Whoa! We had A FIRST last night! We went to Ilda and José's house as scheduled for a visit and our weekly Book of Mormon lesson. We had brought dinner for them, since José has been sick. But Ilda was already preparing a large dinner for a crowd (?). I thought, "Have we been set up?" An evangelist missionary (Ilda's friend) was there with her accordion, commanding the floor, giving no one time to get in a word edgewise. With shoulder-length, stringy blonde hair, mis-matched clothing and worn shoes, she preaches and sings on the streets, asking nothing in return but a meal and a place to stay. She ranted at her highest monotone volume, fastest-pace possible, interspersing with moments of whispered, tearful reflection. She incessantly pointed heavenward and at each one of us in turn, as if condemning, threatening, warning, making her point--whatever it was--strongly, loudly, forcefully. She then sang and played her accordion in like manner--so loud, so forceful, trying to get us to join in with singing and clapping. Wow. There are many evangelist churches here and we recognize their manner of preaching. But I've never before been sequestered in a small room for 2 hours with one of their missionaries. Ilda has been a member of evangelist churches for years, and is now--as a new member of the LDS Church--trying to adjust to the more calm, reverent and personal worship behaviors of LDS Church members. She joined in on the singing and clapping of familiar songs, but was a bit nervous and holding back for our sakes...We smiled respectfully, acted like we were enjoying it, but didn't dare laugh. I was afraid that it would turn into a Bible Bashing, as evangelica spouted some strange doctrines as if in a challenge. Thankfully, every few minutes, Dennis quietly interjected something like, "Yes, that is true" or "We believe a little differently." That was all he was allowed to get in before the stage was usurped again. As she kept asking me questions with her fiery eyes and pointy finger in my face, I said in my calm, slow, broken Portuguese, "If you want me to understand, you must speak very slowly and quietly to me." She shook her head and answered, "I don't talk slow or quiet"---then quickly turned her attention to someone else, taking all of 2-3 seconds to resume her former ranting speed and volume. THEN! Ilda's non-member daughter-in-law entered with her friend (cousin?) to be a part of the "fun." She said, "We want to hear some things that Elder and Sister Thomas believe." The blonde ranter was visibly agitated, but respectfully fell silent. Dennis had the floor. I prayed silently for him to say the right things in the right manner. With amazingly-stark contrast, he quietly, lovingly gave the first discussion (Christ's organization of his church on Earth, Apostacy, Joseph Smith and the First Vision, Restoration of the Lord's Church). It was BEAUTIFUL. He did so well. They listened quietly and were clearly intrigued. That was all the Evangelica could take. She got up and left the room for about 10 minutes. While she was gone, the daughter-in-law and her friend started asking questions about the body and spirit, death and resurrection, pre-earth life, and the why's of the Word of Wisdom, etc., etc. Dennis was a PRO. They loved it, and I loved him for doing so well against the background so dramatically set for him earlier. The questions and comments were being fired so rapidly that the high noise level soon returned. When there was an opening, I slowly said--and was listened to, "Each of your questions can be answered..."...in came the evangelica, taking over again, cutting me off, standing directly between me and those I was talking to, going on an on. Dinner was ready. We sat with the street preacher, as she scooped up the food, talked non-stop about her former horrible husband, his welcome death, her certainty that God will send her a good husband, her free lifestyle, not having any of the concerns like needs for food and money and clothing . . . and her inner need to teach people about Jesus Christ. Dennis quietly agreed with much of what she said. Meanwhile, Ilda was talking to her daughter-in-law and friend, consoling, encouraging. I hoped, but wasn't sure, all was well. THEN! We were asked to meet with the two young women the next evening in Ilda and José's home at 7:30 for a lesson. I was finally able to finish what I started to say earlier: "Each of your questions can be answered in a short lesson that we can teach you." It was time for us to leave; handshakes, embraces and cheek kisses, "Tchau-tchau's," and "Boa noite's (Good night's)." And we left.
Follow-up: The next evening, we arrived on time, ready to teach the two in a quiet, slow, loving manner. The daughter-in-law's cousin (most interested in what we had to say) couldn't come because her baby was sick. We stayed for an hour chatting easily, building comfort and friendships, then excused ourselves and went home. There has been no further request to meet with us; we feel it is best to wait. It is amazing to watch how the lord sets the stage for his Spirit to enter.
Update as of Wed. Feb. 25: We has just finished our weekly Book of Mormon lesson with Ilda and José when their daughter-in-law came in. Out of nowhere, she asked me to teach them how make lasagna. Sure! So we scheduled next Thursday for them to come to our apartment and we'll make 3 large pans of lasagna on one side and Mexican enchiladas on the other side--1 for us to eat together, one for her family and one for the Elder's lunch on
Friday. See? Trust and friendship must come first sometimes!