In São Paulo the buildings seem to grow in every direction. It appears as though they are stacked on top of each other, growing up and out and around each other. Without fail there are two prevalent architectural features or aspects: beauty and graffiti. New buildings, old buildings, houses, churches, sidewalks, trees- all these seem to be coated in some way by graffiti. Even spaces where it should be impossible for someone to have reached (i.e. 13 stories above the ground on a windowless building) yet there it is. Every surface is a canvas for vandalism.
The heart of São Paulo 30, 40, or 50 years ago must have been a pinnacle of beauty and architecture. Incredible, old, ornate buildings are entrenched in layers and years of vandalism. But even with the graffiti, there is something spectacular about this city, something resilient, but also something open.
Today we went proslitismo for the first time! It was incredible. Our area was the center of São Paulo where the Theatre De Municipal, the historic buildings, façade depicts 4 giant statues struggling beneath the weight of stone above them. The image is reminiscent of Atlas who held the sky aloft, but I found that the figures who drew our attention were not the goliaths of the municipal theatre but were the real people struggling beneath the weight of cloth and cardboard shelters.
Irma Santos (literally an angel, or at least a woman with enough faith that could could literally call angels to protect us if she needed to- I am truly convinced of this) split us into groups so that two Elders would always be in sight of two Sisters. Sister Carrillo and I were paired with Elder Sinsel and Zylks. Sister Degn/Hawkes w/ Batchelor/Doria. After praying our group headed wearily across the street. We had to stay in constant view of Irma Santos, which we would be incredibly grateful for soon.
Every companionship had 10 Livro De Mormons in clear backpacks (and our umbrella and water bottle-that’s all we could bring, and all we want to bring). The first person we ask is nice, but doesn’t want one. The second man already has one but we couldn’t understand the rest of what he said because the noise was insane- cars, motorcycles, people. Everything was fighting for our attention and to make it more difficult we realized that the main reason so many people were on this side of the street was because an evangelist was preaching via microphone to a crowd.
Third person, nada.
So, we stop a woman walking by. At first she doesn’t want to stop but then she does and pulls out her bible from her backpack. There was a moment where she almost wanted to listen. Sister Carrillo was speaking with her about how both books work together as scripture, in fact are supposed to be together when another man leans in. To be honest, I had no idea what he was saying and he immediately won the woman onto his side. Sister Carrillo didn’t even know what he was saying and I think he knew also. He kept telling us we needed “to know the fruit of Joseph Smith” and something about the reason he died is because he had too many wives. Behind him, some 20ft away, Irma Santos motioned to me to leave. We were running out of time and we hadn’t given out a single Book of Mormon. But how could we leave when he wouldn’t let us. He was speaking and he was pointing at the sky and counting on his hand the “fruito de Joseph Smith?” Plus…you can’t be rude!
I was praying for understanding. For a way to leave this situation. I think I hoped that it would come through the gift of tongues but no, it came in the form of another man passing by, pointing to the Book of Mormon in my hands and asking for it around the yelling man. We gave it to him and somewhere in our brief conversation with him before he slipped it into a plastic sack of his belongings and left, the other two people disappeared. I keep thinking about the woman’s shirt though. It said, “If you don’t try, you never know.” HA!
After that we talked with Irma and she said how Brazilians love to talk and that we had until 3:00 to meet with her and leave. It was 2:35! At this point we decided to cross the street to the theatre steps where people were collected. Both Sister Carrillo and I have discussed that as soon as we crossed the street, there was quiet. It was almost tranquil.
In the next half hour we didn’t just hand out our own books, but helped our district hand out their books. By 3:00 Sister Carrillo and I had given out 18 Livro De Mormons! 18!!! It was incredible!!!
While we were handing out the last of our BOMs a man was bothering Irma Santos, our instructor. He was a homeless, shirtless, possibly drunk man that we had seen earlier in the day. She was discussing with another man the BOM when the drunk man stumbled up to her and tried to apparently talk to her and touch her shoulder. Sister Carrillo and I were back across the street with the Elders getting some of their BOM’s to help them finish handing them out. I was watching her though, and was about to run across the street to help her when the man fell to the ground and looked like he fell asleep. Later, whenever he would try to come up to us missionaries he would fall on the ground again. We found out later that Irma Santos had been praying that he wouldn’t be able to touch her or us. It was crazy and such a blessing. I truly believe God works in mysterious and sometimes very loud ways. He might (quietly) simply give you an impression that you should cross the street or He might (loudly) not let someone potentially dangerous get near you. If that makes sense.
Another funny experience. We were talking to this man and he seemed super excited about the word of God and he even told us how he loves God, but when we tried to give him the BOM he kept telling us, “Oh, no, no. I don’t like religion. This is religion.”
Also, when you give out the BOM you have to call it a “presente.” So many times we’ll be talking to someone and they’ll seem a little interested but also not committed. And on occasion they’ll even say, “Oh no, I have no money. No money.” But as soon as we say, “No, presente para voce!” their whole demeanor changes. Nothing is free in Brazil, but here we are giving them something completely free. Something we can promise them will change their lives! And they love it. People lean in when they hear we’re talking about Christ and they get truly excited when they realize that we are simply giving it to them! It’s amazing.
Several times we were talking to people who go, “No Portuguese. Only English.” And of course, Sister Carrillo and I would surprise them, “Oh ok! We’re missionaries from The Church of…and we have a message for you about the gospel of Jesus Christ!....Now this book is in Portuguese, but if you call this number or got to this site, missionaries can come and bring you one in your own language and teach you more information about this other testament of Jesus Christ. For free.”
It was so incredible to see how much it brightened them to talk about Christ. This is such a God loving culture (except for the one atheist man we asked to talk to. “I’m an atheist, dear. Obrigado mas Bom Dia.” –He was super nice about it and so was his partner, haha!:)) You’ll ask, “Do you know Jesus Christ?” and they’ll say, “Who doesn’t?” And everyone is so easy to talk to and so accepting. In my other half of my letter there are more details about hardships, but these were some positive experiences.
After, when we were waiting for our bus, it began to rain and rain, and then, it hailed the size of
Love you! Tchau!
|Sister Hemmert, Sister Carrillo, Sister Hawkes, Sister Degn|