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!

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Everyone Hold on to Your Seats...

Hey family! Thank you for the emails and updates and packages! I love you all and miss you all!

This has been a ROLLERCOASTER of a week. Wow. So much has happened.

Thursday and Friday were normal days for us. Though, on Friday we received news from Wumi that she would not be able to go with us to Lisbon because her supervisor decided that she needed to give a presentation on Monday. Wumi asked her supervisor if she could change the day and she was told that it was a possibility. So we started praying. We asked for the prayers of the other missionaries around here. Friday we still heard that she couldn't go. Saturday morning I had a great study and I studied about hope in Preach My Gospel. I was filled with peace that everything would work out and that she would be able to go. I didn't know how, but I was filled with peace.

The day was a little rough, we had been trying to find people to teach all week with no luck, so we were a little down, but I continued with the hope that Wumi would go. So after our dinner, Irma Machado and I went over to Wumi's (after she had had to change our appointment time about five times...I was a little nervous that she would cancel on us). But we went there with the expectation that we would really have to persuade her to come with us just on Sunday in the hope that she would have the faith to go with us. So we got there and I just simply asked if she could still go up with us just for Sunday. Wumi stopped, looked surprised, and asked, "I can go up just for Sunday?" We responded that OF COURSE she could go up just for Sunday, to which she replied, "Yes I will go with you!" I gave her a big hug and we were set to go! The ticket guy for the train even put our seats together!

So Sunday morning rolled around and we were getting ready for church. We got a text from Wumi that said, can you come over right now? So we called her right back and found out that she had dropped her friend's phone when she was handing it to her and broke it. The friend was upset and was making Wumi fix it and pay for it, so she couldn't go right to church and wouldn't be able to leave without fixing it. Fortunately, she was able to get it fixed and come to church and to Lisbon. The whole time we were so concerned for her coming because we knew how important it was for her. (Oh, PS my branch president, President Nunes, asked me to speak in church with 20 minutes went okay...I think...)

So we went up to Lisbon by train right after church and had a great time on the way. The meeting was amazing. The chapel in Oeiras was PACKED. The chapel was full, beyond capacity. There were extra chairs put in and it was completely full with people standing up everywhere. All of the classrooms were full as well, as well as the hallways. The missionaries were all in hallways, standing as Elder Bednar spoke. It was a singular experience.

Elder Bednar formatted the meeting as a question and answer session. The members asked questions and he and Elder Kopishke and Sister Bednar answered the underlying principle behind the question. It was wonderful. I learned so much about teaching and my desire to study the scriptures and learn more about the gospel increased significantly. Wumi loved the meeting. Loved it. She knows that he, Elder Bednar, is a man of God.

I also got to see all of the members from my old areas, it was a wonderful blessing to see them. I got a bunch of HUGE hugs from the members and hearty handshakes. It was so nice to see the love that they had for me. It warmed my heart.

Then I was surprised again by Irma Rasmussen requesting that I go with her to stay with some members, Niza and Neide, from Oeiras, who had gotten permission from President Terry for us to stay there. So I got to have a sleep over with two great members!

The next day was the best. We had a meeting just the missionaries and Elder Bednar with Sister Bednar, Elder Kopishke and Sister Kopishke. Elder Bednar did the same format with question and answer. It was great to hear the questions that he asked us and the answers we received from the Holy Ghost. We were greatly edified. After he had asked his questions he requested that we ask questions.

After several missionaries had asked questions he asked for one more question. So then Irma Machado elbowed me and told me to ask the question I had told her I wanted to ask. I was sitting in the front with the rest of the irmas, so I raised my hand and he called on me. I had already answered a question and he had stared into my soul before, but this was different. I asked what he and the Brethren would like us to do better as misisonaries. He told me that we should know who we are, why we're here and for Whom we serve. He stared right into my eyes as he taught more. I know that I will always remember that. He was looking right into me. It was a little terrifying, but I was grateful for the answer that I was given.

Then I went to the dentist because I had a cavity. Yuck. Then we came home.

Well, yesterday we had transfer calls and you know how I said that President said that I would be staying? Well, he changed his mind. I was completely shocked as he told me that I will be being transferred to Setubal, with Irma Barroso, who speaks no English (Wumi?) will be coming in. I am a bit devastated right now and I really don't want to leave this area, Irma Machado and Wumi. I love it here and I love this branch and the work here. But the Lord knows best, right?

I will be serving in Setúbal with Irma Vega who has been here for two transfers. She's from Wyoming and that's pretty much all I know. Here's my address:

Irma Laura Thomas

Rua de Badajoz
Nº5 1 FRT
2900-058 Setúbal

Feel free to send packages here.

Well, that's about it. I love you all so much and am grateful for all that I am learning and for the opportunity I had to learn from and Apostle of Jesus Christ. It was singular

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

I'm Seeing Purple

Hello family! Thank you so much for the emails. It's good to hear from you all.

Well, last P-day I was laying on my bed all day, trying to recover. My fever broke that evening and I started to feel better. I woke up on Thursday morning, still feeling weak and gross, I thought it strange that Irma Machado was still in bed, so I woke her up and let her know it was time for studies, when she grumbled out, "Now I'm sick!" So the two of us were pretty pathetic for another two days. It took me longer to recuperate (until Friday) than Irma Machado, she was good enough to go out on Saturday. So we spent about five whole days indoors. It was weird. The week flew by because it was like one giant day. But now we're all better.

Saturday we had lunch with the Cabrals, who are a great couple. They've been renovating their house, so I've never been allowed in it. But we had lunch and it was...interesting. The soup was amazing, as always, bean soup. Yum! Then she brought out lasagna. I was really excited to eat lasagna. I started eating it and it tasted a little odd. Luisa then informed us that she used some type of wheat instead of meat in the lasagna. Hence the weird taste. We couldn't eat much because of our cold/flu we were getting over, but good thing Ana Lucia was there! She is TINY but eats a TON. She ate more than the elders. It was incredible.

Later that day we had Enrichment. It was a choice experience. For activity: beautification. Seirously. Candida Moutinho was in charge and she's a hair stylist. So she took the opportunity to talk to us about the importance of plucking our eyebrows properly. I think she really just wanted to pluck our Relief Society President's eyebrows, so she created the activity and just happened to choose her. The whole time the members were telling eachother how dry eachothers' hair was or how they themselves needed to pluck their eyebrows. It was meant in good love, the Portuguese are just really blunt. I was laughing the whole time...some of the time out loud. I love these members. They really feel like my family and they are really used to me now. They are super blunt with me as well. I take this as a sign of acceptance. Then Candida took turns plucking the other sisters' eyebrows. How I love Relief Society!

On Sunday Wumi came to church, don't worry she confirmed herself to come to church on Friday. Oh I forgot! We sent the elders to teach her while we were sick. They said it went well. But I ended up translating all of church for her. She loves coming to church and she's in 2 Nephi 9 now! Oh!!! She's coming up to Lisbon to hear Elder Bednar with us! I'm super excited! There is a special meeting for the members and investigators Sunday night, then there is a YSA meeting Monday night that she will be going to. She's really doing well.

We had a great lesson with her yesterday with Maria Joao. It is SOOOO nice teaching in English! The words just take on a whole new meaning for me hearing them and saying them in my own language. The Spirit was so strong as we taught her about the Restoration. I had told her that we had a message for her and that if she had any questions that we would love to answer them at the end. She tends to be a talker, so we hoped that this would help. It did. She really listened and when we taught we taught leading up to a scripture. Then she would read the scripture and she would really get it. I could see the understanding go across her face. Maria Joao testified and it was a powerful testimony. It was cute, we would be speaking in English and Maria Joao would look up all the scriptures in Portuguese. She understands English really well, but gets nervous, so I translate whenever she wants to talk.

Anyway, so the lesson was great. At the end I asked what questions she had. I was surprised when she had one! She asked if God wants there to be so many churches and if there should be so many churches. (Great question!) So Irma Machado led her to Ephesians 4:5 which says, One Lord, one faith, one baptism. This scripture really clicked for Wumi and she was so excited to hear that answer. She's reading, she's praying and she's going to church. She's so great. I am so excited to keep teaching her. I never imagined that I would come to Portugal and teach a girl from Nigeria in English. Who'd have thought?

Have I mentioned that everyone is wearing purple here? Every woman I see is wearing purple. Purple shoes, purple purses, purple shirts, purple coats, purple scarves, purple everything! The stores only have purple in the displays.It's all a really strong purple too. Yuck. I rather liked purple before this season...

Monday we saw something interesting. We were walking to the church and we saw a man inching out onto the road on his tush. Little by little, until he was in the middle of the lane, blocking all of traffic. Fortunately, the police were only a little blocked by the traffic, so they went between the lanes, pulled up right next to him, then opened the doors (two big men) and picked him up and set him on the side of the road. I don't think the man was all with it, but nice to know that the police were there when we need them!

Oh! We also discovered that Aurora, a recent convert, is friends with Felicia! So she's going to help us encourage Felicia to live the Word of Wisdom. Tender mercies!

Well that's it! I love you all! Have a great week!

Wednesday, February 4, 2009

Wake up! Little Claudia Wake Up!

Hello family! Thank you again for writing. It sounds like most of us got hit with illness this week. Ick. But hopefully you are on the mend! I am!

Well, it's been another great week. I ate some amazing orange cake and had a lesson with a member and her friend. Don't worry, I got the recipe. Last Wednesday, we again went to Ponta da Piedade with the Nelsons. It was a great day and very nice to have a ride!

The three girls. Well...this past week they were down to one, Claudia. The other two were never at our lessons and they didn't go to church. But Claudia was there! We taught her the Plan of Salvation, but first we had a challenge. She lives in a dorm as I mentioned and to get up, you have to buzz the whole floor, then someone has to come down to let you in. Fortunately, someone came down and we were able to go up. We went to her room and we heard music, the door was also open. So I peeked my head in and saw Claudia, taking a nap. President Terry tells us that we need to be sweetly bold. She needed to hear the Plan of Salvation. So I went into her room and tapped on her shoulder. Nothing. I called out her name. Nothing. I tapped again. Nothing. I knocked on the door again. Nothing. Finally, I shook her and she woke up. She was really surprised that she didn't hear her phone when we called. But we had a good lesson with her. She also came to church, saying that she had to leave at noon for a study group. But noon came and went and Claudia stayed. Her excuse was that it was raining. (PS it's been raining since Sunday.) We're excited for her and I hope that I get over the flu quickly so we can teach them again!

We are also teaching Wumi, whom I mentioned last week. She is from Nigeria and it's so weird teaching in English. I really just translate what I say in Portuguese into English. But she loves the Book of Mormon and was relating Nephi to Joseph of Egypt and David. She asked why other churches don't use the Book of Mormon. She also came to church and she loved it. She asked if she could come again next week. She is truly elect and we are really excited to work more with her.

Oh! I almost forgot! Elder Bednar is coming in a week and a half and I get to go to Lisbon to hear him! We're having a meeting just for the missionaries and a couple of other meetings for investigators and less-actives. So we are going to try to get Wumi to go. We are SOOOOO excited! I was hopping around the church like a small child before English class. The elders got a kick out of me. I've been teaching Maria João at English class and it's been really fun. It's fun to be teaching again.

Saturday we had interviews with President Terry and Irma Machado, being the Southerner that she is, decided she wanted to make President fried chicken. Oh man, was it good! I love fried chicked! And she taught me how to make it!

There was a birth this past week. Emma was born! Arkadius and his wife, Joana, now have a little girl and I had my first experience going to a hospital in Portugal. Let me just say that I'm grateful that we do not have socialized medicine. I am grateful for the good medicine that we have back home. But it was nice to see Joana. Emma was born Sunday morning and Arkadius was at church! He didn't see Emma be born! Can you believe that? Don't worry though, Maria João was there and got pictures. :)

Saturday night we had a very choice experience. We've been working with a part-member family, the Joãos, Ana Lucia and Elias and their mom, Veronica. They are constantly yelling at eachother and there never seems to be any peace there. So we went over on Saturday to just check in and make sure that they were going to church the next day (which they did). We got in there and Carlos, the boyfriend, was smoking, upsetting Ana Lucia, and there was just a lot of yelling. I asked Ana Lucia if she wanted to gather in the rest of the family to hear a message. She went and got her mom and we sat down. Irma Machado picked "I Stand All Amazed" and as we sang a calm and a peace entered the room. It lasted the whole lesson and I could tell that they felt a difference. The calm of the Spirit was very evident.

Sad news, we had to drop Albertina this week. We will still go by every once in a while, but it was time to let her go. But she did still go to church. That was good. But she does want to get baptized, just not right now.

As we have been inside the past couple of days, I've taken to brushing up on my Spanish. Why not? It's been fun, and Irma Machado is a saint for putting up with me in everything.

So, things are going well. The work is rolling forth. I love you all and have a great week!