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!
Irmã Laura Thomas
(the last time)