Dia dos Namorados is the Brazilian equivalent of Valentines Day. To me valentines day is a day to remember the people you love, not to remember what you don't have but to show appreciation to all you do have. To say I love you to all the people you love, friends, family, boyfriends, girlfriends, parents, neighbors everyone that is in your heart. Here is a poem from the Ensign November 2007 it is titled “Don’t Leave for Tomorrow What You Can Do Today” and I thought it expressed the importance of the people you love.

I recently read a text which expresses the urgency of not leaving for tomorrow what you can do today. In July of this year Brazil witnessed the most devastating aircraft accident in its history. There were 199 people killed, including passengers, airline workers, crew members, and others who were at the site when the accident happened. The text I mentioned was said to have been posted on the airline communication board by the husband of one of the flight attendants who died in the accident. It is entitled “Tomorrow Never Comes” and is based upon a poem by Norma Cornett Marek.

If I knew this would be the last time I would watch you sleep,
I would hug you tighter. I would plead with the Lord to protect you.
If I knew this would be the last time I saw you walk out the door,
I would hug and kiss you and call you back to hug and kiss you one more time.
If I knew this would be the last time I would hear your voice in prayer,
I would record every gesture, every look, every smile, every one of your words,
So that I could listen to it later, day after day.
If I knew this would be the last time,
I would spend an extra minute or two to tell you, “I love you,” instead of assuming you already knew it.
If I knew this would be our last time, our last moment,
I would be by your side, spending the day with you instead of thinking,
“Well, I’m sure other opportunities will come, so I can let this day go by.”
Of course there will be a day to revise things,
And we would have a second chance to do things right.
Oh, of course there will be another day for us to say, “I love you.”
And certainly there will be another chance to tell each other, “Can I help with anything?”
But in my case, there isn’t one!
I don’t have you here with me, and today is the last day we have—our farewell.
Therefore I would like to say how much I love you,
And I hope you never forget it.
Tomorrow is not promised to anyone, young or old.
Today might be your last chance to hold tight to the hand of the one you love and show all you feel.
If you are waiting for tomorrow, why not do it today?
Because if tomorrow never comes, you certainly will regret for the rest of your life
Not having spent some extra time for a smile, a conversation, a hug, a kiss,
Because you were too busy to give that person what ended up being their last wish.
Then hug tight today the one you love, your friends, your family, and whisper in their ears how much you love them and want them close to you.
Use your time to say,
“I’m sorry,”
“Forgive me,”
“Thank you,”
Or even,
“That was nothing,”
“It’s all right,”

Because if tomorrow never comes, you will not have to regret today.
The past doesn’t come back, and the future might not come!
The man that wrote this poem woke up one morning to see his wife walking out the door for work. She was an airline attendant. He thought to get up and give her a kiss and say goodbye but was to tired and went back to sleep. She never came back. Her plane crashed and killed 199 people. I felt like I should read this in testimony meeting. It seems like families everywhere are falling apart. Everybody is getting divorced or separating and kids hate their parents and their siblings. it seemed that so many of the hardships within families could be solved if we just said i love you and decided to forgive and forget instead of hold on too our pride.

Jesus Christ is the perfect example and If we follow him and learn of his attributes like faith, virtue, knowledge, patience, temperance charity, humility and diligence that we can have a better life and a lot more happiness. Be careful with the words we say when we're are angry and take the time to listen to others. We have 2 ears and one mouth for a reason. I love you too those you love, not just on valentines day or Dia dos namorados but everyday because tomorrow might be too late.

We had another baptism! Maneol was baptized on Sunday and was sooo excited to finally be baptized. He wanted to get baptized along time ago but couldn't because he has some problem with his heart or lungs. The name is emodialious in Portuguese. He has problems with his organs and had some tubes put in his neck that if any water got in would kill him. Well last week he came up and was like hey sisters look! He showed us the the tubes and was super excited cuz they were different. We were like yeah different that is good. But he was so excited! Then he says but now i can get baptized! I went to the doctor and he put a plastic on it and he asked him if he can i get baptized now. The doctor said "Yes you can!" He was soo happy! At sacrament meeting he came and was taking to me showing me the new plastic and telling me all about how excited he was thinking about how his life was going to be different and he even bore his testimony during the meeting about the gospel of Jesus Christ.

Also this past week we were walking home from our lunch and we past a house with a bunch of Jambo fruit. I had never had any and i really wanted some so we hung out under the tree and waited for a moment to see if any would fall. I had a really good idea “Dear God, of it’s ok can you please let some jambo fall from the tree just so I have a little taste? Thank you. In the name of Jesus Christ Amen.” Then we looked up and waited like 5 seconds and then 7 jambo fell from the tree!? Sweet!? And it was just enough for a good taste :)

Something funny is we saw a blond girl the other day. She was way white but just as white or blond as any American. But Sister Dias and I just stared like we had never seen it before hahahahha AND! I’m learning to cook. I have learned to make an amazing carrot cake from scratch and chocolate frosting. Bolo de Senora com cuberito de Chocolate yum! I’ll make it when I get home and also I think next week I’m gonna learn to make black beans :)

It was so weird the first time i was waking down the sand road with donkeys around me and I hear backstreet boys or some other American band, hahha. I’m in Brazil but I’m hearing English. Some members try to get me to translate for them. People here really like the States and a lot of them want to go to the United States. A few of the Girls in the ward or young men want to serve missions to and want to go to the US. A lot want to go to Utah because that is where a majority of the missionaries are from. Also some cute little girls that live on our street like 5 years old cam up and told us this week that they were playing pretend sister missionaries. That was pretty cool :) A woman in the ward had us over to her house the other day for lunch and she found out I was from Texas, The Country of Texas to be exact. Somebody took the liberty of teaching her that Texas is its own country :) He taught her well!

Graziete a super cool lady in the ward. Well we have been helping her paint and are trying to teach other members in her family go to church too. She has a daughter who was I Spain on a scholarship for the sport handball. I haven’t ever seen handball but its pretty popular around here. Anyway she came home to visit for a month and we got to meet her. She is way cool and wants us to teach her boyfriend. She is also like 6 feet 2 and is going to Japan for the OLYMPICS. She’s going to train in Sao Paulo for a bit and then head to Japan. I think it’s the Junior Olympics but it’s pretty sweet. Graziete was sooooo happy! We had scheduled to help paint the walls and then eat lunch. We had churrasco;. kind of like bbq and this stew with beans and a bunch of random cow parts. I just had the beans. BUT THEN Marcia asked if I had ever had TRIPA! NOOOOOOOOOOOOoo and then appeared this crusty white snake looking thing on the bbq plate. She cut off a peace and gave it to me!!!!!!!!!!! It was SMALL INTESTINE OF A COW!!!!!!!!!! She said Eat it! NO! Eat it No! Here! I took it in my hand and screamed!!!!!! ahhh it was sooo gross!! Eat it! Ahhh AND THEN I ATE IT!!!!!!!!!!!! It was terrible!!!!!!!!!!!!!! It tasted like deep fried salt! ugh soooo gross. She said next time I’m gonna have bishu (aka cow stomach and tongue!) Holy moly.

Baptism is so special. It is done by being completely immersed in the water and symbolizes being cleansed of sin. If you have a dirty shirt you don’t just wash the sleeves and the collar and call it good. You have to wash the whole thing. That is why you are baptize you must completely go under the water. It also symbolizes the death of sin and new life when you come out of the water that your sins have been washed away and you are clean again.

We are excited for Jonathan’s baptism next week. Also Joanna and Mario. Joana had a heart attack last week and was in the hospital for almost the whole week. She got out a couple days ago and is feeling a little better. She came to church yesterday and said that she is going to church whether Mario wants to or not, cuz she wants too. She is determined and is still very excited for baptism.

I love being a missionary and it’s something special when you put your heart into something. You are happy when the people you love and teach make progress and choose to follow the Lord, but when they turn away it defiantly hurts too. I know that this is where I’m supposed to be and I don’t regret being here right now instead of at home. I love the people and I love the gospel I know that Jesus Christ is the only way that we can come back to live with our father in heaven. I am so thankful for the Book of Mormon, the Bible, all the prophets and their righteousness.

Oh man I have to tell you about the bus ride home from Joao Pessoa. So we left a 1:30 and got the next station at 5. We waited for the next bus to our house and all the buses were SUPER full. We waited for an hour, but we had to hurry cuz we had an appointment at 7 for family home evening with Neide. So we took the next available bus. FULL. We were smushed in there and were at the door barley in but the door was able to close so we drove off. But dude. There were people squashed against the windows hanging out the windows and everything! I was complexly stuck between this huge guy and this other woman behind me; I mean totally. There is no personal bubble with anybody. hahah seriously you breath out and the person next to you breathes in. I was hanging on the bar above my head for a while, but then my arm started to get tired. There was a girl next to me talking on a cell phone so I just rested my arm on her other shoulder hahhahah she didn’t even notice with all that was going on. we were standing up for 2 hours and we had a couple bags and a small suit case. Some people were really nice and held our stuff for us and then more people came on the bus. It got the point I was practically sitting on the woman’s lap. Oh man, the buses in brasil haha.

I started thinking of all the prophets, Abinadi, Ammon, Amoron, and and how they were missionaries.. I was thinking, ya know, if the church is true then prophets in the book of Mormon are real because they had the power of God. God called them to teach the Gospel. They had the power and authority to accomplish all that God had commanded them too. And if the gospel is true and I am a missionary called of God then I have the same power and authority to accomplish all that God has commanded me too as well. They were missionaries that blessed and taught many people, and they had toooonnnnnsss of faith never doubting. They also gave everything. I remember the scripture 1 Nephi 3:7 The Lord won’t give his children a commandment unless there is a way to accomplish it. Well the best way is the Lords way! Keeping the commandments is a great start. In Alma chapter 8 he teaches so many people and many are baptized; then he goes to the next city and the people reject him and kick him out of the city. Alma is sad and goes on the next city, but when he prays to God, God says. Lift up your head and rejoice! Because you have kept the commandments! And then he commands him to go back. And so he does :)

So 2 weeks ago we had Pday for the sisters! All the sisters in the mission, 14 at that time.  All got together in Joao Pessoa and went fishing! It was sooo fun and Sister Dias caught a five pounder. I caught nothing! I would sit there with my sweet bamboo pole and we put some fruit thing on the hook and cast it into the water. Then those freaky fish would swim up steal the food and get away! Without me even realizing it! Then I almost caught one and I was fighting with it but it got away... with the fruit too. Darn fish. It was really cool though to fish in the amazon and then we ate them afterwords. We hiked up the hill it was gorgeous. The next day we had to take the bus home. We started our journey at 1:30. We basically had the whole bus to ourselves. 5 people I think. So sis Dias and I each got our own bench and took a nice nap. I woke up about halfway through and looked out the window it was beautiful. You could see so far and it was so green and tropical. Amazon and fields with the sun setting. I reminded me of the movie the Testaments when Jesus Christ comes to visit the Americas. During the movie the prophet Amoron is preaching by the waters of Mormon and they are in the forest. That is what it reminded me of.

A lot has happened the past few weeks. First thing is we had another baptism! Wiliane is her name and she was golden! I meet her 3 weeks ago and she was sooo excited to meet with us. She found out that we were teaching English classes and wanted to learn. Well we showed up to her house to teach her a little more :) She has been researching religions all her life and was soo thrilled to learn about The Church of Jesus Christ of latter Day saints. We taught her about the Book of Mormon and that she could read it and pray to God and ask him if it was true. So she did! She got her answer and was thrilled when we asked her to be baptized. She loves the scriptures and is reading the book of Mormon in Portuguese and in English too as well as Gospel principle manual. She can’t get enough of it! Last Sunday she was confirmed in church with the gift of the Holy Ghost and it was so neat she is so happy to be a member of the church.
The day before her baptism was really neat too, we were walking from her house to the church and she was continuing asking questions, she doesn’t know everything about the gospel, but she got an answer from God so she was going to do what he wanted. I think of Abraham, when God asked him to sacrifice Jacob, he didn’t know why and it didn’t even make sense, but he obeyed and had so much faith. Wiliane hadn’t even seen a picture of the prophet Thomas S. Monson, but she had a testimony that he is real prophet. That night after the interview we had to fill the baptismal font by hand with buckets cuz the piping wasn’t working. What a work out! I can’t imagine all the people that have to get their water from a well! It took about an hour and a half to fill it half way but it was so worth it the next day seeing the smile on wilianes face and the joy she had.

They have soccer fields everywhere, and we are working so I cant play! :( We were in front of Caroles house and, no joke, the ball comes sailing to me. i think it was a blessing :) I kicked it back and dang it felt so good to just touch it even for a moment. It is the raining season now and so we are learning we have to bring our umbrella quite often. We got caught in the rain twice in the past week (after we had straightened our hair... sad) but we did have some fun out there but its pretty hot so it feels good.  Had to use the bathroom by candlelight once this week. Went to "the Centro" for shopping and was fun but the bus ride back I didn't feel so good. Luckily we got back before I felt to sick. We did get to see the beach on the way though. AND sooooo gorgeous!!!!!!! There is nothing like it!  We drove over a huger bridge overlooking the ocean and the city it was so pretty.

[ see pictures of Natal at the bottom of this post ]

We walk a ton, I have no idea how much - at the very least 10 miles a day.  I eat a ton.  I think I get served cake or "bolo" like 2 to 3 times a day, but I'm still a good 57 kilos (125lbs) and staying healthy.

Being a missionary is awesome and so fulfilling too.  I did learn something pretty cool this week in Moroni 7:46 it talks about Charity being the pure love of Christ and how Charity "never fails" . The next verse says that whoso possesses this at the last day "it shall be well with him". I read this scripture for a spiritual message to a member after they had served us lunch and I guess being a missionary I understood it different. If it want to be a successful missionary I need to have the pure love of Christ, Charity first, before everything else. Better than knowing all the lessons, scriptures by heart and speaking the language. Charity is the base and everything else should be built upon it, not just for missionaries but for everyone in all the things we do. Because it never fails! How sweet is that!? In the Portuguese scriptures it says tudo estara bem :) for some reason it has a little different meaning in the Portuguese language. It hits more home. Maybe because people use tudo bem every time they greet you.  It means "all is well".

Sister Richardson

The city of Natal Brazil. Almost same population as Austin, Texas.
Laurens first area is on the far north of the city - on the far side of this picture.
(see map on blog to see the area of the city she's working in or click here to see a green pinpoint of her area on google maps)

Panorama of the most famous beach in Natal and some say all of Brazil. This is probably the one Lauren was talking about.

These are solid sand - not dirt hills with sand on top. Much of Natal is sitting on solid sand dunes. All the beaches are banked by sand dunes like these.

More of the Natal Beaches. "Morro do Careca" (bald hill) - the dune in the distance that looks like a slide... well it was A SLIDE!  A 360 foot SAND slide. People used to slide down it on "skibundas". But naturalists were successful at getting is closed in the late 90's. No more sliding or even walking up there anymore.

The Navarro Bridge in Natal. The biggest suspension bridge in all of Brazil. Two years old, one mile long. Lauren talks about this in her letter. Newton Navarro was a famous artist from Natal. No wonder Lauren likes this bridge so much. They're going to build a round suspending restaurant below the center of the bridge.
(Click here for a cool 360 view)

Natal at sunset.

Lauren's address is now on the blog.  Please write her!

First baptism!! Gabriele got baptized this Sunday!! Her mom was baptized a few weeks ago. Gabi is 10 years old and was catholic. Her dad is catholic and mom just got baptized. We have been teaching her for a couple weeks and on Monday we were teaching her the 10 commandments. She stopped us in the middle of the lesson and asked how many lessons till she can get baptized. Then she said "I want to get baptized!" It was such a neat experience because her dad is catholic and mom a member of our church only 3 weeks now. But the mom, Neide wanted Gabbi to choose for herself. For a while she was attending both churches with her mom and the catholic church with uncles aunts friends and dad. It was a big decision in her life but she read the Book of Mormon and prayed about it too. She read the marked passages twice and was so happy to be baptized! But man! it was an hour till the baptism everything was ready only when we went to fill the font, no water!! and no baptismal clothes! Finally we got a hold of the other church building nearby and practically the whole ward, in 3 cars, drove over there. We had 9 of us in a golf; 8 and a baby, but you could count adrenalin for 2 so really 10 people!! haha The service was beautiful. I got lots of pics and they are being sent next week.

Well this week I got stung by a bee! My first time! didn't even know till another sister pointed it out and sister Dias had to pull out the stinger. Tudo bem tudo bem. Had my first sugar cane out in front of Caroles house it was pretty sweet.

We now have Lauren's address. Please write to her!
This address is for BOTH letters and packages:

Sister Lauren Richardson
Missao Brasil / Joao Pessoa
Rua Dep. Jose Mariz, 515
Tambauzinho – CEP 58042-020
Joao Pessoa - Paraibe

Mail in Brazil is fairly fast if you send it priority mail.  Lauren says "don't send FEDEX, DHL, UPS, etc, (I will have to pay sometimes 100s of dollars to get it out of customs.) The best way to send it is priority mail or international. You can get the envelope at us post office. You have to disguise things if its of value."

Anderson Ferreira, one of Laurens instructors in Sao Paulo sent some pictures to us of Lauren with her district and while she was making contacts in downtown Sao Paulo on 3/29/2010. (To see more pictures visit her blog.)

Lauren with her district in Sao Paulo.

Another with her District.

She's surrounded

Talking with a lady in downtown.

Lauren's now in Natal Brazil!
"I am super excited! My companion is Sister Dias she is here from Sao Paulo and it's been a good week!"

Sister Dias and Sister Richardson

The green pin is POTENGI (her neighborhood area) in the city of Natal Brazil.

View Lauren's Mission in a larger map

Click Here to see Google Map.

Here's how she got there...

"I made it! Wahoo! SO great to be here! I left the CTM (in Sao Paulo) yesterday morning (3/31/10) at 5:30 accidentally waking up at 5:20 am! Ahh! but at least I didn't get left behind :) Well I arrived yesterday afternoon with 5 elders and was picked up by the mission president and his wife! Very nice and it was great to get a hug! We had grilled cheese sandwiches and man they were sooooo good. Seriously. especially after cafeteria food for 2 months. We talked about health and the mission rules and got to know the president. He and his wife seem awesome! also we had dinner at their house and geez it was soo good and weird to NOT eat in a cafeteria. haha. They said we should take pictures of where we would live and our house and room so I'm excited to take pictures and send them."

"I also still don't have a companion! tudo bem! I spent the night at the presidents house not in a bunk but in a queen bed and room all to myself. But I will meet my companion in about an hour! Her name is Sister Dias and everybody says she is really cool. Very fun so I'm really excited. Right now (4/1/10) I'm at the bus station waiting for my her to arrive. So far I've walked to the bus station and that's it. So sorry no exciting stories yet, but I'm sure I will have plenty by next week."

"Last week, the elders and I walked over to the post office to mail some stuff. On the way I saw sister Hallman and about 8 other missionaries all huddled around this man trying to understand him. I walked up and we were trying to understand him, but it was a little difficult because he had no teeth. He was asking about the promise that the Prophet Moroni gives in the last book of the Book of Mormon in chapter 10 verses 3-5. I tried to explain but he wasn't satisfied with the answer. Finally we had to continue on and but before he left he asked for a prayer and choose sister Hallman to pray. She did and prayed for him by name. It was so neat because after she was done Something she said touched his heart and he knew and felt it was true He said that He knew God had sent us to him that day and he knew the Book of Mormon was true. I asked him if he wanted to be baptized and he said yes! Because we can't be there to teach him he will meet with the the Elders in that area."

I'm very excited for Easter. This week is so special to remember the death and resurrection of our Savior Jesus Christ. He blessed so much by giving us the opportunity to repent from our sins and be clean and be like Him. He is the only way that we can return to our Father in Heaven and Jesus Christ has suffered all things. He has been lower than any of us and because of that He can always lift us up if we let Him. I hope that we can remember what He did and make a new effort to be more like Him. Maybe better in our prayers and talk with God more sincerely or being slow to anger and quick to forgive. Finding things to be thankful for whenever things are tough.

Sister Richardson

Click here to see more pictures, maps and info on Lauren's Mission Blog.

Lauren sent pictures! Click here to see her pictures. Click on any picture to see larger size. Here's what she sent:
  • Her first sister companion - Sister Dias
  • Her apartment and with kitchen
  • MTC and CTM pictures
  • All the sisters in the CTM together

Lauren leaves the MTC in Sao Paulo today flying on TAM Brazilian airlines. She should arrive around 11:00 am today in Joao Pessoa. We are all so excited!

Here's s some of her last letter from Sao Paulo... (she wrote this last week)

"I leave to Joao Pessoa Tuesday! SOOOOOOOOO Excited! So today we went to the Temple again in Sao Paulo and it is gorgeous! I get a little car sick every time cuz it~s pretty bumpy ride but i tried to stay awake so I could remember.

The city is NUTS! Motorcycles dodge in and out around and right next to huge buses going full speed. The freeways are bigger and way more crazy than LA there is even a canal in between the 2 directions of traffic. Today there was a boat in the canal and it made me think of wake boarding :) there is tons of graffiti everywhere only its actually artwork and not just words its pretty cool and it is everywhere. There is an eternal skyline too. Buildings everywhere you look even after driving for an hour. They are super tall and then there are just tons of small rundown buildings in between. With jungle right in the middle . Really like new york meets the amazon literally.. There are tons of cars too. small though and they spell them different. A Golf car is a Gol and there are lexus. The bus that takes us to the Temple is a lexus like charter bus, even the GARBAGE TRUCK is a lexus!!! they are everywhere.

People walk all the time and in the middle of the freeway there is so much traffic people sell stuff in the median or even the double yellow lines. I saw a guy selling whistles on my first day. But even when there is still tons of fast pace traffic like today a man was jogging down the highway! They also sell brooms on like every corner... I don't know why .

SO! Ive been singing in the CTM choir! I know crazy but I'm getting better! really i couldn't believe it but somebody actually said that i sing nice! so that is cool. Also I bought a hymns made easy book so I´m practicing the piano for the people in Joao Pessoa so I can play in church. Last Sunday I also conducted all they hymns for sacrament meeting and Also I'm the only sister in the branch. Its funny when they address the congregation it is "Elders and Sister Richardson" hahha

Also this past Sunday I hung out with Sister Clark! She is the mission presidents wife and is SOOOO cool! she took me to her suite (which is off limits!) and gave me chocolate, nuts and guarana we talked about our families and just had a good time. There are so many perks to being a sister.

Anyway so This week was the best week because we got to go out and teach!! We left, yes my district(Elder Neville, Quigly Zhino and Zao, Ammodt, Brohl and FIrkins) left the CTM and took a bus to down town and taught people. There was a huge teachers protest going on at the same time it was crazy. Elder Firkins and Brohl were my comps and we got to teach the 1st lesson twice!

(This is an example of what missionaries teach in the first lesson)

And I gave out 2 copies of the Book of Mormon. We taught a girl names Claire and I also taught a man Roberto, and a woman Named Simone. I really liked Simone. We had 2 hours to teach and towards the end of the time I saw here waiting for the bus and so I ran up and just introduced my self. She was super nice and I talked to her about The Bible and prophets then and the prophets in the Americas at the same time that wrote the book of Mormon. We read together from Alma 7 and How much Jesus Christ loves us and how he know each of us individual and knows our pains. He knows her as Simone and her husband and all her trials and happiness too. It was so amazing. I had her read Prophet Moroni's promise if she reads the book and asks God with a sincere heart and desire with Faith she will get an answer from the Holy Ghost. She said she believed it and that she would read and ask that night!! It was so cool to see her listening and smile and want to learn more! I gave her the book and I pray she did read and ask, when I walked a way she was reading it. Also My teacher got pictures of me teaching her so he´ll send those this week.

Thanks soooo much for the blog daddy! I wish I could see it but i don't have time to read it. But i really thank you for all the effort you put in it and I'm sending pics ASAP! Well we get an hour of gym time everyday and the elders and I have a sweet work out we are doing. Called 5 fifties. Geez the first day i had to do 50 pull ups! I did 3 alone and they helped me with the rest :) and then we take 5 laps, 50 dips, 5 more laps sit-ups, and plank. We were so sore! We do that everyday just doing diff things I'm working out my core and legs most. but it's pretty fun to do it all together and we also play Vball! I have 2 new brasilian comps! Sister Ogden got new comps. they are sweet girls and I help with English they help with Portuguese. The food is good. Totally getting used to rice and beans everyday. I like it better than Provo i think because there are less preservatives in the food and lots of it too.

I~m so excited to get out there and teach people! Thursday was an amazing experience and Tomorrow there is a woman who is coming to the CTM and wants to learn more. One of the teachers and I are going to teach her about the gospel and so this is my first lesson! (unless you count the one in downtown) I am very happy and I love you! Thanks for supporting me! I know you don't have to and thanks for writing me and being so happy with me serving as a missionary. I know that this is what God wants me to be doing right now and there is no other place I would rather be. I do miss y'all but I'm helping other people find happiness and just the thought gives me so much as well. I love you! XOXO! Sister Richardson

We received some pictures from Lauren this past week. The first two are from the MTC in Provo. The last one is from Brazil. Hopefully she will get more to us before she leaves for João Pessoa in 10 days.

This first one is of her in an MTC room with Hermana Hatch. She's not her companion; Lauren knows her from when she was in college at BYU Idaho.

This is the first time we all see her with her name tag on! We believe she is with two elders from her district out in front of the Provo temple. There's a little white sticker on her name tag that says 'solo' since she doesn't have a sister companion. (these two elders look like brothers)

We believe this is from a window from the CTM in Sao Paulo. It might be from Lauren's window but we're not sure.

She is scheduled to leave the MTC in Sao Paulo on March 31st and fly to João Pessoa. So this address is only good till then. PLEASE write to Lauren.

How to write to Lauren:

Here's the deal... if you write her a letter and drop it in the regular mail it will take 2-3 weeks to get to her. Not good... BUT, if you use a service like MissionTies.com she can have it in 2-3 days! It costs a little more than just mailing it. You write your letter to her online, then they print it off in Sao Paulo and deliver it to her. You can send her care packages too - but only through something like MissionTies.com.

Sister Lauren Richardson
Brazil João Pessoa Mission
District (05A) Box (17)
Brasil CTM
Rua Padre Antônio D’Angelo, 121
Casa Verde, São Paulo, SP
Brazil 02516-040

PRESIDENT'S NOTE: The MTC president says "WE STRONGLY ENCOURAGE SENDING HAND WRITTEN LETTERS. DO NOT SEND ANYTHING BY FEDEX, DHL, UPS, or other private carriers. DO NOT SEND PACKAGES to the Brazil Missionary Training Center. All packages must be sent directly to the mission where your missionary will be serving not the MTC. If you have already mailed a package to the Brazil MTC and it arrives after your missionary has left for the field, please understand that the package can not be forwarded to his or her mission and will be returned to you. The only other option is for me to open the package and forward the letters and photographs, giving the rest of the contents of the package to the missionaries that are here."

Here are some comments from Lauren's first letter from the Missionary Training Center in Brazil... sorry, she hasn't sent any pictures yet.

Brasil is amazing! I am not hungry don't worry and the food is so good. Much better than Provo, I think because the food is more natural - not so many preservatives. Beans, rice, juice. The temperature is hot and humid! I love it all! Even the first night we slept with the window open just the screen and we hear the music down the street. I don't have a companion still! haha I am with the same elders from Provo and there were no sisters that arrived at the same time so every person is still the same. I live with a girl who it is her first week. Her name is sister Ogden and she is from New Hampshire. Super nice and very fun. Also the language is getting much better!! I understand so much more now that I am getting to speak with the natives all day. Today we went around the town for preparation day and got to just say hi to people it was nice., Also we went to the sao paulo temple! So beautiful! It was so nice and part of it was Portuguese soooo cool! Also it was sooooo nice to talk with everyone! So nice to hear your voices! I miss you all! I am working hard though and I am so happy that I have this opportunity to be a missionary. Brasilian people are so great and kind too. This place reminds me of what it was like in Colombia only the there is not as much music around well at least so far.

Also the flight was soooo long! 13 hours total! wow but well much better than trying to get here any other way and i sat next to a really nice girl that had served a mission in Argentina 8 years ago. there were about 25 missionaries with us. Well after we got off the plane we went through customs and seriously less than 2 minutes after i gave this brasilian man a card with the picture of the salt lake city temple on it and a phone number on back. Sweet right!? he was super nice and did software design for drawing things. Well i said chao! and he smiled leaned forward and gave me a little besito on the cheek and I forgot we couldn't do that cuz I gave him one too. whooops! I forgot! To me it is as natural as a handshake but i didn't mean too, but it was so funny that I did that not even being in the country 5 minutes - oh man. but i have been doing much better :) don't worry. anyways so I was trying to send pictures but it doesn't work in this computer with my memory stick. But we can't bring our cameras out of the ctm because i think they are worried they might get stolen, but I will try to send them ASAP I am taking lots. Being a missionary is so cool and I love it. the MTC here is soooo different than Provo. This one is sooo much more relaxed. In Provo i had to have a sister or 2 elder companions but here they let me go by my self and i can do whatever i want. its pretty sweet. and there are only about 150 missionaries here. Yesterday there were 21 sisters and as of today there are maybe 9 or 10 of us. We get treated so good as sister missionaries. everyone is extra kind to us and carries our suitcases and we can cut in line and basically just completely spoiled. it is awesome.

Lauren is in the air right now and on her way to Sao Paulo!
Click here to can see where her plane is right now.

It's an all-niter. She's with about 23 Elders and 3 other Sisters. Lucky!
  • She left Dallas at 8:00 pm tonight (Texas time).
  • Arrives in Sao Paulo at 5:36 am our time, 8:36 Sao Paulo time.
  • Flys over New Orleans
  • Over Miami
  • Over eastern Cuba
  • Over Venezuela
  • Over the entire Amazon
At Sao Paulo the sun comes up at 3:04 am (our time) so she miss it for sure - she'll be so asleep. She's pretty nervous but will be excited once the plane lands.

Lauren's visa came!

Lauren called Adriana from the MTC today to let us know her visa came through. She is flying out of Salt Lake Thursday morning headed to São Paulo. She's so excited! We all are too.

She had the blessing to experience the MTC in Provo for 5 weeks and now she'll probably have 4 weeks in the MTC in São Paulo before flying off to her mission in João Pessoa. São Paulo is actually 1,700 miles SOUTH of her mission. (the same distance from the south tip of Texas to the Canadian border!) That's 5,025 miles from Round Rock.

There just over 200 missionaries in the MTC in São Paulo now compared to the 2000+ in the Provo MTC. As of Feb. 14, there were 132 Brazilians and 75 North Americans training there. The Brazilians stay for a few weeks and the Americans for 13 weeks. Lauren will probably be there 4 weeks since she completed 5 in the Provo MTC.

It's very different in the MTC in São Paulo. The metro area has a population of 22 million! That's a little less than all of Texas. She will spend almost all her time inside the MTC though. The drinks in the center's cafeteria have different names: the national Brazilian soft drink Guarana (both regular and no-sugar), agua com gas (water that's carbonated) and such juices as passion fruit and mango. They do have pizza though - on Wednesday nights.

No snow - as a matter of fact it has a lush center courtyard full of trees and tropical vegetation all year long. It has basketball and volleyball courts and a gym with a small track.

They also go to the São Paulo Temple - a little more than 10 miles from the center - almost every week.

I have changed Lauren's address on the blog for you to see. If you sent a letter to her by mail in the last few days, it may get forwarded to her - not sure. If you send her a dearelder.com tonight or before noon tomorrow (Wednesday) then she will get it before she leaves for Brasil.

Keep her in your prayers - now the adventure really begins!

Here's most of the most recent letter we received from Lauren...

"I love being at the MTC! I'm getting used to waking up at 6:30 and the days are still super long, but they are so worth it. I learning and realizing more and more how important it is that I work hard and I love it! My mission isn't about me and how well I do but about the people in Brasil. The language is getting better and I'm reading the scriptures out loud in Portuguese everyday still have a little Spanish accent but no worries it'll come :)

So for a couple days I was the only sister in the whole branch! But I just had to look after myself so it wasn't too bad. haha. But we got 2 new sisters! They are very nice and now I have somebody to share the room with. One is from Nauvoo Illinois the other from Utah.

We went to the Temple today and it was great! Had a great experience and I got to go with the Elders in my district this time so it was nice.

I sang in the Choir! It was really cool and we sounded great. Not to brag, but well it's true ;) and it was pretty fun as well.

I went to the RC (referral Center) twice this week and called people back that have called into the church to learn more or receive a free video. It was kind of scary but I did talk to one man and he wanted another movie called together forever. He was really nice, but the only person after 45 min of calls. Maybe it will be better this week.

My companions Elder Quigley and Elder Nielson and I also did a practice lesson this week on Heavenly Father's Plan of Salvation. It went really well! I've been out with the missionaries a few times and the practice was pretty much real. We are learning a ton and study the scriptures a lot so we were doing better and explaining things through the Bible and the Book of Mormon. As well as teaching what we know to be true. It is going to be so great when we get to help the people in Brasil.

Our district leader got his visa today! He leaves next Thursday and like 30 other missionaries too. One of my friends, elder Rodriguez, was here 13 weeks and had to get temporarily assigned to Billings Montana. He was super bummed but I hope he finds out why he went there soon.

Gym time is awesome! We all play volleyball or run but since people are leaving for visa we get more space.... YES!!! haha The Elders tease me cuz I talk to everyone. :) Yup that’s what I do and I love it. It's so great cuz you can just smile and say hi to everyone and learn all about them. I learned Chinese in the bathroom yesterday brushing my teeth. haha. I can say "hi" "how are you" I love you" and I’m doing good " Pretty sweet. I decided I'm going to learn mandarin Chinese when I get back.

We also did a language fast a couple times this week. That means NO ENGLISH. Just attempts at Portuguese and your face in the dictionary! We are getting better and I think the more we talk the faster we learn.

Everyday I'm studying about the Atonement of Jesus Christ and how much He did for us. I am just astounded at the fact that He could and would do that for all the people and all of our sins that we would ever commit. And He suffered at the same time. He knows what it's like to lose a family member, to be betrayed, to feel discouraged and left out. He felt everything and He was perfect and He loved us soooooo much. It's a pretty big responsibility to wear his name on my tag everyday and do my best to represent Him. I love Him so much I want to try my hardest. I know that He loves each of us and can heal us if we go to Him. He's waiting with arms wide open we just have to turn and look.

This is the best work ever and I know it will get harder but only means that the victory will be that much sweeter. I love you and pray for you!"

Looks like Lauren might be getting closer to going to Brasil. We dont know for sure but this article appeared today "Brazilian MTC is filling up with missionaries again". Read to see what it's like for a missionary in the MTC in Sao Paulo.

We received the first letter from Lauren! She is having a great time in the MTC. She says she is a "solo" sister meaning that she does not have her own sister companion - instead she has two Elders as companions! There are no other sisters going to Brasil from her group. She spends all day with 10 Elders in class, lunch and gym. At night she rooms with 3 sisters going to different missions. She says "All of the elders in my district are awesome there are 11 of us altogether. Every time I walk in the room they all stand up for respect and take my trays at lunch! Ahha they treat me like a queen and pretty much do anything I say haha but don't worry I don't have too much fun with that haha. Also I have 3 other girls that I live with Sister Marshall, Davis and Harper."

She also says "I am learning Portuguese! It is easy to understand and i comprehend about 90% but still have to work on the pronunciation. But it is good because I help out the elders and they help me with my grammar which I'm not so good at.."

About her schedule she says; "Well I have a crazy schedule! I get up at 6 or 6:30 am everyday and then have breakfast for about 30 or 45 min at like 7:30 or something. We also study for an hour on our own in the scriptures anything personal. Then we have companion study for an hour and we share with comps what we learned and work on other things together. Then we have language study for an hour. Then another hour of study time for whatever we need and then lunch at 1pm. Then class at 2 till 6 and a teacher teaches us language and some scriptural or lesson planning. Then dinner at 6. Then at 7 till 9 class and then planning till 9:30. Then we have to be in bed by 10:30. I think that is like 9 hours studying. I am actually able to concentrate! Miracle! But we have tons of fun too. "

She is still waiting for her visa; "There are about 200 missionaries waiting on visas for brasil! And they are starting to trickle in! So it could be any day now that I fly or it could be weeks some missionaries have been waiting 13 weeks... " When she does get her visa she will probably fly out the next morning, leaving the MTC by 5am! We'll let all of you know as soon as we know - which might not be till she lands in Brasil - but that could be months. [Brazilians spell it with an s]

We haven't heard from Lauren yet. Her preparation day ("P-Day") must have been at the end of the week. Missionaries are only allowed to write letters one day a week. We figure we'll get her first letter any day now. Since there's nothing to tell you about her first week I'll just call this week #0. Below are some pictures of Lauren's first time through the temple. These were taken on January 8th. We got there late in the day so it was getting dark by the time we took these.

This is a photo she didn't want to use for her mission picture - but now that she's not in control of this blog I'll take the liberty of showing it to you.

All cold and bundled up in front of the San Antonio Temple. If you want to see real nice pictures of this temple click here.

Lauren with Mom and Dad. The reason we build temples is right here in this photo. Know why mormons build temples? Everything we do in the temple is centered around Jesus Christ. It is a house of learning and anyone is welcome who prepares well.

Her last Sunday before leaving Lauren gave a wonderful and very heartfelt talk in church. If you were not able to make it you can click here to listen to her talk (MP3 file). You can listen on your PC or download it. The bishop introduces her and then she starts talking after a few moments. I did my best to get rid of the background noise but couldn't do much so you'll have to crank up your speakers a little.

We took her to the airport in Austin early Wednesday morning. It was exciting but hard for all of us at the same time. We won't see her for 18 months and only talk to her a couple times a year. We're looking forward to her letters! You can write to her by mail using the address below or by using DearElder.com a service that prints your letter and delivers it the next day.

Lauren's address while at the MTC:

Sister Lauren Richardson
MTC Mailbox # 173
BRA-JP 0330
2005 N 900 E
Provo, UT 84604-1793

*include all the lines in the address. BRA-JP 0330 is a code to forward it to her in Brazil if she leaves the MTC before your letter arrives.

She’s counting the days! Tomorrow, Jan 24th Lauren will be giving her farewell talk. Please come and show your support if you are able. I’m sure she will share a very powerful testimony – something you won’t want to miss.

9:00 AM Sunday 1/24/2010

The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints
Round Rock Stake Center
8140 Racine Trail
Austin, TX 78717

(Arrive early or you may end up sitting way in the back)

We want to thank all those who came to Lauren's open house last night. We think 80-100 of you came! She hopes you all had a good time. She tried to talk to all of you but realized by the end that she missed some of you. Thank you for bringing so much food - much more than we expected.

She really appreciates all the cards and gifts too. She opened them after everyone had left and was so excited to see what you gave her and all the kind words you wrote to her. 

If you want to call and talk to Lauren before she goes, but you don’t have her cell number, you can contact her parents or leave a comment at the bottom of this posting and we’ll let Lauren know you want to talk to her.

Lauren's visa has not arrived yet so she is being sent to the Missionary Training Center in Provo Utah instead of going directly to the MTC in Sao Paulo. As soon as her visa comes through she will fly to Sao Paulo or directly to her mission in Joao Pessoa.

Address from 1/27/2010 till my visa is approved:

Sister Lauren Richardson
2005 North 900 East
Provo, Utah 84604
Learn all about the MTC