Monday, March 28, 2016

"The only predictable thing about life is its unpredictability."

Life is wonderful. That is the theme of this week. Life is wonderful and you never really know for sure what's going to happen, but it's just wonderful. Sister Da Luz ended her mission yesterday and went up to Porto on a bus, and since then Sister Regan, Sister Fernandes, and I have been the most fun little tripla that ever was. :) We're having a lot of fun. This morning for our p-day studies we went to the capela and we watched the Face-to-Face event for Young Single Adults that happend recently. We figured, "We're young, we're obviously singe... adults.... well, that's the question, but it applies to us." There were a couple parts that realy stuck with me. One part was when Elder Holland was talking about the whole debate about Church policy and same-sex relationships. He said that it's never an issue of gay marriage or if someone has those feelings. It's a matter of the Law of Chastity, and that the Law of Chastity applies to everyone no matter what situation they are in. He explained that it's never politically correct to keep the commandments, but that all these issues are solved by living the Gospel of Jesus Christ. The other thing that made me think was when Sister Stephens spoke about when her oldest son came home from his mission and he thought that the world just ended when the nametag came off. She said that she told him, "Putting on the nametag does not make you a missionary, and taking off the nametag does not release you from being a missionary. We are all missionaries." When she said that it was as if Heavenly Father was speaking to me. I have been so afraid of going home. I am very guilty of thinking that the world ends when the nametag comes off, but when she said that I thought to myself, "Have I become a true missionary during the time that I've had the nametag, and do I really think that Heavenly Father is going to just forget about me when I go home? Do I have enough faith to trust that He's got a life ahead of me after the mission?" That and also something that Presidente Amorim told me last week really comforted me about the mission. I admitted to him that I was really scared to go home and he was really confused by that at first. Sister Amorim explained to him that this is normal and that girls tend to worry more than boys, but the Presidente told me that if I will just focus on my mission right up to the very end, the end of my mission will be the happiest part of my mission and Heavenly Father will take care of the rest after the mission.


This week was a semana da Páscoa. It's very different to be serving here in Portugal where Christianity is normal and every one is "Catholic". the way that others celebrate Easter is very different from how we celebrate it as a Church, but it makes me very grateful for the restored gospel in my life. Last year in Miratejo there was a big parade as the priests and all the church goers walked around with the statues and their candles. They did that here as well in Viseu and it was interesting to see the different levels of faith that the people have. Some people really do and honestly believe what they've been taught their whole lives and then there are the people that go just on Easter and Christmas, but the thing that I thought of was that even though most of those people don't really understand who they are Heavenly Father loves each one of them. I still don't understand how He is able to love us all when we do things we shouldn't do or when we don't try to follow Him the way He has taught us, but He still loves us. He just keeps loving us all the time. I hope someday I understand that. 

This week we had one day of sun, and it was the first day the sandles came out.... that was one of the happiest days of my life. I got to walk around in my sandles all day long... it was fantastic. Never was there a happier missionary than me that day. We also finally got copies of the Book of Mormon! The entire mission has had a shortage of copies of the Book of Mormon and we literally have had only two for the last 4 weeks so we were pretty stingy with them. We didn't give any away, but then we got a big box from Porto and they are all the new editions that came out this month. With the new edition of the Bible the tripla has changed as well and oh is it nice to walk with o Livro de Mórmon de novo. :D Happy day.

Thursday we had 7 appointments... and every single one of them fell through. We were a little bit sad in the afternoon but then we decided that we needed to get over ourseves and be happy because we had no real reason to be sad. Then, that night Ribeiro called us and told us that he had come into Viseu from Sátão and that he wanted to meet us at the capela. We taught him about the Restoration and he told us about how he felt on Sunday when he came to church two weeks ago. He told us that as we were talking about the Book of Mormon during Gospel Principles that the thought came to him very clearly "Get yourself a copy of the Book of Momron and read it." Then as he was leaving the capela he said that he was asking God what he needed to do and the answer came to him, "Continue coming to this church." When he told us that it was so incredible. He has already started talking to all of his evangelical friends and pastors here in Portugal and in France and he's explaining about the Gospel to them. It's amazing to see that Heavenly Father really does take care of each of His children and all of us need to become converted to the gospel in His time and in His way. If we put our trust in Heavenly Father, everything works out in the end and it works out better than we could ever plan for ourselves. 

I love this gospel. I'm so grateful for my Savior and for the chance I have to come to know Him and help other come to know Him as well. He knows every one of us and He knows what we need to grow the most and become like Him. As we do the little things every day like praying and studying the scriptures we are able to find the faith and the trust in Heavenly Father's plan. We are able to trust Him and move forward happily. I've seen that in my mission and I've seen that change in myself. I'm just grateful that Heavenly Father is real and that He does love us. I know it because I've seen it so many times and I can't deny that it's real. I love you all! :)

Síster Kendra Smith

P.S. The pictures: the one day of sun when I got ot wear the sandles and then the cathedral today with the sisters. 

Monday, March 21, 2016

"And I think to myself... what a wonderful world..."

This week I don't even know what to say. It has been a very interesting week, full of opportunities to learn and have more faith and trust in Heavenly Father. This week I have learned a lot of lessons and I can't even begin to explain everything. I can feel a huge love for my Savior in my heart and a huge gratitude for the gospel in my life.

This week I had the opportunity to learn to have patience and love with investigators that don't understand the importance of what we're talking about. When they don't show up to appointments and they start rejecting telefonemas it's easy to start just seeing the bad in them and al the things they're going to have to change, and several times I wanted to drop a couple of investigators. This week I had a thought though, "How many times does God keep forgiving us and keep inviting us to return to Him even when we choose to turn away from Him?" Then I talked it out with Sister Regan and we decided that Heavenly Father loves our investigators more than we do and that He knows when and how they need to receive the gospel, even though normally it's not how we have it planned out in our weekly planning session. :) No matter how much faith we have, sometimes we have to remember that they have a precious gift called agency.... agency.... what a crazy idea. 

This week was a very special week in my mission. I've had the best studies of my whole mission and I've seen my own testimony growing in ways that I didn't think were possible, but it makes me so grateful every day for the gospel in my life. There were a lot of things that happened this week that reminded me of the importance of my Savior. It also helped me to realize that Jesus Christ atoned for everyone, even the people who choose to do bad things and reject Him. I feel a huge love for my Savior and I'm so grateful for this Easter week to remember my Savior. 

I love my Savior and everything that He did for me. I don't understand how He did it and I don't fully understand why, but I'm so grateful for His sacrifice and I love Him. 

I love you all and I hope that you remember the Savior more this week. Because of Him we can have the best lives ever. :)

Síster Smith

Monday, March 14, 2016

Heavenly Father is very sweet sometimes :)

I have a time crunch today. I have to get the whole email written in under 45 minutes today... I feel like I've been issued a challenge, but I think I'll be able to get it written. I don't know if it will be high quality, but it will be written.

Last week I didn't get the chance to talk about hardly anything, so I'll do a quick recap. Sister Regan and I like to play "What Are the Odds?" as we contact and last week we were playing in Gumirães and I lost so I had to contact the person in front of us. That is how we met Rafael, a 24 year old young man who is very lost in life and has had all kinds of crazy experiences and is ready for the gospel. We were teaching him on a bench last Sunday and after the lesson we were getting ready to leave and I just had to thought to stay there for just a minute longer. It wasn't like any great revelation it was more that I didn't want to move yet and we were looking to see if we could find more people. Right after we decided to stay there a car pulled up behind us and inside there was the cutest old man (named Ribeiro) ever asking us where the Testemunho de Jeová church was. We figured, "Okay. We'll be nice and explain where it is and then we'll invite him to our church." We explained where their chapel was and then he stayed there and started talking about a card that some people had given him. We thought it would have been funny if it was one of ours and he was pretty insistent on showing us the card so we waited for about five minutes as he looked for it and once he pulled it out we realized that it was one of our pass-along cards! :) It had the address of our capela and he had spent the entire day looking for it, but couldn't find it. He thought it was for the TJ's and saw us, thought we were TJ's, and asked us for directions. We marked an appointment with him and invited him to church and he was so happy! I don't think I've ever seen anyone so happy to talk to us! :) I also went up to Porto for Mission Council (which was not as scary as I had thought it would be.... Presidente Amorim was very niceno Conselho da Missão) and then the next day we had zone meeting. It was pretty good. We're a pretty spiffy little zone here in Viseu with Castelo Branco and Covilhã. Yep... pretty spiffy. Tiny, but cool.

And that is the brief recap on two weeks ago. Now for this last week... 

Well, now the adventures start. :) Last Monday we wandered out to Quinta da Carreira and tried to talk to some old investigators but that didn't work out. We walked back into the city and tried to just contact people on the streets. I think that Síster Regan and I singlehandedly contacted all the creepy men in the city.... I don't know how we managed to do it, but somehow we succeeded. One man we stopped and contacted was Armando, an investigator that Sister Hirschi and I taught last year... boy oh boy... we didn't know what we were getting ourselves into when we contacted him. He called us a lot during the night and sent lots of texts saying that he wanted to marry me. We showed the élderes and we just ignored everything that he sent, but then he started sending incredibly inappropriate and harrassing messages. We told Presidente Amorim about it yesterday and he asked us to send him this guy's number.... we haven't gotten any more messages or telefonemas. We think Presidente Amorim called him... or had him destroyed... either one is very likely, but whichever it was, we're happy with the results. :)

On Tuesday we had our district meeting... and it was very interesting. We started out with a scripture game that turned very intense... Élder Short is from England and he is a great big, scary rugby player and he tackled his own companion (Élder Johnson from Los Angeles, who is also a rugby player) during our scripture game. When Élder Short's next turn came up to do the race no one wanted to go against him.... so I volunteered because he can't tackle the sísteres. :) I did not win though... he was a lot faster than me, but it was a fun game. Probably the most exciting district meeting I've had in my whole mission. Even moer interesting than the meetings o Élder Orozco deu em Espanhol. 

Wednesday we had an investigator not show up to an appointment but we ended up running into Rafael in front of the Câmara in Rossio. We walked up to the capela and sat outside to have a lesson with him. It was actually one of the best First Lessons that I've ever had. He is Evangelical and has had some really weird experiences with people doing Satanic rituals and nasty stuff like that, but he said that when all of the got really bad he started going to the Evangelical church because he knew he needed Christ in his life. He said that one night when all of the horrible stuff was going on he had a dream that the Savior came and held him in His arms all night long and that after that dream he never had any more horrible experiences. He was telling us about this experience and then Sister Regan and I just started talking about the First Vision very differently. We never, EVER talk about all of the First Vision, but with Rafael we felt like we needed to tell him the whole story and explain how Satan bound Joseph's tongue and tried to keep him from praying, but that Joseph's prayer was so important that Heavenly Father and he Savior Jesus Christ personally appeared and that when that happened Satan had no power over Joseph Smith. We were explaining all of that and then we started bearing testimony that Jesus Christ is our Savior and that He came to be our Savior so that we could overcome Satan and return to live with our Heavenly Father. All Rafael was saying was, "I believe it. I believe it." I have never had a lesson like that. The Spirit was so strong and as we explained about how baptism provides us this safety and peace through Christ, Rafael just told us "I want to be baptized." We were kind of blown away. No one has ever come up and told us that they wanted to be baptized. Sister Regan and I were talking about it, and really, Heavenly Father knows what every person needs to gain their own testimony and one of the biggest parts of being a missionary is that we get to strengthen our testimonies in so many ways. I think we learn more by teaching than by being taught. Heavenly Father really did know what He was doing when He sent 18 and 19 year old kids out to preach and teach the gospel. They learn it's true by teaching and testifying of it every day and that prepares us for the rest of our lives. That's what makes us prepared to fulfill what Heavenly Father has sent us here to do... That's my little epiphany of the week. It hit me really strongly after the lesson with Rafael. We get more out of our missions than any one else I think.

On Saturday we had a zone activity with the Assistentes do Presidente Amorim in Castelo Branco. We all went out there for two hours to just contact and find new people for the élderes there to teach. They've been struggling to find people to teach so the whole zone got together and we all went out and worked there. Sísteres have never worked in Castelo Branco and it's considered one of the worst places in the mission, but I loved it. The people were so sweet and it was so nice to work there. You can just feel that it's full of people waiting for the missionaries to get to work and find them. It's and incredible little place and I loved it. That same afternoon we went to a baptism that the élderes in the other ward had. Rafael was there and he just wanted to sit in the chapel. He said that he just felt so good there and he didn't want to leave. He's a cool kid. 

On Sunday, we passed by Rafael's house but he was asleep and we called and called. We heard his phone going off but the kid was not waking up. We ended up being late to church, but it's actually a blessing. Because we were late, we hadn't taken the battery out of our phone yet and Ribeiro ended up calling us to tell us that he was in front of the capela. He stayed for all three hours of church and kept telling the entire ward that it was "thanks to those sweet girls I'm here and I feel so happy." He's the sweetest little old man in the world and the whole ward loved him. I've never seen any ward ever take such good care of an investigator. It's been so long since new people have come to church here that the members just loved him and he could feel the love. :)

The biggest blessing of all time happened this morning though. Sister Regan and I decided to go up to the capela and do our studies there so that we could watch some General Conference talks in Português. We were having a really rough time and we were really stressed out because of some really bad situations from last week, and while we were watching Élder Carlos A. Godoy's talk in Português I saw a bunch of members from other wards in our stake start coming into the capela. I realized that it was everyone who was going to the stake temple trip up to Madrid. A member form Leiria came in saw me and almost started crying. She took me and Sister Regan out to the bus and the members from Leiria were all there and they were so happy to see me. Cristina Luís came running off the bus and just grabbed me. It was like getting a great big hug from my Mom. I had been kind of sad before and then out of the blue Heavenly Father sent my favorite members to remind me that there are people that I love so much and that they love me too. I got to see Susana the bishop's wife and little old Joaquim who is going to the temple for the first time to be endowed. I saw Cláudia and Luís who are going to the temple to be sealed and São and her husband and Irmão Tavares the ward mission leader from Leiria. The bus driver thought it was just funny to see how excited we all were. I got to give hugs to all my members from Leiria and it just warmed up my heart. All day I've been thinking about how happy Cristina Luís was and how she just gave me the biggest hug ever.... I'm a very happy, very grateful child right now. We never do studies in the capela, but we just wanted to try it out and because of that I had the chance to see all of my members from Leiria. :D 

This morning was just proof that Heavenly Father really is aware of all of His children, even His missionaries and that He reminds us always that He is there and that each one of His children is special and has a unique story. :)

The Church is true and I'm so grateful that I have it and that I get to share it. 

Com amor,

Síster Smith

Monday, March 7, 2016

Working in the promised land

Olá família. :) Como vocês estão? Thank you for all the emails this week. I loved reading them. It's always nice to hear about all the projects on the house and about all the things happening in the family. Clarissa always sends me cute little updates on her family and Deka and I are planning out service activities for when I come home. It's also fun to read about Benjamin's mission.... serving up in the Land of the Ice Age.... I've have definitely never heard of church getting cancelled because of icy rain nor of missionaries getting to ride around on four-wheelers. It's definitely very different from my mission. :)

This week I think I may have died and gone to Heaven. Viseu is the promised land... not that we have golden investigators just running to get into the baptismal font, but I am so happy. I don't think I have ever been this happy in my entire life. There's just something so wonderful about working and having fun and being a missionary that is just perfect... I don't know. :) I'm just a pretty happy kid right now. 

We had some of the funniest and sweetest things happen this week. they're probably not funny to anyone but us but we loved all the little things that happened this week. We taught Tiago and his mom during our p-day and then later in the week we went back to give Tiago a chocolate bar and a birthday card for his birthday. He didn't expect us to even remember his birthday and I have never seen anyone so happy just to receive a birthday card. He didn't know how to react. He was so happy and he wanted to hug us or give us beijinhos, but he just patted our shoulders and gave us the biggest smile. Little things like that just make me so happy. I'm sitting here laughing about it right now because it was just the coolest thing to see how big of a difference it made in his day just by the fact that we remembered it was his birthday. Lesson learned: the little things we do make the biggest difference and Heavenly Father keeps track of all the little things we do. 

We started working in a part of our area called Santiago and we're going up there and knocking on doors as we try to find more investigators. It's a cute little area. It's got newer buildings and then it's got the little teeny tiny winding roads and close houses th
at everyone always imagines are in Europe. Those old areas are normally full of really old, really Catholic people that were "born Catholic, and will die Catholic just like their parents and grandparents and great-grandparents"... but no matter how cranky and stern they try to look I can generally get them to smile back at me as we're walking around. :) 

On Tuesday we had Conselho da Ala and afterward Bispo Daniel called all the missionaries into his office and told us that he and the bispado were talking about the group of missionaries this transfer, and they just wanted to let us know that they thought we were one of the best groups of missionaries they've had and that they know that great things will happen this transfer. Even if we don't baptize. He told us that we need to help teach the members to take better care of the recent converts so that when Heavenly Father blesses them with more new members, they will be able to feel like the ward is a big family to them. I think this ward already does a really good job of that most of the time. They're not perfect, but they are just the sweetest people in the world.  

I just made an interesting discovery..... this internet café place closes at 18h00.... which is in 6 minutes.... I need to pay more attention to my time usage. Woops. 

We had a week full of wonderful experiences... that you will hear about next week. 

I love you all! Remember to see everyone as Heavenly Father sees them. He loves all of us and wants us to love each other too. 

Síster Smith

P.S. The pictures are of the cathedrals on the skyline and then me and lovely Sister Regan.