After several hours of traveling and months of waiting...I finally made it to Brazil! I'm so happy to be here. From the very beginning, I knew that I would serve in the states for at least 3 months before I was sent to Brazil. I didn't know why, but I always knew. Well, to have this e-mail make sense I'll start from the beginning...
My final week in the Glenrose Ward in Spokane, WA was the fastest week of my life. Sister Strong and I were sad all week knowing that it would all come to an end soon. There were people in that area that I will never forget and I know that Heavenly Father had me serve there for a reason. My final Sunday they had me sing in church and the only song that felt right was "The Spirit of God". For the final verse I sang it in Portuguese and that's when it really hit me that my time here was up. I could barely keep myself from crying. My heart has never felt so completely torn apart.
About the mice situation...we finally caught the little stinker in a mouse trap and it was funny because when we walked upstairs the next morning there was a a dead mouse in the mouse trap right by the kitchen. We were so confused because the kitchen is upstairs and we set up all the mouse traps in the basement where we live. We thought maybe the members put it there to show us that the mouse was dead. Then we came to the conclusion that the cat brought it upstairs. The best part was the members thought we brought the dead mouse upstairs to show them!!! haha ew! We decided to keep the mouse traps set up for another day or two. Don't worry, we caught 3 more mice. Poor Sister Strong, she hates mice haha.
In preparation for my trip I sent a lot of stuff home and left a lot of stuff behind. I didn't realize how much "stuff" I had accumulated in Spokane. All of a sudden I had to learn to be super low maintenance. It's okay though, it's good for me :) The Sunday before I left I met up with the other missionaries going to Brazil (Sister Prater included) and we spent the night in a members home. While the members were making dinner they told us we could "hang out" and "relax", but I don't know how to do that anymore. For the past 4 months every half hour of everyday has something scheduled. I'm going to be such a weirdo when I get home. Anyways, the members were super nice and took good care of us. The next day we went to the airport where we commenced over 24 hours worth of layovers and flights. I was so happy to be traveling with Sister Prater. We sat together the entire way to Manaus. When we connected in São Paulo, there was a member there to greet us and help us connect to our next flight. When we finally arrived in Manaus, it was like an instant heat wave when we walked off the plane! I really like the humidity here. I think it feels good and it kind of reminds me of Michigan. At this point, I really didn't look or feel ready to meet my mission President, but I had no choice. President and Sister Klein are so nice! We went to the temple and took photos, then we had almorço (lunch) at their home.
I spent the next couple days in the city of Manaus to sort out Police stuff. There were a couple of us assigned to other cities that could not leave immediately. Sister Eggett and I stayed with a couple of Brazilian Sisters in the city for a few days. That helped my Portuguese a lot because they could only speak Portuguese with me.
Now let me tell you about this place...it's crazy!!! I had to get over my car anxiety real quick because I've now been on some of the craziest car rides of my life! There are no rules to the roads here. It's hilarious because people honk a lot here, but not out of anger like in the U.S. The honk because they want to say "Hey I'm coming whether ya like it or not so watch out!" It's nuts. There are random cats and dogs everywhere. They are super sad looking and I wouldn't want to cuddle with any of them. When I walked in our temporary apartment the first night here there was a lizard on the wall making itself at home. Welcome to Brazil! Bye bye to the state side mission...
The food here is sooo good! I seriously might gain weight. I'm so obsessed with the food here. They always have noodles, rice, beans, and meat. Some people will make salad and veges too and I love it! They make it differently here than we do in the states. Even the manga is better here! They have all kinds of new fruit that I'm excited to try. I tried one fruit that was dark purple and white on the inside. It was the size of a large cherry. The Brazilian Sister was explaining how to eat it properly, but at that point I already swallowed the skin. They were all laughing at me...dumb American Sister haha. Whatever. I've also never had so much pop and juice in my life. Those who know me well know that I don't like pop or juice, but here in Brazil that is the only drink that is cold and won't make me sick. I hate to admit it, but it is also super delicious!
I also had the sacred privilege to attend a session at the new Manaus temple. It is so beautiful. The entire session was in Portuguese, but the Spirit was definitely felt. I love that the church is the same wherever you go and whatever language it is in. After all my police stuff was cleared, they finally let me go to my area.
I'm currently serving in a city called Boa Vista in a branch called Floresta. I had to take a 12 hour bus ride alone to get there. I traveled through the night and the dense rainforest to get there. When I finally arrived I met my new companion Sister Crane. We have been out on our missions the same amount of time and she is totally awesome! I'm soooo grateful for Sister Crane. She is very understanding and encouraging with the language. She is originally from Dallas,Texas and it's kind of funny because she was once roommates with my last companion Sister Strong. I love Sister Crane so much and I feel like she is the reason my first week here has been so great. It's hard trying to speak a new language. I have a lot to say, but no way to say it and she has totally been there before. I think she is grateful for me too because her last companion was Brazilian and that was a bit of a culture shock for her. She says I speak better than she did when she first arrived and that comforts me a lot because she seems to be speaking very well after only 3 months here.
I'm literally the only blonde, white girl here. Even my comp is darker than me. (Let's be honest though, it's not difficult to be darker than me). I've been looking for the other blonde girls...they don't exist! I get stared at a lot. It feels weird being the minority. I also have a ton of bug bites all over me. I wear bug spray to bed every night, but it doesn't do much for me. Our little apartment is nice and clean. We don't have air conditioning, but we do have fans. I take cold showers everyday, but I like it that way because I'm always hot. The members are super good to us. We always get fed well here.
Yesterday they asked me to bear my testimony in church. It was kind of intimidating because I really don't know much Portuguese, but they said that I spoke well. The meeting house is really old and runned down, but they are building a new one that should be done in another month. The other day some Elders called to ask how my training was going. They said that most likely at the end of my training, I would stay and train in Boa Vista and Sister Crane would leave. The pressure is really on now. I have 3 months to learn the language and know how to run this area. That means I will be here mostly likely for 6 months!
The next 3 months for me will be a learning experience. I'm learning a lot about how to trust my Heavenly Father and how I can improve my communication with Him. It is really hard. Some days, I just want to cry because I'm so frustrated that the language doesn't come faster. Sister Crane keeps assuring me that it will come. I'm so grateful to be here. I'm so grateful to be apart of this work. Nothing has ever felt so right in my life. I know that I'm here for a reason. I love the people already and I can feel the love that our Heavenly Father has for them. That is my motivating force right now.
I want ya'll to know that I know the church is true. It is true in every country and in every tongue. I'm so grateful for my Savior, Jesus Christ. I know that He lives and that He knows us so perfectly. I have felt the Spirit bear witness of this to me and I will never doubt it. I love you all. Thank you for your prayers, e-mails, and letters. Have an awesome week!
Sister Hayley Jensen