Monday, January 19, 2015

I love Portugal! Dear Mom... can I stay here forever?

I promise I won't stay here forever, but I'm really liking it here. I love the people... most of the time. In all honesty there are times when I have to say to myself, "He/ she is a child of God..." but some of the people are the most amazing people in the world! They say that the missionaries are good examples, but I learn from the people we met. They are amazing examples to me!

This week I got to experience cold winter rain. It was cold... and very wet. I was cold... and very wet, but I kept remembering something Elder Bednar said at the Thanksgiving devotional. He said, "The Gospel of Jesus Christ is energizing. You're never too tired, you're never too cold. With the Gospel of Jesus Christ you can work every day." Spiritual smack. I was thinking about that after I tripped into a puddle and was ready to give up for the day. Then I started thinking of "Singin' in the Rain." The best thing to do when it's raining is to sing "Singin' in the Rain" as you walk down the streets. I'm pretty sure people thought I was crazy. I wasn't singing it obnoxiously, but I was happy and that's what made people stare. People here don't smile, so when you smile it's strange, but you sure do meet a lot more people that way! Happy missionaries share the gospel with a lot more people!

This week I got to go up to Porto for a training with President Fluckiger (perks of having a Sister Training Leader as your companion) and it was so cool! First real rain since I've been here, but now all of Portugal is rainy. Porto is so cool! I loved all the buildings and it definitely feels like Europe. I loved walking around in Porto and going on the Metro. Lots of people stare at you on the metro, but it was so cool. We almost got lost... almost, but we made it to every place we needed to go. Porto is so beautiful. I kind of hope I get to serve there at some point. Who knows? With the mission dividing it's kind of up in the air, but oh well. Heavenly Father's plan is better than mine.

This week Bruno left for his mission in Greece and everybody got sick. Sister Hirschi and I came up with a great little quote this morning in the middle of companionship study: "The mission is like a crockpot and the missionary is the meat inside cooking. By the end, you're so worn out that you just fall apart." She was laughing so hard. Seriously though, she was practically in bed for two days straight. We were also out of area again. Sister Hirschi went out to Leiria for divisions and I went to Coimbra to stay with the sister there. Oh my goodness! There were so many miracles there!

The sisters there are teaching a family of gypsies and I got to go teach the family with them. Most amazing family ever. They are elect! They met the mom in the road on Sunday and during their lesson with her she just cried and cried. The next day they went to find her house but knocked on the neighbor's door. The woman, Mariana, came out of her house because she had been praying for the missionaries and knew that they were at the neighbor's house. They started teaching her and she wanted to be baptized. She wanted to pay tithing and fast offererings with anything she could because she and her boyfriend don't have jobs but they still want to help people. They were both addicted to heroin and the boyfriend is on house arrest (he's actually a menos ativo... a less active member. He was baptized when he was 9 ou 10), but they're trying to change everything so that she can be baptized and then they can go to the temple after they're married. They're oldest son has cancer and they want to be sealed. They are such amazing examples and the Spirit is so strong in their house! There's another lesson on never judging anyone! You never know who Heavenly Father is preparing and you never know what is going on in the lives of other people! Miracles happen everyday if we just listen to the Spirit. and trust in Heavenly Father's plan!

I am almost out of time, but I love you all. Seriously. I have the best family ever. I can definitely feel your prayers and your emails are so inspired! Even if you didn't know it, they are and I love reading your emails. I love you all and I'm so grateful that I have my family! The church is true!

Sister Smith

P.S. The first picture is us with Bruno's family before he left for the MTC in England. The second picture is me... on the stairs that we climb up to get to the internet café and to the chapel. There are 90 stairs... not that I've counted multiple times. I'll send more pictures to Inette and she can put them up. I love you all. Tell the ward I love them and give out my weekly hugs for me. :)

When I was in Coimbra with Sister Donahoo and Sister Mancuso we went to this special little chocolate waffle shop... it was heavenly.

And then there's me and Sister Hirschi. We need to take more pictures.

Monday, January 12, 2015

Gratitude every day makes every day wonderful!

Olá familia! First off, I'm having the hardest time writing in English. You know how I used to pay really close attention to make sure I had perfect spelling? Not anymore. I'm starting to spell English words with Portuguese things..... my poor little brain cannot handle it. By the end of my mission you may very well just be getting emails in Portuguese because I'm really having to think to write in English. But that's a good thing! That's a very, very, VERY good thing!

It seems like the theme of my life and the theme of everything back home this week was enduring to the end. Before my mission it was just a cute little phrase that you said to inspire yourself. No. Heavenly Father is very serious about enduring to the end, but not just enduring. He wants us to be striving every day to be doing the best we can and helping other people too. Sometimes that's really hard and exhausting, but we have to keep on doing it. Enduring to the end is so important, but Heavenly Father knows everything that's going on. He's aware of every detail because He's in every detail of our lives, and we just have to remember that His plan is better than ours. When we give everything to Him, that's when the miracles will start happening. It's very humbling and sometimes really frustrating, but we just have to remember that we can't see the big picture. Heavenly Father knows what needs to happen for us to become what He wants us to be. Isn't that great? We just have to trust in Him and then everything will work out.

These last two weeks have been a great opportunity to learn a lot of things. I don't think I have ever walked this much in my life, and I about made Sister Hirschi die laughing when I told her, "I think I've talked to more people in the last two weeks than I have in the last 19 years of my life combined." Yeah. she thought that was really funny. I got really discouraged when all of our investigators marked for baptism fell through and then when we lost almost all of our investigators. I just didn't understand why we were working so hard every single day and nothing was working out the way we wanted it to. That's the problem though, we were thinking about how we wanted things to work out and not how Heavenly Father wanted things to work out.

Sister Hirschi has done several pink washes during her mission and she says that it's always hard in the beginning. You have to give everything and nearly kill yourself working just to get things going, but once they get going it's amazing how many miracles you can see. She said that President Fluckiger is so inspired and he put the two of us together here in Viseu for a reason. He told her that he wants us to turn this area around and make it a thriving part of the mission. That humbled me a lot. The fact the Heavenly Father trusts us enough to put me here with Sister Hirschi to do that work is a huge boost. I'm just so grateful that I have an amazing companion to help me in this work. Seriously, companions are inspired. We couldn't do it alone, and we're surrounded by angels. Sister Hirschi and I did a fast the other day and after we started that fast we got maps and we made the most amazing plans ever. They were so detailed and we were so prepared. We prayed about them and we got confirmations that those were exactly the plans that we needed to have that night. The crazy thing though is that nothing went according to plan, and yet the biggest miracles happened that night. As we tried to follow our plans and the promptings of the Spirit we met ELECT people on the streets: people that had met the missionaries before and families that wanted to hear about the gospel and people that Heavenly Father had been preparing. Sister HIrschi said it was one of the best days of her life! I didn't want to stop working and go home (literally, that was the first time I didn't want to stop working... so yeah, miracles happen) and I just wanted to keep working all night long even though it was cold! That was the best day of my mission so far. I had a fire for missionary work and even when people were rejecting us and being rude, I wasn't bothered because I was just so happy. That's what happens with missionary work! It's so, so, SO HARD but then if you give it everything you've got Heavenly Father lets you see the blessings too.

We're starting the work of harvesting here and we're planting seeds everywhere too! Literally, everywhere. Heavenly Father prepares the people and then He calls us to invite them to follow the Savior. Missionary work is so hard, but it's always worth it even if we don't see the results of all of our efforts.

That was a long chunk of my email just about enduring to the end.... moving on. So this week has been colder, but luckily I'm bundled up with big scarves, some lovely gloves that mom got me, two pairs of socks, and two pairs of thick tights.... I'm such a wimp. I love the food and I'm now used to the culture and the people. It's very different, but it's good. We were all getting sick this past week, but I got a blessing and now I'm feeling much better.

I was reading Jesus the Christ the other day and James E. Talmage made an analogy of the Atonement and plants, and my little horticulture heart was so happy. I love plants so much. Remember the importance of the gospel, tell people you love them, and always appreciate all the little plants every where. :) 

I love you all, and I'm grateful for all of your prayers!

Sister Smith

P.S. The pictures are of the view of the city from the chapel and a picture of the country side from a member's house (we had to drive a half hour to get to their house... it was an adventure).

Also, the Church announced  the new missions and mission presidents. The Porto Mission President is not Brasilian like we were told, but I'm convinced I've seen him and his wife before. They look really familiar.
 I love you all!

plants in a member's garden
grocery shopping

I have videos of the song but the email won't let me send them. On Sunday there was this group of people going singing and asking for money. The members said they do it all the time and they go all over the city. They're not gypsies but I think the member's said it's just a cultural thing... I don't know. 

The Portugal Lisbon Mission is being divided!

Letter #1
The craziest miracle ever is that on July 1, 2015 the Portugal Lisbon Mission will be divided and the Portugal Porto Mission will be reopened! Hooray! More missionaries are going to be coming to Portugal! In the letter from President Fluckiger he said that the Lord is sending more missionaries to Portugal to help prepare the people and country for a temple. I'm in northern Portugal right now and I've been told that because of the timing of my arrival and depending on whether I stay in the north for the next few transfers it's very possible that I will be reassigned to the Porto Mission to help keep the work going in northern Portugal! :) I don't care which mission I'm in as long as I get to help here in Portugal! Heavenly Father really has been preparing the people for so many years and there are miracles happening everywhere. (The burning question though is if I get reassigned do I get a cool mission plaque in the church building? I think they ought to consider doing that).

Portugal is getting more missionaries and it's going to be the most amazing thing ever! Both the Lisbon Mission President and the Porto Mission President are from Brasil... but that's about all I know. :) The church is true!

Sister Smith

Letter #2
First off, I have the best family in the world... yeah. I love your emails! I can definitely feel all your prayers and I can see miracles all the time everywhere we go.

So because my companion is a Sister Training Leader I get to go and do all these nifty little divisions in other cities while Sister Hirschi goes and does other divisions and mission councils... stuff like that. Anyway, last Monday and Tuesday we were in Coimbra and we were doing a division. It was about 9:00 pm and I was walking with Sister Donahoo to a recent convert's apartment. I had been feeling kind of funny the whole time we were walking. I kept looking back over my shoulder and I was just kind of scared which was weird because I haven't been "scared" the whole time I've been here, but I didn't really think anything of it. As we got to the stairs of the apartment building Sister Donahoo and I both had the very strong feeling not to go up the stairs. I started to get a really bad feeling and we just starting walking away. We walked to the other side of the building and we were going to say a prayer, but then we both had promptings to get out of there as fast as we could and go back to the apartment because something would happen if we stayed there. I've only felt a prompthing like that once before and it was my first week here in Portugal. I don't know what would have happened (and I'm not sure that I do want to know), but it's a huge testimony builder of how important it is to listen to the Spirit. We got back to the apartment so quickly and the whole time we were just praying that we would be kept safe and that we would know what we needed to do. I've thought about it the last couple of days and I know that missionaries really are protected. If we're being obedient and we're doing everything we're supposed to be doing we will be prepared to hear and act upon the promptings from the Spirit. Heavenly Father loves His missionaries and there really are angels around us all the time. We're actually going back to Coimbra tonight because Sister Hirschi and Sister Corrêa are doing divisions with Sister Donahoo and Sister Mancuso tomorrow. :) We'll have adventures.

Anyway... New Year's Eve was fun. We did a lot of street contacting, met some elect people, and then stayed home before all the parties started in the streets. The wards all had activities in the church buildings and from what I hear the members really enjoyed New Year's Eve at the church building. Sister Hirschi and I ate chocolate... a lot of chocolate actually. It was totally fine though because it was German chocolate, so technically it counts as health food. :) Then, we went to bed at 11:00 pm as usual and then when we woke up at 7:00 the next morning it was New Year's for all of you in Idaho. Nifty, huh?

President Fluckiger decided to start a thing called "Mestres de Israel" and basically it's where there are certain requirements we have to fulfill everyday for 30 days to be a good missionary. If we don't fulfill all of the requirements one day we have to start over the next day. One of those requirements is a minimum of 10 contacts for each missionary.... for me that's the hardest part. No one really understands how much I hate talking to people and how hard it is for me to go up and talk to EVERYBODY in the streets. Everyday it's really hard but then as I get going it gets a little easier. Well, Heavenly Father is paying attention and He's not ignoring me. When I'm the most scared to go and talk to people and I still go and talk to them, miracles happen. For instance, last night we were walking and we saw a man smoking on a street corner so I started talking to him. He listened to our message and said he'd like to meet with us. He's marked for baptism on January 18. We also met his wife... she's not so interested in our message, so we'll see what Heavenly Father has in store. Another miracle: the other night we were street contacting and we met this kid named Misael. He's 15 and he lives on our street. He didn't want to get baptized but he said he's like to meet with us and he gave us his address. We went to the apartment the first time and the woman told us over the intercom that there wasn't a Misael in that apartment. Last night we decided to go back and try again. We pressed the button by the main building of the door and somebody in the building unlocked the door for us. We went up and we found the apartment. We were 100% sure that we were at the right apartment, but it turns out there is no Misael that lives there. As we talked to the lady though we started teaching her. She told us that for months she's seen other sister missionaries walking in the streets, but she never talked to them. I asked her if she would pray about our message. She said yes, and then I asked her when she knew our message was true if she would be baptized. She said yes. Right there in her doorway! The Spirit was so strong! It was different that other times I've felt the Spirit and it was just so cool! We never found Misael, but we found someone that Heavenly Father has been preparing for months! One more miracle: last Sunday we were sitting in church and then after the Sacrament this girl walked in and sat by me. Nobody knew who she was and after the meeting she told us that she's from Viseu, lives in Lisboa, and has been meeting with elders down in Lisboa. She had some doubts about being baptized, but yesterday she sent us a text saying that she had decided she would be baptized. Her family thinks she has lost her mind, but she says she doesn't have any doubts anymore. See? MIRACLES!!!

This email is so long... I am so sorry. I didn't even realize how much I had written, but hopefully it's all just quality stuff that gives you warm fuzzies and makes you want to help the missionaries. :) There's a picture from New Year's Eve and pictures from our zone conference in Coimbra. I'll send more pictures to Inette so that she can put them on the blog.

I got a Christmas card from Carol Braithewaite. Mom please give her a great big hug for me.. and Sister Dabel too. Tell Kandi congratulations on her engagement, and Benjamin would you give my email to Kristin?

I love you all. I'm so grateful for your prayers because so many amazing things happen that I never expected. The Gift of Tongues is so real. The members tell me that all the time. Irmã Paula and Irmã Judite both told me that they are amazed by how I can speak. They told me that it really is a miracle that I can speak and understand as well as I do for only one month. It's amazing what the Spirit can do!

I love you all! The church is true and being a missionary is the best thing ever!

Sister Smith

P.S. Apparently it's normal for old Portuguese woman to come up, pat you on the cheek and tell you how fat you are and list a bunch of weird things to do to stay beautiful. It was a new experience for me and all I said was "Obrigada Irmã... oh, sim, sim. Obrigada. Muita obrigada." Yeah.... Portugal. Definitely not Idaho.