hold our Sacrament meeting in because members were complaining about the heat. I have high hopes for this next transfer that starts tomorrow. 

We heard what was going to happen with the transfer this morning. I will stay in Vila de Abrantes! I am so excited. And ... I will be companions with Sister Costa! She was one of the sisters we stayed with when we went to Santo Antonio for a week and a half. She is so sweet and helpful! She is from São Paulo so I am excited that my portuguese will improve! Yay! I had a feeling I would be companions with a brazilian but I was nervous that I wouldn't be able to communicate effectively enough with her and I wouldn't remember things about this area. But I feel better now and I think this next transfer will be great. Sister Kalamafoni will go to Senhor do Bonfim for her last transfer. I believe President opened up two or three areas for sisters this transfer. We are getting 5 brazilian sisters tomorrow. That's more new sisters in one transfer than this mission has seen in a long time ... maybe even ever. 

Remember the one who has that really really big problem with drinking? We hadn't visited for a little bit but did just really quickly yesterday for Sister K to say goodbye. He still has the desire to be baptized. I feel that we need to completely start over with him. I am willing to try because I know he can stop and I know that we found him for a reason. It will be interesting.

It is still hot here, but it has been rainy. I love the rain! 
English class was small this week. We had to meet outside under a little pavilion this week because the construction people were in the building and everything was all moved around. And it was pouring. And because we were outside, of course most of the people wanted to play soccer instead. Oh well. I guess you just can't take brazilians away from soccer. 

Well, I hope things go well this week. Thank you for your prayers and support.
Love you all.

Até mais.

Com amor,

Sister Villaroman

Many struggles in Abrantes

Oi minha família e meu amigos!

Eu amo vocês! This week was good. I had better health this week and my leg is still healing. Thank you for all the prayers. Today was a good pday. We went with President Hart, our LZ (ZL) and LD (DL) and another elder (believe it or not, I just typed several words in portugues and had to delete; obviously the language is coming along) to ride bikes on a really nice trail in the middle of Salvador. It was beautiful, almost like you weren't in the city. Reminded me of Golden Gate Park too.

So we worked a lot this week. Especially to get people to go to church because we haven't had investigators at church in a few weeks. It's really hard to get people to keep their committments here. This week we had four. It was really nice. Sister Kalamafoni and I also spoke in Sacrament. At least this time we had a few weeks notice. The stake here also did a fast for the missionary work here. I spoke on service. It was nice and I think people understood me a lot better than the time I had to give a talk my first sunday in the field.

Well, I have a story to tell you. So, we had lunch with one family who has several kids in a neighborhood a bit far from us. Sis K usually calls to confirm our lunches but this time we didnt have any more credit on our phone to call people outside our zone and President and Sister Hart. So we showed up at their house and it was obvious that they did not remember. We quickly decided to just share a message with them and ask for a reference. But then we met the brother of the dad that had just moved in with them that morning. We ended up teaching him the third lesson about the gospel of Jesus Christ with the family there. It was really nice. We learned a little of his past and have since learned a lot more. He has been clean from drugs and alcohol for a year and some months and is leaving Sao Paulo and his wealth there to leave an area where he had a life of gangs and drug trafficking. He was lucky that he was able to get out, they actually let him pay quite a bit of money to leave that network. Well, he easily accepted a baptism date. He was at church with the family and wants to be baptized this next Sunday! We are praying and working hard to help this actually happen. Next week will be stake conference in Camaçari so we will get to use the font there. What is amazing to me is that in our planning at the beginning of the week we didnt even know him so he wasnt on our list of people to focus on, but by the end of the week, he one of our big focuses. He really has had the hand of God in His life to bring him to this point. The Lord sent the missionaries to him just a few hours after he arrived here in Abrantes. Amazing. We left the house full of the Spirit and just amazed at how God had used us that day to bless this family. During the lesson we learned that the family had been praying to have a missionary experience. And they also had been praying to help their brother/brother in law/uncle. When the mother told us this she spoke of what a miracle it was that the Lord sent the missionaries. By sunday the family had realized that they had forgot our lunch. They felt really bad. We tried to tell them not to feel bad. I also told them that they had given us something better, that our past few weeks had been really difficult and they had given us food for our spirits. I hope they feel better about everything. We've taught a few other lessons to him so far. And I am excited. I hope next week I can write that he got baptized. 

We are also teaching another man who has also stopped drinking coffee. He is still searching for his confirmation about this way, but I think it is going well. What is amazing to me is that he set his mind to stop drinking coffee and he basically did everything on his own (well, with the Lord). He lessened what he drank over time and we taught him here and there while we were focused on some others. But he's also been a big focus of ours lately. It just amazes me when I see the difference of someone who actually does what they say they will without the missionaries trying millions of ways to help them stop, and then someone who is getting all the help in the world and just wont stop. Interesting. 

Well, we met someone last week that I talked about from Paraiba. We taught the Word of Wisdom and learned that he smokes 100 times a day. WOW! How do you have time to do anything else? Well I learned from another elder in our district who was teaching someone with this problem that he broke the cigarette and put the tobacco in a cup of water and had him drink it. He said his investigator didnt end up drinking it. Well, we did the same thing with this investigator. And guess what? Yeah, he was definitely a little sick that night, but now he is down to an average of 3 times a day. Wow. He's got some things to work on, but atleast this helped a bit and hopefully we can continue to help him. 

They did get done with Carnaval this last week. Luckily Abrantes didnt have much of any of it here. There was only a super mini "parade" here where some of the people walked down the street in crazy outfits -- as in the men were dressed in womens clothes. But not too far away is Salvador. Carnaval is crazy. The elders in that area had to stay inside all week, because thats how long this thing lasts. 

English class this week was good. We had 6 people this week and learned ABCs. Hopefully we will get more people this next week. 

Still reading Jesus The Christ. It's still awesome and I'm still loving it. 

This transfer is already winding down. This one is only 5 weeks.  Can't believe I will be done with training and starting my third transfer. Time is flying.  

I love you all and miss you. I hope things are going well. Keep doing good things and remember that every choice counts. Yes, God has a plan for each individual, but the Plan of Salvation is for everyone and we need to make sure we are doing the things that will get us to where we want to go.

Love you and am always praying for you.

Até mais.

Com amor,

Sister Lauren Olivia Villaroman

Wednesday, January 23, 2013

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Santo Antonio de Jesus

Oi, meu queridos!

Eu amo vocês!

There is some disappointing news that will correct my last email, Abrantes isn't getting the chapel yet. Some Mormon rumor. Sad day. They are going to put up some more walls in the site instead of the tent because it is so hot that the members were complaining. Also, they changed church to an hour earlier also because of the heat so some members wouldn't leave right after the Sacrament. 

This is my week 6 in the field, so the end of this week will mark the end of my first transfer! Crazy how time flies! Sister Kalamafoni and I are doing well and working well with each other. I had my second interview with President Hart this week. It was a good interview. He is very happy that I have already read not only the Book of Mormon, but all the other scriptures as well. He said I have come very well prepared. Thank you, BYU-I! He also wants me to read Jesus the Christ in English. I am excited to do that. We talked about the language and I think I am right where I am supposed to be with it. After several weeks missionaries are usually at about 60% in understanding the language in a gospel setting. I think I am there. I notice little by little how my portugues is getting better. I can't wait to be more fluent! Yay!

Last p-day we went to a little beach town and it was so cute! We took some pictures on the beach, I will have to send sometime. We also visited this turtle project and saw some cool turtles. 

So, I am writing you from Santo Antônio de Jesus, Bahia. It is about 4ish hours from Salvador. Sister Kalamafoni and I are here for more or less about a week. We are still companions and are staying with another companionship, Sister Costa and Sister Pontes (from the CTM). We are going to help them for a time and then we will go back to Abrantes. It's more like a city here. I like it. It rained a lot this morning. It's also good because I get to know this place a little bit for if I get to serve here later in my mission. In the mission right now, there are only 5 areas for sisters to serve. 

It was sad to leave Abrantes for this little bit though. I guess you don't really know what you have until it's gone. This will help me appreciate it more when we go back. I am really loving the people there, especially our investigators. I just want so bad for them to accept this gospel. We are making strides with those few that we are helping with the word of wisdom. One has had this as a habit since he was ten years old. He is now about 28. He had two days this past week where he didn't drink at all! He even said one of those days he had many invitations from friends to drink. We were so excited and happy for him. We were very encouraging. 

I am doing well. The Lord is definitely with me and Sister Kalamafoni. I can see His hand in our days so frequently. I loved reading about all the stuff you are doing. Keep up the good work, and keep the faith! 

Love you!

Atê mais!
Sister Villaroman

Tuesday, January 8, 2013

Investigators and a man with a big bible.

Oi, minha familia e meu amigos!
I cannot believe it is 2013. Well, this week was good for the most part. Thank you for all your emails, I really enjoy reading them and I look forward to them.
I'm glad to hear from everyone else. I hope you are all enjoying church and doing good things at work. I hope you are all in good health and don't forget I pray for you all the time. Again, I will try and send pics next week.
Well, I think the work is moving forward here. The word from the president of the branch is that we are getting a chapel! Supposedly they will start in February or March. I really hope this is the case. I think that will interest a lot of people in what our church is about. How exciting!
Church this week was good. We had 6 investigators with us. It was awesome. President said they never have had this many investigators in church in the past two years since the church has been here. And they were all in gospel principles class -- which I ended up getting to teach! Haha. We didn't have a teacher because they need to call a new one. So I had about 45 minutes to prepare. Awesome. You know, that was like one of my worst fears back in the states, having to teach last minute. Well, here I am doing these things. AND, I am doing it in portuguese! The Lord really does qualify the called and makes up for what you lack. I couldn't understand everything or say everything perfectly, but my companion was there to help.
Also, this week I had my first experience with bible bashing. We tried to visit an investigator but they weren't home. Then we ran into a member who had a referral for us. So we all went to go visit this lady. Well, literally just a few seconds after we sat down in her home, I looked to the door and this nicely dressed man with a bible comes walking in. What? Then his wife and another member of their church. Well, we taught the lesson of the restoration and we talked about many things. I don't know the language very well so I was just trying to understand and I said a few things here and there. They believed that the bible is sufficient for them, that God, Jesus Christ, and the Holy Ghost are one person, that man could not see God, etc. And just as I don't know the language perfectly, I don't know the Bible perfectly, or the Book of Mormon perfectly. But there's two things that I did know: 1. I am a representative of Jesus Christ. 2. I know what the Holy Ghost feels like. This was all I needed. I felt and I noticed that my companion was getting frustrated and the pastor was talking really loudly and forcefully, and they just kept sharing scripture after scripture.
The Spirit told me that we needed to leave. I gathered a few thoughts and tried to get a word in. When I finally did, I told him that we had another appointment right now, and then asked if I could say one more thing and then if we could have a prayer after. Everyone agreed. I congratulated them on their faith, and then I started my testimony by identifying myself as a representative of Christ and then bore testimony of my knowledge of the church, the Book of Mormon and of Joseph Smith. I also testified that Heavenly Father lives and has a body of flesh. And that Jesus Christ lives and has a body of flesh. That Jesus Christ died for us because He loves Heavenly Father and He loves us. That everything Christ did while on the earth was because He loves His Father, not because He loves himself.
I felt the Spirit very strongly and I felt calmness in the room.
But pretty much immediately after I stopped talking, the pastor started talking again. I didn't understand. But what I did understand was that he wanted the last word. So I let him have it. Because then we would never leave. One day all will know of the truthfulness of this gospel. We invited him to pray. The prayer was really loud. This made me appreciate my knowledge of the quiet sacredness of prayer, a conversation with our Heavenly Father.
Well, this was a good experience because it taught me how to deal with those situations and it actually helped me strengthen my testimony. When someone challenges it, that's when it can do a lot of growing, if you use it and if you speak it. It also increased my knowledge of the scriptures because I for my personal study the next day, I gathered some scriptures that will help me for next time.
I love you all so much. Remember to always choose the right.  I encourage everyone to pray to recognize missionary opportunities!
Tchau, até mais.
Sister Villaroman