Dear Family and Friends!
I love you all! I am still doing well! Probably thanks to all of your prayers!
Today will be the first day that we will be prohibited from speaking or responding to our teachers in English. If we speak in English, they will just pretend like they can't understand it. I think I will struggle, but I also think I need this. I think I will start catching on much more quickly if I am forced to speak in Portuguese at all times. I have been getting discouraged at times because I am not so great at speaking and putting sentences and words together in Portuguese, but then I remember that I can understand most of what is said and most of what I read, and I have to think that that is a miracle in itself. Even if I can't speak it very well, I can understand a new language already!! However, I am praying everyday that I will improve in the speaking of it.
As I said a little bit yesterday, Christmas was different. It didn't even feel like Christmas. For one thing, there was no snow, I wasn't with my family, and I couldn't just lounge around and lazily enjoy the day. However, just because it was different doesn't mean that it was bad. Just to tell you a little bit more about it....Saturday was just like any other day until the evening. Evening class was canceled, and we had a Christmas program. We all started lining up really early because we thought an apostle would be there to speak to us. No such luck. But, while in line, a bunch of missionaries in my zone thought it would be funny to attach every name tag they could find to my sweater. I didn't even notice because I was practicing vocab with my companheiras. I probably had about 20 nametags hanging from the bottom of my sweater. Things to do: Become a more observant individual. Then after the program, we watched a Christmas Carol and ate some popcorn. Then it was back to our residence halls and in bed at 10:30.
The next morning, we had a combined sacrament meeting with all the missionaries in the MTC. Everyone lined up to get into the gym sooooo early because we all knew that an apostle would be coming to speak to us THIS TIME. And one did. Guess who? Drumroll please..................Elder Bednar! His talk was so great. It was great to hear from him when he has such a focused audience to talk to. He was talking straight to me. He talked about how this time is the Lord's, not ours. Therefore, we should not be thinking about ourselves. He mentioned Christ's character. About how Christ turned out to people when everyone else would have turned inward. He said that when you turn outward and develop that characteristic of Christ is when you are going to have the most success in your mission. It was the best part about Christmas! Not to mention I got pretty good seats!!!
So my visa says it has been authorized? That is pretty cool! It shouldn't be long before it says "Ready for Collection!" I have mixed feelings about the possibility of my visa coming. I have enjoyed my time here, and really get along well with my companions. I am also worried about going to Brazil and finding out I am really behind everyone who reported to the Brazil MTC the day I was supposed to because they have been exposed to Portuguese more. But, I can't wait to actually get down to Brazil, to be among the people and see the culture. It is an adventure I am looking forward to. Mom, I know Elder Heiner. He is in my zone. So his visa was authorized the same day mine was? Cool! I think he is going to Porto Alegre South. I sure hope I fly out with someone I know. I would be a lot more comfortable with that! Hopefully some of the missionaries in my district get theirs when I do! I guess this is just part of mission life and I'll have to get used to it, but it's hard to get to know people in your district/zone etc and then see them leave. The hard thing about going to Brazil is that there are so many missions! I don't know of anyone else going to Porto Alegre North, so it's not like I'll see any of the friends I have made here at the MTC in my mission. But, a lot of them go to BYU, so maybe I'll see them afterward!
So I officially hate winter. I am thinking that 85% humidity would be really nice right about now. My skin is shriveling up. I usually get pretty dry skin during the winter, but it is especially bad right now for some reason!
Well, looks like I have to go, but I love you all so much. I am amazed that I've almost been gone for a month already! The Savior lives! This is His work, and I am so grateful and humbled to be a part of it!
Sister Autumn Barnes
P.S. You should definitely keep me updated on the visa stuff. It's really nice to know!