Wednesday, October 29, 2008

A Halloweenless Country

Hello dear family! Thanks for all of the emails! I think I get more communication from my family than most missionaries. I consider myself very blessed.

Well, this past week was a really good one for us. I have a bit of a cough right now, but I'm on the mend. Fortunately, I got some mints from Aurora that are saving me right now. Yay for great members! This past week has really been a week of service. We helped Irma Candida set up an email account, took out a lot of trash, set up a water heater thing and various other projects. It's nice to serve.

Albertina is doing great! We asked her last week if she's been praying about the Book of Mormon and she has! She feels really good about it and she knows that it is from God. She comes to church for the whole block every week (which is so nice to see) and she is just progressing wonderfully. We love working with her and we can see the gospel really passing through her.

We found a bunch of new investigators last week and we went back to teach one of them, Sonia, yesterday. We asked her why what we are saying would be important to her and she said that she wanted to change and that we could help her do that. EXACTLY! That is why we are here! To help people change and come closer to Christ! Yay! She gets it! So we will be teaching her hopefully three times a week, like we are counseled to do, and I am excited for her. She's from Cape Verde (horray for diversity!) and she is just great. More to come.

We've had some funny occurrences the past week. Take Monday for instance. I have two questions for you family: how many people does it take to fix a paper jam? and how many people does it take to send a one line email? Answer: Seven people to fix a paper jam and three to send an email. Let me tell you how.

So Monday we had to make copies for our upcoming open house that the branch is putting on. We went to the chapel to get the original and make copies and the other elders from the zone were there because of a district leader meeting. So we talked to them for a bit and then proceeded to make our copies. No sooner had Irma Churak started to make the copies than that copier started freaking out and there was a paper jam. So we, the two of us, tried to figure it out and we couldn't. So then we enlisted another elder to help us. Still nothing. So then we asked the other elders waiting. Still nothing. Then we asked Noemia, who is a member that takes care of the chapel, to help us. Almost something. Then, Elder Marriott decided to just lift up the machine, of course, we all had to help with it and he shoved his arm up the copier to get out the jammed paper. Finally, success and the copier was successfully fixed, with all seven of us jammed in a little tiny room, some watching, some hindering, and a very few actually doing anything helpful. Some things are just universal, aren't they?

Let's see, what else? I learned yesterday that Halloween is looked badly upon here in Portugal. Apparrently it's a really bad thing here. For me, I just get candy and I get to wear a costume. I love Halloween, but here it has a bad meaning. So I had, in my ignorance, planned a bit of a party with our English classes for Friday (by planned, I basically just told them to bring food). But then I asked our Branch President where we could buy pumpkins because we wer ethinking about carving some for p-day today. He then proceeded to tell me that they don't celebrate halloween and I never found out where to get a pumpkin. Subsequently, the party was cancelled. :( Oh well, I'll celebrate with Irma Churak.

We also discovered that our next-door neighbor used to go to our church and she really liked it. We will be inviting her to our open house. :) I am loving the work here in Faro. There are so many amazing people here and they are so willing to help. I am already making connections with the members, with some that the missionaries haven't been using in the past. So it's been great to see how I can reach people that others couldn't, and visa versa. There really is a reason for each one of us going to different areas.

I am doing so well now. I love this area, this branch, and this work. I know that I am where I need to be, doing the Lord's work. I know this is the true church of God. I know that it is true.

Have agreat week! I love you

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Shouldn't a Pianist Have a Toilet Seat?

Hello family! Thank you so much for the emails. It was nice to hear about the adventure of the upstairs window. I am glad that things went well for you all.

Well things in Faro are going GREAT! I love it here and it's wonderful to be down in the Algarve. Let me tell you, the Algarve is where it's at! The Church actually functions here like it should. We had Branch Council and PEC on Sunday. The Branch Presidency met with us to see about the work. It was great! They are wonderful members and it's great to be here. Unfortunately, no one here can play the piano, so they are left with me to play during church. Poor things. It was a little rough this week, as I only played the melody, but it was better than nothing, right? Beggars can't be choosers. The good news is that we have a simplified hymns book and with a little practice I can play the hymns out of that book. So Mom, those years of piano lessons were not in vain. I can still play something! Yay! The members seemed to appreciate my poor attempts at playing the piano. Really this branch is great. It has about 50 people and a great chapel. It's nice.

Another great thing about Faro is my apartment. It is new and nice and BEAUTIFUL and right next door to a comic book shop. Funny! The house is so nice. But as it's new, it's missing a few things, like pots, pans, a dish rack (which we've already bought since I got here) and a toilet seat. That's right family. I do not have a toilet seat in my apartment. I thought that Irma Churak was trying to play a joke on me, but no, no she's not. So, we'll be talking to our apartment owner to see what he can do. Oh the joys of the mission!

I am also in the biggest district in the mission right now. There is a triple of elder covering both Olhao and Tavira, so they come to our district meeting, but we've got elders in Loule as well as a couple, the Nelsons, and then our amazing elders here in Faro. It's really nice to be around people again and to see other missionaries.

Irma Churak is from around Tyler, Texas. She's about 5'10" and has a Texas accent. She's very nice, but also very sensitive. So I've been learning how to talk in a different way so as to not hurt her feelings, a good thing for a Thomas to learn. But she's a nice girl and wants to do her best. We're going to have a good transfer together I think.

As for the work, we are working with a great woman, Albertina, who is progressing well. She's great and I'm excited to get to know her better. We also teach English class two times a week and it's intense here! We have four levels and I teach the second highest level. My students really want to learn and aren't intimidated by my intensity. They actually really like it!

We've been finding and teaching a lot and things are going well. Life is good here in the Algarve, as well as the weather! I hope that you are all doing well and that this week brings you greater happiness through the gospel! Have a great week!

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

The Gospel Blesses Lives

Hey family, well my email just got erased again and I had just finished it. Ugh. thank you all for writing. It was really nice to hear from all of you.

Yesterday we had our transfer calls and I am being transferred to Faro. I am really excited to go down there. I will be with Irma Churak, who is also from Texas. I am super excited to go, but really sad to leave here with the members and investigators we have.

Here's my new address
Rua Dr. Joao Lucio
Nº2A 2º ESQ
8000 Faro

Barbara and her family came to church on Sunday! It was so amazing to see! Maria was able to get off of work and so they found the church themselves, though they don't even live in Mafra. They loved church and it was a great meeting, although it was POURING outside. Wow. But the members were great and very welcoming and the testimony meeting was probably one of the best I've ever been to. The testimonies were amazing and I loved it.

We talked to Barbara yesterday and she told us how much her family has changed in the past few days. The contention that they usually have is all gone and they are so much happier since Sunday. She said that she has been praying to have more peace. She and her dad are reading every day from the Book of Mormon. Loretto is really putting to test what we told him about how we can have more peace and happiness in our lives form the Book of Mormon. It's been miraculous to see. I am so excited for them!

Yesterday I ate shrimp and I liked it! Gonçalo Esteves taught me how to eat it and he did it in true 15 year old fashion, even spraying shrimp juice in my face. The Esteves have really become very dear to me. They are part of my Portguese family here.

Things are going really here. We were able to teach SOO much last week. I twas amazing. We are being very blessed. I am sad to leave, but I am excited as well to go to Faro. Tomorrow I get to take a three hour bus! I hope that you all continue to do well. Have a great day! Sorry this is short.

Nine more months! Happy Hump Day to me!

Wednesday, October 8, 2008

Snails Anyone?

Hello family! I am glad to hear that all went well in Utah this past week. Things have also been going well for us this week. I am learning and growing a lot!

Well, for General Conference we went down to Oeiras to watch and we did a division with the sisters down there as well. They are in an old elder's apartment, which, consequentally, John lived in. The connections continue. I ran across an old Bible of his and met his old dona, who is very nice. The ward there is wonderful and I got to talk to a good part of them during the weekend. They all talked about how wonderful Elder Van Orman was and that the whole ward just loved him.

I especially loved Conference. I was able to see all sessions, including the Priesthood Session. President Terry encouraged us to go. It was awkward at first, but some other elders had brought a recent convert who was a woman, so we helped make her feel less awkward. We watch one session on Saturday and the rest on SUnday, so it was a long, but wonderful day. I was so touched to hear that Rome was getting a temple, but even more so that Kansas City is getting a temple. I am so excited to hear about where it is!

Well, the division went well. We were encouraged to go out and talk to people between sessions, so we had the chance to do that. I went with Irmã Fonseca and we had the chance to talk to a family that was really excited and interested. I hope that they continue with their interest. It will bless their lives.

Yesterday I had a wonderful experience. We went to Malveira to teach Barbara again. It was raining, but we hiked up the HUGE hill to her house and knocked on the door. We were excited because we saw the light on and heard voices, so we knew that others were home too. However, when we knocked on the door. It fell SILENT and no one came to the door, though we knocked a couple of times. We wrote a note stating that we would come back at 1:30pm to see Barbara and slipped it through the wooden insert to replace a window.

So we went to grab lunch and it started to rain cats and dogs. It was really coming down. Just as it was time to head out the door it started raining even harder, but we went out with a determination to teach Barbara. So we hiked up the HUGE hill again and as I went up I said a silent prayer asking for help to teach her. She's only 14 so we can't go in her house unless her mom or another female adult is there. It was clearly not going to work out for us to be outside to teach her. But we went with faith, knowing that we were doing the Lord's work.

This time as we knocked on the door, the occupants immediately said, "Barbara!" and she came and promptly answered the door. She let us in (because her mom was miraculously home) and we ended up teaching the entire family. Family, let me tell you how amazing that was! That was the first time in my mission that I have taught a family. The father, Loretto, listened very attentively and asked great questions. As his wife ranted about one thing or another, he picked up the Book of Mormon, put on his glasses, and started reading. It was incredible. We asked him to say the closing prayer, taught him how and he accepted and said the closing prayer. He spoke from the heart and gave thanks to God for all of his blessings. I know that it was the Spirit that was teaching the lesson, that inspired us with words and that it touched their hearts. I hope that they continue to feel of this joy that the gospel brings. It was such an amazing experience to teach them.

I have been having various experiences with prayer. I am so humbled to see that if I ask sincerely and specifically, then I am given specific answers. We made a bus that we should have missed when we were going to Oeiras because we were given the help we needed to help this work go forth. I know that God answers prayers.

So last week, I forgot to mention that I ate snails. Well, snail actually. There was no way that I was putting more than one of those things in my mouth. The verdict: it tasted like dirt. But it was an experience.

Next week I'll know what's going on with transfers, so I'll keep you informed. I hope that all is well. I love you all!

Saturday, October 4, 2008


Hello family! It was so wonderful to hear from all of you today. Thank you for your constant and consistent support. I really appreciate it. I was very saddened to hear about Grandpa's passing. But the gospel of Jesus Christ provides such peace and comfort that this life is not the end, but only a small part in the whole spectrum of our existence. We will see him again. How comforted I am to know that.

This has actually been a really good week for us. We are FINALLY finding people who are really interested in the gospel. It's like a miracle, really. I have investigators who are actually progressing! Who are reading, who are praying, who are keeping committments! It's SUCH a nice change, let me tell you. Wow. We have beent eaching Fátima and she went to our activity on Friday, but unfortunately, none of the members showed up, except Manuela, who just kind of weirded Fatima out. Paciencia. But Fatima showed up and that was what was important. She's excited to talk to us tonight. We gave her a Book of Mormon and she was super excited to read from it and just started applying passages to her life. I didn't say ANYTHING. She's great!

We also have Lourdes, who we contacted on the street the first or second day in the transfer. She is really curious and wanting to learn more. She printed out the whole website to read at home! She had some concerns, but Filipe came with us and she is really excited to learn more. She is the sweetest lady ever. Seriously.

Anabela has done a great job with Fatima. She's testifying of the Book of Mormon and really helping her friend see the joy of the gospel. She is still not coming to church because of her husband, but I think it's been really good for her to have a purpose in having a testimony.

On Saturday it was my birthday as you all know, and the day was kind of blah. I was kind of bummed because it was my birthday and itw as a weird day and it was about to rain cats and dogs. But we had gone and knocked some doors and one lady said we could come back that night at 8:00pm. So we visited Maria and Adalto and then went back. We knocked the door and we heard them inside debating whether or not to open the door. Irma McKee and I were determined. We were going to wait there as long as need be. Fortunately, we didn't have to wait too long and they opened the door. THEY LET US IN THEIR HOUSE! That was my first door that I've gotten into in Mafra.

We then were able to talk to Ilda and Sofia. Ilda is REALLY searching for the truth. We talked for a little while and then set up a return appointment. I'm really excited to go back and teach them. That was probably the best birthday present, was that door opening to people who were normal and ready to learn.

Unfortunately, Sporting lost to Benfica. Sigh.

Yesterday we taught Barbara, whom I had contacted last transfer and she was really excited. She made me give her directions to the chapel and even reminded me when I forgot! The work is starting to go somewhere!

In other news, Continente just opened in Mafra. There are signs EVERYWHERE about it. Continente is the Target of Portugal. Also, we have been seeing this couple with a horse and buggy. We have seen them in several different cities around the area. Not something you see every day.

Well, I'm out of time, but know that I love you all and that I am doing well and feeling MUCH better! It's nice to be able to work again! I hope you all have a great week! I love you!!

Irmã Laura Thomas