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!