Monday, November 30, 2015

Contacts... lots and lots of contacts

Well, since I didn't get the chance to really do a very good email last week... I will give you all the Reader's Digest version of the last two weeks.

Two weeks ago on Moday I was not feeling so great. I wasn't feeling too great and then it got worse during the day. Then we took a bus out to Batalha to do a noite familiar with the Bishop´s family and as we were walking to their house I got super sick. The Bishop´s wife was pretty concerned about me... I'm pretty sure I looked like death. It was great. They joke about it with me every week now. :) The next day we had the best Conselho da Ala that I have ever been to. Bishop was in a really good mood and it was really good. Last Friday we were getting ready for a ward activity and we were inviting all of our investigators to go to it. We walked out towards Quinta da Alçada to invite Fernanda e Vitor to come and normally Vitor doesn't really like listening to us, but this time he actually stayed and he listened to us and afterwards he told Fernanda that he wanted to go to church. Hooray! On Saturday we had our ward activity... it was a Magusto. Basically, a magusto is when you get a bunch of Portuguese people together and they roast chestuts and play the ward members loved it. :) We had a couple of investigators and they had a good time. Sister Larson and I thought it was super funny. I've never seen a game of Bingo be so intense before. On Sunday Elder Moreira came and spoke in our sacrament meeting. He talked about how the Book of Mormon doesn't talk about picnics and fun things, but how it contains stories about suffering. He then talked about how life is not meant for picnics and fun things, but how the stories in the Book of Mormon help us with our real problems and help us to become like Christ. It was a little depressing in the beginning but once he started talking about the Plan of Salvation it all started to make more sense and the Spirit made it all make sense. 

And those are the stories from two weeks ago...

This week...

We've decided that we are going to do 50 contacts every day So far we have been able to get it. In the beginning it was hard to be constantly stopping everybody but we finally starting getting the guts to stop big groups of people and talk to all of them... Everybody. It was really crazy how we've been able to do it though. On Thanksgiving we literally had crazy stuff happen and our plans changed. We ended up helping this little old member clean the chapel. At first we were thinking " We're going to lose time to contact" but we realized that this little old lady was not going to be able to clean the whole capela on her own. We helped her and I cleaned the chapel. It actually turned out to be a super spiritual experience and when we finished we only had and hour and a half before our next compromisso. We didn't know how we were going to get 50 contacts done, but then as we got into the centro we saw more people in the park than we have ever seen there before. We decided to stop all the big groups and do a special "thanksgiving" contact. It worked really well with all the Jovens and it helped us get the courage to stop groups of 5 or 10 people. It was actually so much fun. It was one of the coolest experiences of my mission and I never imagined that I would ever be stoppin groups of 12 people and talking to all of them about the gospel. It was fun though. And we got all our 50 contacts done. We actually did 52 that day. :) The next day we did 56 and the day after that we did 73. :) We're talking to lots of people about the gospel. We're getting better at our contacts and we're finding new people... which is great because we need new people to teach. Now we just need to start teaching all these people. 

Yesterday in church I gave a talk about Christ and His love. I didn't prepare any notes or anything. I just read talks and scriptures about Christ and charity and then I got up and I started talking. I actually like giving talks that way. Preparing thoroughly so that I have things in my head that the Spirit can use and then teaching and being a real person instead of getting up and in a monotone voice reading off a sheet of paper. The members actually paid attention and I felt the Spirit. I talked in one part about how Dad is a really good example to me and I made a comment in the beginning "Eu gosto muito de meu pai" and the bishop behind me started joking and saying, "No... really? That's not normal." It was funny. We didn't have any investigators in church. Giovana's mom has started ignoring us and she is actually moving to Fátima so we don't have any way to get in touch with her. We're praying really hard that we will find a way to get in touch with Giovana and Jaqueline. If we can't get in touch with them we've lost our marcada so please include Jaqueline and Giovana in your prayers. 

I'm doing great. I'm pretty happy. I'm not sleeping super well but I'm happy. I have some good shoes now. They are super duper ugly and I never would have worn them before the mission, but they are so comfortable that I don't even care. :)

Right now in the Book of Mormon I'm in Éter. I like reading about the Brother of Jared. He's a really good example of faith and just trusting in God. 

Have a lovely week and don't forget that It's Christmas time now! Remember the reason for the season!

Com amor,

Sister Smith

Monday, November 23, 2015

It's Autumn time... It's Autumn time...

Transfer calls came in last night at 11:10... we weren't sleeping... we were in bed very, very, very, very CALMLY waiting for the phone call (emphasis on the part about "calmly"... Sister Larson put her face in her mattress and started growling she was so calm). Happy news is that we are staying together for one more transfer! Hooray! Christmas will be awesome. :) But for now we are having fun with the chilly weather and the crunchy leaves.

*Update* So.... with transfers our district leader Elder Zwalhen got transferred to Portoalegre and his companion Elder Morrison had to leave early to go stay with the elders from Figueira do Foz.... long story short, we had to spend the whole day with Elder Zwalhen while we waited for his companion to arrive and take him to his new area. So now we don't have time to do email. Whoops. Vida missionária. :)

Sister Larson still needs to email her family so I'll send some nifty postcards and some nifty pictures and I'll write more next week. :) Life is wonderful and hard and just fantastic. :) It's great.

Amo vos muito! Vou vos escrever mais na próxima semana. :)

Sister Smith

P.S. Yesterday Xeca and Avelino showed up at church to surprise me. I was super happy, but I was really tired and super confused. :) It was pretty nice to see them again. :)

Also, here's our last district selfie and then from this morning when Elder Morrison left for Fig. do Foz.

Monday, November 16, 2015

Little Brother is going to Alaska!!!

Alaska Anchorage Mission?! He's going to the MTC December 2?! What?! I knew it! I totally called that he was going up north.... I win. Mom and Dad it looks like we're just turning into a cute little family of missionaries. :) I have been talking nonstop about Benjamin's mission call all week long.... All. Week. Long. Also, I am so excited for Christmas! He's going to be skyping from the mission field! Best Christmas ever! :) If I could I would give you a play-by-play of all the thouhts I had and exactly how I reacted, but it's enough to say that I am really, really, really, REALLY happy. :) Alaska just feels right. Benny is supposed to go to that mission and he's supposed to go there now. He's ready to be a missionary.
And now for the Portugal news...
We had a really good week. Things are getting better here. It's not that magically everything is beautiful and sunshiney and investigators are falling into our hands, but we're working a lot harder and we're seeing results from all of the work we've put in all transfer. These last five weeks have been a little bit rough and kind of frustrating sometimes because sometimes we wonder when things are going to change and when we're going to start seeing the results of our work, but we kept going because we knew that the results would come when they needed to come. Heavenly Father had things we needed to learn before we would be prepared and qualified to work with the blessings He had ready for us. We just kept working even when we just wanted to give up and now things are starting to pick up. The work is accelerating for us and Heavenly Father is giving us a lot more opportunities to work. Hooray! :)
Last Sunday we did the Listão with the Bishop's family, and then he told his brother the stake presidente about how well it went and then the stake presidente talked to Presidente Amorim about it and now Sister Larson and I have been invited by the stake presidente's family to come and do the Listão with them next Sunday. It's a little bit terrifying, but that's really cool that the stake presidente picked us to do the listão with his family. The listão is a huge project that Presidente Amorim is doing and it's a ton of work but we're getting lots of members who are asking Sister Larson and I to come do it with them, so it shows that the members are starting to trust us now. There have been a lot of problems in this area where the members don't trust the missionaries and the members here are generally pretty wary of us, but things are getting better.

(Actually, it's good enough now that yesterday we got invited to come do Skype on Christmas at the Costa's house.... and they are a super cool family. I really hope I stay here for Christmas).
Also, blessings are starting to kind of just rain down on our heads. We've been trying to work as hard as we can all transfer long and then last Sunday Heavenly Father literally just handed a family of investigators. We went out contacting before church and found the guy that had been following us, but then as we were talking to him this Brasilian lady and her daughter (Jaqueline e Giovane) came up to us and told us that they have been living here in Portugal for 3 years but have never known where the chapel is. They were at church last Sunday and then on Wednesday we went with the Bishop and his daughter Iolanda all the way out to Mira de Aire where Jaqueline lives and we had a fantastic lesson with them. Jaqueline has been a member of the church for a long time but she and two of her daughters (Giovane e Inês) are living with her boyfriend João. We taught the first lesson about the Restoration super simply to Giovane and she was so excited and accepted the invitation to be baptized so quickly. She is going to be baptized December 19 by her older brother who is coming from Brasil to spend Christmas with them. So now we just need to teach the whole family, get João and Jaqueline married, and then Giovane, Inês e João can all get baptized for Christmas. Hooray!!! :)
This week we also did a noite familiar with Zaida, Tiago e Diana.. basically the cutest Moçambique family in the whole world. Zaida was baptized about 3 years about but wasn't active and we started going and visiting them and now they're coming to church every week and Tiago, who is 13 years old, is now reading the scriptures and praying and coming to church everyweek. Literally a miracle. The first time I met Tiago he was being a punk and he was hitting Zaida but now he's praying with us and he's reading the scriptures and coming to church. And he's super happy to see us now! Miracles are happenning! :)
Yesterday our ward had the primary program. It was the funniest thing I have seen in my entire mission. There were 5 kids in the program and two of their mothers had to sit with them, but the Bishop's son Afonso, who is 7, was so funny. He cracked me up. During a couple of the songs he would look at the lyrics on the page and then get a really confused look. Then he started turning the papers upside down and on the side to try and read it but he could never quite figure it out. His mom kept turning it right side up and handing it back to him but everytime he would get confused and start flipping the page upside down to read it. Everybody was laughing so hard, and Afonso is a comic and he loves to make people laugh so he was enjoying himself. It was pretty cute.

Also, fun story: We're sitting here in the capela and we hear the doorbell ring, so we go outside and there's this great big black man standing there at the gate and the first thing he says to us is "I need protection." That statement did not instill much confidence in us, but after talking to him for a minute we discovered that he was contacted by the sisters last year and never did anything but he lives right next to the capela and just decided to come and ask for help today. So now the elders are going to meet with him and it will be great and he'll be a great member once he gets baptized. Yup. :)

So have a lovely week family. You're all wonderful. :)

Little Sister Smith

P.S. Sister Larson took a pretty decent picture of me on the road yesterday and then the other picture is of a cutesy part of Leiria close to the library where we do email. :)

Monday, November 9, 2015

It's summertime in Leiria. :)

This week was a week of miracles. They were small and most people wouldn't think that they were miracles, but for us they were really big miracles. :)

Monday the miracle was that we were able to do email. It took about three hours and we had to wait in a couple of lines and we had to pay to use internet, but we got to do a little bit of email.

Tuesday we didn't have district meeting because we had meetings later in the week, but we worked super duper hard. Our funny phrase of the week was "Okay, are we going to make time to sleep or time to eat? We can't do both of them." You know you're a missionary when... :) 

Wednesday we had to leave in the afternoon to take a bus to Coimbra so we spent the whole day working as hard as we could so that we could get as much done as possible. We used literally all of our time. :) We ended up running to the bus stop and it was pulling out as we ran in. We had bought our bilhetes earlier in the day and the Sister Larson ran alongside the bus until the driver stopped and let us on. He wasn't too thrilled, but Heavenly Father wanted us on that bus so He stopped the bus for us and we got on. If we hadn't gotten on that bus we would not have made it to Coimbra and Sister Larson had to be in Porto for Mission Council the next morning at 9h00. It was a huge blessing. We made it to Coimbra, then with the other Sister Training Leader and the Zone Leaders we walked to the train station in Coimbra and took a comboio up to Porto. I got super sick on the comboio... worse than on an airplane, but the blessing was that nothing happened. It just felt really badly. Then, because I served in the Porto area for 5 months I was able to help everybody navigate the metro and we made it up to the mission home in Porto by 22h00

We spent the night in the mission home... probably the nicest place I have ever been in... and then in the morning Sister Larson went to the mission council and I spent the day working in Amial with Sister Waddel and SISTER PARKINSON!!! It was one of the funniest days I have ever had. It was so much fun to work with Sister Parkinson de novo e durante a tarde trabalhamos com um recém converso que eu já conheci quando estive em Gaia. O nome dele é Pedro e ele foi batizado alguns meses atrás e ajuda os missionários quase todos os dias.

Sorry... I get going and sometimes the Português comes out. Google translate can help you because I'm on a time crunch. :) 

After the mission council I had an interview with Presidente Amorim and then we took a train back to Coimbra. We spent the night with the Sisters in Coimbra and then the next day we went to a zone meeting (I realized that I am now one of the old people in the mission. Most people have been in the mission a lot less time than I have... I feel old). After the zone meeting while we waited for our bus we stopped and visited Raquel's mom and then we took the bus back to Leiria at 17h00

We had two full days out of our area but we worked super hard and we made tons of plans so that the work wouldn't be interrupted and Heavenly Father blessed us a ton! On Sunday morning we didn't have anyone coming to church with us. Some guy started following us and at first we were weirded out by him. Then after we both were thinking that we should have invited him to church. Before church started we decided to go out contacting to try and bring someone to church with us and the first person we talked to ended up being the guy that followed us. Turns out he followed us because he just wanted to know where the chapel was because he knew we were from a church and he wanted to come to church with us (face palm... Heavenly Father sure is merciful with His missionaries). That man lives in the Elderes' area and they are teaching him now. We also have a mom from Brasil that moved into our area and her daughter is 11 and was never baptized. The little girl told us that she wanted to be baptized and she asked us if we would help her be baptized. Obviously we said yes. :) Then, one of the young women in our ward decided to just invite two of her friends to church with her. They came and we talked to them and now we are going to meet with them on Friday to teach them about the Restoration. Two other young women in our ward did a presentation in school about the Church and they gave out copies of the Book of Mormon to all their friends and their professores. Apparently it was so good that some of their friends asked where they could find videos about the church on the internet. :) 

Seriously... I don't know what we did to be receiving all these blessings... but we're super grateful for all of them. Sunday we also did this huge project called the "Listão" with the bishop's family. It's a project of Presidente Amorim where we have the members write down the names of everyone they know and make plans to help them meet the missionaries. It was super cool. The bishop's family gave us 602 names and they are still making a list for us this week. It's pretty incredible. :)

Today for p-day we went to Batalha with Raquel. Sister Larson and I were having so much fun and there were a couple spots that reminded us of the temple and we maybe cried because we were so happy. :) It was pretty good. Then we had a goodbye picnic with a recent convert Alyssa who is moving back to Cabo Verde this week. It was pretty fun and she was showing how far away the capela is from her house in Cabo Verde. All in all it's been a really good, crazy, and happy week. Generally everyday is good and crazy and happy when you're doing what you're supposed to do and not making excuses. :)

Sister Smith

P.S. Sister Larson and I have decided that we're going to send out Christmas cards if we're together next transfer.... so we want addresses. :) Lots and lots of addresses. :) 

Monday, November 2, 2015

"Blessed art the flexible, for they shall not be bent out of shape"

This week was one of the most adventure filled weeks of my mission...


The internet situation here is a little bit tricky and we've been going back and forth between places for the last couple of hours trying to be able to do email... I now have about 15 minutes so I will try my very best to tell you all the wonderful things that happened and all the wonderful wisdom I gained over the course of the week. :)

You know that part in Harry Potter where Dobby tells Harry that history is about to repeat itself? Well, that's kind of what is happening this transfer. :) We're having all kinds of adventures up here.

1. Our tripla is back down to a dupla... sad day. A sister up in Vila Real was sick and had to go home early and because we were the only tripla in the mission, Presidente Amorim did an emergecy transfer and sent Sister Varuçale up to Vila Real to be companions with Sister Weaver (who is basically a reincarnation of Sister Hirschi). It was a rough day when we got that phone call. Sister Larson was on a division in Viseu so Sister Varuçale and I were together... we cried for a few minutes and then we ate some chocolate together... it all worked out. So, after two weeks my native companion got emergency transferred and now because Sister Larson is still a Sister Training Leader I get to stay in Coimbra every week that she goes on a division..... it sounds an awful lot like my first transfer.... apparently there was something Heavenly Father wanted me to learn that I didn't learn, and now He's giving me another shot at it. Hooray!

2. We have lots of blessings that we are pretty sure we haven't earned yet. For example, this week we've had people coming up and talking to us instead of us stopping them and trying to talk to them. That just doesn't happen... but it's happened multiple times this week. The coolest one is this joven named Samuel. He was selling Vodafone in our area and he had put some sort of pamphlet in our door, so he decided to come and ask us what the time was and try to start talking about the Vodafone pamphlet he had left in our door. When we told him that we didn't have cable or internet in our apartment he started asking us questions about who we are and what we're doing.... turns out that Samuel is one of the most elect people I have ever met! He has so many questions and he's super smart! He kept telling us that he wasn't really interested in it, but then he started sending us messages about how it was weird that we really believed in our message because he does't understand how people his own age can feel like that. He walked 20 minutes to come to church and then he stayed for all of it. Actually, Presidente Amorim was there and Presidente Amorim was so happy to see our jovem investigator that he just talked and talked with Samuel and even had him help with some stuff. After church we had a lesson with Samuel and a jovem from our ward named Pedro. It was a really good first lesson. It was more like a conversation and he was able to ask questions and Pedro bore his testemony about how he came to know that the Church is true. It was really good. We finished the lesson and we figured we were just going to leave and go and keep working but then Samuel just kept talking to us and walked with us and started contacting on the street with us. He started by telling us that we had let one person walk passed us without us saying anything so he started pointing out all the people to us and watching us contact them. He kept just enough distance that people wouldn't think he knew us, but he walked and contacted with us for three hours after our lesson with him. It was really weird... but really, really cool. Then at the end he told us that he probably wasn't very interested in still talking to us... but then this morning he sent us a text to tell us all these things he had looked up about Joseph Smith on the internet the night before. Yup... he felt the Spirit, and now he has to know if our message is true or not. :) Mwahaha. When the truth is taught there's something inside that says our message is true.

3. Presidente Amorim came to our ward on Sunday and did this huge training during Sunday School about how the members can be missionaries and how they can make the ward grow. He made them a promise that if they would exercise faith in what he taught and apply it all and work at it that in one year the ward would be double the size and that they would be a new chapel built here in Leiria. Christmas 2016. That is our goal now. The members loved it and afteward we had so many members come and invite us to talk to their friends and neighbors. It's going to be good. The Bishop actually invited us over to his house next Sunday, which is HUGE. Not even kidding. That's HUGE progress.

4. We threw a huge Halloween party for the members and their friends on Saturday. I cut out little bats and had them hanging from the ceiling and the members loved it. Thank you for the idea Mom. It was such a huge hit and we had so much help from the members. The members said it was one of the best activities they've had... and the members here don't give compliments so we're making progress on our member relationships! :)

Amo vocês!

Sister Smith