Monday, April 25, 2016

Lá na Serra milagres acontecem... e finalmente recebi os planos de viagem!

I think Heavenly Father is really good. Sometimes the sweetest blessings happen and they don't necessarily have to do with misisonary work. Sometimes they're just little things that Heavenly Father does to let you know that He knows you personally and that He loves you individually.

I don't have a lot of time this week so I'll be very brief and I'll try to write about the best parts of this week. 

All the great miracles that happened with Ribeiro last week kind of disappeared. He still wasn't coming to any compromissos and one day during studies I couldn't focus and I had this weird kind of "condemned" feeling. I talked to Sister Costa about it and we both felt like we needed to send a message to Ribeiro explaining how serious and sacred baptism was and what his part was in preparing for baptism. We prayed and worked on a message for him and got up the courage to send it off. Once we sent it the condemned feeling went away, but several days have gone by and he has not responded and he has not come to church. Looks like someone is using his agency... However, we were able to get our investigators Alícia and Maurício to church. Maurício loved Primária and he told his mom that he wants to go back every week. She was bored and tired and hungry after three hours, but I personally feel that's how the best conversion stories start: "The first time I went to church I thought it would never end, but now I'm glad that I came...".... something like that. :) We also were able to find some amazing new people to work with. That whole act of faith called "dropping over half of your investigators" seems to be working. Because we're not wasting time with people that actually don't want anything to do with us Heavenly Father is leading us to people that are ready right now for the gospel. It's a blessing to see these people that want the gospel so badly and will sacrifice and do what ever is necessary to have it in their lives. We had some huge miracles and we were able to feel the power of the Spirit in so many lessons this week. :)

Also, Sister Costa is the best missionary in the world. She is amazing and I love her. :) 

I now have two little miracles that have nothing to do with missionary work, but make me realize that Heavenly Father really does love us and He blesses us with some of the tiniest most unimportant things. So... my whole mission I have wanted to go to the Serra de Estrela. It's the tallest mountain in Portugal and for some reason I've always had this huge desire to go there. I figured that I would never get to see it though. However, because I have a cute little Brasilian companion who has never seen snow, Miguel and Nela from the other ward took us out to the Serra for p-day today. It was so pretty and we had so much fun! Sister Costa loved the snow... until it went in her boots. :) Other little miracle: ever since the mission divided I've been kind of homesick for Lisboa, but I knew that I was never going to see it again during my mission. Well, I got my travel plans today in the email and because of all the craziness that happened with my extension and those travel plans, the travel department in Salt Lake made separate plans for me. I won't be traveling with my group of missionaries, but I will be flying into Lisboa before flying to the United States. I get to see Lisboa one more time! :) I was so happy and I cried just a little bit. 

I am out of time now. We have to head out and work now, but I love you all. I'm sorry that I can't write any more but in two weeks I'll be home and I can talk to you all. I love the gospel. I'm so grateful for the oportunidade que eu tenho de servir uma missão. Foi a melhor decisão que eu fiz. Mudou minha vida e eu estou tão grata. Amo vocês!

Síster Smith

Monday, April 18, 2016

The littlest blessings are the best

Sister Costa.... she really loves P-day. She even has a special dance for p-day. 

I don't think I have ever seen any one with more love for p-day than Síster Costa. Normally we all just kind of slide out of bed in the morning, but on p-day she jumps out and she gets going. She dances and sings all morning long, and then the whole walk up to the internet place she skips and jumps and sings hymns and says hello to EVERYONE. I think it's the funniest and cutest thing in the world. She makes me laugh every day. She is one of the best missionaries I have ever seen, and her p-day rituals are the funniest things ever. What lucky people you are family... you get to meet her when we skype. :)

This week was "fantastically dandy"... that's what I told Matthew. :) It was pretty fantastic. I'm not sure Presidente Amorim will think that when he sees our weekly numbers, but it really was fantastic. We're happy here in Viseu! We had a zone conference this week in Coimbra and we learned so much! Sister Costa and I the entire time were receiving revelation and coming up with all kinds of ideas for our area. And what is the first great and wonderful thing that we did after the zone conference?

We dropped half of our investigators... yes sir! It was great... most of the time. There were a couple of times that we cried because the people said that they knew what we were teaching was true but they didn't want to change (aka... get married... quit drinking... come to church on Sunday...etc). Other times it was really great because we realized we were wasting a lot of time with people that didn't even really want to talk to us. It really was a great decision because having a huge lack of investigators forced us to do more street contacts and knock on more doors and go find new people to teach. Oh, how wonderful it is to find people that actually want to talk to us! :) You never know how weighed down you are by eternigators until you give them ultimatums. :) Happy day!

This Tuesday we went to Coimbra for a zone conference. It was a combined conference with our zone of Viseu and the zona de Santarém. Presidente and Síster Amorim were there with the two assistentes Élder Roberts and Élder Rands. It was probably the best conference I've ever been to with Presidente Amorim. I think the other best conference of my mission was one the Presidente Fluckiger did right before he left. Anyway, Presidente Amorim talked a lot about how the missionaries in our mission are some of the worst teachers he's ever seen (you just can't help but love the sweet and gentle way that he gets his ideas across...) but then as he was giving trainings on how we need to be teaching with power and with clarity it kind of hit us that we really do need a lot more practice. Presidente Amorim is one of the best teachers I have ever seen. He is so good at it and it comes because of all the experience he's had. Someday, I will teach the gospel as well as he does. This week as we applied all of his trainings we discovered that our lessons were a lot better and our investigators understood better what and why we were teaching and what and why they needed to keep their commitments. It was fantastic. 

This week was such a wonderful week with all kinds of little blessings.

On Friday I had an interview with Presidente Amorim. I think it was the best experience I've had with him so far. As he asked me questions I just answered them honestly but because we've been applying all the things he's asked us to do, even though we're not baptizing and we don't have very good numbers he was so happy with Sister Costa and me! I don't think I've ever seen him that happy! It's the best feeling in the world to hear the mission presidente say that you're a good missionary and that we're one of the duplas that he's very proud of. It's really nice because we generally feel like we're not good at all, but if Presidente Amorim says he's proud of us, I'm sticking with that. I don't need anything else. :)

This week because we dropped nearly all of the people we were working with or trying to get in touch with, we decided to go on a hunt. A people hunt. :) We pulled out the list of members and started looking for all members that live in our area. Here in Portugal the ward lists are huge with about 300-350 families sometimes, but generally one family per page is active. So we were out in Póvoa de Abraveses looking for a guy named José Carlos. Well, we started talking to his dad Artur and his daughter Erica. His dad told us that right now is when the family needs the missionaries the most and that we came at the right time. We had no idea. We were just looking for new people to teach and reactivate, but we have now found a beautiful family! José Carlos is super nice and he said "fizeram bem para passar" so we're pretty sure that they need something right now. Erica is 13 and she hasn't been baptized so we're going to try to work with her and see if through her we can bring the whole family back to the gospel. :) Hooray for eternal familes!

Ribeiro... oh Ribeiro. I have a lot of repenting to do in this story because I was so irritated with him. So, Ribeiro is basically one of the most prepared people that I have ever met in my entire life. The problem is that when you have someone so prepared obviously there's going to be some kind of difficulty in getting things going. Well, with Ribeiro it's the lack of communication. For nearly a month we've been marking so many compromissos with him but he never comes. He was down by Mafra for several weeks but then we had a couple of appointments this last week and we had members there at the capela and everything, but after an hour and a half of waiting he just never showed up. I was so cranky and I wanted to just put him off to the side like a lot of the other investigators we've been dropping but I just had this feeling tugging me inside to keep trying. Well.... we sent him a message yesterday saying that we needed to meet with him and that he needed to do whatever was necessary to meet with us. He never responded so we figured he wasn't going to show up. 15 minutes before the time we said we'd meet him he sends us a text saying that he's in front of the capela. We were so far away from the capela, but thankfully the elderes were there. They were able to teach him about baptism and sort everything out. We got there during their lesson so we only saw them after it was done, but Ribeiro felt so bad for never showing up to appointments and kept thanking me for my patience with him. He said that my patience with him is one of the reasons he knows this gospel is true (now isn't that a slap in the face... ouch... humilty learned). He has read the entire Book of Mormon. His wife as well. He knows it's true. He knows Joseph Smith is a profeta and he wants to be baptized on May 7th with his wife because that is somebody's birthday..... WHAT?! How does Heavenly Father do these kinds of miracles?! It's amazing! We finally have his address and an appointment at his house with some amazing members tomorrow. Hooray!!!

Then there was a nifty story about how we were knocking doors and I felt like we needed to knock a specific door, but nobody answered. While I was on a division in Leiria, Sister Costa went back with Sister Christensen and knocked the door again. A woman named Clarinda opened the door and when she heard about eternal families started crying.... How does Heavenly Father find these incredibly prepared people?! We can't seem to find them most of the time, but for some reason we're doing something right and Heavenly Father is helping us know where to go and when to be there. :)

Also, yesterday a member from the other ward died and they're going to do her funeral tomorrow on Tuesday. Most of her family isn't in the church, so while they were setting things up there was just this horrible heavy feeling in the capela. they really don't understand that death isn't the end. I was thinking about it, and I realized that I've always known what happens when we die. I've never had to doubt. It makes me so grateful knowing what I know. We're going to help out with the funeral tomorrow. I'm the pianist and we're supposed to just be there to talk to people and give a little bit of comfort but they don't want us teaching things unless people ask us. I think it will be a new experience. I've only ever been to member funerals, and this is still a member funeral but very different. 

It's the little things that make you realize how privileged we are to have the gospel. I'm starting to realize now what a blessing it is to have the gospel. I never thought about it much before, but I'm starting to realize it now. We are very privileged to have the gospel in our lives. It changes everything for us, and when we realize what we have we'll never give it up and we'll always invite others to have it too. 

I love this gospel! I love you all!

Síster Smith

P.S. The pictures are of the zone conference on Tuesday, and then of the four of us who arrived in Portugal on the same day. Sister Eusébio, Elder Da Silva, and Elder Fomes all came from the MTC in Madrid, but we're the ones that all arrived together. :) Happy little group. 

Monday, April 11, 2016

"Mais ou menos" is a good thing :)

This week was mais ou menos. It's not bad, nor is it fantastically incredible, but it's just mais ou menos. I think that's good though. Nothing bad is happening and we're just going along every day. I used to always think that when people told us they were feeling "mais ou menos" it was a bad thing because they weren't over the top happy or excited, but I see no problem with just having a nice calm, normal week.
Last p-day we spent several hours in the Centro da Juventude doing email because Sister Costa hadn't heard from her family in several weeks and we took advantage of the email rule Presidente Amorim put in place a while ago. He said, "You use as much time as is necessary to write your emails as long as you remember to write the mission presidente." Okay. Done. We spent quite a while doing email, but I get bored and I have hard time focusing after two hours so I found lots of stuff on the Church website that I really liked. I'm definitely copying Clarissa and starting a project of watching all General Conference sessions from the very first recordings. It will be fun. :)
On Tuesday Sister Fernandes, Elder Hicks, Elder Judd, and I all caught a bus at 6h00 to go up to Porto for the Conselho da Liderança. It was a pretty uneventful bus ride and then we all went on our merry way on the metro to get to the capela das Antas for the meeting. It was a pretty good meeting. It was a typical meeting with Presidente Amorim where he has a schedule but always runs for much longer. At the very end he showed the very end part of Élder Bruce R. McConkie's last Conference address... oh goodness. I lost it. I had never actually seen the talk, but once he started bearing his testimony I just started crying and it wouldn't stop. It was fairly embarrassing but I couldn't get it to stop. I don't normally cry but that time it just wasn't stopping. The Spirit... it does some funny things sometimes. While we were up in Porto Sister Fernandes and I had to leave our greenies together in Viseu. They were TERRIFIED! It was the sweetest thing to listen to them planning and praying together. It reminded me of when I was still in the stage and it was like Heavenly Father letting me see just a glimpse of some of the changes that have taken place. Sister Costa and Sister Christensen were incredible though. I think they do better than the rest of us. :D They did so well and they were so excited to tell us all about all their adventures. It was like sending kids to school for the first time. Everyone is nervous, but we know it's all going to be okay in the end. :) Luckily for them, they get to do that every week as we do divisions. They're going to be such good friends. It's pretty cute. :)
On Thursday we had our zone meeting at our capela here in Viseu. It was a really good meeting. The elderes in Covilhã are the funniest, most hard-working people out there. Elder Wanlass is so happy to go work and he just is constantly joking. He made the meeting very interesting and very funny. Sister Fernandes and I did a practice to show how Presidente Amorim wants us to teach the 3ª liçâo to our progressing investigators. At the very end the zone leaders had the three new missionaries and the two of us who are ending to bear our testimonies. Elder Hicks shared a really nice testimony about how it's a very strange thing to think about when we realize that we spend 18-24 months defending the name of someone that we've never met, but that we know is real. I thought about it and it's true. We've never met the Savior and yet we take this time to defend His name and teach His gospel and do His work. I hadn't thought of it like that before. It can't stop when the tag comes off though. If we ever stop defending His name we stop coming closer to Him.
We have been trying so hard to get in touch with Ribeiro because he's so incredible, but we have only been able to talk to him briefly. He's down by Mafra still and he doesn't seem terribly interested in answering the phone these days... so we'll see what happens there. He loves the Book of Mormon and he told us that he's almost read the entire book... so.... we don't know what's going on there. We're also teaching an investigator who the elderes gave us a few weeks ago. Her name is Humberta. She is from the Açores and she is really lonely because her son is always and work and her husband is working in the Algarve. The first time we went there we invited her to be baptized and she kind of panicked and told us that she needed to really be completely prepared for that, but the second time we went back and we taught her about the Book of Mormon with Rute. When Rute talked about her baptism and when we explained that the Book of Mormon would help her be ready for baptism she was completely calm and she accepted it. It was a sweet moment. We were also able to get in with Alícia yesterday. We've been meeting with them for several weeks but nothing is really happening and yesterday we taught her the third lesson. When we asked her if she wanted those things in her life she said yes. She wants to keep learning and receiving the lessons, but she said that needs more time to feel that it's something that she will commit to. It was incredible. We have been wondering if she even wanted to keep meeting with us, but she said that she does because she feels good when we're there and that her son Maurício (who is 8) loves reading the Book of Mormon. He stole it and hid it in his room so that he could read it. I don't think I've ever met another little kid like that. He knows when he feels the Spirit and he told us that he feels it when we're there and he loves reading the Book of Mormon. He will be a great missionary when he's older. :)
This week I've been realizing how much Heavenly Father is doing to refine me. It's annoying and frustrating sometimes to see all my little weaknesses, but in the end it will be much better because of all this time.
I love the Gospel. When I study it every morning it has a special meaning to me because I can see that it's real. I see it in the lives of our investigators and in the lives of the members. I see it in myself. It's true and I'm grateful that I have it. Amo vos todos!
Síster Smith
P.S. Pictuers: Zone meeting and on the road with Sister

Monday, April 4, 2016

Just in case you all forgot how beautiful I am...

Sister Christensen took a picture of me with Sister Costa, and I don't know how, but she was able to capture this priceless gem.

I about died when I saw it... I didn't realize how cute I was. You should all be proud that you have such a good looking little Síster in the family. :) 

Have a lovely week! Keep looking good! :)

Síster Smith

P.S. When you make silly faces in public... someone is bound to get a picture of it. :)

Transfers, training, and Conferência Geral.

Oh transfers... sweet, wonderful, strange transfers... I'm training... again. The third time's the charm.

Transfers are full of surprises these days, but I think I'm the luckiest person in the world. Not many people get to end their missions in their first area, but I do! I'm still Sister Training Leader but with Síster Fernandes now, and we are both training first transfer sísteres. We were all convinced that with everything that has been happening the last few weeks that Presidente Amorim was going to transfer me out of Viseu, but nope. I get one more transfer here in this lovely little place. During the week as Síster Regan and I talked about transfers we were more than sure that she was staying and I was leaving, but every time I would go to start packing I got a little feeling that I shouldn't pack. Síster Regan got transferred to Coimbra and I'm still here in Viseu... it's a good thing I listened to the Spirit or I would have had to unpack all of my stuff all over again. :)

Tuesday after district meeting we got the transfers email and then we got Síster Regan all packed up and on a bus to Coimbra. She went to Coimbra and Élder Short went to Leiria, so now our little British district is all spread out across the Centro of Portugal. Tuesday night Síster Fernandes and I took a bus up to Porto, and Élder Nascimento was with us so we sat and told stories about our investigators while everyone else on the bus slept. It was the funniest and fastest bus ride I've ever been on in my entire life, but it was a good thing we were there because neither Síster Fernandes nor Élder Nascimento knew how to use the metro in Porto (thank goodness for the three transfers I spent in Gaia). We got Élder Nascimento on his way to Gaia and then Síster Fernandes and I set out on our adventure trying to find the hotel that we were supposed to be staying in. The office élderes called us to see if we needed help and then they started commenting about how sísteres always get lost because they're not very smart.Someone (possibly me) got a little competitive and I told Síster Fernandes that we would not ask for help from the élderes so we started just kind of wandering around. We did find it and we didn't even have to ask for help from anyone. :)

We spent all Wednesday in the training meeting in Porto with Presidente Amorim, the trainers, and all the new missionaries. There were three sisters that came from the Provo MTC and two from the CTM em São Paulo. It was probably the best meeting I've ever been to with Presidente Amorim. The mission met the baptism goal for the last month so he was very, very, VERY happy. I don't think I've ever seen Presidente Amorim that happy. At one point in the meeting the new missionaries were reading a talk about consecration and Presidente Amorim just walked over to Sister Amorim and kissed her. Síster Fernandes and I started laughing in the back of the room because it's so awkward to us, and when Presidente Amorim saw us laughing he told us "I'm allowed to kiss my companion. If I wasn't allowed to kiss my companion I wouldn't have lasted three years!" It was funny.... and slightly uncomfortable for us. :)

At the end of the meeting Presidente Amorim interviewed all of the new missionaries and then made the assignments. While we were waiting for him to come back I just started talking to one of the Brasilian sisters, Síster Costa, and we were having a nice conversation and I was telling her about Viseu. Then, Presidente Amorim came back and told us that the two of us were going to be companions! :) So I'm training Sister Costa this transfer. She is from Brasília and she is a convert of 7 years. She was the first person in her family to be baptized and she has a huge love of the gospel. Every time she shares her testimony you can tell that it's it's so important to her. Her testimony is so sweet and so strong. She just loves this gospel so much and she's made some pretty big sacrifices to be here as a missionary. I think it's going to be a fantastic transfer with her. Síster Costa just loves doing what's right and she loves being a missionary. She's been working and helping the missionaries for about two years and she is very good at it. Working with her is so much fun. Síster Christensen is what most people think of when they think of missionaries: nearly perfect and with an incredible testimony. I think Viseu will be in very good hands with her. Sister Fernandes is training Sister Christensen from Las Vegas so we're having a lot of fun here in Viseu. We like our little 4-sister apartment. It was a little rough the first couple of days with Sister Costa she has the thickest Brasilian accent I have ever heard and she uses so many words that they only use in Brasil. She's had a really hard time understanding the Português accent and the different words they use here, so it's been a work in progress. Marta, one of the members from the other ward made a huge list of words they use in Brasil and in Portugal that are different. It's very useful and at times funny because some incredibly inapproriate words there are completely normal here and vice versa. It's made for some interesting conversations. :)

This week our investigator Ribeiro has been close to Mafra down south toward Lisboa, but he sent us a text message telling us that he's been reading the Book of Mormon and that he feels very "content" when he reads it. He really likes the Book of Mormon and I don't think I've ever met any investigator who just immediately knows and understands the value it holds. Ribeiro does and he shares it with all of his Evangelical friends. Our plan for when he comes back from the south is to teach him the third lesson about the Gospel of Jesus Christ and baptism and invite him to be baptized. He said he already believes it's all true, but we're not entirely sure what we've missed and what else we need to do to help him understand that he needs to act and follow the pattern established by the Savior. I think it's just going to click one day in his head and when he has that lightbulb-moment he'll have no problem in being baptized. 

We finally got in touch with a senhora named Margarida. We've been trying to teach her for weeks and we finally stopped by when she was home! Miracles happen! She has cancer and she's having a really hard time right now. When we said a prayer with her she just started crying and the Spirit that we felt there was so sweet. We had an appointment to go back and visit her, but she called and cancelled because they had an emergency and had to take her mom to the hospital. We've contacted her son Emmanuel in the road a couple of times and he's an active member of the Evangelical church but he asked us to come and talk to his mom. She doesn't go to church with him, but he says that he knows that we can help her right now, so we're going to keep on dropping by until we finally get back in with her. Her work schedule is really hard to work with, but we'll get back in there. 

Alícia and Maurício are okay... I think. We haven't been able to actually teach them in about two weeks. We were able to stop by yesterday in the afternoon but there wasn't time for us to teach a lesson. We were able to mark an appointment to go back on Saturday so we're going to go back with a member to teach with us. Maurício loves us and he feels the Spirit when we're there, but Alícia his mom still isn't so sure about us. She thinks we're nice but she doesn't actually know why we're coming around. We're going to pray a lot before our lesson on Saturday that something will help her be more open to the Spirit so that she can understand why she needs what we have to offer. We did find out that she smokes, but that's just another reason of why she needs the missionaries right now.

This weekend the most wonderful weekend of the whole year happened and we were able to watch Conferência Geral! Eu amo Conferência Geral!!! It is the best weekend of the entire year. I can hardly believe that it's already been 6 months since the last conference, but boy am I grateful that we have profetas e apóstolos! As we watched the sessions I could just feel it as they spoke. They're not just a bunch of old men that are preaching a lot of outdated ideas, they're representatives of Jesus Christ and they're the men called to teach us what Heavenly Father wants for us right now. I loved Sister Oscarson's talk about the mom realizing that the gospel is all true and also Élder Kearon's talk. It was so sweet because he was here recently for our mission conference but his talk reminded me that Heavenly Father loves all of His children and He wants us to love them too. Presidente Uchtdorf's talk was really good too. Yes Daddy, they do speak German in the Celestial Kingdom, but Português is there too. :) We haven't been able to watch the Saturday afternoon session yet. Presidente Amorim gave us permission to stay out until 23h00 to watch all the sessions of conference, but the transmission in Português wasn't working Saturday night. They other missionaries were all watching it in English on the computers downstairs but Sister Costa doesn't speak any English at all, so we still haven't seen it yet. We'll watch it at some point though. :)

This week I've starting reading in the New Testament about the ministry of Christ, and I've realized that I love my Savior. I love reading the stories in the Bible and in the Book of Mormon and just knowing that it's all true. It brings a special feeling to my heart that I can't really describe. It's just a peace and a calm and a lot of love every time I read about the life of the Savior. It makes me more grateful that I have the chance to serve as a missionary, even with all of my imperfections and weaknesses. 

The church is true. No doubt about it. :)

Amo vos!

Síster Smith

P.S. Here's a picture of me and Síster Costa and the other picture is of the members watching the Sunday Morning Session of General Conference ontém at about 18h00. We sure do love Conferência Geral! :)