Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Making History and Playing Santa

Hello family! I write to you from a movie theater. Yep. That's the only internet place on this side of town. The smell of popcorn is VERY enticing. But this keyboard doesn't stick so it's nice.

Well, we got our transfer calls yesterday and we found out that we will be the first tripla in history to stay together for a second transfer. We are really excited. Good things are happening here and none of us wanted to leave and we all get along great. We laugh a lot.

Christmas was really good. We successfully accomplished our Secret Santa project. Well...we got lost for about an hour, but it went really well. We went to the first place, which was an apartment building. So I buzzed up to the apartment to make sure that they were home. We didn't know how we were going to get into the building, but they buzzed us up without even asking who it was. I considered this a big blessing. So we jammed the soccer ball into the door so it would stay open and we waited outside for a while so they would dismiss the ring and think that we had buzzed the wrong apartment. It actually worked! So we stealthfully (is that a word or is it stealthily?) went up the elevators, dropped off the food, me and Irma Nelson went down the elevator and Irmas Machado and Holtzclaw knocked on the door and ran down the stairs. We walked along the building so they wouldn't see us (and good thing we did because the elders talked to the family and they said that the first thing that they did was run to the window to see who it was, but we left without a trace!)

The next family took a while to find. They live in the middle of nowhere. Seriously. We had to ask for directions about three times, the first two were guys who had NO IDEA where they were pointing us to, which you'd think the logical reaction would be to say that you didn't know and to NOT give directions. But we finally went to the gas station after an hour of wandering around these tiny towns. I was skeptical because my past experience with asking for directions at gas stations here in Portugal is that it is foreigners that work there and they have no idea where they even are. So, we walked in. I asked, again being a Doubting Thomas. The attendant, who was a Spaniard, responded and gave me PERFECT directions, including the time that each step should take. Really, they were the best directions I've ever gotten. I have no idea how he knew where to guide us to, but I was very surprised and grateful. We found their house and made our delivery. As we drove off, I spotted a bright pink house literally a minute away from the recipient family's house that I recognized. Yes, after an hour of searching, I had known exactly how to get there the whole time because, unbeknownst to me, the family lived by an investigator of mine, but around the corner. Well, it was a learning experience and now I know how to get there!

We heard a couple of days later from the elders that the first family was very grateful for the food. The father had had no money to get his children anything for Christmas and he was so grateful for the gift that we were able to provide through Irma Holtzclaw's generous friends. Being a Secret Santa is my favorite Christmas tradition from growing up and I was so grateful and blessed to be able to continue the tradition here in Portugal.

On Saturday we had a surprise baptism of one of the elders' investigators, Mihail (or as we call him Misha). He decided that day that it was time for him to get baptized, so baptized he was! It was a great baptism and we all enjoyed the Spirit. I was able to play the piano and the three of us saved the horrible interlude by singing accapella. Fortunately, we all sing, so we were able to bring back the reverence.

We had a great lesson with Laurinda, who is less-active, and she said that she would go to church with us!! It was a little miracle. She is so much happier now and is no longer mourning the loss of her daughter, which happened years ago. Truly, the gospel is blessing her life.

Well, that's about it! Things are going really well here. We're working hard and we are seeing little successes. I hope that you all enjoy a good New Year! I love you all!

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

A Forgotten Carol Christmas

Hello family! this email is coming to you a day early because perhaps the stores will be closed tomorrow. The endearing joys of Portugal.

This past week has been great! We had a fun p-day with the irmas, we went bowling and I didn't get last place! I only got second-to-last place to Irmã Oliveira, who is Brasilian and was bowling for the first time. (And, I was in last place the whole game until the 10th frame and I rolled a least I saved my dignity at the end and got a whopping score of 50! Some things do never change.)

We had our Christmas Conference the next day in Miratejo and it was FANTASTIC! President and Irma Terry are incredible. They had a few surprises for us at the Conference. One was that they had gotten a DVD version of the Forgotten Carols and they had us watch it. I thought of you all and remembered when Dad told me the story for the first time. For me, that was a tender mercy. They also gave us a book full of our favorite recipes. Thanks Mom for sending those in! We were so grateful to Irma Terry for putting that together. The Spirit was strong as President and Irma Terry testified about Christ's divinity and gave us insights into the scriptures. It was very edifiying and I got to catch up with the elders I was in the MTC with, which was nice.

Well, one funny thing here in Portugal is that there are Santas hanging off of balconies and windows ALL over the apartment building. I guess since no one lives in houses, they don't have chimneys, so Santa just has to come through the window rather than down the chimney. I might buy one of them for next year, as tackey as they are.

Well we've had some success this past week. We marked Diogo for baptism! He is SOOO excited to learn and to be baptized. His face lit up when we asked him and his grandmother cried. Unfortunately, his mother and father are divorced and he's with his father on Sundays, since he works every other day of the week and he doesn't make any effort to bring him to church. But we're working on it. Diogo is SOOO excited though.

We also tried to mark a date with Albertina again. The Spirit spoke through me as I extended the committment to her, and I was shocked when she said no because of the strength of the Spirit in the room. She wants to get baptized, but she has difficulty in accepting some of the commandments. It just about broke my heart, but she has her agency and we're hoping that she will gain the faith to keep the commandments.

This Sunday all of Irma Nelson's piano students had a recital for Christmas. The sacrament meeting room was PACKED with standing room only. President and Irma Terry came down to watch it and it was wonderful. The room was super stuffy and the students are progressing really well. I was proud of them and of Irma Nelson. She does a great job with them. She also had me play the violin at the recital with her at the piano. We played "O Holy Night" and I had flashbacks of when that went horribly wrong years ago in church, but it went well this time and everyone seemed to enjoy it. It was nice to play again. I also directed our missionary choir at the conference as we sang "Where You There?" It's nice to be able to participate in music again.

Another way that we are participating in music is that we are going door to door caroling! It's actually been a GREAT experience. We've found some great people (families!!!) and we have fun with people thinking that we want money...but it's been very positive.

Oh! About Christmas, you can call this number at 4:30 my time so I think 10:30CST, 289801488. I think you need to put 351 before it. You have my cell number if you need it.

Well, I'm out of time. I'll talk to you soon! I love you all! I might be able to email tomorrow, so please let me know how you are all doing! I love you! Merry Christmas!

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Oh Christmas Tree, Oh Christmas Tree

Hello dear family! Thank you so much for the emails and the updates about everything going on in Texas and Utah. Let me just say how grateful I am that it is not snowing here. It's gotten really cold at night, and unfortunately someone dropped the heater and now it's broken (and no, it was not me, surprisingly enough), but we have the hope that we can fix it as we have some handy elders in the area. But my hot water bottle and five layers between clothing and blankets keep me nice and warm at night.

Well, I write to you from Lisbon. Yep, that's right, I'm actually in Lisbon right now. We have our Christmas Conference tomorrow in Miratejo (just south of Lisbon), so the whole Algarve zone came up for the conference. There will be bowling today. We are all excited. Most of the irmas are getting together to go bowling today. It should be really fun.

This past week has been BUSY! Albertina is doing well, she has a testimony of Joseph Smith and the Book of Mormon, but she just needs to act upon it. She knows she needs to be baptized and really live the gospel, but something's holding her back. But she'll figure it out. Diogo is also doing really well. He came to church and has been doing his reading. He is really participating in the lessons now and is excited to see us.

Felicia, the less-active that we found on the street about a month ago, came to church! We walked with her to church and she loved it. She really wants to get her life in order and is starting to really comprehend the gospel better. I was so excited that she came to church! It's been a few years for her. She is reading from the Book of Mormon as well. She's progressing very well.

We've run into a surprising number of Muslims this week. First we met Behrooz, who is from Iran. We don't know if he is Muslim, but he really wants to learn about the Church and is the nicest person ever. We also met Abido, who is from Morrocco. He was VERY Muslim, but very respectful, though he spoke a mixture of Portuguese and Arabic. Fortunately, Irma Machado speaks a little Arabic, so she was able to understand what he said. It was a very postitive experience both times.

Saturday it was POURING almost all day. Fortunately I had my red polkadot umbrella with me, but my legs and feet were SOAKED all evening and night because we were at the chapel all evening for the branch "dinner" that turned into a party, as I had predicted. We all had a good time and ate great food. There are some members of the branch that can really dance. Wow! I was shocked! Before the party some people were decorating and they set up the Christmas tree. There were some extra decorations, so Ana Marta, the branch president's daughter, who is very serious, quiet and a bit sullen, went to town and decorated me! So I became a Christmas tree as well. Don't worry, we took pictures. :)

The next day we had a couple of devotionals. We watched the First Presidency Christmas devotional, which was wonderful and way too short! I loved when President Eyring talked about making aluminum foil balls to throw at Samuel the Lamanite. Albertina came and watched that devotional, well, actually, we picked her up as she has a broken foot with a member, Noemia. Then she stayed for the branch's devotional. The devotional was actually pretty good, not too long and "Silent Night" was only a little funny...I maybe might have had to stare at my hymnal to keep from laughing...

We've been finding some great people to teach and one of our new investigators, Lena, even made us lunch on Monday! The work is going really well here and I am loving Faro.

I am excited for Christmas! I can't believe that it's next week! Wow! This month is going by soooo fast. I hit 11 months in the mission yesterday I realized this morning. I'm almost a year out! I can't believe it! Well, I hope that you all have a great day. I love you all! Merry Christmas!

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Who Would Want to Cancel Christmas?

Hello family! It was so nice to hear from all of you! It sounds like things are all going well and that you are all preparing for Christmas. I really just realized that Christmas is coming today. It's only two weeks away and we all know what that means! Phone calls and good food!

Well, it has been a HECTIC week here in Portugal. We had a special zone conference with Elder Gérald Caussé of the First Quorum of the Seventy this past Saturday in Lisbon, so the whole Algarve zone came up and we enjoyed the company of the other missionaries as well as Elder Caussé. He was SUPER funny. Wow. The whole conference was about the successes that we are having in Europe. The Area Presidency is really customizing the way that we do missionary work here in Europe. It's so inspired. Really. Elder Caussé said numerous times how wonderful President Terry and Irma Terry are and how priviledged we are to have them in our mission. Apparently our mission is the complete opposite of the rest of the missions in the area, where we are working well with the members but have a hard time finding people to teach. This is the opposite of the rest of Europe. But we got some great counsel and training and the whole conference was so positive. We all left with a resolve to do better and the energy and the excitement to do it.

President Terry asked our zone to prepare a special musical number. Well, he asked Sister Nelson to arrainge it (I can't spell anymore, sorry...) So, fortunately, my companions have GREAT voices and the three of us sang a beautiful arrangement of "I Stand All Amazed." It was such a pleasure to sing and feel the Spirit edifying us and the other missionaries. I was so glad that there was finally a musical number at a conference.

So we all know that the Church is very young here and they are all trying to figure it out. Our branch president does a fantastic job in training the members and helping them figure out how to fulfill their callings. He is a great teacher and usually branch council is a very uplifting experience for us all, but this month it was a little different. Many things happened that caused some feelings to be hurt in the branch, though they were smoothed over by the presidency. One member of the council raised his hand and asked why we celebrate Christmas since it is a pagan holiday. (Keep in mind that they already cancelled the Christmas party because they thought it wasn't appropriate and they don't celebrate Halloween or anything like it in Portugal, well, at least here in Faro.) So to me when he said that I thought, oh no! Don't cancel Christmas too! He went off on the birth of Christ being around April and how we shouldn't celebrate pagan holidays. Our wonderful branch presidency responded in such a loving way and showed the joy of the Christmas holiday and season. Just so you all know, Christmas will still be celebrated here in Faro. Fhew! We are all very excited about it.

I am so excited for Christmas this year. What better way to celebrate the birth of Christ than by being a missionary! The streets here are filled with lights, they don't light the buildings, but the streets and it's beautiful. Christmas music is playing in the stores and there are red carpets lining the downtown area of Faro. I love Christmas.

Albertina is doing great, family. She broke her foot last week in her apartment when she tripped over something, but we've been able to help her out. We talked to her on Monday and she told us that she knows that it's true! My heart was filled with joy as she said that. She is changing and being filled with the happiness of the gospel. She always calls us her angels. I am so priviledged to know her and to help her.

We were able to teach Felicia, the lady that we contacted a couple of weeks ago on the street, who is less-active. She is very receptive, is now reading the Book of Mormon, and wants to come back to church! I'll keep you updated on her.

Well, things are going great here really. My mission is really flying by. I can't believe how fast the time is going. The weeks just fly by and so do the days. I love this work and I know that it is the work of the Lord that I am doing. I am so excited to talk to you all on Christmas! Have a great day! I love you!

Wednesday, December 3, 2008

One Funny Poem Song

Hello family! I am glad that everything went well for your various Thanksgiving celebrations! We had a great one here last week. The Nelsons made us dinner and it was SOOO good. Wow. I love American holidays and I'm a little nervous about the Christmas food here, but I'm sure it will be good. Everything else has been good here.

Well, first let me say how much I am loving the tripla. Wow. I love it. Irmas Machado and Holtzclaw are soo amazing. Irma Machado loves politics and the Middle East and Irma Holtzclaw has so much energy and is a theater major. We are all constantly laughing and singing. I am so impressed with them and their willingness to learn and to serve the Lord. They make my life so much easier.

Albertina is doing well. She's at the point of decision whether she wants to act on what she knows is right or not. I know that she knows that we are saying the truth, but she just needs to have the faith to act. But, I'm confident that she will find the faith that she needs.

Sunday was the Primary Program in church and it was so great. I loved hearing those sweet children sing. It is such an inspired program. We were all edified by the simple and powerful message of the primary hymns.

Sunday night we had a funny experience. So instead of having a Christmas party we are having a Christmas devotional. So each of the auxiliaries are in charge of having a musical number. So the Relief Society for some reason decided to invite the elders to sing with us and so we all practiced on Sunday night. We are singing "O Little Town of Bethlehem", I think, and "Silent Night". So, I volunteered to plunk out the parts as one sister conducted. She hovered over me and almost bumped into me the whole time and I had a hard time following her. So, I delegated to one of the elders.

So we started singing "Silent Night" and the director thought it would be a good idea to, instead of singing the hymn, have one person recite the hymn while everyone else "oooed" in the background. So various members of the Relief Society recited the hymn in their most dramatic way, while the other half tried not to laugh. Then someone thought it would be a good idea for ME to try reciting it. (I have no idea who thought that I could maintain my composure with having a choir backup.) So I recited the first verse and tried really hard not to laugh, but then I broke down in the second verse and laughed so hard that I was crying, my face beet-red of course. The rest of the choir (including the director) busted up laughing and we all had a good time. Let's hope that we can keep straight faces during the devotional.

We had a great family night last night with a family with only three girls, the Pintosillgo's. Those girls jumped all over me and entertained me, but the oldest girl really knew the gospel really well, I was impressed. I also learned how to make a really pretty snowflake/icicle thing. So, bonus.

But things are going really well for us. I am happy and loving being a missionary. The time is really starting to fly by. I know that this is the Lord's work, that I am His representative of His church. I love you all and I hope you have a great week remembering the birth of our Savior.

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Lions and Tigers and Camels, Oh My!

Hello family and Happy Thanksgiving Eve! Though, because Thanksgiving is not on a P-Day, we are celebrating today! The whole zone is getting together at the Nelson's, the senior couple in Loulé, for a feast! We are all really excited. So right now my hands are FREEZING! It is pretty chilly here in the morning and at night, but during the day it is fine, so we should be comfortable playing tennis later today.

This has been a CRAZY week! I've had three different companions! Irmã Churak had to go to Lisbon to renew her visa, so I did a division with Irmã Oliveira for about two days. It was great! I picked up my Brasilian accent again, sort of, and we had a great time. We've really bonded this transfer and I learned so much from her. She's a great teacher and we learned more about one anothers' cultures. But she had to leave Friday morning, which left me without a companion until that night. So I went around with Ana Lúcia, who is a young single adult in the branch. I had a pretty normal person day, as she had to do homework and take care of things around the house. This was fortunate because I was pretty sick with a cold/sinus infection. So it gave me the much needed time to rest and recouperate. The next day I was feeling much better and was back in the saddle again.

We've been working a lot with Ana Lucia's family. Her mom, Veronica, was less-active for a while, but now she's back to better activity and she wants to really live the gospel. We are working on helping her have a stronger foundation and also teaching her boyfriend, Carlos, and her son, Elias, as well as talking a bit to her other daughter, Vanha. It's been rewarding to see the changes she has made in just six weeks. I can see the desire that is growing in her to live the gospel.

Albertina had a weird week, but she's back to her normal self and she came to church on Sunday (the whole block, as usual) and then there was a baptism in our building from the branch in Loulé, so she came to that as well and she loved it. She also loved the food afterwords. :)

The branch in Loulé had a talent show that we were able to attend. The Ecuadorian men played some great music for us from their drums, flutes and guitars and the women did a traditional dance from Ecuador. They told me that if I came to their branch again that I would have to stay. They miss having sister missionaries there. We also had enrichment and Cristina, and investigator, came! It was a HUGE step for her to come to the church, so now that barrier has been knocked down. YAY!

Sunday we attended the baptism of two girls from the Loulé branch. Somehow I ended up helping out with almost everything. I got roped into doing the program (at the last minute), and it took longer than expected (of course), and it didn't print out right. But fortunately, there were some elders in the building that figured everything out. However, one of the jets used to fill up the baptismal font broke off leaving a bunch of gunk in the water. So...I got roped into finding a solution. That solution came in the form of a mop. So, feeling like I was cleaning out a pool, I was able to clean out the water in preparation for the baptism. Something I never ever pictured myself doing. Fortunately, I had help, and one of the elders actually touched all of the gunk, and my hands stayed clean. It's the little things really. The baptism was great and we were all edified. Albertina really liked it and I'm so glad that she came.

Well, the circus is in town family! It's right by where some members live, so we took a little side trip to see the animals. There were lions, and tigers, and camels, and shetland ponies. Those lions were HUGE!! Wow! And stinky. I never imagined that I would see circus animals on my mission, but hey, you never know.

I had a cool experience on Monday. I had just been thinking about how I needed to be better at listening to impressions that I get while I'm out in the road. So we walked by this woman who was cleaning up the leaves on the street and she smiled and said hi after we greeted her. We passed her and kept walking, but I felt the clear impression that we needed to go back and talk to her. So, I gathered my courage and we went back. After talking to her for a minute, we found out that she is a member! Woah! She ended up sharing some of her burdens with us and we were able to comfort her. We will be talking toher again on Saturday and I'm really excited. How grateful I am that I heeded that prompting and the help that I am given so freely. I am truly blessed.

So, we got transfer calls yesterday. Irma Churak is going to Setubal and I will be staying her and being put in a tripla, with Irmã Machado (American with a Portuguese name) and Irmã Holtzclaw. They both just got to the field this transfer, so I will be greenie-breaking both of them. It will certainly be a new adventure and I'm sure that I will be given a LOT of help, all of which I will use, to be sure.

Well family, I love you! I hope that you have a wonderful Thanksgiving! Eat too much food for me!

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

(No Subject)

Hello family! Thanks for the updates!

Well, this has been a long, yet short week. We had interviews with President Terry this past week and it was so nice. I felt like I was just talking to an old friend. He is such a great mission president and I am so grateful that I am able to serve with him. I also cannot believe that the transfer will be over next week. This one has really flown by. Wow.

Well, Albertina is still doing well. She is kind of struggling with her testimony, but she's so wonderful and we know that she will find out for herself that what we are saying is true. We brought Ana Nunes, the branch president's wife, with us and shew as wonderful with her teaching. She was simple, clear and to the point. It was a miracle.

Right now we are working on getting to the less-actives. I had the opportunity of speaking on Sunday at church, which I found out about on SAturday night. I felt that I should speak on retention. I was actually nervous and I was having trouble with my Portuguese, I have my days. But it really helped strengthen my testimony of the importance of the work with the less-actives. I read through Luke 15 and I was impressed with how the father was looking for his son "while he was yet a great way off" (quando ainda estava longe). That is how we must work too.

Oh, so one thing that I've noticed about Faro is that, while it is wonderful and I love it, there is one thing that I could live without...but I guess it just makes it more endearing to me. Well, the dog owners of Faro do not clean up after their dogs it just does not smell great here. I don't know if it's from the canal thing or from the animal population. But Faro is SMELLY. Wow. Just in case you wanted to know...though you probably didn't. :)

Oh, I've also gotten my hands on a violin and Sister Nelson, who is a senior missionary here with her husband, teaches piano lessons as her mission activity. So the two of us have gotten together and we will be playing things for Christmas. It's been nice to play again. I even clipped my nails even more! It's a nice way to express myself. I am an artistic soul.

On Sunday we got a call from our elders at around 5:00pm saying that there was a baptism right then from the branch in Loulé. So we got there and the church was a madhouse! Everything was last minute, and it started really late. But it was probably one of the best baptisms I've been to. The Spirit was so strong throughout the meeting. The branch in Loulé consists of mostly Ecuadorians (random, I know) and they are such beautiful people! The men and the women have long black hair that they keep in a long braid. I just wanted to touch it! And their children are so beautiful! It's so hard not to hold the children here. They are such humble, kind people. AND they make great food. We had this great corn nuts type thing. So good!

We also helped out a recent covert, Maria Joao, this week. We just randomly stopped by on Friday night with the intent of seeing if she could teach with us the next day. But when we got up there she was a bit distressed. We asked if she needed help and, as it turned out, she had to move out thatnight and the next day and had no help. So we rolled up our sleeves and got to work! We also called the elders and they came right over as well. We helped her the next day as well and she got all moved over to her new apartment. She told us that night that we had been an answer to her prayers and that she had told the branch she was moving but she didn't have the courage to ask for help. How grateful I am that we were able to help her.

To thank us she made us this great couscous bread thing (which is a typical Cape Verdian food). Holy Hannah it was good! Wow. I love the food here. Yum. It was a good food week for us. The members are really starting to feed us here. It's so great. Really. I will miss the food here.

Well, Monday we had a bit of an adventure. We went out to follow up with an investigator, Fatima. She lives in the middle of nowhere. We went out there at 7:00pm and we had a bus at 7:55. So we talked to her and her wonderful daughters (really, they are the nicest people). We showed them "Finding Happiness" and the Spirit was so strong. They were riveted on what we were saying. Unfortunately, as we were heading out the door, we heard the bus go by. So after waiting in the cold and in the hope that it had only passed to turn around, we figured it out and called Noemia. She came to our rescue and picked us up, as there were no more buses. The members are great here.

Well, things are wonderful. I love Faro. I love this work. I know it is the Lord's work that I am doing. Next week is transfers so I'll let you know if we have any changes. There are 19 new missionaries coming in so there will be big changes in the mission. I hope that everything stays the same down here though. I love my district. Well. Have a great week! I love you all!

Com grande amor,
Irmã Laura Thomas

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

One Open House and a Christmas Dinner

Hey family! Thanks again for the updates and emails. I hope that your week is still going well.

Did I mention that we use the internet in a Western Union? Funny, huh? I sure have used the internet in some interesting places. But there's no crazy Indian music and body odor in this one and they don't kick me off after a half-hour, so I count my blessings.

This has been a good week for us. Albertina is doing GREAT. We talked to her about baptism on Monday, but she doesn't know how she can pay tithing because she's on a fixed income and she can barely eat as it is. So today she is fasting and praying to know how God is going to help her pay tithing. She wants to get baptized, but only if she can keep all of the commandments. She is an amazing lady and every time we see her she just lights up. It's so refreshing to be loved by your investigator. She is changing and growing and becoming so much happier. She's so great.

Diogo is doing well as well. We're encouraging him to read from the Book of Mormon and we worked with the branch to try and incorporate him better in the branch. He's a good kid and I like teaching him.

There is also a young single adult here, Ana Lucia, who is great. We go over to her family's house every Monday night and I think it's my favorite appointment of the week because I can see how much they need to hear what we say. They are hungry for the gospel. Her mom, Veronica, especially really listens to what we say and applies it. It is a bit difficult to keep everyone on subject and focused, but they are just wonderful people.

So last week I mentioned that we were going to Ponta da Piedade in Lagos. That was an adventure. So we got there and had to find a place to keep all of our stuff. So we went to the old chapel and were able to keep our stuff there. That took a while. I was also flooded with memories of last year when we went there together. I took a picture on those stairs right where Jen and I were last year. I'll get that to you.

Travelling in a big group while sightseeing is a big NO. Everyone always has a different pace and idea of what to do. We finally made it to Ponta da Piedade with two hours before our train was to leave. So we (thankfully) split up into smaller groups and fortunately Irma Churak felt like being a mountain goat with me. So the two of us went with Elders Dimick and Curtis climbing around. I was grateful to have jeans again. I've missed them. It was really refreshing to be out in nature and I felt like I was back in Moab. We had a good time and took some good pictures.

Unfortunately, we left Ponta da Piedade a little later than we should have and not everyone wanted to run for the train. So we missed our train, but were able to catch a bus back to Faro. It was an adventure and now I will travel in smaller groups. But it was good to see everyone.

We also had an open house at the church that the branch set up as a missionary opportunity. So we and the elders were there all day to show people around and walk them through the different organizations in the Church. Only three people showed up, but it was a good opportunity for us to show our support to the members. I was able to talk to Presidente Nunes and his wife quite a bit about what they wanted for the branch and it was so nice to be able to see more of their perspective on things.

To set up for the open house included a display for each organization that each class did itself. But they wanted some pictures hung up on fishing wire from the ceiling tiles. So Elder McKinley and I set to doing that. He would climb up on the chair, get the ceiling tile out, hand it to me. I would stick the fishing wire on then I would hold the picture while he stuck the ceiling tile back in. I mention this process because it REALLY reminded me of my youth, helping Dad with any type of project. He would do the real work and I would "hold the picture" in the process. A simple, but necessary thing. It was a funny reminder of home and it made me laugh when Elder McKinley got covered in a bird's nest, while I just watched. Good times at the church were had.

On Sunday we had our branch council and it was wondeful as always. I love how this branch really counsels with one another. They bring up concerns and they figure it out TOGETHER. I've never seen a unit in Portugal do that and it's so good. They work in unity to figure things out. They discussed the upcoming Christmas devotional that we will be doing in place of the Christmas party. The branch president mentioned that they could do a dinner or some other type of social activity if they wanted to (I chimed in on that one. The Church here needs to have more fun!) I asked when we could have the dinner and after a good 15 minutes of discussion dates were set and everyone was excited for the "non-party" dinner. This is an activities branch.

Well, things are going well here. We're in the process of finding, but we're working on working better with the members. Things are progressing and I am happy. I hope that you all have a wonderful day! I love you all!

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

The Members Take to the Streets!

Hello family! How are all of you? It sounds like everyone is doing really well and had a great week. So I see that we will be having some big changes here soon in the States. That should be interesting to see.

It's been a good week. Last p-day we went to Loulé to play tennis with the elders there. The weather was beautiful and we had a good time. I was on a team with Elder Dimick and fortunately, he did all the running around for me. Elder Rodrigues did the same for Irmã Churak. She did her best to learn how to play tennis. However, the next day at zone conference I was still sore even though I really didn't do that much. Oh well. But it was fun to play tennis and we have a great district. We laugh a lot when we're all together.

The next day was Zone Conference and it was really different because there were only about 18 of us and as there were three native Portuguese speakers, the conference was in Portuguese. Hearing from President Terry in Portuguese is just not the same. But we had a good spirit of comradry amongst us. I translated one of the trainings of the APs and I was surprised at my ability to translate, when I had tried before and it did NOT work. I'm growing!

Albertina is still doing REALLY well. We want to invite her to be baptized tonight. We'll see how it goes! She is really understanding and loving the Book of Mormon. She's starting to just teach us the lesson. She is praying and really growing. Last week we had an integration night with the branch. The Branch Presidency was in charge and they talked about prophets. Each one talked about a different prophet and then they subtlely (I can't spell anymore..sorry. but you get what I mean, right?) slipped out of the room and then popped out in costumes. One was Nephi, one was and apostle of Christ, Simon, I think, and the branch president was Spencer W. Kimball. He was already wearing a suit, all he did was put on his wife's glasses. I took a couple of pictures and we had a good time. We invited Albertina that Monday before but she had forgotten. So we reminded her as we were heading out the door to go to the activity. She was like, "oh it's right now? Let me get my jacket!" She had a great time and we are so excited for her. Really, she becomes happier and chattier every time. She is really understanding what we teach her. It's amazing to see.

On Sunday we did a training in Relief Society and walked them through doing street contacts because later that afternoon we took to the streets! (Mind you, none of this was planned by the missionaries, it was planned by the branch!) So we took to the streets and it was great! I went witht he Relief Society President, Maria Furtado, and a Young Woman, Ana Marta. Maria Furtado talked to EVERYONE! Wow! I was so impressed with her. She was incredible. I ended up spending a good amount of time jsut talking to Ana Marta. She's having a hard time right now and I really click with her. I hope that I can help her. But I am really liking being here in Faro, it's a good fit for me.

Well, I guess I should say I like the Algarve, right now I'm in Portimão, which is on the other side of the Algarve on a division. I went with Irma Oliveira and we had a bunch of time to find yesterday. I was so fun to be with her because it reminded me of being in Brasil. I have such a love for Brasil and the people from there. I love being able to talk about that culture again. It's fun to speak more Portuguese too.

I love being here in Portugal because there are so many cultures! I have learned so much, and tried out so many different foods. A couple of weeks ago I tried squid when Irma Brady came to Faro with her family and they ate lunch with us. Family, you can skip that one. Ick. But instead I ate salmon and it was GREAT! (I know family what you are thinking, "who is this girl and what have they done with Laura?!") I am turning Portuguese family. I can't speak English anymore, I wave my index finger around to mean I don't want something, I wave my hand in front of my face when someone does something less than intelligent, and eating with just a fork is weird. Yes, family, I am Portuguese/Brasilan/American. I accept it.

Things are going well here for us. I am happy and I am loving the work. Today we are going to Ponta da Piadade and I'm really excited. Pretty much the whole zone is coming. It should be fun. I am loving being in jeans! I hope you all have a great week and I'll talk to you soon! Happy November! (Where did October and September go?)

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

A Halloweenless Country

Hello dear family! Thanks for all of the emails! I think I get more communication from my family than most missionaries. I consider myself very blessed.

Well, this past week was a really good one for us. I have a bit of a cough right now, but I'm on the mend. Fortunately, I got some mints from Aurora that are saving me right now. Yay for great members! This past week has really been a week of service. We helped Irma Candida set up an email account, took out a lot of trash, set up a water heater thing and various other projects. It's nice to serve.

Albertina is doing great! We asked her last week if she's been praying about the Book of Mormon and she has! She feels really good about it and she knows that it is from God. She comes to church for the whole block every week (which is so nice to see) and she is just progressing wonderfully. We love working with her and we can see the gospel really passing through her.

We found a bunch of new investigators last week and we went back to teach one of them, Sonia, yesterday. We asked her why what we are saying would be important to her and she said that she wanted to change and that we could help her do that. EXACTLY! That is why we are here! To help people change and come closer to Christ! Yay! She gets it! So we will be teaching her hopefully three times a week, like we are counseled to do, and I am excited for her. She's from Cape Verde (horray for diversity!) and she is just great. More to come.

We've had some funny occurrences the past week. Take Monday for instance. I have two questions for you family: how many people does it take to fix a paper jam? and how many people does it take to send a one line email? Answer: Seven people to fix a paper jam and three to send an email. Let me tell you how.

So Monday we had to make copies for our upcoming open house that the branch is putting on. We went to the chapel to get the original and make copies and the other elders from the zone were there because of a district leader meeting. So we talked to them for a bit and then proceeded to make our copies. No sooner had Irma Churak started to make the copies than that copier started freaking out and there was a paper jam. So we, the two of us, tried to figure it out and we couldn't. So then we enlisted another elder to help us. Still nothing. So then we asked the other elders waiting. Still nothing. Then we asked Noemia, who is a member that takes care of the chapel, to help us. Almost something. Then, Elder Marriott decided to just lift up the machine, of course, we all had to help with it and he shoved his arm up the copier to get out the jammed paper. Finally, success and the copier was successfully fixed, with all seven of us jammed in a little tiny room, some watching, some hindering, and a very few actually doing anything helpful. Some things are just universal, aren't they?

Let's see, what else? I learned yesterday that Halloween is looked badly upon here in Portugal. Apparrently it's a really bad thing here. For me, I just get candy and I get to wear a costume. I love Halloween, but here it has a bad meaning. So I had, in my ignorance, planned a bit of a party with our English classes for Friday (by planned, I basically just told them to bring food). But then I asked our Branch President where we could buy pumpkins because we wer ethinking about carving some for p-day today. He then proceeded to tell me that they don't celebrate halloween and I never found out where to get a pumpkin. Subsequently, the party was cancelled. :( Oh well, I'll celebrate with Irma Churak.

We also discovered that our next-door neighbor used to go to our church and she really liked it. We will be inviting her to our open house. :) I am loving the work here in Faro. There are so many amazing people here and they are so willing to help. I am already making connections with the members, with some that the missionaries haven't been using in the past. So it's been great to see how I can reach people that others couldn't, and visa versa. There really is a reason for each one of us going to different areas.

I am doing so well now. I love this area, this branch, and this work. I know that I am where I need to be, doing the Lord's work. I know this is the true church of God. I know that it is true.

Have agreat week! I love you

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Shouldn't a Pianist Have a Toilet Seat?

Hello family! Thank you so much for the emails. It was nice to hear about the adventure of the upstairs window. I am glad that things went well for you all.

Well things in Faro are going GREAT! I love it here and it's wonderful to be down in the Algarve. Let me tell you, the Algarve is where it's at! The Church actually functions here like it should. We had Branch Council and PEC on Sunday. The Branch Presidency met with us to see about the work. It was great! They are wonderful members and it's great to be here. Unfortunately, no one here can play the piano, so they are left with me to play during church. Poor things. It was a little rough this week, as I only played the melody, but it was better than nothing, right? Beggars can't be choosers. The good news is that we have a simplified hymns book and with a little practice I can play the hymns out of that book. So Mom, those years of piano lessons were not in vain. I can still play something! Yay! The members seemed to appreciate my poor attempts at playing the piano. Really this branch is great. It has about 50 people and a great chapel. It's nice.

Another great thing about Faro is my apartment. It is new and nice and BEAUTIFUL and right next door to a comic book shop. Funny! The house is so nice. But as it's new, it's missing a few things, like pots, pans, a dish rack (which we've already bought since I got here) and a toilet seat. That's right family. I do not have a toilet seat in my apartment. I thought that Irma Churak was trying to play a joke on me, but no, no she's not. So, we'll be talking to our apartment owner to see what he can do. Oh the joys of the mission!

I am also in the biggest district in the mission right now. There is a triple of elder covering both Olhao and Tavira, so they come to our district meeting, but we've got elders in Loule as well as a couple, the Nelsons, and then our amazing elders here in Faro. It's really nice to be around people again and to see other missionaries.

Irma Churak is from around Tyler, Texas. She's about 5'10" and has a Texas accent. She's very nice, but also very sensitive. So I've been learning how to talk in a different way so as to not hurt her feelings, a good thing for a Thomas to learn. But she's a nice girl and wants to do her best. We're going to have a good transfer together I think.

As for the work, we are working with a great woman, Albertina, who is progressing well. She's great and I'm excited to get to know her better. We also teach English class two times a week and it's intense here! We have four levels and I teach the second highest level. My students really want to learn and aren't intimidated by my intensity. They actually really like it!

We've been finding and teaching a lot and things are going well. Life is good here in the Algarve, as well as the weather! I hope that you are all doing well and that this week brings you greater happiness through the gospel! Have a great week!

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

The Gospel Blesses Lives

Hey family, well my email just got erased again and I had just finished it. Ugh. thank you all for writing. It was really nice to hear from all of you.

Yesterday we had our transfer calls and I am being transferred to Faro. I am really excited to go down there. I will be with Irma Churak, who is also from Texas. I am super excited to go, but really sad to leave here with the members and investigators we have.

Here's my new address
Rua Dr. Joao Lucio
Nº2A 2º ESQ
8000 Faro

Barbara and her family came to church on Sunday! It was so amazing to see! Maria was able to get off of work and so they found the church themselves, though they don't even live in Mafra. They loved church and it was a great meeting, although it was POURING outside. Wow. But the members were great and very welcoming and the testimony meeting was probably one of the best I've ever been to. The testimonies were amazing and I loved it.

We talked to Barbara yesterday and she told us how much her family has changed in the past few days. The contention that they usually have is all gone and they are so much happier since Sunday. She said that she has been praying to have more peace. She and her dad are reading every day from the Book of Mormon. Loretto is really putting to test what we told him about how we can have more peace and happiness in our lives form the Book of Mormon. It's been miraculous to see. I am so excited for them!

Yesterday I ate shrimp and I liked it! Gonçalo Esteves taught me how to eat it and he did it in true 15 year old fashion, even spraying shrimp juice in my face. The Esteves have really become very dear to me. They are part of my Portguese family here.

Things are going really here. We were able to teach SOO much last week. I twas amazing. We are being very blessed. I am sad to leave, but I am excited as well to go to Faro. Tomorrow I get to take a three hour bus! I hope that you all continue to do well. Have a great day! Sorry this is short.

Nine more months! Happy Hump Day to me!

Wednesday, October 8, 2008

Snails Anyone?

Hello family! I am glad to hear that all went well in Utah this past week. Things have also been going well for us this week. I am learning and growing a lot!

Well, for General Conference we went down to Oeiras to watch and we did a division with the sisters down there as well. They are in an old elder's apartment, which, consequentally, John lived in. The connections continue. I ran across an old Bible of his and met his old dona, who is very nice. The ward there is wonderful and I got to talk to a good part of them during the weekend. They all talked about how wonderful Elder Van Orman was and that the whole ward just loved him.

I especially loved Conference. I was able to see all sessions, including the Priesthood Session. President Terry encouraged us to go. It was awkward at first, but some other elders had brought a recent convert who was a woman, so we helped make her feel less awkward. We watch one session on Saturday and the rest on SUnday, so it was a long, but wonderful day. I was so touched to hear that Rome was getting a temple, but even more so that Kansas City is getting a temple. I am so excited to hear about where it is!

Well, the division went well. We were encouraged to go out and talk to people between sessions, so we had the chance to do that. I went with Irmã Fonseca and we had the chance to talk to a family that was really excited and interested. I hope that they continue with their interest. It will bless their lives.

Yesterday I had a wonderful experience. We went to Malveira to teach Barbara again. It was raining, but we hiked up the HUGE hill to her house and knocked on the door. We were excited because we saw the light on and heard voices, so we knew that others were home too. However, when we knocked on the door. It fell SILENT and no one came to the door, though we knocked a couple of times. We wrote a note stating that we would come back at 1:30pm to see Barbara and slipped it through the wooden insert to replace a window.

So we went to grab lunch and it started to rain cats and dogs. It was really coming down. Just as it was time to head out the door it started raining even harder, but we went out with a determination to teach Barbara. So we hiked up the HUGE hill again and as I went up I said a silent prayer asking for help to teach her. She's only 14 so we can't go in her house unless her mom or another female adult is there. It was clearly not going to work out for us to be outside to teach her. But we went with faith, knowing that we were doing the Lord's work.

This time as we knocked on the door, the occupants immediately said, "Barbara!" and she came and promptly answered the door. She let us in (because her mom was miraculously home) and we ended up teaching the entire family. Family, let me tell you how amazing that was! That was the first time in my mission that I have taught a family. The father, Loretto, listened very attentively and asked great questions. As his wife ranted about one thing or another, he picked up the Book of Mormon, put on his glasses, and started reading. It was incredible. We asked him to say the closing prayer, taught him how and he accepted and said the closing prayer. He spoke from the heart and gave thanks to God for all of his blessings. I know that it was the Spirit that was teaching the lesson, that inspired us with words and that it touched their hearts. I hope that they continue to feel of this joy that the gospel brings. It was such an amazing experience to teach them.

I have been having various experiences with prayer. I am so humbled to see that if I ask sincerely and specifically, then I am given specific answers. We made a bus that we should have missed when we were going to Oeiras because we were given the help we needed to help this work go forth. I know that God answers prayers.

So last week, I forgot to mention that I ate snails. Well, snail actually. There was no way that I was putting more than one of those things in my mouth. The verdict: it tasted like dirt. But it was an experience.

Next week I'll know what's going on with transfers, so I'll keep you informed. I hope that all is well. I love you all!

Saturday, October 4, 2008


Hello family! It was so wonderful to hear from all of you today. Thank you for your constant and consistent support. I really appreciate it. I was very saddened to hear about Grandpa's passing. But the gospel of Jesus Christ provides such peace and comfort that this life is not the end, but only a small part in the whole spectrum of our existence. We will see him again. How comforted I am to know that.

This has actually been a really good week for us. We are FINALLY finding people who are really interested in the gospel. It's like a miracle, really. I have investigators who are actually progressing! Who are reading, who are praying, who are keeping committments! It's SUCH a nice change, let me tell you. Wow. We have beent eaching Fátima and she went to our activity on Friday, but unfortunately, none of the members showed up, except Manuela, who just kind of weirded Fatima out. Paciencia. But Fatima showed up and that was what was important. She's excited to talk to us tonight. We gave her a Book of Mormon and she was super excited to read from it and just started applying passages to her life. I didn't say ANYTHING. She's great!

We also have Lourdes, who we contacted on the street the first or second day in the transfer. She is really curious and wanting to learn more. She printed out the whole website to read at home! She had some concerns, but Filipe came with us and she is really excited to learn more. She is the sweetest lady ever. Seriously.

Anabela has done a great job with Fatima. She's testifying of the Book of Mormon and really helping her friend see the joy of the gospel. She is still not coming to church because of her husband, but I think it's been really good for her to have a purpose in having a testimony.

On Saturday it was my birthday as you all know, and the day was kind of blah. I was kind of bummed because it was my birthday and itw as a weird day and it was about to rain cats and dogs. But we had gone and knocked some doors and one lady said we could come back that night at 8:00pm. So we visited Maria and Adalto and then went back. We knocked the door and we heard them inside debating whether or not to open the door. Irma McKee and I were determined. We were going to wait there as long as need be. Fortunately, we didn't have to wait too long and they opened the door. THEY LET US IN THEIR HOUSE! That was my first door that I've gotten into in Mafra.

We then were able to talk to Ilda and Sofia. Ilda is REALLY searching for the truth. We talked for a little while and then set up a return appointment. I'm really excited to go back and teach them. That was probably the best birthday present, was that door opening to people who were normal and ready to learn.

Unfortunately, Sporting lost to Benfica. Sigh.

Yesterday we taught Barbara, whom I had contacted last transfer and she was really excited. She made me give her directions to the chapel and even reminded me when I forgot! The work is starting to go somewhere!

In other news, Continente just opened in Mafra. There are signs EVERYWHERE about it. Continente is the Target of Portugal. Also, we have been seeing this couple with a horse and buggy. We have seen them in several different cities around the area. Not something you see every day.

Well, I'm out of time, but know that I love you all and that I am doing well and feeling MUCH better! It's nice to be able to work again! I hope you all have a great week! I love you!!

Irmã Laura Thomas

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Canoes in Portugal? Who Wouldv'e Thought?

Hello again family! Thank you for the emails andthe birthday well wishes. It's crazy that my birthday is this week! Wow! I can't believe it! Now the elders are going to REALLY think that I'm old!

This past week we had some good experiences. Friday, we were feeling silly after planning for a long time and so, as I was filling out the progress record, we joked that I didn't have time to do anything, not even brush my teeth! So, to be funny, Irmã McKee went and got my toothbrush, complete with toothpaste, and started brushing my teeth for us. It was really funny. Don't worry. We got pictures. I'm trying to burn them onto some CDs to send home, so soon you will be seeing more of my mission. Get excited!

Thursday we were in Torres Vedras to teach some less-active members and we got hailed down by a member. He was excited to see us and we got his phone number. Yesterday we went out with the Parkers, who are a senior missionary couple, and we found his house 8(which was in them middle of NO WHERE and it took us about an hour and a half to find it). He wasn't there and some people who knew him joked that the police were able to get up to his house so...hopefully we'll be able to talk to him soon!

Saturday was a branch activity! We were really excited about it and hte whole branch asked us to come with them. We got permission from President Terry to go so off we went! They went up by Abrantes to go canoeing. So we went up and chilled with the members who didn't go canoeing. I took some great pictures and after the canoeing adventure we had a picnic. The boys, including our branch president and counselor, started seeing who could jump over the bikes and they kept raising the height. It was really funny to see. I got some GREAT photos. Then we played limbo. I am still sore from that. Who knew my body could bend like that? I had no idea. The Young Woman in the branch, Debora, was AMAZING. Wow. Elastic! Then we played jump rope and tried to see how many we could get jumping at once. We got about 7 I think, It was fun. The other people there were watching our good times. Unfortunately, I was a little sick, so I had to take it easy. I've been a bit sick this past week, so we're going to be taking it easy today.

Sunday President Martins came to our branch. He encouraged everyone to go to the Saturday session of Stake Conference and talked about how he knew that Sporting was playing Benfica (the biggest rivalry in Portugal for soccer) that night, but how he was still going to be going to the game AFTER the session. I thought that was HILARIOUS that he had to talk about that over the pulpit. So funny. You know you're in Portugal when...

Yesterday we went out with the Parkers as I mentioned and it was a great time. They are a really funny couple and they are so helpful. We were able to confirm the address of a couple of less-actives, so that was nice. Hopefully, we will be able to talk to them sometime.

Things are going well here. The branch is still struggling a bit, but they are all such wonderful people. We started teaching a woman named Fatima, who is the friend of a less-active, Anabela. She is wonderful and I think so ready for the gospel. I am excited to see what happens with her.

I hope you all have a great week and stay strong! I think about you often and love you all. I know that this gospel is what brings lasting happiness. I see it everyday. So many people try to find happiness elsewhere, but it doesn't last. This is the true way to have the greatest happiness. I love you all!

Thursday, September 18, 2008

Knock, Knock on the Door

Hello family! I am glad to hear that all is well. This has been a tiring week, though good.
We had our Zone Conference and I had the pleasure of speaking. President Terry always asks two missionaries to give a talk right on the spot, we are told the topics and are expected to come prepared. I spoke on charity and I think it went well. Conference is always a big boost for me in the transfer, to be with other missionaries, to receive training, to feel the love of the Savior through the Spirit, to be edified. I love Zone Conference. We received some good training that is coming to all of the leadership of the Church about misisonary work. I am SUPER excited that the Brethren are making missionary work such an emphasis. The work will only go forward through the members. It's so true. It's so inspired that they are placing a greater emphasis on member missionary work because that is exactly what Portugal needs to become the lighthouse of Europe. It is only through the members that we will see greater success in bringing the light of the gospel to others.

Last Thursday we went up to Torres Vedras to see the less-actives and try and find some new investigators. After we had made our possible visits we went up to a neighborhood that looked nice and began knocking. We had a great time knocking those doors, though no one let us in to talk to them, we still had a good time talking and joking with eachother. Irmã McKee helps make the work more fun.

Friday we went over to Ana's to try and soften her heart toward the gospel and the members. I got there and I had the thought that I should let her play around with my hair. So I did. Well, about 20 minutes later I looked like I had just stepped out of the 80s, but she was smiling and very happy about how "pretty" she had made me. So, that smile on her face, and the laughter I suppressed, made it all worth it to me. We are still struggling with her to help her to see the need to forgive others. We really do choose to be offended.

Well, we took Felipe Esteves to a few lessons this week and it went really well. (Oh, John, Felipe says hi. He was shocked to know that we were related. Did you talk to everyone in Portugal?) He teaches really well and explains the gospel in a very basic and understandable way. Plus it's good preparation for him for his upcoming mission. We had a really good experience at one of our investigators' houses. She asked why we needed the Book of Mormon if we had the Bible. (Great question!) And we were happy to explain how the Book of Mormon has the fulness of the gospel and fills in the gaps that the Bible has from the truths that have been lost through the various translations and other things the Bible has been through.

Church was again very uplifting this week. The members have even mentioned how the Spirit has just really been at church the past two weeks. We went out with Fatima Esteves to do visiting teaching and I was excited to help her.

Yesterday at Zone Conference I took the time to talk to Elder Kapp and Elder Tipton who are serving in Olivais, I served with Elder Kapp there. They told me what was going on in the area and about some of the people I worked with. They told me that now Tania wants to get married! and that now Mario, who was a less-active that Irmã Ives and I found, is now attending church regularly, and even wearing a suit! I was really happy to know that I made a difference for some people there because of my listening to the Holy Ghost. It was very gratifying to hear about.

Well, I hope that you all have a wonderful week and have success at work, meetings and school. I love you all!!

Muitos abraços,
Irmã Laura Thomas

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

A Filhinha is Born!

Hello family! I am so glad that things are going well for all of you! Thank you for the love and support and the prayers. I love you all so much!

Things are going well here in Mafra. I'm actually not freaking out about being a trainer, which is nothing short of a miracle. I've been really blessed by the Lord and really helped. Irmã McKee is my little "daughter" and she is GREAT! She works hard, loves talking to people, has no fears of talking to people and is patient with me. She is a great companion and I am excited for the rest of the transfer.

We have been doing a lot of finding this past week and we've talked to a surprising number of lonely old women. I am grateful that we were able to comfort and listen to them. They needed to talk and we were able to listen and share the love that the Savior has for them. We have not found anyone who is ready for the gospel, but we're continuing the search and have the faith that they are here.

Maria da Graça is still doing really well. She left for Angola yesterday and was SOOO excited to go back. I hope that her trip goes well and that she is able to do a lot of gospel studying like she wanted to do. I love talking to her and seeing the changes that she is making in her life because of the gospel. It is truly amazing every time I see it.

Monday night we went over to Ana, Julio and Joana's. They weren't at church and I think they are at a critical point for them in deciding whether to continue in this path of happiness that is sometimes difficult, but always worthwhile. I was able to spend a bit of time with Ana, helping her get dinner ready. She is so hungry for spiritual knowledge and truth and the joy of the gospel, but she needs to chose to make that change. I hope that she can see the love that I have for her and that I want to help her. I have really grown in my love for the members and people that we are working with. We went to get Maria Helena and Adalto to church on Sunday (and we even woke them up to go!), but they decided not to come, which made me really sad, but I hope that they decide to come this week.

Church this Sunday was amazing. It usually wears me out because there is always something I need to be helping with, etc. But I was very spiritually fed. It was so nice. I could really feel the Spirit and was very edified. After church we went over to Manuela's (who is a recent convert and is in her 60s) she fed us dinner, but it took FOREVER for her to get everything ready. People kept coming over. And then, for dinner we had bacalhau. My poor little Irmã McKee and poor Elder Lloyd. Their first meal with a member in Portugal was bacalhau. Ick. It will never be a favorite meal of mine.

Let's see, what else...this past transfer one of the focuses of the misison has been studying Chapter 5 of Preach My Gospel, which is all about the importance of the Book of Mormon. I haver really felt the need to increase my testimony of this amazing Book of scripture. So I have been studying and reading and pondering and my testimony has really grown. I love the Book of Mormon and I know that it is truly a book from God. I hope that all of your testimonies are growing each day as you read, study, and ponder its message.

Have a wonderful week and enjoy, Mom and Dad, hearing from a prophet of God this weekend! I am so excited for all of you. I love you all so much!

Wednesday, September 3, 2008

Training a New Missionary

Hello family! Thank you again for the news and updates and love and support. I hope this week is a good one for all of us. This past one has sure been a good one for me!

Well, yesterday we got our transfer calls and President called at 2:15pm, which was really early. President talked to me an asked me if I would accept the responsibility to train one of the new sisters coming in. I am a little nervous now, and I know I will be REALLY nervous come tomorrow, but I'm also really excited. Irmã Brady was such a wonderful trainer/Mission Mom for me that I hope I can do the same for my little daughter-to-be. So, I'll be picking her up tomorrow at 9:00am. Elder Burkett will also be training, and during his last transfer at that! So we'll both have some new challenges and hopefully it will help us be a more unified district.

This past week has been a really good one. We had a stake activity that our zone of missionaries put on. We went "Back into the Book of Mormon". We were all different characters in the Book of Mormon. We had King Laban, which was Elder Wardenburg. He got Chinese store pijamas and wore fake gold chain necklaces and a Burger King crown. He had a fake cheesy sword as well. It was hilarious. I'll figure out how to send pictures some day. Internet here is a nightmare. Elder Hansen was Zoram and he handed out the little gold plates that my district made. He bought geenie pants that are all the rave here. They are the least flattering, ugliest pants that Europeans think are attractive. Ick. I hope that it never makes it over to the US. There were other characters, but Irma Rasmussen and I were Nephite women and wore sheets that we wrapped around to make dresses and had headbands. We helped people make bracelets out of yarn. It was fun. It was a great activity and our branch actually came! I think they are actually starting to like activities. It's a MIRACLE!

Portugal is a funny place and I will briefly mention some funny things I've seen this week. I've gotten directions to go "down by the dog, avoid the horse, and go just by the sheep". Seriously. I live in a funny area.

We went and saw Maria da Graça this week and she is doing SOO well. She's excited to go visit Angola and her family and she is progressing really well. She stopped drinking coffee when we mentioned about the Word of Wisdom. She did it all on her own. We haven't even taught her yet. She is the most Christlike person I've ever met. We went and did service at her house yesterday with the elders. We carried sacks of clothes that she sends to the poor in Angola up to her attic. Then we cleared out a bunch of rubble and rocks and brush from her back garden area and planted a tree and flowers. It was nice.

The members here are hanging in there. We found out that Fransisco and Isabel are getting married! They are both members in the branch and we're really excited for them. We love the members here and this area. They love us back and treat us really well. I am excited to continue working with them and strengthening this area with the help of the Lord.

Tonight we are having a movie night/party! Yay! The whole branch is coming and two irmas are coming up here to visit the branch as they are either going home or training next transfer, so we're excited. I love parties! We're going to be bringing 10 nonmembers tonight, hopefully. So it will be great!

I hope that you are all doing really well and are learning and growing as well. Have a FANTASTIC week! I love you all so much!

Wednesday, August 27, 2008

Changes, Changes!

Hello family! Thank you again for the emails and the love and support. I hope that things are going well for you all.

I cannot believe that school is starting up again already. Wow. The summer just started! How is it over already? Good luck in school to everyone!

Things are going well here in Mafra. Right now I'm back where I did internet when I was in Olivais. We're doing a P-day with the Irmãs of Seixal, so we«re meeting in Lisbon. I've returned to my old areas this transfer.

We were blessed to be able to teach a lot last week. It was great. We are still struggling to find people, but that will come. We are working hard and loving the work.

We have been trying to teach a member every day to try and strengthen the members here. They are all so new in the gospel and need nourishment from the word of God. It's been working well and we've been finding it successful. The members here are AMAZING. I love them and am excited to stay more time here. We found out this week that Ana doesn't have a testimony and only was baptized because her husband wanted her to be, so we're working with her and trying to help her to want to have a testimony. That's really the first step.

Family, I am learning SO much. I really am starting to feel myself get lost in the work. I can't believe that the transfer is almost over. I have learned SOOO much this transfer. The best lesson that I've learned is that I can be happy in whatever situation. It is really just a matter of choice. I am really happy and I am loving the work. It is not easy and things aren't perfect with me and Irmã Rasmussen, but I am doing my best to make her happy and to be more like Christ and to work hard. So I am happy in this. I make mistakes. That is okay. I am not perfect. But I am so happy to be a missionary and to be able to help people and to bring them happiness. Yesterday we taught Ana and we read from the Book of Mormon with her. She said that she wouldn't pray, but after the lesson I asked her to do it again and she did! She prayed! It was something so small, but it was her softening her heart to pray and she did it! It's the little things that really help.

I've been making a list in my planner of the things that have been "positives" in the day. A good portion is good food, actually...but it's so nice to look over and add to it to see what good things have happened. What I have to be grateful for. We had our interviews with President Terry and he said that was a great idea and was really excited about it. I can feel myself growing and stretching and changing and it's great! It hurts sometimes, but it's great!

Interviews were really nice. I love talking to President and getting his counsel. He told me that I would be getting a different companion next transfer, which will be good. Irma Rasmussen has not been very happy, so I hope that she will find more happiness in her next area.

Let me see, what else. Oh! The chapel got a new piano! We had had an electric organ, ick, and it worked...okay. Now we have a nice new electric piano that has all of the hymns already programmed on it. It's so pretty and so amazing! We're all excited about it. Oh, also, Mafra now has a Continente, which is their equivalent to Target. Mafra's hit the big time now! Everything's changing!

Sorry if this was a weird email, but know that I am doing great and that the work is rolling forward in Mafra! I love you all! Continue being strong! Have a great week!

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

Trust, Castles and a Couple

Hello dear family! thank you for the wonderful emails! They were especially good for me to read this week. Right now I am in a public library in Sintra. Irmã Rasmussen and I are going to Quinta de Regaleira, which has some caves to explore. I hope it will be fun. It's at least nice to be in a different area.

Things are going well here. I am learning a lot and we are working hard. We are still in the finding process, but our faith is strong and I think we will start to find those who are willing and ready to receive the truth of the gospel. Saturday we called one of our investigators, Hilma, to confirm an appointment. She then told us she would no longer read the Book of Mormon and didn't want us to talk to her about it. Her family is NOT supportive and so she doesn't want to continue. I was sad for her, but I think she will be ready to learn here in the future. One thing I am finding is that people are so afraid of the unknown. They don't want to talk to us because of fear, not because we are mean, or ugly (though I am getting a little frumpy, my hair is so crazy here), but because it's walking into the unknown.

On Saturday we went to a town called Malveira and it started to pour! Wow! Fortunately, we had brought our umbrellas, so we kept on going and searching for people to teach. We've spent a lot of time trying to look up former investigators and to find new people to teach. We also want to work more with the branch. I feel very strongly that we need to be teaching them more and strengthening them. The branch is only two years old and there are so many recent converts. One, Ana Bela, has already fallen away and is rapidly losing her testimony. It is so sad to see, but then there is Manuela, who brought her neice and her neice's daughter to a lesson, so that they could see the joy and happiness that she has now because of the gospel. It was so interesting for me to see the difference. It is all about how we nourish our own seeds and cultivate our faith. If we are doing the little things to keep us strong in this gospel.

On Sunday I was just minding my own business in Gospel Principles when Elder Davis was teaching about how we all have different gifts, and then said how I was such a hard worker. Then the rest of the class went off and started talking about what they liked about me. It was completely unsolicited, believe you me. I think I was bright red the whole time, but it was so wonderful for me to hear that the other members of the branch trusted me and loved me. It is such a blessing to have that acceptance so quickly and to be able to work better with the members. They are truly amazing here. They are all my kind of people and I really feel like I was sent here for them. It's so amazing to see. I wish you could all see it as well.

I've been thinking about how funny Mafra is. It's a pretty small town with a GIGANTIC national palace that was turned into a Catholic convent. That in and of itself is quirky. Then add on top of that the fact that the police ride around on horses. Then the fact that it houses Portugal's largest military base. This morning I could hear them doing their drills. I constantly see soldiers here in uniform. Then there are the old men that congregate in a little park, which used to be bigger, but now it's under construction, so they have to be in a higher concentration. I can imagine that the other residents would add one more oddity: the missionaries. I am sure we are one more thing that makes Mafra quirky and I love it!

On Thursday we had the priviledge of going around with a senior missionary couple, the Parkers, who are up in Caldas da Rainha, which is an area that John served in. They took us around to all of the little towns outside of Torres Vedras, where there used to be a branch, so that we could look for less-actives. We had a great time with them and it was really nice to be around people of a different age. Elder Parker has such great energy and it was a pleasure to work with both of them. We went to the dinkiest little towns to find some less actives that there was NO WAY we could have found without them. I loved working with them.

I hope you are all doing well. Things are going well here and we are working hard and staying strong in the gospel. I pray for you and I love you all so much. Please know how much I love you, but what is more how much our Father in Heaven loves each one of you. Have a great day!

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

Back South of the River, but only for a day

Hello dear family!! Thank you again for all of the emails and updates. I hope that everything continues to go well for you all. I am glad to hear that we have another missionary in our ranks! Yay Dad! I can’t wait to see how missionary work functions in the US. I bet it is SOO different, but very much the same.

Well, it’s been a good week for us. Right now I am in Seixal on a division. The areas of Seixal and Almada got combined this transfer because an irma broke her toe. So, Irma Rasmussen and I came down to do a division with the three irmas here. It was great because we could both show these areas and get to see our old areas. It’s been really weird being back here, but very rewarding. I got to see Kenia, Celeste and Salita. Celeste is doing really well and she is finally getting it about the gospel. She has grown so much and changed so much. It’s crazy. It was really fulfilling for me to see that I had helped her. Irma Brady and I knocked on her door and she let us right in. She is so much happier now because she is learning about the gospel and reading from the Book of Mormon. It was so good for me to see that I had done something here and made a difference.

It was also really fun to see this area. Irma Martinez and I ended up running into two contacts I had made here, whose addresses were wrong and I had looked for a couple of times to teach them. So, hopefully they will be able to follow-up on that and see those two women. I could see the hand of the Lord yesterday as our paths crossed and I could talk to them again. It was also fun to see how much my Portuguese has improved and my comprehension!

Things in Mafra are going pretty well. We were visiting a less active last week, Jayra, and we started out by singing hymns, which is always good. So we sang one and she really liked it, so we sang another one, and then a man who lives in one of the other rooms came into the kitchen and started banging around and making as much noise as possible. I thought it was weird. So we finished that hymn and started singing another one. He went off on us and started yelling saying that he didn’t have to listen to us and he paid to lived there and was being disrespected. I thought that was so weird, because everyone loves the hymns. Seriously. Woah. So we left the kitchen and had our lesson in her room. That lesson was special as well because I felt very directed by the Spirit. We had a very open conversation about why she was not active in the Church. She spoke very honestly and I think we were able to help her. I would never have asked her some of the things that I did had I not been directed to do so. Truly the Lord knows what we need better than we do ourselves, or anybody else.

We have been working more with the members this week and it’s been GREAT! I love working with the members and we have some great ones here. They are fantastic really. They will come whenever they can. We took Fransisco with us to teach a couple and he is a wonderful teacher and helps bridge the gap of awkwardness that sometimes exists. Unfortunately we had some difficulty teaching lessons with the members because our investigators would not let us in the house to teach them. So…we’re in the process of finding those who are ready to receive us. But it has really been great to work with the members and get to know them better.

A funny thing about Mafra. Saturday night we were walking back from Vila Velha to the main part of Mafra. It was absolutely FREEZING outside. Isabel, one of the members, and Irma Rasmussen did not believe me that I was so cold. My fingers were red and were like ice. I went home and put on my sweats and heated up some apple juice to drink. I’m sorry, but what happened to August and Summer? I usually need a jacket or sweater at night.

I ate lamb on Sunday at Manuela’s. It’s definitely not my favorite meat. Ick. But she kept putting more on my plate. Ugh. I was so full after that meal. She also gave us fruit as our before dessert dessert. So I started eating a peach and she was horrified that I was eating the skin. She took the peach out of my hand and asked me why my mother didn’t teach me how to get the skin off of a peach. So, thanks Mom. Apparently, this is a vital life skill that I was lacking in my life. Who knew?

Things are going well here for us. We are still looking and will be working with a senior couple tomorrow up in Torres Vedras. We are looking for a whole branch that went inactive up there and the couple is going to work with us. I’m really excited. But today is Irma Rasmussen’s birthday, so we are going to go have a little party for her. I am really enjoying being back here. It’s so awesome to see how open people are here.

I am learning a lot and growing a lot. I really am not starting to recognize myself. It’s crazy. I love you all!

Wednesday, August 6, 2008

Sheep Ears, Flocks and Shepherds

Hello dear family! How are you all doing? Thank you for all of the emails and letters! I loved getting those pictures and I will be putting them up in the room.

Things are going really well here in Mafra. I'm still freaking out a bit that I'm in such a small town so far away from everyone else, so I'm still adjusting, but life is good here. We've been doing a LOT of finding the past week, which has been different for me. My fingers are getting really good at pushing the buttons to get to talk to people over the intercom.

We had one great experience this past week. We went over to this really nice building to give it a shot with knocking and by chance the door was already opened, so we didn't have to get buzzed in. So we walked in and went to the top floor. The door to the apartment was already opened, so we rang the bell and this older lady walked by. She was a little taken by surprise, but we talked to her about how we were here to bring her happiness. She responded back in broken Portuguese that she wasn't interested, but invited us in to have a glass of water or a Coke with her. I then asked her where she was from and she responded South Africa! I was really excited to speak in English with her rather than hammer through a broken conversation in Portuguese. We ended up having a lovely visit with her and she was a very interesting woman. Her name is Hester and she ended up asking us about why we were here and what we believed. We were able to teach her some principles about the gospel, that she would see her husband again and that God still speaks to us. After we talked about that she invited us over to visit her again. We left her with a prayer and she asked us repeatedly to come back to visit. I could tell that she felt so much better after we had left. She could see that we were servants of God. It was nice to be able to help a person in need.

On Thursday we were walking to the chapel and on the way there I saw a flock of sheep grazing on the side of the road off of a hill. They came complete with sheep dogs and shepherd to complete the package. It was SUPER funny. I am in a completely new environment.

Also on Thursday we went up to Torres Vedres, which takes an hour by bus on small windy roads through small little dinky towns to get there. There used to be a branch up there, so there are a bunch of less active members up there. So we went up there and all of our plans fell through, so we knocked and did some contacts. I had a goal to give out a Book of Mormon before we left, but no one was giving us the time of day, so I wasn't sure what would happen. So we were waiting at the bus stop for our bus back to Mafra and I saw this woman who gave up her seat on the bench to let an older lady sit down. That impressed me and then I had the thought that I needed to talk to her. I kind of pushed it to the side, but then remembered that I would regret it later, so I ended up going up to her and talking to her and she and her friend were really nice and really receptive to the gospel. I was able to testify of the Restoration and the truthfulness of the Book of Mormon and she accepted a copy! YAY! It is always amazing for me to see that if I really put my mind to a goal, the Lord helps me to achieve it.

On Sunday we went over to the Esteves' house to eat lunch and it was crazy. They have a daughter, Emma, who is SUCH a girly girl. Wow. I don't know what I would do if I had a daughter like her. She was being a little annoying the whole time, but she's a kid so it happens. We just got this new film from the Church called Finding Happiness, so we put it on to watch with them and there could not have been more commotion, but the son, Simão, was listening and I was really edified, so it helped me. I found myself refocusing what my purpose is here. I really am here to bring happiness and light to Portugal, to Mafra.

Although people brush us off and don't want to talk to us, they really do. They have no idea what they are missing. They really don't. They cannot even imagine what happiness they could be having with the restored gospel.

Monday night we had a family night with Júlio and Ana. They like to cook really weird food and see what the missionaries do. Monday nights menu: sheep ears. Ick. They tasted REALLY gross. It was like chewing on really soft bones with no flavor. I was not a fan, and consequently put the rest of it on Elder Burkett's plate when no one was in the room. :)

Yesterday we had zone conference and it was SOOOO nice to be around other missionaries. I learned so much and was so edified. President Terry is such a wonderful man and I am so blessed to be able to learn from him and from Irmã Terry.

Things are going really well here in Mafra. We are still trying to find those who are ready to receive us, but we are working really hard and that's all we can do. I love you all and I know that this is the Lord's work. Have a great week and I'll talk to you soon!!

Wednesday, July 30, 2008

Orchards and Vineyards

Hello from Mafra! Well, there are like ZERO computers in this town, so I was at the library before, but I could only use the one computer for a 1/2 hour, so now I'm standing in a café, using a computer. So random. Things are going really well here. I really like Mafra a lot. The branch is amazing. The people are really welcoming and warm. I was asked by President Esteves to give a talk, so I talked about missionary work. It went...okay...but the branch listened. There are about 30 people in the unit and they are working toward having a ward, so they want to have six men baptized by the year's end to meet this goal. Hopefully we as sister missionaries, can help with this goal. I've pretty much only worked with women so far.

So the chapel is great. It's the second floor of a building and it looks like a couple of apartments that they opened up to be a chapel. It's a long hallway with a bunch of rooms. They got a microphone a couple of weeks ago, which is exciting.

Mafra is pretty small and has a gigantic convent in the middle of town. There is one main street in the town, which is where the convent is. It was the last royal palace built in Portugal and was built as a summer home. Unfortunately, the royal family didn't realize that it's kind of cool here in the summer. Whoops! So they gave it to the Catholic church to use. We will be touring it later today. It is a bit chilly today. I was wearing a jacket earlier, but it's warmed up and is HUMID! Woah! But no where near the 104 degrees you guys had.

I am serving with Irma Rasmussen, whom I knew in Seixal. Things are going really well with her. She's very sweet and nice. I am liking serving with her so far. The elders are Elder C. Davis and Elder Burkett. Elder Davis was with me in the MTC and he's HILARIOUS. He's got a thick southern accent and has a great sense of humor. I still don't really know Edler Burkett.

Some things about Mafra, it's very Portuguese and very Catholic. People don't really want to talk to us here, but we're working on that. The police ride horses here. No, I'm being serious. I heard horse clopping a couple of days ago and said, wow, that sounds like horses. Irma Rasmussen said, oh I forgot you didn't know! The police ride on horseback here.

So Saturday we went out to a neighboring village called Gradil, population 500. It's really pretty there and has vineyards and orchards all around the town. It's really pretty up here with rolling hills and trees and countryside. I love driving between towns here. It's soooo pretty! We taught Maria da Graça and Luis and Ana there. Maria da Graça has been investigating the Church for over a year. Her daughter Ana also is investigating the Church. She's 10 and very sweet. Graça is the most warm and loving person. She's Angolan and just super super nice. I can't get over how nice she is. We taught them in her backyard. I seriously felt like I was at Grandpa Thomas' house when I was there. Just the whole feel reminded me of Blossom, Utah. Luis is Graça's friend and he didn't really know anything about the Church, so I told him about Joseph Smith and the Book of Mormon. He is really open and curious, so I hope that he follows through on reading the Book of Mormon.

Another thing here is that there are weddings every Saturday. Here in Portugal it is customary to wait outside of the church for the bride, which can take up to two hours. So at the convent we drove by a wedding and they released balloons in the air when they saw the bride.

Let me tell you about President Esteves. He is amazing! He is super excited about missionary work and goes out with the elders every day. He really wants to see the Church grow here in Mafra and he is doing something about it! He has the missionaries over for lunch every Sunday and so we ate some great food and they have BYUTV and were waiting for the Pioneer Day broadcast to start. So we finished lunch and then the broadcast started. I was excited to hear the Mormon Tabernacle Choir and we were being edified. And then, all of the sudden, the Osmonds come on and take over the whole program. It was horrible! It ceased being about the pioneers and was about the pop culture of the US. I was disappointed.

We also teach a good group of recent converts here. They are really great women with a thirst and hunger for truth and knowledge. Yesterday we taught Ana Bela about prophets and I felt the Spirit testify very strongly to her that Thomas S. Monson is a prophet in our days. I saw the light come on for her as we explained how to receive revelation. This was a great blessing for me to be able to teach because I've been feeling a bit under the weather. Yesterday I spent most of the day resting and sleeping and I'm a lot better. I lasted 6 months without getting sick, so I'm pretty proud of that!

Things are going well here. I love this area and the people here! I know that this is the Lord's work. I hope you all have a good week!

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

Chillin' with the Village People doing the YMCA

Ola Querida Família! Well, I got the call yesterday from President. The whole transfer we thought I was going to the Algarve or to Almada, but I was shocked when President asked if I would serve in Mafra with Irmã Rasmussen. Mafra is close-ish to Sintra and is an area with a strong branch. I am excited to serve with Irmã Rasmussen because she was in Almada when I was in Seixal so I saw her all the time. It's going to be fun. The area is big and has just a bunch of little villages in it. I'm thinking it's pretty green and I'm hoping it's cooler up there. We will be the only irmãs north of the Rio Tejo, so the next closest irmãs will be in Seixal, about two hours away by train, taxi, and bus. Crazy.

I am really excited to go up there and I think it is the perfect place for me. President said that he felt very strongly that I needed to go up there, so we'll see what work I need to do there. I'm really excited though.

This was a good week for us here in Olivais. We discovered that if you go to the city hall type things here that they will give you free pins and patches with the seal of the city on it. So right now I have a little Olivais pin on. It's rad.

Well on Sunday was our musical fireside. It was awesome!! We got the whole zone together a couple of hours before to run through everything. It actually ended up sounding pretty good. The whole zone sang Faith in Every Footstep and Ide por Todo o Mundo, which is a Portuguese hymn. I saw a lot of growth in the elders through this experience. They all got out of their comfort zone and they ended up loving it. I sang a duet with Elder Rindfleisch called In a Quiet Grove. We blended PERFECTLY and it sounded really nice. I can finally support my voice!! YAY! Elder Davis told me later that because of the fireside he wants to learn how to sing better.

There was a great turnout. The chapel was about 5/7 full, which is AMAZING for this area. We were expecting about 20 people, but we invited the whole stake and some other missionaries brought investigators. I think that it was a really positive experience for everyone. The Spirit was really strong as we bore testimony of the Restoration through song. I ended up singing A LOT. It was really great, though BOILING HOT. Wow. I miss air conditioning. I was wearing a jacket too and I feel for the men in the Church. Wow. I am so glad that I don't have to wear jackets very often. President Terry spoke and it was wonderful. He bore testimony of the Restoration. This was definately the highlight for all of us in the zone for the transfer and I'm glad that we pulled it together.

We went to say goodbye to a member in the other ward, Maria Encarnação, who is the APs recent convert. We ended up having dinner at another member's house, Rita, with the APs. We had a blast! There were a lot of laughs and it was fun to see Elder Davis and Elder Rindfleisch in a different setting. Encarnação and Rita were fussing over the elders the whole time, rustling in and out and pushing food on them. Poor elders.

Random tidbit: the Sporting Stadium is in my area. So thus, I am for Sporting. On the stadium it says " Só eu sei porque sou fã" (I only know because I'm a fan).

Well, we've been getting the apartment ready to be cleared out. Let me tell you, we have cleaned some gross things. Ick. Another icky thing is the mullet. Yes, the mullet is also here in full force in Europe. I don't know whoever thought that was a good idea back in the 80s, but Europe has really taken to it here. (note: for those who don't know what a mullet is, it's a haircut where the top is short and the bottom is long. SLT)

So as Irmã Ives and Elder Davis are "dying" in the mission, we held a "funeral" for them after our district meeting and mourned their loss. I think they are both freaking out a bit about it all. It's been great getting to know them and seeing the other end of the mission through them. (note: "dying" in the mission is the term the missionaries seem to use to mean that their mission is over and they are going home. SLT)

Today we're going to the aquarium and the Almada zone is going too, so I'll get to see some old friends. Last week we had a barbeque and volleyball tournament and I got to see some elders from my MTC group. It was really fun.

Lucy is doing pretty well. She and Tania were really sad that we are leaving. They started crying and, actually, Tania got really mad and started talking about "Senhor Presidente" (President Terry) and how he's blonde in the head and had gray hair and didn't know what he was doing. It will be hard for them for us to leave, but I think it is a great opportunity for the ward to step-up and take care of them.

I have learned a lot here in Olivais. I know now more than before how important the members are. We have such a great responsibility to teach, nurture and share this message of happiness to others. I know that this is the Lord's church on the eartha gain. I know it brings greater happiness because I have seen it. I know it is the best way because I have lived it and I can see it. The gospel changes lives. It changes people and they have such richer fuller lives.

Have a great week. I love you all.