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.

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

Six Months and Kittens!

Hello dearest family! Thank you all for the updates. It sounds like it was a really good week for everyone, myself included.

Well, today is my six month mark. Can you all believe it? It seems like I've been a missionary forever, but in Portugal for about two months. It's starting to fly by. Irmã Ives and I are trying to figure out what we can do to celebrate.

Well, we'll start with the bad news. President Terry called us Friday before we started our weekly planning to tell us that he will be taking the sisters out of Olivais permanantly. We were really sad to hear this, but we had kind of known the whole transfer that two sister areas would close and Olivais was one that would probably close. President has had a lot of problems with the ward here, but I hope that things will get better and that the ward will be stronger sometime in the future. I won't know where I'm going until next Tuesday, unless the APs let something slip, but I highly doubt it. So I'll let you know next week.

So our kitchen faucet fell off last p-day, so our dono and our dona came up to fix it. It was a show! They were doing a lot of banging and shoving of things and there was a lot of grunting and muttering. They were talking to themselves in the "tu" form. It was hilarious!

Irma Ives' ear has been infected this past week as well, so I have had the lovely pleasure of putting goopy drops in her ear four times a day. The joys of a companionship. You will all be relieved to know that the swelling has gone down and the redness has decreased. Phew! We're hoping it clears up before her family comes next week, or they will have that lovely pleasureof the pussy eardrops.

If you were wondering what the "I can't, I have to wash my hair" excuse of Portugal is, well you can stop wondering because it is "I can't, I have to take my dog to the vet." We had a lesson set up with Pedro with our Bishop and we were excited for the two of them to meet, because it is realy hard to get the Bishop out and Pedro works a lot. So we had it set up and then Pedro texted us to tell us that he had to take his dog to the vet, at night, on a Friday night. I don't know about you, but I think that if the grocery stores close early at night, then the vet probably does too. Wow. Irma Ives and I had a good chuckle over that one.

Oh! We have stray cats that get fed by our dona downstairs that like to wander into our house. We were repulsed by them, but guess what! They had kittens!! This is probably the closest to a pet I can have, they are still TERRIFIED of us, but they are sooooo cute and fluffy and they dont come into our house, so even better! They have no traction and slide around on the tile on the veranda. So cute!

We also live a few doors down from a snail factory. That's right. A snail factory. Sometimes, when the wind is just right and it's hot enough (and believe me, it's usually hot enough) then the apartment kind of has a snaily smell. I think only in Portugal would this ever happen. I think it's charming, though a gross smell.

This week we had a wonderful experience. We were meeting up with Nelo, a member, to go to contacts or knocking. We were waiting for him in the metro station (how we usually travel here) and we got "O Eldered" by this guy standing on the side. By the look of him I thought he was just going to bug us, but he actually turned out to be an inactive member. He, Sandro, was SUPER nice and SUPER normal. He invited us to come back to his house and talk to his dad, who is a less-active member. So he was nice enough to wait around for Nelo and we all went down there. He was really open and talked really well about the Church. So Sandro took us to his dad, Mario, and Mario was really open and nice too and had only left the Church because people weren't super friendly, which I can believe. So we gave him appropriate faca and love and they are both going to come to church on Sunday! I am so excited! The whole family was SUPER nice and respectful and awesome. I really think they will come back to full activity. Mario was a great leader in the Church before they moved and went inactive, so he would be a great help here.

We also went around with the BYU professor, Valerie Hegstrom, yesterday. We were going to teach Lucy the Law of Chastity with her (we thought we would help the elders out before we leave and go over that with her. I think they were very appreciative of that). But Lucy wasn't at her apartment and we couldn't get a hold of her. That never happens with Lucy, she loves us coming over and she always calls if she will be late. So we hope that everything is alright with her. So we ended up taking Valerie tracting with us! Fun! She had served a mission in Peru and was rather enjoying herself. She told us mission stories and talked to me about the Spanish/Portuguese department and other things. She has really been a tender mercy for me here. I have loved working with her and hope to continue our friendship at BYU. They ended up feeding us dinner and I felt like I was in the STates! Though we ate Spanish food.

Things are good here and I am doing well. I will let you know where Im going next week. I love you all and hope that you are staying strong in the gospel and doing all that the Saviour would have you do. I love you all!

Wednesday, July 9, 2008

The Fanny Pack and Manpris

Hello dear family!! Thank you so much for the emails and the support! I love you all so much and am so grateful for all of you. Did you fast for me on Sunday? I felt such support and strength on Sunday and I wondered if you, or some of you had been fasting for me. Thank you so much if you did because I could feel it. I appreciate the prayers and the love. Really, thank you.

Things were a lot better this past week. I did a division down in Almada, which was fun. Irmã Millet had busted her toe, so one of us stayed in with her and the other went out with Irmã Marinho and worked their area. Wow. She walks REALLY fast. I'm usually the faster walker, but I had to ask her to slow down. Wow. It was fun to go back down south of the river. I could understand everyone SOOOO much better, too. I love that area and I hope I get to go back to the Setúbal Stake to serve again. So it was a positive experience.

The next day were interviews with President Terry. President Terry is incredible. He gave me some great counsel and knew exactly what I needed to hear. I am very grateful to have a mission president like him. It was also the 4th of July and he, as well as the office elders, were wearing red, white and blue. I failed to celebrate the day of our independence. There just wasn't time!

Saturday we had a practice for the upcoming musical fireside the ward is doing. We, the missionaries, are providing musical numbers (since Portugal is lacking a bit in the musical department) and the elders inthe zone are SUPER excited about it. They are doing wonderfully and learning quickly. I am using my limited piano abilities to plunck out their parts so we can practice. Yes, I wish that I had practiced more, but I'm learning now, and it's never too late! We are doing fireside about the Restoration and the pioneers. All of the text is from Preach My Gospel. It will be great to get the ward members to come to the church again during the week. It's going to be great and everyone is very excited.

Sunday we taught Lucy during Gospel Principles with a visiting member, Valerie Hegstrom. Valerie is a professor at BYU and is here with her family doing research. The lesson was AMAZING and she really helped Lucy with some parenting skills and some gospel habits. We had worked really hard tog et the members to come with us, but everything fell through except this lesson and it made up for everything else. It really helped Lucy.

We are talking to Tania about the importance of the family and marriage right now. I happened tohave the only family picture I have and Jen's wedding announcement with me. So I showed them to Tania and talked to her about how happy my family is because we were sealed together for eternity in the temple and that we can all be together forever because of the temple. I talked to her about the importance of marriage and the examples that you are all to me. I think it really helped her. So, thank you all for your examples to me.

I left my planner with all of what happened this week back home, so I'm sorry that I can't remember a lot of specifics. I entitled this email the fanny pack and manpris because they abound here. Wow. Men wear fanny packs like they are going out of style. They also have this little pouch things on a string too. There is no American man that would be caught dead wearing a fanny pack like them or these little purse pouch things. Ick. But it's Europe and you've got to love it. They also wear manpris (man capris) here a LOT. So funny. I forget sometimes what I'm seeing and how different it is here because it just feels like the usual thing for me.

Ana, the Bishop's wife, was telling us about the American professors' family. Their son, Joseph, is about 10 but could pass for about 40. One day in primary he was fasting and he was REALLY tired. So Ana went down to tell the dad that he was really tired and so he could check up on Joe, so she went down there and talked to Brother Pratt. She expected him to jump out of his seat and run up the stairs to see if Joe was okay, but he calmly listened and walked slowly up the stairs. He calmly patted Joe on the arm and asked if he was okay, found out that he was okay, and then proceeded to go back down to Sunday school. So then Ana gave Joe something to eat and was taking care of him. Then she went to go get Sister Hegstrom to check on Joe. Again, she expected the overreaction that is normal here. But Sister Hegstrom just went up calmly and checked up on him. Ana was floored at their response. I had forgotten how different our culture is sometimes until she said that.

Things are going well here. We are doing well and working as hard as we can. I love you all! Thanks again for the love and support! Have a great week!

Wednesday, July 2, 2008

Head, Shoulders, Knees and Toes

Hello dearest family! It was great to hear from you and to get news from home. Thank you so much for all of your support and love and prayers. I really appreciate it.

Well, this has been a week of challenges, but we have learned and grown a lot from them. All of the appointments we set up last week fell through, which was hard, but we were able to have other opportunities that we would not otherwise have had. We got to teach Soraya, whom I might have mentioned last week, but she is great and we hope that she will be able to get Sundays off of work to be able to come to church with us.

Lucy is still doing well and progressing at a good pace. She is keeping her committments and is no longer smoking! She is also speaking in English more with her kids and they are learning so much! I am amazed at how well they understand us when we speak to them. I think they will start responding in English soon.

Tania is doing well and is so amazing. She is on medication that makes her very very tired, but she still gets up every Sunday morning to go to church. I am very impressed by her.

Yesterday was a really good day for us here. We had a lesson with Felizmina and hopefully she will come to church on Sunday. We are trying to get her more excited about the gospel, because she already knows that the Church is true, she just needs to act on it. Later that day we went and got ice cream with a member in the 2nd ward, Encarnação, who needed to talk and her husband won't let us come over. So that was good that she wanted to talk with us. She seems to be doing a lot better. Then we got a member involved in the work!! Antonio went out with us to make contacts and contact some less actives in the ward. He is amazing with contacting and we seemed to run into only Angolans, which was great because Antonio is Angolan. That really helped.

Then I got to teach English class! I taught the body and made Elder Kapp draw a missionary and we labeled him. Then after I taught them all of the words, I let the elders teach "Head, Shoulders, Knees and Toes,0" which ended up being a bit hit with everyone, especially with the kids who were there. I really enjoy teaching the classes and I have a lot of energy to do it, so I think everyone benefits.

We are planning a big musical fireside for the 20 July. We are getting our whole zone involved and inviting the whole stake. It's going to be great and the elders of the zone are all really excited to participate.

Oh, I have the phone from Lagos, which I think John had. Crazy. The family connections continue even in Olivais.

Well, that's about it from here. While things are challenging here all I can do is have the faith that the work will progress here and the ward will help us with the work. I love you all and hope that you have a great week!