Wednesday, June 18, 2014

Back Home

I know I didn't get an email out on Monday like usual, but here I am to write about the last week in the mission and update on how things have been since I got home. I'll start by talking about the last days in the mission.

Last Monday was a busy p-day! After the zone activity in the morning, we headed to Brasilia and I stopped by Guara II really quickly to visit some members from there. Then we headed headed to Taguatinga 1 to stay the night there. The members there are so sweet! They planned a special family home evening in the chapel for me so that I would be able to see a lot of members. I was super happy; it was good to see everybody. Tuesday morning we returned to Formosa and made the last rounds visiting some members and investigators. We knew the rest of the week would be pretty busy and wouldn't leave much time to make too many visits. Wednesday morning we had district meeting in Planaltina DF and then headed back to Brasilia for my last interview with President Gaertner! I couldn't believe it was my last one. I love President Gaertner & Sister Gaertner.

Thursday was my last day in Formosa. I spent my last night watching the opening Brasil game in the World Cup and then watching a girl in the branch open her mission call. President gave all of us permission to watch the game at a member's home who lives close to our house because he knew it would be nearly impossible to get anybody to let us in during the game. I never imagined I would spend the last night of my mission watching the World Cup start in Brasil but it was awesome! I thought it was even more special that afterwards I was able to watch somebody open her mission call; my mission was ending and hers was starting. Kerollyn has been called to the Brasil Florianopolis mission and will report to the MTC in mid-September. 

It was funny because all of last week I was super calm, and for anybody who knows me, you know that is not how I normally am haha. I think I was in a state of disbelief. It never really hit me that the mission was ending. For as much as I said goodbye to the people, packed my bags, and did all of the other necessary preparations to leave I never actually accepted the fact that I was leaving. Friday morning, Sister Alves & I woke up at 4am, I finished packing my bags, we went to rodoviaria and then headed to Brasilia. My last day in Brasil was perfect...absolutely perfect. 

I said goodbye to Sister Alves and then spent the rest of the day with the elders because I was the only sister leaving that transfer. We went to the mission home, had a meeting with President & Sister Gaertner, ate lunch at the mission home with them, and then went to the mission office because we had nothing else to do. But before going to the airport, I was able to realize one of my dreams in Brasilia...I went up the Torre de TV! It had been closed for several months but reopened early last week. We asked for permission to swing by before going to the airport and President Gaertner said yes! Elder Sowards and I were excited beyond belief (don't worry, it wasn't just the two of us)! It had been one of his dreams too haha. I ended up traveling alone with Elder Sowards back to the states, but it was cool because at the airport I ran into two Americans I met the week before in Formosa so we sat and talked with them. 

My layover was in Atlanta and then I got into Orange County around 11:30am Saturday morning. My family is so cute they were all waiting with posters for me at the airport :) The first place I went when I got home was the Newport Beach temple. I was shocked at how easy it was to get back to being "normal." I love the mission and leaving was reaaaaally hard for me so I thought I would be that weird missionary that didn't know how to survive in the real world, but so far I have been doing just fine. I miss the mission a lot but here I am, getting by. I haven't been up to too much these days, but I am working on what comes next. 

Once again, I just want to say thank you all for your support during the mission. It made the biggest difference! I am thankful for the blessing I had to serve a mission because I truly learned so much. I would encourage all of you to really think about the gospel and what it means to you. I am experiencing a bit of a culture shock coming back to the states because I just spent the last year in Brasil getting by on very little and being genuinely happy. It is very easy to get distracted by the things of the world, but we should never let that get in the way of what is truly important. The material things will stay here when our time comes; our knowledge, our testimony, and our families are the things that will have eternal value regardless of where we are. These are the things we should put first. 

Hope you are all happy & healthy! Love you very much.


Monday, June 9, 2014

I can´t believe it...

Dearest family & friends,

I am having trouble comprehending the fact that this is the last email I will send as Sister Kerr. I will probably send one or two more next week to talk about my last week in the mission and to share a list of pointers I have been compiling throughout the mission, but this is it. How is it possible that 18 months have come and gone so quickly? To be quite honest, it still hasn´t hit me that this is it. It feels like any other p-day. In sacrament meeting yesterday I kept telling myself, "You go home this week. Next week you´ll be back in Cypress for sacrament meeting." I couldn´t picture it. I couldn´t see myself back in Cypress listening to the speakers in English, not having to worry about investigators coming to church, not having a nametag or anything. It almost hurts my heart to think about not being a missionary. But I know this is the next step in my life. Nobody stays in the mission forever nor would it be good for our progress. What makes the mission so special is that it is a short time in life that comes and goes and leaves a significant mark for the rest of our lives. 

I have so many things I want to say but I think I will save it all for the email I send next week. I would like to end my last email home bearing my testimony in the language I have been called to speak for these 18 months. 

Eu sei, sem sombra de dúvida, que esta é a igreja verdadeira. Eu sei que Joseph Smith foi um profeta de Deus e que o evangelho foi restaurado por meio dele. Sou muito grata ao Pai Celestial pelo grande privilégio de ser missionária de tempo-integral e por poder compartilhar esta mensagem com todo mundo na missão San Fernando e na missão Brasil Brasília. Sinto o amor de Deus na minha vida cada dia e sei que Ele é um Pai amoroso. As palavras não são suficientes para expressar minha gratidão nem os sentimentos que quase não cabem no meu coração. Só quero dizer que o evangelho vale a pena. Toda visita que fazemos de mestre familiar e professora visitante, todo domingo que assistimos às reuniões da igreja, toda noite que nos ajoelhamos em família para orar juntos....tudo isso vale a pena. 

Minha missão valeu a pena. 

Com amor,
Sister Kerr

Monday, June 2, 2014

Last Full Week :(

Dearest family & friends,
Today starts my last full week in the mission (our weeks go from Monday to Sunday in our daily planners) which means next Sunday will be my LAST Sunday in the misison. It still doesn´t feel real. It will be the last time I hear the sacrament blessed in Portuguese, the last time I hear the teachers speak in Portuguese, the last time I hear the hymns in sacrament meeting in Portuguese, and the last time I read the scriptures in Portuguese in church as a full-time missionary. I would be lying if I said I didn´t let a few tears fall during sacrament meeting yesterday when it hit me that June has started. I can officially say this month I will be home. Only those who have served missions will be able to fully comprehend the mixed emotions I am feeling. My poor companion has had to deal with me being excited, anxious, sad, stressed out, and slightly freaking out every time I think about the mission ending haha. 

This past week we had SO many miracles happen. Remember a couple of weeks ago I said I would tell Gabriel´s story after it unfolded? Well, here it goes.

Gabriel met the elders in Cabeceiras over 5 years ago when there was still an official operating branch there. He didn´t really have too much interest, the church left, and that was that. Last year in Planaltina DF he met the elders again. He was 16 years old, had some interest, and took the lessons. Shortly after, he moved back to Cabeceiras where the church still hadn´t started up again. He "fell away" for a short period of time but then Silvio, one of the members in Cabeceiras, found out about Gabriel and started visiting him. The group in Cabeceiras started up a couple of months ago and Gabriel has been going ever since. Our first Friday in Cabeceiras we visited Gabriel and I thought to myself, "What´s keeping him from being baptized?" That Sunday, President Gaertner came to Formosa to do interviews because he is in charge of the district, and Gabriel came, too. He came up to us and told us he wanted to be baptized. We technically aren´t allowed to proselyte in Cabeceiras but we asked for persmission from President Gaertner and he said we could teach Gabriel. 

This past Saturday Gabriel was baptized and yesterday he was confirmed :) He is super excited to go on a mission next year and is already preparing himself. Even in those months he wasn´t going to church, he continued studying and has a ton of knowledge about the church. It was so great to see the support he is receiving from the members in Cabeceiras. He is the first baptism there in over 5 years; his baptism is a milestone for the members of Cabeceiras. In a couple of months I think Cabeceiras will open as an area with missionaries full-time and in no time will be a branch. 

Picture of Gabriel with the members from Cabeceiras and his family.
Life is good. I am freaking out about the fact that the mission is almost over. Lately the scripture Isaiah 55:8-9 has come up a lot in my studies and in my life. People have said it to me, other missionaries have quoted it to me, and it comes up in one way or another during my studies. I don´t quite understand what the Lord is trying to tell me, but in due time, I am sure it will all click. 

I hope you are all happy & healthy! Thank you for your support these past 17 months. I can´t believe how quickly the time has passed.

Have a great week!

Sister Kerr

Monday, May 26, 2014

Happy Memorial Day!

Dearest family & friends,

I can´t believe that the next time I send an email it will already be JUNE! Where has this year gone? We are almost halfway done. So this past weekend we had a mission conference with Neil L. Andersen. I am so blessed to be here in the mission so that I could hear his words. I was super nervous when the meeting started because I had to say the opening prayer. Saying a prayer in front of an apostle is already a pretty good reason to be nervous…having to say it in Portuguese was even more reason! Haha. But I am glad to say I managed to say it without my voice shaking too much.

In attendance at the conference were President & Sister Gaertner, Elder & Sister Mazzagard of the Seventy, Elder Cappelleti of the Seventy and Elder & Sister Andersen. (Definitely might have spelled some of those names wrong haha) All of the remarks were really great, but I am going to talk more about what Elder Andersen said. He spent a good amount of time talking about the Atonement of Jesus Christ and how we should know where the Book of Mormon specifically refers to the Atonement. We should be able to visualize the situation in that part of the Book of Mormon and be able to give background information without reading the heading of the chapter.

The parts of his talk that really stood out to me relate to the life after the mission. Obviously I am in the final weeks of the mission so the Spirit made it relevant to my situation, but even without the influence of the Spirit, the words Elder Andersen spoke were about what comes next. He said that main priority of the First Presidency and Quorum of the Twelve is our progress. He said it is a blessing to serve a mission, but it is an even greater blessing to be able to continue progressing after the mission. Elder Andersen said, “The result of life isn´t the result of the mission.” He wasn´t an assistant to the President or any great leader in the mission, but it wasn´t his time in the mission that was the only factor in his spirituality today. He continued progressing afterwards.

He also said, “Silence is a very important part of life. It is often in silence that the Lord speaks to us.” I rarely let myself have moments of downtime without worrying about what still needs to be done that day, that week, that month, that year, etc. I liked his counsel because it is something I came across a few weeks ago in another talk I read in the Liahona from a Seventy. I guess the Lord is trying to tell me to calm down from time to time :)

The thing that Elder Andersen said that has been running through my mind since the meeting was a simple phrase that doesn´t translate quite the same to English – Sua missão vale a pena. It means “the mission is worth it” but it has a different meaning to me in Portuguese. I can´t explain what I felt when he said that. He continued by saying that the mission is a time of preparation for the next chapter of our life. I know Heavenly Father sent me to the mission on December 19th so that I would be here for the conference we had this past Saturday in my last transfer. Had I entered the MTC 6 weeks earlier I would have missed it, if I had entered later I might not have been in my last transfer only 3 weeks away from returning home. 

The conference with Elder Andersen was way more powerful than I will ever be able to convey. I could probably write a whole book on everything he said, what the other speakers said, and what I felt and thought about during the two short hours we had with him. But I am so grateful I was able to be in attendance.
Picture from Elder Andersen´s visit!

Hope you are all happy & healthy! Have a great Memorial Day & a great week :) 

Sister Kerr

Monday, May 19, 2014

1 year & 5 months!

Dearest family & friends,

Today is my last mission anniversary!! So all of us sisters normally know the "missionary anniversary" of everybody which is the date you entered the MTC, and today I am celebrating my last one :( By the time 1 year & 6 months rolls around I will no longer be a sister missionary! The mission is winding down so quickly! Last week flew by because of the exchange with Sister Barbosa & Sister Jackson, going to Cabeceiras, and just the weekly things as usual. This week will also fly by because on Friday night we will be heading to Brasília to spend the night there in preparation for the Saturday morning Mission Conference.

On Saturday I will see and hear the words of an apostle in the mission field! Finally! :) Elder Neil L. Andersen will be here with us. He speaks Portuguese which will be nice to not have need of a translator. Well, for me, either way would be fine haha, but I am glad the Brazilians won´t have to hear a translator talking for him. I am excited to hear what he has to say to us in this mission at this time! We are so blessed to have living-day prophets and apostles who lead and guide us. 

I have been studying a lot about patience these past few days because it something I definitely lack, especially opening this area this transfer! The addresses here are super confusing and the layout of the city is difficult. One bairro (neighborhood) can have like three different Rua 5 and there is no way by the address to know which one it is on. Also, the house numbers rarely follow any order. The order can be as follows: 28, 33, 47, 119, 40, 98, 112, etc. Just when you think you´re maybe getting close, some random number appears and you have no idea where to go haha. I feel bad for my poor companion because of how much walking we have to do but it is part of our area. We are trying to be more efficient with our planning to get to know the area and I am trying to keep my patience when we run behind schedule. For those of you who know me, you know how much I hate running late! The Lord is helping me develop the heavenly virtue of patience and humility :) 

I have more to write but am out of time. Hope you all are happy & healthy!! Have a great week! 

Sister Kerr

Monday, May 12, 2014

Week 2 in Formosa

Dearest family & friends,

Hope you all had a happy Mother´s Day yesterday! I was happy as can be talking with my family last night. I went to bed with a huge smile and a happy heart! :) The internet connection wasn´t the best and there was a dog that would not stop barking, but even so I loved being able to see them and hear their voices. I think I really needed that phone call to make me a little more excited to go home here in a few weeks.
Hooray for being able to talk with you guys yesterday!! Sorry for the bad internet, but at least we got to talk for a little bit.

This past week was very tiring but rewarding. My companion is Sister Alves from São Paulo, and she is great! She is super shy but has already opened up a lot. It´s kind of hard to be shy in the mission when we have to talk with everybody all day long haha. I am getting along really well with her. It´s funny because everybody here in Formosa asks how much time each of us has in the mission...she is in her first transfer and I am in my last! She has to be reminded of that everyday. I don´t think I am trunky and I try not to talk about home too much because that would really suck for her. She is such a champ, though. We ended up walking a ton this past week because our area is huge and we still don´t know the shortcuts and whatnot through the town to get from one side to the other, but she didn´t complain once. We walked a ton in Formosa and in Cabeceiras.

Sister Alves!!
Cabeceiras is a small town that is about an hour away by bus from Formosa. (Everything is an hour away from Formosa! Our district leader, our zone leaders, the nearest cities, etc). A lot of the members who live there work on the Church´s farm in Unaí, Minas Gerais. Apparently the farm is huge!! I really want to visit there but doubt I will have time. Anyway, we go to Cabeceiras once a week to help the group that is forming there. A few years ago they had a branch but it shut down and everybody fell away. Some members stayed active and drove each week to Formosa but they are trying to start a group and eventually form a branch in Cabeceiras. I am amazed by the faith of the members there and everything they are doing to reactivate members and really "lift where they stand." Here in Formosa and Cabeceiras I have seen great examples of strong members who are willing to do whatever it takes to build the Lord´s kingdom where they are. They could easily decide to move to a different town where the church is stronger or fall away, but instead they are dedicating themselves to a righteous cause.  It is a good lesson to learn, especially as my mission comes to an end. 

I think the Lord has put me in this area for a few reasons. One being I need to learn the importance of puttng the gospel first. It will always be easier to come up with an excuse and find a way out of fulfilling our duty and magnifying our calling, but it is exactly during these moments that we need to find the strength and motivation to do what is right. It may appear that we are alone or that we don´t have support, but the Lord is always by our side. I am also learning the importance of truly trusting in His guidance. Opening Formosa and having to train has been a good opportunity for me to learn to be humble and ask for His help. Not that I relied on the Lord less in my other areas, but it became something more natural the more time I was there. I have been reminded that we need to call upon His help daily so that we are led by the Spirit. 

I am excited for these next 5 weeks and for being able to discover the miracles the Lord has waiting for us. We had a miracle yesterday with Gabriel, but in a couple of weeks I will write about it. It will be better to tell the story after it unfolds :) 

Other good news from the mission: I finally know what people say when they talk about the "interior" of Brasil, in other words the towns that aren´t as developed. I have always wanted to know what the interior is like and now I know! Formosa is interior and Cabeceiras is even more interior! There are cows walking in the streets, horses walking around too, and the roosters wake us up in the morning. It´s not totally farm town because there are nice buildings, but there are plenty of dirt roads and open fields. The best part is the view....I continue to be amazed by how beautiful this earth is!

Welcome to Cabeceiras
View from our apartment balcony. To the left you can see the church building :)
Hope you are happy & healthy!! Keep me in your prayers, please! 

Sister Kerr

Monday, May 5, 2014

The beginning of the end...

Dearest family & friends,
What a busy day!! Well actually this busy day started last night at the rodoviária (bus station) in Palmas. Yes, sadly, I was transferred :( I was hoping to finish my mission in Palmas but I was at peace when I heard I was being transferred. I love that area, that ward, my companion, and everything I learned there, but at the same time I felt like a new sister needed to come in to help the investigators with new ideas. I am super happy because Sister Munger will be going to Palmas 3! :) She is so awesome, I know she will make a big difference.

So, yes. Last night all of us that were being transferred down to Brasília (eight in total) got on the bus at 7:30pm and spent the night traveling. We got into the Rodoviária Nova in Guará I at 9am, dropped our bags off with the mission driver and then had to catch the metro and a bus to get to the transfer meeting. When we arrived they had just started announcing the transfers. I am currently in my new and last area in the mission - Formosa, Goiás. I didn´t think President would send me so far for my last transfer but here I am. The only state I won´t get to pass in the mission is Minas Gerais, but three out of four isn´t bad. (Three states I passed through - Distrito Federal, Tocantins, and Goiás). I don´t know who my companion is because she will be coming in tomorrow afternoon. It was an hour a half busride to get here and tomorrow morning we will have to go back to Brasília and then I will come back to Formosa tomorrow night with my companion. Talk about a lot of traveling these days! Not to mention, Sister Nuñez and I went to Gurupi last Friday which was a four hour busride there and a four hour busride back to Palmas on Saturday morning.

Aside from all the traveling, my last week in Palmas was really great. I love that place. We had our activity on Thursday night and played the game Ninja. Yesterday Rômulo went to church! He is an elect we found two weeks ago. We visited him Saturday morning as soon as we got back from Gurupi to follow up with the reading we left for him. He said he read and liked it. He got really quiet and asked if we wanted to know what happened to him on Friday. He then told us after he took out his money from the bank two guys came up to him with a knife and robbed him. He had taken out his whole salary for the month and they took everything. Sister Nuñez and I stood there without knowing what to say but I kept feeling like I should ask him what he did when he got home after being robbed. I decided that wouldn´t be a very productive question and shrugged it off. Finally, I couldn´t shake the feeling that I should ask him so I did. He said he was really shaken up after what had happened and he needed to calm down. He saw the Book of Mormon there and that was when he grabbed it to read. He said it helped him and he was able to calm down because it brought peace to him. Instead of him thinking that the assault was a sign that he should stop meeting with us (which a lot of people would have done), he used it as an opportunity to look even more diligently for an answer. Rômulo said he liked church yesterday and wants to keep preparing to be baptized :) Hooray for great people like him!

Anyway, I have written a novel. Just a few sidenotes. You know Palmas is hot when I got to Brasília this morning and thought, "Ohh, it´s kind of chilly out. I should put on a cardigan." I then passed by this screen that had the temperature - 25 C which is like 77 F haha. Who would´ve thought I would find 77 degrees to be really crisp and chilly. In Gurupi on Friday night we watched a video from the church site as part of a ward activity the sisters put on. This video is perfect!! You might have already seen it but even if you have, watch it again!!

Hope you are all happy & healthy! Have a great week :) Happy Mother´s Day on Sunday!!

Sister Kerr

Our district last transfer - such a random pic! Haha

Picture after the ninja activity :)

All of the missionaries at Rodoviária last night

Monday, April 28, 2014

Happy May!

Dearest family & friends,

It´s almost May!! This Friday Sister Timario (along with 21 other missionaries) will be going home! It´s crazy how quickly these months are passing. 
This past week was the "week of rejection" for Sister Nuñez and me, but that´s okay. We learned a lot along the way. Aside from the rejection we had in all forms - phone calls, in our face, people avoiding us like the plague - we had a lot of great moments. For one thing, Marçal got married! Hooray!! We are working with him to stop drinking coffee for him to be baptized. President and Sister Gaertner were also here on Thursday and Friday for interviews. It was the last time most missionaries will have an interview with President before his mission ends on June 30, but I will have one more interview before I go home :) I am so grateful for the inspired leaders we have in the church and especially here in the mission. President Gaertner said a lot of things I needed to hear. 

Picture from Easter I never sent. Sister Nuñez and I with the chocolate eggs we got from an investigator.
My studies have been suffering a bit with the exchanges we´ve been going on and with some other problems that came up during the week, but I try and take advantage of every moment I have when I do get to study. Reading the scriptures is so important as a missionary and as a member in general. We can´t take it for granted!! This week shouldn´t be as busy.

I played soccer this morning during our zone activity! Hooray for playing sports and sweating!! It was the first time I played soccer since October! We only played on a quad but it was a lot of fun. Next week we have transfers. I have no idea if I will be staying in Palmas 3 or going back down to Brasília. In my interview with President he made it seem like I will stay, but then he told my companion I will be transferred. I don´t know what to think! All I can say is, I am praying for a happy heart wherever the Lord sends me. I know He always has a purpose and plan. 
The half of our zone that went this morning. Our zone is really big and some areas are like 2-4 hours away by bus so not everybody was able to come.
Hope you are all happy & healthy! Happy May!!

Sister Kerr
Activity on Thursday night

Monday, April 21, 2014

Quick update :)

Dear Family & friends,

This past week was crazy busy! We got back to Palmas Wednesday morning and Sister Nuñez was sick so we didn´t work that day. By the time we actually got to working it was already Thursday! We only had four days to work but it went well. Wednesday was actually kind of nice because we went to the church building where they were having neonatal training for the local doctors and nurses. The neonatal training is part of the Church´s five initiatives throughout the world to help with humanitarian efforts; the other four are vision, wheelchairs, clean water and vaccinations. Elder and Sister Wilcox, two humanitarian missionaries from Utah, were here so I spent part of the day talking with Sister Wilcox. It was so hard to speak only English without being able to throw in the Portuguese words I couldn´t remember in English. With the American missionaries we normally speak Portuguese, but the times we do speak English we speak a mixture of English & Portuguese. That didn´t work for her haha. Get ready for when I come home because I have no idea how I will adjust! I don´t think it will take too long, but we´ll see. 

Mission Council last Tuesday was great...spiritual and inspiring like always :) Our fellowshipping night on Thursday went well. Easter was good. I really liked the talks in church. Oh and on Saturday I completed my Sweet 16! Well at least that´s what I dubbed my 1 year and 4 month mark in the mission haha.

Sorry this email is short. Not much to say. Hope you are all happy & healthy!! 

Sister Kerr

Monday, April 14, 2014

Happy Easter

Dearest family & friends,

Guess where I am today....Guará II! It´s been 9 months since I was serving in this area. Time flies on the mission! Sister Nuñez and I came down to Brasília today but instead of staying in Lago Norte like usual we are here in Guará II. It is weird coming back to an area after so long but at the same time it feels like I never left. The best part of being here? I will be staying with Sister Timario tonight because this is her new area. Hooray! A lot of things have changed since I served here. 

This past week was really busy but at the same time felt kind of empty like we had nothing to do. It´s hard to describe. I will sum up the weekly quickly.

Monday night we had an FHE and Karol gave the message. There were 30 people at the FHE because there is a group of families that get together every week to have FHE and they switch whose house it is at. Karol gave the message about repentance. The doctrine she taught, the experiences she shared and the testimony she bore made it seem like she has at least 8 years as a member instead of the 8 days she had since her confirmation. It was a very spiritual message that helped me a lot. She didn´t only talk about repentance in terms of us needing to repent to feel the relief and forgiveness that comes from it. She said we cannot deny that privilege to somebody else when they ask for our forgiveness. All of us at one time or another have said we forgive somebody without having really meant it. When we do this, we prevent them from feeling the happiness and relief that comes from taking such a hard step. Her message was super great and goes into a lot more depth than I explained here.
Wednesday we went to Miracema to go on exchanges with the sisters there. We took the ferry over to Tocantínia which is an Indian village that´s part of their area. They have real indigenous people that live there and speak another language. It was cool. Thursday night we had activity night in the chapel after seminary and it was a success! We are going to plan it as a fellowshipping night every week :) 
Activity night on Thursday :)
Yesterday in church, Elder Tripode, Elder Asenjo, Sister Nuñez and I sang in sacrament meeting with the two girls in the ward who have their mission calls. The first song we sang was "I Lived in Heaven" and the second was "When I am Baptized." We sang the first verse of I Lived in Heaven in Spanish, the second in English and the last in Portuguese. It turned out nicely :) 
Sister Nuñez, Elder Tripode and Elder Asenjo

Well that´s a quick summary of my week. Hope you are all happy & healthy and have a happy Easter!!

Sister Kerr
On the ferry with Sister Bojorquez

Monday, April 7, 2014

Happy April!!

Dearest family and friends,

Hooray for General Conference!! Hope everybody had a chance to watch Conference. It was soo great!! I had to watch the first session Saturday morning in Portuguese but after that it was all English :) I already know I will probably get carried away and write way too much in this email, but I will try to control myself. Before I get to talking about Conference, I´ll update on the novidades in Palmas 3.

My new companion is Sister Nuñez like I said last week. She is from Paraguay and has a little more than a year in the mission. Our new zone leaders, and therefore elders in our ward, are Elder Tripode and Elder Asenjo. Elder Tripode was one of the assistants and Elder Asenjo was my district leader last transfer. I think they will be great zone leaders for the group we have here in this zone. I´d be lying if I said I don´t miss Sister Timario like crazy but I am really liking being companions with Sister Nuñez too. 

On Friday morning we had a district meeting and I finally got some packages that were sent for Christmas!! haha. One was postmarked November 20th, the other November 27th and the last was December 19th. I don´t know when they actually arrived in the mission office, but they made it to my hands on April 4th, more than 4 months later. 

Ok, now on to Conference. I loved all of the talks, but there are always some that stand out more than others. I have a soft spot for President Uchtdorf and really like the message he shared about gratitude. In the mission that is one Christlike attribute I have been working hard to develop. We have so many challenges everyday that sometimes it is easy to only see what is going wrong instead of what is going right. I loved when he said that we should not be grateful for things, but be grateful in our circumstances whatever they may be. Even more than his message about gratitude, he talked about our general hesitance to accept endings in our lives. He explained that is because we are of an eternal nature; "endings are not our destiny." That was a comfort for me especially as my mission is coming to an end. I have been feeling somewhat sad knowing this part of my life will be over, but it is not the end of anything, just the beginning of the next phase. 

Richard G. Scott´s talk was cute the way he still admires his wife all these years later. I liked his message about being a significant, positive influence in the life of those around us. Elder Ballard talked a lot about missionary work which of course is a point close to my heart these days and hopefully forever. President Monson´s closing remark to "realize how close to us He is willing to come, how far He is willing to go for us, and how much He loves us" was a sweet statement. I always love hearing from the dear prophet. 

Another talk, from Elder Bednar, was an answer to my prayers. These past two weeks I have been looking for one of his talks I printed off several months ago called "The Atonement and the Journey of Mortality." I couldn´t find it even though I knew I had printed it off. I had been really wanting to read it, but ended up not being able to find it. Yesterday, his talk was very similar to the words that were said in the other talk I was looking for. It was a reminder that the Lord is mindful of me. An even greater reminder was when I found the talk this morning! haha. I had a thought come to mind to just read what I had written about it in my other journal. When I went to grab my other journal, I opened it up and saw the talk in the front cover :) 

Karol continues to be a miracle in my life. Man, I will have to update more about her next week, but just know she is amazingly wonderful. Life is great! I am immensely happy and loving how much I am learning on the mission. 

If you find time, write a little about your favorite talk or something that stood out to you from Conference and send it my way :) I love seeing the various ways one idea can have significance in our lives. 

Hope you are all happy & healthy!! Have a great week!

Sister Kerr

Monday, March 31, 2014

5 more weeks in Palmas 3

Dearest family & friends,

Transfers have come and gone but I stayed right where I am in Palmas 3. Honestly I was hoping for one more here. This ward is so great, staying two would be a tease!! There is a good chance I finish my mission here in this area, but there is a good chance I leave for my last transfer. Kind of hard to have two good chances, right? But as of now it could go either way. Before I start thinking about the next transfer, let me tell you how this last one ended. 

There were so many amazing things that happened but I will try to be brief this week. On Saturday we had two baptisms - Lorena and Karol; yes, the same Karol that showed up at church two weeks ago. Turns out she had already taken the missionary lessons a few months ago with elders in Araguaína which is actually part of a different mission. She did the baptismal interview with them and everything but said she never really felt truly prepared so she didn´t get baptized. In our second lesson with her like two weeks ago we just asked how she met the missionaries and she opened up. By the end of her talking she said, "I don´t think that was my time to baptized but I think it´s my time now." Their baptism was really special because it was both of them entering the young women´s - Lorena is 13 and Karol is 17. They were baptized and then immediately after had New Beginnings :) Yesterday they were confirmed, and as they stood there while bishop read their names as the newest members in the ward, I got a little teary-eyed. It was perfect. 
Elder Swallow, Elder Alves, Karol & Lorena. Elder Swallow baptized Karol and Elder Alves baptized Lorena.

It was the perfect ending to my two transfers with Sister Timario, Elder Alves and Elder Swallow. Being in the same ward we have been able to develop a true friendship. We always had each others´ backs and were there to support one another. Saturday night the transfer call came through and I was the only one who stayed. We were all shocked when we heard the news. All three of them went down to Brasília :( Sunday was a happy and sad day as the girls were confirmed and as the ward said goodbye to the missionaries.

My new companion will be here tomorrow. Her name is Sister Nunez. I am excited to see what this transfer brings. It will only be 5 weeks so I am sure it will fly by. Life is great. I have a ton more I could say but I will leave it at this.

Last picture of us four in the Palmas 3 chapel!!
Hope you are all happy and healthy!! Love you all lots. 

Sister Kerr

Monday, March 24, 2014

Março dos Milagres :)

Dearest family and friends,

The assistants titled this month "Março dos Milagres" and it truly has been and is continuing to be full of miracles! One of our investigators, Marçal, entered in the cartório to get married so he can be baptized!! For those who don´t know, here in Brasil in order to get married, the two people must go to the cartório (I guess it´d be like city hall?), enter their names that they are going to get married, and then wait 30-40 days before they can actually be married. Most people consider themselves married when they move in together and don´t want to pay the price (literally) to get married legally. Marçal and his wife, Das Neves, went last week and will be getting married on April 23rd!! :) He said if it weren´t for us teaching us the law of chastity he never would have legally married her, but he doesn´t want to break a commandment. Das Neves had tried to get married before but he always said no; she is super excited waiting for April 23rd but says Marçal has to ask her in a cute way before the actual marriage haha. 

Zone conference last week was a such a tender mercy from the Lord. I loved the training the assistants gave and the words President Gaertner spoke. It was everything I needed to hear and more! The assistants gave training based on 1 Nephi 3 when Nephi and his brothers return to get the plates from Laban. Their first two attempts could have been considered a waste because they didn´t accomplish their goal. Laban tried to kill them which would definitely be reason enough to desist after the first attempt. But Nephi understood that the purpose wasn´t to just get the plates, he knew that the Lord had a bigger purpose and he was not willing to give up until he fulfilled what he came to do. He made a game plan to get their gold and silver and then tried it out. Failed again. But then the Lord put him in a situation that made it possible for him to accomplish the Lord´s commandment. Who´s to say Laban wasn´t in the state he was in because he had been celebrating the loot he had just taken? We need to do our part and the Lord will do His. No attempt is ever wasted if we are following the Spirit.

Elder Tripode said a quote from President Monson that I really liked that says, "We can´t direct the wind, but we can adjust the sails." Our life perspective has a lot to do with our attitude. All of us have had challenges that we didn´t expect or circumstances that we felt were undeserved. Take those moments to adjust our sails so that we can continue to move forward and progress.

Transfers are coming up next week and I am nervous like always!! In two days I will complete 1 year in Brasil :)

Hope you are all happy and healthy!! 

Sister Kerr

PS I havent been sending pictures because I got a virus on my pendrive last week and have been nervous to put it in the computer again.

Monday, March 17, 2014

Sorry, it's a long email!!

Dearest family and friends,

Happy St. Patrick´s Day! Obviously they don´t have this holiday here, but I am in a ward with two other American missionaries so we remembered what today is. Today is also the three year anniversary from when I got the call saying I was accepted into grad school at UCSB :) I can´t believe it has already been so long. Life is passing too quickly!

This week will be an exciting one because on Wednesday I will complete 1 year & 3 months in the mission and Thursday we will have zone conference with President & Sister Gaertner here in Palmas with us. I am looking forward to the zone conference!

Last week turned out much better than we thought it would. We were worried because the first couple of days during the week weren´t super productive and then we traveled to Gurupi on Wednesday to go on exchanges with the sisters there. Gurupi is 3 & a half hours away by bus and for some reason I got pretty sick on the way there. Once we got off the bus I got better, but man, I feel like the 12 hour busride to Brasília passes faster than the few hours on the bus. I must admit, though, that the view was amazing. I have never seen so much open land and greenery!! I thought the busride to Miracema was gorgeous, but the one to Gurupi has it beat by a longshot. I am pretty sure within that three hour busride I saw enough land to fit millions and millions of people. It was so vast and open! I took pictures but they don´t even capture one one-hundredth of what I was seeing. 

Some cool stories from this past week, on Friday night the sisters in Miracema had a baptism for a young man named Mateus. How they found Mateus started with a simple contact Sister P. Gonçalves and I made when I was on exchanges there in the beginning of February. It was 7:30pm and all of the appointments she planned had fallen through. We didn´t have anyone else to visit so we prayed to know which street to walk down and said we would talk with everybody we saw in the street. We decided on the next street up and right as we turned down it we saw a woman out front of her house. She was leaving to go to school but we stayed in the front and talked with her three kids, the oldest one being 14 and the youngest 7. Sister P. Gonçalves marked to go back the next week and when she did, their friend Mateus was visiting. They met Mateus, invited him to church, and the rest is history :) It is amazing how a simple contact led them to one of the Lord´s elects. No effort is wasted!

Sister Timario and I also found how true this statement is. Friday night we received a referral from our neighbor. Her friend who lives in São Paulo called to say her cousin, Karol, lives in our area. They passed her address to us and Saturday we went to find Karol. We got to the apartment complex and went to the address we had. Well, Karol didn´t live there. We felt so strongly we needed to find her so we thought we would try the other buildings at that complex. Her apartment number was 203 so we knocked every apartment 203, luckily there were only 8 buildings. The whole time I just kept thinking, "Heavenly Father, we are doing our best. We dont have a phone number to call her or any other address." In my heart I felt like we would be blessed for the effort we were making. We finished knocking all the doors and still didn´t meet Karol. We figured we would have to ask our neighbor to call her friend and verify the address.

Sunday morning came and as I was getting ready for church I decided to watch some Mormon Messages I have in Portuguese on a DVD. One message caught my attention called "Domingo Virá" which means Sunday Will Come. The message talked about the Friday when Christ was crucified and how the circumstances seemed so bleak. Our Friday this past week was honestly terrible...I dont know what went wrong but Friday was horrible, Saturday was a little better and there I was, Sunday morning. Most of our investigators Saturday night had said they wouldn´t be able to make it to church so the prospects at church weren´t making me too excited. Saturday night I had written in my planner that one of my goals for Sunday was to have more faith. I tried to start but it was hard. Like I said last week, Sundays make or break the week.

I know this email is ridiculously long so I will sum up how great Sunday was. We walked by the young women´s room 10 minutes before church started and saw a young woman sitting alone. We went to introduce ourselves and guess who it was...Karol!! She came to church on her own because she had seen the church and knew where it was. We also had two other investigators there for the first time, ones we thought wouldn´t come this week! I was so happy my heart wanted to burst with joy! The rest of the day was marvelous as well. 

Just remember, regardless of what happens on Friday, Sunday will come. This was a message I learned this week. Here are some quotes from the talk and the link to the message. 

"Each of us will have our own Fridays—those days when the universe itself seems shattered and the shards of our world lie littered about us in pieces. We all will experience those broken times when it seems we can never be put together again. We will all have our Fridays.
But I testify to you in the name of the One who conquered death—Sunday will come. In the darkness of our sorrow, Sunday will come.
No matter our desperation, no matter our grief, Sunday will come. In this life or the next, Sunday will come."
Hope you are all happy and healthy!! Thank you for being the best family ever! :) 
Sister Kerr

Monday, March 10, 2014

Happy :)

Dearest family and friends,

This past week was so great!! We had more investigators at church than we expected which is always a good thing. Sundays can really make or break the week. We only have 3 more Sundays this´s already half way over!!

Last Monday I learned how to make empadão de frango with one of the members. I dont remember if I mentioned it, but we live in a house behind one of the member´s house so we have a lot of contact with them. They make mini pizzas and empadões to sell and after 9 weeks of wanting to learn, I finally learned how to make the empadão! Dont worry, I am learning how to cook some Brazilian dishes to make when I come home :) 
The beginning of the cooking process

The final product :)

On Tuesday we weren´t in Brasília for the mission council but we did get to listen to it through Skype. It wasn´t the same thing as being there, but I loved the assistants´ training that talked about the importance of reading, pondering and praying about the scriptures, especially the Book of Mormon. The Intro of the Book of Mormon invites everybody to read, ponder and pray to know if the book is true. Regardless of how many years we have been in the church, we should apply this same invite to us. It´s good to read the scriptures, it´s better to read and apply what you read in your life. As we ponder about the message we have read, we will have more light and understanding come to our mind. 

In Lehi´s dream, only those who were holding fast to the iron rod made it to the tree of life. The scriptures are this iron rod for us. If we let go of them or let ourselves lose focus, we run the risk of getting lost before we reach our destination. Make it a goal to read daily from the scriptures so that each day you can redirect your path and stay on course.

This past week I finished the book of Mosiah which ends by talking about the sons of Mosiah and Alma the younger. I love their story because it shows how much the gospel can change our lives. We don´t know who can be the next great missionary or who will come to accept the gospel in its fulness after years of working against the church. This is a story of redemption and repentance, an example of love and mercy. 

For those of you who aren´t so active in missionary work...get involved!! Having members´ help makes THE biggest difference. Pray to have more missionary opportunities in your life. The Lord will help you contribute in your own special way.

Hope you are all happy and healthy! Love you lots!

Sister Kerr
Family home evening we had last night with three of the most amazing families ever!

Monday, March 3, 2014

Carnaval 2014!

Dear family & friends,

Feliz Carnaval! We ended up not going down to Brasília because we would have had to take a bus back tomorrow night, the actual night of Carnaval, so President decided that wouldn´t be such a great idea. Palmas is pretty uneventful in terms of Carnaval celebrations but we still have had to be home early these nights. 

So this past week was pretty great! We went on exchanges with the Miracema sisters from Tuesday to Wednesday and then with the Palmas 1 sisters from Wednesday to Thursday. I got to be companions with Sister Jackson again for 1 more day :) It felt like we were back in Ceilândia together haha. Between last week and this week, I have watched the Restoration film three times during lessons and am amazed by how I never get tired of it. Every time I watch it I am able to pull something new out of the story and feel the Spirit testify of its truthfulness. If you haven´t watched it in a while, watch it!! If you have never seen it, watch it! 

I love being in Palmas 3 because we have the best ward ever! Every fast & testimony meeting the pulpit fills up as soon as the bishop opens the time for people to bear their testimony. I have never seen a ward that is so eager to bear their testimony! My goal when I get home to is be a member like the members here. They are willing to pick up our investigators for church, sit with them, mark family home evenings and they take such good care of us :) Yesterday we had a member go to pick up 2 of our investigators, who ended up not being able to go, and when he came to the church empty-handed we felt bad for having made him drive there. He told us he was happy to do it and he sincerely meant it. I love this ward!

On Saturday, Sister Timario and I had a really neat experience with a referral we received. Letícia is a friend of one of the members in the primary, Thaíz. We went to visit Letícia and her family and found out that her mom is deaf. We didn´t really teach a lesson because Letícia´s mom spent the whole time teaching us Portuguese sign language based on the Restoration pamphlet :) I learned how to say a few phrases like "The gospel blesses families and many people" and words like Jesus Christ, teachings, learn, mother, father, son, etc. It was so cool! We borrowed their sign language book until tomorrow so that we can study a little bit and be able to talk more with her when we go back. They weren´t able to go to church this week but said they will go next week. 

Other than that, I am loving the mission. I have been reading in Mosiah for my personal study and really loved the first few chapters like always. King Benjamin´s talk is one of my favorite parts in the Book of Mormon and then it goes on to talk about the people of Zeniff. The themes that stood out to me were about the Atonement, the importance of prophets, and how much they talk about the desires of their heart. Some people had a pride filled heart and others had a mighty change of heart. We should all ask ourselves from time to time what are the desires of our heart. 

Hope you are all happy and healthy! Have a great start to this month of March :)

Sister Kerr
Sister Jackson & I during the exchange

Sister Timario, Geovanna (the bishop´s daughter) and I at lunch yesterday

Monday, February 24, 2014

Happy March!

Dearest family and friends,

Oops, once again I didn´t leave enough time to send out a good email! Sorry about that. But summing up our week, it was really great. We had some super hard days, the kind of days that you wish never happened or that you could just forget about, but even in those moments we were able to find the positives. One thing Sister Timario and I have started doing when we want to complain is we make a list of five things we are grateful for in our lives. We start complaining and then the other one will say "Nope. Five them!" It has been a good way for us to realize what´s going right instead of focusing on what´s going  wrong. I love my companion :) 

This week we had a really hard lesson to learn but I am really grateful for what I learned. Regardless of what the internet may say about the church, the members who have fallen away from it and the people who don´t even know it but insisnt on talking about it, I know it is true. Even if it was some great big lie, I would continue living it because it brings happiness like nothing else can. The peace we feel is real. The joy we have is eternal. And the possibilites that can become realities because of the priesthood are priceless. We are here to invite others to come to know this truth for themselves. Some may reject it, others may accept it, but we are here for all to hear it. 

The next time I send an email it will already be March! This year is flying by. Carnaval starts this Friday and goes until Tuesday. I will be in Brasília for it. Maybe I will see something cool :) 

Have a great week! Hope you are all happy and healthy!

Sister Kerr

Monday, February 17, 2014

I stayed!

Dearest family and friends,

I stayed in Palmas 3!! And for the first time in my mission I will have the same companion for more than just one transfer. Hooray!! I was really hoping Sister Timario and I would stay together because the work was just starting to really pick up and I didn´t want us to be split up. This past week was amazing! We had prayer after prayer answered. The things we had been working and praying for all transfer finally started happening. I was nervous she would be transferred because President Gaernter had said she would most likely be going back down to Brasília this transfer, but thankfully she stayed! Can you believe up until this point in my mission Sister Ryan (my companion from the MTC) is still my longest companion? We stayed together for 9 weeks and all the others have been 5 or 6 weeks. Speaking of her, she´s doing well. We still send emails :) 

In front of the capital of city hall of Palmas
Tomorrow is my 1 year mark from leaving the MTC and entering the mission field. It seems like only yesterday I was packing my bags and getting ready to head to the San Fernando mission. Leaving my district at the MTC was one of the hardest and saddest things because we were so close. It seems like it´s been a lot longer than a year since the last time I saw them, but at the same time it has passed so quickly. 

This past week was seriously the perfect ending to the last transfer. We had meetings all week like district meeting, zone training and then sisters training on Friday, but it was awesome. My studies were great. I can´t get enough of the old General Conference talks. I have also been studying Jacob in the Book of Mormon. In the mission the allegory of the olive trees has so much more meaning because you have a different perspective on the work that is being talked about.

Hope everybody is happy and healthy!! Thank you for your support, emails, cards, pictures...everything you do to make me feel loved and remembered.

Sister Kerr
Our district last transfer

I ate sushi last week!! It was delicious :) It´s about quality not quantity...I was more satisfied after that meal than if I had eaten a whole buffett

Sisters of Zona Palmas

All of the missionaries at rodoviária last night to say goodbye to the missionaries who were transferred to Brasília

Monday, February 10, 2014

Happy Valentine´s Day!

Querida família,

Happy Valentine´s Day this week!! Can you believe this time last year I was in the MTC waiting for my reassignment? This past year has flown by so quickly.

So I had SOOO much to say this week, but I don´t have much time today. I have seriously been waiting all week to talk about how great the work is going!! Bummer I can´t share everything.

Last Tuesday at the mission council President Gaertner showed us the January CES Devotional by Tad R. Callister and it totally changed my perspective about how imporant the gospel truly is. I loved this talk, especially the last part that says...
Suffice it to say, I can live with some human imperfections, even among prophets of God—that is to be expected in mortal beings. I can live with some alleged scientific findings contrary to the Book of Mormon; time will correct those. And I can live with some seeming historical anomalies; they are minor in the total landscape of truth. But I cannot live without the doctrinal truths and ordinances restored by Joseph Smith, I cannot live without the priesthood of God to bless my family, and I cannot live without knowing my wife and children are sealed to me for eternity. That is the choice we face—a few unanswered questions on one hand versus a host of doctrinal certainties and the power of God on the other. And for me, and I hope for you, the choice is an easy one and a rational one.
All of you should watch the talk when you get a chance. It is so amazing!! Sister Timario and I had a rough week two weeks ago when it came to the work, so last Sunday night we decided we would make that week marvelous no matter what happened. We started the week off super excited and ready to work, then went to mission council and saw that talk and the rest is history. Last week was so great because we made it great. I am super sick, it rained a lot, but we didn´t let anything stop us from doing our best. It was so awesome.

Anyway, hope you all have a great week!! We have transfers next Monday so we will see what happens.
Sister Kerr

Our Zone

Monday, February 3, 2014

Life is good

View from the bridge crossing back into Palmas

Dear family and friends,
So here we are in February already! This transfer is flying by and this week will be no exception. Last week seriously passed in the blink of an eye.

We have the best members in this ward. Yesterday for fast and testimony meeting the pulpit was packed as people waited to bear their testimonies. I have never been in a ward so excited and dedicated to the gospel. I can´t even explain how many tender mercies Sister Timario and I received last week. I will try to explain some very quickly.

At the start of the transfer, we made a list of things to do during this transfer one of which was eat milho verde assado (corn on the cob roasted on little grills just set up in the street corners at night). Wednesday night we went to the chapel because we had marked to teach a lesson there, but the lesson fell through. As we were walking out of the chapel one of the members in the ward asked us, "Hey, do you sisters want some milho assado? I bought it right now and want you to have it" It was a small, but tender, mercy. Then later that night we went to visit a recent convert family and while we were there it started pouring rain with really strong wind. I was dreading the moment we had to leave and walk home but as we were leaving the buildling we ran into another recent convert family who was heading to the movie theatre and offered to give us a ride home. We got home right at 9pm instead of arriving later and totally soaked from the rain :)

Yesterday we had a less active member who is 17 years old go on some visits with us. It has been a little over 2 years that she hasn´t been to church but she is so awesome!! She has such a strong testimony. In one of the lessons she told the girl we were teaching about how great the church is and that she should go. The less active member then told us she has never gone on visits with sisters but she can´t say no to us because she loves spending time with us haha. I am happy she is having more contact with the church! I know she will go on a mission someday.

President and Sister Gaertner came to Palmas on Wednesday for interviews and it was really great having an interview with President Gaertner. I think I had been needing that for a while. On Thursday I went to Palmas 1 to go on exchanges with Sister Hoopes. I love being able to work with other sisters to see how they teach and learn from their example. Palmas 1 has a part of the area that is across the river and we had a lesson there so I got to cross the bridge to the other side of the river! It is SO gorgeous!! I still can´t believe how lucky I am to have such wonderful experiences everyday.

My studies on Thursday were about the family as we prepared to teach a lesson about the importance of the family. There is a line in PMG that really stood out to me - "Heaven is a continuation of the ideal home." How great would it be to not have to wait until we get to heaven to find the joy and peace we expect there :) I also had the chance to read President Uchtdorf´s talk titled "Of Regret and Resolutions" earlier in the week. Another one of my favorite conference talks.

Life is great. We are in Brasília today which means our p-day has been full of traveling. Sorry for not writing and sending letters to has been forever since I have had a p-day that actually left time to do that. Don´t think I have forgotten about any of you!

Hope you´re all happy and healthy!
Sister Kerr