Sunday, September 27, 2009

New Blog

Hello everyone! I'm just writing to let you know that from now on I will be updating you all on my life at the following address: I hope to see you there!

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Do I Bite My Nails?

I've recently been studying the beginning of the Doctrine and Covenants. As I was reading section 3 I was impressed when the Lord says to Joseph, "But remember, God is merciful; therefore, repent of that which thou hast done which is contrary to the commandment which I gave you, and thou art still chosen, and art again called to the work." Joseph had just lost 116 pages of scripture. That's no small mistake. I'm sure he knew the levity of that error, but the Lord told him in essence, "You're not perfect. Yeah, it was a big mistake, but you're still learning. Just don't do it again." And what is amazing to me is that Joseph learns. He doesn't do something like that ever again.

So I have a friend with a horrible habit: he bites his nails incessantly. I remember once I was sitting by him watching a movie. He had asked me to help him stop biting his nails, so we had agreed that I would push his hand away from his mouth whenever he went to start biting his nails. So the movie started. His hand went up. I pushed it away. Ten seconds later his hand would go up again. I would push it away. This pattern continued until the two of us gave up. He must have tried to bite his nails, I don't know, 20-30 times in just ten minutes. It was absolutely exhausting. This happened over four years ago. Recently I was talking to this friend and he was still biting his nails as much as ever. Nothing has changed in four years. He told me that he stopped biting his nails on his mission, but that when he got back he started right up again.

How many times have I done something of a similar nature. I am in no way, shape, or form perfect. I do try to do my best, but I find that I make the same mistakes over and over and over. When I was on my mission, I went through the same trials repeatedly. I think the Lord was trying to tell me something. He was trying to teach me and it just took me a long time to figure it out. How amazing it is to me that Joseph only needed to be told once and he changed. That is true repentance. It's changing. It's being different. The Lord is so patient with me. I didn't even have the patience to push my friend's hand away for more than 10-15 minutes.

The Lord is so patient with me, but this is not to say that He doesn't expect us to change. The Lord goes on to tell Joseph in section 5, "Oh, this unbelieving and stiffnecked generation—mine anger is kindled against them."All the Lord expects of me is that I change and that I do better every day. Surely, it's not as hard as I make it out to be. I just need to be more aware of my own nail being drawn to my mouth.

Wednesday, August 5, 2009

One Day More

Hello family! It's so nice to hear from you again. As much as I love the fact that we have email, I am more than excited to be able to actually talk to you! Yay!

It's been a crazy week. As always. Nothing changes.

This week I went to a funeral. That was my first and hopefully only experience with Portuguese funerals. Wow. One of the sisters in the other ward, Sao Miranda, her mother died last week. We found this out Thursday morning. So we deliberated all day wondering what is culturally appropriate to do, go to the viewing or the funeral or both. We went to both. The viewing was on Thursday and when we walked in, Sao looked at me like I was an angel. We've grown close through our time in the choir and I was grateful that I was able to help her during this difficult time in her life. The next day we felt that we needed to go to the funeral, so we walked the 40 minutes to the other chapel and got there in time for the service. That was all normal and wonderful. It was a beautiful service. Then we went to the cemetery. I was slightly shocked. I think that was one of my first experiences with culture shock. We got to the cemetery and then got out of the car to walk alongside the hearse. Then we got to the gravesight. It was all just dirt, there was no cobblestone, no cement, nothing. Just a large plot of dirt (probably about a 1/2 acre). Then we got to the plot and I saw a long row of graves dug out, probably about 20. There was only about 1'1/2" space between the graves and we were only given a few minutes at the plot because there were other groups coming in. I was shocked when they started burying the coffin right in front of us. It was so different and such a cold experience. How grateful I am for the gospel and the beautiful service that we had in memory of São's mother. São is a really great lady.

Right after the funeral we had Leide's baptismal interview. Everything went really well. Her only problem was that she didn't know how she was going to keep the Sabbath day holy, because of work. Some problems had arisen and she wasn't sure if she would be able to go to church on Sunday. But Elder Fernandes saw how ready she was to be baptized and so everything was fine. I called her the next day just to see how she was doing. She surprised me when she said that she had quit her job. She later told us that she needed to make a decision and so she did. She is now looking for a job where she won't have to work on Sundays. If that isn't faith, I don't know what is. She is so willing to do all the Lord asks of her. We are all so excited for her baptism. The ward has really come together to get things ready. I am impressed.

Cibele is still doing okay. She becomes more endearing every time we see her and her countenance is also changing. Clotilde is also starting to understand the Restoration and what it means for her, so hopefully she will be able to have the courage to change her life.

My last Sunday was weird. Irma Oliveira has been very tired this past week and Sunday was a hard day for her. It was weird for me. We had to do so much for the baptism and it was my last Sunday. Suffice it to say that I was a little bit stressed. :) But everything went well. We sang "Nearer My God to Thee" as the opening hymn in Sacrament meeting. That was a tender mercy for me. That hymn is my favorite hymn in Portuguese and has been very special for me. I felt the love of the Lord for me as we sang.

It was also comforting to see how nothing changes. Six months is plenty of time to pick up the patterns of a ward. Setubal 1 is such a funny ward. It really has become my home ward during my time here. I love the members so much. They have become like family for me. It will be hard to leave them. But I will see them again.

I also went to a rest home for the first time in Portugal. It was actually really nice. We visted an elderly Angolan sister. She was so delightfully Angolan. I have missed the Angolans and Cabo Verdians here in Setubal. The Relief Society president wanted to take me there to sing hymns with her and it was just wonderful. She was so excited that we were there. I love service! Nothing is better than singing hymns with people. They just love it.

Sunday night Irma Oliveira just wanted a good meal, so we went to the house of a member who ALWAYS gives us soup or something else that is amazingly good. But, alas, she had not made anything because she was too tired. But as we left her house, another member of the ward called and said that she's made us dinner. That was such a blessing for us. The Lord truly watches over us.

Monday we had district meeting and we took district pictures in our Sporting or Benfica jerseys. That was fun. We have quite the rivalry in our little district. Then I had decided that I would give out "district presents." What I did was gather together all the stuff that I didn't want anymore, divide it up and put it in separate bags. Elder Fernandes got my bandaids, Elder Gray my extra ibuprofen, Elder Walker got my travel size toilet paper and Irma Oliveira my hair gel that I hated. They laughed so hard. It sure is nice to give, isn't it?

Yesterday was a great day. Super normal. That's what I wanted for my last full day, was just a normal day. We taught, we had lunch with the Gaspars, and then we knocked some doors at the end of the day. It was also SUPER hot and the sun was bearing down on us. Perfectly normal in every way. I couldn't have asked for a better day.

Well, family, as always, I have much more to say, but not enough time to say it. But, this time I'll be able to catch you up in a few days! Thank you again for all of your love and support. I love you all!

Até já!!!
Irmã Laura Thomas
(the last time)

Wednesday, July 29, 2009

One Loyal Dog


Thank you for your interest in Laura and her mission. Next week will be her last email update. She will be returning home late on Friday, August 7th. She asked me to invite anyone in the Dallas area to come and listen to her speak in Church on Sunday, August 9th at 11:00 am. It's The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints and the address is 1324 W. Exchange Pkwy., Allen, Texas. Our home phone number is 972-727-2919 if you want to call her starting on the 8th. She will probably only be home a few days before heading back to Provo to find a job and an apartment - back to real life!. Her email address is:

Have a great day!

Hello dearest family! Thank you once again for the emails and the support. I love hearing from you every week. Remember that I still have one more week for emails. :)

It's been another crazy and full week. I got POUNDED by water balloons last week. Seriously, I think they all thought, "ooo let's get the seeshter!" i was soaked...good thing it was cloudy and a bit chilly...It was really fun to get all of the youth together though. I loved it.

I also had my last division of my mission last week. Irmas Watkins and Lister came down from Seixal. It was good to see them both and to get to know Irma Watkins better. When we were on our division, we passed by Clotilde's house. We've been trying to meet with her, but she lives really far away and always said that she didn't have time to meet with us. But we passed by and it was great! She was very excited to see us and seemed like she really needed to talk. So we went in and had a great lesson about the importance of prayer. We were about to drop her as an investigator, but I just felt like we shouldn't. I truly felt like an angel as we talked to her.

Then we went to the Duarte's house. Irmao Duarte is still very sick (it's been three months now). We swept their patio and then talked to Rita. I feel like I've been able to help them in some small way. I have always strived to be a better disciple of Jesus Christ every day, rather than worrying about the business of the day. When I am there I feel like I am right where the Savior would want me to be. There is no better feeling than that.

We also taught Leide about modesty last week. My goodness she's amazing. She took right to it, and while she doesn't have much money at all, she has done some small things to be modest. Every time we see her she is perfectly modest. She came to church in a very modest dress and nice sandals and a big smile on her face. She had gotten home from work Saturday night at about 2:00am and then went in to work early (7:40am) so that she could get her work done and come to church. That is true sacrifice. The ward is actually excited for the baptism, so that is a great sign. Maybe this is exactly what the ward needs so that real changes and progress can be made here. Who knows? But Leide is doing great and is very excited to get baptized next week!

We taught Leide with a recent convert in the other ward, Weverton. When we were with him he took us to a woman who is a less-active member from Brasil. Don't worry. She works at a bar. Seriously, we go to the strangest places to talk to people. And we talk to EVERYONE. It's been a great experience and she was actually very open to talking to us.

We got some sad news this week however, due to some complications in Tavira (which is in the Algarve), Elder Valencia was emergency transferred to that area. So we no longer have the "Dream District," but it was great while it lasted and the elders in our ward have been two of the best that I've served with. Things change so fast, don't they?

We went to Azeitao on Saturday. My goodness it was scortching hot. We couldn't hardly get anything done because the sun was so strong. Ick. My legs felt like lead by the end of the day. But, fortunately, Irma Oliveira told me some funny stories from her ward in Fortaleza. We had had a street meeting earlier that day and she gave away a copy of the Book of Mormon wrapped like a present. So funny. It worked though.

We had our musical fireside on Sunday. It went really really well. The Spirit was so strong and the choir just did great. I was so proud of them. However, between the two wards, only about 20 people showed up. President Torgan spoke (as did I, I found out about five minutes before...) and he also sang a solo. That was a shocker to us all. Never would have expected that one.

Yesterday we had a funny experience. Really, the strangest things happen to us. The Caleiras have two dogs, as I've mentioned. The one, Luna, followed us for about 20 minutes the other time and then went home when we got to our destination. This time she came with us for two hours. We had to stop at the church to get her water as it was quite hot. We knew that she was lost, so we called the Caleira's and they had to come pick her up. Seriously, the things we do. We couldn't work because we were babysitting a dog. I got a good chuckle out of that one. But she is a very very loyal dog. I am impressed by her.

We are also teaching a young Brasilian family, Andreia, Thays and Richard. Last week Andreia gave the most sincere prayer about how her life has gotten better since knowing us and this week, little Richarde, who is only 8 or 9 years old, asked us how to know which church is the true church. Wow. I am excited to see what happens with them before I go home.

Well, that's all the time I have. I have so much more to tell, but I'm sure you'll hear all about it. I love you all and have a great day!

Thursday, July 23, 2009

Fishy Hands, Crazy Make-Up and 40ºC

Hello dear family! It's been a very eventful week, so this is going to be a poorly written email so I can include everything. Here we go...

So last p-day that Nelsons came up from the Algarve to go to Mafra with us! It was so amazing and I LOVED going back. When we were on the main highway just north of Lisbon heading to Mafra I got SO excited. We saw the convent and drove around. It's a bit different now, they are making it more touristy and it looks good. We also went to see the Esteves and that was my favorite part. We walked in and President Esteves greeted us very warmly, as always. But my favorite part was when little 8-year-old Emma lit up when she saw me. Not only is she young, but it's been a year since I've been there. She remembered me! That was so exciting. I am so grateful that I got to know that wonderful family. I saw pictures of Filipe on his mission in Mozambique and he looks so happy. It was a nice visit.

Then that night we taught Leide more about keeping the Sabbath day holy. I felt very guided as we taught her. I explained that all of us can do better to keep this commandment and I invited us all to do better and to keep the Sabbath day holy as best we can. I was about to close up the lesson, but I felt like I needed to share with her what my dad always did when he had to work on Sunday. That he would go into work really early so that he could get back in time for church. That next day we called her to see how she was doing and she told us that she was going to work it out with her boss so that she could go in early then leave for church and then go back and stay later if she needed to. I was touched at her desire to keep the commandments.

We returned on Friday and had a great lesson on the gospel of Jesus Christ. We then invited her to be baptized on the 5th of August. She immediately accepted and said, Yeah, that sounds like a good day to me. It is certainly perfect for me too! That will be my last day in Setubal and will be the last real thing that I do as a missionary. She is the most amazing person. Truly humble and willing to change. It's been such a joy for me to see her change and become ever so much happier. So yay!

Friday night there was an activity in the other ward that we invited people to, so we went and were surprised to find out that it was an activity all about strengthening your marriage. We watched a film all about how to make your marriage better. It was a good film and very American. It was SOOO weird to see the American culture again and hear the different accents. I will have a shock when I go home. For sure. I couldn't stop laughing at the expressions that they used. Elder Valencia was laughing right along with me, so I'm not alone.

On Saturday we had a church cleaning project. I felt so Mormon as we cleaned. They really need to do more service projects here. Then right after we had a "Sardinhada," which is basically a sardine barbeque. Let me tell you what, sardines are not my favorite, but carapaus (horse mackerel)are AMAZING. What you do is put a piece of bread on your plate and then the grilled fish on top, then you peel off the skin and dive in with your fingers to eat the fish. It was SOOOO good. I ate four. Don't you worry. I am more Portuguese with every day. I LOVE fish. Who knew? We did smell like smokey fish the rest of the day though. But we're used to the smell. It's all the restaurants grill here.

The musical fireside is coming along quite well. We will be singing this Sunday and so it will be my last time with the choir on Sunday. I'm actually really sad about it. It's been my favorite service project that I've given on my mission. They very "subtley" asked me and Elder Wray to leave the room at the end of the they may be planning a party for us. We'll see.

Monday was a crazy day. President Torgan called Sunday afternoon and moved our interviews from Monday to Tuesday. It threw everything into chaos because we had eight elders in Setubal from other areas who then had to stay for an extra day and had nothing to do that whole Monday. But the zone leaders saved the day. We had our district meeting and then we took a lunch break and then we went back and played a "game" that Elder Wray made up. We had to go out and talk to as many people as possible and at the end we had to see who got the most points, based on a scale that we didn't know anything about when we set out. We got points for knowing how old an old lady was, for how many times and older man said that he was too old to change and how many times a business man said that he was in a hurry. It was so funny to hear the different points. At the end the companionship with the most points (we almost won) won "Companionship Night," which included a board game, popcorn, two ties and candy. We laughed so hard. The elders are so funny. Of course, you get a group of 19 and 20 year old boys togehter, what do you expect? They all really are like brothers to me.

Unfortunately, that whole day it was SCORTCHING hot. It hit 40ºC, which is 104ºF. Yes. It is hot here. Well, right now it's chilly and overcast...but that's beside the point.

Yesterday was a great day too. We had interviews. It was good, but very different. Then we went out with Sara Cordeiro, who is amazing. She went knocking with us and then went with us to teach Maria de Nascimento (Mary of the Birth). We had to HIKE up a HUGE hill to get there and then when we got there we walked into her house and saw that she had a shrine to the Holy Family. Really, very big. It was also very hot and this lady had makeup smeared all over her face. She kept rubbing her eyes and smudging it even worse. I don't know how I kept my composure, but I was really blessed. I hardly even cracked a smile. All I could think of was Iza from the Emperor's New Groove. Think of her and you will be able to picture this lady. I think by now I have pretty much seen it all.

Well, that's pretty much it. Phew! Today we're having a water balloon fight with a bunch of missionaries and pretty much all of the youth and young single adults of Setubal. It's going to be great! I love you all and have a great week!

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Colombian Chili and American Cake...YUM!

Hello family! Thank you so much for the emails and support! I love hearing from you all every week.

It's been another ridiculously fast week. I don't know where the time goes. It's so interesting that when you want time to slow down it speeds up.

We've met with some of our members this past week and talked to them about who they know who would benefit from hearing about the gospel. We had a great experience with a couple in the ward, the Martins. They are amazing and they came up with some great ideas. We have been trying to meet with them for weeks, but it never worked out. We are trying to do the work differently here. The members need to do their part and find people for us to teach. Our best as missionaries is just not good enough, so we're working more through them members and teaching them their role in the work.

Sunday I had an interesting experience. We were sitting in Relief Society and the lesson was about the temple. The Portuguese are always talking about having a temple in Portugal and wanting a temple in Portugal. So the lesson just became a bit of a debate on why there's no temple in Portugal. The teacher did a great job of teaching about the temple and the lesson came back to where it needed to be for us to learn and be edified. But as the little discussion was going on I became a bit frustrated and sad at how they just didn't seem to "get it" about why the Church here isn't ready for a temple. As I pondered about it I realized that we can use this great passion that the members have for having a temple here to give them the motivation for doing missionary work. If they want a temple here, then the Church needs to be stronger, so they need to share the joy of the gospel with those around them that they know. I felt very strongly that we needed to change a good amount of things in the ward and set a goal for the number of people we want in the ward by the end of the year. I talked to the ward mission leader and he agreed completely. Since then, we have all been brainstorming ideas and tonight we will meet with the bishopric to make some changes here. The Church here is so ready for growth. We have laid the foundation and now it can really grow. I know that by the end of the year, there will be great growth here in our ward, if the members do their part. And, they are amazing, so they will. I am grateful that I am here to be able to get things started.

Monday we had our district meeting and before it started we had a great lunch. Elder Valencia made us some GREAT chili and it tasted SOOO good. Wow. It was also Elder Walker's birthday. So...I used the cake that Mom sent me and made a birthday cake for Elder Walker. Oh my. The elders were all soooo excited to see that cake. I got thank yous for the rest of the day from all of them.

Yesterday we had a great experience. I have been bugging one of the young men here in the ward, Pedro Caleira, about teaching his friends, because he's a great member missionary and talks to his friends all the time about the Church. So yesterday we finally taught his friends. It was a great lesson. I love teaching about the Restoration! I was so pleasantly surprised at how well his friends paid attention (there were five of them, all age 17 or 18) and listened and participated. Two of his friends were really excited to get the Book of Mormon and to read and pray about it. The Spirit was very strong as we taught and testified. I was so grateful for all of the preparation that Pedro did so that his friends would have the respect to listen to what we had to say. Some really good seeds were planted yesterday. I am excited to see what happens with them.

Other than that, nothing else really has happened. Leide continues to do really well. We invited her to find a new job before Friday so she can get baptized, so we'll be working hard so that can happen. I love you all and hope you have a great week!

Yes, I CAN Sing All Parts

Hello family! First, I will not be emailing you all individually today. We had everything planned out, but then we had a little mishap with our money being left at home, so...we had to go back and that used up my other half hour of time to write you right now. I hope to be able to come back later today and respond. But, paciencia. I will be printing out your emails and reading them. Thank you!

Well, it's been a FAST FAST FAST week here. Really, time is FLYING by here and I am honestly starting to freak out a bit about it. Yesterday we had Zone Conference, my last one. :( It was great to meet President Torgan and Irma Torgan. They are wonderful people and will continue the work that President and Irma Terry started here. It was a bit of the "Irma Thomas Show" yesterday, to my dismay. I have already mentioned before that we have the chance to give a talk, at the choice of President Torgan, and guess who got chosen...ME! I was just a bit too smiley when they got here and kept making eye contact. I should know better than that. He went right up, pointed right to me and was like "Seester, you will speak on faith, Elder you will speak on charity." Bam Bam. He has such a thick accent. It's crazy and he's got a booming voice so it was just a little scary. It went okay...I could've prepared better...I also had the chance to give my "final testimony." No, I did not cry. Yes, I teared up and was very close to crying. It just has started to hit me that I'm leaving and will never come back here as Irma Thomas. It's very sad for me in that regard. But I feel a peace about what I've been able to accomplish and what we still have to accomplish. I have loved my mission and am so grateful that the Lord told me I needed to serve. It has changed me and my life. I also got called up by President Torgan to be used as an example. And they kept talking to me and Elder Wray. Actually, that was very nice. Irma Torgan went up to the pulpit and thanked me and Elder Wray for our service and wished us the best in our lives. I could feel her love for us and that was a tender mercy. Conference was very different, but very good. President Torgan will be changing a lot of things, but it will help the work grow here.

This week we had a couple of divisions with the young women in the area. We went first with Sara Cordeiro, who's actually a young single adult. Everything fell through, so we left the building we were at (after being chastised by an older lady--out her window on the 3rd floor, mind you--about how we shouldn't ring on her neighbor's door because no one was there, although someone showed up. Oh Portugal, the funny things people do here.) So I turned to Sara and asked her where we were going to go. She got a real panicky look on her face and said, no no no, Irma, I don't choose, you do. But we insisted and we ended up on this road. We knocked on the first several doors. Nothing. But then we knocked on the door of Heloneida, a lady from Cabo Verde whose sister is a member. She let us right in and we talked to her. It was a great experience and when we left, I turned to Sara and said, Wow! Look what you did! She got a big smile on her face and said that she didn't do anything at all.

Leide is doing great and we're still working on her papers and her job situation. We had a great lesson with her and she bore her testimony of the Book of Mormon and Joseph Smith. She has such a faith and is very elect. I love working with her and seeing her change. What a miracle she is.

Last night after Conference everything had fallen through and I thought of where we should go. Immediately, Lindalva came to mind. She had not been progressing at all, but we needed to go by anyway, so we went. When we got there, her husband, Marcelis, informed us that Lindalva's sister had died that day in Brasil, very suddenly, of a heart attack. We talked to her and listened. I felt so strongly the love of our Heavely Father for her. She really needed to talk to us and hear what we said. I felt so guided. Every day I am more grateful for the help I receive.

Sunday we had choir. So I was helping them with "Beautiful Savior." I ended up first helping the sopranos, while the altos were in with the piano. The sopranos got it down. Then the altos were okayish, but we were changing the ending, so I went upstairs to see how the men were faring. It was not pretty. But, fortunately, I knew the bass I helped the basses. Yes, it was funny. Then the tenors were lost, so I learned the tenor line and helped them. We all laughed a bit. My voice was so hoarse. I love serving through music.

That's all I've got time for!I love you!

Wednesday, July 1, 2009

And I'm Once Again Brasilian!

Hello dear family, I will apologize in advance for my weird English. I'm struggling with any language today. My poor companion. The morning is rough for me to begin with....

Well, things are just going great here. Nothing super special happened this week, pretty much the norm, but it was a good week. I went to the office on Thursday for the first time since October and it was really nice to see some people that I'd not seen in a long time. It was great to see Irma Oliveira again. Apparently, she had felt that she was coming here too, and had even written to President Terry to ask to come here to be with me. Funny how that happens, isn't it? Things have been going great ever since. It's been weird for both of us to be with someone else with experience in the mission. She just finished training. But, we've been laughing a lot and laughing at our bodies' falling apart.

Irma Oliveira is from the northeast of Brasil, Fortaleza and is a convert to the Church. She's the only member in her family and joined when she was 11. She was studying accounting before the mission but will change and study human relations after. She also has two sisters and they live with her mom. She's super tall and thin. Seriously, she's taller than the elders. It's funny. We bought bottles of water yesterday and it was a very tall and skinny bottle, Irma Oliveira, we compared it against one of me, shorter and a bit wider. I got a good chuckle out of that one.

We've decided to be very adventurous with our cooking this transfer, since neither of us could really cook before the mission. We made rice pudding last turned out surprisingly well, considering we had a wrong recipe. I really do enjoy cooking. I'm sure I will enjoy it more when I have a dish washer and a microwave. :)

Things are going okay with our investigators and less-actives and members. No one we are working with came to church, which was disappointing, but I feel confident that things will work out. We had a great lesson with Leide on Monday and I really felt like I needed to talk to her about either getting Sundays off or getting a new job. She was very humble and said that she would pray about it and would make a change in her life. She is incredible.

I gave my last talk (probably) on Sunday. I had prepared my remarks based on Elder Perry's talk from Conference, but as I sat on the stand, I felt like I needed to focus solely on retention. So I talked about the Prodigal Son and about the importance of home and visiting teaching. I really felt the Spirit testify through me as I spoke. I don't know why I needed to say that, but I think it went well.

So we are preparing a musical fireside for the last week in July focusing on the Savior. I have an arrangement of Beautiful Savior that we sang last year. Normally, people are pretty chatty during choir, but as Nuno played the music of this piece, a calm entered the room and no one spoke. It was amazing. We all really felt the Spirit testify of the divinity of Christ. I am super excited for this fireside. It will be great!

So...I have been speaking only Portuguese with Irma Oliveira, other than when I am helping her with her English. She's said some things grammatically that I've wondered about, so I asked. Every time I've asked, she's had to stop and think about it and then say that she'd picked up a bad habit from one of her other companions that was learning Portuguese. At the end of the day she told me that my Portuguese was better than hers. This is FAR from the truth, rest assured, but it was funny to see that we really do rub off on one another. My Brasilian accent is coming back a little bit. I have to make a concerted effort to stick to Continental Portuguese. It's amazing.

Oh! I forgot to mention our diverse district. Three Americans, a Brasilian, a Portuguese who lives in Belgium, and a Columbian. Last week Elder Fernandes taught us a little French and this week Elder Valencia (who now lives in New York) taught us some Spanish. I really want to learn more languages. I really love it.

Well, sorry, nothing really new here. It's been a good week. Sorry for the rambling. I hope that you are all doing well. I love you!

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Why Didn't Anyone Tell Me about the Card Convention?

Hey family! ~Thank you so much for the updates and love. I hope that things are still great. I write to you from yet a different locale, a video rental store. Who knew that you could find an internet cafe in a video rental place? Best computers I've found too.

Well, it's been another crazy week. The baptism of little Joana went well, I had a bit of a hard time because Leide cancelled at the last minute (she had fallen asleep and could get ready fast enough). That broke my heart a little bit, but things got remarkably better in the area starting that next day. There were two holidays in a row last week and Thursday we tried to stop by Vanessa Sousa's again, hoping that she would be home. We stopped by and tapped on the window. Her daughter answered and told us that we could go around and they would buzz us in. We got to the door and guess what! WE GOT IN THE DOOR! This was quite the feat. The elders had been stopping by and for one reason or another, Vanessa would make up excuses for them to not be able to come in, and she did the same with us a couple of times. So I was thrilled that we were finally in her house and could have a lesson with her. It went great. She was so receptive and we set it up to meet with her three times a week.

We then saw her on Saturday and all of her kids were there and she promised that she would go to church the next day. So church came around and she wasn't there for relief society, I tried calling and got no answer. So gospel principles started and to my delight, Elder Rissi said that Vanessa was downstairs and had just arrived with her kids! I was so excited! The whole ward greeted her so well and it was just great. He mom and brother bore their testimony and I think it was good for her to see. Hopefully, things continue to go well and she chooses to let us in. But I am excited about her progress.

This week we've also had more time to go out with the young single adults and we even have gone knocking with them. Let me tell you what, they get so excited to knock! Granted, they would never say a word petrified to open their mouths, but they love just being with us. I am still seeing a small and subtle change in Sara Santana. She is a great girl and keeps saying to us, I don't know why, but I just love going out with you two. I know it's because she's feeling the Spirit and is able to bear her testimony and strengthen her faith.

This past little while our ward has been struck with illness. A brother in the ward has been sick for about six weeks, he's older and we hope that he will be able to get better soon. On top of this our bishop was diagnosed with cancer and will be undergoing treatment (hopefully) this week. Another brother had a heart attack, but was up and bearing his testimony on Sunday. I am constantly amazed at the members here. They have such a love for one another and it is truly like family. They worry about one another and take care of one another. I have not seen a ward/branch that is like this in my whole mission. The members have such a love and it is so evident in all they do. They truly live the gospel.

Right now I am in Lisbon! We are doing a division with the Lapa Irmas, Irmas Andrus and Machado. It's been fun to see their area and help with the work. And of course, Irma Machado and I always love seeing eachother. Yesterday I was with Irma Andrus and we walked by a bit of a park. We saw about 70 old men playing cards at various tables. Don't worry, we walked right by so I could get a good look. It was like a tournament. It looked like a flock of pidgeons hovering around bread crumbs. So funny!

Setubal has turned into a tropical rainforest...except for the whole forest part. It is ridiculously hot and humid. It keeps raining on and off, which takes away the heat, but then it becomes so super humid that it's suffocating. I dare say that it's worse than Texas. Let's hope that it lets up a bit. I cannot live in heat like this again. At least I will probably have air conditioning wherever I live in the future. Be grateful for air conditioning and ceiling fans. They are like little miracles. I can sleep without covers on though. I take great pride in that.

Things are going well here, better each day. Doors are being opened and we are being greatly blessed. It's such a joy for me to be able to see this progress and I hope that we will be blessed to see even more. I love you all and have a great day!

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

A Patriarch Could Win a Marathon

Hello family! Thanks for the emails and the opportunity to choose a shirt color of my very own! Everyone was particularly funny today with their emails. I was having a good laugh.

Well, this week was a good one. I'll start with the highlight: interviews. I always love interviews. Recently, I have just enjoyed the time to sit and talk to Irma Terry. Before our interviews we had a zone meeting and all of the elders decided to take a picture of them without belts on. President never wears a belt and we all think it is so cute, so they took a picture. President took longer than usual this time as it was his last round of interviews with us, so it gave me a good bit of time to talk to Irma Terry. She has become such a dear friend and has taken good care of me while I've been here. It was good to just have time to talk to her as she mended an elder's pair of pants. (They were BAD.) The poor elder didn't bring a spare pair, so he stayed in the bathroom for a good half hour while she fixed them.

My interview with President was great. It was really like I was just talking to a friend. He never knew that I wasn't planning on serving a mission when we came here and ate with them. I felt so much his love for me and for the mission and it was much like my last interview. It was sad, but mostly a wonderful experience. We both have such good hopes and expectations for this great area. Things are really going to take off here with more hard work and getting the members even more involved.

We also had stake conference this past weekend, which was great. We got to go up for the Saturday session because the choir was singing. Elders Schutze and Caussé were at the conference and it was so good to see Elder Causse again. I got to talk to him a bit after the session and I sure hope that I get to see him again. I feel like I am really part of the Europe Area of the Church. It has been amazing to get to know such wonderful leaders.

At the Sunday session it was in an auditorium and as I was in the choir, we were on the stage. We could barely hear anything because of the acoustics in the room. But, afterward we sang a hymn and it sounded great. I got to see some of the members from Seixal (ps Jen, Carmen says hi!). It was great to see her and talk to the other members. I was shocked at how many remembered my name. Wow.

I had some funny things happen this week: I had a dream the other night that the Patriarch, Irmao Castro, was in a marathon for all of Europe and don't worry, he took first place. He smoked the competition. Funny what stake conference will do to your dreams. Yesterday we went over to the Caleiras to see the new baby. They have two dogs that roam around. Usually, they follow us home or down the street. Mind you, these are pretty good sized dogs. This time, one of their dogs followed us for literally a 25 minute walk until we got to another members' house and we had to shut her out of the building. The other dog followed us about half of the way, but probably got distracted and lost us. I felt strangely safe and like I was on Lassie.

Things are going really well with Leide still. She's looking into getting her papers processed and we have a girl getting baptized today and she can come because she has the day off. So we talked to her about baptism and what would happen. She then asked what she needed to do to be baptized. Wow. She is so amazing. The order of the lessons makes perfect sense for her. I know that she will get baptized some day and will bring her family into the Church in Brasil. It just may take a while, but she is one of the pure in heart.

More has happened, but time is short. I love you all and I hope that you have a great week!

Wednesday, June 3, 2009

A Little Bird Came to Visit

Hello dear family! I write to you once again from the lovely library of Seixal. How wonderful it has been to be back here! I'll start backwards, I suppose. We came up yesterday and had a great time. I went with Irma Watkins, who is wonderful. We've always secretly wanted to serve together, so it was nice to at least be able to do a division. It felt like I had never left Seixal when I came back. Nothing has changed! Everything still smells exactly the same. That killed me. The apartment was the same, the building was the same. It was so great to see what while we live in such a world of change, Number 21 Rua do Minho still had the same smell, or smells I should say. I got to see Salita and Silvino, who were a recent convert couple when I was here. They have changed in the best way. While they are still the same, they have put down their roots even deeper into the gospel. That was wonderful to see. We also found a couple of great people in the actual area of Seixal. It was great!

As for Setúbal, things are about the same as always. Leide is amazing. She is progressing really well and is so hungry to learn! We are working on getting her a new job so she can come to church and our wonderful ward mission leader, Irmao Miranda, has been very proactive in helping us. We hope that she will be able to get a new job soon! I'll keep you posted. Leide is so wonderful. She is such a gem and is always saying how she wants to learn more and to change and be better. That is the thing every missionary dreams of hearing! I hope we start finding more Leides soon!

Well, it's been a VERY hot week here for us. VERY hot. I think upper 90s and quite humid. I am not excited about the rest of the summer. I am already SUPER brown. You are all going to laugh at my ridiculous tanlines, but I love it. My feet are particularly funny. We got to avoid the heat on Friday as we had zone conference. How wonderful that was for me! President and Irma Terry will be leaving us in the very beginning of July, so they gave their last remarks. Don't worry, I was bawling along with them. They have truly been like parents to me and I could not have asked for better people to have watched over me. As they talked and shared their feelings about going home, I found my own feelings reflected in theirs. It's funny how time passes so quickly. Conference was a wonderful highlight for me and was a great boost as well. Next transfer will be the first for President Torgan. I'm curious to see how it will be different.

Saturday we got to give service! We had been called on Thursday and told not to plan anything, as we would be helping witht ehf ood bank. We had no idea what it would entail and no one gave us any information. All we knew as of Friday night was that we were goign out to Azeitao and would be going to the Intermarché (a grocery store). We ended up getting there and there was no one there to help us. It was all very poorly planned and it was only the four of us missionaries helping. It ended up all working out when Elder Wray saw a scout drive by. The scouts were in charge of the whole thing and so we handed out bags to people to go get food in the store and then they would bring them back full of food. It felt good to serve in the community and I got to talk to some great people about the gospel in the process. The scouts here have ridiculous uniforms and they all wear the short shorts. Even the grown men. It's so funny.

Well, Sunday night I got back home and went to the room and noticed that there was somehting brown sitting on my pants in the corner. I went closer and got a better look. It was a baby bird! I couldn't believe it! We shooed him out of the room and then he just stayed in the tiny veranda type thing. He couldn't clear the ledge to fly out, but he gathered the strength the next morning to fly over. That was really freaky for me though. You never think of having a bird in your apartment! Don't worry, I got a picture. :)

Well, I love you all! Things are going well. I'm out of time!

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Don't Worry, I'm Portuguese Now

Hello family! Thanks for the updates as always. I feel very blessed to have such a supportive family.

This week has been a really good one for us. We are starting to see progress! We are starting to teach! This is exciting! We had a great week last week with using the members. Unfortunately, none of them got to help us teach anyone, but they went finding with us! We went out with Sara and Carla, two Laurels in the ward, on Saturday and they knocked some doors with us! Sara has already helped us a few times and she's great. She would not talk to me hardly at all my first couple of months here, but now she's helping us and she seems to really like talking to me. I've seen such a difference in her lately, she seems so much happier now. I don't know if it's related to her helping us, but I do feel like it was inspired that we work with her. Carla was fun to work with too. She was so nervous to knock doors. The poor girl. The most I had her do was push the doorbell and even then she seemed uncomfortable. But the next day at church she said that she liked going out with us and wanted to go again. Yay!

We also went out with Sineide, who is a rockin member from Brasil. She's amazing! She's new in the ward (and in Portugal) and we've really bonded. She really helped me feel at home here in Setubal. We always sit together in Relief Society and I just love her. Well, she lives outside of Setubal and about a 25 minute walk from the bus and she doesn't have a driver's license, so pretty much she's alone all day. But she really wants to help out with the work, so I asked how she could help us and she suggested that we talk to her neighbors. So we went out there on Thursday and knocked out a couple of streets. Let's just say that her area isn't the most receptive area you could find. Sineide was a bit shocked I think at how closed people tend to be here, as she is used to Brasilians and their open, friendly nature toward strangers. The Portuguese are wonderful people as well, but they have a hard time with strangers. Even after all the rejection she wants to go out with us again!

Did I mention that Setubal has a soccer club/team here? Vitória. Everyone is all about Vitoria here. Wow. A couple of weeks ago there was a game and seriously, I think the whole city went to the stadium to watch. Wow. Everyone was wearing green, no, everyone was wearing Vitoria clothes. Wow. Flags were flying, scarves were abounding and I was grateful that we had an appointment for that night. :) I have never seen a city shut down like that. I really felt like I was in Europe there.

A couple of days ago there was a field day for one of the schools at the park right by our house. They were recruting people to play rugby! I was so happy and excited! I haven't seen rugby here yet. Yay!

As you all know, we've been doing a lot of "finding" my whole time in Setubal. I felt that we needed to go back through our records and look up all of the potential investigators and former investigators again regardless of whether they have been looked up before or not. So we embarked on this journey and we have actually found a handful of people already in the five days we've really been looking for them. We found Marcelis and Lindalva, a couple from Brasil. They have already met with the missionaries about 10 years ago and they were very welcoming and receptive. I hope that they will act and will be ready to accept the gospel again. We've got a teaching schedule with them and they seem happier with every visit we make.

Also, on our division with Sara and Carla, Irma Lister and Sara finally got in touch with a less-active family that we've been wanting to work with. We've talked to all of the children, just not the mom yet. Well, they found her (consequently, Sara is related to this family, the Dias family). The elders have been working with Sonia's (the mom) parents the past few months and they told us to stop by. We had such a good feeling about them. So Monday we went over and had a GREAT family night with them. Wow. If there ever were people who were ready to come back, it is them. I mentioned to Sonia that her parents had been coming back to church. Surprisingly enough, she had no idea, but there was a hope and a joy that came into her eyes when I told her. I am SO excited to keep working with them. We're going back tonight!

Leide is still doing great. Just FYI. She's amazing.

I forgot to explain the title of last week's email. So, here in Setubal, I've been the cook and have discovered that I actually like it. I make killer rice now. Pretty much, I only cook Portuguese food. But I just threw things together a couple weeks ago in a skillet and IT WAS AMAZING! I am finally getting this whole cooking thing down more. It's great! Yay! Who knew that I had it in me?

So my confidence has beena bit down the past few weeks as several of the Brasilians that we've worked with have mentioned that they can't understand me or that my Portuguese isn't that good. Well, Sunday we were at lunch and a member's mom, she's probably in her 80s, told me that I am more Portuguese than American and that she understands me very well. If an old lady can understand me than anyone can! That evening at choir the members there also mentioned how Portuguese I am and that my Portuguese is quite good. I don't say this to boast, but that I think it's funny what different reactions I get. I do feel quite Portuguese though. What a great compliment!

Well, that's it! I love you all and I hope you have a great week!

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Guess What Family! I Can Cook Now!

Hello family! Thanks for all of the updates! I am still excited that will be making family shirts. Yay! I've always secretly coveted my friends' family reunion shirts that they had at BYU. Now I get to have one of my very own!

It's been a good week here in Setúbal for us. We started out the week by bidding goodbye to the missionaries who left our fun little district. On his way out, Elder Murray handed us the teaching record of a lady they had been working with, Clotilde, who is the sister of our bishop's mom, so the bishop's aunt, I suppose. We went and saw Clotilde that same day, but first we went and saw Luciete, her sister. Our dear bishop has been having some health problems and his mom was very worried when we saw her. We went over with the intent of asking about Clotilde, but we were able to comfort and listen to her as she shared her concerns. Then we sang a hymn together, Ó Pai Celeste. (I don't know what it is in English, sorry!) A peace entered the room as we sang, that had nothing to do with our limited musical abilities. I could feel Heavenly Father's love for her through the comfort of that hymn. It was a choice experience for me this past week. Actually, this week has been full of them. Then we went over and we met Clotilde. What a sweet lady! Apparently, she gets VERY worked up about soccer and is worse than a man. Oh, how I hope I get to get a glimpse of that...But it was great to meet her and we will be working more with her in the coming weeks.

We've been working with a youth named Melissa. We had a great lesson with her on Saturday. We brought a member with us who ended up talking way too much,but surprisingly enough, Melissa loved it. She gets the biggest smile on her face whenever she sees us and has a true desire to learn and to partake of the blessings of the gospel.

We combined with her on Saturday to go to church the next day (I know we don't say combined in English, but I can't think of the English equivalent. Sorry...) So we booked it to get to her house before church to pick her up. We knocked, and knocked, and called, and called. No answer. We even went back after Reliefe Society and still no answer. Very saddened, I walked to church, a bit down that she wasn't coming with us because I know how happy it would make her. The stake president came and shared a message with us. He read through Alma 29:1-10, my favorite scriptures and the theme of my mission, as it has been. I felt the love ofthe Lord through that tender mercy and that gentle reminder that really, this is His work and that He knows what we need and will bless us in His own due time.

At church I also had the priviledge of helping Elder Murray's mom through Relief Society. It really reminded me of our coming to church with Jen here. I would occasionally give her the gist of what was going on and she seemed to really enjoy the class. I was glad to be able to talk to her and make her feel comfortable. She kept tearing up and after the meeting told me that I just make her cry (happy tears of course). Who knew I had that ability? :)

I also ate seafood rice this week. And it was AMAZING! Although, I didn't like the whole biting down on shells to get to the meat. I would skip the whole crab bit next time because of that. But it was amazing!

Leide is still progressing really well. We invited her to ask for one Sunday morning off per month and she said she would talk to her boss. It is so nice working with her. I really feel a connection with her and she is so ready for the gospel. She just takes it all in and even talks to her coworkers about us. Amazing, right?

Well, I love you all! I hope you have a great week!

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

No One Can Rain on My Parade!

Hello family! Thank you for the emails! They were wonderful this week! Everyone was very descriptive! Thanks! And, YAY!, we're going to Disney World! Now I get to have the whole SuperBowl experience: So Irma Thomas, now that you are heading home, what's the first thing that you're going to do? I'm going to Disney World! It will be so nice to see you all! But...that is still a really long way away, right? I'm going to pretend that time will not fly by these next two transfers. Maybe it will work...

This week was a good one, though very rainy. I don't think anything really changed, but God blessed me with a light heart and the blessing of facing rejecting with a smile. We're still on the lookout for investigators. Unfortunately, our teaching pool took a huge hit. Of the few people we were teaching, we lost six of them (the majority of our investigators), two moved, and even more sad, four of them dropped us. Last night, I called an investigator we started teaching last week, a girl named Greice (Grace) and her family, who are very strong evangelicals. I called to confirm our appointment and she told me that she had talked to her preacher and he told her not to talk to us anymore. That is actually the first time that's happened to me. I didn't really know how to respond, but I told her that if she ever wanted to talk to us, she was always welcome to learn more. Normally, we teach people who don't actively go to another church, so it wasn't wholly unexpected, but it still was a bit of a damper on our night.

Also, Trindade and Artur dropped us because they think they're too busy. That was very sad for me because they are perfect for the ward and they know that what we are saying makes sense, at the very least. They had the startings of a testimony. Hopefully, when their lives calm down, things will improve.

Inspite of all of this, things are going well here. We are still teaching Leide, who is great! She is so happy and positive and she never breaks a committment. She has a hard time reading and praying because she's so busy, but we commited her to reading two verses a day and hopefully, she'll be able to do that. She is so sincere and so good. I feel the Spirit so much when I teach her. She is one of the pure in heart who want to know the truth. Leide is a blessing for me right now.

This past week we also got to help Arlette move! It was a great opportunity for us to build up some trust with her and get to know her better. She's a great lady. My goodness, she is so African!It's so nice to be around Africans again! I was helping her clean the kitchen and she did it SOOO differently. It kind of grossed me out, but I just had to remind myself that she was African. I am excited to be able to see her next week and talk to her about the Restoration. She is truly looking for the truth as well. It's so nice to have people to teach who are really searching!

Friday we had our Mission Conference, as I mentioned on Sunday. It was wonderful! I got to see everyone! Elder Smith got me updated on the goings on of Faro. I am so thrilled that Wumi is doing well and the Felicia is going to church and is not drinking! Did I mention that her son, Carlos, who we taught twice, showed up to church and now wants to be baptized? Yay! That just warms my little heart to hear! What a blessing it was to be led to her. The conference was great and Elder and Sister Kearon really gave us a great boost spiritually. My favorite part was when President Terry spoke. He went off on a random tangent that was exactly what I needed to hear. It's been hard for me to not be able to see any progress here when we are working so hard. But I can only control myself, my actions, my obedience and my diligence. How true that is. Though I may be rejected numerous times every day, that's okay. All I can do is keep on going. All we can truly offer the Lord is our will. How grateful I am for President Terry.

Saturday we had our ward activity. It was called "Praising our Wives" and they invited the missionaries as the special guests. It was a bit awkward to be there with all ofthe couples in the ward, but itw as very kind of them to include us. Rui Gaspar went around, as always, taking pictures of everything and everyone. They thought that there wouldn't be enough space for everyone, so they pulled in two little side tables for the missionaries to sit at. Yes, we sat at the kiddie table. Don't worry, I got pictures. I felt like I was at a family gathering again. Me, sitting at the kids tables, surrounded by couples. It was really fun though. They served some WEIRD food. Octopus and cuddle fish. The octopus was great, but I was served SO much and couldn't eat it all. The cuddle fish was NASTY. I have liked fish up until now. Just not that little number. Ick. Fortunately, the elders helped me out.

Things with the choir are progressing well. I got to be the conductor on Sunday because the Herminia couldn't go. So... it left it up to me. It went okay, except I didn't know the song. Oh well! It's nice to be able to help out and serve. The members are all happy that I'm staying to help with stake conference.

OH yeah! We got transfer calls. We are staying together. This meas that I will be staying in Setubal until the end of my mission! Yay! I'm very excited. I really wanted to stay and I'm so glad that I get to. I hope you have a great week! I love you all!

Wednesday, April 29, 2009

More Visas, Pop Socks and Jet Planes

Hello family! Thank you for all of the emails and love. I hope that things continue to go well for you all. We are truly blessed, aren't we?

It's been a crazy week. I'll start from last Wednesday. We went up to Lisbon for an "irma p-day" and we met up with all of the irmas in the Lisbon area. It was really fun and nice to see everyone, but blazing hot! Fortunately, we went up to the Castelo de São Jorge, which is up on a large hill, so we got a good breeze. It was nice to see everyone again. Then Irma Vega and I headed to Oeiras for a division to wait on Irma Lister doing her visa. Irma Lister headed to Lapa (in Lisbon) for a division. Neither house had room for three. So, I ended up going with Irma West, our contingent from England. She is a riot! I learned all sorts of new things from her. Did you know that knee highs are pop socks? She also told me she didn't want~to teach me how to suck an egg and I asked her if she meant she didn't want to beat a dead horse or preach to the choir. Funny how we were speaking the same language but couldn't understand one another! We had a great time and hope that we get to serve together. Oeiras was great as always. John, everyone says hi and asks when the kids are on the way.

Then we found out Thursday morning that the visa place decided to be difficult as always, so Irma Lister couldn't start her visa renewal until Friday. So Irma Vega and I went back to Setubal and she stayed up in Lisbon until Friday night (Yes, it took literally all day of waiting to get one little form processed.)

In the mean time, we taught Leide, who we met two weeks ago. She invited her roommate, Jose Carlos a guy of about 25 from São Paulo Brasil, to listen to our message. He stood the whole time in the kitchen and listened to us. I couldn't tel lif he was even interested at all, but we invited him to read, pray and go to church, and he said he would. Well, he was good to his word about church at least. He came for the whole block! We went and picked him up, bright and early at 9:00am. Not only was he ready, but he was well dressed in nice jeans and a button-up shirt, and waiting for us outside his house. He was showered and nicely groomed. He even turned off his phone on the way there! Well, he was just great. Our ward mission leader, Irmao Caleira, really took Jose Carlos under his wing. He sat by him in all the classes and was great. The whole ward greeted him. José Carlos even read some scriptures in gospel principles! This from the guy who asked if he had to do anything and if he could just sit there quietly! We will be teaching him again tonight and I'm really excited!

The next day (Friday) we taught Trindade and Artur. It went really well. Trindade is letting us talk more and respecting our time and message very well. Unfortunately, they couldn't go to church because their son (who's 35 mind you) had pneumonia and they had to go take care of him.

Saturday was the 35th anniversary of Portugal's liberation from their dictatorship. Old men were wearing white top hats (sort of) and red carnations, the symbol of the revolution.

Sunday the other ward had a baptism and we were able to bring Rosaria to watch it. It went very well and we all felt the Spirit. Choir was a bit of a struggle. They are learning "This is the Christ" and no one knows it (except me!) including the pianist. So I had to sing at the top of my lungs so they could all hear me. It was a bit chaotic, but hopefully, we will be able to make choir more productive.

Monday was a turbulent day. We had interviews with President and while we were waiting I had the opportunity to talk quite a bit with Irma Terry. They are so close to going home! I talked to her about what she was going to do and she went off on sewing and quilting. It made me think of my mom so much! President and Irma Terry have really been like parents to me here on the mission. I am so grateful for them. My interview went well and we talked about the different challenges that my companions were facing and are still.

I found out later from Irma Vega that President told her that she would probably be going home since they can't seem to figure out what's wrong with her and she's not getting the help she needs. He called that evening to tell her she would be going home and yesterday she was picked up to stay at the mission home and this morning she left. I am already really missing her, but I know she'll be able to get better this way. We've both been very frustrated with medicine here and now she'll be able to get the help she needs. It was a great privilege to serve with her and I learned so much. I really learned how to serve and sacrifice with her. I really feel that I was able to grow and get to know my Savior better through everything.

I don't really have anything else to say. Sorry, I couldn't really think of any funny stories. My game with Irma Vega where we "called" everything was getting a little out of hand, with us calling every Smart car, mini Cooper, yellow car, Citroen blue car, etc. So I'll have to find another hobby.

I hope you all have a great week! I love you all!

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

It's Amazing What People Will Throw Away

Hello family! It was good to hear from you and I'm glad that things are going well for you all.

This week was a really good one for us. We've had to go up to Lisbon a couple of times to see the doctor about Irma Vega's headaches. Still no solutions, but we're able to work at a more normal pace now and I'm very happy about that. We are seeing the blessings of hard work here in Setubal. They are small, but they are there.

A couple of weeks ago we stopped this Brasilian lady on the street and talked to her about our life's purpose. She was in a hurry, but we were able to set up an appointment and get her address. Last Wednesday, we were able to go and talk to her, Leide, and her roommate, Aline. We went into the house (what we call a Brasilian house, where there is a different family or person living in each room of the house or apartment, but they share the kitchen and living room). We met Aline and at first Aline didn't really want to listen to us, but we were in her room, so she was polite. We started teaching the 1st lesson, but I felt like we really needed to focus on why we are here and how the Book of Mormon answers our questions. When we switched what we were teaching, Aline immediately started paying close attention and the Spirit really entered the room. We will be going back to teach them tomorrow afternoon and we invited the rest of Leide's roommates (housemates, really) to listen to us.

We also looked up a few old investigators to see if they would be interested in talking to us again. We went down into the downtown area of Setubal and looked up Betania, who Irma Vega already knew. When we got to the street that she lived on, a young boy called out "Irmas!" I looked up and all around to see who was talking to us and I saw, on a balcony, Orlando, with a big smile on his face. Unfortunately, his mom wasn't home, so we told him that we would pass by again the next day at a better time. He said, "okay, I'll tell my mom!" We passed by the next day, but his mom was again not there, but we were able to talk to Orlando's older brother, Henrique, and sister, Melissa. Melissa had the same big smile on her face and was excited to see us as well. We invited them to church and they all commited to coming. Even better, Orlando invited his friend, Rafael, who was there with him to church and Rafael told us that we should go see his mom. Rafael also told us that he would be coming to church. Orlando had come to church before (he's 10) and came by himself. He LOVED primary and was really excited about going back. I can't explain how warm their smiles are and how happy they were to see us. It was like a light entered into them when we talked to them. I really want to be able to teach them.

Saturday we had our mini MTC in the ward. There were two workshops and a bit of a testimony meeting. Oh, well there was supposed to be one, but we got started a half-hour late and there wasn't time. But anywho, we didn't even really have to do anything because Irmao Caleira had it so well planned out. All we had to do was direct traffic and give the five-minute warning, which, of course, was ignored. :) it was a great meeting and all of the active couples in the branch came, except one. i hope they are able to implement what they learned into their lives.

That evening we were walking back home, rounding the corner of our street when we heard someone call out to us. He was a guy about our age and normally we just ignore them, but he kept calling out, and so I turned around to talk to him. He asked if we were friends with "Irmao Murray" (Elder Murray, he's been serving here for the past six transfers and knows pretty much everyone). His name was Hernani, and he told us that he wanted to change his life and find happiness. Well, I think he found the right people! We were able to talk to him for about 20 minutes and give him a copy of the Book of Mormon. He was so grateful to get it that he tried to give me beijinhos! (the kiss on either side of the cheek. it shows gratitude here. you give them when you're given something generally) I had to tactfully explain that I couldn't give him beijinhos, but I gave him a hearty handshake instead. The elders have been in touch with him and hopefully he will make the changes he needs to make.

Maria Trindade and Artur are progressing slowly, but surely. They came to church on Sunday!! The ward was GREAT at welcoming them. All of the members greeted them and talked with them. There's a couple, the Martins, who are ward missionaries, so we asked them to sit by them. They didn't just sit by them, they sat on either side of Trindade and Artur. The Martins were wonderful and they even helped us teach last night. Unfortunately, Trindade is very very very chatty. Wow. She does not even breath between phrases. It's incredible. Don't worry, we're working on it.

We had a great zone meeting on Monday and we shared experiences that we had had with making contacts. Right now, our mission is making a big push with contacting and teaching people on the streets. That meeting was very edifying and since then we have made a more concerted effort to talking to everyone that crosses our path. We have had some great experiences from it so far. Monday was my best day in Setubal so far, hands down. Everything went so well for us.

The reason for my title, you might ask? Irma Vega and I have been noticing in our time together that people throw some interesting things away, namely, toilets and bidets. We have seen at least five-six toilets by the dumpster and at least as many bidets. It's becoming an epidemic.

Oh, I also got pooped on by a bird again yesterday. That marks two times in Portugal for me.

Things are going well here, we are seeing slow progress. I am really happy in the work and I know that I am a representative of Jesus Christ and that He has restored His church. I love you all!

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Well, The Easter Bunny Came for Me... and It was Good!

Hey family! Thank you all for the emails and the love and support. I'm excited that you all get to see each other! Yay for family!

This past week has been another rollercoaster. We're still adjusting to each other, but things seem to be getting better here for all of us. It's been really cold and rainy, unfortunately, but April showers bring May flowers, right?

Sunday was Easter and so we had the opportunity to go to lunch at the Melos. The plate for the day? Rabbit! I know, Jen, you're cringing. I've eaten rabbit before and it was not that good, but it was actually really good this time. I love Portuguese food. It all pretty much tastes the same, but it's always SOOO good. I still don't like bacalhau though. Silly dried out codfish. So, there's one more food that goes on the good list.

Later that day we had a musical fireside that our choir here was putting on to teach the Restoration and talk about Easter. It was kind of like Music and the Spoken Word. It went really well and I was impressed, but, unfortunately, the turnout wasn't so good. But President and Irma Terry came and President was one of the speakers. It's always nice to hear him speak. They are currently getting things ready to end their mission. I also had to opportunity to play the violin with one of the pieces and everyone LOVED it. Don't worry, I've already been enlisted to play for Stake Conference here in July if I'm still here. It's nice to know that the members appreciate what little Ihave to offer. Hopefully next time they can give me a little more notice...a couple of run throughs is not enough in Portugal.

This past week we got a call from the elders who are serving the the 2nd Ward asking us if we would look up a lady that they had talked to in her sewing and alterations shop right by the chapel there. Gladly we talked to her and went to her shop for the first meeting. Her name is Maria Trinidade (Mary Trinity. Yes, that is the essence of Portugal.) She's in her 60s and is very interested in learning English and in learning about the gospel. The only downside is that she's really really chatty and tends to go on a lot of tangents. We went back last night and she was ready to learn more from us. I'm excited to see how it all turns out.

Saturday we went over to the Duarte's house to teach them. They are long-time members, but Sister Duarte is very sad because her grandson died last year and she is still mourning his loss. I verymuch felt like we needed to talk to her about the reason for Easter. I was grateful to have the words given to me that I needed to help her right now in her time of difficulty. She and her husband said repeatedly how much they appreciated our visit. I was grateful to help them.

That's about it for now. I love you all and have a great week!

Wednesday, April 8, 2009

So We Found Where the Elect Are...In the Elders' Area

Hello family!! Thanks for the emails and for everything!

This has been a week of transition for us. Irma Lister came bright and early Thursday morning and we've been adjusting to making our tripla the best it can be, but we're happy to have her with us.

General Conference was amazing, wasn't it? We are so blessed to be able to listen to the living prophets! I was so sad that it was my last time to watch conference on my mission. I feel like their words are so much more applicable to my life, or I guess, I am applying them better to my life now. It was so wonderful and I'm sad that it's over. I forgot to mention the last two times that I've been able to watch the Priesthood session. President Terry encourages us to watch it, so I've loved those sessions.

On Saturday before Conference, Irma Lister and I had the opportunity to do some finding! We went to the only street that I knew where it was in the area we were to look up some potential investigators. We had two in one building, 1st floor and 2nd floor. So we were able to enter the building and I was going to start with the 2nd floor and work down. Apparently, we only walked to the 1st floor and I accidentally rang the wrong apartment. Good thing I did! A man opened the door and said, "Seesters!!!" Don't worry, we found Rui Ribeiro, a less-active member who had moved. He was very warm and excited to talk to us. We invited him to conference and although he didn't come, I'm sure we'll be able to get him to church. It was great to be lead to where we needed to be!

Yesterday we headed up to Lisbon for Irma Vega to go to the doctor. Unfortunately, our train was very late and so we had to wait, but we ended up talking to Lina, a gal from Estonia. She ended up sitting by us the whole 50 minute ride up there. Her English was pretty good and I had a great time talking to her about her life and telling her about ours. I told her about how happy I was with our work here and what we do. She paused for a minute, really looked at me and responded, "You are happy," while nodding her head. That was the best thing she coul dhave said and noticed. She was able to see who I really was and what I really had. I hope that she talks to the missionaries in Estonia when she gets back. She could see how the gospel has really blessed my life.

Yesterday we did a division with the irmas of Lapa (Lisbon), Irmas Machado, McKee and Andrus. I got to walk with Irmas Machado and McKee all day yesterday and it was so great to see them! Irma McKee is the best missionary ever! Wow! We went to an area called Azeitao, which is outside of Setubal. Missionaries haven't really worked there, so it's a great place to work! They aren't sick of us! We ended up knocking for a couple of hours and getting into three houses! It was amazing! All of hte people we talked to were so nice and so open. It was great! We marked return appointments and were very excited about our day. Unfortunately, the elders informed us that Azeitao was there area. Hopefully we'll be able to work with the great people we found out there, as they are all women and live alone...I'm sure that either way, they'll learn more about the gospel and that's really what matters. I'm just glad we found them!

Well, we just went to a beautiful castle in Palmela and I was impressed that it was free and well kept-up. It's been beautiful here for about a month and I'm already getting pretty tan. Things are starting to look up here and hopefully we can continue working hard and can discover the cause of Irma Vega's headaches.

Have a great week!

Saturday, April 4, 2009

No, No, No I Want to Be a Dolphin Trainer

Hello family! Thank you for the updates and inspiring emails again! I love you all! Happy Birthday to Kat! And Congratulations to John!

Well, it's been another week of learning patience for me. Irma Vega continues to have really bad headaches and so we wait for her to get better.

We actually had a lot of success with less-actives this past week. I was shocked. We had two less-actives, Valentina and Luisa, at church, as well as a less-active family who came! It was amazing! I was so excited to see Rosie and Fernando at church with their sons. Granted, Rosie left half-way through sacrament meeting, but at least she came! She kept her word! We were so surprised that Valentina agreed to go because she was very defensive about going to church two weeks ago. Really, the word of God can change us and make us better. She's a bit of a different lady, but she was just chatting it up with all of the members and they were happy to see her. Our members greeted them so well. The members really are great here. I am impressed.

Rosária is still doing really well. She had to work on Sunday, so she couldn't go, but she's hired another lady to work at the café so she can start going to church and actually sleeping at night, poor lady. She has such a desire to learn and find the truth! I really think that she will get baptized. She committed herself to watching a session of conference on Sunday! We had a great lesson with her on Monday and I'm excited to see her progress.

Valentina is progressing well also. She's reading from teh Book of Mormon and this past week she's talked a lot about her brother who passed away from illness. So we decided to read Alma 40 with her to help her with understanding the scriptures. As we were reading I was thinking, oh man, I don't know if this was such a good idea, I don't know if she's getting anything out of it. But at the end we asked her if she had any questions. I was surprised when she asked, "what about the people who never knew the scriptures and the gospel?" PERFECT QUESTION! So we read 1 Peter 4:6 with her and talked about how everyone will have an opportunity to hear the gospel because God is just and merciful. I think she was thinking about her brother. I was so happy that we'd decided to talk to her about that chapter.

We also found Regiani and Geraldo last week off of the potential investigators sheets in our area book. They are very interested and Regiani committed to coming to church on Sunday!

Last Wednesday we went to the zoo! It was really nice to see the other sister and to go to a zoo. We saw an AMAZING dolphin show and now I want to be a dolphin trainer. Who wouldn't want to swim with dolphins and get flung into the air? Really? It was so beautiful to just watch what these great animals can do.

Oh, if any of you want to see a picture of me (and I'm sure you do!) you can go to Just scroll down toward the bottom.

Well, that's about it for now. We're seeing progress, slowly but surely. I am grateful to be receiving blessings right now. I hope that we will be able to really start working here soon. Oh! I almost forgot! We are getting another sister down here, Irma Lister. She's also new in the mission, so I'll have my work cut out for me. I hope that it goes well...

Have a great week! I love you all!

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Well, I Always Wanted to Be a Ballerina...

Hello family! Thank you all for the updates and the love and support. I am grateful to have such a great family.

Before I forget, please send packages for the time being to the office in Lisbon. The post office lady had a fit when I showed her a copy of my passport instead of the original. Fortunately, she got over the fit and gave me my package. So ridiculous.

Things have gotten better here this past week. We've been able to get out and work again most of this past week. So that's been a great blessing. Right now we're working on cleaning out the ward list (yes, missionaries have to do that here in Portugal, actually in Europe). So we've been able to come in contact with a few less-actives and find some people who are willing to listen to us. It's been nice to see some progress. Nothing too special has happened on that front, but I'll keep you posted.

On Sunday, Rosária showed up at church! We didn't even have her number and Ana Gaspar, her friend, didn't call her or invite her. She just straight-up came on her own. She works at café and that is a very tiring and demanding job. She left the café to the care of her daughter so she could come. That's a pretty big sacrifice. I was very pleasantly shocked! She got there for Gospel Principles and then stayed for sacrament meeting. She seemed to enjoy church and after the meetings I asked her if we could see her the next day, which was her only day off. She said that she'd have to see and that she would call us. I didn't push it, but kind of figured that if she really wanted to meet with us that she would mark a time with us. But I left it at that. The next day the elders called us and said that Rosária would be at Ana Gaspar's at 5:30pm for us to meet with her. (A lot of members don't have our number because one of the irmas kept losing the phone and so we got a new number, so they call the elders with messages for us. We're working on it.) I was again pleasantly surprised. We had a great lesson and she asked some good questions. She is truly searching. We had her say the closing prayer and she said a very heart-felt prayer. I am looking forward to seeing her progress.

This past Thursday, maybe Friday, I don't remember, was Father's day here in Portugal. So we decided to call our bishop and wish him a happy Father's day. He is, after all, the father of the ward, right? So we called him and he was so surprised and happy for our call. (He's a great bishop. SO nice and caring and funny.) As he we were saying goodbye, he told me to send "beijinhos" (little kisses) to Irma Vega. Normally, men don't say that to us because we're missionaries. And he recognized that, so he said, oh well, it's my day and I'll send you beijinhos! It was funny. We all laughed.

Well, as I am trying to boost my companion's self-esteem and help her see how great she is, I decided to try a new tactic. She is a dancer, and since I like dancing and have a pretty limited knowledge of dancing. I decided to have her teach me ballet. I figured it would be a good way for her to see the talents that she has and how capable she really is. So the past couple of days we've been doing ballet. She is great and I am...a beginner. It's been fun for me and I think for her as well.

I have learned so much this transfer about what it really means to lose yourself in service. I am really trying to serve and to give and I have been able to see areas where I can really improve. I have really been able to go to the scriptures for the answers and I have found them. The Lord has heard my prayers and answered them. This week I was given so much peace as I sat pondering about the mission of Aaron in Alma 21. The scriptures truly are the gateway by which we receive answers and personal revelation. This transfer has certainly been different than I thought it was going to be, but I have learned a lot. I feel like I've really been able to help Irma Vega and that she's why I'm here in Setubal. I love her so much and I am grateful for the opportunity that I have to serve my mission right now.

I love you all so much and I hope that this week will be one in which you find the answers you need through fervent prayer, unfailing faith, and diligent study in the scriptures. Have a great week!

Muitos beijinhos!
Irmã Laura Thomas

Oh, things are still going well for Wumi and she will be baptized on Saturday! YAY! Hopefully, I'll get pictures that I can send to you.

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

I Forgot to Tell you About Wumi!

Hey family! I am glad to hear that you are all doing well and having good things happen.

Thursday we had to go up to Lisbon to begin the renewal process for Irma Vega's visa and so we waited, and waited, and waited. But it was refreshing to be outside and around other people. We were able to do a bit of knocking by our house...that was a bad idea. The people there were really sick of missionaries. Wow. So, once we are able, we are going to be working in areas further from our house.

Yesterday and the day before we had a division with the irmas of Portimao. Irmas Earley and Rasmussen had to come up for Irma Earley's visa, so I got to do my 8th or 9th division with Irma Rasmussen. It was really great to see her and talk to her. We got to go out and work as well! It was great! We didn't find anyone and I had no idea what to do here on my own...but it was still nice to be out and working. It's always good to see Irma Rasmussen. I also had my interview with President Terry and it was good to be able to tell him more about what's going on. I was able to feel better about my being here in Setubal.

I have no other stories from this week, but I have been forgetting to update you on Wumi! Let me start at the very beginning. We found out how she found us right before I'd left Faro. She had promised God when she left Nigeria to study here that she would go back to Nigeria closer to Him. What better preparation for finding the true Church could there be? So the first time we went to teach the three girls from Cabo Verde we were sitting in the corridor and we sang a hymn, "I am a Child of God," to start the lesson. Wumi heard us singing and knew that we were singing about God, so she came out to talk to us and see who we were. So with that she was more than willing to talk to us when she found out we were missionaries. (Golden!)

Since I left she's been doing really well. She knows that it's true and she will be baptized next Saturday, 28 March. They taught her the Word of Wisdom and the other big commandments, the Sabbath day, the law of Chastity and she had no problem with anything. She responded by saying she would throw away her tea that day. I am still so sad that I can't be there to see her progress or her baptism. But I am grateful that we were able to find her. Who knew when I was prompted to stop Umara and Aidil that we would find Wumi, who was so ready for the gospel?

Yesterday I saw my first conversation in sign language here. It was so cool to see! I have seen so many blind people, but I've never seen sign language here. Languages are so fascinating!

Well, things are going well here. I feel confident that we will start seeing progress soon. I hope that you all continue to do well. I love you so much! Have a great week!

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

The Setubal Baby Has Arrived!

Hey family! Well, I was done with my email to you--again--but the copy center lady ended my session. So, now I get to rewrite what I already wrote.

Well, it's been another week like last week. Irma Vega is still really tired and needs to sleep a lot. So I've had more time to myself. She is very slowly getting better, so we have been able to get out a little more every day.

We had Zone Conference on Friday and it was a very uplifting experience for me. I was having a hard day and it was just what i needed. i was very uplifted and edified by the spirit that i felt there. elder rissi, who works in my area, gave a talk and he read (in english, ironically enough) the words to "how firm a foundation" which has always had a special place for me in my heart. truly, the Lord is with us.

I was also able to get to know irma west, who is a new sister from Essex, England. we spent the whole lunch hour talking together (yes, she has a delightful accent and i enjoyed noticing the differences in our varieties of english). i was able to give her advice and help with some struggles that she is having right now. i was glad to be the right person in the right place for her. i felt that i was able to say just what she needed to hear. it was nice to be helpful to someone again.

sunday we went to a birthday gathering for irmao caleira. he is very well-off and the food at the gathering was all very froo-froo. it looks nice, but tastes funny and is less-than-filling. i got to pick between the big bug (lobster) and the little bug (prawn). Yum. the soup was amazing though, caldo verde. i love portuguese soup!

that evening we had a lesson with rosaria. she is friends with a member, ana gaspar. ana approached us last week about teaching her friend. so we were able to teach her the first lesson over cammomile (camomile?) tea and cookies. rosaria is really searching for the truth and was excited to hear us teach her. we were able to teach her the next day again at ana's and we watched the restoration film. the Spirit was very strong as we watched and discussed how joseph smith also found the truth. i am excited to see her again next week. we hope she can get work off to come to church. ana did a great job with her.

here in setubal the members see it as part of their duty to feed the missionary. the result of this: i am getting a setubal baby, as we say here in the mission. it is very nice to be able to get to know the members and help them to be excited about sharing the gospel. i am doing my best to ward off the growth of my stomach. we'll see how successful i am.

mom also asked about my apartment. let me just say, it is a palace. it is large and new and nice and even has a heating system and a centralized vacuum. i had forgotten that vacuums existed! i am in awe every day at how nice it is. wow. the only draw back is that there are full-sized mirrors.

well, i hope that all is well and that you all have a great week! i love you!

Thursday, March 5, 2009

The Plagues of a Virus

Well, family, I had written out my whole email when I touched a button and it all got erased. I am slightly annoyed.

It's been an interesting week. Irma Vega got sick on Friday with a virus that gave her a really bad headache for the past five days. So it's given me a lot of time to myself. I've been doing a lot of studying and on Saturday I decided that I was going to only read from the Book of Mormon. I was in the beginning of Mosiah and I started to get really confused. Have you ever been confused reading the book of Mosiah with all of the different peoples and lands and deliverances and captivities? I know that I always have been. Well, not anymore! You know why? Because I drew a map. That's right, a really great map with arrow and peoples and lands. (Each land is represented by a tree. I even drew a river to represent the waters of Mormon...I got THAT excited.) I now understand perfectly who is who and where they all ended up. I am very proud of my map and I will be sending copies to you as soon as I can. You will be amazed.

I had a really great experience with reading from the Book of Mormon. I mean I always had, but this time I really saw how my nature was being changed. I normally get antsy and impatient wanting to leave the house and go work. I never once got impatient, frustrated or complained during the past six days. It was a great blessing. I know that I was being blessed by my studying the Book of Mormon. My testimony was strengthened.

Church was really good on Sunday. I went there feeling a little uncomfortable because I still don't really know anyone, but as I walked in I saw Sineide Picanço, who is a really strong member from Brasil who is new in the ward. She and I had talked a bit the week before. I think we were both happy to see one another. She kept me company during Relief Society and I was grateful for that.

We also had ward choir that night and I was unsure if it was an unrighteous tradition of the sisters who had gone before me to go to choir. Well, we got a reference from a member, set up a time to meet with a member and her friend who wants to hear more, and the altos REALLY needed help. It was nice to get to know the people here as well.

Thursday we had a great experience. We were walking home for dinner after a day of trying to find anyone to teach. I saw a woman and her daughter walking home with groceries. We offered to help and she actually said yes. Amazing! What's more, she invited us into her home to teach her when we got to the door! Even more incredible! So we taught her, Silvia, and her daughter, Kimberly, who were both really receptive. Then her friend, Carla, came in and was also really receptive. Then her other daughter, Tainara, came in and was also really receptive. It was amazing! They have done the reading since then and I'm really excited to talk to them tonight! I hope that it all goes well.

Well, family, I hope that you all continue to do well. I love you all so much! Thank you for all of your support and help. I really appreciate it. Have a great week!

Irma Laura Thomas

PS I will be coming home on 7 August, just so you know

Wednesday, February 25, 2009

A Big Mountain and the Joys of Carnaval

Hello family! Thank you for the emails. They were especially good this week. Thank you for the words of support.

This has been a week of adjustment, of course. Let me start with telling you about my companion, Irma Vega. She's from Wyoming, has one sister, and is a licensed cosmetologist. She will be fixing my bad haircut later today. :) She has a great desire to work hard, be obedient and wash the dishes, all of these things are aggreable with me. It's nice to have a companion who is so willing to learn and work. I've been helping her with her Portuguese (this is her third transfer) and it's been really fulfilling to help teach her. We're getting along really well.

Setúbal is a big area for me, coming from Faro. We walk A LOT. We also have a gigantic hill, it's really a small mountain, that we hike up frequently. I will be losing weight here, for sure. There are two wards in the city and four companionships of missionaries. I am also serving by Elder Gardner again, which has been funny. I still don't really know the members, but we're getting there. I feel like we're opening up the area right now because Irma Vega was being trained her first transfer in a tripla and was lost most of the time, then her second transfer her companion was sick, so they stayed in and then she got another companion for the last three weeks and there were some problems, sooo the area hasn't really been worked in a transfer and we're trying to figure out how to make the best use of our time.

Kat mentioned how it must be nice to see water and green. It's pretty much just buildings like the rest of my areas. There are, however, a couple of big parks. AND there are actually trees here. It's amazing to see trees! They are starting to bloom! So we've been making contacts in the parks, on the streets and everywhere in between in an effort to find people to teach. We've also been knocking a lot. We have one person that we teach, Carmen. Really, just one. We usually teach a bunch of people, I just don't mention all of them. So we're working on getting that up.

We taught Carmen yesterday and she's ready and prepared to be baptized, but she doesn't agree with tithing. So, she's working on that right now.

This past weekend was the weekend of Carnaval. Saturday we were trying to get buzzed into the building at the "Quem é?" box, when all of the sudden, I heard the sound of water hitting the ground. What could it be?, I thought. Then we heard it again. Every time the sound was getting closer. It was dusk, so visibility was getting low. All of the sudden I realized that they were water balloons. Someone had already thrown one at me and barely missed my face (thank goodness!). We were under attack and were pinned in a corner of sorts. Fortunately, there was a column that we hid behind. And who, you might ask, would throw water balloons at two siste rmissionaries? Let me tell you, two ten-year-old kids. Yes, me and Irma Vega, two grown young women, were pinned in a corner by two ten-year-olds, who were throwing water balloons at them. So sad. After about 15 balloons there was a ceasefire. I peeked my head around the side of hte column. They had retreated to refuel. So we took the opportunity to escape, hugging the wall as we went down the stairs so they couldn't get us again. We left with minor injuries: just one wet skirt on Irma Thomas. I will always remember Carnaval for the rest of my life now.

Yesterday was the actual holiday of Carnaval. ~There was a big party/dance thing that we brought Carmen to. I saw SO many people that I knew. I've really gotten toknow a lot of members in Portugal. Wow. It was fun to see them again.

Sunday was my first time at church here. I was overwhelmed at the amount of people that were there. Itw as incredible. It was also Elder Rissi's first Sunday int he ward as well. He's from Porto, so the ward was really excited about having him there. Tonight we're going to dinner at the Bishop's so he can get to know me better and then we have a meeting with Irmão Caleira, who is the Ward Mission Leader, and was the former Area Seventy. He's really excited about missionary work. I am really looking forward to getting to know these members better so we can work through them. Not to say that I don't love knocking doors, but...I would like to get references and teach the friends of these great members.

Well, the work is rolling forth here in Setubal. We will start finding the elect. Acutually we made a really great contact in the park on Monday, so we hope that Antonio will want to hear more. Thank you for your prayers and support. I love you and I love this work!