It was so amazing to hear from all of you! I realized today that I hadn´t heard from my family since I left. I was used to hearing from Jen almost every day. I was so glad to hear that everything went so well at the open house. I bet that food was amazing. Oh, I would love to eat that food, though everything I´ve eaten here has been good, except for some slimy noodles.
Well everything is going well here in... SEIXAL. Can you believe it? Seriously, it´s the family place to be "born" in the mission. President Terry announced that I was going to Seixal last week and I couldn´t believe it. I should´ve guessed though. Duh. I've followed Jen everywhere up until this point, so why would it change now? My trainer/Mom is Irmã Brady. She´s only 10 months out in the mission field, and I think that Jen met her a few times at the MTC. She´s a great companion, but I don´t think she´s used to being with someone who has an opinion. I think it was an adjustment for her to be with someone more like herself. Sister Skinn and I were pretty similar so I was already used to it. She was also shocked to learn that I already spoke Portuguese, she said in our district meeting that it was humbling for her to be put with me. I think we´ll be able to learn a lot from one another this transfer and I know that the hand of the Lord has been really really guiding my life. Why else would I be here in Seixal of all places? PS I think I´m using Jen´s old water bottle for my bed. It´s red and persnickety.
Oh, before I forget, here´s my address
Rua do Minho Nº 21
Cruz de Pau
Feel free to send me lots of letters at this address. :)
My elders who were my "companions," Elders Merrill and Walker, were so great and so good to me. They took good care of me on the trip over to Portugal. Let me tell you, the airport in Paris is HUGE! and so confusing. I think we walked a couple of miles to get to our gate with all of the time we spent backtracking and searching around for where we needed to go. Anyway, we arrived in Portugal, finally, after 26 hours of travelling and had no problems with getting our baggage, which was a small miracle, because the different groups have had to wait for almost three hours sometimes to get their bags. We waited about 20 minutes, and with a group as large as ours (16, which was the biggest group that President Terry has gotten thus far), that was a miracle. Then we went to get our visas stamped, and that also went very smoothly and the people there were great. All of the secretaries from the office came to help us get our bags (and ourselves) to the mission office to drop our stuff off. We all stayed at the mission home that night and had a nice dinner, testimony meeting and interviews. We got to go to sleep after we were interviewed and President interviewed me first, so I went to my room at 8pm. I had my own room and my own bathroom. It was wonderful. And I also had a picture of Tyler Terry and Grandma on my mantle. Funny!
The next day we had orientation and met our trainers. The Terrys were so wonderful and made me feel so welcome. They say hi, by the way. It was sad to say goodbye to my elders, but I was excited for the change. I´m in a district of four, me, Irmã Brady, Elder Xidis (who is my district leader) and...Elder Gardner. That´s right. He´s being trained as well in my district. So, as you all know, the members feed us every day here so we see the Elders often. I was a little worried about being with Elder Gardner, because he tends to get under my skin, but it´s been really nice to have a familiar face and someone who I can joke around with about things that happened in the MTC. So that´s been nice. Elder Xidis is hilarious, so we all joke around all the time and it´s fun to get to see them and get to know them better.
It was so strange for me to come back to this area and remember all of the places and remember where Jen used to live. President Terry wants us to be living in apartments without a dona, so we live in our own apartment. I am so glad that we don´t have to live in the house of someone else. We can have the Spirit in the home more and don´t have to worry about anyone else. I think this was a very inspired change.
All of the members were sooo excited to see me. Some of them remembered me, but most said, Hey we have another missionary with that last name? Then I would explain that the other Irmã Thomas was my sister and they were all SOOO excited! PS thanks Jen for being a good missionary. It makes my life a lot easier, but I also have some big shoes to fill. The members are great here! We´re trying to figure out a way to have them help us with the missionary work better. They are wonderful at feeding us, which we really appreciate, but they want to help us, so we´re trying to train them on how to help us best. We ate at Fatima Assis´house on Easter and that´s been the best company thus far. She is so kind and she told me about one of Jen´s first Sundays here when she didn´t understand anything and Fatima became her Portuguese Mom. She´s great and I think is a mom to all of the missionaries in the area still.
We have family nights with the members and our investigators here a few nights a week, which has been so great. I love seeing the members and the investigators bond together. We have SO many investigators. It´s so incredible. None of them are Portuguese. We only have one that even grew up here and she´s Cape Verdian. All of our investigators are immigrants.
First we have Ana. She will be baptized in a few weeks and she´s amazing. We went over to her house on Saturday to teach her the third lesson and follow up on how the Word of Wisdom has been going. She told us that she´s been able to quit smoking completely! That was so incredible to see. She truly has been blessed and she told us that it was easy for her this time and has been praying for strength. She amazes me. She is really progressing.
The next ones we have are Anabela and Manafá. They are from Guinea or Angola, I don´t remember. I still havenºt met Manafá, but he really wants to be baptized. They are waiting on getting their papers from Guinea (oh right!) in order to be married. The people here work sooo much. They hardly make anything at all and just work themselves to death.
Our next ones are Leu and Renata. They are brother and sister from Brasil. We´re actually teaching a lot of Brasilians, so my knowledge of Brasil and of the accent has been helpful. My accent is SOOOO weird. Everyone here makes fun of it. I would too. They all look at me and ask very quizically "Where are you from?" because my accent is so strange. But Leu is so nice. Probably one of the nicest, best people IºVe ever met. He is so kind to everyone.
Those are the ones we work with the most, but we have so many more. We constantly have more people to call and visit. The Lord is really blessing us in this area.
The other day we were walking and we were being "O Eldered". So Irmã Brady explained that we were Irmas so they should said "O Irmã" instead. So we walked away and these kids said "O Irmã"! as we walked away. Soooo funny.
Im catching on really fast to the language. I can´t believe how my comprehension and my ability to speak has improved. I´m so grateful that I´ve been able to hit the ground running.
I love you all! I love Portugal! Thanks for the emails!