Monday, December 28, 2015

Christmas, mission extension, and a Happy New Year from Leiria :)

I had a wonderful week. I hope that you all had a wonderful week too. It feels like this week was a lot longer than all the others, but it was one of the best weeks and it was an exciting week too. :)

Feliz Natal! Christmas was amazing this week. On Terça-feira we went to Coimbra for a two-zone Christmas Conference with Presidente Amorim. We had a treinamento in the beginning and it was good.... it was a little painful as we got raked over the coals, but it was a treinamento that we needed. Presidente Amorim was talking about some of the struggles the mission is having and then he spoke to us about the difference between a victim and a protagonist. The victim blames the problems on the circumstances or other people (Ex. You failed the test because the professor is really hard) whereas the protagonist accepts responsibilty and changes his actions because of the circumstances (Ex. You failed the test because you didn't study enough even though you knew the professor was hard). It was really good, but like all good calls to repentance it was a little painful. :) It gave us all new goals to work on for the New Year though. 

The big surprise though is that after the Conference ended I talked to Presidente Amorim about extending my mission and he said that the longest extension that he can give is 30 days, so he gave me a 30 day extension on my mission. :) I'll be home in June.... I think. I don't actually know the exact day. 

Christmas was great too. Christmas Eve we randomly decided to do an activity in the street. We went and sang Christmas hymns in front of the stores and cafés with the bishop's daughter, the stake president's daughter, and a cousin. We sang and gave out pass along cards as everyone was doing their last-minute Christmas shopping and one thing I noticed was that the adults normally just walked passed us, but all the little kids stopped and watched and listened. Then, their parents would listen to. It's true that little kids can change a lot of things. :) Then we were invited for a very Português Christmas dinner with Pedro and Cláudia Costa's family. It was so nice to be with them on Christmas Eve. :)

We had an incredible week though. We had a lesson with Giovanna and her mom Jaqueline and her brother Filipe on Quarta-feira. Their story is actually incredible. I talked a while ago about how one Sunday we decided to go out and contact people before church and Jaqueline and Giovanna just walked up to us and told us that Giovanna wanted to be baptized. We got to hear Filipe's side of the story this week and it just goes to show that this really is Heavenly Father's work and that He is really doing the work for us in ways that we could never do. Giovanna's brother Filipe lives in Recife, Brasil and he's been inactive for several years. In the summer some cousins from the US went to Brasil for vacations and they invited him to go to church with them. He went, he started dating a girl he knew from church, he got a calling, and his life started changing. He said that he saw what a difference the gospel made in his life and that he could really feel it. He got on the internet and told his mom Jaqueline that she needed to get active and that Giovanna needed to be baptized. That was the Sunday that Jaqueline and Giovanna decided to come to church after three years of inactivity. :) We had to change Giovanna's baptismal date to 2 de Janeiro but now we're beginning to see that it's working out so beautifully to baptize her that day... I think that was Heavenly Father's plan all along. That day our investigators will be able to come to Giovanna's baptism, Filipe will be there with his fiancée, and the ward members will be back in Leiria after the holidays. We are working really hard right now on planning a really special baptism for Giovanna this Saturday. It will be incredible! :)

Also, Sister Larson went the way of all things and ended her mission. I got the good fortune of being able to pick my new companion though (and I've been told twice already that I will only get two chances to do that in my life: this week, and when I get married... so I need to enjoy this week). My new companion for a week is Sister Jumua from Moçambique. She was serving down in Santarém in a tripla but Presidente Amorim let me pick her as my companion. She is incredible. She is one of the best teachers I have ever seen in my mission and she is so funny and happy all the time! :) It will be a good week. She came up on Saturday so she was there on Sunday during church and she got to meet the members and then she was there with me when Sister Larson left so that I wasn't left alone waiting for forever. Right after Sister Larson left we went up to Zaida's house to deliver Christmas presents to her family. Zaida is from Moçambique and she is recently reactivated and she is also one of my favorite people here in Portugal. She is so sweet. We gave Zaida and her two kids Tiago and Diana pictures of Christ (one for each of them) and then we gave them a big one for their frontroom (it was actually a picture I got in Primary that I had brought with me. It's the one with Christ in the red robe.) When Zaida saw the big picture she had a huge smile and she almost cried. She put it in the middle of the mantle of the fireplace and she couldn't stop staring at it. It wasn't a huge present but it made a difference for her. :) 

This year we served people and we worked hard for Christmas. We didn't do anything really fancy or special, but it was one of the best Natais that I have ever had. I guess that's what happens when you put Christ first. :)

I love you all and I'm grateful for all the prayers and letters and cards I get. I loved the Christmas card that Grandma sent me.Elder Ricci said, "Whoah. Your Grandma is super cool." I have a super cool grandma. :) It was so good to see you all for skype and to be able to to talk to Benjamin in Alaska was amazing! It was really great when his companion said that "Elder Smith is a really good guy." What a great Christmas it was. :)

I love you all!

Sister Smith


Monday, December 21, 2015

Funerals e Feliz Natal :)

We had p-day problems last week so my email was pretty little, but we've got a little bit more time this week. Last p-day we went to Fátima and saw the sanctuary and the grutas there. It was very different but it was a really interesting opportunity to get a glimpse into Catholicism and what it is they believe. It reminds me that the world is a lot bigger than I thouht it was and that all of Heavenly Father's children are different.

Tuesday we had a funeral... for Sister Larson.  Here in Portugal we don't talk about people "going home"... they "die" and in our mission especially we really enjoy the funerals. This is Sister Larson's last week so for her last District Meeting we had a funeral for her. I don't think I have ever laughed that hard. The 4 elders got up and did "ya-googalies" as Elder Morrison calls them (he doesn't know how to say eulogy) and they were so funny. We were laughing so hard that we were crying. They are the funniest people I have ever met in my whole life. This has been my favorite district of my whole mission and they held a great funeral. You can tell you were a good influence on the elders when they can make fun of you and at the same time talk about how you made a difference in their missions. Sister Larson definitely succeeded at that. The elders bought Sister Larson a mega Kinder Surpresa egg and then for lunch after the meeting we went and ate pizza with the whole district. It was a pretty good little funeral. I hope my funeral is as nice as Sister Larson's was. :)

I also got to go back to my birthplace in Viseu this week! Sister Larson went on a division with two of the Sisters in Coimbra so while she was there I went to Viseu and did a division with Sister Regan. It was so nice to be back in my little city of Viseu. On the bus ride there I started recognizing things, but I saw everything with different eyes. It's amazing how a year in the country has helped me see Portugal differently. I could read the signs on the road and I recognized all the little aldéias. The bus climbed up into the mountains and I knew where I was, and as soon as I got into Viseu it felt as if I had never left. It was like coming full circle. I still was able to find everything and I recognized people on the street that I had contacted a year ago. It was so strange and yet at the same time so much FUN! I was dying of happiness. :) We went to the capela to look at a map and there were members there setting up for the ward Christmas party. When they saw me they all remembered me and it was so nice to be able to hug them and talk to them all again. I was so happy when I saw Lidia and Sandra again. Lidia and Hélder have officially been members for 1 year now and it was so nice be there with their family. Hélder was in Lisboa so I didn't get to see him but at night Lidia and Sandra invited us over. their house looked exactly the same as it did last year, just without Bruno because he is still on his misison in Greece. I also was able to go and see Leonilde again. She stopped meeting with the missionaries several months ago, but I had an extra copy of the book of Mormon in my bag and I had the thought very strongly to leave it with her. I offered it to her and she told me that she still had her old one, but the thought didn't leave so I just "forgot" the copy on her couch. I don't know what will happen with her, but now I have her contact information so I can keep in touch with her. 

It's a crazy experience this mission thing, but it sure is beautiful. :)

Then we had our ward Christmas party on Saturday. Sister Larson and I were having a rough time because it seemed like there was so much focused on everything but Christ and we're trying so hard to remind people of our Savior that it made us kind of sad that the members were losing that vision of Christmas. We asked if we could share a spiritual message at the end and we prayed that it would go well and that the members would feel the Spirit. We showed two of the new Christmas videos, one about why we need a Savior and then the new Nativity bible video. It started a little rough because there were all kinds of technical difficulties, but in the end it was a beautiful little scene we had here in the capela. In between the videos we asked a couple of members to share their testimonies: one a misisonary mom and the other a member whose wife had a baby girl this week. Their testimonies were amazing and then Sister Larson shared her testimony and everyone loved it. The Spirit was really strong and we know that the members had a little glimpse into why Christmas is so special to us. 

This Christmas season has been different. We don't have decorations, and we aren't celebrating it the way most people do. We're not really into a "Christmas Spirit" like most people would think. It feels just like a normal part of the year for us, but at the same time it is special. People always ask us what we would be doing for Christmas if we weren't missionaries, but Sister Larson and I have decided that it doesn't really matter WHAT we're doing but more about WHY we're celebrating Christmas. On Christmas Day we're going to wake up and do a weekly planning session and then we're going to go out and work before doing skype during dinner time, because really the Christmas season is about Christ. 

I like the poem that Grandma always read on Christmas Eve that talked about what we could give Christ. Sister Larson and I decided that really the best thing we can give Him is our heart and to tell everyone that He was born for us and that He lives for us. 

I love you all! Remember the reason for the season!

Sister Smith

Monday, December 14, 2015

Water, water, water.... it's everywhere. :)

Winter finally came today. We were out in Fátima for p-day and the rain started coming in little sprinkles... then in came down in big drops... and now there are puddles all over the place. :) Hooray! I like the rain.
Unfortunately, because of our awesome p-day adventure with our district in Fátima at the caves we are now down to about 10 minutes of email time. :D Hooray! I'm okay with not having a lot of email time... (sorry, my week isn't ruined if I don't get email... life continues on) but Sister Larson only has two more weeks in the mission so email time is pretty high up on the to do list now.
The big highlights of the week are that our marcada Giovanna finally had a click and she felt the Holy Ghost and now she understands baptism! It was really good. We hadn't been able to get in touch with her mom again but finally her mom called us and set up an appointment and we were trying to get all these energetic members to come with us to try and befriend the mom, but in the end the only member that could help us was a little old man named Joaquim... he is the grandpa of the missionaries here in Leiria. He was so quiet and calm and he brought a special spirit to the lesson which is actually exactly what we needed. Giovanna paid attention and finally asked questions and understood but more importantly she FELT it. It was actually a great big miracle.
The other cool thing is I spent three days training a British sister while Sister Larson and Sister Campos were on a division. I get to go back to Viseu next week to be with her again. It was fun. We got along really well, and we're going to have fun in Viseu.
We also got in with a family from Brasil this week. They were found a couple of months ago but they always yelled and never let the Sisters in but this week I told Sister Larson, "I have no idea who these people are. Can we just go by and see if they will let us in this time?" We went and they did let us in and they said they weren't going to come to church but they came at the very end.... and to make sure they weren't going to be led astray by us they brought the pastor of their church with them.....

It was a little intimidating because he just wanted to argue, but in the end we just talked with him while the members took care of the family and it was really nice. We felt the Spirit and we invited him to be taught the lessons, so on Saturday we are going to teach this pastor about the Restoration. We were telling Raquel and Ana Bea about it and Ana Bea told us, "Well, the church is true so what's the problem?" Then she told us that she still wants to be baptized so she's marked herself for baptism on January 2. Hooray!
I'm out of time and now I have to run to catch a bus, but I love you all! I'm sending something in the mail for you this week! :D Feliz Natal and remember the reason for the season! :D
Sister Smith

Monday, December 7, 2015

Temples, temples everywhere! :)

I don't have a ton of time for email. We were tricksy today and we printed off all our emails at the capela so that we could read them and have more time to write. So tricksy we are. :)

This was a good week. It was definitely one of the best weeks of my mission. I have felt the Spirit so strongly this week and we were blessed with some of the most wonderful opportunities this week. 

We had a great p-day last week. We went down to Nazaré for p-day and we saw the Atlantic Ocean. I nearly cried. It was so much fun and when you're out in nature there's just a cool spirit when you think of all of Heavenly Father's creations. We had fun. I have a bag of sand and seashells that I saved... of course. :) 

On Tuesday our ward mission leader found out that I studied Landscape Design before the mission and I scored some pretty big brownie points with him. He's an architect so he had a ton of fun showing us his yard and his garden and his chickens. He really likes us and now we're able to get his help with our investigators. We had a lot of fun at our Correlation meeting. Right after correlation Sister Larson and I caught a bus to Coimbra because on Wednesday we had a zone meeting, but we had to go early and plan it with the zone leaders in Coimbra. It was one of the best zone meetings I've ever had. We played the hot and cold game with a twist to teach us about listening to the Spirit. We had little candies hidden, but we also had a big candy bar hidden but only one missionary knew about it and he was giving directions for it. Most people thought that Elder Crist was crazy, but in the end one sister decided to follow his directions and she ended up getting the candy bar. Then we got super profound and we had a great discussion about following the Spirit to find the people who are truly prepared and waiting for the gospel. It was really good. 

After the zone meeting I got to play "Sister Training Leader" with Sister Larson and Sister Campos in Santarém. There are three sisters serving together so I went with them and I did a division with Sister Eusébio! It was the best division of my entire mission. We we're having so much fun together and it was so nice to just catch up and work normally during a division. Santarém is so beautiful and I felt really comfortable and I felt like I was supposed to be there at that time. Thursday Sister Eusébio and I were in the road and I just felt like I needed to stop this girl and as we started talking to her she told us that she has always wanted to go to the capela but that her dad hates religion. She said that she would sneak out Sunday morning and go to church because she just wants to know what it is we do. It was really cool and we testified that she was special to Heavenly Father and that He had a plan for her. When we said that she got the biggest smile and told us, " I hope so. That would be nice." It was so cool.

The best part about the week though was that we were able to watch the groundbreaking for the temple in Lisboa on Saturday. There was a very special spirit in the chapel as we watched. Sister Larson and I cried... a lot. During that ceremony the chapel became almost like a part of the temple. I haven't felt that way in almost a year. I have missed the temple so much in the last year, and to feel that spirit and that feeling of the temple again was so special. That's really just what it feels like to feel the love Heavenly Father has for us. President and Sister Kearon from the area presidency spoke and President Kearon said that he felt as if he was drinking from a well that he did not dig. I feel that way a lot. I think about all the sacrifices that other people have made for me and for the people here in Portugal and sometimes I don't understand why it is that I get to be here right now, having all these experiences and receiving all these blessings. I really am so grateful for it though. 

On Sunday we went to the Stake Presidente's house and he showed us the Coimbra Stake shovel from the groundbreaking ceremony on Saturday. We felt pretty spiffy getting to hold the shovel. :)

We finally got in touch with our marcada again! Hooray! And her brother will be coming form Brasil on the 18th of dezembro so we're going to get the baptism all planned with him. It's going to be really special. :)

I love you all! Remember to read in the Book of Mormon. I was reading in Ether this morning and I decided that all those problems in the Book of Ether could have been avoided if they had lived by the principles taught in the Family Proclamation to the World... yup. It solves lots of problems... so go tell all your mothers that you love them. :)

Amo vos muito e fico me tão feliz quando eu penso sobre todo o amor e apoio que recebo de vocês. Obrigada por tudo e lembrem se que Jesus Cristo vive e que Ele nos ama. Ele é o nosso Salvador e ele é a razão que nós temos Natal. :)

Com amor,

Síster Smith