It was amazing to actually be in a room with about 100 people and an apostle of the Lord Jesus Christ. We were sitting at the back because Sister Fernandes was meant to be translating, but then President decided he didn't trust missionaries and did it all himself. It was funnier that way! Elder Bednar liked to slip in some Portuguese words when he was talking like 'Primeiro' and 'Espírito Santo', which baffled President until he decided to start translating them into English.
So it was a very informal, interactive thing. First he asked us to make comments on the talks we had studied that week. Then he would quiz the brave volunteer a little more to think about what that really meant, or apply it in their lives. Then he asked people to comment on the pattern he was using. I wasn't going to let this opportunity pass me by and threw my hand into the air. Even though there were lots of hands up, I will never forget the moment he chose me. I talked about how the follow up questions were usually the ones that made people think more and we need to do that more with our investigators rather than asking one question and abruptly moving on. He then asked if he could ask me a question and I said 'no' in what was fortunately a jovial environment, which made him laugh. Yay... I be joking with an apostle ;) He also shook all our hands (we were worried it wasn't going to happen) and talked about his son that served in England. It was great!
On a more spiritual, uplifting note, he said some great things that were perfect for my talk I had to give in sacrament yesterday. He talked about how books are objects, because they need someone or another force to move them. We are different because we have our agency and can act for ourselves. This is a great power. We also have to treat our investigators as agents by not asking them `what's in my head?'questions, letting them research for themselves and keeping invites open for them to act on. He also spoke a lot about how faith is the opposite to fear, but we can still have doubts and have faith. He said 'to wonder is ok, if you keep going'. He used the example of Nephi, who was told to go back to Jerusalem and get the gold plates from scary King Laban. Before he left he prayed for guidance from God. However, he didn't stay kneeling in his tent, but acted before he even knew everything that he would have to do. Bednar said that 'faith is not waiting in your tent for an answer to come, but getting up and going when an answer has not yet come'. Obviously, prayer is very powerful and we can receive inspiration through it, but many things will only be learnt or revealed when we act on the knowledge that we have. Faith literally is acting, it not only leads to it, but literally is it. I was reminded of the scene in Indiana Jones and the last Crusade when Indiana has to take the 'leap of faith' into the great chasm before it is revealed that a hidden ledge is there. If he has just waited, nothing would have happened, nothing would have been proven.
Our elders are officially awesome! They successfully navigated us through Porto for the Bednar conference, we enjoyed Burger King together afterwards even though no one has any money. They seriously saved us in Aula Ingles, because it was the first time I had been there and people (well Lina and a member) turned up so they magically put something together that even had a spiritual thought and then we had an hilarious picnic together in the botanical gardens on pday. Just noticing how lucky we are.
We had a wonderful lesson with Miriam this week. We weren't able to go on Saturday, because it was her daughter's birthday, but we went back on Sunday and taught the plan of salvation with cute home made cut outs of our transparent spirits and bodies and the different stages of our eternal progression. It reminded me of when I was taught as a child by the missionaries using the sofa to rest their pictures on and for the first time I think I actually felt like a missionary in the way I had expected. Ines was really intrigued and stopped her homework to listen. Sister Fernandes asked some inspired questions and shared a beautiful experience about when her grandmother passed away. In the end the three of us were crying as Miriam was so happy that she could see her father again. She agreed to baptism and recognised for herself that she needs to come to church. We made some fixed plans to go with her next week and are going back during the week to help with housework, so she can read the Book of Mormon more. It was a very sweet, special moment.
In other news, Maria de Lourdes missed us because we couldn't visit when we went to Porto. We had a great lesson with her, in which she opened up a lot about her insecurities and hopefully we reassured her. We then proceeded to leave our phone at her house, not realise until it was 10:00 at night, at home and we were wondering where the sisters were. It was getting later and later and they weren't appearing and Sister Fernandes was going slightly crazy because we couldn't call them. When they finally turned up 30 minutes after final curfew it was like a scene from a movie with Sister Fernandes running up to them and hugging!
I loved this week so much. We had great realistic goals, some of which we actually achieved like 3 people coming to church! Inoki, the spanish guy, always comes and even acknowledges us on the streets now. Michel, who we had only talked on the phone with before, turned up for sacrament and luckily Elder Reed got his name, otherwise we wouldn't have known who he was and then Lina came, because I was giving a talk. We are really hopeful that the friendship we have with her now will actually translate into some powerful lessons.
Sorry to everyone who didn't meet an apostle this week, would love to hear about your adventures all the same ;)