Last week President Fluckiger held a zone conference on p-day so we didn't actually have a p-day. We didn't have a chance to do our groceries so we've been really grateful all week for the members that give us so much food. All we did today though was run errands and go grocery shopping. It was a really boring p-day. Last week was a great week though.
On Tuesday we had a huge ward party at the capela. It was a festa de São João. In Portugal There are holidays for the Catholic saints, but the story I heard from the members is that the people in Portugal starting taking breaks from work every time there was a holiday, so the government assigned certain holidays to certain areas. Lisboa has it's own holiday, Povoa de Varzim has it's own holiday, but here in the Porto area we have São João. It felt a lot like the 4th of July and it was so much bigger than Carnival was. The city shut down and there were huge parties every where. It's got some pretty interesting traditions though. There's some plant that they have at every festa de São João and they eat sardines and they have dances with pretty cool musica. Those traditions are all just fine, but there is one tradition of São João that we decided is the most stupid idea ever. The biggest tradition besides the sardines is that for São João there are these plastic squeaky hammers that people run around and hit each other on the head with....
Dumbest idea ever.
I came home from that ward activity black and blue... São João is one holiday I am not bringing back home. Not a chance. Besides the stupid squeaky hammers it was a lot of fun. The bishop heard that I had never eaten sardines before so every one made sure that I ate lots and lots of sardines. They were actually really good. I liked the sardines. At night they also had fireworks in Porto, and Sister Parkinson and I were really excited because from our apartment we have a great view of Porto across the river. We were in our apartment waiting for the fireworks to start and we were so excited. Unfortunately there was an apartment building blocking our view. Sad day. But it all worked out because we could see the fireworks reflecting off the windows of another apartment building... so it was pretty good. Also, turns out that people tend to get robbed in our capela. :) After the party when we were looking for stuff in our bags I noticed that I didn't hear any coins jingling. I didn't think much of it but then Sister Parkinson looked in her little money bag and she didn't have anything. So, yeah. We both got robbed.... at the church. I had money hidden in a couple places so I only had 8 euros stolen from my wallet and that's not too bad, but Sister Parkinson had about 70 euros in her wallet. We called the executive elders though and it's all okay now.
The next day there was nobody in Gaia because everyone went up to Braga for the São João parties and fairs. We were supposed to have a lesson with Avelino and Xeca that night, but they went up to Braga instead. We were a little frustrated when our lesson with Avelino fell through because he was supposed to be getting baptized on Friday but later that night they called us and told us that they had planned his entire baptism and had already called everyone so we didn't have to worry about planning anything. They are amazing people! On Thursday Avelino had his interview for baptism and on Friday he was baptized.
It was literally the best baptism I have ever seen. It didn't work out exactly the way we had planned, but we had so much member involvement with Avelino and he was so ready that it was such a special baptism. The Spirit was so strong. With people like Avelino, we can see so clearly that the Spirit literally does everything. The only thing we did was invite him to be baptized and go over the lessons with him. The difference between Avelino and a lot of other investigators is that he was so prepared that he already knew that everything was right. The bishop and his family are really good friends because his wife was a mission companion with Xeca, Avelino's wife. Xeca has been inactive for about 10 years though and Bishop told us that Avelino always used science to try and discredit everything about the Church. Things changed a little over a month ago when Bishop felt like he needed to call Avelino in and offer him a calling. For some reason a huge barrier disappeared and Xeca and Avelino started letting the missionaries come over.
When Avelino got baptized there was an actual light in his face. I've never seen anything like that before in my life. I wasn't the only one who noticed it either. Our investigator Gabriel was at the baptism and he said that when he saw Avelino come out of the water he saw how happy Avelino was and for some reason it gave him a really strong desire to be baptized and have that same feeling. We're trying so hard to help Gabriel. He's 20 and his family is from Angola. He taught himself English by watching movies and he's a medical student.... basically he's one of the most intelligent people I've ever met. He's got some incredibly deep and profound questions about God and the universe and the Plan of Salvation, but the problem is that he doesn't see the importance of actually reading the scriptures or praying to find out for himself if any of this is true or not. Avelino - who is the most quiet person in the world - shared his testimony with Gabriel and told him that if he will just take the step and pray that he will find the answers that he's looking for. It was really cool and afterwards Sister Parkinson and I both had the feeling that we need to teach Gabriel's entire family and that will help us figure out what the "iceburg" is. Unfortunately, Gabriel saw us yesterday in the road and then today in the grocery store and he thought that we were following him around.... *great big eye roll* He was a little weirded out, but I was hungry and I wanted groceries so I wasn't too concerned about whether he was weirded out or not.
I still need to write my email to the mission president so I have to go now... I kind of rambled on in this email. Sorry. I'll try to write a better email next week, but I love you all and I'm so grateful that I'm here right now. I wouldn't trade it for anything else in the world.
Little Sister Smith
P.S. Here's a picture of all of us at Avelino's baptism... and a happy Sister Parkinson with her sardine at the festa de São João this week.