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