Friday, February 22, 2008

Onto the Third Classroom

Well this week has been great! It's been another week of change, as we are now in our third classroom here at the MTC. This was a great change because the room we were in before was a bit like a bunker, no windows, loud from the class next-door (which was only separated from us by a curtain) and poor lighting. Now we're in a room much like our first with a window and an overactive air conditioner that the elders just LOVE. I, however, wear my coat much of the time. It's been wonderful to have set teachers again. We're all praying that they don't combine our districts after this week. I am truly blessed to be able to have Jen as my teacher. I thought it would be a little weird--and it is sometimes--but it's so fun to be able to see her so much and laugh about things from the past. There have been a few times where we've started laughing about something and the rest of the district just sits and stares at us with quizzical looks on their faces. We have Irmao Cuaira and he's hilarious. He has a very different teaching style than the other teachers, which works well for some of the elders in the district, so it's been good to mix up the teaching styles so everyone can learn well.

The two elders who got here two weeks ago and already speak Portuguese are heading out this week to their missions. It's a little bit hard to see them go, but I know that I need to be here. I'm seeing little by little how the Lord has placed me here for a reason. I don't expect to know all the reasons while I'm here, but I've been blessed to see some of them so far.

This past Monday we taught in Portuguese for the first time. It was SO much fun! I LOVE teaching in Portuguese! I was amazed at how much I was able to communicate and how I felt that I was being led by the Spirit to tell our investigator what he needed to hear. I look forward to teaching more in Portuguese...actually, only in Portuguese.

A few weeks ago we got a new sister in the branch, Irma Evans. She's from Mesa and is so cute. The three of us get along really well and have a great time together. She's very easy to get along with and is so nice. We've been rooming with three other hermanas here and that has been a great experience too. Right now Hermana Anderson is our only other roommate and we all get along a little bit too well. I'm so blessed to be surrounded by so many amazing people. Next-door to us are our other Hermanas, who came in to the MTC the same time as us and are on our same schedule, so we've become really good friends, as well as the elders in their district. I have been very blessed to know them.

So let me again just say how much I love my district! They are so incredible to me and they help me to see why the Lord trusts we who are so young with this work. Whenever there's a little problem that comes up they want to resolve it right away, so we always talk about it, which has been very beneficial for us. They also really like the smell of girly lotion and found some Sparkly Peach lotion a few weeks ago that they use...yes, they use it. Sister Skinn brought in Exotic Coconut lotion yesterday that was a big hit with the elders. They keep me on my toes all the time. I really feel like I've gained 8 younger brothers.

I am doing really well. I love being a missionary! I had my interview with Irmao Cuaira this week and he asked me what my favorite thing about being a missionary was. I told him that it was being able to study the gospel and study the scriptures. It has been so wonderful to be able to have the time to devote to this study. It's so wonderful to have this be my whole focus. I love it!

This week at Relief Society the speaker talked about the Children's hymn "Nephi's Courage," and how it helped her to know that she can do whatever the Lord asks of us because He will provide a way. I know that this is true. I know that whatever the Lord needs of me, or of you, I'll be able to do because He has already provided the way for me to be able to accomplish it. I would encourage you all to study 1Nephi 3:7 and see why this scripture is important to you. I know that if you do this you will find comfort in the knowledge that if we rely on the Lord, He will provide for us.

I love you all! Have a great week!

Irma Laura Thomas

Friday, February 15, 2008

The Hazards of Gym

I'm glad to know that I actually have all of your email addresses right. Things are going really really well here. It is bitter cold out right now and I am grateful that today is P-day and that I can wear pants. Knee highs only do so much for you in the way of warmth. How is everyone doing? Please keep me updated on the goings on back home! And thank you for all of the letters!

this has been a great week. I had the opportunity of speaking in church on Sunday. Each week they call two people up to speak from the stand at random and one of those was me. We already had our topic assigned to I just had to read the talk that I had already written previously. Unfortunately, I forgot that we had some ward business to attend to, so I sure did go up to the stand at the wrong time (I was already sitting on the stand because I was conducting the music.). Everyone laughed when the whole branch presidency said "Irma Thomas, Irma Thomas, you're not up yet". I was, of course, bright red, but it provided for a really funny experience to share with all of you.

I've enjoyed being able to go to all of the meetings we have in the branch. I'm involved in PEC every week and it's great because then I get to hear about what's going on in the branch and be able to put in my two cents when they ask for it. Also, it's great because they teach us protocol each week. This past week we sang "The Spirit of God" in church, which was a disaster because our pianist can't read music, but plays by ear (I regret that I can't play the piano better, but I've been practicing here, so hopefully, I'll be able to play better some day). They shared with us that this hymn should really only be sung at temple dedications and spontaneously when the Spirit is so strong that the song just bursts out. I found that so fascinating and I will always remember that now. Mom, I thought you would like to know that they teach us proper church protocol ALL the time here. They really are training us for the future.

This week I taught at the TRC like normal, but I actually knew my investigator. Crazy! It was my friend, Ryan, from Study Abroad. It was a little weird to teach him the lesson, but it was good to see him and be able to see how things were going for he and his wife. I've had some connection with all of my "investigators" at the TRC since I've come here.

Something else that happened this week was my clumsiness got in my way again. I drop whatever I'm holding or whatever is on my desk every two seconds, and poor Elder Daley (who is too much of a gentleman to not help me out) always bends over to pick up whatever I've dropped. I'm pretty grateful to sit next to him in class because I ALWAYS drop something and he's nice enough to pick it up for me and get annoyed when I beat him to it. However, this is not what I'm referring to. I got hit in the face with every type of ball that exists in the gym this week. The foursquare ball, a basketball and a volleyball. The volleyball knocked my glasses off my face and the basketball left an imprint of my glasses on my ear. Ouch. I think I may start running on the track more often.

So, as you all know, I got new teachers this week. Jen has been so great for our district. The elders can really tell that she cares about us and that has made a world of difference for them. They are learning so much because of her and love when she's in the classroom. Our other teacher is Irmao Cuaira. He's from Mocambique and he's HILARIOUS. Wow. He just tells random stories about his life right now that make us all laugh. We are so grateful to have teachers again and it's been wonderful. We have Irmao Schlappi tonight and we're all really excited.

So yesterday was Valentine's Day and the elders in my district, who are SOO wonderful to me and Sister Skinn, gave us a picture of our whole district and a picture of most of the elders in the district, as well as a box of candy hearts. My elders are truly so amazing. They love us so much and show it by how they treat us. They are really protective of us and make sure that we always have the best. I really could not have a better district--and everyone, including us, knows it.

I read in Acts 9 this week about the life of Paul and it was so interesting to me to see how merciful the Lord is to us. He always gives us another chance, always. He wants the best things for us and truly wants us to come back to live with Him again. I love this gospel. I know it is so true with all that is in me.

I love you all and hope that you have a great week! Happy Valentine's Day!

Irma Laura

Friday, February 8, 2008

Fire Drills, Creole and Many Changes

Things are going well here at the MTC. It's been a trying week for all of us in our district. I'm sure Jen's told you, but they took my teachers away from our district this week, which was really hard. We loved our teachers so much and it will be very different without them. You all also probably know that Jen is going to be the only teacher that we have. We're going to be combined for the other teaching part of the day with another district. So there's going to be 20 of us together trying to learn a new language. This has already proven to be difficult, but I know that the Lord will bless my district and they will be able to still learn this language. I am so glad that I can help them. The highlight of my day is when I can help the elders in my district (Sister Skinn is so good she doesn't really need my help). I know they truly appreciate all that I have been able to help them with. To me, it is a great privilege to help them and I feel a responsibility to share all that I know with them. I have been truly blessed with my district. All of the other districts have problems, but not mine. We all truly love each other and make sure and say it too! I know that because we have those deep bonds that we will get through this difficult time just fine.

I haven't even talked about the elders yet have I? Well, there's Elder Merrill, who is a convert (also Elder Gardner) they have both been members for two years and are incredible. Elder Merrill's work ethic and testimony is so impressive to me. Elder Walker is Merrill's companion. they are hilarious together! They are both so sarcastic, but because Merrill is loud, he always gets the blame for the teasing they give each other. They have become good friends of mine and I feel so blessed to have them around. Then there's Elders Daley and Wardenburg. Elder Wardenburg has the BEST sense of humor. He is so goofy and has absolutely no shame in it. This week he's been parting his hair down the middle and pulled his pants up really really high once. He topped it off with really big glasses. He keeps us all smiling. Elder Daley has the biggest heart. He is a farmboy and as such is so chivalrous with me and Sister Skinn. He doesn't let us do anything! He has such a big heart and is so compassionate. I've been able to work with him on the language and he has such a strong desire to learn. Then there's Elders Kearl and Schwendiman. Elder Kearl is from Clinton, Utah and LOVES to hunt. Really. LOVES it. He really surprises me sometimes with how thoughtful he is. Elder Schwendiman is my district leader and is so laid back. He is kind to everyone and is a great leader. I can't say enough about my district. Then there's Elders Gardner and Markarian. Elder Markarian is a newbee to our district. All of the Brasilian elders got their visas, so he was put into our district. He's adjusting, but is already such a blessing for us and for Elder Gardner. Elder Gardner LOVES math. So clearly we can teach each other a lot!

Well now I live with four other girls in one room! Yikes! It's close quarters here at the MTC, but I'm never in my room so, nao faz mal (no big deal). We got a new sister this week and she's pretty quiet. She's very kind and sweet, so she'll be a good contrast to me, since I can be a bit feisty sometimes...

Before we went through this big teacher change I was able to learn some creole from Irmao Schlappi. He served in Cape Verde, where they speak a Portuguese creole. He told us to come find him before and after class to keep learning creole, and believe me, I will. It's a great language and I will love speaking it with the Cape Verdians I meet in Portugal.

This week there were more changes as well, our oldest district left this week for their missions and so that was sad, but we gained two new districts and the best part is...there is a fluent Portuguese speaker!!! YAY! So I've talked with Elder Clegg and his Portuguese is PERFECT, well, for a Brasilian. It's been nice to be able to talk with someone and he will certainly help me out. Hopefully we'll be able to plan our lessons together, but it will take some thinking so that we will be able to still be around our companions or our districts. But I know everything will work out. It's so great to be able to practice speaking. I was able to go to the TEC and Jen helped me with teaching in Portuguese. It was a bit rough, but it was my first time going through the lesson in Portuguese, or anything in Portuguese, for that matter.

Well, having all of the sisters in one building has been an...adventure. Last week I was ready to sleep (since it was bed time) and the fire alarm went off. Man was it loud! We all thought it was a drill or a mishap, but don't worry, when i got out to the hallway I saw smoke. Someone had burned popcorn and set off the alarm. A half hour later and we were able to go back in. Actually it was about 45 minutes later. How annoying. Lesson for all: keep the rules and no one will have to leave the building at 11:00 at night.

Gym time has been fantastic. We can play volleyball, basketball, run on the track, lift weights, but I play four-square. That's right, four-square. Keeping up the family tradition. My district has gotten really into it. They are hilarious! I can actually hold my own too. We have so much fun that more and more people are starting to play because they know where the fun's at.

Well that's about it! Life is good here! I've been reading a lot about trusting in God and there's a passage in Alma 57 that I want you all to read. I think it's verses 22-27, somewhere around there. It talks about the stripling warriors. I learned so much from that passage about how when we trust in God everything works out and I know this to be true. I love you all!

Friday, February 1, 2008

Jumping Jacks

Everything is going really well here in Provo...that is the MTC in Provo. I can't believe how much I'm loving life as a missionary. I have never been this happy in my life and I truly know that this is the Lord's work. The weather's been a bit dreary, but today the walk up to the temple was beautiful with snow cascading all around me in perfect white. I feel so blessed to be in such a beautiful place, though it's weird to look at the mountains and realize I'm still in Provo.

Sundays they have Relief Society with all of the sisters in the MTC and they had Sister Elaine Dalton speak to us. It was incredible! She spoke about being perfectly obedient and the blessings that we will receive because of it. That night we had a fireside (which was fabulous) and we always sit in the same place as a zone and as I was sitting there I realized that Sister Skinn and I were the ONLY sisters in our entire area of about 200 elders. You could tell when we were singing that we were the only sisters there. It's a little weird that I am a minority there. I'm getting used to the standing up in the cafeteria when Sister Skinn and I come to the table. I am coming to like it.

My district is still amazing as always. I'm amazed at how we can all be in a tiny room for HOURS every day and get along so well as we do. Truly a blessing. The elders and I are all good friends now and it seems strange to me to think that Ive only known them for a couple of weeks. We are all so close. My teachers continue to impress me so much. They teach by the Spirit and they help me to want to be so much better. Irmao Harmon is always telling us really funny stories from his mission and this week he told us about how EVERYONE in Portugal will call out to the elders and say "Os Elderes!" whenever they pass. Seriously, they will stop a conversation on the phone to yell that out. so they were in Coimbra (which is a big city in Portugal) one weekend, and all of the people had vacated to the country for the weekend. they were walking down the street and a police car came up and over the loudspeaker they said "Os Elderes!" and ducked out of view in their car so that the elders wouldn't think they were really there. Of course, who would think that? Hilarious!

This week was moving week! We moved Wednesday morning and had about 10 minutes to do it. Seriously. We were given from 6:30-8:30am to move, but oh wait! We had service from 6:30 until 7:45, so we ran and grabbed breakfast after service (I vacuum the hallways in the main building, it's great!) and then ran back to our old residence, shoveled down our food, moved our stuff over to our new building and threw our stuff on the ground, changed into missionary attire and then were 30 minutes late to class. Our new building is where Jen works. Haha! So I'll probably see her a bit more, maybe. There are six beds in a room, that's right six. There are four of us in a room right now, me, Sister Skinn and two hermanas in another branch. Come next wednesday there will be five of us, because my branch is getting another sister. YAY!!

The funny thing about this building is that they renovated it from an elders' residence, so they haven't quite finished everything. There are four toilets without stall around them where the urinals used to be. Whoops! And some of the showers didn't have curtains, but now they do. They put up stalls around what used to be the "Tree of Life" showers, with no stalls, no privacy. Now they have about nine showers (with complete privacy, don't worry). It's funny to think that I'm using the Tree of Life showers.

So a couple of nights ago I was planning on unpacking, but I got a bloody nose instead! It wouldn't stop for about a half hour. It was awful. But everything's fine now. I'm drinking more water and hopefully everything will work out better now.

Yesterday we weren't quite awake in class so Irmao Harmon made us do jumping jacks and stretch during class. You need to realize that our classroom is TINY! We have the smallest room in the zone and there are ten of us plus a teacher in there. That was hilarious.

Things are going so well here. I am learning so much. I don't know when I'll be leaving here. I talked with the Branch President and he told me that my leaving really depended on a lot of things: the Portuguese government, my visa and if President Terry can use me right now. So I'm trying to be as helpful as possible. The teachers have had me teach some things for them while they had to be out. so that was great. We all, as a district, do our language study, so I've been helping out a couple fo them who need a little extra help. That has been the best. It makes me feel like I'm really making a difference and am serving the Lord. I love missionary life!

A couple of nights ago the elders were not focusing during our planning time and Irmao Schlappi took that time to teach them a priciple found in 1Nephi 3:14-16 (I think) about diligence and being exact in how we serve the Lord. I think it is good advice for everyone and I am so glad he took that opportunity to teach us all that principle.

I know this is the Lord's work and His Church. I know the Book of Mormon is the word of God. I know Joseph Smith was a prophet.

Sister Laura Thomas
MTC Mailbox #298
POR-LIS 0318
2005 N. 900 E.
Provo, UT 84604-1793