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!

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