Wednesday, August 27, 2008

Changes, Changes!

Hello family! Thank you again for the emails and the love and support. I hope that things are going well for you all.

I cannot believe that school is starting up again already. Wow. The summer just started! How is it over already? Good luck in school to everyone!

Things are going well here in Mafra. Right now I'm back where I did internet when I was in Olivais. We're doing a P-day with the Irmãs of Seixal, so we«re meeting in Lisbon. I've returned to my old areas this transfer.

We were blessed to be able to teach a lot last week. It was great. We are still struggling to find people, but that will come. We are working hard and loving the work.

We have been trying to teach a member every day to try and strengthen the members here. They are all so new in the gospel and need nourishment from the word of God. It's been working well and we've been finding it successful. The members here are AMAZING. I love them and am excited to stay more time here. We found out this week that Ana doesn't have a testimony and only was baptized because her husband wanted her to be, so we're working with her and trying to help her to want to have a testimony. That's really the first step.

Family, I am learning SO much. I really am starting to feel myself get lost in the work. I can't believe that the transfer is almost over. I have learned SOOO much this transfer. The best lesson that I've learned is that I can be happy in whatever situation. It is really just a matter of choice. I am really happy and I am loving the work. It is not easy and things aren't perfect with me and Irmã Rasmussen, but I am doing my best to make her happy and to be more like Christ and to work hard. So I am happy in this. I make mistakes. That is okay. I am not perfect. But I am so happy to be a missionary and to be able to help people and to bring them happiness. Yesterday we taught Ana and we read from the Book of Mormon with her. She said that she wouldn't pray, but after the lesson I asked her to do it again and she did! She prayed! It was something so small, but it was her softening her heart to pray and she did it! It's the little things that really help.

I've been making a list in my planner of the things that have been "positives" in the day. A good portion is good food, actually...but it's so nice to look over and add to it to see what good things have happened. What I have to be grateful for. We had our interviews with President Terry and he said that was a great idea and was really excited about it. I can feel myself growing and stretching and changing and it's great! It hurts sometimes, but it's great!

Interviews were really nice. I love talking to President and getting his counsel. He told me that I would be getting a different companion next transfer, which will be good. Irma Rasmussen has not been very happy, so I hope that she will find more happiness in her next area.

Let me see, what else. Oh! The chapel got a new piano! We had had an electric organ, ick, and it worked...okay. Now we have a nice new electric piano that has all of the hymns already programmed on it. It's so pretty and so amazing! We're all excited about it. Oh, also, Mafra now has a Continente, which is their equivalent to Target. Mafra's hit the big time now! Everything's changing!

Sorry if this was a weird email, but know that I am doing great and that the work is rolling forward in Mafra! I love you all! Continue being strong! Have a great week!

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

Trust, Castles and a Couple

Hello dear family! thank you for the wonderful emails! They were especially good for me to read this week. Right now I am in a public library in Sintra. Irmã Rasmussen and I are going to Quinta de Regaleira, which has some caves to explore. I hope it will be fun. It's at least nice to be in a different area.

Things are going well here. I am learning a lot and we are working hard. We are still in the finding process, but our faith is strong and I think we will start to find those who are willing and ready to receive the truth of the gospel. Saturday we called one of our investigators, Hilma, to confirm an appointment. She then told us she would no longer read the Book of Mormon and didn't want us to talk to her about it. Her family is NOT supportive and so she doesn't want to continue. I was sad for her, but I think she will be ready to learn here in the future. One thing I am finding is that people are so afraid of the unknown. They don't want to talk to us because of fear, not because we are mean, or ugly (though I am getting a little frumpy, my hair is so crazy here), but because it's walking into the unknown.

On Saturday we went to a town called Malveira and it started to pour! Wow! Fortunately, we had brought our umbrellas, so we kept on going and searching for people to teach. We've spent a lot of time trying to look up former investigators and to find new people to teach. We also want to work more with the branch. I feel very strongly that we need to be teaching them more and strengthening them. The branch is only two years old and there are so many recent converts. One, Ana Bela, has already fallen away and is rapidly losing her testimony. It is so sad to see, but then there is Manuela, who brought her neice and her neice's daughter to a lesson, so that they could see the joy and happiness that she has now because of the gospel. It was so interesting for me to see the difference. It is all about how we nourish our own seeds and cultivate our faith. If we are doing the little things to keep us strong in this gospel.

On Sunday I was just minding my own business in Gospel Principles when Elder Davis was teaching about how we all have different gifts, and then said how I was such a hard worker. Then the rest of the class went off and started talking about what they liked about me. It was completely unsolicited, believe you me. I think I was bright red the whole time, but it was so wonderful for me to hear that the other members of the branch trusted me and loved me. It is such a blessing to have that acceptance so quickly and to be able to work better with the members. They are truly amazing here. They are all my kind of people and I really feel like I was sent here for them. It's so amazing to see. I wish you could all see it as well.

I've been thinking about how funny Mafra is. It's a pretty small town with a GIGANTIC national palace that was turned into a Catholic convent. That in and of itself is quirky. Then add on top of that the fact that the police ride around on horses. Then the fact that it houses Portugal's largest military base. This morning I could hear them doing their drills. I constantly see soldiers here in uniform. Then there are the old men that congregate in a little park, which used to be bigger, but now it's under construction, so they have to be in a higher concentration. I can imagine that the other residents would add one more oddity: the missionaries. I am sure we are one more thing that makes Mafra quirky and I love it!

On Thursday we had the priviledge of going around with a senior missionary couple, the Parkers, who are up in Caldas da Rainha, which is an area that John served in. They took us around to all of the little towns outside of Torres Vedras, where there used to be a branch, so that we could look for less-actives. We had a great time with them and it was really nice to be around people of a different age. Elder Parker has such great energy and it was a pleasure to work with both of them. We went to the dinkiest little towns to find some less actives that there was NO WAY we could have found without them. I loved working with them.

I hope you are all doing well. Things are going well here and we are working hard and staying strong in the gospel. I pray for you and I love you all so much. Please know how much I love you, but what is more how much our Father in Heaven loves each one of you. Have a great day!

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

Back South of the River, but only for a day

Hello dear family!! Thank you again for all of the emails and updates. I hope that everything continues to go well for you all. I am glad to hear that we have another missionary in our ranks! Yay Dad! I can’t wait to see how missionary work functions in the US. I bet it is SOO different, but very much the same.

Well, it’s been a good week for us. Right now I am in Seixal on a division. The areas of Seixal and Almada got combined this transfer because an irma broke her toe. So, Irma Rasmussen and I came down to do a division with the three irmas here. It was great because we could both show these areas and get to see our old areas. It’s been really weird being back here, but very rewarding. I got to see Kenia, Celeste and Salita. Celeste is doing really well and she is finally getting it about the gospel. She has grown so much and changed so much. It’s crazy. It was really fulfilling for me to see that I had helped her. Irma Brady and I knocked on her door and she let us right in. She is so much happier now because she is learning about the gospel and reading from the Book of Mormon. It was so good for me to see that I had done something here and made a difference.

It was also really fun to see this area. Irma Martinez and I ended up running into two contacts I had made here, whose addresses were wrong and I had looked for a couple of times to teach them. So, hopefully they will be able to follow-up on that and see those two women. I could see the hand of the Lord yesterday as our paths crossed and I could talk to them again. It was also fun to see how much my Portuguese has improved and my comprehension!

Things in Mafra are going pretty well. We were visiting a less active last week, Jayra, and we started out by singing hymns, which is always good. So we sang one and she really liked it, so we sang another one, and then a man who lives in one of the other rooms came into the kitchen and started banging around and making as much noise as possible. I thought it was weird. So we finished that hymn and started singing another one. He went off on us and started yelling saying that he didn’t have to listen to us and he paid to lived there and was being disrespected. I thought that was so weird, because everyone loves the hymns. Seriously. Woah. So we left the kitchen and had our lesson in her room. That lesson was special as well because I felt very directed by the Spirit. We had a very open conversation about why she was not active in the Church. She spoke very honestly and I think we were able to help her. I would never have asked her some of the things that I did had I not been directed to do so. Truly the Lord knows what we need better than we do ourselves, or anybody else.

We have been working more with the members this week and it’s been GREAT! I love working with the members and we have some great ones here. They are fantastic really. They will come whenever they can. We took Fransisco with us to teach a couple and he is a wonderful teacher and helps bridge the gap of awkwardness that sometimes exists. Unfortunately we had some difficulty teaching lessons with the members because our investigators would not let us in the house to teach them. So…we’re in the process of finding those who are ready to receive us. But it has really been great to work with the members and get to know them better.

A funny thing about Mafra. Saturday night we were walking back from Vila Velha to the main part of Mafra. It was absolutely FREEZING outside. Isabel, one of the members, and Irma Rasmussen did not believe me that I was so cold. My fingers were red and were like ice. I went home and put on my sweats and heated up some apple juice to drink. I’m sorry, but what happened to August and Summer? I usually need a jacket or sweater at night.

I ate lamb on Sunday at Manuela’s. It’s definitely not my favorite meat. Ick. But she kept putting more on my plate. Ugh. I was so full after that meal. She also gave us fruit as our before dessert dessert. So I started eating a peach and she was horrified that I was eating the skin. She took the peach out of my hand and asked me why my mother didn’t teach me how to get the skin off of a peach. So, thanks Mom. Apparently, this is a vital life skill that I was lacking in my life. Who knew?

Things are going well here for us. We are still looking and will be working with a senior couple tomorrow up in Torres Vedras. We are looking for a whole branch that went inactive up there and the couple is going to work with us. I’m really excited. But today is Irma Rasmussen’s birthday, so we are going to go have a little party for her. I am really enjoying being back here. It’s so awesome to see how open people are here.

I am learning a lot and growing a lot. I really am not starting to recognize myself. It’s crazy. I love you all!

Wednesday, August 6, 2008

Sheep Ears, Flocks and Shepherds

Hello dear family! How are you all doing? Thank you for all of the emails and letters! I loved getting those pictures and I will be putting them up in the room.

Things are going really well here in Mafra. I'm still freaking out a bit that I'm in such a small town so far away from everyone else, so I'm still adjusting, but life is good here. We've been doing a LOT of finding the past week, which has been different for me. My fingers are getting really good at pushing the buttons to get to talk to people over the intercom.

We had one great experience this past week. We went over to this really nice building to give it a shot with knocking and by chance the door was already opened, so we didn't have to get buzzed in. So we walked in and went to the top floor. The door to the apartment was already opened, so we rang the bell and this older lady walked by. She was a little taken by surprise, but we talked to her about how we were here to bring her happiness. She responded back in broken Portuguese that she wasn't interested, but invited us in to have a glass of water or a Coke with her. I then asked her where she was from and she responded South Africa! I was really excited to speak in English with her rather than hammer through a broken conversation in Portuguese. We ended up having a lovely visit with her and she was a very interesting woman. Her name is Hester and she ended up asking us about why we were here and what we believed. We were able to teach her some principles about the gospel, that she would see her husband again and that God still speaks to us. After we talked about that she invited us over to visit her again. We left her with a prayer and she asked us repeatedly to come back to visit. I could tell that she felt so much better after we had left. She could see that we were servants of God. It was nice to be able to help a person in need.

On Thursday we were walking to the chapel and on the way there I saw a flock of sheep grazing on the side of the road off of a hill. They came complete with sheep dogs and shepherd to complete the package. It was SUPER funny. I am in a completely new environment.

Also on Thursday we went up to Torres Vedres, which takes an hour by bus on small windy roads through small little dinky towns to get there. There used to be a branch up there, so there are a bunch of less active members up there. So we went up there and all of our plans fell through, so we knocked and did some contacts. I had a goal to give out a Book of Mormon before we left, but no one was giving us the time of day, so I wasn't sure what would happen. So we were waiting at the bus stop for our bus back to Mafra and I saw this woman who gave up her seat on the bench to let an older lady sit down. That impressed me and then I had the thought that I needed to talk to her. I kind of pushed it to the side, but then remembered that I would regret it later, so I ended up going up to her and talking to her and she and her friend were really nice and really receptive to the gospel. I was able to testify of the Restoration and the truthfulness of the Book of Mormon and she accepted a copy! YAY! It is always amazing for me to see that if I really put my mind to a goal, the Lord helps me to achieve it.

On Sunday we went over to the Esteves' house to eat lunch and it was crazy. They have a daughter, Emma, who is SUCH a girly girl. Wow. I don't know what I would do if I had a daughter like her. She was being a little annoying the whole time, but she's a kid so it happens. We just got this new film from the Church called Finding Happiness, so we put it on to watch with them and there could not have been more commotion, but the son, Simão, was listening and I was really edified, so it helped me. I found myself refocusing what my purpose is here. I really am here to bring happiness and light to Portugal, to Mafra.

Although people brush us off and don't want to talk to us, they really do. They have no idea what they are missing. They really don't. They cannot even imagine what happiness they could be having with the restored gospel.

Monday night we had a family night with Júlio and Ana. They like to cook really weird food and see what the missionaries do. Monday nights menu: sheep ears. Ick. They tasted REALLY gross. It was like chewing on really soft bones with no flavor. I was not a fan, and consequently put the rest of it on Elder Burkett's plate when no one was in the room. :)

Yesterday we had zone conference and it was SOOOO nice to be around other missionaries. I learned so much and was so edified. President Terry is such a wonderful man and I am so blessed to be able to learn from him and from Irmã Terry.

Things are going really well here in Mafra. We are still trying to find those who are ready to receive us, but we are working really hard and that's all we can do. I love you all and I know that this is the Lord's work. Have a great week and I'll talk to you soon!!