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!