Sunday, March 29, 2015

"I felt the rains down in Africa..."

Sorry, that's not a mission song, but it goes through my head every time it rains here. This week was very interesting. I was joking with Sister Mills that I feel like I'm in a very different country. In the north there are more immigrants from eastern Europe so people always thought I was from Europe, but here all the immigrants are from Africa.... oddly enough, nobody thinks I'm from Africa. :) Everybody speaks a little bit of Portuguese, but mostly they all speak Criolo.... it's an adventure. I will probably end up learning a little bit of Criolo but I think that's a little too complicated for my little brain. When I got here last Monday I was a little stressed out and a little sad because I missed Viseu but I gave myself a good little pep-talk (which consisted of "Sister Smith, you're a wimp. Toughen up.") and it's been a pretty good week every since. :)

Here in Miratejo it's a lot more humid than Viseu and there are no hills. Our apartment is so close to the river and we're really not that far from the ocean. It's pretty humid here though. Mom, you wouldn't like it. Viseu was an old city, but it was wide open and surrounded by fields. Miratejo is the city and I heard from one of the missionaries that it's a little bit like living down south in the United States... but I wouldn't know. I've never been there before. Our apartment is on the 6ª andar but there are some buildings with 11 and 12 floors. Our apartment is so nice though... I was told that it is probably one of the nicest apartments in the mission. We're in the Setubal stake and we can see Setubal, Seixal, e Barreiro across the river. We're not that far from Belem or Lisboa. It's about a 20 minute train ride over the river to Lisboa. One thing that was a little weird to me (well, it's still kind of strange) in Viseu we had to walk really fast and we had to walk for long periods of time to get anywhere, but here everything is so close. The chapel is two minutes away from our apartment and our area is so small. It's a little strange to not always be walking and running everywhere, so I guess I will eat less chocolate and do more exercises in the mornings. :) Daddy, we do emails in the chapel because there's not an internet café in our area and we'll do skype on Mother's Day here at the chapel too. The internet isn't fantastic but it's good enough to talk to people. Sometimes it doesn't let us send pictures, but oh well. :)

Sister Mills had never changed companions or areas before. I'm her second companion in the mission field and she's my fourth (I was joking that I can't keep companions for more than one transfer so she'll probably get transferred next transfer) but she's doing pretty well. The other day during companionship study she was just staring at me while I was talking and when I asked her what was wrong she just kept saying "You're a completely different person than you were in the MTC." I'm okay with that. I needed to improve a lot at the beginning of my mission, but one thing I've learned is that I still have a long way to go. Sister Mills is pretty amazing though. She had a hard time when her trainer got transferred and she was sick this week, but she didn't give up.

Sister Hirschi told me one time that the mission gets progressively harder but you're ability to endure also increases. I think she's right, but I've been really happy this week. It's almost strange how happy I've been. We got rocks thrown at us this week and I told Sister Mills, "One of those boys is going to get baptized someday."  In the Coimbra zone there was an elder from Brasil and he told us that when he was younger he used to always throw rocks at the missionaries, but now he's a member and he's the missionary that's getting hit by rocks. He told us the story just to show how the gospel can change people. I remembered that story when they were throwing the rocks at us, so of course one of those boys will get baptized someday... and then he'll go on a mission... and then he'll tell the same story... and he'll baptize a family. Sister Mills didn't share my optimistic view of the situation, but it was an adventure. :)

I love being a missionary. Even when it's hard, I just remember that I'm here for a reason and that everything will work out. Heavenly Father's plan is a lot better than my plan and I'm learning an awful lot of things here. I love you all and I'm just glad that I have the opportunity to be a missionary. Sometimes I don't do my best and I'm always making mistakes, but it's nice that we always get second and third chances to improve and keep going.

I love you all!

P.S. The picture is of the sunrise from our bedroom window and today we're going to visit the Cristo Rei statue in Almada so there will be good pictures next week.

Tuesday, March 17, 2015

Transfers! I'm with Sister Mills in Miratejo!

Transfers are crazy, but they are a lot nicer if your new colega is one of your companions from the MTC. It's a lot easier that way. When we called each other last night it was so nice to talk to her. I had the thought the other day that it was possible that I would be with Sister Mills, but I really didn't think it would happen. Well, miracles happen when you're a missionary!

This last week was one of the hardest and one of the best weeks of my mission. Heavenly Father really does love me. Now I can look back and see that He let us have so many miracles so that I could leave Viseu without any regrets. There were so many people that we found. It was a week full of miracles!

On Monday we were tourists... it was kind of fun. We went and visited the cathedral and then we walked through Rossio. The cathedral was so cool, but I'm pretty sure Sister Bender got sick of hearing about Mr. Haroldsen's history class. I was having fun though. Tuesday we had a fantastic Conselho da Ala and then on Wednesday we had adventures missing buses and then walking along the higway to get to appointments. We were kept safe though. Thursday we had an awesome lesson at the capela with a man we found street contacting. Sister Bender and I had been contacting so many people on the streets and now there are some incredible investigators that are going to get baptized. Sunday was the best day of my mission. Heavenly Father put so many people in our path that are ready for the gospel and it was the best possible way to end my time in Viseu.

Sister Smith with the Bishop and his family in Viseu
When we got transfer calls I just started crying. I knew I was leaving Viseu, but at the same time I didn't want to. I love Viseu so much and it was so hard to leave the members and my recent converts. We all took so many pictures together yesterday after church and they all gave me their addresses so that I can write letters. Once the members found out I was getting transferred some of them called. Bishop didn't want me to leave and the ward mission leader and his wife called me and said that they loved me and were sad to see me go, but at the same time they said it's better that the missionaries move and get to help other areas. Leaving Viseu I had the same feeling as when I left home for the MTC and then when I left the MTC for Portugal. I knew that this is the way things are supposed to be, but it helped me realize how whort the time as a missionary is. We really aren't missionaries for very long. 18 months is not a very long time! The days feel like weeks and the weeks feel like days.

I had a four hour bus ride from Viseu to Lisboa this morning, but when I saw Sister Mills at the estção dos autocarros it was so nice to be with her again. It's so different to be in southern Portugal. I was joking with Sister Mills that we're in Africa.... there are not Portuguese people here. That's the weirdest part to me. There are lots of Africans, but I haven't seen any Portuguese people yet. We'll give it a few days and we'll see if we can find any.

I don't have much more time, but I love you all. I have the best family in the world and the best mission companions too. I'm going to miss Sister Bender and our casual conversations about calculus (yes... we had those almost every day) but I'm so grateful that I'm with Sister Mills again. It's a little scary because we're both in our third transfers and I have no idea what I'm doing, but I'm pretty sure everything will work out just fine. Yeah, I've got faith. It will all be good.

The church is true! I love you all!

Sister Smith

P.S. Pictures are of me in front of the cathedral and our last district photo together before transfers. I have too many pictures so I'll send them in other emails and Inette can put them on the blog.

Tuesday, March 10, 2015

I think it's summertime already...

The weather here has been really warm.... it feels like June here. It's so hot and the sun is really bright... the people on the streets have made several comments of how white I am.  We're ready to buy our summer sandals and the thought of using coats is just horrible. The members said this isn't normal though and that it will get cold again. Hooray!

Quick rundown of my week: On Monday we walked out to Abraveses to do a Noite Familiar with some members and they thought it was so weird that I like feijoada. The people here don't like feijoada so they think I'm crazy. On Tuesday we had ward council and my goal the whole time I've been here has been to earn the Bishop's respect. He was really concerned when he found out that I'd been sick and then at the end he told us that he really is grateful for us. He also said that he knows this is a hard area to work in, but that he's proud of the work we've done... (my little heart was so happy to know that Bishop is glad that we're here). On Wednesday we had the Sister Training Leaders here with us. They're from Cabo Verde and São Paulo. I was with Sister Neves the Brasilian.... Brasilians are very loud.... and they talk very, very quickly. I couldn't understand her very well. On Thursday we had an appointment with a family that seemed really interested in talking with us. We were so excited to teach a family! We walked for 2 1/2 hours along the highway to get to their house... turns out they're the leaders of the 7th Day Adventists here in Viseu... and they know the Bible really, REALLY well. Yeah... it was an interesting lesson. The dad grilled us on all kinds of things he'd read about the Church, but they were very, very nice and at the end they gave us a ride back into the city. That was nice of them. On Friday we taught Ricardo the Hippie. No really, he is a hippie. He was really attentive at first but then he started asking a lot of really weird questions. He was trying to play "Stump the Missionaries" but I had the thought to just answer his questions and testify. It was so crazy because he was trying really hard to trip us up but the answers came into my head every time and I knew what to say. It was really cool. Then at the end he started talking about drugs and I felt like I was in my World History class in high school with Mr. Haroldsen. Mr. Haroldsen would be so proud if he knew how much his class has stuck with me. On Saturday all our appointments fell through, but then the ward asked us to come to a baptism of one of the kids in the ward and that was nice. The little girl Constança loves the sister missionaries and she wants to be a missionary so much!

Yesterday for church we had ward conference. It was so good. The talks were all amazing! One of the stake leaders talked about how when we give talks and when we bear testimonies we should be trying to edify and uplift others. He says a problem here in Portugal is that people like to talk about their past trangressions over the pulpit, but he said "These pulpits are sacred and we should remember that. We're supposed to help other people by bearing testimony of Jesus Christ." It was so cool and the Spirit was so strong when he said that. Then the Stake President spoke about faith and missionary work. His talk was so inspired. He kept telling stories from his mission and how if we have faith and we do our part Heavenly Father can do all things. He kept looking right at me throughout his talk and it was like he was talking just to me. Afterwards he came down and talked to me for a few minutes. He gave me some pretty good advice. Ana came up from Lisboa for the weekend and it was so nice to see her. She told me that she'll come to visit me after my mission and she wants me to come visit her too.

So that was my week. Sister Bender says I talk a lot in my sleep... in Portuguese. The last thing she told me about was that I was giving a very detailed training on how to do street contacting. I don't have normal dreams anymore... they're all in Portuguese. This is the last week of the transfer and it's very possible that I'll be transfered to another area, so we're going to go be tourists today and take pictures of everything.... EVERYTHING. So many things to take pictures of. Yesterday at church the Ward Mission Leader told me that Presidente Fluckiger can't take me from Viseu. He was joking that we could just turn off the phone so we didn't get transfer calls, but I think that would probably be a bad idea. One more random thing that I just remembered: when I was sick Sister Bender called everyone in the area book and found Nuno, the super elect guy that had been waiting for the missionaries to call. Turns out he left for Geneva, Switzerland this week to find work, but he wanted to meet with the missionaries there. So we passed a reference off to the Elders in Geneva... but they'll have to teach him in English because he doesn't speak French.

My brain is empty... I can't think of anything else to say, but I love you all and I'm grateful for all the prayers.

Sister Smith

P.S. Pictures are of me, Sister Bender, and Constança and then the view of the city from the capela. 

with Ana

..... and then the creepy little lizard that run in front of me the other night.