Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Canoes in Portugal? Who Wouldv'e Thought?

Hello again family! Thank you for the emails andthe birthday well wishes. It's crazy that my birthday is this week! Wow! I can't believe it! Now the elders are going to REALLY think that I'm old!

This past week we had some good experiences. Friday, we were feeling silly after planning for a long time and so, as I was filling out the progress record, we joked that I didn't have time to do anything, not even brush my teeth! So, to be funny, Irmã McKee went and got my toothbrush, complete with toothpaste, and started brushing my teeth for us. It was really funny. Don't worry. We got pictures. I'm trying to burn them onto some CDs to send home, so soon you will be seeing more of my mission. Get excited!

Thursday we were in Torres Vedras to teach some less-active members and we got hailed down by a member. He was excited to see us and we got his phone number. Yesterday we went out with the Parkers, who are a senior missionary couple, and we found his house 8(which was in them middle of NO WHERE and it took us about an hour and a half to find it). He wasn't there and some people who knew him joked that the police were able to get up to his house so...hopefully we'll be able to talk to him soon!

Saturday was a branch activity! We were really excited about it and hte whole branch asked us to come with them. We got permission from President Terry to go so off we went! They went up by Abrantes to go canoeing. So we went up and chilled with the members who didn't go canoeing. I took some great pictures and after the canoeing adventure we had a picnic. The boys, including our branch president and counselor, started seeing who could jump over the bikes and they kept raising the height. It was really funny to see. I got some GREAT photos. Then we played limbo. I am still sore from that. Who knew my body could bend like that? I had no idea. The Young Woman in the branch, Debora, was AMAZING. Wow. Elastic! Then we played jump rope and tried to see how many we could get jumping at once. We got about 7 I think, It was fun. The other people there were watching our good times. Unfortunately, I was a little sick, so I had to take it easy. I've been a bit sick this past week, so we're going to be taking it easy today.

Sunday President Martins came to our branch. He encouraged everyone to go to the Saturday session of Stake Conference and talked about how he knew that Sporting was playing Benfica (the biggest rivalry in Portugal for soccer) that night, but how he was still going to be going to the game AFTER the session. I thought that was HILARIOUS that he had to talk about that over the pulpit. So funny. You know you're in Portugal when...

Yesterday we went out with the Parkers as I mentioned and it was a great time. They are a really funny couple and they are so helpful. We were able to confirm the address of a couple of less-actives, so that was nice. Hopefully, we will be able to talk to them sometime.

Things are going well here. The branch is still struggling a bit, but they are all such wonderful people. We started teaching a woman named Fatima, who is the friend of a less-active, Anabela. She is wonderful and I think so ready for the gospel. I am excited to see what happens with her.

I hope you all have a great week and stay strong! I think about you often and love you all. I know that this gospel is what brings lasting happiness. I see it everyday. So many people try to find happiness elsewhere, but it doesn't last. This is the true way to have the greatest happiness. I love you all!

Thursday, September 18, 2008

Knock, Knock on the Door

Hello family! I am glad to hear that all is well. This has been a tiring week, though good.
We had our Zone Conference and I had the pleasure of speaking. President Terry always asks two missionaries to give a talk right on the spot, we are told the topics and are expected to come prepared. I spoke on charity and I think it went well. Conference is always a big boost for me in the transfer, to be with other missionaries, to receive training, to feel the love of the Savior through the Spirit, to be edified. I love Zone Conference. We received some good training that is coming to all of the leadership of the Church about misisonary work. I am SUPER excited that the Brethren are making missionary work such an emphasis. The work will only go forward through the members. It's so true. It's so inspired that they are placing a greater emphasis on member missionary work because that is exactly what Portugal needs to become the lighthouse of Europe. It is only through the members that we will see greater success in bringing the light of the gospel to others.

Last Thursday we went up to Torres Vedras to see the less-actives and try and find some new investigators. After we had made our possible visits we went up to a neighborhood that looked nice and began knocking. We had a great time knocking those doors, though no one let us in to talk to them, we still had a good time talking and joking with eachother. Irmã McKee helps make the work more fun.

Friday we went over to Ana's to try and soften her heart toward the gospel and the members. I got there and I had the thought that I should let her play around with my hair. So I did. Well, about 20 minutes later I looked like I had just stepped out of the 80s, but she was smiling and very happy about how "pretty" she had made me. So, that smile on her face, and the laughter I suppressed, made it all worth it to me. We are still struggling with her to help her to see the need to forgive others. We really do choose to be offended.

Well, we took Felipe Esteves to a few lessons this week and it went really well. (Oh, John, Felipe says hi. He was shocked to know that we were related. Did you talk to everyone in Portugal?) He teaches really well and explains the gospel in a very basic and understandable way. Plus it's good preparation for him for his upcoming mission. We had a really good experience at one of our investigators' houses. She asked why we needed the Book of Mormon if we had the Bible. (Great question!) And we were happy to explain how the Book of Mormon has the fulness of the gospel and fills in the gaps that the Bible has from the truths that have been lost through the various translations and other things the Bible has been through.

Church was again very uplifting this week. The members have even mentioned how the Spirit has just really been at church the past two weeks. We went out with Fatima Esteves to do visiting teaching and I was excited to help her.

Yesterday at Zone Conference I took the time to talk to Elder Kapp and Elder Tipton who are serving in Olivais, I served with Elder Kapp there. They told me what was going on in the area and about some of the people I worked with. They told me that now Tania wants to get married! and that now Mario, who was a less-active that Irmã Ives and I found, is now attending church regularly, and even wearing a suit! I was really happy to know that I made a difference for some people there because of my listening to the Holy Ghost. It was very gratifying to hear about.

Well, I hope that you all have a wonderful week and have success at work, meetings and school. I love you all!!

Muitos abraços,
Irmã Laura Thomas

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

A Filhinha is Born!

Hello family! I am so glad that things are going well for all of you! Thank you for the love and support and the prayers. I love you all so much!

Things are going well here in Mafra. I'm actually not freaking out about being a trainer, which is nothing short of a miracle. I've been really blessed by the Lord and really helped. Irmã McKee is my little "daughter" and she is GREAT! She works hard, loves talking to people, has no fears of talking to people and is patient with me. She is a great companion and I am excited for the rest of the transfer.

We have been doing a lot of finding this past week and we've talked to a surprising number of lonely old women. I am grateful that we were able to comfort and listen to them. They needed to talk and we were able to listen and share the love that the Savior has for them. We have not found anyone who is ready for the gospel, but we're continuing the search and have the faith that they are here.

Maria da Graça is still doing really well. She left for Angola yesterday and was SOOO excited to go back. I hope that her trip goes well and that she is able to do a lot of gospel studying like she wanted to do. I love talking to her and seeing the changes that she is making in her life because of the gospel. It is truly amazing every time I see it.

Monday night we went over to Ana, Julio and Joana's. They weren't at church and I think they are at a critical point for them in deciding whether to continue in this path of happiness that is sometimes difficult, but always worthwhile. I was able to spend a bit of time with Ana, helping her get dinner ready. She is so hungry for spiritual knowledge and truth and the joy of the gospel, but she needs to chose to make that change. I hope that she can see the love that I have for her and that I want to help her. I have really grown in my love for the members and people that we are working with. We went to get Maria Helena and Adalto to church on Sunday (and we even woke them up to go!), but they decided not to come, which made me really sad, but I hope that they decide to come this week.

Church this Sunday was amazing. It usually wears me out because there is always something I need to be helping with, etc. But I was very spiritually fed. It was so nice. I could really feel the Spirit and was very edified. After church we went over to Manuela's (who is a recent convert and is in her 60s) she fed us dinner, but it took FOREVER for her to get everything ready. People kept coming over. And then, for dinner we had bacalhau. My poor little Irmã McKee and poor Elder Lloyd. Their first meal with a member in Portugal was bacalhau. Ick. It will never be a favorite meal of mine.

Let's see, what else...this past transfer one of the focuses of the misison has been studying Chapter 5 of Preach My Gospel, which is all about the importance of the Book of Mormon. I haver really felt the need to increase my testimony of this amazing Book of scripture. So I have been studying and reading and pondering and my testimony has really grown. I love the Book of Mormon and I know that it is truly a book from God. I hope that all of your testimonies are growing each day as you read, study, and ponder its message.

Have a wonderful week and enjoy, Mom and Dad, hearing from a prophet of God this weekend! I am so excited for all of you. I love you all so much!

Wednesday, September 3, 2008

Training a New Missionary

Hello family! Thank you again for the news and updates and love and support. I hope this week is a good one for all of us. This past one has sure been a good one for me!

Well, yesterday we got our transfer calls and President called at 2:15pm, which was really early. President talked to me an asked me if I would accept the responsibility to train one of the new sisters coming in. I am a little nervous now, and I know I will be REALLY nervous come tomorrow, but I'm also really excited. Irmã Brady was such a wonderful trainer/Mission Mom for me that I hope I can do the same for my little daughter-to-be. So, I'll be picking her up tomorrow at 9:00am. Elder Burkett will also be training, and during his last transfer at that! So we'll both have some new challenges and hopefully it will help us be a more unified district.

This past week has been a really good one. We had a stake activity that our zone of missionaries put on. We went "Back into the Book of Mormon". We were all different characters in the Book of Mormon. We had King Laban, which was Elder Wardenburg. He got Chinese store pijamas and wore fake gold chain necklaces and a Burger King crown. He had a fake cheesy sword as well. It was hilarious. I'll figure out how to send pictures some day. Internet here is a nightmare. Elder Hansen was Zoram and he handed out the little gold plates that my district made. He bought geenie pants that are all the rave here. They are the least flattering, ugliest pants that Europeans think are attractive. Ick. I hope that it never makes it over to the US. There were other characters, but Irma Rasmussen and I were Nephite women and wore sheets that we wrapped around to make dresses and had headbands. We helped people make bracelets out of yarn. It was fun. It was a great activity and our branch actually came! I think they are actually starting to like activities. It's a MIRACLE!

Portugal is a funny place and I will briefly mention some funny things I've seen this week. I've gotten directions to go "down by the dog, avoid the horse, and go just by the sheep". Seriously. I live in a funny area.

We went and saw Maria da Graça this week and she is doing SOO well. She's excited to go visit Angola and her family and she is progressing really well. She stopped drinking coffee when we mentioned about the Word of Wisdom. She did it all on her own. We haven't even taught her yet. She is the most Christlike person I've ever met. We went and did service at her house yesterday with the elders. We carried sacks of clothes that she sends to the poor in Angola up to her attic. Then we cleared out a bunch of rubble and rocks and brush from her back garden area and planted a tree and flowers. It was nice.

The members here are hanging in there. We found out that Fransisco and Isabel are getting married! They are both members in the branch and we're really excited for them. We love the members here and this area. They love us back and treat us really well. I am excited to continue working with them and strengthening this area with the help of the Lord.

Tonight we are having a movie night/party! Yay! The whole branch is coming and two irmas are coming up here to visit the branch as they are either going home or training next transfer, so we're excited. I love parties! We're going to be bringing 10 nonmembers tonight, hopefully. So it will be great!

I hope that you are all doing really well and are learning and growing as well. Have a FANTASTIC week! I love you all so much!