Wednesday, April 30, 2008

Piri, Piri, A Baptism and Transfers

Hello family! It was so nice to hear from all of you today. It is so great to hear what is going on and to be able to laugh at the funny stories that are going on in your lives. I am very blessed to have all of you in my life. I love you all so much.

This past week we had Ana's baptism. It was so nice and went so well. We spent a great portion of the week preparing for the baptism, which included getting the program done, which took forever, and preparing a musical number, which took forever. We practiced a song for me to sing because we couldn't find a violin anywhere, but then at the last minute we found one, so we played " A Poor Wayfaring Man of Grief" which was pretty well done. Irmã Brady did a great job of getting the piano part down pretty quickly.

We finally met Ana's boyfriend, Pedro, who baptized her. He is great and was a fantastic missionary in Porto. We had a really fun time with them the night before her baptism. We ate dinner and played games. Her brother and his girlfriend were there and we were able to have a gospel discusison during dinner, which was great because it was really low key and we taught really important principles about the Plan of Salvation. Her brother, Ricardo, is hilarious! He couldnt make it to her baptism or confirmation, but I'm going to try and get him going in church.

Oh! Transfers! I am staying here in Seixal and so is Elder Gardner, but Irmã Brady is going to the AÇORES! Woah. She's afraid of the ocean and of flying, so President had to make sure that she would be able to handle going there. Elder Xidis is going zone leader and he's headed up to somewhere in Lisbon to be companions with Elder Halling, whose older sister Anna-Lisa was my Portuguese teacher. She was rad. Irmã Johnson is coming up from the Algarve to "greenie break" me and Elder Holmes is coming up to be my district leader. Lots of changes going on here in Seixal, but I'm really excited to work with Irmã Johnson, though I will really miss Irmã Brady. We've become good friends and laugh a lot together.

The baptism was great though. The camera girls came and filmed the whole thing, but not the baptism itself. Ana was so happy and so was Pedro. She is so amazing and I'm so sad that she's moving to England in a month. She's so great and has become a great friend.

Monday we all got together as a zone to have a zone meeting. It was fantastic. First I love my zone and all of the missionaries in it. It's so nice to get together with other missionaries and see what they are doing. We had a couple of talks given by the district leaders and Elder Davis spoke to us about giving a consistent and diligent effort, which I think is something we can do all of our lives. We talked later about the people who have been the "saviors" with a lower-case "s" in our lives. It was so interesting to see the influence that one person can have in our lives. I really hope that I can make that difference for someone here. The whole meeting was so edifying and I feel a greater desire to do all I can as a missionary.

After the meeting we had lunch! We at tacos, which was fantastic. It was nice to have something different to eat. The food here is fabulous, but it's all pretty much the same, so it's nice to mix it up a bit sometimes. Then afterword, some of the elders, Elders Mortensen, Flint and Coombs, decided to eat a piri piri. A piri piri is a really really hot pepper. So they each ate one straight up. I took pictures and then bemoaned the fact that I didn't take part in it, so Irmã Brady gave me a little prodding and so I decided to take the plunge myself and eat a piri piri. I, of course, didn't want to do it by myself so I make Elder Marriott do it with me. I was smart and didn't drink too much when I ate it, knowing that it made it worse, but Elder Marriott wasn't, poor guy. It was like fire though. Wow. It was really hot, but a good experience. However, I got a bit of a headache afterwords, so trade off there.

Life is good here. Our investigators are doing alright. None of them came to church on Sunday. Leo and Renata are working in Lisbon, so they can't come down. Celeste is still reading the Book of Mormon and progressing as is Renata.

I am loving my life and feel such satisfaction in this work. My Portuguese is coming along pretty well and I've been very blessed. I love you all! Have a great week!

Wednesday, April 23, 2008

Crisis Overted and a Documentary

Hello family! Sorry this is coming to you a little later than usual, but we were in Lisbon on a division, so we waited to do email until the end of p-day. It was so good to hear from all of you. Oh, I think an email might not have gotten out last week, so if one of you didn't get one, it just didn't go through. Thank you all for keeping me updated on everything!

Well, it's been an interesting week here in Seixal, Cruz de Pau, Arrentela, Torre da Marinha. We have been busy as usual, but a LOT of things have fallen through for us. There have been these three girls who have been following the mission for a few months making a documentary. They met us when we got off of the plane to Lisbon and they followed our orientation and things like it. They talked to Irma Brady my first day about following us around for a day and wrote down our number. I didn't think anything of it, until they called about two weeks ago to take us up on the offer. They ended up following us around all day on Thursday. It was a little weird at first to have them with a camera constantly on us, but I just got used to it and to them. They are great girls who have graduated and just want experience. They chose to do a documentary on the Church because they wanted Portugal to see what the Church is all about. They aren't members but were intruigued with us. They want Portugal to see the good things that we do and the good people that we are.

It was so funny to see how people reacted to the camera. We had set up a bunch of appointments and let them know that the camera would be there so they wouldn't freak out. So we were going to our first appointment with Carmen, who is a member, and these kids started yelling, trying to get the attention of the camera. All day when we were out and about people were either avoiding us more than usual, or they were flocking to us so they too could be on camera.

The people we taught all reacted so differently and it was funny to notice. I didn't find it difficult to just be normal, but everyone was so different. Carmen had put on her best clothes and fixed up her house all nicely. Sofia and Junior acted like a perfect family and had made a cake for us to eat. Celeste was herself, which I expected, and so was Ana. Everyone was just a little bit different and put their best self forward. It was an interesting day to observe how people react.

The lessons we taught went well, but we were teaching Celeste the 2nd lesson, which is the Plan of Salvation. I felt so distinctly that these girls, who I think may be atheist or agnostic, were listening very closely. I felt the whole time that we were really giving the lesson to them. I really think that this message touched their hearts.

They are planning on coming to Ana's baptism this Saturday to document what goes on. I liked them so much and am so glad they are coming back. Speaking of the baptism...Ana is doing great! We ahve been able to see her pretty often and teach her all that she needs to have learned before her baptism. She is so excited and so ready to be baptized. Her boyfriend, Pedro, should be back from England now and will baptize her. Every time I talk to her my testimony grows. She was so prepared for this great step and change inher life. She tells us all the time how much happier she is now because of the Church and the gospel in her life. She's become a really good friend and I can't wait for her baptism. I realize I have't put up any pictures. I'll make sure to do that next week for you all. Sorry!

Leo and Renata are doing pretty well. Renata found a job in Lisbon, so we haven't seen her in a long time. I don't know when we'll be able to see her, but I'm glad she was able to find a job. Leo is still waiting for his paperwork to go through, but he is doing well. He and his friend Marcelo came to church on Sunday and we're going to talk with them this coming Sunday, I think.

That's pretty much it on the progression chart. Celeste is still doing well and reading from the Book of Mormon each day. I think she knows it's true. She says she always feels good about it, but she hasn't prayed yet. I think she's afraid to and she can't come to church because of work. We asked her if she could trade shifts and she said no, so we're going to continue to work with her on that.

Over the weekend we helped overt a crisis. Our relief society president is Salita. She's been a member for about 8 months. Yeah. She got way overloaded and decided that she was not going back to church, so we talked to her for a long while on Saturday and encouraged her to go to church. Fortunately, she was there on Sunday and everything was smoothed over. She also went to our mini MTC that night, which was AWESOME! I think it was done so well. It would be great to do back home, I think.

Next week are transfers so we'll see what happens. Oh! I did divisions yesterday in Lisbon! It was great! I worked with Irma Bradford, who is SUPER quiet and timid, so I got to speak a little more and kind of take the lead. We got into a door and taught the first lesson. It went SOOO well! I am excited to hear about the progress of Jane. I got to talk to so many people yesterday on the streets and there was one woman who was super receptive. It was great to see how other misisonaries work and to see just how much I am capable of when given the chance.

I can't think of any funny stories right now. Sorry! Just know that they happen and that that people here do the craziest things sometimes. As does my hair. It is crazy here. It makes perfect ringlets all around and is SOOO curly! Everyone comments on it and yesterday I was told that I looked a lot younger than 21 because of my hair. That's never happened before.

Everything is great here. I love you all and I hope that life continues to go well!

Wednesday, April 16, 2008

Michael Jackson and Elder Gardner

Hello family! I can't believe that there was a tornado in Allen! All those years that we lived in Kansas and there was never a problem, and all of the years that we've lived in Texas. I am so grateful that everyone is okay and that there wasn't any damage. That is truly a blessing. And now there are great opportunities for service! Yay! Happy tax day to you all as well. Oh and guess what! Today is my 3-month mark! It seems so short and so long as well. I've also been here in Portugal exactly four weeks.

It's been a good week here in Portugal. We've really seen progression with our investigators. Leo has a sister, Renata, who we have also been teaching. In the past she's kind of blown us off and not kept committments or appointments, but we met with her last week and she's really had a change of heart. She and Leo came from Brasil about 8 months ago and still haven't been able to find jobs. Life is really hard here in Portugal for a lot of people. There are no jobs to be found and those who have jobs work 6 or 7 days a week, all day, with little pay. But this trial that Renata and Leo are going through has really effected them in different ways. Renata has been turning more to the Lord and been relying on Him. She wanted her own copy of the Book of Mormon and has been reading it. She's been coming to church, she's been coming to appointments and is really progressing. I can see the gospel really passing through her and entering her heart. Leo has been reading as well, we think. He has been avoiding us and still has some distance to go before he can let the gospel bless his life the way that it as Renata's. He needs to let it in and no one can do that except him.

Celeste is doing really really well. She continues to read from the Book of Mormon each day and is really searching. We are focusing with her on praying to know if it is true. I think she's a little scared to know, but I know that she will find for herself that it is true if she asks our Father in Heaven. She needs the gospel in a bad way right now and I think we found her at just the right time for her. The Lord really led us to her.

Ana is doing FANTASTIC! She is so incredible! I am so blessed to be able to learn from her. She is so friendly and nice to everyone in the Church and is so willing to do all that she needs to do to be ready to be baptized next week. She brightens my day every time I talk with her. The Lord really prepared her to learn about the gospel. I think she was friends with every member of the Church her age growing up. What a blessing. I can't wait for her baptism, and what's even better is that she can't wait either.

I have really been SOOO blessed with my communication skills. I can really understand what is giong on around me and my own speaking has improved quite rapidly. I can get my point across and do it correctly. I am figuring out my mistakes and am able to be understood. YAY!

This week for our district meeting, the elders, Elder Gardner and Elder Xidis, pulled out a bunch of unshelled peas. And we shelled peas...for an hour. Point of the activity? I still don't know. The elders came up with some analogy that we are trying to find those peas and shell them, but we all have to do it in different ways. I just got green fingers and dirty nails. But wait, it gets even better. That night we went over to Jacinta's (who is the mom of one of our members, Salita), and what were they doing over there? you may ask. They were shelling peas. So Irmã Brady and I shelled peas, again. I am quite apt at this now.

This has been a week of weird lessons. We started saying the prayer for a lesson and a party walked in on us. That was awkward. It's hard to get people on task here to teach them, well those who are progressing, it isn't difficult, but teaching those who aren't, it's an uphill battle to get the lesson taught. Oy veh.

Last night we had a Family Night. It was SOOO fun! We had a great conversation at the table and Irmã Brady and I were making everyone laugh. Ana started calling Elder Gardner, who is really awkward at times and SOOOO white, Michael Jackson. Then she'd start singing a Michael Jackson song. So funny. We laughed a lot last night and I can actually be funny in Portuguese as well as English! Yay! Well, one might argue that I'm not that funny, but I think I am, and what's better, so does Irmã Brady. She calls me a muppet. Apparently I make muppet faces. Thanks a lot, Dad.

Life is good here in Portugal. There are ups and downs, but being able to see the difference the gospel has in peoples' lives is what makes the bad times bearable. I love this work and I love all of you! Have a great week!

Wednesday, April 9, 2008

A Week of Conference

Hello family! I am so blessed to have a family who knows me so well. I got two updates that Kansas won the NCAA tournament. I knew that they would win this year. Seriously. I knew that since I was serving a mission they would win. The one year I didn't fill out a bracket...but I'm so glad you gave me that update. Thanks! Thank you all so much for the many updates this week. Wasn't Conference wonderful? I just loved it. Especially being a missionary. It was so much more meaningful for me.

Well this week has been a week of conferences. I spent probably half of my time this week up in Miratejo, which is where the Irmãs of Almada live and where all of our meetings as a zone are. We had zone conference on Friday, which was so great! We were with two other zones and so I got to meet a lot of great missionaries and see some old friends from the MTC. I learned some great things about working with the members to move this work along and there was a great talk from one of the zone leaders that really got me thinking. He talked about how the prophets always say "come unto Christ" not "go unto Christ." For them to be able to say "come" they need to be where Christ is. As a missionary, my purpose is to invite others to come unto Christ. Thus, I need to make sure that I am where He is and that I have the Spirit guiding me in this work. Food for thought.

While at zone conference we discussed our upcoming CTMM (MTC for Member Missionaries) that we will be doing a week from Sunday. I also met Elder Marriott, who I think Jen knew in the MTC. He lived in my same neighborhood area in Brazil. Crazy. It's a small world in the Church. Irmã Terry gave her training as well. She talked about manners, which I think was good for some of the elders to hear. She is a really funny lady and I think we all enjoyed the advice she had to give to us. President Terry talked to us about the trial of our faith. He recounted a mission story where he had to search for months to find even one person to teach (and he was in Brazil), but that they were greatly blessed in their efforts. I love President Terry and am so blessed to have him as my mission president.

The next day was Saturday and our whole morning plans blew up in smoke, which is pretty normal. so we ended up going over to teach Leo (Leu). It was my first lesson in the stairway! We talked to him about testimony and we've been teaching him for about four months now. I asked him if he had prayed to know if Joseph Smith was a prophet. He still hasn't, so we're going to be working with him on that. Having a testimony of Joseph Smith and the Book of Mormon is everything in the gospel. Without it, there is no progression. It is so important to have this testimony. I have seen this with a lot of our investigators. Those who have this testimony are making so much progress and coming so much closer to the Savior.

Then we rushed over to teach Celeste. Everything was going well and we were just waiting for our bus to get to her apartment in Arrentela. So we waited. and we waited and we waited. The bus never came. Oy veh. Finally another bus came and we got over to her apartment. When we got over there she was a wreck. I really think that we came into her life at just the right time for her. We were able to give her someone to talk to and to leave a talk with her about the Atonement.

Then we headed up to Conference for the weekend. We stayed up with the other irmãs for Saturday and Sunday, which was fun. I love those irmãs. I LOVE CONFERENCE! So many of the talks were exactly what my investigators needed to hear. My intent in going to conference was so different this time because I went listening for what they needed to hear, as well as what I needed to hear. But there were so many things that were said that were exactly what they needed to hear.

We watched conference with our whole zone of missionaries. Elder Baldwin is in my zone and he worked a lot with John. We were able to watch conference in English, so it was basically just us missionaries down in the basement watching conference. We made lunch for the elders on Sunday and that was AMAZING! I got some gooood recipes from that. I love my zone and we're all getting together today to watch some movies (all missionary appropriate, of course). It's really nice to mix it up with different people, plus the elders make me laugh really hard.

Monday we went back home and ended up getting caught in the rain and SOAKED. Irmã Brady could ring out her shoes and her skirt. I just smelled like a wet dog. I don't know which was worse for us, my smell or her wetness. But we knocked doors and had some...interesting experiences. There was a man who wanted us to debate with him. He knows that his church isn't true, but doesn't want to change.

Yesterday we had interviews with President Terry and that was another time for the zone to get together, since the schedule is usually behind. Irmã Terry brought cookies and we laughed at the funny things that she says that you would never think she would say. She really is the mom of the mission.

We've had some good lessons with investigators and members. The members help out SOOO much when they teach with us. I wish that every lesson we taught we could have a member with us. wow. What a difference. Ana is progressing wonderfully and is really close with the ward already. She's such a blessing for us.

Oh, I forgot! When Elder Bednar told us that members should be doing the finding and missionaries doing the teaching, there was a cheer from each of us during conference, as well as some good fist pumping. That was GOLD for us as missionaries to hear.

Things are GREAT here! I love this work and being able to teach and talk with God's children. I am so blessed. I can understand pretty much what everyone says, except the Cape Verdians. Fogo! they talk sooo fast!

I love you all! Have a great day! Good luck with finals and everything else!

Wednesday, April 2, 2008

The Missionary Handbook Blesses Lives

Querida família! Hello! It was so nice to hear from you and how everything is going back in the EUA. I have absolutely no concept of time anymore, so it's nice to hear what's going on back home.

Life is great here in Seixal, Amora, Arrentela, Cruz de Pau. I don't really know what to call where I live. I live in Cruz de Pau, but we work most of our time in Arrentela. The weather is finally starting to warm up, and warm up it has! I'm already starting to get brown. Yesterday we were in a pastelaria and the workers told me I looked like I had come from the beach because my face was reddish from being outside all day. It will not be long until the tanlines come back with a fury. But I'm really enjoying the pleasant weather here. It makes me sooo happy!

Things are great with Irmã Brady. We get along really well and have become good friends. We have a lot of laughter in this companionship, so that's been really nice. My Portuguese is still improving, but I still have a LONG way to go. Especially since the people from Cape Verde speak SOOO fast and have a hard time understanding everything they say, but I get the jist (gist?) every time, so that's a blessing. I'm really enjoying the time that I have with Irmã Brady and she's been a great companion for me. We're both learning and growing a lot from one another.

Well, last week we cleaned the house of a very less-active member, Rosaline. She's from France and speaks Portuguese with a weirder accent than I do. Her house was absolutely disgusting, bless her heart. There was trash everywhere and grime as well. We spent four hours over two days getting her house cleaned up so that she would be ready for her daughter and her 3 month old granddaughter to come. I would not want a baby around what was in that house before we came. Ick. I learned a great lesson that reinforced my testimony that the Spirit really can abide better in homes that are clean and tidy. It was such a different home when we left. Though Rosaline did not appreciate our message about visiting teaching, I have the hope that her heart will change and she will see the benefit of serving others. I certainly can see that in my life, because we felt so happy and fulfilled by helping her.

Our investigator Anabela is a character. She always insists on feeding us something, unless we are very firm. Last week during one of our lessons she started breastfeeding her son right in front of us. Needless to say, I felt very awkward. This week I gained a greater testimony of the missionary handbook. The kids here are sooo cute and I love them so much. I really have never seen more beautiful children than those here, especially the children from Cape Verde. It's really hard for us to not pick them up and hold them, but it's a rule that we can't, so we've been obedient, and my, we've been blessed. So we were teaching Anabela about keeping the sabbath day holy and her daughter, Mariana, was sitting on her lap. We were about done with the lesson when we heard the sound of water hitting the tile floor. I thought that was strange then I thought, there's just no way, but oh, yes. Mariana had decided to go to the bathroom right there on her mom's lap. My how grateful I am for the rule that says we cannot hold children or put them on our laps. That could have been me. Dodged that bullet.

Well, we've been stood up by a lot of our appointments this week, but we've been blessed with the opportunity of finding new people. We were knocking doors and found Celeste. She's from Cape Verde and she's AWESOME! She's been searching for the truth and when we got to her door she let us right in without our saying more than "Hi, we're the missionaries." Seriously. We taught her the first lesson and left a pamphlet for her to read. When I shared the 1st vision with her the Spirit was very strong in the room. She was touched and I could see the change in her from these words. We went back yesterday and gave her a Book of Mormon. She was so excited to get the Book of Mormon and kept thumbing through it. I can really see the light coming into her life as we teach her the truths of the restored gospel of Jesus Christ. I'll keep you updated on her.

On Saturday was Irmã Brady's one year mark on the mission. For this we did splits with the Irmãs in Almada. I went to Almada and it was great! I was with an irmã that I was able to help a lot. We knocked a lot of doors and had a lot of street contacts. I talked to this great guy who didn't believe in God. I was able to testify to him that God does exist and that he loves him. It has been my best contact because it really felt like a conversation. I loved talking to him and bringing him truth. The area of Almada was great too. It was fun to see how differently missionaries work.~

We had 5 investigators at church this past week! Our investigators are all doing well. Ana is progressing so well and is so excited about the gospel. She really gets it and understands how important it is. We had a family night with the Castros. It was wonderful They really took to Ana and we had a great time eating an amazing meal and talking about the gospel and our Savior, Jesus Christ. She is holding strong and not smoking. Instead, she's taken to running every day.

Leu is doing well also. He went to our ward family night and we had them pretend they were misionaries knocking doors. I was an "investigator" and I was taught by Silvino, who is a recent convert, and Leu. They were amazing! Leu committed me to coming to church and testified of how important it is.

I am so blessed here. I love this work and the people I am teaching. I have been so prepared to be here by my living in Brasil and being taught about Cape Verde and learning Portuguese before. I can see the hand of the Lord in my life everyday as I strive to do all I can for this work.

I love you all and I hope you enjoy Conference! I'm SOOO excited!!