Monday, October 26, 2015

Cacos, Moçambique parties, e templos... :)


A member told us on Wednesday that the groundbreaking for the temple was announced. Then, on Sunday they announced in Sacrament Meeting that the groundbreaking for the Portugal Lisbon Temple is December 5. It's a private ceremony but it will be broadcast to stake centers throughout the temple district so I'm hoping that Presidente Amorim will let the missionaries watch the ceremony. :) When we found out I got chills and almost started crying... so, pretty normal reaction for me. :)

This week was a pretty good week. On Tuesday we walked all over the Quinta de Alçada and Quinta do Bispo and Gândara... but we had the sound off on our phone and we missed 10 calls from our ward mission leader. He wanted to have the correlation meeting an hour earlier but whoops. We missed that meeting. Then we had a lovely icy ward council where a couple of missionaries got raked over the coals by the Bishop... it was awkward to witness. On Wednesday Sister Larson left to do a division in Coimbra and Sister Colas, who is currently serving in Coimbra, came to stay with us. It was great because she actually started her mission in Leiria so she started calling up members and she helped us to just work with the members all day long. We helped with some visiting teaching appointments and it was fantastic because that way we were able to get in to meet some inactive members that we'd been trying to visit. It was actually really nice to spend an entire day just working with members. For lunch on Wednesday Sister Colas decided to show us one of her favorite things about Leiria: Cacos. Cacos are these nifty little sandwich things and they are just wonderful. They have them on Madeira as well, but fortunately we have the restaurante right next to our apartment and there is a little stand where we can buy them right next to the park by the bus stop. It was a wonderful little discovery... but it was even better when I discovered that they make nutella cacos.... felicidade. :)

This week Raquel (from Coimbra) and her friend Ana Bia came to do a two-month camp kind of a thing for theatre here in Leiria, so we're teaching Ana Bia with Raquel so that she can be ready for baptism when she goes back to Coimbra (she was almost baptized once... but that's a very long story). She's 18 now so she can choose to be baptized when she wants, and it will be good for Raquel to be able to teach with us as well. She's having a rough time, but helping the missionaries always helps people feel better. :) This morning we actually went up to the castle with Raquel and Bia. It was pretty fun. The saddest part was that my camera died. Fortunately, Sister Larson took lots of pictures for me. :) I like visiting the castles in all my areas, and the best part is that this castle is literally only a 10 minute walk away from our apartment! :)

The coolest part of this week though was that we were invited to attend a special Convívio Moçambiquano with the ambassador of Moçambique for Portugal... Yep. We were invited to attend because we have a companion from Moçambique. Presidente Amorim has this thing where he wants all of the missionaries to do "Coisas Ousadas" to help spread the gospel and we figured that sharing the gospel with the ambassador from Moçambique was pretty bold, so we prepared a business-style letter explaining our purpose in Leiria and inviting her to learn more about our message of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. Presidente Amorim reviewed the letter and said that he was actually quite impressed by it. We went and there were a lot of inactive members and ex-pesquisadores there that we were able to talk to. The whole point of the convívio was to talk about paperwork and legal stuff that I didn't really understand but we contacted a lot of people, I gave a Book of Mormon to a man who said he was atheist but then he almost started crying when I gave him the Book of Mormon because he said he felt it was a special book, we got a couple of references, a man came up and talked to me because he had lived in Germany for 17 years and he thought that I was German so we talked for a while and then I talked to him about church and the Book of Mormon, and lots of cool stuff. Then, there was a menos ativo member in charge of planning the whole activity so he arranged for the three of us to speak to the ambassadora before everyone else. Sister Varuçale gave her the letter we had prepared and invited her to learn more about our message. It was a pretty cool experience... I think.

I love you all! I'll will try to write lots of letters this week during lunch! Don't forget to read in the Book of Mormon and to invite a friend to church... and to invite someone to talk to the missionaries! :)


Sister Smith

Monday, October 19, 2015

Everything is better with three! :) Except email... email is harder with three.

Guess what?! Sister Larson and I got a new companion... and guess what else?! We're training! WHAT?! Yup. Last week I found out that we are in a training tripla. Our new companion is fresh from the Madrid MTC and she is super duper cute. Her name is Sister Varuçale (pronounced "vah-roo-sall") and she is from Maputo, Moçambique. She is super funny. It's weird having a native companion again, but Sister Varuçale is super funny. She cracks me up. She is the only new sister in the entire mission, so Sister Larson and I are the only sisters training right now, and because Sister Larson is a Sister Training Leader she leaves every week to do divisions in other areas and I have to do training alone with Sister Varuçale.... it's a good thing Sister Varuçale is already a pro and already knows how to do everything because otherwise this transfer would be a lot crazier. Obviously she is adjusting and she doesn't understand everything, but thank goodness she speaks Português. Also, she was baptized only 2 years ago and she's spent that two years working with the missionaries in Maputo, so basically she is teaching me how to do missionary work. Not even kidding. She knows how to teach! And when she shares her testimony it's like the Spirit just pulls up a chair and sits down with us. She's a really special missionary.

Yup. So Sister Larson and I went up to Porto on Wednesday for a training meeting with Presidente and Sister Amorim and the assistentes, and I was already feeling a little bit like "Oh no... I don't know how to train... oh dear..." and then during the training meeting Presidente Amorim looked right into my eyes (aka... right through my soul) and said, "Training is a sacred responsibility and you will be held accountable. Be the trainer of your dreams." .... I'm not quite sure why we're in this tripla this transfer, but it's a huge stretching and growing opportunity. Everything is different when you're in a tripla instead of a dupla. For example, street contacting has taken on a whole new light. We look like an army as we walk down the road and when we stop people to talk to them they tend to panic... it's been an interesting week. :) Also, when we knock doors we've started having one person hide off to the side because when people see three of us they also tend to panic. One benefit now though is that with three of us we tend to contact groups of people. It's harder for them to escape when there are three of us. :) I thought I knew how to do missionary work, and then Heavenly Father threw us a funny curve ball. It's been a fun week. We're actually going to call the office elders this week though and ask for help. It's hard enough to do email here with two people, but now with three it's really hard. We can't find enough places with computers available and it takes about three hours now to do email because we have to change lugares. We're going to call the elderes and ask if they will look for a place where we can do email because 30 minutes is not very much time to write to Presidente and you all. :)

It's been pretty rainy but sunny too. From our apartment we have a great view of the castle and the futebol stadium and the other day there was a huge rainbow that went right in between them. It was really cool. In Leiria the members mostly live really far away. Some of them it is a 45 minute drive to come to church, so most of our interaction with the members here is on Sunday or during the week when there are meetings. We'll just overwhelm them all with love and cookies and good stuff like that. Also, these members really, really, REALLY love the missionaries and they express their love by giving us food. Literally, we receive so much food that we only have to spend about 25 euros on groceries every week for the three of us... vida boa. :) Also, in our district we have two elders that are assigned to our ward here in Leiria and the two elders from the branch of Figueira de Foz. Those poor elders take and hour long bus ride every week to get to district meeting. Sacrificios. The elders in Figueira de Foz are Elder Gee and Elder Ricci that I knew from the Porto area and the elders in our ward in Leiria are Elder Morrison and Elder Zwalhen. The funny part though is that Elder Zwalhen and I were in the Youth Symphony together in high school... :) Yeah... small world.

Because of our super sketchy email situation I don't have a ton of time this week, but our miracle of the week is pretty good. Thursday as we started trying to figure out how to work in a triple we were out contacting and on this teeny tiny road there was this great big Brasilian man wearing sweats and chains and I felt like we needed to contact him. Sister Larson was on the phone but I was thinking "Big scary looking man... let the new missionary contact him." So Sister Varuçcale starts talking to him and she's just so sweet and nice and funny that he wasn't weirded out at all. Turns out he's just a big teddy bear... that sometimes gets in fights with people. Anyway, we get his number and he says he'll come to church. Well, on Sunday we were waiting for him to show up and we ended up mission the sacrament because of it, but right after the sacrament he shows up and it turns out he was late because he decided to bring a friend to church. :) We later discovered that he actually lives in the Elders' area, but they are in need of investigators anyway. So it was an interesting week, but we still had lots of miracles. Yep. :)

I love you all!

Sister Smith

P.S. There's our rainbow view and our little tripla.

Monday, October 12, 2015

As transferências... :) Outra vez?!

Então família linda.... não estou em Gaia.... eu estou em Leiria. This last week was such a good week and I'm really glad that I finished out my time in Gaia with all the work that we did last week. We nearly killed ourselves working.... it was beautiful. :) This last week we walked on every single road in Oliveira do Douro and we contacted hundreds of people. Most of them weren't interested, but two of them turned out to be menos ativos that we had been trying to find. Miracles were happening all over the place! :) We literally walked everywhere in Oliveira do Douro, but we didn't go out to the other part of our area in Avintes at all. I don't really know Avintes very well, but I've pretty much got all the roads in Oliveira do Douro memorized... lots of things can be said about my work as a missionary but one thing is for sure: I know my area really well. :)

So it was a really good week. We had a zone conference with Presidente and Sister Amorim on Wednesday and it took up almost the entire day, but it was pretty good. Sister Runyan and I were randomly selected to teach a role play lesson in front of the zone and then have everyone critique it. I sat in the chair and held on really tightly to a pamphlet so that people wouldn't see me shaking. I still don't like getting up in front of people, but Presidente Amorim had some really good advice and corrections for us. He said that for me specifically I need to have more confidence when I bear my testimony. He told me to quit using "language of doubt" and to start being more bold when I share my testimony. I hadn't actually thought of that until he told me about it, but he's right. I do need to work on that. After the zone conference on Wednesday we had a mini division with Sister Wood and Sister Smyth from the other ward in Gaia. It was fun. Once we all got home we ate pizza and a tub of nutella ice cream and we had a fun little half-hour party. It's nice to be with other sisters once in a while. Thursday we had our interviews with Presidente Amorim. It was probably the best interview I have ever had in my entire life. He let me ask him a question and then he asked me a bunch of questions to help me find my own answer... it was really good and the Spirit was really strong. I really missed Presidente and Sister Fluckiger when they left, but I really just love Presidente and Sister Amorim. 

All week long (actually, all transfer long) I'd had a feeling that I would be leaving Gaia, but because I was in denial I decided not to pack. We did however get a lot of our giant to-do list done. Gabriel had moved to Porto several weeks ago but we were never able to get him switched off to those elderes there and we got that done. Gabriel seemed to really like the elders. We also cleaned up our area book and we found out that a bunch of people don't actually live in our area anymore. It's tedious work, but it's good to get it done and it makes it easier for the next missionaries. It was also really nice to see so much of my area before leaving. 

Sunday was Fast and Testimony meeting and Carlos (who normally has a million excuses about why he can't come to church.... generally, they're about the mafia *eye roll*), showed up because he knew it was my last Sunday. The MMA fighter José said he was going to come, but then when he saw that it was raining he decided not to go.... *another eye roll*. People are so silly sometimes... and also really lazy sometimes. It was probably one of the best testimony meetings I've seen in my mission though. A lot of people had the chance to get up and share their testimonies so it was really nice. Sunday night we had lunch with a member named Maria de Jesus (she's the Bishop's mother-in-law) and then we went to choir practice and then we had dinner with the bishop's family while we waited for transfer calls. While we waited I returned Elder Andrade's violin to him (sadness... lots and lots of sadness... I liked the little violin). We went back to Bishop's house and we got the transfer calls. Then I sat on the floor in the Bishop's house and cried with everybody for a half hour... it was good. :) Then I called all the investigators and all the members and told them goodbye. That was actually the hardest part. Gabriel said though that it is impossible to forget Sister Smith and that in 6 months we can talk on facebook, so that's something on the bright side. 

I stayed up until the wee hours of the morning packing and then we had all kinds of adventures trying to get to the bus stop in Batlha in Porto. I got a bus from Porto to Coimbra and then I had to switch buses and I made it up to Leiria. Leiria is basically the fairytale storybook town that everyone thinks about when they think about Europe. There is a giant castle and it's right outside our door, the buildings are just cute, and it's very storybook-like... it's a little weird actually. My new companion is Sister Larson and I was telling her that Leiria is probably what most people think of when they think of where I'm serving my mission. :) É verdade. It's really tricky to do email here though. The library only has three computers and there's an internet café that also has only three computers, so I apologize in advance if my emails become kind of iffy while I'm here in Leiria. I'll do my best. The apartment is bigger than the Gaia apartment but it's really empty and it's gonna be really cold in the winter time. It'll be fun. :) From our apartment window we can see the castle on the hill and the futebol stadium.... it's a pretty cute looking area. We'll just have to see if it's a cute working area. :)

I have basically dumped my brain into this email and I don't know what else to say. Thank you for all the emails this week. Benjamin, don't forget to send me a video of when you get your mission call. It would be cool if you came to Portugal... obviously it's one of the best places to go, but where ever you go remember that it is where you will be the best missionary you can be and that Heavenly Father needs you there. It all works out in the end. :)

I love you all!!! <3

Little Sister Smith

P.S. The pictures are from one of the highest parts in our area that we hiked to the other day. The other picture is me and Sister Runyan right before I left on the bus.... :) We're pretty cute. 

P.P.S. Finally!!! I am in an area that has a post office!!! Letters galore! :D 

Monday, October 5, 2015

Eu amo a Conferência Geral!!! Melhor fim da semana... sempre. :)

At the end of a long six months full of the ups and downs of life, General Conference is literally the best thing ever. This week was a little bit rough. I have a very strong feeling that I'm going to get transferred to a different area and generally when that happens I get a little overwhelmed with thoughts and feelings that I'm not making a difference, that I haven't done any good, that I'm wasting my time and that my mission hasn't been worth it, etc. etc. It's not a lot of fun to have those thoughts, but it's been an opportunity to evaluate why I'm here and choose to be more humble and try to be more of the missionary that Heavenly Father wants me to be. Sometimes we have to stop and really think about why we're doing the things we're doing, and then we have to ask ourselves if we're doing everything that Heavenly Father needs us to be doing. I talked to Sister Wood the Sister Training Leader for about an hour one day because I was so discouraged and she told me that I need to be more patient with myself and remind myself that I don't have to be perfect now, but that I just have to be trying. Pacience.... that word never goes away.... I think Heavenly Father is trying to tell me somethine. Maybe I need to develop more patience. :) Maybe.... we'll see.

This week we've been going "Menos Ativo Hunting" so we've been going through the ward lists and looking for all the people we don't know. Then, we pull out the maps and we go and hunt for them. Turns out most of them don't live there anymore, but there have been a couple funny ones. You remember that scene in the "R.M." movie where he's home teaching and the old lady is watching around the corner to not let him in? That's basically what happened with one lady. She saw us and then she realized that we were the missionaries, so her eyes got really wide and she backed down the stairs and didn't come to the gate.... it was a little awkward at the time. :) We actually weren't able to find one guy on the map and then as we were walking one day I saw a guy up the road a little ways and I thought "I ought to contact him." Turns out it was that menos ativo that we hadn't been able to find. Also, he's an old friend of Avelino's and he didn't know that Avelino had been baptized, but he's coming to church next week and it will be good. We went and passed by his house with Xeca on Saturday morning before conference and on the way back to the capela this car pulled over and the people asked for directions to Porto. They were from Spain... and holy smokes... the Spanish accent is the strangest thing I've ever heard in my life. 

On Saturday, we watched a rebroadcast of the Women's session at 15h and then as 17h assistimos a sessão do sábado da manhã. The afternoon session started at 21h here so we watched the first 20 mintues at Xeca's house to see who the new apóstolos foram e depois voltamos à casa. Sunday morning they showed the Priesthood session at 10h and while that session was going we went Menos Ativo hunting in the rain for three hours. There was a rebroadcast of the Saturday Afternoon Session at 13h and then at 17h we watched the Sunday Morning Session. This morning for p-day we watched the Sunday Afternoon Session at the capela and it was actually my favorite session. I loved all the talks (we were discussing that maybe the church decided that all the talks need to be given in English again... is that what happened?). I really, really loved the Sunday afternoon session. When President... well, now he's not the president of BYU-Idaho, but when Elder Clark talked I lost it and then when Elder Bednar talked I really lost it and I just cried and cried and cried. Also, what happened to Presidente Monson when he was speaking. We were all pretty sure that he was going to fall down. There were lots of prayers said for him after the Sunday Morning Session. The recent converts Maria and Albertina (the really old ladies) had a rough day on Sunday. They're really, REALLY old and Albertina fell down on Sunday while I was on the phone with her... it was mildly traumatizing for me but she's okay the members are helping them out. 

I am just about out of time now.... and I still have way to much to say... how frustrating. Oh well. Hopefully, someday I will learn how to type faster and focus the subject of my emails. I would love to give you a talk-by-talk commentary of General Conference and our week and all the roads we walked on (we found a road in our area that goes all the way down to the river... and there were goats on it), but I don't have time... and it's probably not all that interesting actually. 

I do just want you all to know that really this gospel is true. None of us are perfect and the leaders of the church are people with imperfections and weaknesses too, but just like them we can be led by the Spirit to become better people and learn what Heavenly Father would have us do. His plan will never fail, but He wants us to take an active part in helping with the work so that we can be safe and happy. I've never been so grateful for the Gospel in my life as I am now, but more than anything I want you all to feel the same way to. The Church is true and it's the biggest blessing that we have it in our lives. 

Little Sister Smith

P.S. There's a view from the road that goes down to the river... and there are the goats and the sheep. Also, Sister Runyan got her hair cut last week and I'm getting my hair but this week too... dun dun dun!!!

P.P.S. I really liked that part in General Conference when he said that Heavenly Father doesn't answer our prayers just to satisfy our curiosity, but that He answers our prayers if we have real intent to act on the answers He gives.... mind blown. That is exactly what our investigators need to hear. :)