April 10, 2017

Brazil Fortaleza Mission


LDS Church & Missionary Work


Cameron (Brazil Fortaleza Mission)

–Paraphrased from  Cameron’s mission interview–

The Church in Ceará today

Fortaleza is the capital of the state of Ceará. In 2013 the Fortaleza was split into the Fortaleza and the Fortaleza East mission. Fortaleza covers most of the capital and few suburban and rural city. There’s a few cities including Itapipoca, Pecem, Paracuru and Canindé where the church only arrived while I was in Brazil. There’s 16 stakes in the state of Ceará, with 8 in the capital. The Fortaleza temple was announced recently, and the ground has been broken. There was about 230 missionaries in the Fortaleza mission, but only about 30 of them got to go into the more rural areas of the state. Construction has yet to begin, but the church is growing really fast there.

History and Growth of the Church in Ceará

The first stake in Fortaleza was organized back in 1980, but now there’s an additional 15 stakes. Most church members were “converts,” meaning they were baptized into the church and not their parents. I met very few second and third generations church families. Members in Ceará love the missionaries and are super excited about missionary work. I loved bringing people to church, which was easy because the buildings were well-known and absolutely people. When a new person came to church, they were wrapped up by the members and they really felt the Savior’s love. It helps that most of the members know what it’s like to show up to church for the first time, and they can empathize with visitors.

For Future Missionaries

In Fortaleza you will have experiences with the members and the leaders and you will learn to help others feel the Spirit enough to have faith and repent. You’re going to help people make great changes in their lives, which is amazing. You will show people how to draw closer unto Christ. Every day I think about my mission and the people I met there, and I know that you will meet a lot of great people and develop great relationships while you are there. I know that the Church is true and that Jesus Christ is our savior.

Reid (Brazil Fortaleza Mission)

–Paraphrased from  Reid’s mission interview–

Mission Boundaries

The Fortaleza mission had already split once before I got there. While I was there, the mission split again. It was going to be split into three but they decided not to. There are a lot of missionaries and a lot of members. There are 15 stakes and a lot of work to be done with the members. There are thousands of less actives who haven’t been contacted in a long time. While that is unfortunate, seeking after these members is a wonderful opportunity for missionaries. They almost always live next to someone who is interested or they have family members that want to be baptized. The harvest is plentiful and truly the field is white. When you pray about who to visit they will often give you a list of members to visit. The Lord will take us to the people we need to meet. We would be on our way to some place whether it be a less active or not, when we meet someone. That opportunity is great.

The People

Houses always have gates. When you walk around there is always someone to talk to.  A lot of people are willing to listen. The people are so outgoing, loving, and accepting. They may not want to listen to your message but they will offer you a drink or food. Sometimes that is a way you can start talking to people that wouldn’t listen otherwise.

 

Cameron (Brazil Fortaleza Mission)

–Paraphrased from  Cameron’s mission interview–

Mission Boundaries

After six weeks I was called to the mission office where I served as the executive secretary. I learned all about the church in the area around the city of Fortaleza. The mission had just split when I entered the MTC. They created the Fortaleza East mission when I was in the MTC. Fortaleza takes most of the city of Fortaleza and a few interior cities outside of the capital city. While I was there they opened up a few interior cities. There is a small city with a branch I went to. There are others on the coast with small branches that were opened as well. While I was in the office we opened up a city where my companion went to open. It’s a very Catholic city.

Mission Culture

It’s a special opportunity to serve outside the capital city. There are eight stakes in our mission. President Monson announced the temple in Fortaleza in 2009. It hasn’t been constructed yet, but while I was there the church was growing really fast. In 2015 Elder Christofferson came to visit us. In the late 1980s the first stake was created and 15 more have been created since then. There are lots of members. It was cool seeing the church in it’s first and second generation. It’s rare that you find a family in it’s third generation in the church. Everyone remembers the missionaries. Within the church it’s so missionary minded because each of them have personal experiences. They loved the missionaries because they see us with our name tags and they see the people that brought them joy. I love bringing people to church. The buildings are very beautiful so it isn’t too hard to get people there. When they get there they get wrapped up in this awesome culture of love and unity. There are lots of other churches there but they say that they feel the difference. The church members know what it’s like to go to church for the first time. A lot of us don’t know what its like, but the people there understand where these new members are coming from.

Jake (Brazil Fortaleza Mission)

–Paraphrased from Jake’s mission interview–

Mission Boundaries

The mission is in the northeast of Brazil. It’s one of the first parts of Brazil settled by Europeans. It has really good beaches. I never saw them on my mission but I heard that people go to them from all over the world. The church is strong in Fortaleza. It’s been in the city for 30 years and there are 20 stakes and 2 missions. Most of the wards I served in probably had 80 to 100 people coming each week. It’s been the highest baptizing mission in the church. They’re building a temple there that should be done in the next couple years. The great thing about the people is that they’re very open and helpful. The church has expanded a lot in the city itself. Recently the church has started to expand in the interior cities.

For Future Missionaries

I think one trait every missionary should have is humility. Not as in being afraid to talk to people, but in that you should be humble and teachable. Your mission is for you and you will learn a lot, but remember that it is not just for you. God doesn’t want to just save you and the 15 million members of the church, but he wants to save the whole earth. You’ll have success, you’ll have failure, you’ll be rejected; but most of the people you meet will be very friendly. Miracles will happen every day, some of which will be too sacred to talk about. Most of all, the mission changed me. Many experiences will test your faith, but many more will build your faith as well. I know that Christ’s atonement is real and that this is the true church, and it was such a blessing to be able to share that with others.

Mary (Brazil Fortaleza Mission)

–Paraphrased from Mary’s mission interview–

For Future Missionaries

You’ll meet some of the greatest people on earth in Brazil. Be prepared, because it’s definitely a different world and a big culture shock. Be prepared to be changed, and be humble and willing to accept change. Work hard and love your companion no matter how you feel about them. Hold your investigators to a high standard and hold yourself to a high standard as well.  Even when others mess up, forgive them. When you’re learning Portuguese or any language, don’t be afraid to make mistakes. Be obedient. Do what your mission president tells you to do. Be the kind of missionary that members would want their children to be so that you won’t regret it 50 years down the road. You’ll make mistakes, but just go and do it, and the mission will be the best experience for your life.

 


Culture, Language, and Travel


Cameron (Brazil Fortaleza Mission)

–Paraphrased from  Cameron’s mission interview–

Fortaleza, Brazil

The first thing you’ll see when you search Fortaleza on google are the beaches and big tall highrises. It’s funny because most missionaries don’t go to those areas. Most Brazilians in Fortaleza live in humble brick and concrete homes, that are normally lined up in rows. Most of the roads are paved, but there are a few dirt roads in less developed areas.

One thing I love about Brazilians is that they love talking to you and getting to know you. They love meeting new people, and they’ll instantly become your best friend.

Missionary Transportation

Transportation for missionaries is all done by the public bus systems. Bus rides are fun because they’re fast and they’re packed. Riding the bus is a huge part of missionary life in Fortaleza, even within one area. There’s no cars and bikes for missionaries.

Lifestyle in Fortaleza

Fortaleza is super hot, because it is close to the equator. The sun just beats down on you, especially right after lunch when most people sleep. Once the sun comes down and it starts getting cooler, people come out with their chairs to sit and talk. For Brazilians, the evening is a very social time of day.

The richer part of Fortaleza is Aldeota. People would come from all over Brazil to live there and to enjoy the seaside living. The farther you got away from the coast however, the poorer it gets. People also come from all over Brazil and the world to enjoy the beach and the water. Fortaleza has perfect beach weather, and the water is always 80 degrees.The cost of living in Fortaleza was pretty high, but for missionaries who lived a simple life it was generally cheap. Houses there generally aren’t as nice as American homes, but they are a lot humbler in Brazil.

Brazilian Food

Brazilian Food is awesome! My favorite was Churrasco, which is Brazilian barbecue. It was only on special occasion, and I loved it. Normally in Brazil, missionaries will eat lunch with members, and on rare occasions dinner as well. For every meal, we would eat rice and beans. Normally in Ceará these will be served with some kind of meat, including chicken, sausage, or feijoada which is a black beans mixed with pork meat. Natural juices are popular because of the tropical climate. A Brazilian soda that I loved was Guaraná.

I was humbled by how well church members served the missionaries. Many Brazilians live in humble circumstances, and you can tell they valued missionary work by how much they were willing to sacrifice. Brazilians loved to cook weird dishes for Americans just to see our reaction. One that comes from the old ranching tradition is cooked cow intestines. Even investigators and random people that we met would offer to cook us dinner or lunch.

Brazilian Culture and Religion

Brazilian people love life and they love laughter. Especially in Fortaleza, the culture is super friendly. Another thing I love about people is that everyone has a belief in God. They may disagree on churches, but almost everyone believes. In my two years in Ceará I only met three people who were Atheist. There’s a lot of different religions there, including Catholics, the Assembly of God, the Universal Church, Jehovah’s witnesses, and others. But almost all of these sects believe that God exists, that Christ is our savior, and that it’s important to be a good person. All we did as missionaries was add to their beliefs the message of the Restoration and the Atonement. Overall the people there were just so great to be around.

Crime and Safety in Fortaleza Brazil

Fortaleza is a great city, but there is a high rate of crime. Most of the crime is related to the drug trade or getting money to buy drugs. Missionaries weren’t allowed to carry anything with them besides pamphlets or books. Most people knew not to assault us because of that. We had a reputation for good there and we knew almost everyone, so we were friends even with the bad people. There is some danger though. In Brazil it’s really hard to obtain a gun, so if a criminal has a gun (or pretends to) they can control any situation. Most assaults would happen with two guys showing up on a bike. You don’t have to worry too much, but it’s important to be careful.

Packing Advice

As a missionary, you’ll only need one or two normal shirts. I would recommend bringing short sleeved white shirts. Pack two pairs of sturdy shoes, because you will walk a lot and go through them. If you pack lower quality shoes, you may go through three or four. Be sure to bring duct tape and USB’s. Good duct tape is impossible to find in Brazil, and the flash drives were useful for storing photos. Don’t pack a lot of extra stuff that you don’t need, because you’ll have to drag it around with you everywhere.

Jake (Brazil Fortaleza Mission)

–Paraphrased from Jake’s mission interview–

Life in Fortaleza

Weather in Fortaleza is very hot because it’s near the equator. It’s also very dry, but they have both a dry and a rainy season. When it rains in their “winter” sometimes it’ll rain for 3 or 4 days at a time. Bring an umbrella, and pack for the heat too since there’s very little AC. Houses in Brazil are generally much smaller than in the U.S. Most are made out of brick and concrete. There’s a large income inequality… they have favelas which are basically slums, all the way up to large high rise apartments. Most people rely on the bus, which is usually very packed. Motorcycles and bicycles are very popular too. Generally, only wealthier people will have cars

Beware of people on bikes… most assaults come from one or two guys coming up on a bike. Try not to carry anything valuable, and don’t get your cell phone out in public

Religion and Culture in Northeastern Brazil

In Northeastern Brazil, religion is very important. Catholicism is the dominant faith, but there are a lot of Evangelical churches. There’s a church on literally every street, and different sects are sometimes hotly contested. Juazeiro do Norte is a city founded by a Catholic priest. His statue stands there, and it’s actually the third biggest human statue in the world! Catholics will come from across Brazil to visit this landmark.

Brazilian Food

The most common Brazilian meal is rice, beans, and chicken. They also make a salad with beats, lettuce, mayonnaise, and other vegetables. Salgados are another Brazilian snack which are basically different varieties of deep fried meats.

Portuguese

Portuguese is a very interesting language. It’s like Spanish, but better. One interesting aspect is that they adopt a lot of English words and phrases: for example, the word for mall is “shopping.” Portuguese sounds like a mix between Spanish and French, and that’s kind of true because there’s a lot of difficult nasal sounds.

Mary (Brazil Fortaleza Mission)

–Paraphrased from Mary’s mission interview–

Benfica, Brazil

Benfica was about a 20 minute bus ride from Fortaleza, so there was still quite a few people in the town. One thing that is amazing about Brazilians is that they’re so willing to chat. Every night, people will take their chairs and sit out on the street just talking. In Benfica it was my first time that I was exposed to Salgados and Pastel, which are different deep fried snacks.

Guarembi, Fortaleza, Brazil

My last area was the neighborhood of Gaurembi in Fortaleza. It was a slightly more dangerous part of the city. Sometimes people would ride by on a motorcycle or bike and grab your bag. Because of this, people were slightly more afraid to talk to strangers. This made it difficult to find people to teach, and a lot of people came from outside the area to work.

We met a woman in Gaurembi named Luiza, who had taken the missionary lessons before in Minas Gerais. We taught her and invited her to church. She said she’d go, but would be just a bit late because of work. At church we were a little bummed when she didn’t show up. But right before sacrament meeting, she walked in the door! She said that on the way there she had cut her foot and then gotten lost, and she had thought about giving up and going home. However, she had had a dream the night before that she had somewhere she needed to be, so she kept pressing forward. She and two of her kids were baptized within the next few weeks.

Brazilian Food

My favorite Brazilian food is Feijoada, which is a kind of black bean soup with ham and all parts of the pig in it. It sounds gross, but it’s completely delicious! Rice and beans are what you eat every day. I got tired of it a lot of the time, but it felt healthy. There is a great salad that they make with beats, mayo, and a mix of other veggies. They like to have a lot of dessert with condensed milk. For example, they’ll make fruit salad and just poor condensed milk all over it.

Fruits are used very often in Brazil. Passion fruit mousse was my favorite. They also have a fruit called pequi which they would put into a pot of rice to add flavor. Caja, Pitamba (which was like a grape within a hard shell), mangos, and starfruit were among some of my other favorites.

Brazilians are Blunt

If Brazilians don’t like your hair, they’ll tell you. If they think you’re fat, they’ll tell you. I learned, however, that it’s not because they want to be mean, but because they love you. I really appreciate it because they’re real and they show you that they care.

Packing Advice for Sister Missionaries and Women

If you’re a woman, bring sandals. Bring closed toed shoes only for special occasions, but for day-to day walking you’ll need sandals. Bring skirts, especially black ones that can go with any shirt. Wear lots of colors for everything else. People will give you lots of gifts as you leave areas, so pack light and don’t bring anything that you would mind losing. Bring rain gear, or buy some as soon as you get there. Bring a picture album to show people your family and help them get to know you. I would recommend varying your shirt lengths as well so you don’t get any crazy tan lines. Peanut butter is very rare in Brazil and makes a great bargaining tool