Tuesday, June 25, 2013

First Companion in Brazil: Sister Castro

June 24, 2013

Dear Mom and Dad,  
     Before i begin telling you about my adventures, can somebody tell me why the word suave, as in to be smooth, is bad? We were eating dinner with a family and their daughter kept sneaking dessert while her mom was turned around. I told she was smooth, as in, as in she had sneaky skills enough to get away with eating dessert. My companion Sister Castro asked who taught me the word smooth and then asked that I never repeat it. I thought you could say that, oops.
     I found out Monday of last week that I was leaving the next day for Brazil. There was one other sister living in our house that was also going to Brasil, she was the only other person to receive their visa. I managed to pack pretty fast, but she had a lot of stuff. It took 3 people a whole day to help her finish. I just tried to stay calm so that she would stop worrying. We took a direct flight from JFK airport to Sao Paulo and then waited a few hours in Sao Paulo for a 1 hour connecting flight to Ribeirao Preto. The office elders met us at the airport. Apparently they had just barely found out we were coming too. They took us to the mission office where we received a huge welcome from several more office elders and a few sisters that I would soon come to find out would be our companions. We met President Prieto and his wife, who speak absolutely no English and are finish their time serving here this week. President Brum should be arriving this week. We never went to the mission home. I guess President Prieto doesn't do that because my companion has never been there either. We received our assignments right away, got a bit of training, and off we went. My companion is Sister Castro. She's from Sao Paulo....she doesn't really speak English either. What an adventure. I'm praying for the gift of communication with my companion; so far its going alright.
     We were supposed to catch a bus to Penapolis when I arrived a Wednesday, but my companion lost her photo id.... She tried to explain to the bus driver that she was Brazilian. He didn't really care: no photo id, no bus. End of story. I was good though with my American id, which I was super grateful to have. Thanks mom and dad. I'll be taking buses a lot, so I'm going to need that. We spent the night with Sister Training Leaders and attended the wedding of one of their investigators. Oh, I arrived on the birthday of Ribeirao Preto. The ward had a party to celebrate. So in my first 2 days, I attended a wedding and a huge ward party.
     I'm learning to speak Portuguese. Its an adventure. The hardest parts are remembering the doctrine while trying to explain in Portuguese and understanding peoples' names/relationships. I forget everyone's names because they are way different and because they say them in Portuguese. We are teaching an 8 year old girl and I said her name like 30 times, and every time I said her name, she said I was wrong. Sister Castro finally stepped in and said it was because I had an accent. We taught this wonderful little girl last night at what I thought was her house, with her family. We taught the Restoration; she has an amazing testimony. Her mother shared her testimony, it was a great lesson. I came to find out thought, that she actually lived in the house behind them and it was actually her neighbor's mom that was sharing her testimony. We were having a lesson with a member president! Boy was I confused. It happens a lot (well, a lot for one week).
     We eat lunch with a different family everyday. We don't eat a whole lot other than that. Brazilians basically eat a huge lunch, and then crackers and juice for whatever other meal they want. Which explains why people always tell the missionaries to eat more! eat more! Its because its your only real meal of the day. Don't worry though, I get enough to eat. I just watched the broadcast from President Monson. And, I should have another  40 minutes of email. But, I have just been informed that I need to finish now. My companion says were leaving. I' not really sure why, but apparently I'm supposed to be done already. I'm super confused at the moment, but I love you. My companion is amazing. I have a testimony. I kind of-ish, sort of understand Portuguese.

I love you both. 
Sister Hoggan

Thursday, June 20, 2013

I'm in Brazil!

Hi Mom and Dad,
      I'm alive and in Brazil. I flew out Tuesday evening with one other sister. Coincidentally the other visa waiter that was living in my apartment in New York. I'm in the mission office right now, and just met the President. We would have met him yesterday, but he was visiting some of the far reaches of the mission. Yep, so, I arrived yesterday at about 5 pm. Im safe, I love you.... the mission president doesn't speak any English, I don't think my companion does either. Its going to be an adventure and I'm super excited. 

Love you both,
Sister Hoggan
P.S. I'm going to serve in Penapolis....its 4 or 5 hours from the mission office by bus.

Wednesday, June 19, 2013

Off to Brazil!

From Sister Hoggan's dad:
Last evening (Tuesday, June 18th) we received a call from a pay phone. It was Sister Hoggan--calling from the JFK Airport in New York and excitedly waiting for her flight to Brazil! Monday afternoon she got word that her visa had been processed, travel plans made, and that she was heading off Tuesday night about 10:00 p.m. We assume she has finished the 9-hour direct flight to Sao Paulo, Brazil, and has made the journey north to Ribeirao Preto. After New York City, Brazil is going to seem pretty tame to her. Her new mailing address, which should be effective for the rest of her mission, even as she gets transferred from area to area within her mission, is:
Sister Rebekah Hoggan
Brazil Ribeirao Preto Mission
Rua Sao Sebastiao 1003 Centro
14015-040 Ribeirao Preto - SP

First-class international postage for a normal letter is $1.10.

Monday, June 17, 2013

"We would love for you to join us for church on Sunday" ...."But I'm black" ....."So?"

Dear Mom and Dad,
    I'm, hoping my father's day card arrived in time, if not, it should be there soon. I asked the Relief Society when father's day was and they said the 23rd, I even had my companion double check because her Spanish is better than mine.
    I was a bit worried about searching for investigators on father's day. The white handbook says that holidays are one of the best days to proselyte, and I trust in what is says, but I was a bit worried because people here don't really like to be bothered. Well, people in many cities don't like to be bothered, but in New York especially, so I was a bit hesitant to knock doors. But, we did, and it was wonderful. There weren't too many people celebrating father's day, actually, there were quite a few people on the street. We found a dad and his son squirting each other with water guns on the street. We commented that it looked like fun, and then handed us his squirt gun, and the comment "looks can get you just about anything". We didn't stay too long. I wished him a happy father's stay and we started walking away. He called after us "I'm a single father" and "You're beautiful." We quickly said thank you for the compliment and kept walking.
     I worked on being extra fearless this week. It's a bit scary walking up to people and just talking (I don't know why, I did it ALL the time before my mission). But, I've been working on talking to more people. I've met a few great people and I few not so great people. Some respond with "I don't speak English".... I either try to talk to them in Spanish or grab my companion and let her talk. Some people I talk to have also turned into, um, interesting experiences. Nothing bad ever happens, but I stopped and talk to someone on the street this week. I was exited because he seemed excited to have met us and wanted to hear more about our message. He wasn't creepy or anything, he was just really big. He had 2 sons and lived with his mom. He talked kind of slow though. He told us after a few minutes that he was interested in what we had to saw but that he was on angel dust and wasn't really in the best state to talk to us. It was so frustrating. I felt that I had really made an effort this week and in the end, the only person I felt wanted to hear what I had to say was on narcotics. I was safe though and I continue to be fearless and recognize situations that I should probably stay away from much better.
     Our ward had ward conference on Sunday. The ward chorister (spelling?) asked us to sing in the choir. The song was really pretty and easy to learn (I don't remember what it was called though...it was all in Spanish). They asked me to play the piano thought because the ward pianist hadn't shown up yet. I managed to figure it out pretty well and was surprised at how well I was playing for not having practiced or accompanied a choir before. Our ward pianist showed up soon though. She didn't know we were singing for father's day, or having choir practice. Our ward pianist is Chinese, she doesn't speak any Spanish, her husband is fluent though (which is why a Chinese woman is in a Spanish Ward). She is also the only person in the ward who can play the piano. Apparently the choir director had told her about Sunday's practice in Spanish, forgetting that our pianist doesn't speak the language of the ward. Luckily, everything worked out in the end and we sounded beautiful.
     New York is an adventure. I have no idea when I'm leaving. I don't ever hear about my visa status. Before I left the MTC church travel emailed each of us and said we would be on reassignment until at least the end of the transfer, so if I'm leaving the country, it should come just like any other transfer call. Thanks for answering my question Dad, that did help alot. I'm glad you had a wonderful meeting-free Sunday with Mom. That's one of the perks of being the Stake President, you can cancel meetings!. Mom, that's wonderful that there are more people working in the office. I laughed though that they were all women.... It's great to hear about the younger elders having their turn to change the mission statistics as they join the ranks of Helaman's ever increasing army.
    I love you both!   and my siblings and though cheering for me from home. Thank you for your prayers.
Love always.
Sister Hoggan

Monday, June 10, 2013

Treasures in the Attic

June 10, 2013

Dear Mom and Dad,
       This week like was an absolute adventure. As each week has, there were times of frustration and times of blessings. Before I left the MTC I told one of the sisters in my district (who coincidentally now lives in the same apartment as me)... "I never been so excited to to be so scared in my life". I've done some pretty scary lifetime time too, just saying, none that are nearly as scary as spiders, but still pretty scary. Missions however are hard, scary, full of joy, and all together awesome. My companion got sick this week. I think she had a sinus infection or something, but the point is that she needed a fair bit of rest. It's weird staying in your apartment when there is work to be done, but missionaries are human and we need rest sometimes too. While she was sleeping I read a few chapters in Jesus the Christ. It's thick, I know, but if you haven't read it, read it. I read abut the salt of the earth today. I've always struggled to understand this metaphor, but the explanation Elder Talmage gave was enlightening. It's in the first part of chapter 17, in case anyone reading my letter wants to look it up.
       Yesterday one of the Hermanas from the other companionship that lives in our apartment was sick too. I think she was more exhausted than anything. So I went on splits with Hermana Marin. She's the one from my MTC district. The two of us went out and visited a potential investigator and then taught one of the ward members of the street.
       This potential investigator was extraordinary. We found out she was from the Dominican Republic where she worked as a big name reporter (their equivalence of CNN). She was taught by the missionaries for 8 months and I think had a baptismal date, but left for the US because her brother was dying. She was praying to find the missionaries. She found Elders who didn't speak her language but gave her a copy of the Book of Mormon and she's been reading ever since. Mostly, she's been waiting for the missionaries to come find her...it's all working out though so it's ok. She shared her testimony with us. I felt so blessed to be in the room, Heavenly Father really does prepare people to receive the Gospel. Her heart had been softened and she is ready for great things. I'm excited for her. The other Sisters will be teaching her, so I may never see her again, but she was beautiful. It was a bit of a challenge to find her though. She lives in an attic (as do many people). There were 5 or 6 bedrooms of the top floor/attic of this house, each with a different occupant, and a kitchen in a small general area. There were only door bells to the first two floors of the house though. We knocked, someone who lived on a lower floor let us in, and we went up and found her. How do you have visitors if you don't have a front door?
      That was the good....truly, it was a spiritual experience. People like her makes missions wonderful.
We were out trying to visit another potential investigator that night, thinking about whether we should go visit this member who lives across the street, and then, he walked by! We talked to him for a few minutes, asked if he wanted to  teach with us, but then the investigator wasn't home. So we taught the member instead, just there, on the street. It was one of the most frustrating conversations of my life. He asked why we had a prophet? What the point of having one was? And why doesn't he just tell us exact steps of what we need to do? Basically, he wanted to be spoon fed by the prophet. I pulled out my scriptures and read to him from Alma, about faith being like a seed, and then how we need to nourish and care for the seed to make it grow. So, we ask questions, we search, ponder, and pray, and that's how we receive personal revelation. He was not interested in that answer. It was too hard to do that and if he gets the answer to one question he has a thousand more, so it's just easier to not ask questions. He was totally missing the point, this is how we grow, we ask questions and search for answers! We ended that by bearing our testimonies, asking him to read the chapter about faith, and challenging him to see what he can learn from it. He seemed pretty annoyed about needing to work for answers, but, that's how the gospel works. We work, God works, the prophet works....that really is how  we grow, we work for it.
     As I was walking home after that conversation, I thought of a conference talk by Elder Holland, which basically said that we want our investigators and the members to do all these things better, like pray read and go to church, and the Lord wants the exact same thing from us. He wants us and members and even as missionaries to do all these things better. We all need to be improving, every day. I love you, I love hearing from you, I miss you. The Gospel of Jesus Christ is real and it is on the earth. Share it with everyone you know. The missionaries will thank you and so will the Lord.
Yours truly,
With love,
Sister Hoggan

Monday, June 3, 2013

Noche de a Restauracion

June 3, 2013

Dear Mom and Dad,
      It was pouring rain outside this morning, and I think there was a lightning storm last night. I could see it from my window as I was falling asleep. We got a new vacuum today from the mission office....and I vacuumed my room/study area with one that works. Can I just say that vacuums that work are a tender mercy from the Lord?
     That's crazy that Nicole is back...if she reads this, hi Nicole? That's cool that they hired another person in the office. Let me guess, it's a girl? I loved the picture of you and dad dancing at Nicole's wedding. You are both just as adorable as when I left you.
     This week we our elliptical district spent a fair bit of time preparing for....Restoration Night! We are trying to helping the ward get excited about sharing the gospel. "Preach My Gospel" talks quite a bit about how the members are the most effective tool in missionary work. We haven't had a lot of lessons lately, so we've been trying to work with the ward. Members should always be a more effective resource than knocking doors and you should work with them....even if you like knocking doors. So, we planned Restoration Night. We had the Relief Society bring dinner, and the missionary planned games. We had water balloon volley-ball, face painting, minute to win-it games, and we colored two life-size missionaries and cut out the faces so the members could take pictures as a missionary (kind of like you would see with cartoon characters at a theme park). We also prepared a musical presentation for after the games/food. I played the piano in all but two of the numbers. Oh, the whole fireside was in Spanish too, so it was a good thing I was playing the piano. There were a few numbers were all the missionaries sang (there were 12 missionaries because the English elders joined us).  My companion played the guitar for one number, I accompanied a couple solos and duets on the piano, and the primary children sang "I Am a Child of God". We also wrote out the first lesson in a sort of script and had the Patriarch read it, with our songs in between. We also showed one of the Mormon messages and a video clip of the first vision. The whole fireside was about an hour. A week before the fireside we made invitations to invite the members and invitations for them to give to their friends. Our goal was for the members to come and we the spirit of the Restoration and for them to feel comfortable bringing their friends to learn about the Restoration. It was awesome! The spirit was super strong. There weren't very many people who came, but for those did, the spirit was definitely there. I was so grateful to have been part of such an amazing experience.
    Well, that's about all for this week. I love getting your letters and hearing about all of your wonderful adventures at home. I'm was excited to hear about our neighbor to that dad invited to church. I was going to remind you to help the missionaries, but it doesn't seem like you need that at all. Great job sharing the gospel!
Lots of love,
your trilingual missionary,
Sister Hoggan