Monday, December 29, 2014

Last week of 2014!!!

Oh family! It was so good to see you all on Christmas!!! And I'm so glad we had Google hangout when Skype didn't work. I have the best family in the world. Seriously. I love you all so much, and I'm super grateful that we have things like Skype so that we can all see each other. And just think of how cool next year will be! You get to skype me and Benjamin! So cool! We probably won't be able to all see each other depending on where Benjamin serves his mission, but it will be amazing! Mom and Dad, you're going to have two kids on missions at the same time. Craziness. I bet you never planned for that. :) Christmas night we had a dinner in the Church for people that didn't have anything for Christmas and it was great. The elders planned it and we met so many people. There weren't a ton of people there, but we got to know them and we talked about our Savior. It was a special Christmas.

So this week was very interesting and there were a ton of changes. A lot of things happened and I'm not going to talk about them right now, but President Fluckiger did an emergency transfer and you'll never guess who my new companion is....


Oh. My. Goodness. When she and Sister Corrêa came and did divisions I just loved her, and now she's my companion. Miracles are going to happen here in Viseu. This is her last transfer though so she'll be going home in the beginning of February, but I know that Heavenly Father wants me to learn as much as I can from her. She is an amazing missionary. As I've watched her work I've just been blown away by how she does things. She has no fear of talking to anyone in the road... I am the exact opposite. I remember the morning I left for the MTC Daddy gave me a blessing. I don't remember everything he said but I remember one thing was that I would be able to overcome my shyness and timidity. Well, Sister Hirschi is definitely going to help me get rid of it. We go street contacting and she says "They're all yours Sister." The first time she said that I panicked and the first couple of times I started conversations were so awkward, but it's getting better the more I do it. Sister Hirschi is a great missionary and I'm definitely going to learn so many things from her. She is still a Sister Training Leader though so she will still go on divisions and go to meetings in Lisboa, but that means that I get to go stay with the Sisters in Coimbra. I love the sisters in Coimbra, Sister Mancuso and Sister Donahoo from the MTC. Actually, I'm going to Coimbra tonight to stay with them. Sister Hirschi has a mission conference in Lisboa so I get to work in Coimbra tonight and tomorrow. We're going to have so much fun.

We're starting to get to know the members really well here. Turns out that a lot of the members in our ward served missions 15 and 20 years ago here in Portugal... long ago when there were three missions. They think it's really funny that I don't speak a lot of Portuguese, but I have learned to understand when they're talking about me and when they tell Sister Hirschi to go leave me in the middle of nowhere to see how quickly I learn the language... they're really funny. Really. They love to feed the missionaries, but I guess the recent missionaries didn't work with the members so the members are excited that we want them involved. Honestly, they are so important. Without the members we have so little success! Members are a huge help to the missionaries and to the investigators. Without the members we can't fulfill our missionary purpose and we can't do the work we've been called to do. Member missionaries are wonderful!

Our district leader Elder Madsen was an emergency transfer here to Viseu and his companion has been in Viseu as long as I have, and now with Sister Hirschi it's basically a white wash and a pink wash of the entire city. That's what Sister Hirschi said... she had to explain what white washes and pink washes are, but now I understand. They didn't have any progressing investigators before, but now we've met so many people and the members are starting to work with us. It's going to be amazing!

You can send letters, but please just send packages to the mission home address. To pick up packages here we have to pay to take a bus into another area to go to the post office. I love you all and I'm so grateful for all of your prayers and letters every week! The Church is true! A great part of the Book of Mormon is Alma 17-18... you should all read them.

 The pictures are of one part of our area and the Christmas activity while everyone was watching "Finding Faith in Christ".... yeah. I think those are the pictures I'm sending.

Clarissa and Allison I love, love, LOVED the pictures and the emails. Matthew and Inette, I will check the mail for your letter. It shouldn't take too long to get from Germany to Portugal.

I love you all!

Sister Smith

Monday, December 22, 2014

Semana de milagres!

First off, thank you for all the prayers. I know I've been blessed these past two weeks and I've seen so many miracles every day. I know that there are miracles happening and I can feel your prayers. You all talked about how you know these last two weeks have been hard. Yes, they have definitely been hard. The MTC was one of the best experiences I've ever had, but Heavenly Father decided that there were some new things for me to learn here in Portugal. That first week was the hardest week of my life, and I was humbled. A lot. And very quickly. I learned an amazing thing though. I've always known that the Savior understands everything we're going through because of the Atonement, but it was when I was at the very lowest point that it suddenly became very personal for me. He knows EXACTLY how I feel because He felt it and I'm never alone here. There are angels on both sides. Some of those angels are the Sister Training Leaders. It was necessary for them to come down from Porto and do divisions with us. I was with Sister Hirschi and my companion was with Sister Corrêa. They are definitely angels. They helped me to understand that this is a refinining experience. I didn't expect to have to help my trainer my first transfer in the mission field and I don't know what Heavenly Father has in store for me, but I know that everything I'm learning and experiencing is for my benefit. Sister Hirschi suggested that I get a blessing so we went up to the Chapel and I got a blessing from one of the elders. I can definitely testify of the power of the priesthood. It is why we are the only church on the earth that has the fulness of the gospel. I have no doubt that the church is true and that's why I'm here. There are people here that need to know that and are waiting for that knowledge. 

One of the biggest miracles is with the language. Sister Hirschi says I speak better than I should be for only having been here two weeks. She told me that I speak like I've been here for several months. I know it's not anything I've done. I had the best teachers in the MTC and I know that I've had help here as well. I know that sometimes I say things that aren't my own words. I am learning the language so quickly and I know it's because the Spirit is helping me. I'm really glad about that because I haven't said anything strange and my grammer is fantastic. :) My district leader Elder Madsen said that his first week he accidentally told people he was pregnant... multiple times. So, yes, it is a miracle that I haven't said anything like that.

Biggest Miracle Ever! Helder and Lidia got baptized this week. I don't remember if I told you anything about them last week, but their story is amazing. Their son Bruno found the church through a friend a couple of years ago before he graduated college. His parents told him that if he joined the church he would no longer be their son. So, he got baptized and kept it a secret. In November his younger sister got baptized, and then on Saturday Bruno baptized both of his parents. It was so special. The Spirit was so strong and they all just cried. Bruno baptized his dad first and then his mom. It just made me so happy. Their whole family is baptized. That's what this is all about. We're helping families start on the path together to be eternal families. Bruno is leaving in January for a mission to Greece and when he gets back in two years they'll go the the Madrid temple and be sealed. Definitely a miracle!

Another miracle is the one of our investigators came to church! Leonilde is a woman we met knocking on doors last week. She is one tough investigator, but I know that she is special. We invited her to come to the baptism (and she's not afraid to let us know when she doesn't want to do something) and she just told us no. No reasons or excuses like other people, just "Não." We invited her to come to church with us and she agreed. I have never been more anxious in my life. I prayed and fasted that she would actually come to church because I knew that if she came to church she would feel the Spirit. We called and reminded her and when we got to the chapel she was already there! During Sacrament Meeting Bruno confirmed both of his parents members and gave them the Gift of the Holy Ghost. Holy smokes, the Spirit was definitely there. I felt it and I know that Leonilde felt it. She just cried for the whole three hours of church (another miracle: she stayed for the whole block), but then at the end she told us it was just because she was an emotional person and not because of the Spirit. She knows she felt the Spirit, and she knows that we know it too.

This week was full of miracles! I can see them all around me and I can definitely feel angels around me sometimes. I feel safe almost all the time. Sometimes I know when we're not supposed to go certain places or talk to certain people, but I know I'm protected because I'm being obedient.

I'm starting to like Portugal (WHAT?!). It's not as weird this week. I don't hate the cobblestones as much... actually, I'm always looking for loose or broken ones. Matthew brought me one from Germany and I want to bring one from Portugal. There are little Chinese stores everywhere and stuff is super cheap there. A missionary's best friend. There is sunshine in the morning and at night it gets pretty foggy. People do still stare at me all the time because I'm the only white blonde person here, but that is a very good opportunity to talk to people. Also, Europeans are just gloomy people, but I discovered that I'm able to get even the grumpiest looking people to smile if I say hello and smile at them. They can't help it. The Brasilians are the friendliest people on earth. They always say hello. Even from across the street. 

Christmas is coming! We are allowed to skype our families this year for Christmas! Oh my goodnes! I am so happy and so excited! Yeah... I can't sit still I'm so excited. I should be online at 3:30 or 4:00 in the afternoon here. So it will be about 4:30 or 5:00 for Matthew and Inette, and 8:30 or 9:00 am for the rest of you. I haven't heard anything about a 30 minute time restriction and President Fluckiger didn't say anything about it in his letter, but I will try to find out for sure. Daddy, I can answer all your questions about the culture and addresses and mission stuff then. Be prepared to be on email in case I have a problem logging in. Mom or Inette, you might have to change my password for skype if it doesn't let me log in here.

Everyone who's not family, thank you so much for your emails! They are amazing and I love to read them. It helps me a lot to know that there are people praying for me and encouraging me every week!

Family, I love your emails. Benjamin, I think people think I'm crazy because I just sit and laugh at your emails. Allison and Brad... Oh. My. Goodness. I love those pictures. And I'm so excited to see Alexis on Christmas! I miss my little girl! Matthew and Inette, I love your emails. Mama and Daddy, youre emails are very special. Daddy I like hearing your mission stories. Actually, I think about them a lot. They've helped me a couple of times here.

I love you all and I can't wait to see you on Christmas! Please, please, please don't forget! :) I'm funny, huh? See you all in a few days! I love you all! The Church is true!

Sister Smith

Monday, December 15, 2014

Definitely not in Idaho anymore...

Olá! So my first area in Portugal is Viseu... the coldest place on earth. I'm not kidding. I've never experienced humidity before, so this place is cold... it's also really gray and dark... and nobody smiles... and I'm the only white person. It's different. I'm in northern Portugal in the Estaca Coimbra zone. I don't know what language they speak here in northern Portugal because I'm pretty sure it's not Portuguese. I've spoken with people from Lisboa and Brasil and I can understand them, but the people who are from the north... I think they're speaking Russian... or Swedish mixed with Portuguese... and Spanish. It's definitely an adventure.


Olá familia! I sent out one small email to everyone else but here's the real email. I'm sorry if you can't read it. These keyboards are very different... my fingers are going to have to be re-educated.

Like I said, I'm in Viseu and I'm freezing. I take back anytime I ever said I liked the cold. I will never say it again... except maybe in July when I'm super hot. I might say it in July. There's a river that runs through Viseu and it's really, really, REALLY humid. I have never been so grateful for heaters in my life. Today the sun was shining though. I woke up and saw sunshine and I was so happy! For me, that was a miracle because this last week was one of the hardest weeks... ever.

Portugal is very different. Before my mission a bunch of guys from my ward at school that served in Brasil told me that I was really lucky and pampered because Europe was so much like America and I wouldn't have any good stories to tell when I got home. After my mission I am going to find them all. I'll be nice, but I definitely have some things to say to them. We can't drink the water here (the elders all say the water is fine, but Sister Fluckiger told us what happened to some elders after they drank the water.. yeah. I'm not drinking it), but sometimes there is warm water for showers. I feel pretty pathetic at night when I'm saying my prayers and I can't stop saying how grateful I am for the hot water... and the space heaters... and my fuzzy socks... and my fuzzy yellow blanky. Yup. I'm pretty pathetic.

Daddy, you wanted to know about the trip over. Well, I didn't sleep. I was awake for about 30 hours... and the jet lag has been terrible. I don't ever want to experience that again. You know it's bad when you fall asleep standing up. Fortunately, I sleepwalk so falling asleep while I'm standing isn't a problem. Anyway, on the flight from Salt Lake to Dallas I decided I was just going to talk to people. Turns out the man I was talking to is LDS and he served a mission in Taiwan in the 70's. He said a lot of things that I thought were really good pieces of advice but that I wouldn't need. How wrong I was! Everything he said has been applicable! It's crazy! All the stories he's told and all the advice he gave me have been things I've needed this week! We flew from Dallas to London and I was awake... the entire time... other than little bits of head nodding I didn't sleep. It was cool to fly over the clouds though. Our flight from London to Lisbon was late for some unexplained reason so after about six hours in the London airport we finally were able to get on our flight. We met up with a girl in our mission who had been serving in Chicago for several months, and at the mission home there were five other missionaries from the Spain MTC.

Thursday we took a four hour bus ride to Viseu and I learned what it's like to be the minority. I got told there would be white people here, but apparently that's only in the south during tourise season. I am literally the only white person here... except for one of the elders, but I get stared at all the time. Nobody here is blonde so my hair is definitely an item of interest.. and my eyes. Nobody has green eyes.

Anyway, the entire city is one district. The elders have one half and the sisters have the other half. There are two wards here and my companion and I are assigned to Viseu 1. The elders have Viseu 2. Everybody was so excited at church because of my last name. The number one question was, "Is Joseph Smith your grandfather?" No joke. Every single person asked me that or made a similar comment. Even an investigator said, "Smith? Like your prophet? He's your family?" Oh Viseu... it's so interesting.

Other items... there are cobblestones everywhere... and I hate them. I'm not very coordinated and I trip a lot. Everybody smokes... everybody. I will have lung cancer in 16 months. Soccer is everything on Sunday. Don't talk to them if they are on their way to the bar to watch a soccer game. Also, the Spirit messed up with the Gift of tongues. I've been speaking Brasilian Portuguese and I don't know how. I got told by one old lady, "You speak perfect Brasileira, but you're in Portugal. Speak Portuguese." People thought I had come from Brasil. I tried to not speak with a Brasilian accent in the MTC, but now that's all that's coming out of my mouth. I don't understand. The people my age think it's hilarious and they try to imitate me... oh my. They really are different.

This week was rough but we did have some miracles. Not very big, but important to me. Friday night I had enough. I told my companion that we were going to pray right there on the sidewalk because we didn't know what to do. While we were praying I remembered a story that one teacher had told about praying for some direction and then looking up and seeing someone right in front of them. I remembered that and when I looked up there was a guy walking our way. He's from Switzerland and he's heard of the church but the miracle is that he actually stopped and talked with us. For me that was huge. He didn't go to the other side of the street to avoid us, but he actually talked to us. It was a miracle!

I've been humbled a lot, and it's happened very quickly here in Viseu. I don't like asking for help, but right now I could definitely use it. If you could all pray for me that I will start to learn this language and that I will be able to work with my companion and figure things out I would be extremely grateful. Right now I need all the help I can get.

The church is true and I'm glad I get to be here even when things are hard.

Sister Smith

P.S. Picture of the mission home in Lisboa and of the view outside our apartment. 

My companion put up a Christmas tree and I finally got my stuff organized and I'm all moved in.

More pictures from the MTC that Sister Smith sent us today: 

Portugal missionaries with President Brough
Missionaries with Irma Kimball

Sisters with the Frandsens