My area is awesome, just like everyone told me it would be. To be honest, it is mostly a favella, like Cachoerinha. This is good because there are always people around in the streets and it’s easy to find people to teach. But the good thing about this place is that it isn’t completely a favella like Cachoerinha was—totally full of iniquity. So you could find people who were willing to be baptized, but rarely did you find someone that was willing to make the changes necessary in their life to do that. This area is a little more mellow. People are willing to do what it takes to change and be baptized.
There is another thing here that makes this area similar to heaven: the members. The church members here are unbelievable, constantly asking to give rides for our investigators, or asking to come teach with us, and offering if there is anything else they can do. . . . And so our ward is super helpful. That is the beauty of this area, and it enables us to baptize more people.
Today I woke up and it felt like I was in Oregon on a winter day. It was cold, there was a fog over the valley, and the atmosphere was just damp. It just felt like one of those mornings in Oregon after a night of rain. It was “home sickening.”
So here is a cool story for you. I was on a division with Elder Cruz, and it was Saturday night. We were looking for people to teach and bring to church on Sunday. In order to be baptized, people need to have come to church. Anyway, we were in a heavy favella (slum) talking to a woman in her doorway who really didn’t want anything to do with us. Another woman passed by us in the narrow pathway. It was normal, just like anyone would pass you on the sidewalk if you were talking to someone else. She didn’t even look at us. But as she passed by, Elder Cruz literally stopped mid-sentence to turn and look behind him. He stopped her and asked if we could pass by her house. She said yes, and explained where it was. Then she continued down the pathway, and we turned back to the woman with whom we were talking. At that point, we just told her it was a pleasure talking with her, and we left.
We then went to find the woman who had passed by. We almost gave up looking for it since it was time to go home, but we looked a little longer, and we found it. Five people lived there. The woman (Neide), her parents, and her daughter (Rayssa) and niece (Karou), who I will tell more about later.
So we started teaching them. They are perfect: believing and accepting what we taught them. Neide has been a member of several other churches and is really smart. She knows a lot about the scriptures as well, and always asks great questions, difficult but good ones.
Not only finding this family was miraculous, but what happened next was even better. In one of our subsequent visits with them, Elder asked one of them to pray with us. Before Neide started praying, she explained that her sister (Karou’s mother) had gone to the hospital four months ago for some serious reasons, and then that she had disappeared with her other five children—which was why Karou lived with her instead of her own mom and siblings. (Karou is about 15, and started sobbing when her aunt Neide was telling us about this.) Elder Cruz told her that if she had faith, her prayer would be answered.
So Neide prayed and asked to get some sort of answer as to the whereabouts of her sister, Parecida. After her prayer, we went home.
Tuesday, I passed by their home and we continued to teach them. Neide asked such great questions that I usually don’t hear from people here, things like how the church is organized, how tithing works, if we have women pastors. We visited again on Thursday to continue teaching them. Just like all our other lessons, everything went well. Good questions and answers we discussed, and the Spirit was there. We were talking about baptism and getting ready to be baptized when the phone rang. Neide’s mother answered the phone and then left for a few minutes. When she came back, she had a crumpled piece of paper in her hand and tears in her eyes. The paper had an address and a phone number of where to call to talk to the lost sister, Parecida. Karou got up crying and left the room. My companion, Rayssa, and I just sat in silenced shock while the women were crying, trying to think—probably with a dumb expression on my face.
After everything calmed down, we explained that this was obviously an answer to Neide’s prayer from the previous week. They are preparing to be baptized. As it turns out, Parecida doesn’t remember anything. She somehow got amnesia and didn’t remember anyone and this is why she disappeared and why no one could find her for so long.
Remember how in my letter I mentioned how they said a prayer when we first met them? Well, after they visited church the first time last week, they had another miracle answered from their prayer. The second miracle is about the Karou’s sister. In the prayer, they also had asked God if this sister could be blessed with the opportunity to leave prison. On Tuesday, we got a call from Neide. She told us that the Karou’s sister had left the prison and was heading home. When we got this call, Elder Cruz jumped on my back and literally almost crushed me. We explained that by following the right path and doing the things that we promised the Lord would help them in their lives, and their prayer was answered 110%. We then marked a date for their baptisms and they were baptized during the two-hour intermission of General Conference.
I cannot explain the change that has come over this family. When we first found them they wouldn’t smile much and they drilled us with questions. Now, every time we visit, you can feel the Spirit in the house and everyone is smiling, laughing, and studying the Book of Mormon together.
Rayssa, Neide’s daughter, was baptized Saturday. Everyone at church is going nuts over this family. I already said that they were the perfect family to teach and baptize. On Thursday we will have a ward party at their house . . . to help integrate them into the ward better and get to know the other members.
Neide, Karou, and Rayssa were all confirmed Sunday.
This week, another of Neide’s nieces (Karou’s sister), Tauany, was baptized.This girl is so cute. She is so small that when she came out of the water she floated to the top and the priest who baptized her had to lift her to the stairs! Hahaha
I asked the family if I could share these experiences with you, and they said yes. God works through little miracles that are gigantic if you pay close enough attention. I hope everything is going well.
Your wild, out-of-control, nutsy, full-of-energy brother/son, Elder David Brenton Burt